Essentials: Entertainment Picks Jan. 7-13 

The Hit Men, Ice Castles, Invisible Thread and more

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THURSDAY JAN. 7
The Hit Men
Nostalgia, it seems, is one thing they're always making more of. No matter when you grew up, the pop culture of your youth holds a special place in your heart. And a chance to experience those things all over again is hard to resist. Lee Shapiro understood the appeal of some of the most beloved hits of the 1960s and 1970s from a unique point of view: He was there when they were recorded. As arranger and keyboard player with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, he was in the studio for "Oh What a Night," before later touring with Tommy James and the Shondells and collaborating with Barry Manilow. It was his notion to put together a kind of super-group of unsung music industry legends—guys who were behind the scenes playing or singing notes you know by heart, even if you didn't know their names. The current lineup features four other performers alongside Shapiro. Drummer Gerry Polci was also one of the Four Seasons, even singing the lead vocal on "Oh What a Night." Guitarist Jimmy Ryan played with Carly Simon on recordings of "Anticipation" and "You're So Vain," part of a career that also included work with Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Elton John and Paul McCartney. Composer and lyricist Larry Gates has co-written songs with the likes of Desmond Child. And musician/composer Russ Velazquez has played with Carole King, Luther Vandross and more. Hear their celebrated songs—and the stories behind them—to get that special nostalgic kick. (Scott Renshaw) The Hit Men @ Ellen Eccles Theater, 43 S. Main, Logan, 435-752-0026, Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m., $25-$39. CacheArts.org

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THURSDAY JAN. 7
Pinnacle Acting Co.: Art
Art really only exists in a relationship with the viewer; what we say about a work often says as much about ourselves as it says about the work. So what does it say about any given person when you find out what they think about—almost literally—a blank canvas?
Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play Art—produced locally this month by Pinnacle Acting Company—explores this idea through three long-time friends in Paris: Serge, Marc and Yvan. Serge, a collector of modern art, has just purchased a new painting for 200,000 francs—a painting that happens to be a plain white field, with, perhaps, a few lines that are a slightly different shade of white. Marc ridicules the purchase, and while Yvan tries to play the peacemaker, their interactions regarding its merit begin to reveal things about the nature of their friendship, and how we process our reaction to people whose perspectives we just can't understand. (Scott Renshaw) Pinnacle Acting Co.: Art @ Westminster College Courage Theater, 1250 E. 1700 South, Jan. 8-23, Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 23, 2 p.m. matinee; Thursday, Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m. preview, $13-$18. PinnacleActingCompany.org

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FRIDAY JAN. 8
Midway Ice Castles
Nestled in the hills of Midway, near the Soldier Hollow Olympic venue, Ice Castles will take over a portion of the land to bring you their unique sculptures and displays while winter can best preserve them. The first Ice Castles were constructed years ago by Brent Christensen of Alpine, as he built ice caverns for his daughter to play in during the chilly months. The concept has since blossomed into a major event, where blue ice is turned into something the Snow Miser would be proud to command as his base of operations (or at the very least a weekend getaway). Every castle is painstakingly crafted and designed to bring out the natural look of the ice and snow, while also constructing a fully functional palace for people to walk through in wonderment. Each castle weighs roughly 25 million pounds, with walls measuring 10 feet thick to withstand whatever nature may throw at them during the season, and the throngs who may walk their chilly corridors. The crew grows 10,000 icicles every day and places them throughout the castles to maintain the structure, eventually absorbing into the castle and keeping it steady. The castles will be running for the next three months, or until Mother Nature no longer cooperates and decides to melt it on her own schedule. Of course, you should dress in your warmest gear for at least an hour outside in the freezing temperatures, and always check the weather forecast before you go. (Gavin Sheehan) Midway Ice Castles @ Soldier Hollow, 2002 Soldier Hollow Road, Midway, Jan. 8-March 31, Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 3 p.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m., $6.95-$18. IceCastles.com/Midway

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SATURDAY JAN. 9
An Evening with the Creators of Invisible Thread
Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews (pictured), co-creators of Broadway's award-winning new musical Invisible Thread (formerly Witness Uganda), aren't bringing their full musical to Park City. Instead, they'll use songs and stories from their production as a starting point for a discussion about how to achieve positive change in the world. What does social change have to do with a Broadway musical? Well, this isn't just any musical. Some critics have called Invisible Thread the less-raunchy, more-heartfelt version of The Book of Mormon. Or, as an NPR review recently explained, it's a "classic story of an American do-gooder in Africa" that depicts a complicated reality. The mostly autobiographical story, written by Matthews, tells of his post-collegiate experience working for a religious relief organization in Uganda—something he hoped would reinvigorate his life after a disappointing start to an acting career in New York and dismissal from his church choir for being gay. Unfortunately, the Uganda mission doesn't turn out quite as planned. As Matthews watches the corrupt relief official undermine the well-intentioned work of the volunteers, Matthews instead finds purpose as he develops a surprising friendship with a group of orphaned teenagers. Invisible Thread includes thought-provoking accounts of real people and real issues—education, homophobia, race, equality, HIV and AIDS—and it's from this starting point that Matthews and composer Gould will begin this evening. It seems that Gould and Matthews know how hard it is to reach an audience with only heart-wrenching narratives. It just goes over a little easier when paired with music. (Katherine Pioli) An Evening with the Creators of Invisible Thread @ Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m., $25-75. EcclesCenter.org

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WEDNESDAY JAN. 13
Pacifica Quartet
Audiences will be treated to two pieces dedicated to royalty—plus a single-movement 20th century work—when the Grammy-winning Pacifica Quartet appears Wednesday at Libby Gardner Hall on the University of Utah campus. The concert is presented under auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City. Quartet-in-residence at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music since 2012, the Pacifica formerly was quartet-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—a position previously held only by the world-renown Guarneri String Quartet. In 2009, Pacifica—praised by critics for its virtuosity, exuberance and daring repertory—accepted a Grammy Award when their Naxos-label recording of Carter's quartets No. 1 and 5 was judged the best chamber music performance of the year. Wednesday's program is scheduled to include Mozart's Quartet No. 23 in F major. Composed in 1790, a year before Mozart's death, it was dedicated to the king of Prussia, himself an amateur cellist. Thus, the cello takes a prominent role. In Shostakovich's Quartet No. 13 in B-flat major, the viola is featured in the single-movement piece, written in 1970 while the composer was being treated at an orthopedic clinic. At several places, players tap the bodies of their instruments—a practice rarely used before in Soviet music. Mendelssohn's Quartet No. 4 in E major premiered in 1837 in Leipzig, where it was dedicated to Sweden's crown prince. While earlier quartets were influenced by Beethoven, the piece reflects Mendelssohn's originality. Gerald Elias, associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony, will give a pre-concert lecture at 6:45 p.m. (Lance Gudmundsen) Pacifica Quartet @ Libby Gardner Hall, 1375 Presidents Circle, University of Utah, 801-581-7100, Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m., general admission $30, students $10. CMSOfSLC.org

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