By MARK G. AUERBACH
The University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center opens its new season with the one-of-a-kind, multilingual, retro hip little orchestra “Pink Martini” on Saturday, September 20.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, baroque-pop, classical, and jazz group Pink Martini has played to adoring audiences around the world. This 12-member “little orchestra” draws inspiration from pounding Cuban beats and the heart-wrenching tunes of smoky Paris nightclubs. It is an unpredictable ensemble that joins a variety of musical styles and performs “music of the world without being world music,” consistently mixing melodies and rhythms from around the world to create something fresh and new.
Thomas Lauderdale, conductor of Pink Martini, describes the ensemble, which he founded in 1994.
“We draw inspiration from the romantic Hollywood musicals of the 1940s or ‘50s with a more global perspective. We write a lot of songs but we also champion songs like Ernesto Lecuona’s ‘Andalucia’ or ‘Amado Mio’ from the Rita Hayworth film ‘Gilda,’ or ‘Kikuchiyo to mohshimasu (My name is Kikuchiyo)’ made famous in the 1960s by the great Japanese group Hiroshi Wada & His Mahina Stars. In that sense we’re a bit like musical archeologists, digging through recordings and scores of years past and rediscovering beautiful songs.”
China Forbes (Pink Martini’s “Diva Next Door” lead vocalist) will sing in Amherst. Sometimes, NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro sings a set or two with the group, but he’s on assignment in London.
Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998. Since then, they’ve played with more than 50 orchestras across the globe, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, and the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center among others. Pink Martini’s debut album “Sympathique” was released in 1997 and quickly became an international phenomenon, garnering the group nominations for “Song of the Year” and “Best New Artist” in France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards in 2000. Last September, they released “Get Happy”, featuring the last recording of Phyllis Diller on “Smile.” Pink Martini’s albums have gone gold in France, Canada, Greece and Turkey, and have sold well over 2.5 million copies worldwide.
For tickets: 413-545-2511, 800-999-UMASS or www.fineartscenter.com
For those who can’t get to Amherst, Pink Martini also performs on September 26 at Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at University of connecticut in Storrs. For tickets: 860-486-4226 or http://www.jorgensen.uconn.edu/tickets/
Joe DiPietro: The New Hot Playwright
You may not recognize the name Joe DiPietro, but his plays and musicals are getting a lot of mileage. His musical “Memphis” took home the Tony Award for “Best Musical”. His subsequent Broadway musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (to music and lyrcis of The Gershwins) was a hit for Matthew Broderick. (The national tour comes to The Bushnell this winter). DiPietro has had a busy year. He wrote the revised libretto for Goodspeed’s “Damn Yankees” (turning the Washington Senators into the Boston Red Sox) which hit a home-run last spring. Then, he wrote “Living on Love” for Renee Fleming. The opera diva made her theatre debut at Williamstown last summer.
West Springfield’s Majestic Theater opens its new season with DiPietro’s “The Last Romance” (through October 19). The romantic comedy offers the story of elderly widower who discovers romantic possibilities by taking a slight detour on his daily walk. In encountering an elegant but distant woman, he’s emboldened to turn on some renewed boyish charm to pursue her, but complications make it a bit of a challenge. “The Last Romance” is a heartwarming comedy about the transformative power of love and seizing life with a passion, regardless of age.
For tickets: 413-747-7797 or www.majestictheater.com
Required Reading: “Fiddler on The Roof” celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. I thought Goodspeed Musical’s current production (held over through September 12) is one of the finest stagings of the musical that I’ve seen. How did “Fiddler” get to Broadway? “Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical” by Barbara Isenberg (St. Martin’s Press.) just hit bookstores. It’s a comprehensive look at “Fiddler” from page to stage. For Goodspeed tickets: www.goodspeed.org. For the book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/031259142X/?tag=talkinbroadway&link_code=as3&creative=373489&camp=211189
Tamar of The River, one of last season’s most important Off-Broadway musicals, will release an original cast recording on the Yellow Sound label. Marisa Michelson, the musical’s composer, is from Amherst, MA. Release date is September 23. For details: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KJG01BI/?tag=talkinbroadway&link_code=as3&creative=373489&camp=211189
Keep in Mind…
***The Midtown Men, four stars of Broadway’s “Jersey Boys”, are bringing their third national tour to Springfield Symphony Hall on September 19. It’s a program of sixties hits from The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Motown, The Four Seasons, and more, as performed by “Jersey Boys” Tony Award winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer (a Tony nominee for “Next To Normal”). For tickets: 413-788-7033 or www.citystage.symphonyhall.com
***Paul Winter (The Paul Winter Consort) and UMASS musician Jeffrey W. Holmes team up as The Paul Winter Duo on September 19 at Bezanson Recital Hall on the UMass/Amherst campus. The music will include works in the Paul Winter Consort’s repertoire arranged for the duo, and other works written by Winter and Jeffrey W. Holmes. The styles of the various pieces on the program can be categorized as World, New Age, Jazz and Environmental music. For tickets: 413 545 2511 or fac.umass.edu/musicanddance.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio.
By MARK G. AUERBACH