Jeff Spevak


Two shows – one a blockbuster musical, the other a provocative premiere – make the upcoming weeks here one of the most significant stretches ever in Rochester theater. Two shows set in times nearly two centuries apart. But sharing one commonality.

Famous actors – Jeff Goldblum and Dan Ackroyd – playing musicians.

Longtime favorites – Bill Frisell, Catherine Russell, Jake Shimabukuro and Trombone Shorty – meet unknowns such as Girls in Airports, which is actually five guys from Denmark.


Judy Collins has worn her activism on her songwriter’s sleeve since the 1960s, when she moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village, plunging into a scene of folk-music driven activism. She is a voice of peace and civil rights, but also travail, publicly sharing her own experiences with alcoholism, drug abuse, bulimia and the suicide of her son.

Collins, who plays Saturday, March 9, at Hochstein Performance Hall, is an unerring judge of other songwriters’ material: She has had hits with Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.” She has inspired songs: Stephen Stills wrote “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” about Collins.

Rochester Music Hall of Fame

Beach Boy Al Jardine, television-theme composer Jack Allocco, folk singer Christine Lavin, longtime area promoter Jeff Springut and his club Red Creek, and WCMF-FM (96.5). The eighth class of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame, introduced Tuesday morning, is the now-familiar mix of acclaimed performers and behind-the-scenes operators.


He looked a little frail as he walked onstage. Moving slowly, almost gingerly. But maybe some of that was Bat McGrath looking out at the sold-out crowd of nearly 800 people at the Lyric Theatre Saturday night. And seeing the standing ovation, before he’d sung a word or played a note on his guitar.

“I know why you’re here, and I really want to thank you,” McGrath said as he carefully arranged himself on a chair at the front of the stage.

Bat McGrath/Facebook

Over the past decade, Bat McGrath and his wife, Tricia Cast, have made twice-yearly trips from their home on a Nashville mountainside to Rochester. McGrath played house concerts here, the Harmony House, the jazz festival, the Naples Grape Festival, The Little Theatre and, for the last few years, Lovin’ Cup Bistro & Brews. He also played Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater a handful of times, including a revival of Chuck Mangione’s “Friends and Love” concert, and twice at the Rochester Music Hall of Fame ceremony, including the year he and his old music partner, Don Potter, were inducted.

With more than 80 original Christmas songs to choose from, Rochester’s Watkins & the Rapiers presents its “Big Little Christmas Show,” the band’s third annual multi-media Christmas show, Thursday at The Little Theater, 240 East Ave.

The band’s obsession with documenting the holiday hits on a wide range of styles, from romantic ballads such as “All the Stars at Christmas” to the upbeat celebration of “Santa Claus Parade” to the Soviet-era march of “Arise, Ye North Pole Workers,” a call for elves to revolt against the socialist practices of Santa’s workshop.

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, Road to Krasnik, Embroidery and fabric collage, 1994. 28-7/16″w x 32-5/16″h

The blockbuster show at the Memorial Art Gallery now was supposed to be “Monet’s Waterloo Bridge: Vision and Process.” And it is a nice collection of pretty paintings of a bridge. Variations on expressionism. Variations on London fog.


The Rochester Museum and Science Center’s “Science on the Edge Lecture Series” has presented talks on the migration of Monarch butterflies and plans for sending humans to Mars in 2020. Later this month, you can hear a lecture on the 3D printing of human organs. But first, this Thursday, the series teams up with the Rochester Music Hall of Fame to ask the question: “Why Rochester? Exploring the Music Business in Our Community.”

Blackfriars Theatre

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Rochester’s Blackfriars Theatre presents a show whose title character is based, very, very, very loosely, on Shelley’s notion of a human created out of parts stitched together in a laboratory. The Rocky Horror Show opens Friday and runs through Nov. 11.

And it is no coincidence that right in the midst of the show’s run, we find Halloween.