BETTER FRED THAN DEAD
A few seasons ago young Jeffry Denman tested an idea he had about putting Fred Astaire into a show and playing him. Denman and Summerfare Musical Theatre collaborated on what was kind of a rough draft. Denman went off to New York and landed in Broadway shows. He hung onto the idea and continued to tinker with it, and then got in contact again with Randall Kramer, artistic director of Summerfare. Denman and Kramer worked on the show some more over the summer. The gist of it is that a star Broadway choreographer, played by John Fredo, loses his nerve. His talent slips. He calls on the spirit of the great Fred Astaire, who appears in the person of Denman. They find common ground. This brand-new show, "Dancing in the Dark," opens Thursday in the Pfeifer Theatre downtown. All the choreography is by Denman, musical direction by Don Jenczka. Kramer directs the production. Performances continue Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. in the Pfeifer Theatre, 681 Main St.
HAVE YOU HEARD?
Lovers of out-of-the-way chamber music will rejoice to learn that, in addition to the standard and sumptuous Brahms Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, the visiting Meadowmount Trio will also be playing two highly accessible works that are nonetheless still probable Buffalo-area premieres during its 8 p.m. concert on Monday in Lancaster Opera House. One of these is the 1908 Trio No. 2 in B-Flat by Arthur Foote, now generally considered one of the finest of the school of New England Romantic composers. The other work is much more recent (1980s), "Spring Music" by Ned Rorem (b. 1923), an American composer who was never seduced by the experimental waves of the 20th century and always wrote music that is directly communicative. The Meadowmount Trio has the unusual connection of recording contracts with two Russian labels, Melodiya and Russian Disc.
UP TO YOU
When they listen to Giacomo Gates, some people hear King Pleasure. Others hear Eddie Jefferson. Still others hear Mark Murphy. All this means, of course, is that Gates is simply being himself. Gates is a unique jazz singer. Though subtle and light-voiced, he has the weathered look of someone who has paid his dues. He has a reverence for jazz history, and makes every performance into a mad mixture of curiosity, virtuosity and even a romantic ballad or two. (Once, in Buffalo, he crooned a "Since I Fell for You" that had the audience spellbound.) Gates likes to perform be-bop numbers side by side with the standards from which they are derived -- showing how "In Walked Bud" came from "Blue Skies," or "Ornithology" came from "How High the Moon." He prefaces familiar tunes with bits of trivia, occasionally adding obscure lyrics he dug up God knows where. To top things off, he has an eerie ability to imitate other instruments -- during one visit here, he sang a whole bass solo in "Satin Doll." Gates performs in the Calumet Arts Cafe Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.