Sunday, June 10, 2018

"Flashback" by Alive & Kickin at Bloomington Center for the Arts

If you think growing older is a drag, then you've never seen Alive & Kickin, a choir full of "seniors that rock." Led by the energetic and talented director/choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell, with music director extraordinaire Jason Hansen, this choir is so much fun to watch, so full of life and the joy of music. Ranging in age from 62 to 93, these beautiful humans still have talent and gifts to share. They represent a segment of our population that is often ignored, overlooked, and discarded. But this show will remind you that it's important to listen to your elders, especially when they can rock like this! You can see them at Bloomington Center for the Arts through next weekend, and visit their website to find out how you can support them or get involved (click here for both).

The theme of this performance by Alive & Kickin is Flashback, or those memories that instantly come back to us based on a smell, sight, or location. For me, it's when I go on my morning run and pass the man smoking a pipe, and am filled with warmth and comfort remembering my Grandpa. Or how the smell of bacon reminds me of my Grandma, who would always have breakfast ready for us when we returned from Sunday mass. The choir members share sense memories like this, in recorded voiceovers played before songs. Some are funny, some are sad, all are full of that bittersweet fruit known as nostalgia. #bringtissues

All of the artists whose music is represented in the show died much too young, but they're alive for the moment through individuals or groups or the entire 30+ person chorus singing their music, accompanied by a photo and years of life projected on a big screen at the back of the stage. Everyone from Hank Williams to Edith Pilaf, John Denver to Mama Cass, Kurt Cobain to Karen Carpenter* (my favorite). So many artists who didn't live long enough to be a senior citizen, to look back on a long life, whether happy or troubled. When you consider this alternative and all these talented artists whose lives and careers were cut tragically short, getting older truly is a privilege. Something that Alive & Kickin celebrates like no other.

This is not your grandma's choir concert (unless your grandma is one of these amazing women, then I guess it is). This is a high quality rock concert, accompanied by rock star lighting (designed by Grand Merges), with the choir looking pretty snazzy in their red and black glam steampunk Victorian chic costumes (designed by Barb Portinga). Jason Hansen leads an awesome seven-piece onstage band and does a great job accompanying this group with varying levels of experience. But none of this is possible without founder Michael Matthew Ferrell, who leads the choir with such energy and love that they can't help but give it right back to him and the audience.

If you've never seen Alive & Kickin, I encourage you to check them out, if not this weekend then at a future performance (typically once or twice a year). I promise you'll have a great time, and maybe even begin to look at aging a little differently.

*With the recent trend of the bio-musical, I'm waiting for someone to write a bio-musical about Karen Carpenter. And by someone I mean Richard Carpenter, paired with a clever, talented, preferably female book writer. Let's get on that, hmmm?!