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Beckett in brief
Everything suggests that Samuel Beckett was convinced that the experience of theater was to measured in some other way than time, even if the deep subject of many of his plays is the passing of time. The duration of a play was immaterial. Like Bernard Shaw before him, Beckett was prepared to ignore it. Shaw, ever prolix, headed toward longer and longer plays. Beckett took the other direction. The commercially viable format -- loosely two to three hours -- was tossed aside. Beckett wrote pieces for theater that he thought were just the right length, and some of these lasted not hours but minutes. A program called "Beckett Shorts" makes its start Sunday evening at 7 in the Irish Classical's Andrews Theatre. That's the wonderful new theater at 625 Main St. It's the perfect place to come in contact with Beckett's work. The plays are "Rough for Theatre II," about 15 minutes, "Footfalls," about 15 minutes, and "Catastrophe," a little more than 10 minutes. Paul Todaro is the director, and his cast for the first and last named are Michelle Gigante, John Warren and Paul Bargetto. Gigante is the sole actor in "Footfalls." Performances continue Sunday at 7 p.m.

-- Terry Doran

Expect the unexpected
If you were to drop in from a parallel universe where their idea of musical theater is "Annie," you would be astonished at what Summerfare Musical Theatre and the Alleyway Theatre have to offer next. The Alleyway has a musical about the world's most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Even farther out, Summerfare has one about a wing-walker suffering from aphasia. On a list of least likely musical subjects, these rise near the top.

The Alleyway, however, has proved itself. This is not the first musical it has done starring with Sherlock Holmes, as played by Tom Owens. It's not even the second. It's the third in a trilogy. This alone distinguishes it, for there can few if any musical trilogies floating around. Neal Radice, the Alleyway's executive producer, is behind it. He took a book by Gordon Farrell, wrote the music and lyrics, and has directed all three Sherlock shows. This one is called "Sherlock Forever." Besides Owens, William Lovern plays Dr. Watson, Pamela Rose Mangus appears as Queen Victoria, Jennifer Hollands is Violet Westbury, and Michael Mirand plays Inspector Lestrade. Performances begin Thursday and continue.

Summerfare's new musical opening Thursday also has a background and pedigree. It comes from a radio play by Arthur Kopit titled "Wings," which was adapted to the stage and then transformed into a musical. The latter was done off-Broadway and won a bunch of awards, including the prestigious Obie for book and musical score. The subject is Emily Stilson, an aviatrix, who has lost the faculty of coherent speech. It's a dramatic study in regaining brain function which, defying expectations, lends itself to the musical theater form quite nicely. (The New York Times labeled it a "triumph!") Book and lyrics are by Arthur Perlman and music by Jeffrey Lunden. Sheila McCarthy takes the central role of Emily. Director Randall Kramer's cast is filled out by John Fredo, Kathy Weese, Syndi Starr and John I. Weisenburger.

-- Terry Doran

Piping up
Based on the program scheduled for 8 p.m. next Friday in Slee Hall, the UB Organ Recital Series would seem to be expanding its parameters quite a bit. In a tribute to Buffalo's many fine organists and church choirs, three representative groups have been invited to perform a Choral/Organ Spectacular, additionally featuring Slee Hall's magnificent Fisk Organ. Performing will be the choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church under James Bigham, the St. Paul's Cathedral Girls' Choir under Dale Adelmann, and the Westminster Presbyterian Church Choir under Thomas Swan. The lavish program will include the individual choirs singing such choral masterpieces as Poulenc's "Litanies to a Black Virgin," Ives' "Psalm 67" and Bruckner's profoundly moving "Os Justi," along with lesser-known gems including "Psalm 150" by Wilcox, "Pilgrim's Hymn" from Stephen Paulus' opera "The Three Hermits," Stanford's "Justorum Animae" and Hall Johnson's "Ain't Got Time to Die." All three choirs join to conclude the concert with Britten's "Te Deum."

-- Herman Trotter

Lightening up
After the rigors and glowing rewards of playing Mahler's Symphony No. 9 last weekend, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is preparing for a stretch of lighter entertainment this week, beginning with the concert presentations of the complete musical "My Fair Lady" today and Saturday at 8 p.m. which were described in the Jan. 15 edition of Gusto.

Next up is an installment in the Fisher-Price Children's Discovery Series at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, with Paul Ferington conducting the orchestra and James Harris, superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools, narrating a program called "Yikes! It's the Three-Legged Monster." It's a multimedia presentation based on a story by Hanna Yaddor-Avni that introduces the instruments of the orchestra by searching its sections for a reported monster hiding in there somewhere.

Popular guest conductor Michael Krajewski returns to town next Friday to lead the BPO in the season's second TGIF Series concert, this one featuring the Manhattan Rhythm Kings and their smooth-as-silk performances of popular tunes from the '20s, '30s and '40s. On its own, the BPO will play music of a predominantly nautical cast, including "My Heart Will Go On" from "Titanic," Sousa's "Hands Across the Sea" and Carmen Dragon's arrangements of "Blow the Man Down" and "Sailor's Hornpipe."

On Jan. 30 Krajewski leads the BPO to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., for the second in the new series of concerts in the Shaw Festival Theatre. It will pick up the nautical theme from the TGIF concert and add works by Offenbach, Johann Strauss Jr., Lehar and others, making it a rather different and distinctive pops-weighted program.

-- Herman Trotter

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