It’s a brilliant beginning. Sitting in the audience you’re not quite sure whether it’s part of the music or some Victorian version of an emergency air raid warning: that long sharp shriek of a whistle that pierces the air and just keeps on slicing like the blade on a piece of heavy machinery run amok. Then the orchestra barges dissonantly in, and the chorus raises a clangor, and you’re attending the tale of Sweeney Todd, the closest thing the world of musical theater and opera has to a steampunk antihero.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which has two performances left on Thursday and Saturday at Portland Opera in a production featuring the magnetic bass-baritone David Pittsinger as Sweeney and Susannah Mars as the ghoulishly pragmatic Mrs. Lovett, is a musical tale grounded in the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, under whose disruptive rules and relentless sway we still live even if the rough promise it ushered in has taken on the aspect of a ghost revolution. Sweeney! Sweeney! He’s our conscience, our warning, our mirror. Plus, he sings. And that steampunk shriek keeps coming back now and again, just to remind us of what special brand of seductive, human-devised hell we’ve entered.
ArtsWatch reviewers Bruce and Daryl Browne took in a Sunday afternoon performance when the temperature outside was a sweltering 100 degrees, and report an almost-full house. “Perhaps they came in from the “city on fire” in shorts and spaghetti straps because they wanted to see great musical theater,” they write. “Maybe this was their very first opera production. Or they came because it was Steven Sondheim’s grisly musical-turned-opera, a tale of moral decay across classes with magnetic appeal to a diversity of theater goers. But aye, we ought not worry about the why. Just know that Portland Opera conjured the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim and those present were treated to a stunning afternoon of entertainment and artistry.” Read the full review here.
PAMTA, PAMTA, WHO’S GOT THE PAMTA? If it’s June, this must be theater award season. The Tonys arrive in New York this Sunday, June 12, complete with national television audience. Portland’s Drammys follow up on June 27 in the Newmark Theatre. And last night, Monday, the PAMTAs – the Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards – kicked things off with a big bash in the Winningstad Theatre.
As it turns out, Don Quixote has a slew of the PAMTA statuettes: Lakewood’s Man of La Mancha was a big winner, including the prize for outstanding production. Others to haul in multiple hardware included Portland Center Stage’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, Artists Rep’s Cuba Libre, and Northwest Children’s Theatre’s Shrek: The Musical. Christa Morletti McIntyre was there for ArtsWatch, and has the lowdown.
A FEW THINGS TO WATCH FOR ON THIS WEEK’S CALENDAR:
NORTHWEST DANCE PROJECT’S SUMMER SPLENDORS. The Portland troupe known for its premieres does it again, unveiling three new dances in its summer show: new works by Carla Mann, Yin Yue, and artistic director Sarah Slipper. Thursday through Saturday, Lincoln Performance Hall, PSU.
GREEN DAY’S AMERICAN IDIOT AT TRIANGLE. Triangle Productions brings the Oregon premiere of the Broadway rock musical based on Green Day’s album of the same name, plus several from its followup album, 21st Century Breakdown. Neither the album nor the stage show has a direct connection to this year’s presidential primary campaigns. Thursday through July 2.
CANDIDE AT MARYLHURST OPERA. Alastair Donkin, the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company (Gilbert & Sullivan) veteran, once again visits Marylhurst from England, this time to direct Leonard Bernstein’s musical-theater adaptation of Voltaire’s satire, a show celebrated for its soaring, witty music and its problematic book. The music’s so good that the show’s worth doing over and over. Saturday and Sunday at Marylhurst University.
THE PORTLAND BALLET’S 15th ANNIVERSARY SHOW. The well-regarded ballet school presents the debut of its Studio Company with a sterling lineup of choreographers, many with new works: Eowyn Emerald Barrett, Anne Mueller, Josie Moseley, John Clifford, Caroline MacDonald, plus some classic Kenneth MacMillan and Marius Petipa. Friday through Sunday.
WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S: THE STAGE VERSION. This live stage adaptation of the 1983 cult movie comedy about a dead guy who cavorts through a weekend at the beach was an underground hit in 2013. Directed and performed by a crack team of sketch-comedy vets, it returns to the Siren Theater for late-night shows Friday through July 30. It ain’t Ibsen. Then again, it is summer.
CORRIB THEATRE’S OUR NEW GIRL. Portland’s contemporary Irish theater company presents Nancy Harris’s psychological drama, with a cast that includes Nikki Weaver and Todd Van Voris. Friday through June 26 at Portland Actors Conservatory.
DELGANI QUARTET: INTENSE COHESION. In a concert that ranged from Lou Harrison to William Grant Still to Jennifer Higdon, the young Eugene string quartet finished its first season with a rousing concert of American music. In his ArtsWatch review, Daniel Heila declares that the forward-thinking musicians “unquestionably established themselves as A-league talent.”
FILMWATCH WEEKLY. Marc Mohan’s weekly wrap of what’s on the city’s big screens: what you want to catch, what you want to avoid, what’s behind the scenes. Plus a few tips on good flicks for home screening.
MUSICWATCH WEEKLY. Every week Brett Campbell keeps ArtsWatch readers up-to-date on what’s coming up in classical and new-music offerings.
DANCE WEEKLY. Jamuna Chiarini’s weekly look at what’s coming up in Portland dance, from ballet to contemporary to improvisational.
INTERVIEW: VANESSA RENWICK ON BAD STUFF. The veteran Portland artist, filmmaker, and provocateur has a show about environmental disasters, Next Level Fucked Up, in the Apex Gallery at the Portland Art Museum, and on Thursday the Northwest Film Center will screen North South East West, a retrospective compilation of her film work. ArtsWatch’s Marc Mohan interviews her about her life, her art, and her obsessions. The badness, she says, is accelerating: “When I was driving around with (Voodoo Doughnut entrepreneur) Tres Shannon, he said ‘Portland needs to take a nap.’ That’s a line I think of a lot, that I wish I had left in the piece.”
A HEALING SOUND: BLUE CRANES, AHLEUCHASTISTAS, LIKE A VILLAIN. The three groups got together recently at Mississippi Studios, and though they come from “different aesthetic touchstones,” Matt Marble writes, their music “overflows with passion, sonic experimentation, stylistic fusion, and virtuosic lyricism.”
MICHAEL BROPHY: THE TREE AND THE STUMP. Paul Sutinen looks closely at Brophy’s new paintings at Laura Russo Gallery depicting forests thick with trees or dense with stumps, and finds a comparison in another painting of stumps, this one by the Hudson River School artist George Innes, from 1855. “How,” Sutinen asks, “do we occupy and utilize resources without totally destroying them?” Brophy’s paintings pose the same puzzler. Yet Sutinen adds that they have no overt meaning: “He isn’t preaching ‘forest is good/clearcut is bad.’ He just sets up his pictures to be monumental scenes, either of a walk among living giants or of the ruins of what once was.”
About ArtsWatch Weekly
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