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Sun11182018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

November is here, which means the weather has been cooling off, and the holiday season is about to arrive. It also means the Coachella Valley and high desert are full of great events.

Speaking of great events: The McCallum Theatre has a busy November, including shows by Lea DeLaria and Jake Shimabukuro, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue. Here are a few others you should consider: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, country-music star Travis Tritt will offer an intimate acoustic-style performance, during which he’ll share stories about his life and career. These types of shows are always interesting, and the McCallum is the perfect venue for this type of concert. Tickets are $38 to $88. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell will take the stage. He’s written hit songs for many country musicians, including Keith Urban, and he’s won two Grammy Awards. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16, Irish singing group Celtic Thunder will perform. The group has been wildly popular ever since its first television special on PBS in 2008. Celtic Thunder is a huge draw in America and uses dramatics, comedy, lighting and choreography to dazzle audiences. Tickets are $60 to $90. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is offering an awesome list of November shows. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, Rascal Flatts will be performing. Rascal Flatts was one of the biggest country groups of the ’00s and continues to be a powerhouse in country music. The group has sold more than 20 million records and has 17 No. 1 singles. Tickets are $69 to $159. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall will be stopping by as part of her Turn Up the Quiet world tour. I had a chance to check out Krall during a stop at Fantasy Springs a couple of years ago—and she was magnificent. If you love jazz, Diana Krall is a must-see. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17, pop legend Paula Abdul will be performing. Paula Abdul was a huge name in ’90s R&B and could dance like no other. She’s sold more than 60 million records, has been a dance choreographer, and has been a judge on American Idol. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some big names stopping by in November. First up, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, is Eagles lead vocalist, drummer, and guitarist Don Henley. Henley found success as a solo artist after the Eagles first breakup in 1980, releasing his first solo album in 1982—but it was his second, Building the Perfect Beast, in 1984, that landed him his big hit “The Boys of Summer,” which has become a radio staple. Tickets are $175 to $250. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17, pop singer Johnny Mathis will be performing. Mathis does what has been described as “standards” and “romantic ballads,” but his vocal range and catalog include R&B, country, blues, soul and many other genres. Tickets are $90 to $120. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of fine events scheduled in November. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, it’ll be a night of music from Sinaloa, Mexico, when Voz De Mando and Kanales will be performing. You might remember Voz De Mando from the 2011 film A Better Life. The band has become a hit with both American and Latin audiences. Kanales’ life story—coming to the United States for a better life at the age of 15, and finding success through singing—is remarkable, but the music the man makes is definitely worth the hype: His songs are deep and tell the stories of lessons he’s learned and struggles through which he’s lived. Advance tickets are $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17, country music star Easton Corbin (upper right) will be performing. Corbin has charted with “A Little More Country Than That,” “Roll With It” and “I Can’t Love You Back.” He’s performed at Stagecoach and toured with Brad Paisley. Tickets are $40 to $60. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a few noteworthy November events. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, comedian, talk-show host and political commentator Dennis Miller will be performing. While his political opinions have taken a turn toward the unpopular, he was the best Weekend Update personality Saturday Night Live ever had. Tickets are $69 to $89. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, reality-television star Teresa Giudice will be appearing. I spent way too much time trying to figure out how this show was going to work, and what the former Real Housewives of New Jersey and Celebrity Apprentice star will be doing. My best guess: Discussing her time spent in a federal prison for fraud? And her husband’s deportation back to his native Italy? Tickets are $35 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s is rolling into November with a fantastic schedule. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, Starcrawler will be performing. Starcrawler is an independent band that’s about to go to some pretty awesome places. This Echo Park group certainly knows how to rock, and the band’s songs are a kick in the ass. The group’s appeared on Apple Beats 1 radio, and Elton John played ’em on his Rocket Hour radio show. The band has an album being produced by Ryan Adams coming out soon, too. Also appearing: The Entire Universe, which is fronted by Jeffertitti, formerly the frontman of Jeffertitti’s Nile, and a former bassist in Father John Misty’s band. Jeffertitti is pretty far out, but in an awesome way. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, country musician Jesse Dayton will take the stage. He’s performed on albums with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, The Supersuckers, and Kris Kristofferson. He also worked with Rob Zombie on some of his films. Also on the bill: Charlie Overbey, who has been touring after releasing his new album Broken Arrow earlier this year. Tickets are $20. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 24, the Meat Puppets will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. If you’ve never seen the Meat Puppets before, I highly recommend ’em. The band appeared with Nirvana on the Unplugged special and has been listed as an influence for many punk-rock and desert-rock bands. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a couple of great dinner-show events to consider. At 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, former Broadway actress and singer Nancy Dussault will be performing. She appeared on Broadway in musicals such as The Sound of Music, Bajour and Do Re Mi. She’s still performing at the age of 82. Tickets are $45 to $50. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3 singer/songwriter Chadwick Johnson will take the stage. He’ll be performing the music of Las Vegas, which is certainly jazzy, upbeat and good to listen to during martini time. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, actress and singer Linda Lavin will be performing. You might remember her from the show Alice. She’s a noteworthy singer as well, and will be performing with a backing band. Tickets are $50 to $60. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed has one event scheduled for November: At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 29, SoCal reggae band and Date Shed regulars Fortunate Youth will be performing. The Hermosa Beach band also includes ska and punk in its sound. The group’s shows are always well-attended, and they are always asked back. Tickets are $20 in advance. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

The Copa Palm Springs has one ticketed event in November, too: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, The Divine Miss Bette starring Catherine Alcorn will grace the Copa stage. It’s billed as a cabaret show with the songs of Bette Midler—and it’s received a lot of critical acclaim. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

Lea DeLaria is known for different things in different circles.

Mainstream audiences know her for stealing scenes as Carrie “Big Boo” Black on Netflix’s hit series Orange Is the New Black.

LGBT audiences know her as a pioneering comedian. She started performing in San Francisco in the early 1980s, and became the first openly gay/lesbian comic on a late-night show when she appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1993.

Music-loving audiences know her as a fantastic jazz musician—who paid tribute to the great David Bowie with her album House of David, released in 2015, just months before Bowie passed away.

All of DeLaria’s talents will be on display when she performs at the McCallum Theatre at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8. In fact, DeLaria usually blends these talents when she performs—because audiences can’t handle her otherwise, she said during a recent phone interview.

“I do music and comedy together, because my comedy’s so loud, fast, vulgar, in your face, rowdy and crazy that people can only take it for about five minutes, and they’re like, ‘Mommy, make it stop!’ she said. “So I always add a little music. That gives people a rest from my crazy, rageful, screaming comedy style.”

DeLaria will be performing some of her Bowie covers from House of David.

“He was a big supporter of this record. He championed it on his website and his social media. He told people to contribute to my campaign so that I could get the record made,” DeLaria said. “We released the cover of that album on his website. He was involved with it, which I think was kind of lovely.

“I loved him my whole life. I grew up in the Midwest—St. Louis. So, in 1974, when David Bowie walks out onstage in a fucking skirt and starts singing this amazing rock ‘n’ roll, my queer little heart in the Midwest went, ‘Oh my god.’ I mean, it was like the greatest thing I’d ever seen.

“He was probably the first real performer in the public eye who taught me that one, being weird is cool, and two, to be true to who you are as a performer. He was always ahead of the curve.”

DeLaria was born into music, in a sense.

“My father was a jazz pianist. He was always playing in the house, rehearsing in the house,” DeLaria said. “He would come home late from gigs and bring the guys home, and they would play. Me and my siblings would sit at the top of the steps and listen to them play music when it was like 2 o’clock in the morning—when we should be in bed. So I’ve always had a love of that music. He spotted it in me immediately at a very young age and taught me to sing and really instilled a passion of that music in me. In fact, it was the first thing I ever did professionally—I used to sing with him when I was a kid at the club.”

Comedy came naturally to DeLaria … as did being outspoken and political.

“I was a big voice in San Francisco in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis and was working with ACT UP,” she said. “That’s my history of comedy, and that’s why I’ve always been a really radical comic—a really in-your-face dyke comic. I’m not a comedian; I’m a dyke comic. I always call myself that.

“When I went out onstage at that time, I wasn’t even called Lea DeLaria; they called me ‘that fucking dyke.’ So when they would bring me out onstage, they would go, ‘Please welcome to the stage that fucking dyke!’ I had a shaved head and safety pins in my ears and big stomping boots. … I was a rageful, rageful lesbian. I was always in touch with my rage. I’m still in touch with my rage, and I find that’s important. It’s an important distinction—anger’s a tiny little emotion. It’s a wimpy little emotion. But rage, ooh, rage can get things done.

“That’s why I keep telling people to stay in touch with their rage this election. Rage is when people go, ‘I’m done; I’m not doing this anymore. I’m gonna do something about it.’”

While DeLaria has been singing, acting and doing comedy for decades, she gained a large mainstream audience for the first time in 2013 with the premiere of Orange Is the New Black. After five seasons on the show, DeLaria’s Big Boo only appeared in one episode of this year’s sixth season. I had to ask: Will Big Boo be back for next year’s seventh and final season?

“I can’t speak to future seasons,” she said. “I don’t know, because I was written off the show this last season, so I have no idea. I have nothing but love for Orange Is the New Black; it changed the face of the world, television and certainly my life.”

This is definitely not the first time DeLaria has performed in Palm Springs; in fact, she became part of local LGBT lore when she upset organizers while performing at a benefit more than a decade ago.

“Oh, where I insulted George W. Bush, and they turned off my mic and pulled me offstage?” she responded when I asked her about the now-infamous event. “Unbelievable censorship, especially since it was a gay event. … I was never a fan of George W. Bush, but I never thought of him as evil the way I think of Trump. So that’s what happened there. What happened was people with money—conservative, gay people with money—had me pulled off the stage for spouting my political opinion.”

In other words … come to the McCallum prepared for a great show—as long as you’re not easily offended.

Lea DeLaria will perform at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $25 to $75. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Previews

In 2006, a YouTube upload of Jake Shimabukuro playing a ukulele rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” became one of the early viral videos.

After that, the Hawaiian-born Japanese American became an ambassador, of sorts, for the ukulele, and his career has taken him to some incredible heights, including performances with Jimmy Buffett, Jack Johnson, Bette Midler, Ziggy Marley, Bela Fleck and many others.

He’ll be performing at the McCallum Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Shimabukuro said during a recent phone interview that ukulele renditions of rock songs never feel strange to him, even when he ventures into works such as New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9.”

“I’m a big fan of so many different bands and different music, so when I have the opportunity to cover one of their songs, it’s like the equivalent of wearing your favorite athlete’s jersey,” Shimabukuro said. “I just love that music can make such an impact on someone’s life.”

After growing up in Hawaii, Shimabukuro said he feels a connection to traditional ukulele music.

“When I first started, that was all that I really played. To this day, I still do the traditional music, because that’s a big part of my culture and a big part of the instrument,” he said. “In all of my concerts, I make sure that I have at least one or two traditional songs in the show so I can really bring it back to the roots of the instrument.”

When I brought up his cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Shimabukuro gave a nod to the late Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole as having performed one of the best covers of that song.

“I really think that version is very special—the re-harmonization of the song and the stripping down of the elements of the Judy Garland version from the Wizard of Oz that we’re all familiar with,” he said about Kamakawiwo’ole’s version. “I think what he did with the song is absolutely brilliant. He re-harmonized the tune in a simplistic way that I never thought I would ever hear in that song. His choice of how he phrases and arranged the melody—he does alter it, but not too much where it feels like a different song—is stunning and one of the most moving arrangements of that song that I’m aware of.”

Ukulele is being played more and more in contemporary pop/rock music—and Shimabukuro loves it.

“For me, I think in the last 15 to 20 years, there have been so many wonderful artists that are very respected and have picked up the instrument. I feel like I’m in good company,” he said. “Eddie Vedder did a ukulele record. The lead singer of Pearl Jam doing a ukulele album—that blew my mind! Paul McCartney started playing it during live shows as a tribute to George Harrison. Bands like Train in their song ‘Hey, Soul Sister,’ that whole track’s driving force is the ukulele. … Seeing these iconic musicians and artists picking up the ukulele—it’s cool, and it becomes something that becomes acceptable.

“I’m stoked, man. A lot of it started with George Harrison, who was a big ambassador for the instrument, because he lived in Hawaii, and he fell in love with the instrument and started using it in his recordings and his concerts. He was known for always bringing ukuleles with him to get-togethers.”

Even as Shimabukuro’s popularity has grown, he said he still loves Hawaii and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“When I was younger, I thought it would be cool in New York City, Japan, or even in Los Angeles or Nashville where you have so much access to music and the arts. The older I got, I realized that in Hawaii, I was so fortunate to be born and raised here,” he said. “Especially as an Asian American living in the United States, I think Hawaii is the only place where you can grow up and be part of the majority as an Asian American. Anywhere else, I would have had a different experience as an Asian American. We have such an amazing culture and rich heritage. There’s so much history here in the islands. The music was very influential. The culture and the lifestyle really shaped who I am and how I approach music and the arts.

“As far as moving now, it’d be hard, because I’m married, and I have two kids. I really want my kids to have a similar experience growing up, taking them to the beach, and taking them fishing.”

For his show at the McCallum, Shimabukuro is going to strip things down a bit.

“The last couple of years, I’ve been touring with a band. For this tour, it’s going to be a trio,” he said. “I have a bass player from Nashville named Nolan Verner, and I have a guitar player named Dave Preston who is a great guitarist. It’ll just be the three of us—electric guitar, electric bass and electric ukulele.”

Jake Shimbukuro will perform at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $28 to $78. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Previews

Welcome to fall and (slightly) cooler weather … and enjoy these hot October events!

The McCallum Theatre is open for the season and is ready for a fantastic 2018-2019 schedule. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2, the “Queen of Ranchera Music,” Aida Cuevas, will be performing a tribute to her mentor, Juan Gabriel. Tickets are $28 to $88. At noon, Sunday, Oct. 21, the McCallum will be hosting its Seventh Annual Family Fun Day, and the show for this year is Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium Adventure. The show is meant to provide the experience of exploring the ocean depths—with prehistoric reptiles—via puppets, science and imagination! Yay! Tickets are $10 to $30. Now, for something a little edgier … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, a group of Canadian musicians will perform Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety as part of Classic Albums Live. However, this show will not feature lasers, costumes or anything hokey like that—just the music. Tickets are $28 to $58. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great list of October events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19, guitarist and singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs will be performing. Scaggs has written numerous great tunes since he started rocking in the ’70s, and he’s racked up a bunch of smash singles and a Grammy Award; he’s still wildly popular today. Tickets are $49 to $69. If that wasn’t enough, one of the most popular artists of the new millennium, Christina Aguilera, will be performing at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24. She released a highly anticipated new album back in June titled Liberation—it was her eighth album overall, but her first in six years. It received rave reviews and solidified the comeback trail on which she finds herself. Tickets are $89 to $199. Remember back in the ’90s when Lord of the Dance was a thing? With that Michael Flatley guy? Well, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26. What is it? Well, it’s a more-modern take on Lord of the Dance, with special-effects lighting, dancing robots and acrobats. OK then! Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of huge shows coming in October. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, in a fabulous “WTF? Huh?!” kind of musical collaboration that has turned out to be a big hit, Sting and Shaggy will be performing. It’s sort of a clash of “Every Breath You Take” and “Boombastic.” Since their collaborative album dropped earlier this year, it’s been the talk of music critics. Tickets are $135 to $185. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, country-music star Toby Keith will take the stage. He sings songs about driving a Ford pickup truck while he drinks his cold ones out of red Solo cups, and will sing “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” … but you already know that, as he’s a huge star. Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, Keith accompanied our president to Saudi Arabia, where he played his brand of country for a room full of Saudi royalty … men only allowed. Hmm. Tickets are $165 to $195. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29, as usual, is offering an intriguing blend of rock and Latin music events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, Julian Torres will be performing his Juan Gabriel tribute show Amor Eterno. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, Latin-music group Banda El Recodo will take the stage. If you’re not familiar with the group, think of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans, and the legacy it has preserved over the years regarding jazz music … and that’s what Banda El Recodo is to Latin music. It has been going since 1938 after being formed by the Lizarraga Family, and two of the Lizarragas perform in the group today. The group has won an amazing nine Grammy Awards. Tickets are $40 to 50. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, iconic rock band REO Speedwagon (upper right) will be performing. The group has 13 Top 40 hits, including “Keep on Loving You,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Take It on the Run.” Tickets are $75 to $85. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino has one event by a popular performer you might want to consider, but hurry: Tickets were nearly sold out as of our press deadline. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, psychic-medium and reality-television star Tyler Henry will be performing. Henry is notable for one event: In a rather morbid and messed-up way, he predicted the death of Alan Thicke. Tickets are $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is a fantastic place to be in October. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 4, indie-folk artist Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band will be performing. Oberst—known for his other bands including Bright Eyes, The Faint, Commander Venus, Desaparecidos, etc., etc.—was pretty popular in the early ’00s and is still quite influential. He’s no stranger to Pappy and Harriet’s, and his shows there usually sell out, but this one still had tickets left as of our deadline. Tickets are $31. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, the hilarious country-music group The Evangenitals will be performing. Why do I always mention it when this group plays at Pappy’s? Because the band is fantastic and one a hell of a good time. Seriously! Stay through ’til the end when the show gets very raunchy, and be sure to scream that you want to hear “The Vagina Song.” Best part about it: Admission is free! At 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, the Queen of the High Desert, Jesika von Rabbit, will return to Pappy’s. Jesika recently dropped her new album, Dessert Rock (Ha ha! Get it?), and it is fantastic! Tickets are $15 to $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a fun October lineup. At 6 p.m.., Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6, the fabulous Marilyn Maye will be performing. She’s a well-known American jazz singer, cabaret singer and musical-theater performer. At 90 years old, she’s still going. In this intimate setting, these will be great shows. Tickets are $70 to $90. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, jazz-singer Jonathan Karrant will be celebrating an album-release show. The former Metropolitan Opera House singer has earned raves by singing jazz in a unique way for audiences in smaller rooms. Tickets are $25 to $35. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed has one fine October event. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, reggae singer HIRIE (below) will be performing. The San Diego native has an album streaming called Wandering Soul, and it sounds pretty fascinating. This should be a good show. Tickets are $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

Published in Previews

That time of year is upon us when we say our temporary goodbyes to the snowbirds—and the valley becomes a lot quieter. However, there are still shows that’ll be just as hot as the weather will be.

Alas, the McCallum Theatre goes dark during the summer months—but there are still a handful of great events there in May. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 9, everyone’s favorite comedy/parody rocker, Weird Al Yankovic, will be performing. Weird Al has brilliantly spoofed many great pop, rock and rap songs through the years, and starred in his own “successful failure” of a movie, UHF. Speaking of which, Emo Philips, who played Joe Earley in UHF, will also be appearing. Tickets are $37 to $87. At 7 p.m., Saturday, May 12, singer-songwriter and actress Melissa Manchester will take the stage with the Coachella Valley Symphony. She’s released numerous albums since the early ’70s, and appeared in television shows such as Blossom and films such as For the Boys. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 4 p.m., Sunday, May 13, 70 high school music students from throughout the Coachella Valley will perform as part of the 2018 All-Valley High School Honor Band. This is the third-annual concert, for which students must audition in front of College of the Desert faculty members to perform. Tickets are $10. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

May is flat-out hot with spectacular events at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, Train will be performing. The band arrived with its debut album in 1998, scoring a hit with “Meet Virginia,” and then found it on the very top of the charts in 2010 with “Hey, Soul Sister.” Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 19, legendary R&B outfit Earth, Wind and Fire (right) will be performing. Although frontman Maurice White passed away in 2016, Earth, Wind and Fire remains as popular as ever. It is one band every music-lover should experience live at least once; I’m speaking from experience. Tickets are $49 to $79. And now the highlight: At 8 p.m., Sunday, May 27, ’80s rock icon and badass Billy Idol will take the stage. Idol’s mainstream success was well-deserved … but there was a punk-rocker inside of him who always needed to unleashed—and that side of him comes out at times. Tickets are $59 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a great May schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, May 17, former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar will be performing with his band The Circle. That band includes drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), bassist Michael Anthony (of Van Halen) and longtime Hagar guitarist Vic Johnson. Hagar was a successful solo artist in his own right before temporarily replacing David Lee Roth. Tickets are $95 to $125. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 18, enjoy a double bill from Tower of Power and Average White Band. There’s a lot of truth in Tower of Power’s name, as it is one of the most powerful R&B bands in music history. Average White Band may have a funny name, but it is one of the best-known names in funk music, most remembered for “Pick Up the Pieces.” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 26, husband-and-wife Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo will be performing. Benetar and Giraldo married in 1982, and have been performing together at times ever since. Tickets are $55 to $75. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a fun Cinco de Mayo event: At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, enjoy performances by Nacho “Nash” Bustillos, Mariachi Serenata Mexicana and DJ Morales. Mariachi Serenata Mexicana has been performing in the Coachella Valley for several years and is quite popular. Tickets are $10. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is showing no signs of a post-Coachella/Stagecoach hangover, with a packed May. At 8:30 p.m., Sunday, May 20, X bassist John Doe will be performing a solo set. John Doe’s performance at Stagecoach last year impressed me; he’s a fantastic songwriter, and his style of performance will go over well at Pappy and Harriet’s. Also on the bill: J. Micah Nelson (son of Willie, performing as Particle Kid), and Feisty Heart. Tickets are $20. At 9 p.m., Thursday, May 24, punk/ska band Fishbone will rock Pappy’s. If you’ve never seen Fishbone, you have no idea what you’re missing. Nearly the entire original lineup is back. This is going to be a high-energy show in a small setting, and you’ll love it. Tickets are $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 25, the instrumental band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (below) will perform outdoors. I’m personally stoked for this one, given I have always wanted to see the band. Godspeed’s “songs” are not songs in the classical sense; they are long and evolving jams that go to some dark and psychedelic places. Tickets are $40. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa Room Palm Springs is hosting the return of a longtime favorite. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26; and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 27, comedy and music duo Amy and Freddy will be performing. They've shared the stage with some great names such as The Supremes, Kathy Griffin and even Bea Arthur. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Published in Previews

For lovers of the performing arts who reside in the Coachella Valley, Christmas figuratively comes in April every year—because that’s when the McCallum Theatre announces what gifts it is bringing to town during the upcoming season.

To overextend this tortured metaphor … that makes Mitch Gershenfeld Santa Claus, sort of, as the McCallum president and CEO is the sleighmaster (OK, this metaphor is officially finished) who books the theater’s shows each season—a task he’s now accomplished for some 19 years.

“Every time I finish booking the season, I tell my wife, ‘I am afraid this is not going to be as good of a season as last year was,’” Gershenfeld said. “But, honestly, this is going to be a very good season.”

Tickets for the 2018-2019 will go on sale Monday, April 16, at 8 a.m. The 2018-2019 roster includes names both new and familiar to the McCallum: Singers from Jackie Evancho to Bernadette Peters to Willie Nelson, plus six performances by the Ten Tenors; traveling Broadway shows including Rent, Jersey Boys, Spamalot, Evita, The Wizard of Oz and Something Rotten; comedy greats like Lily Tomlin and Bob Newhart; and the tried-and-true McCallum series, including Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel, Fitz’s Jazz Cafe, and Gershenfeld’s own “Mitch’s Picks.”

When I asked Gershenfeld which shows excited him the most, he mentioned Savion Glover’s All FuNKD’ Up, scheduled to come to the McCallum on March 30, 2019.

“Savion is not only the greatest living tap dancer; he’s such an incredible artist,” Gershenfeld said. “He’s taken tap beyond what anyone else has done before.” All FuNKD’ Up will feature a six-piece band and a full company of dancers.

Gershenfeld said he’s also looking forward to a series coming to the McCallum for the first time: National Geographic Live will bring scientists, photographers and other great minds to the theater for Exploring Mars (Jan. 21); Coral Kingdoms and Empires of Ice (Feb. 18); and Capturing the Impossible (March 18). The Exploring Mars lecture, in particular, should be exciting, as it’ll feature Kobie Boykins, the NASA mechanical engineer who’s had a hand in numerous discoveries about the red planet—including the revelation that there was once water on Mars.

“This is a program that’s been around for many years, as a series in a lot of cities,” Gershenfeld said. “It works very well in a theater.”

For the fifth year in a row, Gershenfeld has highlighted five shows as “Mitch’s Picks”—concerts Gershenfeld personally recommends, even if the performers are not household names. They include Spanish guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas’ Americano (March 4); BRAVO Amici, a “popera” group featuring three tenors and two divas (March 11); Piaf! Le Spectacle, a show telling the singing great’s life story via music and heretofore unseen photos—entirely in French (March 26); and Asere!, a celebration of Cuban dance and music featuring the Havana Cuba All-Stars (April 3).

And then there’s Blokelahoma! (March 29) starring Toby Francis, a former member of the Ten Tenors who also starred in the Australian production of Kinky Boots. He became a friend of Gershenfeld during Francis’ time in the Ten Tenors—the most popular act ever to grace the McCallum stage. Gershenfeld said Francis told him about Blokelahoma!—Francis’ story about being a “good Austrian bloke” who grew up with a love of Broadway musicals—when they enjoyed dinner in Sydney last June.

“I basically said, you have to do this show at the McCallum,” Gershenfeld recalled.

Per usual, McCallum’s schedule is packed with an unimaginably wide variety of singers, humorists and performers, ranging from comedian and Orange Is the New Black star Lea DeLaria returning to her jazz roots (Nov. 8) to LeAnn Rimes doing a Christmas show (Dec. 15) to concerts by prolific songwriter Paul Anka (Jan. 31 and Feb. 1).

Traveling Broadway shows are a McCallum staple, and the 2018-2019 slate includes a lot of classics and old favorites. The one exception: Something Rotten! (April 5-7), which ended its initial Broadway run on Jan. 1, 2017.

“It’s such a fun story,” Gershenfeld said. “It takes place in Shakespeare’s time; he’s literally a rock star.”

The story centers on two brothers who are playwrights struggling to compete with the great Shakespeare. They visit a soothsayer named Nostradamus—the nephew of the famous one—and wind up inventing this new thing called a “musical.”

Gershenfeld said booking shows at the McCallum presents unique challenges in terms of timing—with rare exceptions, the theater goes dark out of necessity from May through September—and size; at 1,100 seats, the medium-sized venue is simply too small to meet the budgetary requirements of some grand productions, like Wicked.

“There will be no Hamilton here in my lifetime,” he said with a laugh.

Despite these challenges, the McCallum consistently makes Pollstar’s annual list of the Top 100 theaters in terms of ticket sales, because dark nights are rare in the spring—and because Gershenfeld books shows that he knows will sell well.

He’s hoping a change to the way the McCallum sells tickets may make sales even better. In past years, the McCallum only sold “subscriptions” for the upcoming year during the late spring and summer months. This year, tickets for all currently booked shows will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 16.

Gershenfeld said he was looking forward to the 2018-2019 season, as the 2017-2018 season comes to an end.

“This has been a great season,” he said. “It’s been better than the last two years, and the shows have been well-attended. Philanthropically, people have been very generous, too. Ticket sales make up only 60 percent of our budget, and we’ve been making a lot of capital improvements to the theater; we’ve been spending about $500,000 a year in improvements and new equipment.”

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2018-2019 season go on sale at 8 a.m., Monday, April 16. For tickets or more information, including the complete schedule, show up at the box office at 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert; call 760-340-2787; or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

As I sat in Michael Childers’ gorgeous Rancho Mirage home—his award-winning photographs adorning the walls—he told me the story of how the hugely successful One Night Only show came to be.

The star-studded annual event, a benefit for Jewish Family Service of the Desert, will return to the McCallum Theatre Wednesday, April 25.

It all started nearly 13 years ago, Childers said, when he approached his dear friend Barbara Keller about putting on a variety show; it was an idea he’d had great success with in Santa Fe, N.M. The concept was simple: Assemble a cast of veteran cabaret performers and a great orchestra; choose crowd-pleasing musical numbers; and raise an impressive amount of money for a local charity. Keller spoke to her board of directors at Jewish Family Service—which provides psychological counseling, food, housing and other services to valley residents, regardless of religious affiliation.

A new Coachella Valley tradition was born: One Night Only premiered in the desert, with Childers’ buddy Lily Tomlin as the mistress of ceremonies. It was a smash, and now the event sells out every year.

It’s a large undertaking that takes a full nine months of planning. When deciding on the theme, Childers thinks about what he and audiences would like. Last year, it was the music of Jerry Herman; this year, it’s the classic music of Rodgers, Hammerstein and Hart. Jason Graae is back for his second year as director, with musical direction by Christopher Marlowe.

Childers and the director sit down with their rolodexes and choose the cast. Because of the show’s stellar reputation, many veteran cabaret performers clamor to be part of it—even though the performers are donating their time. However, being in the show has its perks: Childers says the stars are treated well, with glamorous parties and such—plus a few days in Palm Springs is very appealing if you’ve been dealing with months of chilly weather in New York.

This year’s cast is slated to include Liz Callaway, Ann Hampton Callaway, Davis Gaines, Julie Garnye, Bets Malone, Sal Mistretta, Faith Prince, Billy Stritch, Teri Ralston, Bruce Vilanch and many other stage veterans.

Weary of the traffic and backstabbing in Los Angeles, Childers moved here in 1999 with his partner, Oscar-winning film director John Schlesinger (who later died of a stroke). Calling the valley “a wonderful, very philanthropic community,” Childers quickly became involved in the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and joined the board of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

A world-famous photographer, Childers currently has an Andy Warhol-themed show on display at the Palm Springs Art Museum. His work is also being featured in San Diego and will be on display at Yale University in the summer of 2019. A frequent lecturer on the subject, Childers said a great photographer is consistent and produces a lifetime of work, including iconic photographs.

When asked what makes a great live stage show, Childers’ answer was simple: Fit the show to your target audience, and keep it moving—don’t let it go on too long. This year’s One Night Only is slated to be a compact 90 minutes, with no intermission.

So what’s left on Childers’ bucket list? He’s working on an autobiography, called And I Have the Pictures to Prove It. Music education is one of Childers’ passions—and he’s very proud of One Night Only, calling it an iconic production in the desert.

One Night Only, a show benefiting Jewish Family Services, takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 25, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $75 to $175, with a limited number of VIP tickets, including an after-party, available for $495. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

April is the final month of the busy season—and it seems like some venues have saved the best for last.

April marks the final full month of events at the McCallum Theatre. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 3, Lucie Arnaz—actress, singer, producer and daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz—presents Stepping Out for College of the Desert: Latin Roots. The show will pay tribute to Arnaz’s Latin roots, especially the man who helped bring Latin music to America—her father. Tickets are $67 to $127. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 7, enjoy a rock show by Boz Scaggs. His soulful singing combined with his rocking guitar is always a treat—and “Lowdown” is a great song to hear live. Tickets are $100 to $250. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 14, the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra will be performing A Tribute to John Williams. Considering how many great films for which Williams has composed soundtracks, this should be a wonderful show to take in. Tickets are $87 to $137. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is hosting two fine events in April. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 7, comedian and puppeteer Terry Fator will be performing. Fator’s wildly popular shows are always funny and entertaining. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 14, enjoy a double-bill of Latin music when Los Lobos (right) and Los Lonely Boys perform. While Los Lobos is best known for the cover of “La Bamba” for the 1987 biographical Ritchie Valens film, there are a lot of cuts the band recorded early in a 45-year career that are political and go deep into the Latin-music genre. Hopefully some of that will be played here! The group Los Lonely Boys is best remembered for hit-song “Heaven,” and the band has sold millions of albums. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has one compelling music event in April: At 8 p.m., Friday, April 6, The Doobie Brothers will be performing. The famed Northern California rock band is no stranger to the desert. The group has won four Grammy awards and has sold 48 million records. Tickets are $60 to $80. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has an event in April comedy fans will love: At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 7, Marlon Wayans will be returning to the area. I spoke with the comedian and actor last year, and during the interview, his mother—the famous “Mrs. Wayans” referenced in Wayans brothers comedy—actually called him on his other phone. Marlon is hilarious, and he’s proven himself to be a talented actor outside of the comedy genre—see Requiem for a Dream—and has worked as a screenwriter and producer. 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 any big music events in April, but get ready to celebrate, ladies … that’s right: At 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28, Australia’s Thunder From Down Under is BACK! The all-handsome, all-hunk, all-male revue is a hit, and the shows usually sell out—so get your tickets while you still can. They cost $25. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will probably be bonkers with surprises in April thanks to Coachella and Stagecoach—and already, there are a lot of sold-out events. Here are some great shows with tickets left as of our deadline: At 9 p.m., Thursday, April 5, bass-and-drum duo Sumo Princess will take the stage. Sumo Princess features Abby Travis (KMFDM, Eagles of Death Metal, The Bangles) and Gene Trautmann (Queens of the Stone Age, Mojave Lords, Mark Lanegan). Also on the bill is Elettrodomestico, featuring Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 6, talented local musician Gene Evaro Jr. (pictured below; photo by Guillermo Prieto/irockphotos.net) will be performing an outdoor show. Also on the bill: His sister, Gabriella Evaro. Tickets are $15 to $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a busy month of April, per usual. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 14, Palm Springs cabaret star Jerome Elliott will be performing. Elliott will sing hits from Broadway, the world of pop music, and the Great American Songbook. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 21, internationally known singer and pianist Lori Donato will take the stage in a show celebrating Marilyn Maye. Donato has a vocal range that allows her to master blues, jazz and other genres. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 27, Ann Hampton Callaway will perform songs from all the divas that we love—Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and many others. Tickets are $55 to $65. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

The biggest music month of the year—April, of course—is approaching. That’s the month when Coachella, Stagecoach and the return of hot weather (as if it ever left) occur. But we’re not there yet—and March is no slouch, with a whole lot of great music events taking place.

The McCallum Theatre has a packed month in March. At 8 p.m., Thursday, March 1, folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins will be performing. In the turbulent ’60s, Collins was one of the era’s great folk singers, helping to inspire political change. She’s among the last of the great folk icons remaining from that era—a great reason to go see her. Tickets are $27 to $77. If you were hoping to catch one of the two Beach Boys shows on Sunday, March 4, we have bad news ... the shows are sold out. Tickets were $77. Get thee to secondary ticket-sales outlets if you really want to go. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 13, jazz vocalist Steve Tyrell will take the stage. He’s an icon of vocal jazz; his voice has won him a Grammy Award, and he’s put out nine albums. He’s been performing at the McCallum for 15 years; go check him out. Tickets are $47 to $87. Check the McCallum website for other great events. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a full slate of great events; here are just a few to consider. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 2, you can enjoy a double bill of Starship and Eddie Money. You might remember Starship as a continuation of the ’60s psychedelic-rock band Jefferson Airplane; it surfaced in the ’80s with a new wave sound—as in “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” You probably remember Eddie Money as a late ’70s and early ’80s pop-radio staple, known for songs such as “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Two Tickets to Paradise.” Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, female-blues powerhouse Bonnie Raitt will be performing. I saw Raitt when she performed the last time at Fantasy Springs—and I truly enjoyed the show. She has a set of great songs and a fantastic backing band. Tickets are $49 to $89. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 30, Trump supporter and comedian/singer Rodney Carrington will be performing. Remember that time in the ’90s when you opened your AOL account, and one of your friends had sent you that long, 30-minute download (via dial up) of that stupid song “Dear Penis?” Well, Carrington wrote that. You’re welcome. Tickets are $39 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several fine events coming in March, and there’s at least one you won’t want to miss: At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, Mexican romantic-music group Los Temerarios (above right; photo by Carlos Perez) will be performing. Founding brothers Adolfo and Gustavo Angel have been going since 1978, recording 20 albums and winning multiple awards. Tickets are $45 to $85. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is going to be a fun place to be in March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 3, jazz guitarist George Benson will be performing. Jazz guitar is a tough subgenre to appreciate, but Benson is talented enough to win almost anybody over. Tickets are $55 to $75. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, comedian Carrot Top will bring the funny. If you like rather stupid prop comedy, Carrot Top is your man. He and his suitcase full of props were popular in the ’90s. He’s well aware of the scorn he’s gotten from people who don’t like him—but he’s made fun of his critics in an amusing way that sells tickets. Also … his muscular physique and red hair, in combination, are quite scary. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 31, R&B/funk superstars Kool and the Gang will return to the valley. I love Kool and the Gang; they made so many great songs from the ’70s and ’80s that were the soundtrack of my childhood. Fun fact: Eagles of Death Metal sometimes use “Ladies Night” as an entrance theme. Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a special St. Patrick’s Day-themed event planned. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 16, Irish punk band Flogging Molly (below) will be performing. There was a time when it seemed like Irish punk was trending, with Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly packing venues across the country. Flogging Molly has more of a traditional Celtic sound; while the band calls Los Angeles home, frontman Dave King is originally from Ireland. Tickets are $49 to $105. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some big sold-out shows, and is starting to make announcements about the outdoor season—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: March has some great events with space still available. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 10, the best Johnny Cash tribute you’ll ever see, Cash’d Out, will be performing. This band is legendary—and goes well beyond a standard tribute act. In fact, Johnny Cash’s drummer, W.S. Holland, has sat in with this band before. Cindy Cash, Johnny Cash’s daughter, gave the band a glass locket that belonged to the Man in Black himself that supposedly holds some of his hair. This is Columbia Records-era Johnny Cash in a way you’ve never heard before. Tickets are $15. At 10 p.m., Friday, March 16, FYF presents OH SEES and Pretty Eyes. OH SEES is a great psychedelic rock band; this show is definitely going to be noteworthy. Tickets are $26. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 23, singer-songwriter Pearl Charles will be performing. I’ll let this description from her press kit explain it all: “Pearl Charles lives in the moment, seeking excitement whether it leads her down a dark, dusty road or into the arms of a trouble-making lover.” Sounds great to me! Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a couple of events you’ll love if you enjoy dinner and a show. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 16, enjoy a tribute to Palm Springs with Palm Springs Jump! The show is a high-energy tribute to stars such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and many others. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 23, if you’re an Elvis fan, you’ll love Scot Bruce’s Elvis: The Early Years. Elvis’ early years are the years that I prefer, when Elvis rocked and captured the imagination of the youth of America. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed seems to be doing one show, more or less, per month, and in the month of March, it happens at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 17, when So-Cal reggae band Fortunate Youth will be performing. Fortunate Youth is a regular at The Date Shed, and the shows are always popular. Tickets are $20 in advance. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

The Copa Room Palm Springs has a couple of fun March events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 3, a tribute to Bette Midler titled The Divine Miss Bette, featuring Catherine Alcorn, will most likely be well-attended. The previews of this show look spectacular—it’s a must-see for any Bette Midler fan. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, actress and singer Mary Bridget Davies will take the stage. She’s performed in many blues-tribute bands, and supposedly did a fantastic job playing Janis Joplin in the Broadway show A Night With Janis Joplin. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Published in Previews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Theater and Dance

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