arts

Epic Theater

Rhode Island is currently enjoying a theatrical surge. New theater companies have arrived, often with plays – and ideas – that are far from the usual. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Bill Gale has checked in on a couple now performing works that you are not going to see everywhere.

The Flu Season” continues at the Burbage Theater through December 3rd. James Franco and Me continues at the Epic Theater through November 27. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Newport Jazz Festival Opens Early Ticket Sales

Nov 3, 2016
Aaron Read / RIPR

Early tickets for this year’s Newport Jazz Festival went on sale this week. The festival is renowned for featuring big names like Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk and Louis Armstrong to Newport since 1954. Danny Melnick, the festival’s producer, said jazz enthusiasts can expect to hear music from a wide range of artists.

"So we're looking at a very dynamic lineup of great jazz, some Latin music, some blues, some soul - you know, a lot of different things that sort of all work at a jazz festival, a lot of music that's related to jazz in many different ways,” said Melnick.

Now playing in theaters, the film "The Birth of a Nation," reclaims the title of a 1915 movie by D.W. Griffith, which remains highly controversial for its seemingly sympathetic portrayal of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan, and its use of black face. The new film, from Actor and Director Nate Parker, tells the story of the Nat Turner Rebellion, a slave uprising in Virginia in 1831 that left scores of white men, women, and children dead.

Alex Braunstein / RIPR

The City of Providence has a new work of public art. Installations have popped up in public spaces across the city over the past year. The latest is a large mural called “BattleCat,” painted by an Austrian artist who goes by the name NYCHOS.

It’s a part of a series of paintings created by international artists visiting the city through a residency program.

John Bender / RIPR

Trinity Repertory Company is touring a new production of Romeo and Juliet this summer. The production is a first for the company; it’s being performed in both English and Spanish.  

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre Company

  “Damn Yankees” is a musical from the 1950s that's not really about the New York Yankees. Instead it’s about being faithful, caring and decent. 

John Bender / RIPR

This year’s Claiborne Pell Award for Lifetime Achievements in the Arts were presented to Trinity Rep's former artistic director Oskar Eustis and his wife Laurie at Salve Regina University in Newport Monday.

Peter Goldberg / Gamm Theatre

Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre is currently doing the Irish play “A Skull in Connemara.” It's a work infrequently done, certainly not as often as playwright Martin McDonagh's best, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” Bill Gale thinks he knows the reason why.

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

The latest offering at Trinity Rep is “The Hunchback of Seville.'' Rhode Island Public Radio’s Bill Gale was unconvinced at first, but this bright and bold, silly and crude production won him over.

Yes, and you can add wacky and wild and sometimes sophomoric in the extreme. Written by Brown University graduate Charise Castro Smith this play looks in on lots of things, from feminism to the Spanish inquisition and the gross side of the development of the New World. It's filled with explosive imagination, and the romp of youth.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Providence’s Wilbury Theatre Group is staging another provocative drama, filled with humor and music. Rhode Island Public Radio’s theater critic Bill Gale, says the show has something to say.

Despite that somewhat sophomoric title, this work eventually turns out to make a point or two. In a snap-fire three act production, in about 2 hours, it manages to take a look at a group of arts-world folks. It peels away the covering, lets us in the audience see their troubles, exterior and internal. And perhaps even offers us a chance to think about our own lives.

Chuck Hinman / RIPR

We’re taking a look at the local music scene in Rhode Island, with an eye toward gift giving this holiday season.  Our music consultant is Tom Weyman, of the Columbus Cooperative -- which operates the Columbus Theatre in Providence.

Peter Goldberg / The Gamm Theatre

So far, the Southern New England arts season has been a place for serious theater. Trinity Rep opened with Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar.” And now, Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre has presented Tennessee Williams' deep and driving “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

Theater season kicked off this week in Southern New England with a contemporary version of Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar” at Trinity Rep. Rhode Island Public Radio theater critic Bill Gale says there's hardly a better way to begin.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theater

The Ocean State Theatre in Warwick is reviving one of the big musical hits of the 1950s, “Gypsy,” a story about family, show business and the life of the striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee.  Bill Gale says that despite some problems “Gypsy” is still worth seeing, one more time.

That's right. For you see “Gypsy” is one of those musicals you could call a “But, still . . .” piece of work.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Serious mental illness might well seem an unlikely jumping off point for musical theater. But with “Next to Normal,” now at the Wilbury Group in Providence, the subject becomes a powerful drama mostly well done. 

Brian Yorkey, who wrote the book and lyrics for the engrossing “Next to Normal” once opined that “musicals can be ridiculous.”

“You know, all those people breaking into song all the time,” he said. But the author also  pointed out that, somehow, a good musical can be “sublime.”

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