Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Jugglers and Pops drum up hilarity

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Maybe it was because we all need a good laugh right now - but the Flying Karamazov Brothers were hilarious at the Cincinnati Pops on Sunday.

Groaning puns. Dressing in tutus. Playing "Chopsticks" while juggling mallets over a xylophone. Bashing themselves in their high-tech helmets while juggling, to play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" on a Back-to-the-Future computer.

It was silly and amazing - most of the time you found yourself thinking, "How do they do that?"

The Karamazovs - comedians and jugglers par excellence - visited Erich Kunzel and the Pops in Music Hall for a preview of the show they'll perform together in Carnegie Hall on April Fool's Day.

The foursome began their career juggling jokes, music and clubs 30 years ago in San Francisco. The current group includes founding "brothers" Dmitri (Paul Magid) and Ivan (Howard Jay Patterson), with newcomers Alexei (Mark Ettinger) and a baby-faced Pavel (Roderick Kimball).

They tiptoed out to Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," and began their four-part harmony of juggling. Much of the time, their zany antics and long-winded explanations reminded one of 1) the Marx Brothers or 2) the Three Stooges.

One of the funniest gags was when the quartet used a combination of Japanese Taiko drumming and drum majorette techniques on cardboard boxes - destroying them for the grand finale.

The audience of about 2,400 howled at their perfectly choreographed ballet (Pas de Six from William Tell) in which they all paused at once to hoist up their pink tights.

Despite the high jinks, at least some of them appear to be musicians with real talent. "Ivan" (Patterson) performed the Allegro from Mozart's Bassoon Concerto - on the euphonium. He navigated its treacherous trills and runs impressively (mugging or doing pushups when the orchestra played alone). He inserted snatches from Rhapsody in Blue and Ride of the Valkyries into the cadenza - and then collapsed flat on his back.

The climax was Beethoven's Ninth, where their helmets were wired to reproduce notes on a keyboard/sampler. But no matter how much he bashed his head (do not try this at home), "Pavel's" helmet was a dud; the result was sort of like 12-tone Beethoven. (Juggling to classics, though, was much funnier than their new-age numbers by Patterson and Douglas Weiselman.)

Kunzel and the Pops' best gag in the first half was Haydn's Farewell Symphony, in which 100 players got up, section-by-section, and left.

The show repeats at 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: 381-3300.

E-mail jgelfand@enquirer.com

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