San Francisco Symphony and Davies Hall is the liveliest place to be during the holidays with a full calendar of concerts and special artist performances. A wonderful CHRIS BOTTI concert opened the season drawing standing ovations for himself and his guest musicians. The COLORS OF CHRISTMAS show is a holiday tradition with my favorite Peabo Bryson heading a lively cast including James Ingram, Stephanie Mills, and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. I guarantee the room will be rocking with their enthusiastic renditions of holiday songs on Dec. 10-12. The world’s best loved choral work MESSIAH comes Dec 13-15 with the SFS Orchestra and SFS Chorus. According to The NY Post, THE COUNT BASIE BAND is the greatest big band working today, and they will swing for San Francisco audiences on December 16 to get everyone into the holiday swing too. Doing her folk-inspired ballads will be JUDY COLLINS on December 19 for her first appearance with the SFS in three decades so this is a not-to-be-missed special occasion concert. Rhythm & Blues legend NATALIE COLE is always a Bay Area favorite for her classic song stylings and celebrates with the SFS orchestra on December 20. For the kids, the animated film THE SNOWMAN combines with the music of the SFS for a great family expedition the kids will enjoy December 21-22. And for those of us who love sing-alongs, the SFS brass section, and my favorite vocalist Lisa Vroman will be accompanied by the magical sounds of Davies’ magnificent organ to bring out the best holiday sounds at Davies Hall on Dec 22-24. To get in the holiday spirit, catch one of these concerts and if it’s a nighttime performance, when you come out, you are welcomed by the beautiful City Hall brightly shining in red lights. Makes you glad to be a San Franciscan, for sure.
So conveniently located two blocks from Davies Hall is O3 Bistro on Van Ness Ave. near McAllister where Executive Chef Joseph Villanueva prepared specialties that proprietor Tai Truong recommended to us just before our Chris Botti concert. I would call the food a fusion of American eclectic cuisine with Pan Asian flavors. The place was packed the night I was there, but they were able to get us out in time for our Symphony concert after a delicious meal of small plated hoisin pork ribs, bone marrow with onion marmalade, oxtail taco with jicama slaw, and entrees of succulent lamb chops, sake steamed clams with house made sausage, and seared scallops with uni garlic noodles. Chef Villanueva and his O3 partners are Asian Americans who were born and raised in the Bay Area but grew up enjoying food from all parts of the world, which has inspired them to showcase foods reminiscent of their Asian backgrounds. www.o3restaurant.com.
One and a half year old Benjamin Chan left the NYC cold to be greeted by California grandparents Steve and Diana Chan who toasted him at a very deluxe gourmet lunch reception at Chef Chu’s of Los Altos. Aunties from Brazil and Vancouver came to the festive occasion of his visit to California to meet all of the family friends. On hand to celebrate his party were Californians Norman and Antonia Tu, Eva Jones, Flora and Andrew Zee, Eppie Lam, Mabel and Ken Lai, Marion and Ken So from La Jolla.
Clarence Bakken presented a beautiful video of baby Benjamin first year photos with grandma Diana’s commentary.
CHINESE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL PROJECT 25THAnniversary is the occasion for the upcoming January 12 celebration dinner to be held at the Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara. The enthusiastic five Co-Chairpersons Sylvia Eng, Brenda Wong, Carol Fong, Patrick Kwok and Gerrye Wong welcome all to join in the festivities to commemorate the founding of the CHCP who built and established the Museum of Chinese American History and gifted it to the City of San Jose in 1991. Honorees of Distinction to be heralded that evening will be Synopsys –President and co-CEO Dr. Chi-Foon Chan. Friends of Children with Special Needs – founders Anna and Albert Wang, and the Y. K. Fong Family. Leadership Awards will be given to past presidents , Dr. Rodney Lum, Nicol Lea Herris, Pearl Lee and Anita Wong Kwock.
A Dan the Magic Man show will entertain with a mesmerizing Face changing Act, so join in the CHCP celebration. Ticket reservations: (408) 264-6432. www.chcp.org.
I remember enjoying Michael Smuin and his Smuin Ballet troupe when he first started the company a few decades ago. Alas, he is gone now, but I am happy to say under Celia Fushille’s artistic direction, the company is alive and thriving. Especially enjoyable is THE CHRISTMAS BALLET 2012, which brought out peninsula ballet lovers when it staged at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Classical Christmas songs with beautiful choreography highlighted the first act, but it is always the highly anticipated lighter second act that brings out the smiles and cheers. The perennial favorite has always been Santa Baby and Jingle Mambo. Good work,Smuin Ballet!
In Palo Alto’s Lucy Stern Theatre, TheatreWorks’ holiday family show was the Tony Award-winning musical BIG RIVER, where Mark Twain’s story of Huckleberry Finn comes alive with music. The story goes that runaway Huck and Big Jim, a runaway slave, set off down the river, dodging slave hunters and scam artists, determined to reach the North for Jim’s freedom. With very hummable music, Big River provides a couple hours of lighthearted theater in a tale that shows friendship, sacrifice and hope as shown through a young man’s eyes. Show plays until December 30; ticket info: www.theatreworks.org.
Close by for a pre-show dinner in downtown Menlo Park, Left Bank Brasserie now serves weekday lunch and weekend brunch for pre-matinee theatre-goers as well as busy shoppers on Santa Cruz Avenue. Completely remodeled in 2008, the casual setting where we feasted on classic southern French cuisine was most attractive. A little chilly for its outdoor sidewalk café this winter, the restaurant’s elegant main dining room with its gorgeous welcoming glass-walled bar was a nice comfortable place to try the fresh local vegetables and sustainable seafood dishes that Chef Steve Catalano is known for. Right in the heart of charming Menlo Park at 635 Santa Cruz Ave., Left Bank Brasserie and its sister café, LB Steak are sure to fit anyone’s taste and pocketbook. (650) 473-6543.
Hawaiian music and dancers entertained the Foon Hay Seniors Golf Club diners at their annual holiday dinner at Cupertino’s Dynasty Restaurant, as presented byHoneebee Productions. Eye-catching hula and Tahitian dance was performed by the lovely Christina Wong, daughter of producer Lori Wong. Mesmerizing the audience with his wonderful voice and guitar performance was John Keawe, recent Na Hoku Hano Hano award dinner for Slack-Key Album of the Year, who had just flown in with his wife Hope, from their home in The Big Island. Honeebee Productions flew in uke playing guest stars Herb Ohta Jr. and singer/guitarist Keoki Kahumoki from Hawaii for another special concert the next night at the University of Santa Claraand the next night in Alameda. As Lori Wong explained, Honeebee’s mission is to bring the wonderful music and dance of Hawaii to all those sharing the love of the island spirit through music. Info: email@example.com; (408) 838-3999
As per tradition, the Foon Hay 2012 officers were applauded for leading this active club of 80 members while newly installed officers were welcomed. 2013 officers arePresident Jane Chan, Secretary Helen Hubbs, Treasurer Tom Hubbs, Tournament Co-chairs John Ciaccio and Philip Chai, Director Carol Fong, Webmaster Clarence Bakken and Handicap Chair Donald Wong. Champions Robert Cheung, Ronnie Wong, Patsy Ja and Pauline Lee were the role models of the evening with their winning two tournament scores. Happily I turned over theWomen’s Perpetual Gold Trophy to the deserving tied champs Pauline Lee and Patsy Ja who share the 2012 accolades.and Best Woman Player title. Applauding them all were Foon Hay members and guests Richard and Vicki Woo, Lawrence and Ruth Chu, Carole and Jim Yamaguchi, Elmer and Paulette Chinn, Ernie and Mary Ann Wong, Ed and Louise Jang, Ben and Joyce Tom, MC Antonia and Norman Tu, Congratulations all!!
MORE TO SEE – MORE TO DO IN HOLIDAY SEASON
After a three year hiatus in Berkeley, Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Hall is bringing back Mark Morris’ THE HARD NUT, a festive reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Nutcracker Ballet. Set in the 1970s, audiences will see dancing Barbie dolls, go go boots, G.I. Joe soldiers, leaping snowflakes, inspired gender-bending casting, 93 costume changes and 20 lbs of confetti streaming down for the Waltz of the Snowflakes scene. Is that enough to tempt you to go to Berkeley to catch this show? It runs through December 23 on the UC Berkeley Campus at Zellerbach Hall. Info: (510) 642-9988
Down in Santa Clara County, San Jose Stage brings a fun show RECKLESS to a growing South Bay group of theater lovers. This is a story of a dysfunctional family on Christmas Eve. with accompanying mayhem, mental breakdowns, homelessness and a wife running away from a husband with murder on his mind. I’ll stop and keep you guessing about what can happen to conclude with a happy ending, I hope! Theater is alive and well in downtown San Jose; visit San Jose stage at 490 S. First St. www.thestage.com
San Jose Reparatory Theatre brings back the traditional Christmas Carol to its downtown stage so Scrooge can frighten the young ones and Tiny Tim can inspire us all to appreciate what we have and revel in the spirit of giving. This wonderful theater, named after our good friend, former mayor Susan and Phil Hammer, continues to bring good theater to San Jose so that we peninsulans don’t have to fight the San Francisco traffic to see stage plays there. www.sjreperatory.org.
Ballet San Jose presents a World Premiere production of The Nutcracker, December 8 through 23, 2012, featuring all-new choreography by Karen Gabay with sets by Paul Kelly and costumes by the legendary Theoni Aldredge. Symphony Silicon Valley will perform the immortal score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky under the baton of BSJ Music Director and Conductor George Daugherty. This will be the first new production of The Nutcracker that Ballet San Jose has produced in over 30 years. BOX OFFICE:408.288.2800 or online at www.balletsj.org <http://www.balletsj.org>