Sitting in the theatre before the show’s opening, I read the program. Drawn in by the cool illustration on the front cover by Raivo Nefjodov. A red fox in a cloak, strumming on a guitar. A myriad of forest creatures, some on tambourine while others dance, the title in bold, blood red: Legend of Huli.
May 8, 2023 – City Playhouse Theatre
Garden Little Night Orchestra
Roman Smirnov: guitar
Wen Zhao: pipa
Demetrios Petsalakis: oud, percussion
David Giller: Dancer
Upon opening the program, Libertto: I believe this is a typo and what I am looking at is the Libretto:
Five paragraphs explain the script or storyline for the show that is to be performed. Fascinating! A heavenly fox descends on Earth and proceeds to cause trouble, creating humans included.
The musicians are seated on high back chairs; except the oud player, Demetrios Petsalakis, who is seated on a wooden cajón, a percussion instrument. A male dancer, David Giller, all in black except for a bright red scarf, dances around the musicians. He seems to bring the musicians to life.
Roman Smirnov begins; the dancer gives him a guitar, and a Spanish-flavored song begins. The other musicians join in, Demetrios Petsalakis playing the oud and Wen Zhao playing a pipa, a stringed instrument sometimes called a Chinese lute.
The musicianship is marvelous, the first number highlights the guitar playing of Smirnov, Fox and Gardener, a lively song that sets the scene for nonstop excitement and joy.
The dancer flits about on stage. He flows and flirts. He jetés and pirouettes in front of the musicians and all around them. He steals the pipa player, Wen Zhao, at one point in the show to dance a waltz. He also inspired the audience to clap along to the songs. The dancer seemed to be in charge of which guitar Smirnov would play. He appears to relieve the guitarist of a six-string guitar replacing it with a twelve-string.
The dancer, Giller, in accompaniment with Zhao, who played the pipa with virtuosic skill.
The songs sounded to have many influences. A Chinese folk tune, guitar, pipa and oud. A jig, sounding more Irish than Chinese. A Greek or middle eastern rhythm. Indian sitar-like strings. Many different melodies had me traveling around the world’s music scene.
Each artist had a chance to solo, the guitarist Smirnov on 12-string acoustic, a beautiful song and wonderful, soulful playing.
I have seen Demetrios Petsalakis on other occasions with Kuné, The Global Orchestra, for one, and I had no idea he was an accomplished percussionist. I enjoyed his playing. Especially Taxim, a song he is credited with composing and on this tune he played solo oud. He evoked strong feelings of emotion, sad, dynamic, tragic, yet hopeful. The show flowed from beginning to end. The finale had the audience clapping along. The dancer Giller prances off into the audience to stir up excitement. An Estonian waltz is performed as the next stop on the tour will be in Estonia. A nursery rhyme feel to this tune. A performance of delight that is as if emerging from a dream.
Photos by Paul J. Youngman