Although the fall arts season is full of exciting events, the spring season has some not-to-be-missed performances as well. Here are our top choices:
Audra McDonald (Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill, Feb. 6): Now the record holder for Tony Awards with her sixth win this year, Audra McDonald will put her versatility as actress and singer on full display in this Carolina Performing Arts concert of American songbook standards.
“Motown: The Musical” (Durham Performing Arts Center, Feb. 17-22): As concepts go, setting the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy to music for a Broadway stage show seems like as sure a shot as there is. With music by the Jackson 5, the Temptations, the Supremes and others, the songs alone are a big draw.
“Kinky Boots” (Durham Performing Arts Center, March 10-15): Broadway’s most recent smash hit and Tony-winner for best musical tells the inspirational story of a shoe factory owner who turns his failing business around by making specialty footwear for drag performers. The vibrant, catchy score is by pop star Cyndi Lauper.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” (Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh, March 10-15): N.C. Theatre and Broadway Series South sponsor the national tour of this multiple award winner that played both off- and on Broadway. This high-energy play, accompanied by an instrumental score, is the backstory of how a sullen orphan became Peter Pan. In a cleverly devised telling, a dozen actors portray a hundred characters, creating a funny, moving show for adults and kids.
Ari Picker, “Lion & the Lamb” (Duke University’s Nelson Music Room, March 27-28): As leader of Chapel Hill’s Lost in the Trees, Ari Picker has crafted an acclaimed body of orchestrated indie-rock. This Duke Performances commission is inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s devotional poetry collection, “Book of Hours,” with elements of jazz improvisation and minimalism.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill, May 7; Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh, May 7-9): After their earlier, highly successful collaboration on “Amadeus,” the N.C. Symphony and PlayMakers Repertory Company offer another semi-staged concert, this time for Shakespeare’s magical comedy. With the musicians at the rear of the stage and the costumed actors down front, major excerpts of the play are accompanied by the popular music Felix Mendelssohn composed for it.
Roy C. Dicks and David Menconi