February 25, 2012



John Pizzarelli – Acclaimed Jazz;
Mama Mia – Turns up the music;
Legally Blonde – Lesher Center

And Jessica Molaskey

The Grammy-nominated John Pizzarelli is one of the prime interpreters of the American Songbook. He’s been called “Hip’, ‘genius’ and madly creative. Look he is all of those things just mentioned – but I would like to tell you about the legends that he has performed with. Ready? Here is the stunning line-up – Benny Goodman, Les Paul, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Slam Stewart, Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra.

In the first show on the 26th, Pizzarelli and his wife Jessica Molaskey will be on the stage with John. She is a veteran of many Broadway shows like ‘Tommy’, Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George’ Crazy For You’, Les Miserables, Chess, Cats, Oklahoma and City of Angels. Molaskey also has appeared at the Lincoln Center. Along with her husband her husband the two are a double sensation when they get together. They are not just a team – No…they are a bunch of firecrackers that make you feel like every day is a grand parade.

Pizzarelli and his music is something to remember something that sticks in your mind. The variety of styles of wise intriguing arrangements takes you from ‘Blues’ to the wonderful Duke Ellington songbook. The Pizzarelli and Molaskey team will not only bring us great music at the Fairmont – but they will treat us to some amusing insights into their lives. The 2:30 pm show is called “When Worlds Collide.” “Perhaps they are both the greatest of our time!” That’s what I think. Just don’t stick your finger is an outlet – cause this show is ELECTRIYING!

There are two shows – the 2.30 show stars both of them. The 5pm show will star solo John Pizzarelli and band in a Tribute to Duke Ellington on Feb. 26.  

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! – (highest rating) –trademarked-



O.K. here’s the Slam Dunk. On the Lesher Stage in Walnut Creek, you’ll get snappy songs, sensational choreography and outrageous visions of pink. What you won’t get is good sound. At the matinee that I attended, the sound was tinny and several sound glitches made it impossible to even hear what they were saying or singing. The leading man was very hard to hear -- and it’s too bad – because the story about a self-centered Malibu girl who has a great body, and a ditzy personality needed a microphone to give her a boost. Her self-centered boyfriend sings to her “Let’s Be Serious.” Blondie thinks that he is talking ‘proposal’, but what he is really saying is that he’s done Marilyn, and now needs to switch to someone more like a Jackie Kennedy. After all, he is going to Harvard Law School and a blond ditz is not exactly the image that he wants to be seen with. Yes, she’s a sexy beauty – but right now-- his career is more important.

With encouragement from her entourage of Sorority girls and a Greek Chorus – Blondie decides to stalk the upscale guy at Harvard Law School. Horrors – she arrives in the class   dressed n her signature pink and her flowing blonde hair. Of course – she becomes the joke of the semester. There are a lot of messages in this frothy pink stew. On one hand there is the misogynist thing, and on the other hand ‘the feminist’ cause boils over in the pot. But the blonde pink bundle is determined to show that she can do anything the boys can do (being a Lawyer). She even tones down her pink look to something less bright. Or as she calls it: “The New Pink.”

This very funny musical would be so much better if the sound were better. I hate to keep mentioning it – but it is a musical, and that means that the audience has to hear what they are singing and saying to know what’s going on.

The musical play has some jazzy upbeat tunes in this well produced musical. The staging is wonderful and the choreography(by Solari and Renee DeWeese.) couldn’t be better.

The ACTORS are superb: Tom Reardon plays a Lawyer who teaches a tight ship – except when he strays and tries to put the make on his student Ellie (the Pink one). Lynda DiVito is Paulette, the beauty salon owner. She has a great strong voice that gives us reason to celebrate. And everyone’s favorite is the self assured UPS driver – that drives Paulette wild with comments like this: In his little brown shorts he assuredly bursts through the door and announces strongly in the Beauty shop: “I have a PACKAGE for you!” Yes, YOU DO – Yes you do Mr. UPS.   He looks down at his short, short brown shorts, as he makes his bold and assured statement. Yep, I Looked – its all there.

Plays Through March 3, 2012 – the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.


(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and he has produced and hosted a long running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))


Well there is one thing that I can say with no reservations. There is really - really loud sound on the Orpheum Theatre Stage. My God – I could have opened the windows at my Condo and heard the show. Well, what do you expect with 25-foot sound towers on each side of the stage.

Oh, Mama Mia – how can you not love the musical about a tropical Island that has a constant disco beat from the songs of the 70’s group ABBA? Does it have a story? Of course – there is a young bride-to-be who doesn’t know who her real father is. She knows that her mother had several suitors in her younger days, but which one is her father?

The mystery unveils with dancing boys that dance to the Abba Song “Dancing Queens.” Try to sit still through that. Every song in this bright, happy musical is a hit and the fantastic cast gives us a rainbow of exotic Island sets, colorful costumes and sweaty, sexy dancing. The only downside that I heard during intermission was from a straight guy complaining to his girlfriend. He said: – “ The original cast was more hunky.” I don’t know if he was referring to the girls or boys.

Most people around me just couldn’t stay in their chair. Those that did were doing sort of a lap dance without the benefit of a partner. Some just had to get up and dance in the aisles. The Abba music is that infectious. It’s a great fun-time evening to bring your best buddy, or your best gal to this show. And you’ll be the lucky guy or gal to say that you have seen the show. Just like an ABBA song says: “The Winner Takes it All.” It’s a grand Greek Island Adventure. Catch the breeze! Get down with Love!

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPANGE!!!! (highest rating) – trademarked-  





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