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02 Jan 2018

Legends Live Again: Talented Musicians Pay Tribute to Some of Rock's Biggest Names to Support the PSUSD Foundation

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Jake Simpson will perform as George Michael in Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols. Jake Simpson will perform as George Michael in Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols.

The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District is mounting a fantastic production for its annual fundraiser—with a little help from some friends.

The Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols concert on Thursday, Jan. 18, at the Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School will pay tribute to a handful of rock ’n’ roll’s biggest stars: Tony Award-nominated singer Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin; singer/songwriter Von Smith as Freddy Mercury (pictured to the right); high tenor Jake Simpson as George Michael; and tap dancer and opera singer Rogelio Douglas Jr. as Prince.

During a recent phone interview, Ellen Goodman, the executive director of the PSUSD Foundation, said the idea for the show came from photographer and philanthropist Michael Childers.

“The school district really wanted to produce something for the community that would celebrate the renovated auditorium at Palm Springs High School, the Richards Center for the Arts,” Goodman said. “We really wanted something that was different and would be kind of culturally aligned with our student population and family population. We were brainstorming, and Michael Childers and (Deb Len Productions’) Debbie Green sat together and came up with this idea. It would be something that is sustainable through the years, and is a tribute and a celebration of past, current and future artists. I can’t really take any credit, and I have to say that Michael Childers and Debbie Green began the incubation, and Michael Childers just ran with it. That’s where the idea came from.”

When I mentioned that George Michael was notorious for his risqué music videos and song lyrics, she explained that the show pays tribute to late performers who were all eccentric in one way or another.

“Aside from Janis Joplin, it feels like an ’80s theme where it’s mostly pop rock,” she said. “The tribute combines talents who have passed on and (have) a legacy. When we looked at pop-rock performers who fit that genre, these entertainers seemed like the ones to include in our first year’s theme. George Michael fit that, and the music is totally in line with Prince and Freddy Mercury. They’re all kind of racy, not just George Michael. Janis Joplin would be considered quite racy during her time, and so would Prince. They all carry the same genre musically.”

The production is going to be focused on the music by the legends, Goodman said.

“It’s a band, so it’s not going to look like your traditional theater production that would have an orchestra or be … entertainment similar to Broadway,” she said. “It’s going to look like a mini-rock concert. I say ‘mini,’ because our band will likely be a six-piece. Our theater is almost 900 feet long, and we’re probably going to have a lot of singing along with some loud music.”

This event will show off the potential of the recently renovated Richards Center for the Arts, Goodman said—and people can choose to literally (sort of) “grab your seat” by naming a seat in the theater in their or someone else’s honor, in exchange for supporting the PSUSD Foundation.

“I want to believe that everything that we do there shows it off in a positive light, and we’ll be coming in on the heels of the Palm Springs International Film Festival,” Goodman said. “We have an orchestra in there, and musical theater in there, and I think (this event) is going to maximize this auditorium in terms of sound and stage in a way that some of the other events won’t. Every event is different, but I really think we’ll be able to maximize the sound, lighting and stage with this show.”

Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols takes place at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 18 at the Richards Center for the Arts, 2248 Ramon Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $75 to $125. For tickets or more information, call 760-416-8455, or visit www.grabyourseat.net.

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