Donald Munro

Now in San Francisco, ‘Phantom’ will sing its way to Fresno

Katie Travis and Storm Lineberger in the national tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Katie Travis and Storm Lineberger in the national tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Special to The Bee

From “Phantom of the Opera” in San Francisco to an impressive new Fresno State ceramics exhibition, there’s lots to tell you about today on the arts beat.

A new ‘Phantom’ in town

Fresno-area fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lavish musical version of “The Phantom of the Opera” are already in countdown mode. The production will make its debut at the Saroyan Theatre in October 2016. Yes, I realize it will take 28 years on Broadway and a number of national tours before this granddaddy of musicals finally makes it to Fresno – but we won’t hold that against the guy in the fancy white mask.

Still, if you’re such a “Phantom” fan that you need a fix right now, the very same tour traveling to Fresno next year is in its opening weekend at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre. It plays through Oct. 4.

I got the chance to chat by phone with Storm Lineberger, who plays Raoul in this revamped and restaged version of the show.

The songs and book are the same, but this modernized version features new direction by Laurence Connor, sets by Paul Brown and choreography by Scott Ambler. Expect new uses of pyrotechnics and projections.

“We have taken technologies that weren’t available in the 1980s and incorporated those as far as the set and lighting design is concerned,” Lineberger says. “As far as the story, It’s a darker and grittier version. It’s less about showing you the magician-like quality of the Phantom and more about showing the practical, human ways he accomplishes the amazing feats he does.”

Not to worry: The famous chandelier still makes its plunge toward the audience.

The updated tour actually puts audiences in the hinterlands at an advantage compared to those seeing the (never-ending) Broadway run. The older version of the show is still playing at the Majestic Theatre in New York.

The 23-year-old Lineberger – who has been playing Raoul in the tour for eight months – made a spectacular career leap from his musical-theater education at the University of Oklahoma to a coveted leading role in the national “Phantom” tour. It took him a while to fully grasp how vocally demanding the role is.

“It was a learning curve for me,” he says. “I learned what I was capable of, what I could or couldn’t do with my off time.”

He’s pleased that the new take on the show allows for a slightly different take on his own character – he plays Raoul as a bachelor playboy with a cocky attitude of youthful invincibility – and complicates the famed love triangle between him, Christine and the Phantom.

Christine is caught between two suitors, and I really feel people can identify with that,” he says. “It’s not about good and evil. It’s about love and passion and the feelings she feels between the two. Each one makes her feel special in a certain way. You go with the safe choice or you go with the dangerous choice.”

Soon after the tour closes in San Francisco, Lineberger will travel with the show to San Antonio. It’s playing at the Majestic Theatre there, a special place for him. It was there that his grandmother took him to see his first professional production 11 years ago. The show was “Phantom.”

He remembers turning to his grandmother and saying: “I’m going to be up there someday.”

As for October 2016, 13 months can be a long time in show business. But he hopes to treat Fresno to his version of Raoul.

“It’s my intention to stay with this show as long as I can,” he says.

Show details: Through Oct. 4, Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco. www.shnsf.com, (888) 746-1799. $65-$220.

Horizon Award winners honored

The 30th annual Horizon Awards will be bestowed by the Fresno Arts Council in a program Thursday, Aug. 27, at the Fresno Art Museum.

The arts council honors recipients by category. This year’s winners:

Artist: Soul Vang, Janice Noga and Oscar Speace. Vang, a poet, is author of “To Live Here” and a member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. Noga and Speace are creators of the one-woman show “Janka,” which they took to New York in April.

Business: Social Vocational Services Inc. The organization’s Fresno Tower Arts Program offers arts opportunities to individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities in a community-based setting.

Educator: Helga Medd helped found Central California Music Fusion, bringing together central San Joaquin Valley music educators and music lovers. She is a strong proponent of Orff Schulwerk, a developmental approach used in music education.

Special: Joseph Castro, Fresno State president, who supported the new graduate art studios in downtown Fresno.

Youth: Chloe Mueller, an artist and writer from Fresno Christian High School. She is editor-in-chief of her school’s newspaper, The Feather.

Details: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, Fresno Art Museum, 2233 N. 1st St. www.fresnoartscouncil.org/horizonawards, (559) 237-9734. $20.

A mini-Rogue features 5 shows

For the second year, the “Seattle to Fresno” mini-festival provides an off-season taste of the popular Rogue fringe festival. Curated by former Rogue producer Jayne Day and Seattle’s Minion Productions, the line-up at Mia Cuppa Caffe includes two local shows, two visiting groups, and “a variety show that mixes Fresno artists with visiting friends.”

The lineup includes:

▪ The Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO)’s “The Life of a House Plant.”

▪ “Dirty Messy Love” by Los Angeles-based storyteller Les Kurkendaal.

▪ “Damn Fine Magic,” a vaudeville magic show, by The Baggy Pants.

▪ “Cyrano A-Go-Go,” a semi-autobiographical theater piece by Brad McEntire, artistic director of the Baltimore-based small batch theatre company.

▪ “Existentialism in B Minor,” a one-man show by Fresno playwright Joshua Ryan Taylor.

Details: Thursday, Aug. 27, through Sunday, Aug, 30, Mia Cuppa Caffe, 620 E. Olive Ave. www.minionproductions.org/seattle-to-fresno. $10.

Notable ceramics show at Fresno State

The theme is spelled out in the title, but each artist in “Still Life in Ceramics” offers an individual interpretation. (As artists always do.) Fresno State’s invitational exhibition presents the artwork of five well-known San Francisco Bay Area ceramic sculptors: Nancy Selvin, Richard Shaw, Claudia Tarantino, Monica Van den Dool and Stan Welsh.

The show is organized in the Conley Art Gallery by Nick Potter and Una Mjurka, who note that the content ranges “from social irony and humor, to nostalgia for familial and cultural traditions, to dark yearning for understanding and acceptance of one’s mortality.”

These invitational shows are always a highlight of the Conley exhibition season. Details: Thursday, Aug. 27, through Sept. 17. Reception is 5-8 p.m. Sept. 10, and artist talks are 3-5 p.m. Sept. 9 and 10. www.fresnostate.edu/artshum/artanddesign/gallery.

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