Playing With Fire, directed and edited by Allan Miller, is about a heretofore unknown pioneer in the field of Baroque musical conducting. From the age of 4, Jeannette Sorrell became obsessed with the piano. Her parents did not initially understand how serious their girl was, but soon enough, she was signed up for free lessons. Although, she did lie about having a piano at home and used a paper version to practice. How’s that for dedication from a person still in single digits?
Well, all the time paid off as Sorrell attended the Oberlin Conservatory, where she instantly made the harpsichord her instrument of choice. The passionate redhead then became one of the youngest conductors to study at the Tanglewood Festival’s program. After being told no orchestra would hire a female conductor, Sorrel just about went nuts. So, what did she do about it? The classical music lover formed her own orchestra, Apollo’s Fire.
“The classical music lover formed her own orchestra, Apollo’s Fire.”
Playing With Fire is as much a biography of Sorrell as it is a look at what it takes to be a conductor. Miller intercuts Sorrell’s interviews with her working on new pieces to play with Apollo’s Fire. Sorrell is magnetic when talking about her love of music and how her home life shaped where she is now. But seeing her guide musicians through the delicate art of conducting, how to bring out a composition’s emotions, is where the conductor shines brightest.
Plus, the documentary works as a showcase for what exactly makes a conductor so crucial to the overall success of an orchestra. Sorrell stops a potential conductor and has him explain the history and emotional intent behind the piece they’re working on. She then guides him through getting that out of the musicians. It’s an illuminating sequence that highlights Sorrell’s passion, the true role of a conductor, and the importance of the musical notes all at once.
Playing With Fire is a captivating documentary that teaches its audience something they might not have known. In front and center is Jeannette Sorrell, a beautiful, passionate subject whose love for classical music cannot be overstated. She’s a fascinating subject whom the viewers will delight in instantly. Miller has created a one-of-a-kind experience that should not be missed.
Playing With Fire will be available on Amazon, Tubi and other digital platforms on June 9th, for more information, visit the official Playing With Fire site.
"…a fascinating subject whom the viewers will delight in instantly."