The arrival of Hofstra’s annual Shakespeare Festival is a harbinger of spring. This year’s event features “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” believed to be Shakespeare’s first play. The second of the Bard’s works to be shown on Hofstra’s replica of the Globe Stage, which opened last year, it tells of Valentine and Proteus, the “two gents” of the title. The pair finds their relationship put to the test when they both fall in love with the same woman. Complicating their pursuit are outlaws, rivals, a jilted lover, two mismatched servants, and even an obstinate dog. As always, the main Shakespeare Festival play is accompanied the Festival Musicale, “Love is Your Master,” a program of Renaissance and early Baroque songs, madrigals, and instrumental music inspired by the power of love. There is also a companion play, “Something Wicked,” a one-hour version of “Macbeth,” which is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare’s works, suitable for young theatergoers.
Thursday, March 1, 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 4, 2 p.m.; also March 9-11. $10, $8 seniors and students. Hofstra University’s John Cranford Adams Playhouse, South Campus, Hempstead. (516) 463-6644 or www.hofstratickets.com.
The soulful young vocalist pushes the boundaries of jazz in his latest concert appearance “Lean on Me.” On the heels of 2015’s beguiling Billie Holiday centennial tribute “Yesterday I Had the Blues” and the electro-pop of this year’s “Love in a Time of Madness,” James celebrates of the music of iconic Soul singer and composer Bill Withers. With an international profile that’s exploded in the last few years, James has transcended his reputation as a jazz singer to embrace influences including R&B, Moroccan Gnawa music, hip-hop and gospel. His flexibility and omnivorous musical taste is reflected in his hugely diverse résumé, which includes work with Jazz great Chico Hamilton as well as Electronica hero Flying Lotus. In his review for The New York Times, writer Ben Ratliff described James as “a romantic baritone with a deep-funk band, stretching out songs, evoking both the ’70s of Roberta Flack and Gil Scott-Heron and the ’90s of J Dilla.” In “Lean on Me,” James offers his reverent-yet-expansive take on Withers classics including “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me,” and “Just the Two of Us,” backed by a stellar band made up of serious jazz musicians — Sullivan Fortner on keyboards, Brad Allen Williams on guitar, Ben Williams on bass and Nate Smith on drums.
Sunday, March 4, 7 p.m. $58, $48, $38. Landmark on Main Street, Jeanne Rimsky Theater, 232 Main St., Port Washington. (516) 767-6444 or www.landmarkonmainstreet.org.