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Spot Check

SLUSH 3/28, BEAT KITCHEN; 3/29, dome room This southern California quartet attempts to contemporize Smithereens-type FM rock with bluesy garage riffs a la Jon Spencer. While the instrumental drive is there, singer Johnne Peters (brother of Grant Lee Buffalo drummer Joey) sounds like he’s too drunk on his own nerdy charisma to find the groove. […]

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Tatus Aoki Trio

TATSU AOKI TRIO The emergence of Asian-hyphenate musicians committed to exploring their heritage in jazz settings has provided some of the most dynamic and fulfilling music of the last decade. In the work of such artists–including pianist Jon Jang and saxophonists Fred Ho and Francis Wong (all Chinese-American); the French-Vietnamese guitarist Nguyen Le; and Tatsu […]

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The Human Comedy

THE HUMAN COMEDY, Splinter Group at Theatre Building. The same devotion and concentration that Splinter Group lavished on Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock in 1994 fuel this resounding revival of a problematic 1984 work by Hair composer Galt MacDermot. A cantata based on William Saroyan’s 1943 saga of an embattled California family during World […]

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Rags

RAGS, Circle Theatre. This sweet and sturdy musical by author Joseph Stein, composer Charles Strouse, and lyricist Stephen Schwartz may have failed on Broadway, but Kevin Bellie’s small-scale, well-honed, and often passionate revival charms and moves. The 170-minute tale of Jewish immigrants seeking a good life in turn-of-the-century New York may be sprawling and sloppy, […]

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Off Target

Atomic Bombers Northlight Theatre at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie By Adam Langer In a review a couple of weeks ago I expressed the sentiment that I would almost always rather see an ambitious but uneven mess than a well-acted, exquisitely crafted bore. If you don’t see how a production can […]

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Jedi! A Musical Tour de Force

JEDI! A Musical Tour de Force, Argos Agency, at ImprovOlympic. The night I caught this musical version of the Star Wars trilogy I overheard several people in the audience anxiously discussing whether George Lucas would “shut them down.” They were hoping he’d try, because it would be great publicity. (As if this uneven, hastily thrown […]

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Root Causes

ROOT CAUSES, Victory Gardens Theater. One picture is worth a thousand words, the saying goes; certainly the electric-colored pop paintings by Ed Paschke that dominate the design of this world premiere have clarity and power sorely lacking in Steve Carter’s script. Inspired by the case of one Felix Wayne Mitchell, head of an Oakland heroin […]

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At Home in Her Range

Cecilia Bartoli at Orchestra Hall, March 23 By Sarah Bryan Miller It’s an article of faith for some music lovers that virtually any woman who calls herself a mezzo-soprano is actually a soprano who doesn’t want to admit it. They reason that these singers are (a) simply unaware of what their voice is, (b) lazy, […]

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Lavelle White

Lavelle White Texan vocalist Lavelle White is a stylist of power and inventiveness, and she’s also an unheralded songwriting genius. She claims authorship of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s immortal “Lead Me On,” among other gems, and her latest CD, It Haven’t Been Easy (Antone’s), features no fewer than nine original compositions. White’s vocal style is a […]

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Baubo Performance Project

So That I May Come Back The women of Baubo Performance Project have a knack for finding comedy in dangerous situations and sublimity in comic ones. In their current show, loosely based on the trial of a ten-year-old Liverpool girl who murdered two boys in the early 60s, they tightly weave together graceful dance and […]

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Boozoo Chavis & the Magic Sounds

BOOZOO CHAVIS & THE MAGIC SOUNDS Many of zydeco’s most visible touring acts are profit-driven modernists, updating tradition to appeal to the lowest common denominator–i.e., cranking out zydeco versions of familiar pop tunes. Boozoo Chavis, on the other hand, is a veteran purist–his 1954 classic “Paper in My Shoe” predated the first Clifton Chenier recording […]

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Revisiting WWII

In some ways I was glad to see a front page article in the Reader on the Second World War [March 7]. In other ways I wasn’t. The first thing that caused me to blink a few times was the claim that “World War II came to America like an epidemic from overseas” and the […]

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Taruja

TARIKA The comparative isolation enjoyed by the people of Madagascar, which sits several hundred miles off the southeastern coast of Mozambique, has produced some of Africa’s most original and exuberant music. And the singer-songwriter sisters who founded Tarika–Rasoanaivo Hanitraivo and Raharimalala Tina Norosoa, better known for obvious reasons as Hanitra and Noro–have made the most […]

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Q & A Marcel Marceau

Q: You describe your character of Bip, created 50 years ago, as a Don-Quixote type, “fighting against windmills.” Is Bip as optimistic now as he was in 1974? A: When I founght in the Second World War, it was terrible, but after the war, I was full of illusions, thinking that we had fought the […]