Out & About: ‘Comedy of Tenors,’ ukulele orchestra are top picks

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The world has waited 30 years for the sequel to one of the funniest comedies ever staged, and now it’s here. And in my opinion, it’s the hottest ticket in town.

Ken Ludwig’s “A Comedy of Tenors” is the follow-up to his wildly successful “Lend Me A Tenor,” and Portland’s Good Theater is running the Maine premiere of this fast-paced bedroom farce for the next four weeks.

An orchestra of ukuleles? At first blush, that sounds like a farce. But the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is quite serious about its light-hearted approach to music. Portland Ovations has booked a return visit for April 12.

For the next four Fridays, the Portland Conservatory of Music will present April Fest, a production of Dimensions in Jazz.

“Requiem For My Mother,” a large-scale work for orchestra and voices, will get its Maine premiere on Saturday in Portland, a production of the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

‘A Comedy of Tenors’

Ken Ludwig is the most popular of America’s currently active comic playwrights. Hardly a week passes without one of his plays running somewhere in the world.

He rose to fame on the strength of his first farce, “Lend Me A Tenor,” which has been produced thousands of times since its 1989 debut on Broadway. Nearly 30 years have passed, and Ludwig has finally written the sequel, and the Maine premiere is now in Portland.

Good Theater’s superb professional production of “A Comedy of Tenors” runs through April 29.

Imagine yourself in Paris in 1938. The operatic event of the century is about to take place in Olympic Stadium. The three greatest operatic tenors of the age are scheduled to appear together before an audience of 30,000. What could possibly go wrong? This is a farce, so let us count the ways.

That’s the set-up for “A Comedy of Tenors,” a wildly funny bedroom farce. Led by actor and Good Theater co-founder Steve Underwood brilliantly portraying an aging Italian stallion plus doubling as a singing Venetian gondolier with a roving eye, director Brian Allen gets great performances from his cast of four men and three women.

This show is so good that on opening night people laughed all through intermission.

Good Theater presents “A Comedy of Tenors” at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) through April 29 with Wednesday and Thursday performances at 7 p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Call 835-0895.

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

“The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is a group of all-singing, all-strumming ukulele players, using instruments bought with loose change, which believe that all genres of music are available for reinterpretation, as long as they are played on the ukulele.”

That’s the mission statement of one of the world’s more interesting and creatively different musical ensembles, an octet of singing ukulele players informally referred to as the Ukes. The Ukes are coming to Portland on April 12, hosted by Portland Ovations.

The Ukes have been going strong since 1985. And if you’re thinking this idea sounds too zany to be true, please note that the Ukes have played august international venues such as London’s Albert Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Sydney (Australia) Opera House and our own Merrill Auditorium, where the Ukes performed in 2014.

Their vast repertoire spans many spheres, from classical to ACDC and Lady Gaga. The Ukes released a CD last month, “By Request: Songs from the Setlist,” which comprises audience favorites – songs that no doubt will be played on April 12.

Portland Ovations presents the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at 7:30 p.m. April 12 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

April Fest

Call it Paul Lichter’s version of spring fever. The longtime curator of the Dimensions in Jazz concert series presented under the aegis of the Portland Conservatory of Music has scheduled dates for all four Fridays in April. Collectively billed as April Fest, the four-part series offers a quartet of different jazz ensembles with a common theme of creative improvisation.

Appropriately the opener is the Titus Abbott Collective, a fivesome comprising saxophone, piano, trumpet, bass and drums. The titular head is the saxophonist, who’s also the director of jazz studies at the conservatory. A consummate performer, composer and arranger, Abbott has been a fixture on the international jazz scene for decades.

Abbott’s eponymous Collective will perform a program titled the “Kenny Wheeler Project,” inspired by the late Canadian trumpet virtuoso and composer.

On April 13, the featured act will be the Eastern Boundary Quartet, comprising bass, piano, saxophone and drums. The drummer and saxophonist are both from Hungary, and are both noted improvisers.

The Mike McGinnis Band takes the stage the following week. It’s fronted by clarinetist McGinnis; his two bandmates play piano and bass. McGinnis boasts an extensive discography that includes dozens of titles dating back to 1966.

April Fest concludes on the 27th with the Laszlo Gardony Trio. Fronted by another Hungarian jazzman noted for improvisation, the trio includes piano, bass and drums.

All April Fest performances are slated for 8 p.m. at the Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St. Call 775-3356.

‘Requiem For My Mother’

In terms of scale of production, this weekend’s biggest event will be the Maine premiere of Stephen Edwards’ “Requiem For My Mother,” a massive work for symphony orchestra and multiple choirs. It was first performed at a huge basilica in Rome’s Vatican City, and broadcast on public television nearly a year ago.

You can hear it live in Portland this Saturday, a production of the University of Southern Maine School of Music. Music director is Nicolas Alberto Dosman, who heads the school’s several choral programs. On Saturday he’ll have tremendous vocal power: the USM Chamber Singers, University Chorale, Southern Maine Children’s Chorus, Southern Maine Youth Chorale and the Community Chorus of South Berwick. The Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra will provide the instrumental horsepower.

The composer is mostly known for television and film scores, with more than 50 movies to his credit. “Requiem For My Mother” was written in memory of Rosalie Edwards, who inspired his love for music.

Catch “Requiem For My Mother” at 7:30 p.m. April 7 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call the USM music box office at 780-5555.

Three famous operatic tenors are scheduled to perform in the Olympic Stadium in Paris in 1938 when comic chaos breaks loose. That’s the shtick in “A Comedy of Tenors,” running through April 29 at Portland’s Good Theater.

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