If April is the cruelest month (it might not be; we mainly have Tom Eliot’s word for that, and he was a great poet but underqualified as a meteorologist) May is shaping up to be one of the busiest. The calendar’s in almost embarrassingly fertile bloom, with far more going on than any one person could possibly get to. Some of it’s off in the distance a bit: the blend of ancient and contemporary in the choir Cappella Romana’s New Mystics from East & West, May 14-15; Portland Center Stage’s eagerly anticipated revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, opening May 20; a new show at Imago by the contemporary absurdist Carol Triffle, Francesca, Isabella, Margarita on a Cloud, also opening May 20; Mahler’s grand Symphony No. 3, May 21 and 23 at the Oregon Symphony.
But, really, the list for just the coming week is boggling. So let’s get right to it (and keep in mind, this is a very partial selection):
QUEEN, TREY, CUBAN DANCE. An intriguing synchronicity of dance and music arrives in three events from three different companies.
First: White Bird ends its season by presenting its first Cuban troupe, Malpaso Dance Company, in a performance Wednesday in Schnitzer Hall with the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. One of the evening’s three works will be Under Fire, by Trey McIntyre, a Portland favorite since his days in the late 1990s as resident choreographer for Oregon Ballet Theatre.
Second: The ambitious training company The Portland Ballet presents its spring concert Friday and Saturday at Lincoln Performance Hall with a program that features highlights from McIntyre’s Mercury Half-Life, set to music by the rock band Queen (other works include Balanchine’s Valse-Fantasie; a staging by Anne Mueller after Petipa of the Raymonda Suite; and new pieces by Gregg Bielemeier and Jason Davis).
Third: The Oregon Symphony grinds it out at the Schnitz on May 24 with The Music of Queen – A Rock Symphony, featuring the full symphony, a rock band, and a Vegas singer named Brody Dolyniuk handling the Freddie Mercury vocals. The orchestra declares: “Many of Queen’s songs, such as Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You, have a symphonic quality, making them a natural fit for orchestral treatments.” At least, on one night in the merry, merry month of May.
THE PLAY’S THE THING. Lots of theater openings this week, to go with a passel of holdovers:
Willamette Radio Workshop. The talented troupe of old-time radio re-creators crosses the river Wednesday evening to the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver to put on episodes from a couple of classics, The Shadow and Gunsmoke. Admission? Only The Shadow knows. Oh, wait: we do, too. It’s free. And you can buy a beer or wine.
Liza! Liza! Liza! More Minnelli than you can shake a stick at: Hannah Lauren Wilson, Jillian Snow Harris, and Emily Sahler play the iconic diva at three stages of her fabulous career. Triangle’s production is the U.S. premiere of Richard Harris’s musical. Opens Thursday.
Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief. Paula Vogel’s comic-but-serious reimagining of Othello flips the gender tables on Shakespeare. Mary NcDonald-Lewis directs. Post5 Theatre, opens Friday.
Emma. Bag&Baggage brings a five-actor adaptation of Jane Austen’s great comedy of manners to the stage of the Venetian Theatre in Hillsboro beginning Friday. (Related story: In ‘Emma’: a wit and a way, I write about the role of wit in American culture and in the novels of Austen, in particular Emma.)
James and the Giant Peach. Oregon Children’s Theatre opens a new musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fruitful fantasy. Opens Saturday in the Newmark Theatre.
Grand Concourse. JoAnn Johnson directs Ayanna Berkshire, John San Nicholas, Allen Nause, and Jahnavi Alyssa in Heidi Schreck’s contemporary drama about a nun and a college dropout at a soup kitchen in the Bronx. Opens Saturday at Artists Rep.
A LITTLE NIGHT (AND MATINEE) MUSIC. A classic Mozart comic opera and some Brandenburg concerti highlight the week’s music calendar.
The Magic Flute. Portland Opera’s production of the perennial favorite features designs by the late, great author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, whose sprightly designs for The Nutcracker were an institution for Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet for many years. Opens Friday, Keller Auditorium.
Vivaldi’s Spell. Portland Baroque Orchestra complete its performances this season of all six of Bach’s Brandenburg concerti with the second and the fourth, the latter of which has Italianate flourishes reminiscent of Vivaldi – so why not, as director Monica Huggett does here, program several Vivaldi pieces to go with them? Friday-Sauturday at First Baptist Church downtown, Sunday at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium.
GLORY IN THE GALLERIES. It’s a new month, which means a new First Thursday this week, the monthly art walk featuring new shows at dozens of galleries around town. (Some galleries are also on a Last Thursday or First Friday schedule, and a hardy few, marching to their own beats, don’t pay attention to the monthly turnover. In addition, there are pop-up galleries, coffee shop and cafe walls … a cornucopia of visual art.) Just a few good bets:
Eva Lake and Naomi Shigeta at Augen. Lake extends her longtime interest in fashion, femininity, feminism, and popular images with her show Fashion Items. Shigeta provides an intriguing contrast with her bright, meticulous, and improbably motion-filled series of geometric paintings and drawings, Lines.
Matthew Dennison and Laurie Daniel at Froelick. Another fascinating contrast: Dennison’s show of new figurative paintings, Commensalism, in which he delves further into matters of the natural environment and the relationships among species; and Danial’s Making Home, new abstract paintings that reveal her ever-increasing freedom of gesture.
Paul Missal and Ellen Goldschmidt at Blackfish. A pair of smart veteran artists unveil new works: some probing self-portraits and still lifes by Missal; figurative drawings on emotional life (including sibling rivalry) by Goldschmidt. They’ll talk at the gallery at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Nelson Sandgren at Michael Parsons. Sandgren (1917-2006) taught at Oregon State University for almost forty years, and this show includes oils and watercolors from seven decades. It coincides with a major retrospective, Nelson Sandgren: An Artist’s Life, running May 14-July 17 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem.
Kazunao Azuma at Eutectic. The Japanese potter and anagama kiln wood fire artist will be at Friday evening’s opening, and will give an artist’s talk at 10 a.m. Saturday,
The beautiful North, and back again. Christa Morletti McIntyre reviews Into the Beautiful North, the new quest tale at Milagro about a small band who set out on a journey to save the Mexican fishing village that is their home.
Bing Sheldon and saving Portland values. Barry Johnson remembers the Portland architect and civic leader, who has died at 81, and who once served as interim director of the Portland Art Museum when it needed a steady temporary hand. Johnson cites architecture writer Brian Libby, who quoted Sheldon: “Cities that don’t change, die. That’s what I believe.”
In the Heights: overheated,undercooked. Brett Campbell argues that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony-winning musical, which got a vibrant revival locally at Stumptown Stages, doesn’t reach the heights of his current triumph Hamilton.
FilmWatch Weekly. Marc Mohan keeps you up to date on what to watch, and when to watch it.
Oregon Repertory Singers: double treat. Bruce Browne praises the programming that brought together very different Masses by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Frank Matin.
Don Quixote: a man for all seasons. Christa Morletti McIntyre reviews Lakewood Theatre’s vivid new production of the 1964 musical Man of La Mancha, a play whose time seems to have rolled around again.
At the gallery, a clue or two might help. Viewing PDX Contemporary’s I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees and other shows that don’t give any clues to what the art’s about, Jennifer Rabin argues against deliberate lack of context: “As humans, we are wired for narrative. We crave storytelling as a way to keep us connected … so it shouldn’t be something we feel we need to stifle in order to make visual art seem more important. On the contrary, we should allow artists’ stories about their work to enhance our experience of it.”
A Child of Our Time, looking for love. Bruce Browne previews the Portland Symphonic Choir’s May 11 performance of Michael Tippett’s 1944 classic, which is rarely performed and underappreciated.
High adventure on the good ship Neverland. Christa Morletti McIntyre reviews Portland Playhouse’s rollicking Peter and the Starcatcher.
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