Out & About: Drama, music and dance

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There are lots of good choices for spending your entertainment dollars this weekend, with a wide spectrum of drama, music and dance offered.

The most intriguing choice is Good Theater’s current production of “An Inspector Calls,” an unconventional whodunnit set a century ago in Edwardian England.

“Music From the Heart” is the title of the Portland Chamber Music Festival’s concert this Saturday. Also on Saturday, the Portland Conservatory of Music’s Dimensions in Jazz series continues with an appearance by Gato Libre.

“Dancing with the Stars” is the Pops! program of the Portland Symphony Orchestra this Saturday and Sunday.

VentiCordi, an eclectically mixed ensemble of musicians, holds forth on Sunday.

‘An Inspector Calls’

It’s a whodunnit. But nobody dunnit. Alternatively, everyone dunnit. It’s all a matter of viewpoints.

That’s the essence of “An Inspector Calls,” a 1945 drawing room drama by British playwright J.B. Priestley that’s running through Nov. 26 at Portland’s Good Theater.

The setting is a few years before World War I, and the gimmick is simple and elegant: five members of an aristocratic Edwardian family are holding a dinner party when a police inspector shows up with questions about a young woman who committed suicide. There’s no crime per se, but the inspector wants to explore the woman’s life in the two years before her death. And it turns out that all five had some very unhappy interactions with her.

Director Brian Allen gets outstanding performances from his cast, led by James Noel Hoban in the title role. I also liked Tony Reilly as the haughty family patriarch and Meredith Lamothe as his stuck-up daughter. Steve Underwood designed the outstanding period set.

This is one of the most intriguing plays I’ve ever experienced, and I highly recommend it.

Good Theater presents “An Inspector Calls” through Nov. 26 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) in Portland with 7 p.m. performances Thursdays and Fridays, 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Call 835-0895.

Portland Chamber Music Festival

Best-known for its 24 years of August concerts, the Portland Chamber Music Festival has long presented a number of sporadic off-season events. This Saturday PCMF artistic director and violinist Jennifer Elowitch will be joined by eight fellow musicians for a program in South Portland.

The title is “Music From the Heart,” and it’s intended as an evening celebrating the lyricism of the human voice and the intimate, heartfelt beauty of chamber music. The nine artists will perform music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonin Dvorák, Antonio Vivaldi and Frank Martin.

The first three are extremely well-known. Martin is a mid-20th-century Swiss musician. His “Four Sonnets to Cassandra” was written for the very unusual instrumentation of mezzo-soprano, flute, viola and cello. It is an elegantly expressive work based on a setting of 16th-century poems published during World War II.

Portland Chamber Music Festival presents “Music From the Heart” at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook St. in South Portland. Call PCMF at 800-320-0257.

Gato Libre

Paul Lichter has been promoting avant garde jazz in Maine for about three decades. If you’ve been around that long, you might recall his memorable Cafe No concerts, which brought a variety of acts to his very hip Danforth Street establishment in the 1980s and 1990s.

In recent years, Lichter has found a home in the Woodford’s Corner neighborhood, presenting avant garde jazz in partnership with the Portland Conservatory of Music and its Dimensions in Jazz concerts.

This Saturday, the 2017-2018 series continues with Gato Libre, an ensemble that’s been together in various lineups of musicians for about a dozen years. This Saturday’s group comprises Neko Jaras on trombone, Katta Maki on drums and Sakato Fujii on accordion. The latter is the group’s artistic driving force. Born in Tokyo, she’s a graduate of two famed Boston schools: Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory. (She’s also known as a jazz composer and pianist.)

Writing for All About Jazz, music critic Dan McClenaghan comments: “Gato Libre has evolved in small increments with a subtle grace. The sound is light and delicate, the atmosphere calm and meditative.”

Catch Gato Libre at 8 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call Paul Lichter at 828-1310 or the conservatory at 775-3356.

PSO Pops!

“Ballroom with a Twist” is the title of this weekend’s program, as the Portland Symphony Orchestra morphs into Pops! mode for a pair of concerts on Saturday and Sunday.

Thirteen guest artists are scheduled to appear. Ten are dancers, with a pair each from two televisions shows, “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Two singers will perform, including one who has been on “American Idol.” And the whole ensemble will perform under the baton of guest maestro Bob Bernhardt.

The program includes four dances by classical European composers and two by popular Americans. Of the latter, Leroy Anderson – famed for his work with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops – wrote “Belle of the Ball.” Also programmed are selections from the Broadway musical “Chicago,” written by John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Portland Symphony Orchestra presents two performances of “Ballroom with a Twist” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 12. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

VentiCordi

Four 20th-century works, including one dating from the Holocaust of World War II, will be presented this Sunday by VentiCordi, one of the most interesting chamber music ensembles in Maine.

VentiCordi (the name is derived from the Latin roots for “winds” and “strings”) revolves around co-artistic directors Kathleen McNerney, an oboist, and Dean Stein, a violinist. Because there is so little music written for this uncommon instrumental pairing, McNerney and Stein get very creative in their programming, picking unusual pieces and inviting a number of collaborators. Three guests have been invited this Sunday: cellist Andrew Mark, pianist Chiharu Naruse and clarinetist Gary Gorczyca.

This Sunday’s program comprises four pieces by four composers from four countries; the U.S., Germany, France and Holland. The latter is represented by Leo Smit, a Dutch composer who died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1943.

Catch VentiCordi at 2 p.m. Nov. 12 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

“An Inspector Calls,” with James Noel Hoban, center, in the title role, is an unconventional whodunnit set a century ago in Edwardian England. Good Theater’s professional production runs through Nov. 26.

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