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For lovers of the performing arts who reside in the Coachella Valley, Christmas figuratively comes in April every year—because that’s when the McCallum Theatre announces what gifts it is bringing to town during the upcoming season.

To overextend this tortured metaphor … that makes Mitch Gershenfeld Santa Claus, sort of, as the McCallum president and CEO is the sleighmaster (OK, this metaphor is officially finished) who books the theater’s shows each season—a task he’s now accomplished for some 19 years.

“Every time I finish booking the season, I tell my wife, ‘I am afraid this is not going to be as good of a season as last year was,’” Gershenfeld said. “But, honestly, this is going to be a very good season.”

Tickets for the 2018-2019 will go on sale Monday, April 16, at 8 a.m. The 2018-2019 roster includes names both new and familiar to the McCallum: Singers from Jackie Evancho to Bernadette Peters to Willie Nelson, plus six performances by the Ten Tenors; traveling Broadway shows including Rent, Jersey Boys, Spamalot, Evita, The Wizard of Oz and Something Rotten; comedy greats like Lily Tomlin and Bob Newhart; and the tried-and-true McCallum series, including Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel, Fitz’s Jazz Cafe, and Gershenfeld’s own “Mitch’s Picks.”

When I asked Gershenfeld which shows excited him the most, he mentioned Savion Glover’s All FuNKD’ Up, scheduled to come to the McCallum on March 30, 2019.

“Savion is not only the greatest living tap dancer; he’s such an incredible artist,” Gershenfeld said. “He’s taken tap beyond what anyone else has done before.” All FuNKD’ Up will feature a six-piece band and a full company of dancers.

Gershenfeld said he’s also looking forward to a series coming to the McCallum for the first time: National Geographic Live will bring scientists, photographers and other great minds to the theater for Exploring Mars (Jan. 21); Coral Kingdoms and Empires of Ice (Feb. 18); and Capturing the Impossible (March 18). The Exploring Mars lecture, in particular, should be exciting, as it’ll feature Kobie Boykins, the NASA mechanical engineer who’s had a hand in numerous discoveries about the red planet—including the revelation that there was once water on Mars.

“This is a program that’s been around for many years, as a series in a lot of cities,” Gershenfeld said. “It works very well in a theater.”

For the fifth year in a row, Gershenfeld has highlighted five shows as “Mitch’s Picks”—concerts Gershenfeld personally recommends, even if the performers are not household names. They include Spanish guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas’ Americano (March 4); BRAVO Amici, a “popera” group featuring three tenors and two divas (March 11); Piaf! Le Spectacle, a show telling the singing great’s life story via music and heretofore unseen photos—entirely in French (March 26); and Asere!, a celebration of Cuban dance and music featuring the Havana Cuba All-Stars (April 3).

And then there’s Blokelahoma! (March 29) starring Toby Francis, a former member of the Ten Tenors who also starred in the Australian production of Kinky Boots. He became a friend of Gershenfeld during Francis’ time in the Ten Tenors—the most popular act ever to grace the McCallum stage. Gershenfeld said Francis told him about Blokelahoma!—Francis’ story about being a “good Austrian bloke” who grew up with a love of Broadway musicals—when they enjoyed dinner in Sydney last June.

“I basically said, you have to do this show at the McCallum,” Gershenfeld recalled.

Per usual, McCallum’s schedule is packed with an unimaginably wide variety of singers, humorists and performers, ranging from comedian and Orange Is the New Black star Lea DeLaria returning to her jazz roots (Nov. 8) to LeAnn Rimes doing a Christmas show (Dec. 15) to concerts by prolific songwriter Paul Anka (Jan. 31 and Feb. 1).

Traveling Broadway shows are a McCallum staple, and the 2018-2019 slate includes a lot of classics and old favorites. The one exception: Something Rotten! (April 5-7), which ended its initial Broadway run on Jan. 1, 2017.

“It’s such a fun story,” Gershenfeld said. “It takes place in Shakespeare’s time; he’s literally a rock star.”

The story centers on two brothers who are playwrights struggling to compete with the great Shakespeare. They visit a soothsayer named Nostradamus—the nephew of the famous one—and wind up inventing this new thing called a “musical.”

Gershenfeld said booking shows at the McCallum presents unique challenges in terms of timing—with rare exceptions, the theater goes dark out of necessity from May through September—and size; at 1,100 seats, the medium-sized venue is simply too small to meet the budgetary requirements of some grand productions, like Wicked.

“There will be no Hamilton here in my lifetime,” he said with a laugh.

Despite these challenges, the McCallum consistently makes Pollstar’s annual list of the Top 100 theaters in terms of ticket sales, because dark nights are rare in the spring—and because Gershenfeld books shows that he knows will sell well.

He’s hoping a change to the way the McCallum sells tickets may make sales even better. In past years, the McCallum only sold “subscriptions” for the upcoming year during the late spring and summer months. This year, tickets for all currently booked shows will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 16.

Gershenfeld said he was looking forward to the 2018-2019 season, as the 2017-2018 season comes to an end.

“This has been a great season,” he said. “It’s been better than the last two years, and the shows have been well-attended. Philanthropically, people have been very generous, too. Ticket sales make up only 60 percent of our budget, and we’ve been making a lot of capital improvements to the theater; we’ve been spending about $500,000 a year in improvements and new equipment.”

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2018-2019 season go on sale at 8 a.m., Monday, April 16. For tickets or more information, including the complete schedule, show up at the box office at 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert; call 760-340-2787; or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

Lily Tomlin moves right to the top of my 2015 Best Actress list thanks to her performance in Grandma, a film that should put her in strong contention for an Oscar nomination 40 years after she got a nom for her first movie role in Nashville.

As Elle Reid—a grandma who will kick your boyfriend in the dick rather than offering him tea and cookies—Tomlin delivers a performance that runs the full gamut of emotions while being consistently funny. Every line delivery feels organic and natural, as if the role was created and written with her in mind.

Writer-director Paul Weitz, who worked with Tomlin a couple of years ago on Admission, did, in fact, write the role of Elle for Tomlin. It’s a role the legendary comedian richly deserves. It’s nothing short of a total blast watching Tomlin let loose in the sort of spotlight role that has evaded her for too many years. Grandma is her best role since playing Ben Stiller’s druggie mom in Flirting With Disaster nearly 20 years ago.

Elle’s granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), shows up at the door shortly after Elle has broken up with Olivia (Judy Greer), her younger girlfriend. Sage has an age-old problem: She’s pregnant; she’s scheduled for an abortion in a few hours; and she’s flat broke. Elle, a well-known writer, would seem like a good candidate to have some cash on hand. Unfortunately, she has used all of her cash to pay off credit card debts, and she cut up those credit cards to make some nice wind chimes for the front porch.

The two jump in Elle’s old 1955 Dodge Royal (a car actually owned by Tomlin) and set out to find some quick cash before Sage’s appointment at the clinic. Their travels include a stop at a café for bad coffee. (There’s a good cameo by John Cho, aka the new Sulu.) They eventually wind up at Sage’s boyfriend’s house, where said boyfriend (Nat Wolff) gets a hockey stick to the nuts courtesy of Elle.

Elle and Sage meet a lot of people on the way to the clinic, and each encounter gives Tomlin a chance to blow up the screen. There’s nothing stereotypical about this grandmother, a cantankerous woman with a good heart behind all of her sarcasm and staged coldness.

Coming out of nowhere with what might be his career-best performance is Sam Elliott as Karl, one of Elle’s former lovers. Elle and Sage drop by his house in their quest for monetary assistance, and Karl’s reaction to their visit goes from pleasant, to confusion, to utter disgust. Elliott only has one scene in the film, but it’s so powerful that he could find himself in Oscar contention as well. He’s that good.

Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden arrives late in the film as Judy, Elle’s daughter and Sage’s mom, a career-driven woman who has a treadmill set up at her workstation. Harden puts another charge into a movie that is already high-octane; she finds the humanity in a woman who is a bit neglectful as a mom, but can perhaps come through in the clutch. Harden, like Tomlin, finds some stinging laughs in Weitz’s script; it’s her best work in many years.

The late Elizabeth Peña, in one of her last performances, makes a memorable appearance as a former friend of Elle who lowballs her on some first-edition books she attempts to pawn. The film eventually wraps after a series of character resolutions that are completely satisfying and devoid of schmaltz.

It’ll be a shocker if Tomlin doesn’t attend the Oscars with a shot at gold next year. Elle is the kind of role that wins awards—or at least earns you a seat next to Brangelina for the show. Tomlin—who received an Emmy nomination for Grace and Frankie, a Netflix series co-starring 9 to 5 partner-in-crime Jane Fonda—is back in top form.

Grandma is now playing at the Ultrastar Mary Pickford Stadium 14 (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100); the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342); and the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

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

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

When the McCallum Theatre announced its 2013-2014 season in the spring, the first show on the calendar was the Second Annual Family Fun Day, featuring the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater, on Sunday, Oct. 13.

But as of today, Family Fun Day is the fourth show on the calendar.

“When you get offered Bill Maher, but he can only do a show in September, we’re going to do it,” says Jeffrey Norman, the McCallum’s director of communications and public affairs.

That Bill Maher performance—on Saturday, Sept. 28—is one of a dozen new shows that was announced by the McCallum today. Single tickets for some of those early-season shows—including the Maher show ($55 to $95)—will go on sale next Thursday, Aug. 1, with the rest of the single tickets available on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Other new shows announced today include Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell (Wednesday, Oct. 9, $65 to $125; on sale Aug. 1), Graham Nash (Thursday, Nov. 21, $35 to $75; on sale Aug. 1), and the legendary Lily Tomlin (Friday, March 21, 2014, $55 to $95; on sale Sept. 17).

Tickets for four previously announced shows will also go on sale Aug. 1: the aforementioned Family Fun Day ($7 to $15); the premiere of Alton Brown Live! (Friday, Oct. 18, $25 to $75); Frida, the Musical (Friday, Oct. 25; $29 to $79); and Vince Gill (Saturday, Nov. 2, $45 to $75).

And the season, even now, is not yet complete: Norman says that up to a half-dozen shows, and maybe even a few more, could be added before all is said and done. He describes the process of putting together the season as a “big jigsaw puzzle”—a puzzle which is primarily completed by the McCallum’s president and CEO, Mitch Gershenfeld.

“What we try to do is put together a very strong season (early) so we can send out our subscription brochure around April or so,” explains Norman. That means first booking things like Broadway musicals, plays, dance performances and tribute shows that can be scheduled well in advance.

But many artists these days, Norman says, are booking tours and deciding on show dates at the last minute. “All of a sudden, we’ll get a call from a booker. They’ll say, ‘Bill Maher is interested in coming.’ We’re interested if we can find a date and pay the fee.”

Sometimes, that means starting the McCallum season well before snowbirds and tourists have returned. But these days, that’s less of a concern, Norman says.

“Last year, we had Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers on Aug. 29,” Norman says. “It was a little bit of a risk, but we sold out. We’re noticing that increasingly, there’s a significant year-round community here, and they want to be entertained as much as the snowbirds do.”

Norman says he’s really looking forward to Diana Krall’s appearance on Friday, April 11, 2014 ($75 to $125). He says he saw her perform a couple of times at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where he worked for two decades before moving to the McCallum at the start of this year.

“We had two theaters, and she’d played in the 2,800-seat theater. She then tried out a new show in our 500-seat theater,” he remembers. “It was a quirky show—just a beautiful night of her at the piano.”

He says he’s also looking forward to the performance by Maher.

“You just never know what he’s going to say,” Norman says.

For tickets and more information, including an up-to-date schedule, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

Tina Fey is quirky. You can’t put her in a romantic comedy unless it is quirky and different. And she needs a quirky male counterpart—and who is quirkier than Paul Rudd, right?

Fey also needs a quirky, different movie job (hmm … Princeton admissions administrator … that’s new!), and her character needs a quirky name (Portia!) and a quirky situation. In the case of Admission, Portia finds out that a kid who may be the son she gave up for adoption—a student of Rudd’s character—is applying to Princeton. He’s not a lock, and the quirky Rudd character asks her to consider the quirky kid for the school.

This puts her in the quirky, precarious position of trying to push a kid through admissions who may or may not be her son. There’s also her quirky mom, played by the Queen of Quirk, Lily Tomlin, who conceived Portia in the quirkiest of ways (anonymous sex on a train). This all leads up to a big meeting with the head of admissions, played by the Sir Duke of Quirk, Wallace Shawn.

Does the kid get in? Do Rudd and Fey hook up and have quirky, gross sex? Is the quirky kid her son? Do you care?

You won’t. This film wants to be different, but it’s different to the point that it becomes implausible and phony. Rudd and Fey get a laugh here and there, but the overriding vibe of the movie is, besides being really frigging quirky, dour and unpleasant.

Special Features: A promotional video about the making of the movie basically tells you the plot and does little to get anybody excited about this stupid movie. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing