News Column

This autumn's art events are diverse, delectable

September 22, 2013


Sept. 22--"The 39 Steps"

The name "Alfred Hitchcock" generally doesn't conjure the idea of comedy.

Yet that's the combination Mill Mountain Theatre will deliver when it opens "The 39 Steps," a quick-change farce in which a cast of four re-enacts the entire plot of the legendary film director's 1935 thriller.

How complex is that? One actor plays the hero, a sole actress plays all three of his love interests, and the remaining two actors play 136 different parts. MMT producing managing director Ginger Poole will play the femmes fatales.

Nominated for a Tony Award for best play in 2008, "The 39 Steps" and its small cast fits the professional theater's leaner and meaner dynamic. MMT has been on the road to recovery since canceling a season in early 2009 because of debt problems.

Those longing to see Mill Mountain tackle a full-scale musical again need only wait a couple more months. In December, MMT will put on "The Sound of Music."

When: Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 3, 2 p.m. and

7:30 p.m.; Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 5, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 6, 2 p.m.; Oct. 9-11, 7:30 p.m.;

Oct. 12, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Oct. 13, 2 p.m.

Where: Trinkle Main Stage, Center in the Square, Roanoke

How much: $17 to $25

Info: 342-5740;

Kandinsky Trio

Our fall arts guide wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Kandinsky Trio, Roanoke College's resident chamber musicians, who continue to sweeten their series of musical offerings with a slice of vaudeville.

Case in point: Their newest flier, which makes no mention that it's their 26th season together, instead insists, below photos of the musicians' heads on mock commemorative coins, that this is their "Silver Anniversary Commemorative Season, Part II."

There is justification for calling this a continuation of their 25th anniversary season. Last year the trio started sharing the results of their "25 X 25" project -- 25 short compositions commissioned from 25 composers. That project continues through this new season.

Saturday, they debuted American composer Richard Danielpour's "The Desert Wanderer." If you missed it, you can catch them again today performing the same piece at Virginia Tech, along with works by Haydn and Ravel. Composer Danielpour will join them on the Squires Recital Salon stage.

By the way, they've just released a new CD, "On Light Wings," featuring classical works and jazz from modern composers.

When: today, 3 p.m.

Where: Squires Recital Salon, Squires Student Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

How much: $15, senior citizens $10, students $5

Info: 231-5615;

"Hello, Dolly!"

Most people these days recognize Sally Struthers as the quavery-voiced blonde urging TV viewers to support the Christian Children's Fund.

Yet she has serious acting chops, at least when it comes to comedy. The 66-year-old actress rose to stardom in the 1970s playing Gloria Bunker Stivic on the ground-breaking CBS sitcom "All in the Family," often caught between her bigoted blue-collar father, Archie Bunker, and her hippie husband, whom her dad nicknames "Meathead." In the 2000s, she had a recurring role on the WB's "Gilmore Girls" as the sweet but obnoxious neighbor, Babette.

She's told interviewers that without a hit show to fill her schedule year-round, she's spent most of her days doing theater, including a few turns on Broadway. She'll make a Broadway in Roanoke appearance in November as the star of the 50th anniversary revival tour of "Hello, Dolly!"

Struthers plays Dolly Levi, a meddling matchmaker made famous by Carol Channing on stage and Barbra Streisand on film. At the start of the musical, a curmudgeonly "half-a-millionaire" has recruited Dolly to help him find a wife -- but she believes that she's the best fit for the job, and schemes to make it so.

When: Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre, Roanoke Civic Center

How much: $32-$57

Info: 853-5483;;

Philip Glass Ensemble

The biggest happening in the Southwest Virginia art scene this fall is without question the opening of the $100 million Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.

The programming scheduled for the center's state of the art 1,260-seat performance hall has a flavor that's much more Lincoln Center than Roanoke Civic Center, and perhaps nothing signals that better than the opening night performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble .

Glass, 76, became that truly rare phenomenon, a celebrity American classical composer, with ground breaking works created in the 1970s and '80s that make use of minimalist arrangements and amplified instruments. He formed the Philip Glass Ensemble specifically to bring these compositions to life.

He's best known in popular culture for composing soundtracks for movies, including "The Thin Blue Line," "A Brief History of Time," "Kundun," "The Truman Show" and "The Hours."

Glass and his ensemble will christen the Street and Davis Performance Hall with one of his most acclaimed works, a live score made to accompany the 1987 documentary "Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation." The Blacksburg Children's Chorale will sing the choral parts.

When: Nov. 1, 8 p.m.

Where: Street and Davis Performance Hall, Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

How much: $40-$60, students $10

Info: 231-5300;

"How I Became a Pirate"

These days, pirates are more popular than ever. You do know that Thursday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, right? And that, on Saturday, the Mariners' Museum in Newport News set out to break the world record for most people in pirate costume gathered in one spot? If you don't want to be keel-hauled, you'd best get up to speed, matey.

If your family needs practice perfecting their "Arrrrrghs," you might consider starting with Roanoke Children's Theatre's "How I Became a Pirate," about a young boy who joins a pirate crew but realizes after a while that he kind of misses civilization.

Even as their stage scallywags are keeping lookout in the crow's nest, RCT is crowing over starting their new season in the Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development, once the storied Dumas Hotel.

The small theater company has been one of the biggest success stories of the regional arts and cultural scene, steadily expanding its educational programming since starting in 2008 and receiving $155,000 from the two-year Taubman Foundation Sustainability Grant program. This summer they moved from their four-year home at the Taubman Museum of Art to the Dumas, where there's a bigger theater, more parking, classroom space and dressing rooms.

When: Oct. 17-18, 7 p.m.; Oct. 19, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Oct. 20,

3 p.m.; Oct. 24-25, 7 p.m.; Oct. 26, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Oct. 27,

3 p.m.

Where: Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development, 108 First St. N.W., Roanoke

How much: $18, senior citizens and children 18 and under $12, Oct. 17 preview $10

Info: 400-7795,

Roanoke Symphony Orchestra

Roanoke Symphony Orchestra turned 60 years old this year, and they'll open their celebratory season with a concert featuring dashing Alexandria cellist Zuill Bailey -- and, of course, the wild mane of music director and conductor David Stewart Wiley.

Bailey has played with RSO before -- he recorded a CD with them in 2005. He's also played at the Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the United Nations. In a curious twist for a classical musician, he also had a recurring role as a murderous cello-playing inmate in the HBO prison drama "Oz."

Wiley, whose contract with RSO now extends through 2016, has assembled an opening night program that includes a cello concerto by Erich Wolfgang Korngold , the Austrian composer who wrote the score for Errol Flynn's "The Adventures of Robin Hood," as well as German composer Richard Strauss' symphonic poem "Don Quixote," which features a solo for cello.

The concert will open with a guest appearance by the Roanoke Youth Symphony Orchestra.

When: Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre, Roanoke Civic Center

How much: $29-$52

Info: 343-9127;

William Kanengiser

Not everyone can boast that they've written a script for British comedian John Cleese of Monty Python fame.

Classical guitarist William Kanengiser has done just that. His one-hour show, "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote: Words and Music from the Time of Cervantes," in which a guitar quartet playing Spanish Renaissance music accompanies a narration of the deeds of Cervantes' anti-hero, debuted in 2009 with Cleese providing the voice.

Kanengiser's also done a number of other feats. As part of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, he shared a Grammy in 2005 for "Guitar Heroes," a classical crossover album that pays tribute to the likes of rock legend Jimi Hendrix and jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Kanengiser will perform a free concert at Hollins University, with an emphasis on classic Spanish compositions and modern works from American, Cuban and Mexican composers.

When: Sept. 29, 3 p.m.

Where: Talmadge Recital Hall , Hollins University

How much: Free

Info: 362-6511;

"The Magic Flute"

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute" debuted just two months before his death in 1791 at age 35. Combining a fairy tale with Egyptian mythology and Masonic allegory, the opera demonstrates the composer's full genius, melding simple folk tunes with complex arias.

The plot detailed in Emanuel Schikaneder's libretto has been criticized over the years for not making any sense, but Mozart's music more than makes up for it. The story involves the quest of an Egyptian prince to free a princess captured by a priest of Isis. Opera Roanoke General and Artistic Director Scott Williamson will star as Prince Tomino.

Latching on to the opera's memorable villainess, The Queen of the Night, Opera Roanoke has chosen to market their 2013-14 season of fully staged operas as a showcase of two memorable queens. The other queen in the lineup? Cleopatra from German composer George Handel's "Julius Caesar," to be performed in March 2014.

Opera Roanoke will present "The Magic Flute" with a modern twist -- they're setting the story in colonial Virginia.

When and where: Oct. 18, 8 p.m.; Oct. 20, 2:30 p.m. , Shaftman Performance Hall, Jefferson Center, Roanoke. Oct. 21,

7:30 p.m., Washington and Lee University Lenfest Center, Lexington.

How much: Roanoke performances, $22 to $106; Lexington performance, $20 to $25; students, $10

Info:; 345-2550;;


"Peter and the Wolf"

Construction projects never seem to finish when expected, so it's no surprise that the debut performance on Elmwood Park's new stage has been delayed.

That performance happens to be the conclusion of Parks & Arts, a new Roanoke program.

In this grand finale, scheduled for Oct. 19, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will join forces with Salem's Southwest Virginia Ballet to put on "Peter and the Wolf" by Russian composer Sergey Prokofiev , the longtime children's favorite about a young boy who outwits a wolf and saves the forest animals. The composition is widely known in America, in part because of the Disney animated film of the same name.

Here's a fun fact: The Russian National Orchestra once recorded a version co-narrated by Sophia Loren, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev .

When: Oct. 19, 2 p.m.

Where: Elmwood Park amphitheater, Roanoke

How much: Free

Info: 853-5652;


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