Cy and David's Picks: Sisters on Stage, Gods and Monsters, and a Highway Queen

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Nikki Lane's new album is called 'Highway Queen.' (Photo: Courtesy of Nikki Lane)

KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.

David and I talked off-air this morning about President Trump's proposed budget, which we learned this week would kill funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The groups have supported hundreds of Bay Area arts groups and cultural programs over the years, including many we cover on the The Do List. Americans for the Arts is encouraging individuals (that's you, our listeners and readers) to contact their elected representatives to voice their support (or criticism) of the NEA. Here's where to go. And now the show.

March 23Nikki Lane didn’t start writing songs until a bad breakup at the age of 25. She says she was working too hard, paying the bills, to even dream about a music career. But now Lane is a Nashville singer-songwriter -- and successful enough to own her own vintage clothing store called High Class Hillbilly. Her new album is a great example of how to marry rock and country-western without compromising either; just listen to the guitar solo opening "700,000 Rednecks," her tribute to her South Carolina hometown. This is the soundtrack for my next road trip. Details for her show on March 23 at the Social Hall in San Francisco are here.


March 29: Travis Wall is a choreographer and dancer best known for his work on the show So You Think You Can Dance, where he debuted at the age of 19. (David says it's still the only TV dance show he likes.) Now Wall is leading the dance company Shaping Sound, and they're touring with a new show called After The Curtain. Among the dozen dancers in the company is Nick Lazzarini, who grew up in Mountain View. Expect a mix of modern dance, tap, and the very athletic styles favored by TV choreographers. Details for his show Wednesday at San Jose's Center for the Performing Arts are here.

March 16–18: Tap dancing happens when jazz musicians play a tune with their feet. No one is doing it better today than Michelle Dorrance and her fellow tappers of Dorrance Dance, including Toshi Reagon. They're cherishing and pushing this tradition in their show The Blues Project. Details on their three nights at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are here.

March 22 & June 28–July 1: Nicholas Phan is one of our favorite Bay Area singers, a tenor with a gorgeous voice. He’s got a new album out called Gods and Monsters, for which he's picked songs from the romantic era, many of which tell stories out of the Greek myths that Phan loved growing up. Phan told me the other day he doesn't do much opera, and that he's more at home in an intimate setting singing art songs. “And what’s amazing about it is in these little miniatures," he said, "there are these giant concepts, and this giant music, and the range that’s required is so big -- bigger, in fact, than what’s required in opera sometimes. It’s like Pandora’s box, it looks really tiny on the outside, but you open it up and it's full of these amazing monstrous and beautiful things inside.” Find details for Phan's recital at the Hotel Rex on Wednesday here. And then he’s paired with Sasha Cooke singing Romeo and Juliet by Hector Berlioz with the San Francisco Symphony from June 28–July 1st.

‘Calligraphy’ tells the story of two estranged sisters, and their daughters efforts to reunite them
‘Calligraphy’ tells the story of two estranged sisters, and their daughters' efforts to reunite them. (Photo: Kevin Berne/Theatreworks)

Continuing through April 2: There are a lot of sisters on Bay Area stages right now. Theatreworks is opening Calligraphy, by Velina Hasu Houston. It's a sometimes comic story about the efforts of two cousins to bring together their mothers, who are estranged Japanese sisters (one living in the U.S., one still in Japan), even as Alzheimer’s strips the Japanese sister of her memories. Details for the run at Theatreworks in Palo Alto are here. 

Continuing through April 1: Meanwhile Crowded Fire Theater is doing another story of sisters in Mia Chung’s play You For Me For You. It's about two North Korean sisters trying to escape the "Best Nation in the World," how they’re torn apart, and how they fight to reunite. Details for the show at the Portrero Stage in San Francisco are here.

March 21: Teenage Fanclub (Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley) make the smoothest, warmest, most uplifting pop you can imagine, and they make it seem easy. They're back touring the U.S. after a long absence, and with a new album. If you loved them in the '90s, take a younger friend to their show at the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday, and enlighten them. Details here.