Carlos Garcia and Christine Tringali Nunez in Mid-Century Moderns.

Mid-Century Moderns, now being performed at Oscar’s Palm Springs, is a big-hearted show in a tiny venue.

Oscar’s, if you’re unfamiliar, is a place filled with potential. It’s currently being expanded and renovated—but it’s open! The long, narrow showroom shows promise for the future, with wonderful plans for the patio when they’re finished.

As for the show: Dan Gelfand, the show’s producer, explained to us that they originally opened the jukebox musical in another locale, where it did well; my colleague, Bonnie Gilgallon, loved it. (You can read her review of that production, at the now-shuttered Desert Rose Playhouse, here.) The move to downtown Palm Springs was the result of a brilliant idea that hit both himself and writer-director Mark Christopher as they lounged by their pool one beautiful day.

The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies had run for 24 years,” he reminded us. “We decided to run something to continue a bit of it—and that meant (being in) downtown Palm Springs!”

The Plaza Theatre—the home of the Follies—is in the same building complex as Oscar’s, and will soon be renovated itself. Other than proximity, however, Mid-Century Moderns bears little resemblance to the Follies.

Oscar’s is a restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner before the show. When you are seated to eat, you are seated for the entertainment, too. Recorded music from the ’50s and ’60s played for our listening pleasure. Such songs as “The Big Hurt” transported us back to that era when life did seem simpler and somehow less complicated—at least for some of us.

When the show started, the curtains opened, and the cast soon filled the stage. The actors, without exception, have good voices, although they were unevenly powered, and some notes got flattened when the singers were pushing hard. At times, the singing was too soft compared to the background music.

The entire first act is about our heroine, Maryann, trying to get out of the freezing North to head to the beach in Santa Monica—although she never makes it, because she stops in Palm Springs and falls in love with the place. (Many of us can relate.) Maryann is played by Christine Tringali Nunes (reprising the role from the production at Desert Rose). She is a special talent who has the strength to carry the show. It was interesting to watch how she used her eyes—showing her skill and training. Blonde and slim, she handles her role adroitly and never seems to make a mistake.

Gary Powers plays Ernie (also reprising the role), Maryann’s doomed husband. (Later, he also plays a rather surprisingly weird Miss Simpson.) He eats up the stage: When he is there, he’s all you can look at, sort of how you can’t take your eyes off a train wreck. (I mean that in a good way.) He dominates his scenes.

Heather Joy plays a variety of roles—including some peculiar characters. She’s a professional singer, and she does well, but she gets little chance to show off her singing voice.

The roles of Tom and Brewster are handled by James Owens. (This is half a reprise: At Desert Rose, he played Tom, but not Brewster.) Tall and slender, he astonishes us with a jump-up in the second act that I have never seen anyone onstage even attempt, let alone accomplish. His two roles are very different and require a lot of attention—and I had the feeling he could go even deeper into them as he performs them both more.

Carlos Garcia reprises the roles of the Bartender and Ricky. He uses a rather heavy accent—and he clearly enjoys dancing, something at which he’s excellent.

Joseph Portoles plays Michael. He is partnered with Garcia a lot of the time; he’s also an excellent dancer who moves smoothly.

We have to make mention of the props, which the actors move around by themselves. Special praise goes to the bed, which is placed up against the back wall so the audience sees INTO it—a novel angle. 

The choreography is masterminded by Miss DD Starr, something mentioned here not just because of the thorough work involved—but also because of the fact that she is the head mistress of the Palm Springs School of Burlesque. I didn’t even know we had a school of burlesque! See what you can learn at the theater?

Each act runs about 40 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission in between. Most of the other shows I’ve seen recently eliminated the intermission—and this is something the producers should perhaps consider. Then again, maybe the actors need a rest!

Mid-Century Moderns is interesting and entertaining—and as mentioned before, a lot of us can relate to “escaping” to Palm Springs. That’s my story (although my escape was not in the 1950s). I have heard so many interesting tales about how other people came here, fell in love with the area, and became determined to stay, like our heroine does, even without solid prospects for the future. The actual location is way down the list of reasons for many moves, but Palm Springs—the Coachella Valley as a whole, actually—is so often a destination for those of us who actually fall in love with the place. May we all be happy here!

Mid-Century Moderns will be performed at 7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, Feb. 22-24, at Oscar’s Palm Springs, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, No. 108. Dinner service begins at 5:30. Tickets are $49.95 to $69.95, and there is a $20-$25 food and drink minimum. The show will return on most Thursdays and Fridays in April. For tickets or more information, visit

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Valerie-Jean (VJ) Hume

Valerie-Jean Hume’s career has included working as a stage/film/commercial/TV/voiceover actress, radio personality/host, voice and speech teacher, musician, lounge singer, cruise-ship hostess, theater...