Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: The Kauffman Center's Open House

I waited ninety minutes in the rain to enter Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday. I waited another thirty minutes to get into Helzberg Hall. The experience was worth the hassle.

Even though I'd already been inside Helzberg Hall twice, I wasn't about to pass on Sunday's "open house." The festive mood of the massive crowd, along with the choice acts performing on four outdoor stages, made the wait bearable.

I only felt frustrated when I was forced to view Alaturka's performance on a video monitor. Helzberg Hall was full and no one could be seated until spectators left. My sadness turned to joy when I squeezed inside Helzberg Hall just in time to catch Bobby Watson and an all-star band (above) perform one "original" selection. The piece was a riveting medley of familiar tunes by Kansas City jazz and blues icons. The band was a virtual who's who of Kansas City's jazz scene- Clint Ashlock, David Basse, Gerald Dunn, Jason Goudeau, Ryan Lee, Will Matthews, Herman Mehari, Al Pearson and Bram Wijnands were among its members. Splendid!

Ushers pleaded with patrons in a largely unsuccessful effort to clear the room after each performance. Call me selfish, but I wasn't about to abandon my spot after taking in just one ten-minute performance. I refused to relinquish my seat until I'd been in the room for thirty minutes.

Immediate seating was available at the adjacent Muriel Kauffman Theater (above). Whoa! It took me a couple minutes to get my bearings. Helzberg Hall offers a highly refined and serene setting. Muriel Kauffman Theater is... "vibrant." Sitting in Muriel Kauffman Theater is like being trapped inside the gaudy bracelet of a giantess. That's not necessarily a bad thing- but learning how to tune out the sparkle and flash takes some time. I heard Megan Birdsall and her backing trio (below) overcome problematic sound issues in an enticing set.

Stunning architecture aside, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sunday's open house was the stamina of Julia Irene Kauffman. The center's Chairman of the Board stood at the top of the main staircase in Brandmeyer Great Hall and attempted to personally greet every one of the day's estimated 50,000 visitors. I admire that gesture, just as I admire the incalculable significance the new facility will have on Kansas City.

The wake of Leroy Johnson on Sunday served as an unofficial convention of unemployed music retail and distribution people. Now that those industries have all but disappeared, it's finally safe to joke about the bad old days with former rivals. On the other hand, I have yet to fully process the death of my friend.

I reviewed Friday's performance by Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.

I also took notes at Anthony Wilson's show at the Westport Coffeehouse.

Need a laugh? Force an unsuspecting music fan to watch the "Miracle Worker" video for the absurdly unlikely supergroup SuperHeavy. Your pal's shocked reaction will be priceless. The song is unspeakably odd.

Bluegrass musician Liz Meyer has died.

I want to work on James Farm.

Kansas City Click: Future star Lee MacDougall croons at the Record Bar on Tuesday.

Dirty Bourbon River Show, featured at There Stands the Glass four months ago, play Trouser Mouse on Wednesday.

The Vibrators play Davey's on Thursday. I can't believe it either.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)


Donna. W said...

It all looks way too classy for this redneck. Not to mention too expensive for retirees.

Happy In Bag said...

Yes, but Sunday's open house was free.

Mo Rage said...

I went late so I missed the rain (umbrella in hand) and, like you, I waited 90 minutes to get in. I swore I wouldn't miss this opening and so, didn't.

I'd never experienced any claustrophobia in a public space before but came close, once I got inside. I just went up to the top, got in the Helzberg Hall and enjoyed. Once I was away from the crowds of the lobby, I was okay.

I was sorry I couldn't spend more time listening to more performances but knew I'd spent enough time.

As you said, too, what a contrast, between the two halls. Wow. Both nice but such different personalities.

It's a great thing and a great day for Kansas City. The Kauffmans have given us so much, from the Major League Baseball team Royals and their stadium to education initiatives of all types, to the Kauffman Foundation itself and now this, for the arts in many different aspects. Magnificent. We owe them, as we owe the Halls, the Blochs, etc. Thank goodness for these gifts.

John McKeon said...

Thanks for the pointer to the Superheavy video...Mick Jagger's sudden appearance in his pink suit made me jump.