Out & About: Welcome spring with theater, music

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The sun may have crossed the celestial equator early on Monday, marking spring’s astronomical arrival, but the look and feel of spring won’t arrive for another few weeks.

Meantime there are several fine choices for warm indoor entertainment.

On stage, “Spring Awakening,” the eight-time Tony Award-winning musical from 2006, is Lyric Music Theater’s spring offering in South Portland.

“Wrong for Each Other,” is an offbeat romantic comedy that’s running through Sunday at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn. This fine show runs the gamut from hilarious to thoughtful, and it’s well worth the trip.

In concert, Portland Ovations presents Lisa Fischer on Saturday. Fischer spent decades as a backup singer for several rock bands. Now she’s on her own with Grand Baton, her own backup band.

About a block away on the same night, Boston guitar god Johnny A. holds forth.

‘Spring Awakening’

The traditional model of the Broadway musical is sunny, funny and melodic. But the big winner at the 2007 Tony Awards was a show that represents the antipodal opposite.

“Spring Awakening,” a depressing and unmelodic take on teenage love, copped the coveted trio of top awards, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score. (It also won five other Tonys.)

“Spring Awakening” is now on stage in South Portland as Lyric Music Theater’s spring show.

The script, by Steven Sater, is based on a play by Frank Wedekind, which was first produced in 1906 in Germany. The score, with lyrics by Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, mirrors the dark hues of the story.

The plot recounts the sexual awakening of a group of six adolescent boys and five girls. Themes include rape, suicide, physical abuse, sexual abuse and abortion. The action unfolds awkwardly, principally from the viewpoint of two characters: Wendla, who loses her innocence and then her life, and Melchior, a young rebel who defies authority from his first scene to denouement.

The former is played by Rachel Friedman, while the latter role is handled by Eric Berry-Sandelin. There are two adults, Lynn C. Boren-McKellar and Mark E. Dils, who play a variety of older characters who range from simply unpleasant to utterly detestable.

The essence of this musical can be summarized in the title to the third song in the first act: “The Bitch of Living.”

Lyric Music Theater, 176 Sawyer St. in South Portland, presents “Spring Awakening” through April 2 with performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Call 799-1421.

‘Wrong For Each Other’

Opposites attract. That’s a basic principle of magnetism, as taught in high school science classes. It’s also a typical model for romantic comedy in fiction, film and stage.

But in real life, there are complications and contradictions.

The basic notions of romantic attraction and repulsion are explored in a very funny comedy that’s running through Sunday at the Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.

The setup goes like this: Rudy and Norah have been divorced for nearly four years when a seemingly random encounter in a restaurant leads them to recall the story of their relationship from first meeting to marriage to breakup.

Scenes alternate between present and past, while incidents of their mutual attraction and repulsion are laid bare for the audience to vicariously experience.

The witty banter is brilliant and the laughs are innumerable. I loved the two actors playing the off-again, on-again lovers: Jason Cadieux as Rudy and Lee Fitzpatrick as Norah. Christopher Schario directs, and he seems to extract every nuance from the script.

“Wrong For Each Other” was written by Norm Foster. He’s Canada’s most prolific playwright, and also the most frequently produced. “Wrong For Each Other” makes it clear why producers and audiences love him.

The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, presents “Wrong For Each Other” through this Sunday with performances March 23-24 at 7:30 p.m., March 25 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and March 26 at 2 p.m. Call 782-3200.

Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton

Lisa Fischer is best known as an anonymous backup singer. That seemingly self-contradictory statement is background to Portland Ovations’ next show.

For decades Fischer worked as a backup singer for acts such as Sting, Luther Vandross, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Nine Inch Nails and the Rolling Stones. Her highest profile roles with the Stones is duet partner with Mick Jagger on a handful of songs. She performs opposite Jagger on the Stones’ official video of “Gimme Shelter” (which can be seen on Ovations’ website).

“It’s a killer part to sing, and Lisa really kills it,” Jagger says.

Fischer became about as famous as a backup singer can be thanks to the Academy Award-winning documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom,” a film which focused on Fischer and others in similar positions.

But Fischer has also enjoyed a solo career, and the film has greatly increased the attention she gets in that role. On Saturday, Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton will appear at the State Theatre, courtesy of Portland Ovations.

With a big, wide-ranging voice, Fischer covers a lot of musical territory. On Saturday she will be joined by her inventive new three-man backup trio for a concert that draws from an eclectic palette of influences, putting her stamp on Led Zeppelin, Little Willie John and recasting rock anthems from her tours with the Stones and Tina Turner.

Portland Ovations presents Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton at 8 p.m. March 25 at the State Theatre, 609 Congress St. in Portland. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Johnny A.

Any guitarist who can make a living performing principally instrumental songs that he’s written himself has got to be good. That’s the essence of Johnny A., who has been a fixture of the Boston music scene for nearly half a century.

Johnny A. has written dozens of songs, released four albums and fronted several rock groups. Nowadays he mostly plays solo, and his concerts mostly comprise virtuosic instrumentals.

“Driven,” his fourth full-length CD, was released three years ago. It’s a total Johnny A. production. He not only played all the musical parts on all 11 songs that he wrote, he also handled production, recording and mixing.

His stature as one of America’s guitar gods led the Gibson Guitar company to create a signature Johnny A. model, which was first offered in 2003 and remains one of the company’s top-selling models.

Catch Johnny A. at 8 p.m. March 25 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Adolescent love is the theme of “Spring Awakening,” the eight-time Tony Award-winning musical that’s running through April 2 at Lyric Music Theater in South Portland. Rachel Friedman and Eric Berry-Sandelin are among the cast.

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