It sounded like fun, but isn't to be -- yet. A special matinee concert by The Paul Green School of Rock had been scheduled to play Higher Ground this weekend, but one hour before press time, the show was canceled, apparently due to slow ticket sales. The Philadelphia-area after school program is said to have inspired Jack Black's 2003 film The School of Rock. In it, the manic actor plays a substitute teacher who turns nerdy 5th graders into rock 'n' rollers.
The real-life Paul Green School of Rock was founded Philadelphia in 1998. About 180 kids aged 8 to 18 attend the after-school program, which lets them play genuine instrument, in front of genuine audiences. They usual gig around Philly, but have also played such venues as CBGB's and The Knitting Factory, and showcased at festivals in Texas and Germany.
A documentary, Rock School, opening in June, follows a year in the life of the school. The film's soundtrack features the prodigy punkers rocking out with the likes of Jon Anderson of Yes, Alice Cooper and Heart's Ann Wilson.
A Burlington show may happen in July, after the movie comes out. When it does, local music fans will be able to catch a couple dozen of the program's top rockers -- about a third of them female -- in a family-friendly show.
What can audiences expect to see? "In my humble opinion," says school founder Paul Green, "some of the finest young musicians on the East Coast. If we were just a novelty act of kids playing rock songs, we would have petered out a long time ago."
Shifting lineup from one number to the next, they play tunes pulled from their curriculum. "If we're trying to teach the kids dynamics," Green explains, "we might do Rod Stewart's 'Every Picture Tells a Story.'" Queen and Frank Zappa offer lessons in harmony. The syllabus also features lots of Rolling Stones and Beatles, as well as Devo and Deep Purple.
The exact play list at Higher Ground will depend on what Green sees when he scopes out the audience before the show. "In San Francisco we had lots of long-haired men and their girlfriends. In Spokane it was like Sesame Street," he says. "If we get a bunch of baby boomers we'll do Stones and Pink Floyd. If it's a hipster crowd, we'll do Dead Kennedys and Slayer. If no one shows, we'll just do what I feel like doing."
It's not easy to keep track of movie theater holdings in Chittenden County. The latest shake-up: Cinema 9, in South Burlington. The venue, which went dark April 22, is slated to re-open in mid-May as the Palace under the ownership of a Boston-area man named Harold Blank.
He may not be well known on the local film scene, but Blank, now 57, has been a major movie-theater player here for years. Back in the 1970s, Blank bought movies for an organization that represented a couple hundred New England exhibitors, including Merrill Jarvis. Jarvis was then showing pictures at the Flynn and State theaters in downtown Burlington, South Burlington's Showcase 5 (now Higher Ground) and the Plaza (now Barnes & Noble) as well as three drive-ins.
Blank later went to work developing new properties for the Australian Hoyts Group. In that role, he engineered Hoyts' purchase of the Plaza, Ethan Allen, Showcase 5 and Cinema 9 -- all of which were then owned by Jarvis. In the years since, Hoyts has sold off its North American screens and Jarvis has bought back Ethan Allen and the Nick, which he's revamped as the artsy/indie-oriented Roxy. Last year, when Jarvis built the Majestic in Williston, his partner in the project was Harold Blank.
"I knew of the deal in Williston because I'd begun working on that for Hoyts in 1995," says Blank, while driving to Vermont from Massachusetts -- a trip he takes a couple times a week. He says he's spending about $500,000 to improve Cinema 9, including $120,000 in sound upgrades. As for cinematic selections, "I anticipate that the theater will play generally commercial pictures as it has in the past," says Blank.
Is he looking to expand his local holdings? "I have plans for the future, but none of them are solid or immediate," he says. "But I do have plans."
If you missed Firefly Productions' 2002 premiere of Fish Dancing, you can catch it at two locations next weekend. The Cambridge, Vermont, company needs funds to get to England's Brighton Fringe Festival in May. Firefly has been an annual fixture at Scotland's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but this is their first appearance at Brighton.
Fish Dancing concerns a father and a daughter who are warned by a stranger of an approaching flood. "It's very timely to right now," says Firefly co-founder and playwright Keefe Healy. "It's about whether you believe in a myth that will protect you or face the danger that's really present."
The Firehouse Center is turning up the heat this weekend. "Under Aphrodite's Skirt" offers erotic readings by such local luminaries as Burlington authors Marc Estrin and David Huddle, and Deb Doyon Palmer of
St. J., a.k.a. Mrs. Vermont International. Confides organizer Susan Weiss, "Steve Maleski talked about reading something to do with Spam." Ooh. The program benefits The Write Place's "New Americans, New Voices" writing program for refugees. Weiss says she thought the evening would make "a nice spring event. I liked the idea of a thaw."