By Christopher Trela | NB Indy
While holiday trimmings have all but disappeared, a new array of treats for the eyes and ears have to yet to be unwrapped at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and South Coast Repertory.
Pacific Symphony kicks off 2018 with a concert featuring violinist Ray Chen (with guest conductor Michael Francis) Jan. 11-13 performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, one of the most widely played and difficult violin pieces.
Keeping with the violin theme, Philharmonic Society of Orange County presents legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman and L.A. Philharmonic on Jan. 14 performing the Bach Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor. Perlman will also make his OC conducting debut and lead the LA Phil in a pair of pieces. Watching this charismatic performer is nothing less than a mesmerizing experience.
Another legend takes center stage in “One Hand, One Heart: 100 Years of Bernstein” Jan. 18-20 in the Samueli Theater. Visionary conductor, teacher, and composer Leonard Bernstein created music for such memorable shows as “West Side Story,” “On the Town” and “Candide” as well as numerous symphonic pieces. Among his many students, Pacific Symphony music director and conductor Carl St.Clair.
To celebrate Bernstein’s 100th birthday, Segerstrom Center presents a tribute concert starring a cast of five New York-based vocalists and local musicians.
Also in January, the musical “Jersey Boys,” Jan. 19-21. Winner of the Tony award for best musical, this is the story of how the legendary Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons got their start and made it to the big time, selling 175 million records in the process. The show is packed with hit songs, and is a treat for the eyes as well as the ears.
The most intriguing entry in January is the return of the Off Center Festival Jan. 19 – Feb. 3, where events run the gamut from avant-garde to performance art.
Off Center presentations include Philadelphia’s drag artist Martha Graham Cracker in her cabaret show, Shasta Geaux Pop’s energetic and satiric hip-hop performance, The Hendrix Project theatrical experience, and “The Car Plays,” a series of short plays viewed from the rear seat of an actual car.
Highlights for February include Kristin Chenoweth on Feb. 3 in Segerstrom Hall. Perhaps best known for originating the role of Glinda in “Wicked,” Chenoweth is an Emmy and Tony Award-winner who will perform a collection of songs from stage and film, and selections from her most recent release “The Art of Elegance,” her first album of American Songbook classics.
Chenoweth is a charming personality with impressive vocal chops and a marvelous range of music. In an earlier interview, I asked how she selects her concert repertoire. “It’s always a connection that I have to a song. I’m not the type of artist who can just sing any song for no reason, or sing it just to show a certain note,” she replied. “I have to really connect with a song. Sometimes they are old, sometimes they are current, sometimes they are songs that at one time I didn’t understand, but now I do. And that’s the beautiful thing about music; it really is the universal language and at these concerts, and especially after doing quite a lot of them as of late, the audience tells me what they like. It is a real pleasure to get the opportunity to stand up there to sing about things that are important to me and that matter to me.”
Another popular musical hits town Feb. 6-11: “Kinky Boots.” Winner of six Tony Awards including best musical, this story follows a struggling shoe factory owner who works to turn his business around with help from Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. The score is by Cindy Lauper, and the entire show is a treat from start to finish. It’s both hilarious and poignant as it embraces themes of inclusiveness and identity, and tackles the burning question: how do you walk in six-inch heels?
Also up: the Emerson String Quartet on Feb. 8; a Chinese New Year concert on Feb. 10 presented by Pacific Symphony followed by a public lunar New Year event on the Argyros Plaza; comedian and actor Eddie Izzard on Feb. 22 in Segerstrom Hall; “The Magic Flute” presented by Pacific Symphony Feb. 22, 24 and 27; Dublin Irish Dance: “Stepping Out” on Feb. 24, and the classic Broadway musical “The King and I” Feb. 27-March 11.
South Coast Repertory
The 1998 film “Shakespeare in Love,” a delightful and witty romantic comedy that received a slew of Academy awards, including best picture and best actress for Gwyneth Paltrow. The film depicts an imaginary love affair while The Bard was writing Romeo and Juliet.
Now, SCR presents the stage version adapted by Lee Hall from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. South Coast Rep Artistic Director Marc Masterson directs the production, which runs Jan. 13 – Feb. 10.
“This is an epic love story about one of the greatest writers of love stories in the English language,” said Masterson. “It’s exciting to bring Shakespeare to life as a character in a play, because most of what we know about him is imagined. To see his character—his vulnerabilities, his sense of humor, his struggles with creativity, his ability to find inspiration and fall in love—come to life in this context offers a great way to humanize him.”
Several characters are based on historical figures, and many of the characters, lines, and plot devices allude to Shakespeare’s plays.
On the Julianne Argyros Stage, Jan. 26 – Feb 11, is “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook,” part of the Theatre for Young Audiences series. The play is adapted from the book series by Barbara Park, and is about grade-school know-it-all Junie B., who is convinced that someone stole her furry black mittens at recess. Junie B. finds a cool pen on the floor and keeps it, but then starts having bad dreams.
For more information, visit SCR.org.