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‘Force’ of comic nature: Eddie Izzard returns to Santa Barbara

 English stand-up comedian, actor and writer Eddie Izzard brings his stream-of-consciousness comedic style to the Granada Theatre. Amanda Searle photo


English stand-up comedian, actor and writer Eddie Izzard brings his stream-of-consciousness comedic style to the Granada Theatre.
Amanda Searle photo

When Eddie Izzard first came to town in 2012, he was working material out for his tour. Three years later, he’s still on that tour, called “Force Majeure,” which has taken him “from Moscow to St. Petersburg to Cape Town, 27 countries, and the show is in a very good space,” as the comedian puts it.

He returns to Santa Barbara tonight at the Granada.

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Dorrance Dance’s ‘The Blues Project’ combines blues and tap

 The marriage of blues and tap seems natural to tap dancer Michelle Dorrance, who is bringing "The Blues Project" to the Granada Theatre. Christopher Duggan


The marriage of blues and tap seems natural to tap dancer Michelle Dorrance, who is bringing “The Blues Project” to the Granada Theatre.
Christopher Duggan

In “The Blues Project,” tap dancer Michelle Dorrance and her company have teamed up with blues singer Toshi Reagon and a talented four-piece band to bring an evening to the Granada that expands the boundaries of tap dancing. This isn’t exactly a hybrid of two genres, but an extension of Ms. Dorrance’s long history of boundary-pushing within the realm of tap, and the musicians provide the background that places the numbers in a context of African-American history, from work songs to songs of the Civil Rights movement and beyond.

At first it may seem that blues is not as suited to tap as jazz is. But not so, Ms. Dorrance says. Tap and blues evolved around the same time.

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Playing Blanche in Opera Santa Barbara’s ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ Beverly O’Regan Thiele is in her element

 Baritone Gregory Gerbrandt sings the role of Stanley Kowalski and soprano Beverly O'Regan Thiele makes her company debut as Blanche in Opera Santa Barbara's new production of André Previn's operatic version of "A Streetcar Named Desire." David Bazemore


Baritone Gregory Gerbrandt sings the role of Stanley Kowalski and soprano Beverly O’Regan Thiele makes her company debut as Blanche in Opera Santa Barbara’s new production of André Previn’s operatic version of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
David Bazemore

André Previn wrote his operatic adaptation of “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1995 and premiered it in 1998, with a critical consensus of “What took so long?” Tennessee Williams’ play is already pitched at a melodramatic level, and set in the kind of Bayou heat that frazzles brains, that it seems a natural for a musical adaptation. Fortunately, too, Mr. Previn’s score combines modern music with New Orleans jazz, and produced a good thing: a modern opera with some tunes.

Stage directed by Omer Ben Seadia, and conceived as a collaboration of Opera Santa Barbara, the Merola Program and Kentucky Opera, OSB’s production by Jose Maria Condemi opens tonight for two performances. Gregory Gerbrandt plays Stanley Kowalski, the brutish “common” man played memorably by Marlon Brando in the film version. MicaÎla Oeste plays his wife, Stella. And stepping up to take on an iconic role, Beverly O’Regan Thiele sings the part of Blanche DuBois, the aging Southern Belle with a tenuous grasp on reality.

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Why hearing a Buster Keaton silent is just as important as seeing it

 Rick Benjamin, far right, brings the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra to the Granada Theatre. Courtesy photo


Rick Benjamin, far right, brings the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra to the Granada Theatre.
Courtesy photo

When Rick Benjamin and his Paragon Ragtime Orchestra play music in front of classic silent films, like they will do on Monday night when they accompany a screening of Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” audiences not get something to listen to, but a re-creation of a time and place, a look into a sound industry that was disrupted by new technology like ours is now, and a rediscovery of early 20th-century composers whose fame and popularity dissipated when the sound era erupted.

In 1985, Mr. Benjamin discovered a treasure trove of lost scores, music written for the silent movie era that was thought to have been gone. It wasn’t like modern scores in the sense of a singular work for a film. It was closer to scores for soap operas, where cue sheets outlined the emotional outline of a film, sending a conductor to that cinema’s library to put together a score. “Like Legos,” says Mr. Benjamin.

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Broadway star continues her record-breaking run in ‘Chicago: The Musical’

Roz Ryan stars as Matron "Mama" Morton in the Tony Award-winning hit musical "Chicago." Jeremy Daniel

Roz Ryan stars as Matron “Mama” Morton in the Tony Award-winning hit musical “Chicago.”
Jeremy Daniel

When “Chicago” comes to the Granada this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, it brings along actress, singer, comedian and voice actor Roz Ryan , who in 2013 broke the late Marcia Lewis’ record of 223 weeks playing the essential role of Matron “Mama” Morton. She’s now in that show’s 19th year. When asked if she remembers the day they told her she’d broken the record, she says, “I can’t remember the day they called and told me, but I was on Broadway when it happened.” (The date was Oct. 21, 2013, in case somebody wants to check.)

Bolstered by Tony Awards and then Oscars, this Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb and John Kander musical continues to grow in popularity. Based on two real-life murderesses from the Roaring ’20s, the musical equates vaudeville with the media circus that pops up around salacious murder trials. It is smart, cynical, sexy and sad, and always helped by a saucy poster campaign filled with leggy stars wearing fishnet stockings. The production coming this week also stars Dylis Croman as Roxie Hart, Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly and Jacob Keith Watson as Amos Hart.

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What Mama Morton wants, Roz Ryan gets: Broadway star continues her record-breaking run in ‘Chicago: The Musical’

Roz Ryan stars as Matron "Mama" Morton in the Tony Award-winning hit musical "Chicago."

Roz Ryan stars as Matron “Mama” Morton in the Tony Award-winning hit musical “Chicago.”

When “Chicago” comes to the Granada this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, it brings along actress, singer, comedian and voice actor Roz Ryan , who in 2013 broke the late Marcia Lewis’ record of 223 weeks playing the essential role of Matron “Mama” Morton. She’s now in that show’s 19th year. When asked if she remembers the day they told her she’d broken the record, she says, “I can’t remember the day they called and told me, but I was on Broadway when it happened.” (The date was Oct. 21, 2013, in case somebody wants to check.)

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Teen Star’s finale at the Granada awards a new winner

After a year of anticipation, a popular audition process that brought in contestants from across Santa Barbara County, and weeks of mentorship and rehearsal, the sixth annual Teen Star Santa Barbara came to the Granada Theatre on Saturday.

Performing in front of a sold-out crowd, the evening featured 10 teen hopefuls vying for the title, but in the end there could be only one winner: 14-year-old Sydney Shalhoob of San Marcos High School.

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Passing with flying colors: Seventh Annual Kids Helping Kids benefit brings Ingrid Michaelson and Jon McLaughlin to the Granada

There’s that old adage: learn by doing. And there’s a new semester of young economics students that learned, and they took that adage to heart. The result is the 7th annual Kids Helping Kids showcase at the Granada Theatre, this Saturday. The event raises funds for needy kids both here and abroad, and the nonprofit that puts it on is based out of a San Marcos High economics class. Teacher James DeVries puts seniors in charge of a nonprofit, where they must use their skills to book, market and launch an evening of music. This year, two singer-songwriters will take the stage due to the hard work of these economics students. Ingrid Michaelson is a New York-based songwriter best known for the singles “Be OK,” “Girls Chase Boys” and “The Way I Am.” Also appearing is Jon McLaughlin, singer of the single “Beating My Heart” and who recently opened for Billy Joel.

James DeVries, who received honors last year from Goleta’s Chamber of Commerce for his work setting up this program, started the class in 2002 as a penny drive.

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The passion and the fire: The 14th Flamenco Arts Festival promises performance, talks and workshops

Flamenco is part of everybody in Spain," says organizer Vibiana Pizano. Paco Villalta photo

Flamenco is part of everybody in Spain,” says organizer Vibiana Pizano.
Paco Villalta photo

If your only experience of flamenco is watching it every Fiesta on the steps of either the Courthouse or the Mission, well, the Flamenco Arts Festival has some news: that’s only the beginning. For three days the Festival brings in some of the most daring artists in the world of flamenco not just to perform, but to hold master classes in the art form, from dancing to guitar playing. It’s only three days, but the Festival hopes that for some it will stoke the flames of flamenco passion.

“This is a very high level professional production,” says owner and organizer Vibiana Pizano. “These are the people who have made flamenco what it is. These are the people who are the masters, who the kids in town learning flamenco aspire to be. We’re really fortunate that we can bring them here and inspire the kids who are learning flamenco now.”

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