It's been a good couple of years for the Gershwins. Composer George (who died in 1937 at the age of 38) and lyricist Ira (who outlived his brother by nearly half a century, dying age 86 in 1983) are currently represented by two very different Broadway musicals. The nuttily nostalgic Nice Work If You Can Get (which was initially developed at Connecticut's own Goodspeed Opera House in 2001) continues to play at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway (where it's slated to close June 15). The cutting-edge reimagining The Gershwin's Porgy & Bess — a shortened and reimagined version of the groundbreaking folk opera — had to extend its New York run into last fall, and will soon start a national tour.
While George Gershwin was composing show tunes and pop hits for the likes of Al Jolson and Fred Astaire, he was also exploring how far he could stretch the resources of symphony orchestras into the jazz era. One attempt resulted in the historic "An Experiment in Modern Music" concert in February 1924 at New York's Aeolian Hall, which featured the jazz band led by Paul Whiteman (who'd commissioned the piece) plus a string section. The centerpiece of the concert was the debut of "Rhapsody in Blue," as orchestrated by another jazz-friendly classically gifted composer of the time, Ferde Grofé.
May 9-12 at the Bushnell, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra is doing "Rhapsody in Blue" with the acclaimed piano duo of Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe as soloists. They're surrounding the rhapsody with equally jazzy selections: Anderson's "I Got Rhythm Variations," which play off a classic Gershwin dance theme, Vaughan Williams' discordant, majestically modern and sax-laced Symphony No. 6. Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. (860) 244-2999.
In other local theater news, Gregor Paslawsky, who's currently playing the Sea Captain in Twelfth Night at Hartford Stage, and previously appeared at the theater as Sidney Redlitch in Bell, Book and Candle, is also an accomplished teacher. Paslawsky's holding two master classes at Hartford Stage next month: "Clown for Actors" (June 9 & 10) and "Melodrama" (June 16 & 17). "All experience levels are welcome." For details, see http://www.hartfordstage.org/education.