One of the bona fide hits of IndyFringe 16 was “Calder, the Musical,” a homage to the artist famous for his mobile sculptures. Written and directed by Indianapolis art critic Tom Alvarez, the Fringe show was an hour of movement and music in front of whimsical backdrop of Calder-inspired moving paintings (created by Irvington artist Laura Hildreth) that garnered praise from the many in the sell-out shows who saw it in the short form.
The hour and a half show full-on Calder, The Musical at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre was greeted with the same enthusiasm by the opening night sell-out crowd. More songs and characters flesh out the story of Alexander Calder, known as Sandy to his friends, in this longer edition of the show. The Greek muse Thalia (Christa Runion) narrates the highlights of Calder’s life, from his youth when he showed early artistic gifts in an artistically gifted family (and was bullied for being different), through his young adult years as an unhappy mechanical engineer, then as an illustrator for the Ringling Brothers circus. There, he began his unique wire sculpture circus figures, which found a wider arts audience. He met his wife Louisa on a ship, and she encouraged his art, supporting his vision. Calder spent time in Paris among the “lost generation,” including Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and Gertrude Stein, and was friends with Piet Mondrian, whose work inspired the first mobile. Fame quickly followed the mobile sculptures, which were revolutionary in the art world. However, with fame came problems – a neglected home life, and constant pressure to produce. A devastating fire in his studio in Connecticut brings the couple closer together, but also forces Calder to start over. Finally, an important exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City reveals the importance of his life’s work.
The cast of Calder, the Musical, is fronted by the skills of Logan Moore, a veteran of several local stages, playing Sandy Calder. Young Sandy is played by Ian Gamble or Teddy Rayhill (depending on performance) in a role that requires a lot of a young actor. Young Peggy Calder, Sandy’s protective sister, is played by Jordan Pecar or Piper Murphy. Louisa is played by Katie Shuman, while Jake McDuffee plays his father (and other roles), and Danielle Carnagua plays his mother (among other roles). All the principles and supporting cast are uniformly good, with strong singing voices and some sure-footed dancing on a very small stage. Outstanding tunes include “A Path to Follow” sung by the inspired Sandy, and “I’m Famous, I’m Free” by Josephine Baker, though all the music moves the story forward.
Calder, The Musical continues on weekends through Feb. 12 in the IndyFringe Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair St. Visit IndyFringe.org for availability (shows have been selling out).
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