Wine-colored velvet hangs over the Palace Theatre?s vast proscenium stage, completing a picture of elegance sketched out by the ornate cream walls and balconies. Opened in 1931 as an RKO movie house, the theater has survived the century with much of its original furnishings intact, including the huge brass chandelier, the original murals by Andrew Karoly and Jules Zartol, and the pack of hyenas that provided the prototype laugh track for vaudeville shows.
Still emanating fumes from their drag race to the top of the bluegrass scene, Grammy-nominated group The Grascals inspires infectious toe tapping and hand clapping during impassioned performances. Building on roots that trace back more than two decades, the tightly spun sextet fuses harmonious, twang-packed vocals with the plucks of a banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Light-hearted, jovial jams peppered among soul-searching ballads and dramatic diary readings work together to weave a wondrous catalog–an effort that has led to collaborations with country legends such as Dolly Parton and Hank Williams Jr. This year, the group continued their blitz on the bluegrass genre with four more award nominations from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Local favorites the Ramblin Jug Stompers lay the groundwork for an evening of two-steps, as they carry on the tradition of American string bands and air-harmonica solos of the 1960s.
For two decades, New Century Theatre has provoked thoughtful postshow discussions with a mix of new works and fresh renditions of familiar classics. "Distracted," a new play by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter, Lisa Loomer, follows the parents, teachers, and doctors of a rambunctious 9-year-old boy as they try to determine whether he has ADHD. By turns hilarious and poignant, the action unfolds within Smith College's Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts, a performance hall built in 1964 and recently renovated to add modern comforts and chase Banquo's ghost from the wings.
Actor and comedian Russell Brand frees chortles from belly prisons with his unique style of manic, irreverent humor. Riffing on the nature of fame and celebrity, Brand regales audiences with edgy observations and outsized characters to delight audiences grown bored with tamer comedians and telephone time-of-day services. Visiting a series of colleges, the tour filters the eccentricities of American universities through Brand's singular wit. George Mason University's recently renovated Patriot Center contains the glee in arena-style seating, ensuring everyone has a clear view of both Brand and the cricket whispering jokes in his ear.
A three-day lineup stocked with jazz legends and emerging talents blasts through more time signatures than a clock’s checkbook to usher in the 16th incarnation of the Litchfield Jazz Festival. The Springs Center stage kicks off Friday with genre luminaries The Clayton Brothers, whose silky sounds light a fire under the crowd that fellow Grammy nominees Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue stoke with brassy flares. Saturday hosts a veritable who’s-who of mind-blowing musicians with NEA Jazz Master grant winner Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band blasting buttery sounds after a Ray Charles tribute featuring Davell Crawford belts harmonies more memorable than “Happy Birthday” sung in Klingon. A collection of performers worthy of a Gatsbyan soiree closes out the festival on Sunday, with a hip-swinging finale from Jimmy Heath.