I’m sorry to say it, but: Humbug.
And unlike Scrooge, I didn’t change my tune by the end of the Good Company Players production of “A Christmas Carol” at the 2nd Space Theatre. The show isn’t up to GCP standards.
The bright spot is Mark Norwood in the title role of Scrooge. It takes true theatrical finesse to breathe originality and presence into a cliche-prone word like “humbug,” and Norwood is more than up for the task. (You, the reader, might not feel as benevolently about my success in tossing the famed utterance into the lead sentence of this review.) His Scrooge is grumpy and sour, of course, and occasionally a bit whimsical, but he’s also a little scary, which is what this show needs if it isn’t going to descend into cloying sentimentality. Norwood gives us a dark place from which Scrooge can journey into the light, which makes his redemption worth the trip.
Or should have, if directors Max and Nicholle Debbas had given him more of a convincing world for him to inhabit.
Snow in Fresno? The snow in this picture fell in Shaver Lake.
It’s bone-chilling cold out there, but something even more exciting could be coming: snow. Friday night going into Saturday could bring snow flurries, meteorologists are telling Bee reporters. Doesn’t sound like we’ll all be building snowmen Saturday morning though. Reporter Mark Grossi is still working on his story about the likelihood of snow, but here’s a sneak preview he sent along:
A storm passing through California Friday night is forecast to thaw the sub-30s night-time freezer in the San Joaquin Valley, but the weather might get even more miserable. Flurries of snow might mix in with a light rain with temperatures in the mid-30s — a damp, chilly wake-up call on Saturday morning. It would be Fresno’s first snow in eight years.
“We’re not talking about any accumulations of snow,” said meteorologist Paul Iniguez of the National Weather Service’s Hanford office. “I don’t think you’ll need a snow shovel.”
I can’t remember ever seeing snow in Fresno. (I think it’s happened in the 13 years I’ve lived here, but I’m pretty sure I slept through it.) And call me a skeptic, but we are talking about predicting the future here. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see any snow at all. But it sure would be fun if we did.
I can’t be the only one with a fragile hold on her sanity now that the holidays are in full swing. (I blame covering last week’s Black Friday frenzy, not sure what Traci’s issue is.) I have an antidote. Toys for Tots needs toy donations. Desperately. There is nothing better than the feeling of giving a gift to a kid who might not otherwise get one. It makes up for some of the consumerism that has taken over the holidays. It made me feel human again to drop a Game of Life board game in the empty Toys for Tots box last week after watching people rush Victoria’s Secret doors to get half-priced hoodies on Black Friday.
The need is especially great this year. See, the Marines that used to collect toys for the drive in Fresno are actually based in Lemoore, and they’ve been told to focus on the Kings County Toys for Tots drive. So a bunch of retired Marines are taking over the toy drive in Fresno, but they don’t have nearly the money or the connections. They need another 50,000 toys and they’ve got less than two weeks to find them. They expect to give out about 85,000 toys and wouldn’t be surprised if the demand was even greater, given the crappy economy and a drop in donations. The deadline is Dec. 16.
You can find a list of donation box locations here. They take cash donations too. This is perfectly acceptable reason to pat yourself on the back and feel good about something. Go for it.
DARRELL WONG/THE FRESNO BEE
Dear Drivers of Fresno & Clovis,
Why do you suck?
As we usher in a new era of ever-more merges from 168 to 180 to 41 and the like, why is it necessary for you, dear jerk, to drive all the way up the embankment to the very last of the second lane (effectively shoving the other drivers over) so that you may merge into the single-laned exit a whopping two cars ahead of where you should have been?
Why is it necessary, when cars are merging onto 99 or 41 or 168, to SPEED FORWARD so you can be one car ahead – The first! Number one! Yay! — thus running other potential-mergers off the road?Literally daily?
Why must you speed up just enough to disallow lane changes, and then slow back down so that the prospective lane changer can’t get behind you, either?
Do you think that because you stare straight ahead, laser-like at the bumper of the car ahead of you, that we are magically fooled into thinking you don’t know what you’ve just done? That somehow you PRETENDING to not see us excuses your craptackular behavior?
No. It doesn’t. Because for starters, we aren’t fricking idiots. And secondly, we are watching your horrible behavior, mouths agape with frustration and horror as you almost cause YET ANOTHER accident on our already accident-clogged roads with your selfish need to be ONE STUPID CAR AHEAD of the rest of the drivers of the world.
On behalf of the conscientious drivers out there, who earnestly try to drive safely and KINDLY, those of us who LET PEOPLE IN or wave apologies when we recognize that we have inadvertently behaved poorly or wave thanks when we encounter kindness — on behalf of this teeny, tiny minority, I say to the overt majority: SCREW YOU. I HATE YOU. I ENVISION YOUR DOWNFALL AND IT MAKES ME SMILE THAT EVIL, CALM SMILE OF VENGEANCE.
This holiday season, it is with the intensity of a million burning suns that I wish upon you THOUSANDS OF TRAFFIC TICKETS THAT BOTH RUIN YOUR DRIVING RECORD AND, THE RECEIVING OF WHICH, CAUSES YOU TO BE FOREVER LATE TO YOUR DESTINATIONS.
With sincerest intentions,
Although I have not been as big a fan of the second and third installments of “American Horror Story” on FX, the one great thing about all three has been Jessica Lange. In each incarnation, she’s been doing her best work since her Oscar-nominated work in the 1982 feature “Frances.” The reason her work is so strong is that Lange is so happy with the bizarre characters she’s had the chance to play in the three versions of the show.
If you have been watching the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” it’s obvious that the current version is a big change from when Regis Philbin or Meredith Vieira were the hosts. Cedric the Entertainer has taken a show that once counted on suspense and turned it into a place for comedy.
Last week, each day’s episode was themed to a certain decade starting with the ‘70s on Monday and ending with a look to the future on Friday. Cedric dressed appropriately. The week is an example of the approach Cedric promised he would take when named the new host.
“I think the big thing about it is the opportunity to be a stand-up, to be engaged with the contestants, a bit of the audience so that you can have fun. You can have fun and keep the show energetic while keeping the game play alive,” Cedric says. “And I think that that’s what most comedians find attractive about this particular form of entertainment. It is that we get to be ourselves in that energy, and that’s what I look forward to and that’s why it was exciting for me about doing this show is I get to be myself as the host.”
Don “Doc” Casperson in 2009.
Sad news: Old Doc’s Discount Liquor is closing. The first location, at Cedar and Nees avenues, is already closed. The other one, at Bullard and Marks avenues, is scheduled to be open until Dec. 30.
Doc — Don Casperson — is 74. His wife, Elaine, has already retired from teaching, and another business partner has retired too. The couple is ready for a break. (Trivia tidbit: He got the nickname Doc because he has a doctorate in education. He came here to teach health science at Fresno State and opened a little liquor store on the side.)
Competition from the newly opened BevMo! and other places was not a factor, the couple says. You can read more about the decision to close in today’s column, but as Doc said:
“We’re just at the point where we can’t put the time and energy into it, and hopefully people will have very positive memories of what we’ve done since 1979.”
The Bullard and Marks store is having a sale. Now might be a good time to stock up, and say goodbye.
Adam Carolla is in the Guiness Book of World Records.
For podcasting. No joke.
Carolla hosts the most downloaded podcast of all time, which, technically, means since the early 2000s or so. Still, Carolla, best known for his TV (“The Man Show,” Crank Yankers”) and radio (“Loveline”) work, is podcast royalty. His show was downloaded 60 million times between ’09 and ’11.
Carolla will be taping an episode of his podcast live at the Tower Theatre, Dec. 8 and we have tickets to put a few lucky Beehivers in the audience. Enter to win by leaving a comment on this post. Tell us what is your favorite podcast and why. The contest ends 5 p.m. Friday. Winners will be chosen by random and notified via email. So check your email if you enter. One comment per person, please. Rules on the jump.
San Jose post-punk art-rock band Xiu Xiu (pronounced shoe shoe) will hit Fresno in February. It’s one of just two California shows currently listed on the its FB page. The band (Jamie Stewart and a revoling cast of musicians) plays Feb. 20 at Fulton 55. Tickets are $10 and go on sale 8 a.m. Friday.
Xiu Xiu just released a collection of Nina Simone covers (“Nina,” out of Graveface Records, today) and recently announced a plans for a new collection of original songs. That album, “Angle Guts: Red Classroom,” is set for release (on CD/LP/tape and MP3) Feb. 4.
You can hear a track from the album (“Stupid in the Dark“) on the jump.
The new TV Land comedy “Kirstie” launches at 10 p.m. Dec. 4. The show features the return of three veteran sitcom performers to TV with Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman and Michael Richards.
Alley plays an aging Broadway diva who meets the son she gave up 26 years ago. The jokes will come from the new mother-son relationship.
Today is Giving Tuesday (or #givingtuesday, for the hashtag crowd). I could give you a long list of support-worthy causes. Instead, I will suggest The Normal School, the bi-annual literary magazine based out of Fresno State.
The magazine is the type of thing Fresno needs more of. It features nonfiction, fiction, poetry, criticism and journalism and is a great catalyst for local talent, especially given its emphasis on boundary-challenging and/or innovative content, form or focus.
To get a feel for what the magazine is about, show up 7 p.m. tonight at Peeve’s Public House on the Fulton Mall to celebrate The Normal School’s 11th issue. It will be literary — with readings from Corrinne Hales, Randa Jarrar, Steven Church and Fresno State MFA students. There will also be music from Lance Canales and the Flood. The event is free and open to the public, but you can subscribe or donate to the magazine, which goes a long way toward printing issue No. 12.
Before the party, Canales will be at Fresno State to discuss songwriting, music making and the like. The discussion starts at 3 p.m. in the Peter’s Business Building, room 194. Email email@example.com to reserve a spot and a parking pass.
Here’s a chance for a family or group of friends to enjoy the stage version of the beloved Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” while enjoying a special night at the theater. I’m giving away FOUR tickets to a Wednesday Dec. 4 benefit performance of the show at the 2nd Space Theatre. This Good Company Players production features Mark Norwood in the title role of Scrooge, and the evening includes some other bonuses as well, such as special treats, a dessert auction and Christmas carols performed by members of the Junior Company. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the pre-show starts at 7:15, and the production starts at 7:30.
It’s all a benefit for the Juniors. If you don’t win tickets, you can purchase them for $30. (Box office number is (559) 266-0660.
To enter our contest, write a comment on this post telling us which Christmas ghost you’d most prefer to be visited by — would it be Christmas Past, Christmas Present or Christmas Future? (If you don’t want to get that philosophical, just tell us why you like “A Christmas Carol.”)
Deadline for entry is 5 p.m. today (Tuesday). I’ll be picking our winner at random and notifying him or her by email. (So watch yours at about that time.) One comment per person. Rules are on the jump.
Black Friday was a bit off, sales wise, this year. That’s only because retailers changed up the game and decided to open a day(ish) earlier, leaving the country’s two favorite past times (eating and shopping) to battle it out in what will now be known as Brown Thursday (can’t confirm is that’s an official title). Combining the two days, sales were up, slightly year over year.
Of course, not everyone is so taken with the idea of mass consumerism, and some chose to abstain from the whole ordeal. In a recent column, I wrote about Buy Nothing Day (aka Occupy Christmas) a grass-roots day of protest against … well all the craziness we saw on the nightly news this weekend. Camping out in front of Target, for example.
Feedback on the column was mostly positive, mostly from people who think the current state of American consumerism, with its corporate box stores and HUGE SAVINGS, is unsustainable. Or, at the very least creating bad cycles (See: Walmart’s canned food drive for its own employees).
And even with all of this year’s hubbub, there are signs that habits may be changing. Websites like Etsy and Bandcamp, for example, and the success of crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter prove that people are looking for new ways to engage their consumerism, even as the old ways are breaking down. Trend analyst Eric Garland’s piece on the fiscal troubles of Guitar Center seems to agree.
So the question goes to you: Did you shop Black Friday, or buy nothing? Or, do you just not care either way? Is the resurgence of the mom-and-pop shop on the horizon?
Fresno’s Audra McDonald has been added to the lineup for the NBC special “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” to be broadcast at 8 p.m. Dec. 4 on KSEE24. The special airs on KSEE (Channel 24.1) the day before McDonald can be seen in the NBC special “The Sound of Music Live!”
Along with McDonald, the special — hosted by “Today” anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales — will include performances by Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Goo Goo Dolls, Ariana Grande, Jewel, Leona Lewis and The Rockettes.
One question that often gets asked is if I get starstruck talking to celebrities. When you’ve been doing these kind of interviews since Mary Pickford was an ingenue, it’s rare when talking to a star makes me nervous. The only thing that will shake my confidence is when I’m thrown a last-minute interview to do and I haven’t had time to do any research.
I have seen celebrities get excited about other talent. That happened recently during interviews for the upcoming release of “Saving Mr. Banks,” the story of how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) got the book rights to make “Mary Poppins.” It was “Mr. Banks” screenwriter Kelly Marcel — you may better know her for being selected to write the screenplay for the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” — who became flustered.
There’s no definitive answer, of course. The Clovis West Marching Band is a state powerhouse on the marching band circuit, and it has been for a long time. The Clovis North Marching Band & Color Guard is practically brand new. It isn’t an apples-vs.apples comparison. What’s more, the two bands didn’t choose to compete in the same final event of the season. Clovis North ended up tops in the smaller band categories at the Western Band Association Combined Grand Championships last weekend in Clovis. Meanwhile, Clovis West’s last big hurrah of the season was a few weeks prior at the Long Beach Regional of the Bands of America Marching Championships, where it came out tops in its 3A class and came in second overall, behind Ayala High School.
(I give major props to Clovis North in my Sunday Spotlight column, and I feature an extended interview with the band’s passionate director, David Lesser, elsewhere on the Beehive.)
So, there’s room for debate. What do you think? In 2013, which was the better band?
The Clovis North Marching Band and Color Guard has a right to brag. Last weekend it took the top prize in the smaller-schools category at the Western Band Association grand championships at Buchanan High School. I decided to devote my Sunday Spotlight column to an interview with David Lesser, who has helmed the band since the Clovis North Educational Center opened seven years ago. Here’s the extended version of that email interview.
Question: For those who missed the Clovis North field show, what was the show’s theme? What was the music?
The Clovis North Bronco Band and Color Guards 2013 Fall Production was titled, “The Soloist.” It was an original composition by Shawn Glyde commissioned for the Clovis North Bronco Band and Color Guard. ”The Soloist” could have a different meaning to whoever is observing. We tried to emote and display the choices that people have to make as they travel the different paths of their own life. The general idea is, even though we have many relationships and people surrounding us, at the end of the day we must make our own decisions by ourselves and rather than going where the path may lead we should go where there is no path… and leave a trail.
Clovis North is a AAA band. What does that mean? In laymen’s terms, keeping it simple, how do the WBA class championships and combined grand championships work?
The classes in the Western Band Association, (WBA) are based on the number of performers in each ensemble. Information on Class size can be found at www.westernbands.org.
The WBA Championships was a two day event. Saturday November 23 was the class championships and Sunday November 24 was the Grand Championships. The purpose of Saturday is to rank the groups and promote the qualified groups to the Grand Championships on Sunday.
To qualify for the 1/2/3A Grand Championships you must have been in the top five bands for 1A, top 5 for 2A and top 7 for 3A creating a new contest between 17 bands. The 4A/5A format is similar, taking the top 5 bands in each class plus the next five highest scores to have a second contest of 15 bands.
How did we score such a prominent topic for our recurring Backstage Spy feature? It’s thanks to Fresno’s own Kristin Goehring, who is in New York City these days living the theater dream. While some New York fans might just make plans to watch the world-famou parade in person, she (in true Kristin style) took it a step further: She worked “backstage” at the world-famous parade yesterday in Operations, where “all the costumes and makeup happens.” She generously offered to document the experience for Beehive readers. Thanks, Kristin!
START GALLERY HERE
Mel Brooks is the first name you’re going to associate with the musical version of “Young Frankenstein,” of course. It’s his wacky world from the 1974 classic film created up there on stage — the memorable characters, silly sight gags, dancing monsters and, as expected, quotable one-liners. (You know you’re in good hands when the title of one song is “He Vas My Boyfriend,” sung by the severe — and severely randy — Frau Blucher, the very mention of whose name makes off-stage horses whinny.)
But besides Brooks, there’s another name that makes the new Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater so successful: Fred Bologna.
As director, Bologna is in top form in this silly, bawdy, wonderfully staged show. Once again, I find myself liking the local premiere of a (relatively) new Broadway show at Roger Rocka’s more than the national tour that came through the Saroyan. (The same thing happened recently with GCP’s “Shrek.) Bologna’s innovative use of the small Roger Rocka’s stage, clever effects, choreography and wonderfully dressed sets (he, along with Sam Ortega, doubles as prop master, and what an array of beakers, skulls, skeletons, scientific diagrams and frightening lab equipment the two of them have assembled) all contribute to a slick, happy production.
Forget the Black Friday craziness at big-box stores. Plenty of you out there are vowing to buy local this holiday season. More money stays in the local economy when you do that (and it’s easier to find unique gifts, I think). So let’s make it easy for a Fresno-minded shopper to go Christmas shopping this year. What is your favorite local store to shop at? What do you get there?
Full disclosure: You’re helping me do my work by responding to this. We’re planning a shop local story in a future Sunday paper and your input will help guide what goes into it. I’m looking for your favorite locally owned stores to shop at in different categories, including:
Gifts for the home
And heck, anything else that comes to mind. The more examples of cool stuff you’ve found, the better.
For many, this is an extended weekend — which means more time to fill. If you’re up for avoiding Black Friday and looking for a new TV series to consume, have I got a show for you: “The Wrong Mans.” This BBC Television dramedy is a highly digestible 6-shows long, entertaining without being complex and available in one giant chunk — only on Hulu.
The premise (via IMDb): “The Wrong Mans series centers on Sam Pinkett and Phil Bourne, office workers for Berkshire County Council, who have their menial existence turned upside-down by a chance phone-call and a case of mistaken identity. After being sole witness to a car crash on a desolate country road, Sam answers an abandoned mobile telephone and hears a message that was clearly not meant for him: “If you are not here by 5 o’clock, we will kill your wife”. Encouraged by office mail-room delivery boy Phil that they can be the heroes of the hour, the duo soon find themselves plunged into a deadly kidnap situation.”
Not a subscriber? Not a problem. Hulu is offering this entertaining show free.
How enthusiastic am I about this show? If I could stand on my hands and do a little dance for you right now, I would — if it would get you to consider catching the exhilarating “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. It’s big in so many ways, from the sheer size of some of the pieces (how about a 12-foot iPad painting?) to the innovative technologies used (you actually get to see in some cases the brush strokes that Hockney made in those iPad works). Then there’s just the sheer number of works: more than 300 displayed in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making it the biggest in the history of the museum.
I get all evangelistic about the show in my most recent Spotlight column, which ran on Sunday. I don’t often urge people to drive six hours roundtrip to do anything, but in this case I really do feel it’s an art exhibition you don’t want to miss. It runs through Jan. 20. Sounds like plenty of time, yes, but you know how busy things can get in the holidays and beyond. Make your plans now.
Photo: Fresno Bee photographer John Walker
If the thought of cooking fills you with dread — or you just don’t want to do all those dishes — local businesses have plenty of options for you. Many grocery stores and restaurants are selling premade Thanksgiving meals that you reheat at home. Read more about that here. Many local restaurants are open on Thanksgiving Day too. This is a popular day, so if you plan on going, you must have a reservation.
The Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. They’ll be serving turkey, of course, but if you’re not a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving main dish, you can pick from filet Mignon, pistachio-crusted halibut, tender rosemary lamb rib-eye, grilled swordfish and prime rib. Prices range from $29 to $39, depending upon the dish. Each meal comes with Thanksgiving favorites, such as candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dressing and green beans. You can see the whole menu here.
Plenty of other restaurants are open Thursday too, including the School House Restaurant & Tavern, the Elbow Room, Erna’s Elderberry House, several restaurants in and near Yosemite Nation Park, Mimi’s Cafe and Marie Callender’s. You can read about what they’re doing here.
Photo: Ross Taylor, Associated Press
The Black Friday shopping craziness is coming. In fact, it should be called Black Thursday this year because most of the big stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day. Fashion Fair mall and many department stores will open at 8 p.m. Thursday, for instance. Craft store Michaels will open at 4 p.m. Will you be there?
With Black Friday encroaching on the time usually reserved for turkey and pumpkin pie, the debate over early openings has reached a fever pitch this year. On one side, there’s the multiple generations of families in town for the holidays who have made a tradition of going shopping for great deals and spending quality time waiting in line together. In the other corner are the people vowing not to shop. They believe retail workers should have one holiday to stay home with their families, and abhor the expression of consumerism and greed.
Where do you stand?
Below are opening times for major stores (and for the record, Costco, Sur La Table and RadioShack deliberately are not opening on Thanksgiving Day).
Opening times on Thanksgiving Day:
6 a.m. Kmart (Kmart has opened at 6 a.m. in the past, but this year it won’t close during the middle of the day. It will stay open for 41 hours through Friday.)
4 p.m. Michaels
5 p.m. Toys “R” Us
6 p.m. Best Buy
Audra McDonald fans, prepare yourself for a welcome local dose of Fresno’s most famous Broadway star. McDonald will perform Feb. 28 at the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia.
She last appeared locally in 2011 at Fresno’s Warnors Theatre to open the Fresno Grand Opera season. Her schedule has been packed since then, of course, including a Tony Award-winning run in “Porgy and Bess,” hosting duties on “Live from Lincoln Center” and preparing for her upcoming role as Mother Abbess in NBC’s Dec. 5 live production of “The Sound of Music.”
Tickets for the Visalia event are $30-$60 and go on sale midnight Thursday, just in time for all the Black Friday hoopla. The event is a benefit for Hands in the Community. Details: ticketfly.com/event/429845