Concert Review: 'The Play of Daniel'

Although its billed as a medieval play, the musical does not sound or look antiquated.

music note 88 (photo credit: )
music note 88
(photo credit: )
The Play of Daniel Phoenix Ensemble YMCA Auditorium March 16 The Play of Daniel, a French medieval morality musical based on the biblical Book of Daniel, was performed this week by the Phoenix Ensemble, directed by Myrna Herzog and staged by Niv Hoffman. Although its billed as a medieval play, Daniel does not sound or look antiquated. Rather it is lively, vibrant and appealing to a modern audience. The melodies, neither major nor minor, are surprisingly contemporary, and the rhythms, not indicated in the original score, have been rendered energetic and invigorating in Herzog's transcription. The acting and staging displayed just the right balance of naivete and sophistication under Hoffman's direction. Benny Hendel stole the show as narrator, surprising the audience - and apparently himself - with his newly discovered talent as a singer. The "real" singers were captivating, though discrete, in their diverse roles. David Feldman, a well-polished counter-tenor, played King Belshatzar, Assaf Benraf's played King Darius with an authoritative bass, Eitan Drori's sonorous tenor suited Daniel, and Macarena Lopez Lavin depicted the Queen with a clear soprano. The lions also made their point by appearing more human than the envious courtiers. The period instruments created an appropriate time-machine effect - their sonorities were unfamiliar, yet enchanting at the same time. Somehow, the medieval past did not sound so distant.