One of the funniest shows in the long history of the New York theater tops this week’s offerings on the arts and entertainment calendar: A national traveling production of “Forbidden Broadway,” a wildly funny spoof of the shows and stars of the Great White Way, visits Portland this Friday under the aegis of Portland Ovations.
Also on Friday, the Portland Wind Trio, comprising three University of Southern Maine School of Music profs, performs on the school’s Gorham campus with a program titled “Something Borrowed, Something New.”
On Saturday in Portland, Dimensions in Jazz presents the Explorer’s Club, a seven-man ensemble led by saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase.
Portland Symphony Orchestra takes off for musical outer space on Tuesday with “Planets,” a program that features a number of eclectic and exotic offerings, including Gustav Holst’s famous orchestral score of that name plus a very popular, very modern work by Charles Adams.
The Tony is the most prestigious honor in American theater, and it’s only granted to Broadway shows. But sometimes that restriction is tweaked a bit to pay tribute to something that’s playing Off-Broadway. Such is the case with “Forbidden Broadway,” a notoriously funny parody of some of American Musical Theater’s most famous shows and stars. I’ve seen it several times, and I love its belly-busting humor and style.
“Forbidden Broadway” was conceived and written by Gerard Alessandrini and originally staged Off-Broadway in 1982. It’s been playing more or less continuously ever since, and in 2006 the show received a special “Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre.”
Two men and two women comprise the entire cast. The format is simple: a musical revue comprising about 20 sketches, each satirizing a famous Broadway show, star or producer. The show is continuously updated, with some old sketches being periodically replaced by newer ones.
Alessandrini is a genius in finding salient points in each show to mock. An exemplar is “Chicago,” where Alessandrini’s targets include director/choreographer Bob Fosse’s famously angular dance poses, skimpy costumes and racy situations.
Other lampooned shows include “Mary Poppins,” “Annie,” “Into the Woods,” “Wicked,” “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent,” “Spamalot,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Hairspray” and “Cats.” Individuals singled out for spoofing include Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand.
Portland Ovations presents the national tour of “Forbidden Broadway” at 8 p.m. Nov. 5 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
Portland Wind Trio
Three professors at the University of Southern Maine School of Music are teaming up on Friday with an interesting program titled, “Something Borrowed, Something Blue.”
Comprising bassoonist Ardith Keef, clarinetist Thomas Parchman and flutist Alison Hale, the Portland Wind Trio has been performing together for several decades. Keef is a member of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and plays with numerous other groups Maine Chamber Ensemble and Maine Baroque Ensemble. Parchman came to Maine in 1984 as a result of a joint search between the University of Southern Maine and the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Hale plays flute and piccolo, and has been a member of the Portland Symphony Orchestra since 1977.
Friday’s program runs the gamut from Baroque to modern, beginning with an 18th-century trio sonata by Johann Sebastian Bach and ending with an arrangement of Joe Garland’s “In the Mood,” a classic mid-20th century jazz tune.
Catch this concert at 8 p.m. Nov. 5 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call 780-5555.
Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorer’s Club
Charlie Kohlhase is a saxophonist – alto, tenor and baritone – and composer who’s well known in Boston-area jazz circles for leading a variety of ensembles. One of his most recent projects is the Explorer’s Club, a seven-man group that’s most notable for having two saxophones and two drummers. Dimensions in Jazz will present the Explorer’s Club this Saturday as part of its ongoing program of hosting top national and regional acts.
A couple of years ago, Kohlhase released “Adventures,” his new group’s first recording, which was well received by the public and reviewers. Troy Collins described it in All About Jazz as “a bracing and bold album.” Collins explained: “A versatile and inventive writer, Kohlhase pens intricate charts, balancing the rich multi-layered voicings of a large ensemble with the nimble dexterity of a small combo. Maximizing the ensemble’s raw sonic potential, his clever arrangements veer from the thorny contrapuntal fantasy of ‘Superhero Beatdown’ to the ornate unison lines of ‘Utensor.’”
Dave Wayne commented on the unusual use of two drummers in Jazz Review: “I find Kohlhase’s use of the dual drummers to be quite remarkable. Instead of having them play together all the time, Kohlhase pits one against the other – trading off parts and fills, one provides just accents or plays along with the front line while the other lays down the groove with the bassist. His compositions often have similar role reversals for the other instruments.”
Dimensions in Jazz presents Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorer’s Club at 8 p.m. Nov. 6 at Woodford Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call 828-1310.
Portland Symphony Orchestra
The Portland Symphony Orchestra is blasting off for outer space – musically speaking. Maestro Robert Moody’s Nov. 9 program is titled “The Planets,” and it features three 20th-century works inspired by visions of space.
The most modern of the three opens the concert. Charles Adams, a Massachusetts native who has worked most of his life in San Francisco, wrote “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” in 1986, and it’s become his most frequently performed work. It has been described as “manic,” “almost sadistic” and “joyfully exuberant.” But the most interesting comment comes from the composer himself: “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t.”
The middle piece on the program is John Williams’ orchestral suite from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the Academy Award-nominated score from the Stephen Spielberg film. Musically speaking, its most interesting feature is the celebrated five-note theme, which appears in fragments near the beginning and grandly morphs into a robust climax when the aliens appear.
The wrap-up will be British composer Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” a seven-movement orchestral tone poem that is based on the astrological interpretations of the orbiting denizens of the solar system.
Portland Symphony Orchestra presents “The Planets” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.