In my Sunday Spotlight column I griped about my most recent encounter with the Saroyan Theatre. I focused on two issues: a 40%-plus increase in parking fees on Jan. 1 and a new house lighting system that is downright ugly.
Above, you’ll see two photos that didn’t make it into the print edition because of space. They come from Efficiency Energy, the Denver-based company that recently installed a new lighting system throughout the Fresno Convention Center. The top is the “before” pic and the bottom the “after.” It might look like a dramatic improvement in terms of overall brightness and coverage, but consider what Fresno City College lighting and sound designer Christopher Boltz told me after seeing the photos:
Those “before” pics are of a poorly maintained lighting system, Boltz says. “In almost all of the ‘before’ pictures there are burned-out fixtures, fixtures lamped with a non-matching lamp color-wise, and some of them (seeing the bad spread of light) lamped with an incorrect lamp so that it does not spread properly.” The “after” pictures seem to be improvements when it comes to overall coverage, but, Boltz says, “I would love to compare them with how the original systems looked when first installed.”
My main beef is with the “color” of the lights of the new system. They cast a bluish, harsh tone. Lighting designer Randy Garabedian, who engineered the lighting system 10 years ago at the Saroyan — and who is irked that the theater’s management didn’t seem to consult local experts before making big changes — speculates that the wrong color temperature was used. They needed to be “warmer.”
Celtic Woman — the international vocal sensation and PBS standout — celebrates its 10th anniversary with an 80-city tour that includes a May 22 date at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre.
The group last played in Fresno (at the same venue) in 2009 on it “Isle of Hope” tour. This time around, the women (who make up Celtic Woman) will be joined by a 15 member ensemble includes a full band, bagpipers, Irish dancers and the Aontas Choir. The show is directed by music producer David Downes.
Here is one to put in your calendar and check back in on next year.
Last week Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp (aka John Cougar or John Cougar Mellencamp) announced a set of dates for his “Plain Spoken” tour, which kicks off in January. The 80-date tour includes a Fresno stop July 23 at the William Saroyan Theatre.
While the show is nine-months away, tickets for the Fresno show are $42.50-$119.50 and on sale to general public 10 a.m. Sept. 19 via Ticketmaster and on Mellencamp’s website. Presale tickets (for fan club and Citi card-members) will be available starting 10 a.m. tomorrow (sales run through 10 p.m. Sept. 18).
Mellencamp — known for playing populist heartland rock and roll and helping start Farm Aid — recently inked a “lifetime contract” with Republic Records, which will release all of Mellencamp’s future album’s starting with “Plain Spoken.” That album is slated for release Sept. 23.
You can watch a video preview of the tour on the jump.
Planes are being shot out of the sky! We won’t fault you for not thinking about getting out to see some live music this weekend. Still, it’s my job to keep you informed. So here it is, your weekly music roundup (back from a short hiatus) … BANDGEEEEK!
Fresno’s Emily Estep became a big fan of Lindsay after seeing “Newsies” in New York, where she waited outside the stage door to meet Lindsay. Emily got to repeat the experience in Fresno after the Sunday evening performance of “Wicked” at the Saroyan, above. Her mother, well-known Fresno community theater actress Shannah Estep, writes on Facebook:
Ever since we saw Newsies in New York Emily has been fixated on Kara and her alter ego Katherine. She couldn’t wait until the end of the show just so she could go to the stage door! Let’s just say that whole thing is a lot easier to do here in Fresno!
By Monday evening, the “Wicked” dragon was comfortably peering down from high above the “Wicked” stage at the Saroyan Theatre — almost as if he’d never been gone.
Three years after its first blockbuster run in Fresno, the national tour of “Wicked” is back for a second round of Broadway bravado. The show opens Wednesday for 15 performances through April 13, bringing as many as 34,000 fans of the musical to downtown Fresno. “Wicked” recently passed its 10th anniversary on Broadway, and nearly 14 million people have seen the two national tours that criss-cross the country.
The current production closed Sunday in San Antonio, and on Monday an advance crew of eight moved what’s officially known as the Clock of the Time Dragon, into the Saroyan. (There’s a reason the mechanical beast looked so peaceful amid the Tuesday frenzy: There are actually two used by the tour. In order to give the dragon a Monday headstart, each dragon only plays in every other city.) By Tuesday morning that crew had been joined by almost 100 local workers, who helped unload lights, sets, speakers, costumes and equipment needed to stage the elaborate musical. It all had to be unpacked from 13 tractor trailers — everything from Glinda’s 40-pound bubble dress to the shiny walls of the Emerald City.
UPDATE: Congrats to winners Stephanie Bradshaw and Allyson Jensen.
ORIGINAL POST: You’ve got to see the dancers of Les Ballets Trockadero of Monte Carlo to believe them. The world’s foremost all-male comic ballet company is very funny — and incredibly talented. For nearly 40 years, the Trocks, as they’re affectionately known, have combined incredible artistry with downright camp. Men play all the roles on stage, male and female. (Each dancer is assigned male and female personas and often switches back and forth depending on the dance.) When they’re dressed as women, they’re men in drag, yes. But they’re men in bad drag.
Here’s the incredible thing: While portraying women, the men actually dance on pointe, way up there on their toes. Girl ballet dancers start learning this technique at an early age. These men have to wing it.
Fresno gets its first visit from the Trocks in nine years on Saturday night thanks to the Lively Arts Foundation, which is bringing the international touring group back to the Saroyan Theatre. I have two pairs of tickets to give away to two lucky Beehive readers. These are very nice tickets — Orchestra row N, priced at $55 each.
To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post answering this question: Which you think would be harder for you to do — dance on pointe or push a marble with your nose across the Saroyan stage? (Or, if you don’t want to answer our silly question, just say why you’d like to see the show.) I’ll pick two winners, each of whom will win two tickets to the 7:30 p.m. event.
Deadline to enter is 9 a.m. Wednesday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email on Wednesday by noon, 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. 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.
It what appears be a trend, Mr. A-Z himself Jason Mraz is stepping off the arena stage and embarking on a quick tour of small, intimate venues playing acoustic shows. The West Coast tour kicks of next month in Santa Cruz and features a March 26th date at the Saroyan Theatre. The show will feature special guest Raining Jane.
Prices cost $42.50 and $57.50 and go on sale 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at The Saroyan box office and ticketmaster.com. Pre-sale fan tickets will be available 10 a.m. Feb 19 to 10 p.m. Feb. 20.
The Grammy winning singer is currently working to finish a new album slated for later this year, and will play at the “All For The Hall” benefit for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
The small venues will be a return of sorts for Mraz, who began his career playing coffee houses in San Diego before making pop history with his record-breaking single, “I’m Yours.” Mraz played Fresno’s Save Mart Center in 2009 opening for the Dave Matthews band.
OK, so after taking off a couple weeks, I’m back with a new round of 7 picks for 7 days – a list of fun thing to do each day Friday, Nov. 15 through Thursday, Nov. 21. This week’s picks include a hot country band live at the Save Mart Center, a touring Broadway musical at Saroyan Theatre and this month’s silent movie at the Warnors Theatre.
October is full of things to do, including these 7 picks for Oct. 17-23. From a silent film at the historic downtown Warnors Theatre to Fresno State Football, a beer festival and a big-time rock concert, these are some of the best bets for your entertainment.
Some things, I just don’t get. To celebrate its 40th year on TV, “The Price is Right” is touring the country with a live show. If you check out the tour’s website, most of the engagements are at casinos. But there are a few “legit” theaters hosting the show, including the Saroyan. And here’s maybe the weirdest thing: The performance is sponsored by the Broadway in Fresno series. Tickets for the Sept. 18 event went on sale today.
I understand that it might be fun to attend a taping of “The Price is Right.” And I guess I could see, if you like the show enough, tromping down to the Saroyan to watch a live version. But would you pay the top ticket price ($32.50 plus fees) for the privilege?
One interesting thing: If you dig deep enough on the website or in the press materials, you discover this tidbit:
WANT TO PLAY? NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to US legal US residents, 18 years or older. Ticket purchase will not increase your chances of being selected to play. For complete rules & regulations, including eligibility requirements, visit or call the venue box office. To enter theater to watch show, a ticket purchase is required.
So it seems that you can actually participate without buying a ticket. But what do you do: Put your name in the hat, then go down to the Saroyan and wait outside the stage door to see if your name is called? I’m intrigued.
Update III: The announcements keep coming. Included today are updates from the Fresno Fair and Strummer’s (formerly the Starline).
The Big Fresno Fair has added classic rock-band Tesla to it’s schedule at the Paul Paul Theatre. The band will the opening Friday, Oct. 4. Tickets are $20-$25 and go on sale Aug. 12. Pre-sale tickets will be available to Big Fair Fan Club members starting July 31.
While tickets to the recently announced Panic at the Disco! show have sold out, Numbskull Productions has announced another round of upcoming shows, including rapper IAMSU! (Sept. 18), metal band Otep (Sept. 20) and party-master Andrew WK (Oct. 16). All tickets on sale tomorrow.
Ten things I learned Thursday night in Shrek’s dressing room at the Saroyan Theatre an hour and a half before performance:
1. It is not easy for Shrek (played in the national tour by Perry Sook) to talk to visitors when his lips are being painted.
2. It doesn’t matter the month: Red lipstick and green makeup applied to the same face makes me think of Christmas.
3. When Sook as Shrek can speak, he’s quite the amiable ogre. He tells his visitors (who consist of the four winners of The Bee’s “Shrek” contest — Mona Pineiro and Jenny, Robin and Max Gomez, all of Fresno — plus me and Bee photographer Mark Crosse) that the prosthetic he wears on his head weighs 7 pounds.
The Bee didn’t plan it this way, but it certainly made for interesting timing. The Fresno Philharmonic’s first subscription concerts in the new Shaghoian Hall took place the same weekend that The Bee’s George Hostetter filled us in on the shaky finances of the city’s Convention Center.
That’s because the center includes the Saroyan Theatre, in which the Fresno Philharmonic used to perform exclusively. For its three performances of the Mozart Requiem this past weekend, the orchestra turned to the smaller Shaghoian on the campus of Clovis North High School. (The orchestra did perform previously in the hall in 2010 in a non-subscription concert.)
Saturday’s one-night only pops event, which featured songs by a trio of actors portraying Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., was marred by significant sound problems in the first half. The singers were amplified, of course, and the orchestra was miked as well. The patter between the three actors could be heard well enough, but the singing voice of the actor playing Sinatra was swallowed whenever the orchestra got loud and brassy.
The other two actors fared a little better when backed by the orchestra, but they still sounded tinny and subdued from my seat in row “L” of the orchestra, as if they were singing out of a big hole. At intermission, people sitting in the loge and balcony were complaining that they couldn’t hear the performers at all.
The sound did improve significantly in the second half of the show, at least from where I was sitting, but that’s almost more disturbing than the sound issues in the first place, because it means that adjustments could have been made to improve the experience for the audience before the concert began. Using the first half of a show as an extended sound check is not acceptable.
But sound wasn’t the only issue. While the orchestra sounded great — especially when conductor Theodore Kuchar had the chance to crank up the big band sound — the three actors did a poor job of establishing a “Rat Pack” presence and rapport. While all are Broadway veterans and have impressive performance credentials, the trio failed to connect.
The news that my son* has been waiting for: “Yo Gabba Gabba” is coming back to Fresno. The trippy toddler show — often referred to as hipster “Sesame Street” — is doing a live show at Saroyan Theatre on March 7. It’s previously played Save Mart Center twice. The live show features the main “Yo Gabba Gabba” characters, plus hip-hop legend Biz Markie, who does a beat-boxing segment with the Gabba gang. Tickets go on sale Dec. 7, but prices haven’t been announced yet.
Lewis Black plays Saroyan Theatre on Feb. 7 as part of his “The Rant is Due” tour. Black is a Grammy winner, who used to be a regular on “The Daily Show” and now performs more than 200 dates a year, selling-out shows in places such as Las Vegas, Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center and Broadway. Tickets are on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, costing $39.50 and $49.50. Get ‘em at the Fresno Convention Center box office or through Ticketmaster. If you’re wondering: Black last appeared in the area in 2009, for a Table Mountain Casino show.
Jeff Dunham, a popular ventriloquist and stand-up comedian, is back at Save Mart Center, which is a regular stop for him. He’s starting his new “Disorderly Conduct” tour this month and it stops in Fresno on March 24. Tickets cost $46.50. They go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. They’ll be available at the Save Mart Center box office or through Ticketmaster. Dunham played Table Mountain in May and was at Save Mart Center last in January of 2011.
UPDATE: Congrats to our winners, Christine and R. Henderson. Check your e-mail!
ORIGINAL POST: The Fresno Philharmonic opens its 59th season this weekend with a special concert featuring Kelley O’Connor. O’Connor is a local girl who still lives here, but is also a world-traveling opera singer who has won a Grammy.
In an entertainment world built upon a constantly shifting terrain of pop culture, it takes a lot for a mezzo-soprano to be noticed. That’s the case no matter how effusive her reviews or how shiny her 2007 Grammy Award, which she won for a recording of the world premiere of contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov’s opera, “Ainadamar.”
“Actually I think I am very incognito in Fresno,” says O’Connor.
Well, Beehive readers, we’ve got a chance for you to enjoy her Philharmonic performance for free. We’ve got two pair of tickets to the 8 p.m. Saturday show at Saroyan Theatre. (there’s another at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, btw). Ticket info here.
For a chance at our free tickets, leave a comment below. Deadline to enter is noon on Friday. Winners will be notified via e-mail, so please leave a real address and PLEASE check it. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something from us in the past 30 days. Complete rules below.
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?
ORIGINAL POST: If you didn’t grab the Joe Bonamassa tickets at Beehive Birthday 7 the other night, then here’s some good news for ya: We’ve got another pair we’re giving to a lucky Beehive reader.
Bonamassa — a guitar titan in the blues/rock world — plays Saroyan Theatre on Thursday night. Tickets cost $52-$82. Or you can leave a comment below telling us your favorite guitar player and you’ll get entered in our drawing.
Deadline to enter is 4 p.m. Tuesday. A winner will be chosen at random and notified via e-mail, so please leave a real address and please check it. We reserve the right to pick another winner if we don’t hear back from you. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something from us in the past 30 days. No multiple entries allowed. Complete rules after the jump.
Shaq’s All-Star Comedy Jam — a comedy tour organized by former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal — is coming to Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre on May 25. Specific comedians haven’t yet been announced, but tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, costing $39.75-$63.75.
In terms of the pedigree of the national tour — and the fact that the show is still playing on Broadway — Monday night’s opening of “Rock of Ages” is the biggest title in the 2011-12 season of Broadway in Fresno. This brash, good-natured homage to the metal rock bands of the ’80s is structured as a “jukebox” musical — one in which a group of famous songs is strung together in a light-hearted and loose storyline. (Think “Mamma Mia.”)
One thing exciting about this tour is that it’s been playing big cities (such as Los Angeles and Chicago) along with the medium-size cities with which Fresno usually shares such engagements. Add to that the fact that “Rock of Ages” is still playing on Broadway, and this is a hot ticket.
On-the-rise pop singer Ryan Beattywon The Beehive’s ValleyWho game, knocking off notables such as Pat Hill, Chris Colfer and William Saroyan along the way. I met with him Sunday to give him his award. But Ryan, 16, had something he wanted to say about the award and about ValleyWho.
The pair are doing a string of stand-up dates around California this week, and Fresno gets one of them. Tickets for the show are on sale now through Ticketmaster, costing $45 and $55.
If you’d rather pay $0, though, then enter right here for a chance at free tickets. We’ve got TWO pairs of tickets that we’re giving away to two lucky winners. To enter, just leave a comment below telling us what your favorite TV show/movie is that stars either Romano or James.
Deadline to enter is 4 p.m. Tuesday. We’ll draw our winners at random and notify them via e-mail. So please leave a real e-mail address and please check it. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something from us in the past 30 days. No multiple entries allowed. Complete rules below.