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Bowl’d over: New York Philharmonic brings rare pops concert to the Bowl

 Conducter Alan Gilbert led the New York Philharmonic in an all-American program at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Monday. Michael Moriatis/News-Press


Conducter Alan Gilbert led the New York Philharmonic in an all-American program at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Monday.
Michael Moriatis/News-Press

The Santa Barbara Bowl has rarely seen a full orchestra on its stage, although Monday night’s visit by the New York Philharmonic proved it can not only fit everybody, but the sound – at least for those not up in the gods- was excellent. Why don’t we do this more often?

That just might be the plan with this event that was arranged through Music Academy of the West, which is the first in the NY Phil’s Global Academy initiative. Maestro Alan Gilbert, since taking over the baton at the New York Philharmonic in 2009, has set about reshaping the orchestra for the 21st century. During his tenure, which will be up in 2017 as per his contract, he’s dusted off what was regarded as a stuffy institution and introduced an element of play. He’s reintroduced audiences to composers like Charles Ives, who still may be too radical for the subscriber base.

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Romance in the Air: Sunday’s Fiesta Party welcomed this year’s El Presidente, Cas Stimson

2015 El Presidente Cas Stimson, second from left, greets guests at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort for the annual La Recepción del Presidente to celebrate the upcoming Fiesta week. MICHAEL MORIATIS/NEWS-PRESS

2015 El Presidente Cas Stimson, second from left, greets guests at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort for the annual La Recepción del Presidente to celebrate the upcoming Fiesta week.
MICHAEL MORIATIS/NEWS-PRESS

A perfect late afternoon turned into a warm Sunday evening, the right weather to unofficially kick off the 91st annual Old Spanish Days, La Recepción del Presidente.

This event, a gala dinner with entertainment at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, honored the current El Presidente, Cas Stimson, as well as past Presidents, board members, donors and sponsors. Around 450 were in attendance, with many turned away at the door, and El Presidente himself alluded to this as a sign of a very successful Fiesta to come. There’s never been as many Flower Girls as this year, ticketed events are sold out, and other indicators are looking toward a very busy year.

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Mediterranean flavor: Santa Barbara Greek Festival off to great start

Above, Thavma, a Greek dance group, performs Saturday during the Greek Festival at Oak Park. Below, religious icons attached to the Evil Eye, meant to protect from negative energy, are offered for sale at the festival.  NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

Above, Thavma, a Greek dance group, performs Saturday during the Greek Festival at Oak Park. Below, religious icons attached to the Evil Eye, meant to protect from negative energy, are offered for sale at the festival.
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

The 42nd annual Santa Barbara Greek Festival opened in Oak Park Saturday and by all accounts it was a success.

The line to the gyro booth stretched long near the entrance, the dance stage was crowded with viewers and participants, the ouzo flowed freely, the food court was packed, the pastry stall tried not to run out of goods, and the sun beamed down, creating a sense that yes, this could all be happening in the Mediterranean.

The economic troubles in the home country didn’t affect this two-day fest that acts as a fundraiser for Santa Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church.

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Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson: Comedian Craig Robinson tickles the funny bones and tickles the ivories

Craig Robinson, best know as Darryl Philbin from the television show "The Office," will bring his standup act to the Chumash Casino Resort on Thursday. Courtesy photo

Craig Robinson, best know as Darryl Philbin from the television show “The Office,” will bring his standup act to the Chumash Casino Resort on Thursday.
Courtesy photo

Comedian Craig Robinson was a guest on Ebro’s Morning Show on Hot 97 earlier this year and the DJ introduced him thus: “You were always the black guy I never saw before. I was like yo, where did this guy come from? And why is he getting all the big white comedies?” It wasn’t that eloquent a statement, but it does describe the sideways trip Mr. Robinson – who plays Thursday night at the Chumash Casino – took into popular culture.

TV viewers best know him as Darryl Philbin on “The Office,” and that successful role led him into the Judd Apatow repertory company, starting with “Knocked Up.” From there he got roles in “Walk Hard,” “Pineapple Express,” “Zach and Mimi Make a Porno,” “This Is The End” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” and its sequel. But he also did a solid turn as James Brown’s put-upon partner Maceo Parker in “Get on Up” from last year and ran from CGI dragons in the South Korean action film “D-Wars.”

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Food, hilarious food: Jim Gaffigan comes to the SB Bowl for an evening of standup

Stand-up comedian, actor and author Jim Gaffigan will perform at the Santa Barbara Bowl tonight. Courtesy photo

Stand-up comedian, actor and author Jim Gaffigan will perform at the Santa Barbara Bowl tonight.
Courtesy photo

America has a thing for schlubby male comedians ‘ it’s how we like them served up. They are our everymen, creaking under the weight of kids, wives, obligations, and using observational humor of the mundane details of life as an escape valve. There’s a thread that runs from Jackie Gleason to our current heroes: Louis C.K., Marc Maron, and now ‘ pulling into town tonight for a concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl ‘ Jim Gaffigan. He arrives just after the premiere of “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” a single-camera sitcom that features Mr. Gaffigan playing himself. And it’s on the TV Land channel, the go-to nostalgia station where one can check in the domesticated males of old. This is the year of Jim.

Mr. Gaffigan’s career started as a friendly bet to take a stand-up seminar, one that ended with a small set in front of a crowd. His friend dropped out, but Mr. Gaffigan, who had moved to New York City from a small town in Indiana, suddenly found his calling. He kept his day job in advertising and worked open mic nights, honing his material.

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Generation gap: Grandparents manipulate their grandson in Plaza Playhouse production

"The cast of "Over the River and Through the Woods," playing at the Plaza Playhouse Theater through July 26. Tom Lucy photo

“The cast of “Over the River and Through the Woods,” playing at the Plaza Playhouse Theater through July 26.
Tom Lucy photo

If you want to complete the play title “Over the River and Through the Woods” with “. . . to grandmother’s house we go,” well, you’ll be partly correct. In Joe DiPietro’s 2008 comedy, this is not a young boy but a beloved – and also grownup – grandson who is visiting, and all four of his grandparents are on hand. Our hapless hero Nick (played by Enrique A. Bobadilla) wants to move across the country when he is promoted at work. His loving but overbearing grandparents don’t want him going anywhere, and to that end, they have tricked a young single woman, Caitlyn (Jennifer Marco), to come and dine with them as well, hoping that love at first site will convince Nick to change his mind.

“Life isn’t in black and white, but shades of grey,” says director Jordana Lawrence. “That’s what this play brings forth, things that happen within a family or between generations. It’s one perspective versus another in this play.”

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Gotta sing, gotta dance: UCSB’s summer film series showcases the musical

Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain" UCSB Arts & Lectures photo

Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain”
UCSB Arts & Lectures photo

In its sixth installment of the popular summer film series, UCSB Arts & Lectures turns to another staple of Hollywood: The Musical. “Over the Rainbow: Great American Movie Musicals” runs from July 8 through Aug. 21 and features free screenings of seven musical movie classics.

Previous years have focused on a director like Alfred Hitchcock, or on silent comedies or classic Universal Studios horror or sci-fi. But this is the first time such a wide-ranging genre over such a long period has been chosen, with a nod to audience favorites and less to a comprehensive overview.

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The possible dream PCPA alum David Studwell returns to play the lead in ‘Man of La Mancha’

David Studwell as Don Quixote and Julie Garnye as Aldonza in "Man of La Mancha," coming to PCPA's Marian Theatre. Luis Escobar photos

David Studwell as Don Quixote and Julie Garnye as Aldonza in “Man of La Mancha,” coming to PCPA’s Marian Theatre.
Luis Escobar photos

Playing the lead in “Man of La Mancha,” which opens Wednesday at PCPA’s Marian Theatre, requires lead actor David Studwell to do three times the work. He has to play author Miguel de Cervantes, sitting in a jail cell during the Spanish Inquisition, and his creation Don Quixote, who is under the illusion that he is actually a knight of the realm and not an old country squire. That’s a lot to hold together in one’s head.

“The play is as much about Cervantes as it is about Quixote,” Mr. Studwell says.

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Momentous disaster: Ninety years ago today an earthquake transformed Santa Barbara

Devastation left in the wake of a June 29, 1925, earthquake is evident in this view looking up State Street to the Granada Theatre in the center. NEWS-PRESS FILE PHOTOS

Devastation left in the wake of a June 29, 1925, earthquake is evident in this view looking up State Street to the Granada Theatre in the center.
NEWS-PRESS FILE PHOTOS

Today is the 90th anniversary of the largest disaster in Santa Barbara history, the 1925 earthquake that destroyed a significant part of downtown and forever altered the look of the town.

The Spanish Revival architecture for which Santa Barbara is known was a recent import, but once the city started to rebuild, red-tiled roofs and white stucco walls became the style.

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