Adapted by Marsha Norman, "The Trumpet of the Swan" turns a classic novel into an extravagant symphonic experience.
The narrator (read by Steven Weber) begins the story with a young boy named Sam (also read by Steven Weber). He stubbles upon a pond where he notices two trumpeter swans. He's so enchanted by the birds that he goes back the next day. Meanwhile, around the pond, father and mother swan (read by Sharon Lawrence and Rod McLachlan) search the area to find the perfect spot to build a nest. After finding what will be their home for the summer, mother swan gets to work building a nest. While laying her eggs, she spots Sam in the distance. Though father swan is worried that he may be there to harm them, mother swan convinces him that the boy is harmless and just curious. As the days pass, mother swan continues to keep their eggs warm, however, on one particular afternoon she gets thirsty. She covers up the eggs and goes out to the pond to have a drink. Unbeknownst to her, a red fox has been watching from his hiding place. But before the fox could strike, a stick comes flying throughout the air and hits him square on the nose making him run back into the forest. As the swans look around to find out who their savior is, they spot Sam. Father and mother swan realize that the boy is not an enemy but a friend.
As time passes, the eggs hatch and father and mother swan have five healthy cygnets. While teaching them to swim and fly, they see Sam watching them. Like any proud parent wanting to show off his children, father swan takes the cygnets over so they can say hello. One by one the cygnets beep to say hello to Sam. All but the fifth one, Louis (inner thoughts read by Noah Weisberg). It seems that Louis doesn't have a voice so instead he pulls Sam's shoelaces apart. Worried that his son won't be able to attract a mate without a voice, father swan swears to help his son no matter the cost.
As the summer comes to an end, the swans head back to Montana. While in Montana, Louis decides that since he is not able to speak, he should learn to read and write. Because Sam is his friend and he lives in the area, he pays him a visit to see if he can help him. Sam happily agrees and takes him to school with him the very next day. It turns out that Louis is a natural and picks it up right away so Sam buys him a small chalkboard and chalk so that he can communicate. Once Louis makes it back to his family, he soon realizes that the other swans cannot read or write including Serena (read by Lexy Fridell) a swan that he has fallen in love with. Father and mother swan see how heartbroken their son is so father swan goes to a music store and steals a trumpet to give to his son. Louis, seeing that though his father is happy that he is able to help his son, but also upset with himself for having to steal, sets out on a journey, working odd jobs for people such as working for a man running a Philadelphia night club (read by Michael-Leon Wooley) to earn back the money that his father owes for the trumpet as well as learn to play in the hopes of winning the heart of the swan he loves.
The audience consisted mainly of children between the ages of 5-10. I was first concerned that I would have to sit through kids screaming out of boredom from having to sit for more than 10 minutes. I was surprised to see that this wasn't the case. In fact, they were completely engulfed into the performance. Though this was intended for children, the adults/parents in the audience were just as mesmerized. Not only were the actors and actresses bringing a voice to the beloved characters, the added orchestra (conducted by Christy Crowl)and trumpet soloist (Chris Venditti) who was the voice of Louis, set an atmosphere that had the audience members dancing in their seats to upbeat jazz one minute and captivated by a soft melody the next.
As lovely as it is for parents to read bedtime stories to their kids, "The Trumpet of the Swan" is setting a new standard with this novel symphony. The experience of listening to a live story-telling of a classic novel is an experience that every child should have and one that I wished that I had myself at a young age. Though I must say, it was still amazing to be a part of as an adult.
The series was for two days only but to see future performances at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, please visit:
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Photo Credit: Kevin Parry