Win tickets to Fresno Philharmonic’s holiday concert

Conductor Rei Hotoda and orchestra celebrates the holidays with an acclaimed baritone soloist, the Fresno Master Chorale and more

UPDATE: Congratulations to winners Christina JG Connelly and Lisa Gluskin.

ORIGINAL POST: The Fresno Philharmonic has an appealing holiday concert planned for you this weekend. Guest artists for “Home for the Holidays” include the acclaimed baritone Jubilant Sykes, who has appeared in such venues as the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Also joining conductor Rei Hotoda will be the Fresno Master Chorale, directed by Anna Hamre, and the Alta Sierra Intermediate School Chamber Choir, directed by Gail Barbour.

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Jubilant Sykes is guest soloist at “Home for the Holidays.” Photo / Fresno Philharmonic

A special treat will be Mark Standriff (who recently played Mushnik in StageWorks Fresno’s “Little Shop of Horrors”) narrating the classic “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The concert is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Saroyan Theatre.

And guess what! I have a pair of tickets to this popular concert to give away to a reader of The Munro Review.

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Heading off to the big city

Fresno State opens Shakespeare’s ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’


Brad Myers is a master director of Shakespeare, so it’s always a must-see event when he tackles a play by the Bard. The latest outing for the Fresno State director is the comedy “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which opens Friday, Dec. 1, at the university’s John Wright Theatre. Myers took time out of his busy tech week for the show to engage in a dialogue about the production.

Q: In “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” two best friends are parted when one leaves his hometown for the big city of Milan. Am I the only one who immediately thinks of high school kids wanting to get out of Fresno for San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York?

Aaron Gomes, left, and Steven Weatherbee in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” Photo / Fresno State

A: Yes, Proteus and Valentine are facing the same decisions that high school grads are facing today. One of the gents chooses to leave his hometown and head off for the big city; the other wants to stay at home because he is head-over-heels in love with his girlfriend. This is one of the many elements of the “Two Gents” storyline that makes this play very accessible for high school and university students.

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Holiday theater: previews for Santa

At CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre, four talented singers tackle “Plaid Tidings,” and at Reedley’s River City Theatre Company, Kris Kringle gets put on trial in “Miracle on 34th Street”

Santa is certainly busy this month, but even he needs to take a break now and then. And why not do it with live theater? In honor of The Big Red Guy, and with help from the directors, we take a look at two promising holiday-themed local openings: “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” at CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre; and “Miracle on 34th Street,” at Reedley’s River City Theatre Company:


The director: Scott Hancock.

The run: just four performances over this one weekend: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, Clovis Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 808 4th St., Clovis.

The cast of “Forever Plaid”: Kyle Dodson, Darren Tharp, Brandon Crane and Adam Kitt. Photo / CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre

The plot: “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” is a semi-sequel to the incredibly popular “Forever Plaid.” The four plaids (Adam Kitt, Darren Tharp, Brandon Crane, and Kyle Dodson) return to earth for a second time and (at first) are not quite sure why. Through song and self discovery, they realize that they are here to do the Christmas show they never got to do while they were still alive.

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Of monsters and men

Selma Arts Center offers an accomplished production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”


He becomes a hunchback before our eyes. One instant Thomas Hayes is standing straight, tall and unblemished, and then, in a few measures of song and with a few key costume additions, including a strapped-on hump that looks as if he’s slinging on a small backback, and some smears of black makeup, we are introduced to Quasimodo.

Powerful performance: Thomas Hayes plays Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Photo / Selma Arts Center

I like this moment of theatricality in the ambitious and sensitive new production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at the Selma Arts Center. The transformation reinforces the lyrics: “Who is the monster and who is the man?”

Indeed, who is the “monster” in this classic tale? The disfigured and physically impaired young man with a pure heart and a longing to commune with others? Or the preening and pious “man of God,” the archdeacon of none other than the great cathedral of Notre Dame, whose unbridled lust and cruelty destroys lives?

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Update: CMT will be back in Memorial Auditorium in 2018

UPDATE (Nov. 29): It’s official. Children’s Musical Theaterworks and the City of Fresno have come to an agreement that will allow the theater company to use Veterans Memorial Auditorium in 2018.

The city and the company are scheduled to announce the agreement in a 4 p.m. press conference. CMT officials are using the occasion to promote the opening of “Annie” on Friday and announce the beginning of 2018 season ticket sales.

Ready to go: the cast of “Annie.” Photo / Children’s Musical Theaterworks

As my original story (see below) predicted, the agreement includes a provision in which CMT and any other groups that use the auditorium — which was assessed as having various safety hazards — faces specific restrictions on the use of the fly rails (the equipment used to move backdrops, scenery and scrims up and down) and the electrical equipment.

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On tap tonight at the Saroyan: 8 more murders

Comic romp ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder’ continues for one more Fresno performance


There shouldn’t be anything inherently funny about watching a man run for his life from a swarm of bees. But that’s the slapstick appeal of the frothy “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” which opened Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre for a two-night run. (It plays again Wednesday evening.)

At the door: Colleen McLaughlin, Blake Price and Erin McIntyre in the national tour of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.”

I saw the original Broadway production (which won the Tony Award for best musical) starring Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham, and other than the fact that the Saroyan is probably three times the size of the original performance venue, I’m happy to say that much of the show’s chipper intimacy (and the original direction, by Darko Tresnjak) is preserved. Here’s a capsule review:

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Promising singer ups Fresno State’s opera game

Tiffanie Trujillo gives her undergraduate recital with a program that includes a work by Coarsegold composer Barbara Ulman

Local opera fans attending productions at Fresno State over the past few years have definitely taken notice of two talented singers: Mezzo soprano Alejandra Tejeda, a graduate student; and soprano Tiffanie Trujillo, an undergraduate student. I certainly have. Both are graduating. It’s hard to tell what will happen in the years ahead, but I’d say chances are very good indeed that both will be able to break into the ranks of successful professional singers.

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Fresno State student Tiffanie Trujillo.

Tejeda already gave her recital a couple of weeks ago. (And I’m sorry I missed the chance to publicize it.) Trujillo gives her recital 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the Fresno State Wahlberg Recital Hall. Admission is free.

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Win tickets (and dinner) to ‘Gentleman’s Guide’

Special prize package for opening night includes tickets, dinner at Cosmopolitan Tavern and parking

IMG_1842UPDATE: Our winner is Joseph Hypes of Merced. His lucky number is now 67. Special thanks to Cosmopolitan Tavern and Broadway in Fresno for making this giveaway possible.

ORIGINAL POST: Sometimes it can be hard to take a chance on a musical with which you’re not familiar. Especially a professional production — with corresponding ticket prices.

That might be the case with “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” the 2012 Tony Award winner for best musical, which opens Tuesday, Nov. 28, at the Saroyan Theatre.

But what if you got to go for free?

You can read all about the show in my interview with James Taylor Odom, who plays the leading role(s) in this comic murder romp set in Edwardian England.

And you can enter my ticket giveaway, which is a special prize package: a pair of tickets to the opening night performance, dinner for two at the Cosmopolitan Tavern (conveniently located in the convention center parking lot) and free downtown parking.

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite menu item at Cosmo, as the long-time Fresno restaurant is often affectionately called. (If you’ve never eaten there, that’s OK, too; pick something from the dinner menu you’d like to try.)

Deadline to enter is 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27. Winner selected at random. I’ll be notifying the winner on Monday evening, so be sure to check your email. Please don’t enter if you won’t be able to attend.

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