The Desert Sun
August 28, 2005
McCallum, Annenberg rosters bursting with entertainment
Late additions to the local performing arts season have gone from unusual special events one decade ago to the norm.
And now additions to series packages are becoming the thrust of the offerings at the valley’s two main cultural centers.
The McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert and the Annenberg Theater in the Palm Springs Art Museum have announced added attractions to their 2005-06 season, and they go well beyond supplementing the series events usually announced in the spring.
Single tickets go on sale Sept. 7 at the McCallum for newly signed acts such as Seal on Oct. 1, Los Lonely Boys on Oct. 9 and Darryl Hall & John Oates on Nov. 8.
Tickets for an Oct. 23 concert by Marco Antonio Solis go on sale Sept. 9.
The Annenberg will place single tickets on sale at its box office Sept. 19 for recently booked acts such as comedian Bruce Vilanch on Feb. 4, Virginia Waring International Piano Competition winner Sungeun Kim on March 5 and cabaret star Ute Lemper on May 6.
But Palm Springs Art Museum Marketing Director Mary Perry said theater patrons will find fewer Annenberg offerings this year because it’s making the theater available for more rentals.
Local promoter Norman Adams already has rented the theater for jazz pianist Harry Pickens on Dec. 2, cabaret show DIVAS on Broadway on Feb. 8, and jazz singer Tierney Sutton on Feb. 19. He said he hopes to book at least one more act before the season ends.
The Annenberg is following a slight variation of a formula the McCallum utilized last year when it began booking fewer series events to create more opportunities for late single-ticket bookings with touring acts.
McCallum Director of Presentations and Theater Operations Mitch Gershenfeld said that worked so well, they’re expanding that practice. That enables them to sign more rock and country acts, which usually do not book shows as far in advance as classical music and theater.
The McCallum has slated Vince Gill for Oct. 29, Olivia Newton-John on Nov. 20, and Foreigner, featuring Kelly Hanson on vocals instead of original singer Lou Gramm, Oct. 14.
Annenberg Theater and Special Events Director John Finkler said the McCallum’s success didn’t impact the Annenberg.
“I know they are doing this, but that wasn’t an influence on my part,” he said. “I got a lot of calls last year from people looking for an open date.”
Previous Annenberg performing arts directors usually signed acts at booking conventions such as the Western Alliance of Arts Administrators. Now most shows are booked by groups such as Sunday Afternoon Concerts or Musical Chairs, which is starting its first season at the Annenberg after establishing itself as a premier local producer of sophisticated musical revues.
Perry said the museum is responding to community groups like the Sandblasters barbershop harmony chapter that have long wanted to use the Annenberg.
“They started calling one after another,” Perry said of groups who had heard of the museum’s new open policy. “They said, ‘Great, we’d like to perform to a little bit bigger venue, but not too much bigger.'”
Besides minimizing the museum’s financial risk, Perry said the museum will get more varied programming this way.
Perry and Finkler are excited by the Nov. 5 “Opening Night” benefit performer, Renee Olstead, a powerful 16-year-old vocalist specializing in music from the 1940s.
They’ve also booked Academy Awards comedy writer Vilanch, who uses his gay lifestyle as a source for humor.
Coming March 11 is Julia Sweeney, who played the androgynous “Pat” on “Saturday Night Live.” She recently “came out” as an atheist with her one-woman show, “Letting Go of God.”
Gershenfeld is excited about finally getting such pop-rock acts as Los Lonely Boys and Hall & Oates. Los Lonely Boys canceled twice last season and the McCallum had to refund sold-out tickets. Gershenfeld had been trying to book Hall & Oates for two years and “finally, it worked out.”
Local legend Jack Jones has added a Feb. 14 Valentine’s show of “all love songs,” and Mandy Patinkin, who was included on the “Create Your Own” series, has been given two shows, March 11 and 12.
“The Producers” national tour has been postponed, so Gershenfeld filled that slot with six nights of Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” Feb. 7-12.
Gershenfeld credited the growing audience at the McCallum for his ability to book acts that may not have sold well for the snowbird-dominated audience of the last decade.
“I think it has been an evolution,” he said, “a process where five years ago, an act like Seal, an act like Foreigner, would have been a stretch at the McCallum. I don’t think there’s any act, unless it’s an act that needs a mosh pit, that couldn’t play the McCallum now. I don’t think any act that would play a theater wouldn’t play the McCallum.”
Tickets available through the Annenberg Box Office: 760-325-4490