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April 30, 2005

Boys Choir gets silent treatment

Arizona Republic:

"Mime is probably the very first art form, because we know from those cave paintings that people seem to be imitating animals," Dan Kamin says, in defense of his admittedly out-of-favor vocation. "Of course, there's also a theory that that is why early man became extinct, because even then people hated mimes."

But seriously, folks . . . Kamin is more than a mime. Inspired by the classic silent films of Charlie Chaplin, he's a physical comedian who coached Robert Downey Jr. to star in Chaplin and Johnny Depp in Benny & Joon. In recent years, he has also made a specialty of teaming with classical-music presenters to entertain people who don't yet know they're supposed to hate mimes: children. He's in town this week for a series of appearances, ending next weekend with two performances with the Phoenix Boys Choir.

"Symphonies want to do concerts for children, and the old Leonard Bernstein model, where you have somebody simply speaking in an educational way about the music, doesn't work that well for today's audiences," Kamin says. "Symphony orchestras started calling me because, basically, they were desperate and they were broke and they were cheap."

Next weekend will be Kamin's first appearance with a choral group, but it's a variation on the shtick he has developed with symphonies. In "A Chorus Mime," he'll pose as a guest artist who tries to "take over the choir" - and ultimately succeeds, by turning the singers into mimes. Playing straight man will be the eminent Georg Stangelberger, who took over the baton for Phoenix Boys Choir in 1999 after serving 13 years with the Vienna Boys Choir. "It's going to be a lot of fun. It's pushing me to my limits, because I am not an actor," Stangelberger says. "He can't talk as a mime, so I have do all the talking. It's going to be a challenge, but I hope I'm up for it."

Kamin calls these performances "comedy concertos." "It is a concerto," he says, "except instead of playing a musical instrument, I'm playing the buffoon." "A Chorus Mime," a pops concert that will mix show tunes with classic choral repertoire by Mozart and other composers, will be the choir's final performance of the season. Unlike Kamin's other comedy concertos, it's aimed at children in more than one way. "With our pops concerts, we want to attract future choir boys, first of all," Stangelberger says, noting that the choir is holding auditions through May for the upcoming season.

Posted by acapnews at April 30, 2005 12:52 AM