Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

We help you plan your January

It’s a new year, and if your resolution is to get out and have more fun, then you might want to consult The Bee’s “Don’t Miss It” guide, which plans out the best of the month in pop culture and local events — from “Dreamgirls” and Steve Earle to Disney on Ice and “Downton Abbey.” Click the link below to look at the full-size calendar.

PDF: The Bee’s “Don’t Miss It” guide for January.

Broadway in Fresno: ‘Dreamgirls,’ ‘Shrek,’ Rain, David Sedaris and more

The schedule for the 2012-2013 Broadway in Fresno series is out, bringing some familiar titles to Saroyan Theatre. Among them: “Dreamgirls,” “Shrek: The Musical” and “West Side Story.”

As is customary with the series, there are few options that aren’t exactly theater in the traditional sense: “Lord of the Dance,” popular Beatles tribute band Rain and an evening with author/humorist David Sedaris of NPR fame. These are in addition to a July concert with Yanni that’s been on the books for months now.


So, Broadway in Fresno fans, how do you rate this lineup?

Donald’s weekend pick


It’s got to be “13.” Three performances of this Children’s Musical Theaterworks production remain: 7:30 p.m. today, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Lynn Cooper, who won our Facebook ticket giveaway for the Thursday show, wrote me last night:

Mr. Munro, two weeks ago I was sitting in a theatre in London wishing a play would hurry up and end; in Fresno tonight I was wishing a play would never end. Absolutely loved “13″! The cast was amazing! Thank you again for the tickets.

Another theater option: An original one-man show, “Kevin Harris Explains Himself,” premieres 7 p.m. today and plays 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday at the Broken Leg Stage. (Update: An inaccurate press release was sent to The Bee saying that performances were 7 p.m. today and 10 p.m. Saturday. It was supposed to read 7 p.m. both days. Harris says that he’ll do a 10 p.m. performance on Saturday if people show up, however.)

There’s other good theater out there, too, including the final performances of “Of Mice and Men” and the ongoing “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Dreamgirls.”

Stage roundup

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I’m so bleary-eyed from going to performances that I’ve almost lost track myself of all the theater going on this weekend. In Friday’s issue of 7 I have two condensed reviews, so here for easy access are the extended versions for “Dreamgirls” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Plus, here’s the extended review for “Rancho Tesoro” in Visalia (pictured), which I wrote about in Thursday’s paper.

Opening this weekend: “The Turn of the Screw” at the Broken Leg Stage. I have an interview in Friday’s 7 section with Brooke Aiello, who plays the governess in this creepy tale.

And don’t forget “The Aristocats” at Children’s Musical Theaterworks, which was part of my cover-story theater roundup last Friday in 7.

Three of the above are in their final days: “Wizard of Oz,” “Rancho Tesoro” and “Aristocats.”

Plus, I’ll be writing in a few minutes on the Beehive about a couple of cutting-edge one-act operas tonight that kick off the California Opera Association annual summer festival.

By the way, if you were one of the few who planned to attend the touring stage production of “Friends With Benefits,” which had been scheduled for tonight at the Warnors Theatre, better make other plans. That performance has been cancelled because of low ticket sales.

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Dreamgirls’


It’s the kind of rags-to-riches theater story that makes people swoon. Mystique Steward had no prior theater experience when director Dan Pessano cast her in the pivotal role of Effie White in the new Good Company Players production of “Dreamgirls.”

Flash forward to opening weekend, when Steward’s character positions herself on stage for the famed first-act finale. Effie has just learned she’s been dumped from the Dreams, the Supremes-like R&B group whose path to fame and fortune we follow through the musical. The theatrical stakes surrounding this song are pretty high: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is not only one of the best-known in the show, but Effie sings it alone — and has to deliver one of those raise-the-rafters experiences we associate with Jennifer Holliday on Broadway and Jennifer Hudson in the movie version.

Does Steward deliver? Oh yes. This is a riches-from-rags story, after all. Director Dan Pessano knew exactly what he was doing when he cast her in the role. She fills the theater with a big, barreling voice and a hefty volume that made my spine tingle. (I’m a little worried about her keeping it up over the run — but more on that in a moment.)

The aspect of Steward’s performance that surprises me, however, isn’t so much her vocal chops. (She’s long been a choir member at Saint Rest Baptist Church.) It’s her acting in the show. Steward is a natural. She isn’t always consistent, but there are many moments when she seems to truly connect with the anger, ache and resilience of her character — and she let me feel it, too. Her performance is a highlight in this charismatic if uneven production.

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Donald’s weekend pick: more theater

I got started on this kick with yesterday’s “To Do” suggestion, and now I continue the theme: There’s lots of theater this weekend. I write about the four musicals opening in today’s 7 cover story. My own theater plans: I saw “The Wizard of Oz” last night in Clovis (and will post a review later today). Tonight I see “Dreamgirls.” Tomorrow I plan to see the matinee performance of “Rancho Tesoro” in Visalia. And I’m hoping, if I can fit it into my schedule, to catch “The Aristocats” next week (though I won’t be reviewing because it’s a smaller-kid show).

There’s an interesting cover story this morning on “Rancho Tesoro” in “{Talk” magazine (produced by The Bee’s custom publications department for South Valley readers; you can pick it up on racks in the South Valley). It’s not available online, but I’ve posted the text version after the jump.

And if those aren’t enough theater options for you, don’t forget about a couple of titles already running, including the last two performances of Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s “The Merchant of Venice” and Good Company Players’ “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which I featured yesterday on the Beehive. Here’s a video promoting “Merchant” at Woodward Park:

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