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03/27/2017
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Out & About: 'Saturday Night Fever' on Friday

Terpsichore, the ancient Greek muse of dance, rules the arts and entertainment calendar this week, with the two biggest shows falling under her sway.

The biggest is “Saturday Night Fever,” a Broadway musical where much of the action happens in a contemporary urban dance club. Portland Ovations is hosting a national touring production on Friday.

In the classical dance department, Maine State Ballet is running “Swan Lake” for the next two weekends in its Falmouth theater.

Portland Players is currently running a superb dark drama, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” That’s happening in South Portland through April 9.

On Sunday evening, Le Vent du Nord, a traditional Quebecois foursome, performs in Portland.

‘Saturday Night Fever’
Dance symbolizes freedom and liberation in “Saturday Night Fever,” the 1999 Broadway musical. And songs made popular by the Bee Gees provide the show’s propulsive horsepower. Plus an old-fashioned love triangle drives the plot.

That’s the essence of the show that Portland Ovations is hosting this Friday.

Based on the 1977 film of the same name, “Saturday Night Fever” has a stage script by Nan Knighton that is centered on 18-year-old Tony from Brooklyn. Tony has a dead-end job in a paint store and he’s surrounded by a posse of dead-end friends. But on Saturday nights, when Tony takes the dance floor at a Manhattan disco, he is liberated from his real self and transformed into a vibrant and attractive new man. This new man is very attractive to women, and two of them compete for his attention while Tony prepares and rehearses for an upcoming dance competition.

Disco songs, mostly by the Bee Gees, underscore this story. Musical numbers include “Stayin’ Alive,” “If I Can’t Have You,” “You Should Be Dancing,” “Nights On Broadway” and “More Than A Woman.”

Portland Ovations presents “Saturday Night Fever” at 8 p.m. March 31 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Swan Lake’
Dance of a very different stripe is the essence of “Swan Lake,” one of the most popular classical ballets ever created. For its spring production, Maine State Ballet has mounted this enduring classic at its theater in Falmouth.

Based on an ancient Russian folk tale, “Swan Lake” was created by the same pair who teamed up for “The Nutcracker,” choreographer Marius Petipa and composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. “Swan Lake” premiered in 1895 in Russia and has been a staple of ballet companies ever since.

The story concerns an amorous and handsome prince in search of a suitable mate. But there’s a major complication when he finds the love of his life: This beautiful young lady is under the sway of an evil sorcerer who has transformed her into a swan. She’s only human between midnight and dawn, and only true love can break this wicked curse. She’s surrounded by a flock of lovely handmaidens who are also ensnared in this same avian predicament.

The sorcerer schemes to thwart true love’s course, but by the denouement he’s been defeated and the bride-to-be and her court become full-time humans again.

I loved this show when it opened this past weekend. The most notable performers are Nathaniel Dombek as the prince, Frederick Bernier as the sorcerer and Rhiannon Pelletier as the romantic interest.

Costumes and scenery, both designed by Gail Csoboth, are magnificent. This was a thoroughly entertaining evening, even for someone who knows little about ballet.

Maine State Ballet, 348 Route 1 in Falmouth, presents “Swan Lake” through April 9 with 7 p.m. performances on Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Call 781-7672.

‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’
Miss Jean Brodie is a middle-aged woman who is imprisoned by her own fantasies and delusions. If that’s not bad enough, she is also a charismatic teacher who ensnares impressionable girls and draws them into her dark world – with tragic results.

That’s the central story line of the powerful drama that’s now holding the stage at Portland Players. “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” was penned by Jay Presson Allen, based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Muriel Spark.

The setting is a girls’ school in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the middle of the 1930s. In scenes that alternate between the present (mid-1960s in the case of the story that frames the main narrative) and the past, Miss Brodie’s character is gradually revealed as her world begins to unravel. First seen as a harmless and funny eccentric, each succeeding layer reveals ever darker aspects of her life. Simultaneously, her students gradually morph into devoted disciples.

Among the most disturbing aspects of Miss Brodie is her admiration of the trio of fascist leaders who would soon plunge the world into World War II: Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco. The latter is indirectly involved in the death of one of the students.

Meg Cross nails the title role, a real triumph to see in a community production. Also excelling is Tara Golson as Miss Brodie’s most devoted acolyte.

Portland Players, 420 Cottage Road in South Portland, presents “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” through April 9 with 7:30 p.m. performances Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 799-7337.

Le Vent du Nord
Traditional Quebecois folk music is both re-interpreted and transformed by contemporary urban influences in this Sunday’s appearance by Le Vent du Nord (The North Wind) foursome in Portland. Considered a driving force in progressive folk, Le Vent du Nord captures the energy and mirth of a Saturday night kitchen party, infusing old Quebec with a breath of fresh, cosmopolitan air.

The band delivers catchy songs and tunes. Some are taken from the Quebec traditional folk repertoire and dance tunes while others are originals. The foursome boasts a rich and varied instrumentation, well-polished musical arrangements and exceptional vocals – all in French.

The instrumental lineup is very traditional: guitar, bass, fiddle and accordion. Also occasionally, the mouth harp is included.

Formed in 2002, Le Vent du Nord has played more than 1,000 concerts in Canada and abroad. In addition to a very busy touring schedule, the band has recorded and released a total of eight CDs. The latest, “Tetu,” dates from 2015 and represents Le Vent du Nord’s deft interweaving of traditional and contemporary cultural strands. “Tetu” copped Album of the Year at the 2015 ADISQ Gala, a Francophone music industry honor similar to the American Grammys.

Catch Le Vent du Nord at 8 p.m. April 2 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.