Well-Strung: The Singing String Quartet
There are some people for whom the very idea of any embellishments in the classical-music arena -- even a soloist in a different-colored dress -- is a distraction from the sacred idea of paying homage to the muse. Leave those people at home when you see Well-Strung, a string quartet that layers a bunch of gimmicks onto the classic setup -- and has a lot of fun doing it.
Well-Strung is an all-male string quartet that performs a mixture of classical music and arrangements of pop songs like Ke$ha's "Your Love Is My Drug" and Britney Spears' "Toxic" (replacing synthy strings with real). Not only that, they also sing portions of all those songs.
In between songs they banter about their lives and make jokes. Also, as might be guessed by their cheeky name, they are quite attractive. (Three of four have theatre backgrounds; the fourth, violist Trevor Wadleigh, claims the awwww factor in the program noting that he cofounded an animal rescue nonprofit.)
This would all collapse on itself if they weren't great musicians first, backed by cowriters Donna Drake and Mark Cortale and arranger David Levinson. Their harmonies on Pink's "So What" and "Your Love Is My Drug" were as on point as their stringbound melodies.
First violinist Edmund Bagnell provides a Chris Colfer-esque spin on "Edge of Glory," playing while his cohorts back him up, and at one point cellist Daniel Shevlin wears a harness for his instrument -- the likes of which this audience member had never seen -- so he can dance in step with his other quartet-mates to Bruno Mars' "Grenade." The jokes are delivered with a wink, but no one around me appeared too shocked.
Well-Strung opened the show with a movement from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" to establish its credibility, and the composer and Köchel number of the composition; thereafter, every artist received the same distinction (apparently both Ke$ha and Adele have last names!)
It must be said, not every classical music experience needs to put in special effort to reach those, like some members of Well-Strung's audience, who wouldn't be as likely to stroll over to Lincoln Center and sit in on a performance there. But it's refreshing when an innovative format can make a recalcitrant listener a little more comfortable.
"Well-Strung," also starring Chris Marchant as second violinist, runs through March 16 at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre, 10 West 64th Street, and is on tour after. For tickets, more information and pictures of cute boys with string instruments, visit well-strung.com.