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Fri11152019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

P.S. Resorts, a coalition of Palm Springs hotels and tourism groups, recently paid almost $30,000 to a consulting firm in an effort to determine what new events would draw the most tourists to the town.

Meanwhile, in Palm Desert, the folks at the McCallum Theatre think they may have already figured out what event could become the valley’s next big thing.

Welcome to the first Palm Desert International Dance Festival.

“If you love dance, where better to be than Palm Desert in November?” said Jeffrey Norman, the McCallum’s director of communications and public affairs.

The brand-new festival kicks off with something that’s actually been around for years: the McCallum’s 16th Annual Choreography Competition, an event that brings in dance companies, both professional and pre-professional, for two days of performances, on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 9 and 10. Then the McCallum will host three of the world’s more unique and renowned dance companies: I.aM.mE on Wednesday, Nov. 13; Lula Washington Dance Theatre on Friday, Nov. 15; and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Norman said the increasing popularity of the Choreography Competition led McCallum president and CEO Mitch Gershenfeld to the idea for the festival. Gershenfeld approached city of Palm Desert officials about the idea, and they were happy to jump on board.

“The aspiration, really, is that this becomes another signature event in the valley,” Norman said, adding that it will take several years, at least, before that happens.

In the dance world, the Choreography Competition already is a big deal. On Saturday, Nov. 9, a dozen dance groups from across the country will compete as Jacques d’Amboise, a veteran of New York City Ballet and a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, receives a lifetime-achievement award.

One of those dozen competitors is Lauren Edson, who won last year’s top prize in the competition. The Boise, Idaho, native and Juilliard graduate has won several other competitions. She entered the McCallum competition last year, in part, because her parents now live in Palm Desert.

“I gathered a group of dancers from Boise who I trust and really respect and admire as artists,” she said. “… We were eager to perform and share the work we’d done.”

However, eagerness is one thing; paying to bring six dancers from Boise to Palm Desert for several days is another. She mounted a successful $5,000 Kickstarter campaign last year to pay the way.

Well, success often leads to complications: In part because of her win last year, Edson finds herself more in demand, so this year, she and her dancers had to find a way to pay for trips to New York and Texas, as well as Palm Desert. That meant this year’s Kickstarter campaign—again successful—was for $15,000.

Edson and her dancers will perform her 11-minute work “I Hit the Ground.” (“The maximum’s 11 minutes, and I am coming in right at 11 minutes,” she fretted.)

“The work really deals with this one couple as a central relationship, and the changing of the power dynamic in the relationship,” she said.

On Sunday, Nov. 10, the second day of the Choreography Competition will feature 11 pre-professional choreographers, mostly from schools and organizations in the Western U.S. Also on the bill are performance exhibitions from local students who are participating in the McCallum’s East Valley Dance Project, a program of the McCallum Theatre Institute that reaches some 1,200 East Valley middle school and high school students. Norman said the inclusion of local students is “dear to his heart.”

“We see every day the impact that exposure to the arts and immersion in the arts makes on kids’ lives, especially kids who might not have had the opportunity (to be exposed to the arts) otherwise,” he said. “Study after study shows how immersion in the arts helps children learn better.” As part of the festival, some area students will be treated to daytime dance shows at the McCallum, too.

After several days off, the festival returns to the McCallum stage on Wednesday, Nov. 13, with I.aM.mE. The dance crew, featuring four men and two women between the ages of 15 and 28, won the sixth season of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew with what they call their “Brain Bangin’” style. According to the I.aM.mE website, “The style is a series of connections and large-scale visuals that create shapes and puzzles with the human body.” (Find videos of the crew online, and you’ll see exactly what that means.)

Two days later, on Friday, Nov. 15, a slightly more traditional—but no less innovative—dance group will take the stage. The Lula Washington Dance Theatre got its start as a nonprofit organization that offered an outlet to minority dancers from South Los Angeles. Today, the group is a renowned group whose modern dance reflects African-American culture and history.

On Saturday, Nov. 16, the festival will conclude with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. While “ballet” is part of the 40-plus-year-old company’s name, the group also melds modern dance, street dance and other styles into in its energetic and often humorous works.

Both Norman and Edson said that shows like America’s Best Dance Crew, which ended last year after seven seasons, as well as ABC’s ever-popular Dancing With the Stars, have made dance in its various forms more widely popular—therefore paving the way for the Palm Desert International Dance Festival to exist.

“(These TV shows) broaden the scope and the reach of dance,” Edson said. “… It’s wonderful that the McCallum is broadening the whole event. There really are people who love so many different facets of the medium today.”

The Palm Desert International Dance Festival takes place Saturday, Nov. 9, through Saturday, Nov. 16, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Ticket prices for the events vary. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

A TV chef trying to pull off a successful stage show? Frankly, it sounds like a terrible idea.

But then again, Alton Brown is not your average TV chef. The show for which he’s best known (outside of Iron Chef America, perhaps), Good Eats—which ran on the Food Network from 1999 to 2012—is unlike any other cooking show in that it combines science, potty humor, theatrics and silliness.

“Theatrics,” of course, is the key word there: Alton Brown is as much of an entertainer as he is a chef, and that’s why his “Alton Brown Live” show—aka the Edible Inevitable Tour—ultimately works. (This show was produced by the some of the same folks who created the successful “Mythbusters: Behind the Myths” tour; “Alton Brown Live” surpasses “Behind the Myths,” because Brown is a natural entertainer, whereas Jamie Hyneman, while a lovable cranky genius, is not.)

The show kicked off at Palm Desert’s McCallum Theatre on Friday, Oct. 18, and is slated to head to almost 50 cities between now and next March.

On one hand, getting to see the world premiere of a show is a treat: The audience gets to watch something that’s never been seen before by a full audience. On the other hand, first performances are always test cases, to an extent, so certain bits will be raw and unpolished. Fortunately for those of us in the McCallum audience, the only real seriously unpolished aspects of Friday show came regarding the music. (More on that later.)

The show kicked off before the 8 p.m. curtain with a Good Eats staple: the lovable, burping-and-farting sock puppets, which represent yeast. (Yeast, you see, gives off gas.) Brown explained at one point during the show that he originally wanted the puppets to appear live, but producers couldn’t get that sound just right, so the yeast puppets were exiled to humorous and increasingly elaborate hijinks on the video screen before the show, at intermission, and at the very end of the show.

“I wanted a preshow entirely built on farts,” Brown joked.

Brown noted that he built his road show “based on stuff that nobody would let me do on television,” including upping the fart-to-burp ratio with the yeast puppets—and singing an occasional song. This led into a song he said he’d written for his daughter: “Is Cooking Hard?” The ditty started with the premise that cooking is not all that hard if, as the chorus explained, “you can understand a few rules you could count on five hands.” The joke was that with each singing of the chorus, the number of rules and hands went up.

On that first song, it was just Alton and a guitar; for subsequent songs, he was joined by Good Eats regulars Jim Pace (who played many roles on the show, most notably Alton’s lawyer) on drums, and music composer Patrick Belden on guitar.

Those songs were, by far, the weakest part of the show. The songs themselves were charming enough—a tune about the dangers of airport shrimp cocktails, for example, was quite funny—but Alton is a much better jokester and chef than he is a singer. There were also serious glitches during two of the songs: His attempt at an angry hard-rock song/Spinal Tap parody, “Easy Bake,” suffered from sound issues and distortion, and his “TV Chef” song toward the end of the show included missed cues and a do-over. (Having the lyrics to the songs displayed on the screen above the stage was a big help—even if the display didn’t always match what Alton was singing.) These glitches will subside as the tour rolls on, but even though the songs are amusing and—in the case of “TV Chef”—provocative, they’ll never stand up to the parts of the show in which Alton is doing what he does best: discussing and demonstrating cooking.

His illustrated monologue on “10 Things I’m Pretty Sure I Am Sure About Food” was pure genius. (Rule No. 3 came from a notable Iron Chef America food debacle: “Trout doesn’t belong in ice cream.”) His ice-cream-making machine—which harnesses the power of a carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher—was brilliant. And the highlight of the show came when he unveiled Mega Bake: an Easy Bake oven gone insane, harnessing the power of 54 thousand-watt lights that leads to interior temperatures approaching 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ice-cream-maker didn’t work exactly as planned—there was too much carbon dioxide and too little chocolate milk—and the Mega Bake pizza-making turned into a food fight when the audience volunteer accidentally hit Brown in the face with some cheese, but it was all in good fun, as was the audience Q&A portion, which included almost as many Doctor Who questions as food questions. (Brown is a big fan of the British show.)

“Alton Brown Live” is a fantastic night of entertainment. Let’s just hope it doesn’t inspire other TV chefs to pursue similar endeavors.

Published in Theater and Dance

Fans of the McCallum Theatre’s Open Call talent project are familiar with Terry S. Larson, 51; he was one of the 2013 finalists in the renowned competition. Regulars at Studio One 11, at 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City, are also familiar with Larson: He works at the LGBT bar as a server and bartender—and wows audiences with his singing voice in concert every Tuesday at 6 p.m., and every other Friday at 8 p.m.; there is no cover. For more information, visit www.studio-one-11.com. The Inglewood native and Cathedral City resident was kind enough to recently answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Journey at the Forum in Los Angeles.

What was the first album you owned?

The Carpenters, Close to You.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I mostly listen to new Broadway cast albums, and Sinatra, Linda Eder, and Michael Buble.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Kayne West.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

The Carpenters.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Barry Manilow.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Studio One 11 in Cathedral City (where I sing each week). :)

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Where is love? Does it fall from skies above?” from “Where Is Love?” in the musical Oliver!

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Barbra Streisand. (I come) from a church background, (and) it was apparent to me they didn’t sing with a lot of sincere emotion. Her voice brought me into the real world.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would ask Patti LuPone how she could produce a tear while singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” every night during Evita.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I would like Linda Eder to sing “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Barbra Streisand, The Broadway Album.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“With You,” from Ghost the Musical. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Karen Carpenter—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

Margaret Simon moves to New Jersey, falls in love, enters sixth grade, joins an all-girl group, obsesses about bras and becomes a woman—all while singing the hits of the Carpenters. The play is loosely based on Judy Blume’s coming-of-age novel. 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19; 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. $25. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Frida—The Musical

This bio-musical about the life of world-famous painter Frida Kahlo shows the folklore, drama and tenderness of this exceptional woman, who endured the most intense physical and emotional pain. Its brought to the stage by a cast of 30 actors, singers and dancers; it ties together the music and popular culture that Frida valued so much. 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. $29 to $79. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

House of the Rising Son—from the Desert Rose Playhouse

Tom Jacobson’s play is a mysterious romance that evokes the steamy atmosphere of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The action centers on Dr. Trent Varro, who brings his younger lover, Felix, back to New Orleans to meet his wealthy relatives. Ghostly sightings and unexpected revelations follow. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 27. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Master Class—from Coachella Valley Repertory

Toward the end of her career, opera star Maria Callas taught master classes at Lincoln Center. In this play, by Terrence McNally, the audience gets to watch her in action with her students, as she reflects on her life and career. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Oct. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 10. (Oct. 23 and 24 are previews.) $35 to $50. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

The Mousetrap—from Desert Theatreworks

Agatha Christie’s well-known whodunit features chills and laughs as the harried detective tries to solve the mystery before another of the lodgers at Monkswell Manor winds up dead. 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 1, through Sunday, Nov. 10. $23 to $25. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Sound of Music—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Oct. 4, through Sunday, Oct. 13. $32. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays

Keith Coleman, in association with Palm Springs Pride, presents an encore performance of a series of short plays, conceived by Brian Shnipper and written by Emmy-, Tony- and Pulitzer-winning authors. 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday. Nov. 2. $29 and $39. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.annenbergtheater.org.

The Sudden Glide—from Script2Stage2Screen

This comedy, written by David A. Crespy, explores the life of a 60-something Southern-born actress, Yvonne Allaway, as she faces the toughest hurdle of her life—a fifth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and she’s again pitted against Meryl Streep. On the way to the ceremony, she is given just enough coke and booze to throw her off her game—and make things very interesting. 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 5. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-702-0062; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Vivien—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The play offers a journey beyond Vivien Leigh’s triumphs into the madness that tortured her. She reflects on her tumultuous relationship with Laurence Olivier and her tragic battles with manic depression and tuberculosis. 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25, and Saturday, Oct. 26; 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 27. $25. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

The summer heat is finally subsiding—and that means the Coachella Valley is starting to come alive with events.

Of course, one of the month’s most exciting events is the Coachella Valley Independent’s Official Launch Party, starting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs. We’re celebrating the launch of our monthly edition and the one-year anniversary of CVIndependent.com with a hosted bar from 6 to 8 p.m.; a live art exhibition by Ryan “Motel” Campbell (read more about him in the Arts & Culture section); and a set by Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes. Admission is free, so there’s no excuse for you not to attend! Clinic Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-864-4119; www.clinicbarps.com.

The McCallum Theatre will host Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9. Edie Brickell will be joining the fun. Considering how much acclaim the funnyman has received for his recent music albums, this should be quite a show. Tickets are $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa’s The Show is the home of numerous great events in October. Fans of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, take note: Daniel Tosh is bringing his stand-up show here for a sold-out performance at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5. While Tosh is known for mocking ridiculous Internet video clips on TV, his stand-up shows are full of witty sarcasm and political incorrectness … which is pretty much what his video-clip musings include, too. Lovers of ’80s music will be flocking to see Bryan Adams at 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. (I personally believe Bryan Adams is aging in reverse, as he keeps looking younger and younger.) The “Summer of ’69” singer has been on a “Bare Bones” tour in 2013, during which he’s been turning in acoustic performances of his hits. However, it doesn’t appear that will be the case when he comes to the Coachella Valley—which is a relief, because an acoustic performance of “(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear” sounds like a terrible idea; tickets are currently $50 to $80. Back to comedy: Lewis Black will be performing at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. Expect Black to be his usual, no-holds-barred self; no part of the political spectrum is safe from his rants. Tickets are $50 to $100. The month of November will start out hilariously, as Wanda Sykes performs at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1. (Perhaps the lovely lesbian will drop in on Palm Springs Pride that weekend!) Tickets are $35 to $65. The next day, The Show will host The Moody Blues, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2. The legendary English prog-rock band has sold more than 70 million albums—and has been around for almost 50 years! If those facts don’t make you want to go see them, I don’t know what else to say. Tickets are $55 to $100. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is packed with big names this month. Country star Trace Adkins, who performed at Stagecoach in April, will be returning to the valley to perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11. In May, he released a new album, Love Will … . This will be a great show for those who saw him at Stagecoach and want to relive the experience; tickets are $39 to $79. If there’s one show you don’t want to miss at Fantasy Springs this month, it’s Sheryl Crow, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12. After nine Grammy awards, a slew of hit singles, and the release of her new album, Feels Like Home, back in September, Crow is still going strong. Go figure; some predicted she’d be a mere one-hit-wonder back in 1994, when “All I Wanna Do” was playing all over the place; tickets are $49 to $99. Not many music stars are hotter right now than Mr. Worldwide, aka Pitbull, who will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. Considering the success Pitbull has had with his most-recent album, Global Warming, and the sold-out performances he’s played around the world, you should get your tickets early—if they haven’t sold out already, they’ll cost you $69 to $129. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a fun show booked for those who are feeling nostalgic for the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Women of Soul concert at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, will feature En Vogue, Lisa Lisa, Even “Champagne” King and Jo Jo of the Mary Jane Girls; tickets are $25 to $45. Country-music fans should be happy to know that Josh Turner will perform there at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. He’s touring behind his latest album, Punching Bag, which features the recent hit single “Time Is Love”; $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa doesn’t have a lot of music booked at the moment—but one show that’s on the schedule should be a real treat: At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18, Morongo will host WAR. While nearly every member of the original lineup has departed, the band is still going strong. With hits such as “Low Rider,” “Summer” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” WAR still has audiences around the world craving live performances; tickets are $20.25 to $26.75 via Ticketmaster. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

If you feel like traveling off the beaten path, Pappy and Harriet’s continues to book great bands while cooking up the barbecue. We have room to mention just three of many shows this coming month. In the fall of 2010, Pappy’s hosted Bright Eyes front-man and king of the hipsters Conor Oberst. I was one of the attendees crammed into the restaurant for Oberst’s performance, which featured the Felice Brothers as his backing band; it was a marvelous show. Well, Conor is coming back for another performance with the Felice Brothers, at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10. He’ll be performing on the outdoor stage this time—but the show is nearly sold out, so you’d better buy your tickets now. Get there early so you can watch the Felice Brothers open (sans Conor); they are one of the best modern folk-revival bands out there. Tickets are a steal at $20. The Day of the Dead is the date for Pappy and Harriet’s annual Halloween show, at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1—featuring Joshua Tree’s very own Gram Rabbit. It’s worth the trip to celebrate the spooky holidays with the Royal Order of the Rabbits while taking in the band’s psychedelic electro-pop sound. Tickets will be $10 at the door. If that still isn’t enough music for you, Pappy’s will be hosting a performance by alt-country/Americana singer Lucinda Williams at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2. I remember hearing Williams’ “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” everywhere when I was a senior in high school in 1999. She and her rustic style of Americana have come a long way since; tickets are $30. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

Also in the high desert: The Eighth Annual Fall Joshua Tree Music Festival will take place Friday, Oct. 11, to Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. The festivities will include performances by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Scott Pemberton, The Last Internationale, and many others. A three-day festival pass is $100, and single-day passes are $40 to $60; camping space is also available for a separate fee. Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree; www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Just down the road, Zena Bender will be throwing a fundraiser for Radio Free Joshua Tree at the Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9. The online radio station, started by Ted Quinn and Michael Roark, has been showcasing local music and a variety of programs—all streaming for free. Of course, Ted Quinn will be performing, as will Rex Dakota, Anthony Dean, The Nobodies and others. Admission is a $10 suggested donation. Sky Village Outdoor Marketplace, 7028 Theatre Road, Yucca Valley; 760-365-2104.

Back down in the valley, The Date Shed will feature a performance by Helmet at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12. Helmet is a highly influential alternative metal band, quite popular in the mid-to-late ’90s, often mentioned in the same breath as the Melvins, Tool, the Deftones and System of a Down—but don’t call them a “nu-metal band.” Tickets are $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

DJ Day informed me that in addition to his weekly ¡Reunion! shows at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club (10 p.m., each Thursday), he will be adding a monthly show called Highlife, on the last Saturday of every month: Catch it on Saturday, Oct. 26. When I asked DJ Day what will be different, he said Highlife will offer more of a party vibe, adding: “I doubt I’ll be playing Tame Impala and African funk on Saturday nights.” Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The LGBT Community Center of the Desert will be throwing the annual Center Stage gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30. The gala will start with a cocktail reception and silent auction. Later, enjoy a concert by The Voice finalist Frenchie Davis, emceed by Alec Mapa from AMC’s Showville. Tickets are $85 for members of the Center, and $100 for nonmembers. Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, Palm Springs; call the LGBT Community Center of the Desert at 760-416-7790; www.thecenterps.org.

The new Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs is slated to open on Friday, Oct. 4, and it will be the spot for BB Ingle’s Annual Halloween Party. Ingle will be teaming up with Troupe Productions for the party at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 31. It will feature a Monster Rock Ball as in previous years, but Troupe Productions and Ingle are promising to take the party to a whole new level this year. Tickets start at $40. Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; get tickets at www.feartastic.com.

Submit your music information to Brian Blueskye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Previews

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

On Friday night (May 11), Pam Ann proved true the age-old axiom that there can be too much of a good thing.

The Australian comedian, whose real name is Caroline Reid, kicked off a nine-city U.S. tour at the McCallum Theatre. Attendees were predominantly if not overwhelmingly gay men—and Pam Ann, no surprise, aimed her show squarely at the “mid-century modern, post-modern Palm Springs gays with their Alexander or Wexler redone homes.”

The events kicked off with a video inserting Pam Ann into the short-lived 2011-2012 ABC show Pan Am, with Pam Ann having all sorts of amusingly filthy interactions with the cast and crew (including asking a black character whether he could “split her in half” with his gigantic you-know-what; he answered in the affirmative). She then came out wearing a yellow dress and proceeded to riff, hilariously, with the audience for a good half-hour.

I’ve seen Pam Ann’s show about a half-dozen times (all of the previous shows I saw were on cruise ships), and this was by far her funniest—and least-structured—performance. She spent the bulk of her time harassing and joking with the appreciative audience. (Several fans even presented her with gifts, including poppers and a “Virgin America flight manual," which contained condoms, lube and perhaps even a bit of cocaine. The “cum-dripping” Grindr-like nature of Virgin America, at least in Pam Ann’s addled brain, was mentioned numerous times over the evening.)

Problem was, she was having so much fun—and early success—while joking with the audience that the elements of her proper “show” were rushed.

In fact, the “show” parts were at times rather weak. She has a new animated safety video that is awkward and, at best, mildly amusing. A video inserting her into famous films such as Superman and The Exorcist was OK, but a McCallum tech partially ruined it by stopping it about a third of the way through and then starting it all over again. And her closing number, with her saying goodbye to the audience to the tune of “From New York to L.A.,” was a complete mess.

However, her comedic interactions with the audience showed Pam Ann at the top of her game (even as she proved that she’d never heard of the city of Indio). Some of her over-the-top-humor—such as quizzing a wife on the blowjobs she gives her husband—left some audience members uncomfortable, and at least one usher shaking her head. That's not Pam Ann's problem, though; the audience members, at least, should have known what they were getting themselves into.

While Reid was indeed hilarious, there was a bit too much of that good thing: The show ran for about two hours and 15 minutes, and the laughs faded a bit as the night went on. Pam Ann herself seemed surprised by the show’s length when she walked onstage for the final number, expressing shock that the show had gone on for so long and adding that she probably would have walked out by then if she’d been in the audience.

Pam Ann was a hoot on Friday night. But a half-hour less of her would have been even better.

Published in Comedy

I was shocked when lunatic flight purser Pam Ann told me she was flying to the West Coast for her gig at the McCallum Theatre on JetBlue—which has no first-class seating.

And then she said something even more shocking.

“I like flying JetBlue!” she said. “It’s a daytime trip. I watch the telly.”

Turns out I was speaking not to Pam Ann, but Caroline Reid, the Australian comedienne who performs as the profane, elitist, racist and hilarious flight attendant. Pam Ann—who would not be caught dead on a plane outside of first class—will be performing at the McCallum on Friday, May 10.

If you’ve never seen a Pam Ann show, well, picture this: The theater is an airplane flight, and Pam Ann is your flight attendant. After the perfunctory safety video (which, in this case, is anything but perfunctory), Pam Ann emerges in a ridiculously flashy outfit, with her beverage trolley in tow. She then proceeds to abuse the airline industry, the audience and herself (Is that a gigantic pile of cocaine?!) for the duration.

And if, god help you, you’re seated in one of the first couple of rows (aka first class), wear your most-expensive brand-label clothing, lest you get banished to the back of the plane, um, theater. Needless to say, the kids should skip the show (and, for that matter, the rest of this interview).

For those who have seen Pam Ann perform, Reid said to expect some new touches—new safety videos, for example. And she’s “amped up the trolley,” she added.

Of course, attendees can also expect topical references to the airline world’s latest mishaps. Reid noted that Pam Ann is “not afraid to offend a few people,” and mentioned the horrifying U.S. cargo-plane crash in Afghanistan. The April 29 crash—which was caught on a dashboard-camera video by a nearby motorist—killed seven National Air Cargo employees when the Boeing 747 tumbled out of the sky shortly after takeoff.

“The pretty pictures on the safety card aren’t going to pan out, when you look at that video,” Reid noted. “Instead, you’re going to get five seconds of sheer terror. I don’t like takeoff, because I know too much about it.”

While Reid and Pam Ann are fairly well-known in Australia (where she had her own TV show) and Europe, she is not all that famous in the United States outside of the gay community. She said she’s hoping this summer’s U.S. tour will change some of that.

“I’m building my brand and career here. It’s tough,” she said, noting that she recently got her green card and has been living in New York City since 2009.

Her ultimate goal here, she said, is to get a Pam Ann movie off the ground. She described it as a melding of Austin Powers, 1970s disaster films, Absolutely Fabulous and The Hangover.

She described the film’s first moments as a “scene out of my life.”

“It’s Pam Ann getting fucked by two black immigration officers in a hotel room,” she said.

Reid said she’s looking forward to her return to the Palm Springs area.

“To me, it’s where Pam Ann would have her headquarters,” she said. “I love the architecture. It’s so retro to me. Plus there’s that whole Sonny Bono connection.”

Of course, Pam Ann loves her gays (not that she really loves anyone). Reid said she’s always had a connection to gay men and transgendered people, for some reason. (She’s often mistaken herself for a man in drag, she said. Looking at Pam Ann’s outfits, this makes sense.)

“Palm Springs is one of the gayest places I’ve ever been,” she said. “But it’s a different gay. It’s older and wiser. You clink the crystal a little bit more. You’re puffing the cushions up a little bit more. I am seeing a lot of white linen.”

Of course, the McCallum Theatre is not in Palm Springs; it’s in Palm Desert, and is known for attracting a variety of audiences from around the Coachella Valley. (And a large variety, it is: Pollstar ranked the McCallum as the top theater in all of California, and 13th in the world, in terms of ticket sales during the first quarter of 2013.)

So will Pam Ann change her show at the McCallum—a theater known for a wide variety of shows, including Broadway musicals—to account for the fact that not all of her audience will be made of up of Palm Springs gays?

“I’m going to put some cats in it, and I’ll call it Pam Ann Cats,” Reid joked.

In other words, don’t count on it.

Pam Ann performs at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert, at 8 p.m., Friday, May 10. Tickets are $45 to $65. For more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Comedy

Meet Chris Hoggatt. He’s a 20-year-old student at the College of the Desert and a graduate of Palm Desert High School who works at the Yard House.

Oh, and one more thing about Hoggatt: He’s a hip-hop dancer.

Hoggatt will be making his big-stage debut alongside 21 other individuals and groups this week as part of Open Call, the McCallum Theatre’s annual talent project. This is the 15th year for Open Call, which is part of the McCallum’s education and outreach program.

Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, the director of education at the McCallum, has been a part of Open Call since the beginning. She says that Open Call started as part of an effort by the McCallum to live up to a then-new slogan—“It’s your theatre”—as the organization emerged from tough times in the late 1990s.

“It’s an effort to closely work with the local community to create a community event,” she says.

Here’s how it works: In the fall, non-professional members of the community (within 45 miles of the theater) who are least 8 years old are invited to send in a CD or DVD of themselves performing—dancing, singing or doing anything else that would work on a stage. The McCallum folks call in the performers with the most talent and/or potential for in-person auditions. The judges then select the finalists, who must commit to six straight days of mandatory rehearsals under the direction of professionals, as well as four open-to-the-public shows over three days at the McCallum. While there’s no fee to enter the contest, finalists receive a stipend and compete for three prizes: a $2,500 grand prize; a $750 second-place prize; and a $750 audience choice award.

Hoggatt says he’s been dancing all his life, and joined a dance company—he can’t remember the name of it—when he was 8 years old. (The company, interestingly enough, performed at the McCallum, Hoggatt says.) However, Hoggatt then put dance aside for sports, before getting involved in “dance battles” while he was in middle school. In high school, he performed at assemblies as part of Palm Desert High’s Hip-Hop Club (yes, the school really does have a Hip-Hop Club), and performed at the COD Live show last spring.

It was the College of the Desert show and an increasing interest in theater, he says, that led him to take dancing more seriously, and to look at it as a possible profession. That’s why he decided to send in an audition DVD for Open Call last fall.

“It was a real chance to test myself and challenge myself,” he says.

This is actually Hoggatt’s second brush with Open Call fame. He says he sent in a video during his freshman year of high school, and was asked to come in for a live audition—but got sick and could not go.

So why did he wait five years to try out again? He says he lost confidence in his abilities; he started watching shows like America’s Best Dance Crew, and thought: “I can’t do what these guys do.”

“I was sitting there, and I didn’t know if I wanted to try out again,” Hoggatt says.

Hoggatt says the Open Call experience has been rewarding—especially the chance to work with choreographer Jennifer Backhaus, the founder of Orange County’s Backhausdance contemporary dance company. He says Backhaus has been very helpful in pointing him toward studios and other ways to help him go beyond his current, largely self-taught dance methods.

Joana CiurashAnother finalist, opera singer Joana Ciurash, 50—who, by day, is an associate professor of chemistry at College of the Desert—took a different path to Open Call. She was born in Romania and came to the United States 27 years ago. Her mother was an opera singer.

“I was never interested in singing,” Ciurash says. Instead, she was interested in dancing, and wanted to become a ballerina.

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t good,” she laughs.

Around the age of 40, she started singing in church choirs, and while she earned her master’s degree at Cal State Northridge, she took an opera workshop—not for singing purposes, but to help her overcome her fear of speaking in front of a crowd.

When she got her job at College of the Desert about seven years ago, she took an opera class there, and kept getting the lead singing role in the class productions. (Look for videos of her singing in La Boheme on YouTube.)

It turns out she inherited some talent from her mother.

“My mom came to a performance, and she was shocked,” Ciurash says.

Those opera-class shows (sadly, Ciurash says, the class was a casualty of budget cuts) were followed by several other performances—she sang at a benefit concert a colleague organized following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, and she performed at her own recital at COD.

She credits her friends for nudging her into trying out for Open Call.

“Many of my friends, they want to hear me sing again, and want me to take any opportunity to get exposed more,” she says. “I thought it was a good opportunity to send in my tape.”

At the Open Call, each of the performers/groups does an individual number; then, for the finale, all of the performers come together onstage—where everyone sings, and everyone dances, regardless of whether one is a singer, a dancer, a ventriloquist or something else.

Both Hoggatt and Ciurash cited the finale as one of the biggest challenges.

“An opera singer usually just (stands) on the stage,” Ciurash says. “I mean, they do acting … but they don’t dance. And for me, all the moves I have to do (in the finale) … oh my gosh. I told them to put me in the back.”

The Open Call shows take place at 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday, April 18 and 19; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 20, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. A limited number of tickets remain; the shows will sell out. Tickets are $7 to $55. For more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun

As an example of how all over the map the McCallum Theatre’s 2013-2014 season offerings are, look at the first four shows.

The season begins on Oct. 13 with the theater’s Second Annual Family Fun Day, featuring the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater and its performing pooches and kitties (yes, performing cats; who knew?). That’s followed five days later by the first-ever performance of Alton Brown Live, a show featuring the off-kilter-in-a-good-way Food Network host. One week later, Mexican theater hit Frida: The Musical—performed entirely in Spanish—is on the boards. Next, country-music star Vince Gill will take the stage.

So … you have pet theater, followed by a goofy but educational chef, followed by a serious Spanish-language musical, followed by country music. And by the way, that’s all followed by a series of dance events that McCallum president/CEO Mitch Gershenfeld hopes will set the stage, so to speak, for a true international dance festival to sprout in Palm Desert.

Got all that?

“We’re trying to present diverse-enough programming to attract every segment of the community,” Gershenfeld says. “We don’t want to be elitist. We want to have a presence in all of the relevant performing-arts genres.”

In all, the 2013-2014 McCallum season lineup—which was announced earlier this week, with season-series tickets going on sale next week—includes more than six dozen shows that range from separate performances by greats Shirley MacLaine, Chita Rivera and Patti LuPone, to plays like Driving Miss Daisy, The Addams Family and Hello, Dolly! (staring … Sally Struthers?!), to dance by Pilobolus and the Moscow Classical Ballet, to something called Cesar Millan Live!

Gershenfeld says he uses a “market-driven approach” while booking the McCallum. In other words, he won’t bring in any show that he knows won’t get butts in seats. However, he says he’ll take a risk if he thinks he can convince the public that a show is worthy.

“If I feel like I can market it and make it work, I’ll do it,” he says.

Gershenfeld is about to enter his second year as the president and CEO of the McCallum, following the retirement last year of longtime head Ted Giatas. Before Giatas’ departure, Gershenfeld handled operations and booking at the McCallum for a dozen years—and he’s kept the booking gig as CEO. In all, the former symphony musician—he’s a tuba player—and theater producer has been booking shows for three decades.

When asked what shows he’s excited about in the upcoming season, he instantly mentions Peter and the Starcatcher, a fresh-from-Broadway play that nabbed five Tony Awards last year. The show, which offers a back-story of sorts for Peter Pan, will arrive at the McCallum March 28-30, 2014.

This show falls in that if-I-can-market-it category for Gershenfeld, he says, clarifying that while traveling Broadway musicals tend to sell well, non-musical plays can struggle when they lose the big names that often star in the shows in New York.

“I am going to talk about this play every chance I get this year,” Gershenfeld says.

And as for that Alton Brown show: It’s being produced by the same people who created the Mythbusters: Behind the Myths tour, and the McCallum is actually letting the producers use the theater for a week or so to “get the show going” before it officially premieres on Oct. 18. As a hint to what the show will be like, Gershenfeld notes that attendees in the first few rows will be given ponchos to wear.

Gershenfeld also points to the Bahia Orchestra Project show on Feb. 16, 2014, as something special. The project was founded in Brazil in 2007, modeled after El Sistema in Venezuela; organizers go into poor areas and provide youngsters with musical instruments, and teach the kids how to play. These Brazilian kids-turned-musicians, with help from star pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, will play at the McCallum as part of their first North American tour.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to hear great music played by these young people who have had a rough go in life,” Gershenfeld says.

Gershenfeld says his goal every season, of course, is to top the previous one, although he concedes that the now-concluding McCallum series—the theater’s 25th anniversary season—was “really good,” and the best-attended since 2007-2008 and the Great Recession.

“I hope people respond to this (upcoming) season as well as the last,” Gershenfeld says.

For more information on the season, or to buy season subscriptions (starting Monday, April 8), visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance