CVIndependent

Wed06262019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Theater and Dance

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time for a breather.

During the month of January, the Coachella Valley is experiencing a slowdown in the number of music events—so it’s all about quality over quantity. Thankfully, there’s plenty of quality.

The McCallum Theatre will host Shirley MacLaine at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19. MacLaine will be speaking about her experiences in Hollywood, her private life and her spiritual journey. Tickets are $35 to $75. Jazz vocal artist Patti Austin will be performing at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 28. Austin, best known for her 1981 duet “Baby, Come to Me” with James Ingram, is a live delight. Tickets are $35 to $75. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1, Pink Martini will take the stage. The modern-day alternative lounge-music act has always had a feel good vibe and will definitely put on a fun show. Tickets are $35 to $95. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a solid schedule throughout the month. The Golden Boys will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 3. The supergroup includes three heartthrobs from the early days of pop: Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Fabian. They’ll be onstage together crooning each of their hits. For those who remember the heyday of these singers back in the ’50s, it will be a special night. Tickets are $29 to $59. And now for something completely different: At 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, Snoop Lion, aka Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, will be performing in the Coachella Valley for the first time since his headlining slot with Dr. Dre at Coachella in 2012. It’s hard to predict what to expect from Snoop, since his recent conversion to Snoop Lion has also included a shift in sound. His most recent release, Reincarnated, is a reggae album; Snoop’s conversion to the Rastafarian religion was shown in the documentary with the same name. He was a no-show at a scheduled performance in Portland, Ore., a few months back, and he seems to be more open to being called Snoop Dogg again, so who knows what to expect? (He turned down an interview request from the Independent, for what it’s worth.) Tickets are $39 to $89. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31, country-music star Martina McBride will close out the month in style. Her career goes all the way back to 1988, and she’s had quite a run ever since; she also has a new album slated for release in 2014. This should definitely be a treat for country-music fans. Tickets are $39 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa has a slower January compared to other recent months—but the resort’s schedule does feature an undeniable legend. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24, country legend Dolly Parton will bring her classics to the Agua Caliente. The “9-to-5” singer is still going strong and is inspiring younger generations after being covered by artists like the White Stripes. Tickets were $90 to $160, but the show is sold out. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11, comedienne Kathleen Madigan will be performing. Thanks in part to her high-profile comedy specials, including Gone Madigan on Showtime, she’s become a huge success. Tickets are $20 to $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25, Morris Day and the Time will be performing with Sheila E. Morris Day is a well-known cult hero thanks to his song “Jungle Love.” Day was also in Prince’s Purple Rain as Prince’s nemesis. Speaking of Prince: His former drummer, Sheila E, will also be performing. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com

Morongo Casino Resort Spa doesn’t have much going on in January, but the Cabazon resort will kick off the next month with Foreigner, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1. While Mick Jones is the only remaining member, the band’s hits make them worth experiencing live. Also, for those of us who watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, we know the powers of the “Foreigner Belt.” Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s, meanwhile, has another great month of shows booked. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, Pappy’s will host the Bobby Nichols Band. The high-desert band is a hit with the local crowd, thanks to their smooth electronic instrumental grooves; it will be a perfect night to be in Pioneertown for dinner and a show. Admission is free. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10, The Palominos (right) will be performing. The San Diego based honky-tonk band is helping keep the California country music sound alive. This show is free, too. After hosting the Weirdos in December, Pappy’s will be hosting another punk band at 9 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19: Parquet Courts. Since forming in 2010 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the band has been a hit in the underground—and has even gained some attention from the mainstream music press. Tickets are $12. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza is unfortunately losing booking mastermind Brandon Henderson. The good news is he will be replaced by War Drum frontman Jack Kohler. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, The Hood will host its new Industry Night. DJ Bent will be spinning during the all-vinyl night. Attendance is free (21 and older). At 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18, Flower Boy and Giselle Woo and the Night Owls will be playing. Attendance is again free (21 and older) The Independent wishes Brandon Henderson well in his new journey. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

We’re finally getting a better look at the Hard Rock Hotel’s entertainment plans. The hotel will now feature DJs every Friday and Saturday in the lobby from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and poolside from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-325-9676; www.hrhpalmsprings.com.

Vicky’s of Santa Fe has some great music events to go hand in hand with the restaurant’s fine dining. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:30 to 10 p.m., jazz musician Pat Rizzo performs with the All That Jazz Band. Every Tuesday, from 7 to 10 p.m., the restaurant features Michael Dees and Trio. Fans of swing music can enjoy Carolyn Martinez and Trio every Thursday from 6:30 to 10 p.m. John Stanley King performs every Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. Vicky’s of Santa Fe, 45100 Club Drive, Indian Wells; 760-345-9770; www.vickysofsantafe.com.

The Ace Hotel has added a monthly event to its lineup in the Amigo Room. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10, The Full House Band featuring Nena Anderson will perform “gypsy jazz,” Americana and Western swing. The event will be every second Friday of the month going forward. Attendance is free to those 21 and older.The Ace Hotel, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The newly opened Copa Room is hopping; the new spot has a lot to offer thanks to its old-school lounge appeal. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 3 and 4, the Copa will host Well-Strung (below), an all-male string quartet playing the works of artists from to Mozart to Vivaldi to … Lady Gaga? Yes, that’s right. Tickets are $25 to $35. Check the Copa’s website, as the folks there were adding a variety of shows to the lineup as we went to press.The Copa Room, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Zena Bender, in collaboration with the folks at Radio Free Joshua Tree, will be holding a second fundraiser at the Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley, at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8. The nonprofit radio station was founded by Teddy Quinn to serve as an outlet for Coachella Valley and high-desert musicians, poets and artists. The effort is worth your support. A suggested donation is $10. Sky Village Swap Meet, 7028 Theatre Road, Yucca Valley; www.radiofreejoshuatree.com.

Published in Previews