Out & About: 'The Rainmaker' leads deluge of events

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There’s a veritable flood of fine offerings from many different lands in the performing arts this mid-October, so many that it’s impossible to deal with more than a handful in this space.

Tops in my opinion is “The Rainmaker,” a powerful American romantic comedy that opens the 2014-2015 season at Portland’s Good Theater.

Portland Symphony Orchestra opens its 2014-2015 Pops season this Saturday and Sunday with “Mamma Mia and More,” a tribute to ABBA, the Swedish glam band that notched its greatest success in this country in the 1970s.

Portland String Quartet opens its 2014-2015 season on Sunday with a concert featuring the first of a string of guest cellists.

Richard Thompson is a folk-rocker who hails from Great Britain. He was at the forefront of the folk-rock movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and he remains very active to the present. He’ll be performing Sunday in Westbrook.

And looking ahead a bit, on Oct. 16, Portland Ovations will host Khumariyaan, a four-man string ensemble from Pakistan. Khumariyaan can be translated as “The Intoxicators” and it’s described as a “global jam band.”

‘The Rainmaker’

The vast chasm between inner and outer beauty is the dominant theme of a classic American romantic comedy from 1954 that opens the 2014-2015 season for Portland’s Good Theater, the city’s top professional troupe.

N. Richard Nash’s “The Rainmaker” is directed by company founder Brian P. Allen and features a Broadway actress in the leading role.

Allen notes: “I am struck by how relevant ‘The Rainmaker’ is today. If you look at social media, reality shows or the magazines by the check-out at the grocery store, everything is all about beauty – surface beauty. This play focuses on true beauty – the beauty within. I believe that when inner beauty is shining, the physical beauty follows, and a person will light up the world.”

The star of “The Rainmaker” is Laurel Casillo, who recently appeared on Broadway. Casillo gives a truly radiant performance as Lizzie, a young woman, very plain in physical appearance, who struggles to discover herself.

Casillo has a fine supporting cast, led by Michael Kimball as Lizzie’s father, and Max Waszak in the title role: a con man who forces Lizzie to confront reality. And that reality is profoundly surprising.

I’ve seen nearly every production in Good Theater’s 12 prior years, and I can’t remember a better show.

Good Theater presents “The Rainmaker” at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill) through Oct. 19 with 7 p.m. performances Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 885-5883.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

Back in the early 1970s, shortly after the Beatles broke up, another immensely popular foursome emerged from Europe. ABBA, a vocal quartet from Sweden, achieved a long string of multi-platinum hits that stretched between 1972 and 1982 – and nearly all were penned by the band’s own singer-songwriters, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

The heady days of ABBA will be recalled this Saturday and Sunday when the Portland Symphony Orchestra shifts into Pops mode. This weekend’s program is devoted to the music of ABBA, with assistant conductor Norman Huynh on the podium and featuring Arrival From Sweden, a tribute band that has been touring the world since 1995.

Arrival From Sweden has the exclusive license to duplicate ABBA’s stunning stage costumes, plus Andersson and Ulvaeus have given the group an unreleased song.

Portland Symphony Orchestra presents “Mamma Mia and More” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 12. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Portland String Quartet

A Chinese-born cellist will be the guest artist this Sunday when the Portland String Quartet opens its 47th concert season with works from Europe and America. Following the retirement of founding cellist Paul Ross this past summer, the PSQ will invite guests during 2014-2015 as the three remaining members strive to find a permanent replacement.

Jing Li was born in China and earned music degrees from Rice University and the New England Conservatory. She is currently active with two New England orchestras, the Springfield Symphony and the Rhode Island Philharmonic.

The PSQ’s Sunday program includes well-known string quartets by Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven plus a 1936 work by Henry Cowell, an American composer.

Catch the Portland String Quartet at 2 p.m. Oct. 12 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson has reached the age when many retire, but he’s still hard at work at three jobs he’s done so well for more than 50 years: songwriting, singing and playing the guitar. And you can find Thompson working those three jobs on Oct. 12 in Westbrook, when Dave McLaughlin’s Heptunes presents this legendary British folk-rocker.

Despite his 65 years, this decade may mark one of the most prolific periods of Thompson’s astonishing career. A recent CD, “Dream Attic,” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Folk Album. For his long service to music he found his name on Queen Elizabeth’s 2011 New Year Honours List as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. For 2014, Thompson is releasing a new CD, titled “Acoustic Classics.”

Dave McLaughlin’s Heptunes presents Richard Thompson plus guest artists Amanda Shires and Joyce Anderson at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St., at 7 p.m. Oct. 12. Call 978-462-9630 or visit HeptunesConcerts.com.


Presenting enchanting and exotic sounds from the far corners of the globe is one of the missions of Portland Ovations, and the world music season starts Oct. 16 with a quartet from Pakistan.

Calling themselves Khumariyaan – “The Intoxicators” – these four men are on a national tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Khumariyaan’s specialty is the native music of the Pushtoon people, a large ethnic group that primarily inhabits northwestern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Three of the men play stringed instruments while one is a percussionist. Two of the instruments – the rubab and sitar – are native to the Pushtoon people, while the acoustic guitar will be more familiar to American audiences. The pace of a Khumariyaan concert is fast and frenetic.

Portland Ovations presents Khumariyaan at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Center for Community Education, 88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine Portland campus. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Sidebar Elements

Laurel Casillo and Max Waszak are the stars of “The Rainmaker,” a classic American romantic comedy that opens the 2014-2015 season at Portland’s Good Theater.