Out & About: There's nothing like a good 'Bad Dates'

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Good Theater’s “Bad Dates” is really, really good. That’s the executive summary of the opening production of this professional company’s 2011-2012 season. Theresa Rebeck’s script is thoughtful and funny, and actress Dana Cuomo infuses its Maine premiere with warmth and wit.

Portland Symphony Orchestra swings into Pops mode for the first time this season on Saturday and Sunday under the baton of maestro Robert Moody. The Men’s Glee Club of the U.S. Naval Academy will appear as featured guests at Merrill Auditorium.

Singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith and The Fabulous Ginn Sisters will appear Friday at One Longfellow Square.

The University of Southern Maine School of Music has a special musical presentation on Oct. 13: a screening of Huey’s latest film, “In Good Time,” about jazz pianist Marian McPartland.

‘Bad Dates’

Bad experiences make for good playwriting and humorous storytelling. That’s the basic premise for “Bad Dates,” a one-woman play by Theresa Rebeck that opened last weekend and runs through Oct. 16 at Portland’s Good Theater.

Director Brian P. Allen has engaged New York actress Dana Cuomo to play the part of the attractive, middle-aged divorced mom who has decided to get back into the dating game, and recounts some of her misadventures.

Her first attempt involves an older man whose principal talking points are his many illnesses, cholesterol and colonoscopies. Her second date, set up by her well-meaning mom, is with an ill-tempered gay man. Her third date never shows up. A fourth lands her in a police station.

Although I’m not a big fan of one-man or one-woman shows, this one is exceptionally good. Cuomo is totally engaging, and totally convincing. Her hour and a half, spent mostly sitting in her bedroom recounting her experiences, is both funny and enlightening.

My companion, a lady who said that she’s been through a few bad dates herself, alternately winced and laughed.

Good Theater presents “Bad Dates” at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. in Portland (top of Munjoy Hill), through Oct. 16 with performances at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Call 885-5883.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

In the words of Maine-born poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland is the “city that is seated by the sea.” One of its major streets is named for the man who is cited as “the father of the U.S. Navy,” Edward Preble. And in World War II, Portland was the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s North Atlantic Destroyer Fleet.

So it’s appropriate that “Anchors Aweigh” will be heard this weekend when the Portland Symphony Orchestra goes into Pops mode with a pair of concerts that feature the Men’s Glee Club of the U.S. Naval Academy as guest artists.

The 80 singing Midshipmen will team up with a like number of PSO professional instrumentalists to perform a variety of patriotic songs, Broadway tunes and sea shanties.

Under the direction of Dr. Aaron Smith, the Men’s Glee Club is the most active of the Naval Academy’s musical groups and has achieved national prominence as one of our country’s premier men’s choral ensembles. And they’re no strangers to classical programming, appearing annually with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra’s performances of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”

PSO maestro Robert Moody’s program exudes a distinctly nautical and naval flavor. Musical theater is represented by selections from “South Pacific,” “On the Town” and “Pirates of Penzance.” Spiritual music includes “Ave Maria” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Celebrated Broadway composer Richard Rodgers is represented by his best-known purely instrumental work, the score for the 1950s television epic, “Victory at Sea.”

Portland Symphony Orchestra presents its first Pops program of the 2011-2012 season twice this weekend at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 9. Call PortTix at 828-0800.

Fred Eaglesmith

Fred Eaglesmith’s career as a professional traveling troubadour began in the time-tested fashion. In 1972, at the age of 15, he hopped aboard a westbound freight train that took him from his boyhood home in southern Ontario to Canada’s western provinces. He’s been on the move – nowadays he drives an RV – and making music ever since.

Over the ensuing years Eaglesmith has forged one of the most distinguished and unique independent careers in popular music, starting at the grassroots level, and he’s been a leading light in both the new folk and Americana movements. Eaglesmith returns to his former mode of transportation metaphorically via a series of festivals he calls “Roots on the Rails.”

He has cut a total of 19 CDs since 1980, most recently “6 Volts,” and has won the Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy.

Eaglesmith intends to stay at the cutting edge of today’s musical zeitgeist and help spark a revival of traditional rock ‘n’ roll. “I still want to be vibrant and I still want to be on fire and I still have passion,” he says. “I don’t ever wanna stay in the ghetto.”

His backup band will include The Fabulous Ginn Sisters, siblings who first achieved a measure of fame on Americana radio stations five years ago with the release of their CD, “Blood Oranges.”

Fred Eaglesmith and The Fabulous Ginn Sisters appear at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State streets in Portland, at 8 p.m. Oct. 7. Call 761-1757.

‘In Good Time’

Portland filmmaker Huey is known for his portrayals of artists, and his latest project will be screened as a special event of the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s Department of Jazz.

The title is “In Good Time,” and the subject is jazz great Marian McPartland, who has been playing piano for 90 years. That’s no misprint; she started at age three and she’s still playing at 93. Although born in England, she’s best known for her many years playing New York jazz clubs and for her long-running program on National Public Radio.

McPartland has been honored as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and Living Jazz Legend, and is a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame.

There will be a live pre-screening show with Huey’s commentary on making the film, which took about four years, plus a concert by USM Jazz Department students.

Catch all of this, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. Call the USM music box office at 780-5555.

Sidebar Elements

New York actress Dana Cuomo stars in “Bad Dates,” the opening show of Good Theater’s 2011-2012 season in Portland.