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Bay Area arts: 12 great shows to see this weekend

Bay Area arts: 12 great shows to see this weekend

There’s a lot to see and hear in the Bay Area this weekend, from a classic ballet to a pop icon to a Jerry Springer opera (no, really!).

Here’s a partial rundown.

Too much information at ACT

The last time South African-born, London-based playwright Kate Attwell premiered a new play at American Conservatory Theater, the result was “Testmatch,” a biting, riled-up affair that jumped between two scenarios – a present-day women’s locker room in which rival cricket players from India and England confront each other, and Colonial-era India, in which two male British trading company officials (played by women) demonstrate the casual racism and cruelty inherent in Colonialist regimes.

Now Attwell is back at ACT with what looks to be another memorable world premiere. “Big Data,” opening this week at ACT’s Toni Rembe Theater, could not be more topical, as it tackles the question of whether artificial intelligence, personal technology and the harvesting of personal data is having a bigger impact on our lives and our identities than we are willing to admit. The comedy/drama centers on two couples (a brother, a sister and their respective lovers) and a mysterious man known as M who inserts himself into their lives and relationships. A surprising announcement by the siblings’ parents forces everyone to face the directions their lives have taken.

According to ACT, Attwell came up with the idea for “Big Data” when she was in San Francisco with her previous play, and she took in a Mozilla-sponsored pop-up interactive exhibit titled “The Glass Room,” which examined technology’s pervasive impact on society. Directed by ACT artistic director Pam MacKinnon and starring BD Wong as M, “Big Data” runs through March 10. Tickets are $25-$130; go to www.act-sf.org

— Bay City News Foundation

For Madonna fans, it will be so nice

It’s time to celebrate.

After a many-months delay, Madonna is finally set to bring her career-spanning Celebration Tour to Northern California — with shows scheduled for Feb. 24 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento and Feb. 27-28 at Chase Center in San Francisco. .

These concerts were originally supposed to happen back in late September and early October, but were postponed after Madonna was hospitalized due to a bacterial infection.

Yet, the singer is apparently feeling much better these days and has been rolling out the big hits for fans in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and other cities already in 2024.

Judging by the tour set lists we’ve seen, fans should expect to hear such favorites as “Like a Prayer,” “Justify My Love,” “Open Your Heart,” “Burning Up for Your Love,” “Vogue,” “Human Nature,” “Crazy for You” and “Ray of Light” in Sacramento and San Francisco.

Also, Madonna has been both starting and ending her performances on the later side. (For example, she reportedly played from 10:05 p.m. to 12:20 a.m. during her Feb. 5 show in Pittsburgh.) So plan accordingly when booking that babysitter or scheduling those morning meetings for the next day.

Details: Showtime is 8:30 p.m. for all three gigs; tickets start at $114 (subject to change); ticketmaster.com.

— Jim Harrington, Staff

Classical picks: Calder Quartet, Stravinsky times 2

Special events at Stanford Live, San Francisco Symphony, and SF Performances headline the weekend’s classical music calendar.

Merging music and dance: The Calder Quartet returns to Stanford Live on Sunday afternoon, joining with Antoine Hunter’s Urban Jazz Dance Company in “The Mind’s Ear: Motion Beyond Silence,” a program including  works by Beethoven, John Cage, and Julius Eastman. The Beethoven connection has special resonance: Choreographer Hunter, a deaf artist and advocate, brings his insights to Beethoven’s late-life Op. 130 string quartet and Grosse Fugue, written when the composer was suffering acute hearing loss.

Details: 2:30 p.m. Sunday; Bing Concert Hall, Stanford; $15-$64, live.stanford.edu.

“Pulcinella” at the Symphony: Stravinsky’s larky ballet score, based on the stock character from commedia dell’arte, is the can’t-miss centerpiece on this week’s San Francisco Symphony program. Music director Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts a performance featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, tenor Nicholas Phan, and baritone Luca Pisaroni. Also on the program: violinist Julia Fischer, appearing as the featured soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $25-$175; sfsymphony.org.

And more Stravinsky: The virtuosic violinist Leila Josefowicz joins pianist John Novacek Saturday evening in a duo recital for San Francisco Performances, one that also celebrates Stravinsky; they’ll play the Divertimento from the composer’s “The Fairy’s Kiss,” along with works by Debussy, Karol Szymanowski, and Erkki-Sven TÜÜR.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Friday; Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; $55-$75; sfperformances.org.

— Georgia Rowe, Correspondent

Cue the dancing Klansmen

Jerry Springer might seem an improbable inspiration for an opera, but he was an improbable choice for a talk-show host, too, and look how awesome that turned out — if ranting neo-Nazis being jeered on by hooting audience members is your thing.

The opera, created by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee, didn’t turn out so bad, either. Debuting in London 20 years ago, “Jerry Springer: The Opera” won four Olivier Awards, including best new musical, and has gone on to be performed at major venues around the world (including a brief 2008 staging in New York’s Carnegie Hall that memorably featured Harvey Keitel in the title role) as well as at innumerable regional theater companies.

Now the show is being presented by San Jose Playhouse, produced and directed by Scott Evan Guggenheim and Sharon Guggenheim, in what’s said to be the Northern California premiere. The show is drawn from the profane experiences created by the real-life “Jerry Springer Show,” in which the host invited all manner of controversial guests on the set and let them be savaged by audience members.

Needless to say, The musical features more of the same (though it is scripted), which means “Jerry Springer: The Opera” is full of raunchy language and angry and inappropriate behavior that is not suitable for the young-‘uns. It is, however, suitable for anyone else interested in a musical look at a cultural milestone (or low point, if you’d rather) that has, unfortunately, relevance in today’s media climate.

Details: Feb. 22-March 14; 3Below Theaters and Lounge, San Jose; $35-$65; sanjoseplayhouse.org.

— Randy McMullen, Staff

Strings (and off-color jokes) are attached

Anyone who considers ventriloquist acts as G-rated family-friendly affairs featuring puppets that look like Howdy Doody or your favorite poodle has clearly not taken in a Jeff Dunham show.

The 61-year-old Texan has become one of America’s most popular comedians and is credited with reviving the art of ventriloquism — and he didn’t achieve that by making it nicer. His collection of on-stage collaborators (i.e., puppets) include a beer-swelling redneck yahoo and a dead, incompetent suicide bomber named Achmed, among others. Some might consider these characters as cliched, and possibly offensive, tropes from an outdated view of America. But Dunham has won praise and a hefty following, as well as some controversy, for his sharp sense of comedy and pointed barbs on society. Say what you like, he is rarely dull.

And just to show he has a heart for romance, he recently debut the Valentine’s-themed special on Comedy Channel, “I’m With Cupid.” He’s on the road now and brings his tour to the SAP Center in San Jose on Friday.

Details: 7 p.m.; tickets start at $56 (subject to change); www.ticketmaster.com.

— Randy McMullen, Staff

Happy Year of the Dragon

Lunar New Year celebrations are nearing their close for 2024 but there are a couple of noteworthy celebrations for the Year of the Dragon this weekend. The biggest is in San Francisco, which on Saturday hosts one of the nation’s largest and most popular Lunar New Year parades in the country. It kicks off at 5:15 p.m. at Second and Market streets, wraps around Union Square and winds up 1.3 miles and about three hours later at Kearny Street and Columbus Avenue. There are bleachers set up along the parade route but the seats have long since sold out.

Meanwhile, the Chinatown neighborhood will host a street fair from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday featuring more than 120 booths selling food, art and more and a wide variety of dancing, music and other entertainment (a performance stage will be at Grant Avenue and Pacific Street). Needless to say, all of this will have a major impact on San Francisco foot and vehicle traffic; do yourself a favor and take public transportation to the city and be prepared for crowds. More information is at chineseparade.com

A smaller but no less enthusiastic celebration is offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Redwood City’s Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway. The 13th annual event will include lion dancers, martial arts demonstrations, taiko drumming and other live performances. Plus admission to the San Mateo County History Museum will be free this day, as the venue hosts a variety of kids arts and crafts activities. More information is at www.redwoodcity.org.

— Bay City News Foundation

An old classic and new works

Bay Area dance fans won’t want to miss two significant events this weekend. For one, San Francisco Ballet is reviving the classic “Swan Lake.” It’s a dance that dates back to 1877 and features Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, but it also holds special meaning for S.F. Ballet. Then-artistic director Helgi Tomasson was in his third season at the position in 1988 when he mounted a new take on the classic that helped propel S.F. Ballet into the ranks of the world’s major companies. Tomasson made significant changes in the production when the company staged it again in 2009, and it’s that version that the company, now under artistic director Tamara Rojo, revives beginning Friday. The 2 ½-hour production runs through March 3 at the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets are $29-$495. Go to www.sfballet.org. Meanwhile Part 2 of the 19th annual 2024 Black Choreographers Festival comes to San Francisco’s Dance Mission Theatre for two performances this weekend. Titled “Here & Now: New Voices/New Works,” the event offers dances by Krystal Bates & Haseem Bivins, Gabriele Christian, Ashley Gayle, Marianna Hester, Ebonie Barnett, ArVejon Jones, Coral & Jetta Martin, Justin Sharlman with Shawn Hawkins, Natalya Shoaf, Dazaun Soleyn with Algin Sterling and Jamie Wright. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the theater, 3316 24th St. Tickets are $15-$30; go to www.bcfhereandnow.com.

— Bay City News Foundation

Plucking and picking and strumming

 Just how many different ways are there to play a guitar? Get the beginning of an answer to that at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco Thursday night as the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts presents  International Guitar Night, an annual touring event now in its 24th season that celebrates the glorious diversity of the acoustic guitar. Coming on stage first individually and then joining together as a concert group are four artists from four different countries who each possess a distinctive style. From Italy we have the young finger-style virtuoso Luca Stricagnoli, a music video sensation on the internet and an inventor responsible for the reversed triple neck guitar. Also featured is the Brazilian artist Marco Pereira, a soloist, arranger, composer and recording artist strongly influenced by jazz and Latin-American music. From Vietnam comes Thu Le, who still remains the youngest person ever admitted to the National Conservatory of Music in Hanoi (she entered at age 7!), bringing her mix of classical and contemporary styles to the stage. And the Australian Minnie Marks excels at rock, blues and roots music and amazes her audiences when she also manages to play the drums simultaneously with her guitar. Concert time is 7:30 p.m. Find tickets, $50-$60, through the Omni website at omniconcerts.com and check out this video: https://youtu.be/sZEs96w0Fbk?si=ydQ0IDD6MrNK18L7.

— Bay City News Foundation

Oui, oui to Debussy: Music director of the Berkeley Symphony Joseph Young wants to send us all into a “French Reverie,” and he’s bringing his saxophone-playing sibling Robert on stage to help him do it. The Symphonic Series concert with that title, taking place at 4 p.m. Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, will feature French compositions from the Impressionist era up to the contemporary. We’ll hear Claude Debussy’s shimmering symphonic poem “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 3 in G minor, and Dr. Robert Young, a professor of saxophone at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, will be front and center for Guillaume Connesson’s “A Kind of Trane,” a work inspired by the great John Coltrane that blends classical elements with jazz. Tickets are $40 for general admission. Find them at berkeleysymphony.org.

— Bay City News Foundation