Give Your Regards to Broadway

This season, the Coachella Valley will revel in the Great White Way



Riverdance

JACK HARTIN

The air hums with anticipation before a Broadway show begins. The audience murmurs, settling into plush seats to the dissonant sounds of the orchestra tuning. Then house lights dim, and a hush falls. The first notes of the overture break the silence and the journey begins, sweeping you along for the ride to fantasyland.

This is the lure of Broadway, a quintessential and timeless escape that is especially popular this season in the desert.

“It’s the magic,” says McCallum Theatre’s Mitch Gershenfeld. “People go to the theater because it’s entertainment, a way to get away from your everyday life for a couple of hours and be transported to something exotic, different, or just plain fun. These shows tell stories that resonate with people.”

This year’s offerings at Coachella Valley venues run large and small, contemporary and traditional. McCallum has four large-scale productions and many smaller shows on its schedule this season.

“In January, we have My Fair Lady, a great Lerner and Lowe classic, and also South Pacific,” says Gershenfeld, McCallum’s director of presentations and theater operations. “These are the national touring companies, produced by the Broadway producers and sent out on the road. The productions are really lavish, with casts of 15 or 20 or more, an orchestra in the pit, and beautiful sets and costumes. They come in here with anywhere between three and six big semi-trailer trucks full.”

The lineup also includes a few new classics. “In March, we’re bringing back Mamma Mia!, which is probably the most popular musical that ever played the McCallum Theatre,” he says.

In the Heights — the 2008 Tony winner for best new musical — arrives in March with an edgier feel. “It’s a fascinating show that takes place in the Washington Heights section of New York,” Gershenfeld says. “It’s a story about the people who came from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. The music is very contemporary — salsa and a Latin score — but there’s also rap and hip-hop. It’s a very exciting show with great dancing. It’s a traditional story, similar to Fiddler on the Roof, but in a much more contemporary meaning.”

Smaller-scale shows such as Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Boom Town, and Blast! round out the season. Blast!, a Tony and Emmy winner, stars drum and bugle corps. “Imagine what you would see at a big football stadium, with all the brass instruments and all the twirling and the flags — but on a stage,” Gershenfeld says. “It’s a magnificent show.”

Michael Childers’ One Night Only returns April 18, this time as a tribute to two Broadway legends. “This year we’re planning a huge, spectacular salute to the Gershwins, George and Ira,” says Childers, who has produced the show for seven years. “It’s an all-star cast from Hollywood and New York and Broadway being brought in. The grand super finale is going to be a medley of Porgy and Bess.” A choir from Indio will back the singers for the close, which Childers promises will “blow everyone’s mind.”

The show, which benefits Jewish Family Service, will feature a Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire dance performance along with 16 singers. Lorna Luft will wrap the first act with “The Man That Got Away,” made famous by her mother, Judy Garland.

Tickets go on sale at the McCallum box office Feb. 1.

Childers has already begun planning the 2013 show — a salute to Stephen Sondheim. (One side benefit of One Night Only, Childers says, is that the Annenberg Theatre often books some of the performers for its Cabaret 88 shows.)

Broadway is alive on a smaller and more intimate scale, too. Indian Wells Theater hosts the Broadway Showstoppers concert on March 25, featuring Kim Huber and Roger Befeler, with songs from shows of the golden era, such as Oklahoma! and Carousel.

For professional tap-dancer-turned-mortgage-broker Hugh Van Horn, bringing more Broadway here is a personal mission. A few years ago, he joined the nonprofit OperaArts and began producing small shows featuring young Broadway talent. The result was Broadway Comes to Indian Wells at the art gallery Royale Projects. Singers included Lisa Robinson, Ann Peck McBride, Scott Drier, and Joshua Carr. “The second one, we did rock operas,” Van Horn says. He plans to maintain that momentum, as he finalizes a show slated for February 2012.

“The whole point is to emphasize OperaArts and to talk about bringing arts into our community as part of our society,” he says.

The father of three young children, Van Horn wants the next generation to be as passionate about the arts as he is. “I would not be the person I am today without my involvement in musical theater at a young age,” he says. “For the McCallum to be sustainable for the next 50 years, my kids have to get into it and start watching musicals. The way to do that is by showing them it’s not just the stuffy music your parents used to listen to. There are some really cool things out there.”  

This season in the desert does offer something for everyone, young and old. Regardless of age, everyone loves a Broadway show, Van Horn says, because “it allows you to dream.”

Edit Module
Art + Culture
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

The Last Internationale Bring Provocative Edge to Joshua Tree Music Festival

The Last Internationale, appearing at the Joshua Tree Music Festival, are a powerful trio of modern day musical revolutionaries that ride the cusp between hard rock and folk-protest music.

Gene Jr & The Family Spurs Gabriella Evaro's Creative Projects at Joshua Tree Music Festival

Desert native Gabriella Evaro, who planted roots in the artisan village of Joshua Tree with her mother and siblings as a young girl, returns to the Joshua Tree Music Festival with a new musical production.

Songs From the Heart

After decades of singing backup for such legends as Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, Marvin Gaye, The Righteous Brothers, and Tom Jones, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love — now 73 — is busier than ever.

Jane Lynch, The von Trapps, Igudesman & Joo Lead Picks for McCallum's 2015-16 Season

Mitch Gershenfeld’s successful track record in booking shows audiences love led him to establish “Mitch’s Picks” to showcase artists the public may not be familiar with appearing at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

Open Call Gives Greater Palm Springs Area Talent a Chance to Shine

Kaitlyn Farley knew music was her calling from a young age, but opportunities like the annual Open Call at the McCallum Theatre took that passion to another level.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Palm Springs Life's Women in Business

Palm Springs Life's Women in Business

Winner profiles will be highlighted in a special section in Palm Springs Life’s May 2014 issue. Nominate Your Top Women in Business!
Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Enter your “Cutest Pet” photo in the Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest. Online users will be able to like the Cutest Pet photos from six (6) categories.
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Edit ModuleShow Tags