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Gladys Knight, Roomful of Teeth, Gershwin Highlight Busy Week
By Grace Lichtenstein, Guest Column
08:14PM / Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Members of the Boston Ballet pose at Jacob's Pillow in Becket, where they will perform for the finale of the season this weekend. Photo by Christopher Duggon.

These may be the dog days of August, but pop and new music — and musical theater — abound throughout the Berkshires. Beginning with John Williams' music and Gladys Knight in separate concerts at Tanglewood, it's a full schedule as summer winds down.

Tanglewood

Regular concert-goers have a second chance (after "Star Wars”" last week) to enjoy the music of film score legend John Williams. The Shed hosts the Boston Pops at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. "John Williams' Film Night" is a treasured evening at Tanglewood every year. The conductor is David Newman, with Williams introducing the evening. No films, just Williams' wonderful Hollywood music.

The Popular Artist Series returns Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. with Gladys Knight as the headliner, and The Spinners as special guests. For those who love the golden age of pop soul, this should be a fabulous singalong —  "Midnight Train to Georgia," "Neither One of Us," from Gladys and "Could It Be I’m Falling in Love" from the Spinners.

Mass MoCA

Lovers of new vocal music should not miss Roomful of Teeth on Friday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. This remarkable group is now entering its second decade, and will be presenting new works commissioned as part of the American Composers Forum's "ACF Connect" program, alongside a retrospective of Teeth's first 10 years. 

Then on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. listen and dance to Cha Wa, a funky band with a lead singer, J'Wan Boudreaux, who radiates the energy of the Mardi Gras Indian sound. If the weather cooperates, there will be dancing in Mass MoCA's concert courtyard.

Berkshire Theatre Group

For those who love him, there can never be enough Gershwin. In "George Gershwin Alone," which opens with a Saturday matinee, Aug. 24, at 2 p.m., actor, playwright and pianist Hershey Felder presents his take on the composer.  It runs through Aug. 31. The show is directed by Tony Award-nominee Joel Zwick.

It is not merely a concert. The show is a "play-with-music tribute to the American Songbook and provides an intimate portrait of Gershwin’s early years, his personal life and his artistic genius," according to advance word from the BTG. It not only includes some of his best-known songs but a complete performance of "Rhapsody in Blue."

Barrington Stage Company

Continuing through Aug. 31 is the world premiere "Fall Springs." It is what might be called an "environmental musical" from BSC's Musical Theatre Lab. The music and lyrics are by Niko Tsakalakos, with book and lyrics by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. The show is directed by Stephen Brackett. It's at the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage in Pittsfield.

Mac-Haydn Theatre

Opening Thursday, Aug. 22, and running through Sept. 1 is one of the iconic musicals of the 20th century, "Oklahoma." Here's another singalong — "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love," and so on. John Saunders directs, Katie Johannigman is the choreographer and Jillian Zack is the music director. The Mac-Haydn is in nearby Chatham, N.Y.

The Theater Barn

A "murder mystery farce," the musical "Lucky Stiff" opens Thursday, Aug. 22, at the New Lebanon, N.Y., venue. Lynn Ahrens did the book and lyrics and Stephen Flaherty the music. The show is based on the novel "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo" by Michael Butterworth. Note that on Saturdays, the matinee is at 4 p.m., while the evening show is 8 p.m.

Jacob's Pillow

The Boston Ballet returns to Becket for the first time in more than a decade for the finale of the Pillow season at the Ted Shawn Theatre from Wednesday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Aug. 25.

The New York Times has called this company "one of the most eclectic in the country." On the program: excerpts of William Forsythe's "Playlist," It is accompanied a soundtrack from today's top charts, including artists like Khalid, ABRA, and Lion Babe/Jax Jones; "Pas de Quatre" and "Rodin" by classic Russian choreographer Leonid Yakobson; and resident choreographer Jorma Elo's "Bach Cello Suites." The latter features onstage accompaniment by Russian cellist Sergey Antonov.

This company is part of the Summer Send-Off, a final dance party of the summer, which immediately follows the Saturday evening performance on the Pillow's Great Lawn.

Meanwhile, at the Doris Duke Theatre from Wednesday, Aug. 21, through Sunday, Aug. 25, is Urban Bush Women, a company that approaches dance through the African Diaspora community perspective. The group presents an evening-length work titled "Walking with 'Trane," which takes its inspiration from the life and work of the legendary John Coltrane and especially his album "A Love Supreme."

Guthrie Center

Come to the Old Trinity Church on Friday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. in Great Barrington for Chris Thomas King, a blues singer and actor who portrayed historic bluesman Tommy Johnson in the film "O Brother, Where Art Thou."

On Saturday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. it's the return of the charmingly named Slambovian Circus of Dreams, an alt-roots rock band whose instruments include accordion and cello.  At a special show on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m. Urban Renewal, a blend of 1970s funk and West African polyrhythms, takes the stage.

Egremont Village Inn

On Thursday, Aug. 22, The Grateful Dread, a cover band, performs from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Barn, an adjunct to the historic inn in South Egremont. On Friday, Aug. 23, you can hear singer/songwriter Sean Rowe, he of the lovely baritone voice. On Saturday, Aug. 24, it's The Transmitters, an original funk soul band from the region.

And there’s more…

On Thursday, Aug. 22, in Stockbridge at Naumkeag, the historic estate, there’s a band for “Naumkeag at Night” from 5  to 8 p.m. in the estate's lovely garden. Bring a picnic or get food and drinks at the cash bar.

At The Mount, it’s the final weekend of Music After Hours on the Terrace of Edith Wharton's majestic home in Lenox from 5 to 8 p.m. A regional favorite, the Wanda Houston Band, offers a return engagement on Friday, Aug. 23. Another local act, the Jon Suters & Charlie Tokarz Quartet, is on the bill on Saturday, Aug. 24.

The Gateways Inn and Restaurant in Lenox has live music from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. every night except Wednesday.

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