Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

DANCE REVIEW: Taylor 2 Dance Company

Ruth Andrien, who can trace a direct dance lineage to the master himself, was blunt when she spoke to the audience in a question-and-answer session on Saturday night at the Tower Theatre: “At least in New York,” she said after the show, “people know who Paul Taylor is.”

After Saturday’s exuberant performance of the Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company, I think it’s safe to say a lot more people in Fresno now know Taylor’s name.

Taylor 2 is the smaller of the two companies bearing Taylor’s imprint. The six busy dancers in this hard-working modern-dance company — who take many of the works created on the larger company and double up parts to make them happen — offered a stirring, graceful and emotionally cacophonous performance on the small Tower Theatre stage.

The smallness of that stage gave the performance an intimacy and connection with the performers that you miss when you see the larger Taylor company perform in bigger venues, as I did once in New York. 

Three very different pieces offered a wide range of Taylor’s work. The well-known “Company B,” accompanied by the music of the Andrews sisters, has its share of wide-eyed, giddy moments. But as a nation marches off to World War II, the pain bubbles to the surface. The most tender moment comes when a crazy-in-love couple communes with each other, dancing close and tight, but then he breaks away from her to join his fellow soldiers in a slow, sturdy march to war. I was moved by how Taylor weaves the bittersweet in with the optimism of a nation.

Read more

Hotel holds vivid memories for Steve Carell

As I have said before, the best place to spot celebrities when you are in Los Angeles is on an elevator at the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s rare to get on one of the three lifts and not bump into someone from TV or film.

The most recent celebrity spotting is Steve Carell. It’s no surprise to see him at the Los Angles hotel because I have just completed interviews with Carell, Jennifer Garner and several other cast and crew members of the upcoming Disney movie “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

While we’re waiting for the elevator, I pass on a compliment director Miguel Arteta had given Carell. After talking about Dick Van Dyke making cameo appearance in the movie, Arteta compares Van Dyke and Carell. He says it’s very hard to be a “nice guy” comedian and get a lot of laughs. It’s easier for the comics who go to a darker place.

Read more

Fresno Art Museum: ‘I’m still here’

In my Sunday Spotlight column, I put the focus on the Fresno Art Museum, which — like most cultural institutions these days — is competing in a tough economic climate for donors and stability. The museum has faced some challenges this past year, most notably having to take out a $160,000 “bridge loan” for operations. And just a couple of weeks ago, the fire/burglar alarm system broke, and it’s costing $60,000 to replace it. Still, board president Joe Sciarrone says the museum is hanging on. (More than that, he says it HAS to hang on.)

Check out my column for an in-depth report.

Maestro’s car broken into during opening orchestra concert

After a warmly received first concert of the season, Fresno Philharmonic music director Theodore Kuchar was probably in a pretty good mood late Sunday afternoon as he walked to the Fresno Convention Center parking garage afterward. Then he got the bad news. He shares in an email this morning:

For your information, as this indirectly impacts many of your “followers”, I returned to my car in the parking garage immediately after the concert yesterday. Car window was smashed in parking garage during concert and wallet, credit cards, drivers license, etc. kaput! People pay $7.00 for the safety of having their cars in the same condition after any Convention Center event as when they arrived. My car was parked in virtually the first parking spot after paying the attendant. I can also let you know that this was not the first instance of a Philharmonic member’s car being vandalized recently.

It’s sad to think that while Kuchar was in the midst of making memorable music with guest soloist (and last-minute savior) James Buswell, who wowed the audience with a virtuosic performance of the Barber violin concerto, some loser was smashing his windshield. This begs an important question: Doesn’t the fee paid to ACE Parking Management for a space in the garage imply some assurance of security during an event? And if it doesn’t, why not? When your own conductor’s car gets broken into while he’s on the podium, that’s pretty embarrassing for a city.

Pictured: James Buswell signs CDs in the Saroyan Theatre lobby during intermission of the opening Fresno Philharmonic concert of the season.

Read more

Judd Hirsch driven to keep acting

Actors — especially those who specialize in character roles — can keep working long after the retirement age for other professions. Look at Judd Hirsch. He’s 79 and has just signed on to be in the new ABC drama “Forever.” He plays the best buddy to the immortal character portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd.

Hirsch jokes that he’s never grown up enough to have to be coaxed into taking a role.

“Every once in a while the intelligence of a show just grabs me. ‘Numb3rs’ was an extremely intelligent show. You had to have really good writers, and the fact it was about somebody who was in that particular business, I graduated that way in my own life. I was a physicist. To go back into something like math, to me, was an invitation. I loved the idea. I would never have said no, but hopefully they would write for it,” Hirsch says.

Read more

Weekend pick: Taylor 2 at the Tower Theatre

I’m excited about Saturday’s performance by the Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company at the Tower Theatre. It will be a little slice of New York in Fresno. My advance piece on the concert is the 7 cover story today:

(Is it any wonder that 7 section artist/designer John Alvin gets excited when he gets to design pages using great dance photography?)

If you’re shy about attending professional modern/contemporary dance because you think it will be too “weird,” know this: The Taylor 2 dancers are exceptional athletes, and I think you’ll be impressed at the level of their virtuosity. (As Amy Querin of NOCO, a co-presenter, says in my 7 cover story, “You’re not going to see people just running around.”) The costumes are bright and colorful, and while the pieces to be performed don’t all have strong narratives, if you let yourself fall into their emotional pull, I think you’ll be impressed.

Last chance: ‘The Normal Heart’

I know. Everyone’s busy. You have every intention to get out to see a limited-run play, but things get in the way. Before you know it, it’s gone.

I’m talking about StageWorks Fresno’s “The Normal Heart,” which is in its third and final weekend. I recommend catching it at the Fresno Art Museum before it closes.

Tonight’s performance has a bonus: Curtain has been pushed back to 8:30 p.m. so playgoers can attend the opening reception of the Fresno Art Museum’s series of fall exhibitions, which include “Mildred Howard: Collective Memories.” Howard is the museum’s distinguished artist for 2014. (Here’s my rundown of today’s museum activities, which begin at 4:30 p.m., from today’s 7 section.) It also plays 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Another special museum/”Normal Heart” event: On Saturday, a forum titled “Let’s Talk … HIV/AIDS in the Central Valley” will be held 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

“The Normal Heart” is about the beginning days of AIDS, and playgoers might walk away 30 years later with a false sense of complacency that the disease isn’t something about to worry about anymore. Far from it. There are new cases of HIV/AIDS every day, and education is more important than ever. Kudos to StageWorks and the museum for reminding us of that.

Opening tonight: ‘Ben Minus Jake’

The Fresno premiere of local playwright Andrew Champagne’s “Ben Minus Jake” opens tonight at the Fresno Soap Co. (formerly the Broken Leg Stage) and continues through Oct. 4. It’s a Curtain 5 Theatre Group production. From the company:

BEN MINUS JAKE tells the story of two friends. Haunted by his past, Ben, (Matthew Vargas) struggles to find a sense of identity, as Jake (Jason Andrew) desperately desires to move forward; even at the cost of his friendship. Director Jacob Williams’ debut show examines human identity and how those around ultimately help us come to terms with it.

Performances this weekend are 8 p.m. today (Sept. 26) and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 27).

New places to shop: Boot Barn, fun socks, etc.

If you feel like buying new clothes or shoes, several new stores to check out have opened recently. For years, the Clovis Boot Barn has been the only one around, but a Fresno location opened Tuesday. The store is at 3324 W. Shaw Ave., right next to Home Depot. If you’re not familiar with Boot Barn, it carries a lot more than boots. It’s work and casual wear for men, women and children and a small corner of home decor. For men, this includes fluorescent sweatshirts for people who work near traffic and heavy duty Carhartt coats. For women, there’s Miss Me jeans and sweatshirts that say “Cowgirl Tuff.” And of course, cowboy boots, right down to tiny child size 4 boots.

Fans of fun and funky socks have an expanded source of them now that Heart & Sole in Fig Garden Village has more than doubled in size. It’s a comfort shoe store first and foremost, and it expanded to carry more shoes. But it also upped its selection of socks with whimsical images of avocados, owls and Abraham Lincoln and one of Frida Kahlo that frequently sells out. These socks are a big deal. After running a short piece with a picture of the socks in Sunday’s paper, sock sales apparently “went crazy,” the owner tells me.

The first Stein Mart in Clovis opens Friday. This newly built store is at the Clovis Crossing Regional Shopping Center at Clovis and Herndon avenues. Stein Mart sells women’s and men’s clothing, home decor, shoes and linens. It has plus-size and petite departments. (A piece of trivia: The “Stein” in the store name was the founder’s last name and his grandson, Jay Stein, is the CEO today.)

Read more

Sadie Calvano very happy with ‘Mom’

Sadie Calvano has the fortune — or misfortune — of starring in the CBS comedy “Mom” with two of the best comic actors working today in Emmy-winner Allison Janney and Anna Faris. It’s a chance for the young Southern California native to be on the biggest hit comedy from last year. But, her work often got overshadowed by her co-stars.

Calvano only looks at the positive saying being on a series with two such powerful comic co-stars is a blessing.

“We got really lucky with ‘Mom’ having such an amazing group of people who are so grounded and so smart,” Calvano tells me during a CBS party. “The chemistry on our stage is indescribable.”

Calvano went into the show such a fan of Faris and Janney, it took all of her will power not to become a fanboy the first time she read with them. After the initial shock, “Mom” became a learning experience for the young actress. Before signing on to “Mom,” Calvano had only made guest appearances on TV shows like “Melissa & Joey” and the film “J. Edgar.”

Read more

A benefit for Visalia’s Sydney Lemon

Visalia’s performing arts community is opening its arms to the family of 12-year-old Sydney Lemon, who died Aug. 26 after a six-month battle with aplastic anemia. Lim Forgey writes to let me know about a special benefit performance:

Sydney and her parents were (are) staples in the local musical theater scene and have worked with groups including the enchanted playhouse, College of the Sequoias Theater, Encore Theater of Tulare, Ice House Theater, TECO, Celebrant singers and more.

To help offset some of the massive medical bills left by Sydney’s illness, Christ Lutheran Church is launching a musical theatre showcase benefit concert and silent auction, featuring number from each of the groups above and the greater theatre community. The concert, called LEMONAID, will reflect the unique life of Sydney with the majority of the numbers boasting a high energy zeal and love of life. The concert will be held at LJ Williams theater on Sunday, September 28th at 4 PM. Tickets are by donation and can be picked up at Christ Lutheran Church 559-732-1851, The Ruby Slipper (559) 732-7463 or the Looking Glass Shop 559-732-2787.

It sounds like an unforgettable evening for a good cause.

Win tickets to see Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

Jazz lovers, no need to fly to the moon – we’ve got something a little closer to home that you’re sure to enjoy.  The Beehive is giving away tickets for two (2) lucky winners to see crooner Tony Bennett live at the Big Fresno Fair. 

TO ENTER: In the comments below, tell us the name of your favorite Tony Bennett song. The randomly selected winner will receive two (2) general admission passes to the Big Fresno Fair as well as two (2) tickets to see Tony Bennett in concert on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. 

Stay tuned: we’ve got plenty of concert ticket giveaways coming this fair season. 


THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Addams Family’

Sometimes a show just has Itt.

The new Good Company Players production of “The Addams Family” is a slick and happy affair. All the cylinders in this goofy engine of pop-culture genuflection run smoothly: sharp and witty direction, accomplished acting, spot-on costumes, strong sets, sturdy choreography and innovative lighting and projection design. Are Andrew Lippa’s music and lyrics or Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book the stuff of musical theater that will endure for the ages? Probably not. But as this GCP production shows, you can have a heck of a lot of fun goofing off for an evening about a beloved TV show.

The key to the success of a show like “The Addams Family” is fidelity to the source material — something that director Dan Pessano takes to heart. This isn’t a time for a revisionist view of Morticia Addams, say, by putting her in a button-up blouse, or turning Uncle Fester into a hard-charging investment banker instead of a moon gazer. Pessano’s casting is superb, with each of the actors in the major roles matching their characters both physically and in terms of temperament.

Read more

UPDATE: You can win special ‘Gotham’ poster


The winners of the “Gotham” posters have been randomly selected. Wes and TjMathew get one of the promotional items for the new FOX series. Thanks to those who participated.

ORIGINAL POST: “Gotham” is shaping up to be one of the big hits for the 2014-2015 network television season. The new series looks at life in Gotham City just after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. It will focus on the efforts of a young Jim Gordon to clean up the city and the police force.

At the same time, viewers will learn how The Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman and other villains got their starts.

The series launches Sept. 22 on FOX.

Read more

Debra Messing with cop drama series

Mention Debra Messing’s name and most people will remember her from her long run on “Will & Grace” or her recent series, “Smash.” You’re a real Messing fan if you also remember she was on the ABC cop drama “NYPD Blue.” She didn’t play a police officer but at least she got to see how such procedural shows are put together.

That’s coming in handy now that she’s starring in her own police drama, “The Mysteries of Laura.” Messing’s playing a first-rate police officer who isn’t quite as skilled when it comes to her home life. Cut her some slack. Laura’s two young sons are so bad even Mary Poppins would take off in a huff.

Messing goes into the series having been an avid watcher of televised trials because of her fascination with the judicial system.

Read more

The Devil you say? Post-hardcore band Chiodos matures on new album


Think of Chiodos as a post-hardcore version of Queen.

“What they did their scene, we want to do for our scene,” says Bradley Belo, who plays keyboards for the Michigan-based band, in town tonight for the “Parks and Devastation” tour at the Rotary Amphitheater in Woodward Park.

While Chiodos falls loosely under the umbrella of “post-hardcore,” Belo wouldn’t use that term to describe their sound. While the band may share some of the genre’s louder (and screamier) tendencies, it’s also a bit more progressive in its melodies and some of the keyboard parts, he says.

That flexibility of styles means they can fit in playing slots with a progressive rock band like Coheed and Cambria and be at home with more straight ahead high-energy metal and punk bands — like those on the current tour.

In April, the band released its fourth studio album “Devil.” Inspired by American best-selling author Mitch Albom, “Devil” debuted on five Billboard charts (including a No. 12 stop on the top 200).

Read more

Win tickets to Taylor 2 at the Tower

In one of the major dance events of the year, the six members of the Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company will perform Saturday at Fresno’s Tower Theatre. The New York-based company is very much part of the Taylor brand, and it specializes in performing original Taylor choreography scaled down for a smaller number of dancers. You’ll get a chance to see several famed pieces, including “Company B” and “Esplanade.”

I have TWO PAIRS of tickets to the 8 p.m. Saturday concert to give away to Beehive readers. 

To enter the contest,  leave a comment on this post telling us if you’ve ever been to a contemporary dance concert. If so, what’s your favorite performance? (Or, if you don’t want to play the memory game, just tell us why you’d like to see this show.)

Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Thursday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email on Thursday morning, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by 9 a.m. Friday, I reserve the right to pick another. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front counter by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up. Rules are on the jump.

Read more

Tonight: Poppy, punk rock with Flashlights


Melissa Hopkins lets me in on the truth about touring with her band the Flashlights: Eventually, the tour ends and the four members of the Florida indie-punk band have to go back home.

“We kind of put our lives on hold for this,” says Hopkins, who plays drums for the band, which is currently in the middle of a two-month cross country tour playing the opening slot for Paws and Total Slacker. The tour stops tonight at Strummer’s.

The days leading up to the tour were spent either practicing, or working to save up money so they could keep their apartments. The rent still needs to get paid. Hopkins has an employer that understands and appreciates her dedication to the band, though every time she goes out on the road she’s ready to put in her two-weeks notice.

“We’re pretty lucky,” she says.

Flashlights began in 2007 as the solo project of its leader Terry Caudill, who pulled in members of from the Brevard County punk scene. They have release two full-length albums, including its latest “Bummer Summer, out now on Hard Rock Records.

The album is full of bright, peppy (and poppy) rock songs.

Read more

Big changes for Fresno Philharmonic opener

There will be no didgeridoo on Sunday for the Fresno Philharmonic opener. Australian soloist William Barton, who was set to make a repeat appearance in Fresno, had to cancel because of illness. Music director Theodore Kuchar and the orchestra scrambled to find an impressive last-minute replacement. From the Monday announcement:

Instead the Fresno Philharmonic will perform American composer Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, a work completed in 1939. During the past 75 years, the concerto has become one of Barber’s most performed works. Acclaimed violinist James Buswell, who has recorded the work for Naxos, will join Maestro Kuchar and the Fresno Philharmonic for this intensely lyrical concerto. (Buswell received a Grammy nomination for his recording in 2003).

Still on the program is Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” along with Morton Gould’s “Stephen Foster Gallery.” The concert is 3 p.m. Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre.

TONIGHT: Hardcore punk w/7 Seconds


Kevin Seconds remembers his first realization of success for 7 Seconds, the hardcore band he formed with his brother Steve Youth in Reno in 1980.

“We were asked to open for the Dead Kennedys in San Francisco,” says Second, who is in town tonight for a headlining gig at Strummer’s with Rotting Out, Them Creature and Wallflower.

“That was such a big deal to us,” he says.

Read more

Guri’s GrubHouse offers farm-fresh food and craft beer

New restaurant Guri’s GrubHouse is open. This restaurant, at 1713 E. Shaw Ave. in the former Fajita Fiesta spot, is a farm-to-table gastropub. To find out more about what those terms mean, and all the creative dishes on the menu at Guri’s, check out my column about the place. Or, watch this video for an introduction to Guri’s. 

Astro’s career blasts off with ‘Society,’ ‘Walk’

This is turning into a really good year for Brian Bradley — who’s better known as Astro. The former “X-Factor” contestant currently can be seen in the new FOX series “The Red Band Society” playing Dash Hosney, a 16-year-old patient who won’t let his cystic fibrosis stop him from living his life.

He’s also in the new Liam Neeson movie, “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” playing a tee-anger who won’t let his illness keep him from living life on the streets.

Astro also appeared in “Earth to Echo” earlier this year. Everyone makes mistakes.

As for the successes, the reality of how his acting career is taking off hasn’t fully hit him.

Read more

Reel Pride pick: ‘Lilting’

There’s still a lot more to go of the 25th year of Reel Pride, Fresno’s gay and lesbian film festival. (It opened Wednesday.) A full slate of films continues at two venues through Sunday. In today’s 7 section, Rick Bentley and I reviewed a couple of the films playing this weekend — and for me, my experience was golden. I highly recommend “Lilting,” which plays 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Tower Theatre. I give the film an “A” grade:

This riveting, defiantly quiet gem of a film is a highlight of the festival. Director Hong Khaou, in his self-assured feature-film debut, spins a spare tale set in London of a grieving Cambodian-Chinese mother living in a retirement home who is thrust into an unlikely and tenuous relationship with her son’s equally grieving English lover.

Weaving together themes of coming out, cross-cultural sparring and guilt over aging parents, Khaou crafts a determinedly intimate tone both in terms of visuals and storytelling — but he also has a minimalist streak. (We never learn the occupations of the son and his lover, for example.) Richard (played by Ben Whishaw in a hunched, bracing and sensitive performance), is determined after his partner’s death to forge a connection with the strong-willed June (the veteran Chinese actress Cheng Pei-pei, a potent cinematic force), who doesn’t speak English.

Read more

BANDGEEK: Sea Knight, Sleepover Disaster and A Day to Remember

Resist the urge to rewatch “Braveheart.” Instead, check out one of the dozens of live music performances happening over the next week. We’ve collected them for you in this weeks’ BANDGEEEEK!


  • Incoming Rush.
    W/Outside the Wire. At Fulton 55. 8 p.m. $6-$8.

  • The Real McKenzies.
    W/A. Tom Collins. At Strummer’s. 8 p.m. $12-$13. (Flier link)

  • Saint Motel.
    W/The River Wilde. At Peeve’s Public House. 8 p.m. Free. All ages.

  • Los Hooligans.
    At ApCal. 7 p.m. Free.

  • Endings.
    W/Blackwell, Messenger of the Covenant, Know Your Enemy and Once Emperor. At CYC. 6:30 p.m. $5 donation. All ages. (Flier link)

  • Mercy Fist.
    W/Valkyrie Missile, Clockwork Hero and Light of Mine. At Kuppajoe. 7:30 p.m. $6-$8. All ages. (Flier link)

  • Read more

    Five Things You Should Do This Weekend


    Now that we have all that MLB drama behind us, we can go out and enjoy the weekend, right?

    1. Love a Local
    Peeve’s Public House celebrates its first year in business. So should you.

    2. ClovisFest
    Get up extra early to see the hot air balloons inflate and take off from the Rodeo Grounds.

    3. Highland Gathering and Games
    “I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1518, in the village of Glen Finnen on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal.”

    4. Reel Pride
    For those who think that Fresno is a backwards town that won’t ever be truly progressive, Reel Pride celebrates 25 years and is the sixth oldest gay and lesbian film festival in the US.

    5. Hanford Blues and Roots Festival
    A bay Area blues revue + the CVBS Allstars.

    For music specific ideas, check out BANDGEEK!