Broadway musicals are nearly no-shows in Portland Ovations’ 2015-2016 season.
The only one on the entire year’s schedule is slated for this weekend, when a national touring company brings the lushly romantic Disney Theatrical Productions’ version of “Beauty and the Beast” into Merrill Auditorium for three performances on Friday and Saturday.
John Boden has taught French horn at the University of Southern Maine for decades. His turn on the Faculty Concert series rolls around again this Friday. Boden’s program is entirely devoted to works of 20th-century German composer Paul Hindemith and he’s invited four professional colleagues to participate.
Ten Strings and a Goatskin is actually the name of a musical trio. Comprising a guitarist, fiddler and drummer, the ensemble specializes in new approaches to traditional Celtic music. They’ll appear in Portland on Saturday.
For nearly a quarter-century, Disney Theatrical Productions has been the single biggest source of new Broadway musicals, and most of these were stage adaptations of successful musical animated films. Taken as a group, they have been extraordinarily successful, both in terms of critical reception and box office receipts.
The first of the series was “Beauty and the Beast,” a 1994 Broadway hit that played for more than 13 years and amassed nearly 5,500 total performances. Following its 2007 Broadway closing, “Beauty and the Beast” became one of the most popular shows for community companies and school groups. Plus it’s been on more-or-less constant national and international tour by a number of professional companies.
One of those troupes rolls into Merrill Auditorium this weekend for three performances at family-friendly times. (It also represents the sole Broadway musical on Portland Ovations’ 2015-2016 season.)
The Disney stage version has a script by Linda Woolverton, based on a mid-18th-century French fairly tale (set in medieval times) by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. The score was penned by composer Alan Menken and lyricists Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. “Beauty and the Beast” garnered nine Tony Award nominations, surprisingly winning only one.
I’ve seen “Beauty and the Beast” at least four times, and plan to see it again this weekend. It’s lushly romantic, with lots of good humor, incredible costuming and a wonderful score.
The plot is similar to many fairy tales. It begins when an enchantress casts an evil spell over a handsome prince, transforming him into a hideous beast who is condemned to live in a dreary castle hidden deep in the dark forest. There’s only one way out of this beastly predicament: If the prince can find true love of a very human kind, he’ll be restored to his human self. But who could love someone with such a ghastly and hirsute visage?
Enter Belle (French for “beautiful”), a made-for-Broadway ingenue who loves to read books. Plus there’s her eccentric father, a vainglorious hunter, a village fool, a dozen-plus villagers and a pack of wolves. All these interact in a story where there’s plenty of emotional and physical conflict, but the good guys triumph and live happily ever after.
It’s rather uncommon to see a classical concert entirely dedicated to the works of a single 20th-century composer. And even less common for that concert to be focused on one instrument.
But that’s the plan this Friday when John Boden, who has taught French horn at the University of Southern Maine School of Music since 1981, takes his turn on the Faculty Concert series. Boden’s program, titled “Horns-a-Plenty,” is devoted to works featuring virtuoso horn that were written Paul Hindemith, a German composer who was active between the 1920s and the 1960s.
Hindemith was known for his use of non-traditional harmonies, in contrast to the neo-classical composers who preceded him and in sharp contrast to the atonal tendencies of his contemporaries in Vienna. After fleeing Nazi Germany, he lived for many years in the U.S., teaching at Yale University.
Boden has held the position of Portland Symphony Orchestra principal horn since 1981 and has worked with virtually all of the professional orchestras in New England. He is a long time member of the Portland Brass Quintet and has performed in chamber music settings at the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival and at the Bowdoin International Music Festival.
Boden will open the concert with Hindemith’s 1949 Horn Concerto, followed by his 1943 Sonata for Alto Horn and Piano in E-flat, accompanied by pianist Martin Perry. After intermission, Boden and Perry return to the stage for Hindemith’s 1939 Sonata in F.
Appearing with Boden for the final piece of the evening will be three other Maine horn players – Scott Burditt, Nina Miller and Sophie Flood – to play Hindemith’s 1952 Sonata for Four Horns. This piece is reminiscent of the Baroque era, yet it fully conforms with Hindemith’s unique 20th-century harmonic techniques. The result is music that would have been unplayable on Baroque instruments.
Catch “Horns-a-Plenty” at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.
If anyone’s conducting a poll for most unusual moniker for a band, the trio that’s playng Portland’s One Longfellow Square on Saturday ought to rank rather high.
Hailing from Prince Edward Island, Canada, and calling themselves Ten Strings and a Goatskin, these three young men specialize in Anglo-Irish-Scottish-French-Celtic music from both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean. Their curious name refers to their instruments: A guitar has six strings, a fiddle has four and the percussionist plays the bodhran, a hand-held Celtic drum that’s made from a goatskin stretched over a circular frame.
Not one of the three has reached his 21st birthday, but they’ve already racked up quite a few miles on the road in North America and Europe and through the air crossing the Atlantic. Along the way they’ve picked up the East Coast Music Association’s 2015 award for Best World Music Recording of the Year, plus a slew of nominations for the Canadian Folk Music Association’s honors.
Boasting a bilingual set list, the guys have also become favorites on French-language television, both in Quebec, France and French-speaking Switzerland.
Catch Ten Strings and a Goatskin at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.
“Beauty and the Beast” was the first of a long series of hit Broadway musicals created by Disney Theatrical Productions. A national touring production plays Portland for three performances Friday and Saturday.