Sierra Stages’ production of “Chicago” is a winner

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

Our region’s arts and culture scene recently has been basking in the sunlight. In July, the California Arts Council named 14 statewide Cultural Dsitricts, and Grass Valley-Nevada City and Truckee were included in the elite group. The same week the iconic California WorldFest drew big crowds to the Nevada County Fairgrounds for headliners such as Michael Franti, thanks to being re-energized by the imaginative, determined staff of The Center for the Arts.

And the beat goes on as Sierra Stages presents the Nevada County premiere of  the Broadway hit “Chicago” at the historic Nevada Theatre in Nevada City through August 5. We attended last night, and marveled at the local production: the acting, singing, dancing, music and razzle-dazzle of Chicago in the late ’20s. It is clearly one of Sierra Stages’ best productions in its nine-year history. Judging by their reactions after the show, including a long standing ovation, other patrons agreed. For $28 a ticket, the show is great deal, and many performances have been selling out, including ours.

The show and the venue, at the newly renovated Nevada Theatre, epitomize what is earning our region statewide honors for its arts and culture. This is adding vibrancy to our historic downtowns; Nevada City was teaming with locals and visitors last night.

The original Broadway production of “Chicago” opened 47 years ago. “The driving force behind the show was director/choreographer Bob Fosse, fresh from winning an Oscar for Cabaret,” wrote Peter Mason, Sierra Stages’ managing director, in the program. Liza Minelli was a star of the show. In the ’90s a new production won six Tony Awards, including “best musical revival” it is still running 21 years later, Mason observed.

The play centers on two real-life murder cases in 1920s Chicago. Both were acquitted. It is performed as a “musical vaudeville,” with each of the musical numbers in the style of a different real-life vaudeville personality from the ’20s.

Robert Rossman’s directing, as well as the acting from a cast of 20, was superb: Kate Haight as Velma Kelly; Jacquelynn Kilenko as Roxie Hart; Micah Cone as Amos Hart; and Jonathan Hansard as Billy Flynn, among others.

All of the characters were well developed; we were entertained nonstop by mouthy Roxie and Velma (“Start the car I know a whoopie spot… where the gin is cold and the piano’s hot.”); felt sad for Amos (Mica was one of the best performers); and “sold” on Bill’s slick lawyering. (“I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but if Jesus Christ lived in Chicago today, and he had come to me and he had five thousand dollars, let’s just say things would have turned out differently.”) It was a seasoned cast — some returning from other Sierra Stages productions.

Ken Getz did a wonderful job conducting the 14-member band, which produced energized versions of familiar songs such as “All That Jazz,” “Razzle Dazzle” and “When You’re Good to Mama.” There were woodwinds, a trumpet, trombone, banjo, base, tuba, keyboards — and a violin. Getz is Sierra Stages’ music director, Peter Mason is managing director, and Rossman is the newly named artistic director, a lineup that will “up their game” further. Rossman has directed nine, acted in ten, and provided guidance and advice for other Sierra Stages’ productions.

We have seen the show on Broadway, and I wondered if this big Broadway musical could be “right-sized” on a smaller stage. It worked. So did the sound and lightening design. I also enjoyed the occasional, casual interaction between the cast and the band — an actor passing a newspaper with the blaring headline “Roxie Rocks Chicago” to the piano player to peruse, for example.

Fosse said Chicago was his response to the Watergate scandal — unfolding in the early ’70s — but I could see some parallels to our current politics: the reporters scribbling “fake news” into their notebooks, for example. I lived in Chicago when I was in graduate school and return regularly. After leaving the show, I had fond memories of Chicago planted in my mind. I kept looking around for a steakhouse, such as the Chicago Chop House. It was nowhere to be seen, though we did enjoy a nightcap at the Golden Era Lounge down Broad Street.

(Photo: David Wong)

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40th high school reunion in August: social media keeps us in touch

Saratoga High, class of ’77: Brian, Del and me

Our class’ 40th high school reunion is in August. I graduated from Saratoga High School in ’77. My dad worked at Stanford Research Institute; mom handled bookkeeping for a local State Farm Agent, Dennis Cunningham, who became a good friend. It was a good time: We are native Californians but had spent the ’70s in Denver, where I went to Cherry Creek High School as a freshman and sophomore. Dad wanted to return to California (he was worried about being transferred again — this time to Houston), and he landed the SRI job. I’d drive up to Menlo Park in my Toyota Tercel, and we’d eat lunch together in Menlo Park — at a Greek restaurant called the Golden Acorn.

Saratoga High was a much smaller high school than Cherry Creek. I was co-editor of the high school newspaper, The Falcon, and a serious student. It has remained a tight-knit group; many of my classmates grew up together. We have a trip planned the weekend of the reunion, but many of us still keep in touch on Facebook. We’re all married and our kids are growing up. It’s fun to share those experiences on Facebook.

Here’s a Seals & Crofts song that we heard at our high school graduation: “We may never pass this way again.” In fact, we are still in touch, thanks to social media.

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Gov. Brown’s #CapandTrade Tweet

To the 150+ CA enviro, ag, biz, community, health & labor leaders who united to help #ExtendItNow – THANK YOU! #CapandTrade

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State legislature extends cap-and-trade climate program in bipartisan effort

“California lawmakers voted Monday evening to extend the state’s premiere program on climate change, a victory for Gov. Jerry Brown that included unprecedented Republican support for fighting global warming,” as The Los Angeles Times is reporting.

“In a break with party leaders and activists in California and Washington, eight Republicans joined with Democrats to continue the cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

“The legislation would keep the 5-year-old program operating until 2030, providing a key tool for meeting the state’s ambitious goal for slashing emissions. Cap and trade also generates important revenue for building the bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, another priority for the governor.

“California’s program is the only one of its kind in the U.S. and has been considered an international model for using financial pressure to prod industry to reduce emissions. Bipartisan support for the system comes as Republicans in Washington, including President Trump, have blocked, resisted or undermined national efforts to fight global warming.

“’California Republicans are different than national Republicans,’ said Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley), who pushed members of his caucus to work with Democrats on the issue. ‘Many of us believe that climate change is real, and that it’s a responsibility we have to work to address it.’”

The rest of the article is here.

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Truckee Art Haus & Cinema to break ground in 2018

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

The summer issue of our magazine celebrates Truckee and Grass Valley-Nevada City being named as state Cultural Districts by the California Arts Council. “Truckee is poised for further expansion that will enhance its Cultural District. The Truckee Railyard is a redevelopment project east of the historic downtown,” we write. “The mixed-income community for artists will include affordable rental apartments, a movie theater and an amphitheater for live performances. It will feature public art throughout the site.”

This morning, on Facebook, the Truckee Art Haus & Cinema announced it will break ground in 2018. “Last week the Truckee Town Council approved the development agreement for the Truckee Railyard project, the last public approval needed in order to start infrastructure work. We look forward to being in Truckee and part of the Railyard development.”

In Tahoe City,The Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema located in the former Cobblestone Cinema, is a completely remodeled theater and bar. The Art Haus shows major motion pictures, independent films, action sports films, and environmental movies, and also hosts filmmakers, speakers, dance performances, and live music.

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As companies relocate to big cities, smaller towns are left scrambling

“Surrounded by quiet neighborhoods and easy highway connections, McDonald’s 86-acre suburban compound in Oak Brook, Ill., adorned with walking paths and duck ponds was for four decades considered the ideal place to attract top executives as the company rose to global dominance,” as the Washington Post is reporting.

“Now its leafy environs are considered a liability. Locked in a battle with companies of all stripes to woo top tech workers and young professionals, McDonald’s executives announced last year that they were putting the property up for sale and moving to the West Loop of Chicago where “L” trains arrive every few minutes and construction cranes dot the skyline.

“In Chicago, McDonald’s will join a slew of other companies — among them food giant Kraft ­Heinz, farming supplier ADM and telecommunications firm Motorola Solutions — all looking to appeal to and be near young professionals versed in the world of e-commerce, software analytics, digital engineering, marketing and finance.

“Such relocations are happening across the country as economic opportunities shift to a handful of top cities and jobs become harder to find in some suburbs and smaller cities.

“The migration to urban centers threatens the prosperity outlying suburbs have long enjoyed, bringing a dose of pain felt by rural communities and exacerbating stark gaps in earnings and wealth that Donald Trump capitalized on in winning the presidency.”

The rest of the article is here.

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25th annual Starry, Starry Nights for the local hospital

This is an event — held this weekend, along with California WorldFest — that we have enjoyed promoting in our magazine (along with WorldFest). It has become a regular sell out.

Event proceeds benefit vital projects and programs at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. No offense, Dan Miller, but I like the photo on the top the best. lol. (Source: Facebook).

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