Local performing arts scene just heating up
The winter-spring performing arts season in Spokane is jammed full of familiar names:
• Comedian and motormouth Robin Williams.
• The London and New York smash play, “War Horse.”
• The leaders of the retro-lounge movement, Pink Martini.
• The most famous tap-dancer on earth, Savion Glover.
• Gilbert & Sullivan’s best-known title, “The Pirates of Penzance.”
• A few household-name musicals, including “West Side Story” and “Grease.”
• The former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson – as directed by Spike Lee – although we’re not sure exactly what kind of “art” he will perform.
Read on for the winter-spring installment of a series we might call, “Get out of the house and into an audience.”
The Best of Broadway series at the INB Performing Arts Series has an impressive range of shows arriving in the space of four months, beginning with the 1980s hair-metal musical, “Rock of Ages” (Feb. 7-10). Don’t be deterred by the fact that the Tom Cruise movie version was a flop. The Broadway stage version has been a huge hit with former high school headbangers (i.e., middle-age audiences) and is packing ’em in on national tour.
Those who prefer their Broadway to be a little more traditional can’t do better than the national tour of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” (March 21-24). Fitting somewhere in between those two, stylistically, will be “Flashdance” (April 11-14), the recently “re-envisioned” musical version of the 1983 movie.
However, the most moving event of the region’s theater season should prove to be a rare Best of Broadway non-musical, “War Horse” (March 5-9). If you saw the Steven Spielberg Oscar-nominated movie last year, you still haven’t really seen “War Horse.” This national tour – like the smash London and New York productions – uses full-sized horse puppets, made of canewood, mesh, leather and cable. The word “magic” crops up repeatedly from critics, audiences and performers.
“It’s good for the whole family, a real magical event,” said Danny Yoerges, one of the three men who operate the horse named Joey. “People come to it for the same reasons they come to big musicals or big movies.”
“People will weep openly,” said “War Horse” actor Chad Jennings.
All of the Best Broadway shows are at the INB Performing Arts Center.
The Spokane Civic Theatre, the region’s national-class community theater, has two big musicals on the way. “The Drowsy Chaperone” (Feb. 22-March 17), a parody of frothy ’20s musicals, and “Grease” (May 17-June 16), which requires no explanation.
However, the most promising musical of the season is on the small side, in the Firth Chew Studio Theatre. It’s “Next to Normal” (Feb. 1-March 3), the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical about a suburban family dealing with mental illness. Troy Nickerson directs.
Civic’s first play of 2013 will be the redneck comedy “Escanaba in Love” (Jan.11-Feb.2), a prequel to “Escanaba in Da Moonlight,” also written by actor Jeff Daniels, which had Civic audiences doubled over with laughter in 2010.
The Civic will also break out the swords and eye-patches with an adaptation of “Treasure Island” (April 5-21) on the Main Stage. Also on the schedule in the Studio Theatre is the heartwarming “On Golden Pond” (March 22-April 14) and the gal-pal comedy, “The Dixie Swim Club” (May 3-June 2).
Interplayers Professional Theater has been on an artistic upswing this season and that trend should continue with an intriguing four-play lineup in the season’s second half.
First up is “boom” (Jan. 24-Feb. 9), by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, a dark comedy about a journalism student who interviews a mad scientist in his underground lair. He has designs on her, post-apocalypse.
Next is “Speech and Debate” (Feb. 28-March 16) by Stephen Karam, in which high school students have to decide whether to “out” a teacher for some chat-room indiscretions.
Then comes “Sirens” (April 4-20), by Deborah Zoe Laufer, a comedy about a couple having a midlife crisis on a cruise ship. The husband hears the sirens’ call – and jumps overboard.
Finally comes “Seeds of Change” (May 9-26), a world premiere comedy by local playwright Craig Rickett, about three Nazarene spinster sisters who undergo a transformation.
These are not familiar titles, but that’s one of Interplayers’ strengths – bringing you new and worthy works beyond the old chestnuts.
Over in Coeur d’Alene, Lake City Playhouse will tackle a couple of Stephen Sondheim plays, “Sweeney Todd” (Feb. 8-March 3) and “Into the Woods” (May 31-June 29). In between will be “Over the River and Through the Woods” (March 22-April 7) and “The Miss Firecracker Contest” (April 26-May 12). “K2” is playing now, and will run until Jan. 20.
Rascal Flatts and Richard Strauss have something in common. Both will be responsible for rowdy shows in Spokane.
“Rowdy” may be a stretch for Strauss, yet it certainly applies to country stars Rascal Flatts, who will appear Jan. 24 at the Spokane Arena with The Band Perry and Kristen Kelly. The word might also apply to Carrie Underwood (Feb. 21), who will also play the Spokane Arena.
Yet don’t discount the tempestuous Strauss, the composer responsible for the theme to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Spokane Symphony music director Eckart Preu says that Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben – A Hero’s Life” (March 16-17), should prove to be just as stirring and monumental.
It may be the symphony concert not to miss, but there are several other candidates, namely a remarkable triumvirate of Beethoven Piano Concerto concerts on three consecutive days (May 10, 11 and 12), The Silver-Garburg Piano Duo will play all five Beethoven concertos that weekend – and they’ll toss in three concertos by other composers for good measure.
The Symphony’s SuperPops lineup is dominated by Pink Martini (Feb. 2), everybody’s favorite lounge-jazz-world-music act from Portland. Sorry, the tickets all disappeared months ago.
However, Gilbert and Sullivan fans can be consoled by a SuperPops concert-style production of “Pirates of Penzance,” (April 20). And coming right up this week is the informal Symphony With a Splash concert titled “Making Music Their Way” (Jan. 11), a kind of symphonic happy hour, with Stravinsky and Dorman providing the live soundtrack.
These events, and many others on the classics and pops schedule, might cure any post-strike hangover. All of the above Spokane Symphony concerts are at the Martin Woldson Theatre at the Fox.
The symphony isn’t the only big event on the classical front. This spring’s Northwest Bach Festival (March 2-24) is notable because it’s the farewell season for Pulitzer-winning artistic director Gunther Schuller. He’ll conduct concerts on March 2 and March 9 at St. John’s Cathedral.
The festival will also introduce audiences to the man who will take over as artistic director, Zuill Bailey. This renowned cellist will give a recital on March 24 at St. John’s Cathedral.
On the pop side, the Bing Crosby Theater will host some well-known acts, including guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke (March 17) and An Evening with the Cowboy Junkies (April 28). And down in Moscow, the University of Idaho’s annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Feb. 20-23, will include such notable acts as Take 6, Regina Carter and the Jeff Hamilton Trio.
The big comedy event of the season is right around the corner: Robin Williams and Special Guest David Steinberg (Jan. 14) at the Fox. This is billed as an “Evening of Sit-Down,” because Williams will be sitting and chatting with Steinberg, an old-friend and comedy legend in his own right. Even sitting down, Williams’ mouth will be as busy as ever. Television’s Tracy Morgan (“30 Rock”) also is coming to town for a show March 29 at the Fox.
Tap dance genius Savion Glover will bring “SoLe Sanctuary” to the Fox on March 2. He made his name with “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk,” yet this show is more personal and quirky. How quirky? One of the three performers will “silently meditate for the duration of the performance.”
The Best of Broadway people are also bringing in several notable non-series shows, beginning with “Rain,” (Jan. 29) a Beatles tribute show. That will be followed by the New Shanghai Circus (Feb. 1) and Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” (April 6), all at the INB Performing Arts Center.
And the hands-down winner for Show Most Difficult to Categorize? “Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth” (March 15), at the INB Performing Arts Center. It’s billed as a one-man show, directed by Spike Lee, no less.
It may not be art, but it will be undiluted Mike.