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Neil Sedaka’s career has taken many twists and turns over the years. He was one of the most successful early rock ’n’ rollers before his career derailed in the 1960s—setting the stage for an amazing comeback in the 1970s.

And today, he’s focusing on … classical music? That’s correct—although concert-goers can expect to hear his hits when he returns to the area to perform at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa on Friday, May 24.

The concert will come within days of him receiving a significant honor.

“I’m getting an honorary degree in music from the Moravian College in Pennsylvania. It’s a big music college, and it’s my first honorary degree. I’m very excited,” Sedaka said. “I never finished Juilliard. I went to the prep school for eight years and the college for three years. They’re doing an evening of Neil Sedaka songs, and a great pianist is going to play my piano concerto.”

Piano concerto?

“I wrote two symphonies and a piano concerto. I’m going back to my roots. I started as a classical pianist, and I said, ‘Well, why don’t I give it a shot?’” Sedaka said. “Jeffrey Biegel, who is a great concert pianist, has been playing the piano concerto all over the United States and made a recording. Not too many rock ’n’ rollers can say that.”

Over in the United Kingdom, Sedaka is still a huge hit. In recent years, he’s played concerts in Hyde Park and at the Royal Albert Hall.

“The English have welcomed me over the years; even when I was out of work in America, they were very loyal to the original American rock ’n’ rollers. So they welcomed me always,” Sedaka said. “I played the Royal Albert Hall many times: once with a symphony, once with my band, and a couple of times solo. The last time was solo. It’s an exciting place with a lot of history in classical music and pop music. There are many balconies, and it’s about 4,000 people.

“I did Hyde Park for 45,000 people. … That was quite an experience. It’s unusual. It’s a long career. I’ve been writing music for 67 years and singing 63 years. I started writing when I was 13, when I discovered I had a voice, and I was the first rock ’n’ roller to go to Australia, Japan, South America and Europe. Elvis didn’t travel. I took the opportunity to be the first.”

At one point, Sedaka had a portrait done by Andy Warhol.

“He was a friend in the ’70s, and we used to go to Studio 54 and various parties,” Sedaka said. “I posed in downtown Manhattan at his studio. (His work) had a big showing at the Whitney Museum (which closed) a couple of weeks ago. I was prominently on the wall, which is quite nice. I knew he always did three photos and painted them. The first one was offered to me for $25,000, and that was his usual fee, and the other two are in his Pittsburgh museum. … He was a scatterbrain, but he was quite a character and very prolific. Either you love him, or you hate him; there’s no in between.”

What was Sedaka’s impression of the famed Studio 54 nightclub in all its infamous glory?

“It was absolutely crazy. From ballet dancers to drag queens to film stars, it ran the gamut,” Sedaka said. “There were rooms for the drugs, and in those days, I wasn’t a druggie. I tried a little bit of everything, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I still like vodka. I’m an old-timer.”

His 1975 song “The Immigrant” has had a resurgence lately, in a country divided on the issue of immigration. The song is a tribute to his family roots.

“Phil Cody and I released that back in 1975, and it’s more relevant today than ever,” Sedaka said. “I do close the concerts with it. Whether you agree or not, our country was raised on immigrants. My grandparents came from Istanbul, Turkey, in the early 1900s, and I think that we captured something there that’s important.”

Sedaka turned 80 in March, but he said he has no plans to retire as of now.

“You have to know when to bow out. It’s like a ball player: You have a great skill and a great career record—and you get out on the field again, and realize you’re not up to par: When that happens, I’m going to bow out,” Sedaka said. “I still have my voice, which is very strange. I was told years ago that when you’re 70, your voice goes. But my voice at 80 is still very strong. I have a little arthritis in my hands, so I don’t play Brahms; I play Sedaka. As long as the people come out, and I can still reach a certain standard with the voice and the songs, I’ll continue.

“That adrenaline rush is so strong when you’re in front of people. You can feel under par, but all the aches and pains go away, and it’s when you get off the stage that you really feel it. The adrenaline and the endorphins are incredible. It’s probably the biggest natural high in life, being in front of an audience.”

While you’ll indeed hear Sedaka’s hits, that’s not all you’ll hear at his show.

“I like to get to the ‘neglected children,’ and during the encore, I like to do three or four of those neglected ones that were buried in the LPs, and they get a great reception,” he said. “That’s very hard to do—play something unknown to the audience. When it gets a better reception than ‘Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,’ I’m very proud of that.”

Neil Sedaka will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, May 24, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $65 to $75. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Published in Previews

November is my favorite month of the year. The summer heat is finally fading; more and more snowbirds are clogging Highway 111 (OK, that part is a mixed blessing, at best); and I get to enjoy a turkey dinner or two with friends and family while watching football. Oh, and there are shows galore!

The McCallum Theatre has some great events in November you won’t want to miss. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, comedienne Paula Poundstone will be performing. If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, you remember her numerous appearances in film and television. Today, she’s best known as a regular on NPR’s Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! Tickets are $22 to $47. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, CV 104.3 radio’s Jimi Fitz will be performing as part of Jimi Fitz and Friends, which will feature local acts Faults of Andreas, John Stanley King, Kal David and Lori Bono, and many others. Tickets are $27 to $67. There are a lot of other fine shows taking place this month, so be sure to peruse the McCallum website! McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fantastic November schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, country superstars Alabama will be performing. I am not the biggest fan, but even I have to admit that the band features great songwriters—and that Alabama’s material in the early-to-mid-’80s was impressive and occasionally flawless. Tickets are $49 to $109. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, rapper Ja Rule and R&B singer Ashanti will share the Fantasy Springs stage. It should be a memorable night of music following an especially memorable year for Ja Rule, after his Fyre Festival left many rich millennials—who paid thousands of dollars for tickets—stranded on an island in the Bahamas crying over their “luxury” cheese sandwiches and begging to be rescued over social media. The best part of the story: There is supposed to be Fyre Festival 2018, so get ready to ride this awesome train again! Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, get ready to live the ’90s all over again when Third Eye Blind performs. If you were alive back in the ’90s and didn’t want to punch your radio every time “Semi-Charmed Life” came on, you weren’t really there. Also: Does anyone remember that whole scandal involving author JT LeRoy back in the ’00s, when it came out that JT Leroy was fake? Well, frontman Stephan Jenkins was in the middle of it all, given he moved in with both of the culprits—and even posed for pictures and videos in which he was cuddling with them. Tickets are $29 to $49. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some notable November shows. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, actress Sophia Loren will be bringing her national tour of “An Evening With Sophia Loren” to the Coachella Valley. The actress will be speaking on subjects including her childhood in Italy, her family life and her career. Tickets are $65 to $175. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, Latin pop-rock band Reik will be performing. Reik is kind of a big deal in Mexico—and in the United States, too. The group’s self-titled first album went platinum in both Mexico and the U.S.—while Reik’s fifth and most-recent album, Des/Amor, went platinum in Mexico and gold in the States. Reik won a Latin Grammy award for 2009 album Un Dia Mas. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, standup comedian and Comedy Central personality Daniel Tosh will be returning to the Coachella Valley. Tosh is best known for his hilarious show on which he takes Internet videos and provides commentary. Tickets are $80 to $100. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of events on the calendar that should be a lot of fun. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3, multi-generational Mariachi band Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán will be performing. Five generations going back to 1897 (!) have kept this amazing group going. This is Mexican roots music—and it’s history. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11 comedienne and MADtv cast member Anjelah Johnson (upper right) will bring the funny. You might remember her from MADtv as Bon Qui Qui, the King Burger employee who hated complicated orders and would say, “Have it your way, but don’t get crazy.” Tickets are $35 to $55. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa continues to sell out shows, including a Friday, Nov. 3, Chaka Khan performance—but as of this writing, tickets remain for the month’s other events. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, Fitz and the Tantrums will take the stage. The Los Angeles-based pop/soul band has found a lot of success by licensing music to various films, commercials and video games—including Madden NFL 17, of all things. Tickets are $39. At 5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12, musical-theater great David Pomeranz will bring his show to Morongo. He’s written songs for and performed with everyone from Barry Manilow to the Muppets! Tickets are $35 to $75. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, crooner Neil Sedaka will again perform in the desert. If you missed his show at the McCallum Theatre last year, you’re in luck! Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is the place to be in November. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2, fresh off an appearance at Desert Daze, Allah-Las (below) will be performing. Allah-Las is a psychedelic-rock fan’s dream come true. With a little bit of soul thrown into the mix, Allah-Las’ jams sound like some of the best records to come out of the ’60s rock ’n’ roll scene. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, have you herd that Donna and the Buffalo is coming back? This band plays rock, reggae, country and everything else under the sun—and has a smaller, friendlier Grateful Dead-style following. When I interviewed band founder Tara Nevins back in 2013, she told me she always insists on a show at Pappy and Harriet’s when the booking agent maps out tours. Tickets are $17 to $20. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, the eccentric alternative rock band Meat Puppets will be returning. The Meat Puppets has a fascinating history of starting as a hardcore punk band and then incorporating elements of cowpunk and psychedelic elements into the music. The band members were close friends of Nirvana and appeared at the band’s Unplugged performance in 1993. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs will be hopping in November as the season heats up. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10,and Saturday, Nov. 11, singer and actress Marilyn Maye will take the stage. After 76 appearances on the The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era, as well as a Grammy nomination, she’s still going strong. Tickets are $70 to $90. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

Coachella and Stagecoach arrive this month, which means the season is at its busiest—and will soon be coming to an end.

Enjoy the craziness, folks. It means all sorts of great things are taking place.

April is the McCallum Theatre’s last full month of regular activity before the summer lull. At 8 p.m., Monday, April 4, get ready for the original sexy-sax man, Kenny G. That’s right: Everyone’s favorite soft-rock jazz saxophonist will be stopping by again to ROCK THE COACHELLA VALLEY! All kidding aside, Kenny G is actually pretty damn good, and his soft-rock jazz sound was a sign of the times a couple of decades ago. While he might not bop or swing, he does what he does very well. Tickets are $37 to $80. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka will be performing to celebrate the Desert Symphony’s 27th anniversary. Sedaka is an awesome showman and still has a great voice at the age of 77. Tickets are $77 to $202. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs has some fantastic events in April. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 1, enjoy a fantastic night of Latin rock with Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos. Los Lobos is legendary in the Latin rock scene and was a big hit in the Los Angeles music scene in the early ’80s. Los Lonely Boys came out of Texas in the late ’90s and found an audience when “Heaven” became a No. 1 hit on the radio in 2004. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 2, Il Volo will be performing. This Italian trio sings what it calls “popera” and has become a hit with both classical-music lovers and those who fall into the “opera music for people who hate opera music” crowd. Tickets are $59 to $109. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, Gladys Knight will be performing (sans the Pips). Knight started her R&B singing career at the age of 16 when she signed to Motown, and she’s been a big name ever since. She’s also ventured into gospel and religious music affiliated with the Mormon faith, into which she was baptized in 1997. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 will be heating up with a couple of interesting shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, it’s going to be a special night for ladies thanks to Hunks. The Las Vegas-style production is similar to that of Thunder From Down Under and the Chippendales; these guys will have the ladies sweating and screaming. Tickets are $20. If dancing near-naked men aren’t your thing, relax: At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 23, R&B superstar Keith Sweat will be performing. With hits that include “Something Just Ain’t Right,” I Want Her” and “Make You Sweat,” this will be a popular show. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has some fun events on the slate. First, at 9 p.m., Friday, April 1, get ready to groove at the love shack, because The B-52s are returning to the area. One of the biggest names of the ’80s came out of the punk-rock scene in New York. The B-52s have recorded some truly timeless music that continues to gain them younger audiences and—makes the old audiences love them even more. Tickets are $65 to $75. At 11 p.m., Friday, April 8, the Village People will be performing. That’s right: It’s the Village People, known for hits such as “Macho Man” and “YMCA.” Tickets are $10. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 15, Shinedown (upper right) will take the stage. The Jacksonville, Fla., band has sold 6 million albums since starting in 2001 and is currently touring to promote album No. 5, Threat to Survival. The members of Shinedown have stated that they are simply a rock ’n’ roll band and don’t want to be labeled as “post-grunge” or “alternative.” Tickets are $40 to $50. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is again enjoying a kickass Coachella season. The bad news: Some of the Coachella-related shows are sold out. The good news: There are still plenty of shows with tickets available. At 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9, desert-rock godfather Brant Bjork will be putting on Desert Generator, a day of heavy psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. Also on the bill: Red Fang, Acid King, Golden Void and Ecstatic Vision. This is definitely going to be a great show—and a throwback to the days of generator parties, albeit in a legit setting. Tickets are $48. At 9 p.m., Saturday, April 23, country-bluegrass singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale will take the stage. Jim has written songs that have been recorded by artists such as the Dixie Chicks, Elvis Costello, Blake Shelton and many others. It’ll be a nice event to get you in the mood for Stagecoach! Tickets are $15. You’ll be happy to know that Har Mar Superstar (below) will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, April 30. OK, here’s the deal: You might not have heard of him … or perhaps you’ve heard of him for the wrong reasons. He’s basically a guy who looks like Ron Jeremy and performs R&B-style music in a Speedo. His shows are typically funny and impressive—but he dances, too, so prepare yourself for that. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Palm Desert Amphitheater is hosting an intriguing event: At 7 p.m., Saturday, April 9, a rock opera titled Untamed will be performed. Untamed is written by Palm Desert resident Kara Aubrey and is about a millennial man in search of significance in these troubled times. Good news: Admission is free! Palm Desert Amphitheater at Civic Center Park, 43900 San Pablo Ave., Palm Desert; www.tobeuntamed.com.

Published in Previews

Before there was rock ’n’ roll, pop music topped the charts—and Neil Sedaka was one of the biggest pop stars in the world.

Then came the British Invasion and a decline in Sedaka’s career. However, he eventually found his way back to the top—and Sedaka will be stopping by the McCallum Theatre for two shows, on Saturday, Dec. 6, and on Sunday, Dec. 7.

Sedaka’s musical roots go back to his childhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. His father was a cab-driver, and his mother eventually took a job in a department store so she could pay for a piano, after his music teacher sent a note home suggesting he had an obvious musical gift.

“My parents never had to force me,” Sedaka said during a recent phone interview. “I practiced six hours a day as a child. I loved the piano.”

He eventually won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music’s Preparatory Division for Children. He said he had every intention of becoming a classical concert pianist—but then he found pop music.

Sedaka had his first hit single in 1958, when “The Diary,” an original song written with Howard Greenfield, reached No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard chart. In the early ‘60s, numerous songs of his were hits—most notably “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” which reached No. 1.

However, soon after The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, pop music was essentially over. Sedaka said it was a total shock.

“I had five years of Top 10 records, and that was kind of a natural progression,” Sedaka said. “The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino and others, we had about five years. The Beatles came in, and they certainly did change the face of American music, but, of course, it’s a very trendy business. I thought they were very talented, and perhaps it was the end of Neil Sedaka. But I still had a lot of hits in me, a lot of drive, and a lot of ambition.”

During his decline in American popularity the ‘60s, Sedaka remained big in places like the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy; he even released three hit records in Italian. In the early 1970s, Sedaka moved his family to the U.K. Not too long after that, Sedaka met Elton John at a party.

“I was living in London, and I figured if the Beatles were going to come to New York, I was going to go to London,” he said. “I met Elton John, and he was starting (The Rocket Record Company). If it wasn’t for him, I would not have had that incredible comeback in 1975. Sedaka’s Back was the LP, and ‘Laughter in the Rain’ was the first single.

“Laughter in the Rain” became Sedaka’s second No. 1 hit.

“After 13 years off the charts, it was a remarkable comeback,” Sedaka said. “If not for Elton, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Sedaka and his family lived in the U.K. for four years. He explained why many pop entertainers like himself remained popular over there.

“They have a lot of respect for the original American rock ’n’ rollers,” Sedaka said. “I just finished a sold-out three-week tour there at the Royal Albert Hall.”

Sedaka remains a music-industry powerhouse because he’s such a gifted and prolific songwriter. In fact, he’s written more than 500 songs, including many hits for others.

Is there one song he wrote for someone else that he wishes he’d have kept?

“‘Love Will Keep Us Together,’” he said. “I had it in an album, and I never put it out as a single. But thank goodness, a new group at the time, Captain and Tennille, put it out. It was my first Grammy, and it was the song of the year. I never really wrote for anybody, and I always did the first version. I was fortunate that the great singers always covered my songs, but ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ is one I certainly should have put out as a single. But their record was better than mine.”

At the age of 75, Sedaka still has a golden voice. While many performers from his era are still performing, their vocal skills have declined. Sedaka explained what keeps his voice intact.

“I don’t go into any smoky rooms, or any loud rooms where I have to shout. I don’t drink iced drinks; I find that cold drinks will affect me. I get enough sleep and enough exercise,” he said. “The more you sing, the better you are.

“If I stop for a few weeks, the first concert is very difficult. It’s like an athlete—you have to keep in shape. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”

Neil Sedaka will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $59 to $99. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Previews

The McCallum Theatre will, as always, bring in big names and big shows during the 2014-2015 season (and subscription tickets that include many of those big names are going on sale at 8 a.m., Tuesday, April 8).

Comedy legend Bob Newhart. Grammy Hall of Famer Neil Sedaka. Violin icon Itzhak Perlman. The legendary musical Anything Goes.

But if you’re looking for some hidden gems on the just-announced schedule, McCallum director of communications and public affairs Jeffrey Norman encourages you to check out Mitch’s Picks.

“Mitch” is Mitch Gershenfeld, the president and CEO of the McCallum, who has been booking shows at the venerable theater—the top-selling venue in California in the spring, according to Pollstar—for about 14 years now. His “Picks” are five shows by performers who may not be household names, but are immensely talented nonetheless.

“He’s kinda saying, ‘I’ve been booking shows for a long time, and I can personally recommend these,’” Norman said.

Those picks by Mitch include a show by Cheyenne Jackson (below), who will be performing Shaken Not Stirred: The Music of the Movies. The performer is best known for acting roles on 30 Rock and Glee, but he’s one hell of a singer, too. (He’s also gorgeous, and proudly out.) He’ll be performing on Saturday, Nov. 1; tickets are $25 to $75.

Mitch’s other picks include the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (yes, I really did just write “Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain”) on Thursday, Jan. 29; Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass performing Brothers on the Battlefield, a multimedia show honoring the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, on Monday, Feb. 16; Mona Golabek’s one-woman show about a young Jewish musician in 1938 Vienna, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, on Wednesday, Feb. 25; and 2Cellos on Friday, March 6.

Norman encouraged me to look for clips of 2Cellos—which consists of Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser—online. I now encourage you to do the same. (Scroll down to the bottom to see one.) They’re simply amazing (and, like Cheyenne Jackson, they’re simply gorgeous.)

“Elton John called them the most amazing thing since Jimi Hendrix. They play the heck out of those cellos,” Norman said.

Of course, Norman—a veteran of the theater-venue world himself—also has his own opinions, so I asked him for one of Jeffrey’s Picks for the 2014-2015 season.

“It would have to be Dame Edna,” Norman said, referring to the alter ego of Australian comedian/performer Barry Humphries, who recently turned 80. “She had reportedly retired—or perhaps I should say he had reportedly retired. Apparently, he decided to do one last farewell tour, and he specifically remembered the McCallum Theatre, and wanted to return.”

Dame Edna—who was a semi-regular on Ally McBeal, fans may recall—will perform on Monday and Tuesday, March 30 and 31; and Wednesday, April 1. Tickets are $35 to $95, possums.

And now for my pick: I was intrigued to see that John Waters, the uniquely Baltimore “pope of trash” known for Pink Flamingos and Hairspray, will be doing his one-man Christmas show, A John Waters Christmas, at the McCallum on Tuesday, Dec. 2; tickets are $25 to $55.

I’ve seen Waters do a one-man show before; he’s hilarious and even charming (though certainly graphic and, um, profane).

“We were very explicit in the brochure: This is for diehard John Waters fans. He is definitely putting the ‘x’ back in Xmas,” Norman said.

All in all, 2014-2015 looks like yet another diverse and busy year for the McCallum—and Norman said up to a dozen more shows may be added before all is said and done.

“I am really excited about it,” Norman said. “It’s a really fun, interesting, eclectic season that has a little bit of everything.”

A lot of really fun and interesting things are going on behind the scenes at the McCallum, too. While the theater is best known for its great shows, the McCallum Theatre Institute spends a lot of time, money and effort promoting arts around the community, especially to local students; Norman notes that the institute puts on 1,700 workshops at 28 schools throughout the valley each year.

In September 2014, the McCallum will be expanding its community-arts mission even further: Thanks to a $600,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation, the McCallum will launch a new effort. The Crisálida Project: Transforming Ourselves, Transforming Our Communities is “an initiative to give voice to the cultural traditions and aspirations of the largely Hispanic and economically disadvantaged communities” in Indio, Coachella, Thermal and Mecca.

The project, funded by the grant for two years, will be led by master storyteller David Gonzalez. He will hold a series of meetings, classes, workshops, story circles and performances in the East Valley to promote community art-making, gather stories and preserve traditions.

Norman said that the products of The Crisálida Project could lead to community-wide performances, and perhaps even shows on the McCallum stage, although there are no prescribed expectations for the project.

“As the valley’s leading performing-arts venue, we have a responsibility to promote broader access to the arts,” Norman said.

Hear, hear. Looks like 2014-2015 is going to be a great year for the McCallum, both inside the theater itself and beyond.

For subscription sales or more information, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun

Season is finally here! As you make plans for Thanksgiving and prepare for the other big holidays just around the corner, you should also plan on attending some of these great shows.

The McCallum Theatre has an amazing variety of events booked solid through the month. One show that definitely won’t disappoint music-lovers is an appearance by Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Graham Nash at 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 18. While he may be best known for his work with Stephen Stills and David Crosby, he’s had a long and successful solo career; his 1971 solo debut album, Songs for Beginners, was critically acclaimed and reached No. 15 on the Billboard albums chart. Tickets are $35 to $75. Herb Alpert will also be stopping by the McCallum, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, along with his wife, singer Lani Hall. The jazz trumpeter, known primarily for his years with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, was a pioneer in jazz because he mixed Latin, funk, pop and R&B styles into his sound. While jazz has been on the decline with audiences over the years, Alpert is still going strong. Tickets are $35 to $75. The Kingston Trio will be appearing at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. Before folk music became political in the 1960s, putting the genre on the path to a major revival, The Kingston Trio was paving the way for that revival. One downside: The original three members are long gone from the group, so the trio continues in a “third phase” with collaborators who worked with the original lineup or were otherwise affiliated with the trio. That shouldn’t stop you from going to see them and taking in some of the songs that inspired the folk revival of the 1960s. Tickets are $25 to $45. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Aaron LewisAgua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some big events, too. Theresa Caputo, aka the “Long Island Medium,” will be there at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. What can be expected from Caputo? Well, it’s a safe bet that she’ll be communicating with the spirits and talking directly with their living relatives in attendance. Tickets for the event were $60 to $100, but we received word just before our deadline that the show is sold out. (I do NOT suggest shouting out a request for “Freebird” to her.) The following night, Neil Sedaka will take the stage; the “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” crooner will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Sedaka was a pop icon before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll took America by storm. He’s still a success today; he’s been involved with American Idol and had his first big-hit album in two decades in 2007 with The Definitive Collection. Tickets are $50 to $75. For those who remember the band Staind from the infamous nu-metal era: Aaron Lewis, the frontman of the band, will be there at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30. Lewis became a hit after he did a live duet at Korn’s Family Values Tour in 1999 with Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit of a song Lewis penned called “Outside.” He turned in solo acoustic performances in the later part of the last decade and has now transitioned to country music while Staind is on hiatus. Fun fact: In July 2012, Lewis had a bitter feud with Carrie Underwood after she released her song “Last Name,” which he said “made her sound like a complete whore.” Whoa! Tickets for the event are $25 to $55. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has two big music events booked this month. Modern R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. The three-time Grammy Award-winning artist is currently touring behind his latest album, R.E.D., an acronym for Realizing Every Dream. He has crossed over into pop and dance-pop; his recent single with Sia Furler, “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” was well-received and even included a successful music video—in an era when the music video isn’t appreciated much any more. Tickets are $49 to $109. Burt Bacharach will follow in Ne-Yo’s footsteps a week later, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23. Like Sedaka, Bacharach was part of the pop scene that came before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll, but he always stood out because of his unique songwriting. With 73 Top 40 hits in the U.S., Bacharach has also won Grammys, Academy Awards and pretty much every other award a singer-songwriter can win. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a light music schedule for the month of November; however, the resort’s Free Friday Concert Series kicks off with a Johnny Cash tribute by Rusty Evans at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. Admission is free. Also, the venue will be hosting The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience: Moonwalker at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9. With a live band and a cast of singers, the show is a must-see for Michael Jackson fans. Tickets are $15. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has just one big scheduled November event: The Cabazon resort will host comedian and TV host Craig Ferguson for a standup performance at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8. Ferguson has established himself as the host of The Late Late Show and is a possible replacement for David Letterman if The Late Show host ever decides to step down. We’re dying to know: Will Ferguson bring along his robotic skeleton sidekick? Tickets are $55 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s has booked Cass McCombs for a gig at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12. McCombs blends folk, rock, blues, country and several other different styles into one big, awesome mess. He’s toured with the likes of Band of Horses and Cat Power—and he’s definitely someone you should see live at least once. Tickets are $15. (Read my review of his latest album at CVIndependent.com.) The following evening, at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13, Bill Callahan will take the stage. The underground rock artist, who has also performed under the moniker of Smog, continues to push the boundaries of simplicity in songwriting; it’s said that he can repeat the same chord progression throughout the entire song. He’s another musician who has tried his hand in writing, releasing a novel, Letters to Emma Bowlcut, in 2010. Tickets are $15. After an appearance earlier this year at The Date Shed, Reverend Horton Heat will be playing Pappy and Harriet’s at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. The Texas trio and warriors of the road never disappoint and always put on a great show. I saw them on the same night as the 2009 Academy Awards when they played the House of Blues, right down the street from the awards ceremony and Vanity Fair after-party; the show was packed despite the traffic and all the Oscars craziness. They’re truly one of the hardest-working independent bands in the business today. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

The ExpendablesThe Date Shed hosts The Expendables at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. No, this group does not include Sylvester Stallone, the Governator or any of those guys; it’s the Santa Cruz surf-rock band that mixes reggae and punk. The resulting sound is similar to that of Sublime. Tickets are $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza continues to get some great bands thanks in part to their booking genius, Brandon Henderson. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, the Palm Desert venue hosts a retro-themed show going back to the big-band and rockabilly eras featuring Vicky Tafoya and the Big Beat, the Jennifer Keith Quintet and the Deadbeat Daddies; the show will include a pinup contest. Admission at the door is $10. Guttermouth plays at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Guttermouth’s shockingly humorous and offensive lyrics reportedly got them booted from the 2004 Warped Tour; you never know what to expect from the Huntington Beach group. Antics aside, they’re a great punk band that shouldn’t be underestimated. Admission to the 21-and-over show is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio features a November party that is not to miss—Bella Da Ball’s Star Dedication. It will take place at 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, in front of Azul, followed by an all-star concert at 7:30 p.m. with food and drink specials. Performers such as Allison Annalora, Doug Graham, Keisha D, Marina Mac and others are all scheduled to perform. Admission is free, and the full menu is available, but reservations are suggested. Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio, 369 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs; 760-325-5533; www.azultapaslounge.com.

The Hard Rock Hotel is open for business and moving forward with events. The hotel will kick off an entertainment series titled The Edge at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, with repeats on Friday and Saturday the following two weekends. The Edge is variety show that brings together actors from the screen and the stage in a production of rock classics, similar to Rock of Ages and other Broadway productions that include classic rock and stage performance. November’s show is titled “Top Rock.” Tickets for the event are $45. Hard Rock Hotel, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; www.theedgepalmsprings.com.

Neil Sedaka

Published in Previews