The MSO goes bold with Sci-Fi Spectacular
Guest narrator George Takei headlines the final MSO Pops program of the season.
George Takei played Sulu on the original Star Trek and now has new fame as a Facebook phenomenon. Friday night, much of the audience came to see Takei, guest narrator at the Milwaukee Symphony Pops’ Sci-Fi Spectacular program. Takei entered unexpectedly after the Superman theme and derailed the concert — in a good way.
In limited time, Takei built a show-within-a-show. He charmed the audience with tales of Star Trek and his Milwaukee connection — his brother went to Marquette, and Takei watched an early broadcast of his show in Milwaukee with his newborn nephew on his lap. In a poignant reminder of Star Trek’s ambitious appeal to diversity, Takei reminded us of a multi-racial cast on network TV in the midst of the civil rights movement, Vietnam War and the Cold War. He’s a fascinating man – which makes it all the sadder when he had to step back and let the concert go on. He returned one more time, to deliver a speech from The Day The Earth Stood Still.
We could have used more of Takei, but still: A concert of orchestral sci-fi themes is cool by nature. The orchestra and MSO Chorus’ near-flawless recreations of these classic themes made them sound out of this world.
Guest conductor Jack Everly took the captain’s chair and guided the orchestra through music from all the major sci-fi classics: Star Wars, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, etc. Live, they are anything but background noise.
The most dazzling of all was new to me: John Barry’s score of Somewhere In Time, a romance about a time traveler who falls in love with a woman from the past. The score is slow and melodic, fundamentally different from the sweeping themes of and electronic trills of the space operas. It drowns you in waves of sound and emotion.
Everly, a dynamic figure, occasionally went airborne to make his conducting points. He also waved a light saber baton for the last of three Star Wars numbers. That was fun, but his charisma waned when he turned around, for over-rehearsed patter that might have been funny the first time.
Guest soprano Kristen Plumley, like Takei, was underused. Her contributions include the vocalise to the Star Trek theme – beautiful, but it’s somewhat awkward to watch a woman aah-ing on stage. She also sang When You Wish Upon a Star – again, beautiful, but completely out of context. Unless I missed something big in Pinocchio.
The MSO will perform this program twice more at Marcus Center Uihlen Hall: tonight (Saturday) at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $102. Call (414) 291-7605 or visit the MSO website to order.
Keep the MSO’s 2o12-13 season and all of our arts groups’ seasons at your fingertips: Bookmark Matthew Reddin’s comprehensive and still-growing guide to 2012-13. Sponsored by the Florentine Opera Company.