CVIndependent

Mon08192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

If you’re a data geek like I am, you can have a lot of fun with Pollstar magazine’s annual list of the Top 200 theater venues in the world.

For example: The Coachella Valley’s McCallum Theatre—considered a small- to medium-sized venue—in 2018 came in at No. 70 in the entire world, with well more than 100,000 tickets sold. No theater in Southern California sold more tickets than the McCallum did, even though the venue is only open for half the year.

That’s right: The McCallum had more butts in its seats in 2018 than any theater in Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the country.

Mitch Gershenfeld, the McCallum’s president, CEO and show-booker, said 2019 has been even stronger—and that he has high hopes for the 2019-2020 season. Tickets for all shows in the upcoming season go on sale online today (April 11) at 6 p.m., with box-office and phone sales beginning tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

The 2019-2020 season includes the big names—Melissa Etheridge (Nov. 14), anyone?—that people have come to expect to be on the McCallum schedule, along with valley favorites like the Ten Tenors (Feb. 19-23, 2020) and Pink Martini (March 4-8). However, Gershenfeld said he’s particularly thrilled about the Broadway shows he’s booked; five of them have never been to the McCallum before, kicking off with the musical adaptation of A Christmas Story (Nov. 26 and 27).

“It has all of the key things that are in the movie,” Gershenfeld said. “There’s a whole number with dancing leg lamps.”

That will be followed by Waitress (Dec. 6-8) and The Play That Goes Wrong (Jan. 21 and 22), a critical darling that just closed on Broadway earlier this year—and is still going strong on London’s West End.

“It’s the quintessential British farce,” Gershenfeld said.

Escape to Margaritaville (Jan. 30-Feb. 1)—a musical featuring the songs of Jimmy Buffett, but you probably figured that out already—will be followed by Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Feb. 7-9), which has become a Broadway fixture, recently celebrating its fifth anniversary there.

“It’s really nice to get another musical that’s still on Broadway,” Gershenfeld said.

Those new-to-the-McCallum shows will be joined by returnees Chicago (March 13-15) and The Illusionists (April 7 and 8).

Mitch’s Picks—a series of a shows by unheralded performers that Gershenfeld personally recommends—are back, starting off on Nov. 22 with a double-bill of performers who perform traditional Latin music with a twist: the all-women Mariachi Flor de Toloache and The Villalobos Brothers. They’ll be followed by a Christmas show on Dec. 16 by YouTube a cappella sensation Voctave.

“They’re an amazing group who primarily performs at Disneyworld,” Gershenfeld said. “The core members have beautiful voices, and the arrangements are extraordinary.”

Other Mitch’s Picks include the Derina Harvey Band, a Celtic-rock group (Jan. 14); Wicked alum-turned-soul singer Shoshana Bean (Feb. 4); and Mnozil Brass (March 24), a brass septet that melds original tunes, classics and a lot of humor.

The National Geographic Live series will be back at the McCallum for a second year with three shows. Gershenfeld admits he was concerned about how a science series would do—and he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of McCallum audiences this year.

“They love it, and they point out that it’s so different,” Gershenfeld said. “It’s also a program that attracts children, which is great. During the Q&A sessions, the kids are always asking questions.”

This year’s shows are On the Trail of Big Cats (Jan. 6), Photography Without Borders (March 2) and View From Above (April 5) with astronaut Terry Virts.

Gershenfeld said the new season’s highlights include some tribute shows that are quite special. First and foremost is A Toast to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé (April 4). The two were most successful act to regularly appear at the McCallum before the Ten Tenors came along, Gershenfeld said.

“Frank Sinatra would show up to hang out backstage,” he added.

Gormé passed away in 2013, and Lawrence has retired from performing; this show will feature their son, David Lawrence, and Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte, along with a 32-piece orchestra and vintage video clips.

“We have all of their original music charts,” Gershenfeld said. “… This is the first place this show is going to play. There’s no place (Steve Lawrence) would want to do the first show other than (here).”

Speaking of Frank Sinatra … he’ll be returning to the McCallum, sort of, thanks to the talents of Bob Anderson, on Feb. 14 and 15. Gershenfeld explained that the Sinatra impressionist sounds exactly like Ol’ Blue Eyes, and to add to the impression, he has a prosthetic mask of Sinatra’s face. When you add in a 32-piece orchestra playing Sinatra’s original arrangements … the likeness is eerie and amazing.

The other big names coming to the McCallum zigzag across genres—Mandy Patinkin (Nov. 16), The Beach Boys (Dec. 1), Itzhak Perlman (Jan. 20), Ricky Skaggs (March 12), the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (March 15), and so on.

“Last season (2017-2018) was the most successful in our history,” Gershenfeld said. “This year (the just-concluding 2018-2019) surpassed it.” And 2019-2020 has a great chance of continuing that trend.

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2019-2020 season go on sale online at mccallumtheatre.com at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 11; and at 9 a.m., Friday, April 12, at the box office, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, and by phone, at 760-340-2787. For the complete schedule, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun

I’m a white, college-educated, liberal, Democrat, socialist U.S. citizen. I don’t have any problem with Mexicans coming here to get a good job. In fact, I don’t see the “problem.”

From your perspective, why are Republicans and redneck dickheads so into building that big fence on the border? What I mean is: If there are so many “illegal” Mexican immigrants in the U.S., what is stopping them from becoming “legal?” Is it really a question of attaining citizenship, or is it just plain ol’ ignorant racism?

Taco Lover in Houston

Dear Gabacho: Gracias for writing in, Bernie Sanders! Love ya, but I don’t think you stand a chance against that pendeja Hillary—but good for you for pushing her into Aztlanista territory.

As for the preguntas: Republican dickheads want to build a wall because it’s the simplest “solution” to the immigration “problem” and is symptomatic of how out of touch they are with America’s raza reality. They obviously don’t know that if we do build a 100-foot tall wall tomorrow on the U.S.-Mexico frontera, some chilango from Tepito will build a 101-foot ladder the following day—and the slide that goes with it—while a culichi will construct a tunnel underneath it that would rival the Lincoln Túnel. And it’s those same Republican cagaleches who are stopping undocumented folks from becoming legal by failing to work with Democrats on a good amnesty program.

Hey, I get it: The GOP knows that once we get the vote—and I know I said this last week, but it bears worth repeating—we’ll make them as irrelevant as the payphone.

Let me start out by saying that I’m a HUGE fan of your newspaper columns. I’m writing you because at a recent family dinner, one of my cousins was telling the family his opinion of the word “Mexican.” He proceeded to say that the word is racist and degrading, and everyone should refer to people from Mexico as “Cinnamon People” or “Cinnamons.” He said this because, in his opinion, most people from Mexico have a light tint or shade of red to their skin. So with this thought in mind, I asked my Mexican friends at school if “Mexican” is racist and degrading; all but two just laughed at me. A few people have agreed with my cousin but still: I’m very confused.

Is “Mexican” a racist word? I have seen countless people call someone a “Mexican” at school and get knocked out for it, yet I can refer to my Mexican friends as anything I want (partly because I’m half-black, and they can call me whatever they like). Can you help me understand? Should mainstream America start referring to the Mexican people as “Cinnamons”? Or is my cousin being ignorant/racist? Can you PLEASE help me understand this conundrum?

Eager in Elizabethtown

Dear Young Mujer: “Cinnamons?” At least your cousin didn’t suggest “wetbacks.”

He’s not racist—one of the most romantic songs in the Spanish language is the bolero standard “Piel Canela,” which translates as “Cinnamon Skin” and was immortalized by Eydie Gormé (yes, of lounge-lizards legend Steve and Eydie) with Trio Los Panchos. That said, calling someone a “Mexican” can be racist, mostly if the person being called that isn’t a Mexican, or if the person saying it pronounces it “Messkin” and has a deportation cannon next to them.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican