Vermont's Performing Arts (Mostly) Return to Form for the 2022-23 Season | Performing Arts | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermont's Performing Arts (Mostly) Return to Form for the 2022-23 Season 

Published September 14, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated September 14, 2022 at 10:23 a.m.

click to enlarge The Hip Hop Nutcracker, Flynn Main Stage, December 6 - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • The Hip Hop Nutcracker, Flynn Main Stage, December 6

There's no sugarcoating it: The past few years have sucked for the performing arts. That's been true of basically everything since the pandemic hit, but especially devastated were the artists and venues whose very existence depends on gathering large numbers of people in enclosed spaces.

We don't need to rehash the whole tragic tale. You were there. It was dire. And certainly, more than a million COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were greater tragedies than shuttered theaters and idle dancers, musicians and actors. But it does help us appreciate the light that now beckons from stages across Vermont to acknowledge how dark they once were.

Two and half years from the real day the music (and theater, dance, comedy, etc.) died, the performing arts are returning in force. In many ways, the 2022-23 season will look a lot like the Before Times, with robust offerings of all kinds throughout the state. But in other ways, the season might look a little different.

At the Flynn, think giant, futuristic bird puppets. Or at least that's what we saw last week for the debut of Playing Fields, a mini series of outdoor performances at two Burlington-area high schools. Those events featured bhangra-jazz-punk fusion band Red Baraat and 25-foot-tall puppets brought to life by Dutch artist collective Close-Act Theatre.

Playing Fields is part of an ongoing effort by Vermont's largest performing arts organization to present works outside its art deco theater. The Flynn aims to bring the arts to the people.

"Our mission is the people of this region — to decentralize the building and centralize the people," executive director Jay Wahl said.

To that end, at this year's South End Art Hop, the Flynn presented an immersive, collaborative experience in a parking lot. Created by South Korean-born artist Juhyung Lee, "C'est pas là, c'est par là (It's Not That Way, It's This Way)" involved a giant spiderweb.

Later this month, the Flynn will tour another interactive production to city halls and school auditoriums around the state. "The Money" is both a theatrical game and a social experiment that's been staged on five continents.

A group of strangers chosen from the audience is given one hour to determine how a pot of real money from the show's ticket sales will be spent. If the strangers agree, they can spend it on whatever they choose, from underfunded public programs to something frivolous. If they don't reach a consensus, the money rolls over to the next show. The idea is to inspire conversation about community values — in the financial sense as well as the philosophical one.

"I think these are questions the arts everywhere are asking," Wahl said. "How do we serve people? How do we bring people together and engage meaningful dialogue?"

Back at the theater, the Flynn's 2022-23 slate boasts some glitzy names — hello, Gladys Knight — peppered with the artier fare that local audiences have come to expect. Though the calendar is better populated than last year's, it still isn't quite up to pre-pandemic levels, and the Flynn Space remains dormant for now.

This year, rather than follow the tradition of announcing its season all at once, the Flynn has been rolling out shows in batches — a reaction to evolving consumer behavior and a changed landscape for booking. Instead of planning years out, many artists are looking only months ahead. The same may be true of still-wary audiences.

Accordingly, many Vermont theaters have filled in their calendars through December rather than into the spring. "The timelines have just changed," Wahl said.

That's evident at the University of Vermont Lane Series, which typically presented 22 shows per season before the pandemic. This year it will host 16: eight in the fall, eight in the spring. The latter half of the season will be announced in December.

"It's gonna take a while for people to come back," Lane Series director Natalie Neuert said. "So we felt it was important to present a reasonable amount of events for people to consider. Do people really want to make plans for April in August?"

At the Barre Opera House, by contrast, executive director Dan Casey is betting that people might do just that. His venue's calendar is booked to pre-pandemic levels, including some big swings for a small theater, such as blues great Robert Cray in November.

"We think people are really ready to come back ... and we had some opportunities for bookings because other venues were being so cautious," Casey explained. "So either things are gonna be a whole lot better, or maybe the opera house is going to be looking for a new executive director."

In Randolph, the Chandler Center for the Arts is adapting to changes not only in booking strategies but in demographics. Executive director Karen Dillon noted that, since the center reopened, it's seen a dramatic shift in its volunteer base to younger families, some of whom moved to Vermont during the pandemic.

"I really feel that, coming out of COVID, we've opened up to a whole new group of people who are starting to get involved in the arts community," Dillon said.

She looks at that influx of energy as an opportunity to diversify programming at the Chandler. Dillon described her approach to booking the fall season as conservative, but she suggested the organization may be more nimble and dynamic moving forward.

"I think one thing we learned from the pandemic is that doing things differently wasn't as bad as we thought it would be," Dillon said.

Whether cautious or bold, presenters around Vermont are uniformly excited for the new season. And it's easy to see why. From the Flynn to the UVM Recital Hall to the Chandler and beyond, they've scheduled an array of world-class productions intended to delight and sometimes challenge audiences.

The following pages offer a curated sampling of upcoming local shows, from soul music icons to beloved comedians to snazzy Broadway productions to provocative dance. Consider this a starting point to discover your performing arts calendar.

Welcome back, folks. It's showtime.

— Dan Bolles

Gladys Knight

Saturday, November 19, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $49-99.
click to enlarge Gladys Knight - COURTESY
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  • Gladys Knight

There aren't many performers on the planet who can boast a résumé like Gladys Knight's. The woman who sang timeless hits "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" has seemingly done it all. She's won seven Grammys, recorded a James Bond theme and been nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and she has popped up everywhere from "30 Rock" to "Dancing With the Stars."

Overachieve much? It's not like she started turning heads with her incredible voice when she was just 4 years old. Oh, wait, she totally did that. After winning a singing contest on TV in 1952, Knight, along with family members, formed the Pips. The group became one of the biggest R&B vocal groups of all time, earning Knight the nickname "the Empress of Soul."

She's hardly slowed down in recent years, even performing at the Super Bowl in 2019. Her voice and her songs, which helped originate the modern soul sound, have transcended shifting trends and changing genres for 70 years. Knight is that rarest of performers: a true living legend.

— Chris Farnsworth

If you like this, try...

  • Facing the Sunrise Black Performing Arts Series: Samirah Evans, Saturday, September 17, 7 p.m., Catamount Arts, ArtPort, St. Johnsbury, free.
  • The Robert Cray Band, Sunday, November 20, 7 p.m., Barre Opera House, $48-57.
  • Judy Collins, Sunday, April 30, 8 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $34-86.50.

The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist

Friday, September 16, and Saturday, September 17, 7:30 p.m., Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover, N.H., $25-45.
click to enlarge The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist - COURTESY OF ENRICO RILEY
  • Courtesy of Enrico Riley
  • The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist

Drawing breath together can be healing, but how often is it done outside the yoga studio? In response to the murder of Eric Garner in 2014, Dartmouth College studio art professor Enrico Riley joined Jonathan Berger, a composer and music professor at Stanford University, to create a work of art around the act of communal breathing.

The resulting theatrical event, The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist, doesn't just happen onstage. It engages audiences in a healing ritual that begins six days before the performance with daily online breathing-related meditations led by Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, among others.

The chamber opera in seven movements is about a woman (sung by Canadian soprano Neema Bickersteth) who lost her father to police violence. The immersive multimedia production incorporates Riley's paintings and drawings of Black life, dancers, a chamber orchestra, a community chorus, projections, and onstage cameras controlled by the performers.

The timely depiction of politically seismic violence isn't new to opera — witness John Adams' 1991 The Death of Klinghoffer. But The Ritual of Breath, billed in Broadway World as "a groundbreaking prototype for the future of contemporary opera," goes beyond that to engage the community in rituals that help everyone process the damage.

— Amy Lilly

If you like this, try...

  • VSO at the Flynn: Riots and Prayers, Saturday, September 17, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $8.35-54.23.
  • Diversity Speaker Series: Dr. Cornel WesT, Saturday, October 1, 6 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $10-43.
  • JAGFest 7.0, Friday, February 3, through Sunday, February 19, Briggs Opera House, White River Junction, price and times TBA.

The Book of Mormon

Tuesday, February 28, through Thursday, March 2, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $50-120.
click to enlarge The Book of Mormon - COURTESY
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  • The Book of Mormon

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of "South Park," are known for the glee they take in offending virtually everyone. But no one can deny that this comedy duo knows how to craft toe-tapping musical theater. After showing their lyrical chops in TV and film, Parker and Stone teamed up with Avenue Q composer Robert Lopez to create The Book of Mormon. It's the story of two Latter-day Saint missionaries who get more than they bargained for when they're sent to a Ugandan village ruled by a ruthless warlord.

The musical opened on Broadway in 2011 and never left, winning nine Tony Awards and grossing more than $1 billion worldwide, according to the New York Times. It also drew criticism, particularly for its stereotypical depictions of African people and culture. In 2020, during Broadway's pandemic hiatus and after the nationwide protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, cast members asked the creative team for changes in the show.

A new version of The Book of Mormon, reworked in consultation with the cast, hit the stage in late 2021. What's the secret of its enduring appeal? "If you walk in the doors," original cast member Lewis Cleale told the Times, "chances are you're going to laugh — and you will probably laugh a lot."

— Margot Harrison

If you like this, try...

  • Chicago: the Musical, Thursday, October 6, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $46-98.
  • Menopause: the Musical, Saturday, March 18, 2 & 7 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $39.
  • Shrek: the Musical, Thursday, April 13, and Friday, April 14, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 15, 1 & 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 16, 1 & 6 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $19-45.

Nani Noam Vazana

Saturday, October 1, 7 p.m., Highland Center for the Arts, Greensboro, $5-20.
click to enlarge Nani Noam Vazana - COURTESY
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  • Nani Noam Vazana

Ladino may be an endangered language, but in the hands of Dutch Moroccan musician Nani Noam Vazana, it's undeniably alive. Vazana is one of the only artists in the world who writes and sings in Ladino — a Sephardic Jewish language descended from Hebrew and Old Spanish — so any opportunity to see her perform is a must-do.

Vazana first heard the language in the lyrics of a song her grandmother sang to her, then again spoken in the streets of Fez, Morocco. That song, "Morenika," became the first single from her debut Ladino album, Andalusian Brew, which features covers of nine more classic Sephardic songs, as well. In October 2021, Vazana dropped her most recent album, Ke Haber ("What's New" in Ladino). The record features covers and original songs that draw the ancient language into the 21st century. Her music incorporates feminist lyrics, mariachi guitar picking, flamenco inflections and soft, surprising instrumentation to weave a lush tapestry of sound that feels at once timeless and completely fresh.

It would be easy to say audiences should hear Ladino music before it's gone. But one listen to Vazana's brilliantly hopeful songs may just convince anyone that this resilient language isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

— Emily Hamilton

If you like this, try...

  • Black Opry Revue, Saturday, October 1, 7:30 p.m., Lebanon Opera House, $25.
  • Martha Redbone: Bone Hill, Thursday, October 13, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $20-29.
  • The Villalobos Brothers, Friday, October 21, 7 p.m., University of Vermont Lane Series, UVM Recital Hall, Burlington, $5-35.

American Ballet Theatre Studio Company

Saturday, November 12, 7 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $35.
Sunday, November 13, 7 p.m., Catamount Art and KCP Presents, Lyndon Institute Auditorium, Lyndon Center, $15-52.
click to enlarge American Ballet Theatre Studio Company - COURTESY
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  • American Ballet Theatre Studio Company

American Ballet Theatre moved beyond pliés and pirouettes long ago. When Kevin McKenzie became artistic director in 1992, he commissioned new choreography to help the company rebound from financial distress.

"If you do only the classics, you are a museum, so we tried to find choreographers who stretched the limits of the rules," McKenzie told Seven Days in 2021.

Today, ABT is thriving. Audiences cheer for principals such as Misty Copeland, Cory Stearns, Isabella Boylston and Vermont Ballet Theater School alumna Devon Teuscher. The fall season features whimsical, enchanting, humorous and groundbreaking works.

Nearly 80 percent of current ABT dancers are alumni of American Ballet Theatre Studio Company. Each year, the company accepts 12 to 18 students from around the world, ages 16 to 20, with advanced technical ability in ballet and experience with other dance genres. The students perform with ABT in New York City, tour domestically and internationally, do residencies, and give educational shows. When ready to dance professionally, they join ABT and other leading companies.

This fall, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company brings to the stage as much passion for hip-hop, locking and popping as for jetés and chassés. Performing classical, neoclassical and contemporary works, including a fantastical Japanese anime dream sequence, they affirm that ballet is boundless.

— Elizabeth M. Seyler

If you like this, try...

  • Step Afrika!, Wednesday, September 28, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $25-49.
  • Intimo Farruquito, Tuesday, October 25, 7:30 p.m., Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover, N.H., $20-35.
  • The Hip Hop Nutcracker, Tuesday, December 6, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $35-69.

Manual Cinema's Frankenstein

Friday, February 17, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $25-45.
click to enlarge Manuel Cinema's Frankenstein - COURTESY
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  • Manuel Cinema's Frankenstein

When it comes to performing a classic tale, it's all about having a new take. Who wants to see another effects-laden, soulless Hollywood spin on Mary Shelley's seminal work of gothic horror when there are productions like Manual Cinema's version of Frankenstein?

The Chicago-based performance collective, design studio and production company uses an array of tools — think shadow puppets, vintage overhead projectors, live camera feeds and multiple screens — to spin the tale of obsession, creation and loss that has fascinated the world for over two centuries.

Manual Cinema's 'Frankenstein'- Official Trailer (Long) from Manual Cinema on Vimeo.

Not simply another rendition of Frankenstein, Manual Cinema weaves in a biography of Shelley alongside the tale of her famous monster. A writer whose legend has only grown since her death in 1851, Shelley led a life full of brilliance and tragedy. Manual Cinema's production mirrors her novel and its central tenets on the beauty and horror of creation.

The result is haunting — full of live music, nods to German expressionist filmmaking and dazzling puppetry centered on a story that both inspires and horrifies. It's a fitting and triumphant rendition of a work some consider the first science fiction tale ever told, and a fascinating study on the obsession to create. Just don't light any torches, people!

— Chris Farnsworth

If you like this, try...

  • Mummenschanz – 50 Years, Thursday, October 13, 7 p.m., Catamount Arts and KCP Presents, Dibden Center for the Arts, Johnson, $15-52.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Monday, October 31, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $25-70.
  • Manual Cinema's A Christmas Carol, Friday, December 9, 7:30 p.m., streaming via Middlebury College Performing Arts Series, free.

Maria Bamford

Thursday, September 15; Saturday, September 17; and Sunday, September 18, 7 & 9:30 p.m., Vermont Comedy Club, Burlington, $30-40.
click to enlarge Maria Bramford - COURTESY OF ROBYN VON SWANK
  • Courtesy of Robyn Von Swank
  • Maria Bramford

Among her multitude of fans, standup comic, writer and actor Maria Bamford counts some big-name devotees. Filmmaker Judd Apatow calls her "the funniest comedian in the world." Late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert says she's his "favorite comedian on planet Earth." Many of her 233,000 Twitter followers probably agree — and not only because she's hilarious. Bamford also just might be the kindest comedian on the planet.

An advocate for mental health, Bamford works to destigmatize mental illness in her standup act and myriad other endeavors. On her streaming series "What's Your Ailment?!," she interviews fellow comedians about their experiences with mental health issues. Onstage, she's disarming and honest, using her idiosyncratic brand of comedy as a lens through which to explore her own struggles with mental illness.

Bamford routinely performs one-on-one pop-up sets for Twitter followers and asks fans to meet her for coffee in the cities she visits on tour. She invites emails from fans who are short on cash but want to see her set, and if it's not sold out, she puts them on the guest list.

— Dan Bolles

If you like this, try...

  • Ivy League of Comedy, Saturday, October 8, 7 p.m., Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph, $10-45.
  • Fortune Feimster, Friday, October 21, 7 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $41-72.50.
  • Naomi Ekperigin, Friday, November 11, and Saturday, November 12, 7 & 9 p.m., Vermont Comedy Club, Burlington, $25.

Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine

Sunday, January 29, 7 p.m., Catamount Arts and KCP Presents, Lyndon Institute Auditorium,Lyndon Center, $15-52; free for ages 18 and under.
click to enlarge Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine - COURTESY
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  • Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine

Russia's war on Ukraine hadn't even started when Jay Craven first attempted to book the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine for his KCP Presents series. Craven just wanted to treat Northeast Kingdom audiences to the stupendous sound of an 80-piece orchestra. After the invasion, the orchestra's schedule quickly filled up with appearances at major venues, from Carnegie Hall to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Finally, after five date changes, the orchestra will stop in Lyndon Center in late January for a concert copresented by Catamount Arts.

The Lviv National Philharmonic (not to be confused with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in Kyiv) will deliver a Romantic-period wallop. Johannes Brahms' tumultuous, cinematic "Tragic Overture" from 1880 — parts of which wouldn't be out of place in a Star Wars spin-off — starts the evening.

Next up is Max Bruch's first violin concerto from 1866, another enduring favorite of the era. Expect sweeping, soaring melodies and a whole lot of double stops for that solo violinist.

Ludwig van Beethoven's seventh symphony, which premiered in 1813, rounds out the program. It replaces a symphony by Russian Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky that the orchestra dropped after the invasion, Craven said. So much the better: As Leonard Bernstein once marveled, Beethoven's seventh is "simply phoned in from God."

— Amy Lilly

If you like this, try...

  • VSO at the Flynn: Paradise and Light, Saturday, October 29, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Statge, Burlngton, $8.35-54.23.
  • Paradise and Light, Saturday, October 29,7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $8.35-54.23.
  • Trio Mediæval, Friday, December 9, 7:30 p.m., University of Vermont Lane Series, UVM Recital Hall, Burlington, $5-40; Saturday, December 10, Catamount Arts and KCP Presents, South Church Hall, St. Johnsbury, $30-42; free for ages 18 and under.
  • Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Friday, January 27, 7:30 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center, Middlebury, $5-25.

Sam Reider and Jorge Glem: Brooklyn Cumaná

Friday, October 28, 7:30 p.m., University of Vermont Lane Series, UVM Recital Hall, Burlington, $5-30.
click to enlarge Sam Reider and Jorge Glem - COURTESY
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  • Sam Reider and Jorge Glem

Renowned accordionist Sam Reider last played a show at the University of Vermont in 2018 with his band, the Human Hands. And he left quite an impression. The folks at the Lane Series asked Reider what else he had coming down the pike, and when he told them he was collaborating with Grammy-nominated Venezuelan cuatro player Jorge Glem, they wasted no time booking the show.

Together the two virtuosos create a unique kind of folk music, fusing their respective traditions and cultures into a gorgeous blend of Venezuelan dance music and American folk and jazz. It's strange yet simultaneously familiar territory for Reider, who once backpacked across Asia with an accordion on his back, jamming with local musicians wherever he went. He also toured the globe as a musical ambassador on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. (He's probably not a spy, but what a screenplay that would be, right? Have Accordion, Will Travel!)

Reider and Glem recently recorded Brooklyn Cumaná. Due in the fall, the album features Reider's Human Hands bandmates, as well as Grammy award-winning Cuban saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera and Guatemalan singer-songwriter and guitarist Gaby Moreno. For fans of complex, beautifully intricate acoustic music played by two absolute titans of their respective instruments, it's a can't-miss show.

— Chris Farnsworth

If you like this, try...

  • Nicole Mitchell and Black Earth SWAY, Saturday, October 15, 7:30 p.m., Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover, N.H., $20-35.
  • Le Vent du Nord, Saturday, April 1, 7:30 p.m., Barre Opera House, $32-39.
  • The Westerlies; Theo Bleckmann, Friday, April 7, 7:30 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center, Middlebury, $5-25.

Richard Thompson

Saturday, September 24, 7:30 p.m., Barre Opera House, $25-48.
click to enlarge Richard Thompson - COURTESY
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  • Richard Thompson

The preshow music at last month's Wild Hearts concert at Shelburne Museum included "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," the 1974 title song of Richard Thompson's second album and his first with then-wife and musical partner Linda Thompson. He's been playing under the bright lights for more than half a century and is a captivating musician, whether leading a band and shredding on electric guitar or alone onstage with an acoustic instrument.

Richard Thompson, 73, is a London-born singer-songwriter and guitarist who performs on the reg in Vermont. He played a church gig in Burlington six weeks before the pandemic shut down live music venues in 2020. When Higher Ground reopened for shows in August 2021, Thompson was the first performer to play at the South Burlington club.

A virtuoso guitarist, Thompson is known for his storytelling in songs — and onstage. His catalog includes rockers, tearjerkers, humorous songs and folk tunes. Thompson sometimes collaborates with his son, Teddy, including on the lovely "Persuasion." Bonnie Raitt's version of his "Dimming of the Day" is a classic.

Before he formed a band with Linda, Thompson was cofounder of the folk-rock group Fairport Convention. Their cover of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" is spectacular. Thompson sometimes plays requests. It's worth shouting that one out in Barre, along with "Take Care the Road You Choose."

— Sally Pollak

If you like this, try...

  • The Wood Brothers, Friday, October 7, 7:30 p.m., Lebanon Opera House, $34-54.
  • An evening with Martin Sexton, Thursday, December 8, 8 p.m., Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, Stowe, $35-55.
  • Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, Tuesday, February 21, 7 p.m., Catamount Arts and KCP Presents, Fuller Hall, St. Johnsbury, $15-52; free for ages 18 and under.

Soweto Gospel Choir: 'Hope — It's Been a Long Time Coming'

Thursday, December 8, 7 p.m., Catamount Arts and KCP Presents, Fuller Hall, St. Johnsbury, $15-52; Tuesday, December 13, 7:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $30-50.
click to enlarge Soweto Gospel Choir - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Soweto Gospel Choir

How many people in the world can say they've performed for South African president Nelson Mandela, archbishop Desmond Tutu, president Barack Obama, president Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry? Well, the members of Soweto Gospel Choir, at the very least.

Founded in South Africa in 2002, the ensemble has performed around the world and won three Grammy Awards. The choir has sung with the likes of Celine Dion, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Robert Plant, U2 and Josh Groban. You may even remember the group's sweet strains on the Peter Gabriel track "Down to Earth" from the 2008 film WALL-E.

The choir's new concert tour — its first since the pandemic — is titled "Hope — It's Been a Long Time Coming" and absolutely lives up to its name. The program highlights the songs of the Free South Africa Movement and the American Civil Rights Movement, including legendary classics by Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Otis Redding and more. The singers' message of hope is, in many ways, more timely than ever.

— Emily Hamilton

If you like this, try...

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Pass It On: 60th Anniversary Musical Celebration, Wednesday, November 2, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $20-59.
  • The East Coast Inspirational Singers, Friday, February 10, 7:30 p.m., Barre Opera House, $26-32.
  • Choral Chameleon Ensemble: Music for Chameleons, Friday, March 3, 7:30 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center, Middlebury, $5-25.

Heart of Afghanistan

Thursday, January 12, 7:30 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center, Middlebury, $5-25.
click to enlarge Heart of Afghanistan - COURTESY
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  • Heart of Afghanistan

Heart of Afghanistan don't play punk music, but they may just be the most punk-rock band on the planet. Composed of Afghan singer and TV star Ahmad Fanoos, his sons Elham on piano and Mehran on violin, and Hamid Habibzada on tabla, the band can't perform in its home country because the Taliban has banned all music in Afghanistan.

The now U.S.-based quartet travels the world keeping alive the story and music of Afghanistan, from its pre-Islamic Buddhist period to the present day. Its members perform ancient odes to the Buddhist statues of Bamiyan and traditional ghazals based on the Sufi-inspired poetry of Rumi. On the modern side, their repertoire also includes the work of "Afghan Elvis" — pop icon Ahmad Zahir, who translated the music of Elvis Presley into Dari in the 1960s and '70s and performed it with traditional Afghan instruments.

— Dan Bolles

If you like this, try...

  • Sirocco featuring Abel Selaocoe & Chesaba, Thursday, October 6, 7:30 p.m., Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover, N.H., $20-35.
  • Garifuna Collective, Tuesday, October 11; Friday, October 14; and Saturday, October 15, 7 p.m., Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph, $10-45.
  • Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya, Saturday, April 29, 7:30 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center, Middlebury, $5-25.

Jason Bishop: Magic and Illusion

Friday, November 25, 3 & 7 p.m., Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, Stowe, $32-47.
click to enlarge Jason Bishop: Magic and Illusion - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Jason Bishop: Magic and Illusion

Jason Bishop will appear — and maybe disappear — in Stowe.

Bishop, 44, is a self-taught magician and illusionist who will bring his show to the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in November. He performs with his assistant, Kim Hess, and his high-fiving dog, Gizmo.

His act incorporates old-fashioned sleight of hand, awe-inspiring levitation and more modern techniques, such as projecting magic tricks onto a movie screen. Bishop can turn $100 bills into $1 greenbacks, solve a Rubik's Cube with a flick of his wrist and make goldfish appear out of thin air. (Not for you, Gizmo!)

Jason Bishop Illusionist from Jason Bishop on Vimeo.

In 2016, Bishop became the first magician to perform at New York City's Old Victory Theater. New York Times reviewer Alexis Soloski wrote of that show, "In a brief close-up routine ... there's real elegance and even wit in the precision of his gestures, the agility of each finger." Soloski observed that Bishop "can astound," especially young audience members.

If Bishop makes Gizmo disappear during his Stowe show, don't worry! The dog will reappear. Maybe in your lap.

— Sally Pollak

If you like this, try...

  • Frank Santos Jr., Friday, September 30, 7:30 p.m., Lebanon Opera House, N.H., $29.50.
  • America's Top Psychic Medium: Matt Fraser, Friday, January 20, 7:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $55-100.
  • ZOOOM, Wednesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $25.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Places, People! | The performing arts (mostly) return to form for the 2022-23 season"

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