There was a day, several decades ago, where musicals, whether they were set on stage or the screen, took on a certain flavor and sunny outlook. Peppy, hearts aglow numbers were standard, as were a festive finale and themes that were as candy-flavored as the treats sold in the lobby concession.
But a stage production lush with songs doesn't have to be all daisies and lollipops. Look to opera, for one, which has the thunder and breast-beating delightfully down pat. Look to musical works taking on less-than-rosy themes, like Steven Sondheim's "Assassins." And look to "I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky," an "earthquake romance" from composer John Adams.
Not just any earthquake: Mr. Adams, and late poet June Jordan, have focused on the 1994 Northridge shaker.
And members of the Long Beach Opera will take the roles of a group of young Angelenos. Mr. Adams says "the characters, all inner-city young people in their twenties, play out their personal dramas against the backdrop of specific social and political themes.”
While the "song play" -- not quite a musical, but not a ditty-free drama, either -- has traveled the globe. "Ceiling/sky" premiered in Berkeley in 1995, not long after the earthquake that serves as its structure, and has enjoyed stagings in Montreal, Helsinki, and New York, it has never been presented in Los Angeles.
That changes on Saturday, Aug. 23 when a one-night-only performance goes live at The Ford Theatre.
Andreas Mitisek, artistic director for the Long Beach Opera, says “It’s surprising that Ceiling/Sky has never been done in L.A. We’re righting a wrong with this performance." Mr. Mitisek concludes that the piece "speaks to the time," as all art should when considering a real historic event, one that rippled out into millions of lives.