Anne Frank was only 13 in 1942, when she and her Jewish family went into hiding in Amsterdam to avoid persecution from the Nazis. For two years, the sensitive young girl kept a poignant diary of her feelings and experiences, before she was eventually dispatched to a concentration camp, where she died of typhus. The postwar publication of Anne’s diary caused an international sensation, and the subsequent play derived from her journal won both the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize after its 1955 Broadway debut. A later Hollywood film brought further attention to the Frank family’s harrowing ordeal, in the process helping to sensitize the world to the plight of Holocaust victims. Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s new revival of this familiar classic features Wendy Kesselman’s 1997 textual additions, which amplify the original script written by the well-known stage and film writing team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich (It’s a Wonderful Life, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). Kesselman’s updated materialdrawn from previously unpublished entries in an unexpurgated 1995 edition of Frank’s booksolidifies the play’s historical accuracy and utilizes radio broadcasts and voice-overs to intensify its legendary, darkly dramatic effect. Director Brant Pope returns to the Rep to oversee a production that stars Matt Carlton, Nan Gurley, Evelyn Blythe, Denice Hicks and Cecil Jones. Young Nicole Winston takes on the title role. Performances are at TPAC’s Polk Theater, March 10-21. For tickets, call 255-ARTS.
Mike Seeger It’s arguable that Mike Seeger has done more to define American folk music than his world-famous half-brother Peteand that he’s pulled it off while establishing the “Old Timey” field with his partners of over 40 years, The New Lost City Ramblers. Opting out of sing-alongs, Seeger decided early on that he’d stick with American music, with the occasional side trip to its direct antecedents. He also was among the earliest always to include African American music in his Americana, so we’re as likely to hear his take on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’ ” as on “The Wind and the Rain.” In the face of precisely the sort of cuted-up and watered-down ’60s pop-folk lampooned in A Mighty Wind, he chose to focus on presenting more informed versions of roots music material. Taking into account the instrumental and singing styles of the music’s originators as they played it, Seeger nevertheless has avoided embalming it as sober stuff that’s “good for you.” He’s always been willing to add modernizing touches and playful turns on everything from banjo to fiddle to mando; he’s also on a really short list of gods of the autoharp. Here’s a man who’s played with Doc Boggs, Mother Maybelle and Elizabeth Cottenand who carries on their traditions, singing strongly, his way. State Farm Lecture Hall, MTSU
The Dirtbombs The Dirtbombs shrug off every label that critics and fans throw their way. They aren’t a garage band, they say. And they aren’t punk. They certainly aren’t the latest rock band from Detroit. Still, the band’s influences are evident, and what they play is more garage-funk than anything else. They’re loud and confident and have a punk swagger, but their energy is focused and tight, the drumbeats and bass lines pushing like the best soul and R&B, so that what could become raging aimlessness turns into something smarter and more heartfeltsexier, even. Lead singer Mick Collins’ voice is edgy and low, with a roughness that grabs you each time he pleads, “These chains of love won’t set me free” on Ultraglide in Black, the band’s album of covers. The last time the Dirtbombs played Nashville, their Sunday-night booking couldn’t deter a good-sized crowd from coming out. This week’s show with Memphians The Lost Sounds should be even better. Exit/In
Premonitions Of War/The End Premonitions of War fuse hardcore and death metal, but the group’s hardcore side is overtly evident only during the bridge sections of their songs, when they frequently downshift to mid-tempo, mosh-inducing fare. Otherwise, their hardcore roots lie submerged, subtly informing their grim approach with frantic energy. The drums, for example, sometimes sound like they’re tumbling down a flight of stairs. Co-produced by Tampa death metal luminary Erik Rutan, last year’s Lost in Kowloon is another recent example of Victory Records’ continuing involvement in hardcore’s branching-out process. Similarly, Ontario’s The End play with the relentless density of their post-grindcore, extreme-metal peers, but without the latent arthouse tendencies. Their ominous aura stems mainly from the balance of restraint and sensationalism with which they assay topics like incest, murder and what goes on in creepy basements. The 5 Spot
Corndawg Corndawg is likely the only country singer influenced by hardcore punk, TRON, Tim Conway and ’50s gay pulp novels. Whether he’s dancing mock-Cossack style, playing shirtless on top of a Suburban (as he did outside Woody’s Tavern in Louisville last year) or plying his trade in a more traditional club setting, Corndawg’s singular goal is to plaster smiles across the mugs of a lucky few. Like John Prine, he conveys profound observations by exploring at times mundane lyric themes. “Lack of education didn’t hold me back / I use real butter on my buttermilk stack / I don’t need Gold’s Gym / ’cause I’m happy and fat,” he claims on “Midlife Crisis.” Corndawg is not the new James Taylor, but rather represents an alternative to middlebrow whose music spans the lo-fi folk of troubadours like The Frogs and Sentridoh and country-rockabilly freaks like Hasil Adkins and Marvin Rainwater. The Sutler
Nashville Mandolin Ensemble The mandolin often seems exclusively linked to bluegrass and country music these days, so the title of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble’s new album, Bach, Beatles, Bluegrass, serves as a reminder that it ain’t necessarily so. Like their concerts, the CD ranges freely across the centuries, recalling the instrument’s prominence during classical music’s Baroque era, the popular mandolin orchestras of the early 20th century and more recent contexts. Supplementing two mandolins, a mandola and a mando-cello with guitar, bass fiddle and an occasional violin part, the NME tackle not only the three B’s in their album’s title, but also songs by Hoagie Carmichael, Django Reinhardt, The Allman Brothers, Charlie Provenza and bandleader Butch Baldassari. Regardless of their source, Baldassari, a veteran of innovative bluegrass groups like Weary Hearts, says the compositions in the Ensemble’s repertoire share a common element. “They’ve got to have a strong melody. After that, a tune can develop in one of two wayseither orchestrally, where it can be charted and arranged, or else improvisationally, like with a jazz or a bluegrass group, where we can play the theme and then let everybody take a shot at it.” The result likely will pleasantly startle those who’ve heard the instrument only in a bluegrass setting or as a “color” instrument enhancing the texture of a modern country record. Belcourt Theatre
Eric Johnson Though this Texan guitarist at times shares the revved-up blues style of his compatriots Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan, his body of work is far more eclectic and rests on refined but challenging techniques rather than feral, head-on charges. His current tour draws upon last year’s Web-only release, Souvenir, which compiled and remixed unreleased tracks from his nearly 20-year career. Those who’ve followed him since he broke out as a solo artist at the ripe age of 30 on Austin City Limits look beyond his somewhat thin singing voice and too-balanced song forms. Even as he plays off against hammer-like rhythms that never quite cross over into jazziness, his originality lies in his gift for fine-textured chromatic lines, multi-tiered voicings and bursts of dextrous speed that bring each tone and accent to a rounded point. Belcourt Theatre
Lucinda Williams After chasing perfection for two decades (and coming closer than most artists dream), Williams has begun the new millennium assaying an “automatic music” most often associated with her greatest influence, Bob Dylan. Both Essence and World Without Tears opt for texture and mood over song formthe former a warmly erotic groove album, the latter a blues statement from a lifelong devotee. Lyrically, the records sacrifice Williams’ gift for just-right detail, instead displaying a more diffuse, evocative style. Yet both also engage and surprise longer than most genre workouts. Lesser tracks gradually leave an imprint, seemingly vague lyrics serve the aural design, and an always gifted singer reaches new heights of artistry and assurance. Williams’ live shows have witnessed a similar evolution, from a sometimes crippling stage fright to the best kind of professionalismone that encourages a searing “Masters of War” just days after 9/11, as well as her semi-regular extended blues encore. Opening for Neil Young last year, Williams and her band showcased the latent songcraft of her more recent material, curbing the epic guitar explorations of her Car Wheels shows. Ryman Auditorium
Bottle Rockets The story’s painfully familiar: indie success, scorching live act, major-label signing, disappointing sales, unceremonious dropping and once glowing promise squandered. What’s uncommon is a second act. Following an extended hiatus with intimations of a breakup, the Bottle Rockets released 2002’s loose-limbed, critically underrated Doug Sahm tributehardly a major statement, but spirited, fun and apparently cleansing. The “official” comeback, last year’s Blue Sky, may not match their early career peaks, but at least half its tracks are contenders. Brian Henneman and crew detail the Middle American day-to-day with uncommon empathy and care. The band’s range is reflected in the collection’s two standouts, the title track, a sunny love song that fondly recalls The Allman Brothers classic of the same name, and “Baggage Claim,” a 9/11 vignette that achingly captures the personal reverberations of national tragedy. Older, wiser, perhaps more pragmatic, the Bottle Rockets have abandoned the Skynyrd-cum-Ramones intensity of their early live sets for a more easeful tempo, befitting what has always been a premier song band. They’ll open for Lucinda Williams. Ryman Auditorium
The Cherry Orchard For years, academics have debated whether Anton Chekhov’s plays were comedies or serious dramas. Suffice to say that the great Russian author always thoroughly explored a wide range of human character traits and feelings, eliciting laughter and a sense of poignancy in equal measure. ACT I takes on one of Chekhov’s masterworks with this slice-of-life deconstruction of an aristocratic household at the turn of the 20th century, when the czarist social order is in upheaval. John Devine is the director. Performances are March 5-20 at the Darkhorse Theater. For tickets, phone 726-2281.
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee’s novel of small-town Southern bigotry and the local lawyer who strikes a blow for integrity and human kindness is one of the most beloved American literary works, with the famous 1962 film starring Gregory Peck further securing its legacy. Circle Players will present Christopher Sergel’s stage version of the classic tale March 5-14 at TPAC’s Johnson Theater. One additional performance will be mounted at the Gordon Jewish Community Center on March 27. Robyn Growdon directs a cast that includes Rodney Pickel as Atticus Finch, Natalia Dyer and Lauren Braddock. Phone 255-ARTS for tickets.
John Morris Stage performers looking to improve their skills may be interested in a unique opportunity to learn from a master of technique, as Cirque du Soleil assistant choreographer John Morris offers a movement workshop, 10 a.m.-noon March 6 at Montgomery Bell Academy’s rehearsal hall. The class, sponsored by Green Room Projects, will feature the techniques of Phillipe Gaullier’s “Le Jeu” method, an organic, play-based approach to physical movement that emphasizes the joy of acting and creating a character. People of all ages and experience are welcome, but class size is limited. For more information, contact Green Room Projects at 665-3066.
Faculty Art Exhibition/WATKINS COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN As the only independent, four-year art school in the city, Watkins has attracted some of Nashville’s best artists to the teaching world. The Watkins Faculty Art Exhibition features these talented teachers in what promises to be a diverse and solid group showing. On display in the school’s Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Gallery, the show features the work of more than 30 faculty members working in a wide range of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, mixed-media, sculpture, graphic design, photography, film and video. The many accomplished artists exhibiting include Kristina Arnold, Dona Berotti, Dan Brawner, Terry Glispin, Rob McClury, Matt Orozco, Lesley Patterson, Jack Dingo Ryan, Terry Thacker and Barbara Yontz. The opening reception is 6-8 p.m. Friday, March 5, and the exhibition runs through April 9.
“The Uighurs: Images of China’s Muslim Ethnic Minority”/ Centennial Art Center Each of Stacey Irvin’s vibrant photographs is a compact travelogue combining the aesthetics of a photographer with the insight of an anthropologist. Irvin traveled through Asia as the recipient of Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award in 2000. Some of the resulting photographs have been grouped in this exhibit, a celebration of her intention to return to the Xinjiang Province to work on a book project. The show opens with a reception, 7-9 p.m. March 5, and runs through March 26.
Bruce Feiler Abraham is the sole human figure that the world’s major monotheistic religions have in common. Though the historical Abraham is impossible to nail down, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all point to him as the ultimate man of faitha character who plays a pivotal role in the holiest days of all three traditions: Rosh Hashanah, Easter and The Feast of the Sacrifice. For Bruce Feiler, a New York Times best-selling author, this shared ancestry serves as a starting place for interfaith dialogue. His latest book, Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths, recounts the author’s travels through the holy land, during which he attempts to establish Abraham as a symbol for reconciliation among the three traditionsa mission that seems increasingly urgent since the events of 9/11. Feiler, who also penned Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes and the Changing Face of Nashville, is known for his thoughtful, exhaustive research, and he backs up Abraham’s premises with regional anecdotes and textual evidence. The book’s prose is sharp and convincing, and the author’s hopeful premise doesn’t carry him away. He’ll be in town to discuss the book, 7:30 p.m. March 10 at The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom. Call 352-7620 for information.
Paul V. Griffith
Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin By the mid-1930s, Charles Chaplin was not only the most famous person in the world, he also had the most recognizable image: the square mustache, the bowler hat, the flickering cane. Richard Schickel’s documentary makes essential viewing just for its clips of Chaplin at work, where the legendary comedian retains the power to make audiences laugh helplessly. The Belcourt screens the film for one week starting Friday, and in coming weeks it’ll offer a touring revival print of Chaplin’s 1936 masterpiece Modern Times.
The Dreamers A young American (Michael Pitt) falls under the spell of cinephilic siblings (Eva Green and Louis Garrel) in 1968 Paris, where film, revolution and sex prove a volatile mixture. The threesome even hash out the age-old Chaplin vs. Keaton debate, amidst bouts of exhibitionist grandstanding. If nothing else, Bernardo Bertolucci’s wistful drama deserves our thanks for restoring the demonized NC-17 rating to the good graces of commercial theaterssuch as Green Hills, where the film starts Friday. See the review on p. 60.
Touching the Void A perilous 1985 climb in the Peruvian Andes culminated in a horrific dilemma, as a climber was forced to decide whether to stay attached to the man at the end of his rope despite mortal riskor to cut the lifeline and save himself. Kevin Macdonald’s documentary, fleshed out with dramatic reenactments, recounts the climb, the choice and its chilling aftermath. The movie opens Friday at Green Hills.
Starsky and Hutch In the movie version of the ultimate ’70s cop show, Ben Stiller plays the overzealous Starsky, Owen Wilson is his amiably shifty partner Hutch, and Snoop Dogg steals his every scene as superfly informant Huggy Bear. Todd Phillips (Old School) directed. See the review in our Movie Guide on p. 61. Also opening: Viggo Mortensen in the horse opera Hidalgo.
Morlang Paul Freeman, best known as Indiana Jones’ tomb-raiding foe in Raiders of the Lost Ark, stars in this Dutch psychological thriller as a successful artist whose life comes unglued after he learns of his wife’s infidelity. The film shows 7 p.m. Friday at Watkins Film School, free and open to the public, as part of its Film Movement screening series.
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