Those attending Elayne Boosler’s latest project and performance, Rescue- A True Story, have witnessed the birth of a modern classic. Boosler, an iconic comedienne and animal activist, combines her sharp wit along with her deep love and understanding of canines to create an experience both hilarious and tear-jerking. Its premiere took place in front of a sold-out crowd at the First Baptist Church of Glendale, in the opening night of the concert series Positive Motions of the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra. Reminiscent of Peter and the Wolf, it is a narration with music. But in this case, it is the narration that was written first, and the music written to accompany it.
The original score was penned by the award-winning composer and painter Carol Worthey. Worthey is able to highlight and squeeze the juice out of every joke as well as each heart-stopping emotion with beauty, lyricism and passion. Her music is played to perfection by the Trio da Mare e Sole, a portion of the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra. All masters of their craft, the musicians, Ruslan Biryukov, cellist, Julia Heinen, clarinetist, and Dmitry Rachmanov, Pianist, entertained the audience in the first half of the show with music from Ludwig van Beethoven and Max Bruch.
Of course the big draw was Elayne's piece, but I thorougly enjoyed the playing of these accomplished musicians and their choices of music in the first half. Biryukov is the founder of the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra, and is a bit of a cut-up himself who loves to play to the audience. In between the pieces of Bruch's opus, he would whisper to the audience how many there were left. He also was the originator of the idea of Elayne creating a piece for music. During her performance there were moments when the trio interacted with her and so became part of the fun.
After a carrot cake intermission (supplied free with ticket), it was time for Rescue-A True Story. This is the tale of a rescue dog of Elayne's, Annie, who she found when Annie was already at an advanced age. It is the saga of the dog’s hard life before her rescue, as evidenced by her filed down teeth, her multiple scars and wounds, and also as imagined by Boosler.As Elayne playfully introduces us to wise-cracking raccoon friends serving hummus on one hand, she leads us to the all-too-real life possibilities of a dog getting stuck on a chain for years, or becoming a “bait” dog in a dog fighting ring, and reminds us to spay and neuter too.
The story has everything you could want, both delightful and thrilling, as well as political commentary on society. “I feel nothing lends itself to music better than the top notes of comedy, tempered by the depth of emotion we and animals experience every day in the world of rescue. Rescuers speak for those who cannot. We are their voices. To be lucky enough to also have their voices be soulful instruments played by some of the world’s best musicians, opens the eyes and hearts of all who hear it,” explains Boosler.
Elayne Boosler has many fans, going decades back to when she was the first female comic with her own hour long show on Showtime, and the first special on HBO. She still goes on the road and writes new funnies all the time. She is working on a book, Big Fun, which explores some of her early experiences and friends as a comic.
Her organization Tails of Joy, a nation-wide animal rescue and advocacy non-profit, has saved thousands of animals since she founded it in 2001. Through the organization, Elayne funds many small rescue groups with "Little Guy Grants." She performs 100% fundraising shows and donates all to them. The organization was a big winner at the premiere. There was a raffle of a framed and signed copy of some of the musical and narrative outtakes of Rescue after the performance. One of Elayne’s many supporters and donors in the audience, Norm Jacobovitz, surprised the crowd by his early bid of $500.
Elayne's work is not limited to helping only canines. She has been known to help pacyderms many a time. She performed at Lily Tomlin's fundraiser to save Billy the elephant, Comedy Stars Give Their All For Elephants . She is also a big supporter of SOS Wiidlife India where elephants are rescued and given sanctuary, and most recently, was a keynote speaker at the International March for Elephants in Los Angeles.
Here’s hoping this show is released as a recording, and that Elayne will continue to perform it around the country to delight more audiences while opening their hearts, and hopefully also their purses for animals in need.
This show is the first in this year’s Positive Motions Concert Series with the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra, all in the wonderful First Baptist Church of Glendale venue. In January, Emo Phillips will entertain along with the music of Camille Saint-Saens, Carnaval of the Animals.
Concert photos by Diane Acosta; last photo courtesy of Ellen Ericksen and Jerry Gentry
Georja Umano is an actor and animal activist.
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