Wineke: APT, MSO join in midwinter concert

A photo of Sarah Day of the American Players Theatre

SPRING GREEN, Wis. — One valued highlight of the Madison cultural scene is the annual Beyond the Score concert of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and actors from Spring Green’s American Players Theatre.

This year actors James Ridge, Sarah Day, Colleen Madden and Marcus Truschinski joined the symphony in a presentation of Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony Number 5, a work first performed in Moscow in 1944.

The performance took place on a miserably cold day following a snowstorm and preceding the Green Bay Packers unfortunate football game so the warmth engendered by the Sunday afternoon concert was especially enjoyable.

The actual production is put together by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which provides a visual background projected on a large screen over the local orchestra. The first half of the program consists of the APT actors and MSO pianist Dan Lyons telling the Prokofiev story (his symphony is a triumphal work glorifying the Soviet Army in World War II). In the second half of the performance the symphony plays the entire musical work.

The concert hall was pretty full Sunday, so I was surprised to find two empty seats next to my wife and me. But, during the second half those seats were filled by Sarah Day and Marcus Truschinski, which is probably as close to theater royalty as I’m likely to get this year.

On the whole, the blended concept works well. The MSO usually has a pre-performance lecture before each of its concerts, and the multi-media presentation for Beyond the Score takes that idea and gives it life.

James Ridge, who portrayed Prokofiev on stage, read from the composer’s diaries as the other actors played smaller parts during the first half, using Prokofiev’s own words to illustrate his development, the role his stays in America and Paris played in that development and the deep love he had for the Russian homeland.

The overall effect was serious but not intimidating – which is pretty much what Madison’s cultural climate tends to be year long.