Arts Week

Well-Strung: The Summer’s Must-See Show

Well Strung 2

They’re a string quartet. They’re singers with tightly crafted harmonies. They’re classical musicians. They play music by Pink, Antonio Vivaldi, and Ke$ha.

They’re Well-Strung, and they’re all of the above.

Back in Provincetown for a second summer, first violinist Edmund Bagnell, second violinist Christopher Marchant, violist Trevor Wadleigh, and cellist Daniel Shevlin continue to offer the best music—and the best show—available on Commercial Street.

There’s a certain symmetry inherent in that fact. In returning to Provincetown, the quartet is in a sense coming home: it was here that Mark Cortale first spotted Christopher Marchant playing violin in the street and organized the group around him. Directed by Donna Drake, the show attracts people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations.

And while it’s about the music, it’s about the musicians as well, as they share snippets of their pasts, their lives, and their preferences (chocolate chip cookies, anyone?) with the audience. There’s banter, there’s constant movement (I’ve never seen anyone walk around with a cello before), there are touching moments, there are tricky dance steps. “It’s a concert, but it’s a show as well,” says cellist Shevlin.

A show where you can expect the unexpected. Who but Well-Strung would consider Britney Spears’ Toxic a logical piece for stringed instruments? “Sometimes we start the numbers and people don’t know what the song is until about a minute into it,” says Shevlin.

Once the audience gets it, however, they typically go wild. Especially in PTown. An onstage reference to the Supreme Court’s dismantling of DOMA gets enthusiastic applause, and people here seem to share the group’s frame of reference: we get all the good jokes.

And this year Well-Strung has even more to show and share. They have a new music video featuring a mashup of Kelly Clarkson’s Since You’ve Been Gone with Mozart’s first movement of A Little Night Music; a DVD; and a CD that includes my favorite Well-Strung song—Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. (Hint: their version is better than hers.)

In a nice bit of edification, the group indicates the name of each song along with who Well Strung1wrote it (with birth and, where relevant, death dates) … some need the cheat sheet for the pop tunes, others for the classical ones, but inclusion of both genres enables everyone to nod and smile knowingly, always a plus.

It’s not your typical Commercial Street fare, which lurches from comedy to drag to Broadway… and maybe that’s part of what makes Well-Strung’s unique offering so irresistible. Don’t resist: if you haven’t seen them yet this summer, there’s still time.

And you can decide for yourself how to define them. A string quartet. Singers. Performers. Or …?

Well-Strung is performing at the Art House through September 7th. For tickets go to