For decades now, The Nutcracker has been almost universally regarded as the most popular ballet in the Western world. Based on E.T. A. Hoffman’s 1816 tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the music for this fairy tale in two acts was composed in the late 1800s by the esteemed Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and in the almost 120 years since it was first performed publicly has become so identified with the Christmas tradition that it’s hard to imagine a holiday season passing without at least one production cropping up in most decent-sized towns across the U.S.A.
It’s choreographer George Balanchine we have to thank for this, as his version —first staged by the NYC Ballet— has returned to the Big Apple every year since, not to mention gracing more than one major TV broadcast.
Savannah audiences usually get to choose between at least two productions of The Nutcracker annually (and in fact there are at least three different troupes offering this show between now and Christmas), but it’s extremely rare that two rival stagings would compete head to head.
Yet, that’s just what’s going on this Saturday night at 7:30 pm. Not only will the Columbia, S.C. City Ballet (under the artistic direction of William Starrett) stage the show in the 2,500-seat Johnny Mercer Theater at that time, just a few blocks away, Ballet Savannah will unveil their own version at the slightly more intimate 1,100-seat Lucas Theatre. What’s all the more strange is that Ballet Savannah’s performance is being produced in collaboration with Columbia Classical Ballet, under the artistic direction of Radenko Pavlovich.
So, believe it or not, two different Columbia ballet companies will duke it out to see whose Sugar Plums reign supreme. Choices, choices... Sat., 7:30 pm, Johnny Mercer Theater ($20 - $42 at www.etix.com or 651-6556) + Sat., 3 pm & 7:30 pm, Lucas Theatre ($16 - $30 at www.lucastheatre.com or 525-5050).
Megan Jean & The Klay Family Band
Over the past several years there’s been a veritable explosion in musical cross-pollination that in many very tangible ways is helping to redefine the way folks label and market music of all types.
Gone are the days when rootsy, rambling troubadours oozed solely out of the pores of the South and the West. In this millennium, rappers come from Norway, throat singers from Panama, and “Cosmic American” balladeers under the spell of Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt and Johnny Horton come from New York City.
Guitarist and singer Megan Jean met her beau (and now band mate) Byrne Klay in that most urban of environments, but the combination of her Washington-state upbringing —she learned to play and sing at the feet of her bluegrass and folk-loving parents, both of whom sang and played themselves— and his N.Y. state roots —Klay says that as a child he soaked up as much ethnic and fine arts music at the library as he could before ultimately studying bass at Oberlin Conservatory and The New School— form the basis of a distinctly “country” approach to sweet ballads of love and longing.
Critics cite the intriguing combination of Jean’s literate lyricism (and almost theatrical approach to vocals) and Klay’s highly disciplined composition as the backbone of their sparse, but emotionally satisfying style. Those attributes are front and center on their debut DIY debut Autumn, which is available through CDBaby.com.
The couple say they plan to perform songs from that EP as well as additional material in their hour-long set at this laid-back counterculture eatery and performance space. Sun., 8 pm, The Sentient Bean - ALL-AGES.
The Jeff Beasley Band
Funky and soulful electric blues, early rock & roll covers and rootsy, Big Easy-esque boogie. Fri., 9 pm, Jazz’d Tapas Bar.
Bottles & Cans
Garage-rock-infused Delta blues and weird Americana that swings like a mother. Fri., 8 pm, The Warehouse + Sat., 9 pm, Jazz’d Tapas Bar.
Solo set from the esteemed frontman of well-known psychedelic jam-band Perpetual Groove (formed right here in Savannah). Wed., 10 pm, Locos (downtown).
Frazier & Tavalin
She (Claire Frazier) is an experienced jazz vocalist who paid her dues in L.A; he (Peter Tavalin) is a respected pianist and film score composer. Together, they showcase a variety of standards and showtunes. Fri. - Sat., 7 pm, Vic’s On The River.
Led by songwriter and guitarist Eric Britt, this distinctly southern alt.rock trio has flirted with the majors, but to date only released their impressive records independently. Fri., 9:30 pm, Fiddler’s (River St.).
Irish Pub Session
A weekly acoustic picking party (trad Celtic folk) for pros and newbies alike... Sun., 7 pm, Murphy’s Law.
Listen 2 Three
Budding young locals whose take on hooky, commercial, guitar-based pop-rock is already drawing industry attention. Wed., 9:30 pm, Fiddler’s (River St.).
Touring, showy, costumed cover band specializing in cheesy ‘80s rock, metal and pop hits. Sat., 10 pm, Wild Wing Café.
Hard, ominous regional metal trio. Fri., 10 pm, The Britannia (Wilmington Isl.).
Roger Moss & Eric Jones
Cabaret-style duo of an immensely talented jazz keyboardist (Jones) and a classically-trained singing thespian. Thurs., 8 pm, Mansion on Forsyth Park.
The Permanent Tourists
One of the most well-respected R & B, rock and soul party bands around, these pros boast powerful vocals, a great rhythm section, and a killer setlist. Sat., 9 pm, Tantra Lounge.
Solo show by a veteran local blues and rock guitarist known for his slide work. Sat., 7 pm, Driftaway Café (Sandfly).
High-energy, song-based jam quartet (a la Gov’t Mule or Marc Ford) with a distinctly retro vibe that appeals to fans of classic southern rock. Sat., 9:30 pm, Fiddler’s (River St.).
Kitschy rock/pop/C & W/hip-hop party band known for unexpected covers and a sassy demeanor. Sat., 9 pm, Shamrocks (Wilmington Isl.).
The Savannah Winds
Community wind ensemble’s Fall Concert of both trad and contemporary band music and marches. $12 in advance or at the door. Call 927-5381 for info. Tues., 7:30 pm, AASU Fine Arts Hall.
Epic, heavy riffing modern rock band from L.A. (by way of Johannesburg, South Africa) that’s sold millions of CDs and hit the U.S. Top 20. With openers Hurt and Red. $20 cover. Mon., 8 pm, Monkey Business (Hilton Head).
Laid-back jazz trio feat. female vocals and a Latin lilt. Fri., 8 pm, Moon River Brewing Co..
The Train Wrecks
Loose and fun Americana/ roots-a-billy quartet. Thurs., 10 pm, Murphy’s Law + Sat., 8 pm, The Warehouse.
Award-winning local funk/blues/jam/rock act with a growing regional rep. Opening for Jason Isbell (see Interview). Sat., 10 pm, Locos (downtown).
Prolific local singer/songwriter with a great voice, memorable lyrics and great guitar technique. Sat., 10 pm, Molly MacPherson’s (downtown).
Promising local “y’allternative” group influenced by southern rock, Americana and modern guitar pop. They’re soon to release a debut indie CD. Wed., 8:30 pm, Wild Wing Café.The Permanent Tourists