Out & About: Cabaret, concerts and musical theater

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Music of several styles will be filling the region’s concert spaces this weekend, and much of it relates to theater. Most intriguing is the cabaret duo of Marie Pressman and Ed Reichert, who appear this Friday to conclude the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series.

Lyric Music Theater is closing out its season of musicals with “42nd Street,” a showcase of Hollywood music and tap dancing. Music of Broadway is the theme when the Portland Symphony Orchestra wraps up its Pops! season this weekend with two performances of a program of Broadway music.

Under the classical rubric, Sweetest in the Gale – Oratorio Chorale’s women’s vocal ensemble – will perform Saturday and Sunday, while Portland String Quartet wraps up its season on Sunday.

Marie Pressman and Ed Reichert

Although he’s best known as the director of the musical theater program at the University of Southern Maine School of Music, Ed Reichert has an alter ego – producer and pianist for a number of cabaret acts. For many years, he’s been concertizing and touring with vocalist Marie Pressman, which is how I met the pair nearly 30 years ago.

This Friday the Pressman-Reichert duo will be the featured act as the school’s Faculty Concert series wraps up for 2017-2018.

The pair will perform an eclectic and exciting program of songs by Leonard Cohen, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Jason Robert Brown and Harold Arlen. Musical theater selections from “Ever After,” “Next to Normal” and “Dear Evan Hansen” are also slated.

The duo is made in heaven, says Reichert. “Marie’s voice is like butter on a hot bagel.”

For many years, the duo appeared with the NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt in Maine, and Pressman will reprise her signature song from that period, “Jonathan Wesley Oliver, Jr.,” written by their friend Tom Brown. Pressman and Reichert have collected a fan base throughout New England, which began with their gender-bending cabaret act, “Loved Her, Hated Him!” and continued through the Songbook Series they produced at the Portland Museum of Art.

Catch Marie Pressman and Ed Reichert on April 20 at 8 p.m. at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the USM music box office at 780-5555.

‘42nd Street’

“Absolutely extraordinary for a community theater.”

That’s what I told choreographer Ray Dumont on the opening night of Lyric Music Theater’s current production of “42nd Street,” the toe-tapping show that wraps up the company’s 2017-2018 season of musicals.

This 1980 Broadway hit won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The book was written by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, with lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer and music by Harry Warren. It is based on a novel by Bradford Ropes and the subsequent 1933 Hollywood film adaptation.

Set in the Great Depression, “42nd Street” is a show about show-biz. The story follows the struggle of a famed but dictatorial Broadway impresario to stage a musical extravaganza.

Lyric’s cast is led by Heather Stevens, playing a young, inexperienced chorine who is pressed into the lead role at the last minute, and Mark Dils as the authoritarian director-producer.

The most appealing facet of Lyric’s fine community production is the energetic tap dancing, taught and choreographed by Dumont. I found it almost unbelievable that a community company could execute scene after scene of tap dancing with such energy, skill and finesse.

Lyric Music Theater, 176 Sawyer St. in South Portland, presents “42nd Street” through April 29 with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Call 799-1421.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

The music of Broadway is the theme this weekend as the Portland Symphony Orchestra switches into Pops! mode for the last time in the 2017-2018 season.

Soprano Lisa Vroman will be the guest soloist; she’s a Broadway vet whose experience includes seven years as the ingenue in “Phantom of the Opera.” Taking the podium will be Daniel Meyer, one of three finalists for the appointment as the next PSO music director.

Although the PSO’s program is formally described as a tribute to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the most successful composer-lyricist duo in Broadway history, I notice that several other musical theater composers are represented. These are Stephen Sondheim, Meredith Willson, Irving Berlin and the songwriting team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

Two performances are slated for Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: April 21 at 7:30 p.m. and April 22 at 2:30 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Oratorio Chorale

Creative recycling is the theme behind this weekend’s program, to be presented twice, by Sweetest in the Gale, a 30-voice women’s ensemble that is a sub-unit of Brunswick-based Oratorio Chorale.

Artistic director Emily Isaacson has selected and commissioned a number of pieces that incorporate folk tunes or other traditional music.

“All the way back to Bach and before, composers were inspired by or using popular music in their ‘serious’ compositions,” explains Isaacson. “My generation of composers is especially interested in the intersections of popular, traditional and art music. This concert is a great exploration of visions from the past and sounds of our future.”

Six composers are on Isaacson’s program. Their sources include the Bible, English song transported to the Appalachian mountains, Lithuanian poetry, Inuit-Yupik songs and “Southern Harmony,” the most popular American tune book of the 19th century.

Two performances are slated: April 21, at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 43 Foreside Road in Falmouth and April 22 at 4 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 27 Pleasant St. in Brunswick. Call 800-838-3006.

Portland String Quartet

The sound of the flute will mingle with strings this Sunday when the Portland String Quartet wraps up its 2017-2018 subscription season with works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Walter Piston and Johannes Brahms. Globetrotting flutist Erin Lesser has been invited to perform, and she’ll be heard in the first two pieces, a quartet by Mozart and a quintet by Piston.

Piston was an American composer who was born in Rockland and taught for many years at Harvard University. He enjoyed a very productive relationship with the PSQ in the 1970s.

The four PSQ musicians – violinists Dean Stein and Ron Lantz, violist Julia Adams and cellist Patrick Owen – will wrap up their season with a string quartet by Brahms that is noted for its exceptionally beautiful and prominent viola part.

Catch the Portland String Quartet at 2 p.m. April 22 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

The cabaret duo of Marie Pressman and Ed Reichert will be performing Friday in the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series.