Winter exits with a busy, busy performing arts calendar, and it’s hard to pick and choose from all the great offerings.
My top choices tend toward musical theater, and there are two fine shows to pick from. “Little Me” is one of the funniest Broadway musicals ever written, and Portland’s Good Theater is culminating its 10th anniversary season with a superb professional production.
A national touring company will be anchoring “South Pacific” at Merrill Auditorium this Saturday and Sunday, part of Portland Ovations’ Broadway series. No way I’m going to miss this 1950 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical!
Portland Ballet will present “Giselle,” a classical terpsichorean tale revolving around unrequited love, on March 17 and 24 in Westbrook.
In the classical music department there are two fine choices. On Friday, violinist Robert Lehmann will perform a pair of “blockbuster” sonatas in Gorham. Then Oratorio Chorale will present its late-winter program twice: Saturday in Brunswick and Sunday in Falmouth.
Portland’s Good Theater, the resident company of the St. Lawrence Arts Center, is celebrating wrapping up its 10th anniversary season by bringing back “Little Me,” the show that resulted in its first rousing success. In the subsequent nine years the company has produced a string of wonderful shows. I’ve seen nearly every one and most have received rave reviews in this space.
With book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh,” “Little Me” is a sensationally funny romp that’s enormously fun to watch. Good Theater’s superb professional (non-Equity) production stars several company regulars.
The story revolves around an aging film star, and her two incarnations – young and older – are portrayed by longtime company regulars Kelly Caufield and Lynne McGhee. Company co-founder Steve Underwood plays seven men in Belle’s long love life, including six dead husbands.
Co-founder and artistic director Brian Allen keeps the show at a torrid pace, while music director Victoria Stubbs directs a three-piece band.
Good Theater presents “Little Me” at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) through April 1 with 7 p.m. performances Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Call 885-5883.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were the most successful creative team on Broadway during the 1940s and 1950s. Many people, including myself, believe that their third hit, “South Pacific,” was their best effort. Among many honors, “South Pacific” won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Set in World War II, the musical revolves around a pair of romances and is among the first Broadway musicals to deal with the issue of racial prejudice.
The score includes several of the best-known numbers in Broadway history: “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “Bali Ha’i,” “There is Nothin’ Like A Dame,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and “Wonderful Guy.”
Portland Ovations is hosting three performances of a national touring production that is based on the 2008 Lincoln Center revival, which won seven Tony Awards, at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: March 17 at 2 and 8 p.m. and March 18 at 2 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
Portland Ballet Company will be presenting “Giselle,” a 19th-century terpsichorean masterpiece that revolves around a quintessential story of unrequited love, this Saturday and next. The tale follows the title character, a modest country lass, through her first love, betrayal, heartbreak, death, and then into the afterlife as she ultimately saves the man who broke her heart.
Megan Buckley and Jennifer Jones will split the role of Giselle, one of the most coveted in ballet, while Matthew Begin will portray the man who truly loved her and Joseph Jeffries will play the bad guy who jilted her and caused her to die of a broken heart.
Associate Artistic Director Nell Shipman stages this visually stunning masterpiece, having danced the title role herself in PBC’s 2009 production.
Three performances are scheduled in the new Westbrook Performing Arts Center in the Westbrook Middle School on Stroudwater Street: March 17 at 8 p.m. and March 24 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
The University of Southern Maine School of Music’s next Spotlight Series concert features a most distinguished and versatile faculty member.
Professor Robert Lehmann, who teaches conducting, violin and viola, will play two sonatas, accompanied by pianist Sayuri Miyamoto. Lehmann has selected Sergei Prokofiev’s virtuosic and sunny Sonata in D Major and Johannes Brahms’ bittersweet Sonata in D Minor. He uses the term “blockbuster” for both.
“People often ask me which I like best, conducting or playing,” Lehmann said. “My answer invariably is that the grass always seems greener on the other side. When conducting, I miss the ‘hands on’ aspect of creating sound and contributing tangibly to a concert, whereas when I am playing the violin – especially in an orchestra – I miss the overarching viewpoint and overall sense of ‘ownership’ I have as a conductor. In the end, I find that conducting makes me a better violinist, and keeping up my violin playing makes me a better conductor. Doing them both keeps me very busy, quite humble and very happy.”
Catch this concert at 8 p.m. March 16 at Corthell Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.
The Oratorio Chorale’s late winter program features the three best-known Baroque composers – Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Antonio Vivaldi – plus three visiting soloists and two boy sopranos.
Music director Peter Frewen points out that human suffering and concern for the poor are common themes of the three works. The tone of Bach’s Mass in G-Minor is one of deep tribulation, while the works by Vivaldi and Handel share familiarity with the plight of orphans and children.
Vivaldi’s “Gloria” was written during his tenure at the Ospedale della Pieta, an orphanage in Venice. Handel’s “Foundling Hospital Anthem,” also known as “Blessed are they that considereth the poor,” continues this theme. It was written to raise funds for London’s first home for abandoned children.
Oratorio Chorale will present this program twice this weekend: March 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick and March 18 at 3 p.m. at Falmouth Congregational Church. Call 798-7985.
Steve Underwood, center, plays a dying prince in Good Theater’s 10th anniversary season production of “Little Me,” one of the funniest Broadway musicals ever written.