Out & About: Comedy, dance and classical music
This week's arts and entertainment calendar is brimming over with choices in many different genres. These include a stage comedy, a modern ballet company and several classical concerts.
Top billing goes to "Light Up the Sky," a wonderfully funny classic comedy by Moss Hart that's currently running at Portland's Good Theater, at the top of Munjoy Hill.
Half a mile down Congress Street, PCA Great Performances will host Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal on April 24, part of its "Traverser la Frontiere" series from Canada.
The University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers offer an interesting concert Saturday in Gorham.
Portland Symphony Orchestra plays on April 26, presenting an all Baroque concert that features guest trumpeter Ryan Anthony.
Ogunquit Performing Arts opens Maine's long season of classical music festivals with its fine Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham Memorial Piano Festival, which runs through April 26. Portland Chamber Music Festival, a late-summer event, has an early-blossoming spring preview/promo concert on April 30.
‘Light Up the Sky'
Behind-the-scenes settings for stage comedies are so common that they almost comprise a mini-genre. One that's uncommonly funny is Moss Hart's "Light Up the Sky," a 1948 Broadway hit that largely reflects his own personal experiences and is populated by characters drawn from his own coterie of friends and associates – plus two versions of himself.
Good Theater, the resident company of the St. Lawrence Arts Center, delivers an uncommonly funny (non-Equity) professional production of Hart's classic gut-busting screwball comedy through May 10.
The setting is a theatrical diva's suite in a swank Boston hotel as a new drama by a new playwright is starting its out-of-town tryouts. Nine principal characters (plus three minor ones) represent actors, playwrights, producers and assorted hangers-on – all larger-than-life figures with colossal egos who are sketched with exquisitely over-drawn lines. Good Theater director Brian P. Allen has assembled a cast of 10 professional actors, and the chemistry they create with these odd and eccentric characters is simply dazzling.
Good Theater presents "Light Up the Sky" at the St. Lawrence Arts Center (76 Congress St., Portland) through May 10 with Thursday performances at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Call Good Theater at 885-5883.
Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal
PCA Great Performances' "Traverser la Frontiere" ("Crossing the Border") series wraps up on Friday with Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, a top modern dance troupe from our neighbor to the north.
The 30-plus-year-old company exudes both the classicism of ballet and the dynamism of jazz dance and is an integral part of the international dance scene. LBJ is known for its vitality, exploratory spirit and exciting excursions with some of the world's foremost choreographers. These include Aszure Barton and Rodrigo Pederneiras, two who will be featured on Friday.
Catch this terpsichorean spirit from Canada at 8 p.m. April 24 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
USM Chamber Singers
The USM Chamber Singers, directed by professor Robert Russell, represent the most outstanding singers at the University of Southern Maine. Chosen through a careful audition process, these undergraduate students perform a diverse repertory centered on a cappella literature of the Renaissance era and the 20th century, plus music of various world cultures.
The ensemble has made several tours to Europe – in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2008 – singing in some of the most beautiful churches and halls of western Europe.
The Chamber Singers' April 25 program features "Les Chansons des Roses" by Morten Lauridsen, a five-part song cycle based on poems written in French by Rainer Maria Rilke on the subject of roses. Other works on the program span cultures that range from Renaissance Italy to contemporary Kenya.
Catch this early evening concert at 5 p.m. April 25 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.
Portland Symphony Orchestra
Baroque and a bit beyond is the theme of the Portland Symphony Orchestra's final concert in its Sunday Classics series. Maestro Robert Moody will take the podium and the PSO musicians will be joined by a guest soloist.
Three Baroque composers are featured. Johann Sebastian Bach is represented by the second in his celebrated set of Brandenburg Concertos and George Frideric Handel weighs in with his very well-known "Water Music." Tomaso Albinoni's Trumpet Concerto will be the final number on the program, with guest solo honors going to Ryan Anthony, principal trumpet with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Franz Josef Haydn, the first and greatest of the Baroque era's immediate successors, will also be represented by his Symphony No. 103 ("Drum Roll"), long a favorite with classical aficionados.
The concert is slated for 2:30 p.m. April 26 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham Memorial Piano Festival
Outstanding works from the solo piano repertoire is the common denominator for the Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham Memorial Piano Festival, which is becoming a springtime tradition in Ogunquit Village.
The general format of the four-day affair is three solo recitals by distinguished pianists on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Then Sunday afternoon's free concert showcases some of Southern Maine's aspiring young artists.
The professional guests are Donald Alfano (Thursday, New England), Irina Nuzova (Friday, Russia) and Victor Goldberg (Saturday, Israel). Friday's program is entirely devoted to Frederic Chopin. And on all four days the public can hear one of the finest instruments in Maine: Ogunquit Performing Arts' 1896 ebony-finish Steinway C Concert Grand Piano.
All concerts take place in Dunaway Center (top floor of the town hall, on School St.) in the center of Ogunquit Village. Times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Call OPA at 646-6170.
Portland Chamber Music Festival
Portland Chamber Music Festival steps out of its normal mold in two respects next week. First, the April 30 date represents a special off-season concert, intended to promote and introduce the four-concert series which takes place in late August. Second, artistic co-director Jenny Elowitch has planned a program that includes a pair of string quartets – a format which she mostly avoids on August programs.
Four performers will appear: violinists Elowitch and Gabriela Diaz, violist Laurie Kennedy and cellist Andrew Mark. Composers represented include Franz Josef Haydn, Bohuslav Martinu and Felix Mendelssohn.
The concert is slated for the Abromson Community Education Center (88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine's Portland campus) at 7 p.m. April 30. Call 780-5960.