Working on a play about the Third Reich, the actors begin arguing about whether what they’re doing is a good idea or not. Even though the play is based on a well-presented book, putting Nazis onstage transforms it. “Like a British courtroom, a play tends to the adversarial, demanding that the jury identify with one side.” – The Observer (UK)


Composer Frank Wildhorn is the first American musical-theater composer in 22 years to have three shows running simultaneously on Broadway. He’s been called the American Andrew Lloyd Webber, but while his loyal fans are fanatical in their love of his work, the critics haven’t been kind. “Six million people have seen my stuff. I make no apologies for what I write. I just want to appeal to my generation. Look, if you’re 45 or 50 years old, that means in the early ’70s you were listening to the Stones or John Denver or Jim Croce. If nothing else, I represent the era I grew up in. I still write for pop artists all the time. I feel it’s important to speak to audiences in a vocabulary that’s comfortable to their ear.” – Orange County Register


Helgi Tomasson returns to New York City Ballet as a choreographer. At 57, he “remains trim though his hair has gone from black to white and thinned somewhat. He has now been running San Francisco Ballet for the same number of years he danced with City Ballet. ‘It was not a terribly smooth transition,’ he says, in his understated way, of his arrival there; his restrained approach and attention to the refinements of classical technique represented a big change from the flashy showmanship of the previous director, Michael Smuin.” – New York Times


Trisha Brown’s dance company celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. At the age of 63, Brown’s still pushing. “I’m hell bent right now. The learning curve is stretched so tight it’s twanging. I’m discovering, questioning, looking for solutions. I want to get out as much work as possible. It’s not surprising,” she says. “After all, I’ve been a wife, a mother, a dancer, a choreographer, a citizen in a radically changing world. I’m in my seventh decade. Over time one gets rewritten by experience – by loss, by death, by accidents. All these things have made me think a lot about emotion, about the shape of emotion.” – New York Times


The St. Louis Symphony – which has become one of America’s best regional orchestras over the past 20 years – is in trouble. “The orchestra came up almost $1 million short in the fiscal year that ended in August 1999. This year, it stands to run a deficit of between $3.5 and $4 million on a total budget of $28.9 million. Those recent losses will likely add to the $6 million in long-term debt the Symphony already carries. And even if it manages to achieve an anticipated $1.5 million in cutbacks for the 2000-2001 season, managers will still be looking at $2 million less than they need.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch


When an overlooked group is in trouble, one way to pretend it isn’t sick is to stage an awards ceremony. So this week the first Classical Brit awards for classical music. The gelled, egregious Kennedy will fiddle, Charlotte Church will weakly warble, Lesley Garrett will effervesce as usual like a shaken bottle of Babycham. The nominees are at best middlebrow, exposing the industry’s abject dependence on movie tie-ins. James Horner’s More Music From Braveheart, competes for Best Orchestral Album against John Williams’s latest brash, blatant marches from Star Wars, while Stephen Warbeck’s pastiched score for Shakespeare in Love has earned him a nomination as Male Artist of the Year. – The Observer (UK)


London’s concert halls are brimming over with music. But where is it on TV? “It is not just the quantity of classical-music programming on television that has declined, though the fall is real enough. A decade ago, say insiders, the BBC was broadcasting 100 hours per year. Now we are down to just half that number. The more serious collapse is of true commitment to the very idea of sustained coverage of classical music. A decade ago, a proposed Omnibus on Simon Rattle    today it is rejected because he is regarded by TV planners as of insufficient popular interest.” – The Telegraph (UK)


Pop music used to move in discernible directions that had its mass-market appeal. Not the 1990s, which let a million flowers bloom. “The music world pays a price for diversity. Our new heroes are often only heroes to a few. The sheer volume of titles, more akin to books than to movies, means that many never claim public attention, so it’s difficult for average listeners to sift out the important ones.” – New York Times


How to explain the century-long currents of music atonalism and serialism? Bernard Holland thinks he’s figured it out. “Fascism starts with a charismatic leader and moves on to megalomania, fanaticism, factionalism and a new order aimed at sweeping all detritus from its path. Fascism attracts people looking for one answer to a lot of complex problems; it doesn’t have that answer, but the one it throws out is persuasive. Arnold Schoenberg waved the 12 commandments at a generation of composers bewildered by the tower of Babel they had been forced to live in. They were looking for an answer, and many were quick to follow.” – New York Times