Out & About: Preservation Hall Jazz Band in Portland

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Excellent choices for comfy indoor entertainment abound as we enter the second half of winter this week.

Tops is a visiting ensemble from the southern city of jambalaya, crawfish pie and file gumbo. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which has been a fixture of New Orleans culture since 1961, will play in snowy Portland on Feb. 11.

Romance is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches, and Portland Ballet will celebrate with two weekends of performances of “Boy Meets Girl,” a pastiche of terpsichorean styles united by inspiration from the American Songbook.

American popular music from another era is also honored this weekend, when the Portland Symphony Orchestra morphs into Pops! mode with two performances of “Big Band Blast.”

Need a good laugh to keep your mind off this all this winter’s snow shoveling? Laughs abound in “Regrets Only,” a fine new comedy at Portland’s Good Theater.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

What could be more New Orleans than jambalaya, crawfish pie and file gumbo? Or Bourbon Street? Or Mardi Gras? Or Dixieland jazz?

When I visited New Orleans about 30 years ago, one of my most memorable experiences was an evening spent in the French Quarter, listening to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The “hall” itself is little more than a storefront just off Bourbon Street. But that modest performing venue has become a major Crescent City destination for both tourists and residents.

About a week before Mardi Gras (Feb. 17 this year), this iconic jazz ensemble will be visiting the Port City, performing under the aegis of Portland Ovations.

Since 1961 the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been actively and purposefully keeping traditional New Orleans music alive. Think “performing museum.” This celebrated ensemble also tours extensively, performing about 150 dates annually around the world.

Having succeeded in its original mission – to preserve vintage Dixieland jazz – in recent years the band has collaborated with numerous other Americana groups. Between 1964 and 2013 the band has released more than 30 records and CDs.

Among the most recent of the band’s many honors are the 2006 National Medal of Arts and the 2013 NAACP Image Award.

Portland Ovations presents the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Boy Meets Girl’

Valentine’s Day is approaching and romance is in the air at Portland Ballet. The company will present four performances of a revival of “Boy Meets Girl” over the next two weekends.

The format is a light-hearted terpsichorean romance, based on a variety of music drawn from the American Songbook, with recorded performances by artists such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. The nearly two dozen songs will include such enduring favorites as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “The Lady is a Tramp, “Mambo Italiano,” “Beyond the Sea” and “That’s Amore.” The multiple choreographers are all associated with Portland Ballet.

Set in a neighborhood Italian restaurant, “Boy Meets Girl” dishes up hearty servings of love and loss with dollops of fun. Dancers represent many of the characters typically found on a Friday night in a restaurant – the happy couple, a flirty waiter and an all-girls table. Individual stories intertwine throughout a romantic evening where drinks are in hand and love is in the air. Each of these leaves with a song in his or her heart.

Portland Ballet presents four performances of “Boy Meets Girl” at the company’s in-house studio theater at 517 Forest Ave. at 8 p.m. Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 13-14. Call 772-9671.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

Another show that highlights American music from the middle of the 20th century is “Big Band Blast,” a production of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, which will be performed twice this weekend under the baton of assistant conductor Norman Huynh.

The program spotlights melodies by composers and bandleaders of the “big band era” of American music, generally the 1930s and 1940s. These include Count Basie, Hoagie Carmichael, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Spike Jones and Glenn Miller.

Songs include “Tuxedo Junction,” “Take the A Train,” “In the Mood,” “Opus One,” “Skylark” and “One O’clock Jump.” Many of these songs were arranged for symphony orchestra by pianist Rich Ridenour, who will also perform on the program with singer Kathy Gibson.

Ridenour specializes in this style of music, having performed pops programs with dozens of symphony orchestras all over the U.S. Gibson is a mezzo-soprano who has been heard on dozens of U.S. stages and concert halls, often in collaboration with Ridenour.

The evening concludes with an American classical showcase for piano and orchestra: George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” with orchestral arrangement by Ferde Grofe.

Two performances are slated at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Regrets Only’

Confusion, calamity, chaos and comedy are sometimes simply different ways of looking at the same thing. That’s the central premise of many stage comedies. Among them is “Regrets Only,” a wonderfully funny new play by Paul Rudnick that’s currently running at Portland’s Good Theater.

Set in an elegant New York penthouse apartment in 2006, “Regrets Only” revolves around a gay couturier (Paul Haley) who caters to mostly to very rich women of questionable taste. Central to the play is his relationship with two of his customers, the wife (Laura Houck) of a lawyer (Paul Drinan), and their self-absorbed twenty-something daughter (Meredith Lamothe).

Most of the action bounces around the myriad complications of this four-cornered relationship, driven by the daughter’s impending marriage. There are two other wonderful character parts, a meddling housekeeper (Amy Roche) and grandmother (Suzanne Rankin).

Rudnick’s scintillating dialogue abounds in clever witticisms and deft wordplay. Targets for the playwright’s jokes range all over the cultural map, with little left sacred. At several key points of this show the pace is drastically slowed, while several characters pontificate on political and legal issues.

The set, designed by Stephen Underwood with interior design by Jeanne Handy, is one the most elegant ever seen at Good Theater’s dozen-plus-year history. According to director Brian Allen, $25,000 worth of furnishings and original artwork has been borrowed for this production – enough to require a special insurance policy.

Good Theater presents “Regrets Only” through Feb. 22 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) with Wednesday and Thursday performances 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.

Sidebar Elements


Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which has been a fixture of New Orleans culture for more than half a century, will play in Portland on Feb. 11.

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