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Review: PALM SPRINGS GETAWAY at Palm Canyon Theatre

Review: PALM SPRINGS GETAWAY at Palm Canyon Theatre

A Musical Romp About the Desert's Favorite Getaway

Palm Canyon Theatre has revived a new, streamlined version of Palm Springs Getaway, their original "musical romp" which they premiered last season. I'll start right out by confessing that I was in the original production so I know it well, though I never actually "saw" it. I'm delighted to report that playwright Cara Van Dijk, aided by Eric Stein-Steele and Se Layne, has kept the best of the first production and replaced a few of the previously weak moments with some very strong scenes. The result is a tuneful, educational, nostalgic and totally enjoyable couple of hours.

The first thing the audience sees is a music/dance montage spanning many decades of popular music. Its only connection to the show is that it gets us used to jumping decades, which happens throughout the script. It's an enjoyable scamper, and the audience howls with the various brief song snippets.

When the actual story begins, we meet a couple of con men (Ben Reece and David Brooks) who have taken some money from the mob - Bugsy (Darin MacLeod) to be exact. Bugsy's henchmen (Johnny Pelto and Abel Rodriguez) start to pursue our con men and that sets the show in motion.. They are advised by a fortune teller to head to Palm Springs where they will find emeralds and diamonds, so they set off by train to the desert. The program tells us that these two men are named Bing and Bob and the setup harkens to the "Road" movies that Crosby and Hope filmed, but little effort is made to channel those stars. As with the original Road Movies, the boys meet up with a woman -- in this case, the very capable Georgia Smith -- who joins the adventure and adds a bit of romantic interest.

At this point, toss aside any requirements for logical sequencing. Through some time/space/warp/continuum, our con men start traveling through time and observe several important moments in the development of life as we know it in Palm Springs, starting with Dr. McCallum (Terry Huber) bringing his tuberculosis-ridden son to the desert for curative purposes. Along the line we meet Nellie Coffman (Linda Cooke), Shirley Temple (Sadie Keskey), Cornelia White (Tiffani Lobue), Will Pablo (Alan Berry), and numerous other names that have significance in our Valley's history. This year's script does a better job of giving background to these historic icons and a lot of meaningless business has been cleared away. A new highlight is in a scene depicting the filming of The Sheik, the 1921 movie that introduced Hollywood to Palm Springs. Valentino (Kam Sisco) and Agnes Ayers (an uncredited Se Layne) have a wonderful scene where the actress, with husky voice, scouts the room for which man she will make a play for - evidently pretty close to the true character.

For the second act, the history lesson is over and we have fun with celebrity impersonations of entertainers who resided here - and that's a bountiful menu. Impersonations include Ricky & Lucy Ricardo (Kam Sisco and Tiffani Lobue) where Ricky starts a song and then Lucy finds a way to insert herself in the act. Funny stuff! Sonny and Cher are a great couple portrayed by Adam Hieter and Leslie Benjamin (they also had a great turn as Groucho Marx and Louella Parsons in the first act). Top marks go to Eric Stein-Steele as Elvis. He owns the character and the stage as he has the audience eating out of his hand. He also plays numerous other characters during the show with a great song as Johnny Boyle and hilarious deadpan as Riff Markowitz, creator of the Palm Springs Follies. Another show stopper was Derrik Lewis as Liberace. He is fully in control as he plays Liberace with glittering costume, plenty of jokes, and a magnificent song at the piano.

The set changes have been streamlined in this edition, aided by a large raked stage-width platform that could have furniture set on it and then rolled downstage and into view rather than carrying every single piece on and offstage. The addition of a train car (built for an earlier show this season) was another upgrade.

Palm Springs Getaway is a great family show featuring performers of all ages, plenty of songs and dances from many decades, and some beautiful costumes. The show will play three weekends in December and several Christmas songs have been added. Then it returns for two more weeks in January, I assume with some of the former songs restored. No doubt the show will be revisited in a few years and will become a part of Palm Canyon Theatre's repertoire. It's one I will look forward to.

Palm Springs Getaway runs through Sunday, December 18, 2022 and then again January 20 - 29. Show times are 7 p.m. on Thursday, 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $38 standard, $34 seniors, with a special rate of $17 for students. For tickets, sponsorship opportunities, or other information, call the PCT Box Office at (760)323-5123 or order online at www.PalmCanyonTheatre.org. Palm Canyon Theatre is located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive, at the corner of Alejo Road and Palm Canyon Drive. Box Office hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m



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Les Michaels, a cabaret producer and singer in Palm Springs and Los Angeles who presented an ongoing popular Open Mic Cabaret Series at the Arthur Newman Theatre at the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert for many years, passed away unexpectedly on November 3, 2022 of a heart attack. Les Michaels is survived by his husband, Rick Valencia.

Local Playwright Returns With Palm Springs-Based Musical Photo
Palm Springs Getaway keeps getting better as it presents Version 2.1 Local playwright Cara Van Dijk is a busy lady. Well, make that playwright, author, journalist, publicist, producer, actress, wife and mother. Her recent musical Palm Springs Getaway is currently in its second production at Palm Canyon Theatre (PCT), the Valley's longest-operating theatre company, and even though audiences are proclaiming the show to be 'A joy' and 'a pure delight,' every time she sees a rehearsal or performance she thinks, 'Next time we'll try....' It's certainly the happy sort of show you can sit through multiple times, and I know I enjoyed seeing what was kept from last year's production and what was new.

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From This Author - Stan Jenson

STAN JENSON has been acting for 58 years since his high school debut at the age of 14. In those ensuing years, he has appeared in several hundred productions across the United States and Australia ... (read more about this author)


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