Arts & Entertainment

An Epic Comedy

When people hear the words Ben Hur, it generally evokes a memory of lengthy biblical epic about revenge and redemption. That’s about to change. Playwright Patrick Barlow, a master adapter of plays, takes on the classic Ben Hur with hilarious results at the Long Beach Playhouse, Feb. 24 to March 24.

Barlow’s take on the epic Ben Hur is a story within a story as a drama society attempts to mount a serious production. The cast of thousands is reduced to an ensemble of six. The puns come fast, and unlike the stately dromedaries in the movie, Barlow’s camels are stuffed, and Ben Hur’s tunic is shockingly short and begs to be tweaked.

Alex Shewchuck joins Greg Cohen as the assistant director. The six-member cast features three returning actors, Amara Phelps, Grant Thackray, Eric Schiffer, and Charlie Rodriguez. Making their debut is Devin Ricklef and Jackie Shearn.

As Greg Cohen says in his director’s note, “How in the world are they going to produce Ben Hur in a theater that size?” Come see the show and find out!

Tickets are available at www.lbplayhouse.org, or by calling (562) 494-1014, option 1.

‘Brahms Requiem’

On Saturday, March 9, Long Beach Symphony and Maestro Eckart Preu will celebrate spring with the music of Guillaume Connesson, Vaughan Williams, and Johannes Brahms, featuring solo performances by Elissa Johnston, Kevin Deas, and the powerful choral talents of the Long Beach Camerata Singers.

The evening begins with living French composer Guillaume Connesson’s “Cosmic Trilogy” (2010) as it rejoices in the vastness of the universe, its mysteries, and gorgeously illustrates the journey of life through the birth, radiance, and death of a star. Disparate influences of Indian raga and John Adams-esque modernism combine to convey the universal impact of time passing and how moments of the past and future come together to define the present.

Inspired by lovers gazing at the stars in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Serenade to Music” captures the wonder of the night sky and its unfathomable mysteries. The magic of the universe looking back upon itself is highlighted by the sweeping, lush orchestral arrangement. Come see why “Serenade to Music” reportedly brought audience member Sergei Rachmaninov to tears.

The evening closes with Johannes Brahms’ “A German Requiem,” a mournful meditation on death and redemption. Brahms’ poignant musical prayer (composed between 1865 and 1868) offers comfort and grace in the face of grief and commemoration of life. “A German Requiem” reflects the painful losses Brahms experienced in his own life, composed after the passing of both his adored mother and his mentor, Robert Schumann. Baritone Kevin Deas and Soprano Elissa Johnston join the Long Beach Camerata Singers in an evening celebrating the mysteries of life, death, and humanity’s place in the infinite universe.

Info: (562) 436-3203, ext. 1 or LongBeachSymhphony.org.

Virtuosic Jazz

Three-time Grammy Award winner and NEA Jazz Master Branford Marsalis returns to the Carpenter Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 15, at 8 p.m. The world-renowned saxophonist appears on stage with the Branford Marsalis Quartet, including Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums. The three-time Grammy Award winner has led the Branford Marsalis Quartet since its inception in 1986. Revered for its kaleidoscopic range and unapologetic artistry, the quartet is the standard by which other jazz ensembles are measured.

Raised in New Orleans to jazz royalty, Branford Marsalis is the eldest musical sibling of one of jazz’s most famous families. He toured with Art Blakey and Herbie Hancock, his brother Wynton, the Grateful Dead, and Sting before forming the Branford Marsalis Quartet almost three decades ago. In the classical arena, Marsalis is a frequently featured soloist with acclaimed orchestras around the world. Marsalis has cemented his status as an uncompromising musician, composer, and educator.

Tickets, $65, available at carpenterarts.org.

Legacy Photo Collection

The Historical Society of Long Beach is partnering with the Long Beach Chicano Community History Committee on a ground-breaking exhibition, “Centro de La Raza: John A. Taboada Legacy Photo Collection 1970-1985.” The exhibition opens to the public on Friday, March 29 at 1 p.m.. View Taboada’s photographs in his first posthumous exhibition that tells the impactful history of the Centro de La Raza.

The Long Beach Chicano Community History Committee, comprised of former Centro de La Raza (Centro) employees Ron and Phyllis Arias, Theresa Marino, Carmen O. Perez, Margie Rodriguez, and Armando Vazquez-Ramos, worked closely with Historical Society of Long Beach staff to develop the exhibition.

Photographer John A. Taboada, a former CSULB student who chronicled the Centro’s activities between 1970 and 1985, passed away during preparation for this show. His legacy photographs are the basis for the exhibition which includes nearly 100 images, artifacts, and ephemera broken into sections on John A. Taboada, la escuela (school), culture, people, MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán), Chicano Political Caucus, and activism.

The Centro, also known as the East Long Beach Neighborhood Center, was established in 1969 as one of five neighborhood centers in Long Beach. The federal War on Poverty funded the centers through the Long Beach Commission for Economic Opportunities, also known as the Long Beach Community Action Program. The Centro was designated to serve the Spanish speaking population of Long Beach. It was established under the administration of Family Service of Long Beach, and operated through a representative and democratically elected community advisory board.

The exhibition runs through 2024.

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