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Bridgetown throws a musical party

Stage notes: A conservatory throws a musical-theater gala, mystery theater and Lea Salonga at the Reser, the slap heard 'round the world.

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When the theater world finally fully wakens from its long Covid nap, it’ll be kicking up its heels. And places like Portland’s Bridgetown Conservatory of Musical Theatre will be ready to supply the song and dance chops for the kicking. Bridgetown, which trains young, mostly high school age performers in the grand singing-dancing-acting tradition of becoming theatrical triple threats, has a pair of showstoppers lined up this weekend: Consider it a celebratory dress rehearsal for the rebirth of the theater scene.

On Saturday, April 2, the school’s Bridgetown to Broadway Gala is going live with an in-person bash at the conservatory’s digs in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood. There’ll be food and drinks and entertainment and an auction – and, at a VIP event starting at 5:30 p.m., a special guest: Chris Coleman, the former longtime artistic director of Portland Center Stage, who’s now theater artistic director of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Check here for tickets and details.

On Saturday, Bridgetown also will announce the winner of its first Corey Brunish Broadway Musical Theatre Scholarship, a $3,000 award to a Bridgetown student entering a college musical theater program. It’s named for and financed by Brunish, the multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway producer who splits his time between New York and Portland, and who has a long history of acting, singing, and directing at Portland area theaters.

During his years at Portland Center Stage, Coleman made musical theater a core element in his programming, often kicking off new seasons with a big musical production – and doing it not just for the box office, but from a genuine affection and respect for the history and future of American musical theater. His tie-in with Bridgetown is a natural: Rick Lewis, who founded the conservatory in 2016, was Coleman’s musical partner at Center Stage, serving as the company’s music director and conductor from 2005 to 2017.

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THE PATRICIA RESER CENTER FOR THE ARTS, Beaverton’s new, $55 million cultural center, is off to a running start: See Friderike Heuer’s review and photo essay on Celilo – Never Silenced, the center gallery’s inaugural art exhibition; and James Bash’s review of one of the center’s first dance and music performances, a Chamber Music Northwest event featuring the dance troupe BodyVox and the Akropolis Reed Quintet.

Now it’s theater’s turn in the center’s 550-seat performance space. Coming up April 8 and 9 is NASSIM, by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, in which “each night, a different performer joins the playwright on stage, while the script waits unseen in a sealed box.” Accepting this audacious challenge on the 8th will be the fine Portland performer and writer Josie Seid; on the 9th it’ll be actor Troy Metcalf.

And, speaking of musical theater (we were), on April 13 the Reser stage hosts the Tony-winning Broadway star Lea Salonga, who’s done everything from Miss Saigon to Les Miz to Once on This Island, and, in the movies, the Disney princesses Jasmine (Aladdin) and Fa Mulan (Mulan and Mulan II).

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AND THIS IS ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT. When a stage performer walks out into the audience or addresses it directly, it’s called breaking the Fourth Wall. When a member of the audience bounds onto the stage and gives a performer a thwack in the kisser, which wall is that? Asking for our Uncle Oscar, who’s been feeling out of sorts.

Bob Hicks

Bob Hicks

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."
Bob Hicks

Bob Hicks

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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