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Music Before, During and After the Fourth of July
By Grace Lichtenstein, Special to iBerkshires
03:20PM / Wednesday, June 27, 2018
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Singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne appears Friday, June 29, at Mass MoCA.

Hi, pop fans. You'll note that today's column covers both this week and next, right through the weekend following the Fourth of July.


Berkshire Theatre Group

There will be several new musicals to enjoy, thanks to the Berkshire Theatre Group. "Coming Back Like a Song!" features songs by Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and Jimmy Van Heusen. It was written by Lee Kalcheim and is at the Fitzpatrick Main Stage, 83 East Main St., in Stockbridge. The show begins previews Thursday, June 28, at 7 p.m. and runs through Saturday, July 21. The official opening night is Sunday, July 1, with BTG's 90th gala beginning at 5p.m. and the show itself at 6 p.m. Matinees are Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The show is described as taking place on Christmas Eve 1956; the three iconic songwriters reminisce as they face competition from rock 'n' roll. The songs are guaranteed singalongs: "Cheek to Cheek," "Always," "Over the Rainbow," "The Man That Got Away," "Swingin' On a Star" and "All the Way," to mention several.

Meanwhile the BTG offers a special treat on Friday, June 29, at 2 p.m. with a free performance of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (Revised)." It's an acting intern production of the show by composer/lyricist Clark Gesner based on Charles Schultz's beloved characters, directed by Alan Filderman. The performance takes place at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield.

And then, the BTG opens its run of the ground-breaking musical "Hair." The sun shines in starting with previews Thursday July 5. Opening night is Saturday, July 7. The show runs through Aug. 11, with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays. The book and lyrics are by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, with music by Galt MacDermot. And be aware: Just like the original 50 years ago, it contains nudity. It's at the Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge. For more info on these shows, visit the website.


Capitol Steps at Cranwell

Friday, June 29, also marks the return of a hilarious perennial comedy with music - The Capitol Steps - performing at the Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort in Lenox. Its tag line says "We put the MOCK in Democracy." Given the state of politics these days, this year's show should be amazing. Performances are at 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesdays through Sundays. (It is dark on Tuesdays.) The Capitol Steps continue through Aug. 31, so you might have to go more than once. More information can be found online.


Mass MoCA

Singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne appears Friday, June 29, at 7 p.m. at Mass MoCA in North Adams, with special guest Neko Case. Ray won a Grammy some years back for his contemporary folk album God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise.His special guest is Neko Case, the singer-songwriter best known as a member of the Canadian indie rock group The New Pornographers.

Head for Mass MoCA on Saturday, July 6, to catch LADAMA. This ensemble of four women singers and instrumentalists from Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and the United States perform infectious folk interpretations of original and traditional songs. NPR hailed LADAMA as having "Irresistible spirit and universal appeal." With Cuban music opening the show, we predict you'll be dancing. The show starts at 8 p.m.; check the website for more information.



Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are the headliners Friday, June 29, at 8 p.m. at Ozawa Hall on the Tanglewood grounds. Regulars know that Ozawa is more intimate than the Shed, so it should be a perfect venue for this versatile banjo player. He and his combo can play jazz, bluegrass and folk rock, so come prepared to be entertained by music from around the world.

On Sunday afternoon, July 1, at 2:30 p.m. at the Shed at Tanglewood, a double shot of wide ranging contemporary pop arrives in the persons of Emmylou Harris, the country singer who made long grey hair chic, and Ry Cooder, the guitarist who has ventured far and wide from his original rock roots to world music and beyond. He's the man who brought the Buena Vista Social Club to the world's attention.

The next evening, Monday July 2, you can "Fly Like an Eagle" with the 1970s sounds of the Steve Miller Band at Tanglewood. Peter "Show Me The Way" Frampton opens for Miller. It all gets underway at 7 p.m.

It would hardly be Independence Day without the appearance of Tanglewood favorite James Taylor. Be prepared for jams, both musical and traffic, as James and his band appear on Tuesday July 3 and Wednesday July 4. The announced start time is 8 p.m., but the gates open for your picnicking pleasure at 5 p.m. each night. After the July 4 concert, there are fireworks over Stockbridge Bowl.

Join the summer-long Bernstein Centennial celebration at the Shed on Sunday, July 7, at 8 p.m for a semi-staged production of the show "On The Town." Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops in the Bernstein/Comden and Green collaboration, choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Directed by Kathleen Marshall, performers including Brandon Victor Dixon, Christian Dante, Andy Karl, Megan Lawrence, Andrea Martin, Laura Osnes, Georgina Pazoguin and Marc Kudisch. Don't quite remember it? Four sailors cavort on shore leave in "New York New York, a helluva town." More info online.


Williamstown Theatre Festival

The big news at the Williamstown Theatre Festival is a one-night-only benefit, Monday July 9: An Evening with Chita Rivera. The Broadway megastar appears on the Main Stage recreating moments from her luminous career. Accompanying her are Michael Croiter (music director/percussion/guitar), Gary Adler (associate music director/piano) and Jim Donica (bass). Check out the website for details.


And there's more

As part of Jacob's Pillow Inside/Out series, Wild Rhythm, the New York swing duo Nathan Bugh and Gaby Cook, perform free Thursday, June 28, at 6:15 p.m. More info on the website.

Tuesday, July 3 (9:30 p.m.) and Wednesday, July 4 (8 p.m.) are play dates at Mr. Finn's Cabaret in Pittsfield, with David Lutken & The Seats of the Pants Band offering Give Me Liberty 2018. The show is billed as "songs of Myth and Legend, History and Humor, Patriotism, Rebellion and Resistance, played on banjo, bass, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, harmonica and guitar," by such songwriters as Jimmie Rodgers, Maybelle Carter, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Pete Seeger.

At Arlo Guthrie's Center in the Old Trinity Church, Great Barrington, Friday, July 6, Hudson Valley troubadour Tom Chapin performs his folksongs and satiric numbers starting at 8 p.m.  More info online.

This column will return Wednesday, July 11. Have a glorious Fourth of July, everyone.

For tips on upcoming popular and jazz music, email Grace Lichtenstein.

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