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Jimmy Boegle

The calendar says it’s November, so that means our second annual Pride Issue is hitting the streets.

In terms of circulation, revenue and quality, November is shaping up to be the best month the Independent has ever had, both online and in print. However, we still have work to do in our effort to give the Coachella Valley the best alternative publication/news organization it’s ever had—and we’re asking for your help.

The Independent has launched a crowd-funding effort to help us reach the next level. The funds we hope to raise via the campaign will help us expand our coverage and strengthen our distribution.

As for distribution, we’re currently in 365 or so locations across the region, from Desert Hot Springs, through Palm Springs, and all the way down to the Salton Sea; we’re even at Chiriaco Summit and in select locations in the Yucca Valley area. That’s pretty darned good, I’d say—but we can do better. We want to boost that number of locations to around 400, and we want to do better at our existing locations. Our crowd-funding effort, if successful, will help us purchase new wire indoor racks, and will allow us to refurbish, repair and perhaps replace some of our outdoor distribution boxes.

The vast majority of the funds we hope to raise will help us improve what we do best—journalism. We want to increase our arts and events coverage, for example. Right now, we’re doing a fine job of covering band/club/popular music and reviewing multi-week theatrical performances; our visual arts coverage is also among the valley’s best. However, many events outside of these categories have tended to fall through the cracks, so we want to hire more writers on a freelance basis to patch these figurative cracks.

On the food and drink side: Have you noticed that no publication in the valley does full, honest restaurant reviews—the kind in which restaurants are visited more than once by an unannounced reviewer who pays his or her own way? Next year, we hope to start doing at least two reviews per month.

Finally—and most importantly—we want to boost our news coverage. We are constantly getting great story tips and ideas here at the Independent, yet we often don’t have the writers and other resources to pursue them. We want to—no, we need to change that, especially since The Desert Sun and other traditional news sources are continuing to get hammered by layoffs and cutbacks.

The Indiegogo page can be found here. We sincerely appreciate your help.

New: Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant has opened at 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the downtown Palm Springs space occupied until recently by Kimy Sushi.

While we have not yet had a chance to check out Pho Lan, the restaurant’s Facebook page offers some details about the place: The restaurant opened in September, and offers the appetizers, pho dishes and entrées one would expect to find at a Vietnamese joint—at reasonable prices. For example, a large bowl of pho will only you back $8.50.

We’ll offer a more detailed report when we have a chance to try out the restaurant in person. In the meantime, call 760-778-1473, or visit the aforementioned Facebook page for more information.

Hacienda Hosts a Benefit for Meals on Wheels

The newish Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, will be the location of Playa de los Muertos—a Dia de los Muertos Celebration, at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 1.

The event will feature an open sangria bar, tray-passed appetizers, great DJ music poolside, and all sorts of Day of the Dead-themed activities, like sugar-skull face-painting.

Sounds fun, yes? Well, there’s even better news: The event is a benefit for Meals on Wheels Coachella Valley.

“We wanted to honor and capture the color and vibrancy of Dia de los Muertos celebrations and combine it with a beach party like only Palm Springs can offer,” said event coordinator George Nasci-Sinatra in a news release.

Admission to the event is $45. Visit playadelosmuertos.brownpapertickets.com, or call 760-323-5689, ext. 112, for tickets or more info.

Citron at the Viceroy Gets a New Executive Chef

The Viceroy Palm Springs has hired a French-born chef with impeccable credentials to lead up the hotel’s well-regarded Citron Restaurant.

Patrice Martineau is a native of Champagne, France, who trained at several Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming the No. 2 chef at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Daniel, in New York City. He also served as the executive chef at London’s Savoy Hotel, and was most recently at the Belmond El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara.

“I look forward to adding some international flair to Citron’s menu and sharing my interest in regional California cuisine with Viceroy Palm Springs’ gastronomically minded guests,” said Martineau in what has to be one of the most ho-hum press-release quotes in recent memory.

New menus should have been launched by the time you read this.

For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings.

Restaurant Musical Chairs in Cathedral City

The spot they optimistically call “downtown Cathedral City” will soon be the home of two new restaurants.

Bontá, a Latin-European restaurant, is slated to soon open in the space that used to house Picanha Churrascaria at 68510 Highway 111. Practically next door, in the spot once occupied by Big Mama’s Soul Food, Taqueria Los Arcos is scheduled to open.

Watch this column for details.

Also: Last month in this space, we noted that a new “art bar and live music” venue called Bart Lounge was coming to the valley, perhaps in Cathedral City. Well, a lease has been signed, and Bart Lounge is indeed coming to Cathedral City—specifically, the old Level 2/Elevation/Sidewinders space, at 67555 E Palm Canyon Drive. Watch www.facebook.com/bartlounge for updates.

In Brief

Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at 71800 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. The valley’s oldest microbrewery took home a silver medal from Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival for Babe’s Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. … Dish Creative Cuisine remains on hiatus as its new home at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—next to Ernest Coffee and Bootlegger Tiki—gets constructed. A Facebook-page update from Oct. 20 states that restaurant management is keeping its fingers crossed for a mid-November opening. … Also in downtown Palm Springs: Brandini Toffee just celebrated the grand opening of a store at 132 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Brandini is in the spot formerly occupied by the Red Black Café; last year, the prospective owners of what was to be the Gin and Juice Bar announced they’d be taking over the space, but that obviously never happened.

What in the world were Tres Dean and the rest of the people at College of the Desert Performing Arts thinking when they decided to produce The Rocky Horror Show—with a cast and crew primarily consisting of unseasoned college students?

After all, it’s a complex musical with a large cast, challenging songs and a whole lot of choreography. At the opening-night show, my concern was heightened when a student wearing a headset took the stage and announced that the show’s start would be delayed a bit due to “technical difficulties.”

Gulp.

Heck, the name of Rocky Horror’s writer, Richard O’Brien, is misspelled on the show’s promo poster and program cover, for crying out loud.

The prospects, as they say, were looking dim.

Time-warp two hours into the future, though, and I was smiling. So were the rest of the attendees of the sold-out show as they left COD’s Theatre Too—because these talented students and their teachers had pulled it off. In every way, College of the Desert’s Rocky Horror Show is a rollicking, risqué good time.

Many elements of the show—directed by Dean, the assistant professor of theater at COD—were beyond impressive. The amazingly complex set, with multiple stairs and platforms and even a pull-down diagram depicting how to do the “Time Warp,” would have made a large-budget professional company proud; hats off to J.W. Layne, the college’s technical specialist, who acted as the scenic and properties designer. The costumes by Kailey Osgood-McAuliffe were perfect. And the five-piece band, conducted by Scott Smith, was tight. Amazing stuff.

In his introductory remarks, Dean—who noted that this is the first musical being performed in COD’s Theatre Two space in more than a decade—said he’s been emphasizing a student-first philosophy when it comes to casting and producing plays at College of the Desert, and he was proud to announce that COD students constituted “95 percent” of the Rocky Horror cast. He must have been beaming with pride after seeing what he’s helped these students accomplish.

That’s not to say all of the performances in the show were flawless. Portions definitely had a community-theater feel, and there was a wide range of acting, dancing and singing proficiency displayed throughout the cast. However, if you’re coming to COD expecting a fully professional production like you’d find a short walk away at the McCallum Theatre, you need to get your expectations in check.

By far, the most fully realized performance came from Alden Dickey, who played our bespectacled, uptight, tighty-whitey-wearing hero, Brad. This COD student can act, and boy, can he sing. If you slipped him into a Rocky Horror performance on a pro stage in New York or L.A., he’d fit right in. Michael Hadley, one of the non-student ringers in the cast—although he’s a COD alumnus who works at the college—was splendid as Riff Raff, the put-upon servant of Dr. Frank-n-Furter who gets his revenge in the end.

In that plumb role of the good Dr. Frank, Adam Genesta did well, for the most part. He sounded, sang and moved (other than some awkwardness in high heels) like the Frank-n-Furter we all know and love, even if his facial expressions seemed somewhat random at times. While Alden Dickey as Brad threatened to steal the show thanks to his amazing pipes, Genesta took it back by leaving the audience in absolute stitches during the scene toward the end when Dr. Frank slowly, oh so slowly, loses his life.

Johnny Bolth overcame some initial nervousness and wound up shining as the pipe-smoking, stuffy narrator. Briana Taylor was perfectly cast as Janet—man, she’s gorgeous. She won over the audience, even if her singing wasn’t always up to par.

Alisha Bates and April Mejia were fun as Magenta and Columbia, respectively, and Christine Michele was good during her brief appearance as Eddie. Yes, you read that right: Eddie is played by a woman, an interesting casting choice by Dean that makes the sexual dynamics of Rocky Horror even stranger. Who knew that was even possible?

Fans of abs will enjoy Raz Segev as Frank-n-Furter’s masterpiece, Rocky. I am still trying to recover from the handstand/butt-flex moves he showed off during one of the musical numbers. Alma Johnson-Lacy was amusing in during her brief time onstage as Dr. Scott, even if her wig was a bit ridiculous.

Ramon Martinez, Sergio Lopez, Courtney Pittsley, Leslie Benjamin, Miranda Hane, Ronda Williams, Brieana Holguin, Tamani Ono and Rebecca Ann Rodriguez kept the energy going as the cast’s Transylvanians and Phantoms, thanks in part to excellent choreography by Shea New.

If you’re a fan of this legendary show, by all means, go, and support the amazing College of the Desert talent that’s on display. By the time the cast concludes with an encore of “The Time Warp,” you’ll be beaming from ear to ear.

The Rocky Horror Show is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 3 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 2; there’s also a midnight show on Halloween. It takes place at Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., in Palm Desert. Tickets are $30 general, with discounts for students, COD staff and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 760-773-2565, or visit collegeofthedesert.edu/performingarts.

What: Seafood Thursday Dinner at the Potrero Canyon Buffet

Where: Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon

How much: $22.95 with a players’ club card

Contact: 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com

Why: You can pig out on crab or dessert or shrimp or whatever else.

I grew up in Nevada, a fact I’ve noted in this space before. The more time I’ve spent away from Nevada, the more I’ve become convinced that growing up in a state where casinos are everywhere makes you … well, just a little different.

For example, take buffets—specifically, casino buffets. Some non-Nevadans tend to be a little wary of large buffets, fearing potential disease and mediocre, mass-quantity food. However, these fears are unwarranted. First of all, I have eaten at casino buffets hundreds of times, and never have I gotten food poisoning from one. Not once. And second of all, great food can be found at many casino buffets—and such is the case at Morongo’s Potrero Canyon Buffet.

We went there for a birthday celebration on a recent Thursday night—which just so happens to be seafood night—and everyone in our large party thoroughly enjoyed the bevy of food on offer. That’s not to say everything was good—among many dozens of dishes both hot and cold, and both sweet and savory, there are bound to be a few clunkers. However, each of us found an item or four that we absolutely reveled in. For one person, it was the crispy fried shrimp (with oodles of cocktail sauce). For another, it was the unlimited quantity of crab legs.

For me? I was having a sweet-tooth sort of night, so my personal highlight came at the dessert case, where I enjoyed cookies and German chocolate cake and even a miniature lemon-meringue tart.

Yeah, the experience wasn’t so good for my waistline, but it did limited damage to my wallet—and absolutely enthralled my taste buds.

So, go. Don’t be afraid of the casino buffet. Trust me: I’m a former Nevadan.

What: The Grilled Miso Cod Set

Where: Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise, 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $17.95

Contact: 760-325-3005; otootorestaurant.com

Why: The price is right—and the fish is splendid.

Several of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed have been at Nobu, the extremely high-end Japanese restaurant chain owned by Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa.

Nobu’s house specialty is black cod in miso, a stunningly delicious piece of fish that is at once sweet, savory and velvety. It’s often included in the omakase tasting menus at Nobu ($100 to $200 at the Los Angeles Nobu)—or if you want to order the black cod with miso à la carte, it’s $32.

Pricey? Yes—and Nobu is two hours away, to boot. But the news is good for local foodies who don’t want to leave the valley and/or fork over $32, minimum, for a piece of fish: Gyoro Gyoro, in the heart of Palm Springs, is now offering miso cod.

Is the miso cod at Gyoro Gyoro as delectable as the version that made Nobu Matsuhisa a household name? Not quite … but it’s not that far off, either: This grilled cod is a flavor and texture delight—and it’s almost half the price of Nobu’s version.

But wait … there’s more! The “set” (it’s basically fancy bento box) that includes the cod also comes with miso soup, a lovely salad, a side dish (an impressive cold radish-noodle dish when we were there) and rice. (I spent $3 extra to upgrade that rice into four California roll pieces; I was glad I did.) Not bad for $17.95 (plus that $3 upgrade), eh? You can get a larger entrée portion—sans the set, but with veggies and Japanese Satsuma sweet mashed potatoes—for $21.95.

I recommend getting to Gyoro Gyoro a little early and taking advantage of the restaurant’s nice happy hour. Daily from 3 to 6:30 p.m. (or 10 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday), enjoy discounted treats such as a lychee sake-tini ($4.95) or a splendid spicy tuna roll ($5.95).

Add the cocktail, the roll and the miso set together, and you’re still spending less than $32. That’s a great deal. Hooray for Gyoro Gyoro!

Some thoughts percolating through my head this month:

• It was two years ago this month that CVIndependent.com first went live to the world. And it was one year ago this month that the Coachella Valley Independent—after two quarterly print editions—became the monthly print publication that it is today.

So, yeah, October’s kind of an important month for us.

We debated having a big anniversary party, kind of like we did for last year’s print-edition launch and one-year online anniversary, but we decided to hold off and put all of our efforts into creating a kick-ass Best of Coachella Valley party, coming your way most likely in early December. Keep your eye open for more details about that.

By the way, have you voted in the Best of Coachella Valley yet? Round One of voting ends Oct. 3, and the Final Round begins Oct. 8. So, go vote now at CVIndependent.com!

• While the Independent is holding off on an anniversary party, we’re sponsoring All Night Shoes—aka Alex Harrington—as he celebrates the one-year anniversary of his FRESH Sessions mixes for CVIndependent.com. Join us at the party: It’s going down at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club at 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11. DJ Day and COLOUR VISION will be joining All Night Shoes for one hell of a dance party—and there’s no cover. See ya there!

• Speaking of anniversaries: An organization that’s quite important to me and the Independent is celebrating 10 years of existence this month.

Ever since I moved here, I’ve been a part of the Palm Springs Gay Softball League. I’ve played on and helped coach the team now known as The Green Team for almost two years—and I’ve had the time of my life while doing so. (The Independent sponsors The Green Team, too.)

The league will be celebrating the big anniversary at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5, at Demuth Park, on Mesquite Drive just east of El Cielo Road, in Palm Springs. Come and join in the celebration—especially if you are or were once part of the league, or if you want to know more about it. (By the way, you don’t need to be gay, lesbian or bisexual to play in the league; you just need to be a fun person.)

If you can’t make it on Oct. 5, the league plays games on most Sundays between October and May (with a holiday break in January and much of February) at Demuth Park, so come on down.

Congratulations to everyone in the league! Get more information at psgsl.org.

East Valley Restaurant Week

Let’s face it: As great as Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week is, the vast majority of the participants in the May-June event are located in Palm Springs, Palm Desert or somewhere in between. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, there’s a lot right about the new East Valley Restaurant Week, a creation of the Indio Chamber of Commerce. According to CVDining.com, the event “will showcase restaurants throughout the eastern portion of our valley, from the cove of La Quinta to the emerging developments in North Indio,” from Thursday, Oct. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 1.

As of this writing, 14 places are listed as partner restaurants, ranging from old favorites like the Shields Date Garden Café and El Rincon Norteño, to newer hotspots like JOY at Fantasy Springs, to … Sizzler? Yes, Sizzler. Anyway, each participating restaurant will feature at least two discounted popular menu items during the week.

Also included are satellite events, including the Taste of the East Valley Sampler, at Shields, 80225 Highway 111 in Indio, from 4 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22; admission is $10.

Get the list of participants and more information at CVdining.com.

Another Restaurant Crowd-Sourcing Campaign: Bart Lounge

The minds behind Bart Lounge are calling it “the art bar and live music venue”—and they want your help in bringing this “creative fusion of art, alcohol and live music” to fruition.

Here’s what we know about Bart Lounge: Michael Murphy, 27, is the driving force behind the proposed bar. He said he’s raised most of the $75,000 he needs to open the doors sometime in early 2015, but he’s launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise about $22,250, running through Oct. 9.

“I really wanted a place where I could bring the snooty art gallery world into a more-laid-back, casual setting,” Murphy said in a news release. “You know, a place where you could grab a beer and check out some art without some jerk security guard breathing down your neck.”

Murphy said the bar would also have a small dance floor and host live music.

What we don’t know: Where Bart Lounge would actually be located. Murphy said the spot can’t be revealed until the “final lease is signed,” and that had apparently not happened as of our press deadline. (A picture on the Bart Lounge Facebook page may offer a clue: It showed a “design board” with Cathedral City listed as the location. But who knows?)

Want to contribute to the cause, or at least get more info? Head to BartLounge.com, or visit the Bart Lounge Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bartlounge.

New: La Suerte at Spotlight 29

Coachella’s Spotlight 29 has added a new Mexican restaurant to its mix.

La Suerte opened in September in the spot once occupied by JEM Steakhouse, and offers Mexican specialties in addition to steaks and seafood.

La Suerte opens at 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. To make reservations or peruse the menu, head to www.spotlight29.com/dining/suerte.php.

’Tis the Season: Summer Closures Coming to an End

It’s October, and that means nearly all of the restaurants that closed their doors during the toasty summer months will be reopening this month, if they haven’t already—and some of the restaurants will be showing off some improvements, too.

Take Vicky’s of Santa Fe, for example. The restaurant, located at 45100 Club Drive, in Indian Wells, will reopen Friday, Oct. 3, with a party featuring jazz musician Janis Mann. The restaurant will be showing off a new courtyard and entrance featuring paving stones, as well as new flooring and furnishings inside.

There’s also a new website at www.vickysofsantafe.com, where you can find menus, a music schedule and much more.

In Brief

Congrats to Dish Creative Cuisine, formerly of Cathedral City and opening soon at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. It was recently named one of OpenTable.com’s Top 100 Fit for Foodies Restaurants in America. … Simon Kitchen and Bar at the Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, opened Wednesday, Sept. 24. The executive chef at the Kerry Simon venture is Jeremy Saccardi, formerly of the Parker Palm Springs. … Sad news: The owner of Hamburger Mary’s Palm Springs, which is located at 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page that he would not be reopening the restaurant in the fall—although the post seemed to leave the door open for a possible new owner. If that happens, we’ll let you know. … The Palm Springs Air Museum’s Seventh Annual Chili Cook Off and Classic Car Show takes place on Saturday, Oct. 25. The chili-tasting goes from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.; get six tastes for $5, plus museum admission. Get more details at www.palmspringsairmuseum.org.

There is one reason, really, to go see Desert Rose Playhouse’s production of Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins: The absolutely stunning performance by Garrett Hoy as Horace Poore, a young man dealing with the realization that he’s gay in 1970s rural America.

This is not to say there aren’t other great performances in the play; in fact, the entire cast is excellent. So, too, is the direction by Jim Strait. Brian Christopher Williams’ script is compelling, despite a few flaws, and the production values are just as we’ve come to expect at Desert Rose—excellent.

But it’s the amazing work by Hoy you’ll be talking about as you leave the theater. This two-hour play is, essentially, a monologue by Hoy’s Horace Poore. He is narrating his journey as he moves from being a 7-year-old in 1969 who watches in horror as his big brother, Chaz (Alex Enriquez), flees to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War draft, to being a 15-year-old in 1977 who comes out to his family after realizing he’s gay.

The national concerns of the 1970s—that war, a recession, Watergate, the energy crisis—directly affect the Poore family and their Adirondack Mountains community. Horace’s mother, Etta (a homey, hilarious Lorraine Williamson) loses her job in a shirt-making factory due to the economy—and has a hard time finding another due to her age and a lack of a high school diploma. Horace’s gruff but loving father, Myron (a fantastic J. Stegar Thompson), is forced to deal with the sigma of having a draft-dodging son while working as his union’s president. Brother Chaz loses touch with the family until President Jimmy Carter’s pardon allows him to return from Canada. Meanwhile, the entire Poore family deals with the screams of one of their neighbors, a mentally challenged, doll-clutching middle-aged woman named Agnes (Toni Molano).

Heavy topics, yes. However, this play is surprisingly light-hearted, thanks to the charm and awkward, youthful charisma of Hoy’s Horace. While these aforementioned news events affect him, too, it’s other noteworthy happenings that cause Horace’s mind to race. First comes swimmer Mark Spitz’s domination of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Spitz’s historic accomplishments don’t necessarily enthrall Horace—but “bronze God” Spitz’s smooth, muscled body does.

“I’ve always known I was different. Now I know why,” Horace sighs.

Horace is further thrown into turmoil when he stumbles into the middle school locker room one day and spies, naked in the shower, his own, local version of Mark Spitz (and the lust that he represents): Mr. Spencer, the school’s gym teacher (Domingo Winstead). In the months and years that follow, Mr. Spencer and Horace grow close.

Several years later comes a second news event that particularly roils Horace: The emergence on the national scene of Anita Bryant, the singer, beauty queen and orange-juice spokeswoman who took it upon herself to fight an ordinance in Dade County, Fla., that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As any American who was alive back then knows, her “Save Our Children” campaign turned her into a prominent spokeswoman for the anti-gay movement. Her popularity rattles Horace; he can’t wait to get the newspaper each day to learn more.

Daniel Vaillancourt and Katie Pavao each play a variety of characters, generally 1970s news figures who emerge and offer visuals and narration to complement Horace’s musings. Pavao spends much of her time earning laughs and stealing scenes as Anita Bryant. (Despite the name of the play, Anita Bryant is still alive, by the way, although her career is certainly dead.)

Williamson and Thompson are fantastic as Horace’s parents. They create nuanced characters who are alternately hilarious, loving and troubled. The two also have great chemistry together; one of the show’s best scenes occurs when an angry Etta confronts Myron after he’s fired from his job. By the end of the scene, the tables are turned: Etta is comforting and consoling Myron. Great stuff.

This play’s problems, minor though they may be, largely involve the chronology and how it’s telegraphed. The play starts with a broadcast of the 1977 World Series, and then suddenly shifts back eight years, to 1969. However, there weren’t enough verbal and visual cues to clearly illustrate this shift right way, and I was left for several minutes wondering what had happened. (A major typo in the program—it lists the play’s timing as “October 1977 and eight years proceeding,” rather than preceding—contributed to my confusion.)

Also: Perhaps I missed something, but it seemed like Horace first glimpsed Mr. Spencer in the junior-high locker-room shortly after Horace’s 1972 Mark Spitz infatuation. However, it wasn’t until Bryant’s emergence on the national scene in 1977 that Horace began talking about soon entering high school. That would mean Horace spent five years in junior high. Huh?

Whatever. Timing confusion is not the point here: The point is that Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins is fantastic because Garrett Hoy is so fantastic. His Horace seems so darned real. We’ve all seen child actors before who, because they are taught to E-NUN-CI-ATE! by their acting teachers, come out onstage and speak like seasoned politicians. Hoy, however, doesn’t always enunciate his words all that well. In fact, at times, he seems to ramble—yet he’s always understandable. In other words, he talks like a 15-year-old. Perfect.

I was also blown away by Hoy’s command of the script. This role would be difficult for a seasoned, veteran performer, as Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins is essentially a two-hour monologue by Horace, with some breaks here and there. Only once during the entire show did I sense that Hoy was having difficulty (and that moment lasted maybe two seconds, total). Brilliant work.

After the show, which concluded with a standing ovation for Hoy, director Jim Strait told me this is the first nonmusical role for Hoy ever. The folks at Desert Rose, the valley’s LGBT and LGBT-friendly theater company, knew Hoy thanks to his role in the company’s performance of Falsettos in Concert two years ago. They were left so impressed, Strait said, that they checked to make sure Hoy was available to play Horace before the company added the play to the schedule as the 2014-2015 season-opener.

“Not bad for a 15-year-old,” I told Strait, grossly understating things

“Actually, Garrett’s still 14,” Strait said.

Wow. Go see Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins, and enjoy one of the best performances you’re likely to see on a Coachella Valley stage this season.

Desert Rose Playhouse’s Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 19, at 69260 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $28 to $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

What: The Desert Jewel

Where: Citron, inside the Viceroy Palm Springs, 415 S. Belardo Road, Palm Springs

How much: $14

Contact: 760-318-3005; www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/palmsprings

Why: It’s a perfect craft cocktail.

Regular readers of this feature know that your humble scribe likes—no, loves—a good craft cocktail.

Regular readers between the lines of this feature know that your humble scribe is pretty frustrated at the relative dearth of great craft cocktails in this valley.

Thankfully, more and more bars and restaurants are moving beyond Cape Cods and Jack-and-Cokes—and Citron at the Viceroy is undeniably one of the leaders of our valley’s emerging craft-cocktail scene.

Consider the Desert Jewel, Citron’s signature drink. The ingredient list: Absolut Mandarin, Aperol, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and Veuve champagne.

Great ingredients, yes, but the result of their combination is, as the saying goes, greater than the sum of the parts. The Desert Jewel is sweet, but subtly so. It’s citrusy, but not acidic. None of the ingredients overwhelm—which was a concern I had after reading the menu, because grapefruit tends to dominate. The cocktail is simply a refreshing, flavorful, slightly savory delight.

Of course, there’s a downside to craft cocktails at places like the Viceroy: They tend to be expensive, and this $14 drink is not an exception to that rule. One way to lessen the financial blow is to head to Citron’s oddly lit bar during Happy Hour—that’s 4:30 to 7 p.m., Sunday through Thursday—when some nice appetizers (including a revelatory watermelon gazpacho) and great cocktails can be had for just $6 each.

Sadly, the Desert Jewel is not one of those $6 cocktails. However, I’d take one $14 Desert Jewel over two $7 Cape Cods anytime. Life’s just too short for crappy cocktails. 

After the McCallum Theatre announced the addition of more than a dozen shows to the 2014-2015 season, I asked Mitch Gershenfeld—the McCallum’s president, CEO and chief booker—if he was done adding to the lineup.

“There may be one or two more things,” he said. “We may have one or two surprises up our sleeves, but the calendar’s getting pretty full.”

He’s not kidding: In February, for example, the McCallum is booked for 24 of the month’s 28 days. In March, only six days are open. The packed schedule is one reason why the Palm Desert venue is usually the top-selling theater in California—and one of the top-selling theaters in the world—each spring, according to Pollstar magazine.

Another reason: the quality and variety of the shows at the McCallum. Highlights of the new additions to the schedule include Ray LaMontagne, on Tuesday, Oct. 21; Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers, on Monday, Nov. 10; country music legend Willie Nelson and Family, on Wednesday, Jan. 7; comedy great Jay Leno, on Saturday, Jan. 24; and “American Pie” legend Don McLean on Tuesday, March 17.

When asked which of the new additions about which he was particularly excited, Gershenfeld mentioned Jay Leno, the former Tonight Show host.

“That should be a lot of fun. We’ve never worked with him before,” Gershenfeld said of Leno.

Not many comics are a good fit for a mid-size venue like the McCallum, Gershenfeld noted, although he said he’s happy with the McCallum’s comedy lineup this season, which includes a newly announced stop by the Last Comic Standing tour (Sunday, Nov. 23), and a previously announced show by the legendary Bob Newhart (Friday, Feb. 20).

Gershenfeld also said he was looking forward to the performance by music great Ray LaMontagne. He will play just two days after the McCallum’s new season officially kicks off with the theater’s third-annual Family Fun day.

“He usually plays much larger rooms,” Gershenfeld said about the Grammy-winning singer. “… Everything aligned the right way (for him to perform at the McCallum).”

Gershenfeld also mentioned newly booked shows by two country greats: Willie Nelson, and Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers.

“Willie likes to play the McCallum,” Gershenfeld said. “We’re really happy we can bring him back.”

As for Vince Gill’s show, it’s the inclusion of the Time Jumpers that will make that performance truly special, Gershenfeld said.

“In country music, there are a lot of musicians who reside in Nashville, and do nothing but record,” he explained. “They’re incredible studio musicians—and that’s who the Time Jumpers are. They tour very rarely.”

Gershenfeld said he’s pleased with the “tremendous amount of variety” in the theater’s season, from the singers to the comedians to the Broadway shows, such as Nice Work If You Can Get It, which will stop at the McCallum for five shows March 13-15. The musical comedy, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, wrapped up more than a year on Broadway in June 2013, and just began the national tour that will eventually bring it to the McCallum.

“It’s the best Gershwin musical to come to Broadway in perhaps 30 years,” he said.

Individual tickets for all shows during the McCallum Theatre’s 2014-2015 season went on sale on Tuesday, Sept. 16. For tickets, more information and a complete schedule of shows, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.