Essentials: Entertainment Picks March 19-25 

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Utah Symphony: Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf Live!
This week, the Utah Symphony performs Sergei Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf suite with an accompanying 2007 Oscar-winning animated film (pictured) as part of the Family Series. The clever, playful—and slightly dark—film illustrates the story of Peter, a genuinely tenderhearted kid, and his interactions with the outside world, including his animal friends and a not-so-friendly wolf. Each character in the story is represented by its own instrument. Peter's friend, the duck, for example, is an appropriately nasal melody on the oboe; Peter is an unassuming, jaunty tune played by the string section; the wolf is an ominous brass-section theme. A good story told through musical motifs and instrumentation make it a relatively easy entry into symphonic music, as it makes the storyline easy to follow—of course, the accompanying film makes it even easier. It also helps train the concertgoer's ear to hear the difference between some of the more similar-sounding instruments, like the clarinet and oboe (or, as in the suite, cat and duck). The concert is only an hour long, so it's good for youngsters who aren't regularly exposed to art music. But the story is about a boy and a wolf—a carnivorous beast whose instincts are to follow the food chain. Throw in some bully hunters, and there might be a few scary elements for the younger kids. Also on the bill are "Three Fun Fables," which are witty interpretations of Aesop's tales arranged by Daniel Dorff and narrated by Jim Christian. Guest Emmanuel Fratianni conducts. (Tiffany Frandsen) Utah Symphony: Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf Live! @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, March 21, 11 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., $6-$18.


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Utah Shakespeare Festival: Macbeth
Every year, when the cast and crew are not busy entertaining audiences in Cedar City, The Utah Shakespeare Festival takes one of its shows out on the road to schools and community centers around the region. For 2015, the traveling players will spend more than three months plying their theatrical trade to more than 25,000 students throughout five Western states. Salt Lake City, though, will have the opportunity to host an additional performance open to the general public. What's on tap during this education outreach program is a condensed 75-minute version of William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Macbeth, complete with elaborate costumes, detailed sets and full rigging. When a trio of witches mysteriously predict Macbeth will be the future king of Scotland, his wife encourages Macbeth to murder the current king and takes the throne for himself. To hold on to his power, he plows a path of tyranny and brutality through his country. Considered to be the darkest of Shakespeare's tragedies, Macbeth explores the mad treachery embedded in the bloody heart of political strategies, when power is at stake and evil is the most effective tool available. After the performance, cast and crew members will participate in a discussion to provide a behind-the-scenes look into the world of professional theater, as well as small workshops where attendees can learn the craft of stage fighting, how to better read (or even speak) Shakespeare's words, and how to build a character through the art of improvisation. (Jacob Stringer) Utah Shakespeare Festival: Macbeth @ Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley City, 801-865-5100, March 23, 7 p.m., free.


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Lauren Oliver: Vanishing Girls
Best known as a best-selling author of young-adult novels such as Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy, Lauren Oliver visits Utah this week with her new book, Vanishing Girls. Oliver's latest psychological thriller is based on the complex relationship between two estranged sisters, Nick and Dara, whose contrasting personalities are as strong as the friendship they once shared. A rift occurs between the teen daughters of recently divorced parents following a car accident that leaves the face of beautiful, free-spirited Dara permanently scarred and "good girl" Nick's former sense of self lost. A mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of one of the sisters skillfully unfolds, as past and present events are revealed through the narrative voices of Nick and Dara, alternately. Oliver's edgy, contemporary style shines once again with relatable characters and a cleverly executed plot, delivered in such a manner that makes it hard to stop turning pages. Diary entries and newspaper articles sprinkled throughout the text add charm to her storytelling. Themes about coming of age, family dynamics and sibling rivalry are interwoven into this suspenseful read. Oliver's body of award-winning literary work also includes adult novels (Rooms) and middle-grade fiction (Liesl & Po). But, whether the target audience is young adults, tweens or adults, readers of all ages can appreciate the quality of Oliver's work. (Deann Armes) Lauren Oliver: Vanishing Girls @ The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, March 24, 7 p.m., free,



Shen Yun
The Chinese government cracked down on followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in the late 1990s, but members of the group living in New York City started the Shen Yun Performing Arts company in 2006. "Shen Yun" is translated as "the beauty of divine beings dancing," and the group intends nothing less than the revival of "the essence of 5,000 years of Chinese culture," which it believes has been decimated by the Chinese government and its repression. China has blocked access to and even mention of Shen Yun on the Internet there, and the group has yet to perform in mainland China or Hong Kong, but the troupe regularly travels to more than 130 sites spanning much of the rest of the globe. Chinese culture and history is evoked through song and dance, costume and spectacle. The storytelling combines spiritual realms, centuries-old legends and modern heroism with classically trained dancers and musicians against vibrant animated backdrops of landscapes ranging from soaring mountains to placid beaches and villages, and from majestic palaces to verdant ponds and valleys—to create a spellbinding performance. Shen Yun makes no secret of its political and cultural agenda, but its vibrant performance is something audiences can relate to—especially the value of artistic expression, and the freedom to criticize oppressive governments. The Shen Yun performance is a metaphor for a graceful, positive way of living in the world. (Brian Staker) Shen Yun @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, March 24-25, 7:30 p.m. $50-$150.


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Sister Helen Prejean
In the early 1980s, Sister Helen Prejean of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph began corresponding with—and serving as spiritual adviser to—death-row convicts in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Her interactions with two men who were executed in 1984—Elmo Patrick Sonnier and Robert Lee Willie—inspired her 1993 memoir Dead Man Walking, which in turn inspired the 1995 film of the same name, for which Susan Sarandon won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Sister Helen. Twenty years later, Sister Helen Prejean is still a vocal activist for the abolition of capital punishment in the 32 U.S. states where it is still legal (including Utah, where the firing squad was recently reinstituted as a method for the death penalty). In addition to counseling death-row inmates and working with victims' families, she speaks to audiences throughout the country. This week, join her for a conversation and book-signing at Westminster College. (Scott Renshaw) Sister Helen Prejean @ Behnken Field House, 1840 S. 1300 East, Westminster College, March 24, 7 p.m., free.

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