BREAKING NEWS: ‘Fun Home’ to open ATTPAC’s 2017 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals snared what is certainly the most-anticipated theatrical tour of the next few years — the already-announced Hamilton. But what is probably the second biggest musical tour will be coming to Dallas thanks to the AT&T Performing Arts Center … and you won’t have to wait until 2018 to see it. Fun Home, the multiple-Tony-Award-winner, including best musical, will open ATTPAC’s 2017-18 season, the organization just announced.

Set in a funeral home, Fun Home it tells the story of a girl who comes to understand her own sexuality… and that of her father. It will kick off the five-show season, running Sept. 13–24 at the Winspear Opera House.

Fun Home will be followed by two familiar musicals — Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical, Dec. 5–17 and immediately after Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, Dec. 19–31. There’ll be a bit of a break until The Humans, a comedy that won a best play Tony nomination last year, May 9–20, 2018. Finally, Bright Star — a bluegrass musical co-written by Dallas native Edie Brickell and comedian Steve Martin — will end the subscription series June 12–24.

In addition, two additional shows will be presented outside the season subscription: the 20th anniversary of Riverdance, March 20–25, and the ever-popular Jersey Boys, May 22–27.

Season tickets can be purchased here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Come to Pride Night with ‘Hedwig’ at the Winspear tonight

My full review of Hedwig & the Angry Inch will not appear until later today or early tomorrow, but this is all you need to know: The show is amazing, and tonight promises to be even more amazing, as the Dallas Voice and Cathedral of Hope have paired with the AT&T Performing Arts Center to sponsor Pride Night, an LGBT-specific party-and-performance. Arrive by 6:30 p.m. to enjoy signature cocktails, a live DJ, cast appearances, a raffle and dancing until midnight (of, and you can check out the performance from 7:30–9:15 as well with tickets, here). Learn more about the party here, and check out the paper (in print or online) for the official review. Cheers!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Opera, DSM and PAFW reveal upcoming seasons

‘The Lion King’ returns as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018 season.

Several companies have announced their upcoming seasons this week, in whole or part.

The Dallas Opera’s 61st season will feature five productions, including a U.S. premiere and three popular operas in the mainstream canon.

It starts with Samson and Dalila by Camille Saint-Saens (Oct. 20, 22, 25, 28 and Nov. 5). That’s performed in repertory with Verdi’s enduring tragedy La Traviata (Oct. 27, 29, Nov. 1, 4 and 10). 2018 kicks off with a rarely-seen one-act opera composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold when he was just 16: The Ring of Polykrates (Feb. 9, 11, 14 and 17, 2018). That will be accompanied by a recital of his acclaimed Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 35), written to commemorate the fall of Nazism.

That’s followed by the U.S. premiere of modern composer Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden (March. 9, 11, 14 and 17), a technological wonder that employs 3D projections (yes, opera audiences will wear 3D glasses). The season concludes with Mozart’s Don Giovanni (April 13, 15, 18, 21, 27 and 29), one of the darkest and most musically complex operas every created.

In addition, the season will feature the opening gala, a fashion show, simulcasts, family performances and other community outreach. Performances will be at the Winspear Opera House. Tickets are available at DallasOpera.org.

You may have heard already that Hamilton will be part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018-19 season, but before we get there, the 2017-18 season stands in the way… or facilitates it. If you subscribe to the upcoming season, you get first crack at Hamilton the following year (as well as Disney’s Aladdin, which has also been announced).

Dec. 5–10: White Christmas. This add-on show returns.

Jan. 23–Feb. 4, 2018: The Color Purple. The recent Broadway revival took best actress in a musical away from Hamilton. The original production also won for best actress. Based on Alice Walker’s novel, it features a lesbian relationship in the early 20th century South.

Feb. 27–March 11: On Your Feet. The popular jukebox musical featuring the songs of Gloria Estefan.

March 28–April 8: Waitress. Sara Bareilles’ acclaimed Broadway debut as a composer, based upon the charming indie film.

April 24–May 6: Les Miserables. The sensation is back again.

June 13–July 8: The Lion King. Disney’s long-running hit, featuring the puppetry and brilliant staging of Julie Taymor.

July 24–Aug. 5: Love Never Dies. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, set in Coney Island.

Aug. 15–26: School of Rock. Webber’s latest musical, about a teacher who instructs kids on how to be headbangers.

All shows at Fair Park Music Hall; tickets available at DallasSummerMusicals.org.

As has been the case in recent years, many of the DSM shows are part of Performing Arts Fort Worth’s season at Bass Hall as well:

Jan. 17-21, 2018: Something Rotten. The comic telling of merriment in Olde Europe.

Feb. 16–18: Chicago. A season add-on of the long-running smash.

March 20–25: Finding Neverland. The behind-the-scenes telling of the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

June 19–24: Waitress (see above).

Aug. 7–12: Love Never Dies (see above).

Aug. 28–Sept. 2: School of Rock (see above).

All performances at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Tickets available at BassHall.com.

In addition, the Dallas Theater Center will not release its full 2017-18 season until next month, but it has revealed the titles of four shows that will be included in it, among them The Trials of Sam Houston, Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, The Great Society — Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to his award-winning LBJ drama All the Way, which DTC staged last year — and the counter-culture musical Hair. We’ll have the scoop on the full season later this month. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Don’t have tickets to ‘Book of Mormon’ yet? It’s never too late

Book of Mormon RYAN BONDY (ELDER PRICE) CODY JAMISON STRAND (ELDER CUNNINGHAM) CANDACE QUARRELS (NABULUNGI)The Book of Mormon is one of the certifiable smashes in contemporary Broadway history — the Hamilton of 2011. It arrived in Dallas for two sold-out runs in 2014 and 2015, and the 2016 engagement — which runs only Dec. 20–31 — is wildly popular as well. In fact, you may have assumed you couldn’t get tickets … or couldn’t afford to.

But in keeping with tradition, every performance will include a ticket lottery, in which a limited number of seats will be released for $25 each. You just show up 90 minutes before curtain, write your name on the card provided (don’t try to duplicate — they will get you!) and whether you want one or two tickets. An hour beforehand, they’ll do a drawing; if you’re selected, you get to see the show right then and there. Gee, that could be enough to make you believe in miracles.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

An amazing ‘Cabaret’ … and the chance to meet the cast

CabaretProvidence Performing Arts CenterIt’s been a few years since the 1998 version of Cabaret — reimagined by directors Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, before either became name-brand big-time movie directors — has been on tour. A similar C-named musical by composers Kander and Ebb (Chicago) has rarely stopped touring, and the differences are apparent: Chicago is a sexy-glam satire of pop culture, filtered through a theme of murder; Cabaret is more of a tragedy-with-music, a prequel of sorts to the Holocaust as Germans fiddled while Berlin burned. Almost without fail, just as a song ends and the audience is primed for an ovation, the sinister Master of Ceremonies (Randy Harrison, exploding with sexual charisma) intercedes, flirtatiously reminding us, “You thought that was cute? These people are doomed.” That’s a lot for a musical to handle.

But not, truth be told, unwelcomed. We’re now inured to “serious” musicals, from Les Miserables (political revolution) to Spring Awakening (sexual revolution), often with characters doing appalling things (even being openly gay!) … but in 1966, when Cabaret debuted (barely a generation after the end of WWII), it was scandalous but compelling. It’s still an amazing show: Set in Weimar Germany during the interregnum, as the Nazis were coming to power and an American writer, Cliff (a stand-in for Christopher Isherwood, who wrote the stories on which it is based) and the grotesquery of a society robbed of its dignity and how it can turn cruel, even evil. And the songs! It’s crammed with metaphor and comedy, and this production — a revival of the 1998 version staged by the Roundabout a few years ago, and now amazing audiences at the Winspear — is an unmissible opportunity, performed with great skill. It’s as unforgettable as it’s ever been.

Note: If you come tonight’s show, June 1, you can even learn more about the behind-the-scenes. I’ll be hosting a post-performance Q&A with Randy Harrison and other members of the cast in Hamon Hall immediately following the performance. You can even get a special discount on tickets if you go to ATTPAC.org/cabaret and enter the code “Voice.” See you tonight!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Review: A bawdy, beautiful ‘Manon’ at the Dallas Opera

KA1_1021A

Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez in ‘Manon.’ (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

It was a disappointment on opening night of Manon, the Dallas Opera’s penultimate production of the season, to see more-than-expected unused seats in the orchestra — a missed opportunity for opera fans. The story is well known — about a randy 16-year-old acolyte, lured by sweet talk and kisses away from religious service and into progressively less suitable relationships — and the opera Jules Massenet’s most enduring contribution to the art. This is also only the Dallas Opera’s third presentation of Manon, and while I didn’t see the others, surely it must be the best.

Sir David McVicar’s stylized, bawdy production (re-staged here by E. Loren Meeker) maintains the original time setting (early in the court of Louis XV, just before the French aristocracy went to hell), but he gives it an exaggerated, carnival-like tone that seems very modern. He’s presenting the tale not as the corrupting of one girl, but of the inevitable corrupting influence of the whole society. It’s staged like a Restoration sex farce, with half-clothed bodies writhing in a public house, lascivious dandies lusting visibly for buxom lasses (there’s more groping than at a circuit party), exaggerated fops preening around like tweakers on a street corner. The deluge is coming, and they don’t even know it.

That makes Manon’s transformation from prim noviate to self-important socialite and obnoxious prima donna seem oh-so-familiar — meet The Real Courtesans of Versailles. There’s lots of talk of honor and respectability from a slew of degenerates who hit on their cousins and their son’s mistresses; the irony is not lost on McVicar, who adds broad moments of comedy the undercut the treacle (including an over-the-top kissing scene that could be out of a Judd Apatow movie, and the traditional ballet has all the funny vulgarity of Aristophanes). All of that imbues this production with a realness that can sometime be lost in the costumes and conceits of opera.

But the other secret weapons in this enjoyable production are the performances. Stephen Costello, who has appeared in numerous Dallas Opera productions over the last dozen years or so, has progressed from callow ingénue to expressive lyric tenor, his voice richer than before while he remains a dashing and emotive presence as De Grieux, Manon’s sincere paramour.

But even Costello gets outshone by the maelstrom that is Ailyn Perez as Manon. Her Dallas debut last fall in Great Scott introduced her as a master of comic timing housed inside a fully-realized soprano. But her Manon shows her asset as a performer of uncompromising artistic efficacy. Her rendition of her late-second scene aria (“Adieu, notre petite table”) is so plump with emotion, on opening night the audience held its collective breath, transfixed by the rawness of her singing. Perez conveyed each sigh and gasps as if they were notes meant to be sung. Her Manon gives beauty and relevance to a classic of the repertoire.

There are two more performances: Wednesday and Saturday. For tickets, visit DallasOpera.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 01.29.16

Sunday 01.31

Jake-4

Opera luminaries Flicka and Jake, together again … in concert

When last we saw Frederica von Stade, she was delighting audiences in the world premiere of composer Jake Heggie’s Great Scott at the Winspear. Well, these opera luminaries (and personal friends) have teamed up again for an afternoon of music, with “Flicka” singing a variety of songs, accompanied by Heggie on piano. It’s a rare chance to see these talents in a more casual and intimate setting.

DEETS:
City Performance Hall
2520 Flora St.
2 p.m.
$20–$40
DallasOpera.org

Tuesday 02.02 — Sunday 02.14

BRIDGES04

‘Bridges of Madison County’ swoons into Fair Park Music Hall

The novel The Bridges of Madison County was something of a phenomenon in the early 1990s, but it took more than 20 years for it to be adapted to the Broadway stage, with Jason Robert Brown providing a Tony Award-winning score. The national tour of the show arrives in Dallas for the first time, courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals. Get out to see this romantic and elegantly composed musical now through — appropriately enough — Valentine’s Day.

DEETS:
Fair Park Music Hall
901 First Ave.
DallasSummerMusicals.org

Friday 02.05

RICE-01-2097

Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance makes long-awaited Dallas debut

TITAS continues its season of almost-exclusively North Texas premiere dance companies with this import from Taiwan. Cloud Gate Dance Theatre has been around for 40 years, but this is the first chance for Dallas audiences to catch this inventive modern dance troupe. Presented in conjunction with the Crow Collection of Asian Art, this innovative company weaves themes of sunlight, soil, wind, water and fire in a visually arresting style that is dramatic and beautiful. It performs a one-night-only show, so don’t miss it.

DEETS:
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
8 p.m.
ATTPAC.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 29, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

OPERA REVIEW: ‘Tosca’

TOSCA_18

Raymond Aceto and Emily Magee in ‘Tosca.’ (Photo by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Although Tosca premiered in 1900, the plot elements would not be out of place in a show on HBO. It has it all: lust, jealousy, murder, torture, betrayal, suicide. Paired with Giacomo Puccini’s gorgeous music, it is no surprise that Tosca has remained one of the most popular operas.

The action starts when Angelotti, a former consul turned political prisoner (strongly sung by bass-baritone Ryan Kuster), escapes with the help of his sister and hides in a church. There he encounters an ally, painter Mario Cavaradossi (Chilean tenor Giancarlo Monsalve). Cavaradossi is painting a portrait of Mary Magdalene, and admits modeling his work on the features of a beautiful blonde stranger who prays at the church. Nevertheless, he thinks only of his true love, the temperamental diva Floria Tosca (soprano Emily Magee).

Tosca, however, notices the resemblance in the portrait and grows jealous. Initially, Cavaradossi placates her, but then the sinister chief of the secret police, Baron Scarpia (impressive bass Raymond Aceto), arrives to hunt down Angelotti. Scarpia burns to seduce Tosca, so he purposefully incites her jealousy, and she falls for the ploy; Cavaradossi is implicated in a scheme and arrested and tortured.

Tosca is tricked into visiting Scarpia’s apartment and is manipulated as she hears her lover’s screams. Scarpia wants her, and she wants Cavaradossi’s life to be spared. She is visibly repulsed and filled with hatred for him, but Tosca’s discomfort fuels Scarpia’s attraction. She finally relents, and then sings a beautiful “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,” before seeking her own revenge. Scarpia is one of the most odious characters in all of opera, so his undoing has emotional satisfaction. Still, Act 2 sees its share of overacting from Magee and Aceto in their lead roles, and the set looks tired and overused. Marie Barrett’s lighting design does nothing to improve the situation.) Nevertheless, the strong female chorus (off scene, and led by chorus master Alexander Rom) shines.

In other places, the singing is a mixed bag. Monsalve’s delivery of the famed aria “Recondita armonia” sounded weak at moments, but he may have been overpowered by the loud orchestra. He is excellent, however, on “E lucevan le stele.” Campbell S. Collins III is clear-voiced but tentative on the shepherd boy’s song.

By Act 3, the pacing feels languorous, even as the brass section excels, but the strings solos were marred by intonation problems. Even skilled conductor Emmanuel Villaume seemed incapable of preventing them.

Director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer was likely challenged with an aging set of old production, which no doubt suffered from all the attention being given to Great Scott, but she did well with what she had. If you love classic Italian opera, Tosca is worthwhile, despite its shortcomings.

— Alicia Chang

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Through Nov. 22. DallasOpera.org.

 

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Opera review: ‘Great Scott’ is an adrenaline shot to opera

Joyce DiDonato and Anthony Roth Costanzo are the stand-out cast members in 'Great Scott.' (Photos by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Joyce DiDonato and Anthony Roth Costanzo are the stand-out cast members in ‘Great Scott.’ (Photos by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Does anybody really care about opera anymore? That’s the existential conundrum posed by several characters in the meta-opera Great Scott, a world premiere — based on an original idea — by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally.  When the Super Bowl is watched by millions, what difference does a never-before-seen 18th century Italian bel canto opera mean to the American culture at large really? Why bother?

The brilliant irony, of course, is that the existence of Great Scott answers its own question. A magnificent and glorious creation from the overture until the sweetly understated ending, this is a modern opera that defies expectations. It’s truly a game-changer: An adrenaline injection of life-force into a classic form.

KA_2722_a

The opera-within-an-opera about the fall of Pompeii.

First in the plus column is its creativity: Even in the heyday from Wagner to Verdi to Puccini, operas were based on preexisting sources — plays, legends, classics. But with its cellphones and contemporary dress and easy vernacular, Great Scott is wholly relatable and repeatedly unexpected. Like an MGM musical from the Golden Age, we meet the main characters backstage before the debut of a long-lost opera about Pompeii from the 1830s. The acclaimed soprano Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato, who despite a small handful of shaky notes was in fine form and acted brilliantly) has returned to her hometown to present this piece at the struggling American Opera, run by the optimistic impresario Winnie Flato (mezzo Frederica von Stade). Like The Producers, everything seems to go wrong — from the vain Eve-Harrington-ish newcomer (Ailyn Perez, powerful and hilarious) to the tentative romance between the conductor (Kevin Burdette, in a far cry from his work as Beck Weathers in Everest earlier this year) and the fesity stage manager (countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo) to the bickering tenor and hunky baritone (Rodell Rosel, Michael Mayes) to the bare-assed deux ex machina entrance — until it all goes wonderfully right. Arden finds her purpose, not unlike Princeton in Avenue Q, but with more recitatives.

_KA32988C

Ailyn Perez gets laughs and gasps in her comic performance as a vain opera singer.(Photo by Karen Almond)

Great Scott is a solidly-structured comedy, the kind McNally has been crafting for 40 years. There are well-timed jokes (“This shit is hard!” Arden exclaims after performing an especially impressive aria) and finely-drawn personalities (there’s an embarrassingly deep list of interesting supporting characters) and even insights into the artistic temperament that never devolve into navel-gazing. Truly, this is a libretto to be admired for its nimbleness.

At three-and-a-half hours, though, and only one intermish, there must be room to parse and tuck; the fictional opera-within-the-opera Arden performs feels as if it is staged almost in full, and while Heggie’s music astonishingly mirrors true bel canto style, and the staging by Jack O’Brien is amazing, it drags out the metaphors too much. The same is true of Arden’s mystical conversation with the ghost of the composer Bazzetti (Guido Contini’s confrontation with his younger self in Nine accomplishes much the same in one-third the time). But as much as these scene seem to stretch out, it’s almost impossible to imagine where, exactly, to cut any notes from Heggie’s endlessly ravishing score.

World premieres of theater works always have a bit of a “work in progress” feel to them, but despite some quibbles, there’s little to be said badly of Great Scott. It is, simply, one of the most engaging modern operas produced this century. See it, and you’ll talk about it for years.

Great Scott next performs tonight at 7:30 p.m., and again at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Nov. 15. DallasOpera.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: TITAS unveils 2015-16 season

Tharp Twyla by Richard Avedon

Nine Dallas debuts, including two world premieres, distinguish the 2015–16 season of TITAS, the gay-run organization that presents innovative and international dance troupes to North Texas.

The 11-show season, including TITAS’ annual Command Performance Gala, includes the very sexy BalletBoyz, the return of Complexions Contemporary Ballet (founded by Alvin Ailey alums Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden) and the world premiere 50th anniversary tour of Twlya Tharp Dance.

Although it has in recent years moved toward an emphasis of dance over music, this is TITAS’ first-ever season without any music acts presented.

Twyla Tharp Dance‘s tour kicks off the season with two shows (Sept. 18–19) at the Winspear Opera House. That will be followed by the world premiere of the avant garde urban funk of Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, Oct. 29–30, at the City Performance Hall.

Herve Koubi:Ce-que-le-jour

The next seven shows are all TITAS debuts:

• British-based Akram Khan Dance Company performs two shows at the City Performance Hall, Nov. 6–7.

BodyTraffic, which in three years has risen in international acclaim. Winspear Opera House, Jan. 22, 2016.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will be presented in coordination with the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Winspear Opera House, Feb. 5.

BalletBoyz combine an all-male cast with muscularity and grace. Winspear Opera House, Feb. 13, 2016.

Akram Khan

Mr. & Mme. Reve, the France-based performance-art troupe that creates dreamlike imagery through movement. City Performance Hall, March 18–19, 2016.

• La Compagnie Herve Koubi Dance. Reve is immediately followed by another French company for two shows, which TITAS executive director Charles Santos calls “surprising and fiercely masculine.” City Performance Hall, March 25–26.

• Canada’s Kidd Pivot Dance Company continues the French-language triumvirate at CPH for two shows, April 21–22, 2016.

• TITAS’ Command Performance Gala annually revives works from some of TITAS’ favorite companies and artists. Winspear Opera House, May 7, 2016.

• The season concludes with a favorite, Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Winspear, May 21, 2016.

All performances except the gala begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at ATTPAC.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones