The University Record, March 8, 1999

‘Relive the Magic’ is Humanities Institute symposium opening session

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

An aging pop-icon based on Frank Sinatra is the lead character in Andy Kirshner’s experimental music-theater piece, “Relive the Magic.”

What began as a jazz song cycle, commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1995, the work eventually took on the form of a “retirement” concert, recapping a star’s life and career.

The show is a series of exits and entrances, depicting character Tony Amore in earlier years, with re-appearances of the aging star, his daughter directing the studio orchestra, and his son hovering in the background as caretaker/valet/manager during Amore’s final appearance at a pledge-week special on public television.

Working with the themes of aging, memory, myth-making and reality in a culture that honors celebrity and the media, Kirshner says he chose the Sinatra/Amore character in part because the aging of a popular figure is so visible. Film and video clips give us a permanent record of a celebrity’s youth, which often stands in jarring contrast to the present real-life figure, says Kirshner, who is a doctoral candidate in composition and the Hunting Family Graduate Student Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities.

Amore performs a series of numbers—a big band/be-bop number with female fans crying his name, a cowboy song featuring Tony as a macho playboy, and a confessional saloon song that shows Tony in his existential barroom mode. Finally, Tony offers his version of Sinatra’s “My Way,” an inspirational pop-anthem called “I Could Always Count on Me.”

The show takes the audience back and forth from complex issues of aging and illusion to a lighter look at the macho singer who can croon such lyrics as “Whatever fate befell me, it was me who made it so.”

“I’m trying to create something that is entertaining and funny, but is also a meditation on aging and memory and loss of self,” says Kirshner.

Excerpts from “Relive the Magic” will be performed free at 8:30 p.m. March 19 in Rackham’s Assembly Hall following a 8 p.m. reception. The performance opens the Institute for the Humanities symposium “Form and Pattern: Trauma, Space, Art.”

The entire show will be performed at the Michigan Theater at 3 p.m. April 11, with the Ann Arbor-based chamber orchestra, The Phoenix Ensemble. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students) and are available at the Michigan Union Ticket office, 763-8587; SKR Classical; through all Ticketmaster outlets; and at the door.