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Annenberg Theater Events

James Barbour, who has starred on Broadway in shows including Assassins and Beauty and the Beast, performs at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 9. $88. Broadway Tenors features Steve Bogardus, John Cudia and David Burnham singing beloved Broadway hits, including songs from Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 12. $60 to $75. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

A Chorus Line—From Desert Cities Music Theatre

The Musical Theatre University’s Desert Cities Music Theatre presents A Chorus Line, starring Broadway great Eric Kunze and a bunch of talented young actors, at 8 p.m., Friday, April 4; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, April 5; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 6. $15 to $35. At the Helene Galen Theatre at Rancho Mirage High School, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-6482; www.hgpac.org.

Coyote StageWorks at the Annenberg Theater

Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, from Friday, March 28, through Saturday, April 5. $39 to $55. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Fame, the Musical—From Rancho Mirage High School Performing Arts

The fantastic students at Rancho Mirage High present the musical about the famous New York City performing-arts school, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 27. $7 to $15. At the Helene Galen Theatre at Rancho Mirage High School, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage; www.hgpac.org.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune—From Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep concludes their season of Terrence McNally plays with this classic story of two middle-aged people who open up to each other on their first date. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, April 6. $40. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Jesus Christ Superstar—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera! At 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, April 4, through Sunday, April 20. $32; $10 students/children (call the box office). At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Marvin’s Room—From Indio Performing Arts Center

Kirk Geiger stars in Marvin’s Room, “a hilarious and wondrous account of one woman’s commitment to loving others first, and her belief that giving such love has made her life unbelievably rich, even as she faces her own death,” at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, April 6. $19 to $26. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-775-5200; www.indioperformingartscenter.org.

McCallum Theatre

The hit musical play based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher, is performed at 8 p.m., Friday, March 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 29; and 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 30. $25 to $95. Broadway great Patti Lupone sings at 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday, April 3 and 4. $55 to $105. Morgan James, recently in the Broadway revival of Godspell, performs at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 5. $25 to $65. Michael Childers presents One Night Only, a show paying tribute to the Jewish legacy of Broadway; it’s a benefit for Jewish Family Service of the Desert, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 23; $75 to $195. The McCallum hosts College of the Desert’s production of Les Misérables at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 1; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 4. $25 to $45. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Poster Boys—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The world premiere of Dan Clancy’s Poster Boys, a drama about two plaintiffs recruited to serve as the public faces for a lawsuit against California’s gay-marriage-banning Prop 8, takes place at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, April 20. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Sixth Annual Play Reading Series—From Dezart Performs

The company’s renowned Play Reading Series enters its sixth year, with talented actors and directors doing staged readings of submitted plays; the audience votes for the best, and the winner or winners are performed by Dezart Performs during the 2014-2015 season. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 11 and 18; and Saturday, April 12 and 19. $8 per show, or $25 for all four. At the Pearl McManus Theatre at the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 800-838-3006; www.dezartperforms.com.

South Pacific—From Shadow Hills High School

The talented students at this Indio high school perform the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, at 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday, April 10 and 11; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 12. $10 advance, senior or military; $12 door. At Shadow Hills High School, 39225 Jefferson St., Indio. 760-393-5400, ext. 44301.

Sylvia—From Desert Ensemble Theatre

A.R. Gurney’s play focuses on a dog, the couple that adopts her, and the chaos that ensues. Shows at 7 p.m., Friday, April 25; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 26; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 27. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Pearl McManus Theatre at the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.detctheatre.org.

Theatre 29

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Town’s Women's Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, a story about a theater’s opening night gone terribly wrong, takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, March 29. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. Alan Palmer’s Fabulous Divas of Hollywood is performed at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 12; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, April 13. $15. Nunset Boulevard follows the Little Sisters of Hoboken as they’re getting set to perform at what they think is the Hollywood Bowl; turns out it’s actually a bowling alley. Shows at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, April 25, through Saturday, May 24, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, May 4 and 18. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

The Three Queens of Hearts

Anna Maria Alberghetti, Ruta Lee and Mary Ann Mobley star in this live reunion show which features songs including “Memories” and “Maybe This Time,” at 7 p.m., Friday, April 4. $50. At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

Tribunal—from Script2Stage2Screen

Mark Milo Kessler’s play examines the strange relationship between Izzy, a court translator, and Hannelore, an avowed Nazi, in the days just before the Nuremberg Trials, at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

The first thing you need to know about Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune at Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre is that there’s nudity—quite a bit of full frontal nudity, right at the top of the first act.

The second thing you need to know is that the production is fabulous. Founder and artistic director Ron Celona has hit another one out of the park.

The two-character play by Terrence McNally was first performed off-Broadway in 1987. It tells the story of two lonely people, both in their 40s, whose first date ends with a mutually satisfying roll in the hay. While Johnny is convinced he will ride off into the sunset with Frankie, she has some serious doubts: She is far more cautious, and prefers to take things slowly. As the night progresses, they slowly bare their souls to each other … which may or may not lead to a viable relationship. The “Clair de Lune” referred to in the title is a piece of music by Claude Debussy. This fact is important to the plot.

When Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune made its way to Broadway in August 2002, it starred Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco. It ran for 243 performances, and both the play (as a revival) and Tucci earned Tony nominations. I’m sure they were marvelous in the roles—but the CV Rep cast would give them a run for their money: Stephanie Dawn Greene (Frankie) and Joel Bryant (Johnny) are simply tremendous.

In a two-character romantic comedy, chemistry is vital, and Greene and Bryant have it in spades. From the second the lights come up as they’re exuberantly consummating their relationship, the audience believes that these two will—or at least should—somehow end up together. Greene is spunky yet vulnerable as waitress and failed actress Frankie. We feel for her when she doesn’t always understand the big words Johnny throws around—but we know, deep down, that she’s probably the wiser of the two. After their apparent one-night stand, Frankie becomes anxious for Johnny to leave. He resists, sometimes with charm, and at other times with a persistence that borders on creepy. (Some women in the audience may relate to this predicament.)

Like Frankie, Johnny (a cook who works with her) is longing for acceptance and hesitant to reveal all the details of his past. He’s divorced and has spent time in prison, while she is uneducated, can’t have kids and has survived an abusive relationship. Both had mothers who walked out on them as children. Bryant’s Johnny is funny and cocky, yet clearly desperate for love. There is one point in the second act when Johnny’s emotional breakdown seems just a tad over the top and whiny, but otherwise, both Bryant and Greene are flawless. (Both are also in great physical shape—a big plus when you’re running around onstage unclothed.)

Director Ron Celona elicits strong performances from the actors, and moves them around on stage quite effectively. Jimmy Cuomo’s set could not be any better, and the lighting (Stuart A. Fabel) and sound (Kara Masek) create just the right mood throughout the production.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, CV Rep’s final production of the 2013-2014 season, completes the theater’s retrospective of Terrence McNally plays. Congrats to Ron Celona for once again offering the Coachella Valley professional, high-quality entertainment. As long as you’re not squeamish about a little nudity and some salty language, this play is a must-see.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, April 6, at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, 69930 Highway 111, Suite 116, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $40, and the running time is two hours, with a 15 minute intermission. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Becoming Ava—from Desert Ensemble Theatre

This original tribute to the comedies of the 1940s and 1950s was penned by local Tony Padilla. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.detctheatre.org.

Buried Child—from College of the Desert Performing Arts

Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the “disintegration of the American Dream” takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 14, through Sunday, March 23. $15 general; $13 students. At the College of the Desert’s Pollock Theatre, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; www.codperformingarts.com.

Burying Aunt Beulah—from Script2Stage2Screen

Joni Hilton’s quirky play about mother-daughter relationships takes place at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Coyote StageWorks at the Annenberg Theater

The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit comedy dubbed “Hitchcock Meets Hilarious,” is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 9. Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, from Friday, March 28, through Sunday, April 6. $39 to $55. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Desert Rose Playhouse

Diva Dish! With Luke Yankee features the son of Academy Award-winning actress Eileen Heckart telling tales about some of the 20th century’s biggest stars, at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 1; and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 2. $25 to $28. Lesbian humorist Dorothy Kirk performs two one-woman shows in March: I Came Out in a Darkroom, her brand-new show, at 8 p.m., Friday March 7; and HOLD STILL! I Can’t See Myself, at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 8; and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 9. Tickets are $25 to each show. The world premiere of Dan Clancy’s Poster Boys, a drama about two plaintiffs recruited to serve as the public faces for a lawsuit against California’s gay-marriage-banning Prop 8, takes place at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 21, through Sunday, April 20. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune—from Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep concludes their season of Terrence McNally plays with this classic story of two middle-aged people who open up to each other on their first date. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, March 19, through Sunday, April 6. $35 previews on Wednesday and Thursday, March 19 and 20; $50 opening night on Friday, March 21; $40 otherwise. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical—from Desert Theatreworks

The antics of the residents of an exclusive Florida trailer park get the musical treatment, at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 14, through Sunday, Feb. 23. $25; $23 students; special kids’ prices and group rates available. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Events

The theater’s Tribute Series continues with music by The Rat Pack—Frank, Dean and Sammy—at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 22. $40 first three rows; $35 remainder of the house. This season’s Indian Wells Pops! series concludes with a tribute to great big-band singers, featuring Frank DiSalvo, at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 30. $50. At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

Indio Performing Arts Center

Bethany Owen stars in Country Queens, her all-country show, at 2 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, through Friday, March 28, with additional shows at 7 p.m., Friday, March 14 and 15; and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 16. Kirk Geiger stars in Marvin’s Room, “a hilarious and wondrous account of one woman’s commitment to loving others first, and her belief that giving such love has made her life unbelievably rich, even as she faces her own death,” at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 21, through Sunday, April 6. All shows $19 to $26. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-775-5200; www.indioperformingartscenter.org.

McCallum Theatre

Sally Struthers stars in the classic Hello, Dolly! at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 1; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 2; $35 to $105. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra presents A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at 8 p.m., Monday, March 3; $25 to $65. One Night of Queen is performed—you guessed it—one night only, by Gary Mullen and The Works, at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 6. $25 to $45. Michael Feinstein performs The Gershwins and Me at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8; $65 to $105. The musical-comedy The Addams Family takes place at 8 p.m., Friday, March 14; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 15, and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 16; $35 to $95. The Pink Floyd Experience rocks the McCallum at 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 18. $25 to $45. An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin is performed by the legend herself at 8 p.m., Friday, March 21. $55 to $95. Walnut Street Theatre presents the play Driving Miss Daisy at 8 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, March 25 and 26; $25 to $75. The hit musical play based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher, is performed at 8 p.m., Friday, March 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 29; and 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 30. $25 to $95.At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

On the Air! An Evening of Live Radio Show Classics—from Dezart Performs

This benefit gala features stars including Gavin MacLeod, Joyce Bulifant and many others performing classic shows from radio’s heyday, at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 13. $35 to $75. At the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; www.dezartperforms.com.

Palm Canyon Theatre

9 to 5 takes the adventures of Violet, Doralee and Judy from the movie to the stage, at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 9. $32; $10 students/children (call the box office). The Madwoman of Chaillot, a French play about an eccentric woman who fights the authority figures in her life, takes place at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15; and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 16. $25. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

The Prince and the Show Boy

Performers Faith Prince and Jason Graae re-create their hit show on the Annenberg Theater stage, at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 22. $60 to $75. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Theatre 29

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Town’s Women's Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, a story about a theater’s opening night gone terribly wrong, takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 29, with additional matinees at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 9 and 23. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Annenberg Theater

Rachel York, a singer and actress who played Lucille Ball in the CBS movie Lucy, performs at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19. $88. Actor, musician and writer Peter Gallagher presents his one-man show, How’d All You People Get in My Room?, featuring stories from his varied acting career—plus a band!—at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 22. $60 to $75. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Becoming Ava—from Desert Ensemble Theatre

This original tribute to the comedies of the 1940s and 1950s was penned by local Tony Padilla. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; brownpapertickets.com.

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch—from Desert Theatreworks

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch … Or the Perfumed Badge: An Ol’ Fashion’ Melodrama, is the latest show by the new Desert Theatreworks. At 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 2. $25; $23 students; special kids’ prices and group rates available. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Coyote StageWorks at the Annenberg Theater

The Andrews Brothers, a salute to the swinging ’40s, is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 16. The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit comedy dubbed “Hitchcock Meets Hilarious,” is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 9. $39 to $55. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Desert Rose Playhouse

The midcentury modern film noir musical Nite Club Confidential stars Joey English as Kay Goodman. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 23. (The Saturday, Feb. 8, show is a 2 p.m. matinee.) $28 to $30. Diva Dish! With Luke Yankee features the son of Academy Award-winning actress Eileen Heckart telling tales about some of the 20th century’s biggest stars. 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 1; and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 2. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Hairspray

Actor/comedian Bruce Vilanch joins Broadway veterans and students from Musical Theatre University in Hairspray. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1; 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 2. $15 to $35. At the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High School, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage; www.hgpac.org.

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Events

The theater’s Tribute Series continues with Roy Orbison and Reba McEntire at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15; and the Ladies of Rock and Soul featuring Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Donna Summer, at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21. $40 first three rows; $35 remainder of the house. At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

Indio Performing Arts Center

Honky Tonkin With Hank and Patsy, starring Bethany Owen and Cowboy Jack Johnson, is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9. One Voice features Bethany Owen and her impressive impressions at 2 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, through Friday, Feb. 14. Just Let Me Vent, with ventriloquist Rob Watkins, takes place at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19, through Friday, Feb. 21. The aforementioned Bethany Owen does Country Queens, her all-country show, at 2 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, from Wednesday, Feb. 26, through Friday, March 28. All shows $19 to $26. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-775-5200; www.indioperformingartscenter.org.

Invasion of Privacy—from Dezart Performs

This drama is based on the real 1946 case of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who was sued by her friend Zelma Cason for libel and the right to privacy. At 7:30 p.m., Friday; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; www.dezartperforms.com.

McCallum Theatre

Sing-Along Sound of Music is a screening of the Julie Andrews film musical—with subtitles so the audience can croon along—at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 2; $15. The Moscow Festival Ballet performs Don Quixote at 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 3; $29 to $69. The Best of Broadway Featuring the Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber happens at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 7; and 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8; $25 to $75. Rigoletto, Giuseppe Verdi’s 1851 classic that studies the contrasts between good and evil, is at 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 10; $49 to $69. Chita: A Legendary Celebration features the great Chita Rivera in a solo concert celebrating her 80th birthday, at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21; $45 to $75. L.A. Theatre Works presents The Graduate at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25; $25 to $55. Sally Struthers stars in the classic Hello, Dolly! at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 1; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 2; $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Palm Canyon Theatre

The classic musical Les Miserables is produced by the downtown Palm Springs mainstay, at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9. Confessions of a Prairie B*tch stars Alison Arngrim—Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie—giving “audiences a reality check on the facts of life like no one else has ever done before, but sure as hell should’ve,” at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14 and 15; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 16. 9 to 5 takes the adventures of Violet, Doralee and Judy from the movie to the stage, at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 9. $32; $10 students/children (call the box office). At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

A Perfect Ganesh—from Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep’s season focusing on the works of Terrence McNally continues with this show about two middle-aged women throwing themselves into a tour of India. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $40. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Theatre 29

Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest focuses on country gentleman Jack Worthing and his imaginary big-city brother, Earnest. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Feb. 8, with an additional matinee at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 2. The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Town’s Women's Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, a story about a theater’s opening night gone terribly wrong, takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 29, with additional matinees at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 9 and 23. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

You Wouldn’t Expect—from Script2Stage2Screen

Yve Evans stars in this play regarding North Carolina’s eugenics law, which subjected people to forced sterilization—many of them black women. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

What can you say about a Terrence McNally play? You know before you enter the theater that he’s waiting to spring a surprise on you. But truthfully … this time, I didn’t think it would happen.

The story is about “two middle-aged ladies who travel to India.” OK … that doesn’t sound very exciting. But then again, I have friends who travelled to India and were so traumatized by the experience that they still can’t talk about what happened to them there. So was this play going to be about something like tourist muggings or pickpockets? Not everybody’s cup of oolong!

I got to Coachella Valley Repertory early for the Wednesday preview (the folks there graciously agreed to let us review the first preview show so we could get this piece into the February print edition); I wanted to study the program. Inserted between the pages was a drawing of Ganesh or Ganesha (either is acceptable—I looked it up) with a microscopic-print explanation of the “symbolism of Ganesha.” It’s worth reading; it describes everything from his trident to his fruit basket to his busted tusk. During this preshow, the audience is treated to an endless earful of sitar music, which will either completely jangle your nerves or transport you off to imaginary India.

The set is basic East Indian. The characters are transported from one venue to another by portaging bits and props that symbolically change the locales between scenes. The lights come up on the Elephant God Ganesha himself, half-naked and wearing an elaborate elephant head … which, alas, creates a muffling effect. The actor, Mueen Jahan, enunciates carefully and speaks as loudly and clearly as he can, but the trunk cuts his vocal projection drastically, and imparts a hollow sound. It’s a conundrum: How do you design a mask of an elephant, trunk and all, but not cover the mouth of the actor behind it? This problem resonated through the whole play, as the actor switched from role to role, wearing the elephant mask throughout. It brings us to a question for our brave director, Ron Celona: Did Jahan need to continue wearing the mask even when he wasn’t playing Ganesh? If playwright McNally demanded it, then Celona’s off the hook. Otherwise, couldn’t Jahan remove the mask while playing those other parts, as well as changing his costume, dialect and vocal quality, as he does?

Sean Galuszka plays so many roles that we lost count. We see him switch effortlessly from a gay flight attendant to an Untouchable Indian beggar to a Dutch tourist to a blood-spattered accident victim/ghost to a suave ballroom dancer, and on and on. He owns each role beautifully, and gets to show off his repertoire of voices, accents and looks. This is a superb opportunity for any actor to strut his stuff, and Galuszka, the only non-Equity cast member, gobbles it up; it’s delightful to see the actor’s craft on display.

Then we meet the ladies. Margaret, with her amazing red hair and fine features, is played by Sharon Sharth. She appears at the airport at the beginning of the show, snarking and whining and trying to assert herself. We get to watch her grow in this play (playwrights call it “arc,” the loveliest word) as she reveals bits and pieces of her past, and we slowly begin to understand the backstories that made her the way she is—but she starts out as a control freak and your textbook American tourist from hell. Why?

Katherine, or Kitty, is played by Kathleen M. Darcy, a gentle brunette. She brings too much luggage, tries to ingratiate herself in India by using her few words of Spanish (implying that all foreign countries are basically just one Non-United States), and generally drives Margaret crazy. Yet she is the one who eventually launches the quest for “the perfect Ganesh,” and as we learn about the other side of her seemingly golden life, we grow in respect and sympathy for her. Arc, here, too.

The crucially important thing to remember is this: A Perfect Ganesh is set in 1992. Think about it. Where were you; what were you doing; what was happening then? That’s the whole key to this play. It was pre-political correctness, so it was open-season on minorities in some places. AIDS was stalking us. Life was dangerously different. That’s how McNally gets us: The shock of the contrast to today’s life.

Oh, sure, there are laughs in the script—McNally loves to be downright silly sometimes—but the universal themes that emerge are the real stars of this work. Meanwhile, the actors are so hard-working! These lines are bears. The writing is very cerebral, and the audiences will respond to the ideas rather than the emotion. Don’t look for a lot of action, if that’s your cup of Darjeeling.

On this preview night, there were stumbles; for example, a phone rang after being picked up, and a picture came down, but that’ll be instantly fixed by the time the show emerges from previews.

Once again, Terrence McNally sets out to surprise us, to make us remember, to think. That is the real reason for the play, whether or not that’s your cup of chai.

And, as always, he succeeds, as does CV Rep.

A Perfect Ganesh is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9; at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, 69930 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. $40 regular; $35 preview on Thursday, Jan. 23; $50 opening night on Friday, Jan. 24. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Annenberg Theater (Including Coyote StageWorks)

Dance for Life is a showcase of performances by renowned dance companies to benefit the AIDS Assistance Program, at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17. $95; $200 VIP. Tony nominee Christine Andreas performs her one-woman show be-Mused at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18. $60 to $75. Coyote StageWorks’ star-studded fundraiser performance of The Man Who Came to Dinner takes place at 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19. $75 to $500. Coyote StageWorks’ The Andrews Brothers, a salute to the swinging ’40s, is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 16. $39 to $55. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch—from Desert Theatreworks

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch … Or the Perfumed Badge: An Ol’ Fashion’ Melodrama is the latest show by the new Desert Theatreworks. At 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 2. $25; $23 students; special kids’ prices and group rates available. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Country Royalty: A Musical Tribute to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline

Hank Williams: Lost Highway star Jason Petty plays Hank Williams, while Grammy-nominated Carolyn Martin performs as Patsy Cline, backed by a live band, at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10. $15 to $45. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Importance of Being Earnest—from Theatre 29

Oscar Wilde’s classic focuses on country gentleman Jack Worthing and his imaginary big-city brother, Earnest. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Jan. 10, through Saturday, Feb. 8, with additional matinees at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Events

I Do, I Do!, a concert version of the musical, features Joyce Bulifant and Roger Perry; it’s a benefit for the CSUSB Autism Program, at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17. $50. A tribute concert featuring “The Piano Men”—Elton John, Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Little Richard—takes place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18. $40 for first three rows; $35 for the remainder of the house. An afternoon Pops! concert featuring Yve Evans and the All Star Big Band occurs at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26. $50.At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

Invasion of Privacy—from Dezart Performs

This drama is based on the real 1946 case of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who was sued by her friend Zelma Cason for libel and the right to privacy. At 7:30 p.m., Friday; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; www.dezartperforms.com.

Les Miserables—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The classic musical is produced by the downtown Palm Springs mainstay. 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $32; $10 students/children (call the box office). At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango

The Broadway hit features 14 tango dancers, a vocalist and an 11-piece orchestra. 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 12. $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Man of La Mancha

Enter the mind and world of Don Quixote as he pursues his quest for the impossible dream in this renowned musical. 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26. $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Nite Club Confidential—from the Desert Rose Playhouse

The midcentury modern film noir musical stars Joey English as Kay Goodman. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 10, through Sunday, Feb. 16. (The Saturday, Feb. 8, show is a 2 p.m. matinee.) $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

A Perfect Ganesh—from Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep’s season focusing on the works of Terrence McNally continues with this show about two middle-aged women throwing themselves into a tour of India. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $35 preview (Jan. 22 and 23); $40 regular; $50 opening night (Jan. 24). At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Similar Journeys—from Script2Stage2Screen

Similar Journeys, a play by Palm Springs playwright Robert Abrami, features a cast of six characters in denial, in love, in crises, and in the process of defining their own lives. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 10 and 11. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

We all secretly hope that people say nice things about us after we die. In The Story of My Life, currently playing at Coachella Valley Repertory in Rancho Mirage, it’s a promise 12-year-old Alvin and Thomas make to each other (heard in voiceover) as the play opens.

Fast-forward 23 years: Tom, now a professional writer, is struggling to come up with an appropriate eulogy for Alvin, who has committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. It might seem daunting to base an entire holiday-related musical around a eulogy, but it actually works quite well.

Tom begins sharing anecdotes about his lifelong buddy, who now appears as a ghost. We learn that the friendship began thanks to Tom’s fascination with the bookstore run by Alvin’s father. Brian Hill’s book includes several references to Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (a movie the boys watch often), including a flashback with the two friends making snow angels. Some manly roughhousing takes place as Tom heads off to college, leading to Alvin kissing Tom on the neck—a major turning point. Has Alvin always had romantic feelings for Tom? Young Alvin’s decision to wear his mother’s robe to school every Halloween following her death on his sixth birthday might have been a clue. 

The friends grow apart as Alvin stays behind in their small town to take over the bookstore after his father’s death; meanwhile, Tom seeks his fortune in the literary world. It’s natural for childhood friendships to diminish in intensity and sometimes fade away as we reach adulthood. Happy with his career and his girlfriend, Tom accepts this turn of events, while Alvin can’t seem to let go of the past. It’s unclear how much this factored into Alvin’s tragic demise.

As Tom finally stops looking for the “why” of Alvin’s death and instead focuses on celebrating the joy of their long friendship, his writer’s block begins to melt away—and the eulogy takes form.

Though it earned four 2009 Drama Desk Award nominations—Outstanding Music (Neil Bartram), Outstanding Lyrics (Bartram), Outstanding Book (Hill) and Outstanding Musical—The Story of My Life closed on Broadway after just five regular performances. Perhaps New York audiences used to theatrical extravaganzas could not appreciate its minimalism.

The actors in CV Rep’s production, Chris Daniel (Alvin) and Craig McEldowney (Tom), deliver superb, emotionally nuanced performances. Both handle the demanding score and intricate lyrics with great skill. McEldowney’s soaring tenor is particularly impressive. Kudos go to musical director Scott Storr for his orchestration with piano, cello and percussion. It works perfectly in CV Rep’s intimate theater. The only downside: While Bartram’s songs are very pretty, they occasionally sound a bit repetitive.

The simple, all-white set works quite well, with the library behind Tom representing the thousands of stories in his mind. Director Ron Celona succeeds in keeping the two actors moving around just enough to keep things interesting.

As another year comes to an end, we often become nostalgic for the old days and for friendships that have become only memories. CV Rep’s touching production of The Story of My Life reminds us that as we get swept up in the holiday hustle and bustle, it may be more important than we realize to take a moment to answer those Christmas cards from old friends.

The Story of My Life is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 22, at Coachella Valley Repertory, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $40. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Annenberg Theater

CK Dance Company presents its “Sensational Seventeenth” annual production of The Nutcracker at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6; and 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. $15 to $25. Dance With Miss Lindsay’s Holiday Showcase happens at 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. $15 to $20. SPARKLE: An All-Star Holiday Concert, to benefit the Desert AIDS Project, features an appearance by Florence Henderson at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 11; $35 to $400. Helen Reddy Home for the Holidays happens at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. $55 to $85. Charles Phoenix’s Retro Holiday Slide Show takes place at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. $35 to $45. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

A Christmas Carol—from Theatre 29

The Charles Dickens holiday classic has a month-long run at this Twentynine Palms theater mainstay. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Dec. 14; Sunday matinee at 2 p.m., Dec. 8. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Florence Henderson

Carol Brady herself sits down for lunch with CV Rep and friends. Noon, Wednesday, Dec. 11. $35. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Exquisite Potential—from Dezart Performs

In 1979, Alan Zuckerman decides his son is special. Very special. In fact, Zuckerman announces his son is the Messiah. Of course, skepticism abounds. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 1. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; www.dezartperforms.com.

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Tribute Concerts

Neil Diamond and Connie Francis take the stage at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. Celine Dion is joined by the Xavier College Prep Choir at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. $40 for first three rows; $35 for the remainder of the house. At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play—from Palm Desert Stage Company

This holiday tradition is performed as a 1940s live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 15. $25 general; $23 IPAC friends and seniors; $15 students with ID; $11 children. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-636-9682; www.pdstage.com.

Lone Star, Laundry and Bourbon—from the Desert Ensemble Theatre

James McLure’s two one-act “1959 Pink Thunderbird” plays are set in small-town Texas, and focus on the life of Roy, a Vietnam veteran. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 20 and 21; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 21 and 22. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; brownpapertickets.com.

Married Alive—from Desert Theatreworks

A new musical about the ups and downs of marriage focuses on two couples: excited newlyweds, and bored not-so-newlyweds. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 15. $25; $23 students and seniors. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Million Dollar Quartet

This Tony Award-winning show is inspired by the famed recording session in which Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins came together for one special evening. 8 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Nov. 26, 27 and 29; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 1. $35 to $95. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told—from the Desert Rose Playhouse

The Old Testament is re-imagined from a gay/lesbian point of view. In other words, instead of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden is home to Adam and Steve, as well as Jane and Mabel. When banished from the garden, they decide to invent civilization—starting with brunch, of course. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 22. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

The Nutcracker, by Moscow Classical Ballet

Tchaikovsky’s holiday dance classic is performed by the “Ballet Star Factory” and accompanied by recorded music. 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18. $29 to $29. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

On Thin Ice—from Script2Stage2Screen

Darrell and Dee examine their lives in this play of truth-telling and coming out, written by local playwright Don Clarkson. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Shrek the Musical—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The antics of the ogre with the heart of gold are translated to a stage musical! 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 22. $32. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Someday at Christmas With Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack

A toe-tapping good time is promised at this holiday show featuring both Rat Pack songs and holiday favorites. 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15. $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Story of My Life—from Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep gets into the musical game with this tale of lifelong friends Alvin and Thomas. As time tests the bonds of their relationship, best-selling author Thomas calls on his own stories of Alvin to figure out where things went wrong. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Dec. 4, through Sunday, Dec. 22. $35 preview (Dec. 4 and 5); $40 regular; $50 opening night (Dec. 6). At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

A Tuna Christmas—from the College of the Desert Dramatic Arts Company

In the third-smallest town in Texas, Christmas is celebrated with a highly competitive annual lawn-display contest; the production of A Christmas Carol is jeopardized by unpaid electric bills; and the town is being terrorized by the infamous Christmas Phantom. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7; 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. $15 general; $10 COD students. At Theatre Too on the College of the Desert campus, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-776-7370.

Published in Theater and Dance

Annenberg Theater

Bobbie Eakes: Turn the Page, featuring the singer and Emmy-nominated soap-opera actress, takes place at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8. Tommy Tune: Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales, starring the legendary performer, takes place at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16; $295 show and dinner; $95 show only. $35 to $55. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Avenue Q—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The lovably crass puppet/human musical that brought the world the song “The Internet Is for Porn” takes over the Palm Canyon Theatre. 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 8, through Sunday, Nov. 17. $32. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Broadway in Drag

The lovely and ubiquitous Bella da Ball hosts the third annual drag pageant in which female impersonators vie for the crown; it’s an official Palm Springs Pride event. 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1. $50 VIP; $35 general. At the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

A Christmas Carol—from Theatre 29

The Charles Dickens holiday classic has a month-long run at this Twentynine Palms theater mainstay. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Nov. 15, through Saturday, Dec. 14; Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., Nov. 24 and Dec. 8. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Tommy Tune

The legendary dancer, choreographer, director and Arrested Development guest star joins the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre for the “Luminary Luncheon” series. Noon, Thursday, Nov. 14. $35. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Exquisite Potential—from Dezart Performs

In 1979, Alan Zuckerman decides his son is special. Very special. In fact, Zuckerman announces his son is the Messiah. Of course, skepticism abounds. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Dec. 1. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; www.dezartperforms.com.

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Tribute Concerts

Liza Minnelli and Marilyn Monroe are joined by comedian Pete Barbutti at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2; Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton navigate the islands in the stream at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. $40 for first three rows; $35 for the remainder of the house. At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

Irreversible—from Script2Stage2Screen

Set in Los Alamos, N.M., this play focuses on the Manhattan Project and the tense days leading up to testing of the atomic bomb. 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, and Saturday, Nov. 9. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-702-0062; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Lush!

This two-act staged reading, written by the Independent’s own Valerie-Jean Hume, tells the story of Marty Mann, the first woman to become involved with Alcoholics Anonymous. 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10. $10. At the Miracle Springs Resort and Spa, 10625 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs. 760-251-6000; ask for Stanley at the front desk.

Master Class—from Coachella Valley Repertory

Toward the end of her career, opera star Maria Callas taught master classes at Lincoln Center. In this play, by Terrence McNally, the audience gets to watch her in action with her students, as she reflects on her life and career. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 10. $40. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Million Dollar Quartet

This Tony Award-winning show is inspired by the famed recording session in which Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins came together for one special evening. 8 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Nov. 26, 27 and 29; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 1. $35 to $95. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told—from the Desert Rose Playhouse

The Old Testament is re-imagined from a gay/lesbian point of view. In other words, instead of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden is home to Adam and Steve, as well as Jane and Mabel. When banished from the garden, they decide to invent civilization—starting with brunch, of course. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 15, through Sunday, Dec. 22. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org

The Mousetrap—from Desert Theatreworks

Agatha Christie’s well-known whodunit features chills and laughs as the harried detective tries to solve the mystery before another of the lodgers at Monkswell Manor winds up dead. 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 1, through Sunday, Nov. 10. $23 to $25. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org

Other Desert Cities—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The award-winning Broadway drama returns to the place where it originated. The Wyeth family struggles when the daughter, Brooke, announces she’s going to publish a memoir that includes a retelling of a family tragedy. 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, and Saturday, Nov. 23; 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. $25 adults; $10 students with ID. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays

Keith Coleman, in association with Palm Springs Pride, presents an encore performance of a series of short plays, conceived by Brian Shnipper and written by Emmy-, Tony- and Pulitzer-winning authors. 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday. Nov. 2. $29 and $39. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.annenbergtheater.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

The Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, or CV Rep to you, has launched its 2013-2014 season with Terrence McNally’s Master Class.

I was part of the very first audience of CV Rep’s new season. This little gem of a theater, located inside The Atrium in Rancho Mirage, tried out the idea of two “preview” shows before the grand opening. Not a bad idea. (The Independent would not normally review a preview performance, but we sent our November print edition to press before the grand opening. Therefore, the folks at CV Rep were kind enough to allow us to review the Wednesday-night preview.) CV Rep is also trying out a 7:30 curtain time, which, frankly, I love: 7 is too early, and 8 is so late, especially when you emerge from the theater in what feels like the middle of the night.

The open stage set which greets us, designed by Jimmy Cuomo, is charming. Stuart Fabel’s lighting is effective and creative. Aalsa Lee’s costumes are ideal. No changes needed here.

The play is set in 1971, at a “recital room” of Juilliard School, and Madame Maria Callas is going to teach a Master Class. We get to be the audience which is welcomed at such an event. Callas, at the time, was the most famous opera diva in the world, known for her tempestuous personality and style as much as her astonishing voice (which can reduce me to tears of awe within her first three notes).

But in the world of opera—whose mysterious, jealousy-ridden and colorful backstage we rarely see depicted in literature—the whispers have started: Is she losing her voice?

The role of Callas is a superhuman challenge for any actress, because of La Divina’s fame—and the circumstances which drove her to the top, both personal and historical. It’s also a challenge because of McNally’s script: It’s basically a two-hour monologue that demands emotional twists and turns you won’t believe. Marina Re plays Callas flawlessly, showing the naked pain, the unimaginable glory, the humiliation and despair, the obsessive perfectionism, and the dizzying excitement of her life—all on parade.

Her pronunciation of the many foreign languages which opera stars must command is very good. The gestures, facial expressions and body language fit. Her cheekbones are fabulous. She uses her eyes like Greeks do, and she moves like a once-overweight but now-thin woman. Re provides us with an astonishing amount of subtext.

How much of this is due to her interpretation of the role, and how much is due to the work of director Ron Celona? We’ll never know, but the results are stunning. Celona’s excellent work never calls attention to itself; every move is logical and natural—and this is the greatest compliment I can pay to a stage director.

The three innocent opera wannabes who have signed up for Maria Callas’ Master Class are absolutely delightful. Kara Masek plays Sophie; Mario Alberto Rios is Anthony; Nora Graham plays Sharon. These actors’ personal résumés go on for pages, and all three bring solid talents, serious training and surprisingly emotional interpretations to their roles. Opera, alas, is often filled with hackneyed gestures and stereotyped acting, leading to results that can be either hilarious or boring, but Callas demands Method-like research and deep thought from her students before even the first note is sung. The advice given to these aspirants by Callas is extremely worthwhile and important, and every serious performing-arts student could benefit from these teachings.

(Speaking of which: Some opera companies, in an attempt to educate that part of the audience that doesn’t speak the show’s foreign tongue, have set up an interpretive digitalized banner above the stage, which contains a running English translation. This has been met with mixed success. One of my friends attended an opera in which the chorus sang, over and over, a phrase which the banner assured the onlookers was: “We cry potatoes!”)

Steven Smith plays the role of Manny, the hapless piano accompanist who plays his music effortlessly and brings to the show another flavor—that of a steady working musician. Callas charms him, and then orders him around like a peasant; he bears both stoically. Michael Frank’s role of The Stagehand is played with more attitude, though he, too, is safe from La Divina’s storms, and he knows it.

We are overwhelmed by the gravitas and wisdom in McNally’s script—and by the emotional roller coaster through which Marina Re puts us. She recalls the height of Callas’ career at La Scala, and in the next minute, she is talking about having sex with the world’s richest (and power-mad, and abusive) man—and then she is a young girl again, an impoverished child in the middle of a war with nothing going for her but a fabulous voice and a burning determination to outwork anyone else. If you’re in the audience, you’ll need to brace yourself.

But do see this play, whether you’re a big opera buff, or you’ve never seen a live performance. Once you meet this volatile Maria Callas, you’ll never again fear a blonde valkyrie in metal breastplates.

Although the show I saw was a “preview,” all I can say is: Don’t change a thing.

Master Class, a production of the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 10. The theater is located at 69930 Highway 111, Suite 116, in Rancho Mirage. $40. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

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