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Encores and Curtain Calls

Encores & Curtain Calls: Theater, music and laughter

  • Photo courtesy of ATP<br/>Cindy Ritter, Jessica Gelter and Michael Duffin capture past and present in this scene from Zeke Hecker’s new original musical, “Now and Then,” a classic love triangle with a twist that opens July 17.

    Photo courtesy of ATP
    Cindy Ritter, Jessica Gelter and Michael Duffin capture past and present in this scene from Zeke Hecker’s new original musical, “Now and Then,” a classic love triangle with a twist that opens July 17.

  • Miro Sprague, jazz pianist.

    Miro Sprague, jazz pianist.

  • Joan Morris and William Bolcom

    Joan Morris and William Bolcom

  • Photo courtesy of ATP<br/>Cindy Ritter, Jessica Gelter and Michael Duffin capture past and present in this scene from Zeke Hecker’s new original musical, “Now and Then,” a classic love triangle with a twist that opens July 17.
  • Miro Sprague, jazz pianist.
  • Joan Morris and William Bolcom

Never mind June, the July summer arts scene is bustin’ out all over and it seems only fair to at least touch upon some of the less-known possibilities lest they go unnoticed in the sheer abundance of riches.

Original musical theater

Happening right under our noses — indeed, opening this evening — is “Now and Then,” a musical theater romance by the peripatetic Zeke Hecker, opening July 17 at the Actors Theatre Playhouse in West Chesterfield, N.H., at the corner of Main and Brook streets, for two weekends only, with performances Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July 26th at 7:30 p.m.

Principal players are Cindy Ritter, Jessica Gelter and Michael Duffin.

Of his opus, Hecker writes: “It’s a classic triangle, slightly twisted. Jack, Lisa, and Barb are middle-aged, reasonably well-off, professional Manhattanites. Jack has married Lisa, a former high-school sweetheart he hasn’t seen in years, after a rapid courtship. Previously, he and Barb were a couple. Barb seems perfectly happy with the situation. But is she? The story unfolds in what writer/director Zeke Hecker calls “a chronological sandwich,” moving from “now” to “then” to “now.”

Never one to err on the side of the superficial, or to miss an opportunity to educate or edify, the composer-librettist goes on to share that his comic tale is far from mere froth. “The play is really about jealousy; abandonment; male narcissism; people not being what they seem; the lengths they will go to escape loneliness; the dangers of impulsive desire; the deterioration of relationships over time; the power that the past exerts on us,” Hecker says. But “more important than theme or a message, it’s a play about the characters themselves. It’s what Graham Green called an ‘entertainment.’ It’s also comic much of the time. Although it darkens as things progress, the audience gets to laugh at the jokes!”

Being familiar with Hecker’s personal and artistic proclivities over the years, I would be willing to wager my last nickel on the more-than-distinct possibility that his stage-child will contain more than a fair helping of dry wit and irony, proffered with the poker-faced, ‘Who, me?’ guilelessness of the man himself.

Just for safety’s sake, bring your double-entendre antennas and acerbity-meters with you!

All Tickets are $10. 

Reservations are highly recommended.

The Playhouse Toll-Free Box Office can be reached at 877-666-1855. www.ATPlayhouse.org,

1794 Meetinghouse

The summer music series at the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem is both an extraordinarily lovely experience and briefer jaunt than even any Northampton arts venues.

Set upon the common of a somehow yesteryear town center, the Meetinghouse is a comfortable, intimate space that gives everyone in the house a personal vantage point on the proceedings. Just last evening, I caught the Gospel-Blues performance of Moonlight and Morningstar with the former’s son, Miro Sprague, at the keyboard. I was harpooned from the outset by the young jazz pianist’s incredible skill, passion and invention, almost causing me to do a psychic double-take in wondering what this preternaturally gifted soul was doing at an evening in a rural western Massachusetts town concert. Truth be told, he’s almost all music, with just enough human to keep him connected to earth.

The simple answer is because he is his mother’s son. Otherwise, I much doubt he could have been persuaded to leave his evidently thriving artistic base in Los Angeles to oblige.

Miro won several awards as a teenager in Downbeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards, including best original composition in 2002 and 2004, performed extensively in New England before moving to New York City in 2003 to attend the Manhattan School of Music, and was selected to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA, a prestigious, tuition-free jazz masters program that accepts one ensemble of musicians for each class, studying and performing with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Lewis Nash, Benny Golson, Dave Liebman and Hal Crook. He is currently finishing production of his fifth solo CD and has recorded on numerous albums as a sideman.

If you get a chance, place yourself in the same room as this young wizard whenever he may next offer the opportunity.

Meanwhile, coming up next in the Meetinghouse series is singer-songwriter Richard Chase & Friends, Thursday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m. and classical pianist Elan Sicroff, Sunday, July 20, at 4 p.m. Following these is a concert by Tall Heights, an enticing folk inspired cello-and-guitar duo, on Thursday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m.

All tickets are a blessedly affordable $10.

Bolcom & Morris’ swan song

Well, with the recent retirement of Mohawk Trail Concerts’ Ruth Black, it seemed that longtime staple, a performance by my old professor William Bolcom and his chanteuse spouse Joan Morris, was all set to likewise retire. But then the Bolcoms agreed to one more come-round and so it is that we yet another chance to hear these American Song Book icons do their Very Special Thing, which turns out to be a combination of witty musical theater works and nitty-gritty music of greater gravitas.

Morris is an exceedingly skillful musical comedy performer, with equal prowess on the acting as well as the musical side. Bolcom, the ever-eccentric professor, is never without his witheringly understated wit and humor-making unpredictability.

The shindig, “Let’s Not Talk About Love,” takes place July 18 and 19 at the Federated Church in Charlemont and includes works by Brit wit Noel Coward, Broadway icons Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, and Bolcom and his now deceased lyricist Arnold Weinstein.

There will be a free open rehearsal Friday at 7 p.m. and a Saturday concert at 7:30 p.m. that costs $20, $17 for seniors and students. www.mohawktrailconcerts.org, 413-625-9511.

Sunday afternoons in Deerfield

Meanwhile, nearer to home, the unfailingly rich Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert Series continues its diverse offerings with the excellent Deerfield Trio, headed by new Mohawk Trail Concerts director cellist Mark Fraser, on July 20, and pianist Bob Cummings on July 27.

All concerts are performed in the Memorial Hall Museum’s Music Room, 8 Memorial St., Deerfield, at 3 p.m. on Sundays, through July and August. Tickets: adults $10, seniors. $5., 413-774-3768, http://deerfield-ma.org/

An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at josephmarcello@verizon.net.

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