California Dreamer: Gabriel Kahane's Album Hits the Stage

Josh Goleman

The Ambassador, Gabriel Kahane’s musical tribute to Los Angeles, is one of the year’s best albums. Now it’s heading to the stage.

It seems appropriate that when Gabriel Kahane conceived of The Ambassador, he thought of it as both an album and a stage piece. A composer and singer equally comfortable working in the pop, classical and theater idioms, Kahane, 33, says his songs—cinematic, immaculately arranged vignettes about ten Los Angeles addresses, from Griffith Park to the titular hotel—“were all written to be consumed both visually and through headphones.” He found ideal compatriots to bring that world to life in a production at Brooklyn Academy of Music this past fall: Tony-winning director John Tiffany (whose poetic staging of Once Kahane admired) and the wildly creative set designer Christine Jones (Spring Awakening). “Los Angeles is so vast—it’s more an imagined or conceived city than one that exists in any particular moment,” Kahane says. “It’s sort of unmappable.” Jones picked up on that idea, creating an impressionistic space built out of discarded media: books, film canisters, even screenplay pages evoking the Hollywood Hills. Kahane, a quietly magnetic performer with a troubadour’s baritone, will inhabit a series of characters, both historical and fictional, from his songs. Says Kahane, “It’s like my brain has opened up and become Los Angeles.”

February 27-28; cap.ucla.edu.

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