Celebrating its 70th anniversary season near the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the Old Log Theater has long been a suburban destination for quality, but rarely momentous, theatrical and musical performances. Most of this summer’s fare hews to that standard. The comedy “Funny Money” with Steve Shaffer and Tom Stolz is the theatrical attraction, and the musical lineup includes such perennials as Butch Thompson, Peter Ostroushko, Cliff Brunzel and Moore By Four.
But on back-to-back nights just after the 4th of July weekend, Old Log steps it up a notch, and then three notches. Monday evening brings forth Robert Robinson, who apparently is now being dubbed “the Pavarotti of Gospel,” a lure for the more classically inclined denizens out in the “golden crescent” of the west metro, perhaps, but also a distinction that appropriately nods toward Robinson’s vocal firepower. The operatic comparison is also apt because hearing Robinson is an experience more visceral than cerebral: the depth of his tone, the breadth of his range, and the seemingly inexhaustible supply of sound emanating from his bowling-ball physique tingle your solar plexus as much as your brain or your ears. He’s a hoot to hear — a Grand Canyon hoot.
Tuesday night is even better. Violinist Jorja Fleezanis, who just resigned after 20 years as the concertmaster for the Minnesota Orchestra in order to take a position created especially for her at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, will perform alongside pianist Karl Paulnack, director of the music division at the Boston Conservatory.
The Fleezanis concert holds out the prospect of something really extraordinary. Not only is she obviously one of the country’s finest violinists, (here she is with the UC Davis Orchestral start at the 21:40 mark) but a genuine artist who champions new music and cares deeply about its history and scholarship, as evidenced not only by acceptance of a university post, but her marriage to renowned musicologist and writer Michael Steinberg. But this gig finds her out among the pine trees in the balmy depths of summer, between jobs and out of the pressure cooker of imposing rigor on her orchestra colleagues. She’ll be performing works by Copland, Bartok, Ravel and Beethoven. She’ll be having a very different kind of fun. Paying just $22 to see what ensues feels like a shrewd bet.
Robert Robinson (Monday, July 6) and Jorja Fleezanis (Tuesday, July 7) at the Old Log Theater. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m.; tickets $22.