FRIDAY 7/15-SUNDAY 7/17
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. The Weekend Theater. $16-$20.
"The Drowsy Chaperone" was born in 1997 as an elaborate joke and a wedding gift. In fact, "The Wedding Gift" was the name of the play's precursor; it was essentially a bawdy set of Jazz Age spoof songs composed by friends of actor Bob Martin's (the Comedy Network's "Puppets Who Kill," Sundance Channel's "Slings and Arrows") on the occasion of his bachelor party. What happened at that stag party didn't stay at that stag party, though, and the show — complete with leading love interests named after the real-life Bob and his wife, Janet van de Graaf — premiered at the Rivoli Theater in Toronto the following year and on Broadway in 2006. In it, a selectively fastidious theater nut — whom we know only as "Man in Chair" — opens the show with the line, "I hate theater," spoken in complete darkness, after which he launches into the prayer he sends to the heavens before seeing a musical; that it be brief ("Chaperone" itself clocks in at one hour and 40 minutes and is without an intermission, save for the mimicked one when "Man in Chair" leaves to use the restroom), that the actors not roam through the audience, that he might experience "a story and a few good songs that'll take me away," and for the play to resemble the golden age of Porter and Gershwin instead of what he sees as the banality of modern drama — "Please, Elton John, must we continue this charade?" As "Man in Chair" puts on a recording of the eponymous fictional 1928 musical, the show unfolds around him onstage playing Tom Servo to the prohibition-era hijinks. Performances at The Weekend Theater continue each week Friday through Sunday, through July 31, with a single Thursday performance on July 28, and tickets are available at weekendtheater.org.
LOUISIANA SOUL REVIVAL
9 p.m. South on Main. $10.
When Doug Duffey tours Europe, he calls his outfit the "Doug Duffey International Soul Band," and he describes his Egyptian, Trinidadian and Swiss colleagues thusly on his blog: "We're like a Delta blues band. We're all from a different delta. I'm from the Mississippi Delta; Hani [Ali]'s from the Nile Delta; Kelvin [Bullen]'s from the Thames Delta; and Sebastian [Niessner]'s from the Limmat Delta, which is the river that runs through Zurich." Duffey's been playing gigs since he was 14 years old; has published two books of his photography, "European Collages" and "Louisiana Americana"; and has been inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame and the National Blues Hall of Fame. He's back home now, or at least comparatively near his native Monroe, La., touring with an 11-piece ensemble that performs tunes like "1-900-For-Love" and "B What R Ya," His vocals are supported by a couple of killer backup singers, a full horn section (trombone, alto sax, baritone sax, trumpet) and classically trained jazz guitarist Daniel Sumner. Sumner, who was forced to evacuate his New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina, locked eyes with Duffey while Sumner was playing with the Louis Romanos Quartet. The pair linked up months later and put together a band to record five quintessentially Louisianan songs in front of a live audience on film, thereby creating the musical cast of Louisiana Soul Revival. Call 501-244-9660 to reserve a table.
8 p.m. Verizon Arena. $30-$125.
When we spoke with Maxwell over the phone a few weeks ago, he was in a car with his management team, taking in the scenery "somewhere close to San Francisco" while on tour for his fifth studio album in 20 years, "blackSUMMERS'night," and said he couldn't wait to get back to the South. "The people, the vibe ... it's just different down there." The new album's a breezier follow-up to 2009's "BLACKsummers'night," and the emphasis on summer in the title is matched by a long-walk-on-the-beach sort of mood: "Can we swim a lake by the ocean / We'll be one like drops in slow motion." Ostensibly, the lyrics to "Lake By the Ocean" can be interpreted as an ode to achieving a sense of stability in our love lives, to being content with what we have and not tossed about by the tempests of misplaced desire, but it's worth noting the obvious here: This is some bona fide make-out music. Thanks mostly to Maxwell's silky falsetto and tender inflection, tracks like "Of All Kind" and "All the Ways Love Can Feel" could feel right at home on a mixtape next to, say, "Slow Hand" or "Love to Love You Baby." Notably, the crooner's been working with the same production crew as he did on 1996's "Urban Hang Suite," but unlike "This Woman's Work" or "Pretty Wings," "blackSUMMERS'night" is bouncy, trippy, aquatic, underpinned by thumping bass or, as on "1990x," rumbling timpani. Though he'll likely receive some criticism from longtime fans who prefer to take their Maxwell straight, sans electronic garnishes, his voice is still ever at the forefront, as expressive as his heroes': Sade, Marvin Gaye and Harry Belafonte. (For the uninitiated who might benefit from a crash course, go see "Block Summer's Night" at The Joint a couple of days ahead of the Maxwell show, where Rodney Block will be paying homage to the neo-soul pioneer, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, $10-$15.)
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.
When the opening chords of Big Silver's "Drawing Pictures" expand outward into a sprawl of a groove, it's hard to fathom all that sound fitting into the Hillcrest kitchen in which it was recorded. The group's been spinning out easy, bright pop confections like "Love Note" and lyrically sophisticated ballads like "Frown Upside Down" (a diarist meditation on the phrase, "Speak now or forever hold your peace") for an impressively long stint under the pop direction of Isaac Alexander, a multi-instrumentalist and graphic designer. Alexander's upped the beauty quotient in Little Rock pop music since 1999 as a solo artist, with his bands The Easys, Molten Lava and Greers Ferry; and through his contributions to the music of Jesse Aycock, Chris Michaels, The Salty Dogs, The Big Cats, Cosby (now called "The Glowing Life," for justifiable reasons), Jim Mize and others. His musical imprint on those projects is indelible; his work is often compared to The Beatles — perhaps because of the tendency to use sunny vocal harmonies, or unusual chord changes? Or because of the clarity in Alexander's voice? Whatever the reason, count him on the "I'll Follow the Sun"/"Things We Said Today" end of The Fab Four spectrum, and for heaven's sake, go see this rare performance from a Little Rock institution. Sea Nanners' beachy lo-fi pop starts things off
8:30 p.m. White Water Tavern. $7.
Malcolm Holcombe might have had an easier go of it — especially with the Nashville machine — if he had just embraced even one iota of gimmick. He won't, though, and while there's plenty of room in this wide world for speed metal trios in lucha libre masks or bands partially staffed by robots, Holcombe's music is a simpler distillation. Hell, it's unthinkable to fathom even adding something as benign as harmony to his songs. Even his peers in the alt-country world tend to lend their songs a little lilt or a swing, but Holcombe's tunes are wound tight with nervous retrospective tension. He's a master of the gradual crescendo, starting out his sets low and slow and ending up playing as if the sum of all the rage he's ever felt is brimming under the surface of his fingers and barreling across his smoke-worn chords with abandon. It's tempting to say Holcombe's work is stripped of artifice, but that isn't precisely true, because he never seems to have suffered any artifice of which to be stripped. When he's asked about or complimented on his sincerity of purpose, as he was by Puremusic's Frank Goodman or UK radio host Jeremy Rees, he says things like "There ain't no magic," or "I don't go for this channeling stuff," or "I don't have a method ... you've got to make an effort to put the pencil lead on the paper." Whether there's magic in what he does will be left to the viewers at White Water on Tuesday night to judge, but my guess is that they'll leave the place in disagreement with Holcombe on that point.