Tom Sawyer - A Ballet In Three Acts

A new full-length Ballet in three acts, commissioned by the Kansas City Ballet. Choreographed by William Whitener, it premiered October 14, 2011 to inaugurate the opening of Kansas City, Missouri’s new Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts.  Written for full symphony orchestra, it was hailed by Alastair Macaulay, dance critic for The New York Times, as “quite likely the first all-new, entirely American three-act ballet: it is based on an American literary classic, has an original score by an American composer and was given its premiere by an American choreographer and company.”
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Wow. William Whitener’s and Maury Yeston’s Tom Sawyer: A Ballet in Three Acts is an unequivocal delight – bold and varied and bursting with youthful energy, and featuring the widest array of choreography by Whitener and a musical score of great ingenuity by the Tony Award-winning Yeston.… read more

Yeston’s musical style is deeply rooted in the classic Broadway tradition, with strikingly singable themes for each character, mood or emotion – soaring melodies for the love couple, bouncy ditties for the comic moments of Act 1, sinister themes for the bad guys. It features several quite memorable tunes that will ensure this piece a long life on the stage. I especially liked the music for the Stone Angel sequence, and the Coplandesque opening of Act 3, whose expansive sound suggested the wide-open American West.

But there’s plenty more in the mix, from folk-like round dances to quirky Appalachian Spring hops and leaps, with suggestions of hyperactive, Tharp-like looseness. The “variations” in Act 2 featured an unfolding of the most appealing array of dance, accompanied by waltzes, marches, rags... at one point there was a pas de trois of dancing gravestones, in a beautiful melding of musical edginess and comically angular dance. A dulcet, invisible youth chorus lent a haunting Nutcracker moment to the proceedings."

- Paul Horsely, KC Independent

Both the score and the choreography are energetic, robust, warm, deliberately naïve (both ornery and innocent), in ways right for Twain. Mr. Yeston’s tuneful music has sonorities and harmonies that recall Copland, Barber and Prokofiev (“Romeo and Juliet”). It ranges easily from comic to sinister, from Muff Potter’s drunkenness to a rich celebration of the Mississippi River.

In Mr. Whitener’s staging each character is distinctive — none becoming one-dimensional — but all can be part of an affecting small-town ensemble. All these folk, as in Twain, have at least a streak of cartoon vitality.

Tom, marvelously danced by the young redhead Alexander Peters, is life-enhancing, with a new set of steps in every scene. For his second entry in Act I, he comes on in a cartwheel, only to arrive in a fluent, hopping, revolving arabesque (a horizontal one) — an effect so fresh it lights up the stage. Sometimes just tiny strokes — the way one of Tom’s friends enters with a high-sailing jump; the slow, juicy way Becky rises onto point — are so timed that they become piercing.

The Kansas City dancers are delights in their jumps; footwork; full-bodied, three-dimensional shapes; and lively characterization. At the end Mr. Whitener gives the townspeople a heart-catchingly sweeping adagio group dance. As it keeps changing in pattern and direction, the dancers seem to become both the Mississippi itself and the whole spirit of community and history. Other ensembles are scarcely less poetic: The human waves in which Tom and his classmates twice cross the stage are the kind of interlude that makes theater thrilling.

- Alastair Macaulay, New York Times

"Yeston’s score is a gorgeous piece of music saturated with Americana. Certain passages bring to mind Aaron Copland and other American composers we associate with folk-based symphonic music.  He knows a thing or two about writing music to fit a dramatic narrative. He won Tony Awards for his Broadway shows, “Nine” and “Titanic.” For “Tom Sawyer,” he leads us along with swelling highs and nuanced lows, mixing drama with lyricism in a score that flows sensuously (and) captures the rhythms of the mighty Mississippi — Twain’s version of the river that has galvanized the imaginations of generations of writers and musicians".

- Robert Trussle, Kansas City Star

PS CLASSICS/MAURY YESTON’S “TOM SAWYER: A Ballet in Three Acts”: You might not realize it now, but this is a landmark recording.  Yeston, who has ably proved himself over and over, reaches for the stars here and grabs them.  A proven brand when it comes to Broadway music, Yeston creates a ballet out of whole cloth and turns in a grand orchestral work of such diverse and engaging music that your mind can’t help but be blown here.  Performed and realized by the renowned San Francisco Ballet Orchestra conducted by Martin West, serious music fans could be easily deluded into thinking the golden age of American music is on the way back on a regular basis. With a vibe that feels like PBS’s 4th of July specials, this sprawling, grand work is a snapshot of the kind of contemporary classical music that will survive for future generations.  Great work throughout.

The Midwest Record

"The dancers play the various roles as if out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and the music by composer Maury Yeston is Americana to the point where you almost expect George Gershwin to be nodding along in approval."

- Angie Fiedler Sutton, Kansas City Infozine

"Set to an original score by Tony-winning composer Maury Yeston , the emotionally affecting music is full of alluring melodies, dancey tunes, and  bright energy that fuels the proceedings."

- Lisa Jo Sagolla, Kansas City Star

Laura Osnes - The Songs of Maury Yeston

LAURA OSNES - IF I TELL YOU - Songs of Maury Yeston is drawn from Laura’s sold-out performances at 54 Below in November of 2012, and includes a generous selection of Yeston’s musical theatre songs (including several handpicked for this album and receiving their first recording here), as well her ravishing performance of December Songs.

Osnes and Yeston are a pair well met. The entire CD is good enough to prevent me from citing separate tracks…I am pleased that Osnes has seen fit to sing one of my favorite Yeston songs (the superb “New Words”).… read more

The heart of “If I Tell You” (10 of 17 tracks) consists of Yeston’s song cycle “December Songs”.  With Osnes the cycle is compelling, dramatic, comic, and altogether engaging. So, in addition to giving us a fine collection of the songs of Maury Yeston…Osnes adds it to my favored Yeston shelf.
- Steven Suskin, On The Record

The Stephen Sondheim/Bernadette Peters pairing is a hard one to beat. The Maury Yeston/Laura Osnes combination is the Sondheim/Peters match up for the new generation. With a catalog that reaches farther back than Osnes' time on the planet to draw from, Yeston not only has authorized the first solo disc devoted to his work for Osnes, he wrote a new song especially for her and this project. When arriving at flashpoints such as this one, the comparisons as to which is better just become silly. There's room for more than one at the pantheon. The utterly beguiling Osnes delivers the glories only hinted at on past recordings making this one a keeper and a classic. Not for Broadway/cabaret fans only, this is vocal music that's as good a it gets. Clearly a head and shoulders above winner.

- The Midwest Record

The title track, “If I Tell You,” was written specifically for Osnes, according to the liner notes, and it’s beautiful. The CD includes a variety of styles, and Osnes is up to the task for all of them. She vamps it up a bit for “Shimmy Like They Do in Paree/I Want to Go to Hollywood” but goes classic for “I Still Hear the Music,” another new song...it was a delight discovering new tunes..

- Eric Henrickson,  Detroit News

Death Takes A Holiday –A Breathtaking New Musical

With a Book by Thomas Meehan and Peter Stone, based on an Italian play written in 1928, cited by Time Magazine as one of the Top Ten Plays and Musicals of 2011 and receiving 11 Drama Desk Award nominations. In the early 1920’s, shortly after WW One, “Death” takes human form (as a young Russian Prince, Nickolai Sirki) and visits a villa in Northern Italy for a 3-day weekend, because he finally wants to know why men love life so much, and why they fear him so. Miraculously, nobody dies during that time, and he falls in love with the beautiful Grazia – an exultant girl standing up in a speeding car at the beginning of the musical, crying out to her new fiancé to drive faster, a lovely young woman so vibrantly imbued with the thrill of life that she is, in her excitement, a moth drawn too close to the fascinating flame of death. The musical is, in fact, about life – the dear sweet preciousness of life that is all the more poignant for being so transitory, for having inevitably to end too soon. And being about life it is also largely about the mysterious power of love that sustains us all through the ever-diminishing number of days each of us has left. Old love, young love, unrequited love, ethereal love, romantic love – the musical is about all of them.

... in one lush, soaring number after another, the Grim Reaper sings like a dream in the new musical “Death Takes a Holiday.”… read more

Maury Yeston, the Tony-winning composer and lyricist of “Nine,” has provided a melody-rich score that draws on a wide range of influences, from the Baroque to the British poperetta craze of the 1980s. It’s a pleasure to hear, particularly as delivered by the cast of extraordinarily good singers and played by a small orchestra that manages to make a satisfyingly sumptuous sound.            

- Charles Isherwood, NY Times

"Maury Yeston, of "Nine" and "Titanic," is one of the few Broadway composers who has demonstrated the ability to weave the necessary spell, and his score for "Death Takes a Holiday" hits splendid heights."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

- Steven Suskin, Variety

"Death Takes A Holiday" is, in a word, "enchanting." … Yeston has written an exquisitely lush melodic score that demands extraordinary voices which this production has in spades… In fact, for sheer musicality, it rivals the best of Broadway.

- Roma Torre, NY1

 

- Time Magazine

… both elegant and comedic, serious in theme yet laced with witty jokes. The lush, emotional music and lyrics are provided by Maury Yeston, winner of Tony Awards for "Titanic" and "Nine.".      

- Jennifer Farrar, AP

Brilliant Songs Give ‘Death Takes a Holiday’ Spark of Life…Yeston’s songs are so beautifully made. The beguiling, accessible numbers include magisterial ballads (Matt Cavenaugh is dreamy as a returning aviator singing of his lost comrade in “Roberto’s’ Eyes”), up-tempo toe- tappers (“Life’s a Joy”) and torchy weepers (Sirki’s “I Thought That I Could Live”). This is one of the most beautifully written and sung scores I’ve heard in a long time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

- Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News

That the score contains both beauty and intelligence shouldn’t be a surprise, because it comes courtesy of Maury Yeston. But, oh, Yeston’s music! Goddard Lieberson would have drawn up contracts during intermission of the first backer's audition. Very few composers are writing for true sopranos these days, but Yeston isn’t afraid to unleash soaring melodies for them. He also gives Grazia and Death a song so intoxicating at the end of Act One that it stays in our heads all through intermission.                                                                                                                     

- Peter Felichia, Theatremania

This scrumptious and intimate musical was well worth the wait –   Death Takes A Holiday – the opportunity to hear Maury Yeston's gorgeous, sweepingly romantic score sung by some of the most thrilling voices currently employed on Gotham's musical theatre stages.Yeston's sumptuous score gracefully glides from operetta to musical theatre to 1920s pastiche. With music befitting the story's romantic fantasy, Death Takes A Holiday is grand entertainment, worthy of toasting with a finer vintage.                                                                                                                   

- Michael Dale, Broadwayworld.com

Remember romance? – the slow, simmering stew of feelings that gain in color and complexity the longer you're exposed to them and that can coalesce into something not just legitimate and lasting, but truly memorable.  If you're a frequent attender of musical theater you can be forgiven for not immediately recognizing what used to be a wonderfully debilitating aspect of the human condition, as it barely appears on the New York stage these days.  What would be unforgivable, however, would be to miss (Death Takes A Holiday) one of the rare new musicals constructed from a true romantic core.  Maury Yeston is the richly-varied and adventurous songwriter whose compositions for the likes of Nine, Grand Hotel, and the sweeping near-opera Titanic catalog an astonishing realm of epic human emotional experiences. Yeston is in top form: He's created a full slate of memorable tunes that range from jaunty summertime ditties to soaring declarations of passion, with stops almost everywhere in between, that have been sumptuously orchestrated.  Top-rank musicals that feel deeply, honestly, and lyrically aren't entirely dead after all.                    

- Matthew Murray, Talkin'' Broadway.com

This charming musical, which had an off-Broadway run during the summer, seems from another era.  About the Grim Reaper's trip to Earth to find out why humans love life so much.  The Book (by Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan) takes its time to actually create characters and builds to a truly moving climax, while composer Maury Yeston has served up a lovely, often soaring score.  Death deserves to live on.

Time Magazine

Nine: The Musical

Inspired by Fellini’s “8 1/2”, the show follows Guido Contini, Italian film director, as he suffers a mid-life crisis at the worst possible time – in the middle of his life. Torn between his relationships with three women (wife, mistress, actress/muse) and haunted by images and memories from his past, bereft of an idea for a new film after suffering three flops, Guido watches the boundaries between his inner life and reality begin to blur. Though on the verge of forty, he is still emotionally a child of nine – who must grow up if he is to have a chance at recapturing his creative powers, his career, and his wife.

It’s raining women in the glamour-saturated new production of ''Nine,'' Maury Yeston's musical portrait of the mind of a movie director…ravishingly inventive and tuneful score from Mr. Yeston… read more

- Ben Brantley (on the 2003 Broadway revival), New York Times

[Yeston’s] score is a literate mixture of show biz and operatic musical genres that contains some of the season’s most novel and beautiful songs. Together Mr. Yeston and Mr. Tune give ‘‘Nine’’ more than a few sequences that are at once hallucinatory and entertaining – dreams that play like showstoppers… anyone who cares about the progress of the Broadway musical will have to see it.
- Frank Rich (on the original 1982 Broadway production), New York Times

Dazzling! A hot-blooded musical fantasia full of song, dance, raging emotion and simmering sexuality. Maury Yeston has composed a score of surpassing beauty.
- Peter Travers (on the 2009 Film of Nine), ROLLING STONE

Titanic: A New Musical

Based on numerous actual characters aboard the great ship, this show focuses on their dreams, hopes and aspirations – as the story of the launching, the collision with the iceberg, and the sinking is played out against the background of the rigid class-distinctions of the Edwardian Age. Unaware of the fate that awaits them, the Third Class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the newly-enfranchised Second Class dream of achieving the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the millionaire-Barons of the First Class dream of their hegemony lasting forever. The ship itself, a dream deemed to be life-protecting and unsinkable by the ship’s Architect Thomas Andrews, journeys into legend in the hands of its Captain, Owner and Crew – as a Stoker, a Lookout, and a Telegraph Operator reveal from their perspectives why Titanic was going too fast, saw the iceberg too late, and could not summon help to arrive in time.

The greatest American Musical to have been written in 15 years. A triumph! A score which soars... a masterpiece… read more

- Sheridan Morley, The Spectator

The Gem of the Ocean. Astonishingly, Titanic manages to be grave and entertaining, somber and joyful; little by little you realize that you are in the presence of a genuine addition to American musical theatre.
- Nancy Franklin, The New Yorker

A thrilling new form of expression in a splendiferous Broadway musical. Grand in design, monumental in scope, with great imagination, a fresh and stirring exploration of one of the great stories of our century.
- Richard Christiansen, Chicago Tribune

A classic American musical! Gorgeous score!
- Robert Hoffler, Daily Variety

Terrific! A grand glorious larger-than-life musical!
- Ed Kaufman, Hollywood Reporter

Grand Hotel

Inspired by Vickie Baum’s landmark novel about a Berlin hotel in Weimar, Germany and the Oscar-winning film starring Greta Garbo and John Barrymore, Yeston’s contributions join those of original authors Wright and Forrest to create Tommy Tune’s masterful portrayal of six disparate and desperate characters – all linked by being in the same hotel on the same day and night.

A sensuous, throbbing, pulsating tango. ‘Grand Hotel’ raises the Broadway musical several giant steps… read more

One of the most haunting and mesmerizing two hours I’ve experienced in the theater in years.
- Rex Reed, New York Observer

The musical winner of the season bringing to mind the kinetic narratives of Harold Prince, Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett in their heyday.
- Time Magazine

Spectacular stagecraft makes ‘Grand Hotel’ an entertaining mass audience musical. Awesomely fluid movement and islands of razzle dazzle musical numbers create an illusion of sweeping passion. It’s a triumph…
- Richard Hummler, Daily Variety

Check into this hotel! Luxurious and spectacular. Enormously effective. Sumptuously imaginative.
-  Clive Barnes, NY Post

Phantom – The American Musical Sensation

Written by Yeston and Arthur Kopit before the well-known British version of the story of the Phantom of The Opera, their “Phantom” tells the heart-rending tale of Eric – disfigured from birth but as beautiful on the inside as he is misshapen on the outside. Raised from youth and hidden in the crypts and lagoons beneath the Paris Opera, the adult Eric has an inner beauty reflecting the music that all his life has wafted down from the stage above and has sustained him. When an untalented egomaniacal Diva takes over the Opera, the musical world so dear to his life is shattered. He seeks a voice and a singer to restore the only beauty he’s ever known – and finds it in Christine Daiae whom he musically trains and with whom he falls in love.

Music that can break your heart with its beauty. It’s about how music connects to the deepest parts of the soul. Yeston’s music underscores all this emotional content with gorgeous melodies… read more

This is a score in the grand manner.
- Jacques le Sourd, Gannett Newspapers

Rhapsodic music that entrances moves and haunts. With ensembles and duets – both ardent and lightheaded – a dark brooding tale is turned into an effervescent operetta where champagne trickles…A welcome link to musical theater’s golden past.
- Alvin Klein, New York Times

Superb music making – a Soaring Score. Rush to ‘Phantom’. This wonderful adaptation of the Gaston Leroux novel has a glory all its own.
- Kevin Kelly, Boston Globe

Yeston’s score is moving, from lilting romance and Bistro ebullience to hushed pathos and all-out rage. A rich, ripe and rewarding evening of musical theater.
- Richard Christiansen, Chicago Tribune

‘Phantom’ is one of those musicals you thought they just didn’t write anymore. As it turns out, they do.
- Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times

December Songs

Commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its Centennial celebration, and premiered by the noted cabaret artist Andrea Marcovicci, this Yeston song cycle is inspired by Schubert’s “Wintereisse” (A Winter’s Journey). Instead of the Schubert tale of a young jilted man wandering the snows of the Vienna woods and descending into madness, “December Songs” portrays a brokenhearted young woman, wandering the snowy paths of Central Park. In this contemporary tale of her journey, she finds the strength to recover and begin her life anew.

Someone had to think of mating the great tradition of Austro-German song cycle with the great tradition of the American cabaret entertainment. It’s appropriate that the man who has done it should be Maury Yeston… read more

for this is an American composer with a background that cheerfully and successfully straddles the concert and Broadway worlds. ‘December Songs’ offers an experience at once new and timeless. The snow that chilled Schubert’s lover still falls around the lovers of today. Tears and ice and rivers and flowers still set the real and symbolic scene. And with vivid and delicate imagination, Yeston has picked up these hints from his great predecessor and translated them into contemporary life.
- Bernard Jacobson, © 1991 (Used by Permission)

The Maury Yeston Songbook

Contemporary recording and Broadway artists sing 20 of their favorite Yeston songs. Performers include Alice Ripley, Brent Barrett, Sutton Foster, Johnny Rodgers, Betty Buckley, Philip Chaffin, Laura Benanti, Christopher Fitzgerald, Eden Espinosa, Christine Ebersole, Christine Andreas, Robert Cuccioli, Michael Holland, Liz Callaway, Brian D’Arcy James, and Howard McGillin.

The Maury Yeston Songbook” is most welcome, with almost every one of its 20 entries making us lift our ears in appreciation…with arresting presentations of songs we know, interspersed with remarkable songs we've never heard… read more

Which makes for quite a listening experience. There are two songs from Yeston's version of Phantom, including the rhapsodic "Home." This number — with Tunick's original orchestration — absolutely soars… "New Words" and "Home" …handily illustrate the emotional heights Yeston is capable of hitting. Which is why we want and need “The Maury Yeston Songbook.
- Steven Suskin, Playbill.com, On The Record

Yeston seems to have a deep understanding of the human condition, and his innate musicianship allows him to wed music and lyrics to the point where they seem inseparable. In sum, he is one of the most important and distinctive composers that the American musical theater has seen in the last 20 years, and The Maury Yeston Songbook should be added to the audio library of everyone who loves this art form.                                                                                                                                    - Matthew Murray, Theatremania.com

 

Goya – A Life In Song

A concert album, recorded in English and Spanish versions, depicting an impressionistic musical biography of the genius painter – his groundbreaking art, his loves, his revolutionary politics, his acerbic and devastating critique of his contemporaneous corrupt royal regime, his madness and his legacy. Written for and starring Placido Domingo and featuring Gloria Estefan, Dionne Warwick, Richie Havens, and the New York Philharmonic. Produced by Phil Ramone.

No one on Broadway since Leonard Bernstein has merged together different styles quite like Yeston does… read more

Like Bernstein, Yeston, the composer and lyricist of the Tony Award-winning musical "Nine," is a composer with one foot in the world of serious music, the other on the Broadway stage.
- Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

An American Cantata – 2000 Voices

This symphonic work, composed and orchestrated by Yeston, is a composition for 2,000 voices and orchestra, commissioned by the Kennedy Center for Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony and performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the millennium celebration. Written in three movements the piece celebrates the achievement of the idea of individual liberty and equality, along with our inherent and universal entitlement to it. Sung by a mixed chorus, boys choir, and gospel choir, texts include excerpts from the Magna Carta, the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr.’s final Memphis speech, and original lyrics by Yeston.

Capably put together in a tonal style aimed at noble simplicity… ‘An American Cantata: 2000 Voices’ is closer to those perennial holiday favorites, Aaron Copland's ‘A Lincoln Portrait’ and Randall Thompson's ‘The Testament of Freedom’. Parts of it might remind you of the choral music in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony… read more

and one Latin text, ‘Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis’ (‘Times change and, in them, we change’), had cadences reminiscent of ‘Carmina Burana’. I have never seen choruses like those in Washington. The singing was, in fact, remarkably well controlled and coordinated.
- Joseph McLellan, Washington Post

In the Beginning

A comic romp through the first five books of The Bible, from the perspective of a group of ordinary folk who live next door to the major stars of the Bible (whom we never see). Though not the movers and the shakers of the world, for centuries this hapless yet hopeful band of characters experience all of the disasters, floods, enslavements and vicissitudes of the Big Names, with no special treatment for themselves, yet somehow muddle through in spite of it all.

Mr. Yeston has fashioned an old fashion Broadway musical with toe tapping songs, romantic ballets, songs of hope, and vaudeville routines. The production is filled with cheeky humor and abiding warmth… read more

The score does have some beautiful romantic songs. "Till the End of Time," is lovely and is sung appealingly… No Man’s as Wonderful" is one of the most memorable moments of the show.
- Richard Connema, Talkin’ Broadway

Frank Loesser’s Hans Christian Andersen

A new musical for which Yeston has written both a new Book and a new musical adaptation and arrangement of Loesser’s glorious film score, thanks to the gracious permission of Jo Sullivan Loesser. Two additional Frank Loesser songs are included (“Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year”, and “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) along with two new short ballets (“The Red Shoes” and “The Little Mermaid”) composed by Yeston and based only on the themes and melodies of Loesser’s inspiring score. The show tells the fictional account of Hans Andersen’s love of a ballerina who demands stories for the new 19th century style of Romantic ballet, and her inspiration that led him to create his remarkable tales.

Worthy of Broadway!… read more

This adaptation can’t go wrong with the story of how the famous Dane wrote childrens’ stories like ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ and it looks like Yeston has a hit on his hands. Loesser’s music is wonderfully melodic… and this show sparkles with more ballet numbers than I can remember from any other musicals.
- Dan Marois, Sun Journal

Making Broadway musicals out of movies is a deplorable trend nowadays, but Maury Yeston’s new 'Hans Christian Andersen' is the exception that proves the rule. The play is an improvement over the 1952 film starring Danny Kaye - with more clever dialogue and a new book by Tony -Winner Yeston, better costumes and choreography and even more Frank Loesser songs.
- Christopher Hyde, "Music Theater Delivers Fairy-Tale Production," Portland Press Herald