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Theater Review: Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands

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Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands features the song 'Change' with singers (l-r): Cesili Williams, Patty Cornell, Deon Sams, Matthew McCray, Jamey Hood and Alan Jay House | Photo: Michael Tullberg


Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands features the song 'Change' with singers (l-r): Cesili Williams, Patty Cornell, Deon Sams, Matthew McCray, Jamey Hood and Alan Jay House | Photo: Michael Tullberg
- by Ellen Reid for LAist

Usually, an abandoned car dealership would be on the list of least likely places to ever see contemporary opera. But in the case of Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands, it is the only place. Directed by O-Lan Jones, the opera was developed over the course of seven years. It is a large-scale production that showcases the work of 13 composers, 21 librettists, a company of more than 20 actors, an orchestra of seven musicians and a list of collaborators that exceeds 100. No one would argue that it was an ambitious production, but Imaginary Lands proved to be an example of artistic quantity over quality.

The company of actors, dancers and musicians were musically adept and moved with ease through a diverse repertoire. They continually held multi-part vocal harmonies in a variety of styles and gelled with the seven piece orchestra conducted by David O, the musical director. But between the musical pieces, of which there are no less than 38, Imaginary Lands lost momentum. There was no central artistic vision that was evident by watching the piece. Instead of sucking the audience into the dream world and transporting them through music and movement, the majority of the audience had to schlep around their own chairs in order to chase the action that occurred in various locales throughout the abandoned dealership.

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But there were some really nice moments in the production, for example “Wet Footsteps” (lyrics by Deb Gwinn, music by John Ballinger) was spatially, musically and visually compelling. But in general, the entire evening felt long.

Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands did receive a standing ovation, so there is no doubt that it strikes a chord with certain viewers. If you go, do not ride “coach” ($25 tickets) or you will have to carry around your chair for the entire performance! Ride a bicycle-drawn rickshaw for $50 or the Overtone Express train for $40.

Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands
at The Songs & Dances Warehouse
8810 Washington Blvd., Culver City
Shows Thursdays to Sundays through July 18.