Two top national musical acts dominate southern Maine’s arts and entertainment scene this weekend. First up is Friday, when Portland Ovations hosts Los Lonely Boys, Alejandro Escovedo and Hacienda – motoring around the country together as the “Acoustic Brotherhood Tour” – at Merrill Auditorium.
The following night, veteran country/crossover songstress Emmylou Harris motors into Merrill on her national tour in support of “All I Intended to Be,” her latest CD.
University of Southern Maine’s School of Music has a big international gathering this week, with a big Friday performance.
And a new professional theater company debuts in Portland with “Sylvia,” A.R. Gurney’s classic contemporary comedy that revolves around a very non-traditional romantic triangle husband, wife and their dog.
Los Lonely Boys
American popular music has deep Tex-Mex roots, and one of this country’s hottest current acts draws from that tradition and extends it. Los Lonely Boys, three sons of a Latin singer, broke into the pop charts in 2004 with an eponymous album that included their No. 1 smash, “Heaven.” Their fourth album is coming out this month, named “1969” for one of music’s pivotal years.
The central concept is to invoke the sounds of the Woodstock era on “1969,” using Los Lonely Boys’ signature blend of Latin rhythms, blazing guitar leads and impeccable harmonies to deliver spirited covers of Carlos Santana’s “Evil Ways,” the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” and Blind Faith’s “Well All Right.”
Thanks to Portland Ovations (new name for PCA Great Performances), Los Lonely Boys will be coming to Merrill on Friday. They’re teamed up with two other acts – singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo and Hacienda – packaged together as the “Acoustic Brotherhood Tour.”
Alejandro Escovedo was first known as a pioneering punk rock icon with two bands in San Francisco. Hacienda, a band that hails from San Antonio, gets its first national exposure on this tour.
Portland Ovations presents Los Lonely Boys, Alejandro Escovedo and Hacienda at 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call 842-0800.
The following night Merrill hosts the national tour of Emmylou Harris, a singer/songwriter/guitarist who’s famous for her powerful and deeply expressive soprano voice and her choice of interesting material. Harris is one of my personal favorites, with two of her older CDs still getting a tremendous amount of time spinning on my home player. “All I Intended to Be” is her latest album, issued about a year ago; much of this Saturday’s material will come from that CD.
Although she’s usually classified under the “country” rubric, Harris has never fit comfortably with the Nashville scene, choosing a more independent lifestyle (in California) and remaining on the artistic outskirts of Music Row.
She’s been performing professionally since the late 1960s, and her collaborators and mentors reads like a who’s who of American folk, country and pop music. These include Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons and Linda Ronstadt; the latter two were the most important artistic influences in her career. Although she pens some of her own material, she is also known for championing up-and-coming writers – including the young Bruce Springsteen – and covering artists and repertory that are far outside the Nashville orbit, such as the Beatles and Tracy Chapman.
Harris’ many honors include a dozen Grammy Awards, several of those as collaborations with others.
Great Northeast Productions presents Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys at 8 p.m. Oct. 17 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
The University of Southern Maine School of Music goes international this week with a group of artists from around the world. They’ve been assembled as part of a teaching/performing program by adjunct faculty member Gary Wittner, professor of jazz and contemporary music.
Two are from Ecuador, one from South Africa, one from Cuba (currently living in Guatemala), one from Chile (currently living in Portsmouth, N.H.), and one from this country. Wittner has performed with all of these musicians during his many travels.
Although most of their stay in Gorham will be devoted to workshops and teaching, there’s a big concert on Friday. Titled “Un Mondo” (“One World”), the concert will feature music in several styles: American Jazz, South African Jazz, Latin Jazz and a traditional Cuban style that pre-dates salsa.
Catch “Un Mondo” at 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at Corthell Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.
There’s a new theater company in Portland, and it debuted last weekend with A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia,” one of the funniest and most insightful American comedies of recent decades.
The company is Old Port Playhouse, at 19 Temple St., on the street level of a city-owned parking garage that also houses several other business. Ironically, this same location was once used, decades ago, by the predecessor to Portland Stage Company.
It’s a professional non-Equity company that’s helmed by Michael Tobin, a longtime actor, director, choreographer and producer.
The show is a very funny comedy about mid-life changes in attitudes and lifestyles. Gurney’s play revolves around the idea of a “romantic triangle” in which two females compete for the affection of middle-aged Greg: his wife Kate and Sylvia, his newly adopted canine companion.
It’s an extremely clever script, and I liked the company of four. Mark Dils and Cynthia O’Neil take the husband and wife roles, while Jesse Manson plays three over-the-top comic characters. But the key device is that the “pet dog” is played by a woman with almost no costuming and many, many lines of script.
Christine Muehlhausen tackles the title role with relish. She’s an accomplished professional with many decades of experience who provokes many laughs throughout the show. Unfortunately, this talented middle-aged actress is also quite inappropriately cast. Gurney’s underlying dramatic device – the gimmick that makes “Sylvia” so doggone clever and memorable – is that Greg imagines his rambunctious canine pet as a nubile young woman who gives him the outpouring of attention and affection he craves, but no longer gets from his wife. This crucial title role is normally played by a very young and extremely attractive woman.
It’s a lapse on Tobin’s part that renders his production somewhat superficial; there are lots of belly laughs, but Gurney’s most thoughtful observations are obscured.
Old Port Playhouse, 19 Temple St. in Portland, presents “Sylvia” through Oct. 25, with 8 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Call 773-0333.