Sunday, October 17, 2004

'Elegies' celebrates life's 'infinite joy'

By Jackie Demaline
Enquirer staff writer

What: Elegies
When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday (plus 8 p.m. Wednesday preview performance benefiting AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati)
Where: Cohen Studio Theatre, CCM
Tickets: $25
Reservations: (513) 421-2437, Ext. 304, starting noon Monday
William Finn writes about those he's loved and lost in his song cycle Elegies, getting its regional premiere in free performances this week in University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music's Studio Series.

Finn is the Tony Award-winning composer of musicals, from Falsettoland to A New Brain to this year's buzz musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Musical theater buffs know that the lovely and thought-provoking A New Brain was inspired by his own scare from a brain tumor. Elegies celebrates family, friendship, a favorite pet and even a Chinese takeout as he looks at life - and the role death plays in it.

"It isn't sad," says director Aubrey Berg. "It's a celebration. What he's telling us is that people come and go and leave an indelible impression and life goes on. And life is infinite joy."

Berg has headed the musical theater department at CCM for almost 20 years and is the man behind legendary CCM shows, from A Chorus Line to The Boys from Syracuse. He's having fun with Elegies, which, he says, "is five actors, a piano, some stools and the words."

This is, Berg says, "storytelling" through songs, perfect for the composer's conversational style. Finn pays tribute to his mother with a visit to his old small-town Massachusetts neighborhood, to an English teacher, to friends who've died from AIDS, to the victims of 9/11.

Finn has lots of famous friends. You'll know theatre impresario Joe Papp (founder of New York Public Theatre and producer of A Chorus Line) and film actor Steve Buscemi. More importantly, says Berg, audiences will embrace the universality as Finn remembers the people who have mattered to him. "We all know that experience."

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