Adams shakes things up for Monday, January 18, 2021

On today’s date in 1994, at 4:30 a.m. Pacific Coast time, an earthquake struck Southern California. It was located some 20 miles west-northwest of Los Angeles and centered 1 mile south-southwest of Northridge. It registered 6.7 on the Richter scale and caused 44 billion dollars in damage. The event also generated a rock musical entitled “I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky,” which premiered in Berkeley, California, the following year. This was a collaboration among the composer, John Adams, stage director, Peter Sellars, and librettist, June Jordan. Adams spent about a year working on this, his third stage work, which was billed as an “earthquake romance.” The story, told in twenty-five pop songs accompanied by an eight-piece rock band, is both a romantic comedy and a social satire centered on the lives of seven young Americans of varied ethnicities, all living in Los Angeles at the moment of the Northridge earthquake. The original production played in an extended five-month tour of Montreal, New York, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Paris, and Hamburg, and a Nonesuch compact disc recording followed, featuring performances by some rising stars of the American music theater, including Audra MacDonald.