Broadway to blues, sitar to symphony, new Gallo schedule has it all

The Gallo Center for the Arts isn't slowing down as it heads into its second season.

The downtown Modesto venue will present about 80 events, including the Billy Joel dance musical "Movin' Out," singers Bernadette Peters, Jakob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Crystal Gayle, Lynda Carter and Bobby McFerrin, sitar players Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, and multicultural programs.

That number doesn't include the dozens of shows that will be presented by the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, other local performance companies and outside concert promoters.

"We really want to have a diverse program that touches as many parts of the community as possible," said Executive Director Dave Pier. "I'm really excited about this season."

The season kicks off Aug. 22 with a champagne gala featuring Peters performing show tunes in the 1,251-seat Rogers Theater and Dylan (Bob Dylan's son) performing acoustic blues and folk in the 444-seat Foster Theater.

The arts center is expanding its Broadway offerings from four to six shows in response to demand. Pier is excited about "Simply Ballroom," a dance show featuring Debbie Reynolds and "American Idol" finalists Anthony Fedorov and Vonzell Solomon from the 2005 season. He said it will appeal to those who like "Dancing With the Stars."

"Movin' Out" is an energetic dance show choreographed by Twyla Tharp and set to the music of Billy Joel. Other touring Broadway shows planned are "Chicago, "Nunsense" (25th anniversary tour featuring "All in the Family" star Sally Struthers as Mother Superior), "Hairspray" and "Stomp."

Modesto is the first stop for "Chicago" after its summer break. "It's great for us," Pier said. "It means the show's director, choreographer, all the artistic team for the show actually come in with the cast on tour and they basically rebuild the show for a week."

Ronstadt and Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano will head up the Mexican series in performing traditional Mexican music. Other groups in the series are returning Trio Los Panchos and the Pacifico Dance Company.

There also will be more family shows, plus new country, guitar and Portuguese series.

Magicians to reappear

Family shows were among the most popular events last season, Pier said. The arts center is bringing back "It's Magic," featuring professional magicians from Hollywood's Magic Castle. It's also booking two Chinese acrobatic acts (National Acrobats and West Lake Acrobats), children's plays and dance programs.

Pier thinks audiences will love Diavolo, an experimental dance company from Los Angeles. "Their whole thing is they work on very large props, but these are huge things they actually dance on," he said.

The country series features 1970s star Gayle ("Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue") with contemporary singer Collin Raye, Randy Travis in his first country music tour in eight years since going gospel, and Travis Tritt with Marty Stuart.

Pier booked the guitar series after consulting with David Chapman, who runs Modesto Junior College's popular guitar instruction and performance program. The series features the famous Romero guitar-playing family (Angel Romero performed a solo show for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra two years ago), the Assad Brothers and an international guitar night featuring top players.

"These are the crème de la crème of guitarists," Pier said.

The success of fado singer Ana Moura's concert this spring prompted the arts center to set up the Portuguese series.

Pianist Jeffrey Siegel's April concert was so popular that the Gallo Center has decided not to book new pianists, but rather bring him back for four concerts this season. He is going to do his trademark "Keyboard Conversations" shows about everything from Beethoven to American music.

"He's really engaging," Pier said. "He talks about the music and he plays parts and he shows how they can be played different ways. He gives interpretations of what the composer was thinking, what the pianists think about these pieces, how if you play it this way, it sounds so bad, if you play it this way, it sounds so good."

Symphony covers classical

The Gallo Center won't be bringing in orchestras or other classical music this year because it thinks the Modesto Symphony Orchestra has that covered, Pier said.

Singer Bobby McFerrin ("Don't Worry, Be Happy") headlines a jazz series and will be joined by Miles Davis band members Chick Corea and John McLaughlin and piano whiz Ahmad Jamal.

Those who enjoyed Anoushka Shankar's performance at the State Theatre last year should like her return trip to Modesto with her famous sitarist father, Ravi Shankar, who collaborated with The Beatles.

Fans of the 1970s TV series "Wonder Woman" can see star Lynda Carter perform her cabaret show.

The theater series includes the Jo Stromgren Kompani from Norway, "The Illiad" and radio play productions of "The Lost World" and "War of the Worlds" featuring as-yet-unannounced actors from the Sci-Fi Channel, "Star Trek" and "The X-Files." Hal Holbrook, who had to cancel his engagement last season because of illness, will perform his Mark Twain show, and Rick Miller will stage "MacHomer," which combines Shakespeare and "The Simpsons."

Ticket sales start Sunday on the center's Web site at www.galloarts.com, and on Monday at the box office at 10th and I streets. Unlike last year, individual tickets will be available immediately rather than just season subscription packages. If you purchase season tickets for a series, there will be a 15 percent discount off the regular ticket price. For more information, call 338-2100.

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at lmillegan@modbee.com or 578-2313.