July 17, 2011 in Features

Spotlight: Spokane native Bowers shines in ‘Billy Blythe’

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane opera singer Jessica Bowers is receiving national attention for her role in a New York folk opera titled “Billy Blythe,” which is about, of all things, the adolescence of Bill Clinton.

Bowers plays Clinton’s mother, Virginia.

This production is based on Clinton’s 2004 memoir, “My Life,” and had a two-day developmental reading in June at the Medicine Show Theatre in New York.

Bowers was featured prominently in a July 4 article in the New Yorker magazine about the show’s rehearsals. In the story, the composer mentioned that Clinton seemed to be attracted to women who reminded him of his mother.

“It’s funny you would say that,” the New Yorker quoted Bowers as saying. “Someone once told me I look like Monica Lewinsky.”

Bowers is a Spokane native and graduate of Whitworth University and the New England Conservatory. She has appeared with the Spokane Opera.

She is continuing Spokane’s surprising record of supplying New York with opera singers – Patrice Munsel and Thomas Hampson, to name the two most prominent.

A Cheyenne documentary

Cheyenne Jackson, the TV and Broadway star from Newport and Spokane, is one of the stars of “One Night Stand,” a new documentary film in which a number of New York performers were given 24 hours to write, cast and rehearse four short musicals.

The documentary “captures the excitement, anxiety, camaraderie and sheer panic of putting together a performance.” Other stars include Richard Kind, Rachel Dratch and Roger Bart.

“One Night Stand” will have its premiere on July 24 at the NewFest Film Festival in New York.

Jackson has been a semi-regular on two of the country’s biggest TV shows this past season, “30 Rock” and “Glee.”

He’s also booked into Carnegie Hall this fall for a concert with the New York Pops, titled, “Cheyenne Jackson’s Cocktail Hour: Music of the Mad Men Era.”

Free Springsteen

I logged onto the Spokane Public Library’s new free music download service, Freegal, last week – and it lived up to expectations.

It contains 500,000 songs from the Sony music archives. City library card holders can download – and keep – three songs per week.

It may take months to thoroughly browse the offerings, but it contains just about the entire Bruce Springsteen catalog, the entire Simon and Garfunkel catalog and lots of the Frank Sinatra catalog.

And those are just the S’s.

A quick rule of thumb: Artists on a Sony label or any of its affiliates (including the mighty Columbia Records label), will probably be there.

To access it, you must have a Spokane Public Library card and the PIN number that you already use to log onto the library’s website. If you don’t have a PIN number, you’ll have to go to any city library branch and get one (sorry, not the county libraries).

Classical music fans might be particularly pleased. The site contains many great classical selections. But you might have to download them movement by movement.

A second Brandi date

Brandi Carlile – the most famous name ever to come out of Ravensdale, Wash. – has been booked into the Knitting Factory on Oct. 6, just two months after her appearance at the Festival at Sandpoint.

So, choose your preference: The lakeshore under the stars? Or the downtown Spokane nightclub? Or both?  There are probably a number of Brandi Carlile fanatics who will choose both.

At the Knitting Factory, she’ll be appearing with Justin Townes Earle and Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit. Tickets for that show will be $26, on sale Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketfly.

The Festival at Sandpoint appearance will be Aug. 5, and tickets are $36.95 now on sale through TicketsWest outlets (800-325-SEAT or www.ticketswest.com).

Neko: Baby Bar fan

Neko Case apparently hung out at the Baby Bar, the tiny gem at 827 W. First, after her Thursday concert, because here’s what she tweeted right after her July 7 concert at the Bing Crosby Theater:

“The Baby Bar in Spokane, WA. Best bar in USA. No question.”

Sig alert

I just talked to Sig Hansen, the captain of the Northwestern of “Deadliest Catch” fame.

He’s coming to the INB Performing Arts Center for a stage show called “Deadliest Catch: An Evening with Capt. Sig and the Hillstrand Bros.” on July 24.

I’ll write a full story for the Friday paper based on the interview. But I thought I’d give you a few highlights:

• He says the stage show is almost like a comedy show, with the captains having a lot of fun with audience questions. There will even be a survival-suit race, with audience volunteers.

• They’ve done this show in at least 35 other cities, to big crowds.

• Capt. Sig has a new credit to his name: He’s the voice of the boat Crabby in “Cars 2.”

• Capt. Sig also has a line of fish sticks, a brand of beer, a video game and (soon) a restaurant in his name.

• He’s from Ballard, the maritime-oriented Seattle neighborhood.

Tickets range from $20 to $75 through Ticketswest outlets.

Respect the viola

The viola always seems to be overshadowed by its showy little sibling, the violin.

The Spokane Youth Symphony will try to drum up some viola enthusiasm with an event called “Viva Viola! 2011, A Celebration of the Viola.”

It’s a workshop for viola students, professionals and anybody who might want to make the switch from violin to viola.

It will include a how-to class for those who want to switch, along with demonstrations and recitals by Spokane Symphony violists, including principal Nicholas Carper.

It’s open to viola and violin students of all ages, $30 per student. It all takes place Aug. 13, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Eastern Washington University Music Building in Cheney.

To download an enrollment application, go to www.SpokaneYouthSymphony.org.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email