CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Even though Mitch Gershenfeld has been booking shows at the McCallum Theatre for 18 years now, he admits he gets nervous whenever subscriptions for a new season go on sale—as they did on Tuesday, April 4, for the theater’s 30th anniversary 2017-2018 season.

“I get this pain in the pit of my stomach, thinking: What if nobody buys tickets?” he told me on Tuesday as we talked in his office. Of course, he had nothing to worry about—there were dozens of people at the box office snapping up season subscriptions.

Yet another reason Gershenfeld had no reason to worry: Every year, the McCallum is one of the busiest theaters in the world. Despite being dark for almost half of the year, and having a modest 1,100-seat capacity, industry publication Pollstar ranked the McCallum as the No. 58 theater in the world in terms of 2016 ticket sales.

Finally, there is one more reason Gershenfeld has no reason to worry: Seeing as he’s been booking shows at the McCallum now for 60 percent of the time its doors have been open, Gershenfeld knows what shows work, and what shows don’t work at the Palm Desert theater. As a result, about 86 percent of the seats available during 2016-2017 season were sold, he said.

As for the upcoming season, Gershenfeld said he’s happy with how it turned out, adding that he thinks the Broadway-show lineup is one of the theater’s strongest ever.

“Three shows we’re bringing in have been on Broadway within the last 12 months,” he said: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Nov. 24-28), Motown the Musical (Jan. 16-21, 2018) and Kinky Boots (Feb. 2-4).

Gershenfeld expressed excitement about another Broadway show, Circus 1903 (March 27-April 1). You may have seen a performance from the show recently on The Late Show With Steven Colbert. (Scroll down to see a clip.) The show is exactly what the title says: It’s a circus-style show from 1903—except the elephants are products of puppetry, not real animals … although they sure do look realistic.

Other Broadway shows include the legendary A Chorus Line (Jan. 26-28), Dirty Dancing (Feb. 16-18), MAESTRO: The Art of Leonard Bernstein (March 20-21, in conjunction with the Leonard Bernstein centennial) and a concert performance of the music from West Side Story (March 9-11).

“I think it’s the best musical ever written,” Gershenfeld said about West Side Story, adding that a 40-piece orchestra, assembled by conductor Richard Kauffman, will join Broadway-level cast members as assembled by the McCallum’s own Chad Hilligus, himself a former member of the Ten Tenors.

The 30th anniversary season kicks off with a bang on Oct. 7, when acting and comedy legend Bill Murray will take the stage in a show called New Worlds … with a bunch of musicians?

“Bill Murray is one of those guys you just want to meet, and hope he’s cool,” Gershenfeld said.

Yeah, of course. But … with a bunch of musicians?

“The show is the result of a friendship with (cellist) Jan Vogler,” Gershenfeld explained. “They got together to do the show as a one-off in Germany … as a corporate thing.”

Turns out New Worlds features Murray reading from the works of Hemingway, Capote, Twain and other American literary icons, while Vogler, violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez perform classical music. The goal is to showcase American values in literature and music. Oh, and Murray is going to dance a tango, too.

Speaking of American values: In these … uh, deeply interesting political times, the Capitol Steps—a long-touring humor group consisting of former and current congressional staffers—will perform an afternoon show at the McCallum on Sunday, Jan. 14.

“I thought that if there were ever a time to have fun with politics, on both sides of the aisle, now is the time to do it,” Gershenfeld said.

About a month or so later, the McCallum will become the week-long home of classical/jazz/everything-else-you-can-imagine band Pink Martini, for eight shows from Feb. 9-15. The group, featuring singers China Forbes and Storm Large, was here for five shows last year—all-sellouts. What makes this band such a Palm Desert favorite?

“They’re very unpredictable and very diverse in what they do,” Gershenfeld said. “They do songs in eight different languages. … (Bandleader) Thomas Lauderdale is brilliant at finding these great songs from all over the world.”

All of the series for which the McCallum is known—including Fitz’s Jazz Café at the McCallum, curated by desert radio icon Jim Fitzgerald, and Keyboard Conversations With Jeffrey Siegel—are back, as are Mitch’s Picks, a series of shows by performers who may not be well-known, but who have earned the endorsement of the McCallum president and CEO. Mitch’s Picks are now in their fourth year, and Gershenfeld said the series has allowed him to book great acts that he may have hesitated to book before.

“We’re saying, ‘You know, if you trust me to make good decisions, try these,’” he said. “Fortunately, it’s worked.”

This year’s Mitch’s Picks include All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, a play/concert about a moment when Allied and German soldiers in World War I stopped fighting to celebrate the holiday together (Dec. 3).

“It’s an amazing story, but it took place in such a terrible time,” Gershenfeld said. “I wasn’t going to book it, but I kept coming back to it.”

Australian diva Meow Meow will bring her combination of cabaret music and physical comedy to the McCallum on Jan. 31. On March 2, Davina and The Vagabonds will share the stage with swing-band greats the Squirrel Nut Zippers. On March 6, the fourth Mitch’s Picks show is Gobsmacked!, an all-a capella show featuring seven singers and beat boxers. Finally, on March 12, MozART Group, a string quartet that combines classical music and comedy, will make the trip to the McCallum from Poland.

While season-subscription sales have been brisk since Tuesday morning, putting Gershenfeld’s mind at ease, he expressed frustration about a growing number of ticket brokers and re-sellers that are gobbling up tickets and then re-selling them with high mark-ups—that is, if the tickets are real at all. Some of these re-sellers use deceptive names and URLs to make it appear that the tickets are being sold directly by the McCallum—so make sure you’re only getting tickets from mccallumtheatre.com.

Gershenfeld said he’s honored that so many people keep coming back to the McCallum year after year.

“Our subscriptions and series are one reason that people have been keeping the same seats for 30 years,” he said.

For more information, or to purchase season subscriptions, visit mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

A Chorus Line—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The legendary musical about a group of performers auditioning for a Broadway show takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

CV Rep Writers’ Drop-In Group

Andy Harmon facilitates this group for all writers who are interested in becoming better storytellers, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14 and 28. $15 payable at the class. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Duck and Cover—From Dezart Performs

This play about 1962 America—and specifically, the trials and tribulations of 12-year-old Stevie Whitebottom—makes its West Coast premiere at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $22 to $25. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The famous play about slave Pseudolus’ attempts to help his young master earn the love of a courtesan named Philia is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 20, through Sunday, March 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Having Our Say—From CV Rep

The Delany sisters—Sadie, 103 years old, and Bessie, 101—take the audience on a journey through the last 100 years of our nation’s history, from their perspectives as African-American professionals, at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $45. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

I Totally Know What You Did Last Donna Summer—From Palm Canyon Theatre

This musical by Dane Whitlock melds slasher-movie tropes, 1990s films and Donna Summer hits at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

An Ideal Husband—From Theatre 29

Blackmail, political corruption, intrigue, romance and razor-sharp wit abound in equal measure in this piece of satire by Oscar Wilde, performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday Feb. 7; there is also a matinee show at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Jack—From College of the Desert Dramatic Arts

This humorous twist on the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27 and 28; and 3 p.m., Sunday, March 1. Prices TBA. At the Pollock Theatre at College of the Desert, 43400 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; codperformingarts.com.

Love! Valour! Compassion!—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about a group of longtime gay friends is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 15. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

McCallum Theatre

A sing-along to the film Grease takes place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 1; $15 to $20. Midtown Men reunites four stars from the original cast of Broadway’s Jersey Boys at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4; $35 to $55. Supreme Reflections is a tribute to Diana Ross and The Supremes featuring the Desert Symphony, taking place at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 5; $45 to $95. Memphis: The Musical features the songs of underground dance clubs in 1950s Tennessee at 8 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 10 and 11; $45 to $95. The classic musical comedy Guys and Dolls takes the McCallum stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 13; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15; $35 to $105. Hershey Felder stars in George Gershwin Alone at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 1; $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Urinetown: The Musical—From Theatre 29

This comedic tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution in a Gotham-like city at a time when water is extremely scarce is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 28; there are also matinee shows at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 8 and 22. $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

A Chorus Line—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The legendary musical about a group of performers auditioning for a Broadway show takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Theodore Bikel

Two-time Tony nominee who created the role of Captain von Trapp on Broadway opposite Mary Martin in The Sound of Music is also well-known for portraying Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway and elsewhere more than 2,000 times—more than any other actor. He is interviewed by Don Martin at noon, Wednesday, Jan. 28. $45; includes lunch catered by Lulu California Bistro. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Duck and Cover—From Dezart Performs

This play about 1962 America—and specifically the trials and tribulations of 12-year-old Stevie Whitebottom—makes its West Coast premiere at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 30, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $22 to $25. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

Esperanza: The Musical of Hope—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

A concert reading of this brand new musical takes place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24. $22, with discounts. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.detctheatre.org.

Having Our Say—From CV Rep

The Delaney sisters—Sadie, 103 years old, and Bessie, 101—take the audience on a journey through the last 100 years of our nation’s history, from their perspectives as African-American professionals, at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Jan. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 8. There are also 2 p.m., Saturday, matinees on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7. $45 regular; $55 opening night on Friday, Jan. 23; $40 previews on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 21 and 22. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

An Ideal Husband—From Theatre 29

Blackmail, political corruption, intrigue, romance and razor-sharp wit all abound in equal measure in this piece of satire by Oscar Wilde, performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Jan. 9, through Saturday Feb. 7; there are also matinee shows at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 18 and Feb. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Lost in Yonkers—From Desert Theatreworks

Neil Simon’s tale of two boys stuck at their grandmother’s house in 1942 is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Jan. 25. $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.

Love! Valour! Compassion!—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about a group of longtime gay friends is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 15. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

McCallum Theatre

Night Fever: A Musical Tribute to The Bee Gees takes place at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9; $30 to 55. Palm Springs Legends II gathers performers playing the stars that made Palm Springs the place to be, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10; $25 to $65. The Peking Acrobats perform at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13; $20 to $35. Broadway legend Tommy Tune performs Taps, Tunes and Tales with the Desert Symphony at 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15; $55 to $105. Tangos Buenos Aires arrives from Argentina at 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 19; $25 to $75. The Alberta Ballet dances at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27; $25 to $85. Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles takes the stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 30; and 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31; $35 to $85. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

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