Sunday, November 26, 2006

there's no place like home for the holidays

PORTLAND ‹ Maine State Ballet brings the magic of the holiday ballet "The Nutcracker" to the Merrill Auditorium stage in Portland. The annual ballet opened Saturday and runs through Dec. 3.
Linda MacArthur Miele, Maine State Ballet's artistic director, said this year's cast totals 246 dancers. In what Maine State Ballet hopes will become a new tradition, the Wescustago Youth Chorale will perform during shows today and Dec. 3. The middle school and high school singers from Cumberland and North Yarmouth will accompany the Maine State Ballet Orchestra during the dramatic Snow scene.
Also this year, Maine State will feature a new Clara, danced by 14-year-old Elizabeth Dragoni of Scarborough. She played Gretel in this summer's production of "Hansel and Gretel," Miele noted.
"She is a brilliant little dancer, very classical. Over and above that, she is a very fine actress. We found that out this summer, when we tried her out as Gretel. She was able to hold the audience's attention throughout the whole ballet."
Karla Kelley will conduct the orchestra.
Remaining performance times are 1 p.m. today, 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Dec. 3.
Tickets are available through PortTix at 842-0800 or www.porttix.com. Tickets range from $15 to $40. For information, call 781-7672 or visit
www.mainestateballet.org.
PORTLAND - The University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers, under the direction of Robert Russell, will present the annual "Joyous Sounds For A Festive Season" musical program at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Immanuel Baptist Church, 156 High St., Portland. Suggested donation is $9. Call 780-5555 for information.
The program has an international flavor, with holiday carols from the United States, Ireland, Ukranie and Nigeria, and includes classical works by Edvard Grieg, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Benjamin Britten and Michael Praetorius. The finale is a candle-lit "Silent Night."
The USM Chamber Singers represent the best singers at the university. Chosen through audition, these undergraduate students focus on warmth of tone, precise intonation and the artistry of understanding the nuance of text. Throughout northern New England, the Chamber Singers have performed a diverse repertory centered on a cappella literature of the Renaissance era and the 20th century, and music of various world cultures.
Russell is professor of music at the University of Southern Maine and music director of Portland's Choral Art Society. Russell is active throughout the Northeast as a conductor and clinician and recently led the Chamber Singers in a choral prelude at the Washington National Cathedral.
n PORTLAND ‹ Portland Stage Company previews its annual production of "A Christmas Carol" at 2 p.m. Thursday and opens the show at 7 p.m. Friday. It runs through Christmas Eve in the theater at 25A Forest Ave., Portland.
The Portland Stage adaptation is true to Charles Dickens' book. Portland Stage artistic and executive director Anita Stewart will direct a cast that includes many familiar faces: Mark Honan, Maureen Butler, Daniel Noel, Christine McMurdo-Wallis, Edward Reichert, Sally Wood and others. Playing Scrooge will be Paul Barry, who last appeared at Portland Stage in "The Price" this past spring.
Tickets range from $15 to $37.
Call the box office at 774-0465 for tickets, or visit www.portlandstage.com.
PORTLAND - The American Irish Repertory Ensemble, Maine's Irish theater company, presents the premiere of "A Christmas in Kerry" by Maine playwright Clare Melley Smith beginning Friday and running through Dec. 10.
Based on "Christmas Stories" and "Letters of a Country Postman" by Irish author John B. Keane, the play follows a postman on his rounds in the weeks before Christmas as he and his fellow residents in the fictional village of Lisnacoo are inspired by the holiday spirit.
"A Christmas in Kerry" will run at the Studio Theater at the Portland Performing Arts Center, 25A Forest Ave., Portland. Tony Reilly, artistic director of the Irish theater, will direct.
"We're excited to be presenting the first production of this charming and very funny play," Reilly said in a press release. "It offers audiences another holiday entertainment choice, and we hope 'A Christmas in Kerry' will become part of Portland's Christmas tradition."
The seven cast members play more than 40 roles as the lives of the villagers intertwine over the course of the play. There's a failed actor who gives his best performance, and finds the true meaning of the season, playing Santa Claus. Tickets are $16 and $12; for reservations, call 799-5327 or go to www.airetheater.com.
PORTLAND - The Choral Art Society will perform its 17th annual "Christmas at the Cathedral" concert at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 317 Congress St., at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 and 7 p.m. Dec. 3.
Joined by the Portland Brass Quintet, the Choral Art Society will sing familiar seasonal music, a cappella motets - including Gabrieli's festive "Jubilate Deo" and Rachmaninoff's poignant "Cherubic Hymn" - and music for chorus, organ and brass.
CAS begins its Christmas concert with its signature processional, "Personent Hodie," an arrangement of a Renaissance tune for brass and organ. This season, the society will reprise Dan Locklair's vibrant setting of the traditional Gloria text with a large brass and percussion accompaniment, a work commissioned by Choral Art Society seven years ago. Christmas at the Cathedral concludes with the popular candlelit "Silent Night" with singers encircling the hall.
Tickets purchased in advance cost $15 and $20, and at the door are $20 and $25. They are available by calling 828-0043. Tickets also are available at Books, Etc. in Falmouth and the Old Port, Little Sebago Gallery and Frame Shop in Windham, Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick and Starbird Music Shoppe in Portland. The doors open approximately an hour prior to the concert.
PORTLAND - This year's "Magic of Christmas," presented by the Portland Symphony Orchestra at Merrill Auditorium, will draw on the talents of hundreds of Maine artists and performers when it opens Dec. 8.
The annual holiday celebration runs through Dec. 18, with 15 performances. This year marks the orchestra's 27th annual "Magic of Christmas" program. Robert Lehmann, who teaches strings at the School of Music at the University of Southern Maine, will conduct the concerts. Lehmann is music director of the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducts both the Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra and Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Baritone George Merritt is well known in the Portland area, having starred in the 2001 "Magic of Christmas" and in several Good Theater productions. In New York, he has starred in such shows as "Big River" and "Jekyll & Hyde," and earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for his role in "Lost in the Stars." In this year's "Magic," Merritt will narrate "A Christmas Memory" and reprise his 2001 performance of "Go Tell it On the Mountain," in addition to performing several other numbers.
Vocalist Kelly Caufield is a Gorham native and graduate of the University of Southern Maine School of Music. Her soprano has been featured in the PSO Richard Rodgers Centennial Tribute Concert, and as soloist with the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra. She, too, is a regular of Good Theater. This year, Caufield's will solo in "The Sandman's Aria and Evening Prayer" from Hansel and Gretel, accompanied by two children's choirs.
Rob Westerberg directs the Magic of Christmas Chorus, a group of more than 130 volunteers who are members or friends of the Portland Community Chorus. Saco Bay Children's Choir and Southern Maine Children's Choir will perform several numbers, as well.
Principal dancers from Maine State Ballet and Portland Ballet will perform a portion of the pas de deux from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker."
Tyler Sperry and Nell Green of Portland Ballet will perform Dec. 8 through the matinee Dec, 15. Janet Davis and Glenn Davis of Maine State Ballet will dance the evening performance on Dec. 15 through the final "Magic" concert Dec. 18.
Ray Cornils, municipal organist for Portland since 1990, will perform the Organ Prelude on the Kotzschmar Organ one hour before each performance. Cornils will also join the Magic "cast" in numbers throughout the concert.
Tickets may be purchased through PortTix, 842-0800, online at www.portlandsymphony.com or at the PortTix box office at 20 Myrtle St. New this year, the opening night concert has been designated as a preview, with tickets priced at $20. Tickets for all other performances cost from $15 to $55, with discounts available for seniors and students.
PORTLAND - Good Theater, the professional company in residence at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland, will ring in the holidays with "Broadway at the St. Lawrence" for five performances Dec. 14-17.
"Broadway at the St. Lawrence" mixes songs of the season and Broadway favorites performed by Broadway star Robert Bartley, guest vocalists Ellen Domingos and Marva Pittman and a dozen of Maine's best vocalists. Brian P. Allen directs.
Bartley was in the original Broadway cast of "Miss Saigon," as well as national tour of "Cats." He also has performed at Maine State Music Theater in Brunswick.
Domingos has just returned from New York City, where she has been performing and modeling for more than 10 years. She began as a young performer at Maine State Music Theater at the age of 8. Allen recruited Pittman from North Carolina, where she teaches middle school. The two women will sing songs from "Rent," "Dreamgirls" and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Song And Dance."
Joining the singers will be local favorites Timothy Bate, Gregory Charette, Katie Daley, Todd Daley, Laura Harris, Jennifer Manzi, Jackie McLean, Bethann Renaud, Amy Roche, Steve Underwood and surprise guests. "Broadway at the St. Lawrence" plays at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, 8 p.m. Dec. 15, 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 16, and 2 p.m. Dec. 17. Tickets range from $20 to $35. For tickets or additional information, call 885-5883.
PORTLAND - The Portland Conservatory of Music and State Street Church pair up to present "Celtic Festival of Light" at 4 p.m. Dec. 17 at the church, 159 State St.
The program will include musical selections from the British Isles and beyond. Conservatory faculty, students and friends will perform. Suggested donation is $5. For information, call 775-3356.
PORTLAND - Portland Ballet brings Portland's Victorian era to life with its holiday performances of "The Victorian Nutcracker" at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 2 p.m. Dec. 23 at Merrill Auditorium.
"The Victorian Nutcracker" follows the traditional story of "The Nutcracker" but with a Maine twist - the set designs are inspired by the rooms in Portland's Victoria Mansion. Well-known local historical figures, such as Mayor James Phinney Baxter, Ruggles Morse, J.B. Brown and Hermann Kotzschmar, take the stage in this ballet.
Lawrence Golan will conduct the Portland Ballet Orchestra. To add to the festive atmosphere, the audience will be greeted by the Victorian Nutcracker Festival Singers, caroling in the lobby in Victorian costume.
Portland Ballet will also perform "The Victorian Nutcracker" at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 and 2 p.m. Dec. 17 at Schaeffer Theatre at Bates College in Lewiston. Tickets for performances at Merrill Auditorium range from $17 to $47 and are available through PortTix, www.porttix.com or 842-0800, or by stopping in at the PortTix box office on Myrtle Street. Tickets for the Schaeffer Theater performances in Lewiston cost $20 at Bull Moose Music stores.

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