Forsaking trusted jeans and sweatshirts, local artists ponder which sparkly or debonair outfit to wear Jan. 12. The anticipated date marks the 34th annual Shellie Awards. Downtown Walnut Creek will be aglow with search lights and long lines of cars as the Lesher Center for the Arts becomes the focal point of the gala awards ceremony, which begins at 7:30 p.m.
This year, 11 companies (Butterfield 8, Center Repertory, Contra Costa Musical Theater, Diablo Artists' Ensemble, Diablo Theatre Company, Onstage Theatre, Pittsburg Community Theatre, Role Players Ensemble, Town Hall Theatre, Vagabond Players and Willows Theatre Company) will vie for a long list of well-deserved awards in both musicals and plays. This year's awards are particularly bittersweet, as the now-closed Willows Theatre is up for many awards in what became its last season.
Adding to the excitement of the event will be scenes from the nominated plays and production numbers from the musicals. It's a wonderful chance to relive favorite shows and enjoy the talented members of our local performing arts community once again.
Unfortunately, one of those talented members won't be with us this year. Bill Clemente, who graced many a local stage, passed away last January. But I'm sure he'll be watching the festivities from on high with many witty Bronx-tinged comments.
One of my favorite parts of the event is the delicious chocolate desserts and champagne at the end. While many a Shellie attendee will be choosing their attire for what makes them look best, I'll be choosing mine for what allows me to eat the most chocolate in comfort!
Tickets to the Shellie Awards are available by calling 925-943-SHOW or online at www.lesherartscenter.org.
January also welcomes back a local star to our hemisphere -- Juliana Hansen. The lead singer for the Disney Singers also starred in the national tour of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," played Epinone in "Les Miserables" and Belle in "Beauty and the Beast," to name just a few. Nominated by BroadwayWorld.com for Best Female cabaret Singer for 2012, Hansen got her start in Walnut Creek with Diablo Theatre Company (then Diablo Light Opera Company) as the lead in "Annie" more than 20 years ago.
"Diane Kamrin of Diablo's Stars 2000 is one of Juliana's main mentors," says producer Kim Watts.
Hansen's show also marks Watts' return to show business. Her parents, George and Judy Watts, were very involved with DLOC in the '60s and '70s, sparking Kim's interest. A busy real estate career has kept her away for the past 19 years.
"I was looking to re-enter live theater with a solo artist, and Juliana is the perfect choice for me," explains Watts. "I saw her on NBC's hit reality show 'Grease, You're the One that I want' working with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Olivia Newton John, and I became a big fan. Juliana is so excited to be back in Walnut Creek where it all began."
"An Evening with Juliana Hansen" takes place at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts. The night of music includes songs from Hansen's latest CD as well as many beloved musicals.
At this family-friendly performance, other Bay Area talent will join Hansen. Audience members will also have an opportunity to meet Hansen following the performance at the Walnut Creek Marriott.
And speaking of Diane Kamrin -- the mentor of many a performing artist is currently staging the next production of Diablo Theatre's Stars 2000.
Members of the teen theater company will display their own star potential in the musical comedy "Avenue Q," performing Jan. 11-26 at Las Lomas High School Performing Arts Center. The lovable puppets have captured the hearts of millions in this story of Princeton, a recent college graduate, and his friends on Avenue Q as they struggle to find jobs and each other.
Funny and packed with life lessons, the show is recommended for ages 13 and over. For tickets, call 925-324-7359 or go to www.diablotheatre.org.
Bay Area Stage moves to the unique Vallejo Naval Museum, 734 Marin St., Vallejo, for its production of "The Pirates of Penzance." The Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera runs Jan. 11-27, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
A hit with audiences and critics alike, the opera follows Frederic, who is released from his indenture to a group of kindly pirates upon his 21st birthday. He discovers, much to his dismay, that his birthday falls on Feb. 29 and, technically, he only has a birthday each leap year, making his indenture good for another 63 years.
Will the pirates release Frederick early? Will his love, Mabel, wait for him? There's only one way to find out! Reserve your ticket at www.bayareastage.org.
Reach Sally Hogarty at firstname.lastname@example.org