Cast of Monsoon Wedding, a world premiere musical at Berkeley Repertory Theater (Photo: Kevin Berne/Berkeley Rep)
KQED’s Cy Musiker and Suzie Racho share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.
This is one of those weeks where it's so hard to choose our picks, with an excess of terrific shows. The New Century Chamber Orchestra is finishing its 25th season, and saying goodbye to its music director and lead violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who leaves to teach full-time. Details here. Word for Word, which has had a string of terrific shows, is working its stories-into-plays-magic with Smut by Alan Bennett (History Boys). Details here. And the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts welcomes back MacArthur "Genius" choreographer Kyle Abraham for the world premiere of the YBCA-commissioned Dearest Home. Details here. On to the show.
May 15: Marty Stuart is a great example of how country musicians keep pushing the limits of tradition. With his kick-ass band, the Fabulous Superlatives, Stuart has made an album of country-western psychedelia, with songs about the desert, cowboys, little green pills and little green men (no kidding). There are tips of the stylistic hat to Johnny Cash (Stuart once played in his band), the Bakersfield sound, and even the Grateful Dead. The album was produced by Mike Campbell, who often works with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and partly recorded at Capitol Records, where Glen Campbell made "Wichita Lineman" and the Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds. The show at the Freight and Salvage May 15 is sold out, so get there early for standing room. Details here.
May 12-13: Sean Dorsey is a transgender choreographer and dancer with an all-male ensemble, so he has men partnering and lifting men, and they move beautifully. His The Missing Generation from a few years ago (about the AIDS epidemic) was a revelation. Now he's created a series of new short dances he's calling Boys Bite Back aimed at President Trump, full of what he says is anger, sass and "a lot of humor.” The program is a preview of a major new piece scheduled for next spring called Boys in Trouble. Boys will be boys. Details for the show running May 12-13 at Z Space are here.
May 13 and 21: Karlheinz Stockhausen influenced the Beatles ("Revolution 9"), and wrote some of the most eccentric electronic music of the 20th century, focusing on the way space and amplification shapes sound. His 1968 piece Stimmung, for six voices and microphones, may be his most alluring and meditative work. The lyrics (in German) are drawn from the days of the week, the names of gods, and erotic poetry that Stockhausen wrote to his wife. The choristers sing more than one pitch at a time, creating weird phase shifts and oscillations. Give Voices of Silicon Valley (VOSV) full credit for giving this piece its first performance in the Bay Area since 1974. They've received permission to boost the number of singers, and VOSV is working with Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics on these shows, so the sound should be both meticulous and mesmerizing. Also on the bill is a performance of the very lively Congolese Mass Missa Luba, famous for its use in the Malcolm McDowell film If... Details for the two performances of Stimmung in San Francisco (at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church) and Mountain View (at Tateuchi Hall) in Mountain View are here.
May 5-June 25: Director Mira Nair is remaking her 2002 movie Monsoon Wedding into a musical, opening this week at Berkeley Repertory Theater. The film, about an arranged marriage in India, touches on class and race, holding onto tradition in a changing world, and family. I talked to Nair in Berkeley this week, and she said the stage musical also gets a new subplot about the violent divisions between Hindus and Muslims in India, a timely subject for American audiences. “It [the strife in India] has come in a real tide of people building walls between each other, whether it is religion or it’s white versus black, and that insularity and that xenophobia that comes with this new era in America. So it was a chance to weave in that love is love. Really love has always been broken by borders, but love will triumph." Berkeley Rep has become an important place to try out musicals headed for New York (Amelie, and American Idiot). Expect the same for this international effort. I can't wait. Details here. And click on the audio above to hear more of my interview with Nair.
May 17 and 23:L.A. Takedown was a made-for-TV movie by director Michael Mann, and it’s also a terrific L.A. band. You may note the bandleader Aaron Olson didn't bother with lyrics for the song in the video above, and that's because he's all about great rhythm sections and guitar solos. The sound has been described as “Baywatch Krautrock.” L.A. Takedown's first album was one song for 40-plus minutes. This new album (and the touring septet) works in a tighter format, but those guitar solos are just brilliant. Details for the show by L.A. Takedown (with former Bay Area bandleader Bart Davenport opening) at Oakland's Starline Social Club are here. And for their show at San Francisco's Swedish American Hall, look here.
May 12 and 13:Maz Jobrani is a regular on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! and on Superior Donuts, is a TED talker, and very funny, even when he's joking about the way America treats immigrants and Muslim-Americans like him. He should feel right at home here in the Bay Area liberal bubble. Details for his Cobb's Comedy Club show are here.
For arts stories you won't read anywhere else, come to KQED's Arts and Culture desk.