Newcomers to Indianapolis who attended “Spotlight 2013: Seeing Red,” Monday at Clowes Memorial Hall on the campus of Butler University, surely must have come away impressed with the deep well and variety of talent — not to mention generosity — that exists in our city.
Because what they saw were over 20 outstanding acts presented by community performing arts organizations during a one-night gala to raise funds for HIV testing and prevention. Net proceeds for the event, which also included a silent auction, were $367,000.
Co-founded by David Hochoy and Rob MacPherson in 1994, the event was presented for the 19th time since its inception. Hochoy and MacPherson, co-directors of the show, were assisted by production coordinator David Dreyfuss and lighting designer Shanelle Hayes. They, as well as the entire cast of performers and crew, donated their time and talents.
Arguably one of Spotlight’s finest technical presentations ever, this year’s edition, which lasted two and a half hours and included a 30-minute intermission, was fast-paced and tightly executed. The reason this one moved swiftly was partly because titles projected above the stage to identify acts dispensed with the need for a live host to introduce the performances, which eats up time. And despite an issue involving a failed video presentation and a few slow transitions, the production as a whole was nearly flawless.
And as far as pure entertainment, this year’s Spotlight extravaganza — with no weak link to speak of — couldn’t have been better.
Favorite performances for this writer during Act 1 included The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, led by David Glover, in Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide”; soprano Jacqueline Brecheen from the Indianapolis Opera in “Musetta’s Waltz,” from “La Boheme”; David Murray, contrabass, and DJ Smith, piano, representing the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra in “Cariccio di Bravura,” by Giovanni Bottesini; and Cantantes Angeli representing the Indianapolis Children’s Choir in “Stand Together,” by Jim Papoulis.
Act 2 standouts included Brenda Williams and the Pride of Indy Jazz Ensemble, who performed Rodgers and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love”; The Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre dancing to “Roxanne,” from “My Gypsy Soul”; “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” featuring Charles Goad, Paul Hansen and an ensemble from BOBDIREX Productions’ “Spamalot” (opening June 15); and Leann Underwood and Thomas Forster, representing Indianapolis City Ballet, who danced to Cole Porter’s “So in Love,” with choreography by Margo Sappington.
Deserving of special note is Know No Stranger, an innovative group of artists who cleverly told “Wildwood” — the story of a bear who destroys an evil ogre with the help of bunnies, a fish and an owl — through the use of music, narration, puppetry, illustrations and cardboard cutouts positioned on a conveyer belt, with all visuals projected by a video camera onto a screen.
Popular with the 1,200-plus ticket buyers in attendance was The Fourth Wall, a group of musicians who also joyously danced while playing their instruments in “8-Track Mind.” It was a medley of hits from the 1970s that included “Stayin’ Alive,” “I’ll Take You There,” “I’ll Be There,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “American Pie,” “Shake Your Booty” and others. Performers were Hilary Abigana, flute; C. Neil Parsons, bass trombone; and Greg Jukes, percussion.
Also making a distinct impression on the audience was poet Tasha Jones in a dramatic spoken word performance of her own work, “Color US Red,” a powerful piece with themes that included women’s empowerment, domestic violence, motherhood and art.
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