WORLD PREMIERE! The love and music of composer Alphonso Bloch: A deeply twisted love triangle... with a piano.
"...compelling... this singular, bluesy chamber work scores in haunting intensity." -L.A. Times CRITIC'S CHOICE!
"RECOMMENDED... The chemistry of the three performers is delightful... The jazz music is delightful... a charming and powerful romance." -Stage Raw TOP TEN
"...whenever the performers are playing music, MIRAVEL is on fire." -L.A. Weekly
"...features some of the most exciting musical performances you’re likely to hear outside a jazz club... Under Shaunessy Quinn’s assured direction, performances are all-around splendid..." -StageSceneLA
"With Broder's music setting the evening's tone, Quinn's production is moody, hip, wistfully romantic and, yep, plenty complicated... Broder, Bradley and Chumrau make the journey consistently engaging." -CurtainUp
WINNER OF AN LADCC AWARD!
Musical Score - Jake Broder
WINNER OF A STAGE RAW AWARD!
Original Music - Jake Broder
NOMINATED FOR A STAGE RAW AWARD!
Musical Direction - Paul Litteral
Devereau Chumrau as Miravel
Will Bradley as Henry Brooks
Jake Broder as Alphonso Bloch
James Fowler as Henry Brooks
Colin Kupka - Saxophone
Michael Alvidrez - Bass
Kenny Elliott - Drums
Produced for Sacred Fools by - Natalie Rose
Associate Producers - Vanessa Claire Stewart & French Stewart
Stage Manager - Emily Lehrer
Assistant Stage Manager - Michaela Trumble
Music Direction - Paul Litteral
Original Music - Jake Broder
Symphony Composition - Ryan Johnson & Jake Broder
"Howler & Ella" by - Jake Broder, arrangement by Paul Litteral
Choreographer - Cj Merriman
Assistant Choreographer - Zach Brown
Fight Choreography & Movement Coach - Laura Napoli
Set Designer – Entertainment Design Corporation: Alex M. Calle
Lighting Designer - R. Christopher Stokes
Assistant Lighting Designer - Bo Powell
Sound Designer - Jeff Gardner
Costume Designer - Rosalie Alvarez
Assistant Costume Designer - Lisa Anne Nicolai
Prop Designer - Bethany Tucker
Assistant Director / Dramaturg - Bryan Bellomo
Vocal Coach - Christian Regul
Song Rights Coordinator - Richard Levinson
Sound Engineer - Shaunessy Quinn
Deck Chief - Stuart Taylor
Master Builder - Michael Rosander
Assistant Master Builder - Mark Brown
Scenic Painting - Entertainment Design Corporation: Rei Yamamoto
Casting Coordinator - Tegan Ashton Cohan
Marketing Coordinator - Gregory Guy Gorden
Performance Photographer - Jessica Sherman Photography
Key Art - Chris Hutchings
- Sacred Fools Company Member
Ambition and the unexpected mark 'Miravel' by Sacred Fools
Emond Rostand meets Hermann Hesse at the Village Vanguard in “Miravel” at Sacred Fools.
Author-performer Jake Broder’s mash-up of Rostand’s deathless “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Hesse’s novel “Gertrude” has some post-larval quirks, yet a compelling undertow propels its jazz-centric romantic triangle.
Subtitled “The Promise of Alphonso Bloch,” the piece opens with lame, renowned jazz composer Alphonso (Broder, intrepid as ever) discovering a letter left under his piano, which segues us back to conservatory days.
Here, visionary neo-classicist Alphonso meets two people who upend his reclusive aerie. Henry Brooks (a revelatory Will Bradley), a womanizing radio singer with scant creativity, wanders into Alphonso’s rehearsal session and cues up an acidulous friendship.
Enter the titular character (the wonderful Devereau Chumrau), discovered napping under the piano, an aspiring dancer and born muse. One needn’t know from “Cyrano” or “Gertrude” to guess what happens.
Well, except that under Shaunessey Quinn’s smooth direction, unexpected dissonances erupt, as Alphonso’s Cyrano/Kuhn stand-in paves the way for Henry’s Christian/Muoth and Miravel’s Roxanne/Gertrude, despite his own imploding desire.
“Miravel” is highly specialized, and though structurally sound, some tweaks are needed. Exactly why Miravel abandons dance is murky, Act 1 could be trimmed, and one more interpolated standard to contrast with Broder’s evocative compositions couldn’t hurt.
That said, the designs are solid, particularly R. Christopher Stokes’ lighting; the back-up combo -- Colin Kupka (saxophone), Michael Alvidrez (bass) and Kenny Elliott (drums) -- is righteous, as is Paul Litteral's music direction; and the cast plays it to the hilt.
Broder’s hip bona fides have been previously established by his Louis Prima and Lord Buckley, but the conflicted gravitas he registers here is something else again. Bradley, pitched somewhere between James Franco and Kurt Elling, displays unsuspected scat virtuosity, and Chumrau’s physical and histrionic quality is exactly right, wry and affecting.
"Miravel" won’t be for all tastes, but it’s no mere work-in-progress, either, and this singular, bluesy chamber work scores in haunting intensity..
--David C. Nichols
© 2015 L.A. Times
Playwright/composer Jake Broder, whose play Louie and Keely Live at the Sahara went from Sacred Fools to the Geffen and then to regional theaters such as Chicago’s Royal George, returns here once again with another musical motif – this time the world of jazz. His latest opus is a magical amalgam of jazz music and gentle tinged-with-regret romantic drama.
Broder’s play is a broad adaptation of Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” albeit with so many liberties taken as to make the source work merely a launching point for a totally different story with the same general idea.
Broder plays Alphonse Bloch, a brilliant jazz composer and musician who suffers from painful shyness and is crippled from a childhood leg injury. While a student at a prestigious music conservatory, he becomes pals with handsome charismatic young crooner Henry Brooks (Will Bradley), a talented performer who nonetheless lacks the ability to create the truly inspiring music that he desires.
Into their world comes beautiful dance student Miravel (Devereau Chumrau) who, with her free-spirited attitude and love of creative people, quickly becomes muse to both men. The trouble is, Bloch is too shy to ever make the first move — and he also fears that a real world romance would destroy that mysterious alchemical ether that allows him to be truly talented.
Instead, when he realizes that Henry also loves the woman, he arranges to let him take credit for Bloch’s compositions, with the result that Miravel is soon head-over-heels with Henry. Tragedy results when Henry can’t keep the lie up, and Bloch himself is no longer able to hide his own talent behind others.
The plot is nicely interspersed with delightful jazz numbers, performed by the ensemble and a full band whose members include saxophonist Colin Kupka and bass-player Michael Alvidrez. It’s actually the musical accompaniment and the interludes that elevate the piece beyond what might have been a rather prosaic romance.
Director Shaunessy Quinn’s staging has a sweet, dreamlike and unabashedly sentimental quality that’s quite evocative. Also impressive is how the comparatively tiny Sacred Fools venue is turned into a smoky intimate jazz club, replete with Kupka’s saxophone warblings during the preshow.
The chemistry of the three performers is delightful – though, oddly enough, it’s the complex brotherly relationship between Broder’s introverted Bloch and Bradley’s flamboyantly Frank Sinatra-esque Henry that is at the show’s core.
At first, we’re troubled by Broder’s casting as Bloch: He’s older by far than the other performers, and it’s hard to see him as vulnerable and damaged when he’s clearly so much more seasoned than they are. As the story unfolds though, his assured musicality — and the fact that all the characters age — grounds the character more effectively.
Bradley offers a fascinating descent into madness as the handsome but increasingly frustrated “meat machine,” able to perform but not create. However, it is Chumrau’s lovely Miravel who bears the brunt of the show’s heavy lifting: She must be convincing as a believably modern (well, 1980s era) gal and as the sort of timeless spirit who might conceivably serve as muse to these two jazzy artists. With a turn that’s sprightly and a little ironic, Chumrau offers a really appealing and thoughtful performance of surprising maturity and subtlety. Her character is someone who clearly wants to be taken seriously as a modern woman — but there’s also an aspect to her character that demands courtship, wooing and flirtation.
The jazz music is delightful – Paul Litteral is the music director, but most of the score is by Broder. It will certainly help if you enjoy jazz, but even with only a layman’s interest in the musical form, this is still a charming and powerful romance.
© 2015 Stage Raw
In 2008, Jake Broder and co-creator/co-star Vanessa Claire Stewart made jukebox-musical magic with Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, their virtuoso poetic ellipsis in which art and life collided between the lines of a 1950s Vegas lounge act. Now Broder is back (sans Stewart) with Miravel, his much-anticipated follow-up, which similarly mines midcentury melodies in a daringly ambitious modern-jazz musical about emotionally tortured — and torturing — musicians...
Based both on Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand’s Belle Époque stage confection of unrequited love, and Gertrud, Hermann Hesse’s 1910 novel about creativity and suffering among opera artists, Miravel follows the romantic entanglement of aspiring composer Alphonso Bloch (Broder), a neurotic introvert, physically and psychically crippled by a teen affair gone bad. Rather than openly declaring his love for Miravel (Devereau Chumrau), the dancer who inspires him, he lives it vicariously by secretly writing the songs that allow his friend, the caddishly insensitive singer Henry (Will Bradley), to win her heart while twisting the knife in Alphonso's own.
The good news is that whenever the performers are playing music, Miravel is on fire. Bradley proves himself a persuasive frontman, particularly on an inspired funk/rap arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” And Broder turns out to be as accomplished a jazz pianist and composer as he was a Louis Prima interpreter. Miravel’s six original tunes (one co-written with Ryan Johnson) confidently straddle hard bop and 1960s modalism (the story appears to begin sometime in the 1990s) and are skillfully brought home by the trio of Colin Kupka (sax), Michael Alvidrez (bass) and Kenny Elliot (drums) under Paul Litteral’s flawless musical direction.
© 2015 L.A. Weekly
"You're a meat machine who makes noise. You don't create anything." Miravel to Henry
Truer words ne'er were spoken. Henry, a singer, is addressing a bottled-up, emotionally stunted pianist/composer named Alphonso Bloch. Alphonso has a limp and resembles an accountant, but he works the ivories like a dark angel.
Playing Harry is Jake Broder, a performer whose value to the Los Angeles theatrical landscape — and to the Sacred Fools Theater Company — is inestimable. Whether he is crawling inside the skin of Louis Prima, Ira Gershwin, Lord Buckley or the fictional Alphonso Bloch, Broder gives us multiple layers.
Of course it helps that the eclectically talented Broder is also the writer and composer of Miravel (with the music, he gets an assist from the Gershwins and Modern English). This latest Sacred Fools world premiere, directed by Shaunessy Quinn, finds Broder, Will Bradley and Devereau Chumrau funking around with a Cyrano de Bergerac-ish love triangle set among contemporary jazz musicians. With Broder's music setting the evening's tone, Quinn's production is moody, hip, wistfully romantic and, yep, plenty complicated. There's nothing misshapen in our Alphonso's schnozz, but there is something a perhaps a little twisted about a man who refuses to follow his heart because of a promise he made to his. . .piano?
We meet Alphonso as he is working through a song in what he thinks is the privacy of a rehearsal studio. Only it's not so private. Henry Brooks (played by Will Bradley) hears the music and wanders in, breaking up the reverie. Sporting a hipster's hat, a white t-shirt and the kind of five o'clock shadow that suggests the man's too cool to take a razor to his face, Henry is a star, a lady killer and an arrogant SOB. But he recognizes talent and sees that Alphonso can be an asset rather than any kind of threat.
One scene later, back in the studio, we meet the lady who is to become both Alphonso and Henry's muse. Miravel (Chumrau) is a dancer with some self-worth issues who, baggage aside, has little use for over-inflated egos. Emerging from underneath Alphoso's piano where she was taking a nap, she quickly clicks with the composer and is repulsed by Henry. Hearing Henry perform a funked-up version of the Gershwins' "Summertime" thaws Miravel in Henry's favor, but it will take an original piece from a creative soul to win this lady. Alphonso possesses both; Henry has neither. So the composer writes a dark and sexy love song, "The Ballad of Howler and Ella," passing all the credit to Henry. And Miravel is won.
Happily ever after? Not in a jazz tale, it isn't. Henry may be a talented guy, a performer who can tear his way through the right kind of song, but things start to go south for Henry and Miravel once Henry realizes that his abilities don't measure up. Miravel starts taking refuge at Alphonso's pad and things start to get ugly.
Alphonso is Miravel's most tormented cat, but Henry is wrestling with some nasty demons himself. The cocksuredness, the angry hipness is masking something — feelings of adequacy, a desperate fear of being alone. Whatever that monster is, it comes out when Bradley sings and shuffles his way (via Cj Merriman's often frenzied choreography) through one of Alphonso's numbers. Miravel's attraction to this hot mess of an artist makes perfect sense. You detest the guy while you're drawn to him.
The impossibly leggy Chumrau brings smarts and vulnerability to this dance. Her Miravel doesn't want to be any man's trophy, but she knows her own talents may be limited. There are different levels of sizzle when Chumrau is working opposite Bradley and Broder, but in both cases, she's a hot muse, well worth winning.
And while we can't be entirely sure what has brought Alphonso to make his unusual pledge (or to break it), Broder makes the mystery enticing. In his hands, Alphonso is not quite a hermit, not quite a social success (although the character ends up getting national attention). The resolution is perhaps a little too easy, but Broder, Bradley and Chumrau make the journey consistently engaging.
A final note. Since the music is such a key player in this interlude, a big shout-out to band members Colin Kupka on the saxophone, Michael Alvidrez on bass and Kenny Elliott on drums. Pre-curtain Kupka took a chair center stage and soloed for what must have been a solid 10 minutes. Here's another complicated cat in a play chock full of them.
© 2015 CurtainUp
Without a doubt, writer-performer Jake Broder has created memorable and amazingly eclectic musical divertissements over the past decade-plus, including performing in his one-man show His Royal Highness Lord Buckley and Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara, which also began at Sacred Fools and subsequently traveled—and continues to travel. Now Broder returns home to the Fools to debut his newest work. And like his previous efforts, nothing about it is safe nor, despite its theme lifted directly from Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, is there anything proffered one would expect.
Under director Shaunessey Quinn, Broder steps solidly into the leading role of Alphonso Bloch, a physically challenged and painfully introverted jazz composer who plays his tragic Cyrano to Will Bradley’s more desirable Christian, creating spectacular musical compositions so his emotionally unavailable friend can win the heart of his maiden fair—you know, the maiden Alphonso adores but is too shy and withdrawn to pursue. Still, Alphonso, often left lurking behind the action, sitting quietly at his piano watching the chase unfold, understands life better than the others. As he ruminates, watching Bradley’s Henry Brooks woo Devereau Chumrau’s Terpsichorean heroine Miravel, “The heart wants, the body obeys, and the mind suffers.”
The story isn’t new; the treatment of it is. Broder uses his own incredibly rich jazz pieces to retell the classic tale, churning out striking original compositions with the help of an onstage combo: Colin Kupka on sax, Kenny Elliott on drums, and, at the performance reviewed, Jonathan Kirsh on bass substituting for Michael Alvidrez. Broder is not only an arresting composer and a knockout pianist, he is a truly gifted actor; his simple, charmingly unadorned performance makes his character as much the heart of this production as his own unforgettable music.
The archetypal foil to Broder’s underplayed Alphonso is Bradley, who seems to be channeling all the quirky movements and Napoleonic preening of a young James Cagney as the cocky Henry, the psychologically tormented minor radio singer whose vocal stylings are a lot smoother than his rather clumsy womanizing or his violent mood swings. Bradley is phenomenal in his musical moments, whether they be scatting through Broder’s own compositions or reinterpreting a couple of wonderful old standards thrown into the mix: strikingly jazzy arrangements of Gershwin’s “Summertime” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” Bradley is a fearless performer, a quality without which Miravel would fall flat. If someday he doesn’t play the equally too-cool and conflicted lead in a revival of Pal Joey, it would truly be a cryin’ shame.
As the title character, Alphonso and Henry’s majestically beautiful and graceful object of desire, dancer Chumrau is physically perfect in the role and obviously knows exactly where her character must travel to find her real amore. Still, one might wish she trusted her instincts more at times and knew that her audience is right behind her without needing to work so hard to elucidate Miravel’s confusing crawl through the thorny brambles of love. This is something an actor cannot accomplish without the guidance of a director who can see what she can’t and help her dial things down a tad, but there’s a lot of room for Chumrau, with the aid of Quinn, to explore as she grows into the role.
This brings up the hope that Broder and his exceptionally talented team continue to see Miravel as a work-in-progress. There’s so much promise here, but the production and Broder’s script still needs a bit of polishing to make it as innovative and stunningly rich as the music and the mood it so eloquently creates.
--Travis Michael Holder
© 2015 Arts in LA
Cyrano de Bergerac gets a jazz-infused contemporary update in Jake Broder’s play with music Miravel, a Sacred Fools World Premiere that scores high marks for performance, both vocal and instrumental...
Like Cyrano before him, renowned jazz composer Alphonso Bloch (Broder) suffers from a love that dare not speak its feelings, the American musician’s smashed-up leg taking the place of the French poet’s protruding proboscis as an obstacle to Happily Ever After with his Roxanne, the titular Miravel.
Also like Monsieur de Bergerac, our hero is blessed/cursed with a best friend of such striking looks and sex appeal that a) who wouldn’t want to be his friend? and b) what member of the opposite sex wouldn’t find him more desirable than Cyrano/Alphonso?
Not that Miravel (Devereau Chumrau) is instantly smitten by jazz star Henry Brooks (Will Bradley). Quite the contrary, since any man who would treat women as despicably as Henry apparently does seems hardly likely to make Miravel’s Most Wanted list.
Still, when you’re hot, you’re hot, and soon desire trumps reason and Alphonso’s best friend and his muse are sharing a private love nest, that is until things begin to sour between them, romantic troubles stemming in part from an increasingly belligerent Henry’s fear that it is actually Alphonso whom Miravel loves, or at least his music.
And so our selfless hero comes up with a plan that would do Cyrano proud, to write music for the fair Miravel and let Henry pretend that the melodies are his. What girl wouldn’t fall for that?
Miravel’s first act features some of the most exciting musical performances you’re likely to hear outside a jazz club, Broder’s original songs (“The New Collisionists,” “Miravel,” “New Year’s Blues”) and a couple of 20th-century classics (The Gershwins’ “Our Love Is Here To Stay” and “Summertime”) backed by as sensational a three-piece combo (Colin Kupka on sax, Michael Alvidrez on bass, and Kenny Elliott on drums) as any jazz lover could wish for, and there are some dramatic sparks along the way as well...
Under Shaunessy Quinn’s assured direction, performances are all-around splendid, beginning with Broder’s brooding, introverted Alphonso, work made even more noteworthy given the actor’s Ovation Award-winning star turn as the eternally hypercharged Louis Prima. (Broder’s original compositions and his gifts at the piano shine under Paul Litteral’s expert musical direction, as does Ryan Johnson and Broder’s symphony composition.)
As Alphonso’s rival, Bradley once again proves himself one of L.A.’s most electric leading man, giving the role a dynamic intensity and lean-and-hungry sex appeal in addition to proving himself one terrific jazz singer.
Completing Miravel’s love triangle is the stunning Chumrau, who is not only gorgeous enough to fan the flames of two men’s love but digs deep into Miravel’s conflicted emotions and dances exquisitely to Cj Merriman’s graceful choreography. (Zach Brown is assistant choreographer.)
Miravel’s classy-looking set (scenic design by Entertainment Design Corporation: Alex M. Calle) works as both jazz club and as the backdrop to the play’s other locales and has been strikingly lit by R. Christopher Stokes. (Bo Powell is assistant lighting designer.) Jeff Gardner’s intricate sound design insures a perfect blend of vocals and instrumentals. Costume designer Rosalie Alvarez has created one character-defining outfit after another, with special snaps for Chumrau’s slinky gowns. (Lisa Anne Nicolai is assistant costume designer.)
Last but not least, there’s a terrific knock-down drag-out scuffle that earns high marks for fight/movement coach Laura Napoli.
...Miravel has the potential to be another winner for the multitalented Broder. As a showcase for its sextet of performers, it is already on the right jazz track.
© 2015 StageSceneLA
The name Jake Broder may ring a bell for jazz fans who also have a love of theatre. Several years ago he co-wrote and starred as Louis Prima in the award-winning Louis and Keely: Live at the Sahara which premiered at Sacred Fools Theatre Company before going on to successful runs the Geffen Playhouse, the Royal George in Chicago, and a number of other venues around the country. (Coincidentally, it returns to The Geffen this New Year’s Eve for a two-week run and will then play the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach in February/March of 2016.)
Broder’s latest project is Miravel, a jazz musical about a fictional composer named Alphonso Bloch that traces his musical evolution from his early days as a post-bop jazz pianist, to writing more soulful ballads, and on into symphonic work. Described as “a deeply twisted love triangle….with a piano,” it stars Devereau Chumrau as Miravel, Will Bradley as Henry Brooks, and Broder as Alphonso Bloch.
Alphonso Bloch is a reclusive jazz composer who falls in love with and creates for Miravel, a muse to two very different musicians. It is an intimate Cyrano-esque story that wrestles with the artist’s greatest obstacle to creation: Himself. When a dance injury threatens to take her away, Alphonso makes a fateful decision – to give his music to singer Henry Brooks, to woo her. Miravel is a jazz musical where the songs are the characters.
“All of the music is written for a single person over the course of 20 years,” says Broder, “and as that relationship changes and develops, so does the music. In the composition, I aspired to be Marsalis-like. It was music composed ‘in character.’ I wrote it as Alphonso, and Alphonso wishes he was the long lost Marsalis brother.”
In addition to the original compositions he created, Broder also incorporates standards like the Gershwin brothers’ “Our Love is Here to Stay” and “Summertime.”
“The songs feature a lot of references to jazz through its history and melds them with hip hop and rock,” adds musical director Paul Litteral. “The way they’re presented makes them easy for non-jazz fans to enjoy but very satisfying to those who love jazz as an art form.”
Sacred Fools has had a number of successes developing new works like Louis & Keely, and Stoneface (a Buster Keaton musical written for French Stewart by his wife Vanessa Claire Stewart) and moving them to larger houses like The Geffen and Pasadena Playhouse. Miravel is the latest project developed by the company, eagerly anticipated by members of the theatre community as well as musicians who follow their work.
Jake Broder’s other biographical roles include Ira Gershwin, Lord Buckley and Mozart in Amadeus (Broadway, West End and the Ahmanson). He has a recurring role on HBO’s Silicon Valley, and can be seen in Kevin Spacey’s Beyond the Sea. In addition to Louis & Keely, his playwriting credits include His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley, and Our American Hamlet (in development with the Goodman theatre, Chicago). Broder trained at the Guildhall School, London.
Musical Director, Paul Litteral, is a founding member of the Uptown Horns and toured and recorded with The Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Joe Cocker, James Brown, Pat Benatar, and Ray Charles. In 2011 Litteral won an Ovation Award for Musical Direction for the Sinatra musical, Hoboken to Hollywood, which he co-wrote.
© 2015 KJazz Arts & Music Blog