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‘Astral Weeks’ onstage: just think radio

By Bob Hicks

A few nights ago, as I watched the premiere of Find Me Beside You, Jessica Wallenfels’ “rock story ballet” stage adaptation of Van Morrison‘s 1968 concept album Astral Weeks, three things crossed my mind.

The first was the tradition of the minimally staged Broadway musical — in essence, concert versions of full-blown theater pieces — that has been popularized in the Encores! series at New York City Center and emulated across the country, including productions by the Portland company Staged!

Dave Cole and Elizabeth Klinger in Jessica Wallenfels' "Find Me Beside You," produced by Many Hats Collaboration, Portland. Photo: Zachary RouseThe second was Working Girl, the 1988 romantic movie comedy starring Melanie Griffith as a working-class sharpie who, as a gopher for conniving big-biz baddie Sigourney Weaver, figures out how to make a stalled television megadeal work: let a little air out of the tires and reap big profits in radio instead.

The third was Winterreise, Franz Schubert‘s 1827 song cycle based on poems by Wilhelm Muller.

Ben Waterhouse has reviewed Find Me Beside You here for Willamette Week, and Catherine Thomas here for The Oregonian; both were in general impressed, with reservations. I tend to see a little less diamond and a little more rough, but I agree that what’s good here is promising. And I have a modest suggestion: let a little air out of the tires. Find Me Beside You tries to do too much on too many platforms, and its high ambitions make it a sprawling muddle instead of the focused gem it might be.

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