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Theater and Dance

17 Jan 2016
It’s a very good thing that the latest production by Desert Rose Playhouse, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, has settled in for a six-week run. That gives a large percentage of valley theater-lovers the chance to see it. And they should. The play, which won a Tony, a Drama Desk Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993, is an ambitious undertaking. The only way to do Kushner’s powerful script justice is with amazing acting—and director Jim Strait’s cast delivers. The story is set in 1985. Ronald Reagan is president, and AIDS has begun ravaging the gay population. We meet two couples: Prior Walter (Nick Edwards), who is battling the disease, and his lover, Louis Ironson (Daniel Gutierrez); and Joe Porter Pitt (Alex Updike), a devout Mormon lawyer in denial about his homosexuality, and his unstable, Valium-addicted wife, Harper (Allison Feist). Joe has gone to…
09 Dec 2015
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In 1972, a musical that tells the story of a young prince from the Middle Ages named Pippin made its Broadway debut under the watchful eye of writer Stephen Schwartz and director Bob Fosse. It would run for almost five years—the 33rd-longest run in Broadway history. A revival returned Pippin to Broadway from 2013 to 2015, and a national tour has now been going strong since September 2014. That touring production will arrive at the McCallum Theatre for eight performances Jan. 12-17. During a recent phone interview, Brian Flores, who currently plays the lead role, said he grew up singing songs from the musical. “I love Pippin as well as the songs that the lead role sings,” Flores said. “I consider myself more of a singer, and in my voice lessons, I would sing ‘Corner of the Sky’ and ‘With You,’ which are some of the first songs I ever…
25 Nov 2015
Playwright Charles Evered is sick of Christmas. “There’s so little choice for theater!” he exclaimed. “There’s It’s a Wonderful Life, The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol—and that’s about it.” So Evered decided to do something about it. The result is his 90-minute one-act play called An Actor’s Carol—a take on Charles Dickens’ famous A Christmas Carol. It will have its world premiere at Joshua Tree’s Hi-Desert Cultural Center on the first two weekends of December. Emmy Award-winning actor Hal Linden (Barney Miller) and veteran TV and film actor Barry Cutler will star in the first and second weekends of the play, respectively. “Someone HAD to write it!” Evered declared. Evered is no stranger to the High Desert. His play Adopt a Sailor was presented at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center a few years ago, and his work Class was a fundraiser for the theater, which is still trying to rebuild after…
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,…