in performance: pink martini and the von trapps

pink martini

thomas lauderdale and china forbes of pink martini.

If you thought squeezing the 15 cumulative members of Pink Martini and The von Trapps onstage at the Lyric Theatre for last night’s sold out WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour taping (along with multiple percussion kits and an upright piano) was a neat trick, imagine the task of sufficiently covering the full stylistic scope of this globetrotting crew within the span of a 60 minute program.

Not surprisingly, the collaborative teams splintered into several subgroups during the evening to cover as many bases as possible. Vocalist China Forbes started the party by leading Pink Martini through the brassy rhumba party piece Amado Mio that highlighted the groove of five percussionists and the effortless piano strolls of group founder Thomas Lauderdale that revealed a hearty classical bloodline.

Die Dorfmusik, on the other hand, whittled the onstage convention down to Lauderdale and Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp, the great grandchildren of the family immortalized in The Sound of Music. If that sounds like a gimmick, guess again. The quartet possessed remarkable clarity and precision in tone as well as a harmony. The resulting tune, heavy on polka-esque dance hall cheer, operated more like a vocal ballet. Similarly, Storm, a stunning original work by 19 year old August von Trapp, was essentially an acapella display (save for minimal percussion) with echoes of ancient choral singing, again with spotless tone and vocal phrasing.

From there, the show offered a brisk trip through Japan for Zundoko-Bushi that placed co-vocalist Timothy Nishimoto in front of an arrangement that referenced surf and soul grooves. Later, a fun mashup of Get Happy and Happy Days Are Here Again teamed Forbes and Nishimoto over a summery ensemble serenade while a likewise variation of Dream a Little Dream (sung with rich but understated poise by Amanda von Trapp) was bookended by quotes from Clair de Lune from Lauderdale.

Wrapping it all up were songs that could be viewed as signature piece for both groups. The von Trapps faced their collective past with the yodel-centric Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music before Forbes concluded the celebration with the carnival sunshine of Brazil.

There was a touch of irony to this global party, too. Though held on St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland wound up as one of the few locales it bypassed.

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