Out & About: Portland Ovations presents 'Memphis,' 'Swan Lake'

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There’s a wealth of topnotch choices in the performing arts this late winter weekend and a bit beyond.

Portland Ovations has two of the most anticipated offerings of its 2014-2015 season coming up in quick succession. First is “Memphis,” a national tour of the recent Broadway hit.

“Swan Lake” has been a hit among ballet aficionados since 1875. Portland Ovations is hosting a touring production by Moscow City Ballet.

“The Other Place” is a powerful drama that revolves around a mystery. Portland’s Good Theater is currently offering the Maine premiere.

The DaPonte String Quartet will present its late winter program, titled “Viennese Confections,” five times beginning this weekend in Portland.


An interracial love affair in the deep South plays out against the historical backdrop of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll music. That’s a quick synopsis of “Memphis,” a recent Broadway musical that’s coming to Portland this Saturday.

Loosely based on historical fact and actual people of the 1950s, “Memphis” traces the story of a white disk jockey in Memphis who is first fascinated by black R&B music, and later gets romantically involved with an up-and-coming black artist who sings in the city’s seedy nightclubs.

The DJ plays R&B on his radio program and it begins to catch on with white audiences. Meanwhile his romance with the singer is catching fire. But the venue is the deep South, and while rock ‘n’ roll evolves and gains national success during the years spanned by “Memphis,” the love affair is doomed to failure.

The book was penned by Joe DiPietro, one of Broadway’s hottest writers, and the music was composed by David Bryan. Both men collaborated on the lyrics. The Broadway production opened in 2009 and ran nearly three years.

“Memphis” garnered four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score. Since closing on Broadway three years ago, “Memphis” has been constantly on the road. The current national tour will visit Portland this Saturday.

Portland Ovations presents two performances of “Memphis” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall on March 14 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Swan Lake’

It’s an old-fashioned fairly tale about a beautiful princess who is cursed by a sorcerer. She can only be rescued by the true love of a handsome prince, but their love is thwarted by evil forces, and they die together.

That’s a quick synopsis of “Swan Lake,” a ballet that was first produced in Russia in 1875 and has enjoyed unending popularity. The story, based on a Russian folk tale, revolves around a princess who is turned into a swan by an evil magician. Her true love is a prince whose principal hobby is hunting. When the prince encounters the bewitched swan in a lake in a deep forest on a hunting trip, he instantly falls in love with her and seeks to break the curse and marry her.

The original score was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Most modern productions are based on the 1895 production which was choreographed by Marius Petipa. Currently an international tour staged by Moscow City Ballet is visiting Europe and North America.

Performing in Brighton, England, last month, reviewer Emily Walker praised the company’s artistry and vision in The Argus. “The tutued dancers frolicked like a flock of swans, just as they should, and the male leads pranced, lifted and twirled them with pure power,” Walker wrote.

“However, the principal dancers made this production stand far apart from the run-of-the-mill perfectly good ballets on regular tour rotation of provincial theatres. Most notably, prima ballerina Lilia Oryekhova’s performance as Queen of the Swans, Odette, was outstanding. Her attention to the tiniest detail was sublime.”

Portland Ovations presents Moscow City Ballet’s production of “Swan Lake” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall at 7 p.m. March 18. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘The Other Place’

Is it Alzheimer’s, senile dementia or some other disease? That’s a central question that powers the plot of “The Other Place,” a drama by Sharr White that is the current offering at Portland’s Good Theater.

“The Other Place” revolves around a middle-aged couple who are forced to revisit a defining moment in their long relationship: the mysterious disappearance of their teenage daughter many years earlier. Contradictory evidence, blurred truth and fragmented memories collide in a drama that rapidly alternates between past and present in two places, a New York apartment and a Cape Cod cottage.

Two local professional actors give bravura performances as the central characters. Denise Poirier is afflicted by a mysterious illness that warps her memories and judgment, while James Noel Hoban portrays her husband, who struggles to cope. Kat Moraros plays several important roles, while Jody McColman takes on several minor characters.

This is a riveting play based on a mystery that unravels slowly and convincingly. Good Theater’s production of “The Other Place” is a powerful drama that belongs on the must-see list of every theater aficionado this season.

Good Theater presents “The Other Place” at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) in Portland through March 29 according the following schedule: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Call 885-5883.

DaPonte String Quartet

Vienna, Austria, has been the capital of the music world since the late 1700s, and three of the city’s best-loved composers are represented in the DaPonte String Quartet’s late winter concert program, which will be performed five times over the next two weekends, beginning this Saturday in Portland.

The DSQ has been a resident professional ensemble in Maine for nearly a quarter century, and I’ve attended many concerts over those years. I’m always pleased.

The DSQ’s upcoming program features works by Anton Webern, Fritz Kreisler and Ludwig van Beethoven. The first two composers were active in the first half of the 20th century, while Beethoven (a German by birth) was Vienna’s dominant musical figure in the early decades of the 19th century.

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 14 at the Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square; 3 p.m. March 15 at the Mid-Coast Presbyterian Church, 84 Main St. in Topsham; 7:30 p.m. March 20 at Lincoln Theater, 2 Theater St. in Damariscotta; 7:30 p.m. March 21 at St. Columba’s Church, 32 Emery Lane in Boothbay Harbor, and 3 p.m. March 22 at St. John’s Church, 200 Main St. in Thomaston. Call 529-4555.

Sidebar Elements

“Swan Lake” is a timeless terpsichorean creation that has been popular with ballet aficionados since 1875. Portland Ovations will host a touring production by Moscow City Ballet on March 18.