America is a land of blends and combinations. The tradition of the melting pot corresponds not only to the social and racial makeup of our society, but the blends of cultures have produced advances in modern and contemporary fine arts; in the realm of music we contributed the musical and different varieties of jazz; and in cuisine, Tex-Mex and Asian fusion restaurants line the streets of our cities all across the nation. However, just like the musical, West-West blends are rare and a great sign of the vitality, growth, and evolution of our Western culture.
On a recent trip to Miami, I had the privilege to partake in the realization of a long-term dream of my friend Marty LaSalle. While we have not been friends for long, Marty has grown up on the international stage as a he and his brother were world renowned tandem jugglers. Following his studies at Columbia University, Marty spoke of creating a blend of burlesque, cabaret, musical, and Cirque du Soleil. While the combination sounded out of this world, the challenges of fund raising and putting together the right team could have been insurmountable. Despite the long odds, Marty went full steam, built the team, raised the money, and produced something quite extraordinary.
The result is The Orchid. The Orchid is a production that is uniquely American and has been ideally placed for its debut in Miami. The plot revolves around a master gardener who seeks to create wondrous flowers, with the flowers being pollinated by an evil beekeeper. Their balance depends on the indifference of the gardener toward his creation, but he falls in love with the orchid changing the dynamics and threatening the wellbeing of the wondrous garden. The innocence of the garden is disturbed as it changes from being a paradise to a place of sin and adultery. The gardener has to make a choice and let things go on as they are or destroy the garden.
The storyline may seem quite simple, but there is extraordinary beauty in its simplicity and that comes from the atmosphere created by the setting and the great team of actors, acrobats, and the visionary directing and choreography. The inspiring combination of fast moving music, sensual and erotic dancing, singing, and aerial acrobatics combined with 19th century circus tents for the show space and a dinner space, combine for a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk or a Gestalt theatrical experience. It is seductive, sexual, and yet artistic and awe inspiring. What is of greatest importance is that the work is young, fresh, and very much alive. Looking across the filled room, mind you it was a 6 p.m. Sunday show, you could see that all generations were present and all races, not to mention other metrics for demographics. The show and the cast engage the audience in ways that people seek to be engaged. The audience is very much a part of the show and not just an innocent on looker.
Marty LaSalle and his creative and performing team have demonstrated that they can create an art form that is attractive to millennials as well as those who view the arts in a very limited way. It demonstrates that America and Americans continue to be unique in our world view and in our ability to take chances. We continue to be willing to take chances in creating and challenging conventions, norms, and expectations.
The Orchid runs in Miami through February 3. For tickets and information, please see their website.