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Arts Beat

Cross-cultural joy, hitting classical highs, getting 'Freaky' at NU

Band members of the Afro-Semitic Experience put their differences front and center in performances that celebrate their shared love of music, and that love will be on display in two Buffalo performances this week.

The group will be part of the service at 7 p.m. Friday at Temple Beth Zion, 804 Delaware Ave., and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday it will perform in the Montante Cultural Center at Canisius College as part of the Joseph J. Naples Conversations in Christ series.

The Experience promises to be unique, and the group almost guarantees listeners will be getting out of their seats. It notes critic Carlos Ramos described their spiritual, jazz-infused, salsa/swing sound like this: "Imagine Charles Mingus sitting in with a Klezmer band, playing Gospel music set to the poly-rhythmic pace of congas and bongos."

Both events are open to the public and free to attend.

Stage struck

Theater students at Niagara University are at it again with their second production of the semester, "Freaky Friday," opening Thursday and running through Nov. 3 in the Leary Theatre in Clet Hall, 20 Vincentian Drive, on the Niagara campus.

Depending on your point of view about mother-daughter relationships, the plot can be viewed as a crazy role-playing comedy or as a generational horror story, as a mom and daughter magically switch bodies for one freaky day. Either way, there are lessons to be learned.

Audiences know the story from two Disney movies of the same name, the first from 1976, featuring Barbara Harris and a young Jodie Foster, and the remake from 2003, with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. This stage version is directed by Steve Braddock, with music direction by Bridget Moriarty. Showtimes vary; tickets are $19.99; $15 for seniors, those under 21 and NU faculty and staff. Call 286-8685 or visit theatre.niagara.edu.

Three professional companies also have shows opening this week:

• "The Kindness of Strangers" has its world premiere at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Compass Performing Arts Center, 545 Elmwood Ave., presented by Navigation Theatre Company. The show, written by Buffalo playwright Mark Humphrey, runs through Nov. 16. Tickets are $20, $15 for students. Call 697-0837 or check the company's Facebook page for more information.

Second Generation Theatre begins its season with the rollicking rock musical "The Toxic Avenger," opening at 8 p.m. Friday in Shea's Smith Theatre, 654 Main St. Toxic waste meets campy comedy in a costume treat just in time for Halloween. Tickets are $30, with discounts for students and seniors, through sheas.org.

• Another cult hit, "She Kills Monsters," also opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Manny Fried Playhouse, Suite 302 of 255 Great Arrow Ave. Presented by Subversive Theatre Collective, the wild show features fisticuffs and puppetry, and runs through Nov. 16. Tickets are $30; $25 for students and seniors, with Thursdays pay-what-you-can. Go to subversivetheatre.org or call 462-5549 to reserve seats.

The big sings

Something about cooler weather makes choral music all the more appealing. Perhaps it's the way the voices sing in harmony, wrapping around you like a warm embrace. Two local singing groups are opening their seasons this week, performing a variety of musical styles.

The Buffalo Choral Arts Society will be joined by the Amherst Central High School Concert Chorale at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for a concert in St. Joseph University Church, 3269 Main St. The theme of the performance is "Sing a New Song," with works by Staheli, Forrest, Stroope and others. Tickets are $15; go to buffalochoralarts.org or call 775-SONG (7664).

The next day, the Harmonia Chamber Singers begin their 14th season with a new music director, Robert Duerr, who also is a prize-winning organist and music director of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral Choir. The singers will be appearing at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Assumption Church, 435 Amherst St. Under the title "My Spirit Sings: The Many Voices of Buffalo," they will perform music by composers from around the world, reflecting the city's varied cultural communities. Tickets are $15; get them at harmoniacs.org or at the door.

Behind the scenes

Faculty and students in the University at Buffalo arts departments are welcoming the community with "Art in the Open" from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday. The studios, rehearsal rooms and labs in the Center for the Arts on the UB North Campus will be open to visitors, who will enjoy live music, film work, dance performances and tours of the facilities. Doors open at 5 p.m., with screenings beginning at 6:30 p.m. An 8 p.m. reception with live music and food by Dapper Goose concludes the night.

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Turning pages

• Four years ago, National Public Radio's "This American Life" broadcast the story of a Somali refugee and his yearslong struggle to come to the United States. Abdi Nor Iftin lived through war, famine and random brutality in his home country, but now, finally, he is settled in Portland, Maine, where he is a student and works as an interpreter.

He also has written a book about his experience, "Call Me American," and he will be talking about it from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Canisius College, in the lower reception room of the Montante Cultural Center. The free event is part of the college's prestigious Contemporary Writers Series; it is free and open to the public.

• Closer to home, Buffalo News reporter Mark Sommer will be at the Second Reader Bookshop, 1421 Hertel Ave., at 6 p.m. Sunday to read from and talk about his new book, "Rocky Colavito: Cleveland's Iconic Slugger." Colavito, who was known as "The Rock," played for the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s and '60s, and remains one of the team's most beloved stars.

• Even closer to home, Rick Falkowski is appearing at Talking Leaves Books, 951 Elmwood Ave., at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the launch of his latest local history, "Profiles Volume 1: Historic & Influential People from Buffalo & WNY - the 1800s." Falkowski considers this book a follow-up to his 2017 book, "History of Buffalo Music & Entertainment," following the city's music development from the 1830s to 1980s.

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