CVIndependent

Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Season is here! Let’s celebrate with some great events.

Greater Palm Springs Pride takes place Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9. There are a ton of related musical performances—many of those taking place at the new festival location in downtown Palm Springs. Get all the details at www.pspride.org.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be celebrating Greater Palm Springs Pride with special events on Friday, Nov. 7, and Saturday, Nov. 8. Offerings include performances and sets by JD Samson, W. Jeremy, Sparber, Amber Valentine, Nark, Chelsea Starr and Victor Rodriguez; Murray Hill is the host. There will also be pop-ups from Wacky Wacko and Peggy Noland. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club will be having Pride pool parties Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov 9. DJs scheduled to perform include Aaron C, All Night Shoes, COLOUR VISION and others. Admission is free. Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-778-8954; www.haciendacantina.com.

The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing for the season. At 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, a group of all-star high school musicians throughout the Coachella Valley will join up for the All Coachella Valley High School Honor Band. Tickets are $10. Patti Austin will be coming through at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The jazz vocalist has had an extensive career and was even a guest artist on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. Tickets are $35 to $75. If you want to enjoy some laughs, the Last Comic Standing Live Tour will be at the McCallum at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23. Tickets are $25 to $65. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several excellent events taking place. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1, Def Leppard will be performing. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past four decades, or you’re just too young to know, Def Leppard is one of the big names of the British wave of heavy metal. The group’s drummer, Rick Allen, only has one arm, which makes Def Leppard the best nine-armed band ever. Tickets are $95 to $185. The reunited Culture Club (bottom) will be opening its reunion tour at Agua Caliente at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. The group, fronted by the infamous Boy George, was a big hit in the ’80s, and the reunion includes all original members. Tickets are $90 to $160. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great November schedule. Country-music sensation Reba will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. Reba has been in the business for almost 40 years and is a powerhouse in country music. She’s also an actress who is probably best known for her television sitcom on the WB Network. Tickets are $59 to $149. Howie Mandel will be bringing the funny at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8. While Mandel is a hugely successful comedian and actor, he’s almost as famous for being a germophobe. Tickets are $29 to $59. Finally, the great Sheryl Crow will be returning to Fantasy Springs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth noting. LeAnn Rimes will be appearing at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2.Her record-breaking single 1997 “How Do I Live” was recently the answer to a trivia question at Bella da Ball’s Ace Hotel trivia night. Tickets are $29 and are only available at the Morongo Casino Box Office. Los Lobos (above right) will be stopping by with Los Lonely Boys at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. I had the opportunity to see Los Lobos perform in Riverside back in July, and band put on an amazing show. The members joked with fans who were cheering for them to play “La Bamba”; they said the song was actually performed by Los Lonely Boys. Tickets are $39 to $49. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has great things going on in November—as always. At 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, J.D. McPherson will be performing. McPherson performed locally at Stagecoach back in the spring. Tickets are $15. If you’re a fan of both lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling) and rock ’n’ roll, stop by for Los Straitjackets at 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13. I’ve seen the band twice before—and the shows are crazy fun. Tickets are $15. Now here’s something rather… odd: Macaulay Culkin and his band The Pizza Underground will be performing with Lizzo and Har Mar Superstar at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18. The Independent tried to interview someone from The Pizza Underground, but it didn’t work out, in part because the band only wanted to talk about pizza. So it’s a little odd that the band is performing in a barbecue restaurant that doesn’t serve pizza. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Speaking of pizza, The Hood Bar and Pizza has a fine November schedule. At 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8, Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes will be hosting his next installment of FRESH Sessions Live. His guests will be Aimlo and COLOUR VISION. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, the Hellions will be throwing a Turbojugend party that will include Monolith and Whiskey and Knives. Turbojugend, the legendary fan club of the Norwegian band Turbonegro, has a chapter in Palm Desert—made up of the Hellions. The Hellions will most likely be bringing in their brothers in denim jackets from Los Angeles, so you don’t want to miss this one. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 26, Machin’ will offer a special free Thanksgiving Eve performance. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed continues to make a comeback after a dormant period. Fortunate Youth will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. The Los Angeles reggae group has received accolades for a brilliant stage show. Tickets are $15 to $20. If that’s not enough reggae for you, San Diego reggae group Tribal Seeds is coming back for another show at The Date Shed at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The crowd at the last show was packed, so get there early. Tickets are $17 to $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche—From Dezart Performs

It’s 1956, and the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein’s lovely annual quiche breakfast is disrupted by … the threat of Communists! At 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $22 to $25; $44 for the show and brunch at LuLu California Bistro on Sunday, Nov. 16. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

12th Annual Annenberg Theater Opening Night Gala Fundraiser

Andrea McArdle, Maureen McGovern, Donna McKechnie and Randy Graff headline this special fundraiser, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. $95 to $295. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—From Palm Canyon Theatre

An eclectic group of kids compete for the big prize in the renowned spelling competition at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Broadway in Drag!—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The lovely Bella da Ball hosts this fourth annual drag pageant, as female impersonators vie for the crown in this Palm Springs Pride event, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. $35 to $50. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

The Chosen—From CV Rep

The award-winning play tells the story of two boys, two fathers and two different Jewish communities in 1940s Brooklyn, N.Y., at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 16. $45; $40 previews on Oct. 29 and 30; $55 opening night on Oct. 31. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

A Magical Evening of Luminaries

Don Martin hosts, and Christopher Marlowe is the musical director at this fundraiser for CV Rep featuring Kaye Ballard, Joyce Bulifant, Carol Channing and many others, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. $75; $250 VIP. At the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

McCallum Theatre

Mummenschanz, the Swiss mask theater troupe, is part of the Palm Desert International Dance Festival and Choreography Competition, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13; $20 to $65. Also part of the festival: A Man’s Requiem, by the SEOP Dance Company from South Korea, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15; $20 to $65. Renowned musical Anything Goes is performed at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 29; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 30. $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 2. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Theatre 29

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, though Saturday, Nov. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Noises Off!—From Desert Theatreworks

Desert Theatreworks re-imagines what’s been called the funniest farce ever written for their intimate theater space, at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 9. No show on Oct. 31. $25 regular; $23 seniors and students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Odd Couple—From Palm Desert Stage

Lou Galvan and Matthew Shaker star as the famously mismatched roommates at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28; $25 seniors Friends of IPAC; $17 students. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-636-9682; www.pdstage.com.

The Rocky Horror Show—From COD Theatre

The campy rock musical that made “The Time Warp” famous is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30; 7 p.m. and midnight, Friday, Oct. 31; 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. Most shows $30 general, with discounts for students, COD staff and seniors; call to confirm times. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; collegeofthedesert.edu.

Scrooge in Rouge—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The play has a cast of 20—but 17 of the actors get food poisoning. Of course, the show must go on, so the three remaining actors do the best they can; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Dec. 21. 28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Shakespeare in Hollywood—From Theatre 29

It’s 1934, and famous Shakespeare fairies Oberon and Puck have suddenly materialized on the Warner Bros. set of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a hilarious farce ensues, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Nov. 21, through Saturday, Dec. 20, with 2:30 p.m., Sunday, matinees on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Ray LaMontagne is often referred to as a folk-rock artist, but on Tuesday night at the McCallum Theatre, he brought a psychedelic element to his live show, playing edgier material from his new album, Supernova.

The opening band, the Belle Brigade—a four-piece led by Barbara Gruska (drums, vocals) and her little brother, Ethan Gruska (guitar, vocals)—put on a fantastic performance, displaying an indie-rock-meets-country sound. The siblings sang incredible harmonies, and Barbara’s drumming was excellent. At one point, Barbara was telling a story about how they were staying in a hotel on Frank Sinatra Boulevard. Someone interrupted by screaming: “DRIVE!” She chuckled as she corrected herself and then mentioned that Frank Sinatra was kind of “sketchy”—just like the song they were about to play. After a 40-minute set, the Belle Brigade received a standing ovation.

When Ray LaMontagne took the stage shortly after 9 p.m., Barbara Gruska and Ethan Gruska joined LaMontagne’s live band, which played in front of a trippy, psychedelic background with intense visuals throughout the performance. LaMontagne opened with “Lavender” from Supernova, and it became obvious that LaMontagne is evolving in his sound: The song sounded more like Pink Floyd than Bob Dylan.

He followed with “She’s the One,” also from Supernova, and the background visuals became more intense as the band played the hard-rocking tune with blues elements. Barbara Gruska’s drumming was heavy as LaMontagne belted out the lyrics.

Things slowed down when LaMontagne broke into “For the Summer,” a song from his folk album with the Pariah Dogs, God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise. The song was followed by “Pick Up a Gun,” which featured a stunning visual of what looked like an intense dust storm. After “Supernova,” the band played “Airwaves,” during which the background turned into a trippy, outer-space-voyage scene that would have made Hawkwind envious. The lyrics of “Help me, help me, jump and shout” echoed—making the song a little spooky.

The California themed “Ojai” pleased the crowd with its Gram Parsons-like sound and slide guitar. When LaMontagne followed with “Repo Man,” some people in the crowd clapped and even began to dance along with the bluesy song, about a man who will no longer allow a woman breaking his heart to come back to him.

When it came time to slow things down, LaMontagne and his bass-player switched to acoustic guitar and upright bass. Acoustically, they played “Burn,” followed by his best-known song, “Trouble.” They ended the acoustic jam with “Jolene” (not the Dolly Parton song).

When the band returned, the ensemble played “Meg White,” with LaMontagne throwing in the intro to “Seven Nation Army” during the guitar solo.

After playing “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise,” the band said goodnight, before returning for an encore that included “Hey Me, Hey Mama,” and “Drive-In Movies,” as the background depicted a film reel-countdown and what resembled the rear-end of a classic car.

LaMontagne’s set was edgier than his previous performances; however, his show at the McCallum offered variety from throughout his career, and was entertaining from start to finish.

Published in Reviews

After the McCallum Theatre announced the addition of more than a dozen shows to the 2014-2015 season, I asked Mitch Gershenfeld—the McCallum’s president, CEO and chief booker—if he was done adding to the lineup.

“There may be one or two more things,” he said. “We may have one or two surprises up our sleeves, but the calendar’s getting pretty full.”

He’s not kidding: In February, for example, the McCallum is booked for 24 of the month’s 28 days. In March, only six days are open. The packed schedule is one reason why the Palm Desert venue is usually the top-selling theater in California—and one of the top-selling theaters in the world—each spring, according to Pollstar magazine.

Another reason: the quality and variety of the shows at the McCallum. Highlights of the new additions to the schedule include Ray LaMontagne, on Tuesday, Oct. 21; Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers, on Monday, Nov. 10; country music legend Willie Nelson and Family, on Wednesday, Jan. 7; comedy great Jay Leno, on Saturday, Jan. 24; and “American Pie” legend Don McLean on Tuesday, March 17.

When asked which of the new additions about which he was particularly excited, Gershenfeld mentioned Jay Leno, the former Tonight Show host.

“That should be a lot of fun. We’ve never worked with him before,” Gershenfeld said of Leno.

Not many comics are a good fit for a mid-size venue like the McCallum, Gershenfeld noted, although he said he’s happy with the McCallum’s comedy lineup this season, which includes a newly announced stop by the Last Comic Standing tour (Sunday, Nov. 23), and a previously announced show by the legendary Bob Newhart (Friday, Feb. 20).

Gershenfeld also said he was looking forward to the performance by music great Ray LaMontagne. He will play just two days after the McCallum’s new season officially kicks off with the theater’s third-annual Family Fun day.

“He usually plays much larger rooms,” Gershenfeld said about the Grammy-winning singer. “… Everything aligned the right way (for him to perform at the McCallum).”

Gershenfeld also mentioned newly booked shows by two country greats: Willie Nelson, and Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers.

“Willie likes to play the McCallum,” Gershenfeld said. “We’re really happy we can bring him back.”

As for Vince Gill’s show, it’s the inclusion of the Time Jumpers that will make that performance truly special, Gershenfeld said.

“In country music, there are a lot of musicians who reside in Nashville, and do nothing but record,” he explained. “They’re incredible studio musicians—and that’s who the Time Jumpers are. They tour very rarely.”

Gershenfeld said he’s pleased with the “tremendous amount of variety” in the theater’s season, from the singers to the comedians to the Broadway shows, such as Nice Work If You Can Get It, which will stop at the McCallum for five shows March 13-15. The musical comedy, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, wrapped up more than a year on Broadway in June 2013, and just began the national tour that will eventually bring it to the McCallum.

“It’s the best Gershwin musical to come to Broadway in perhaps 30 years,” he said.

Individual tickets for all shows during the McCallum Theatre’s 2014-2015 season went on sale on Tuesday, Sept. 16. For tickets, more information and a complete schedule of shows, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

College of the Desert’s Les Misérables—at the McCallum Theatre

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.

Equus—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The Tony Award-winning play about a psychologist’s attempts to understand a young man’s obsession with horses is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 18. $25. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

The Haunted Host—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The LGBT and LGBT-friendly playhouse presents one of the first contemporary gay plays, Robert Patrick’s comedy The Haunted Host, on the 50th anniversary of its Greenwich Village premiere, at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, May 2, through Sunday, June 1. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Is It Just Me, or Is It Really Dumb in Here?—From Script2Stage2Screen

Local Jason Hull’s crazy sketch comedy is performed at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Nunset Boulevard—From Theatre 29

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, 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 .

Swan Lake—From CK Dance

Local dance studio CK Dance presents the classic ballet, at 7 p.m., Friday, May 23; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 24. $15 to $25. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Thoroughly Modern Millie—From Palm Canyon Theatre

In the early 1920s, Millie has a goal: To marry a rich New Yorker and live the “modern” life. Of course, things don’t happen that easily; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, May 2, through Sunday, May 11. $32; $10 students/children (call the box office). At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Wait Until Dark—From Desert Theatreworks

The thriller that was a Broadway hit before becoming a famous film starring Audrey Hepburn comes to the Joslyn Center stage, at 7 p.m., Friday; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, from Friday, May 9, through Saturday, May 17. $25; $23 students and seniors; 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.

Published in Theater and Dance

The McCallum Theatre will, as always, bring in big names and big shows during the 2014-2015 season (and subscription tickets that include many of those big names are going on sale at 8 a.m., Tuesday, April 8).

Comedy legend Bob Newhart. Grammy Hall of Famer Neil Sedaka. Violin icon Itzhak Perlman. The legendary musical Anything Goes.

But if you’re looking for some hidden gems on the just-announced schedule, McCallum director of communications and public affairs Jeffrey Norman encourages you to check out Mitch’s Picks.

“Mitch” is Mitch Gershenfeld, the president and CEO of the McCallum, who has been booking shows at the venerable theater—the top-selling venue in California in the spring, according to Pollstar—for about 14 years now. His “Picks” are five shows by performers who may not be household names, but are immensely talented nonetheless.

“He’s kinda saying, ‘I’ve been booking shows for a long time, and I can personally recommend these,’” Norman said.

Those picks by Mitch include a show by Cheyenne Jackson (below), who will be performing Shaken Not Stirred: The Music of the Movies. The performer is best known for acting roles on 30 Rock and Glee, but he’s one hell of a singer, too. (He’s also gorgeous, and proudly out.) He’ll be performing on Saturday, Nov. 1; tickets are $25 to $75.

Mitch’s other picks include the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (yes, I really did just write “Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain”) on Thursday, Jan. 29; Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass performing Brothers on the Battlefield, a multimedia show honoring the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, on Monday, Feb. 16; Mona Golabek’s one-woman show about a young Jewish musician in 1938 Vienna, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, on Wednesday, Feb. 25; and 2Cellos on Friday, March 6.

Norman encouraged me to look for clips of 2Cellos—which consists of Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser—online. I now encourage you to do the same. (Scroll down to the bottom to see one.) They’re simply amazing (and, like Cheyenne Jackson, they’re simply gorgeous.)

“Elton John called them the most amazing thing since Jimi Hendrix. They play the heck out of those cellos,” Norman said.

Of course, Norman—a veteran of the theater-venue world himself—also has his own opinions, so I asked him for one of Jeffrey’s Picks for the 2014-2015 season.

“It would have to be Dame Edna,” Norman said, referring to the alter ego of Australian comedian/performer Barry Humphries, who recently turned 80. “She had reportedly retired—or perhaps I should say he had reportedly retired. Apparently, he decided to do one last farewell tour, and he specifically remembered the McCallum Theatre, and wanted to return.”

Dame Edna—who was a semi-regular on Ally McBeal, fans may recall—will perform on Monday and Tuesday, March 30 and 31; and Wednesday, April 1. Tickets are $35 to $95, possums.

And now for my pick: I was intrigued to see that John Waters, the uniquely Baltimore “pope of trash” known for Pink Flamingos and Hairspray, will be doing his one-man Christmas show, A John Waters Christmas, at the McCallum on Tuesday, Dec. 2; tickets are $25 to $55.

I’ve seen Waters do a one-man show before; he’s hilarious and even charming (though certainly graphic and, um, profane).

“We were very explicit in the brochure: This is for diehard John Waters fans. He is definitely putting the ‘x’ back in Xmas,” Norman said.

All in all, 2014-2015 looks like yet another diverse and busy year for the McCallum—and Norman said up to a dozen more shows may be added before all is said and done.

“I am really excited about it,” Norman said. “It’s a really fun, interesting, eclectic season that has a little bit of everything.”

A lot of really fun and interesting things are going on behind the scenes at the McCallum, too. While the theater is best known for its great shows, the McCallum Theatre Institute spends a lot of time, money and effort promoting arts around the community, especially to local students; Norman notes that the institute puts on 1,700 workshops at 28 schools throughout the valley each year.

In September 2014, the McCallum will be expanding its community-arts mission even further: Thanks to a $600,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation, the McCallum will launch a new effort. The Crisálida Project: Transforming Ourselves, Transforming Our Communities is “an initiative to give voice to the cultural traditions and aspirations of the largely Hispanic and economically disadvantaged communities” in Indio, Coachella, Thermal and Mecca.

The project, funded by the grant for two years, will be led by master storyteller David Gonzalez. He will hold a series of meetings, classes, workshops, story circles and performances in the East Valley to promote community art-making, gather stories and preserve traditions.

Norman said that the products of The Crisálida Project could lead to community-wide performances, and perhaps even shows on the McCallum stage, although there are no prescribed expectations for the project.

“As the valley’s leading performing-arts venue, we have a responsibility to promote broader access to the arts,” Norman said.

Hear, hear. Looks like 2014-2015 is going to be a great year for the McCallum, both inside the theater itself and beyond.

For subscription sales or more information, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun

April brings Coachella and Stagecoach to the valley, of course—but there are a lot of other great music events going on as well.

The McCallum Theatre is winding down the 2013-2014 season—but in a big way. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 1, John Anderson and Tracy Lawrence will be performing. John Anderson had some success in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but in the late ’80s, his career was at something of a dead end. Then in 1991, Anderson staged one of the biggest comebacks in music history with his multi-platinum album Seminole Wind. Tracy Lawrence has had a steadier career ever since he arrived on the scene in 1991; multiple albums of his have hit the country Top 10. Tickets are $25 to $65. Diana Krall will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Friday, April 11. The acclaimed pianist and vocalist is considered one of the best modern jazz artists and has won five Grammy Awards so far. She’s married to Elvis Costello and is the mother of twin boys—yet her career is still going strong. Tickets are $75 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has one music event you won’t want to miss in April. ZZ Top (right) will be stopping by at 9 p.m., Friday, April 4. The Texas-based blues and rock band has become well known for their guitar-driven sound, as well as their beards—although Frank Beard, the band’s drummer, doesn’t have a beard. Go figure. Tickets are $75 to $115. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great schedule during the month of April. Il Divo will be appearing at 8 p.m., Friday, April 4. This is the second stop in the Coachella Valley within a year for the operatic vocal group, featuring members from Spain, Switzerland, France and the United States. Tickets are $59 to $109. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 5, Rob Thomas (pictured below) will take the stage. Thomas is the frontman of Matchbox 20, one of the most successful bands of the late ’90s. He also has a couple of solo albums to his credit. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 19, The Temptations and The Four Tops will be performing. These legendary groups were both pioneers of the Motown/soul sound. Otis Williams is now the only remaining original member of The Temptations, while Abdul “Duke” Fakir is the only remaining original member of The Four Tops. Still, both groups are most definitely worth seeing. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino will be hosting Sugar Ray at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 5. Frontman Mark McGrath has become a Ryan Seacrest-like figure by hosting various television shows, and the band is best known for its pop radio hits—so many don’t know that the band started out by playing with an edgier sound that approached punk. In fact, many of their friends and contemporaries were quick to criticize them when they moved toward pop. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has an event in April that will get many country music fans excited. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 4, Big and Rich will be stopping by. Big Kenny and John Rich have billed themselves as playing “country music without prejudice” and are known for teaming up with various rock and hip-hop musicians. They have also worked with country rapper Cowboy Troy. One of their biggest hits, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” is a staple on jukeboxes, karaoke song lists, and cover-band set lists. Tickets are $69 to $79. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a lot of Coachella-related events going on that you can read about elsewhere in this issue, but other great stuff is happening at the venue in April, too. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, April 9, folk-rock band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will be stopping by. In a little more than a decade of existence, the group has released five albums to critical acclaim and international success. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza will be welcoming back Amigo the Devil at 9 p.m., Wednesday, April 9. Amigo the Devil brands himself as performing “murderfolk.” He’s a rather talented banjo player who has plenty of songs about the dark side of life. No, this isn’t your parents’ folk music by any means. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

Published in Previews

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

For Edward Tournier, the late-March stop at the McCallum Theatre for the traveling Peter and the Starcatcher production will be a Southern California homecoming, of sorts: The actor, who now calls New York City home, spent seven years in the Los Angeles theater scene.

Tournier, who plays always-hungry orphan Ted in the humorous Peter Pan prequel, is one of L.A. theater’s biggest defenders.

“It gets a bad rap around the country, because people claim the actors there only want to be in film and TV,” says Tournier, 30. “But it’s a community where there are God knows how many actors, and it’s the most vibrant breeding ground for new plays that I’ve ever come across. That’s why I stayed there for so long. People there are passionate about theater.”

Shortly after moving to New York City about a year ago, Tournier earned his first touring role in Peter and the Starcatcher, a play written by Rick Elice based on the humorous and whimsical novel penned by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The play had a successful nine-month stint on Broadway in 2012 and 2013, during which it nabbed nine Tony Award nominations—including five wins.

The current tour began last August in Denver, and is slated to conclude in Boston in June. The Independent spoke to Tournier by phone when he was in chilly Minneapolis, shortly before he was to take the stage for the touring production’s 200th show.

“It’s funny: In L.A., if you’re doing a play, you will do three or four performances a week for a relatively short amount of time, like a month or so, or six weeks, for a total of 12 to 15 performances,” he said. “For us (on tour), that’s a drop in the bucket.”

He said the biggest difference between doing eight shows or so per week and doing three or four is the stamina that’s required of the cast and crew—especially since Peter and the Starcatcher is such a physical show.

Another challenge has been keeping the show fresh, Tournier said. Tournier’s character is a mistreated orphan who gets taken under the figurative wings of young Peter and Molly, and he spends much of his time dealing with an overwhelming food obsession.

“It’s a funny, sweet role,” Tournier said. “A lot of my lines are one-liners or punch lines. It’s interesting to gauge how they go over in different regions. Comedy, of course, depends on timing, and … it can be a challenge to keep things from getting stale.”

One of Tournier’s favorite aspects of Peter and the Starcatcher is its theatricality, he said: Twelve actors play 100 different roles; with the help of an onstage band and the audience’s collective imagination, they create the world of Neverland on what Tournier referred to as a bare-bones set.

“This is a play for theater-lovers,” he said. “The things done onstage could not be done in any other medium.”

He said it’s magical to see each audience get engaged in the world that they help create.

“I call it lightning in a bottle,” he said. “It takes such sleight of hand to create this play with limited effects.”

Tournier said that the play is meant for all ages; like with the great cartoons of old, children and adults will each find different levels of humor.

“(The play) really draws on a lot of old theater traditions,” he said.

Peter and the Starcatcher is coming to the renowned McCallum as the Palm Desert venue—one of the busiest in the country during the winter and spring months—enters its homestretch before largely going dark during the summer. In April, the McCallum will host Broadway great Patti LuPone (April 3 and 4) and Diana Krall (April 11), among many others. The McCallum’s ever-popular Open Call Talent Competition performances will occur April 17-19, and the College of the Desert production of Les Misérables will take the stage May 1-4. A show by the Coachella Valley Symphony will close the McCallum’s 2013-2014 season on Friday, May 9.

Peter and the Starcatcher will be 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, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, Tickets are $25 to $95, For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

The late Gene Kelly is best known for his stunning work as an actor and dancer in classic films including An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain.

However, most people don’t know that his career behind the camera was equally impressive: He also directed Singin’ in the Rain, as well as the film version of Hello, Dolly! some 17 years later.

It’s this other, largely unknown side of Kelly that his widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, is most excited about sharing with the world in her show Gene Kelly: The Legacy, which will come to the McCallum Theatre on Wednesday, March 5.

“I created (the show) for what would have been his 100th birthday in 2012,” Patricia says. “He was so specific about how he wished to be remembered. He wanted to be known for his work behind the camera.”

Despite the large theater setting, Patricia Ward Kelly says the evening is meant to have the feel of a chat in a living room. She says she greets attendees as they arrive and leave, and in between, she shares stories, film clips, audio recordings and memorabilia from the life of Kelly, who died in 1996 at the age of 83.

“It’s a very personal thing. It’s not a lecture,” she says.

Patricia has all of these clips, recordings, photographs and items because she got to know Gene in an atypical way: Before they fell in love and married, she was hired to be Gene Kelly’s biographer. Patricia, in fact, says she didn’t even know who the man, 46 years older than her, was when they first met in the mid-1980s.

“My situation is really unique,” Patricia says. “Not too many spouses were entrusted from the start to tell … a life story. From Day 1, I recorded everything he said and did.”

Gene Kelly was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and as a boy was enrolled in dance classes—apparently against his will—by his mother. Of course, Kelly would go on to become one of the 20th century’s most renowned and influential dancers and choreographers; among other things, he’s credited for bringing ballet into cinema in a commercially successful way. He was also an expert in a variety of other dance styles, from tap to acrobatics.

“He’s credited for creating a particular American style of dance,” Patricia says. “The clips (shown during Gene Kelly: The Legacy) show the breadth of his dance ability.”

However, Kelly’s talents didn’t stop at dance. Patricia says he was a true “Renaissance man,” with a love of language—he was fluent in French, for example—and poetry, who became friends with some of the 20th century’s greatest figures, including John F. Kennedy.

“People who come (to the show) often say, ‘I never knew he was such an intellectual,’ Patricia says. “I only knew him as that.”

Since every major 20th century celebrity seems to have some sort of connection to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, it’s inevitable that Gene Kelly does, too. Patricia says that while Kelly didn’t have a home here, many of his friends did—including Frank Sinatra, with whom Kelly starred in several pictures.

Since Kelly was close to both Kennedy and Sinatra, he wound up on the periphery of a major dispute between Sinatra and Kennedy in 1962: The president planned a trip to visit Sinatra at his Palm Springs home, and Sinatra spent a large amount of time and money preparing for Kennedy’s arrival. However, as the visit approached, Kennedy—apparently uncomfortable with Sinatra’s ties to organized crime—decided to instead stay with Bing Crosby. Sinatra, not surprisingly, was livid.

While Gene Kelly has now been gone for 18 years, and his best-known work is six decades old, Patricia Ward Kelly says she’s not concerned about Gene’s legacy.

“Awareness of him has almost grown exponentially” in recent years, Patricia says. “At the show, we have audience members in age from 9 to 90, with a lot of 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds. I think part of that is that he is so contemporary: He’s still the inspiration for almost all of the dancers and choreographers coming up.”

Gene Kelly: The Legacy takes place at 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 5, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $20 to $50. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance