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Theatre People review JIM MORRISON: KALEIDOSCOPE

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See article in its original context here by Nick Pilgrim for Theatre People.

★★★★

Formed in 1965 and based in Los Angeles, California, The Doors are remembered as one of America’s foremost, ground-breaking rock groups. The band was fronted by Jim Morrison on vocals, with Ray Manzarek on keyboard, Robby Krieger on guitar, and John Densmore on drums. Tapping into a growing generational rift between restless teenagers and authoritarian adults, the quartet’s rise in status and popularity with young people was dramatic. Morrison in particular, was viewed by fans and peers as a philosophical and poetic anti – hero.


When he refused to change a controversial lyric from their song ‘Light My Fire’ on The Ed Sullivan Show, its producer cancelled the band’s remaining appearances and they were never invited back. It was enough for director, Oliver Stone, to recreate this episode in searing detail from his cult biographical motion picture classic. On the cusp of national fame, the band played at The Kaleidoscope at Ciros, a venue on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. For three club dates in April 1967, they played a set list that highlighted the group’s best known works. Soon playing for stadium audiences, fame however for the group was fleeting. Like several other brilliant musicians from that era, Morrison began to walk the tightrope between creativity and self – destruction. He also experimented heavily with drugs and alcohol. Together with Janis Joplin and Jimmi Hendrixx, he will also be remembered as a founding member of the notorious ’27 Club”.

Luigi Lucente is a young, rising star on the Australian entertainment circuit. Having worked on both stage and screen, he is also an accomplished singer, musician, songwriter and recording artist.

Lucente has featured in many diverse shows including Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, Jason Robert Brown’s Parade (as Leo Frank), the recent 40th anniversary national touring production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, and for Magnormos, the title role in Pippin. Other stage credits include the international cast of Wicked, Jersey Boys, and Guys and Dolls. In 2011, Lucente was a grand finalist in the prestigious ANZ Rob Guest Endowment. Amongst his television appearances are the US miniseries The Pacific, and Neighbors. Based on the film of the same name starring River Phoenix, soon Lucente will lead the Australian stage premiere of Dogfight for the Hayes Theatre in Sydney.

fortyfivedownstairs on Flinders Lane has a reputation for presenting work that dares to challenge and confront audiences. The rewarding pay-off is often in the journey, and Lucente’s new one – man show is a particularly shining example.

As part of this year’s Midsumma Festival schedule, Lucente has written Kaleidoscope, which is a loving valentine to Morrison as well showcasing his interest in the iconic band. At 60 minutes in length, the act is also an excellent vehicle for Lucente’s own exceptional gifts as a performer and pianist.

Directed with knowing flair by Nicholas Christo, Kaleidoscope is gritty, edgy, but always the epitome of class. There is no denying this new tribute show will confront and enthrall viewers. It is definitely a performance piece for fans of The Doors and lovers of rock music radically reimagined.

Lucente’s respect for the band is clear from the outset.

Yet, there is still an enigmatic force that hangs over his act. Whether Lucente is Morrison or a conduit for the man in question, is never made clear. At times Lucente breaks the fourth wall, sometimes invading personal space, sometimes using the piano as both instrument and bongo kit. He is however, always in the moment.

Having said that, don’t be deterred by the unconventional structure of Kaleidoscope. If nothing else, come for the music. Lucente has reinvented The Doors legendary sound for a contemporary jazz audience. Stripped of Manzarek’s driving, hypnotic, moog synthesizer, Lucente accompanies himself on piano with the sensitivity and the voice of an Elton John, the passion of a Peter Allen, and the wild abandon of a Jerry Lee Lewis. It is alpha dog cabaret, bewitching in its transformation.

With something for everyone, Lucente’s set list features more than a dozen classic songs. Some more familiar tracks such as pumping versions of ‘Riders On The Storm’, ‘Strange Days’ and ‘Light My Fire’, are offset by the haunting introspection of ‘Bird of Prey’, ‘I Can’t See Your Face,’ and ‘Blue Sunday.’

A particular highlight is the sequence including ‘Love Opus’, ‘Moonlight Drive’, ‘Love Her Madly’, ‘LA Woman’, and ‘Hello, I Love You’.

On one level, Lucente’s Kaleidoscope is a humorous, intense, sometimes uncomfortable and unpredictable experience, yet always entertaining. On another level the narrative covers the group’s rise and fall in snapshot flashbacks. The stream of consciousness format also allows one entry into the mind of a man constantly pushing buttons and boundaries.

Taking no prisoners with his show’s high energy execution, Lucente’s Kaleidoscope would have made Morrison very proud.

This event is proudly part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival.

 

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