Home #Hwoodtimes Magic Hour in Los Angeles Illuminates the Mark Taper Forum with Music

Magic Hour in Los Angeles Illuminates the Mark Taper Forum with Music

An Exciting End to a Night of MUSE/IQUE at The Mark Taper Forum (Photo by John Lavitt)

Celebrating the Cultural Renaissance of 1974, the MUSE/IQUE performance highlights the landmark entertainment moment that forever transformed the City of Angels.

By John Lavitt

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 03-16-2024

Music is everything, and MUSE/IQUE is for everyone.

  • The Motto of the Nonprofit Performing Arts Organization

It has been difficult to keep theatres open and seats filled post-pandemic. Despite these challenges, thank your Higher Power that the Center Theatre Group did not close the doors on the Mark Taper Forum. Although the schedule has been cut back for the theatre, it continues to present musical performances and one-person shows. As one of the most iconic theatres in downtown Los Angeles, the history of the Mark Taper Forum is an inherent part of the city’s ongoing cultural renaissance.

According to Rachael Worby, Artistic & Musical Director of MUSE/IQUE, the cultural renaissance in Los Angeles took root in 1974. Presenting radically engaging musical performances, the mission of MUSE/IQUE is all about democratic access to creative expression. With over forty musicians and singers overtaking the stage of the Mark Taper Forum, MUSE/IQUE gave a bevy of performers a rare chance to play on hallowed ground.

Paying tribute to the revolutionary expression of 1974, the show is divided into segments that honor many trailblazers, including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Norman Lear, Linda Ronstadt, and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. LaVance Colley and Rachel Gonzalez do well as the vocal centerpieces of the show. Taking on classic songs by legendary artists, they bring their flair and enthusiasm to the presentation.

In addition, as Rachael Worby points out during the show, every song has been given a new arrangement. Although ambitious, some of the arrangements are better than others. For example, the reorchestration of the “Theme from the Godfather” is terrific, with the violins building on the power of Chris Gray’s Trumpet, effectively playing with visual obscurement on the steps heading to the audience. Although you hear him perfectly, you only see him for a brief moment. At the same time, other arrangements were less successful.

Rachael Worby, Artistic & Musical Director of MUSE/IQUE (Photo by Haoyuan Ren)

From a theatrical perspective, actor Glynn Turman is the highlight of the show as an actor, taking on Saint Lucian poet and playwright Derek Walcott’s Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech and some of his poetry. Having personally known the man behind the words, Turman brought an emotional veracity to the stage that resonated with authentic emotion. When he passionately says, “The process of poetry is one of excavation and of self-discovery,” the words linger in the audience’s soul.

Eclectic in presentation, the strength of the show’s beginning focuses on the arrival of Motown to Los Angeles and how the introduction of the heart and soul of African-American music changed the city. After this beginning, the storytelling about the cultural revolution feels a bit random. It is fitting to highlight all the great shows of the legendary Norman Lear like All In The Family and The Jeffersons, but 1974 also was the first year that Happy Days came on the air, while M*A*S*H dominated the Emmys for its powerful anti-war message during Vietnam.

If Magic House in Los Angeles has a weakness, it is the subjectivity of the choices being made. Moreover, although Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “Desperado” by The Eagles is excellent, it is strange to argue that it is the song’s definitive version. However, the case against the show is minor compared to the convincing power and dynamic energy of an enthusiastic ensemble.

Overall, the audience thoroughly enjoyed the show. As a tribute to MUSE/IQUE by Center Theatre Group Artistic Director Snehal Desai, Magic Hour in Los Angeles is a beautiful start to the 2024 season at the Mark Taper Forum. At its core, the mission of MUSE/IQUE is significant and needed, and the Mark Taper Forum is needed as well. We can only cross our fingers and hope many more shows will come to this hallowed stage.

Photos by Haoyuan Ren, Courtesy of MUSE/IQUE, and John Lavitt