ArtsWatch Weekly: Defying disaster

Anonymous Theatre beats the odds, Brett Campbell picks the top music of the week, pick of the weekend fests, Ashland shakes it up, more

It was theater. It was comedy. It was song and dance. And from the reaction of the audience at Monday night’s performance of Urinetown by Anonymous Theatre Company, it was sports all the way. The sold-out crowd in the mainstage auditorium at The Armory clapped and roared and hollered, cheering loudly every time an actor rose from among the audience, shouted out a line of dialogue, and hustled up to the stage to play ball with the rest of the cast. It was edge-of-the-seat stuff, a little like watching game seven of the NBA championships with the outcome still on the line.

Chrisse Roccaro as Penny collars Amelia Morgan-Rothschild as Hope in Anonymous’s “Urinetown.” Photo: Sydney Kennedy

If you were there Monday night – and more than 500 people were – you know what I’m talking about. If you weren’t … well, you just sat out the season. This one’s done and gone. Anonymous is called Anonymous for good reason. In this annual highlight of the theater calendar, none of the actors knows who any of the other actors are until they meet onstage; everyone rehearses in isolation; the culminating performance is a one-and-done: one dangerous shoot-the-moon evening, and that’s all she wrote. In Who’s on first? Anonymously yours, ArtsWatch wrote about the preparations for this year’s show.

Monday’s Urinetown rocked a house that was ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Would it fly? Would it flail? Would it teeter on the edge of disaster? Yes, yes, and yes – but mostly the first. The thing soared, exhilaratingly, with part of the exhilaration due to the sheer audacity of it all. A first-rate cast (all right; let’s just unmask them here and now) anchored by Isaac Lamb’s narrator/cop Officer Lockstock, David Meyers’ corporate baddie Cladwell, Chrisse Roccaro’s sassy Pennywise, Kailey Rhodes’s precocious Little Sally, Amelia Morgan-Rothschild’s ingenue-in-an-outhouse Hope, and especially Ben Tissell’s singing hero Bobby Strong picked it up and brought it home.

And that was emphatically that. As they used to say in Brooklyn, wait ’til next year. And get your tickets before they sell out.




Matt Gibson’s fish figures, inspired by the inhabitants of the Washougal River, are part of this weekend’s Washougal Art Festival. Pictured: Sockeye salmon with copper chloride patina and lacquered pennies.

Washougal Art Festival. Across the Columbia River in Clark County, Washington, the city of Washougal is celebrating its own cultural scene with a daylong festival on Saturday. Presented by the Washougal Arts and Cultural Alliance, it includes a juried show and sale of work by more than twenty artists, several performances, raffles, activities for kids, and lots of strolling and eating. Proceeds will help buy new public art for the city. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, downtown Washougal Reflection Plaza, 1703 Main St.

Skosh (a little) Japanese Cultural Festival. Presented by the Gresham-Ebetsu Sister City Association, this celebration in the park features bonseki Japanese sand painting, food and cooking demonstrations, koi flags and origami cranes, ikebana, tea ceremony, and more. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Gresham Main City Park, 219 S. Main Ave., Gresham.

Fishers Memorial Salmon Bake and Art Sale. One of our favorite summer events for one of our favorite causes, this gathering raises money for a Columbia River Fishers Memorial for tribal fishers lost in the river. The food’s good, the company’s good, the American Indian art – curated by Lillian Pitt and Mikkel & Saralyn Hilde – is both good and for sale. There’ll be drumming and dancing by the Wilbur & Suzie Hilde family, and the setting – Helvetia Vineyards & Winery and its historic Jakob Yungen House – is deeply enticing. 4:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, 23269 N.W. Yungen Road, Hillsboro.

“Ancient Ones,” silk screen, Peter Boome, Coast Salish




Summer Sings

Portland Symphonic Choir’s annual singalong provides the scores and invites audience members to join in on choral classics. The August 9 concert offers Brahms’s German Requiem. Wednesday, PCC Cascade Moriarty Arts Auditorium, 705 N. Killingsworth St.


Phoebe Gildea and Nathalie Fortin

In this free bring-your-sack-lunch noon concert, the Eugene soprano and pianist perform nocturnal French songs by Berlioz (Summer Nights), Debussy, and Gounoud for Portland audiences. Wednesday, The Old Church.


Oregon Festival of American Music

The annual celebration of pre-rock American tunes wraps up this weekend. Thursday’s Star Dust big band concert features Jesse Cloninger and the Emerald City Jazz Kings in classic 1920s-40s American songs including Hoagy Carmichael’s “Star Dust,” “Skylark,” and “Georgia on My Mind,” Duke Ellington hits, and more.

Music by Duke Ellington and other masters of the American songbook is featured all week at the Oregon Festival of American Music. Photo: KFG Radio Studio, Fitsimons Army Medical Center, 1954. U.S. Department of Defense.

Friday’s matinee with big band and vocal quartet stars the lyrics of Ira Gershwin and music by some of the last century’s  greatest songwriters like Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill, Vernon Duke, and of course Ira’s brother George. Friday evening’s show features one of Ira’s only rivals for the title of greatest 20th century lyricist, Lorenz Hart, and music by his great partner Richard Rodgers and others, from “Blue Moon” to “The Lady Is A Tramp” and so many more hits and rarities.

Saturday’s matinee concert, sporting a smaller combo backing a vocal quartet of Shedd stars, spotlights Arlen’s immortal music: “Blues in the Night,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Stormy Weather,” and many more, including of course “Over the Rainbow.” Saturday night’s closing concert is basically an American Songbook Greatest Hits show, with a jazz septet and vocal quintet reprising some classics from the earlier shows and others, like “Body and Soul,” Casablanca’s “As Time Goes By,” Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and a dozen more. And don’t forget the festival’s flurry of free lectures and films, all happening at the Shedd all week.

Wednesday-Saturday, The Shedd, Eugene.


William Byrd Festival

Two of England’s most accomplished Renaissance music experts, Mark Williams and Jeremy Summerly, lead the 20th annual celebration of the music of that country’s greatest Renaissance composer. Friday’s opening concert features some of the great sacred music composer’s secular songs, performed by soloists and small vocal ensembles drawn from among the city’s top early music singers, with Williams accompanying on chamber organ. The two-week festival also includes an organ recital, six liturgical services, and three public lectures, most happening at Holy Rosary Church in Northeast Portland, and an anniversary choral concert Aug. 27. Stay tuned for my ArtsWatch feature about the anniversary. Friday, The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Avenue, and Saturday and Sunday, Holy Rosary Church, 37 NE Clackamas St.

18th century engraving of the 17th century composer William Byrd.


Urban Renewal Project

Saxophonist and bandleader R.W. Enoch and rapper Elmer Demond teamed up in Los Angeles to create a 13-piece big band, fronted by various guest singers. Result, even with Enoch writing much of the music, their set can range from funk to jazz to pop to soul to hip hop — all built on a foundation of big band jazz. Friday, Jack London Revue.


Sunriver Music Festival

The venerable Central Oregon festival’s 40th anniversary season tees off with the performance premiere of rocker-turned-classical composer Kip Winger’s Parting Grace, plus Steven Moeckel soloing in Mendelssohn’s famous Violin Concerto, and Mozart’s exuberant Symphony No. 36. Saturday, Tower Theatre, Bend.




Britt Festival, Jacksonville

On Saturday, Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman is the soloist in a new work by Britt Festival music director Teddy Abrams’s mentor, San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas, who’s also an occasional composer. MTT’s 2016 Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind employs a chamber orchestra and a “bar band” (saxes, trumpet, trombone, electric keyboard, guitars, bass and drums) to set Carl Sandburg’s poem of the same title — “a kind of honky-tonk Ozymandias, the composer wrote. The  concert concludes with Tchaikovsky’s powerful final symphony.

Sunday’s festival-closing concert features Prokofiev’s fifth symphony, George Gershwin’s bustling An American in Paris, and the 30-year-old Abrams’s own new dance composition, Unified Field, which he says traipses from “Impressionist/ post-Romantic style mash-up … [to] a scherzo followed by the third movement passacaglia (this includes a six-part canon). The final movement has a bluegrass feel to it.“

Saturday and Sunday, Britt Pavilion, Jacksonville.



ArtsWatch links


“Merry Wives”: Doctor Caius (Jeremy Peter Johnson, right) demands information from Peter Simple (Will Dao) and Mistress Quickly (Catherine Castellanos). Photo: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Ashland Shakespeare: Out of chaos. Hailey Bachrach finds connections in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s four Shakespeare shows this season: Julius Caesar, Henry IV parts One and Two, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Three pieces in our series on Chamber Music Northwest’s recently concluded 2017 season:

  • Winds of change. Matthew Andrews homes in on the festival’s proclivity for wind instrumentalists, including flutist Tara Helen O’Connor and in particular the ensemble Imani Winds.
  • Quartets and quintets. Terry Ross reviews concerts by the Claremont Trio with violinist Rebecca Anderson, the Calidore Quartet, and the Brentano String Quartet with violist Hsin-Yen Huang.
  • Mark Steinberg, combatting complacency. Alice Hardesty continues her series of conversations with outstanding artists with this free-flowing exchange with the founding violinist of the Brentano Quartet.

Songs for America, bother from another planet. I review Clackamas Rep’s production of the Irving Berlin review The Melody Lingers On! and Lakewood’s production of Gore Vidal’s Visit to a Small Planet.

Sam Shepard’s Magic Time. Veteran theater critic Misha Berson recalls her early days in San Francisco, watching the young Shepard develop his art as playwright in residence at the Magic Theatre. A superb reminiscence of the great American playwright, who died at age 73 on July 27.

Sam Shepard in the halcyon days.

Comments are closed.