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Not-so-plain Jane

Although it’s been covered by big names ranging from Willie Nelson, Justin Timberlake, The Dixie Chicks and The Carpenters, the Muppets’ theme song, “Rainbow Connection,” was pretty much owned by Kermit the Frog, at least until Jane Monheit came along and gave it a definitive interpretation with her rich, buttery voice and elegant stylings.

Named first runner-up at the Thelonius Monk Institute vocal competition in 1998 at the tender age of 20, the Long Island native emerged two years later as one of the highest-touted female talents in jazz, sparking resentment among jazz purists who claimed to see little substance behind the appeal of youth and beauty. Over the past decade or so, however, Monheit has “built a catalog of music that is an amalgamation of jazz and cabaret stylings with which she has increasingly become comfortable” (The Los Angeles Times) while developing into “a prodigious stylist whose gorgeous vocal throb, with its nasal fringe, is a phenomenon unto itself” (The New York Times).

A regular visitor to western Massachusetts, Monheit has played to standing-room-only audiences at the Iron Horse, sung with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and appeared as part of the Tanglewood Jazz Festival. This coming week she’ll be at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where, as Billy Taylor Artist in Residence, she’ll be working with UMass Music Department vocal jazz students (Wednesday, 10:50 am.-12 p.m., FAC room 44) and participating in a Q&A on vocal style and interpretation (Wednesday, 1-2 p.m., FAC lobby). Both events are open to the public, although reservations are requested for the Q&A (545-0190). The highlight of Monheit’s visit is a concert Thursday night at 7:30 in the university’s Bowker Auditorium. $15, $35 general; $10 college students and ages 17 and under. Concert ticket holders are invited to a preperformance talk by Catherine Jensen-Hole of the UMass Music Department at 6:45. 545-2511, fineartscenter.com

“The End’ is near

“At Last” focuses on the survival of a relationship as the world comes to an end; “Madeline and Steve” is about two people searching for an end to high school stereotypes. Both plays are part of “The End,” an evening of one-act works by local playwrights orbiting around the theme of termination. On view Thursday nights, Nov. 15 and 29, at The Elevens in Northampton, “The End” is the work of A Shot of Theater, a troupe consisting of creative people who, however, do not have the time to devote to the writing of full-length plays or their production. “Performing in a bar inspired our name, which also refers in a tongue-in-cheek way to the shortness of each play,” says producer Liz Jensen. “A Shot of Theater is a project that involves many talented local people without requiring them to devote a lot of time to rehearsals, since each play is only 10-15 minutes long. We hope to entertain everyone from regular theatergoers to those who just want to see something fun.”

“The End” includes pieces written by George Lenker, Josh Mobley, Thomas Matthew Campbell, Louie Falcetti and Peter O’Donaghue. 7 p.m. $7 at the door. The Elevens is at 140 Pleasant St. 584-4100

— Dan DeNicola

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