Saturday, July 29, 2017

Terrific productions fight summer blues -- hot theater, cool diversions

NorthCoast Repertory Theatre ends its 35th season with a bang.
"At This Evening's Performance" is a thoroughly likeable tale about a troupe
of actors in a Soviet bloc-like police state, struggling to make magic on stage.
Cygnet Theatre's acclaimed production of
"Animal Crackers" offers unadulterated fun.


and theater marketing departments

NOTHING LIKE a couple hours in an air-conditioned theater, with plenty of laughs and revelry to beat the heat and tickle the funny bone.
We've seen a satisfying medley of prize-winners this week, so we sing the praises of tasty theatrical confections here in southern California.
For me, theater is not just an idle pastime.  It is my life blood.  Since I harmonized with my late sister, Peny, in "Count Your Blessings" as a three-year-old in a small Montana town, I was hooked.
When I was a teen-ager, our family re-enacted the Covent Garden scene in "My Fair Lady," -- the scene in which Professor Higgins first lays ears on Eliza. ("Buy a fl'aar off a poor gil.") Never mind that my mother cast me as Col. Pickering. My sister Peny, tall and willowy and a lyric soprano, made a lovely Eliza and brother Rick was the eccentric Henry Higgins.
"At This Evening's Performance" is held over at NorthCoast
Repertory Theatre in Solano Beach, north of  San Diego.
Image result for cygnet theater san diego photos animal crackers
As the hilarious Captain Spaulding,Josh Odsess-Rubin brings down the house
in Cygnet Theatre's rollicking performance of "Animal Crackers."
THIS WEEK'S theatrical outings took us to a refreshing NorthCoast Rep production of "At this Evening's Performance," by Nagle Jackson. A crackerjack cast play the denizens of a touring theater troupe in a corrupt 1970s Soviet-era police state.
We've never seen a less than stellar performance at this North County gem, and the tradition continues with this delightful, fast-paced production, set in "Strevia," in two dressing rooms.
The acting is top drawer, the set delightfully detailed (as always in this charming, small venue). It's a play for theater goers, who know the language and can recognize and appreciate the spoofing yet reverential nature allusions to the stage. The play is held over through Aug. 13.
Terrific acting and deft direction keep the laughs coming
in NorthCoast Repertory's "At This Evening's Performance."
IN SAN DIEGO'S Old Town, Cygnet Theatre, get ready for wickedly witty, magnificently costumed Marx Bros humor with "Animal Crackers," loosely based on the laugh-a-minute Broadway musical and film with the Marx Bros and Margaret Dumont.
Sean Murray's talented stable of actors delivers brilliantly.  Not a weak link in this stellar cast, with cameo numbers for each actor, from the fabulous "straight woman" Dumont character, to a wonderfully rendered Harpo, a sterling pair of scheming social climbers and several multiple-role scene stealers.
YOU'LL BE amused at Mrs. Rittenhouse's posturing, and Captain Spaulding is superb -- all in fabulous costumes.  Harpo's delightful miming and Zeppo's stooge exhibit the troupe's tremendous energy. This tap dancing kid was thrilled at the impeccable specialty numbers and there are sight gags, generous ad libs and athletically rendered physical bits. Top it off with Groucho's insoured ad libs and you'll be engagingly entertained.
The production is light on its feet -- and the ensemble work cohesive and admirable. As veterans of many performances -- on both sides of the footlights -- we salute the Sunday matinee production, the first of two that same day.
The play runs through Aug. 13.

AT THE OLD Globe, "Guys and Dolls" is selling out its smashing production of this mid-century American classic. The can't-miss score of Frank Loesser songs includes “Luck Be a Lady,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” “Sue Me” and more. A top-drawer ensemble tells the sassy Runyon stories. in a whiz-bang production.
The Old Globe's "Guys and Dolls" is delightfully
rendered with snappy choreography and lavish costumes.
"Evita" comes soon to San Diego Repertory Theatre. Sam
Woodhouse, Rep founder, directs a much heralded production.

COMING NEXT: Summertime and the living is easy. These lines from another famous musical, are perfectly tuned for our photo essay of an easy-going summer idyll in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana.  Join us for a serene look at life along the West Fork of the Stillwater River in Big Sky Country.

AND DON'T NEGLECT San Diego Musical Theatre, for lively productions of mostly vintage works. SDMT's "Damn Yankees" in May was a stellar production and you'll enjoy sitting in the historic Spreckles Theatre, or the inviting house at Horton Grand. Always a treat to visit the best of Broadway in top-notch SDMT shows.
THERE'S MORE: If you have yet to see "Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story" New Village Arts in Carlsbad, it is as high energy treat. And coming soon to downtown San Diego, a much heralded production of "Evita."
Plus don't overlook the brilliant and caring works at Intrepid and Diversionary theaters.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Picasso's legacy lives on in lively Malaga in two contrasting museums

The Museo Picasso Malaga, above, opened in 2003 and features nearly 300 paintings. 
Below, Merced Plaza which gives way to the Picasso Birthplace Museum, rear left.


The Picasso Museum -- Museo
Picasso Malaga -- houses many
of Malaga's native son's works.

Picasso's birth home is now one of two museums
celebrating the master's life and contributions.

Malaga tips its hat -- twice -- to the master with a pair of complementary but different Picasso museums

Bruce Keller hams it up to a stoic Pablo Picasso, asking
for directions from the master, who didn't reply.

Cookie (Christene Meyers) poses with
Picasso, interrupting his sketching.

ALTHOUGH HE LEFT home town for good after only two decades, Pablo Picasso is proudly claimed as Malaga's native son.
Two museums in the city honor him and we spent a wonderful day at the pair, exploring the evolution of a genius born into a patrician family, who answered the call of the arts and left Malaga for Paris.
Our first stop was the Casa Natal Picasso, Picasso's birthplace museum.  After a breakfast snack with the master's bronze, we headed inside.  We spent the morning there, before heading for the fine Picasso Museum Malaga.  
The Picasso Birthplace Museum sells attractive souvenirs.
IN THE birthplace home gallery, or "Natal Museum," we reveled in a fascinating illustrated history of his life with drawings, letters, commentary and even his favorite cape. The property is off the popular Plaza Merced, surrounded by bistros and shops. Inside, a treasure trove of engravings, sketches and personal effects of the master awaits inspection. Photographs of his childhood, parents and family are a fascinating record of the fashions and privileged lives of the gentry, which his parents obviously were.
Outside again in the Plaza Merced, we returned to sit with the master, memorialized in a handsome lifesize bronze, sketchbook and pencil in hand, patina on his head where thousands have rubbed it.
The controversial "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" by Picasso.
CONSIDERED BY most experts and art aficionados to be the most important painter of the Twentieth Century, Picasso was born in 1881 at number 15 Plaza de la Merced. Declared a Historic-Artistic Monument of National Interest in 1983, Picasso's Birthplace Museum began on the first floor and expanded to the entire building.
Picasso in his Paris salon, 15 years before he died in 1973.

Visiting the birthplace museum first was a wise idea, for it prepared us for the painting museum's extensive repertoire later that day.
 AFTER SEVERAL HOURS at the birth place museum, which also houses ceramic pieces, we paused mid-day to picnic with the master's bronze in the plaza.
A foundation supports
the Museo Casa Natal.
We watched as tourists -- including the two of us -- posed with Pablo, shared stories with him, put arms around him, even offered him a sandwich. Then on to the splendid if austere Museo Picasso M├ílaga, which pays homage to Andalusia's most famous son.
It opened in 2003 in the Buenavista Palace, and is devoted to Picasso's dramatic paintings, 285 of which were donated by Picasso's family.
Young Picasso, left, with his
sister, in his birth home.
THE TWO museums are an absorbing point-counterpoint, with the natal museum's emphasis on scholarship, preparation and personal effects and the more traditional museum an artfully curated homage to his paintings.
A wonderful library and ambitious program of temporary exhibitions and cultural activities also enrich Picasso's Birthplace Museum.  Fans of Miro, Chagall, Max Ernst, Georges Braque and other influential artists will enjoy an array of illustrated books donated by the painter's family.
And fans of art history will appreciate the birthplace museum's fascinating notebooks of preparatory drawings for the famous work "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (The Young Ladies of Avignon). This landmark painting of five splintered faces of prostitutes with masks marked the beginning of Picasso's "African Period," which inspired the artistic movement of cubism. Ironically, the master's most famous painting -- created in 1907 -- is housed not in Spain, but in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Image result for cygnet theater san diego photos animal crackers
As the hilarious Captain Spaulding,Josh Odsess-Rubin brings down the house
in Cygnet Theatre's rollicking performance of "Animal Crackers."
NEXT UP:  If you've always wanted to visit San Diego in the summertime, and if you love old-fashioned well delivered musicals and comedy, you can laugh yourself into a happy stupor with the offerings in southern California right now. From "Guys and Dolls" to "Animal Crackers," and "The Buddy Holly Story," you can see a play a day.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend another lively look at the arts, nature and travel with a twist.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hornblower rocks and rolls, jazzes it up on Sunday 'Barefoot cruises''

Hornblower's Barefoot Music Cruises are on tap every Sunday through Aug. 27. The new concept combines San Diego's
attractive skyline, scenery and historic landmarks, with top rated bands, plus beverages and snacks available.
Here, the Upshots entertain with rock 'n' roll favorites from vintage to current popular tunes.  


LIFE IS SHIP SHAPE aboard Hornblower vessels, which have played an entertaining, relaxing and appealing role in San Diego history and tourism for decades.
Visitors love the Hornblower outings -- harbor and cocktail cruises, dinner cruises, whale watching adventures and now -- drum roll -- Barefoot Music Cruises. 
We boarded last Sunday's delightful "Barefoot Music Cruise" for two-plus hours of  rock 'n' roll fine music.  
The crowd was a mixed bag of couples celebrating anniversaries, a few families on outing, military folks and just people enjoying the gorgeous Sunday weather and a trip around the bay in one of the country's prettiest harbors.
HORNBLOWER has always taken pride in its large, stable boats and well trained staff and crew.  Our captain met us as we boarded, and wished us a pleasant afternoon.  
Bruce Keller, left, and Cookie (Christene Meyers) on the
Barefoot Music Cruise, a happy Hornblower Sunday outing. 
On board, we queued up in two fast-moving lines for beverages -- a nice mix of beers, house wines  and cocktails,  served by a pair of pleasant bartenders, John and Rico. 
Down below another cheerful Hornblower staffer served up tasty hummus and a variety of snacks.

The beautiful sight of Coronado Bridge awaits from Hornblower. 
WE LOVE THAT Hornblower 
staff are always
 courteous and happy.  Good management starts at the top, and Hornblower cultivates loyalty and nurtures it with its regulars.
Word of mouth is the litmus test for any operation and Hornblower has earned respect of repeat clientele in all its venues -- literally from coast to coast -- San Francisco to New York. 

Hornblower's vessels are comfortable, 
well staffed and a colorful part of
San Diego's history. Above left, the
 city skyline from a Hornblower boat.

San Diego's spectacular skyline and the beautiful Berkeley Ferry Boat
part of the San Diego Maritime Museum, one of the sights from Hornblower.

HORNBLOWER offers a pleasant and new outing with the welcome novelty of its Barefoot Music Cruises.  For my native son partner, it was a chance to see the schooner California close up, and to hear its cannon. We also enjoyed a close-up view of a mega-yacht probably worth a quarter-billion dollars.
Meantime, while drinking in the spectacular sights, including a few playful seals -- and enjoying a couple beverages -- we drank in the delightful music.
 The polished trio, the Upshots, served up requests from the early days of rock 'n' roll with ease and enthusiasm.
Their Elvis Presley medley was top notch.  The double bass player, drummer and guitarist all sang, and they hammed it up with athletic little twists and turns, including standing on the side of the bass and twirling their instruments as they graced the stage -- and the house.
Guitarist Aaron and Vic on bass entertained,
while Brian kept fine rhythm on percussion.
Cookie leaves Hornblower -- happy,
toes tapping, albeit windblown.

THE TRIO was accommodating to the crowd, taking requests, including the wishes of a birthday girl, and a couple from Florida who had heard the band in concert and raved about their music.

Picasso. We visit a pair of
Picasso museums -- the art gallery
 and master's home in his birth place, Malaga. We take readers to
a treasure trove of his youthful
drawings, on up to his dotage work,
with a look at sketches, paintings
and personal effects, including his
prized black cape. Join us,
remembering to explore, learn
and live and catch us Fridays when
we post for each weekend -- travel,
the arts and nature pieces, always with a sense of  fun!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hit 'Buddy Holly' story sells out in San Diego, moves up the coast

Rousing performance: Zachary Scot Wolfe,  Benjamin Roy, Eddie Yaroch, Manny Fernandes, Paul Swensen Eddy, Shaun Tuazon, Nadia Guevara, Gerilyn Brault, Catie Marron in an energetic "Buddy Holly Story" now at New Village Arts in Carlsbad, California. The production gets top ratings in a decade of hundreds of SoCal performances we've seen. 

 Paul Swensen Eddy is an inspired, spot-on re-incarnation of
the iconic Buddy Holly, whose "Crickets" inspired the Beatles.



with ensemble press photos by Daren Scott and vintage art
Vintage art from a sold-out UK
production during a British tour.

SOMETIMES A SHOW stays with you. The songs are on your mind, the acting in a special corner of your heart. The energy remains, producing an instant smile and a desire for an encore.
Such a production is "Buddy -- The Buddy Holly Story," which is a rock-and-rollin' wonder, a magnificent effort to lift the spirit, a tribute to a gifted man who inspired an entire genre.
It represents a historic "first" for the fertile San Diego theater community: a collaboration between Intrepid Theatre Company and New Village Arts Theatre, both up-and-coming, adventuresome ensembles with creative production values and talented, devoted staff, volunteers and performers.
Christy Yael-Cox directs the high-energy production, which opened to rave reviews in late May and ended its Intrepid run July 2.  We were at that finale in the first venue, Horton Grand Theatre, and the audience was on its feet before the curtain call.
The inspiration for the musical:
Buddy Holly, second from right,
and the Crickets. Their name
inspired the Beatles' moniker.
Tony Houck's superb
music direction
shows off fine acting--
here Fernandes, Eddy
 and Tuazon.
 We'd seen the Alan Janes slick, raucous and touching musical a few times through the years -- in New York, Las Vegas and in the United Kingdom, where it has been a consistent hit and where the short-lived rock 'n' roller is still beloved. Paul McCartney was deeply influenced by Holly and has helped keep his memory and genius alive in the United Kingdom.
The real Buddy Holly was known
his daring, his impeccable musician-
ship and inventive style. In the
So-California production, Paul
Swenson Eddy captures his spirit.
 FROM 'THAT'LL BE The Day," we were tapping our toes at the Horton Grand Finale. No weak links in this cool summer treat. Hot band, fabulous singing, perfectly timed physical clowning.
 The casting is superb.  The choreography is splendid.  There's a sense of fun through the entire two-and-one-half hour production, and the genuine feeling that the ensemble likes one another -- critical to a good show, and difficult to fake.
NEW VILLAGE picks up the show July 13 for a run through Aug. 27. That means the set was struck the evening of that Horton Grand finale Sunday, July 2, giving the gifted crew a mere 10 days to recreate the scene at New Village.
If you're anywhere in the neighborhood of San Diego -- come on over for this spectacular show.  Zonies, now's the time to get the heck out of Arizona and cool off with some hot rock 'n' roll.
Buddy Holly was only 22 when he died in that fabled plane crash in 1959. We've just experienced a Buddy Holly sighting!;

A fun band, Upshots, entertained couples, families and
a fun-loving group of "Barefoot" cruisers.  A good crowd
helped kick off the fairly new concept in San Diego,
which received a standing ovation from the crowd.  
NEXT UP:  Hornblower Cruises has come up with a surefire way to beat the heat, cool both mind and body and feed the artistic soul. The Sunday Barefoot Music Cruise combines San Diego's gorgeous harbor and fabulous arsenal of musicians in a win-win for music and cruise lovers.  Check it out -- Sundays through August 27 -- and join us next Friday for a jazzy, rock 'n' rollin' report from the bridge! Jazzy music and beautiful scenery -- with cocktails and snacks available, too.  Plus the blue whales are migrating. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday when we post a unique take on the arts, travel and nature driven outings.