Out & About: Seasonal kickoffs in the arts

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

Football season kicked off a few weeks ago, and several of southern Maine’s performing arts producers, performers and presenters are doing likewise this week.

Portland Players kicked off their 88th season of community theater in South Portland last weekend with a sensationally good production of one of the funniest musicals ever written: “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Portland Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 2018-2019 season this Sunday with guest maestro Jeffrey Kahane on the podium.

Portland Ovations kicks off its 2018-2019 season Oct. 3 with an appearance by New York cabaret artist Lady Rizo.

In the “continuing” column there’s the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series, which features the music of Burt Bacharach this Friday in Gorham. Also on Friday, Satoko Fujii continues the long-running Dimensions in Jazz series at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’

One of the funniest and most tuneful musicals ever written opens the 2018-2019 season of Portland Players. “Little Shop of Horrors,” with music by Alan Menken and libretto by Howard Ashman, debuted Off-Broadway in 1962.

It is a fondly satirical spoof of the teen horror movies of the 1950s. The central concept is that a nerdy teenage employee of Mushkin’s Skid Row Florist Shop discovers a hitherto unknown plant that feeds on human blood and flesh. When introduced in the first act, the plant is about a foot tall; at the denouement it has grown to the point where it eats people whole.

Portland Players’ cast is led by Seth Crockett as the plant’s hapless discoverer and Tess McLaughlin as his feckless blond love interest. I also liked Vincent Knue as the clueless flower shop owner and Kyle Aarons as a sadistic dentist. All are eaten by the plant before the curtain drops.

This show is screamingly funny and should not be missed.

Portland Players, 420 Cottage Road in South Portland, presents “Little Shop of Horrors” through Oct. 7 with 7:30 p.m. performances Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 799-7337.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

Sunday marks the beginning of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s 2018-2019 season, and a new maestro has been named: German-born Eckart Preu. But due to the far-far-in-advance scheduling of world-class maestros in the symphonic world, we won’t hear much of him this year.

Instead, most of the concerts this season will be led by guest conductors, and that’s what’s happening this Sunday when Jeffrey Kahane takes the podium for a program comprising two familiar works from the classical canon plus one contemporary work.

In the familiar category Kahane has selected Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”) and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Francesca da Rimini,” a well-known symphonic poem.

In the new category will be Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra. Liebermann is an American composer who wrote this concerto on commission from Sir James Galway, the most famous flutist in the world. Lisa Hennessy, the PSO’s longtime principal flute, will take the solo honors.

Catch the Portland Symphony Orchestra at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Lady Rizo

“Powerhouse belter” and “superstar chanteuse” are two of the descriptions that have been applied to one of the New York cabaret scene’s top artists. Lady Rizo has been a permanent fixture at Joe’s Pub for nearly a decade – except when she’s globetrotting around the world, introducing her utterly unique admixture of highly theatrical music and offbeat comedy to new audiences.

On October 3, Lady Rizo will be visiting the Port City for her Maine debut. It’s part of a fundraiser for Portland Ovations’ educational programming. Ovations Offstage is responsible for the organization’s education and outreach, which reaches hundreds of students from elementary schools to graduate-level university classes.

Ovations’ executive director Aimee Petrin commented: “We wanted build a fundraiser around one of the things we do best: introducing incredible and unexpected artists to Maine audiences. Lady Rizo is a legend of the downtown cabaret scene in New York and she’s collaborated with Ovations’ favorites like Pilobolus and Yo-Yo Ma.”

Catch Lady Rizo at 6 p.m. Oct. 3 at Aura, 121 Center St. in Portland. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

USM Faculty Concert Series

In the early 1960s through the 1970s one of the dominant forces in popular music was a three-way creative partnership comprising composer Burt Bacharach, lyricist Hal David and singer Dionne Warwick. Togther they repeatedly topped the pop charts, sold 12 million records and won a slew of Grammy Awards.

Among the catalogue of Bacharach-David hit songs is “What the World Needs Now,” an infectiously bouncy tune which was subsequently used in a number of movie soundtracks. It’s also the title of the next offering in the University of Southern Maine School of Music Faculty Concert Series, slated for this Friday.

The concert features the timeless songs of Bacharach (mostly co-written with David) and performed by voice professor Mary Bastoni with an all star faculty band she’s assembled: Mike Sakash on saxophone, Alan Kaschub on trumpet, Christopher Oberholtzer on trombone, Robert Lehmann on violin, Gary Wittner on guitar, George Wiese on piano, Bronek Suchanek on bass, and Les Harris Jr. on drums.

“What the World Needs Now” is slated for 8 p.m. Sept. 28 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the Music Box Office at 780-5555.

Satoko Fujii Trio

One of Japan’s most prolific jazz composers and performers is celebrating her 60th birthday this fall with a new album and an 11-stop U.S. and Canadian tour. Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and two band-mates will appear this Friday in the Dimensions in Jazz series at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

Born and raised in Japan, much of Fujii’s training was in Boston, where she studied first at the Berklee College of Music and later earned an advanced degree from the New England Conservatory. She plays frequently both in the U.S. and her native Japan.

Piano, upright bass and percussion comprise a basic unit of modern jazz, and Fujii has assembled a new trio on this model for her newest album and the tour. The title is “This Is It,” and it’s an exemplar of avant-garde.

Writing for All About Jazz, reviewer Dan McClenaghan described “This Is It” as “a rambunctious stew of explosive group dynamics and interludes of gorgeous piano ruminations beside prickly percussive keyboard moments.”

Catch the Satoko Fujii Trio at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St. Call 775-3356.

Lady Rizo is a New York cabaret artist who will appear on Oct. 3 as part of Portland Ovations’ 2018-2019 season kickoff.

0