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Theater talkback

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I’m still digging out here at the office after returning from a glorious two-week break. It really says something about Fresno’s local arts scene during the summer months that I missed a number of worthwhile theater openings. I’ll be spending this coming weekend catching up as best I can — though we have two MORE theater openings (“Glory Days” and “All My Sons”) on top of the stuff I missed.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on shows I missed. Did you see any of the following productions?

  • Good Company’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”
  • CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s “Hello, Dolly!”
  • Tulare County Office of Education’s “Hairspray”
  • Children’s Musical Theaterworks’ “Cinderella”
  • Fourth Wall Theatre’s “RENT”

Leave your mini-review(s) as a comment on this post. Your opinions might impact what I decide to see this coming week.

Win tickets to see Sheryl Crow

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UPDATE: Congrats to our winners — RayDad, Marty and Jeff Stewart. Thanks for playing, everyone.

ORIGINAL POST: Yet another cool concert giveaway: We’ve got three pair of tickets to see Sheryl Crow perform Wednesday night at Saroyan Theatre.

You can buy tickets via Ticketmaster for $39, $49 and $79 — or you can enter our contest and cross your fingers. You don’t even have to figure out a Degrees of Fresno answer or anything.

To get into the drawing, just leave a comment below telling us your favorite Sheryl Crow song and why. Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Tuesday. Winners will be chosen at random and notified via e-mail, so please leave a real e-mail address and please check it. You’re ineligible if you’ve won a prize from us in the past 30 days. Multiple entries won’t be counted. See the full rules below.

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Mark your calendar: The Central California Rib Cook-Off is back … sorta

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If you’ve been wondering whether last year’s Central California Rib Cook-Off would return for Year No. 2 at Eaton Plaza, the answer is in: Sorta.

The Fresno BBQ and Fun Fest has been announced for Aug. 24-28. The concept is pretty much the same, but aside from the name there’s another key difference: While last year’s event was sponsored by the City of Fresno, this comes from the private sector. Well, sorta.

Former city events manager William Broomfield and former parks director Randall Cooper — who have formed Black Stallion Enterprises since exiting their city jobs — are behind the BBQ and Fun Fest. They were behind last year’s event too, just as city employees. This year, they’re just using their own money and paying the city rent.

The event is free to attend, with one exception that’s new this year: You can buy VIP tickets that include an all-you-can-eat buffet with no waiting in line. They come in three-hour increments and cost $75. You can get more info on the event, or buy those VIP tickets, at bbqfunfest.com. Here’s a rundown of last year’s winners.

UPDATE: We took off the ugly previous graphic/logo thing, and added the new flier, which is much better. Click it to enlarge.

Acting’s best left to the professionals

56165340AG001_zoom.JPG MUSIC JOSH GROBAN ADV14 5.JPG LIF SPCL TIM GUNN.JPG Several recent movies have featured guest appearances by people not known for their acting skills. And, most of them won’t be known as actors because of their film work.

I have great respect for Tim Gunn – the design superstar who appears on “Project Runway” – when it comes to fashion. As an actor, he’s like wearing a neon green tie with a pink tuxedo and purple shoes.

In “The Smurfs,” Gunn’s character works for a cosmetic company. There’s a scene where he has to deliver his now famous “Project Runway” line – “Make it work” – and it sounds like he’s trying to quote Shakespeare in Klingon. The delivery is so wooden you could build a crib with it.

Gunn certainly couldn’t make the line delivery work.

Snowboarder Shaun White plays himself in the romantic comedy “Friends With Benefits” where he gets to show his dark side to the character played by Justin Timberlake. While his performance looks like the end of a Carrot Top stage show, White commits enough energy to it that his acting efforts aren’t too painful to watch.

Finally, there’s singer Josh Groban in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” If he ever gives up music, Groban could get work as an actor. He turns in a solid performance as the clueless lawyer boyfriend to Emma Stone’s character. In fact, Groban is one of the funnier people in this movie.

‘Deathly Hallows’ review winners selected

Film Holiday Preview.JPGKelly, Steven C, Corey and Aram have< been randomly selected to win one of the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" grand prize packages. They have won a cap, T-shirt and CD.

Winners of a T-shirt or cap are MK, Anna, Megan, Lupe, Janis, Jeanette, Stephen, Wanda, Jose, H4rry, Janice and Helen.

Thanks for participating. Look for more movie giveaways.

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To do tonight: ‘Hello, Dolly!’

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I attended the opening of CenerStage Clovis Community Theater’s production of “Hello, Dolly!” last night and thought I’d share a little about the show. I’m no Donald Munro, with insightful critic of performances, but I’ll share a few of the things I liked.

The star: Clytee Ramsey has a history of playing Dolly, and it shows. She seems extremely comfortable playing the meddling matchmaker, strutting with confidence across the stage. She knows how to engage an audience.

The dancing: I wasn’t blown away by all the dancing, but I was impressed by the “Waiters Gallop” number in act two. And so was the crowd. This piece got the biggest cheer of the night (well, other than the marriage proposal after the show ended). The dance ensemble really delivered a heart-pounding fun show with this piece of work.

The humor: My favorite character was Barnaby, played with such fun by Nick Gardner. From his constant counting of the cash in his wallet to his enthusiastic jaunt around the floor of the hat shot, he grabbed laughs. His face is really expressive, which worked so well for the character.

“Hello, Dolly!” runs this weekend and next at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre. Cost is $15, or $12 for students and seniors.

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Other than racking your brain for Scribbles captions …

1. FIND SOME TREASURE
Pretty big DJ coup for Fresno tonight at Twist. The globe-trotting Treasure Fingers, of the ultra-hip Fools Gold camp, races into town tonight. It’s a Scion-sponsored event, and you can get in free with VIP treatment if you test drive a car between 5-9 p.m. [Info]

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Peter Jacobson gets cool acting perk

house_510_0053.JPGSome people envy actors for their fame. Others are envious of the money they make. What I’m most jealous of is when an actor has a toy made of them. As a collector of action figures, that would be the coolest perk in the world.

It even would be OK if that toy was an automobile.

Peter Jacobson, who plays Dr. Charles Taub on “House,” got the toy honor because of his work in “Cars II.” He’s the voice of the car thug Acer.

His eight-year-old son is particularly happy that his dad’s a toy as long as they can find the miniature Acers.

Jacobson first saw his toy in a small shop in New York.

“I walked into a toy story with my son and they had a die-cast of my character and we were both really excited,” Jacobson says. “But, we were in Chicago last week and went to the Disney Store. They had tons of great stuff but none of my car. It was very upsetting.

“But, I figure there’s plenty of the toys out there and I look forward to buying it.”

There’s no question there will be plenty of “Cars” merchandise. The films do OK for the Disney company but when it comes to merchandising, “Cars” items are among the most wanted.

Entertainment this weekend

Comcast Online Video.JPGThere are some hot entertainment options this weekend.

TELEVISION
“Entourage,” 10:30 p.m. Sunday, HBO : The eighth and final season of the cable comedy begins. Don’t look for these final episodes to completely wrap up the story of movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his buddies. There’s talk of a big screen version after the series ends.

MOVIES
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″: Now that the first weekend of the film’s release is behind us, it should be pretty easy to catch a screening. Fans of the books and movie series will certainly want to see the finale that’s packed with emotion and action.

DVD
“Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series”: Now that Starz has launched its “Torchwood” series, it may be time to go back and watch the original.The BBC series about a group that battles the weird is as fun as it is exciting. John Barrowman stars.

Timmy T grows his online ‘empire’

If you thought Timmy T was just kickin’ back enjoying the Fresno heat these days, counting that “One More Try,” money, reveling in the 20-year anniversary of his song hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Pop charts, you’d be sorely mistaken.

From his throne as Fresno’s favorite son (sorry, K-Fed, if you came to visit once in a while …), Timmy has been quite busy doing ummm, stuff, on the internet. Yeah, “stuff” is the best word for it. You might recall his fondness for oversharing on Twitter and him trying to be a local reality show star.

Nowadays, he’s really putting in work on his YouTube channel, releasing lots of videos, most of them starring his model/actress wife Mia Torres. They’ve also got a dizzying Facebook group with 20,000 people in it. Timmy is becoming the Rupert Murdoch of Fresno — and I’m sure Mia would take a pie to the face for him.

The crux of a lot of their work is a woman-on-the-street show called “Like It or Lump It,” where Mia visits businesses and events and interviews people. Here’s one at local eatery Mama Mia. Watch out, Taste Fresno.

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Degrees of Fresno: Sheryl Crow

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OK, so we haven’t done a Degrees of Fresno game in a LOOOOONG time.

Yesterday, however, I was working on a story about Sheryl Crow for Sunday’s paper — she’s at Saroyan Theatre next Wednesday, btw — and realized just how much she’s done in her career and how diverse her list of collaborators is. Kathy said we should try to connect her to Fresno, and bingo!, here we are with a new Degrees of Fresno.

If you’re new to Degrees of Fresno, here’s how it works: You have to tie Sheryl Crow to Fresno using connections made through her music collaborations, appearances, personal life, etc. — just like the Kevin Bacon game. One thing, though, just visiting Fresno doesn’t count. The connection has to be stronger than that.

For examples, check out past DoFs, such as Hulk Hogan and Megan Fox. There are many answers, obviously, the fun comes in finding creative and unlikely ones. (FWIW: I’ve got a pretty good one, but I’ll see if anybody else gets it first).

You guys ready? It’s time for Sheryl Crow vs …

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Did They Just Say Fresno? ‘Captain America’ edition

Captain America The First Avenger.JPG The biggest cheer at the advance screening Wednesday night of “Captain America: The First Avenger” didn’t come from the transformation of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) from a 90-pound weakling to a super hero or the debut of his cool costume.

The howls came during a scene where Captain America frees a group of American soldiers from a Hydra prison. He had gone there just to rescue his buddy Bucky Barnes.

As the soldiers pour out of the cells, Cap asks if everyone is going with him.

The character played by Kenneth Choi, Jim Morita, tells Captain America, “I’m from Fresno.”

That was all Captain America needed to know.

Comic book fans will recognize Morita from the Marvel Comics series “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.” The character – a Nisei soldier who helped the Howling Commandos – was introduced in 1967. In the movie, he’s a member of the Commandos.

Now, he’s got a Fresno connection.

To-Do Tonight: Go to the beach, in Fresno

The common thread around town tonight? Beach-themed parties … indoors. I suppose when you live in land-locked Fresno, you make due how you can. The fliers below have info on what’s happening at Karma Restaurant and Lounge and Ghaleb’s Hookah Lounge.

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If live music is more your thing, then a good choice is heading over to Yosemite Ranch to catch Clouded Vision, whose reggae/rock sound will have you feeling like you’re at a beach bonfire. Flier below.

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Tate Taylor gets by with a little help from his friends

THE HELP.JPGIn Hollywood, it’s all about who you know. Just ask director Tate Taylor.

Taylor’s good friend Kathryn Stockett had written a book that was being rejected by publishers like ugly people at a Paris Hilton party. After the 40th “get lost” notice, she was ready to give up.

“I asked her to let me read it. I wasn’t halfway through it when I realized it was something special. I told her that I would like to make it into a movie,” Taylor tells me. “I figured the worst case would be that we make this sweet little independent film that might get her a book deal.”

No sooner had they reached an agreement when a publisher finally realized the potential of Stockett’s book, “The Help.” It quickly became a best seller and Stockett started getting calls from movie studios wanting to buy the rights for the film. She had to tell them that her friend already had the rights and they should talk to him.

And Taylor’s personal connections to the film – that will be released in August – doesn’t end with the author. To cast the pivotal role of Minny, Taylor turned to Octavia Spencer who just happens to be his roommate.

It’s all about who you know.

On TV tonight: ‘Burn Notice’

NUP_134445_0361.JPG “Burn Notice,” 9 p.m., USA Network: Network television tonight is a mix of reality and reruns. Cable has become the best place for original scripted programming during the summer.

And, there are few shows on cable better than “Burn Notice.”

It looked like the producers had created a problem this season when burned spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) looked like he was about to get his old job back. But, he’s being framed for a murder that could change all that.

Along with the murder investigation, the team helps a client who reminds them of Westen. He’s a former army sniper who wants revenge on the men who put his sister in the hospital.

When in doubt of what to watch on Thursday nights check out “Burn Notice.”

Concert News: Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson first acts announced for Twilight Park

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Twilight Park — the new outdoor entertainment venue in Woodlake — announced its first concert this morning, a Sept. 15 date with country acts Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson, as part of their Xtreme Muzik tour.

If you haven’t heard about Twilight Park yet, it has the potential to add a new element to the Valley’s live music scene. It’s a huge outdoor park that sits on 20 acres of olive groves in the Sierra foothills and can operate as an “amphitheater” type concert venue.

Executive director Dave Daniels — the ex-KJUG radio host — says Twilight Park could legally hold as many as 15,000 people for a concert, but that they’re going to have a working capacity of 10,000 to start.

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Fresno Tweetup Goes Wild — it’s back!

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You had fun last year, we had fun last year, even the giraffes had fun last year, so it’s time we did a sequel. Once again, The Beehive and Chaffee Zoo are partnering for Fresno Tweetup Goes Wild, an after-hours party at the zoo where our local Twitter community can mix and mingle at a discounted price.

This year’s event is Saturday, August 27, from 5-8 p.m. Chaffee Zoo will be closed to the public, so it’s an exclusive event for the Fresno Twitter crew. Tickets will cost $5, and kids 10 and younger are free with their parent(s).

If you attended last year, and many of you did, you know it was a blast. There will be food, drinks, live music, and, of course, all kinds of games and prizes. Expect more details right here on The Beehive as the date gets closer.

A few notes on how the Tweetup will work:

  • You MUST message Chaffee Zoo (@fresnozoo) and/or The Beehive (@fresnobeehive) on Twitter to get on the list for $5 tickets.
  • You’ll pick up your tickets along with a nametag at the will-call table before the event. You can bring non-Tweeps with ya, but wouldn’t you rather just get them to join Twitter and add to our cool local Twitter community? Exactly.
  • The Zoo says all its usual animals will be out. We’ve got a few other fun things scheduled — like another Twitpic Scavenger Hunt and a variety of Tweetup Challenges for prizes.
  • Mark any and all Tweets about the event with the hashtag #wildfresno. And follow that hashtag for all the chatter about Fresno Tweetup Goes Wild.
  • If you’re not Twitter, you’ve got plenty of time to join and get into the swing of things. Be sure to follow @fresnobeehive and @fresnozoo first thing.

Win tickets to see ‘Hello, Dolly!’

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If you like musicals, you’re in luck. We’re giving away three pairs of tickets for CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s Thursday night (yes, tomorrow) opening of “Hello, Dolly!” The show starts at 7:30 p.m.

The spirited classical musical about widow matchmaker Dolly Levi features a cast of 50 performers, including Clytee Ramsey in the title. Ramsey and Dolly have a tight history. Back in 2005 she told our own Donald Munro (who is on vacation): “I am Dolly Levi.” She can definitely back up her claim. She’s played the title role in “Hello, Dolly!” when Good Company Players first did the production in 1983 and when it revived the show in 1996 and again in 2005.

“Hello, Dolly!” will play at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis through July 30. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays. Show time is 7:30 p.m. nightly, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 30th. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students.

But if you’d like to see the show tomorrow night, you can snag a pair of tickets free. Tickets will go to the third, fifth and seventh commenter on this post. (FYI: We won’t publish the comments until we hit No. 7.)

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To-Do Tonight: Otto-tuned

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Country singer James Otto brings some yee-haw to Fulton 55 tonight. It’s actually the newish downtown concert venue’s first country show.

While Fresno is definitely a country music market, we don’t get too many club-sized country shows coming our way (unless you’re talking about the alt-country stuff that Audie’s Olympic loves to bring in, and your average country-radio listener ain’t going to those). So I’m eager to see if the Fresno country folks turn out for this.

I imagine they oughta. Otto has pull. He had the 2007 No. 1 hit “Just Got Started Loving You” (video below) and charted with singles such as “Groovy Little Summer Song” and “For You.”

Tickets cost $25. They’re available online, at The Laundry Room, Iron Bird Cafe and at Fulton 55.

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On TV tonight: ‘Franklin & Bash’

FB Gallery 32-Mark Paul Gosselaar, Breckin jpg “Franklin & Bash,” 9 p.m., TNT: In tonight’s episode, cleverly called “The Bangover,” TV’s hottest new lawyers are placed under 72-hour house arrest when a judge (Kathy Najimy) gets fed up with their silliness in court. This creates some funny moments.

That’s not the best part of the episode.

A visit from Stanton Infeld’s (Malcolm McDowell) niece causes problems when she faces an unsympathetic judge on a charge of possessing marijuana. Here’s the best part. Tommy Chong plays the judge.

This is just one example of why you should be watching this new legal drama/comedy.