Dan Kamin is a very talented mime, a quality
that shines through the slapstick and gentle humor of his "Comedy
Concerto" titled "The Lost Elephant," this weekend's
Family Concert presentation by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.
In the role of a zookeeper looking for a lost elephant, he wanders
into a symphony concert and is enlisted to help personify musical
selections on the general theme of animals
A narrator, Susan Chapek, thinks he might help
stimulate the imaginations of her young audience, and he finally
agrees to help. The results are a series of short, choreographed
episodes to musical selections that demonstrate the exceptional
range of Mr. Kamin's comedic talents.
Avoiding the hard-driving slapstick that many
children's performers employ, each of Mr. Kamin's personifications
has an element of classic mime, beginning, for his stage entrance,
with a series of revelations timed to Shostakovich's "Age
of Gold" polka.
In fact, his comedy concertos are really action
scores, using actual musical moments in their short entirety to
first suggest and then accompany his carefully timed moves. Instead
of trying to personify the music, he lets the music personify
It was all great fun for the young audience,
and they were soon aping his moves, swaying with him and Ms. Chapek
as waltzing cats (to the music of Leroy Anderson) or sharing his
can't-sit-still impatience by horseback-riding with him through
the "William Tell Overture."
Ms. Chapek had all the moves down as well, alternately
coy and flirtatious as the other waltzing cat or equally propelled
by the Rossini overture. She is an effective foil for Mr. Kamin's
bumbling zookeeper, both keeping him in line and urging him on
to even more participation.
As in all such presentations, the orchestra
and music director Leslie Dunner are part of the act, conjuring
the right music and occasionally the right props to abet the moment.
The music they were called upon to play was familiar, funny stuff:
"Flight of the Bumblebee," a couple of Camille Saint-Saens'
acts from "Carnival of the Animals" and the like, as
well as a few unlikely but quite fitting moments from Igor Stravinsky's
Suite No. 2. All were rendered with appropriate zest and exaggeration
to help make the comedic points.
It did not go unnoticed that the wide span of
Mr. Kamin's characterizations allowed some unlikely accompaniment,
such as Handel's "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba" from
the oratorio "Solomon," to introduce the mime's lion.
It was an elegant bit of the baroque to accompany Mr. Kamin's
dexterous and precise handling of his cage bars, as well as exposure
to something the youngsters won't be hearing on Rok Klassics 104.
And that, of course, is the point of the exercise-- to expose young people at a formative moment to something beyond the brain-dead pop music that otherwise monopolizes their musical attention. Serious (as opposed to frivolous) music can
be a nourishment to a child's emotional good health, just as vitamins
can fortify and help overcome the inadequacies of a marginal diet.
A good example could be Saint-Saens' "The
Swan" (beautifully played by acting principal cello Kerena
Moeller), a work that needs no exposure to enhance its popularity.
As the musical setting for a life-sized "Swan Queen"
puppet in the arms of a clever and inventive dancing mime, it
can imprint itself on a young mind with lasting clarity.
If the musical selections managed to include
a moment or two of special concert music substance, so did Mr.
Kamin's miming. His short balloon dance to the waltz from Stravinsky's
Suite No. 2 was pure Marcel Marceau, an exceptional bit of illusion
from a master illusionist, and the young folks around me watched
in amazement as the imaginary balloon threatened to carry him
It is perhaps a bit much to tout such family
concert performances as an antidote for society's banalities.
Some may once have regarded these works as the banalities of their
own era -- such is the imprecision of judgment. What these performances
offer (as well as the ASO's equally valuable and necessary corollary
activities in the schools that accompany them) is a vital window
of exposure to something that is increasingly harder to see and
hear in our thoroughly merchandised culture.
Through its support of these performances, the
ASO has recognized that there is nothing more important to the
survival of this musical heritage than exposing our children early
and often to its sustenance, its nourishment and its everlasting
CLASSICAL CLOWN REVIEW
March 16-22, 2008
El Paso Inc., El Paso, Texas
THE MIME WANTS TO CONDUCT THE ORCHESTRA!
By Betty Ligon
Dan Kamin tours the country mixing comedy with classical music. In "The Classical Clown" he played the part of a goofy janitor who wandered onstage as Maestro Benjamin Loeb was conducting the first of a classical menu that included pieces by Stravinsky, Grieg, Strauss and others. When Kamin began hammering on the floor, Loeb could stand no more. He stopped the music and scolded the intruder.
From there the concert went to pieces, literally. Kamin divested himself of his overalls and a realistic flesh-colored mask, revealing himself to be the Classical Clown himself--a musical mime intent on capturing Loeb's baton and conducting the orchestra.
The fun immediately became physical, as Loeb and the mime wrestled over control of the baton. Between Loeb's frustrated attempts to regain control over the concert, he exchanged heated conversation with the mime--and did it perfectly. Loeb told me later that he had to learn 138 lines of script for the show.
Although the action seemed impromptu, the entire show was written by Kamin. He proved to be a fantastic mime and had the audience laughing all the way. He even performed the Michael Jackson moonwalk.
There were all sorts of clever antics, including hypnotizing each other and the mime dancing to a Strauss waltz with a realistic rag doll.
The El Paso Symphony musicians got into the act as well, occasionally rising on cue to shout their lines.
Light effects added to the show's magic, even going dark at one time, requiring musicians to play by the light on their music stands.
After the show Kamin broke his silence for a lively question and answer session with the audience, revealing himself to be a handsome young man with a great talent at showing children that classical music is fun to hear, even without the histrionics.