Santa Barbara Symphony, State Street Ballet, professional vocalists and New York City actors collaborate on ‘Kismet’
“Kismet” met with positive reaction as New York City actors, professional vocalists, the State Street Ballet and Santa Barbara Symphony collaborated on an ambitious project.
“In my quarter century here as founder (of the State Street Ballet), I’ve never seen this much going on at one time,” Rodney Gustafson, the ballet’s executive and artistic director, told the News-Press earlier. “We’ve done big things with a hundred singers on risers and us on the stage and the Santa Barbara Symphony in the pit. We’ve done nothing of this magnitude, with such a variety of talent, with leading people from Broadway.”
“Kismet” was performed Oct. 23 and 24 at The Granada in Santa Barbara.
The audience included Bonnie Evans, who played Princesses of Ababu in the original Broadway production of “Kismet” in 1953 in New York City.
“Kismet” is a Tony-winning musical set in and around ancient Baghdad, where an opportunist/poet gets into and out of trouble in ways fitting for a musical comedy. There’s also the Caliph, who’s determined to get married, and plenty of plot twists.
The musical is Charles Lederer and Luther Davis’ Tony-winning 1954 adaptation of the 1911 play “Kismet” by Edward Knoblock. The lyrics and music are by Robert Wright and George Forrest, who adapted the music of Russian classical composer Alexander Borodin (1833-1887).
The musical was adapted into a 1955 film, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Howard Keel as the poet and Ann Blyth as Marsinah.
The Santa Barbara production included New York City actors Jonathan Raviv as Hajj and Sherz Aletaha as Lalume.
Nir Kabaretti, the symphony’s music and artistic director, expressed his enthusiasm about the project in an interview with the News-Press before the performance.
“It’s been 18 months that we haven’t had an (in-person) audience,” Maestro Kabaretti said. “… For the dancers, for the musicians, it’s a thrill to be back.
‘It’s an important moment, and I couldn’t be happier to do something on this level of collaboration,” Maestro Kabaretti said.
In addition, “there are not many classical composers whose music becomes a Broadway standard,” Maestro Kabaretti said. He was referring to the musical’s song, “Stranger in Paradise,” a song in which Mr. Wright and Mr. Forrest based the melody on Borodin’s “Gliding Dance of the Maidens” from the Polovtsian Dances in the opera “Prince Igor.”
Maestro Kabaretti expected the audience would recognize “Stranger in Paradise,” which Frank Sinatra recorded.
Lonny Price, who directed the local production of “Kismet,” also praised the music.
“Kismet boasts one of the most magnificent scores ever heard on a Broadway stage,” Mr. Price, known for his Broadway productions of classics such as “Sweeney Todd” and “Sunset Boulevard,” said in a statement.
He added that diversity was important in this production.
In another statement before the performances, William Soleau, the State Street Ballet’s co-artistic director and the show’s choreographer, noted Mr. Price “wanted a brand new, top to the bottom, original interpretation of this musical. We (used) full blown dance numbers to move the narrative forward, and it (was) a dream to be able to revive this classic, Tony Award-winning show.”