From new (or returning) stage hits to compelling concerts, there is a lot to see and hear in the Bay Area this weekend and beyond. Here’s a partial rundown.

‘Evan Hansen’ returns to Bay Area

“Dear Evan Hansen” opened on Broadway in late 2016 and immediately gained a large following with its tender tale of a high school senior who capitalizes on a tragic situation to help him finally fit in with others.

The musical, which had its world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in July 2015 and a follow-up Off-Broadway production at Second Stage Theatre in early 2016, went on to vast critical and commercial success. It garnered nine Tony Award nominations and won six, including for best musical, best book, best score, best actor (Ben Platt) and best featured actress (Rachel Bay Jones).

Unfortunately, the 2021 film version would not do fare so well. The movie — which again featured Platt in the title role that he originated — earned negative reviews and ended up being a box office flop. (Of course, the fact that it came out during a time when many people were staying away from movie theaters due to COVID-19 concerns surely didn’t help matters.) Among the criticisms was that Platt was by the point of filming too old to play the character he originated. Others felt the stage-to-screen adaptation presented viewers with an overly sanitized view of mental illness.

Meanwhile, the Broadway touring production of “Dear Evan Hansen” is out on the road and thrilling theater fans once again. The show has just kicked off a lengthy run at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco.

Details: Through Feb. 19; 1192 Market St.; San Francisco; $66.50-$256.50 (subject to change); broadwaysf.com.

— Jim Harrington, Staff

Wondering where Bruce Cockburn is?

Serving up an enjoyable blend of first-rate musicianship, progressive politics and good old-fashion humor, Canadian Bruce Cockburn has been a folk music gem for more than 50 years. Most Americans know him best for one of his earliest hits (and his biggest-charting song in America) 1979’s “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” a sort of laugh-at-the-coming-apocalypse protest song with a poppy tune and reggae beat that hit No. 21 on the Billboard charts and earned Cockburn an appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

But his discography goes considerably deeper than that – he’s penned some 350 songs touching on ecology, religion (he was raised an agnostic but converted to Christianity), politics, human rights and pop culture and has released more than 35 albums over his career. He’s also known for such tunes as “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and has been covered by acts as varied as Barenaked Ladies and U2. Cockburn is also a vastly under-appreciated guitarist, perhaps due to his own self-deprecating humor. He’s referred to his guitar style as “a combination of country blues fingerpicking and poorly absorbed jazz training,” but his song “End of All Rivers” is one of the most gorgeous acoustic instrumental tracks you’ll ever hear. Cockburn is touring North American and stops in at the Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University Friday for one show only.

Details: Presented by Stanford Live; 7:30 p.m.; $15-$68; live.stanford.edu.

— Bay Area News Foundation

Zach Moses brings Signals to Stanford

While the Diving Dame project marks Zach Moses’ Stanford Live debut, he won’t have any trouble finding his way to Bing Studio. A longtime faculty member at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Stanford in Earth systems and environmental communication while also studying music production and engineering at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).

Many of those interests manifest in Moses’ collaboration with Arswain, the alter ego of film composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer Freddy Avis. Now living in Los Angeles, where he’s also working as a film composer, producer, bassist and singer, Moses has found an ideal foil in Arswain. Together they juxtapose stripped-down acoustic songs next to polymorphous electronic grooves, contrasting serene ambient pieces with subterranean beats.

Inspired by the precarious relationship between humanity and our home planet, Driving Dame poses big questions and dares to find hope amidst the squall. Moses and Arswain bring Diving Dame and its latest project, Signals, to Stanford Friday for one show.

Details: 7 p.m.; Bing Studio, Stanford University; $30-$35; live.stanford.edu.

— Andrew Gilbert, Correspondent

Classical picks: MTT at SF Symphony, Black composers

Here are three concerts Bay Area classical fans should know about.

French delights: The music of Olivier Messiaen always yields enchantment, and two of the late French composer’s champions come together at the San Francisco Symphony this week. Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet joins Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra in Messiaen’s “Trois petites Liturgies de La Présence Divine,” which features piano, percussion, a women’s chorus, and the otherworldly sounds of the ondes Martenot. Works by Debussy and Villa-Lobos complete the program. Details: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday; Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $35-$165; www.sfsymphony.org.

“Rooted in America”: The often overlooked work of African American composers continues to be central at the Oakland Symphony, and this Friday’s program is no exception. With conductor Andrew Grams on the podium, the event features William Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony,” Florence Price’s “Five Folksongs in Counterpoint,” and George Gershwin’s “Second Rhapsody,” along with solo piano works by Artie Matthews and Margaret Bonds played by Sara Davis Buechner. Details: 8 p.m. Friday; Paramount Theatre, Oakland; $25-$90; oaklandsymphony.org.

“Italianità in the Americas”: Music by composers from North and South America — all of whom have Italian ancestry — are featured on Sunday’s program by Mission Chamber Orchestra of San José. The concert spans works by Argentine masters Luis Gianneo and Astor Piazzolla, to more recent compositions by Henry Mollicone and John Corigliano. Details: 3 p.m. Sunday; Italian American Heritage Foundation, San Jose; $10-$25; missionchamber.org.

— Georgia Rowe, Correspondent

A motoring musical

In “Miss You Like Hell,” a mother who may soon be deported tracks down her troubled 16-year-old daughter, from whom she’s been estranged for years. Figuring it might be a last change to reconnect, the two take off on an epic road trip across the United States; along the way they meet a strange cast of characters and change their lives in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

Two San Jose theater companies, City Lights and Teatro Visión, are teaming up to present the 2016 musical by Quiara Alegría Hudes (book) and Erin McKeown (music and lyrics). Hudes is a Pulitzer Prize winner for her play “Water by
the Spoonful” and wrote the book for the it Broadway musical “In the Heights.”

Says Teatro Visión artistic director Rodrigo García, who is helming the production, “The play sheds light onto the issue of family separation due to our broken immigration system, but despite the adversity, these two women defy the odds to get closer than ever.”

After a short delay due to cast issues, the show, with both English and Spanish subtitles, opens on Saturday.

Details; In previews Jan. 26-27, main run is Jan. 28 through Feb. 19 at City Lights Theater, San Jose, and Feb. 23-26 at Mexican Heritage Plaza, San Jose; $10-$54; cltc.org.

— Randy McMullen, Staff

Color coordinated

The phrase “feeling blue” might not mean anything very deep to most people, but to artist Erin Fong, it’s literally a loaded statement. Fong, a Bay Area artist and letterpress printer, has long explored how colors and hues influence our moods in ways both obvious and subtle.

Those concepts are in effect in a new exhibit, “Erin Fong: The Sensation of Color” at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek. Visitors to the gallery inside the Lesher Center for the Arts will be greeted by a color explosion set off by Fong’s vibrant collection of prints, paintings and installations.

Included in the collection is “The Color Corridor,” 17-foot maze that gradually changes color, allowing visitors to monitor how their outlook is altered as they traverse the work. There is also the “Color Communion,” a large sensory experience that gallery organizers say “incorporates light and sound components to further allow visitors to connect with themselves and the colors that surround them.”

Details: Through April 2; Bedford Gallery at Lesher Center for Arts, Walnut Creek; open noon-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; $5, free for children 12 and under; www.bedfordgallery.org.

— Randy McMullen, Staff

Gregory Rick’s painting “Trap” is on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (SMOMA) 

SFMOMA hosts rising Bay Area artists

Among the things the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art does to help support Bay Area artists is staging the annual SECA Awards, which not only helps emerging artists but also arts fans who want to get acquainted with them. The award is named for an auxiliary of the museum, the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art, founded in 1961. Interestingly, some reports note that in its initial makeup, the group was for men only (this changed in a few years). In any event, its role was to create a better connection between the museum and Bay Area artists, and the annual SECA Awards are part of that.

The awards have been granted each year since 1967 to an artist or group of artists who display appreciable talent and artistic development but have not yet garnered much recognition. Each winner is granted an exhibition at SFMOMA and accompanying catalog as well as a cash prize. The best part, as far as arts fans are concerned, is that we can view each artist’s exhibit. For free. This year’s winners are Binta Ayofemi, Maria A. Guzmán Capron, Cathy Lu, Marcel Pardo Ariza, and Gregory Rick. Each artist gets a second floor SFMOMA gallery with which to display site-specific works. Ayofemi’s installation deals with such concepts as Black abstract art and Black joy; Capron’s sculptures merge human figures with more abstract forms; Lu’s clay creations, as SFMOMA puts it, “combines long-nailed hands and corner-store fruits”; Ariza displays portraits of Bay Area transgender leaders that mimic Catholic altarpieces; and Rick’s complex abstract paintings tackle race issues.

Details: Works on display through May 29; free; more information is at www.sfmoma.org.

Game on for gambling play

Gambling casinos are a pervasive and widely publicized form of revenue for Native American reservations, but the dark side of the arrangements – the incidences or crippling gambling addiction on these reservations – doesn’t get a lot of attention. But “Cashed Out,” a new play getting its world premiere at S.F. Playhouse, focuses on three generations of women at the Gila River Indian Community Reservation in Arizona who have been touched by gambling addiction and have struggled to maintain American Indian traditions in the face of enormous financial interference.

The work is the first full-length play by Native American playwright Claude Jackson, Jr., whose day job is as a lawyer and director of the public defender’s office for the Gila River reservation. “Cashed Out” first drew attention in a short-play festival, leading to a S.F. Playhouse commission. It premiered as an online streaming production during the 2020 pandemic and was an immediate hit with Playhouse viewers. Now it’s getting its first live staging with what is no doubt a rarity at theater companies – a production featuring a Native American playwright, Native American director (Tara Moses) and all-Native American or indigenous person cast.

Details: In previews beginning Jan. 26; main run is Feb. 1-25; S.F. Playhouse, 450 Post St., San Francisco; $15-$100; www.sfplayhouse.org.

— Bay Area News Foundation


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