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February 16, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 07
 
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Bits & Bytes
New Legally Blonde highlights, San Francisco's theater scene, Ballet X 2, ACT's Hedda score
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- The City By The Bay continues to be a major destination for vacationing Emerald City art fans. Add in the obvious draw of a city where the Gay and Lesbian population approaches 30 per cent in some areas, where bars and restaurants caters to every GLBT taste, where every night in the Castro is party night-well, a San Francisco visit is always a treat whatever the reason.

Bits&Bytes made a hurried trip to the Bay Area last week to check out the winter arts scene-yes, it is a tough job by someone has to do it. Aside from headlines about the mayor and his affair with a top aide's wife, the mayor's full acceptance of his "deplorable" role in the affair, the mayor's hurried entry into an alcohol treatment program-aside from the daily drama in the headlines, San Francisco also had a number of top dramatic offering on stage.

The spirited Broadway-bound Legally Blonde had its official world premiere, the touring Jersey Boys continues to sell out and has just been extended, New Conservatory Theatre offers two works for GLBT audiences and the Berkeley Rep has a winning production of The Pillowman. San Francisco Ballet opened its 74th repertory season with two mixed repertory programs. Petula Clark offers a rare concert tomorrow night, Connie Francis (my heart be still!) and a 21-piece orchestra team for a March 3 evening at the fabled and fabulous Castro Theatre and jazz diva Paula West continues at the Plush Room through March 4. Read on:

LEGALLY BLONDE CHARMS IN NEW MUSICAL EDITION, SF NOW, NEW YORK NEXT
Legally Blonde-The Musical shouldn't be as much fun as it is. But it is. The charming MGM film-with Reese Witherspoon in the leading role-and the popular novel of the same name are the basis of this spirited new musical edition. The film launched Witherspoon's high profile Hollywood superstar era, and the musical could/should do the same for Laura Bell Bundy who plays Elle Woods in the Broadway-bound show.

(Seattle stage fans will remember that Bundy originated the role of Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray which started its Broadway smash run history in a pre-Broadway stay here in the Emerald City at the 5th Avenue.)

Legally Blonde is a Bye Bye Birdie for the 21st Century-a Cinderella Goes To Harvard tale of love and romance. In its world premiere, Legally Blonde needs a lot of work to be a major success in New York. The best songs in the show, the best dance number, the best comic moments all go to supporting characters. The three leads-Elle and the two men in her love life-need stronger numbers, and they will undoubtedly get them before the show opens on Broadway this spring.

The show is directed and choreographed by Tony Award Winner Jerry Mitchell, who guided Hairspray to Broadway success and will surely try do the same for Legally Blonde. The fun, fun show continues in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Theatre through Feb. 24. It then moves to New York's Palace Theatre for a lengthy preview run before a spring opening. Tickets on the San Francisco stay are available at (415) 512-7770.

TOURING JERSEY BOYS SELLS OUT AT CURRAN
San Francisco's hottest ticket is the touring edition of the Tony Award Winning Jersey Boys. The unexpected smash hit-the story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons-continues to sell out on Broadway in its second year. The touring company, a virtual sell out for all San Francisco performances, has just announced a month's extension. The show, which will not visit Seattle for at least another year, now plays until the end of March at the historic Curran Theatre.

The musical uses a basic "and then I wrote&" or "and then I married" narrative approach. Director Des McAnuff-the double Tony Award-winning director who guided The Who's Tommy to Broadway smash status-wisely shifts the narration between the four members of the pop group, although the Valli character gets the greatest percentage of the tale telling.

The high energy musical uses the basic smash hits of the Four Seasons with a lot of (fully credited) songs from the Great American Songbook. The show's clever opening-in Paris, 2000, where "Oh What A Night" is the number one song in a new cover version in French ("Ces Soirees-La" to be specific)-sets up the looking back structure.

GLBT theater fans will enjoy the campy character of the Gay manager of the pop group. As one of the Seasons notes, "It was the 1960's-even Liberace was considered just highly theatrical." The sold out audience could fine no fault with the show. (Bits&Bytes could&but that's another tale.) The show is a smash hit in New York, a smash hit on the road, a smash hit in San Francisco. It is sure to be a smash hit in Seattle when it gets here.

San Francisco visitors should check with TicketMaster for advance tickets-(415) 512-7770. Tickets should be readily available for the show's new extension run. If the show is sold out for the dates you are available, check with the box office in person. Or just show up early at the performance with cash-Bits&Bytes noted that dozens of tickets were being sold by Best Of Broadway subscribers who had tickets to sell--at face value and even discounted prices.

SAN FRANISCO BALLET SCORES WITH MIXED REP --SLEEPING BEAUTY NEXT
The San Francisco Ballet's 74th season opened with two programs of mixed repertory works. Bits&Bytes will report on these performances in a future column. Seattle visitors should check out the upcoming staging of The Sleeping Beauty which opens Feb. 24 and runs through March 4. It is sure to the dance highlight of the season for SFB.

GLBT dance fans should make sure to check out SFB's 2007 Nite Out Series, three special events for GLBT patrons. March 16 and April 20 are the upcoming GLBT events for SFB. Tickets and program details are available at (415) 865-2000.

The pre-show and post-show programs and receptions are great ways for visiting GLBT dance fans to mix and mingle. Check it out.

ACT SCORES WITH NEW, STUNNING HEDDA GABLER
Seattle visitors will feel right at home at ACT's just-opened production of a new Paul Walsh translation of Henrik Ibsen's classic Hedda Gabler. San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre (their ACT) has been a major force in West Coast theater since its founding in 1965. The stunning new Hedda Gabler will only reinforce ACT's standing. The 1979 Tony Award Winning Best Regional Theatre mixes contemporary titles, world premieres and classics from European and American theater.

Seattle's Richard E. T. White, chair of theater at Cornish College Of The Arts, directs Hedda Gabler with a sure hand. Sharon Lockwood, in the key role of Miss Juliane Tesman (Aunt Julie) will be fondly remembered from Intiman's world premiere of Nickel And Dimed where she originated the role of Barbara and earlier roles at the Seattle Rep.

Rene Augesen tears into Hedda like a woman gone mad-a completely valid approach. She was a memorable Nora in ACT's A Doll's House, in another Paul Walsh translation, several seasons back. Faced with her unacceptable future, Hedda-often praised as an early feminist--takes charge of her life In one indelible moment late in Act Two she spits out her reaction of her unexpected pregnancy which occurred during her extended honeymoon. It is, in her words, "a ludicrous vulgarity."

Bits&Bytes was allowed to attend the first preview performance of Hedda Gabler, a rare honor in theater circles, so its would be inappropriate to comment on any minor problems. Since the performances were obviously flawless, it's easy to meet that PR request. The show opened officially this week-and the reviews are sure to be bravos all around. It continues through mid-March.

Next on ACT's schedule are two plays of specific interest to GLBT visitors. The world premiere of Philip Kan Gotanda's After The War runs March 22-April 22. A look at cultural diversity, the new play explores the events following the end of World War II when the Japanese population, sent to internment camps during the war, returned to their homes. England's Blackbird, "a riveting study in sexual obsession" by David Harrower, has its West Coast premiere at ACT, running April 27-May 27. Ticket information and details on all ACT productions is available at (415) 749-2ACT.

NEW CONSERVATORY OFFERS 2 GLBT PLAYS-- FARM BOYS, DYING GAUL
The New Conservatory Theatre, the city's primary GLBT destination theater, offers two works in its three-stage complex. Farm Boys, the West Coast premiere of a new play about Gays in rural America, continues through February. Craig Lucas' The Dying Gaul, about Gays in Hollywood, had its world premiere in Seattle at Intiman Theatre several seasons back. It continues into March.

Ticket details on all NCT productions is available at (415) 861-8972.

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