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Arts & Entertainment

Hot picks: Omara Portuondo, Bob Dylan, Brian Posehn

| Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

Music: Latin jazz legend

Omara Portuondo, the female voice of the Buena Vista Social Club, on Sunday will bring her mix of Cuban-jazz-pop to the Byham Theater, Downtown.

Portuondo, 80, who grew up in Havana, first entered entertainment as a dancer, following in the steps of her older sister, Haydee. Then, the two of them joined two other singers in the Cuarteto las d'Aida, starting a career that has taken many directions since then.

For a time, she was appearing on stage in Cuba with performers such as Sarah Vaughan or Nat "King" Cole, but then came the revolution, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the cultural-political blockade that kept her music out of the United States. But in Cuba, her mastery of the romantic ballad and her native bolero made her a star.

A documentary was made of her life in 1986; in 1996, she joined the Buena Vista Social Club, a group that piqued interest in Cuban music. Music begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $42.75 and $25.75. Details: 412-456-6666.

— Bob Karlovits

Music: Singin' in the Pete

How many roads must a man walk down before he calls it a career?

At 69, Bob Dylan has every right to slow down, to sit at home and do whatever legends do in their dotage. Instead, Dylan seems married to the road. His concert Sunday at the Petersen Events Center on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh is another in a string of seemingly endless Dylan performances, another chance for him to dip into his extensive catalog, another opportunity for Dylanites to hear the sound of greatness in person.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $48.50; for Pitt students with a current ID, $22.

Details: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com .

— Rege Behe

Theater: Girls just wanna have ... some time away

For women who need a break from scaling the corporate ladder and/or picking up the toys in the family room, " Girls Night: The Musical" may provide the perfect excuse to cut loose.

An import from the United Kingdom, where it reportedly played to packed houses for four years, the show has been playing in the U.S. since 2007. An additional production is scheduled to open off-Broadway this week.

"Girls Night: The Musical" features five 30- and 40-something females and long-time friends who meet for a night out at a karaoke bar. While they reminisce about the past, catch up on current events in their own lives and speculate about what's next, they also indulge in a little musical showmanship with selections that include "I Will Survive," "Lady Marmalade" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Byham Theater, Downtown.

Admission: $51.25. Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org .

— Alice T. Carter

Music: Ready to be Finnished•

Finnish conductor Susanna Malkki makes her Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra debut at weekend concerts, giving local music lovers a chance to experience one of today's fastest-rising conductors.

Malkki was principal cellist of the Goteborg Symphony in Sweden when she gave up the bow for the baton. Two years after her 2004 debut with Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, she was named music director of the group founded by Pierre Boulez. She's been quickly re-engaged by top orchestras that she's already led, including the Boston Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra of London and Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Her program includes two pieces by Finnish composer Jan Sibelius -- Symphony No. 7 and "Finlandia." Malkki also will accompany violinist soloist Leila Josefowicz in Violin Concerto No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The concerts start at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $20 to $88.

Details: 412-3924900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org .

— Mark Kanny

Art: Get the big picture

At 20 feet wide and nearly 4 feet tall, the first-ever "Pittsburgh Gigapanorama" is by far the biggest piece in the exhibit "New Perspectives of Pittsburgh: Interactive Urban Panoramas," an exhibit featuring 20 Gigapan photographs of Pittsburgh by more than a dozen photographers on display now at the Photo Forum Gallery in the upper lobby of the U.S. Steel Tower.

Created by David Bear during his fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University's Studio for Creative Inquiry, "Pittsburgh Gigapanorama" was taken from the roof of the U.S. Steel Tower on the morning of Oct. 19, 2009. It is actually an assemblage of four separate Gigapans comprising a complete 360-degree image. Gigapans are stunning panoramas comprised of multiple high-resolution digital photographs digitally stitched together to form one amazingly large, and equally amazingly detailed image. In addition to seeing the real thing, visitors can access and explore all 20 of the images in high resolution online at two computer kiosks.

The exhibit continues through Nov. 19 and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and no reservations are necessary, but visitors should bring photo ID to show at the building's security desk. The U.S. Steel Tower is located at 600 Grant St., Downtown.

Details: 412-855-8875 or www.gigapanorama.org .

— Kurt Shaw

Music: Heroes in song

From Sousa to Superman, James Gourlay will be looking at what heroism means to America in the series of River City Brass concerts that start on Thursday evening.

Gourlay, the band's new music director, says he wants the "American Heroes" concerts to go beyond paying homage to those who have served or are serving the nation. He says he wants to do that by including "Steal Away," a spiritual, and "La Belle Americaine," which pays tribute all American women.

He also is going to present an American premiere, "Flame of Independence," in his effort to provide a fresh sound with new music. Each concert series this season has featured a new work in a subtle move to attract new listeners.

"We are gradually doing something that will have a long-term effect," he says.

Concerts will be 8 p.m. Thursday, Gateway High School, Monroeville; 8 p.m. Friday, Carson Middle School, McCandless; 8 p.m. Saturday, Palace Theatre, Greensburg; 3 p.m. Sunday, Pasquerilla Arts Center, Johnstown; 8 p.m. Tuesday, Upper St. Clair Theater; 8 p.m. Nov. 11, Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland; 3 p.m. Nov. 14, Baldwin High School. Prices vary. Details: 412-434-7222.

— Bob Karlovits

Theater: Licking bad behavior

People behaving badly is a common thread that runs through Theresa Rebeck's plays.

" Mauritius," which has its final performances at Little Lake Theatre this weekend, is no exception.

Two sisters inherit an album of potentially valuable stamps. They're pursued by five stamp collectors who will do anything -- illegal, immoral or even legitimate -- to acquire the precious squares of paper.

The tricky bit is to figure out exactly who's scamming or betraying whom as well as why and when.

The production closes Saturday , leaving but three opportunities to see it -- 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday -- at Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive, North Strabane.

Admission: $15 and $17 or $12 for ages 15 and younger.

Details: 724-745-6300 or www.littlelaketheatre.org .

— Alice Carter

Music: Palace of the Lord

Contemporary Christian music star Amy Grant, known as the first major crossover success in the genre, will be coming Friday to the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. Grant, whose hits include "Baby Baby," "Find a Way" and "Every Heartbeat," has produced three multiplatinum albums, six other platinum albums and four more gold albums. Grant, a native of Augusta, Ga., is married to country star Vince Gill. Her latest album, "Somewhere Down the Road," came out in March this year.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 to $75, and opera box seats are available for $100. Details: 724-836-8000 or www.thepalacetheatre.org .

— Kellie Gormly

Comedy: Laughs make the man

You wouldn't look twice at Brian Posehn, but give him just half a chance and he'll have you laughing. A schleppy-looking guy with scattered red hair and the myopic squint of a mole, he could play the character of Comic Book Guy if they ever made a live-action film of "The Simpsons." The self-described "giant nerd" is a lovable dork with a sly sense of humor and a bunch of great stories on meeting some of his heavy metal heroes. He had a recurring role on "The Sarah Silverman Program" and also appeared on "Just Shoot Me" and the HBO series "Mister Show." He performs at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday at the Pittsburgh Improv. Admission is $20. Details: 412-462-5233

— William Loeffler

Music: Grown into her grandeur

Emmylou Harris has morphed from a lissome Southern gal playing coffeehouses in Greenwich Village to an elegant woman whose music transcends categorization. Appearing Tuesday at the Byham Theater, Downtown, as a guest of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Harris has performed with Gram Parsons, Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt. Perhaps it's more correct to say those artists have performed with her, such is the respect she receives from her peers.

Harris' most recent album, "All I Intended to Be," is a work of indescribable grandeur that starts with her country base and fans out to include all forms of American music.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $33.50 to $48.50.

Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org .

— Rege Behe

Music: Celebrating Chopin, Schumann

Anniversaries serve many useful purposes, including bringing neglected music back to life. Pianist David Allen Wehr will be joined by four other musicians to do that at Sunday's celebration of composers Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann on the 200th anniversaries of their births.

The program will include such rarities as Schumann's Six Canonic Studies for Pedal Piano, an instrument with a row of pedals for the feet like an organ console. Wehr and Cynthia Raim will play it in Claude Debussy's arrangement for two pianos.

Pittsburgh Symphony principal cellist will play Chopin's only Cello Sonata with Wehr. The biggest ensemble will be for Schumann's Andante and Variations, in which Wehr will be joined by Williams and fellow first stand cellist David Premo and hornist Zachary Smith.

The concert starts at 3 p.m. Sunday at PNC Recital Hall at the Mary Pappert School of Music, Duquesne University, Uptown. Suggested donation: $10.

Details 412-396-6083 or www.duq.edu/music .

— Mark Kanny

Music: Chamber premieres

Two premieres and three classics fill the program of clarinetist Jon Manasse and pianist Jon Nakamatsu that will presented Monday by the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society. It is the first of the society's subset of recital concerts this season.

The duo brings together a former principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and the Gold Medal winner of the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas. They've been concertizing together since 2004.

The concert will feature the first local performances of "Four Rags for Two Jons" by John Novacek and "Lecuoneiras" from "The Cape Cod Files" by Paquito D'Rivera. Music by Johannes Brahms, Carl Maria von Weber and Felix Mendelssohn complete the program.

The performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Bellefield Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Oakland. Admission: $35, $15 for students.

Details: 412-624-4129.

— Mark Kanny

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