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Michael Childers is truly a renaissance man; Merriam-Webster’s definition—“a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas”—describes him perfectly.

The Coachella Valley resident is an award-winning photographer, producer, writer and documentary filmmaker—and his talents are being showcased in several upcoming events.

Childers was the photographer and production assistant on the movie Midnight Cowboy, the legendary 1969 film directed by his late partner, John Schlesinger. Childers and former Variety editor Peter Bart will be sharing memories and photos at a special 50th anniversary screening of the film on Saturday, March 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

On Wednesday, April 24, Childers will bring his annual One Night Only Broadway extravaganza back to the McCallum Theatre.

Childers has been very busy as of late; in fact, he just picked up the award for Best Short Documentary at the 2019 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles for I Knew Andy Warhol, which he produced. He’s also working on a documentary film about the late actress Natalie Wood. He recently took some time to speak to me about all these goings-on.

His gorgeous book of photography, Icons and Legends, graces coffee tables in homes across the country—but as far as the desert is concerned, Childers’ crowning achievement would have to be One Night Only, the musical-variety extravaganza he produces each year at the McCallum. He created the event 15 years ago as a fundraiser for local charities. Since then, more than 150 Broadway performers have participated in the show.

This year’s production, “Broadway Showstoppers,” features some of the best songs from Broadway musicals, including Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Dear Evan Hansen. Proceeds will benefit the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, which provides services for abused and neglected children. The nonprofit center was founded in 1986 by Frank and Barbara Sinatra and offers individual, group and family counseling, as well as outreach and prevention programs.

“Showstoppers” will be directed by Broadway choreographer and director Larry Fuller, with musical direction by Christopher Marlowe. This year’s cast includes Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Lucie Arnaz, Christine Andreas, John Barrowman, Davis Gaines and Sal Mistretta. The production will be dedicated to the memory of two desert icons we lost recently, Carol Channing and Kaye Ballard. Both appeared in his One Night Only shows, and Childers knew them both well. In fact, he told me that he photographed Channing’s wedding to her former high-school sweetheart, Harry Kullijian, at her Rancho Mirage home—and Ballard actually introduced Childers to his partner of 30 years, the aforementioned director John Schlesinger. She set them up on a bind date.

“Something just clicked,” he said.

Childers said he always has themes and dream casts for future shows floating around in his head. One Night Only is a huge undertaking, requiring seven months of planning and preparation. He said that having a great team around him, including the hard-working crew at the McCallum, makes it possible.

The show sells out every year, and because of its reputation, many Broadway stars are eager to join the cast.

“Who wouldn’t want to come enjoy the sunshine in Palm Springs when it’s cold and rainy in New York?” Childers said. Also worth noting: Performers are treated royally, with lots of perks and parties thrown into the mix. JetBlue is once again a main sponsor, offering a number of free airline tickets to those performing.

So what’s on Childers’ bucket list? He says he would like to produce more documentary films. In other words, it does not seem that the multi-talented Michael Childers will be slowing down anytime soon.

The 50th Anniversary of Midnight Cowboy takes place at 6 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $20 to $45. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit Eventbrite.com.

One Night Only, a show benefiting the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $75 to $175, with a limited number of VIP tickets, including an after-party, available for $495. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun

As I sat in Michael Childers’ gorgeous Rancho Mirage home—his award-winning photographs adorning the walls—he told me the story of how the hugely successful One Night Only show came to be.

The star-studded annual event, a benefit for Jewish Family Service of the Desert, will return to the McCallum Theatre Wednesday, April 25.

It all started nearly 13 years ago, Childers said, when he approached his dear friend Barbara Keller about putting on a variety show; it was an idea he’d had great success with in Santa Fe, N.M. The concept was simple: Assemble a cast of veteran cabaret performers and a great orchestra; choose crowd-pleasing musical numbers; and raise an impressive amount of money for a local charity. Keller spoke to her board of directors at Jewish Family Service—which provides psychological counseling, food, housing and other services to valley residents, regardless of religious affiliation.

A new Coachella Valley tradition was born: One Night Only premiered in the desert, with Childers’ buddy Lily Tomlin as the mistress of ceremonies. It was a smash, and now the event sells out every year.

It’s a large undertaking that takes a full nine months of planning. When deciding on the theme, Childers thinks about what he and audiences would like. Last year, it was the music of Jerry Herman; this year, it’s the classic music of Rodgers, Hammerstein and Hart. Jason Graae is back for his second year as director, with musical direction by Christopher Marlowe.

Childers and the director sit down with their rolodexes and choose the cast. Because of the show’s stellar reputation, many veteran cabaret performers clamor to be part of it—even though the performers are donating their time. However, being in the show has its perks: Childers says the stars are treated well, with glamorous parties and such—plus a few days in Palm Springs is very appealing if you’ve been dealing with months of chilly weather in New York.

This year’s cast is slated to include Liz Callaway, Ann Hampton Callaway, Davis Gaines, Julie Garnye, Bets Malone, Sal Mistretta, Faith Prince, Billy Stritch, Teri Ralston, Bruce Vilanch and many other stage veterans.

Weary of the traffic and backstabbing in Los Angeles, Childers moved here in 1999 with his partner, Oscar-winning film director John Schlesinger (who later died of a stroke). Calling the valley “a wonderful, very philanthropic community,” Childers quickly became involved in the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and joined the board of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

A world-famous photographer, Childers currently has an Andy Warhol-themed show on display at the Palm Springs Art Museum. His work is also being featured in San Diego and will be on display at Yale University in the summer of 2019. A frequent lecturer on the subject, Childers said a great photographer is consistent and produces a lifetime of work, including iconic photographs.

When asked what makes a great live stage show, Childers’ answer was simple: Fit the show to your target audience, and keep it moving—don’t let it go on too long. This year’s One Night Only is slated to be a compact 90 minutes, with no intermission.

So what’s left on Childers’ bucket list? He’s working on an autobiography, called And I Have the Pictures to Prove It. Music education is one of Childers’ passions—and he’s very proud of One Night Only, calling it an iconic production in the desert.

One Night Only, a show benefiting Jewish Family Services, takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 25, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $75 to $175, with a limited number of VIP tickets, including an after-party, available for $495. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

It’s that time of the year again: Coachella and Stagecoach are here, and things are crazy before the season begins to wind down. Consider April to be last call before the summer heat comes.

I will be throwing my third NestEggg Food Bank Benefit Show, this time at the Coachella Valley Art Scene, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 4. On the bill: John Robbins, The Rebel Noise, Alchemy and CIVX. There will also be a closing DJ set by Pedro Le Bass. The Rebel Noise and CIVX have recently had to reshape after changes to their lineups—but both bands are back and sound great. There will also be raffle items. Admission is $10, and all proceeds go to the NestEggg Food Bank. Coachella Valley Art Scene, 68571 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City; www.thecoachellavalleyartscene.com.

The McCallum Theatre is concluding its season with a couple of great locally focused events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 11, the McCallum will host a special anniversary gala for the The Desert Symphony. The gala will be hosted by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame. Tickets are $65 to $125. At 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 22, Jewish Family Service of the Desert will be presenting Michael Childers’ production of One Night Only, which features music from the ’60s. Tickets are $75 to $195. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will host Marie Osmond at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 4. She performed with her brother Donny under the name “Donny and Marie”; that led to a variety show during the late ’70s. She’s recorded 35-plus albums and has appeared on Broadway. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 25, Earth, Wind and Fire (first below) will be performing. One of those disco groups that defied “Death to Disco,” EW&F has been inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, earned eight Grammy awards and sold 90 million albums worldwide. Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa only has one big music event scheduled in April, but it’s a good one: At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 4, it’ll be time to boogie with Kool and the Gang. Since 1964, the band has sold 70 million albums worldwide. Tickets are $45 to $65. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of events worth mentioning in April. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 3, you can enjoy a personal evening with Barbara Eden (above right), of I Dream of Jeannie fame. The actress has had an acting career for six decades—and she has a lot of stories to tell. Tickets are $25. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 18, R&B singer Keith Sweat will be stopping by. With several hit singles in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Sweat became a household name. Tickets are $30 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa is the place to be in April. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 3, Lily Tomlin will be performing. She’s as busy as ever, with rumors of a possible 9 to 5 sequel and various television appearances. This is a great time to see her live. Tickets are $49 to $59. You’ll be happy to know Margaret Cho will be returning to the area at 9 p.m., Friday, April 24. The Korean comedienne includes anecdotes from her family and personal issues in her comedy. Just a warning: She can get raunchy. Tickets are $35 to $45. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace looks ready to open the outdoor stage for the spring/summer season, so there are probably some great outdoor shows coming. At 7 p.m., Saturday, April 11, The Evangenitals will be returning to Pappy’s for a free show. If you missed them back in December, don’t miss them again. I can guarantee there will be plenty of laughs. At 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 14, Jenny Lewis will be performing in between Coachella performances. Tickets are $25. At 7 p.m., Thursday, April 16, Jamie xx from The xx will be performing. Tickets are $35 to $45. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The LED Day Club will be featuring performances during both weekends of Coachella at the Hilton Palm Springs. On Thursday, April 9, Chromeo will be doing a DJ set; on Friday, April 10, Panda Funk will be appearing; on Saturday, April 11, Odesza will be doing a DJ set; on Sunday, April 12, Flosstradamus will be appearing. On Thursday, April 16, CHVRCHES will be doing a DJ set; on Friday, April 17, Porter Robinson will be doing a DJ set; on Saturday, April 18, Skrillex and “friends” will be appearing (that guy has friends?); and on Sunday, April 19, DJ Snake will perform. A four-day pass to the event is $125 per weekend (which is really not bad); day passes vary. Hilton Palm Springs, 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; leddayclub.frontgatetickets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has a couple of notable events taking place in April. At 6 p.m., Thursday, April 9, Fishbone will be performing at an outdoor show. The Pedestrians, which now features Machin’s David Macias on guitar, will be opening. Tickets are $25 pre-sale and $35 at the door. My suggestion: Get your tickets now! Remember McLovin from Superbad? Or “The Motherfucker” in Kick-Ass? Well, Christopher Mintz-Plasse will be bringing his band Bear on Fire (second below) to The Hood at 9 p.m., Saturday, April 18. Local bands Caxton and War Drum will also be on the bill, and admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

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