Whether your musical tastes veer toward the tango, the Gershwins, or Stephen Sondheim, this year's Piccolo Spoleto festival runs the gamut. Perennial favorites are here — Rock 'n' Roll Heaven, Quintango, the Good Time Variety Hour — and so are a smattering of new tributes to such luminaries as Noël Coward, Cole Porter, and Rodgers and Hart, along with more contemporary favorites like the Doobie Brothers, Lou Rawls, and Chaka Kahn (yeah, you read that right).

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Rock 'n' Roll Heaven

What is it? A high-energy ensemble rock 'n' roll concert re-creating the hits of the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Why see it? There's a reason that Sheri Grace Wenger's Rock 'n' Roll Heaven show has been around for a long, long time — it's that good. They may not reflect quite the caliber of, say, Pavarotti at The Met, but Wenger's ensemble cast fill their rather big historical shoes with an equally large mix of lung capacity and superstar strut. You don't have to close your eyes to imagine Jim Morrison slinking around shirtless in leather pants or Big Mama Thornton belting out some deep-bellied blues — it's right there on stage. Who should go? This is not just for musical theatre geeks — people who love a well-planned concert and a little cheeky humor won't be disappointed. Buzz: Last time around, it felt like the Charleston Music Hall was haunted with the ghosts of rock 'n' roll past. (Shawnté Salabert)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $29, $26 seniors/students • 2 hours 15 min • June 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, & 10 at 8 p.m.; June 3, 11 at 3 p.m.; June 4 at 4 p.m. • Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. • 554-6060

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What is it? Five musicians — two violins, cello, bass, and piano — present a unique take on the most passionate export of Argentina: the tango. They'll showcase the classic tango and the more modern, seductive tango of the last half-century in two separate performances. Why see it? As they did last year, Quintango will showcase dancers keeping step with the quintet's tempestuous interpretations. This is real tango, not the drek played by the band on Dancing With the Stars. You can't tango to an American pop ballad. The only music for tango is the steamy, femme-fatale, doom, heartbreak, and knife blade stuff, the bastardized offspring spawned in the back streets and brothels of Buenos Aires that eventually dominated the elegant concert halls of the world. Who should go? Those who love the tango as well as those looking for a sexy start to an evening. Buzz: Televised ballroom dancing? No way, dude. This is the real deal. (Fernando Rivas)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25 • 1 hour 15 min. • CLASSIC: June 8 at 1 p.m.; June 10 at noon; MODERN: June 9 at 4 p.m.; June 11 at noon • Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. • 554-6060

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The Good Time Variety Hour

What is it? Homegrown entertainment from the Schlitt family in the finest tradition of the all-purpose variety show. Dad Bill Schlitt is a warm host for an evening of songs, stories, and dance, accompanied by mom Maida Libkin and tap-dancing daughter Johanna. Why see it? The "happiest hour at the festival" has been honed over the years to a fine sheen. If you're looking for nostalgic, family-friendly entertainment, this is it. There's the Variety Hour Choir, Schlitt's Super Salsa, and tons more. Who should go? Young, old, and everyone in between; fans of NPR's A Prairie Home Companion. Buzz: This show's got something for everyone. Be prepared to sing in your seat; this is interactive fun. (Anna Claire Hodge)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15, $12 seniors/students • 1 hour • May 28, June 3, 4, 10 at 3 p.m. • Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. • 554-6060

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Fascinating Rhythm: A Musical Tribute to George and Ira Gershwin

What is it? A multimedia celebration of the brothers Gershwin, written and narrated by biographer Philip Furia; songs, dance, comedy, and archival photography combine to re-create the pivotal moments in the lives and careers of Ira and George. Why see it? The Gershwin masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, has a wee bit of notoriety here. Try to find a native Charlestonian who can't sing "Summertime," just try. Not to mention that six-time Emmy winning composer Lanny Meyers will be leading the orchestra. Who should go? Fans of song and dance prepared for a Tin Pan Alley trek chock full of visuals, comedy, and pieces as enchanting as "Rhapsody in Blue." Buzz: The two-hour time span makes this a true treat for the Gershwin aficionado but may prove overlong for those just in the mood for a quick taste. But the variety of the show alone should keep it snapping along. Read more about this Gershwin tribute on p. 89. (Jason A. Zwiker)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $29, $26 seniors/students • 2 hours • May 26, 27, 30 at 7:30 p.m.; May 27, 29 at 2 p.m.; May 28 at 3 p.m. • Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. • 554-6060

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A Little Night Music

What is it? Musical genius Stephen Sondheim's collaborative work with longtime director Hal Prince and writer Hugh Wheeler, A Little Night Music, transports viewers to the elegant and emotionally conflicted turn-of-the-century Scandinavia. The 1973 musical is loosely based on the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. Why see it? The story of middle-aged Frederik and his virginal bride Anne, Frederik's brooding, attention-craving son Henrik, the actress Desiree, her mother, her daughter, her lover, and his wife has been compared to both Shakespeare and Chekhov in spirit and theme. Sondheim's beautiful, sparse, complex compositions should convert even the most cynical of musical-haters. The songs here are motivated, and characters don't just break into song for no reason. Who should go? Anyone who loves "Send in the Clowns," fans of musicals or Sondheim, those who want to participate in Spoleto but don't feel like braving downtown traffic. Buzz: The Village Playhouse did an amazingly admirable job with this musical when they first presented it last fall, thanks to the direction of Sondheim master Maida Libkin. (Jennifer Corley)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25, $22 seniors/students • May 27, June 2, 10 at 8 p.m.; May 28 at 8:30 p.m.; May 29, June 1, 7, 8, 9 at 6 p.m.; June 11 at 2:30 p.m. • Village Playhouse, 730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant • 554-6060

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2 for Broadway

What is it? Robert Ray and Courtenay Collins, backed by a five-piece band — Ain't Misbehavin' — and swinging through an "Anything Goes" revue of Broadway's most recognizable showtunes. Why see it? For the pure showmanship or just for the burst of energy; to get revved up and walk out on the street still singing along to tunes from Cabaret, Chicago, The Producers, and the like. Who should go? Those who like the songs without the story, who want a taste of the glitter and grandeur of New York's musical performance heart without the long trek north. Buzz: Should be quite the exuberant experience for those with some tap in their toes and a song on their tongues. The special salute to Rodgers and Hart is expected to be a highlight of the show. (Jason A. Zwiker)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25, $22 seniors/students • 2 hours • June 5, 6 at 8 p.m.; June 7, 9 at 1 p.m.; June 8,10 at 4 p.m.; June 11 at 7 p.m. • Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. • 554-6060

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Noël, Cole and We

What is it? An original musical written and directed by local Robert Ivey interweaving the lives of composers Cole Porter and Noël Coward using their lyrics and music. Why see it? Much in the same way Stephen Citron's biography Noël & Cole: The Sophisticates traces the parallels of two of the 20th century's most remarkable talents, Ivey's musical revue has the added bonus of using the two's own tunes to tell their stories. Who should go? This is a production for people who feel nostalgic for the Roaring '20s and who have an appreciation for the talent of Cole and Noël. buzz: Robert Ivey is an old hand at creating crowd-pleasers. Should be 90 minutes worth of great music. (Anna Claire Hodge)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $20, $17 seniors/students • May 27, June 1 at 7 p.m.; May 29, June 2, 4, 8 at 7:30 p.m.; June 3, 7 at 5 p.m.; June 5 at 8 p.m.; June 9 at 6 p.m. • Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. • 554-6060

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That '70s Soul Show

What is it? A snazzy, locally-produced celebration of Motown and classic soul songs, popular disco tunes, and the grooviest Top 40 of the '70s radio charts — featuring four vocalists and a six-piece band. Why see it? Acclaimed local singer Quiana Parler (best known in town for her appearance on TV's American Idol, and her work on several Clay Aiken tours) is a true professional and can belt it out with ease alongside featured vocalists Dudley Birch, Jeremy Baucomb, and Amanda Morris — each of whom bring their charm and personality to the revue. The set list includes renditions of hits by the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan, Lou Rawls, Natalie Cole, Doobie Brothers, and George Benson. Who should go? Anyone who enjoyed the boogie and shake of last year's popular That '60s Soul Show production — and anyone who remembers the "hustle," the "bus stop," or other standards from the Studio 54 days. Buzz: Classic dance music is popular among young and old — and this well-polished "soul revue" delivers a solid show every time. (T. Ballard Lesemann)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $20 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 26, 27, 28, 30, June 2, 3 at 10 p.m.; May 28, 29, 31, June 1 at 8:30 p.m. • Tonik Club, 479 King St. • 554-6060


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