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Theater and Dance

22 Nov 2015
When Rent opened off-Broadway in February 1996, it rocked the theater world and won instant acclaim. The death of 35-year-old composer-lyricist Jonathan Larson from an aortic aneurysm just before the show’s opening certainly added to the show’s impact, but the musical’s stark depiction of life and death in New York City in the late 1980s stands on its own. Based on Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent—now getting an excellent production complements of College of the Desert—chronicles one year in the life of a group of poor artists living in the East Village of Manhattan. Aspiring film-maker Mark (Shafik Wahab) searches for professional recognition, while his HIV-positive songwriter-roommate, Roger (Christian Quevedo), longs to pen a hit tune before succumbing to his illness (“One Song Glory”). Soon, Roger meets Mimi (Allegra Angelo), also HIV-positive, and the two fall in love after she seduces him (“Light My Candle”). Mark is pining for his ex-lover,…
21 Nov 2015
Desert Rose Playhouse is kicking off the holiday season with A Queer Carol, billed as the first gay version of Charles Dickens’ classic story; it premiered in New York in 2001. I really wanted to like this show. Given the excellent quality of previous productions I’ve seen at Desert Rose, I expected to like it. Sadly, it was a little like anticipating a stocking full of Christmas goodies and instead finding an empty sock. The story here is set in modern day New York, where Ebenezer “Ben” Scrooge (Steve Fisher) is a Manhattan interior designer who makes life miserable for his loyal right-hand man, Bob Cratchit (David Brooks). Scrooge barks and snaps at Cratchit, pays him a meager salary and refuses to provide him with health insurance. The lack of insurance is especially problematic, since Tiny Tim here is an adult—Cratchit’s HIV-positive partner. It is Christmas Eve, and as Scrooge…
14 Nov 2015
Anyone who’s worked as an office receptionist knows it can be a thankless job, but it’s not normally all that dangerous. Well, danger certainly lurks in Dezart Performs’ current production, The Receptionist, a dark comedy by Adam Bock. In the first part of the play, the title character, Beverly (Deborah Harmon), goes about her daily duties with great efficiency. It’s a seemingly normal day at the North East Office, as Beverly cheerfully handles the phones, relegating unwanted callers to the voicemails of co-workers. She sorts mail, tidies her desk and dishes out romantic advice to officemate Lorraine (Theresa Jewett). Beverly’s maternal warmth is clear as she calms her upset daughter over the phone—as is her irritation when her husband announces he has spent the money allocated for the family phone bill on yet another collectible teacup. It’s the boss’ birthday, so Beverly takes on the job of ordering a cake,…
30 Oct 2015
Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre has added yet another feather to its impressive artistic cap with its first world premiere, Happy Hour, by George Eastman. The play tells the story of Harry Townsend, a wise-cracking, 80-something widower, and his son, Alan, as both come to grips with the reality that Harry can no longer live on his own. When Alan (John Hawkinson) comes to Vermont for the weekend to visit Harry (Gavin MacLeod), Alan’s goal is to convince his father to move into an assisted-living community. Since his wife’s death, Harry’s physical health and mental health have been slowly declining. He tends to put the coffee filters in the freezer and the coffee pot in the oven … and his falls after tripping over the rug are becoming more and more frequent. Alan’s twin sister, Sara, lives close by and takes good care of their father—but her husband has landed a…
20 Oct 2015
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When singer/actor Jason Petty takes the McCallum Theatre stage this Saturday, Oct. 24, he’ll be on familiar ground. Petty has made a career out of performing as and paying tribute to the late, great Hank Williams—and he packed the house at the McCallum the last time he performed at the theater not too long ago. “This type of music transcends culture barriers,” he told the Independent during a recent phone interview. “People living in Palm Desert and Palm Springs and Brooklyn—places all over the world—say, ‘I remember my grandfather listening to this. I love this stuff.’ While Petty often portrays Williams as an actor—Petty got his start by playing the legend Off-Broadway in Hank Williams: Lost Highway—he does more signing than acting in Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes, the show he’s performing at the McCallum this weekend. Petty calls the show a “concert narrative” during which he performs the…
26 Sep 2015
Huzzah! The season has begun—and the only season that matters, of course, is the theater season—and it began with Rancho Mirage’s Desert Rose Playhouse, as usual. Desert Rose’s season kickoff included a special event this year: the christening of the Phil Murphy and Robert McCracken Stage. You know these names; they’re the star supporters of DRP, and Phil has designed the lighting for the theater’s shows from the beginning in 2010. (They also own the cutest and most obedient theater puppy, a little darling who willingly attends every performance.) The theater’s founders, Paul Taylor and Jim Strait, held a special pre-show ceremony, praising Murphy and McCracken’s “matchless talents, generosity and friendship.” This kind of act gives a whole new meaning to “support for the arts,” because over the summer, the two donors financed, designed and built an entirely new lighting system for the theater. Inspirational. Congratulations, all! So begins Desert…