Duke Ellington wrote more than 200 songs during his 75 years, but he wrote the score to only three musicals, one of which was Beggar's Holiday. No doubt this ticket was one hot paper stub back in 1946, when the show first opened on Broadway and Ellington was in his heyday. But though it ran for a sweet 111 performances, Holiday has remained untouched ever since. Now, the Marin Theatre Company is bringing it back to the stage with a snappy new script by famed writer Dale Wasserman (Man of La Mancha), who co-produced the world premiere of Holiday when he was a young cat in the '40s.
Holiday is one of several spinoffs of an early 18th-century satiric musical called the Beggar's Opera, by John Gay, which took some risky potshots at members of the New York elite as well as at the theatergoing public's taste for gaudy, overblown Italian opera. Like Gay's play, the post-World War II Holiday pokes fun at the uptight materialism of a wannabe aristocracy. The story finds Happy Mac, a blind beggar, dreaming of a world in which he becomes a badass hipster who leads a gang of thieves and sexy chicas on the waterfront of a Southern city. The story's cool, but it's the 27-song Ellington score -- a combination plate of smoky blues, tango, torch songs, jazz riffs, and a bit of mock opera -- that made Holiday famous. Revisit the days of the dashing Duke through Oct. 10 at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller (at Goma), Mill Valley. Tickets are $28-46; call 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org for a performance schedule.
-- Karen Macklin
Vaseline used to lube insincere smiles, under-eye bags banished with Preparation H -- the scary conventions of the all-American beauty contest become sheer camp in the musical Pageant, which features a squadron of drag-clad actors in a competition sponsored by a cosmetics company that pushes such dubious products as face spackle and solar-powered rollers. Will Miss Deep South's puppet ventriloquism trump Miss West Coast's interpretive dancing? Volunteer for the panel of audience-member judges and help select Miss Glamoresse 2004 as Pageant opens tonight at 8 (and runs through Oct. 17) at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Admission is $20-40; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org.
-- Melissa Lane
Once upon a time, punk rock was political a lot of the time, to the tune of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" and "Impeach the President." Then, after a while, it became apolitical, as exemplified by Green Day. At the moment, the genre that's supposed to have been dead for years has (in spite of the whole "mall punk" phenomenon) grown a new and very political bump: punkvoter.com and the "Rock Against Bush" concerts. (Note: Green Day is apparently now political. Good move!)
Like a lot of people, the band members on tonight's bill are pissed about the way this country's being run. The headliner, Anti-Flag, along with local heartthrob superstar Mike Park and a gang of other rockers, is prepared to make noise about it. Midtown co-headlines, starting at 7 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $15; call 346-6000 or visit www.thefillmore.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Get Some Fest
Dance troupes give a preview
In a good African dance class, the teacher is likely to be found screaming, "Move your butt! Your butt! Your butt! Learn how to use your butt!" This is only one small reason to love African dance -- there are lots more. And some of them can be discovered at the "Black Choreographers Festival -- Here and Now Benefit."
Diamano Coura West African Dance Company is one of the many groups that offer sneak previews of work to be performed at the African- and African-American-focused main event in February. Others include perennial dance-fan favorite Robert Henry Johnson, Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble, and Robert Moses' Kin. The evening features a meet-and-greet with the artists, a raffle, and more. Hey, you might even be inspired to move your butt. The benefit begins at 5:30 p.m. at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Shotwell), S.F. Admission is $20-50; call 863-9834 or visit www.odctheater.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Sweet and Lowdown
At first blush, you fall in love with Jolie Holland's extraordinary, sensual voice because it reminds you of Billie Holiday. (There are only so many times you can hear "Strange Fruit" or "Lover Man," so anything Billie-like and new is to be treasured.) But after a couple of listens to Holland's mesmerizing music -- which combines that voice with antique Appalachian instrumentation on fiddle, piano, and guitar -- you're sucked into dreamy images of a plaintive girl singing on the back porch of a weathered farmhouse. Folk troubadour Michael Hurley opens at 9 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $15; call 474-0365 or visit www.bimbos365club.com.
-- Joyce Slaton