The arts spring overfloweth

<i>Rick’s Cafe American</i>

Rick’s Cafe American

The beginning of a beautiful … Arts DEVO received an email last week from local theater stud Joe Hilsee about the new production he’s directing, a stage version of the movie Casablanca called Rick’s Cafe American. The play opens at the Blue Room Theatre tonight (May 7), and Hilsee says that the collaborative adaptation was born here in Chico’s own little gin joint, Duffy’s Tavern. As Hilsee tells it, local attorney Ken Roye approached a contingent of familiar theater types at one end of the bar with an observation that the group of Duffy’s regulars were a natural fit for a stage version of Casablanca. He said Roger Montalbano, as one of Duffy’s owners, would play Rick, Hilary Tellesen “would be mesmerizing as Ilsa,” Hilsee would be Louis, local singer/actor Kelly Houston would play Sam the piano player, Dave “Twelve Pack” Sorensen would be Ferrari, etc.

The idea was dismissed as a mere pub game at first, until local actress/stage designer Amber Miller came up with a “bar-napkin stage design” and then with Hilsee worked on a trimmed-down version of the film that places all of the action inside the bar. It’s going to be “a world premiere of a play that takes place in a bar, the idea born in a bar right here in good old Chico,” said Hilsee.

But what about the music? Who’s playing Sam? The first choice, Houston, isn’t available, so instead of a piano-playing American character, they’ve created a French, guitar-playing troubadour who will be played by Jonathan Richman.

Yes, for realz.

Elliott Smith

Heaven adores him It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 11 years since the death of Elliott Smith. As much as with Kurt Cobain, who preceded him in burning out too young, Smith’s passing was hard to deal with for someone who was so wrapped up in the singular music he created—both musicians were seminal artists for me and both continue to influence my life. Of course, none of that means shit when measured against the emotional pain that would seem to have gotten the better of both men.

On the heels of HBO’s release this week of the very thorough and acclaimed documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the Pageant Theatre will be screening Heaven Adores You, a 2014 documentary of Smith’s life that weaves his music through a series of interviews with his friends and collaborators (including his friend/engineer and Chico ex-pat Larry Crane) to create an “intimate and meditative inquiry” into the life of the incredible singer/songwriter. One showing: Sunday, May 10, at 7 p.m.


Fiesta in Oroville.

• Friday Night Concerts: The downtown concert series is back for a new season, and kicking things off this Friday, May 8, at 7 p.m., is Urban Legend, with a wide variety of dance-floor-ready pop and rock covers.

HA! Fest: A day-long “comedy film festival” featuring short films submitted from all over the world, Saturday, May 9, 10 a.m.-6 p.m, at the El Rey Theatre.

• Wildflower Music Festival: Suffering from Chico Breaks the Record withdrawals? Get your music-marathon fix out on the edge of the orchard at 2500 Estes Road (home of the Butcher Shop theater fest) for a day of music and sunshine, Saturday, May 9, at noon. Performers include: The Mother Hips, The Easy Leaves, The Golden Cadillacs and the Jeff Pershing Band.

• Feather Fiesta Days: It’s spring party time in Oroville, with a week’s worth of community activities culminating with a full day of events—pancake feed, parade, car show, crafts faire and chili cook-off—on Saturday, May 9. Call 538-2542 for more info.

Arrive: The North State Symphony concludes its season, and its search for a new music director, with a showcase conducted by candidate Peter Jaffe (of the Stockton, Auburn and Folsom symphonies), who will preside over works by Beethoven, Gershwin and more. Sunday, May 10, 2 p.m., at Laxson Auditorium.