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At the final Talking Volumes event of the 2013 season, crime novelist (and jazz lover) Michael Connelly said he was co-producing a documentary about Minneapolis-born jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan, who died in 2007. Connelly said he often listens to jazz when he writes, especially when he's writing about his popular detective hero Harry ("Hieronymous") Bosch.
Connelly said that Morgan's family members, some of whom were in the audience at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on Tuesday, had been very helpful in making the documentary, "Sound of Redemption," which Connelly said is likely to be released in spring 2014.
Morgan was born in Minneapolis in 1933, raised mostly in Milwaukee and then moved to Los Angeles, where drugs soon led him to an adult life spent in and out of prison. His late-in-life comeback began in the mid-1980s, and included gigs at the Dakota in Minneapolis, after he moved back to Minneapolis in 2005. The Morgan documentary is being directed by N.C. Heikin, and includes interviews as well as archival footage. James Egan is another producer.
Connelly has written about his love of Morgan's music, and how he came to the idea that detective Bosch would love it, too.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Childhood dreams can come true. Just ask Alexa Maxwell. While growing up in Minnetonka she wore out a VHS tape of New York City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” determined that someday she would dance with the world-class troupe. Last week the 19-year-old signed a contract to join the NYCB corps de ballet.
But dreams do differ from reality. Maxwell wasn’t just handed this big gig. It’s the result of years filled with body-busting effort and personal sacrifice. After studying locally at small dance schools as well as Minnesota Dance Theatre she left home at age 14 to join the prestigious Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet where she worked on her skills intensively and graduated from high school through online courses.
In June 2012 Maxwell traveled to Manhattan for the summer program at The School of American Ballet, NYCB’s official training program founded by the legendary choreographer George Balanchine. She was asked to stay on and by December earned a coveted apprenticeship plus an opportunity to prove herself worthy of a spot with the company. “They see how you perform, your work ethic,” Maxwell said by phone. “You have one year to try out and then [Ballet Master in Chief] Peter Martins either decides to take you on or you find another job.”
So now the newest member of NYCB will be performing in the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” and the “Waltz of the Flowers” sections of Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” with other exceptionally talented young dancers throughout this month at Lincoln Center. “It’s really exciting, almost all of the shows are sold out,” she said, adding some awe at the large audience she sees when sneaking a peek from backstage.
After “The Nutcracker” Maxwell will prepare for NYCB’s 2014 winter season by learning the “Diamonds” section of Balanchine’s “Jewels” among other signature repertory works. And while Maxwell is thrilled with her new role in the corps she still has goals, including one day ascending to the level of soloist or even principal dancer. But in the meantime, she said, “I’m just going to keep working hard. I’m so happy to be here and I’m feeling very grateful.”
Composer Conrad Susa, whose work was brought to life on several occasions in the Twin Cities, has died in San Francisco. Susa, who was 78, was a professor of composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Susa's best known opera is "Transformations," which had its premiere with the Minnesota Opera in 1973. Based on 10 poems from a book by Anne Sexton, the work was conducted by Philip Brunelle and directed by Wesley Balk. The poems re-imagined Grimm's fairy tales. Susa wrote the opera as a chamber piece. It has been frequently produced around the country.
"I have fond memories of conducting the premiere, and all the wildness that went along with his last-minute writing and having Anne Sexton here -- but it was magical," Brunelle wrote in an e-mail.
Susa also wrote pieces for VocalEssence and Plymouth Church, and another opera, "Black River: A Wisconsin Idyll," which was commissioned by Minnesota Opera for a 1975 debut. The libretto by Richard Street was inspired by the book "Wisconsin Death Trip."
"I will always remember the first time he came to Minneapolis and stayed with us, having morning pillow fights wiith the kids," Brunelle wrote. "Conrad was brilliant, humorous and irascible."
With the San Francisco Opera, Susa wrote "The Dangerous Liaisons," which had its premiere in 1994 with a cast that included Thomas Hampson and Renee Fleming.
Jason Alexander, the actor best known for playing a balding George Costanza on “Seinfeld,” now has a full head of hair that he’s bringing to the Twin Cities.
Alexander will do a solo show, “An Evening with Jason Alexander and His Hair” – that’s the real title — on a Monday, Jan. 27. It will be a benefit for the family of Carl Lee, who died on Nov. 5 at 52.
Lee was the director of marketing and theatrical programming at Hennepin Theatre Trust, which runs the State, Orpheum and Pantages theaters.
A one-time actor and singer, he also was the husband of Emmy-winning Broadway performer Linda Talcott Lee, whose 15-year Broadway career included nine years in “Beauty and the Beast.” Talcott Lee won an Emmy for her choreography on NBC’s “The Comedy Hall of Fame Show,” where she reunited with Alexander, with whom she had worked, pre-“Seinfeld.”
"We're thankful to Jason for his generosity in helping secure the future of our children," said Talcott Lee.
Alexander will deliver stand-up comedy, music and improv in his show. Tickets to “Jason Alexander and His Hair”, $45-$125, go on sale on Wednesday. Call 1-800-982-2787.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
While it may not be as glamorous as sitting in a grand theatre and watching a live performance, the opportunity to see an internationally revered dance company on a large movie screen is almost as good as being in the moment, particularly when London’s Royal Opera House Ballet is putting on the show.
Last month several area cinemas played host to a screening of the troupe’s vibrant “Don Quixote” and on Tuesday night “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was the main event. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, this production (premiered in 2011 and revived in spring 2013) is as hare-brained as anyone would desire when it comes to the Lewis Carroll classic. On film it’s possible to enjoy close-up the production details and they are mighty clever, right down to every inch of the Mad Hatter’s anarchic tea party, the antic flamingo croquet match, and the tiniest jam tarts over which many a battle is fought. Sara Lamb (who ably meets the challenge of appearing in nearly every scene of the ballet) is full of good humor and sardonic delight as Alice while Zenaida Yanowsky (the Red Queen) is the very essence of head-lopping derangement.
In December the film series continues with “The Nutcracker.” This production, created by Peter Wright, first premiered in 1984 at Covent Garden and has been a holiday mainstay for the Royal Opera Ballet ever since. The interpretation is based on the traditional story of a girl’s Christmas Eve fantasy filled with toys come to life, battling mice, and, of course, a performance by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The performance screening, as with the two previous ones, features behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage, information about the creative process and interviews with some of the main artists.
“The Nutcracker,” Tues., Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. Five cinema locations in the metro area. Prices vary. Visit www.fathomevents.com for further information.