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FALL BOUNTY: Performing-arts groups offer quality, class, adventure

By Paul Horsley

We may be a tad hidebound in our cultural tastes at times, but here in KC we do a lot of things right and we don’t put on airs about it. Here are some Fall highlights to watch for.

AUGUST

20-September 5 Spinning Tree Theatre; West Side Story; This plucky young company takes on Bernstein and Sondheim’s gritty classic complete with Jerome Robbins’ jubilant original choreography. The Arts Asylum. 816-569-5277 or spinningtreetheatre.com.

26-September 20 Unicorn Theatre; The Oldest Boy; Sarah Ruhl’s play about a young boy whom a group of Tibetan monks believe to be the new Lama features the puppet artistry of Paul Mesner. 816-531-7529 or unicorntheatre.org.

30 Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College; Turandot; Wichita Grand Opera, celebrating its 15th anniversary, brings Puccini’s white-hot masterpiece for its KC-area debut, with Zvetelina Vassileva and Kansas native Samuel Ramey as Timur. 816-469-4445 or jccc.edu.

SEPTEMBER

8 Harriman-Jewell Series; Itzhak Perlman, violin, and Emanuel Ax, piano; Two of the great artists of our time open the season with music of Mozart, Fauré and Strauss. Also, September 26 Audra McDonald; Broadway star and Harriman favorite performs in concert. Both at Kauffman Center. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

Itzhak Perlman appears with pianist Emanuel Ax / Photo by Christian Steiner
Itzhak Perlman performs with pianist Emanuel Ax on the Harriman-Jewell Series / Photo Christian Steiner

9-27 Kansas City Actors Theatre; At Home at the Zoo; Edward Albee’s expanded version of his classic 1959 one-act The Zoo Story is directed by Doug Weaver. City Stage, Union Station. 816-235-6222 or kcactors.org.

11-October 4 Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Sunday in the Park with George; Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s bracing classic about creativity and heritage is presented in collaboration with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where it is performed. 816-235-2700 or kcrep.org.

18-20 Kansas City Symphony; Ravel’s Boléro and Symphonic Soloists; Michael Stern invites KCS principal players to perform in concertante roles. Kauffman Center. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

26-October 4 Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Don Giovanni; Mozart’s anti-hero is portrayed by bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch, in a production that also includes local favorite Elizabeth Caballero as Donna Elvira. Kauffman Center. 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.

OCTOBER

2-November 1 Quality Hill Playhouse; Tin Pan Alley; J. Kent Barnhart and friends celebrate songs of Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Harold Arlen, and others. 816-421-1700 or qualityhillplayhouse.com.

8-10 Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey; Ailey II; The vibrant young company presents a residency, a gala and public performances. Folly Theater. 816-471-4444 or follytheater.org. For gala tickets, call 816-471-6003 or visit kcfaa.org.

9-18   Kansas City Ballet; The Three Musketeers; The familiar tale is told with choreography by André Prokovsky and music by Giuseppe Verdi. Kauffman Center. 816-931-8993 or kcballet.org.

Soprano Ellie Dehn sings the title role in the Lyric Opera's 'Rusalka' / Photo by Victoria Janashvili
Soprano Ellie Dehn performs the title role in the Lyric Opera’s ‘Rusalka’ / Photo Victoria Janashvili

11 and 13 Kansas City Chorale; Shanah Tovah! Music of Jewish Tradition; A program devoted to a fascinating musical landscape. Temple Beth Shalom (October 11th); Unity Temple on the Plaza (October 13th). 816-235-6222 or kcchorale.org.

15-November 1 Spinning Tree Theatre; Turn of the Screw; Charles Fugate and Nicole Marie Green star in Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Henry James’ enigmatic story. Just Off Broadway Theatre. 816-569-5277 or spinningtreetheatre.com.

16 Friends of Chamber Music; András Schiff, piano; The Hungarian musical giant performs the very last sonata by each of the four Classic-period masters: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. Folly Theater. 816-561-9999 or chambermusic.org.

16-November 15 Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin; The world premiere of Michael Benjamin Washington’s play about non-violent civil resistance in 1960s Washington, D.C. is a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse. Copaken Stage. 816-235-2700 or kcrep.org.

17 Harriman-Jewell Series; Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars Concert Series; Brian Zeger, executive director of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artists Program, presents young singers on the verge of big careers. Folly Theater. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

27 Harriman-Jewell Series, The Chicago Symphony with Riccardo Muti; One of the great orchestras of the modern era and one of most interesting conductors today perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Mahler’s First. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

NOVEMBER

6 Kansas City Chamber Orchestra; Shakespeare as Muse; Works inspired by, or set to, the bard’s poetry; with readings. Old Mission United Methodist Church. 816-235-6222 or 816-960-1324 or kcchamberorchestra.org.

Urban Bush Woman perform on the JCCC series / Photo by Ayano Hisa
Urban Bush Woman perform on the JCCC Performing Arts Series / Photo Ayano Hisa

7 Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College; Urban Bush Women; Under the leadership of KC-born Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, this company has presented some of the most interesting dance you’ll see anywhere in the world. Yardley Hall. 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu.

7-15 Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Rusalka; The company delves into Czech opera for the first time with Dvořák’s lush telling of the “Little Mermaid” story; Ellie Dehn sings the title role. Kauffman Center. 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.

19-December 24 Quality Hill Playhouse; Christmas in Song; A holiday favorite with staying-power! 816-421-1700 or qualityhillplayhouse.com.

20-December 24 Kansas City Repertory Theatre; A Christmas Carol; Over the years this elaborate production has become a world unto itself. Spencer Theatre. 816-235-2700 or kcrep.org.

The great American conductor David Zinman leads the KC Symphony / Photo by Priska Ketterer
The great American conductor David Zinman leads the KC Symphony / Photo Priska Ketterer

20-22 Kansas City Symphony; Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms; Guest conductor David Zinman, one the great conductors of our time, performs works dear to him. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

DECEMBER

2-27 Unicorn Theatre; Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play; Anne Washburn’s futuristic comedy imagines popular culture (e.g., “The Simpsons”) as the Greek mythology of tomorrow. 816-531-7529 or unicorntheatre.org.

5-24 Kansas City Ballet; The Nutcracker; Artistic Director Devon Carney’s brand-new production features re-imagined sets, costumes and choreography. 816-931-8993 or kcballet.org.

11 Friends of Chamber Music; The Tallis Scholars; Britain’s dazzling choral ensemble presents holiday-themed music of Tallis, Pärt and others. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. 816-561-9999 or chambermusic.org.

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To reach Paul Horsley, performing arts editor; send an email to phorsley@sbcglobal.net or find him on Facebook (paul.horsley.501) or Twitter (@phorsleycritic). 

At top: Washington, D.C.’s Signature Theatre produced ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ (also with Claybourne Elder, right), the quirky Sondheim musical with which KC Rep opens its season this fall. / Photo Margo Schulman.

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Paul Horsley, Performing Arts Editor 

Paul studied piano and musicology at WSU and Cornell University. He also earned a degree in journalism, because writing about the arts in order to inspire others to partake in them was always his first love. After earning a PhD from Cornell, he became Program Annotator for the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he learned firsthand the challenges that non profits face. He moved to KC to join the then-thriving Arts Desk at The Kansas City Star, but in 2008 he happily accepted a post at The Independent. Paul contributes to national publications, including Dance Magazine, Symphony, Musical America, and The New York Times, and has conducted scholarly research in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic (the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship). He also taught musicology at Cornell, LSU and Park University.

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