It’s been very cold of late, but there are good reasons to bundle up and venture out to see some theater. Area groups are presenting a few area premieres (along with several tried-and trues) that will prove a rewarding night out.
-- First out of the gate is the National Theater of Great Britain’s production of “War Horse” arriving at Proctors on Wednesday. Adapted by Nick Stafford from Michael Morpurgo’s poignant novel, the play chronicles the relationship between a young man and his horse at the dawn of World War I. The production features the brilliant and award- winning artistry of the Handspring Puppetry Company.
-- Capital Rep warms up January with Katori Hall’s clever historical “what if” drama “The Mountaintop.” Asking the questions of “What did Martin Luther King Jr. do the night before he died?,” “Who did he talk to?,” “Did he foresee the future?,” Hall fuses fact with fantasy and creates a masterful evening of spiritually tinged theater (Jan. 21).
-- Everyone loves a good mystery and Schenectady Civic Players is presenting a new one with a familiar sleuth heading up the bill. Steven Dietz’ “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” will make its area premiere at the Playhouse on Jan. 24.
-- Around the corner and just a few weeks later, Schenectady Light Opera Company will present the area premiere of Janine Tesori and Tony Kushner’s acclaimed new musical “Caroline, or Change” (Feb. 7). Loosely based on Kushner’s memories of growing up in 1963 Lake Charles, La., during the civil rights movement, the musical is an introspective peek at a woman caught in the battle between embracing the changes happening around her or fighting them. Tesori’s score is a stunner — one of the best of the past decade on Broadway — and the emotional impact of the piece is shattering.
-- And is there anyone in town not counting down the days to the arrival of “The Book of Mormon?” The show, which pulls into Proctors for an eight-performance run beginning March 11, is the hottest ticket to be had — and it is not even on sale yet! The box office opens for single ticket sales on Jan. 24.
— Gazette theater reviewer Matthew G. Moross
Spring has become more than just that snowy season between the holidays and when outdoor venues open. It’s typically a time when our musical landscape shifts some: Case in point, Valentine’s — closing at its longtime location and transforming itself into another location across town.
As Brian Gilchrist at the Ale House (which recently started presenting shows at the Hangar across River Street) recently said, “We get a 3-inch snowfall and people just stay home.”
So the hot shows recommended here (chronologically) are all nearby.
-- Today: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at The Egg. The supernaturally talented and charismatic trumpeter, trombonist and singer leads his crack crew of fellow New Orleanians in an explosion of all that is funky and fun. If it’s possible to ignite a parade at The Egg, these guys will do it.
-- Jan. 24: Garland Jeffreys at WAMC’s The Linda. This very New York, very multiethnic artist has been active since the 1970s, playing often at the long-vanished JB Scott’s, just a few doors from The Linda. A passionate populist at home in every style heard in his city, Jeffreys contributed to “Occupy This Album: Songs for the 99 Percent” in 2011 while also releasing two albums of his own.
-- March 15: Cassandra Wilson at The Egg. Blurring boundaries for decades, the great singer introduces her new “Black Sun” project with a new guitar-powered band called Harriet Tubman. Wilson is a one-woman underground railroad herself, journeying seamlessly from folk to jazz to rock.
-- March 28: Experience Hendrix 2014 at the Palace Theatr featuring Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Gales, Doyle Bramhall II, Eric Johnson, Bootsy Collins, Mato Nanji, Ana Popovic, Billy Cox and Chris Layton. A mighty Mount Olympus of guitar gods, united to celebrate the music of the most godlike fretmaster of all.
-- May 9: John Gorka at the Eighth Step at Proctors’ GE Theater. He’s one of our finest and most durable folksingers, the Energizer Bunny of troubadours. While the baritone-voiced “New Folk” bard has slowed his recorded output in recent years, he tours regularly, often transforming his songs from one swing through town to the next.
— Gazette music writer Michael Hochanadel
-- Two legends that no one should miss: violinist Itzhak Perlman March 1 at Proctors; and pianist Emanuel Ax April 17 at Union College’s Memorial Chapel.
-- Albany Pro Musica and the Albany Symphony Orchestra will sound magnificent April 5 when they perform Dvorak’s sublime “Stabat Mater” at the equally atmospheric Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.
-- Guitarists will rejoice to hear so many masters this season. They include the Brazilian Guitar Quartet (Jan. 30, Zankel); Sharon Isbin, Stanley Jordan and Romero Lubambo (Feb. 5, The Egg); and Rovshan Mamedkuliev (April 5, Massry).
-- With the wealth of string quartets playing this season including the Jupiter (Jan. 17, Union), Artemis (March 22, Union), Ying (March 29, Zankel Music Center), and the St. Petersburg (April 5, Friends), it will be the intimate sounds of the Brentano April 27 at Union that may best appeal.
-- For sheer novelty of sound and repertoire, the Imani Winds on March 6 at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall can’t be beat.
— Gazette classical music writer Geraldine Freedman
-- Saxophonist Joshua Redman’s quartet, with Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers and Gregory Hutchinson, gave a dynamic performance at The Egg in Albany in November. For those willing to make the ride, the same group will be at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Mass., on Feb. 6.
-- The Swingtime Jazz Society will present trumpeter Steve Lambert and his new quintet on March 9 at a venue to be announced. The group plans to record in February and includes Adam Siegel, sax; George Muscatello, guitar; Bobby Kendall, bass; and Bob Halek, drums.
-- Violinist Regina Carter will perform at The Egg, Albany, on March 29. In her latest project, “Southern Comfort,” she demonstrates her improvisational virtuosity on some American country and bluegrass music.
-- Schenectady County Community College. The Empire Jazz Orchestra’s Jazz Masters series will welcome bassist and composer Dave Holland for a concert of his compositions and arrangements, as well as other music, on April 8.
-- The College of Saint Rose, Massry Center, Albany. Fresh from his 2012 Grammy win for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, pianist Chick Corea will return to Saint Rose for a solo performance on April 11.
— Gazette jazz writer Tim Coakley
-- Clement Layes in “Allege” at EMPAC. In this solo performance, French/German physical theater artists Clement Layes balances a glass of water on his head for the duration. It’s EMPAC, so the conceptual show will surely will be a bit strange. But that’s the fun of it as well as the promise that Layes will be humorous, in a Chaplin-esque way. Feb. 1.
-- Gesel Mason at UAlbany. Gesel Mason returns to the university to celebrate the diverse voices of African-American choreographers. Her “No Boundaries: Dancing the Vision of Contemporary Black Choreographers” showcases new choreography by hip-hop master Rennie Harris and as well as works by Donald McKayle, Bebe Miller, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and herself in a celebration of black artistry. Feb. 8.
-- Aszure Barton and Artists at The Egg. Canadian-born Aszure Barton is one of today’s hottest choreographers. She stretches the art form with her wild style and unusual taste in music. But she always remains lovably quirky and accessible. Feb. 22.
-- Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo at ’62 Center in Williamstown, Mass. Any time the Trocks are dancing, one can be assured of a night of belly laughs. This all-male travesty troupe pokes fun at ballet’s conventions while dancing the classics, en pointe, with surprising technical deftness. Feb. 27.
-- Paul Taylor Dance Company at The Egg. This is a no-brainer for any lover of dance. Paul Taylor is the greatest living choreographer working today; and his dancers are marvelous vessels, sharing his insightful visions of humanity with extraordinary poise and passion. May 10.
— Gazette dance reviewer Wendy Liberatore
-- Union College’s Mandeville Gallery has just opened “On Being: Exploring Psychology and Spiritual Being Through the Creative Process,” an exhibit by figurative artists Valerie Hammong, Keun Young Park and Sheila Ross. A panel discussion is scheduled Feb. 4, and artist Ross will lead a zen meditation on Feb. 5 in the Nott Memorial.
-- The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls will be showing 40 early works by Ansel Adams, America’s best-known photographer. That exhibit begins on Saturday.
-- Opening Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery is “Graphic Jews,” a selection of graphic novels by contemporary Jewish artists who tell Jewish stories. On Feb. 15, you can enjoy the stories and music of artist, author and National Public Radio commentator David Greenberger of Greenwich. Visitors will be able to listen, one at a time, to music by Greenberger and his band, Strong Dog. “Elevator Music,” a sound art experience as you transition between the Tang's first and second floors, will also feature short pieces by Greenberger.
-- On Jan. 26, at the Esther Massry Art Gallery at The College of Saint Rose, it’s back to the 1960s and 1970s with vintage photographs by Judy Linn. “My Land/Patti Smith and Other Things” features 47 images of the poet/punk musician and her buddies, including Robert Mapplethorpe. On Feb. 7, Linn will sign books and give a talk at Saint Rose.
-- The Main Gallery of the Arts Center of the Capital Region will be filled with sculpture created from ramen noodles and cotton by Skidmore College art professor Sang Wook Lee. That exhibit opens with a reception on Jan. 31.
-- At the University at Albany, the University Art Museum unveils new exhibits on Feb. 4. “Blue Plastic Bubbles” looks at Lamar Peterson’s darkly comic paintings, in which zombies, locusts and flying limbs tell the story of a black suburban everyman and his family. “American Playlist” is a collection of 125 artworks from the museum's collection, from Andy Warhol to UAlbany alums.
-- On March 11, Albany Center Gallery is host for the 36th annual Photography Regional. Mark McCarty and Susan Myers are co-jurors.
— Gazette arts writer Karen Bjornland