Crepes on cole: a great place to meet firends San Jose Opera's MARRIAGE OF FIGARO THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

Crepes on Cole
100 Carl Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 664 1800

This crepery has the rare distinction of offering good food, well served with generous portions for reasonable prices. It is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner and its menu caters to a wide variety of tastes. The menu boasts fifteen savory crepes served with house potatoes and mixed greens. You can build your own crepe choosing from 23 items to add to the basic crepe @ $6.75. Each additional item costs 75 cents. A favorite at this clean and very busy restaurant is the chicken pesto crepe with provolone cheese, onions, marinated chicken, pesto, tomatoes and mushroom’s. There is a nice selection of omelets also served with house potatoes and a bagel or toast You can also design your own omelet from the same list of additions you can put in a crepe. There are six varieties of egg dishes including San Francisco Benedict (poached eggs on sautéed spinach and English Muffins topped with Hollandaise Sauce) or a smoked tofu scramble for the vegetarians among us. Customers can select six varieties of pancakes or French toast and three combinations of granola with seasonal fruit. There are plenty of side orders, soups and sandwiches. The dessert crepes are immense, enough for two people to share. A favorite is the Banana-Chocolate Crepe with banana, semi-sweet chocolate topped with whipped cream and the Raspberry blintz, too scrumptious for words, both for $6.25.

Crepes on Cole also offer several kinds of salads, each meal in itself. Their beverages include a variety of juices, coffees, wine and beer.

The restaurant is open until 11 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends. The owner will let you sit there for hours playing scrabble, chatting with friends or using your laptop. This is not a fancy place, nor a romantic hideaway. The food is fine, the staff is welcoming and ambience as comfortable as sitting at your own kitchen table. If you are into a gourmet experience, you can do much better; but if you want a good meal and a leisurely visit with friends over a coffee or a glass of wine, this is your place.

San Jose Opera presents……..

I love the productions Irene Dalis presents at Opera San Jose. I love them for many more reasons than the quality of her productions, even though they improve at every performance. Dalis offers countless young singers the opportunity to experience performing in full scale, well directed, and highly polished opera before they have actually arrived at the professional level. She trains them, she grooms them and she nurtures them, coaxing the best from their voices and their acting abilities. Because of her tutelage and the care she takes with each one of her protégées, each performance is truly lovely, well acted and beautifully sung. THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO is no exception. It is especially difficult to present an opera so familiar to its audience that every misdirection, every sour note will be instantly detected. Opera San Jose does not disappoint us.

In the production I saw, the scene stealers were Rebecca Schuessler as the countess, Jennie Litster as Susanna and Tori Grayum as Cherubino. The entire cast worked well together but these three shone. The performance was well paced and charming. After all, how could Mozart NOT be delightful?

One of the joys of going to this company’s productions is to watch the singers grow into their roles. Rebecca Schuessler was a stellar Manon, far surpassing the very exceptional talents of the others in her production. In THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, she outdid herself once more. When she sings of lost love and happiness in the exquisite aria Dove sono i bei momenti – "Where are they, the beautiful moments" she will tear your heart out. She is telling us of the way so many marriages grow stale and how little we can control the process. You almost forget she is singing, so real are the sentiments she expresses, so true for anyone who has been in love. Jennie Litster is the irrepressible, clever Susanna to a musical T and I do not believe I have ever seen a more adorable Cherubino (Tori Graynum) on any stage. I have been treated to this opera in San Francisco and in Edinburgh countless times and these three singers were as touching and as thrilling as the most professional of them.

THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO was written 186 years ago by Mozart when he was thirty years old. The theme of infidelity and the value of marrying for love still ring true today.
This opera is worth seeing both for the exquisite music and the beautiful voices that sing it. The direction is good and the enthusiasm of the cast actually palpable. The opera is over three hours long, but it will seem like only moments for the rising of the curtain in Act I until it descends with everyone singing happily every after in Act IV .

THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO continues until February 21, 2010
Tickets and information: 408 437 4450

The next production: Puccini’s La Rodine
April 24-May 9, 2010

Foothill Music Theatre presents….

If you have never seen a production directed by Jay Manley, you owe it to yourself to get to Foothill Music Theater’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee before this beautifully crated confection closes March 7th. The show is has everything you could possibly want in a musical: it is touching, funny and magnificently performed. The production runs Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. There are 2 pm Saturday matinees 2/27 and 3/6.

Dr. Jay Manley founded this innovative, exciting music theater in 1985. His intention was to produce rarely seen, neglected musicals but it has been going on so long that he has pretty well done them all. (At least, all that are worth humming). His casts are usually non-equity performers, often students and bay area singers and dancers who love to perform. That love of the stage is apparent in every show I have seen there. Each production (and I have been attending them since 1986) is a full scale work of art. The scenery is just right; the costumes amazing and the performances polished diamonds. These productions are not small scale imitations of the more highly touted and expensive extravaganzas seen on professional stages. Not at all. Each show has special touches only Dr. Manley can add. He has a magic touch that makes each performance unforgettable. In this production, we actually see Jesus right there loving us all.

I am not the only one who thinks Jay Manley is a genius. He has received numerous Dean Goodman “Choice” awards for his work and Bay Area Theatre Critics nominations for his outstanding direction and production. He directs two or three plays each season and every one of them are as good if not better than anything you will see at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theater or on Broadway. The actors and actresses lucky enough to work with Dr. Manley revere him, as well they should. He has mastered the art of bringing out the inner genius in anyone he casts. He does all this on a shoe string budget that no audience member could possibly detect. A show directed by Jay Manley can hold its own and even surpass the financially opulent productions that ask us to pay a small ransom for the privilege of seeing their expensive costumes and elaborate sets. When Dr. Manley takes on a project, he makes it glow. His direction guarantees that it will be a highly polished, beautifully paced, delightful theater experience.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is no exception. Mark Hanson’s musical direction is right on key and Kateri McRae outdid herself creating energetic, fast moving choreography that transformed the entire cast into “tween” versions of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. SPELLING BEE showcases the joys and pitfalls of cut-throat competition between six adorable young oddballs (played by adults, but they will fool you, I promise) as they spell their way through the contest. The judges’ lines are truly choice and their introductions and asides keep us laughing even as feel the tension inherent in this kind of contest. We watch egos disintegrate and confidence wane as one by one these very special children are eliminated and the winners circle narrows.

Every parent should see this show not just for the music and terrific dancing, but for what the book has to tell us about the pressures we too often inflict on our youngsters. We live in a society that honors achievement. We inundate our children with lessons and training and games that they feel they must win if they are to be valued. We forget that winning is so meaningless in the larger scheme of things. You don’t have to be better than the person next you. All you have to be is yourself. Would that our children knew that and their educators taught them to mine their individuality. After all, isn’t that their gift?

As I watched this talented cast participate in a contest with rules older than school itself, I realized how cruel it is to tell a child he needs a prize to be appreciated. Don’t get me wrong. No one preaches to you in this production. Yet, you cannot help but sense how misplaced the tension and the tears are when you watch these children compete. It will become clear to you that our schools have forgotten how to deal with individuals, instead of tabulating scores on a test. The sad thing is that all of us faced the same pressure and most of us accepted it as the way of the system. The winners and the losers in this production show us how foolish that assumption is. Every character in the bee is a special and very loveable human being. He do not have to be the best speller to capture our hearts.

I would be hard put to highlight one actor’s performance over another in this musical. I have to say that Kristin Walter as the former winner of Three Bees and hostess of the 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee stole my heart, but so did Alicia Teeter as Olive Ostrovsky, whose mother was meditating in India and whose father never managed to get to see her excel in the Bee (or pay her entry fee). Gregg Zigler and Water M. Mayes as Logianne Schwartzandgrubenierre’s two daddies touched me in ways that you must see to understand. Their lines were sharp and funny, but the sentiment behind their love for their daughter brought tears to my eyes. In fact, watching this musical as it spotlighted our parental stereotypes was like enjoying a yummy dessert that I didn’t want to end. And when it did and I exited the theatre, I had to remind myself that the losers didn’t really lose. They ware acting, for heaven’s sake.

You could have fooled me.

LOHMAN Theatre
Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos, CA 94022

Tickets; 650 949 7360
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