Out & About: Broadway musical, comedy, ballet and jazz

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We’re into our first full week of spring, and the pace of performing arts in southern Maine accelerates accordingly. And there’s quite a variety of genres to boot.

And speaking of boots: “Kinky Boots,” the six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical is now on national tour, and the bus and trucks will be braking for Portland this coming weekend. It’s part of Portland Ovations’ Broadway and Beyond series.

A riotously funny comedy is running in South Portland. “Boeing Boeing,” a madcap bedroom farce about a guy who’s juggling too many girlfriends, is an outstanding community production of Portland Players.

Ballet enthusiasts and others will enjoy “Alice in Wonderland,” the delightful spring offering of Maine State Ballet in Falmouth.

Dimensions in Jazz, a production of the Portland Conservatory of Music, is hosting a CD release concert this Friday. Host Paul Lichter has invited pianist Frank Carlberg and saxophonist Noah Preminger to perform from their recently issued “Whispers and Cries.”

‘Kinky Boots’

The principal mission of Portland Ovations is to host national and internationally important traveling shows in the Port City. That’s what’s happening this weekend as a national touring company brings one of the biggest and most recent Broadway hits to Portland.

“Kinky Boots” is one of Broadway’s biggest hits of the decade. It’s still running on the Great White Way, recently surging past its 2,000th performance. A national road tour is also running around the country and Portland is one of its first stops.

The story revolves around a young British businessman who saves his family shoe factory from bankruptcy by discovering and serving a truly peculiar niche market: high-heeled boots for drag queens. That’s the plot, but it’s really about two very different men and their fascinating and oddball journey of self-discovery.

With a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, “Kinky Boots” copped six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score.

Portland Ovations presents three performances of “Kinky Boots” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: March 30 at 8 p.m. and March 31 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Boeing Boeing’

One of the funniest stage comedies ever written is playing in South Portland, and it’s running for another two weekends. “Boeing Boeing” is a fast-paced bedroom farce by Marc Camoletti that takes place at the beginning of the jet age.

Here’s the situation: Bernard is a handsome, sauve single American with a gorgeous apartment in Paris. He’s got three girlfriends, all curvaceous airline stewardesses. Their flight schedules keep them comfortably separated. As the American girlfriend soars over the Atlantic and the Italian lands in Rome, Bernard has the German in his bedroom. When the German takes off, another girlfriend arrives in Paris and takes her place.

It all clicks like clockwork until the airlines replace their piston-powered aircraft with the much faster Boeing 707s. Then the girlfriends start arriving at Bernard’s apartment hours and days earlier than he expects. And comic chaos erupts.

Portland Players, directed by Paul Bell, has mounted a sensationally good community production. Among the cast members, two are tops in my opinion. Jessica Libby plays the German girlfriend; her militantly teutonic passion is her hallmark. Best of all is Megan Cross as Bernard’s long-suffering French servant. Cross’ spirited portrayal of this opinionated, loudmouthed maid-chef-philosopher is the icing on the comic cake.

Portland Players, 420 Cottage Road in South Portland, presents “Boeing Boeing” through April 8 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 799-7337.

‘Alice in Wonderland’

April flowers will be blooming in a few weeks, but if you can’t wait, there’s a huge garden of wildly colorful dancing flowers in Falmouth. And lots of dancing animals, including a couple of rabbits, a caterpillar, a fish, a frog, a dormouse, a Cheshire cat and a March hare.

It’s “Alice in Wonderland,” of course, and Maine State Ballet is currently running a wonderfully colorful terpsichorean version of the Lewis Carroll classic story about a pre-teen girl who falls through a rabbit hole and discovers an astonishing world.

Linda MacArthur Miele, the company’s founder and artistic director, created this show with original choreography and (mostly) classical music cobbled together from various sources. I was among many hundreds of delighted attendees at last weekend’s sold out performances.

The cast comprises students and professionals from Maine State Ballet’s school. I loved Brooke Sowerby in the title role as the brave but bewildered young traveler through Wonderland. Tops among the other roles, I liked Veronica Druchniak as Tiger Lily, Rhiannon Pelletier as The Rose and Kendra Murray as The Bluebell.

Also outstanding are the costumes by Gail Csoboth. Mainers will especially appreciate the nine brilliantly red crustacean outfits she created for the Lobster Quadrille number.

Maine State Ballet, 348 Route 1 in Falmouth, presents “Alice in Wonderland” through April 8 with Friday performances at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sundays (except Easter) at 2 p.m. Call 781-7672.

Dimensions in Jazz

“This is music of rare, unguarded purity.”

That’s the opinion of All About Jazz music critic Dan Bilawsky, reviewing the recently released CD by pianist Frank Carlberg and saxophonist Noah Preminger. The album is titled “Whispers and Cries,” and the two artists will be visiting Portland this Friday.

This performance also represents the first of five consecutive Friday concerts in the Portland Conservatory of Music’s Dimensions in Jazz series, curated by Paul Lichter. I’ve known Lichter since the late 1980s, when his Cafe No on Danforth Street was the go-to place for jazz in Portland, and he remains the region’s most important jazz impresario.

Lichter has frequently hosted Carlberg, a Boston jazzman who is best known as a composer who likes to set poetry written by others to music. He teaches at both the New England Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music.

Preminger lives in New York and enjoys a national reputation. Although only 31 years old, he’s already released eight CDs as frontman-leader and several others as sideman.

“Whispers and Cries” is a reinterpretation of jazz standards. Bilawsky comments: “‘Whispers And Cries’ casts a spell from the very beginning. It’s a program rich in nuance and elevated by artistic affinity, as each and every number miraculously manages to speak clearly to its root melodies, harmonies and philosophies while emphasizing the near-imperceptible and highlighting creative streaks.”

Catch Dimensions in Jazz at 8 p.m. March 30 at the Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call 775-3356.

“Kinky Boots,” the six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, will have three performances in Merrill Auditorium this weekend, hosted by Portland Ovations.

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