May 30, 2024
From Brian Copeland to Cirque du Soleil to Patricia Racette, there is a lot to see and hear in the Bay Area this weekend and beyond.

From Brian Copeland to Cirque du Soleil, there are a lot of great shows, recitals and concerts in the Bay Area to catch this weekend and beyond. Here’s a partial rundown.

Iconic Copeland show hits a milestone

It was 20 years ago that actor, comedian and playwright Brian Copeland debuted his solo stage show “Not a Genuine Black Man” at The Marsh in San Francisco, and it’s no exaggeration to say it has had a profound impact on the Bay Area theater scene.

By turns hilarious, poignant, shocking and even suspenseful, “Black Man” recounts Copeland and his family’s life in San Leandro, which in the 1970s was branded a “racist bastion of white supremacy” by a national housing agency. Key to its success is the fact that Copeland — as he has demonstrated in several shows over the years — is a natural and masterful storyteller who, of course, makes it look easy.

In a region where solo stage shows are performed with regularity, “Black Man” is the production to which all others must be judged. It’s that good, and that deeply ingrained in the theater scene.

Now the show is back at The Marsh for a special run that includes “Black Man’s” 1,000th performance on Saturday. If you haven’t seen it yet, this is a perfect time to get acquainted with a classic. Sadly, it is just as relevant as ever.

Details: Through May 4. The Marsh, San Francisco; $25-$100; themarsh.org.

— Randy McMullen, Staff

Cirque returns to San Jose

“Kooza” is coming to the South Bay.

Having just wrapped up its lengthy stay in San Francisco, the vibrant Cirque du Soleil big-top spectacle opens for a multiweek run, today through May 26, at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose.

It marks the first time that the iconic Cirque du Soleil big-top tent has visited the Bay Area’s most populous city since 2019. And it was certainly no small feat to set up — reportedly requiring more than 80 crew members and 70 local stagehands to raise the tent earlier this month.

Now, it’s time for Silicon Valley Cirque du Soleil fans to start enjoying the many wonders of “Kooza,” which offers up the Montreal-based company’s signature mix of amazing acrobatics and feats of skill, quizzical characters, beautiful costumes, memorable music and plenty of both poignant and humorous moments.

Of course, some still remember “Kooza” from its previous trip through the Bay Area, which occurred back in 2007 in San Francisco. And those same people would likely agree that this is one show that is certainly worth seeing twice.

Details: Tickets and more information available at cirquedusoleil.com/kooza.

— Jim Harrington, Staff

Greek Theatre kicks off summer season

The Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley is set to kick off its 2024 concert season with two compelling upcoming shows.

The first takes place on April 21 and is a 60th birthday celebration for Maynard James Keenan, who is best known for his work with the Grammy-winning L.A. rock act Tool. The singer-songwriter will appear at the event, dubbed Sessanta, performing with his two other acclaimed bands — A Perfect Circle and Puscifer.

Also set to take the stage during that April 21 show is the Bay Area’s own Primus, the El Sobrante-born act led by Les Claypool. Showtime is 7 p.m. and tickets are $49.50-$159.50.

Next up is country music legend Willie Nelson, who visits Berkeley on April 24. It should be a real treat to see the iconic singer-songwriter-guitarist — who is set to turn 91 just five days after his Greek Theatre gig — perform such classic tunes as “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” and “You Were Always on My Mind.” Asleep at the Wheel opens. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $49.95-$149.95.

Other upcoming Greek Theatre shows include Sarah McLachlan (May 30), Tedeschi Trucks Band (May 31-June 1) and Bill Burr (June 8).

Details: Get tickets and find more information apeconcerts.com.

— Jim Harrington, Staff

Classical picks: In praise of Piaf; SF Opera stars

A tribute to Edith Piaf, a two-day Schoenberg festival, and a concert by two fast-rising opera stars: music lovers have appealing choices on this week’s calendar.

Racette returns: We’ve experienced her brilliance on the opera stage. Now Patricia Racette is returning to San Francisco for “Patricia Sings Piaf.” Accompanied by pianist Craig Terry, the Grammy Award-winning soprano pays tribute to the French chanteuse in what promises to be a special event. “I want to evoke Piaf without ever crossing the line of trying to imitate her,” Racette notes. “I want to create an experience.” Expect nothing less from this artist.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Presidio Theatre, San Francisco; $50-$75; www.presidiotheatre.org.

“Pierrot Lunaire” revisited: The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are building a two-day festival around Arnold Schoenberg’s famed melodrama “Pierrot Lunaire.” Saturday’s “Pierrot RE:imagined” features works by composers including Katherine Balch and Mason Bates; Sunday’s “Pierrot RE:encountered” brings a performance of “Pierrot Lunaire” with accompanying video by Simona Fitcal, along with works by Joan Tower and Jesse Montgomery.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday, Taube Atrium Theater, San Francisco; $15-$35 individual tickets, $60 festival passes; cityboxoffice.com.

“Voyages”: That’s the title of the upcoming concert by soprano Amina Edris and tenor Pene Pati, the husband-and-wife duo who have distinguished themselves in leading roles at San Francisco Opera: she, as the glamorous Egyptian queen in John Adams’ “Antony and Cleopatra,” and he, more recently, as an endearing Nemorino in Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’Amore.” Now they’re taking the stage in Berkeley, accompanied by Robert Mollicone, in a program featuring works by Duparc, Ravel, and Vaughan Williams, along with music from her native Egypt and his Samoa.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley; $35-$106; calperformances.org.

— Georgia Rowe, Correspondent

Into the forest, with song

San Francisco’s spry and plucky little company Pocket Opera is embarking on something new. Although the late founder Donald Pippin, famed for his clever translations of opera librettos into English, came up with one for “The Cunning Little Vixen” by Czech composer Leoš Janáček as far back as 2001, the company has never mounted a production of that delicious little fable until now.

That all changes with a short run of “Little Vixen,” which continues this weekend. Set in the forests and a village inn near Brno, the opera follows the misadventures and subsequent romance and marriage of SharpEars, the foxy lady of the title, who is captured by the Gamekeeper (or the Forester, as he is called here), but manages to escape back into the woods.

By turns comic, romantic and heavily nostalgic, the opera is populated, in addition to its human characters, by all sorts of critters (a frog, a mosquito, a bunny, a bunch of hens and their rooster), all given the inclination to burst into song. Soprano Amy Foote sings the title role, alongside baritone Spencer Dodd as the Forester, in a production directed by Nicolas A. Garcia and choreographed by Lissa Resnick, with music director Jonathan Khuner leading the small orchestra.

Details: 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 2 p.m. April 28 at Legion of Honor in San Francisco; $30-$79; pocketopera.org.

— Bay City News Foundation

From Harlem, with love (and grace)

The Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in the wake of a tragedy – the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. – but has emerged as one of America’s leading lights of traditional and contemporary ballet. Founder Arthur Mitchell, who had gained fame as the first Black principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, was reportedly en route to Brazil to start a national company there when King’s assassination convinced him to stay in New York and create a company to serve the African American community of Harlem. Partnering with Karel Shook, of the Dutch National Ballet, Mitchell created a school and then a performance company of the school’s top dancers. Dance Theatre of Harlem’s first official performance was in 1971, and the company, with support form such legendary dance world figures and George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, evolved into one of the top ballet troupes in the country. The Los Angeles Times has described the company’s work as “a pulsing celebration of love and life.” The company returns to the Bay Area this week for a pair of performances, reportedly a mix of Dance Theatre of Harlem favorites and new contemporary works. 

Details: 7:30 p.m. April 20, 4 p.m. April 21; Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek; $69-$99; www.lesherartscenter.org

Free New Orleans jazz in S.F.

Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, the Fell Street, San Francisco, joint founded by London-born entrepreneur and music lover Jay Bordeleau, is indeed a recording studio, but local jazz fans also know it as a place that serves up some first-rate jazz acts, tasty snacks and a thoroughly impressive collection of cocktails, beer, wine and other drinks. And this week, Mr. Tipple’s is teaming with San Francisco’s Soundtrack Series to present a free show in the Civic Center district featuring some top-notch Bay Area purveyors of New Orleans jazz.

The lineup includes the Honor Brass Band, known for its mix of contemporary and traditional jazz fueled by some fine funk and classic swing. Next up is MJ’s Brass Boppers, described by event organizers as the “next best thing to following a brass band down New Orleans’ famed Claiborne Ave.” And that’s no idle boast – the outfit is said to be the only Bay Area New Orleans brass band whose members were all born in the Crescent City. Wrapping things up is the widely acclaimed Jazz Mafia, a New Orleans style big brass ensemble powered by trombone, trumpet, saxes, drums and tuba. Led by trombonist and co-founder Adam Theis, the Jazz Mafia incorporates traditional jazz with a wide variety of styles, from blues and R&B to hip-hop and much more, so you’re never quite sure just what you’ll encounter when the musicians take the stage.

Details: 4-7 p.m. April 18; Fulton Plaza, on Fulton Street between Hyde and Larkin streets; free, no tickets needed; mrtipplessf.com.

— Bay City News Foundation

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