An illustrious end to the Keyboard season

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The scene: It’s about 15 minutes before concert time on Sunday afternoon, and crowds of people are lined up in front of the box office at the Fresno State Concert Hall. One line is for people putting their names on a waiting list for the sold-out show; the others have had their names called for a seat and are waiting to pay.

The artist: Emanuel Ax, one of the top classical pianists in the world. He’s a longtime supporter of Keyboard Concerts.

The concert: I’m not sure how many of those people waiting outside actually made it inside, but the performance has to start late as the lucky standby winners are squeezed in. There’s something exciting about sitting in the middle of a jammed concert hall that people have clawed (at least figuratively) their way into. When Ax ambles out, giving a shy smile on his way to the piano, the audience roars.

The first half of the program: Ax starts with the most challenging piece for the audience first: Aaron Copland’s “Variations.” It’s a vibrant, cacophonous jolt of music, its dissonance drilling into my ears, but the piece has a solid, majestic ambiance. He follows that with a gorgeous and lyrical selection by Haydn, Variations in F Minor, followed by Beethoven’s Variations and Fugue in E-flat Major.

The second half of the program: Ax returns to perform Schumann’s powerhouse “Etudes en forme de variations,” a marathon collection of a theme plus a dozen etudes ending in the boisterous “Allegro brillante.” It’s amazing to watch and listen to Ax play. His sound alternates between silky-smooth spry and battleship powerful, with his trills — ah, those trills! — like whipped honey. The audience is on its feet for one encore, then two. It’s a treat to welcome someone who regularly plays the great concert halls of the world to the intimate Keyboard Concerts venue.

Cameron Diaz interview a bust

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CinemaCon 2012 Pioneer of t.JPG Cameron Diaz and I start talking about her breasts.

Let me be very clear — I didn’t pick the topic. It’s “Glee” star Matthew Morrison who brings up the subject when he says Diaz showed him her breasts during the filming of the new movie “What to Expect When You Are Expecting.” It opens May 18.

It wasn’t only Morrison who got a peek. Diaz showed everyone the special effects chest she was given for the role.

Diaz plays a fitness guru who, while appearing on a “Dancing With the Stars” type show, becomes romantically involved with her dance partner played by Morrison. That romance leads to a pregnancy. They are just one pregnancy story line of several in the film based on the best-selling book by Heidi Murkoff.

“Well, he got to see my prosthetic breasts, my pregnant breasts, which were really amazing. I was like, wow! Those are awesome!” says a VERY enthusiastic Diaz.

There was a problem. The movie shot last summer in the middle of a Georgia heat wave.

“In the Atlanta heat, I aged about 40 years by the end of two hours. They were literally hanging down to my hips! They were just drooping down. They were just melting off my body. It was really not attractive,” Diaz says.

The perky actress continues discussing the topic as she explains why a woman’s anatomy changes with passing years. Diaz goes into great detail of how she’s watched women in other countries who could breastfeed the babies strapped on their backs and continue to work.

It’s at that point I notice Anna Kendrick, who also stars in the film. Her face has turned ashen as she listens to Diaz talk. Kendrick can thank Morrison for such a revealing dialogue by Diaz.

Tonight: Murs at Fulton 55



Ahh yes, one of my favorite rappers arrives at Fulton 55.

Murs — part of the Living Legends crew, and an underground hip-hop titan in his own right — hits the stage tonight with Dee-1 opening.

I’ve probably seen Murs perform more than any other artist and I can 100% attest that Fresno is in for one of the most energetic live performances on the hip-hop circuit.

One thing to watch for: Murs is working on a project with Fresno’s own Fashawn. Will we get to hear a little bit of that? Hope so.

Tickets cost $15, whether you buy ‘em in advance or get ‘em at the door.

Win tickets to Fresno Grand Opera’s ‘Showboat’



It’s time for me to take off my columnist/hard-news writer hat and put on my entertainment blogger/writer hat. Though I’ve spent a lot of time recently following the strike against Fresno Grand Opera, I also need to cover the company’s production of “Show Boat” — which opens Friday night at the Saroyan Theatre — like any other significant upcoming cultural event.

With that in mind, I have two pairs of good orchestra seats (each one with a face value of $62.50) to give away to the opera: one pair for 8 p.m. Friday and the other for 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Show Boat,” written in 1927, is a major part of theater history — it’s considered the first true “book” Broadway musical that seamlessly integrates storyline and music. The characters are far more three-dimensional than in vaudeville entertainments and operettas in the past, and creators Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II dared to tackle elaborate and unconventional topics.

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us whether you’d like to attend the Friday performance, the Saturday performance, or either. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front lobby by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up.

Deadline is 10 a.m. Wednesday.

I’ll notify the winner via e-mail — so please leave a real e-mail address and please check it. Duplicate entries are not allowed. I reserve the right to pick another winner if you haven’t responded to a notification email in a timely manner. You’re ineligible if you’ve won anything from the Beehive in the past 30 days. Full rules on the jump.

Photos: Fresno’s Star Wars Pub Crawl


For one night, in Fresno’s Tower District, the Jedi and the Sith put aside their differences and gathered for a common cause: a pub crawl! Yes, Friday night — ahem, May the Fourth Be With You — was the inaugural Star Wars Pub Crawl. If you’re like me and you missed it, The Bee’s Craig Kohlruss snapped some pics for your Monday perusal. The event’s beginning included a flash mob and proposal. View the entire gallery of photos here.


If you’ve got more pics to share — and I know you do, because I saw a bunch flying around the Internets — leave a link the comments

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