The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Fray came on NBC’s Super Bowl pregame show Sunday afternoon performing the leadoff track from the band’s new album, Scars & Stories.
Listening to Heartbeat, I caught myself thinking, “That’s OK, but it’s no How to Save a Life.”
That thought has sort of recurred nearly a dozen times listening to the band’s new album, which was released Tuesday.
The Fray is sort of like the kid that gets straight A’s in fourth grade. The bar has been set pretty high and even an honor roll report card doesn’t quite seem to cut it. The Fray aced its first hit single, a song about attempting to pull a troubled teen back from suicide that became a cultural marker in 2006 and ’07. The band followed with a self-titled album in 2009 that included another great song, You Found Me, once again succeeding on a penchant for vivid descriptions of cloaked, aching emotion.
Songs like these succeed by not seeming to try. How to Save starts out as a passive intervention that grows desperate. You Found Me presents a God who says, “Ask anything” and gets an earful.
Much of Scars & Stories unfortunately comes across as being as obvious as the title and trying really hard to emulate its predecessors like on the second track, The Fighter, an overwrought boxing story.
I Can Barely Say comes as close as anything to recapturing the magic of The Fray’s previous hits, and the finale, Be Still, is the most satisfying track. That tune should be embraced by the band’s legion of Christian followers as a representation of a God to embrace many of the troubled souls in other Fray tunes.
Every band has its style and profile. But The Fray feels a bit too much like it is trying to put itself into a box defined by its first taste of success, and it’s becoming a trap that does not allow for growth.
The University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s Academy for Creative Excellence won several awards including outstanding performance at the Junior Theatre Festival last month in Atlanta.
The Academy is the UK Opera’s preparatory performing arts program for school age students. The Junior Theatre Festival is presented by New York’s iTheatrics and Atlanta’s Theater of the Stars and sponsored by theatrical licencor Music Theatre International (MTI), Disney Musicals and the NBC series Smash. According to an MTI report, with more than 3,000 attendees, it is the largest musical theater festival dedicated to groups working with elementary school-, middle school- and high school-aged students.
Director Mary Joy Nelson said the groups of students were split up into pods of eight to 10 groups that perform for and compete with each other. The Academy for Creative Excellence group was honored for outstanding performance in their pod for their performance of excerpts from Seussical Jr. The honor meant that the group performed on the last day for the entire festival. Patrick Garr, a student at the School for Creative and Performing Arts was honored as best male performer in the pod.
Among the adjudicators who evaluated the ACE group was choreographer and Butler University adjunct professor of dance and theater Kenny Shepard who said in his notes, “You may hear some coaches say, you’ve raised the stakes.” He added that ACE was unlike any other group he had seen.
In addition to participating in the theater festival, the Lexington group got to see one of their own on stage at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre in the national tour of Annie, starring Sally Struthers as Miss Hannigan. Lilly Meekin, a 10-year-old student at Sts. Peter and Paul School, was one of five out of 130 auditioners to win a spot as one of the orphans while the tour was in Atlanta.
The Academy for Creative Excellence will present Seussical Jr. in its entirety on the University of Kentucky campus May 25-28. The specific location and other information will be announced at a later date.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich