Santa Monica is bursting at the cultural seams!
On the musical front, if you‚Äôre a Broadway baby and fan of TV sitcoms, The Broad Stage has an irresistible two-fer for you.
Multiple Emmy Award-winning Megan Mullally, best known for her role as Karen in TVs “Will and Grace,” performs in the Broadway at the Broad series, and will be joined in a guest appearance by her husband, Nick Offerman (of TVs “Parks and Rec”) for two performances only, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Hosting the evening and accompanying them musically is the man the New York Times calls “the Mayor of Broadway,” actor/pianist and radio host Seth Rudetsky. Tickets and info at thebroadstage.com or call the box office at (310) 434-3200.
Leaning in the direction of world music, The Broad Stage also presents two ensembles of the Sim√≥n Bol√≠var Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, considered the crown jewel of youth orchestras. They have a percussive evening planned next Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m.
The Sim√≥n Bol√≠var Symphony Orchestra is the apex of Venezuela‚Äôs famous system of youth orchestras. Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has been the Bolivar‚Äôs artistic director since 1999.
Under the direction of Thomas Clamor, the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble offers a powerful and passionate mix of classical and South American repertoire, while the young percussionists of the Atalaya Percussion Ensemble blend Latin American and Afro-Venezuelan rhythms.
And if you like your classical music with a Brazilian twist, New West Symphony (NWS) will be performing this Sunday, Feb. 23, at 4 p.m. at beautiful Barnum Hall. A Brazilian conductor, composer and soloist come together for this unusual concert, part of NWS‚Äô Masterpiece Series.
The highly-praised Van Cliburn Competition gold medal winner, Cristina Ortiz, makes her NWS debut performing “Momoprecoce” by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Also featured under the baton of NWS music director Marcelo Lehninger are Maurice Ravel‚Äôs “Suite from Mother Goose” and the powerful and instantly recognizable “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky.
Tickets are available by phone at (866) 776-8400, online at www.newwestsymphony.org and at the Barnum box office.
And not to be missed, this Saturday, Feb. 22, our local treasure Jacaranda: Music at the Edge goes mid-century modern, featuring two towering 20th century composers, John Cage and Olivier Messiaen. A dinner break separates the performances of two 20-movement masterworks. Each cycle is played by an American pianist with whom the music has become synonymous: Adam Tendler (Cage) and Christopher Taylor (Messiaen), respectively.
Still celebrating its 10th anniversary and in a nod to its early focus on the centenaries of both Cage and Messiaen, Jacaranda‚Äôs artistic director Patrick Scott chose two works for solo piano that link the composers after World War II: Cage‚Äôs “Sonatas & Interludes” (1946-48) for prepared piano, and Messiaen‚Äôs “Vingt Regards sur l‚ÄôEnfant Jesus” (1944). Both works were influenced in very different ways by the philosophy and music of India. Cage performed his cycle for Messiaen in Paris in 1949, and Messiaen reciprocated with a performance of his cycle by Yvonne Loriod, who would eventually become Messiaen‚Äôs wife.
The consecutive concerts (Tendler at 5 p.m. and Taylor at 7:30 p.m.) take place at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, 1220 Second St., Santa Monica. Although dinner‚Äôs not included, Jacaranda has some restaurant suggestions and discounts to share. Tickets can be purchased at the door, by phone (213) 483-0216 or at www.jacarandamusic.org
Shakespeare‚Äôs “Henry V” opens this Saturday at Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice. An upstart king inspires a nation, leading an army of ragtag misfits to fight an invincible army five times its size. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, who has directed five other critically acclaimed and award-nominated world premieres at PRT, returns to helm this Shakespearean classic. Feb. 22 through March 23, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Call (310) 822-8302 or visit www.PacificResidentTheatre.com.
Santa Monica Playhouse, through its Jewish Heritage series, has presented four of its projected five-play series on the life of renowned Yiddish story writer, Sholem Aleichem. If you don‚Äôt know his name, you have at least heard of his most famous fictional character, Tevye, the star of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
For Aleichem‚Äôs 155th birthday and the playhouse‚Äôs 54th, the theatre is remounting the most popular of the series ‚Äî the musical “Author! Author! An Evening with Sholem Aleichem” ‚Äî for one month only (with Chris DeCarlo reprising his award-winning portrayal of Aleichem).
Performances take place March 8 through 30, Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Tickets available at www.santamonicaplayhouse.com/ or (310) 394-9779 x1.
Meanwhile at the Ruskin Group Theatre at Santa Monica Airport, the world premiere of “Talhotblond” opens on March 7.
The play is based on a true story, brought to the documentary screen by journalist Barbara Schroeder who uncovered the shocking story. Later turned into a Lifetime TV feature film directed by Courteney Cox, it tells the tale of a bored middle-aged husband, who is seduced on the Internet by a teenage vixen, resulting in savage consequences, including murder.
“Talhotblond” will run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 26. The Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Ave. Santa Monica; call (310) 397-3244 or visit www.ruskingrouptheatre.com for tickets and info.
I recently screened “Child‚Äôs Pose,” Romania‚Äôs official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at this year‚Äôs Academy Awards. It won the Berlin Film Festival‚Äôs top prize and opens for a short run tomorrow at Landmark‚Äôs Nuart Theatre in West L.A.
It‚Äôs a dark film with nary a sympathetic character that exposes the extremes between classes in Eastern Europe and the corruption that pervades the entire system, personal and political. Luminita Gheorghiu, looking like a ragged and aged Edie Falco (“The Sopranos,” “Nurse Jackie”) stars as a mother whose deadbeat son has killed a boy with his car. She will go to any lengths to prevent him from going to jail, even if he wants nothing to do with her.
Don‚Äôt interpret these words as a negative critique of the film. It‚Äôs a gripping, painful, ambiguous and edifying look at east European society since the fall of the wall.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.