Presented by Sara Miller McCune. At The Granada Theatre, Sat., Oct. 23.
This joyous production brought something truly unprecedented to the Granada stage. While we have had touring Broadway performances, ballets, and symphony orchestra concerts in the past, this was all that rolled into one, and more, since it heralded the return of two beloved organizations to their home stage for the first time since the pandemic struck in March 2020.
Kismet, a Broadway musical of the old school, features a love story, memorable melodies, great dancing, and plenty of wisecracks. The fact that it is set in a medieval Muslim community comes second to the various traditional Broadway roles these fine actors were cast to play. As Hajj, the poet, Jonathan Raviv sang and connived his way out of a dozen tight situations with the kind of zany ingenuity associated with Groucho Marx. As his nemesis, the Wazir of Police, Austin Durant delivered a top-flight comic performance, including the broadly amusing second act number “Was I Wazir?”
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Ani Djirdjirian sang wonderfully in the ingénue role of Marsinah, Hajj’s loyal daughter and the Caliph’s love interest. Ariel Neydavoud portrayed the Caliph with a mixture of hauteur and earnestness befitting both a descendant of Mohammed and a love-struck young man. Their duet on “Stranger in Paradise” was the romantic climax of Act I and left the audience wanting to see these two lovers reunited.
What made this show a great choice for the Santa Barbara Symphony and State Street Ballet was revealed in Act II, when it became clear that there would be copious attention paid to that fascinating cultural anomaly, the seraglio. Thanks to the excellent choreography created by William Soleau, ensemble numbers like “Radhalakum,” “Samahris’ Dance,” and “Zubbediya,” had the SSB ballerinas combining classical technique with stunning gymnastics and plenty of vintage Broadway va-va-voom. Maestro Kabaretti drove his orchestra through these polyrhythmic segments like the leader of a hopped-up big band, thus creating the heightened atmosphere necessary for the whole fantastic world of Kismet to come alive.
Images by Heidi Bergseteren