This week’s picks of the tix all represent voices from the past that continue to the present. The biggest item on this weekend’s calendar is an appearance by folk-rock legend Bob Dylan, who visits Portland this Saturday.
Juice Newton, whose heyday was the 1980s, is one of numerous nationally known acts that have been booked for this summer’s inaugural season at the Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel.
The golden years of Billy Joel and Elton John were the 1970s. Local pianist and singer Joey Boucher has created a wonderful Joel-John tribute act titled “Piano Men.” It plays Deertrees Theatre in Harrison this Saturday.
Nowadays there’s only one genuine barn theater doing summer stock in southern Maine. It’s Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, and it’s currently running “On the Town,” the biggest hit on Broadway from 1944.
With a professional career that’s spanned 55 years, 63 albums and 12 Grammy Awards – plus untold millions of miles touring – it’s hard to know where to start writing about singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
After all, Amazon offers a “top 20 books about Bob Dylan,” Google lists eight featured biographies and books about the icon, and there must be multiple terabytes of Dylan material on the internet.
Among those tidbits, Rolling Stone magazine, the arbiter of pop music, includes no fewer than eight Dylan songs in its ranking of the 500 “most influential.”
I count myself among his millions of fans. I attended my first Dylan concert in the 1960s, and I’ve been to several in the past two decades in Portland. He’s an incredible talent who never seems to quit creating and performing. There’s one common denominator to his concerts: You never know what songs to expect. If he ran through his whole repertoire in one set list, the concert would go on for a week.
This Saturday Bob Dylan is making his umpteenth visit to the Port City, with gospel singer Mavis Staples co-billed on the act. The concert is slated for 7 p.m. July 16 at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Call 956-6000.
After Arundel Barn Playhouse went out of business at the end of the 2015 season, the handsome and iconic 1880s edifice was purchased, repainted, rehabbed and repurposed once again. Its latest incarnation is the Vinegar Hill Music Theatre.
Creative director is George Dvorsky, a Broadway actor with an incredible network of connections in show business. For his inaugural season, which runs through early October, Dvorsky has booked a couple of dozen nationally known performers, providing an eclectic roster of entertainment that ranges from an Elvis Presley act to cabaret singers and classical chamber music.
One that especially interests me is Juice Newton, a country-pop crossover artist who’s been booked for July 20. A five-time Grammy nominee – with one statuette to her credit – Newton sold millions of records in the 1980s. She’s best known for her 1981 cover of “Angel of the Morning” and a trio of gold- and platinum-certified albums from that decade: “Juice,” “Quiet Lies” and “Dirty Looks.” She also had a number of Top 40 singles on the country music charts about that time.
Catch Juice Newton and her trio at 8 p.m. July 20 at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre, 53 Old Post Road (just off U.S. Route 1) in Arundel. Call 985-5552 or visit VinegarHillMusicTheatre.com.
Two of the gold and platinum album sellers of the 1970s had remarkably similar live acts: Billy Joel, an American singer-songwriter who performed at the piano, and Elton John, a British singer-songwriter with the same basic shtick.
Both remain active performers, and they’ve appeared together on a few occasions.
A couple of years ago, Joey Boucher, a Portland pianist and singer, created a tribute act that captured the spirit of the live performances of Joel and John, singing a couple of dozen of their top hits accompanying himself at the keyboard and backed by a small rock band plus a symphony orchestra. He bills the act as “Piano Men.”
Boucher’s selection of songs represents a collection of greatest hits. The set list includes “Angry Young Man,” “My Life,” “Pressure” and “Allentown,” all by Joel, as well as “Rocket Man,” “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon” by John. The encore features two signature numbers, one by each artist: “Candle in the Wind” by John and and “Piano Man” by Joel.
When “Piano Men” was included on the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Pops! series in 2014, the two concerts sold out, breaking all the past records for attendance. I was among the nearly 4,000 attendees, and I was thrilled with the show. I’ve always like the music of both artists, and Boucher’s renditions rang true.
Based on that success, Boucher has toured “Piano Men” on the pops programs for a number of symphony orchestras around the country over the past two years, performing for additional tens of thousands.
For venues smaller than major urban concert halls, he’s pared down the orchestrations and performs “Piano Men” with a five-piece rock band plus a string quartet. That’s the setting on July 16, when “Piano Men” plays Deertrees Theatre, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.; call 583-6747 or visit Deertrees-Theatre.org.
Composer Leonard Bernstein and the inseparable librettist team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green were major figures on Broadway in the 1940s through 1990s. Twice they collaborated on shows, and their 1944 first effort, “On the Town,” was the biggest hit of the season on Broadway. The best-remembered songs are “New York, New York,” “Lonely Town” and “I Can Cook Too.”
It’s been revived on Broadway a couple of times and occasionally appears on summer stock bills. A fine professional production is currently holding the boards at Hackmatack Playhouse, southern Maine’s last traditional barn theater.
The utterly fanciful plot concerns three U.S. Navy sailors who are on a 24-hour leave in New York City in 1944 and their pell-mell pursuits of a trio of female characters. The romantic chase leads across the vast city and through its maze of subways with a few poignant moments and laughs galore.
I loved the show when it opened last weekend. The three comic women are definitely the production’s strongest suit: Tess Jonas as a man-hungry taxi driver, Sara Sargent as a lovesick anthropology scholar and Serina Figueiras as a Coney Island belly dancer and beauty queen.
Hackmatack Playhouse, 538 School Road (Route 9) in Berwick, presents “On the Town” through July 23. Call 698-1807 or visit Hackmatack.org.
Juice Newton, a Grammy Award-winning country-pop singer, will visit the Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel on July 20.