Out & About: National tour of ‘42nd Street’ is top ticket

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There’s a lot of intriguing music and one superb Broadway musical slated for southern Maine over the next week and half.

Top choice is the national tour of “42nd Street,” which is one of the ultimate shows about showbiz. It’s a 1980 Broadway version of the celebrated 1933 Hollywood film that’s fondly remembered for its groundbreaking cinematography and choreography. Portland Ovations is hosting two performances at Merrill Auditorium on Saturday.

The University of Southern Maine School of Music’s next Faculty Concert is happening this Friday. Taylor O’Donnell teaches jazz singing, and she’ll be front and center in Gorham, supported by fellow faculty artists.

Singer/guitarist Lindsay Straw and flutist Caroline O’Shea will appear at Portland’s Blue on Oct. 21 with a program of Irish music.

The Debo Band is an 11-member ensemble that plays popular Ethiopian music from the 1970s with a generous blend of cross-cultural influences. The Debo Band is based in Boston, and its Oct. 22 visit to SPACE Gallery is hosted by Portland Ovations.

‘42nd Street’

Among the classic Warner Brothers musical films, few are remembered as fondly as “42nd Street,” a 1933 song-and-dance spectacular that’s best known for a scintillating score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, choreography by Busby Berkeley and innovative, groundbreaking cinematography directed by Lloyd Bacon. Bradford Ropes wrote the original novel.

Popular from the get-go, 73 years later, “42nd Street” was ranked No. 13 on the American Film Institute’s all-time list of musical movies.

Adapted to the Broadway stage in 1980, “42nd Street” won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and the 2001 revival copped two. The first New York production ran for nine years and nearly 3,500 performances. National and international touring companies have criss-crossed the country and encircled the globe for years. Portland Ovations is hosting two performances of the current national tour on Oct. 17.

I’ve seen “42nd Street” quite a few times and I’ve already have reserved my tickets for the upcoming Saturday show.

The plot is an archetypal backstage drama that centers around a newly arrived, starry-eyed dancer and her conflicts, romantic and otherwise, with the show’s producer, director and leading lady. Needless to say, by the denouement, everybody’s happy, and the romantic match-ups sort out to everyone’s satisfaction.

If some of the characters and the plot seem stereotyped, it’s because “42nd Street” got there first with the defining work of the backstage drama genre, and there have been many knock-offs, tributes and parodies since.

Portland Ovations presents two performances of “42nd Street” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Taylor O’Donnell

The University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series continues this Friday, with a relative newcomer as the featured performer and organizer.

Taylor O’Donnell, who started teaching jazz vocalization and composition at USM two years ago, has crafted a concert program that features her own voice, her own poetry and her own compositions, supported by most of the school’s jazz studies profs.

O’Donnell is an improviser who uses timbre and vocal effects to communicate much of her musical dialogue. Friday’s concert will highlight the voice as an instrument, providing texture in complementing horn lines. O’Donnell’s original tunes and poetry are a blend of various styles performed in the jazz aesthetic, from classical and folk, to indie rock, staying true to the evolving nature of jazz. The program will also feature several originals and arrangements by Chris Klaxton and Fred Hersch.

O’Donnell is an active performer on the New England jazz scene. She fronts her own eponymous band, which often performs in venues around Portsmouth, N.H., plus she frequently appears with Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales, a retro-soul ensemble. Other personal milestones include national television appearances and singing the national anthem at the Miami Dophins’ home games for a couple of seasons. She’s also a jazz prof at Bowdoin College and maintains a private teaching studio.

O’Donnell will be backed by the USM Faculty Jazz Ensemble: Barry Saunders and Bill Street, saxophones; Chris Oberholtzer, trombone; Chris Klaxton, trumpet and piano; Gary Wittner, guitar; Bronek Suchanek, bass; and Les Harris Jr., drums.

Catch this concert at 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

Lindsay Straw and Caroline O’Shea

Wednesday evenings at Blue, the tiny music room on Congress Street, have been devoted to an eclectic mix of Irish music for several years, and the scheduled featured act on Oct. 21 is particularly appealing. Lindsay Straw, a Montana-born guitarist and singer who recently burst onto the Boston folk scene, will be pairing up with flutist Caroline O’Shea, a Boston native.

A graduate of Boston’s Berklee School of Music, Straw has appeared in Greater Boston music rooms including the famed Club Passim, and numerous other venues, from Providence, R.I. to Portland. She released her first CD six months ago.

In duo format, Straw and O’Shea bring a seamless blend of traditional music from Ireland and the British Isles to their performances. Years spent together as a duo and also part of the Boston-based Ivy Leaf Band have shaped their core repertoire of traditional tunes and ballads, which they accompany with guitar, bouzouki, flute and tin whistle.

Catch Lindsay Straw and Caroline O’Shea at 7:30 p.m. at Blue, 650 Congress St. in Portland. An open session follows the featured performance. Call 774-4111.

Debo Band

Portland Ovations is hosting a visit by a remarkable Boston-based cross-cultural musical ensemble next week. The 11-piece Debo Band was started in 2006 by Danny Mekonnen, who was born in Ethiopia, raised in Texas and now lives in Boston.

Debo specializes in popular Ethiopian music from the 1970s, but with a number of distinctively cross-cultural flavorings, such as violins plus a sousaphone and an accordion. It’s been characterized as jagged and complex with its traditional scales and vocal styles, with the brassy punch of Klezmer and Roma music, the trippy guitar of jam-band rock, and an accordion and rhythm section that struts like a New Orleans marching band.

Most of Debo’s vocals are performed in Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language, plus the band has a number of instrumentals too. They play mostly in clubs around Boston, but they’ve also made two recent trips to Ethiopia.

On their Portland visit, they’ll be playing in a very non-traditional performing venue: SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., at 8 p.m. Oct. 22. Call PortTix at 842-0800. The opening act will be Tongues in Trees.

Caroline O’Shea and Lindsay Straw will play a program of Irish music at Blue in Portland on Oct. 21.