Harmony Wheeler has worked for theatres including Sierra Repertory Theatre, Modesto Performing Arts, and The Hanover Theatre. Her byline has appeared with the Sierra Lodestar, The Modesto Bee, The Chimes at Biola University (where she served as News Editor), StaticMultiMedia.com, and more. She holds a degree in Journalism, Public Relations.
Christmas has a brand name. For more than 25 years, Mannheim Steamroller has marked itself as the authority on Christmas music. Mannheim Steamroller is Christmas, and Christmas would not be Christmas without Mannheim Steamroller. Oh, there are plenty of other groups like the Trans Siberian Orchestra that come close, but Mannheim Steamroller has such a unique sound all its own, contemporary, yet far away from modern music, that has enabled it to brand itself as the official music of the holidays. Founder and composer Chip Davis has not-so-successfully branched out with Halloween and relaxation music, but his true mark on the Christmas holiday is what draws so many to touring concerts of his music each year. This year, the West Coast tour comes to Fresno, Bakersfield, Sacramento and Redding.BWW Reviews: Hillbarn Theatre Charms Audiences With WILL ROGERS FOLLIES December 13, 2011
Ziegfeld never spared any expense with his follies shows - lavish sets, beautiful chorus girls in extravagant costumes, vaudevillian acts - so one can only imagine what it took for a small community theatre to put on the Ziegfeld inspired musical, "Will Rogers Follies." And Hillbarn Theatre has done quite the successful job of it, too. With a tiered stair case, projected images on side screens, a wild West feel, and a lot of costumes for a good sized chorus that includes a group of Follies girls, not to mention a fairly talented cast, Hillbarn has downsized the flashy show without costing the audience any of the pleasure and entertainment of the spectacle.BWW Reviews: It's a Merry Old Time at Playhouse Merced's WIZARD OF OZ December 12, 2011
During this cold winter season, it can be tempting to sit at home in front of the fire and watch classics like "The Wizard of Oz" play over and over again on TV. But why not get away from the TV and see the classics done a little differently this year, acted out live on stage? The community nature of Playhouse Merced's production of "The Wizard of Oz" naturally keeps it from becoming as outstanding as the Judy Garland movie (who can beat Judy Garland?), but it stands on its own with a lively cast of leading actors and a creative use of a small space.
BWW Reviews: A.C.T. Continues to Bring Christmas Spirit to San Francisco with A CHRISTMAS CAROL December 9, 2011
Can you hear the sound of children laughing? Smell the vegetables cooking? Feel the cool air surround you? Hear the carolers singing? There's one carol you won't want to miss. American Conservatory Theatre's annual production of the classic Charles Dickens tale, "A Christmas Carol," has earned its place in the line of many adaptations of the classic worth watching over and over again every year. There are few stories people never tire of, and a Christmas story like "A Christmas Carol" is one of them.
With beautiful, dream-like sets and a strong cast that highlights veteran, masters program students and child actors, A.C.T. stays true to the dialogue of the originals short story while adding in its own creative variations, including a musical score. The story follows the stingy Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by four ghosts and encouraged to reform and embrace the Christmas spirit.BWW Reviews: Impressive Cast Brings Comics to Life in Retro Dome's YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN! December 5, 2011
As much as Linus loves his blanket and Schroeder loves his piano, this reviewer loves The Retro Dome's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!" I welcome the reader to sound off as many "good griefs!" as you like while I go on and on about how this musical is so wonderful and fun. Or, perhaps you might yell "Good Grief!" as you read my one petty criticism of the show. But, no matter what, you ought to take a trip to the clean and groovy, seventies themed Retro Dome, for it's a good show, Charlie Brown!BWW Reviews: African American Shakespeare Company Creates Magic for Children with CINDERELLA December 6, 2011
Seventy-seven years after its London premiere, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's "Three Sisters" has come out of the dark for a full production with San Francisco's 42nd Street Moon. The musical only played for two months before closing in London and never made it to America aside from a staged concert of select songs. The restoration, which has been in the works for more than a year and received a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, finally made its American debut Saturday night.BWW Reviews: Marin Theatre Produces Compelling New Look, Strong Cast For THE GLASS MENAGERIE December 1, 2011
In Tennessee Williams' classic play, "The Glass Menagerie," a main character describes an encounter he has with a magician. Tom watched as the magician had audience members nail him into a coffin, but then escaped from the coffin without removing one single nail. Such a trick seems impossible in real life, and Tom feels trapped in his own coffin, unable to move on.
Marin Theatre Company's production conveys this solemn situation with solid acting, bare sets and a lone trumpet player who plays music with the feel of a private-eye detective movie and that represents the ghostly memories of Tom, as well as a portrait of his deserting father. The trumpet, played by Andrew Wilke, is original to this production, added to help with scene transitions, as well as to create a symbol without having a full portrait of the father. Wilke stays in the background for the entire play, which lasts about two hours and fifteen minutes plus a fifteen minute intermission. His music, composed by MTC regular Chris Houston, amplifies the depression setting, but also adds a bit of hope when it wafts through Tom's small apartment, coming from a neighboring dance hall.BWW Reviews: It's a Fun, Energetic WHITE CHRISTMAS With Runaway Stage Productions November 28, 2011
As one of the title characters sings in "White Christmas," the best things happen when you're dancing. But as is the case with Runaway Stage Productions' version of Irving Berlin's classic musical, sometimes the best things happen when you're watching the dancing.BWW Reviews: BLUE MAN GROUP Explores Music, Paint and Toilet Paper November 26, 2011
Strange blue visitors have arrived in Modesto, California. With the curiosity of a child, these blue men explore technology, paint, pipes, drums, the body, art... even toilet paper. Their facial expressions, comedic movements and intriguing acts sell the show, with each number more random than the one before it. There's no consistent theme or story, but a constant celebration of art and music, most of which consists of drums, guitar and a few instruments made out of pipes and other objects. This is Blue Man Group.BWW Reviews: Puppet, Music and Dance Combine in Aurora Theatre's Innovative Take on THE SOLDIER'S TALE November 23, 2011
The puppet and its master are one. Gracefully and poetically, they move together. The puppet's face remains still, but seems to convey a hundred emotions. The puppeteer's face changes with the puppet's character, mimicking what the character feels. Yet the character has another master. The Devil has made a deal with this character and will manipulate him like a puppet until he owns him.
No, this puppet's name is not Pinnochio, and his master is not Gepetto. Prima ballerina Muriel Maffre controls Joseph the puppet in Aurora Theatre Company's innovative production of "The Soldier's Tale," which follows a soldier and his deals with the Devil and includes music by Igor Stravinsky (known for "The Rite of Spring" and "The Firebird Suite"). BWW Reviews: Sierra Rep Creates A Winter Wonderland with the WINTER WONDERETTES Now Through Dec 17 November 21, 2011
Aurora Theatre Company presents a fusion of dance, music and acting in its production of 'The Soldier's Tale' now through December 18. The show features music written by Igor Stravinksy. Directors Muriel Maffre (choreography) and Tom Ross (staging and acting) tell Broadway World about the show, which tells of a soldier and his deal with the Devil. Muriel, herself, takes to the stage as the puppeteer behind the soldier puppet, which she originally conceived for a music festival at Orcas Island.BWW Reviews: SF Opera Delivers Traditional Production of Bizet's Carmen November 17, 2011
Unless you've never seen 'Carmen,' one of the most legendary operas ever written, San Francisco Opera's production of 'Carmen' will come across as old news. The chorus and orchestra, led by the spirited conductor, Nicola Luisotti, bring the only real action and vitality present in the production, while Anita Rachvelishvili (who shares the title role with Kendall Gladen) and a few supporting characters deliver the only memorable voices of the production.BWW Reviews: Stunning Cast and Intriguing Production Make San Francisco Opera's XERXES Deliciously Fulfilling November 10, 2011
Baroque opera productions can go wrong in so many ways. With their recitatives, lone arias and what some call 'repetitious' or 'continuous' sound, boredom can easily spell failure. The key, then, to an entertaining, attention-grabbing Baroque opera lies with the staging - the proper use of the stage, interaction of characters and energetic acting. With its intriguing sets and singers that glide over their often improvised coloratura notes, San Francisco Opera's production of Handel's 'Xerxes' knows how to make Baroque opera interesting.BWW Reviews: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL TOTEM Creates a Magical, Cultural Experience Now Through Dec 18 November 9, 2011
Like its namesake, Cirque du Soleil's 'Totem' celebrates the past, history and future of the earth's residents. Its promoters label it as telling the story of evolution, but its many aerial and acrobatic acts seem to fly right past scientific theories and the evolution of humanity and focus more on various individual cultures and the beauties of the universe.BWW Reviews: WORKING FOR THE MOUSE Creates a New Happiest Place on Earth Now Through Dec 17 November 11, 2011
Why is a raven like a writing desk? Trevor Allen could tell you. He worked at Disneyland as a character for four years while attending college. Now, years later, he's sharing the answer to this riddle and much more at the Exit Theatre in San Francisco. His one man show, "Working for the Mouse," which plays now through December 17, goes behind the scenes of Disneyland and reveals a lot more than why a raven is like a writing desk.
BWW Reviews: OH, KAY! is OK with Audiences Now Through Nov 20 November 8, 2011
Many things in 42nd Street Moon's production of George and Ira Gershwin's 'Oh, Kay!' are OK. The singing is OK. The lighting and backdrop are OK. The sets are OK - a good use of small space.
But a few things in this production are amazing. Those few things make it worth going to the production, and they guarantee a fun time that will have audiences saying, as a song from the musical says, 'Oh, Kay, you're OK with me!'BWW Reviews: RIVERDANCE FAREWELL TOUR Brings Irish Culture to California November 3, 2011
What is it about Ireland that we Americans love so much? Is it the rich, green land? Is it the unique culture? The music? And for young, unmarried women, is it the handsome accent of a dreamy, far off man? Or maybe, it is the dance. Whatever it is, it has clearly rubbed off on Riverdance, the phenomenon Irish dance show that has toured all over the world.