Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Win tickets to Fresno Grand Opera’s ‘Les Miz’


UPDATE: Congratulations to winner Terri Kotchevar. She’s planning to take her son to the performance.

ORIGINAL POST:  It’s been touted as the Fresno area’s biggest ever local production. With a budget of $800,000 for four performances, Fresno Grand Opera has assembled a top-notch cast of national-tour and Broadway veterans for its “Les Miserables,” which opens Friday at the Saroyan Theatre.

I have two tickets to give away to the 8 p.m. Saturday performance. They’re very good lower-balcony tickets, priced at $95 each. To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us how many times you’ve seen the show — and your favorite production. (You can count the movie if you want, and if you’ve never seen the stage version, that’s OK — tell us why you want to see this one.)

Deadline is 4 p.m. Wednesday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email shortly thereafter, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by Thursday morning, I reserve the right to pick another. (I want to make sure these tickets go to good use.) 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

‘Les Miz’ storms the Saroyan: Six Days More

photo (38)

Can you imagine trying to defend a barricade without a rifle? We think not. Props are essential to a show such as “Les Miserables.” As the special Beehive series chronicling the Fresno Grand Opera production continues, guest blogger Patrick Brancato gives us a glimpse:

Les-MiserablesProps are essential to any show. If someone were to create a list of the top 5 most important things of any show, props would place 3rd below cast and costumes. In this show there are over 75 props that are used throughout the show. When it comes to using props I know every performer loves having them. Props can really help move a scene forward while helping actors create moments. When an actor has a prop they can add so much meaning to it. For example, an actor could be in a scene where he has to use an old book. The actor can remember a time a relative gave them a book that they loved, which then changes the whole meaning of the book. Instead of it being just a book it becomes a gift given by a family member, making it more personal.

In “Les Mis” our props range from a small piece of paper to as large as a full size barrel. There are times when we will practice with props that most people aren’t familiar with. For example, most people didn’t know the proper way to reload the rifles so Andrew Varela (Javert) gave us a quick lesson.

Read more

‘Les Miz’ storms the Saroyan: 7 Days More


Here’s your chance to meet the Thenardiers.

Onstage they might be the famously overstuffed comic relief of “Les Miserables,” part sweet buffoons and part semi-sadistic opportunists. Offstage, however, who knew they’d be just one more group of tourists at Yosemite?


Our guest Beehive blogger Valerie Salcedo, who’s helping track the big Fresno Grand Opera production of the show through opening night, yesterday caught up with principal performers Shawna Hamic (Madame Thenardier) and Tim Gulan (Thenardier) for a chat.

Valerie: I asked them how they are enjoying their stay in Fresno so far. Since we didn’t have rehearsal today, I asked them what they had planned for their day off. Here’s what they had to stay.


TIM GULAN (Thenardier):

Well . . .

This was my second town on tour with the “Original “ version of Les Mis in 1993. I still remember going to the Farmers Market on Wednesday and having the BEST FUJI APPLE EVER!!

Read more

‘Les Miz’ storms the Saroyan: Eight Days More


Chances are that you’ve never heard of a keyboard programmer. But it’s a key position when putting on a big Broadway musical like “Les Miserables.” The keyboard parts play an important role in creating the grand scale of the orchestration. Keyboards are used to augment live music as well as a multitude of sound effects needed in the production. In this, the latest installment in our Beehive series on Fresno Grand Opera’s “Les Miz” production, I caught up with the company’s associate director, Thi Nguyen, to ask about the production’s music.

Question: Introduce us to sound programmer James Harp.

Answer: James Harp is one of Broadway’s leading keyboard programmers and an excellent keyboardist in his own right. Mr. Harp has programmed many Broadway productions as well as the most recent national tour of “Les Miz.” We are very lucky to have him work on our show as well as supplying us with crucial technical equipment to make it all work.

Read more

‘Les Miz’ storms the Saroyan: 10 Days More


There are lots of jobs behind the scenes of Fresno Grand Opera’s “Les Miserables,” which is barreling toward its Jan. 17 opening at the Saroyan Theatre. As costumer, Maribel Sorensen has one of the most complicated. Let’s check in with guest Beehive blogger Valerie Salcedo to get the inside story.


Valerie: With a show as big as “Les Miserables,” there are a ton of costumes involved.

When I entered rehearsal the other day, I could not believe how many costumes I saw. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this many costumes for a single show. Not only do we all have so many costumes but each costume has so many layers and pieces to it. I sat down with Maribel Sorensen who is our head costumer to get the scoop on exactly how much work a production like this can take.

Question: When did you start working in the costume department for Fresno Grand Opera?

I’ve been costuming for thirteen years. I began working with Fresno Grand Opera eight years ago.

How many costumes are there total for this production?

There are 230 complete costumes in this show.

Pictured: Andrew Varela as Javert in a Fresno Bee photo shoot by John Walker.

Read more

‘Les Miz’ storms the Saroyan: 14 Days More


A local version of “Les Miserables”? Nothing new there. We’ve already seen a whole army of productions on the local level. After rights to “Les Miz” were opened up to community and regional theaters in 2013, every time you turned around another local theater company was storming a barricade.

But few “Les Miz” regional productions across the country — if any — have been on the scale of Fresno Grand Opera’s massive new production, which opens at the Saroyan Theatre on Jan. 17. With a budget of $750,000 for just four performances, the company hopes its efforts rival that of the recent national tour of the musical. The cast includes numerous performers from the national tour and Broadway, plus two who are going on to play in the ensemble of the Broadway revival opening in March. The sets were designed for a national tour, and the original projections are being designed by a national tour veteran. The same goes for other members of the creative team.

If all goes well, Fresno Grand Opera hopes to package this production of “Les Miz” as a sort of super-regional version that can be used by other companies that don’t want to do all the leg work.

And what does that work involve? Lots of fascinating goings-on behind the scenes.

To give you an insider glimpse, we’re kicking off today a 14-part series on the Beehive that will update you every day along the production’s journey to opening night.

Your guides will be two members of the ensemble: Valerie Salcedo and Patrick Brancato. In addition to their duties as cast members, they’ve also been working with Fresno Grand Opera the past couple of months promoting the show. They’ll be behind the scenes doing interviews, shooting photos and videos and passing on interesting tidbits.

To start the series on this first day, we’ll get to know Valerie and Patrick a little better. I sat down to ask them some questions about themselves and about the production.

Read more

Fresno Grand Opera announces 13-14 season. Where’s the opera?


Fresno Grand Opera announced its 2013-14 lineup to season ticket holders this week. It doesn’t feature any traditional opera. But it does promise a big local production of “Les Miserables.”

“Les Miserables” opens Jan. 17 and will play four performances at the Saroyan Theatre. This will be a local production, not the revamped national tour that has been traveling the country for a few years and is currently in Sacramento. The revamped version, which tightens the storyline and eliminates the trademark turntable, is slated to open on Broadway in March, marking a return to New York after an absence of many years.

National tours of “Les Miserables” played at the Saroyan Theatre in 1993, 1996 and 2000, but this is the first time an original production of the musical will take the stage there.

The opera’s general director, Ronald D. Eichman, said the principal members in the Fresno production have all either performed in the national tour or on Broadway, adding:

Additionally, some ensemble roles are cast with artists who have national experience, and we fully anticipate that the balance of the locally and regionally cast ensemble will deliver on a national caliber level.

Eichman calls the upcoming “Les Miserables” the largest scale production in the company’s history, financially and otherwise. “We have been anticipating this production for three years, when we were notified of the release date for the licensing to produce it,” he said.

Single-ticket prices for “Les Miserables” range from $55-$130.

Read more

Oscar predictions you won’t see elsewhere

SETH MACFARLANEThere are always a lot of predictions floating around at Oscar time. Everyone always thinks they have some super insight that will allow they to clearly see which films will be honored and which will be ignored.

Those kind of predictions are too common. The following are predictions that you won’t see anywhere else when the awards are handed out Sunday night.

I predict ….

… Quvenzhané Wallis will have her named pronounced at least three different ways including Quiznos.

… Seth MacFarlane will say — or do — something so outlandish it will overshadow the rest of his hosting work. It will probably have something to do with a pound of butter, three roses and a young German woman named Helga.

… the tribute to Bond will overlook the suggestive names given to Bond women. Rumors are the name of the main female Bond character in the next 007 movie will be Ima Estelle Zera. Ima E.Z. will be played by Kim Kardashian.

… there will be more Oscar winners who thank their agents than thank God.

Read more

Taylor Swift as Eponine? My Facebook friends revolt


When adapting Broadway musicals into movies, you expect Hollywood to muck things up a little by insisting on big movie or music stars in leading roles. That’s certainly been the case with the casting of the big-screen musical version of “Les Miserables,” which finally starts shooting in March after years of talk. Fans of the show over the past months have been debating such choices as Hugh Jackman as Valjean (he’s loved on Broadway, which seems to trump most misgivings about him not having the vocal chops the role demands), Russell Crowe as Javert (more grumbles) and Anne Hathaway as Fantine (lots more grumbles).

But with the news yesterday that Taylor Swift has been cast as Eponine — beating out Lea Michele of “Glee,” who many perceived to be the front-runner for the role — lots of theater-minded folks on Facebook are expressing extreme displeasure. Sample comment:

Now I absolutely love Taylor Swift. I saw her in concert this year and have all of her albums that I bought on the day of release. But if she was cast over Lea Michele, its an obvious casting stunt. Lea was born to play Eponine. She would have blown the part out of the park. Taylor is great, but against Lea? Come on! The part should have been Lea’s hands down.

Leanna Whittney Mobley of Fresno was more succinct:

Taylor Swift, word vomit.

I’m semi-appalled about the choice of Swift, although I’ve never actually seen her act. (I missed “Valentine’s Day,” imagine that.) I think she’ll do an OK job belting out “On My Own,” but it’s hard to imagine her shining in the role’s emotional arc. I’m much happier with reports that Amanda Seyfried (who is opera-trained) has nabbed the role of Cosette. Overall, I’m extremely wary of this all-star cast lineup. The big names will get butts in the seats, but I’m worried this “Les Miserables” will turn out to be a missed opportunity.

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Les Miserables’


People are gushing about Children’s Musical Theaterworks’ new production of “Les Miserables,” and rightly so. It’s an accomplished, smart looking, well sung and hard-working show. Director Skyler Gray delivers a gritty interpretation of the classic musical that tries some sparkling things visually while retaining many of the iconic moments that fans have come to know and love.

But during intermission on opening night, I heard a man being just a little critical of the show. The voices were really nice, he said, but they were just a little too young.

It’s an interesting observation, and I thought I’d address it right off.

Read more