Man of La Mancha

ArtsWatch Weekly: Sweet Lou

A Lou Harrison celebration, invasion of the theater hatchers, Jewish museum's new home, shrinking Bach Fest, more

It’s been a busy seven days in Portland and Oregon, with all sorts of notable cultural events going on. The Astoria Music Festival, after an opening recital Sunday by Metropolitan Opera star and Northwest favorite (she grew up in Centralia, Wash.) Angela Meade, is in full swing. Portland Opera continues its latest foray into musical-theater waters with Man of La Mancha (two more performances, Thursday and Saturday in Keller Auditorium).

Among the past week’s many other highlights:

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Detail from Russian artist Grisha Bruskin’s tapestry series “ALEFBET: The Alphabet of Memory,” opening exhibit of the Oregon Jewish Museum in its new home. Photo: Oregon ArtsWatch

JEWISH MUSEUM’S BIG MOVE. The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education opened its doors in its new, much bigger, home in a prime gallery row location, the former space of the late lamented Museum of Contemporary Craft. Its new home opens up fresh possibilities for OJMCHE. You can read our take: A bigger, bolder Jewish Museum.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: fires fading and rekindling

As national theater leaders descend on Portland, big questions rise in New York, the Oregon Jewish Museum makes a splash, and Don Quixote hits the opera stage

Listening to the New York Philharmonic’s radio broadcast Sunday evening of the Verdi Requiem on All Classical KQAC, all seemed right with the world. Conductor and music director Alan Gilbert had the orchestra in a heady balance of precision and emotion, with a superb sense of pacing and the ebbs and flows of a great score. The soloists (including Metropolitan Opera star and Northwest favorite Angela Meade, who’ll be kicking off the Astoria Music Festival with a recital this Sunday; see Brett Campbell’s comments below) were superb. This was music the way music was meant to be.

Angela Meade: opening the Astoria Music Festival

But appearances, including aural ones, can be deceiving. Gilbert, at just age 50, was at the end of what turned out to be an eight-year run at the head of the Philharmonic, although when he signed on it was expected to be much longer. What happened? As he told Michael Cooper for a revealing, lengthy and essential story in the New York Times, the fire waned: “To a degree, I lost my stomach to fight for things.” Cooper’s story is well worth reading in its entirety, as is Anthony Tommasini’s more narrowly focused and admiring assessment, also in the Times.

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PAMTAs: a night for windmills, misbehavin’, Cuban rhythms, and a big green ogre

Lakewood's "Man of La Mancha" takes home the trophies in Monday night's Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards celebration in the Winnie

What do you get with a packed house full of theater lovers celebrating musicals? The ninth annual Portland Area Musical Theater Awards celebration, which took over the Dolores Winningstad Theatre on Monday night to celebrate the best of the 2015-16 season. For one night the Winnie had the cream of Portland’s crop of golden pipes filling the air with some of the best musical numbers of the year.

The evening’s big winner was Don Quixote, who tilted at enough windmills to bring the house down. Lakewood Theatre’s Man of La Mancha took home a helmetful of hardware, winning for best production, actor and supporting actor (Leif Norby as Quixote, Joey Cote as his sidekick Sancho Panza), musical direction (Alan B. Lytle), and sound design (Marcus Storey and Timothy Greenidge).  In addition, Greg Tamblyn was named best director, sharing the award with Chris Coleman, who won for Ain’t Misbehavin‘.

Matthew Brown sings "More Than I Can Say" from "Falsettos," holding the PAMTA audience spellbound. Photo: David Kinder/kinderpics photography

Matthew Brown sings “More Than I Can Say” from “Falsettos,” holding the PAMTA audience spellbound. Photo: David Kinder/kinderpics photography

Portland Center Stage’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ also won for scenic design (Tony Cisek) and lighting design Diane Ferry Williams). The evening’s third big winner was Cuba Libre, the ambitious premiere musical at Artists Repertory Theatre featuring the music of Tiempo Libre. It won for best original production, choreography (Maija Garcia) and original score (Jorge Gomez). Northwest Children’s Theatre’s Shrek: The Musical was a double winner, for outstanding ensemble and costumes (Mary Rochon).

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Don Quixote: a man for all seasons

Lakewood Theatre's revival of "Man of La Mancha" injects some fresh hopefulness into a season of cynicism

Some days it’s easier to roll up the carpet, wipe the twinkle from your eye, and put any hope you may have out to the curb. There will always be an abundance of opportunities to take a turn to the cynical, election cycle or not. This year, however, the better bet is not to brush up on your Thomas More and Utopia, but to take in a little Cervantes: Lakewood Theatre Company has brought back the 1964 musical Man of La Manchaand is making the case for dreamers everywhere.

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A little background hints at why this half-century-old Broadway show remains so familiar and deeply loved. The tale traces all the way back to 1605, when Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, the inspiration for Man of La Mancha, was published.

Leif Norby (left), Joey Corté, and Pam Mahon in Lakewood's "La Mancha." Photo: Triumph Studios

Leif Norby (left), Joey Corté, and Pam Mahon in Lakewood’s “La Mancha.” Photo: Triumph Studios

Miguel de Cervantes was in a hustle to make a buck near the end of his life: it had been hard and cruel, with one obstacle after another; never did any fair winds of fortune blow his way. He was a 16th century jack-of-all-trades who failed most of his life at being a poet, playwright, soldier, assistant to a cardinal, and tax collector. Like many authors, he was more celebrated after his death than while he was alive. He was imprisoned by pirates in Algiers, and in his darkest of hours he was a victim of the Inquisition: somewhere in his brilliant veins coursed some Jewish blood. He had everything to win, as he had nothing left to lose, when he began writing about Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: popcorn time

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

What does ArtsWatch watch? Pretty much, the culture in and around Portland: plays, dance, art, music, ideas that interest us and interest you. In other words, we’re local: What’s going on here and now that’s worth seeing and thinking about?

Still, local means a very different thing in 2016 than it did in 1816 or 1416, when travel was difficult and the idea of place was much more isolated. Today, ideas and influences arrive from everywhere. We’re hooked into a global culture whether we like it or not. Portland is an open city. It might have a bubble, but it doesn’t have a wall. Culturally, that means that much of what we think of as local – what we read and see and hear and even eat – is arriving from somewhere else, influencing the ways we live and think and sometimes, in turn, being influenced by what it encounters here. “Local” is an extremely fluid, and often arbitrary, concept.

A Japanese snow monkey in the widescreen visual poem "Baraka."

A Japanese snow monkey in the widescreen visual poem “Baraka.”

So this week, let’s go to the movies.

Actually, we go to quite a few of these vivid interlopers from the “outside” world, and we’ve been writing about them, insightfully and entertainingly, as a vital part of our local culture. Our expanded film coverage, under the expert eye of critic and editor Marc Mohan, includes reviews, interviews, and now, a weekly film newsletter, FilmWatch Weekly, in which Mohan spotlights a few fresh films (in his first letter, it was the made-in-Portland Green Room, starring the legendary Patrick Stewart) and keeps you up-to-date on all the movies we think you’ll find of interest: not the mainstream blockbusters, usually, but the genuinely interesting, challenging, and sometimes risky stuff.

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