New era at Bickford Theatre continues with ‘The Other Mozart’

The Other Mozart review

COURTESY OF LIVE ARTS AT THE MORRIS MUSEUM

Sofi Lambert in “The Other Mozart,” which was presented at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township.

Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart, sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was an accomplished musician “before that little shit-eater was born,” she says in “The Other Mozart,” a one-woman play by Sylvia Milo that was presented at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township, Oct. 18-20.

The play, which starred Sofi Lambert in Morris Township, is a tale of genius stunted. Maria Anna is just as musically talented as her brother, we are told, and has had quite a bit of success on the European concert circuit. Yet she is never encouraged to compose music, as her brother is, and when it’s time for her to get married and start a family, the conventions of the day force her to put her career aside.

The play is basically a monologue in which she reminisces, and rants, and snipes at Wolfgang and his wife (whom she portrays as an obnoxious airhead). She has a histrionic streak — partially a result of her unfulfilled artistic ambitions, I suppose — and is a wildly entertaining person to spend an evening with.

“Could it have been mine?” she wonders, referring to Wolfgang’s astonishing success. But she can’t escape her cage, symbolized by the horrifically cumbersome corset she wears over a huge, imposingly elegant white dress designed by Magdalena Dabrowska and Miodrag Guberinic.

Dzul Dance presented “The Last Mayan King” at the Bickford Theatre in September.

This was the second presentation in the 2019-20 Live Arts at the Morris Museum (the first was a performance by Dzul Dance; read NJArts.net‘s review here). The series, assembled by curatorial director Brett Wellman Messenger, is something new for the Bickford and something rare for New Jersey, emphasizing innovative, forward-looking productions from the worlds of theater, music and dance. Coming up in November are a concert by the Telegraph Quartet, playing Haydn, Bartok and Robert Sirota’s 2018 composition “Wave Upon Wave” (Sirota will be on hand for a discussion), Nov. 3; and a site-specific performance by the all-male dance troupe 10 Hairy Legs plus hip hop-influenced choreographer’s Doug Elkins’ “Trouble Will Find Me: Remixed,” Nov. 21-23.

The latter show is presented in conjunction with the museum’s “Aerosol: Graffiti | Street Art | New Jersey | Now” exhibition, which will be on display through March 15. Also on display at the museum, through Nov. 17, are exhibitions devoted to Bob Gruen’s rock photography, and steampunk fashion.

Cleveland Johnson became executive director of the museum two years ago, and is primarily responsible for giving both its exhibitions and the Bickford’s shows a new flavor, and also for making it the only New Jersey museum to be an official affiliate of The Smithsonian (this was announced last month). According to a press release, this will give the museum “access to loans from the Smithsonian and other affiliates, professional development, co-branding opportunities, membership benefits and more.

The museum also announced, last month, a new mission statement: “Interpreting the past and discovering the future through art, sound, and motion.” (The inclusion of “motion” is a nod to its Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata, which is permanently on display.)

The ninth annual Bickford Benefit Concert will take place at the Bickford Theatre in Morris Township, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m., with jazz by Dan Levinson on clarinet and tenor sax; Mark Shane on piano; Molly Ryan on guitar and vocals; Randy Reinhart on cornet; Herb Gardner on trombone; Tal Ronen on bass; and Matt Hoffmann on drums. Proceeds will support concerts, plays and dance productions in the 2020 Bickford Theatre season. Visit morrismuseum.org.

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