The Essential A&E Picks for Apr. 7-13 

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Samba Fogo: Conexão

Every Samba Fogo performance feels like you're stepping into a Carnival celebration: the feather headdresses, the flash of seguías and footwork, the heartbeat of the drums. But Samba Fogo—a local arts nonprofit—is more than a dance performance. It is a festive celebration of Brazilian culture by a community of artists, Brazilian dancers, fire dancers, singers, percussionists, musicians, choreographers, composers and teachers.

Conexão—Portugese for "connection"—is the title of this year's Samba Fogo spring concert. It's a name that references the amazing collaboration between the many skilled artists, (more than 40) in this talented troupe and their connection with the audience for whom they create these works.

As with past performances, Conexão will be filled with original choreography by artistic director Lorin Hansen and original music by musical director Mason Aeschbacher. The two Samba Fogo directors recently participated in a cultural exchange with Cuba and brought back new rhythms and dances. Drawing from the troupe's new connection with Cuba, this performance is enhanced with Caribbean spice. And for those, like myself, who enjoy music with a good horns section, one of the best parts of this new Cuban connection will be the additions to the band. Along with the traditional Brazilian instruments that often accompany the Samba Fogo dancers, this performance will come alive with the brass sounds of Cuba—trumpet and trombone—with a little saxophone and seven-string guitar. (Katherine Pioli)
Samba Fogo: Conexão @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, April 7-9, 7:30 p.m., $20, $18 students.


Plan-B Theatre Co.: Kingdom of Heaven

An original musical with all-new compositions is a rarity hereabouts—a bold endeavor for a small local theater company. So if you're going to do it, you might as well dive in with both feet and make it a musical about a transgender Mormon housewife.

Such a description grossly oversimplifies Kingdom of Heaven, by playwright/lyricist Jennifer Nii and composer/lyricist David Evanoff, in addition to suggesting a goofy tone that isn't remotely the case. The main character is indeed Mormon housewife Mary Jane Brown (Jeanette Puhich), whose dabbling in performing songs as an opening act for drag performers forces her to confront her own genuine identity. And it's also the story of Mary Jane's husband, Joe (David Hanson), and her best friend/neighbor Brenda (Susanna Florence), both of whom also will have to question the assumptions built into their faith.

The production runs a tight 75 minutes and, at times, it feels as though the story needs more room to breathe, so that Mary Jane's growing awareness doesn't feel quite so abrupt. But a musical proves to be an ideal format for this kind of story, all about people full of emotions that shake the foundations of the only world they understand, anchored by a trio of strong, sincere performances. When those emotions take the form of something like "The Prayer"—with all three characters reaching for guidance as they journey down unfamiliar roads—Kingdom of Heaven hits at the heart of people who wrestle with the demands of faith on messy, imperfect human lives. (Scott Renshaw)
Plan-B Theatre Co.: Kingdom of Heaven @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, through April 10, $20,

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Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.: Spring Season

Spring: the time of reawakening and new beginnings. And, in the spirit of the season, our own Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co. has assembled a concert of works that includes two dance world premieres, two original sound scores and one performance-art collaboration, each as fresh as the new grass on our lawns.

What does the subjective nature of beauty mean for dance and movement? Choreographer Joanna Kotze confronts the question with Star Mark, one of the evening's premiere pieces, set to an original sound score by composer Ryan Seaton from the band Callers, challenging the perception of beauty from the perspective of both the dancer and viewer.

A little closer to home, Ann Carlson's 3-50 Years—created in the year of Utah's centennial (1996)—explores through movement and sound Utah's struggle to gain statehood (our statehood bid lasted the longest of any state in the union).

Rounding out the evening is Enter, Part II by Ririe-Woodbury artistic director Daniel Charon, a continuation from Part I, which was premiered by the company last season. Charon's work, which will ultimately culminate as a trilogy, continues to examine humanity's new evolution of self, how technology and our online life impacts our offline interactions. It was hard to miss Charon's darkly pessimistic interpretation of technology's influence on our lives in Part I; perhaps Part II will be more hopeful.

For those 21 and over, Ririe-Woodbury invites each Spring Season ticket holder to attend a private pre-performance reception with cocktails provided by Beehive Distilling. (KP)
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.: Spring Season @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-297-4241, April 7-9, 7:30 p.m., $15-$40.


Utah Symphony: Holst's The Planets

Continuing the group's broad outreach of performances during its 75th anniversary, the Utah Symphony is partnering with Clark Planetarium for a performance of Gustav Holst's The Planets. The work was composed by Holst and performed in London during the late 1910s and early 1920s, with the intent of having each moment convey the emotional effect of heavenly bodies on the human psyche.

For years, the full composition was broken into pieces for smaller performances and rearranged to end on movements that were uplifting. Much of the music from this performance has been used over the last century for film and television scores, most prominently, "Mars: Bringer of War" has been used in Sherlock and Doctor Who. Listeners will hear everything from chest-pounding war beats to delightful whimsy to a gallant orchestral coda.

To accompany the music, the planetarium has created a montage of 2015 NASA imagery, that includes still-frame shots and full HD videos of the planets as its probes continue through the solar system. Imagery of Pluto will accompany the symphony's performance of Gyorgy Ligeti's Atmospheres, an eerie full-orchestral piece that was featured in the classic Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The concert also includes Alexander Scriabin's The Poem of Ecstasy, a 20-minute piece accompanied by a poem (although it is never read aloud). (Gavin Sheehan)
Utah Symphony: Holst's The Planets @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, April 8-9, 7:30 p.m., $10-84.


Colm Tóibín/Brooklyn

The Academy Award-nominated film Brooklyn won over critics and audiences with its moving tale of a first-generation Irish immigrant coming to 1950s New York. This week, Utah audiences will get an opportunity to learn more about the story from the man who created it.

Best-selling author Colm Tóibín—whose 2009 novel was the source for the film—visits Weber State University for a series of public events sponsored by the Hibernian Society of Utah, and connected to his career as a chronicler of his native Ireland. At noon on April 11, Tóibín will introduce a free screening of Brooklyn. At 7 p.m., he'll present a public lecture connected to the centennial of the 1916 "Easter Rising," which led to the formation of the Irish Republic, and which Tóibín's own grandfather participated in. March may be over, but you can still get your Irish on. (Scott Renshaw)
Colm Tóibín @ Weber State University, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden, April 11. Brooklyn free screening @ Shepherd Union Wildcat Theater, noon; public lecture @ Hurst Center Dumke Legacy Hall, 7 p.m.; all events free to the public.;

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