ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 9th Taste of Petaluma is this Saturday, August 23, and bigger than ever—meet the newcomers

Miriam Donaldson and Josh Norwitt’s Wishbone will serve bacon jam blt's and iced coffee for Saturday’s 9th Annual Taste of Petaluma. Wishbone, new to Taste, proudly identifies with Petaluma’s ranch heritage. Their unforgettable slow-cooked bacon jam is an amazing alchemy of bacon bits (they use Love Family Farm bacon, where they get first pick of the pork), 24-hour caramelized onions, maple and coffee.  The jam is slathered over house-made sourdough toast that comes from a wild starter from the couple’s Roblar Road cattle ranch and apple farm.  Vine ripened heirloom tomatoes and greens finish it off.  “You can knock out brunch for 150 people and every single serving is amazing,” says Donaldson. Wishbone will be hosted by the Phoenix Theater, in downtown Petaluma for Taste. The restaurant itself is located at 841 Petaluma Blvd. North, in the historic Three Cooks Café brick building.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Miriam Donaldson and Josh Norwitt’s Wishbone will serve bacon jam blt’s and iced coffee for Saturday’s 9th Annual Taste of Petaluma. Wishbone, new to Taste, proudly identifies with Petaluma’s ranch heritage. Their unforgettable slow-cooked bacon jam is an amazing alchemy of bacon bits (they use Love Family Farm bacon, where they get first pick of the pork), 24-hour caramelized onions, maple and coffee. The jam is slathered over house-made sourdough toast that comes from a wild starter from the couple’s Roblar Road cattle ranch and apple farm. Vine ripened heirloom tomatoes and greens finish it off. “You can knock out brunch for 150 people and every single serving is amazing,” says Donaldson. Wishbone will be hosted by the Phoenix Theater, in downtown Petaluma for Taste. The restaurant itself is located at 841 Petaluma Blvd. North, in the historic Three Cooks Café brick building. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The 9th annual Taste of Petaluma is this Saturday, August 23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s all about connecting with Petaluma’s small-town charm and rich sense of community—bite by glorious bite.  Taste is a benefit for Cinnabar Theater’s youth repertory programs and if you’ve ever attended one of Cinnabar’s remarkable youth performances, you understand what a treasure Cinnabar is.   This year, Taste of Petaluma is bigger than ever with over 100 of Petaluma’s restaurants and food, wine and beverage purveyors participating at 54 locales.  Some 85 musicians will be playing in a dozen locales downtown too, offering just as promising a musical menu (full performance schedule here). The event draws people from all over the Bay Area and $40 gets you 10 generously portioned tastes of your choosing.

Recently, I participated in two “mini-tastes” and had the chance to meet the owners and chefs of several new restaurants, hear their stories and sample what they’re preparing for Taste.  I tried everything from  bacon jam BLTs with duck egg mayo and heirloom tomatoes on homemade sourdough from Miriam Donaldson and her team at homey Wishbone on Petaluma Blvd. North, down by the Police Station, to  Wagyu New York Tataki from Joe O’Donnell at upscale Seared on Petaluma Blvd. North’s restaurant row.  Both of these inviting establishments opened in the past year, have chefs and staff in their 20’s and 30’s, and represent the energy and diversity in our local food scene.  As if cooking weren’t a full time job, many chefs are growing their own vegetables and fruits and are highly attuned to what’s peaking on a daily basis.  Their menus are constantly changing and they are experimenting with their bounty.  A few are even raising their own meat.  They’re all joyous about having a hand in every step of the process and that includes scoring some great salvaged wood or a glass case or pulling all-nighters ripping out flooring.  “It’s been nice to move around,” says O’Donnell, “but Petaluma feels like home and it’s got everything I need close at hand. There’s no place like it.  We’ve caught up.”

Zodiak co-owner Kristin McMaster is serving their signature Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs with Cool Mango Slaw at this year’s Taste of Petaluma.  McMaster’s radiant personality and high energy propel her through long days as she lives out her restaurant, music club, beer hall, and gallery dream with her fiancé and business partner, John “Jonesy” Jones.   The young couple, passionate “garage-salers,” who live in the neighborhood peeked into the enormous space when the old Kodiak Jack’s was closing and they were having an estate sale.  They fell in love with its potential and made an offer on the space the next day.  They mixed and poured the concrete and Kristy painted the space herself.  Zodiac’s wonderful vibe includes daily live musical performances, and professionally displays of local art.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Zodiak co-owner Kristin McMaster is serving their signature Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs with Cool Mango Slaw at this year’s Taste of Petaluma. McMaster’s radiant personality and high energy propel her through long days as she lives out her restaurant, music club, beer hall, and gallery dream with her fiancé and business partner, John “Jonesy” Jones. The young couple, passionate “garage-salers,” who live in the neighborhood peeked into the enormous space when the old Kodiak Jack’s was closing and they were having an estate sale. They fell in love with its potential and made an offer on the space the next day. They mixed and poured the concrete and Kristy painted the space herself. Zodiac’s wonderful vibe includes daily live musical performances, and professionally displays of local art. Photo: Geneva Anderson

“Even though it’s bigger than ever, Taste was a lot easier this year,” explained the event’s founder Laura Sunday, who estimates that 1,500 people will turn out. “A lot of restaurants contacted me early, eager to participate, and several of the hosting venues took the initiative and told me who they were partnering with.  This is the only tasting event on this scale I know of that doesn’t operate like a food fair.  People actually get to go into a restaurant, check out the ambiance, and sample very generously.  You couldn’t buy better advertising.  We’ve got new establishments eager to introduce themselves to the community and lots of well-rooted restaurants and vendors who do this year after year because they enjoy giving back to Petaluma and to Cinnabar Theater.”

Stay-tuned to ARThound for more on Taste of Petaluma.

More About Cinnabar:  Cinnabar Theater, located in the old red Cinnabar Schoolhouse on Petaluma Blvd and Skillman Lane, opens its 42 season on Friday, September 5, 2014, with the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, celebrating this golden oldie’s 50th anniversary.  The heartwarming story centers on Tevye, father of five strong-willed daughters who is struggling to maintain his family’s Jewish traditions. Stephen Walsh, who wowed Cinnabar audiences in last November’s hit, La Cage aux Folles, plays Papa Tevye with Cinnabar own Elly Lichenstein (Artistic Director) as his wife.  “This has enormous personal significance for me,” said Lichenstein. “All four of my grandparents came to America from villages like Anatevka, and it excites me that our magnificent cast is so committed to tell their story.” The original Broadway incarnation of this beloved musical racked up an astonishing 10 Tony Awards by introducing unforgettable songs like “Tradition” and “If I Were A Rich Man.”  Music is by Jerry Brock, lyrics by Serldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein. Fiddler ends September 21 with a special performance and party commemorating the day it first opened on Broadway.  Runs: Sept 5-21, 2014, just 10 performances; tickets $35.  Pounce! This is selling out.  Cinnabar Theater is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit.

Zodiaks (256 Petaluma Blvd. North) signature Dr. Pepper braised baby back ribs basted in house-made Carolina-style BBQ sauce are meaty, juicy, tender and not at all greasy.  I’d add proud…they aren’t slathered in layers of sauce that obscures the quality of their succulent meat.  Red cabbage is just the starting point for Zodiac’s artful mango slaw, tossed with a zingy dressing with hints of lime that defines its personality and pairs well with the savory ribs.  Zodiacs will also be hosting 10 local craft brewers— Lagunitas, 101 North Brewing, Moylans Brewery, Morris Distributing, North Coast, Bear Republic, Hen House, Petaluma Hills, St. Florian's, Moonlight.  A ticket will get you 5 samplings of your choice.  Zodiaks will also host an After Taste of Petaluma Party from 4 p.m. onwards.  Musicians John Allair and Julia Harre will play a happy hour for the party. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Zodiaks (256 Petaluma Blvd. North) signature Dr. Pepper braised baby back ribs basted in house-made Carolina-style BBQ sauce are meaty, juicy, tender and not at all greasy. I’d add proud…they aren’t slathered in layers of sauce that obscures the quality of their succulent meat. Red cabbage is just the starting point for their artful mango slaw, tossed with a zingy dressing with hints of lime that defines its personality and pairs well with the savory ribs. Zodiacs also host 10 local craft brewers— Lagunitas, 101 North Brewing, Moylans Brewery, Morris Distributing, North Coast, Bear Republic, Hen House, Petaluma Hills, St. Florian’s, Moonlight. A ticket will get you 5 samplings of your choice. Zodiaks will also host an After Taste of Petaluma Party from 4 p.m. onwards. Musicians John Allair and Julia Harre will perform. Photo: Geneva Anderson

 Cinnabar’s Young Repertory Theater opens its new season on November 28, 2014 with the classic musical, The Wizard of Oz.  This charming adaptation by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company is based on the beloved classic motion picture and features our adorable local munchkins on stage along with Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man.  There’s no better way to celebrate the holidays! Runs: November 28-December 14, 2014; tickets $15.  Pounce! This too will sell out.

Details:  The 9th Annual Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 23, 2014 from 11:30 AM to 4 PM.  Ticket packages are $40 and consist of 10 tasting tickets, good for 1 taste each.  Advance tickets can be purchased in person until Friday, August 22, 3 p.m. at the following venues in Petaluma—

Gallery One – 209 Western Ave.

Velvet Ice Collections – 140 2nd Street, Theater Square

Blush Collections – 117 Kentucky Street

Cinnabar Theater between 10-2:30 weekdays

Tickets can be purchased online here (with $4 surcharge per ticket). Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the event from 10:30 AM onwards at Helen Putnam Plaza.  Only 1500 tickets will be sold.

Advance tickets can be picked up at WILL CALL at Helen Putnam Plaza (129 Petaluma Blvd. North) after 10:30 AM on the day of the event.  The first 1,000 guest to purchase tickets will receive a free Taste of Petaluma tote bag.  All participants receive a plastic wine glass.  You can purchase more tickets throughout the day for $4 each.

Wishbone co-owner and chef Miriam Donaldson, of Humble Pie fame, is fighting the good food fight in Petaluma at her new locale in the funky brick building previously occupied by the Three Cooks Café—“Raise up! Eat up! More locally-raised meat, veggies and cheese than you can shake a stick at, a full espresso bar, a fun wine list, and the best record collection this side of 101.”  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Wishbone co-owner and chef Miriam Donaldson, of Humble Pie fame, is fighting the good food fight in Petaluma at her new locale in the funky brick building previously occupied by the Three Cooks Café—“Raise up! Eat up! More locally-raised meat, veggies and cheese than you can shake a stick at, a full espresso bar, a fun wine list, and the best record collection this side of 101.” Photo: Geneva Anderson

Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell often puts in 15 hours days at Seared and they are paying off—it’s the best steak house in town.  Celebrating its one year anniversary this August, Seared, 170 Petaluma Blvd. North, occupies the space that Graziano’s had for over 30 years.  O’Donnell’s pedigree includes Scottsdale’s Le Cordon Bleu and cooking stints in San Francisco, Sausalito, Olema, and years spent helping out at McNears, owned by his father Ken O’Donnell, also a partner in Seared.   “We’re trying to take a different approach to the steak house mentality here. We do a lot of interesting small plates and top quality servings of great meats and fishes.”  Seared is serving chili pepper cod aquachili with avocado, cilantro, on a crisp tortilla with pickled onion AND Wagyu New York tataki on a crispy Kennebec potato chip.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell often puts in 15 hours days at Seared and they are paying off—it’s the best steak house in town. Celebrating its one year anniversary this August, Seared, 170 Petaluma Blvd. North, occupies the space that Graziano’s had for over 30 years. O’Donnell’s pedigree includes Scottsdale’s Le Cordon Bleu and cooking stints in San Francisco, Sausalito, Olema, and years spent helping out at McNears, owned by his father Ken O’Donnell, also a partner in Seared. “We’re trying to take a different approach to the steak house mentality here. We do a lot of interesting small plates and top quality servings of great meats and fishes.” Seared is serving chili pepper cod aquachili with avocado, cilantro, on a crisp tortilla with pickled onion AND Wagyu New York tataki on a crispy Kennebec potato chip. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Seared Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell brings a strong Asian influence to his cooking. His Sichuan-tiered Wagyu New York is all about the art of layering.  The meat, an Americanized Kobe grass-fed beef, is seared to rare. A kennebec potato is sliced to make chips and dusted with a combination of seaweed, salt, sugar sesame and then grilled.  The chips get a dab of black garlic puree (fermented garlic slow-cooked over a week) before the meat is placed on top and then topped again with a scallion ginger puree, some soy bourbon reduction, Sichuan peppercorn  and a few pink-tinged micro shiso (asian microgreens).  Sichuan peppercorns are a staple of Asian cooking that O’Donnell uses frequently.  Harvested from prickly ash shrubs, they have a fragrant aroma and are more floral than peppery.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Seared Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell brings a strong Asian influence to his cooking. His Sichuan-tiered Wagyu New York is all about the art of layering. The meat, an Americanized Kobe grass-fed beef, is seared to rare. A kennebec potato is sliced to make chips and dusted with a combination of seaweed, salt, sugar sesame and then grilled. The chips get a dab of black garlic puree (fermented garlic slow-cooked over a week) before the meat is placed on top and then topped again with a scallion ginger puree, some soy bourbon reduction, Sichuan peppercorn and a few pink-tinged micro shiso (asian microgreens). Sichuan peppercorns are a staple of Asian cooking that O’Donnell uses frequently. Harvested from prickly ash shrubs, they have a fragrant aroma and are more floral than peppery. Photo: Geneva Anderson

McEvoy Ranch’s Winemaker, Margaret Koski Kent will be pouring McEvoy’s 2013 Rosebud rosé at Thistle Meats which also stocks McEvoy’s prized olives.  Kent initially headed McEoy’s expansive gardens and then studied oenology at Napa Valley College and apprenticed in Italy.  She helped launch their expansion into wine.  With a nod to tradition and in pursuit of a wine that would complement their high-end virgin olive oil, McEvoy began to interplant grapes on its estate around 2006 and then dedicated several acres to separate vineyards for pinot noir, syrah pinot noir, syrah, grenache, viognier, alicante bouschet, refosco and Montepulciano. It then expanded to a Hicks Valley property with pinot noir clones. McEvoy is now producing several wines and winning awards and Kent could not be happier with her job.  Photo:  Geneva Anderson

McEvoy Ranch Winemaker, Margaret Koski Kent, will be pouring McEvoy’s 2013 Rosebud rosé at Thistle Meats which also stocks McEvoy’s prized olives. Nan McEvoy grew in Hillsborough with Thistle co-owner Molly Best’s grandpa and there’s an enduring connection between the families. Kent initially headed McEoy’s expansive gardens and then she studied oenology at Napa Valley College and apprenticed in Italy. She helped launch their expansion into wine. With a nod to tradition and in pursuit of a wine that would complement their high-end virgin olive oil, McEvoy began to interplant grapes on its estate around 2006 and then dedicated several acres to separate vineyards for pinot noir, syrah pinot noir, syrah, grenache, viognier, alicante bouschet, refosco and Montepulciano. McEvoy is now producing several award-winning wines. Kent could not be happier with her job. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Thistle Meats (160 Petaluma Blvd. North) will sample their delectable charcuterie—house-made sausages, pates and terrines, along with McEvoy Ranch's vibrant 2013 Rosebud rosé.  Thistle’s Salami Cotto (above) is cured and then poached, a process which is shorter than some of the other Salami techniques but yields a tender, velvety and very flavorful meat.  Thistle’s pork, all pasture raised, is sourced from Green Star Farm in Sebastopol; River Ranch in Potter Valley, Mendocino; B & B Family Farms in Petaluma, and Llano Seco Ranch in Chico, one of the last Mexican land grant properties that remains intact.  Thistle is a whole animal shop and receives and uses the entire animal.  Their artful displays of exquisite cuts of meats are worth the visit.  Workshops in butchery and salumi making are in the planning phase.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Thistle Meats (160 Petaluma Blvd. North) will sample their delectable charcuterie—house-made sausages, pates and terrines, along with McEvoy Ranch’s vibrant 2013 Rosebud rosé. Thistle’s Salami Cotto (above) is cured and then poached, a process which is shorter than some of the other Salami techniques but yields a tender, velvety and very flavorful meat. Thistle’s pork, all pasture raised, is sourced from Green Star Farm in Sebastopol; River Ranch in Potter Valley, Mendocino; B & B Family Farms in Petaluma, and Llano Seco Ranch in Chico, one of the last Mexican land grant properties that remains intact. Thistle is a whole animal shop and receives and uses the entire animal. Their artful displays of exquisite cuts of meats are worth the visit. Workshops in butchery and salumi making are in the planning phase. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Some guys always have a great story to tell and Twisted 2’s owner Dick Warner holds court at his famous Happy Hour (and a Half), every Thurs-Sat from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Here, he talks baseball with Katie Watts, Petaluma’s Press Democrat correspondent at a mini-Taste of Petaluma held for local journalists. Warner’s warm personality is a fine accompaniment to the legendary wines he serves and sells.  His ace in the hole is the amazing fresh pistachio nuts he generously offers customers.  He worked on a ranch near Fresno for 15 years and negotiated a lifetime supply of these gems for all the good business he brought them. “You can’t find wine that pistachios don’t go with and everyone loves them.”  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Some guys always have a great story to tell and Twisted 2’s owner Dick Warner holds court at his famous Happy Hour (and a Half), every Thurs-Sat from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Here, he talks baseball with Katie Watts, Petaluma’s Press Democrat correspondent at a mini-Taste of Petaluma held for local journalists. Warner’s warm personality is a fine accompaniment to the legendary wines he serves and sells. His ace in the hole is the amazing fresh pistachio nuts he generously offers customers. He worked on a ranch near Fresno for 15 years and negotiated a lifetime supply for all the good business he brought them. “You can’t find a wine that pistachios don’t go with and everyone loves them.” Photo: Geneva Anderson

Twisted 2 (29 Petaluma Boulevard North) in the Lanmart Building is offering Ono Sashimi fresh from Kona, Hawaii with sushi rice, seaweed slaw and a sip of owner Dick Warner’s specially selected 2012 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc from Dan Morgan Lee’s winery in Monterey County.  Warner, a renowned wine specialist, pairs courses of their prix fixe dinner menu with wines he selects. Julie Warner cooks and grows almost all of the vegetables she uses herself. Happy Hour (and a Half) is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.  Reservations are essential in this intimate 360 square foot treasure.   Photo: Geneva Anderson

Twisted 2 (29 Petaluma Boulevard North) in the Lanmart Building is offering Ono Sashimi fresh from Kona, Hawaii with sushi rice, seaweed slaw and a sip of owner Dick Warner’s specially selected 2012 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc from Dan Morgan Lee’s winery in Monterey County. Warner, a renowned wine specialist, pairs courses of their prix fixe dinner menu with wines he selects. Julie Warner cooks and grows almost all of the vegetables she uses herself. Happy Hour (and a Half) is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Reservations are essential in this intimate 360 square foot treasure. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Tiffany Saxelby Sax's Joint

Sax’s Joint, a 1950’s style diner, co-owned by Tiffany Saxelby, creates delicious cupcakes with buttercream frosting that are all made from scratch with the finest ingredients. They will serve a selection of mini-cupcakes at Marisa’s Fantasia, 29 Petaluma Blvd. North. Surprisingly, these gorgeous treats look rich but they are not too sweet. Each packs a special mouthwatering surprise—the interior is filled with dollop of scrumptious creamy homemade fruit conserve, caramel, mocha or chocolate. Along with dessert, Sax’s will also serve their popular Chicken Fried Chicken—fileted fresh chicken breast, egg washed and dipped in dry floured seasoning mix, deep fried, served in a cup with homemade country gravy. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Night owl?  Speakeasy (139 Petaluma Blvd. North, in American Alley at Putnam Plaza) is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily and is the only place in town where you can go for late night gourmet bites.  Owners and life partners, Amber Driscoll and Roger Tschann, have built their reputation on serving elegant tapas-style delicacies in their intimate space. For Taste, their new chef, Josh Dellwo will prepare empanadas with Niman Ranch steak and potatoes topped with a lime cilantro cream, crumbled queso fresco and microgreens. Dellwo’s light flaky crust and the interplay of the tangy lime, cilantro and beef elevate this South American snack into a gourmet treat.   Speakeasy, which opened in late 2012, has been so successful that the owners are expanding across the alley with The Big Easy, a banquet-size space where they can showcase music and offer an extended list of wine by the bottle.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Night owl? Speakeasy (139 Petaluma Blvd. North, in American Alley at Putnam Plaza) is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily and is the only place in town where you can go for late night gourmet bites. Owners and life partners, Amber Driscoll and Roger Tschann, have built their reputation on serving elegant tapas-style delicacies in their intimate space. For Taste, their new chef, Josh Dellwo will prepare empanadas with Niman Ranch steak and potatoes topped with a lime cilantro cream, crumbled queso fresco and microgreens. Dellwo’s light flaky crust and the interplay of the tangy lime, cilantro and beef elevate this South American snack into a gourmet treat. Speakeasy, which opened in late 2012, has been so successful that the owners are expanding across the alley with The Big Easy, a banquet-size space where they can showcase music and offer an extended list of wine by the bottle. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Gustavo Martinez, chef and owner of Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza, was trained by Japanese chefs in Lake Tahoe and has been a sushi chef for 16 years now.  After working in Santa Rosa, he opened is Petaluma restaurant in November 2012 and never looked back—his Petaluma clients are “much nicer” and his (sushi) bar is hopping on weekends. His ceviche roll, a creative shout out to his Mexican heritage, is a spicy fusion of salmon, serrano peppers, and avocado topped with several varieties of fish, red onions, wine, lime juice & cilantro. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Gustavo Martinez, chef and owner of Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza, was trained by Japanese chefs in Lake Tahoe and has been a sushi chef for 16 years now. After working in Santa Rosa, he opened is Petaluma restaurant in November 2012 and never looked back—his Petaluma clients are “much nicer” and his (sushi) bar is hopping on weekends. His ceviche roll, a creative shout out to his Mexican heritage, is a spicy fusion of salmon, serrano peppers, and avocado topped with several varieties of fish, red onions, wine, lime juice & cilantro. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza (20 E Washington Street) will serve Ocean and Ninja Rolls. The Ocean Roll (in foreground) is calamari tempura and cream cheese, topped with salmon, lemon slices, crab, scallions and eel sauce. The Ninja Roll is shrimp tempura and crab, topped with tuna, avocado, red snapper, tobiko, eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza (20 E Washington Street) will serve Ocean and Ninja Rolls. The Ocean Roll (in foreground) is calamari tempura and cream cheese, topped with salmon, lemon slices, crab, scallions and eel sauce. The Ninja Roll is shrimp tempura and crab, topped with tuna, avocado, red snapper, tobiko, eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise. Photo: Geneva Anderson

 

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August 21, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Food, Jazz Music, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

review: “La Cage aux Folles”—lively, hilarious, heartfelt—at Cinnabar Theater through November 10, 2013

Cinnabar Theater has sold so many tickets for its risqué production of “La Cage aux Folles” that it has extended the musical through November 10, 2013.  The exotic Cagelles make their first appearance as mysterious silhouettes behind transparent screens.  Photo: Eric Chazankin)

Cinnabar Theater has sold so many tickets for its risqué production of “La Cage aux Folles” that it has extended the musical through November 10, 2013. The exotic Cagelles make their first appearance as mysterious silhouettes behind transparent screens. Photo: Eric Chazankin)

There’s a tender story of family at the heart of the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein multi Tony-award-winning musical comedy La Cage aux Folles and Cinnabar Theater’s revival, which opened last weekend, plays it to perfection.  That makes two hits in a row for Cinnabar’s 41st season and, having recently fulfilled their subscription goal by a whopping 168 percent, the future’s looking bright for the small theatre company in Petaluma’s old school house.

This is the West Coast premiere of the revised score of La Cage aux Folles which was developed for the 2008 award-winning London revival.   In 2010, this version moved on to accolades on Broadway and the West End.  The original songs, with their emotionally grabbing lyrics, are all still there and the story, with some slight tweaks, is still intact.  Under the careful stage direction and choreography of Sheri Lee Miller and musical direction of Mary Chun, Cinnabar’s production literally soars.

For La Cage, Cinnabar’s stage has been transformed into the Saint-Tropez night club La Cage aux Folles replete with magical dancing Cagelles (chorus line) in glorious drag— J. Anthony Favalora, Jean-Paul Jones, Quinn Monroe, Cavatina Osingski, and Zack Turner.  By way of opening remarks, Cinnabar’s new Executive Director, Terence Keane, challenges the audience to guess who among the Cagelles is male and who is female.  In most cases, it’s a tough call as the make-up and acting are that good.  The production starts off artfully and doesn’t let up with the creativity or energetic rush—the Cagelles first appear as mysterious curvaceous silhouettes behind transparent screens which they then burst out of as they dance and sing “We Are What We Are,” with Georges joining in.

The story, which some audiences found shocking 33 years ago, is now a classic— Nightclub owner Georges (Stephen Walsh) and transvestite performer Albin/Zaza (Michael Van Why) have been married for more than 20 years.  Georges is also Albin’s manager.  Together they have raised Jean-Michel (Kyle Stoner), Georges’ son, the unexpected result of a one night stand with a gorgeous show girl named Sybil.  Jacob, the couple’s live-in transvestite butler, who dresses as a maid, played by the hysterically funny James Pelican, has also helped raise the boy.  When 24-year-old Jean-Michel arrives at their doorstep to announce he has fallen in love with Anne (Audrey Tatum), Georges can hardly believe that his boy is marrying a woman.  He has even more trouble accepting that Anne is the daughter of the bigoted Minister of Moral Standards, Edouard Dindon (Stephen Dietz) (who would eradicate homosexuals entirely if possible) and that the intended in-laws—Edouard and his wife Marie (Madeleine Ashe)—are coming to their house for dinner.  But it is Jean-Michel’s request that Albin not be present when the prospective in-laws visit and that their blaringly gay apartment be re-decorated that puts the household in a tizzy.

Anchoring the show is Michael Van Why’s pitch perfect performance as Albin / ZaZa, a role he reprises and seems born to.  In Act I, he comes off as a grand, self-involved diva but very soon it’s evident he’s quite maternal, compassionate and a more than a tad fragile navigating the pitfalls of middle age.  Half the fun in this production is watching Albin don various outfits and moods.  He actually dresses less flamboyantly than in some productions of La Cage but with a twist of his finger and sideways glance, he really works it.  That face, with those huge doe eyes, is hard to resist and Van Why, a classically trained singer, can really carry a tune.  From his opening solo “A Little More Mascara” to his numerous duets with Walsh, he is a joy to behold.

Stephen Walsh (left) is Georges and Michael Van Why is Albin/ZaZa in Cinnabar Theater’s poignant production of “La Cage aux Folles.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Stephen Walsh (left) is Georges and Michael Van Why is Albin/ZaZa in Cinnabar Theater’s poignant production of “La Cage aux Folles.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Stephen Walsh is also amazing as Georges.  His on stage chemistry with Van Why is palpable and his tenderly rendered “Song in the Sand” and “Look Over There” are aching love songs we can all relate to.  The performance serves as a kind of opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come in the past 30 years in our acceptance of gay and alternative lifestyles, so much so that many of the songs which may have once been provocative are now anthems of pride.

The couple is bolstered by a strong supportive cast, all of whom seem to be having the time of their life. One of the funniest moments happens when the supposedly uber-conservative Marie Dindon, played delightfully by petite Madeleine Ashe, discovers that the plates in the redecorated apartment (where they are supposed to be having a “normal” dinner in a “normal” home) are embossed in gold with homoerotic love scenes.  Out pops the tigress in her and she’s not getting back into the cage without a good romp.  Another standout is the vivacious Valentina Osinski as the celebrated restaurateur, Jacqueline.  And what a pleasure to see Cinnabar’s Artistic Director, Elly Lichenstein, who has opera in her veins, take to the stage as the delightful Madame Renaud and sing, beaming with pride at the magic that surrounds her.

Cinnabar’s Music Director Mary Chun is usually conducting Cinnabar’s small orchestra, but for La Cage, she plays the piano vibrantly and queues from the bench.   The clear stand-out, though, is trumpet player Daniel Gianola-Norris  whose numerous solos, some muted and some not, produced an evocative sound that left me wanting more. Gianola-Norris is a trumpet teacher at Santa Rosa Junior College and owns and operates “Music to My Ears,” a music education center located in Cotati.

David Clay’s inspiring costumes, which include an array of sensual form-fitting evening gowns and di rigueur glam accessories, make this modest budget production seem like a million bucks.

Cinnabar Theatre, with its warm feel and exceptional acting, is the best kept secret in the Bay Area.  The charming theatre seats just 99 people and there’s nothing more wonderful than attending a spectacular performance that unfolds just a few feet before your eyes. Added to that are special touches, like the delicious homemade cookies and brownies served at intermission, which are outrageously priced at just $1, and the good vibe community feeling that permeates the place. It’s almost impossible not to have a great time.

Run time: Two hours and twenty minutes.

Book by Harvey Fierstein / Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman / Based on the play by Jean Poiret.

Details: La Cage aux Folles has been extended through November 10, 2013.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets: $35 for adults and $25 for ages 21 and under.  Purchase tickets online at www.cinnabartheater.org, or call 707.763-8920 from Monday through Friday between 10 AM and 3 PM.  Advance ticket purchase is essential as this show is selling out rapidly.   Sat Oct 26 and Sun 27 are sold out.  Seating is general admission and the theatre opens about 30 minutes prior to each performance.

Cinnabar Theater is located 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, at the intersection with Skillman Lane, Petaluma, CA 94952.

Cinnabar’s Production Team:  Music Director—Mary Chun, Stage Director and Choreographer—Sheri Lee Miller, Scenic Designer—David Lear, Costumes—Clay David, Lighting Designer—Wayne Hovey

The Cast: Albin / ZaZa—Michael Van Why, Georges—Stephen Walsh; Jacob— James Pelican; Jean-Michel—Kyle Stoner; Anne—Audrey Tatum, Jacqueline—Valentina Osinski, Monsieur Dindon—Stephen Dietz; Mademoiselle Dindon—Madeleine Ashe; Monsieur Renaud—Clark Miller; Mademoiselle Renaud—Elly Lichenstein

Cagelles (Chorus Line)— J. Anthony Favalor—Sassy Sparkles, Jean-Paul Jones—Chantal, Quinn Monroe —Mercedes, Cavatina Osingski—Hannah from Hamburg), and Zack Turner—Anita Spotlight

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Dance, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment