Carlos Urtubey, a baritone of Colombian descent, tells the story of one of the zarzuela duets (lyric Spanish theater) he'll perform -- "Canta Mendigo Errante" -- on Saturday, May 22, at the Phoenix Center for the Arts. "That song is about a Gypsy who sings to try to express his hunger for life in Spain, and he tries to seduce a girl," Urtubey explains. "Unfortunately, the girl happens to be his daughter."
Wha . . . ?! "Oh, wait," Urtubey says. "That's a different song -- not one I'm going to sing."
Whew. Luckily, Urtubey and Peruvian soprano Greta Skelly won't be singing about incest and pedophiles, but -- beginning at 7 p.m. -- they will perform zarzuelas about Spanish customs and music. Don't fear the language barrier, and head out to 1202 North Third Street. Tickets are $15. Call 602-274-4441 for details. -- Joe Watson
Black theatre troupe belts out songs of the South
Bill Clinton had little luck revitalizing 125th Street. But if Harlem could feel the foot stompin' coming from the Valley's Black Theatre Troupe, a revival would be a sure thing. Bubbling Brown Sugar energizes the Herberger Theater Center's Stage West, 222 East Monroe, beginning Saturday, May 22, at 8 p.m., with previews on Thursday, May 20, and Friday, May 21. The classic numbers, directed and choreographed by Tim Bair, include "Sophisticated Lady," "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "Sweet Georgia Brown." The show runs Thursdays through Sundays through June 6. Call 602-252-8497 for tickets, $24 to $30. -- Joe Watson
Chico's the Man
Chism's beat goes on
The stroke he suffered a year and a half ago has slurred longtime blues drummer Chico Chism's speech, but certainly not his articulation. "I feel good! Ow!" Chism proclaims, quoting James Brown to express how he really feels about turning 64. To celebrate, the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School, treats Chism to a birthday bash at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 22, headlined by the Rocket 88's, featuring Chism on drums.
After 17 years entertaining the Valley -- not to mention four decades playing blues alongside Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and T-Bone Walker, to name a few -- Chism's still rolling. Admission is $6. Call 602-265-4842 for details. -- Joe Watson
Lordof the Strings
Symphony salutes LOTR trilogy
The battle for Middle-earth ended on film, but we haven't heard the last of the Lord of the Rings-- literally. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 26, the Phoenix Symphony premières the Lord of the Rings Symphony, a multimedia concert that retells Frodo Baggins' epic journey via Howard Shore's original movie score. Alexander Mickelthwate, who worked with Shore to prepare the symphony, is guest conducting the performance. "I read the books when I was 15, 16, in Germany, and then I saw the movies without ever knowing I'd conduct this," says Mickelthwate, who will be joined by the Phoenix Boys Choir, Phoenix Symphony Chorus and an array of Shire-specific instruments. Original drawings and storyboard sketches from the Oscar-hoarding trilogy will accompany the concert, which unfolds in six movements. Tickets range from $16 to $55. Visit www.phoenixsymphony.org. -- Ashlea Deahl
Keeping the Beat
Desert Dance Theatre celebrates 25 years
For 25 years, Desert Dance Theatre has sashayed across the Valley. And to celebrate its anniversary, the company is presenting a modern dance concert and fund raiser at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. For those afraid to admit they don't really know what modern dance is -- or are just plain afraid of it -- Lisa Chow, Desert Dance manager, says there will be something for everyone. "It's going to be an entertaining evening," she promises. The concert features pieces the company has performed during the past quarter-century, and there will be a pre-show photo exhibition in the lobby. "It's kind of like our scrapbook," Chow says. And to tempt those still on the fence about modern dance: free cake after the performance! For tickets, $15 to $20, call the SCA box office at 480-994-2787 or see www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org. -- Murphy Hebert