Archive for November, 2013

This year give the Gift of Theatre

I hope you all aren’t really braving the crowds on this Black Friday, but if so I also hope you’re enjoying the holiday hustle and bustle and excitement.  I’m an internet shopper myself, and won’t visit the mall at any time of year unless forced.  But whether you shop with the masses or shop from your couch, sometimes figuring out WHAT you’re going to buy is the hardest part. Especially when it comes to that someone who has everything.

So why not give the gift of Theatre this year?  Most theaters have tickets on sale now not just for their holiday shows but for the next show in line as well.  Hillbarn Theatre is showing Mame in December, and Grapes of Wrath in January. The Palo Alto Players are selling tickets for all their upcoming shows: The Heiress, Young Frankenstein and The Farnsworth InventionTheatreWorks opens Little Women the Musical in next week. Opera San Jose is gearing up for Madame Butterfly in February and EVERY opera buff will want to attend that show. And of course Ballet San Jose has The Nutcracker.  Tickets to any of these shows would make an amazing and original gift, or you can just plan to take the family as part of the holiday season enjoyment.

At the moment though, there is one show that I am looking forward to the most, and that is The Snow Queen at the San Jose Repertory Theatre.  Here is why:  We have only seen two shows of the 2013-2014 SJ Rep season and I am already blown away.  One Night with Janis was an amazing look at the queen herself and all her inspirations, and the show moved on to Broadway after leaving its extended run in San Jose.  Then they showed Next Fall which was just about the best show I have seen in the Bay Area in the last five years.  It combined issues of religion, age difference in relationships, dealing with death and impending death, and also several issues of gay relationships, and it did all this without preaching that any side is right or wrong – but overall it was a story about any relationship and every relationship.  And it was played by a group of some of the best actors we have available in the Bay Area.  This was two in a row of not just good theatre, but GREAT theatre.  And now we have The Snow Queen.

“With steam punk flair, an alternative rock score and girl heroine, this is not going to be your average Holiday Musical,” states the SJ Rep, and the early audience reviews of the previews are gushing:   “Fantastic.. One of the BEST plays ever.. LOVED every minute” says Joani Krieger Mitchell.  “Absolutely FANTASTIC! Not to be missed. All you fans of English pantomime will rejoice,” from Sally Bookman.  Click here to see a preview of The Snow Queen.

And if you buy your ticket today (Black Friday) you can get 42% savings off regular ticket with promo code “FRIDAY2013”.

I am looking forward to writing a review for the show next week, and I hope you all will join me there.  Something amazing is happening at the SJ Rep this year, and I cannot wait to see what the season brings us.  Happy Holidays!

Christmas in the Park 2013

The Tree Lighting Ceremony is Friday, November 29 – 6:00 pm at the Plaza De Cesar Chavez Park. Then Christmas in the Park is open every day, including Christmas, from 9:00 am to midnight through January 1, 2014.
Christmas in the Park with over 60 musical and animated exhibits, lights and a 60-foot Community Giving Tree. Check out the melting snowman, caroling mice and elf woodcrafters.

Admission is free.
Parking info and validation participants. Better yet, public transportation (VTA).

Plaza De Cesar Chavez
South Market Street, San Jose 95113

San Jose Birthday Celebration

Celebrate San Jose’s 236th Birthday at the Peralta Adobe Historic Site. Through hands-on activities and story telling you will learn about life in early San Jose.  The festivities include live music and dancing.

The Peralta Adobe is the oldest building in San Jose, built in 1797, and is named after Luis María Peralta.

Admission: Free. Activity tickets are $1.00 each or 6 tickets for $5.00.

Tours of the Peralta Adobe and Fallon House, November 24, 2013, at 12:30 pm; 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm.  Children’s tours (ages 3 – 8 years old) at 1:00 pm; 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm.

Tours: History San Jose Member are free. $8 per adult, $5 for seniors and students with a valid ID. Children five and under are free.

San Jose was founded on November 29, 1777, as El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe.

Peralta Adobe
175 W. St. John, San Jose

November 24, 2013
12:00 pm – 4:00 pm

At Opera SJ: a tasty childhood tale that also feeds adult attention

This holiday season Opera San Jose is producing Hansel & Gretel.

So let’s just get this out of the way first.  The best part of the show?  A fabulous drag queen witch who travels the stage on a Segway.  It doesn’t get any better than this at the opera.

Cast 1: Tenor James Callon as the witch, soprano Sara Gartland as Gretel and mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich as Hansel. Photo by Pat Kirk. Not pictured: The Segway.

James Callon as the witch absolutely made my day and got me through the show.  BRAVO!

It is difficult for me to give a solid review for this show, even as Opera Novice.  The opera is considered a masterpiece by Engelbert Humperdinck (the 19th century German, not the 20th century Brit – who knew there were TWO??) but while Opera SJ always does an amazing job with every opera, it is still a children’s story which is not my favorite genre.  I had a bit of a love/hate experience with this show (or really a hate/love experience).  So let’s break it down in pieces.

Cast 1: Soprano Sara Gartland as Gretel and mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich as Hansel. Photo by Pat Kirk.

The story: Hansel & Gretel are two children who live in the woods with their very poor parents.  Everyone is hungry and there is no money for food.  The mother sends the kids into the woods to gather berries, but they discover a witch who lives in a gingerbread house.  Said witch cannot wait to fatten up the children so she can eat them.  You know, your typical children’s bedtime story.

All things opera: The members of Opera SJ really can do no wrong. Whatever show they put on you can be assured that you are receiving the best production of the show possible.  The usual inadequate Opera Novice review goes here: “The singers are amazing and beautiful!! The orchestra was perfection!!”  I wish I had a better vocabulary for the perfection of our local opera company, but that is the best I can do.

The entertainment (and only small downside):  Acts I and II were slow for me. With no witch in sight yet, it focuses on Hansel & Gretel who, let’s face it, are the worst.  Instead of doing their chores they fool around dancing and singing about delicious desserts.  When they’re sent into the woods to gather berries they end up eating them all before finally getting lost.  NICE GOING, KIDS.  As a very happy empty-nester, I was annoyed with the characters.  Sara Gartland and Kindra Scharich (Gretel and Hansel) were amazing in their roles however, and did an fantastic job playing the young brother and sister.

Things turned around for me at the end of Act II when they are put to sleep by the Sandman, and dream of 14 angels.  Hansel & Gretel are then transformed into dream ballet dancers surrounded by the sparkling, beautiful angels (played by young children) holding globes of light.  This musical interlude was truly magical and I really enjoyed it.

Intermission: I absolutely love seeing kids attend the opera, and I’m always thrilled to see them enjoying themselves.  This show was filled with well-behaved and impeccably dressed children, and they were all excitedly discussing the story outside in the lobby.  Of course it is a great show to introduce your child to the opera.  Is it a great show for adults?  AHA! Enter Act III and the witch…

Cast A: Mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez as Hansel, soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Gretel and soprano Christine Capsuto as the Dew Fairy. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Act III and the entrance of the Dew Fairy (Christine Capsuto) were what made me sit up straight and start paying attention.  The Dew Fairy is not only gorgeous and funny for the kids, she brings some adult humor that will go over the children’s heads but will have the adults shaking with laughter.  Regrettably she is only on stage for a few minutes, but that is okay because after she wakes Hansel & Gretel they finally discover the gingerbread house and…

Good gosh almighty, the witch is straight out of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (if Priscilla were a Segway instead of a bus).  In Cast A, Marc Schreiner plays the witch and I am confident he is great. I saw Cast 1 which stars tenor James Callon and I could not take my eyes off him whenever he was on stage.  He easily switches back and forth from evil witch to wheedling “nice” witch.  There are costume changes, each design more fabulous than the previous.  The witch is scary but not terrifying, yet hilarious and awesome at the same time.

The stage was an incredible never-ending forest that was painted so beautifully I kept expecting the actors to run further into the woods than the backdrop allowed.  There is a whimsical gingerbread house and a candy cane cage, but the star of the stage was the giant oven with ginormous teeth. As a child this oven would have scared me to death, but I heard no cries in the audience, only whoops of enjoyment.

So, the verdict? If you want to introduce children to the opera, take them to see this and no one will be disappointed. If you love opera for opera’s sake, you know Opera SJ will deliver with the quality you expect.  If you’re a newbie or opera novice, well… I guess my final say is that while the production is outstanding, Act I and II were a bit slow, but then Act III makes everything worth it.  Really, REALLY worth it.  Great holiday show!!  And a great early holiday gift for the family!

Hansel & Gretel
Opera San Jose
Through December 1

And if you think Hansel & Gretel aren’t your thing, get ready for Madame Butterfly on February 15! Tickets available now, so get your holiday shopping done with a really original and special gift!

Downtown Ice San Jose

Downtown Ice is located in San Jose’s the Circle of Palms from November 15, 2013 thru January 12, 2014.

You can show off or get embarrassed; of corse, all in fun.

Note: food or drink are not allowed (except water), no in and out privileges (not even to visit the restroom), no lockers or secure storage on site, children 13 and under must be supervised at all times by a parent or guardian.

Hours /Admission and Directions /Parking

Downtown Ice — Circle of Palms
120 S. Market St.
San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 291-0525

Greenpeace’s “Rainbow Warrior” Docks in San Francisco

In case you haven’t heard, 28 crew and 2 journalists who were attempting to post a banner on an oil rig in the international waters off Russia from the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise were arrested in mid September by the Russian Coast Guard. You can read the full story here. The prisoners have still not been released, even with an international outpouring of support through  social media with the hashtag #FreetheArtic30 as well as media and diplomatic efforts.

Now the Rainbow Warrior 3 is berthed at Pier 15 in San Francisco in part to tell the story of the Arctic 13, but also to tell the story of Greenpeace itself and give people the opportunity to tour the ship in person. You can come down to the ship for a tour Saturday And Sunday 11/16-17 from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Greenpeace will be hosting an art show featuring social justice artists onboard on Nov 11 from 12:30 -5PM, and a  screening of their film Postcards From  Climate Change on Nov 14 from 6-8 PM aboard the ship. RSVP here.


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Veterans Day Parade 11/11/13

Monday November 11 is Veterans Day. There will be a memorial ceremony and a parade in downtown San Jose; also, in honor of Veterans Day.
The Parade’s Opening Ceremony begins on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (when World War I officially ended in 1918) with a memorial ceremony at Plaza de Cesar Chavez on Market Street.
The 95th Annual Veterans Day Parade begins at noon from Delmas Street (near SAP Center) and travels east along Santa Clara to Market Street. The Parade then proceeds south on Market Street and ends at San Carlos Street.
This year’s Grand Marshal:
General S.P. Worden (USAF Ret.)
Director NASA Ames Research Center
Former Director of Development and Transformation, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command,

Broadway San Jose raises curtain on an award winning season!

If you missed seeing Priscilla Queen of the Desert last week at the Center for Performing Arts, you missed one fantastic show.  There are shows that make you think, and shows that are 100% entertainment.  Priscilla hits around 3000% on the entertainment scale, but it is also a show that is full of humanity.  There are themes of friendship and family, and not only being and doing what you want, but finding someone who loves you for being and doing what you want.  Wade McCollum is amazing as Tick/Mitzi, who just wants to get home to his family and is worried his son will reject him.  Also fantastic is Scott Willis as Bernadette, the grande dame of the stage who has given up on finding someone to love her.  Entertainment is the clear priority in this show, with songs like “It’s Raining Men”, “Finally” and “I Will Survive.”  You also get over 500 costumes, 60 wigs, 150 pairs of shoes and over 200 hats and headdresses!  All this and a beautifully lit up bus named Priscilla.  This Australian set musical had the entire packed audience on our feet dancing and singing, and giving a standing ovation at the end.  It was one of the best times I’ve had at a show in a long time.

Broadway San Jose only gets these fabulous shows for about a week, so you have to plan ahead and get your tickets quickly.  What a wonderful holiday present some theatre tickets would be!  Although Priscilla had to end yesterday, here are the shows set for the rest of their season:


November 19 – November 24

It’s not often I see this show available live and local, so don’t miss your chance to see the traveling Broadway production.

Watch the trailer!

Evita tells Eva’s passionate and unforgettable true story, and features some of the theatre’s most beautiful songs, including “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” and “Flying High, Adored.” Don’t miss the stunning new production of EVITA, directed by MICHAEL GRANDAGE and choreographed by ROB ASHFORD.

 The Australian Bee Gees Show

February 4 – February 9


Remember when polyester and a gold chain made the man? The film Saturday Night Fever launched one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time and made The Bee Gees a household name. The AUSTRALIAN BEE GEES SHOW is a live tribute to one of the five most successful recording artists of all time, alongside the Beatles, McCartney, Elvis, and Michael Jackson. Enjoy this celebration of music you all know and love, and the band that has sold more than 220 million records worldwide.


May 27 – June 1

I sometimes see this show at some of our smaller theaters here, but how often do you get to see the traveling Broadway production??

One of the most enduring shows of all time, Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber’s JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT is the irresistible family musical about the trials and triumphs of Joseph, Israel’s favorite son. Retelling the Biblical story of Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colors, this magical musical is full of unforgettable songs including Those Canaan Days, Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door.  Experience the power and diversity of his music in one spectacular evening!

Jersey Boys

July 15 – July 20


Watch the trailer!

You think summer is far off? It will be here before you know it, so mark your calendars because this will sell out quickly.  Remember, only six nights of shows!

Jersey Boys is the Tony, Grammy, and Lover Award-winning Best Musical about Rock and Roll and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons: Franki Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. This is the story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide-all before they were 30! JERSEY BOYS, winner of the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and most recently, the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, features the hit songs, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”



August 27 – September 14

Wow, this show will be here for over two weeks!  As anyone who has seen this show in San Francisco (or New York!) will tell you, there is so much more to this show than you would imagine.  I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, and I could see it again and again.  Even at over 2 weeks of shows, this is guaranteed to sell out every night.  It is truly spectacular, with surprises and spectacle at every turn, and moments when your jaw will drop.  Not to mention some glorious music.  “Popular”  (My personal favorite is Defying Gravity!)

So Much Happened Before Dorothy Dropped In.
Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkin land, two girls meet in the Land of Oz. One – born with emerald green skin- is smart, and fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious, and very popular. How these two grow up to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete- and completely satisfying – new musical in a long time.” (USA Today)
On Broadway and around the world, WICKED has worked its magic on critics and audiences alike. Winner of 35 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards.

Chelyabinsk Meteor: Can We Survive?

Astrobiologist and planetary scientist David Morrison, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute, will discuss The Meteor That Exploded Over Russia Last Year: Can We Survive a Bigger Impact?, an illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

David Morrison will discuss the Chelyabinsk impact and evaluate ways we might meet the grand challenge to protect our population from space impacts.

Dr. Morrison is the director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute in Mountain View.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student parking lot. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills.

Chelyabinsk Meteor: Can We Survive a Bigger Impact?
Free Astronomy Lecture
Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College
November 06, 2013
7:00 p.m.
(650) 949-7888

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