WTF is FYC?
STARDUST BY PROXY
A SERIES LEADING TO EMMY
MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
Interesting fact: The Blossom Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was site of the 1st Academy Awards Ceremony held May 16, 1929. The Best Picture winner that year was Wings. Stars of the day danced the night away in this lovely room that tonight is dressed to greet a panel from last year's Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy, Mozart in the Jungle, produced by Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman. Interesting fact: Schartzman and Coppola are cousins and their grandfather, Carmine Coppola, was an Oscar-winning composer, conductor, and flutist. Their great uncle, Anton, is an opera conductor. Write what you know!
A SYMPHONY OF ACTORS
Gael García Bernal, 2016 Golden Globe winner for best actor, inspires the tone of this series with his irreverent portrayal of Rodrigo, an unconventional and spirited maestro from Mexico who's all about the music ... and the mate. Click the link if you're wondering what's inside that gourd-bowl with a funky straw he seems so obsessed with. What the creative team loves about Bernal is his ability to bring dimension to his character. Besides the mate, he sports an unconventional feather or some kind of bone or fabric weave in his hair, rides a bike around town, has a parrot named Igor (after Stravinsky), and as might be expected, an unusual conducting technique. From what we gather, the invention of Rodrigo's nuance of character is all Bernal's.
In an episode directed by Paul Weitz, Bernal conducts the actual LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl before a paying audience there to experience the Philharmonic's concert. The Phil's well-known conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, makes a cameo appearance as Rodrigo's backstage handler in this episode. Apparently, both Bernal and Dudamel relied on some tequila before their scenes to get over their collective nervousness. Bernal's character is loosely based on Dudamel. Perhaps that's how the mate plays into everything ... Dudamel is Venezuelan and yerbe mate is a favored beverage there. OK, that explains the mate!
The show is dotted with actual musicians and celebrity cameos whose peers have been offering themselves up as talent, delighted by the of idea making their own appearances and supporting friends' performances, then posting and networking about their experiences via social media. My own Broadway circle of friends and I find sweet reverence in this show as we're transported to our early days as struggling artists trying to "make it" in New York ... something I shared with Director, Paul Weitz, pictured with me in the photo above. Ah, the affinity of New Yorkers! Apparently, the cast actually play their instruments, albeit for a short time to get the necessary scene coverage. But how cool is that?
It's an interesting contrast that Lola Kirke, who plays wannabe classical oboist, Hailey, is the daughter of Simon Kirke, the former drummer of rock bands Bad Company and Free. Her character has unrealized gifted talent and this is what connects with Rodrigo. Jai Alai, (think high-lie) as I hear Rodrigo consistently mispronounce Hailey, is actually a high intensity sport where curved handheld devices are used to catch, cradle, and launch a ball against a wall. Perhaps this is an intentional story device, because as Hailey nurtures romantic feelings for Rodrigo, he seems to catch them, but soon after sends her hopes crashing. We want their romance to play out and it's sweet to watch how their characters return to genuine affection for each other through all of challenges of symphony and personal life. I know what you're thinking. Wouldn't a gig like this be rather cut and dry? Noooooo. This is the dog-eat-dog world of orchestral musicians getting and keeping gigs any way possible.
Mozart in the Jungle is based on oboist's Blair Tindall's tell-all book of the same name. Although the book was published a decade ago, it apparently brandishes some side-show sexual behavior and drug use that defined the New York I recall while living there in the '80s ... and the show offers scenes of the same, hitting the essence of that time through its characters. For example, Malcolm McDowell brings humor and a fully fleshed out character to his role as Thomas, the over-exuberant former conductor of the symphony ... very oh the drama in the '80s. And Saffron Burrows, as cellist, Cynthia, is in everyone's business ... male and female ... very sex in the '80s. Even Gloria, the stoic-on-the-inside-ever-dressed-in-form-fitting-plunge-necklines-on-the-outside Chairwoman of the Board, gets a go at cougar. Yes, Broadway's vocal royalty, Bernadette Peters, in an acting-only role shines as Gloria, whose character is tasked with wooing philanthropy amidst funding cuts and keeping the peace among her players.
At times the world might seem a bit over the top, but it really isn't. As I mentioned, the show frames a realistic time and place for artists struggling to make a living at their crafts, and does so with humor, hope, and some good music. We identify wild behavior and excessiveness as the badge of the '80s, but after all, it was an era that catered to pleasure-seekers. Rock and disco got all the attention back then, so it's fun to see classical music throwing its gorgeous vellum to the wind and getting in on the party.
In true '80s form, I binge-watched. This now normal neo-approach to what was once a simple decision to watch TV has confirmed we are all still pleasure-seekers! How our nomenclature has evolved from simply watching TV, to watching on DVDs, to watching cable, to DVR'ing it, to down-loading and watching it on a phone, computer, or ipad, to casting from a device, to streaming, to apps and content boxes!
When was the last time you attended a live symphony orchestra performance? Some readers may never have experienced this visceral outing. Ballet companies and musical theatre shows were typically accompanied by a live orchestra. This practice has changed so much over time due to funding issues, becoming less and less common and more of a luxury for everyone - the audience, the musicians, the dancers, and the actors. Nothing can replace the symbiotic energy of live art forms as expressed with music and musicians who are also in performance.
COME BACK FOR PART 8: AMERICAN CRIME
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