Saturday, January 16, 2010

That's My Boy!! The Los Angeles Times Entertainment Section!

Yes, this is my son, Kevin, on the Los Angeles Times Entertainment section! "Whisper House" is opening this month at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. Kevin plays the part of Lt. Rando, a Coast Guard officer.

Is this exciting, or what?!

"Whisper House" by Duncan Sheik may be purchased from Amazon.

Whisper House (Below)
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
Lt. Rando (Kevin Hoffmann) breaks into dance.

Whisper House (Below)
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
Lt. Rando (Kevin Hoffmann) orders lighthouse worker Yasuhiro (Arthur Acuna) to freeze. Yasuhiro, a Japanese American, is a person of suspicion to 11-year old Christopher, whose pilot father has been killed by the Japanese in World War II.

Whisper House (Below)
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin Hoffmann (as Lt. Rando), from left, Mare Winningham (as Lilly) and Ted Koch (Charles, the sheriff) rehearse a scene.

The Los Angles Times, Entertainment Section, By John Horn

January 17, 2010

Reporting from San Diego - Duncan Sheik is a skeptic of the supernatural -- "I completely don't believe in ghosts," the singer-songwriter says. Yet if his new musical “Whisper House” is to succeed in its world premiere Thursday at the Old Globe Theatre, audiences -- not to mention some of the musical's characters -- will need to have faith in things that go bump in the night.

The musical unfolds in distinct but concurrent realms: the living (five inhabitants of a coastal Maine town) and the dead (two singing ghosts, and their seven-piece backup band). And there are three separate "Whisper House" time periods: The ghosts last drew breath in the early 20th century, the people in Maine are living in the 1940s, and the musicians could have been playing a gig last night at Club Nokia. If the show comes together, none of that should matter.

Recent history stands to benefit "Whisper House." "Spring Awakening," the 2006 theatrical love child of Frank Wedekind's late 19th century coming-of-age play and Sheik's modern ballads, not only swept the Tonys (eight wins, including best musical) but also proved that the sum of a classic text and contemporary melodies can actually be much greater than its outwardly dissonant parts.

"Whisper House" loosely follows that mash-up model, yet with a novel twist: The five "Whisper House" protagonists don't break into song. Instead, the new musical's choral complement is delivered by rock-and-rolling ghosts, who wander in and out of the action like ethereal intruders.....

The new production, with music and lyrics by Sheik and a book and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow, may unfold during World War II but owes its thematic inspiration to modern conflict and the paranoia it can incite. When the creative team assembled for the show's first read-through in mid-December, Jarrow stood before the cast and crew to say he saw "Whisper House" as being as much about orange threat-level alerts as anything else. ......

Modern living isn't intrinsic to "Whisper House," as the story unfolds in early 1942. Christopher (Eric Brent Zutty) is an 11-year-old boy whose pilot father was killed by the Japanese; his mother, devastated by grief, suffers a nervous breakdown. Christopher is accordingly dispatched to a Maine lighthouse run by his spinster aunt, Lilly ( Mare Winningham).

Lilly is assisted in her coastal endeavors by Yasuhiro (Arthur Acuña), a Japanese American of whom Christopher immediately becomes suspicious. Christopher's anxiety grows stronger as the show progresses, and he sees signs of treachery in what might be benign acts.

At the same time, Lilly reconsiders where her personal loyalties lie: to her cosseted, emotionally protected life or to those people around her who need (like a lighthouse, put another way) a beacon of guidance and protection.

As the threat of U-boat attacks intrudes on the ordinary isolation of the "Whisper House" lighthouse, so, too, do the show's ghosts. The shadowy musicians -- the wraithlike remains of a band whose steamer was dashed on nearby rocks in 1912 -- are led by two vocalists (David Poe and Holly Brook) who not only offer commentary on the on-stage action but also, like contemporary sirens belting out pop songs, try to lure the lighthouse's inhabitants to their own personal shipwrecks -- even suicide.

As the musical's opening song, the moody ballad "Better off Dead," has it: Release your heavy heart - Rest your weary head - When all the world's at war - It's better to be dead.

"Whisper House" presents unconventional staging on a number of levels. In "Spring Awakening," the songs by Sheik and Steven Sater served a different narrative purpose (articulating the characters' inner lives) and were performed by the principal cast; as with most musicals, the songs gave way to dialogue (and vice versa) about every five minutes. ......

At the same time, some of the "Whisper House" songs are performed as shadow plays in pantomimes projected on a translucent upstage screen, choreographed by Pilobolus Dance Theatre's Matt Kent, who collaborated with Poe on the dance troupe's recent “Shadowland” show.

What's more, the rules for the interaction between the dead and the living aren't always clear. Christopher can hear the ghosts' music, but even though Poe's crooning apparition blows out Yasuhiro's Zippo while he's trying to light a cigarette, it's ambiguous who can (and can't) discern the ghosts' physical presence. What's less vague is their role as they wander about the stage: They're gumming up the works, stoking paranoia.

"No matter what you do," the ghosts sing in the parable song "The Tale of Solomon Snell," "you'll never be safe." Or, in what Sheik and Jarrow say is a parroting of statements from the George W. Bush administration in the song "We're Here to Tell You": We're here to tell you - That all of this is real - And if you're terrified today - That's how you're supposed to feel (for real). .....

The Old Globe, which had been talking to Jarrow about another production, became the home for "Whisper House" after the Connecticut venue fell through. "We just think it's different and special and fragile and unique," Louis Spisto, the theater's chief executive officer and executive producer, told the cast and crew at the musical's first read-through. If the show succeeds in San Diego, a move to Broadway could be likely. "There are definitely parties interested in this," Spisto said.

But before there's any further talk of New York, Sheik, Jarrow, Askin and the show's cast and creative team worked to make sure "Whisper House" feels like a cohesive whole, not so many competing parts.

"That's what Duncan and I were most worried about," Jarrow says. "We didn't want it to be a play that pauses, and then there's a rock concert."


Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

WOW!!! Congrats to your son, and congrats to you for raising such a talented son! :) You must be so proud!

Janean said...

Congrats to a proud mamma!

Alea said...

How exciting! I wonder if it will still be playing when I visit in March.

Struggler said...

Congratulations - very proud days for you, I'm sure!

Lisa @ akawest said...

Very, very exciting!!!
As the mom of a performer, I definitely understand the excitement. Sometimes i think I go overboard in talking about my daughter, so it is always nice to read about someone else's kid!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

Patriotic Mom said...

Your son is very handsome. He sings and dances too! How fun for your family to watch him perform! Joan