Courtesy of Star Foreman

Raditatical – A Journey in Rhythm @ Montalbán Theatre

The feeling I took away with me after attending “Raditatical – A Journey in Rhythm” was that both Bronkar Lee, the lead dancer and the group’s artistic director, and Ameenah Kaplan, the director and co-writer, were both very, very talented individuals.

Company members Paul Newman, Melinda Sullivan and Aaron Williams are very talented as well.

Andrew Pulkrabek and Scotty Lund are very, very talented.

But there is some confusion regarding “talent” among the general public. They think it’s the be all, end all and it is not. Don’t get me wrong; talent is way high up on the list, but just ask anybody who’s kicked around Hollywood or Broadway if they’d rather be talented or lucky, you might be kinda surprised at the answer you get.

The sad reality of the world is that love does not conquer all, the truth won’t necessarily set you free, even the best politicians deserve to burn in hell, all religions are fairy tales and just having talent doesn’t mean you’ve got the “magic beans” guaranteed to carry you up into the stratosphere. Sorry.

The “Raditatical Company” is all professionals, they should know this.

When all is said and done the show they’ve placed on the stage of The Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood, was lively, dynamically staged, visually interesting, and well-structured over all. Regrettably, the hobgoblin lurking in the wings or behind the music stand of every creative venture is: “So what?”

Lee and Kaplan have put on a very good show. (Here the stage directions read: “Enters hobgoblin, stage right.”)

The show, related by Lee in the trappings of being autobiographical, tells the tale, through a narrative accented and highlighted by juggling, high kicking, scat, beatboxing and drumming, of a high school cut-up who comes to the big city, falls into busking on the streets for change, and after many failures finally finds success once he realizes “all our bodies are instruments.”

Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick reupholstered in a beat bop hoody for the “Echo Boomers” and “Gen Z” crowd.

The evening was served up in a tight, nicely packaged 90 minutes, and I left the theatre mildly entertained.

I also left it mildly frustrated, and wishing I had seen a better show, which is not to say it was a bad show. But all the while as I made my way down Vine from the foyer of the Montalbán to where our car was parked, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that the “Raditatical Company” had pitched one to me and the rest of the audience underhanded.

It was an easy show for an undemanding audience, but it also felt like an undemanding show for the talent I saw gathered on the stage of the Montalbán.

Let me state for the record, the audience I sat among loooooovvvvveeeed it! My lovely wife Marlene loooooovvvvveeeed it! And I’m half inclined to think if you shelled out for a ticket and went chances are you would have loooooovvvvveeeed it! (Or not.)

If I had never sat entranced through a “jarana”, or been in Santa Cruz to catch “The Flying Karamazov Brothers” before “Fyodor” hooked up with them, if I’d never heard the amazing vocal warbling of db Pedersen composer and “throat singer” par excellence, if I had not been introduced to the juggling of Bill Blish or caught the unsullied effervescence of “Stomp” in Edinburgh before Cresswell and McNicholas turned it into “McStomp” (who it appears Kaplan was part of), then yeah, maybe I would have loooooovvvvveeeedRaditatical – A Journey in Rhythm” too. (Or not.)

There is a term Flamenco artists use when describing certain shows – “bonito”. Pretty”.

They do not use it as a compliment.

Raditatical – A Journey in Rhythm” is bonito.

However this is their first venture. A stumble is permissible. This is a group that, if they persist in their productions, is not unworthy of following. There is a joy in being the first to find a new artist or group of artists and to watch their evolution. And the Raditatical Company may indeed have before them the potential for doing something far more accomplished than what they have done here. Whether they have the potential to tap into that potential, only time can tell.

I hope they don’t take from this review discouragement, for that is not the intention of my words here. A critic has but two functions:

  • To guide the right audience to the right show, and there is certainly a “right audience” for “Raditatical – A Journey in Rhythm” as I hope this review shows.
  • To be a midwife to promising talent.

The most valuable tool any creative individual can develop is a “hard ear”. They must cultivate the ability of listening to all criticism without the Hydra of ego rearing its ugly head. The artist should never become a puppet reacting to every opinion, but he does need to “hear” honest criticism and, hopefully from hearing it, learn.

I wish Raditatical luck. And I suggest they do as the thumbtacks advise: “Fail Harder.”