Out & About: Wave the flag for ‘Swingtime Canteen’

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As the 2018-2019 performing arts season barrels into its second month, let’s note that two of this week’s top picks happen south of the Port City.

Tops in my opinion is the joyously melodic and energetic production of “Swingtime Canteen,” a jukebox musical running through Sunday at City Theater of Biddeford. Set in World War II, “Swingtime Canteen” is a patriotic dive into some of the best pop tunes of that era.

Ogunquit Performing Arts has booked a pair of internationally known artists who will play consecutive Fridays, Oct. 5 and 12, in the 12th annual Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham Piano Festival.

In Portland, singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot appears on Saturday. A resident of suburban Boston, German-born Duvekot is currently touring in support of her latest CD, “Toward the Thunder.”

‘Swingtime Canteen’

“Thank Your Lucky Stars and Stripes” is a song title that sums up a very tuneful jukebox musical that’s running through this weekend in Biddeford.

To launch its 2018-2019 season in Biddeford’s historic opera house, City Theater has chosen a stirring and patriotic jukebox musical that revives a hit parade of tunes from the era of World War II. The dramatic conceit is that five show-biz stars are on tour in Europe and entertaining American troops.

There’s a minimal script, by Linda Thorsen, William Repicci and Charles Bush that involves Allied Supreme Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower – who “appears” via written messages – and involves some jealousies and petty cat-fighting among the five performers.

That won’t get patrons through the door. What will get them moving and cheering is the music, a wonderfully nostalgic romp through pop tunes of the World War II era. Some songs are explicitly related to the war, such as “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “Keep the Home Fires Burning” and “Thank Your Lucky Stars and Stripes.”

The Andrews Sisters were perhaps the best-known musical ensemble to tour the battlefields, and they’re represented by a wonderful medley that includes “Ac-cen-tchu-ate the Positive,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anybody Else But Me.”

The show contains about 25 songs in all.

City Theater artistic director Linda Sturdivant has assembled a cast of five who deliver this upbeat show with verve and panache. Tops in my opinion is the voice of Lynn Boren-McKeller, a soprano who solos in several of the most dramatic numbers. I also greatly appreciated Nicole Rawding, who led the five-voice ensemble in two songs, plus she played five instruments: saxophone, piccolo, bass flute, banjo and guitar. Other notable performers were Rebecca Rinaldi, Sara Studivant (also piano accompaniment) and Kelsey Franklin. The dance team of Brianna Chu and Caleb Lacy added greatedly to the evening.

City Theater presents “Swingtime Canteen” at Biddeford Opera House (inside City Hall), 205 Main St. with 7:30 p.m. performances Oct. 5 and 6 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 7. Call 282-0849.

Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham Piano Festival

Two outstanding classical pianists will headline the 12th annual Elizabeth Dunaway Burnham Piano Festival, which is book-ended by a pair of public concerts on consecutive Fridays, Oct. 5 and 12. The presenter is Ogunquit Performing Arts, and the event is named for the daughter of one of the town’s benefactors, Judson Dunaway.

For the past dozen years or so I’ve been an occasional attendee at this event and others presented by Ogunquit Performing Arts, and I’m always pleased.

Victor Rosenbaum leads off this Friday. Rosenbaun  holds two prestigious professorships, at the Mannes College of Music in New York and the New England Conservatory in Boston. He has extensive international performing credentials, ranging from Europe and Russia to Israel and the far east.

His Ogunquit program features two works apiece by Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms. The former represents the early 19th-century Austrian classical tradition, while the latter exemplified the late 19th-century German neo-classical school. Rosenbaum’s program includes one piece by John Heiss, a contemporary American composer who also teaches at the New England Conservatory.

On Oct. 12 the featured performer will be Sachiko Kato, who was recognized by the Juilliard School of Music as one of its 100 most outstanding alumni. Kato is also a globetrotting artist, with several international concert tours on her resume. Her Ogunquit program is entirely French, featuring about 20 short pieces by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. The concluding work will be Ravel’s “La Valse,” generally recognized as one of the great virtuosic showcase pieces in the classical piano canon.

Both concerts are slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Judson Dunaway Center (Town Hall), 23 School St. in Ogunquit. Visit OgunquitPerformingArts.org.

Antje Duvekot

The winner of three prestigious singer-songwriter awards will be visiting the Port City on Saturday.

German-born Antje Duvekot, who moved to this country as a teen, grew up in the Philadelphia area and now lives in greater Boston, has recorded a remarkable eight full-length albums since launching her professional career in 2002. She’s currently on tour promoting her most recent, “Toward the Thunder,” which was released two years ago.

Her songs are often dark, personal and intimate, and she generally performs and records with minimal accompaniment.

Standing on stage and accompanying herself on guitar, the 40-something Duvekot cuts a striking figure in live performances, according to Sarah Craig, critic for FolkWax.

“Physically, Duvekot is the belle of the ball,” wrote Craig. “Tall, blond and blue-eyed, she’s surprisingly a creature of mist and moonlight, solitarily converting the daily collage of sight and sound into short tales rich in metaphor. In the hands of a less honest and courageous songwriter, inwardness is often the slippery slope to ho-hum. But, in her best songs, Antje’s insights are couched in exciting narratives that read more like fable than diary entry.”

Reviewing a concert for the Boston Globe, critic Scott Alarik said “Duvekot uses a natural shyness to draw people to her, and into her intricate, closely observed songs. Her honeyed mezzo sounded whispery even on high sustains, making everything she sang feel like a shared secret.”

Duvekot has also impressed the juries at three competitions for singer-songwriters. She copped the Best New Folk Award at the Kerrville (Texas) New Folk Festival, the Boston Music Award for Outstanding Folk Act, and grand prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

The opening act will be another Boston singer-songwriter. Rachel Kilgour is a Minnesota-born songwriter and performer whose sincere, lyric-driven work took top prize at last year’s edition of the Kerrville New Folk Festival.

Catch Antje Duvekot and Rachel Kilgour at 8 p.m. Oct. 5 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Boston-based singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot will appear this Saturday at One Longfellow Square in Portland.

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