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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Dwight Hendricks

On Oct. 2, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History, a book by Hollywood comedy couple Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, is being released—and three days later, the hilarious duo will kick off the second season of the Palm Springs Speaks series.

The speakers’ series is a joint effort by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Library. Ron Willison, the president of the Palm Springs Library Board of Trustees, helped organize the series—which is bringing some huge names to the valley in the coming months.

“We are trying to bring in interesting speakers,” he said. “We want to promote literacy, and we add different speakers for each year to make it interesting. Last year, we had Deepak Chopra talk about wellness. Dan Savage talked about LBGT issues, and Al Gore (was here) in association with the (Palm Springs International) Film Festival.

“This year, to start off, we will have Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, and they will be speaking on their new book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History. Palm Springs Speaks is actually one of only six stops they are doing for their book.”

The actors/writers/comedians have been married for 15 years, which virtually unheard of in the entertainment industry. In the book, they explain how their relationship has survived and thrived.

While the entire Palm Springs Speaks series this season has yet to be announced—the complete slate will be announced on Oct. 5—Willison did spill the beans on some of the other scheduled speakers.

“This year, we are also having Janet Mock,” Willison said. “She is a trans activist and director of the series Pose.”

Willison said organizers make a concerted effort to keep ticket costs down; admission to Mullally and Offerman’s talk starts at just $30—and all tickets to Palm Springs Speaks events include books.

“We try to make tickets more affordable to people within different communities, like the trans community,” he said. “We hope people can afford to come and hear somebody from their own community speak (like Janet Mock). We know how important that is.

“We are also having Jane Fonda as a part of this series. We always want community involvement whenever we can. For example, when Jane Fonda comes here, tickets will be donated to high schools because of her work with teen pregnancy in Atlanta.

“Our goal is to eventually take the Palm Springs Speaks series and have it become as large as the Desert Town Hall, which has 1,900 people and is actually the No. 1 speaker series in the country,” Willison said, referring to the series that takes place each year January through March in Indian Wells.

Organizers of Palm Springs Speaks have various goals in mind.

“The level of awareness is important for Palm Springs Speaks. It costs over $100,000 a year to put this on, and luckily last year, we made a little bit of money,” Willison said. “The monies go to two very important organizations, so the more money we raise, the more money they receive. Palm Springs Speaks is presented in the west end of the valley by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Public Library. Proceeds go to support the Cultural Center and the Friends of the Library equally. The Palm Springs Library uses the money for buying books or helping with new furniture or renovations.

“We are hopeful that in a couple of years, Palm Springs Speaks will be at a level of recognition where it should become profitable for everybody involved. It is our goal to make Palm Springs Speaks something that the city is proud of and the valley is proud of—and to make this series a destination event for people to travel here from Los Angeles or Phoenix for a nice weekend getaway that has a positive reflection on our town.”

Palm Springs Speaks presents Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5, at the Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School, 2248 E. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30 to $60. For tickets or more information, visit www.palmspringsspeaks.org.

Long before newsfeeds, Facebook, 24-hour news networks and even beepers, people got their information from things like news magazines. It may sound like crazy talk, but it’s true.

One of these news magazines—one which has played a vital role in the LGBT community—is The Advocate. It was started as a newsletter by an activist group following a police raid on a Los Angeles gay bar, the Black Cat Tavern, on Jan. 1, 1967—a couple of years before the Stonewall riots in New York City. The newsletter covered the demonstrations against police brutality; later that year, the newsletter was transformed into a newspaper.

The history of The Advocate since those first days is the subject of a new documentary—and it’s one of the highlights of Cinema Diverse, the local LGBT film festival, which will take place at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center Sept. 20-23, with a “bonus weekend” taking place at Mary Pickford Is D’Place in Cathedral City the following weekend.

“This year, Cinema Diverse is opening with A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years,” said Michael Green, the Cinema Diverse festival director and the executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “This is going to be a really cool story to share with the audience on opening night. It is a retrospective of the 50 years from the start of the magazine up to the current day.

“It’s a huge historic piece and important. Laverne Cox is narrating it, and the music is provided by Melissa Etheridge. … It covers the pre-Stonewall era from the Los Angeles perspective, the AIDS crisis, marriage equality and up to present day. It’s even more powerful to those of us who have lived in the Palm Springs area during that time and have seen the changes that have occurred.”

A Long Road to Freedom is just one of the documentaries included in the Cinema Diverse schedule. “There’s a huge variety of documentaries this year. We have a film about gay comics and another about gay (erotic) comic-book illustrators and so many more,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse, of course, has offerings going beyond documentaries.

“We have several great musicals this year,” Green said. “They cover a variety of subjects, both as feature films and as shorts. Musicals are great. Even though the characters may have troubles throughout, the endings are usually very uplifting. We also have horror films this year; you could classify them as thriller-type films that are pretty good.”

Why is it important to include films like thrillers/horror movies in an LGBT film festival?

“Movies focused on LGBTQ characters … the audience can relate to,” Green said. “We are also screening Devil’s Path, a real psychological thriller by Matthew Montgomery, a popular LGBTQ actor. People who are familiar with him will be really excited to see it.

“As always, we have some really good foreign films, like A Moment in the Reeds, from Finland. It’s a fun and beautiful story.”

Movies by local filmmakers are a key part of Cinema Diverse.

“We have a local film (producer) named Marc Smolowitz. His most recent film is called 50 Years of Fabulous. It’s all about the Imperial Council from its inception and over the last 50 years,” Green said; the Imperial Court System is a series of organizations that raise money for charitable causes. “Again, it’s a historical film that touches Palm Springs and a story that’s close to home to anyone who is familiar with the Imperial Court System. … Since Marc is local, this makes the film even more special.”

One of the films Green is most excited about is 1985, based on a renowned short film with the same name.

“It’s about the very beginning of the AIDS crisis and a young, closeted guy who goes home to Texas,” Green said. “It’s a very poignant film. It’s filmed largely in black and white. It’s a very powerful.” Gotham’s Cory Michael Smith is the star.

“As in previous years, there will be a lot of filmmakers and actors here to represent their films. There are more films this year than previously, both features and shorts,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 23, and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29. Individual screenings are $13.25, while an all-festival pass costs $159. For tickets and more information, including a festival schedule, visit the Cinema Diverse website.

What has a dog and historic significance—and required a whole lot of hours to create?

The answer is Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero. It’s one of the 10 feature films that will be presented as part of the 2018 Palm Springs International Animation Festival and Expo, taking place Wednesday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Aug. 26.

Sgt. Stubby is based on real events that took place during World War I. It is a beautiful story about a stray dog who finds himself with the American 102nd infantry Regiment. Stubby served for 18 months and participated in 17 battles on the Western front. Because he could smell better than his human counterparts, he prevented them from walking into attacks; he also found and comforted wounded soldiers. He’s even the subject of an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution.

If you’re more of a cat-lover, there is also a film for you: “Marnie’s World is a fantastic story about a spoiled house cat. All of the sudden, Marnie gets caught in an adventure with these dogs and wild animals. They steal a car then go on the run.”

That’s how Brian Neil Hoff, the festival’s director, described the film as he gave me the rundown of the festival’s offerings, which will include both features and short films.

Hoff said he and his crew received more than 3,000 submissions this year.

“We get submissions from around the world. This year, we have many films that are by Oscar winners and talents,” he said. “(Beyond) the 10 features, there will be 230 shorts available for viewing. They range in time from two minutes to 25 minutes, with all various styles and plot points.

“Not only (will the festival be the) U.S.A. premiere for a lot of these films; the films’ home countries range from Russia, Germany and Indonesia to Australia. This adds to the diversity, too.

“We are going to have special themed screenings, like for Sgt. Stubby. … We are inviting veterans and their families for the screening at the Palm Springs Air Museum.”

Another feature about which Hoff is excited is Wall. The 82-minute animated documentary features two-time Oscar nominee David Hare as he examines the impact of the wall between Israel and Palestine.

“This is a topical film for the environment today,” Hoff said.

He has steered the festival from rather humble beginnings into the world-class festival it is today.

“The festival started in my backyard nine years ago. That was the name of it: the Backyard Film Festival,” he said. “In fact, it may be the first festival to have started like that. I really didn’t know what I was doing. We had a few hundred people show up. This year, we’re looking at 25,000-30,000.”

Hoff is in the film industry himself, and he’s been able to tap into his network of animation filmmakers and artists.

“Animation just really stuck with me,” he said. “I am really impressed with the art form. People work on these projects for, like, five years. Oftentimes, this is their premiere for their hard work.”

The 2018 Palm Springs International Animation Festival and Expo, being held in partnership with Comic Con Palm Springs, takes place Wednesday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Aug. 26, primarily at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Ticket prices vary; watch www.psiaf.org for a complete schedule and ticket information.

The Hi-Desert Cultural Center is a mere 35 miles from downtown Palm Springs. It’s a place where artists from around the world have come to express themselves while being surrounded by nature.

The center hosts a theater and a philharmonic. It’s been around since 1964. Red Skelton even performed there—and there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of it. Therefore, you may want to consider one of the center’s most popular events, a twice-a-year evening that will return for its seventh edition on Saturday, Aug. 18.

Desert Stories is a one-night event that offers … local, high desert artists the chance to tell their stories,” said Michael McCall, the art curator for the brand-new Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center, an “annex” of the Hi-Desert Cultural Center. “It’s an interesting event. I went to the one in January. The event is amazing; you’ll have 10 to 12 people doing a presentation, and it usually is a sold-out full house. Each presentation is done differently; somebody will do stand-up comedy; some of it is a musical presentation, or a visual presentation with imagery on the displayed on the wall behind the person.”

McCall has been busy; he’s also working on Desert Icons, a show at the new Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center. It’s slated to open on Aug. 25; the current, inaugural exhibition, Ground to Sky, will be on display through Aug. 11.

“The show centers around the desert in art, and how artists interpret it,” he said. “It is extending what an idea of an icon is. I wanted to do a show that is about the desert and its icons.”

McCall moved to the high desert around the start of the year after living in Los Angeles for more than 35 years, so he has a fresh take on how the desert influences art.

“It’s amazing to see the talent that comes from both the high and the low desert—to see what’s going on creatively and how people are creating here,” he said.

While McCall is a new high desert resident, he did visit the area often before his move.

“I was always looking for a place that I thought was close enough in case I needed to go back to L.A. for anything—like to see art shows, or see museums,” he said. “I started coming up here a few years ago. I really dug it, and I liked the people, so when I was offered this job, I thought it was kind of an amazing golden nugget. I have had the opportunity to build a (new center) from the foundation to the sky.”

The Hi-Desert Cultural Center developed the Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center in a 15,000-square-foot building that used to be a motorcycle dealership. The space, at 58325 Twentynine Palms Highway, gave the Hi-Desert Cultural Center the chance to expand more into the visual arts.

McCall said the high desert allows artists to have experiences they can’t have elsewhere—but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

“The desert extremes or the weather extremes can beat the crap out of materials,” he said. “… But in the Coachella Valley you still have a lot of light pollution. We don’t have that, so you can see the night sky in a way that you’ve never seen before. It’s quite an experience.”

On Aug. 18, Desert Stories XIII will showcase some of the high desert’s best artists and storytellers. Come and see why the event usually sells out.

Desert Stories XIII, hosted by Cheryl Montelle, takes place from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center, 61231 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Tickets are $32 to $40; this is an R-rated event due to adult themes and strong language. For tickets or more information, call 760-366-3777, or visit hidesertculturalcenter.org. For more information on the Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center, visit yvarts.org.

What do you have to do to stay relevant in Palm Springs? “Keep it gay, keep it gay, keep it gay!” would be the answer from famed Broadway director Roger DeBris.

This was on my mind after seeing The Filmmakers’ Gallery presentation of the musical film The Producers in June. Before the screening, producer Jonathan Sanger and Tony Award-winning actor Gary Beach—who played DeBris in the Broadway musical and the film adaptation—did a funny and insightful Q&A.

The Filmmakers’ Gallery is the brainchild of Paul Belsito and Steven Roche, a team that relocated from Long Beach. The Filmmakers’ Gallery is a series of screenings and events with “special guest” appearances by friends and well-known stars from the “gallery” of entertainment-industry colleagues. It takes place on the second Saturday of the month (usually) at the Palm Springs Cultural Center—formerly known as the Camelot Theatres—and on July 14, it will feature a 50th anniversary showing of Yours, Mine and Ours with Morgan Brittany, who played Louise Beardsley in the film.

“We won’t screen anything where we don’t have a live guest who is connected to the film. That is what separates us from the others,” Roche said. “We want to appeal more to the educational aspect of the film. It’s an open question-and-answer forum so people can ask about how an actor got the role, or how (the movie) was different to produce from other films.”

Yours, Mine and Ours stars Lucille Ball and is about a widower who has 10 children—who falls for a widow who has eight. Will they merge into one huge family, or won’t they? Also part of the July Gallery is Michael Stern, the author of the book I Had a Ball: My Friendship With Lucille Ball.

“Michael will be our guest moderator, as well as selling and signing his book,” Roche said. “Michael and Lucy met in the early ’70s; she called him ‘my No. 1 fan’ on The Mike Douglas Show, and it stuck.”

What’s the biggest challenge for Belsito and Roche? “We like to show older movies, and unfortunately, that means the cast is older,” Roche said. “Like that last surviving munchkin from The Wizard of Oz, who just passed away (in May). It’s a bit of a double-edged sword: Who’s alive, and where do they live?”

In August, The Filmmakers’ Gallery will do something unusual—present a newish film.

“We’re excited for Aug. 11: We’re screening The Beales of Grey Gardens, which came out in 2006,” Roche said. “This is very different. It’s a sequel documentary of the original 1970s documentary by the Maysles brothers,” which was about Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin. “We’re lucky to have Jerry Torre, who was the groundskeeper and friend to Big Edie and Little Edie. He wrote a biography, The Marble Fawn of Grey Gardens: A Memoir of the Beales, the Maysles Brothers, and Jacqueline Kennedy. His story is really fascinating: He is the only person who is alive who knew that group and can talk firsthand about what happened there—what was like to be friends with them, and living there with them. We’re excited about that. When we announced this film and the guest, we started to sell tickets on the first day.”

The Filmmakers’ Gallery presentation of Yours, Mine and Ours takes place starting at 5 p.m., Saturday, July 14, while the presentation of The Beales of Grey Gardens takes place starting at 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $10 to $15. For tickets or more information, call 562-354-1490, or visit www.facebook.com/thefilmmakersgallery.

Everybody loves a good wedding. However, whether the nuptials are for a family member, an old friend, or an ex, the best part of the wedding is the reception.

“All right! Everyone out on the dance floor—no exceptions! I can feel all the happiness in here tonight!” This is how Robbie Hart starts off a wedding reception. He knows what he’s doing; after all, he is a professional wedding singer.

It’s now been two decades since Adam Sandler’s hit film The Wedding Singer came out. Let me offer you a quick recap: In 1985, Robbie Hart—New Jersey’s favorite wedding singer and rock-star wannabe—is the life of the party … that is, until his fiancée leaves him at the altar. Heartbroken and devastated, he starts to make every wedding as disastrous as his own. Meanwhile, Robbie meets a waitress named Julia, and he falls for her … but Julia is about to be married to a powerful businessman. Robbie must figure out how to win her heart before it’s too late.

That 1998 film was turned into a 2006 Broadway musical, which today is being produced by Palm Canyon Theatre. Catch the play from July 6-15.

Anthony Nannini is the show’s director and choreographer. Anthony attended a musical-theater conservatory for two years in New York City, working on Broadway himself. After the glow of the lights wore off, he moved to the valley and has now been here for more than six years. He’s become a Palm Canyon Theatre regular, both as an actor and a choreographer—but The Wedding Singer will be Nannini’s valley directing debut.

The movie is famous for its soundtrack, so I had to ask Nannini if those songs made it into the musical. “A lot of the show is original music now—it’s not a jukebox,” he said. Of course, Robbie’s “Somebody Kill Me” is indeed included.

As for plot: “There is a lot of it that follows the same general storyline (as the film), but with new subplots to jazz it up a little bit,” Nannini said.

While The Wedding Singer was on Broadway for less than a year, the musical did make an impression, garnering five Tony Award nominations. “The songs are super-catchy and fun,” Nannini said. “It was very well-received during its time on Broadway. When I would go for auditions when I lived in New York, I would hear the girls using ‘A Note From Linda’ or duets using the song ‘Come Out of the Dumpster.’ I heard these numbers and just thought they were great!”

Nannini said he’s excited about helming this production. “This is my chance to prove my directing skills. This play has the same kind of stupid humor that I can relate to and understand, so it’s totally perfect for me.”

Most of the valley’s theater companies go dark over the entire summer—but the Palm Canyon Theatre does not.

“The Palm Canyon Theatre has been here 22 years and averages 14 or 15 different shows per season,” Nannini said. “During the summer, they offer a kids’ camp for local kids who are interested in experience on the stage with professionals and semi-professionals. They offer kids’ classes on makeup, acting, dancing and comedy, and then they put on a show for the parents, but anyone can come to it. (It is) also a nonprofit educational theatre, so they try to incorporate kids into the shows.” They have already announced the next season of shows, so it doesn’t look like they are slowing down anytime soon.

The Wedding Singer will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, July 6, through Sunday, July 15, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. Tickets are $32 to $36. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Later this month, Coachella Valley Repertory’s summer series will bring The Doris Day Project, by Scott Dreier, to the desert.

Any millennials reading this may ask: Who is Doris Day? My answer: She is the definition of class and respect.

Day, still alive and kicking at the age of 96, recorded more than 650 songs for Columbia Records from 1947 to 1967. She is one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century; one of the biggest box-office stars of all time; and an icon of radio and television.

“She was a mother, sister and Hollywood—all wrapped up,” said Dreier, the creator and star of The Doris Day Project. The cabaret show—Dreier has made an album with the same name—came about because of the actor’s obsession with Day. He has also created a “lyrical documentary” of Day’s life, titled Doris and Me.

“This has been a full circle for me. I originally workshopped my show Doris and Me here at CV Rep in 2011,” Dreier said. “I really started to make the connection with Doris and her music when I started performing. She showed me that I could do more than one thing as a performer. I was raised in a very conservative household with no music or television. My exposure to popular culture was very limited. Luckily for me, my mother was an old movie buff.”

Dreier said he was in a production of Little Shop of Horrors in San Diego a while back when the musical’s artistic director learned about his obsession with Day.

“The artistic director there said to me, ‘You need to make this into a show; you could talk about Doris Day’s life and your really quirky obsession with her,’” he said. “And it’s quirky. I wanted to singer her song book—as a guy would sing the songs. I called up Ron (Celona) at CV Rep, who knows of my quirky obsession, and he said for me come to Palm Springs to workshop the show. I really created the show as a love letter to her. I want her to be celebrated.”

This all leads to one obvious question: Has Dreier ever met Doris Day?

“Yes,” he said. “The first time, I was too young to really articulate the importance she’s had on my life. I left her thinking, ‘Why did I say that?’ or, ‘Why didn’t I say that?’”

Well, he obviously did something right: Dreier’s gone on to perform for Day at three of her birthday celebrations.

How does he select what to use in The Doris Day Project, from a catalog of more than 650 songs? He said he began picking the songs during performances of Doris and Me.

“People would come up to me after the show and tell me about their memories with certain titles of her songs, so I started to write them down,” he said. “Then I put all the songs in a bowl and would pick out a song before the show and do what we call ‘the pick of the day,’ and add it to the show that night.”

That is impressive. How many of those 650 songs does Dreier know?

“All of them,” he said. “I have an iPod that is set on shuffle with all of her songs, and I listen to it whenever I am working, walking the dog, or exercising.”

Speaking of dogs: Dreier and Day share a love of animals. Since Day retired from acting, she has spent much of her time working as an animal-welfare advocate. In addition to rescuing many animals herself, she co-founded Actors and Others for Animals, and created a nonprofit rescue organization now called the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Her 96th birthday celebration benefited the Doris Day Animal foundation in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

Dreier followed her lead and currently has a rescued Chihuahua mix.

The Doris Day Project, by Scott Dreier, will be performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23; and 2 p.m., Sunday, June 24, at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, located at 69930 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit cvrep.org.

Live music. Food trucks. Massive “Beast” slobber … and baseball, circa 1962. That’s what you’ll find at Street Food Cinema, coming to La Quinta Park on Saturday, May 26.

Street Food Cinema began in Los Angeles in 2012. What is it, exactly? It’s a fun, affordable outside evening activity combining music, food and a classic movie, to which you can take your entire family—without it becoming an expensive, burdensome dread for everyone. It’s like the old drive-in, except you’re not stuck in the back of your dad’s old car with speakers that squeak.

Steve Allison is one the co-founders—his wife, Heather Hope-Allison, is the other—of the Street Food Cinema.

“Our season runs from April to the last week in October,” Steve Allison said. “The majority of these events is in and around L.A.; we do 60 events in a six-month period. In 2016, we started to expand, doing events in Phoenix and San Diego. Now we’re coming out to the valley to expand and share our vision.

“This is the first time we have co-branded with a city: This summer, we’re partnering with the city of La Quinta.”

What should we expect if we have never been to one of these events?

“The gates open at 5:30 p.m. When you enter, the screen and food trucks will be ready,” Allison said. “First, you’ll set up camp and drop your blankets in the field in front of the screen. Then go and hit the food trucks, and enjoy the live music that is playing. There will be a comedic emcee who will keep the activities moving through the night. You can take your dinner back to your picnic spot and eat, or you can go play games. There will be a giant Jenga, sponsored cornhole stations, and more outdoor games. At 6:30, the emcee introduces the band.”

By the way, that band will be The Flusters, the reigning Best of Coachella Valley Best Local Band, as voted on by readers of this fine publication.

Allison continued: “Then the emcee will start an audience game. …These games usually have the theme of the movie of the night. The emcee will provide the play-by-play, and after the winner receives their trophy, the movie will start,” at 8:30 p.m.

The movie on May 26 will be The Sandlot, a 1993 classic about the adventures of a young group of friends who learn about life, love and baseball during the summer of 1962. Of course, the film also features the Beast, the amazing slobbering pooch!

Speaking of dogs: This is a family-friendly event, and that includes four-legged family members. If you do bring dogs, remember baggies to pick up after them. Oh, and leave the tall-backed chairs at home; chairs can be only 6 inches or less off the ground.

“If you want to bring your own snacks or food, you’re welcome to,” Allison said. “That is an easy way to make it even more affordable.”

I asked Allison to let me in on a secret: Where’s the best place to sit?

“We have a 50-foot production-value screen and 12 state-of-the-art speakers,” he said, “so you’ll be able to see and hear where ever you sit, and it will sound the same. Everybody is guaranteed to have a great experience.”

Street Food Cinema begins at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 26, at La Quinta Park, 78468 Westward Ho Drive. Advance tickets are $10, or $7 for children ages 6 to 12; kids 5 and younger get in for free, and family four-packs of tickets are $30. Tickets are $3 more at the door beginning at 6 p.m., if any remain. For tickets or more information, visit www.streetfoodcinema.com/the-sandlot-lq.

Everyone is doing it. Well, all the coolest people are, at least.

Of course, we’re talking about opera.

What did you think we were talking about? In Quantum of Solace, James Bond was climbing around the backstage area during a performance of Tosca at the Bregenz Festival in Austria. Not cool enough for you? Well, Bugs Bunny even did it, in the classic 1957 cartoon short “What’s Opera, Doc?”

This means there will be plenty of cool people at Palm Springs’ Sunrise Park on Sunday, April 8, for the annual, free extravaganza that is Opera in the Park.

It all began 20 years ago with a piano and just a couple singers, thanks to Arlene Rosenthal, now of Well in the Desert. Today, the event attracts more than 5,000 attendees. This year, eight singers will perform different arias, including selections from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and Candide.

Bruce Johansen, president of the board directors of the Palm Springs Opera Guild, vouched for the quality of the performers. “These are not people who are thinking maybe they might try opera—but people who are committed and have their master’s degrees already,” he said. “They come from Southern California, in particular; most come from USC, UCLA and Pepperdine. … These individuals are starting and breaking into their careers now.

“Liv Redpath, who will be here, is currently performing in LA Opera’s Orpheus and Eurydice. A Mexican tenor, who is a huge star in Europe, Jesús León, is coming back to the valley. He sang for Opera in the Park many years ago … and as a gift will be performing in Opera in the Park this year. We have the chance to watch these singers grow up over the years and become major names in the operatic world. Our guild has had quite a bit to do with their success.”

Johansen’s background is in television; after walking by the Opera in the Park by chance, he discovered the Palm Springs Opera Guild. This chance encounter turned an interest in opera into a passion.

“The people in group cover the full gamut of being extremely passionate to others who enjoy it, but maybe don’t know all the nuances,” he said about the guild. “Everybody has a story about opera—either as kid who had been forced to see an opera and hated it, or as in my case: I had a brilliant music teacher who took us all to see a dress rehearsal of Carmen when I was 13 years old. It just changed my life.”

What does the Palm Springs Guild do beyond Opera in the Park? “We’ve held an annual Palm Springs vocal competition since 1983. The participants compete for various prizes, including scholarships. We also offer Opera in the Schools: Every year, we go into schools in the Palm Springs Unified School District and introduce them to opera. We do a half-hour assembly. With our introduction of opera to them in school, we are trying to take away the stigma that opera might have. … There have even been times when we can take a bus of students to see a performance at the LA Opera. In addition, we have the Prime Time Outreach series at the Rancho Mirage Public Library, which includes lectures and performances.”

The 20th Annual Opera in the Park takes place on Sunday, April 8, at Sunrise Park, located off Sunrise Way, between Ramon and Baristo roads, in Palm Springs. Rehearsals start at 9 a.m., while the actual program runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, including tented-seating information and details on pre-order lunches from TRIO Restaurant, visit palmspringsoperaguild.org.

Picture it: New York City, 1957. A romantic biracial tragedy begins to unfold in the streets—with warring factions everywhere. The issues surround two star-crossed lovers—poor Tony and Maria!—but “Somewhere,” there is a time and place for them.

It turns out that time is Friday, March 9, through Sunday, March 11, and that place is the McCallum Theatre, in Palm Desert. That’s when and where the theater is celebrating the centennial of composer Leonard Bernstein’s birthday with a concert version of the classic musical West Side Story.

Chad Hilligus is producing and directing West Side Story: In Concert. Currently the senior manager of sponsorship development at the McCallum, he’s a singer and actor who was one of the Ten Tenors—with a number of musicals to his credit.

“Because of my involvement in the world tour of West Side Story, this project was born,” Hilligus said. “… We wanted this production to focus on the whole score rather than the other elements, like the choreography. The music will be the star of the show. It’s also the only way we can produce it in-house, because of the time constraints with our limited season. Even with this production, we need four nights in a week to tech and rehearse the show. If you added in the choreography, it would possibly take half of our season to produce.”

Hilligus was not kidding when he said the music will be star of the show: A 40-piece orchestra on the stage will be conducted by Richard Kaufman.

“The cast is the premier cast for West Side Story,” Hilligus said. “Everyone from the cast has either been in the 2009 revival, the national tour, or the 50th anniversary world tour. Tony will be sung by Matthew Hydzik, who is the best Tony I have ever seen. Ali Ewoldt is the foremost and most-sought-after Maria: She played Maria on the world tour after doing the Broadway revival. She is currently staring on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera as Christine.

“Natalie Cortez is Anita. She well-known for all her Broadway work, too. If someone is doing a production of West Side Story, she is the one everyone wants for their Anita. She has been in three productions of West Side Story with Ali Ewoldt playing Maria. Their chemistry is great; they know how to work with each other.

Coming off School of Rock on Broadway is John Arthur Greene, who will play Riff. “Again, it’s a role he has played on Broadway and in the 50th anniversary world tour,” Hilligus said.

I asked Hilligus if all of this experience is important. “Yes—we only have two days to put this together, from the time the artists all arrive in Palm Desert until opening night. It was essential that not only has everyone done the role before; it was important most of them have performed together in a production of West Side Story. The chemistry and muscle memory is already there, so a lot of that will just come together.”

In some ways, Hilligus said, this symphony version will surpass a conventional production of West Side Story.

“You’re going to see a show that highlights and showcases the musical score,” he said. “You’re going to see a 40-piece orchestra with the best musicians from L.A., and some of the greatest orchestras in the country. This is onstage being conducted by the Grammy Award- and Emmy Award-winning Richard Kaufman. The audience will hear the full score as well as the dialogue from the cast. The only thing missing is the choreography; that’s really what makes it a concert version.”

West Side Story: In Concert will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, March 9; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 10; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 11, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $47 to $107. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

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