30(ish) Tix Not To Miss
Let it be said — now is the winter of our discontent finally taking a hike, and letting us plan in earnest for the glorious summer. Somehow it doesn’t seem right to pick out opening-night outfits for summer theater when you haven’t put the snow shovel away yet. But with spring rains replacing winter snowstorms, it finally seems apt to look forward to the summer season in the Rural Intelligence region. With so much to pick from, our annual summer preview is always an exercise in restraint; this list of 30(ish) could easily swell much larger. This year we’ve broken it down into three categories of the performing arts that help define this region — theater, dance and music. Dig in and enjoy. —Jeremy D. Goodwin
Kiss Me, Kate at Barrington Stage Company
You might say Barrington Stage’s big, main-stage musical last year was a success; On the Town filled houses, was toasted by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and will reconvene with its key personnel for a Broadway run this fall. After that burst of Leonard Bernstein, Julieanne Boyd turns to the music of Cole Porter and kicks off her company’s 20th season with a romp through Kiss Me, Kate. This is bound to get the summer theater season going in earnest.
Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, Pittsfield, MA, June 11 — July 12
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Company was founded in 1978 with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and later said goodbye to The Mount in 2001 with a production said to be one of the great Berkshire theater moments of recent decades. But a 30th anniversary production in 2007 felt a little “off-brand.” So in his sixth season as artistic director, Tony Simotes — who played Puck in that foundational production in 1978 — will look to restore order to things with a New Orleans-inspired take on the main stage.
Tina Packer Playhouse, Lenox, MA, June 21 — August 30
Madagascar at Chester Theatre Company
This intriguing, time-shifting mystery kicks off Chester’s 25th season with the story of a young man’s inscrutable disappearance. The cast features two actresses who’ve been at Chester before but each had memorable turns lately at Barrington Stage Company — local transplant Debra Jo Rupp, who triumphed so mightily in the solo Dr. Ruth All the Way, and Kim Stauffer, who starred as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Chester Town Hall, Chester, MA, June 25 — July 6
Julius Caesar at Shakespeare & Company
Though she made her name directing Shakespeare in Lenox — and she remains an in-demand guest director around the world — Tina Packer hasn’t helmed one of his plays on her home turf since 2008. These days she typically turns her attention to the few dusty corners of the canon she has yet to visit, so it’ll be a double treat when she directs an all-business cast of seven in a “Bare Bard” production of the ever-popular Julius Caesar at the company’s intimate second stage this summer.
Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Lenox, MA, June 27 — August 30
A Little Night Music at Berkshire Theatre Group
An unlikely mix of Stephen Sondheim, Ingmar Bergman and the titular echo of Mozart, A Little Night Music has charmed since its initial bow on Broadway in 1973. For Berkshire Theatre Group’s fourth summer musical on the big stage at the Colonial Theatre, Berkshire-born operatic talent Maureen O’Flynn will get the chance to show her musical-theater chops. BTG seems to sense a rising star in young director Ethan Heard, who appears poised for what could be his breakout production.
The Colonial, Pittsfield, MA, June 30 — July 19
Love in the Wars at Bard SummerScape
Irish writer John Banville is nothing if not prolific — his literary fiction has netted him a bevy of awards (including the Booker Prize and Franz Kafka Prize), but he finds time to slum as author of a series of crime novels under the name Benjamin Black. Now he turns to classical/mythological themes with a stage adaptation of Penthesilea, Heinrich von Kleist’s 1808 play about an Amazonian queen with the hots for Achilles. The resulting work, called Love in the Wars, makes its world premiere at Bard SummerScape.
Fisher Center (Theater 2) at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, July 10 — 20
The Golem of Havana at Barrington Stage Company
Barrington Stage Company’s musical theater lab — the domain of William Finn, whose most recent Broadway production came this past season with Little Miss Sunshine — scored last year with Southern Comfort, one of the highlights of the Berkshire season. This year’s world premiere musical, The Golem of Havana, depicts the unexpected juxtaposition of a Hungarian-Jewish family in Havana on the eve of Castro’s revolution.
St. Germain Stage, Pittsfield, MA, July 16 — August 12
Fool For Love at Williamstown Theatre Festival
We’ve come to expect our summer movie-star fix from Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the company delivers again with the return of Williamstown veteran and enigmatic film star Sam Rockwell. 2012 Tony Award winner Nina Arianda is on board as well, in a work about two former lovers holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert.
Nikos Stage, Williamstown, MA, July 23 — August 2
Cedars at Berkshire Theatre Group
The beguiling Keira Naughton has become a familiar sight on Berkshire stages, but she’ll switch things up by directing her Tony Award-winning father James in this world premiere solo comedy. (The Naughton family theme at BTG continues later in the season with the arrival of James Naughton’s son Greg to direct A Hatful of Rain on the same stage.)
Fitzpatrick Main Stage, Stockbridge, MA
July 23 — August 9
LA Party and An Evening With William Shatner Asterisk at Mass Live Arts
Mass Live Arts made a good impression with its inaugural season last summer, serving up nervy theater troupes like Radiohole and Half Straddle, followed by post-show outdoor hangouts with local beer and local(ly sourced) burgers. This year’s run of three weekends culminates with a two-fer from Phil Soltanoff including LA Party, his multimedia, conceptual staging of a short story about a “fanatical vegan” going on a bender.
Simon’s Rock, Great Barrington, MA, July 24, 25, 26
The Visit at Williamstown Theatre Festival
Broadway legend Chita Rivera — she was the original Anita in a little show you may have heard of called West Side Story — is on the short list of actresses who’ve won multiple Tonys and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. She must see something special in The Visit, a musical she’s returned to repeatedly since stepping in for a grieving Angela Lansbury for the show’s initial run in 2001. Perhaps it’s the inimitable work of lyricist Fred Ebb and book-writer Terrence McNally; her star turn in their Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1992 netted her the second of her two Tonys.
Main Stage, Williamstown, MA, July 31 — August 17
Retro Spectacle at Berkshire Fringe
Sara Katzoff, Great Barrington native and co-founding artistic director of Berkshire Fringe, coined the term “fringe-stitution” to describe her scrappy, irrepressible company as it heads towards its tenth summer of boundary-breaking work. From tour-de-force monologues to conceptual, group confections of devised-theater, Berkshire Fringe has reflected many of the forward-thinking onstage trends in recent years — and its invigorating opening party and performance is always a bright spot in the summer calendar. For this landmark anniversary year, it heads north for the first time to Pittsfield, where it will perform at the former Notre Dame church.
Shire City Sanctuary, Pittsfield, MA, August 2 at 6 p.m.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid at TriArts Sharon Playhouse
Chances are good your young child or grandchild knows the music from the Disney movie by heart. But you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate the stage spectacle, which has the makings of a great (almost) back-to-school outing for your little prince or princess.
TriArts Sharon Playhouse, Sharon, CT, August 13 — 24
ECLIPSE with Jonah Bokaer & Anthony McCall at Basilica Hudson
We love getting the chance to see the latest experimental work by wunderkind dancer/choreographer Jonah Bokaer, whether in his regular visits to Jacob’s Pillow or intimate urban-swank happenings in Hudson like this one, a multimedia collaboration (of course) with visual artist Anthony McCall, who specializes in film and projection. If you didn’t see this piece at BAM — or even if you did — this should be a dancingly delicious opening to the Basilica’s season.
Basilica Hudson, Hudson, NY, April 25 & 26
David Neumann: Solo Works at Mass MoCA
This manically creative dancer knows how to hold an audience’s attention, as he’ll do in this survey of solo works in the Hunter Center. He’s been described as “effervescent, delightfully odd, and frequently funny.” We’ll take some of each, please.
Hunter Center, North Adams, MA, April 26 at 8 p.m.
Oliva Contemporary Dance Project at Kaatsbaan Studio Theatre
This company from New York via Italy makes its reach for international recognition with a style it describes as abstract and surreal, while still highlighting the traditional foundations of contemporary dance. It premieres a new show as recipient of one of Kaatsbaan’s two annual residencies.
Kaatsbaan Studio Theatre, Tivoli, NY, May 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Trisha Brown Dance Company at Bard SummerScape
As its title indicates, Proscenium Works 1979-2011 provides a wide view of the work of this innovative choreographer across more than two decades of postmodern dance-making, amid the pomp and sniffles of her still-busy company’s three-year “farewell” tour of her key works.
Fisher Center (Sosnoff Theater) at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, June 27 & 28
Dorrance Dance at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Tap sensation Michelle Dorrance was utterly charming last summer in her genial acceptance of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award and a subsequent performance that included a spell of the tastemaker improvising onstage, her musical dance steps speaking volumes in a darkened Ted Shawn Theatre. She’s in residence as director of the Pillow’s student tap program this summer, offering audiences the world premiere of a collaborative new piece on two consecutive weekends.
Doris Duke Theatre, Becket, MA, July 16 — 27
Ballet 2014 at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
There’s a particular thrill in catching a visiting troupe like the Hong Kong Ballet exhibit its distinctive group approach at Jacob’s Pillow, but there’s also something to be said for a high-protein variety pack of top-line American stars pushing their personal limits. For Ballet 2014, a hand-picked assemblage of principal dancers and soloists from New York City Ballet will offer a sort of variety pack of virtuosity, spanning newer works to Fancy Free, the Jerome Robbins/Leonard Bernstein collaboration that gave birth to On the Town.
Ted Shawn Theatre, Becket, MA, July 16 — 20
Mark Morris Dance Group and Music Ensemble at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Dance legend Mark Morris is a perennial crowd-pleaser, and a very familiar face in the Berkshires after years of collaboration with Jacob’s Pillow and Tanglewood. He’s the subject of five days of programming at the Pillow this summer, including musical seminars and a concert, lectures, and main stage performances by the Mark Morris Dance Group of a program ranging from the epochal Festival Dance to Crosswalk, one of the troupe’s newest works. The Pillow calls the Morris-centric week a “festival within a festival.”
Ted Shawn Theatre, Becket, MA, July 23 — 27
Paul Taylor Dance Company at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
We’re thrilled that the Paul Taylor Dance Company not only continues to keep an annual engagement at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, but uses these shows to offer New England debuts of new work. Four performances across three days will include the first regional look at 2014 dance Marathon Cadenzas, as well as other pieces from throughout Taylor’s estimable career. The executive director of the Taylor troupe says: “Our performances at the Mahaiwe have become one of the most anticipated events of our year.” Same here.
The Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA, July 24, 25, 26
doug elkins choreography, etc. at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Choreographer Doug Elkins has a knack for wrapping his conceptual works in a crowd-pleasing package. Dance fans already familiar with his Fräulein Maria, a re-imagining of The Sound of Music, will want to see the two newer works he’s bringing to Jacob’s Pillow this summer, including Mo(or)town/Redux, an exploration of Shakespeare’s Othello to the beat of a Motown soundtrack.
Dorris Duke Theatre, Becket, MA, August 13 — 17
TAKE Dance Company at PS21
We love when art is situated with setting; more so when it’s particularly evocative of the imaginations of the community. For this special program, TAKE’s founding artistic director Takehiro Ueyama will dance a memory piece of his own composition, matched with the premiere of a new piece he’ll choreograph with co-director Jill Echo based on memories and impressions of Chatham submitted in advance. Now that’s some good crowdsourcing.
PS21, Chatham, NY, August 27 & 28
The Autumn Defense at Helsinki Hudson
This is an off year for Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival, but we still have a chance to exercise something that’s been underlined each year: a healthy appreciation for its members’ other projects. Autumn Defense, helmed by bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, is a particular favorite.
Club Helsinki, Hudson, NY, June 5 at 8 p.m.
Emerson String Quartet at Music Mountain
Approaching its 40th year, Emerson String Quartet is long established as a leading heavyweight in the chamber music world. Yet there’s particular interest in seeing them these days, to hear the inflections of new(ish) cello ace Paul Watkins. Though the Emerson makes regular visits to Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, there’s the special chance to see the group this summer at the even cozier environs of Music Mountain. The group is the highlight of the opening gala of Music Mountains’ 85th season.
Music Mountain, Falls Village, CT, June 7 at 6:30 p.m.
Roger McGuinn at Infinity Hall
The former Byrds frontman is on something of a never-ending tour in which he splits the difference between work and retirement, driving around the country in an RV sightseeing with his wife Camilla and keeping a steady schedule of shows besides. They’re a bit of an old-fashioned sort; the couple doesn’t fly, and when they visit Europe they get there by ocean liner. McGuinn’s mixture of adapted folk tunes, ‘60s and ‘70s chestnuts, and more recent material is similarly vintage.
Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT, June 14 at 8 p.m.
Beck at Mass MoCA
Beck is the cut-and-mix auteur of dance-friendly Millennial irony, but he complements his neon-bright sound with the occasional understated masterpiece. It’s on the heels of the laid-back Morning Phase, a sort of sequel to much-adored 2002 effort Sea Change, that Beck visits North Adams for the most-anticipated pop concert of the season.
Joe’s Field, North Adams, MA, June 24 at 8:30 p.m.
James Taylor at Tanglewood
James Taylor’s summer visit to Tanglewood seemed like it had been on the calendar as firmly as Independence Day itself, before JT took last summer off from the road to work on a new album. Since his whole shtick is pretty familiar at this point, the X factor becomes the prospect of special guests. Will he cause another ruckus like the one he caused by calling in Taylor Swift in 2012? These shows are long since sold out, so if you don’t have tickets yet it’s time to start calling your friends and offering to take care of their picnics in exchange for tag-along privileges.
Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, MA, July 3 & 4
Vice Squad at Aston Magna Festival
The conceptual, curatorial programming of the Aston Magna Festival always provides rich food for thought. The early-music pros get a little risqué (such as it is) here, with works by J.S. Bach and others that celebrate some of our favorite bad habits.
Olin Hall at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, July 11 at 8 p.m.
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA, July 12 at 8 p.m.
Andris Nelsons at Tanglewood
Last year we looked forward to Andris Nelsons’ first concerts at Tanglewood following his announcement as music director designate of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but a last-minute injury sidelined him on the Continent. So it’s with full pomp and circumstance that he leads multiple programs this month, including an all-Dvořák performance (highlighting guest violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter) on July 11 and a gala performance the next night.
Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, MA, July 11 & 12
Bang on a Can Marathon with Glenn Kotche and Steve Reich at Mass MoCA
You can almost feel your mind opening and your tastes broadening when you pop in on one of the daily gallery performances during the summer residency of new-music tastemakers Bang on a Can at Mass MoCA. But the headlining concerts are no slouch either, as the Bang on a Can All-Stars and various friends assemble for hours of innovative music-making in the Hunter Center. This year, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche joins the fun for the always-fascinating Bang on a Can Marathon, also featuring an appearance by legendary composer (and avid baseball cap wearer) Steve Reich.
Hunter Center, North Adams, MA, August 2 at 4 p.m.
Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos at Tanglewood
Long established as summer traditions, the visits of part-time Berkshire neighbor Yo-Yo Ma to Tanglewood remain hot tickets, be it as featured soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (as he will be on August 10) or in a small-group configuration over at Ozawa. This intimate performance will feature each of its all-star members, through the works of Brahms — the Violin Sonata No. 1, the Cello Sonata No. 2, and a convergence of the three talents for the closing Piano Trio No. 1. This promises to be a highlight of Ozawa’s 20th anniversary season, and a sublime kickoff to one of those weekends at Tanglewood that remind us about what’s so special around here.
Seiji Ozawa Hall, Lenox, MA, August 7 at 8 p.m.
The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
The bookers at the Mahaiwe have shown a sharp eye for jazz-fueled collaborations that could sail under the radar, but provide a big bounty for fans who are in the know. Last year’s Chris Thile/Brad Mehldau duo was a highlight of the whole year; this summer the theater has netted boundary-breaking jazz trio The Bad Plus, performing with guest saxophonist Joshua Redman, one of the leading horn men of his generation. Someday you’ll be telling people you were there — the only issue is whether you’ll be telling the truth.
The Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA, August 8 at 8 p.m.
Oz with Orchestra at Tanglewood
With its members dressed in open-necked black shirts, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performance of the score from West Side Story (along with a viewing of the film) was one of the most fun nights of the Tanglewood season last year. Looks like the beginning of a tradition, though the crew will be organized under the banner of the Boston Pops this year for a look at (and a listen to) The Wizard of Oz. The yellow brick road leads to Lenox, it seems.
Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, MA, August 22 at 8:30 p.m.
Roomful of Teeth at MASS MoCA
Fresh from its Grammy win in February (and member Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer Prize in Music last year!), the innovative vocal group founded by Bradley Wells, the choral director at Williams College (among many other activities), presents a program of music by Sam Amidon. Don’t know him? He’s the quirky electro-folkie who was last seen in these parts playing a violin underneath Xu Bing’s Phoenix sculpture at last year’s Solid Sound Festival.
MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, August 29 at 8 p.m.