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Spoleto
A scene from "The Cripple of Inishmaan"

To paraphrase that song from "Carousel," Charleston is bursting out all over - with the arts at Spoleto Festival USA. What a treat for me to be a part of this marvelous event.

Ireland's Druid Theatre's debut presentation of "The Cripple of Inishmaan" did not disappoint. Although the story line concerns Billy the cripple, who auditions for a show, in actuality, it is a dark comedy about the human condition. The cast is superb as they bring Martin McDonagh's play to life. I have seen several of his other works, such as "The Pillow Man" and "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," performed by Pure Theatre in Charleston. This fall, Pure Theatre will perform "A Behanding in Spokane," McDonagh's latest work currently playing in New York City and starring Christopher Walken.

Great Britain's Kneehigh Theatre brought an unusual theatrical experience in their version of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes." The performance is mostly pantomimed by an un-named troupe with shaved heads, blackened eyes and dressed in droopy underwear who are manipulated by the cruel narrator. If this sounds bizarre - it is!

The American premiere of the contemporary opera "Emilie" by Finnish composer Kaija Saariah is an odd musical experience. Soprano Elizabeth Futral plays Emilie Du Chatelet, a brilliant 18th-century woman who not only had a romantic relationship with Voltaire, but also studied and translated Isaac Newton. This remarkable woman died at age 42 as a result of child birth, and this fact is the focal point of the performance. Backed by a full orchestra, Futral is alone on the stage for the 75-minute multi-media production. Not certain if I enjoyed this opera or was in awe of her stamina.

Do you believe in magic? Well, I do. Mozart's last opera, "The Magic Flute," delivered. From live birds to campy comedy to lovely singing, this performance has it all. This opera is a good choice to introduce children to this genre of music.

After performing with some of the world's best ballet companies, Angel Corella returned to his native Spain and formed the Corella Ballet Company in 2008 - and oh, how glad I am that he did! He and his dancers mesmerized the receptive audience in Gaillard Auditorium. They performed several different styles of ballet, from flamenco/ballet fusion to traditional. The dancers were equally stunning in each.

At Piccolo Spoleto, I caught Charleston Ballet's "Brown Bag and Ballet." It is an hour of interesting dance arrangements, and they encourage you to bring your lunch. It is an entertaining way to beat the Charleston heat.

"The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," a musical hit since its 1978 debut on Broadway, was presented at The Footlight Theatre. This adult show is full of humor and catchy songs. I had planned to enjoy it more than I did. Other than the energized dance numbers, the rest of the performers seemed listless.

From noon to 1 p.m. every day (except Sunday), you can enjoy performances by students from the College of Charleston's School of the Arts. This young artist series is without a doubt the "Blue Light Special" of the Piccolo Festival - from opera to piano to show tunes, and all for only an $11 ticket.

Another fun part of this arts extravaganza is to enjoy all that is happening on Marion Square - artists, various food vendors and crafts. There is truly something for everyone's taste. If you go, make sure to check out Orangeburg's own Floyd Gordon's exhibit of original artwork.

Between shows, I like to visit "Art for Charity" on King Street. This is a month-long gallery featuring work from regional artists, with proceeds benefiting six Lowcountry charities. I also like to visit Hall's Chophouse on King - delicious food, marvelous service and wonderful conversation.

Got to run now - I'm off to see more productions. For complete coverage, visit spoletofestivalusa.org and piccolospoleto.com.

Orangeburg native Boo Sheppard, retired host of Time-Warner's "Orangeburg Inside Out," lives in Charleston with her husband, Macon.

 

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