Our works of devised theater are unlike anything you've experienced, and perhaps their most moving and memorable aspect is the original music, primarily composed and performed by Kathy Randels and Sean LaRocca. On this CD, 15 years of songs receive loving studio treatments and performances fleshed out by The Panorama Jazz Band, Courtney Bryan, Tom McDermott, Helen Gillet, Chloe & Leah Smith of Rising Appalachia, member of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and many more. From an amazing a capella re-imagining of "Amazing Grace," to a klezmer throw-down, to an evocative lullaby, "I Know This To Be True" will open your eyes to the power of theater music while satisfying your ears and stimulating your mind.
Here are the album's liner notes, written by Michael Goodwin -- one the founding editors of Rolling Stone Magazine:
It wouldn’t surprise me if the first performance in the history of the world was a song: someone singing for the sheer joy of being alive, and someone else walking past, hearing the nice sounds, and stopping to listen.
But even if that part isn’t true, music and the theater have still been entwined forever. Think of all those songs in Shakespeare! The ragtime tunes in American minstrel shows. Opera! The German cabaret scene of the 1920s captured by a Weill-Brecht theater song. Or a ditty from “West Side Story” that evokes New York’s Broadway musical explosion of the 1950s.
For the dazzling Kathy Randels—one of New Orleans’ most important theater workers in the last years of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st—music, dance and theater are one...single...thing: the thing she does; the art she makes. From her first solo performance piece, “Rage Within/Without,” in 1991, to her latest work, 2012’s ensemble piece “Kiss Kiss Julie,” the songs and dances in Randels’ productions have raised audiences’ emotions and spirits to heights otherwise unimaginable. And since about 1997, some of the credit for this extraordinary musical work is owed to Randels’ musical (and life) partner, Sean LaRocca.
During the last 20 years Randels, LaRocca, and their ArtSpot production company have been at the leading edge of an astonishing theatrical revolution in New Orleans—fueled by a passionate interaction with a strong community theater movement built by talented, sophisticated performers and artists like John O'Neal, Chakula Cha Jua, Carol Sutton, Adella Gautier, and John Grimsley.
Randels’ work over those 20 years has been nothing short of breathtaking—and ground-breaking. Think of a small cast of semi-professional student actors leading an audience up a steep, grassy levee in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, telling stories as the sun sinks behind the city and the river. Imagine a group of exquisitely talented and trained professional performers swarming over a collection of action sculptures designed by artist Jeff Becker to evoke humanity’s eternal need to fly. Picture Randels riding a white horse down a residential street in New Orleans while actress Rebecca Mwase prances on a nearby rooftop, declaiming biblical scripture and concrete poetry. Visualize Joan of Arc, clinging to a steep ladder angled out over the audience, crazed with the voices in her head and the unbearable momentum of the historical wave she's riding.
In a series of unique performance pieces—some solos; some with larger casts and multimedia production schemes; many of them site-specific—including “The End and Back Again, My Friend”; “Rumours of War”; “Nita & Zita”; “The Maid of Orléans”; and “Chekhov’s Wild Ride,” Randels and her ArtSpot collaborators have virtually invented a new kind of urban theater—ideological, intellectual, and as physical as a kick in the ass.
If you weren’t lucky enough to see these performances, either in New Orleans or on one of Randels’ national and international tours, you can still get a taste of the gumbo from the fabulous theater songs on this CD, and a taste of the history behind it all from Kathy’s notes in the enclosed booklet. All aboard!