Necessarily So

What might have been a ducks-out-of-water mashup of different artistic temperaments turned out to be a highly entertaining and at times moving theatrical experience. “New Worlds: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends” blew into the Granada Theatre for a UCSB Arts & Lectures show, and the audience was bowled over by the wind. The show brought together classical musicians and an actor best know for comedy in a kind of tightly orchestrated improvisation that highlighted the best of both worlds.  Mr. Murray gave impassioned and often humorous readings from Hemingway, Whitman, Thurber, Twain and others, accompanied by noted cellist Jan Vogler, his violinist wife Mira Wang and dynamo pianist Vanessa Perez , including “Moon River” with an excerpt from “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. They also played classical interludes and even some Astor Piazzola.  Murray sang hits form the “American Songbook” in a strangely compelling style all his own. He may not be a “good” singer but you’ve never heard hits from “Porgy and Bess,” “West Side Story,” and Van Morrison sung more affectingly.  Even something as seemingly light weight as Foster’s “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair” was touching and lovely. Murray and the musicians were obviously enjoying themselves mightily and this odd mixture of variety show and classical concert brought out the best in them. An added bonus: before the tech rehearsal for the show, Bill, Jan, Mira and Vanessa agreed to be in a group photo with the Arts & Lectures staff on stage, and Mr. Murray enthusiastically greeted all of them before posing for the photo. The performers were already in high spirits, a good portend for the evening’s show.