25 FROM THE TOP: Spring highlights bolster growing sense of KC as cultural mecca

By Paul Horsley

The best of the 2013-2014 performing-arts season has been saved for the second half, it seems: the LA Philharmonic, stage works that have garnered Tonys and Pulitzers, a vampire ballet, a rare Stravinsky chamber masterpiece, top-drawer soloists and a Van Cliburn tribute – pretty darned impressive. Here’s our somewhat opinionated selection.

February 11th: Bahia Orchestra Project of Brazil with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano (Harriman-Jewell Series, Helzberg Hall). The young members of the Bahia Orchestra, an educational project fashioned after Venezuela’s “El Sistema,” play with an enthusiasm one seldom encounters on an orchestral stage. Ricardo Castro conducts music by Villa-Lobos, Silvestre Revueltas, Arturo Márquez and Ravel (the effervescent G-major Piano Concerto). 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

February 14th through March 2nd: Journey’s End (KC Actors Theatre and UMKC Theatre, J.C. Nichols Auditorium at the National World War I Museum). R.C. Sherriff’s drama is set in the trenches of a British infantry unit in France in 1918. Directed by Mark Robbins, the play is part of citywide commemorations of the WW I centennial. 816-235-6222 or kcactors.org.

Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti

February 15th: Nicola Benedetti, violin, with pianist Alexei Grynyuk (Harriman-Jewell Series, Folly Theater). The Scottish-Italian artist whose playing has been described as “thrilling” and “risk-taking” brings a generously outfitted program of music by Beethoven, Prokofiev, Korngold and Elgar. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

February 21st through March 2th: Dracula (Kansas City Ballet, Muriel Kauffman Theatre). Michael Pink’s universally acclaimed choreographed version of Bram Stoker’s vampire classic, with live music by Philip Feeney, takes to the KC stage for the first time. 816-931-2232 or kcballet.org.

February 14th through March 16th: When I Come to Die (Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Copaken Stage). KC Rep playwright-in-residence Nathan Louis Jackson’s play tells a provocative tale of a death-row inmate who, together with a prison chaplain, searches for meaning after he inexplicably survives a lethal injection. 816-235-2700 or kcrep.org.

Bach Aria Soloists

Bach Aria Soloists

February 22nd: Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat (Bach Aria Soloists and NewEar, Community Christian Church). The great Russian-French-American composer’s chillingly enigmatic chamber masterpiece has been a rarity in KC during the century since its creation. BAS and NewEar lavish their best musicians on it, with Mark Robbins as narrator. 816-235-6222 or bachariasoloists.com.

March 7th through April 6th: “Great Duets of Musical Theatre” (Quality Hill Playhouse). J. Kent Barnhart is joined by top singers for this fine revue of “classics for two” by the likes of Irving Berlin and Lerner & Loewe. 816-421-1700 or qualityhillplayhouse.com.

March 7th through the 9th: Joshua Bell, violin (Kansas City Symphony, Helzberg Hall). The boy wonder from Bloomington, Indiana performs Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole on a program with that also includes Bartók’s epochal Concerto for Orchestra. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

March 8th: Other Desert Cities (Unicorn Theatre). A holiday family reunion in glitzy Palm Springs is the setting for Jon Robin Baitz’ explosively witty play, a Tony Award nominee and Pulitzer finalist. 816-531-7529 or unicorntheatre.org.

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

March 14th: Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel (presented by the Kansas City Symphony, Helzberg Hall). California’s “other” orchestra decided to drop into town for a performance in a concert hall strikingly similar to its own, Disney Hall. Pianist Yuja Wang joins them for Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

March 14th: Narek Hakhnazaryan, cello (Harriman-Jewell Series, Folly Theater). The young Tchaikovsky Competition gold medalist performs a free Discovery Concert recital. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

Katie Van Kooten

Katie Van Kooten

March 15th through the 23rd: La Bohème (Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Muriel Kauffman Theatre). Soprano Katie Van Kooten was magnificent as the Countess in the Lyric’s Marriage of Figaro, and I can’t wait to hear her as Mimì, Puccini’s hapless, gutsy heroine. The production features tenor Giorgio Berrugi and is directed by Linda Brovsky. 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.

March 14th through April 6th: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (KC Repertory Theatre, Spencer Theatre). The winner of two 2013 Tony Awards including that for best play, Christopher Durang’s comedy recounts the humor and turmoil of a family reunion à la Anton Chekhov. The New York Times called it “deliriously funny.” 816-235-2700 or kcrep.org.

March 29th and 30th: “I Am Harvey Milk” (Heartland Men’s Chorus and Gateway Men’s Chorus of St. Louis, Folly Theater). The HMC rarely shy from hot topics, and this memorable co-commission and tribute to the tough-as-nails LGBT civil rights hero features music by award-winning Broadway composer Andrew Lippa. 816-931-3338 or hmckc.org.

Stanislav Ioudenitch

Stanislav Ioudenitch

April 4th: “Van Cliburn Tribute” (Park University’s International Center for Music, Helzberg Hall). This concert of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky features Van Cliburn gold medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch, Behzod Abduraimov and others, in honor of the late American pianist Van Cliburn. ICM Director Ingrid Stölzel has also composed a new piano piece, In the Midst, especially for the occasion. 816-994-7222 or kauffmancenter.org.

April 11th: Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, “Italy vs. Germany” (Friends of Chamber Music, Folly Theater). This dazzlingly virtuosic chamber orchestra performs concertos by Bach, Vivaldi and others. What nation will win? You’re the judge! 816-561-9999 or chambermusic.org.

April 12th: Ben Heppner, tenor (Harriman-Jewell Series, Folly Theater). This Canadian master, the greatest living Wagnerian tenor, sings with a burnished, full-bodied and thrilling sonority. His 2005 Harriman recital here was one of the greatest recitals I’ve ever attended. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

April 26th through May 4th: Die Fledermaus (Lyric Opera of KC, Muriel Kauffman Theatre). Johann Strauss’ operetta features soprano Kelly Kaduce, mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle and tenor Liam Bonner, in a new production by Tomer Zvulun and Lyric scenic designer R. Keith Brumley. 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.

Quiara Alegría Hudes / Photo by Joseph Moran

Quiara Alegría Hudes / Photo by Joseph Moran

April 23rd through May 18th: Water by the Spoonful (Unicorn Theatre). Quiara Alegría Hudes’ edgy but uplifting play, which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, tells of an Iraq veteran returning home to his Puerto Rican family in Philly only to find that crises are brewing at home, too. 816-531-7529 or unicorntheatre.org.

May 8th through the 24th: A Little Night Music (Spinning Tree Theatre, Off Center Theatre, Crown Center). Stephen Sondheim’s durable classic, presented by one of KC’s cheekiest new theater companies, features Melinda MacDonald and Charles Fugate and is directed by Michael Grayman. 816-569-5277 or spinningtreetheatre.com.

May 9th through the 18th: Cinderella (Kansas City Ballet, Muriel Kauffman Theatre). Victoria Morgan’s gorgeous choreography is accompanied by one of Prokofiev’s greatest scores, performed live by the Kansas City Symphony in the pit. 816-931-2232 or kcballet.org.

Trey McIntyre Project

Trey McIntyre Project

May 22th: Trey McIntyre Project (Harriman-Jewell Series, Muriel Kauffman Theatre). Founded in 2005 by a Wichita native and world-famous choreographer, this group of 10 artists has been hailed as one of the freshest voices in America dance. It is the company’s final season in its current form. Stay tuned! 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

May 23rd: “The Concert for Double Chorus” (Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale, Redemptorist Church). Any group that’s won more Grammy Awards than some rock stars commands attention, and compared to Charles Bruffy’s combined choirs Daft Punk is like something you hold up at the end of a toothpick. 816-235-6222 or kcchorale.org.

May 30th through June 1st: Verdi’s Requiem (Kansas City Symphony, Helzberg Hall). Michael Stern weighs in on Verdi’s mighty masterpiece, joined by the Symphony Chorus (coached by Charles Bruffy). 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

June 6th through July 6th: “Rhapsody in Gershwin” (Quality Hill Playhouse). Who can resist classics like “Embraceable You,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” or “I Got Rhythm”? J. Kent Barnhart’s program also features a full-length solo performance of the Rhapsody in Blue. 816-421-1700 or qualityhillplayhouse.com.

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To reach Paul Horsley find him on Facebook (paul.horsley.501) or send email to phorsley@sbcglobal.net.

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