Out & About: Put ‘Calendar Girls’ on your calendar

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The calendar of upcoming performing arts happenings has several excellent choices.

Tops in my opinion is City Theater Associates’ stellar community production of “Calendar Girls,” a British comedy that pushes many of today’s cultural hot buttons. It runs through May 26 at the Biddeford Opera House.

The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra wraps up its 2018-2019 season this weekend with concerts in Lewiston and Topsham. The title of the program is “Mythical Figures.”

Palaver Strings is a Boston-based classical music ensemble with a growing presence in Maine. The 14 musicians are launching a school in Portland this spring, plus they’re giving concerts at an accelerated pace. The next is slated for Saturday in Portland.

‘Calendar Girls’

Every now and then I see a comedy that not only hits my funny bone in fine fashion, but it also sticks in my mind long after the laughter has faded.

That’s the case with the show that opened last weekend at the Biddeford Opera House: City Theater Associates’ stellar community production of “Calendar Girls.”

It’s a contemporary British show, written by Tim Firth, that is based on a true story from rural England. Members of the Women’s Institute of a local church – all in their 50s and 60s – decide to raise money for a memorial to Annie’s husband, who recently died of leukemia, by selling a special calendar. The big gimmick: They all pose nude.

The ladies hope to raise about 500 pounds, but when their calendar becomes a national and international sensation, sales and donations amount to 1,200 times that sum, which they use to build a new cancer wing for the local hospital.

But this runaway success comes with a cost as the women feel the heat of the proverbial spotlight. Most serious is the growing rift between grief-stricken Annie, played by Rebecca Cole, and Chris, played by Jennine Cannizzo, who eyes opportunities for personal advancement.

City Theater Associates’ artistic director Linda Sturdivant gets fine performances from her cast of 14, with Cole and Cannizzo delivering truly outstanding performances.

City Theater Associates presents “Calendar Girls” through May 26 at the Biddeford Opera House, 205 Main St., with 7:30 p.m. performances Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Call 282-0849.

Midcoast Symphony Orchestra

Nineteenth-century musical Romanticism was characterized by a number of qualities. One of the most interesting was a fixation with mythical creatures, often drawn from the period of Classical Antiquity. Many Romantic composers wrote works that were centered on these figures.

For the final concert of the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra’s 2018-2019 season, maestro Rohan Smith has based his entire program on this theme, presenting four works by famous 19th-century composers.

The best-known piece is Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun,” which in turn is based on a famous French poem by Stephane Mallarme. Fauns were minor deities in Greek mythology, characterized by the upper body of a man, and the body of a goat below the waist. (And they were utterly unconnected with baby deer.)

According to Greek mythology, fauns tended to be sex-crazed and they cavorted with nymphs; such is the case with the particular creature envisioned in Debussy’s work. But it’s all a dream, at least in the Mallarme-Debussy telling.

Other works on Smith’s program include Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Creatures of Prometheus,” Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” and Maurice Ravel’s orchestral suite based on his ballet, “Daphnis and Chloe.”

Midcoast Symphony Orchestra presents “Mythical Figures” twice this weekend: May 18 at 7 p.m. at the Gendron Franco Center, 46 Cedar St. in Lewiston, and May 19 at 2:30 p.m. at the Orion Performing Arts Center at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham. Call 315-1712.

Palaver Strings

There are several organizations devoted to presenting classical music, or at least music that’s written in the classical tradition, to audiences that are unfamiliar with the idiom.

One of them is Palaver Strings, a small chamber orchestra that was organized in 2014 in Boston. Numbering 14 members, this ensemble positions itself as a forward-thinking musical unit with a community-based mission and innovative programming.

They have a standing gig each summer at Bay Chamber Concerts in Rockport, and they’re looking to expand their Maine footprint. This Saturday, Palaver Strings presents its third Portland concert of this spring. Titled “Teaching Time to Walk,” it’s billed as “a concert that explores the concept of time and invites listeners to think about stability and flux, how we ‘go with the flow’ and how we can disrupt it.”

Catch Palaver Strings at 7 p.m. May 18 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) in Portland. Visit StLawrenceArts.org.

“Calendar Girls” is a hot British comedy that’s running through May 26 at the Biddeford Opera House.

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