Georg Frederick Handel scratched out his opera, Semele, in under a month, using the libretto (by William Congreve, no less) of another composer’s opera – such were the ways of artists in the pre-copyright days. Today, the opera is remembered as one of Handel’s best. And also as a launching pad for the career of the young Kathleen Battle (in a 1985 Carnegie Hall performance). Directors love to play with it (a recent New York City Opera production featured a Semele a la Marilyn Monroe). John LaBouchardiere’s version, originally staged at the Scottish Opera, is more funhouse than White House, but offers a hefty dose of imagination to Semele’s story of gods and the mortals who love them a bit too much. See it this weekend as the Florentine Opera moves into the appropriately Baroque surroundings of the Pabst Theater.
Remember that slogan for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats: “Now and Forever.” Well, they weren’t kidding were they? Twenty-six years after it opened on Broadway and London’s West End, the touring companies are still going strong. Yes, it’s that old. Just look at the hair! It has survived parodies, lounge singers and even Barbra Striesand, and still keeps the feline lovers coming back for more. Get your annual dose of Griselda and her memories this weekend at the Marcus Center.
If it’s parody you’re after – and who isn’t up for a few chuckles in February – head to Bay View to the scrappy little Alchemist Theater, where the sketch comedy group Broad Minded presents "Blue Plate Special" for the next three weekends. No, Broad Minded doesn’t specialize in Unitarian humor. They’re Broads! Ya know. Women. And I’m sure they are quite non-judgemental, as well. Or maybe not. This is comedy after all. Their show features both live-action comedy sketches and video. And the quartet has been known to throw in a bit of improv as well. If the weather conditions are favorable.
Movies for Grown-ups: I’m not much of a horror movie fan, particularly now that the genre has gone all Saw and Hostel on us. But everyone is talking about Let the Right One In, a horror movie that doesn’t hand out barf bags along with the popcorn. It’s from Sweden, of course, one of the scariest countries on earth. And the story, (based on the best-selling novel by John Ajvide Lindquist) is about children, who have a particularly effective way of dealing with the stress and trials of pre-adolescence. It’s made lots of 2008 Top-10 lists, and is an art-house sensation. Please, please see it before Hollywood remakes it with The Cheetah Girls and Zack and Cody. It stars Kare Hedebrant and plays all weekend at the UWM Union Theatre.
Now that the Oscars are over, some new, long-awaited films are arriving at local theaters. Waltz with Bashir opens at the Downer Theater this weekend. I’ll be back with my review on Friday.