Out & About: Powerful drama, music galore

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A classic American drama is this week’s top pick in the theater department, while myriad musical performances beckon.

Westbrook-based Acorn Studios, now in its second season of offering professional theater to the general public, is staging “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Edward Albee’s powerful drama that won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play.

On Friday, Portland Ovations’ “Shuffle.Play.Listen” is a pairing of classical pianist Christopher O’Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz in a somewhat out-of-the-box program.

Also on Friday, German-born pianist Roswitha Lohmer pretty much stays within the classical box with a program at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

Portland Symphony Orchestra morphs into Pops mode on Saturday and Sunday, presenting Broadway tunes in a best-of format with two guest singers plus a guest conductor.

Oratorio Chorale, featuring the best two dozen singers on the Midcoast, launches its 2011-2012 program this weekend with concerts in Bath and Yarmouth under the direction of longtime conductor Peter Frewen.

‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

Readers with long memories will recall that Mike Levine has been an energetic and forceful impresario on the Maine theater scene since the early 1990s, when he founded the now-defunct Oak Street Theatre in downtown Portland.

His latest venture is Acorn Productions, located in the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook. For its second season, the company is presenting a riveting professional production of Edward Albee’s classic American drama, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.

The show, which won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play, explores the sometimes tenuous boundaries between illusion and reality in a dramatic style that recalls the “Theater of the Absurd” of the 1940s and 1950s.

The situation is this: Two couples gather for drinks in a typical American living room in the wee hours of the morning, and their frightening verbal confrontations span three acts and nearly three hours. By the end of the boozy evening the elaborate skein of illusions that these two couples have clung to and depended upon for years have been shattered and a very uneasy resolution follows as they try to emotionally regroup.

Acorn Productions presents “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” through Nov. 27 at its studios located at the Dana Warp Mill, 72 Bridge St. in downtown Westbrook. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 854-0065.


In recent years Portland Ovations has been artistically stretching its classical programming. And this Friday’s program, titled “Shuffle.Play.Listen” is a perfect example.

The show is a collaboration between classical pianist Christopher O’Riley and cello virtuoso Matt Haimovitz. “Shuffle.Play.Listen” explores the lyrical and virtuosic properties of their two instruments in a collaboration that freely crosses in and out of the classical and pop music genres.

“Shuffle.Play.Listen” features works by classical composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Domenico Gabrielli, Astor Piazzolla and Igor Stravinsky plus pop groups Radiohead and Arcade Fire.

The concert is slated for 8 p.m. Nov. 18 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Roswitha Lohmer

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt, a Hungarian piano prodigy who was equally famous in his day as a composer and a performer. Many believe that Liszt represents the apotheosis of the Romantic Movement in music. Numerous events around the world are taking place this year. One that’s slated for Maine is this Friday’s appearance of German pianist Roswitha Lohmer at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

Born and trained in Germany, Lohmer has toured with the Thuringia Symphony, and she’s performed with two dozen orchestras and her solo engagements have taken her to more than three dozen countries.

Perhaps she’s also a fan of the name “Franz.” In addition to a selection of solo piano pieces by Liszt, Lohmer will also perform works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert.

Catch this concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Portland Conservatory of Music, located at 202 Woodford St. Call 775-3356.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and other favorite Broadway tunes will be featured this weekend when Portland Symphony Orchestra performs a pair of Pops concerts on Saturday and Sunday.

Three guest artists will also be featured. Teri Dale Hansen and Nat Chandler will provide the vocal horsepower, while guest conductor Christopher James Lees will wield the baton.

“Greatest Hits of Broadway” is the title, and most of the selections date from the past five decades. Songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber are especially prominent, with numbers from “Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita” and “Cats.” Other selections include songs from “Chicago,” “Les Miserables,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Hair,” “Mary Poppins,” “Rent,” “A Chorus Line,” “Jersey Boys” and “Mamma Mia!”

Hansen has starred in roles on London’s West End as well as Broadway and national tours, plus she’s concertized with numerous symphony orchestras. Nat Chandler’s past roles include the leading roles in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “Kiss Me Kate.”

Lees’ most recent accolade is the 2011 James Conlon Conducting Prize, awarded every summer at the Aspen Music Festival.

Portland Symphony Orchestra presents “Greatest Hits of Broadway” twice this weekend at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 20. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Oratorio Chorale

The Oratorio Chorale is going around the world for its 38th season. The ensemble’s travel is entirely thematic, and the two dozen singers won’t leave Maine. Their musical journey starts with “Songs from the British Isles” this weekend, and the two concerts will be performed in Bath and Yarmouth.

Music director and conductor Peter Frewen has selected works based on poetry by composers Edward Elgar, Gerald Finzi, Gustav Holst and Herbert Howells. The poetry that’s set to music spans four centuries and includes works by Robert Herrick, Henry Vaughn, George Lord Byron, Robert Bridges and Portland’s own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Frewen points out that Bridges was appointed Poet Laureate of Britain in 1913, but his works are almost unknown today. Bridges’ writing certainly lives on in Finzi’s vibrant choral settings.

Frewen comments on the composer’s feat: “His special talent was to reach the emotive spring of poetry through its rhythms and to transcribe those rhythms into musical notation. With painterly chiaroscuro his shapes emerge from tones, subtly shaded, of gentle melancholy and ecstatic transport.”

Guest artist will be Ray Cornils, the master of the Mighty Kotzschmar Organ in Portland.

The Oratorio Chorale performs twice this weekend: Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the United Church of Christ in Bath and Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. in Sacred Heart Church in Yarmouth. Call 725-1420.

Sidebar Elements

Two couples have a boozy verbal battle in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Edward Albee’s Tony Award-winning drama, playing at Acorn Studios in Westbrook.