From fan to star: This Lola’s boots are charmed

Jos N. Banks, who plays the role of Lola in the national tour of “Kinky Boots” (opening Wednesday at the Saroyan Theatre), is following in the footsteps of his idol Billy Porter

UPDATE: Congratulations to Chris Ortiz-Belcher, our “Kinky Boots” prize-package winner.  In his entry, he wrote: ” ‘Kinky Boot’s is one of my favorite shows and I would pass out if I got to see it in person!” (No word on whether Chris lost consciousness this morning when he heard the news.)

ORIGINAL POST: Join with me for a few moments, if you will, to revel in the story of Jos N. Banks and his unlikely “Kinky Boots” journey. He went from “world’s biggest fan” of the actor playing Lola on Broadway to nabbing the role himself in the national tour of the show.

A bit of background is in order:

Lance Bordelon, center left, and Jos N. Banks, center right, along with the cast of the national tour of “Kinky Boots.” Photo / Matthew Murphy

Banks, who studied musical theater in college, had long been an admirer of Billy Porter. The veteran Broadway actor originated the role of Lola, the empowered drag queen who winds up in a crazy scheme to save a failing English shoe factory by making thigh-high “kinky boots” for men. (Porter won a 2013 Tony Award for best actor in a musical for the show.)

Win a pair of tickets to opening night of “Kinky Boots” plus dinner at Cosmopolitan Tavern and free parking. See details at the end of this post.

Banks — gregarious and chatty when he answered my call while on tour with the show in Colorado — was also a fan of “Kinky Boots” the show itself. A resident of Chicago, Banks had seen a rehearsal for the musical, which features a powerhouse book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, in its pre-Broadway tryout in that city.

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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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May the force not always be with us

Are the new security measures at Saroyan Theatre the new normal? I hope not

The Bee’s Rory Appleton has an interesting piece about something new for audience members at the Saroyan Theatre: bag checks and metal detectors. The practice is part of a larger trend of increased security at the Save Mart Center, Selland Arena and other local venues.

Appleton writes:

A series of unrelated events both in Fresno and abroad have led many of the local venues to tighten up their bag policies. Some also have added metal detectors to their entrance routines. Both are a byproduct of 2017 life, but both have led to long entrance lines for everything from rock concerts and symphony performances to San Joaquin Valley Town Hall events.

My first encounter with the Saroyan’s new security policy was the long line to get into the Fresno Philharmonic’s opening pops concert of the season on Saturday night. When I arrived at about 7:20 p.m., 10 minutes before the concert was to begin, the line to get into the south entrance stretched almost to the parking garage.

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Single tickets for ‘Kinky Boots’ go on sale Friday

Heads up for Broadway in Fresno fans who didn’t spring for season tickets:

Single tickets for the season go on sale 10 a.m. Friday. You can get them at the Fresno Convention Center Box Office or by calling Ticketmaster.

Coming to Fresno: The national tour of “Kinky Boots.”

My guess is that tickets for “Kinky Boots,” which plays Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at the Saroyan, will be in the greatest demand.

Tickets for “Beautiful” — the big-deal production of the year, with an entire week’s run —already went on sale in June. That show opens Oct. 24.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Aug. 11)

Weekend options include metal-meets-mariachi at Arte Americas and a new musical arts series at Bitwise Industries

I’ve already told you about two of this weekend’s big theater events (“Hedda Gabler” and “R&J”). Here are a few more promising (and, for this blog, a little off-the-beaten path) cultural picks for the weekend.

Metalachi performs at Vinyl nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, NV
Different kind of mariachi: METALACHI performs Saturday at Arte Américas.

Mariachi meets metal

This concert has such an interesting premise that I can’t resist: METALACHI is the first heavy-metal mariachi band in the world. (I’m not sure if it’s the only heavy-metal mariachi band in the world — that would be a pretty small group, right?) And it’s returning to Arte Américas for a concert on Saturday, Aug. 12, in the outdoor Plaza Paz.

The ensemble uses traditional mariachi instruments to re-interpret songs by Metallica, Guns N Roses, Led Zepplin, Bon Jovi, and more. Add in painted faces, over-the-top costumes, raunchy humor, and raucous theatrics, and this isn’t exactly your grandfather’s mariachi concert.

Continue reading “Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Aug. 11)”

‘Beautiful’ tickets go on sale Friday

Here’s an important time and date to know for single-ticket buyers interested in the 2017-18 Broadway in Fresno season. Tickets for “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, June 9.

Actress playing Carole King sitting at piano.
Carnegie Hall: Julia Knitel in the touring production of ‘Beautiful.’ Photo / Joan Marcus

“Beautiful,” which opens Oct. 24, is the best known show of the season coming to the Saroyan Theatre. Most touring productions only play in Fresno for two nights, but “Beautiful” is popular enough to warrant a week-long run.

The production is still playing on Broadway.

The season also boasts two other newer shows: “Kinky Boots” and “The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” both Tony favorites. (And if you’re more Old School, you can look forward to a new national tour of “The Sound of Music.”)

You can buy tickets at, call 800-745-3000, or visit the Fresno Convention Center Box Office.

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