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26 Issues

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Best of Spring: 35 events in music, theater, and dance you will not want to miss


Isata Kanneh-Mason / Photo by David Benni

23: Harriman-Jewell Series; Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason; The eldest of the seven celebrated musical siblings performs Prokofiev’s Third Concerto, and conductor Vasily Petrenko leads London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s hyper-charged Second Symphony; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

25: International Center for Music at Park University; Rosamunde Trio; The renowned London-based piano trio, two members of which (violinist Ben Sayevich and cellist Daniel Veis) are on the Park University faculty, play music of Beethoven and Chopin (solo piano works performed by Martino Tirimo) and Bedřich Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor; The 1900 Building. Contact: 1900bldg.com.

25-27: Midwest Trust Center; North: The Musical; Author-composer-vocalist Ashli St. Armant wrote this after visiting the Louisiana town where her family had been enslaved in the antebellum South; it recounts the journey of a boy and his mother northward toward freedom; Yardley Hall. Contact: 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/midwest-trust-center.

30-March 10: Coterie Theatre; The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical; This new version for young audiences of the musical by Joe Tracz and Rob Rokicki (adapted from the best-selling book by Rick Riordan) depicts the lives of teenaged outcasts as they discover that they are in fact demigods; The Coterie Theatre, Crown Center. Contact: 816-474-6552 or thecoterie.org.



3: Harriman-Jewell Series; Simone Dinnerstein, piano; This imaginative musician, who in 2007 created an international sensation with her recording of the Goldberg Variations,returns to Kansas City with a multimedia program focusing on Charles Ives’ monumental “Concord” Sonata; Folly Theater. Contact: 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

Black Violin

7: Kauffman Center Presents; The Black Violin Experience, Kev Marcus on violin and Wil Baptiste on viola and vocals, together as Black Violin, present a blend of classical, hip-hop, and other styles to produce music that transcends categories (they are currently at 25 million YouTube views); Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: 816-994-7222 or kauffmancenter.org.

8-17: KC MeltingPot Theatre; The Session; The brilliant play by KC MeltingPot’s founder and executive director, Harvey Williams, depicts five women from different backgrounds who are wrestling with issues of race, class, and gender in a court-ordered anger management course; Lewis Morrow directs; Just Off Broadway Theatre. Contact: kcmeltingpot.com.

9: The 1900 Building Presents; An Evening with Robert Pinsky and Martin Hayes; The former United States Poet Laureate collaborates with world-renowned Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes for a formidable mixture of music, poetry, and ideas; The 1900 Building. Contact: 1900bldg.com.

13-March 3: Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Nina Simone: Four Women; Christina Ham’s musical, directed here by Malkia Stampley, explores how one woman with peerless pipes gave voice to the struggles of women, and especially Black women, around the world; Copaken Stage. Contact: 816-235-2700 or kcrep.org.

17-18: Te Deum, with Bach Aria Soloists; Salve mundi salutare; The remarkable choir and Music Director Matthew Shepard present music of Britten, Buxtehude (Membra Jesu Nostri), and J.S. Bach (the Cantata No. 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut); Village Presbyterian Church (February 17th) and Grace Episcopal Cathedral, Topeka (February 18th). Contact: te-deum.org.

Xavier Foley / Photo by Matt Dine

24-25: newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble; Away; Kansas City’s new-music paragon for three decades presents works of Missy Mazzoli (Ecstatic Science), Jessie Montgomery (Break Away), Xavier Foley (Always on the Move, for double bass and piano), Paul Lansky, Seth Davis, and Mario Lavista; All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. Contact: newear.org.



1-10: Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone; Herald Loomis returns to Pittsburgh to search for his estranged wife, haunted by the memory of bounty hunter Joe Turner, who placed him on a chain gang for seven years; August Wilson’s path-forging play deals with cultural identity and self-discovery during the Great Migration; Warwick Theatre. Contact: 816-569-3226 or metkc.org.

8: Kansas City Chorale; Duruflé Requiem; Kansas City’s Grammy Award-winning choir and Director Charles Bruffy present what might be the best live performance of this choral milestone, known for its rich harmonies and lush textures, that you will ever hear; Village Presbyterian Church. Contact: kcchorale.org


Stanislav Ioudenitch / Photo by Evgeny Evtyukhov

8: Park University Presents; Stanislav & Friends; The annual fundraiser for the International Center for Music this year presents side-by-side performances of professors and their protégés, with music of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Poulenc, and Mozart (Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra); Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: kauffmancenter.org or icm.park.edu.

9: Kansas City Jazz Orchestra; Iconic Masters: Bird, Monk, Duke and More; Grammy Award-winning bandleader/arranger John Beasley joins the Orchestra for a program featuring some of the monumental achievements of jazz; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: kcjo.org.

9-17: Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Roméo et Juliette; Gounod’s fanciful version of Shakespeare, in a production by Matthew Ozawa, will feature two of the brightest stars of the opera world in the title roles: soprano Andriana Chuchman and Kansas City-born tenor Ben Bliss; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.

10: Spire Chamber Ensemble; We Are the Music Makers, Spire joins Kansas City-based gospel choir Isaac Cates & Ordained for a program highlighting music of Black composers and gospel traditions around the world: with music by Ulysses Kay, Florence Price, B.E. Boykin, Ken Burton, and others; Resurrection Brookside. Contact: spirechamberensemble.org.

Matthias Pintscher / Photo by Franck Ferville

22-24: Kansas City Symphony; Matthias Pintscher Welcomes Violinist Philippe Quint;The Symphony’s music director-designate presents a newly commissioned Violin Concerto by Errollyn Wallen and conducts music of Bernstein and Rachmaninoff; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.



6: Folly Jazz Series; Matthew Whitaker, piano; The 22-year-old blind keyboard phenom, who at 15 became the youngest Yamaha jazz piano artist ever, is taking the jazz world on a fascinating journey with his otherworldly gifts; Folly Theater. Contact: 816-474-4444 or go to follytheater.org.

12: Owen/Cox Dance Group; 4 Fragments; Jennifer Owen’s choreography joins with Brad Cox’s music, scored for string quartet, percussion, and electronics, in a program that is “dedicated to those we love, those we have lost, and the joy of human connection,” as the artists state; H&R Block City Stage at Union Station Kansas City. Contact: owencoxdance.org.

 13: NAVO Arts; To One Beyond Seas; NAVO Trio (violinist Véronique Mathieu, oboist Margaret Marco, pianist Ellen Sommer) and soprano Stella Markou perform music by Ingrid Stölzel, Althea Talbot-Howard, Alice Ping Yee Ho, and others; Atonement Lutheran Church. Contact: navoarts.com.

14: William Baker Festival Singers; Kenneth Babcock Memorial Masterworks Concert;This year’s program features music of Benjamin Britten, William Dreyfoos (Songs of the Holocaust), Bernstein (Chichester Psalms), Vaughan Williams, and Kansas City favorite Ed Frazier Davis (At Our Last Awakening); St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Contact: festivalsingers.org.

18-May 5: Musical Theater Heritage; Godspell; The engaging 1971 musical was the first glimpse of the enormous gifts of composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, who would go on to create Pippin, Wicked, and a number of other Broadway hits; MTH Theater at Crown Center. Contact: 816-221-6987 or musicaltheaterheritage.com.

19-20: Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey; Ailey II; The young members of this fabulous company embody Ailey’s mission of reaching out to communities but also inspire a love for dance every time they take to the stage; Folly Theater. Contact: kcfaa.org.

24-June 30: New Theatre Restaurant; Squabbles; Marshall Karp’s witty domestic comedy stars George Wendt (Cheers) and Bernadette Birkett (Mr. Mom, St. Elmo’s Fire), who are in fact married in real life; New Theatre Restaurant. Contact: 913-649-7469 or newtheatre.com.


Vanessa Severo

26-May 5: Spinning Tree Theatre; Rubik, Vanessa Severo’s touching and funny new play, a collaboration with the Kansas City nonprofit, Camp Encourage, explores the humanity and the complexity of autism and stars teens on the autism spectrum; Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center. Contact: spinningtreetheatre.com.



2: Kansas City Chamber Orchestra; Season Finale; The venerable ensemble of local professionals, led by Founding Music Director Bruce Sorrell, is joined by soloists from the area; details TBA. Contact: 816-960-1324 or kcchamberorchestra.org.

3: Friends of Chamber Music; Chanticleer: Music for a Hidden Chapel; America’s most durably sensational, Grammy Award-winning choir, now in its 45th season, marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd with music by Byrd, Tallis, Tomkins, and Morley; Atonement Lutheran Church. Contact: 816-766-1096 or chambermusic.org.

4: Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company; An Evening with Wylliams/Henry and Maria the Mexican; Kansas City’s premier contemporary dance group collaborates with Maria Elena Cuevas’ innovative band (Maria the Mexican), which fuses Mexicana/Americana with indie, blues, rock, funk, and soul; Hotel Kansas City Starlight Ballroom. Contact: wylliams-henry.org.

Paul Neubauer / Photo by Tristan Cook

5: Opus 76 Quartet and Midwest Trust Center; Mozart and Brahms; Kansas City’s professional string quartet is joined by world-renowned violist Paul Neubauer for a program of quintets: Mozart’s K. 515 and Brahms’ Quintet No. 2, Op. 111; Midwest Trust Center. Contact: 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/midwest-trust-center.

7-12: PNC Broadway in Kansas City; MJ: The Musical; The multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway sensation by Lynn Nottage and Christopher Wheeldon, which deals with the making of the singer’s 1992 Dangerous World Tour, is now itself on tour; Kansas City Municipal Auditorium Music Hall. Contact: kansascity.broadway.com.

8-June 2: Unicorn Theatre; H.O.T. The Musical; This brand-new musical takes a contemporary look at the woman whose face “launched a thousand ships,” Helen of Troy, presented as a young woman whose dreams simply did not fit the expectations of those around her; Unicorn Theatre. Contact: 816-531-7529 or unicorntheatre.org.

Kansas City Ballet’s Jewels / Photo by Kenny Johnson

10-19: Kansas City Ballet; Jewels; These cornerstones of the Balanchine repertoire, each using music of a different composer, form a three-act evening: Emeralds is an evocation of France (music of Fauré), Rubies is set to Stravinsky, and Diamonds is a paean to Imperial Russia (with music of Tchaikovsky); Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: 816-931-8993 or kcballet.org.

16-20: Kansas City Public Theatre; The Head of Medusa; Public Theatre’s latest take on ancient legend, by local theater artists Emmy Panzica-Piontek and Kitty Corum, reimagines the mythological Medusa as she calls for justice following an encounter with Poseidon; Charlotte Street Stern Theater. Contact: kcpublictheatre.org.

22-June 9: Kansas City Actors Theatre; The Lehman Trilogy; Stefano Massini’s theater sensation, winner of five Tony Awards including best play, chronicles the rise and fall of a family whose financial demise very nearly brought down the American economy; H&R Block Theatre at Union Station Kansas City. Contact: kcactors.org.

—By Paul Horsley

Cover photo: Ailey II with Artistic Director Francesca Harper / Photo by Nir Arieli 

Paul Horsley, Performing Arts Editor 

Paul studied piano and musicology at WSU and Cornell University. He also earned a degree in journalism, because writing about the arts in order to inspire others to partake in them was always his first love. After earning a PhD from Cornell, he became Program Annotator for the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he learned firsthand the challenges that non profits face. He moved to KC to join the then-thriving Arts Desk at The Kansas City Star, but in 2008 he happily accepted a post at The Independent. Paul contributes to national publications, including Dance Magazine, Symphony, Musical America, and The New York Times, and has conducted scholarly research in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic (the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship). He also taught musicology at Cornell, LSU and Park University.