From Gilbert and Sullivan to country 

‘Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride’
Wildwood Park
Oct. 23

Director Ann Chotard, who has expanded Wildwood Park’s artistic season into a year-long affair, takes a subversive turn with her version of the opera “Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride,” by Gilbert and Sullivan. For example, the concepts presented in a song by Col. Calverley are ideas that opera houses in a larger circuit would not even imagine trying for fear of losing funding.

Realizing his soldiers’ manly nature and stiff uniforms are out of style, Col. Calverley sings about the absurdity of popular culture. Here, Chotard changed the opera’s libretto in order to adhere to current times. The historical figures and allusions of the 19th century are replaced with political figures and aspects of today. In this short song, the colonel pokes fun at everything from Condoleezza Rice’s mistakes to America’s infatuation with the television show “American Idol.”

Neal Harrelson, who stars as Reginald Bunthorne, personifies a transparent individual who The milkmaid Patience, sung by soprano Kathy Kilgo, finds Bunthorne to be impossibly ridiculous and is the only character to display any bit of rationality. Like her character, Kilgo’s voice is grounded and simplistic. Her relationship with Bunthorne mocks the notions of chivalry, mainly where members of the upper class allowed themselves to mix with individuals of lower status.

The opera will be staged at Woodlands Auditorium in Hot Springs Village on Friday, Oct. 28. It should not be missed.

— By Jessica Sardashti

Widespread Panic
Alltel Arena
Oct. 22

Through a fall season of up-and-down Widespread Panic performances, Saturday’s show by the quintessential Southern jam band was on the upside. And, though the crowd was feeble in number for a Panic show, it may have been the loudest 3,636 fans we’ve experienced.

Frontman/guitarist John Bell, guitarist George McConnell, bassist Dave Schools, percussionist Sonny “Domingo” Ortiz, drummer Todd Nance and keyboardist JoJo Herman unleashed their full potential on the crowd for a three-hour-plus show. They opened with the crowd-pleasing instrumental “Disco” and followed with seven classics, including “Little Lily,” that kept everyone dancing out of their seats.

What followed a lengthy intermission was one of the most awe-inspiring second sets we’ve seen since the band’s return to the road after a 15-month hiatus. Second-set highlights included “Fishwater,” “Jack,” “Barstools & Dreamers,” and “Papa’s Home,” which concluded with Ortiz and Nance providing a lengthy percussion solo and leading into the very rare Bukka White cover “Fixin’ to Die.”

The band has been slow to preview some of its newer material, but one new song, “Solid Rock,” was included in the second set. The show left new fans and old pleased.

— By Will Bird

Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell
Sticky Fingerz
Oct. 20

Oh that this was the Nashville Sound we hear today spilling out of pickup trucks, looped infinitely on CMT, filling the air at cavernous Wal-Marts, echoing through lonesome bars at 2 a.m. If Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell’s tender harmonies and sublime country musicianship were the blueprint of what moves product from that Tennessee town, we’d surely be the better for it. How is it that a nation of country music fans has probably never heard of these two? Cary and Cockrell have only now paired up for their first album together, “Begonias,” but the two have been laying down alt-country tracks for years, both as solo artists and with bands. Of the two, Cary is the one most music fans have likely heard of, having spent five years among the ever-changing lineup of Whiskeytown, the band that gave us the prolific, impetuous Ryan Adams. If there’s justice in the world, “Begonias” will change that.

Ably backed by drummer Nate Stalfa and bassist Aaron Oliva, Cary and Cockrell unfurled beautifully straightforward tunes recalling the best of Jones and Wynette, and Cash and Carter. Cary shone on the Patsy Cline-ish “Please Break My Heart,” and her weathered violin adorned the best numbers with a modest, high-lonesome sound. Cockrell contributed to chilling harmonies on his own breakup song, “Conversations About a Friend (Who’s In Love With Katie),” and rocked out when going electric for “Second Option,” the most obvious heir to the Whiskeytown sound. And midtempo strummers like “Two Different Things” showcased the pair’s strengths as incisive song— By Lance Turner



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