Chick Corea, Together with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, sets the night on fire in San Diego

One of the major jazz piano voices of the last 50 years, Chick Corea, together with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, lit up the hallowed halls of the 1929 Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego in March, 2018 with an exciting repertoire of free jazz and jazz fusion selections.

Since a video is worth 1,000 words, enjoy this 90-second clip of an exciting performance by this jazz piano great, accompanied by the titillating Jazz at Lincoln Center instrumentalists.

One of the major jazz piano voices of the last 50 years, Chick Corea, together with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, lit up the hallowed halls of the 1929 Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego with an exciting repertoire of free jazz and jazz fusion selections.

Palm Springs Follies....An Inspiration for Audiences of All Ages

People find inspiration in various ways. Some look to their favorite sports figure, others read motivational books, research their favorite historical character, or simply enjoy inspiration when and where ever it turns up.

Our inspiration turned up on the stage of the Follies Theatre in the heart of Palm Springs, California. It’s hard not to sit through the spectacular show without dropping your jaw at the energetic performance of the cast, whose ages range from 54 to 83 years young. Trim and ever-so-fit, this inspiring troupe consistently sings and dances its way into the hearts of the audience, and has done so for two decades.

Now in its 22nd year, the Follies play a key role in the entertainment landscape of Palm Springs. The production boasts its own historic, Spanish revival theatre situated in the heart of downtown. My husband Tony and I, visiting in December, were intrigued by this season’s show entitled “Dance to the Music.” True to the title, the first act took us on a delightful musical tour of the last century, from the “Boogie Woogie” dances of the WWII era through the rock ‘n’ roll of the ‘50s, the Beatles and Motown tunes of the ‘60s and into the psychedelic disco era of the ‘70s. And the entertainment didn’t stop there…

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It isn’t easy to capture the attention of any audience, young or old, for a full three hours, but Tony and I agreed that we were not bored for a second during this Follies performance. As soon as you enter the theatre, the surprises begin. The lavish costumes and set décor are something one would expect on Broadway or in Vegas. Riff Markowitz opens the show and is the consummate comedian and impresario, leading you through the various acts with charm and classic humor. His improvisational comedic dialogue as he interacts with audience members in the first row of the theatre is witty and spontaneous and had the audience laughing uproariously as a result.

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The various acts are peppered with lusty and lively performances such as that of Mat Plendl, who mesmerized the audience with an unlikely instrument of expression---the hula hoop! Brandishing as many as six hula hoops at once, positioned at various parts of his body, Mat took a humble child’s toy and transformed it into performance art. With unparalleled technical skill, combined with elements of mime, musical comedy, and dance, it’s no wonder that Mat has achieved international acclaim. In our evening performance, the audience held its communal breath as he spun his hoops in a dizzying, and truly unbelievable, show of speed, strength, and skill.

The Follies singers and dancers—resplendent in a wide variety of dazzling costumes to match each set-- never fail to impress. In addition to several well-executed holiday song and dance routines, the troupe closes the production with a rousing and touching musical salute to veterans of all branches of the military. The well-designed staging and lighting, which also featured a video screen in many scenes, complements the musical talents of the cast—creating a definite “wow” experience for the audience.

The highlight of the evening arrived when Lorna Luft took the stage. Lorna, born in 1952 to legendary entertainer Judy Garland and producer Sid Luft, belts out a performance that is reminiscent of Garland’s vocal power and stage presence, while reflecting Lorna’s own exceptional tone and phrasing. Her soulful rendition of the classic jazz standard, “Come Rain or Come Shine,” definitely caused a goose bump or two among the audience, as did her passionate execution of “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody.” Her youthful good looks and incredible vocal power and stage presence are definitely impressive.

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We think this talented cast of “seniors” is an inspiration for people of any age. I know Tony and I left the theatre with the promise to dance more, sing more, and enjoy our lives to the fullest as we travel down life’s highway. Thank you, Palm Springs Follies, for this valuable inspiration.

NOTE:  After almost 5,000 performances, the Palm Springs Follies closed their doors in 2014.

Patrizio Buanne Creates "Some Enchanted Evening" in San Diego

I knew it was going to be a magical evening as soon as the band on stage at The Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego opened the show with a high-energy prelude to Tu Vuoi Fa Americano—You Wanna Be Americano—and Patrizio Buanne made his appearance. His smooth rendition of this Italian classic, made famous by Sophia Loren in the 1960 movie, It Started in Naples, set the stage for some enchanting evening.

Amidst wild applause and calls from his adoring fans, some of whom traveled to San Diego from as far away as Australia to see his performance, Patrizio entertained and mesmerized his audience with a wide selection of vocals throughout the evening. These included everything from traditional Italian melodies, to American musical selections, to old time rock ‘n roll--all performed with passion and the charming stage presence for which this international vocalist is famous.

Patrizio uses his handsome and affable looks, fine sense of humor, and appreciable musical talents to create a definite bond with his audience, in a performance that is a cross between a scintillating Vegas show and a classic Neapolitan concert.

In fact, it wasn’t hard to imagine yourself in Italy on that warm, full-moon evening in late August. Romance was definitely in the air, inspired by the Tuscan-themed ambiance of The Grand Del Mar, San Diego’s only Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five Diamond resort. 

The Mediterranean-styled architecture is stunning and opulent without being pretentious, featuring lovely arched doorways, colorful tile, wood-beamed ceilings, decorative columns, graceful wrought iron, and Old World stone embellishments.

The concert venue in the resort’s Grand Ballroom was perfect for Patrizio’s show. The intimate setting, which boasted excellent acoustics, allowed the audience a more personal and interactive experience with Patrizio, who is an expert at connecting with his fans throughout his performance. From handing out roses to the ladies in the audience, to telling amusing stories of his Italian family, to joking jovially with the crowd, Patrizio has definitely mastered the art of embracing his fans in a very natural and appealing way.

Blessed with a strong, resonant voice, Patrizio is equally at ease singing ballads from the American songbook (On the Street Where You Live, Crazy, Fly Me to the Moon) to the passionate Neapolitan melodies (Femmina, O Sole Mio). He even strums a guitar and has a fling on the keyboards while belting out an energetic salute to ‘50s rock ‘n roll in his spoof, “Shake the Spaghetti.”

Accolades are also definitely in store for Patrizio’s talented musical director, Vito DeSalvo, whose fresh and artistic arrangements added to the overall pleasure of the evening’s performance. Whether pumping out high-energy rock ‘n roll, to adding sweet and plaintive background to Patrizio’s romantic selections, the highly talented 5-piece ensemble (guitar, bass, saxophone, drums and piano) never skipped a beat under Vito’s skilled direction.

Born in Naples, Italy, Patrizio began his musical career at the age of eleven and rose to stardom after mesmerizing audiences throughout Europe with his vocal style and engaging stage presence.  

Patrizio performed on August 26, 2012 at The Grand Del Mar  in San Diego as part of the resort’s summer concert series.

Laugh at Your Family, and Yourself, at the San Diego Rep's Newest Production of "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish.....and I'm STILL in Therapy"

 

When I was a kid growing up in an Italian American family in Pittsburgh, my fondest memories were of my Uncle John’s visits on Sundays.  While my grandmother set a table of food to feed an army, Uncle John had the incredible ability to make a joke of whatever he could pull from our family dynamics at that moment in time. I recall crying tears of laughter as he made happy fun of Aunt Angeline’s greasy chicken, Cousin Fran’s flaming red hair, my father Joe’s protruding belly or Grandpa Franco’s irritating hearing problem.

Fast forward several decades to the production of My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I am STILL in Therapy, playing now through September 9, 2012 at the San Diego Lyceum Stage Theatre in Horton Plaza.

As soon as the multi-talented Steve Solomon, author and actor in this one-man show, took the stage, I knew Uncle John had met his match.

To say that an evening spent with Steve Solomon is like being with a dear, funny friend, is an understatement.  In truth, an evening with Steve is more like being with dozens of hilarious friends and eccentric members of your own family.

Steve has taken the art of impersonation and honed it into a science.  He masterfully weaves different dialects and crazy characters into his stories.  These tales take on a life of their own as Steve recounts memorable moments from his past and makes hysterical observations on timely topics.

A native of Brooklyn, Steve grew up in the multi-ethnic neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay.  This was the perfect training ground for a dialectician.  Steve learned at an early age how to use his gift for imitating accents to his advantage. During his performance at the Rep, he brought the house down with his rendition of various dialects, to include Italian, Jewish, Russian, Mexican and Indian, to name a few.  

Like my Uncle John, a teacher who taught in Pittsburgh high schools, Steve had a career as a physics teacher and school administrator in Philadelphia before taking his highly successful one-man show on the road. Unlike my Uncle John, he holds a PhD degree in education, but gave up his academic career when he decided that making people laugh was his true goal in life.

Judging from the audience reaction on opening day at the Lyceum, this was definitely a wise choice.

While Steve’s comedy never descends into the vulgar, be prepared to hear his candid and hysterical take on subjects such as marital relations, divorce, child-raising, aging with all its side-effects (impotence, flatulence, loss of hearing, etc.) and even death (“Cremation is just thinking outside the box.”)

Steve’s last show, the two-time award winning: My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy, ran to record crowds last year at the San Diego Lyseum. This show drew heavily on the Italian/Jewish theme.  STILL IN THERAPY is Steve’s current pet project, and a completely new show that touches upon other topics more than the Italian/Jewish family connection. But great fun nonetheless!

For more information, log onto:  stevesolomoncomedy.com



   

Much Respect Goes to the Talented San Diego Cast of "Respect: A Musical Journey of Women"

An old song has a funny way of jarring one’s memory.  Details of significant life events may fade over the decades, but all it takes is a tune from yesteryear to bring one back to a specific moment in time, or to one long-forgotten life experience.

This is the appeal of the high-energy musical, Respect: A Musical Journey of Women, currently enjoying a run at the Lyceum Theatre in downtown San Diego.  Its concept is simple, yet powerful:  the history of women in the 20th Century is brought to life through the popular songs representing each era.  Excerpts from some 60 songs spanning the decades, combined with a masterful script, tell the story of the tumultuous journey of woman as they struggle to gain their rights and personal freedom.

Any production, no matter how well-written, is only as successful as its cast, and this is where the San Diego production shines. An incredibly talented cast of four San Diego performers (Leigh Scarritt, Nancy Snow Carr, Lisa H. Payton and Kelsey Venter) backed by an equally stellar 5-piece band, brought this musical to life from the moment they stepped on stage.

 The vocalists not only performed with style and energy during their solo numbers, but joined in masterful harmony on several songs throughout the evening. Their perfectly-executed rendition of George Gershwin’s classic, Someone to Watch Over Me, at the onset of the show promised musical excellence ahead. Not once during the two hour run time (and one hundred musical years) the production covered, did this exceptional cast disappoint.

The audience was propelled through a variety of emotions throughout the evening as the script and song selection went from the frivolous (a Betty Boop version of I Wanna Be Loved By You portraying the ‘20s), to the comedic (It’s Howdy Doody Time and Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend in a humorous look back on the ‘50s), to the historic (Over There and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy in a ‘40s WWII salute), to the painful (God Bless the Child and Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around in a soul-stirring commentary on the struggle for civil rights in the ‘50s and 60s).

Women’s dependence upon men through the decades was brought to light with songs such as As Long as He Needs Me and I Will Follow Him.

Not only did the cast’s vocal talents hit perfection, their acting and comedic abilities made for some unforgettable moments throughout the evening.  Kelsey Venter had the audience in stitches with her rendition of the classic Vicky Carr tune, “It Must Be Him.”  Poised in front of a giant red telephone, Kelsey portrays the anguish of a young woman in the ‘60s who (without the aid of modern conveniences such as cell phone, voice mail and text messaging) awaits a call from “him” --that never comes.  In another side-splitting routine, Kelsey belts out the Nancy Sinatra classic, These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ , as white boots fall out of the sky to be donned by the rest of the cast as they  join her in a poetic “stomp” on male dominance.

The production culminates in a rousing version of I Will Survive, a celebration of the resilience of womanhood in overcoming the trials and tribulations of a century—a rendition which brought the entire audience to their feet in joyous applause and a standing ovation.  

This evocative musical is the brainchild of Columbia University professor Dr. Dorothy Marcic, who spent years researching the Top-40 songs of each decade since 1900 in her quest to tell the whole story of women in the 20th century. The show was developed into a full-scale musical theatre production in 2004 and has since played in major venues across the nation and internationally.

The outstanding San Diego production has certainly garnered this reviewer’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T!

For more information, visit respectamusicaljourney.com