Posted by Spencer Koch | Posted in Entertainment Guide | Posted on 01-07-2011
Programmer Ragen Carlile knows that “Big! World! Fun!” is going well when it becomes hard to tell whether the children or the adults are having a better time.
The series of eight dance, music and theater events — beginning Saturday with Ballet Folclorico do Brasil — has become a summer mainstay at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. It’s popular with families that enjoy cultural and artistic diversity, and it’s only $5 for adults and free for children.
“I try always to pick high-quality artists that represent a cross section of culture,” said Carlile, who begins scheduling about six months ahead, looking for the right mix of styles.
The eight-show series, featuring music, dance and theater events geared to children 4 to 12 and their families, will run through Aug. 27 at the Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. Performances are at 10 a.m. every Saturday (except July 16 when there is no show). Ballet Folclorico do Brasil will perform Saturday, followed by the AXIS Dance Company (July 9), the irreverent classical group Beethoven’s Wig (July 23), Center for Vietnamese Ethnic Culture & Art (July 30), Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir (Aug. 6), Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company (Aug. 13), Street Beat dance/percussion group (Aug. 20) and Cajun/zydeco band Lisa Haley & the Zydekats (Aug. 27). Tickets are $5 for adults and free for children. Call 323-461-3673 or visit fordtheatres.org.
———————– Contributed photo Ballet Folclorico do Brasil will kick off the family-friendly “Big! World! Fun!” series on Saturday at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood.
She opened the season with Ballet Folclorico because its director, Amen Santo, offered to add to its performance several international artists who were temporarily in town for another event.
Santo, who founded Ballet Folclorico do Brasil in 1988 as both a performance and an educational company, said the Ford audience members would be treated to a mixture of Brazilian dance and music that traces its roots to a mix of Portuguese, African and indigenous cultures.
“It’s vibrant and expressive and colorful,” Santo said. “And it really connects with young people.”
Anyone who wants to try a few dance moves or to play one of the instruments will be invited on stage during the show.
“It’s fun to see the children get excited,” Santo said. “We have students who were 5 or 6 years old when we started, and are now in their 20s and are part of the group who will be performing at the Ford.”
Beethoven’s Wig, an irreverent classical group that’s a far cry from Brazilian music, will perform July 23. The ensemble is the brainchild of Richard Perlmutter, and it went from nowhere to international sensation almost overnight. A decade ago, the musician-songwriter made a CD featuring humorous, yet historically researched, lyrics set to various pieces of classical music. He figured it might get a bit of attention.
“Shortly afterward, it was featured on NPR, and then I was on the ‘Today Show,’ and then it went to No. 1 on Amazon,” Perlmutter said. “I had a feeling it was catching on.”
Several albums followed. Each contains songs that have lyrics that match historical aspects of the composer and the origins of the original classical piece.
One example is a song based on a piece of music Mozart wrote for the mandolin.
“He was interested in a woman who was an amateur mandolinist,” said Perlmutter, who tries to write songs that will appeal to both children and adults. “So he dedicated the piece to her, I think in hopes that she would fall for him. So that’s what I wrote about. I enjoy doing the research for the songs as much as writing them.”
The mandolin song will be on the new Beethoven’s Wig album, due out in September. Folks attending the Ford concert will get to hear it early. The hourlong show will be a mix of new and classic Beethoven’s Wig material, and will also feature four professional opera singers, a pianist, a string quartet, and a mandolin player.
Two other acts Carlile has long tried to put on the bill are the AXIS Dance Company (appearing July 9), which combines traditional dancers with ones who have a disability, and the Center for Vietnamese Ethnic Culture & Art, the first Vietnamese company ever featured in “Big! World! Fun!”
“We find each year that a lot of families return, and they tell their friends,” Carlile said. “We get almost all of our audiences from word-of-mouth. Once people see that it’s casual, yet professional fun, they relax and have a great time.”
Email freelance columnist Jeff Favre at email@example.com.