See Daily News Perfect 10 features North!!
Read New York Times Review here
Read Variety Review here
"At the center of it all is the angelic Christian, who delivers a mesmerizing performance that is both intimate and powerful."
- Paul Menard , Backstage
Read more rave reviews!
New Theater Corps
In North, Heather Christian and her kitchen sink orchestra ‘The Arbornauts’ lovingly hybridize pre-1700 classical pieces, original music and post 1960’s pop. The unique Baroque infused setting is a crystalline outdoor living room with a moving visual circus of oddities and silhouettes that includes 12 narrating television screens, a puppet show and a moving arboretum. North is a multi-media, multidisciplinary production about storytelling and love and distance, featuring a wide array of music from Carmina Burana to Cyndi Lauper along with Christian’s own work.
Daughter of a go-go dancer and a blues musician, Christian has a highly theatrical sense of musicality. She whispers and coos, screams and gurgles, pulling both from classical form and good old fashioned feeling. Christian is a core member of Witness Relocation Co. (WRC) and performed in their production of Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment (“Magnificent” ~ The New Yorker) at La MaMa, which won 3 NY Innovative Theater Awards including Best Performance Art Piece and Best Choreography. She’s performed at The Ohio with WRC in In A Hall in the Palace of Pyrrhus, at The Flea in Len Jenkin’s Margo Veil, with Big Dance Theater in The Other Here (“Deeply brilliant” ~ NY Times, “Daring, funny, smart and unexpectedly moving” ~ Washington Post), with Dance Theater Workshop and is a graduate of NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing.
Featuring ‘The Arbornauts’ Chris Giarmo, Hannah Heller, Mike Mikos (member of Theater of a Two-Headed Calf & Witness Relocation) and Raky Sastri on a variety of instruments/objects including an accordion, glockenspiel, harmonium, megaphone, melodica, typewriter and violin.
The design team consists of Obie-Winner Jay Ryan (Lighting Design), Pandora Andrea Gastelum (Costume Design), Courtland Premo and Colin Campbell (Set Design) and Heather Christian & the Arbornauts (Choreography).
'Christian delivers impassioned renditions, and these moments alone areworth the price of admission'-- Lisa Rinehart www.dancereviewtimes.com
'Christian has an achingly sad voice (think Regina Spektor)'--- TimeOut New York
New York Times Review
An Adult Soul Amid Cookies, Hugs, Puppets and Song
by Claudia La Rocco
Fittingly, “North” opens with snow, but the static kind: television sets full of blurry patterns dot the small stage of the Club at La MaMa E.T.C. When the storm clears, a lone figure is revealed onscreen, exploring a wintry shoreline.
Heather Christian, a singer and songwriter who conceived and directed the show, is out to map another type of landscape: an interior one. In the hourlong “North” Ms. Christian and her band, the Arbornauts, use music, dance, video and various costumes, props and movable sets to plumb, among other things, two age-old and often intertwined personal dramas: romantic longing and art making.
In a cover of “The Engine Driver,” by the Decemberists, she sings, “I am a writer, a writer of fictions, I am the heart that you call home.” In Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night,” which is paired with Bach’s “Preludium in C,” an additional clicking noise is perhaps the meter referred to in the lyrics, but also conjures visions of a late-night artist at the typewriter.
Ms. Christian flits about like a punked-out sylph, alternating between the piano and manic, gestural dances with her multitalented band mates (Chris Giarmo, Hannah Heller, Mike Mikos and Raky Sastri, whose felicity with instruments includes the trumpet, clarinet, violin, melodica and electric guitar). She wears a white dress with sheer, layered skirts and little wings (designed by Pandora Andrea Gastellum), her nails are white, and her short hair is bleached blond.
At times it’s all too precious, from the cookies handed out to the audience to the onstage hugs to Ms. Christian’s breathy coos and whispered vibrato; it’s a relief when she uncorks her voice and just sings. But you are inclined to gloss over these details in a production that offers pleasures like a magical puppet show (designed by Colin Campbell) and Ms. Christian’s quietly resonant videos.
In one of her original pieces, “I’ll Fall Away,” she sings, “You can take it or leave it.” The feel of that song might be longing, but Ms. Christian’s delivery has the well-earned confidence of a woman who expects her audience to take it.
Variety review on North
by Sam Thielman
Never overconcerned with precision (but never boring, either), Heather Christian and the Arbornauts tape flowers to a beat-up grand piano, blanch their faces, don a whole lot of gothy white, and stand there just daring you to remind them that Labor Day was months ago. The band's set mixes some choice covers with a number of lyrically inventive originals, which Christian howls like a werewolf with a voice made of molasses. The theatrical interstitials are mostly unnecessary, but they're not hurting anybody.
Any band that credits one of its members (Mike Mikos) as "trumpet/electric guitar/dramaturgy" already has a leg up on all those other, dramaturgically disabled piano punk bands. Mikos and designer-conceiver-singer-piano player Christian have certainly turned out a show with plenty of theatrical appeal. From the moment the lights come up on the multihyphenate musicians, it's clear this is neither exactly a musical nor exactly a concert performance.
What's not clear is the plot that's supposed to follow the music, though there seems to be some kind of airplane journey with a crash landing involved, and a trip to the afterlife, maybe? No? Then never mind. About halfway through the show, the musicians who aren't singing "Hide Your Love Away" at that moment hand out biscotti (a la flight attendants), which raises the blood sugar and quells the frustration.
The Beatles cover is pretty good, but the best bit of thievery is the wonderful, harmonic version of the Decemberists' "Engine Driver," which opens the set. From there, Christian mixes Bach and Cyndi Lauper and then takes a Debussy break.
The real reasons to make the trip downtown to LaMaMa, though, rise up out of Christian during the songs she wrote herself: "Your mother was an architect of quilted squares and ravens' bones," she moans during "I'll Fall Away." It's the disjointed poetry on top of her bizarre cadences and harmonies that really sell these songs.
Christian makes all the sounds of a young woman exploring her voice and finding it bigger than she had dared to hope, and thus, words and phrases vanish in the diphthongs and vibrato machine-gun teases. Her voice is affected, sure, but there's a contagious happiness about Christian's playfulness within these constantly sad songs.
More than any window dressing (and that's what Pandora Andrea Gastellum's fanciful costumes appear to be fashioned from), the music made by Christian and her multitalented bandmates speaks for itself, even at its least disciplined.