Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Donald’s weekend picks


The Fresno Philharmonic ends its season with a twang. The Texas Tenors, who shot to fame on “America’s Got Talent,” have been touring the country for four years now, and they’ve developed quite a specialty performing in pops concerts with local orchestras. I talked to JC Fisher — the “country boy” of the act — for Friday’s 7 section. The 8 p.m. Saturday concert, which will feature a mix of country, classical and Broadway/pop tunes, should be a whoop and a holler. [Details]

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Fresno State grad Gabriel Trevino finalist in Doritos Super Bowl ad contest

Fresno State and Reedley High School graduate Gabriel Trevino is in the running to have a commercial he made be part of this year’s Super Bowl broadcast. His work is one of the five finalist in the “Dorito’s 2013 Crash the Super Bowl Contest.” Voting ends today to see which commercial will be shown during the telecast Sunday.

The commercial he wrote, directed by Mark Freiburger, features a father heading out to play football with his buddies. He’s stopped by his young daughter who wants him to play princess with her. His objections are countered when the little girl offers him some Doritos. Soon all the football buddies are involved in the playtime.

“The idea came to me because I just became a new dad. It’s about the crazy and kooky things a father will do for their children — and Doritos,” Trevino says.

This isn’t the first Doritos commercial for Trevino, a communications major at Fresno State, as he was one of the writers behind the “Swing Baby” Doritos commercial that aired during last year’s big game.

Not only did he write this year’s entry, Trevino produced the commercial that cost $300 to shoot, far below the $5,000 spent by some on other contest entries. Trevino could keep the price low because all of the actors and crew were friends. The biggest expense was the cost of renting the largest wedding dress they could find.

Trevino doesn’t make commercials for a living. Along with working for a company that places promotional advertisements for Disney products in major outlets, he’s done some improv work.

The director was informed their commercial was a finalist in a phone call from director Michael Bay. The man behind the ‘Transformer” movies was involved in narrowing down the more than 6,000 entries into the finalists.

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Erik Valencia as Dean Martin in ‘Legends’


In the mood for some sorta celebrity sightings? Reedley’s River City Theatre Company satisfies the urge with “Legends,” which pays tribute to a lineup that includes the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Sonny & Cher and Kate Smith. The original show opens Friday and continues through June 9.

We caught up with Erik Valencia, who plays Dean Martin in the show, for a story featured in Friday’s 7 section. Here’s the extended version of that interview.

Question: What is “Legends” about? Who created it?

“Legends” is a musical and comedy review that pays tribute to celebrities such as The Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Sonny & Cher and Kate Smith. This show has been a collaborative effort of the cast members under the direction of Mark Norwood.

Is this a series of vignettes, or is there a storyline?

We have been referring to this production as “The Dream Ed Sullivan Show” – a lineup of some of the greatest performers of all time, all on one stage. There really is no storyline for this show. It is more of a compilation of some of the greatest songs and performance moments of the last century brought together by our show host, Ed Sullivan.

Pictured: Jeff Lusk (Frank Sinatra), Michael Angel (Sammy Davis Jr.), Joseph Ham (Peter Lawford) and Erik Valencia (Dean Martin).

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A local tradition: Reedley’s Fanny

I’ve always had a soft spot for Reedley’s River City Theatre Company, which under the hard-working direction of Mark Norwood has become a staple of theater life in the South Valley. Norwood and his creative partner Darrell Devaurs have penned almost two dozen original musicals together, and since 2005 they’ve included a signature character common to them all: the larger than life Fanny Feastyoureyes.

The newest incarnation of Fanny — played from the start by town pharmacist Matt Wiebe — appears in “A Royal Fanny,” a musical comedy set in Elizabethan England that Norwood describes as “Queen meets Dr. Seuss meets Elton John meets ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ ” It opens today and continues through March 11 at the historic Reedley Opera House. I write about the show and the past lives of Fanny in Friday’s 7 cover story.

Norwood hopes he can draw theater fans from outside Reedley to this show, and in doing so he’s courting more the “Avenue Q”/”RENT” crowd than “Oklahoma” fans. A tip of the hat to him for that.


Reedley’s Dilia Jelen advances on ‘American Idol’

jelen2.jpg Reedley native Dilia Jelen was given a golden ticket during the Portland auditions of “American Idol” to advance to the second round of the FOX reality competition series. Fans of the Good Company Players will recognize her name as being in the junior company and on the main stage at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. She appeared in the 2000 production of “42nd Street” and in 1999′s “A Chorus Line” singing “What I Did for Love.”

Jelen, who is in her last year of eligibility to be on “Idol,” has an inspirational story as she was born deaf and could not hear until she had her first surgery when she was 5.

She currently lives in Astoria, N.Y.

It says on her online site that “her mother from Guadalajara taught her both strong and tender ways, and her American born father, taught the deepest family values, both encouraging her natural talent and love for Latin American culture and its music.”

In a video interview, Jelen says, “I am next ‘American Idol’ because I know what I was put on this Earth to do. I have to sing or crawl in a hole and die.”

Donald’s weekend picks

This tender, ambitious original musical has made the transfer from the indoor space of the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia to the wide-open skies of the 13 Acres Stage at Woodward Park. I saw it opening night and heartily recommend it. If you missed my feature on the show from Thursday’s Life section, click here. [Info] [Online tickets]


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To-Do Tonight: Crazy Thursday edition


There’s a whole lot to do on this Thursday night, whether you’re a country music lover, you’re looking to celebration Mexico’s independence right here in Fresno … or you’re just somewhere in between.

Have a look:

  • Kiss Country has its last $5 Concert of the summer at Woodward Park. [info]
  • Twilight Park in Woodlake hosts a big ho-down with Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson. [tix]
  • Bassnectar with have Rainbow Ballroom rattling with bass for the EDM crowd. [info]
  • Bluegrass star Larry Stephenson brings his band to Unitarian Universalist Church. [info]
  • Local band Clouded Vision has its CD release party at Yosemite Ranch. It’s free and oughta be packed. [info]
  • Fresno’s El Grito celebration is tonight on the Fulton Mall. We hear the party’s already started. [info]
  • Mezcal hosts what looks to be a big Mexican Independence Day party. [info]
  • For its popular weekly music series, Eureka! Burger hosts blues guitar titan Rudy Parris Band. [info]
  • Reedley hosts its Taste of the Town tonight. [info]

What to eat this weekend and beyond

Do you want free sparkling wine, moussaka, German sausage and more? Here’s your list:

MooLala — Now through Saturday
This Swiss fondue restaurant at Shaw and Marks avenues is serving serving free glasses of sparkling wine to celebrate its one-year anniversary. Details are in my column.

Greek Fest — Friday through Sunday
The 49th annual Greek Fest has returned to St. George Greek Orthodox Church. Here are the treats, the schedule and directions.

Famous Dave’s — Monday
To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Famous Dave’s at Blackstone and El Paso avenues is giving a break to anyone named Dave, David, Davy and Davey. (Bring valid ID with you.)

If your first name fits the bill, you will receive a free entrée (maximum value of $15). If your middle name is Dave, David, Davy or Davey, you’ll get an entrée for half price (maximum value of $7.50).

Also available are $3 pints of domestic beers and a Buck-A-Bone special: Buy an entree and add St. Louis-style ribs for $1 each. (Limit of six ribs per person).

Reedley’s Taste of the Town — Thursday
From 6:30-9 p.m., Reedley’s 12th annual Taste of the Town will have German sausage, local wines and olive oil, verenika (dumplings filled with cottage cheese), Mexican seafood, California cuisine and more. The Reedley Downtown Association has more details, as well as videos of some featured restaurants and wineries.