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by Inlander Staff

Music Man for All Seasons THEATER--Nearly half a century after its inception, The Music Man still has a corny charm. You think Meredith Willson just got lucky with his first musical back in 1957? He worked on the book, music and lyrics for six years, putting them through 30 revisions. That's how you get 1,375 Broadway performances and six Oscar nominations (for the 1962 movie starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones). Moreover, the story has a double appeal: the con man submits to romance and respectability, while the orthodox masses learn to break out of self-imposed ruts and live a little.

Oh, it'll have you humming the tunes as well. The opening number, "Rock Island," innovates by having the traveling salesmen gossip in time with the chugging of their locomotive. "Iowa Stubborn" characterizes the townspeople of River City. And we all know how they got "Trouble" and what that rhymes with. Professor Harold Hill -- who isn't a professor at all -- easily charms housewives out of money for a boys' band that he never intends to create. ("Seventy-Six Trombones" may be a rollicking tune, but in the show it's a fantasy meant to bilk the good people of their savings.)

In the Best of Broadway production that soon rolls into town, the part of Marian Paroo, the repressed librarian, will be played by Carolann Sanita. After a different city each week and only two weeks off since October, you might think her vocal cords would be a little strained. Fortunately, years of operatic training keep her pipes in sound shape. "I don't know how to explain it," she says, "but the voice needs to be much more down in the chest for a legitimate musical, not all in the head, as in opera. Fortunately, lots of Marian is in the middle range of my voice, so it's easier for me to speak the lines," and to be what she calls "a little beltier." Sanita does a full hour of warm-ups before every show: "I always sing 'Goodnight, My Someone' right before I go on, just to make sure it's there, that I've got it, that I can concentrate on my acting."

That way, the rest of us can focus on the story -- because con artists really do make passes at librarians who wear glasses.

The Music Man * Wednesday, April 24, at 7:30 pm; Thursday,

April 25, at 10:30 am ($25 for all seats) and 7:30 pm; Friday,

April 26, at 8 pm; Saturday, April 27, at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sunday, April 28, at 2 pm * Tickets: $20-$44 * Spokane Opera House *

334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. * Call: 325-SEAT

Steinbeck Century BOOKS--Through the middle decades of the past century, stories that glorified power, privilege and technological progress dominated American popular culture. Bucking the trend was John Steinbeck, a westerner by birth and by choice, whose work highlighted class divisions, environmental awareness, the yearnings of average Americans and a deep connection with place. Steinbeck's West was not the elegiac frontier of an earlier age but a clearly 20th-century place full of truck drivers and farm workers, rail yards and canneries. His study of the flip side of the Great American myth earned his books denunciation along with a Pulitzer (in 1939, for The Grapes of Wrath) and the Nobel Prize for literature (in 1960).

Around the country, libraries and schools mark the centennial of Steinbeck's birth this year with more than 175 events in 39 cities. Locally, the Spokane Public Library hosts two lectures on Saturday by Dr. Robert Benton, a noted Steinbeck scholar from Central Washington University. Benton, who has researched Steinbeck's ecological insights, will discuss The Red Pony (1937) and The Pearl (1947), both of which were later made into movies.

"Pictures of Two Families: Steinbeck's The Red Pony and The Pearl" by Dr. Robert Benton, with film clips * Saturday, April 20, 11 am * Shadle Branch Library, 2111 W. Wellesley Ave. * Downtown Library, 906 W. Main Ave., Room 1A, 3 pm * Call: 444-5312

Thought for Food POETRY--You wanna hear some metaphors, you gotta fork over some grub. As a benefit for the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest -- and coincident with National Poetry Month -- Auntie's will play host to seven local celebrities reading their favorite poems. Jan Sanders of the Spokane Public Library will share narrative poems of Middle America, while Susanna Baylon of KXLY will read some verses about cats by T. S. Eliot and a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley (to whom she's related!). Sheri Boggs, The Inlander's own Arts and Culture editor, will read poems by Pacific Northwest writer Raymond Carver and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver. Doug Clark of the Spokesman-Review will share self-penned song lyrics, while Randy Shaw (KREM-TV) will share rhymes by members of his own family. Paul Turner of the Spokesman, Mr. Slice himself, is counting on a readers' poll to make up his mind. And they picked a good date for the event: April 23 is the 438th birthday of William Shakespeare.

Poetry Extravaganza * Tuesday, April 23, 7:30 pm *

Auntie's Bookstore * 402 W. Main * Admission: one item

of canned food * * 838-0206

String Jam Spirituals MUSIC--Even heathens can appreciate the transcendent beauty of a passionately delivered spiritual tune or gospel number. But for devout Christians, this music takes on added significance as a form of praise. This Saturday night, the Gothic halls of St. John's Cathedral will reverberate with the sounds of strings as Cathedral and the Arts presents the String Jam Spirituals concert. Led by Music Director/composer/arranger William Berry, a group of familiar Spokane-area musicians (Margaret Bowers and Charlotte Bickford on violin, Kendall Feeney on viola, Helen Byrne on cello, Kim Plewniak on bass and Mark Tietjen on percussion) will perform a broad spectrum of inspirational music styles, including spirituals, gospel and even a little klezmer and jazz. Among the selections are such traditional favorites as "Old Hundreth" and "Amazing Grace" (with accompaniment by the Selkirk Celts Bagpipes), and a trio of African-American spirituals ("Little David Play Your Harp," "Steal Away" and "Ain't Got Time To Die").

String Jam Spirituals * St. John's Cathedral * Saturday,

April 20, at 8 pm * $12; $10, seniors & amp; students; $6, children

12 and younger * Call: 325-SEAT

Turbulent Affinities BOOKS--Joy Passanante's first novel, My Mother's Lovers, was born on a plane ride from St. Louis to Idaho. And not because she started writing it in order to kill time or because she'd just had a sudden brilliant flash of inspiration. No, it was her plane's sickening lurch and the realization that she might die without having written a novel, something she had wanted to do since she was nine years old, that caused her to make a literary pact with herself.

The University of Idaho professor made good with her promise, and the result is a finely textured novel of split loyalties, social upheaval and, not surprisingly, a good measure of emotional turbulence. My Mother's Lovers follows the story of a precocious young girl's realization that her eccentric family -- her mother who paints female nudes, her father who runs the local bookstore and the family vehicle, a VW van emblazoned with peace signs - doesn't fit into their small Idaho town. Passanante's lyric, evocative prose and subtle humor have garnered praise from fellow writers Alison Lurie, Mary Clearman Blew and Kim Barnes, while earning kudos from readers all over the Pacific Northwest.

Joy Passanante reads from My Mother's Lovers * Auntie's,

402 W. Main * Wednesday, April 24, 7:30 pm * Call: 838-0206

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