Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"Ellington Live!," on Channel 26 Thursday, was ust about as vibrant as the show's title promised, and a barbinger as well of good things to come among future generations of performing artists.
The 100-minute special, telecast live from Dunbar High School, served as a showcase for the students and staff of Washington's Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The artistic director, working with three of the school's departments - music, theater and dance - was Mike Malone, a founder of Ellington and now director of the Karamu Theatre in Cleveland.
Malone also adapted and staged "Langston," the mini-musical that began the show, based on the blues poetry of Langston Hughes and set to a very engaging musical score by H.Q. Thompson.
"Langston," which is fine enough to deserve a stage run hereabouts, is a portrait of urban factory workers which moves with casual ease from mode to mode - speech, song, mime, dance, comedy, pathos. The young performers, amazingly free of mannerism of or affectation, created their diverse characters each with a few deft strokes. The diction was exceptionally clear the poetic rhythms sensitively observed, and the singing moreover, was so well coordinated with fluid action that it became an equal partner in the proceedings. The theme of the piece - that faith in one's dreams is the only true barrier splendid. The video camerawork, against despair - was tellingly conveyed by the whole ensemble.
The second, shorter, portion of the show was devoted to the music of Duke Ellington, as persuasively performed by the school's jazz ensemble in arrangements by Lee Bass, and accompanied visually by Mike Malone's choreography.