Fall Arts Calendar looks Inviting!

From our pal, Joe Brown at the Las Vegas Sun:


Journalists, we are told, are not supposed to take an advocacy position, and that includes arts reporters and reviewers.

But after this summer’s torpid trickle of mostly bad news about Las Vegas arts organizations, I’m hoping you’ll give me a pass while I wax openly enthusiastic about the approach of the fall performing arts season.

As a critic, no one is happier than I am when I see our home teams — our own philharmonic, ballet company and dance and theater troupes — creating noteworthy, ovation-deserving work.

And now — with just a month to go before I have to start providing my opinions about what I see and hear — I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the fall.

So this is my chance to be nakedly boosterish, looking over what’s on the autumn arts calendar with hope and anticipation. Here (in a handy clip ’n’ save format, suitable for fridge magnets) is my fall forecast, the stuff that’s getting me through August:

The Las Vegas Philharmonic weathered a turbulent spring and summer, reorganizing its board and finances. The most immediately evident and welcome change is an improved Web site, with bios and photos of the musicians and more detailed program notes for preconcert prep. Music Director and conductor David Itkin is back, and violinist Giora Schmidt, a rising star and protege of Itzhak Perlman, is the soloist for the Sept. 12 season opener, which includes Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Symphony No.7. The Phil continues its successful pops program with “A Night at the Movies” on Oct. 3, and ends its Masterworks season (I wish they’d change that stuffy-sounding title) May 8 with “A Night at the Opera (For People Who Think They Hate Opera).”

Nevada Ballet Theatre takes its first steps under new Artistic Director James Canfield, who had a dramatic effect on the trimmed-down troupe’s presentation and polish after he arrived last season. Canfield has stirred controversy for acknowledging sex, violence and contemporaneous themes in his dances, which may translate into wider interest and new audiences. The Oct. 17 and 18 opening program includes Canfield’s “Coco,” inspired by the life of fashion icon Coco Chanel and set to the songs of French chanteuse Edith Piaf. An all-new “Nutcracker” is also promised at NBT’s snazzed-up Web site. In the interest of an informed audience, the company is adding pre- and post-show programs and Q&A sessions.

Nevada Conservatory Theatre follows up impressive stagings of “The Cradle Will Rock,” “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” and “The Diary of Anne Frank” by launching its season Oct. 2 with (arguably) the best work by the most difficult musical theater composer, “Company” by Stephen Sondheim. If anyone around here can do it justice, NCT can.

Insurgo Theater Movement is the troupe I’m looking forward to seeing more from. The smart, scrappy, always inventive group, which features a core of the best actors in town, has moved out of its eccentric digs inside a strip mall fetish shop, and is having another go at the Donner Party-themed “Cannibal! The Musical,” written by “South Park” co-creator Trey Parker. It opens Aug. 14 at the newly built theater at Town Square. Insurgo’s season includes a typically atypical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Loves Labours Lost” — staged as a battle of the bands between a debauched Euro rock group and an all-girl punk band — along with Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” Wilde’s “Salome” and the edgy rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

And that’s just cherry-picking from the vantage point of August. There’s lots more to be announced, and I’m looking forward to paying renewed attention to other performing groups, including Las Vegas Master Singers, Little Theatre of Las Vegas and Henderson Symphony, and to local showcases such as the weekly Acoustic Strip at House of Blues and the monthly Composers Showcase at the Liberace Museum.