By day, Lyric Hall is a fascinating warren of antiques and furniture, nestled in the Westville section of New Haven, lovingly conserved and restored by owner John Cavaliere. Cavaliere who restores art and antiques and frequently adds gold leaf to the treasures, gilding the objects, buys things he loves and then lives with them. They are often salvage pieces with interesting architectural details and he also takes commissions from dealers and collectors.
Seven years ago he bought Lyric Hall which had been destined to be torn down and made into a parking lot. The previous owner, an antique dealer Wayne Chorney, was hoping Cavaliere would save it from that fate. Even though the building was in an advanced state of disrepair, Cavaliere saw its potential, especially after he realized there was a theater hiding amidst the debris.
Back in its heyday, in 1913, the venue had entertained crowds as a vaudeville and silent picture house. This week it will once again play a Buster Keaton movie “The Navigator,” in black and white, with a live eight- piece orchestra for a hundred students from a neighboring high school film class. Showing silent movies has become a regular event. Cavaliere feels the good ghosts, which he knows are still there, would approve of the film showings as well as what he has done to restore the once West Rock Theater to its former glory.
By night, Lyric Hall has been reopened to all sorts of interesting entertainments. An intimate stage, this week from Wednesday to Saturday, April 4-7, it will present “The Journey of E,” an anthology of the history of jazz and an homage to Edith Piaf, hence the E in the title. Written, directed and performed by Marcel Blanchet and his quartet Beyond the Sun, the audience is taken on a trip through history from the pre-Depression years of 1928 until 1945, in America and across the pond to Europe.
Marcel plays a newspaper boy who uses the day’s headlines as stopping-off points for a musical cavalcade of numbers, starting with Louie Armstrong’s “West End Blues.” Blanchet calls Armstrong the Michael Jackson of his age. As he hawks his papers, he travels along New York City’s Great White Way and picks up fellow musicians Ryan Larson on keyboard and Jedd Chiebowski on bass to join him on drums. When chanteuse Carolyn Raming strolls down the boulevard, his quartet is complete.
The hot jam session salts the air with the sultry and smoky sounds of Carolyn caressing “Love Me or Leave Me,” which segues into the Yiddish “Bei Mir Bisdu Shein” and breaks into French for “Stormy Weather.” Other wonderful numbers tumble after, like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Caravan,” “God Bless the Child” and a charming French version of “Wish Upon a Star.”
In tribute to cabaret great Edith Piaf, the group slides back in time to offer “Autumn Leaves” and “La Vie en Rose” before it travels back to the United States for a gig at a Harlem hotspot with a hearty and happy “Lullaby of Birdland.”
For tickets ($10-15) to performances of “The Journey of E, a Jazz Musical” Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., call Lyric Hall at 203-389-8885.
Other upcoming events include musician Richard Gans on Saturday, April 14 from 8-11 p.m. at a Shemantra Party with meditation, chanting and Jewish prayer, Top of the Night, a Cabaret with Jim Coatsworth at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 and a Birthday Celebration for theater legends Celeste Holm and Elizabeth Wilson at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6 ($25).
In May, look for Artwalk, a celebration of Westville, the weekend of Mother’s Day, May 11 and 12, a delightful combination of lunch and theater on Wednesday, May 23 from 11-2:30 p.m. when “Play With Your Food” comes to town and Bruce Barber of NPR celebrating his 50th show, being broadcast on Thursday, May 24.
Call Lyric Hall to confirm times and ticket prices.
Let Marcel Blanchet and his jazz combo Beyond the Sun take you on a delightful musical journey jam packed with jazz, both hot and cool, for your listening pleasure.
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