Three theatrical openings with Cavalia in San Francisco, The Christmas Belles in Concord and Patsy Cline, all having arrived in the past week!

Cavalia trick Rider under the big top next to AT&T Park in San Francisco
Photo Credit: Frédéric Chéhu

“The noblest conquest of man is to have gained the friendship of the horse"
Comte de Buffon

Several weeks ago I offered up some information about the horse show to end all horse shows, Cavalia, that was about to open in San Francisco, hoping you would go and take in this truly spectacular production in the big circus tent across the street from AT & T Park. We took our daughter and a close friend who loves horses, and as of this morning I just received my second emailed thank you from our guest for one of the greatest experiences she said she has ever had! Even this past week, I was excited to learn of another family who told me of their adventure in attending Cavalia the opening week. A lady told me that her grandmother had purchased six tickets for her children and all the grandchildren to go and see this show as a family, even paying for the “Rendez-vous” tickets which are the more expensive tickets. She exclaimed that this was a once in a lifetime treat, that they will never forget the experience and how wonderful it was, especially for the children!

Inside the tent, as I looked around, it seemed as if everyone was there, all the well known radio, newspaper and television reporters, Don Sanchez and Jerry Friedman from KGO, Liam Mayclem from KPIX and CBS’s Eye on the Bay show, just to mention a few. The real kick was to get to meet with them after the show along with many others during the special back stage viewing of the horses up close and personal, if you purchased the special “Rendez-vous” package. Everyone is talking about this show and it has received what I consider some of the best marketing of any entertainment opportunity to arrive in the Bay Area in recent years. My wife and I were in Petaluma last week and stopped by one of the better known feed stores and found horse magazines with Cavalia on the cover. There were billboards along the highway everywhere. So, my friends, there is just no excuse in not going, certainly not because you were not aware of it.

If you are a horse lover and have not yet seen “Cavalia”, then you still have a fleeting chance left to take it in, as the show runs at least through Sunday, December 12th. Everything I have stated in my previous articles about the thrilling multi-seasonal, multimedia theatrical experience, the enormity and grandeur of the 160 foot stage, the “awesome” acrobats, tumblers, aerialists and bareback riders, needs to be re-stated again.

The addition of Sylvia Zerbini, the very talented and dedicated trainer who has brought her own Arabian horses into the mix, has added a depth and beauty surpassing the excitement and thrilling experience of the 2004 show! Sylvia has worked with Cavalia for the past two years and has now taken over as the starring act, and what an act it is! She is the only woman in the world who works with nine Arabian horses, all at one time, in an unfettered, unbridled act of breathtaking beauty.

After first seeing Cavalia in 2004, Sylvia was awestruck. Founded by Normand Latourelle, a co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia brings together all the elements Zerbini loves: live music; horse acts built entirely on horses completely at freedom, combining beauty, grace and speed; human acrobatic artists performing high speed horse riding and bareback feats in the midst of high-tech live theater. Even her daughter, Amber, has become a trainer and rider with the show. When Latourelle saw one of Zerbini’s Liberty performances with an entertainment company in Lake Placid a few years later, he knew she was a perfect fit for Cavalia, and that she is!

"Cavalia is not a circus. It's a production built around the relationship between people and horses," she says. "If we ask the horses to work with us, if we listen to what they're feeling, we get so much more out of them.”

Even if you are not a “horse person” I am sure you will love the show. I overheard numerous people at intermission who were expressing their surprise and wonderment at the exquisite beauty of what they had witnessed in the first act. The surprise “show opening” visual on the immense screen background of a new foal actually being born, - - a true wonder of nature, was an experience I will never forget, even though I have actually seen the real thing while living on an uncle’s farm one summer.

In addition to the Arabian horses, there are still plenty of Lusitanos, Percherons, Belgians, and Quarter horses in the show, plus over 100 performing artists (including aerialists, tumblers, acrobats, musicians, a vocalist and dancers).

This shown has been seen by more than 2.5 million people worldwide. Cavalia is a living tribute to the beauty and highly personal relationship that humans and horses have shared together for centuries. Cavalia has traveled throughout Europe, including multiple cities in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and North America, including New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, California, Georgia, North Carolina and Washington DC. If you would like to check the latest developments with Cavalia, you can check out or . For information on regular tickets, plus special package deals, visit range in price on weekdays between $40.50 and $116 for general admission (with reductions for Seniors, Juniors and Children) and on weekends between $49.50 and $125.50. The “Rendez-vous” package runs about $100 per ticket more than the regular seating costs. The toll free phone number for ordering tickets is 1 (866) 989-2282 extension 2101. This is one show I cannot recommend highly enough and one I would surely not miss again when it returns.

Christmas Belles deliver a zany take on Christmas Chaos in Fayro, Texas!

Now, for a different type of “horsing around”, I want to tell you about a local comedy production, “Christmas Belles”, that opened this past week in Concord and that continues now through December 11th . “Christmas Belles”, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, is a fun-filled, tongue-n-cheek look at abnormal life in a rural Texas farming community, in a fictitious town by the name of Fayro. If there was such a town, only Texas could claim it. The residents are genuine Texas gold, characters in every sense of the word. At the center of this foolishness, are three sisters, the Futrelle sisters, Twink, Honey Rae and Frankie, each known for their unique contributions to the colorful history taking place in Fayro.

Honey Rae Futrelle (Babette Bilger) is attempting to harness the energies of a number of locals into an annual Christmas pageant in the Tabernacle of the Lambs Church, an event she has dubbed “The Bethlehem-A-Palooza” of the year. Honey Rae is attempting to incorporate into her first attempt at directing this pageant a little bit of New Testement and new age entertainment, bringing Joseph and Mary and the Wise Men and Elvis Pressley and a local television celebrity showcased all together in a modern Christmas show, one she thinks should be worthy of the grand marquee in front of Caesar’s Palace!

Upset that the local Baptist Church is holding their “Holla-Cantata”, Christmas Sing-A-Long on the same evening, Honey Rae is pulling out all stops on the proverbial church organ to make sure her show is the one the history books will remember. Twink Futrelle (Jennifer Brown Peabody) is currently incarcerated in the local jail by Sheriff John Curtis Buntner (Mark Barry) but Sheriff John obviously has a little thing going for Twink as he allows her to join her sisters under a work furlough program, to work on the pageant. Twink, similar to her controversial sisters, is in trouble again. This time she is in jail for attempting to get even with her ex over his infatuation with another local beauty, by setting fire to his property, a fire that got out of hand and burned down a major portion of a local trailer park. Honey Rae is known in the community as having been married more times or connected with more men than Zaza Gabor.

Third sister, Frankie Futrelle Dubberly (Stacey Reeve) is married to Dub Dubberly (Shawn Bonnington), who works part time as a seasonal Santa Claus, who is suddenly pulled into the pageant as the “celebrity” when the previously selected weather channel television celebrity bows out. However, Dub is in great pain as during this entire evening he tries to pass a kidney stone. When his very powerful medication gets into the wrong hands, the true genius of local busybody, Patsy Price (Lynne Elizondo), becomes known. There are more characters and delightful actors than I have space in this article to write about, but it is a rich potpourri of prejudice, jealousy and local gossip gone mad! Included in the crazy and funny cast are Kelly Hansen (as Geneva Musgrave); Stephanie Stratman (as Gina Jo Dubberly); Linda Sciaqua (as Rhonda Lynn Lampley); Ryan Terry (as Raynerd Chisum) and even Baby Vinnie (as Baby Jesus).

If you like southern soul-fried humor, then his show is a Texas sized comedy cleverly written. I have to warn you however that while it is full of funny lines, it does not work very well on stage, as there are far too many changes in settings. If this were a television show, where it could be prerecorded, the continuity would work much better. Try as they may, the show is very convoluted and cut up, making it a bit hard to follow.

“Christmas Belles” continues with evening performances on December 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, and 11th at 8:15 P.M., with an afternoon performance on Sunday, December 5th, at 2:15 p.m., in the Cue Productions Studio at 1835 Colfax Street in downtown Concord. Call 518-3277 for ticket and reservation information. I also suggest you take a seat cushion for a little extra cushioning at the seating is folding chairs (albeit very nice folding chairs). The sight lines are not bad as this theater has a raised platform stage and a semi-circular seating arrangement. Tickets are $16 each for seniors and $18 for general admission. On Thursday the 9th, all tickets are only $10 each.

"Always - - - Patsy Cline" has now arrived in Walnut Creek.

The Vagabond Players are presenting “Always . . .Patsy Cline” , this time at Walnut Creek’s Dean Lesher Regional Center on the December 3rd weekend. I reviewed this show a few weeks ago (see the October 13th paper edition) when it performed in the El Campanil Theatre in Antioch and now it is coming back for local audiences. This is a terrific show!

" Always . . . Patsy Cline", is a show based on a true story by Ted Swindley, and it comes to the Lesher Center for the Arts on the weekend of December 3. Professional vocalist Ella Wolfe will include more than two dozen of the country singer’s hits.

Produced by The Vagabond Players and directed by Sharon Redman, the show highlights the star’s ties with a fan named Louise Seger, played by Rhonda Taylor, who befriended her in a Texas honky-tonk. Their friendship continued until Cline’s death at the age of 30 in a 1963 plane crash.

Cline was best known for her rich tone and emotionally expressive bold contralto voice which, along with her role as a mover and shaker in the country music industry, has been cited as an inspiration by many vocalists of various music genres. Her life and career has been the subject of numerous books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays.

The play is complete with down-home country humor, emotion, and memorable songs such as “Crazy,” “Anytime,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

Ella Wolfe, who toured the U.S. for two decades before turning to musical theater, scored a hit last November in a cabaret show called Standing Room Only. In the coming production, she’ll have the backing of a six-member band directed by Joan Cifarelli.

"Always . . . Patsy Cline" begins at 7:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, December 3-4, and there also will be a 2:15 p.m. matinee Saturday and Sunday, December 4-5. General admission is $20. The cost for seniors 62 and up is $18 and for youth under 17, $10. Group rates are available. Call (925) 943-7469 for tickets.