Boston Ballet bolsters dance card at Strand

Long something of a wallflower, the Strand Theatre is finding its dance card filling up quickly in 2010 with a couple of noteworthy debuts.

 On Valentine’s Day weekend, the former movie palace hosted the world premiere of a Tyler-Perry-like musical by a Dorchester minister. And next week Boston Ballet makes its first-ever visit to Uphams Corner with a presentation specifically designed for the city-owned arts venue.

The ambitious and multi-talented John Marshall, who has been youth ministering at Mt. Calvary Holy Assembly (297 Talbot Avenue) since 2006, finally saw the church-themed musical play he wrote ten years ago performed for the first time on Feb. 12 and 13 at the Strand.  Pastor J. Marshall hopes these warmly received performances of “Torn Between the Two” will mark the beginning of a national tour for this slick production that was rehearsed in Los Angeles.

  As the Pentecostal church’s music minister, Marshall had no problem composing the ten gospel and R&B numbers for this show. His BA in graphic design explains his ability to design the set, the poster, and the website for the show (See tornbetweenthetwo.com).
 The play’s title alludes to the dilemma of the central character: “Choir Director Shante has made a vow to the Lord that she would never use her gifts for the world, but will she compromise and lower her standards for the one she loves?”

The largely West Coast cast included Gary “Lil G” Jenkins and Tyga Graham, who both have credits from Tyler Perry movies, but Dorchester talent was represented on stage as well: Suge Avery, Ayana McDonald of the Kingdom Church as “Psalmist,” and Pastor David James Thomas, who heads up the afterschool program at the Joseph Lee School.

“About 500 folks showed up for each of the three performances,” reports Strand Manager Melodi Greene, who also notes that the show will be videotaped at a future performance at the theater and copies of the tape sent to possible presenters in other cities. Meanwhile, Greene is preparing for big crowds for a dance debut this week.

Boston Ballet company dancers, Boston Ballet II, and Boston Ballet School students will present two free shows in Uphams Corner tomorrow (March 12). The performances, developed specifically for the Strand, will feature a dynamic introduction to a variety of dance forms through an interactive and diverse program.

The program will include classical ballet, contemporary dance, and interactive dance work that invites students on stage to participate in a demonstration infused with hip-hop and other dance forms, and a piece from the Taking Steps program.

“Boston Ballet is thrilled to perform at the Strand Theatre for the first time,” declared Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. “These inaugural Strand Theatre performances are part of our many initiatives to support and contribute to the Boston community.”

About 800 students are expected for the 10:30 a.m. performance including classes from the Lilla G. Frederick Middle School and Pope John Paul II Academy in Dorchester, and the Dearborn School in Roxbury.  The 4:30 p.m. performance is free and open to general public. The Boston Ballet visit is co-sponsored by the City of Boston and Karmaloop.

For details on these and other spring events, visit strandboston.com.