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Branford Marsalis headlines CCA’s season opener

Ashley on the Arts

By Dottie Ashley

When Jay Leno was named host of “The Tonight Show,” his first bandleader was Branford Marsalis. That’s right, not Wynton Marsalis, but Branford Marsalis.

It’s understandable that the two men are frequently confused since they are brothers, born into a musically talented New Orleans family and both have become internationally recognized jazz musicians. However, each chose a different instrument to master and developed his own unique performance style.

Wynton, a trumpet player, is director of the “Jazz at Lincoln Center” program, while Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Branford — also a Tony Award-nominated composer — has been highly celebrated, not only for his impeccable, heartfelt, timbre but also for his superb ability to cross genres and perform classical music with equal skill and aplomb.

It is this classical talent that the Charleston Concert Association will showcase with its 2014-15 season opener titled, “Marsalis ‘Well-Tempered’,” featuring Branford Marsalis performing Baroque masterpieces by composers such as Bach, Handel and Vivaldi and accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m., October 23 at the Charleston Music Hall.

In an unusual pre-holiday collaboration, the vocal ensemble Cantus will join the Theater Latte Da in staging the dramatic performance “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.” CCA President Jason Nichols said the production recalls the extraordinary World War I truce that occurred between the Allied Forces and German soldiers in “no man’s land,” on Christmas 1914. “All Is Calm” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the Charleston Music Hall.

The CCA’s third presentation, “Christina & Michelle Naughton,” will feature a twin-sister duo at two pianos performing an evening of great classical compositions. The pair will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Sottile Theatre.

Representing the terpsichorean genre will be one of Argentina’s foremost dance troupes, Tango Buenos Aires. The company of 25 dancers, accompanied by a live orchestra, will perform at 7:30 p.m. March 9 at the Sottile.

The season will close with the Russian National Ballet Theatre’s version of “Cinderella,” originally performed in Moscow in 1945 to a score by Prokofiev. The ballet will be staged at 7:30 p.m., April 7, at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.

Nichols said that the CCA is “looking forward to returning to its original home to present its 2015-2016 season in the gorgeous, newly renovated Gaillard Auditorium.”

To purchase season or individual event tickets, call the CCA office at 727-1216 or go online to

Great American Songbook

Former Broadway performers Brad and Jennifer Moranz will produce a newly designed musical revue, “The Great American Songbook” for three performances, Oct. 11-12 at the Charleston Music Hall.

Over a year ago the singer/pianist Michael Feinstein announced a national campaign urging musical performances to include works from “The Great American Songbook.”

“This could help people become more aware of the power of our nation’s musical heritage, with its songs that often have lyrics reflecting the joys, sorrows and dreams of Americans during certain decades — songs that continue to be performed all over the world,” Feinstein explained.

Brad Moranz noted, “This timeless music took positive values and infused them into the soundtrack of American life.” He added that songs from Broadway and Hollywood musicals from the 1920s through the 1960s will be performed. A seven-piece band, led by Eddie Wilson, with musical arrangements by Rex Thomas, will accompany the professional singers and dancers as they perform 40 songs during the two-hour show. Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 11 and at 3 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Charleston Music Hall. For tickets, call 1 (800) 514-3849 or go online at

Ashley’s Picks for Upcoming Weeks

Executive Director Courtney Daniel announced The Threshold Repertory Theatre will stage a five-play season in celebration of its fifth anniversary. The season opener is the comedy “The Sunset Years,” by former New Yorkers Thomas and Judy Heath, now playwrights-in-residence at Threshold.

Reflecting the oft-heard complaint about “adult children who won’t leave the nest,” “The Sunset Years,” (Oct. 23-Nov. 9), centers upon a recently retired couple excited about selling their longtime home and “starting a new life.” However, because their adult children violently object, the couple resorts to “secretly” selling the family abode.

The season’s other shows are “Don’t Cry for Me Margaret Mitchell,” a comedy of mischief, by V. Cate and Duke Ernsberger; “Tape,” a story of how betrayal tests a longt

ime friendship, by Stephen Belber; “The Flick,” a tale of magic in front of a movie screen, by Annie Baker; and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing.”

Tickets to individual plays are $15-$25; season tickets are $60-$100. For information, call 277-2172 or email

Play’s regional premiere

“Brooklyn Boy,” a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies, will be premiered regionally Oct. 2-18 by Midtown Productions. The play centers upon a novelist who, having finally written a best-seller, confronts several figures from his past to remind him of those who “knew him when,” such as his dying father, his failed marriage, an old friend, among others.

Directed by JoEllen Aspinwall, the Midtown Production will be staged at The Charleston Acting Studio. For tickets, call 1-(853) 795-2223 or go to

Dottie Ashley, a longtime performing arts writer with two of South Carolina’s largest newspapers and winner of the 2003 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for her statewide coverage of arts events, is the arts columnists for the Charleston Mercury. She may be reached at


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