KQED’s Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great shows around the Bay Area this week.
We didn’t plan it this way, but the show this week is a tribute to audacious women making art. It seems a good time for that. David and I also include shoutouts for Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids, who bring their mix of jazz, African pop and Sun Ra-inspired freedom to Pt. Richmond Jazz; details here. And David squeezes in a nod to the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, doing a show at the Herbst called Paradise, including the Alan Mencken song “God Help the Outcasts.” Details here.
March 25: We’ll always think of Kristin Chenoweth as Glynda, the good witch from Wicked, a musical that worked out its kinks during a month-long run in San Francisco before blowing the doors off Broadway. Audiences at the Curran Theater saw how Chenoweth’s voice could be both girlish and fabulously powerful. She’s also been great on television in Glee and as a co-star of Pushing up Daisies. Now she’s touring, doing a few favorites from Wicked and treasures from the Great American Songbook — and she never phones it in. Details on her Bing Concert Hall show March 25 are here.
March 24–25 & April 8: The Bay Area’s Leela Dance is committed to keeping Kathak, a rhythmic bare-footed dance form going back hundreds of years in India, alive and fresh. Leela continues the work of Chitresh Das, who made the Bay Area a center of innovation for Kathak. This weekend at YBCA, Leela Dance performs Speak, a mashup of Kathak (Leela Dance members Rachna Nivas and Rina Mehta) with tap (Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and MacArthur winner Michelle Dorrance). Then, on April 8, the ambitious troupe presents the world premiere of Son of the Wind, a dance drama about a mischievous hero rescuing a kidnapped princess (cue Disney). Details for Speak at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are here. And details for Son of the Wind at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park are here.
March 30: We may think of the blues as an iconic form: a black man with a guitar. But Pamela Rose posits in her musical tribute Blues is a Woman that it was stars like Ma Rainey and Alberta Hunter — on through to Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt — who really powered the development of the blues as popular music. “They were also presenting a really different idea of what women could be like in popular song,” Rose says in a phone interview. “These blues women did not suffer in silence. And that voice, that independence, that ‘I’m going to give you some advice, if he’s not good enough move on to find another.’ Women who frankly admitted they’d misbehaved. That voice changed entertainment and it still lives with us today.”
Rose has gathered a crackerjack all-woman blues band to help perform the show, with Kristen Strom on saxophone, Tammy Hall on keyboards, Ruth Davies on bass, Pat Wilder on guitar and Daria Johnson on drums. This performance is a preview show ahead of a month-long run at the Custom Made Theater , running August 3–27. Details for Blues is a Woman at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on Thursday are here. And details for one of Rose’s regular gigs at Angelica’s in Redwood City, on April 6, are here.
March 24–April 16: Playwright Paula Vogel is having a moment, with her first Broadway drama (Indecent) opening in a few weeks. Now, we get a chance to look back on one of the plays that made her reputation — 1990’s The Baltimore Waltz, a romantic comedy/drama about the AIDS crisis inspired by her grief at the death of her own brother. Lauren English plays the sister, returning to the stage after too long an absence. The always-sharp Jonathan Moscone is directing. “Paula writes with a necessary indelicacy around grieving,” Moscone says, “not to revere it but just write it and laugh as much as you can.” And David says Vogel has even been sitting in on rehearsals — something she hasn’t done in years for The Baltimore Waltz — so this should be a worthy revival. Details for the run at the Magic Theatre are here. And the Magic brings The Baltimore Waltz to Laney College in Oakland for one matinee performance on Saturday, April 1, with details here.
March 29: To cap a show devoted to strong women, here’s a singer both women and men can swoon to. José James is a master of the slow jam, singing jazz, R&B, and hip-hop in a sultry baritone. He fits right in on the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack album. Apparently James was planning an album about the hot issues of our time, from racism to economic inequality, and then decided the world needed a place to escape all that. Details for his show on Wednesday, March 29, at the Independent in San Francisco are here.