Ian Bell’s Brown Derby Series celebrates 20 years of staging, queering, and satirizing camp movie classics by revisiting the script that started it all: Valley of the Dolls, the 1967 film a clef that lifts the rock of showbiz to reveal the actresses scrambling underneath. If you think that lines like “Ted Casablanca is NOT a fag—and I’m the dame who can prove it!” can’t get any crazier than in the original, well, just you wait. Re-bar, rebarseattle.com $22. 8 p.m. Thurs., Feb. 22–Sat., Feb. 24.
Scarcely a week goes by that the Chapel Performance Space in Wallingford, Seattle’s new-music epicenter, doesn’t have something curiosity-provoking on offer, but they don’t often come up with a hat trick like this:
Thursday: Intrepid violinist Heather Bentley & Friends offer improv and musical games. $5–$15. 8 p.m.
Friday: Some of the most interesting music being written anywhere comes from the three small Baltic nations. Estonian composer Arvo Pãrt’s you probably know, and if you dig his, check out that of Peteris Vasks, Onutė Narbutaitė, and Mikalojus K. Čiurlionis. In Chamber Music from the Baltics, works by all three and others will be played by a great lineup of musicians: the Skyros String Quartet, guitarist Michael Nicolella, flutist Paul Taub, and duo pianists Dainius and Asta Vaicekonis. $10–$25. 8 p.m.
Saturday: Piano miniatures played by composer/pianist Keith Eisenbrey (including his own Seventeen Prepuntal Contraludes), who does as much for local composers as any pianist in this city. $5–$15. 8 p.m. waywardmusic.org.
Former SW food writer Jonathan Kauffman discusses his new book Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat. Sample chapter titles: “Brown Bread and the Pursuit of Wholesomeness” and “Tofu, the Political Dish.” Westside School, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m. Tues., Feb. 27.
On what would have been George Harrison’s 75th, SIFF presents a screening of Concert for George, his Royal Albert Hall memorial concert from 2002, which features his music performed by Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Monty Python, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, Ringo Starr, and many more. SIFF Cinema Uptown, siff. net. $9–$14. 2 p.m. Sun., Feb. 25.
On Tune-Yards’ new album, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, Merrill Garbus confronts the complex messiness of being woke and white while making worldbeat pop. While her self-reflection leaves less space for the band’s signature enticing rhythmic chaos, it shouldn’t stop its live show from being an arty dance party. The Showbox, showboxpresents.com. $29.50. 8:30 p.m. Mon., Feb. 26. SETH SOMMERFELD
The bulk of the regularly staged comic-opera repertory predates 1840, and it’s a shame later composers neglected the genre in favor of tragedy. (Wagner, Verdi, and Puccini left just one viable example each—and Puccini’s is a one-act.) This is one reason Berlioz’s 1862 confection Béatrice et Bénédict, based on Shakespeare’s proto-rom-com Much Ado About Nothing, is so welcome (and for me Seattle Opera’s most-anticipated offering of the season). Though the two title characters start out clashing, it’s amusingly easy to get them together: Each one’s friends start rumors about the other, basically the equivalent of junior-high note-passing (“Psst! Bénédict likes you!”). Seattle Opera’s production is grafting in a bit of the original play: adding sections of Much Ado’s dialogue and a few nonsinging roles Berlioz omitted, and borrowing music from other Berlioz works. Ludovic Morlot, a fervent advocate for the composer, conducts. Sung in English. McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, seattleopera.org. $61–$199. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 & 28 and March 3, 7, 9, 10; 2 p.m. Feb. 25.
Apparently the world premiere of Ibsen’s Ghosts actually did take place in Chicago, but by touring professionals. David Grimm’s dramedy Ibsen in Chicago—also being premiered, here by Seattle Rep—imagines that instead it was immigrant amateurs. The result is an enjoyable but not-completely-convincing mix: a serious look at the lawlessness and bigotry immigrants were forced to confront in America, a backstage farce somewhat in the vein of Noises Off, and a graduate seminar on “Why Ibsen Matters.” It’s not just set in 1882, much of Grimm’s script seems to be from 1882, with plot contrivances and speechy speeches of the kind Ibsen worked so hard to supersede. Henning (Christopher McLinden) wants to stage his countryman’s controversial play (syphilis, incest, euthanasia—typical family fare) as a showcase for his diva lover Helga, former star of the Royal Danish Theatre, but he has to put together the rest of the cast from whoever wanders by. He’s saddled with all the script’s sententiousness about Art and Truth; he’s like the hapless, earnest-to-a-fault Henrik from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, transposed to the Midwest. Annette Toutonghi is fascinating in a very weird role, milquetoast stage manager Solveig, who has a WTF? way of dealing with stress. (She sounds a bit like she’s borrowing Ellen Greene’s whispery lisp from Little Shop of Horrors.) Kirsten Potter, as Helga, is absolutely dazzling, and the prime reason to see this show; her diva turn is flamboyantly over-the-top, but also the realest. most heartfelt person onstage. I don’t know how she does it. Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Center. $17 and up. Runs Tues.–Sun.; see seattle.rep.org for exact schedule. Ends March 4.