Winter Guide: Seasonal Stages

By Beacon Staff

During the cold winter months, northwest Montana becomes a hot spot for outdoor winter sports enthusiasts. But for those who are less inclined to beeline into snow and freezing temperatures – or even those looking for an evening activity after a long day on the slopes – there are still plenty of indoor entertainment opportunities.

In January, the Glacier Symphony and Chorale, one of the Flathead’s longest-running and most respected staples of the arts community, joins with a relative newcomer, the Alpine Theatre Project, for what has become a seasonal highlight – a combination of delightful music and engaging theater.

“It’s a great way to bring area forces together to showcase talent that isn’t always presented during the other shows,” symphony maestro John Zoltek said of last year’s show.

This year, the arts duo will be presenting “The Music Man.” This classic American musical is about a slick conman, Harold Hill, who poses as a band director and sells band instruments and uniforms to naïve townspeople before skipping town with the cash, until he falls in love with a librarian in River City, Iowa.

Sarina Hart, playing Ruth Condomine, reacts ferociously with the idea of having to live with the ghost of her husband’s, Charles Condomine’s, played by Jim Mohn, ex-wife Elvira, played by Michele Keener, in Noel Coward’s comedy, “Blithe Spirit,” presented by the Whitefish Theatre Company.

The show runs Jan. 23-25, with performances at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center and Flathead High School.

“The Music Man” provides ample opportunity for each of the entertainment groups to flaunt their talent. The symphony, under the direction of Zoltek, will feature some of the most revered classic songs in musical theater including “Trouble,” “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” and “Seventy-Six Trombones.” Two of ATP’s founders, Luke Walrath and Betsi Morrison, will star as Harold Hill and Marian, respectively.

In its 26th anniversary season, the GSC will also hold several other performances – often with the help of talented national artists – throughout the winter.

On Feb. 21 and 22, violinist David Halen, concertmaster of the Saint Louis Symphony, joins the symphony for his interpretation of Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D. The lineup in March includes a performance by the Glacier String Quartet and the chorale and chamber presentation of “The Wings of Song,” a combination of choral music from the baroque, classical, romantic, modern, musical and film repertoire.

In addition to “The Music Man,” ATP will also hold “Yuletide Affair 5” on Dec. 22, a fusion of holiday favorites and actor’s own unique tunes. In its fifth season, ATP is a nonprofit professional theater company with the ambitious goal of building a nationally recognized theater program that draws professionals and shows straight off Broadway.

Its founders Morrison (Broadway’s Sound of Music), Walrath (Broadway’s 42nd Street) and David Ackroyd (Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God), have already used their professional connections to bring notable actors like Olympia Dukakis and John Lithgow to the Flathead.

Whitefish is also home to the seasoned Whitefish Theatre Company, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary year with a lineup that includes the classics as well as the unique.

The season’s family musical highlight is a high-flying affair this year: “Peter Pan” opens Dec. 5 and runs through Dec. 21. Then, the theater company presents the Tony award-winning play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” March 6 through 14.

Winter musical performances at WTC include singer/songwriters John Gorka and Susan Werner (Jan. 31), Lousiana musical group Balfa Toujours and Chic Gamine, a band from Winnipeg’s French quarter that uses their voices as instruments and experiments with roots music of all kinds.

There are even theater opportunities in the more remote parts of the area: The Sunburst Foundation in Eureka will host the Drum Brothers, a four-member percussion group based out of Missoula that features a mix of ethnic and contemporary world sounds, on Jan. 9. Then, the duo Men of Worth, comprised of Scotsman Donnie MacDonald and Irishman James Keigher, perform traditional and contemporary styles of their native folk music there on Feb. 20.

Area high schools also hold theater productions throughout the winter. Complete schedules can be found at each school’s respective Web site.

Other area events and performances are also available online on area Chamber of Commerce sites and http://www.flatheadevents.net/.