PNME Theatre of Music concluded its summer this weekend with well-attended performances of The Gray Cat and the Flounder. Based on a true story (the life of Bernadette Gabrielly Callery, the late wife of PNME patron Joseph Newcomer), this colorful, poignant and engaging musical experience is the co-creation of composer Kieren MacMillan and Kevin Noe, Artistic Director of the ensemble. It was originally commissioned for its first performances in 2015.
The performance uses both instrumental and vocal music, spoken dialogue, projected imagery, cartoons, shadow puppetry, and more to tell the story. A milestone in PNME’s long history of “audience submersion” was reached through the employment of “Michele,” a head-shaped binaural microphone that fed the sound through headsets to the audience with rather astonishing effects. When Oscar Micaelsson played, one might just have well been sitting beside him at the piano. When cellist Norbert Lewandowski and violinist Nathalie Shaw made their instruments sing, the sounds reached the audience members as if they themselves were doing the playing along with the musicians on the stage. And so it went with the music of Lindsey Goodman (flute), Eric Jacobs (clarinet) and percussionist Ian Rosenbaum.
Both in song and spoken dialogue, Lindsay Kesselman, and Kevin Noe were pleasing to the ear, and in action brought the fun and more melancholy aspects of the story to life in a manner that was very entertaining. The listeners were occasionally surprised when a voice might seem to come from behind the right ear, or to the side of the left. The production was visually engaging as well, with highly creative lighting and colorful scenic effects.
The Gray Cat and the Flounder is not a concert or musical theater – it’s the “theater of music” experience that only PNME can manage so successfully. The ensemble delivered quite enjoyable performances through this too short month of July, and they’re sure to do it again next summer.
To learn more about PNME’s ambitious plans for taking The Gray Cat and the Flounder to Scotland next summer – and for a better description of the piece that can be provided here – visit the ensemble’s ‘Burgh to ‘Burgh Campaign.
Photography – Alisa Garin and Joshua Brown