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Stumped for gift ideas? More and more, it seems, the idea of giving experiences instead of toasters is taking hold. And the Napa Valley Opera House is ready with a range of enticing entertainment to take the chill off winter. Tickets for the winter and spring 2010 season go sale Dec. 14.

Artist director Evy Warshawski once again has put together a creative value-packed line-up favorites and new shows, and local collaborations.

Welcoming in the New Year is composer/pianist/singer Marvin Hamlisch with a performance and party on Dec. 31.

There will be an 8:30 p.m. show in the upstairs theater and then party down to the midnight hour in the Café Theatre. Hamlisch will draw the winner of a new 2010 Prius from Jimmy Vassar Chevrolet/Toyota); details at www.nvoh.org/car.

Warshawski notes that Hamlisch’s appearance at the Opera House “is the first of three events celebrating “A Chorus Line,” the 1976 Broadway play for which he composed the songs. In April, the Opera House screens the documentary “Every Little Step” (see p. 9) and in May, the Opera House will produce the play on stage featuring a cast chosen from high school and community college-age students.

Audition and performance information will be posted on the Opera House Web site, www.nvoh.org.

The Opera House will also be celebrating on Jan. 30, 2010, which marks its 130th anniversary. In January 1880, a sold-out crowd witnessed the first performance on stage celebrating the completion of a cultural landmark for the City of Napa.

“We’re having a year-long birthday tribute beginning with a performance by internationally acclaimed soprano, Ruth Ann Swenson, followed by a birthday celebration and preview of 130th tribute activities,” Warshawski said.”

April has been designated “Jazz Appreciation Month,” with three outstanding performances: The Gene Krupa Orchestra with The Four Freshmen, Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour and Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion Tour featuring 28 electronic robots.

“We welcome the newly-created Napa Valley Jazz Society and look forward to partnering with them to keep jazz front and center,” Warshawski said.

“Speaking of partnering, we welcome to the fold Blue Oak School, Lucky Penny Productions and Napa School of Music. And we’re happy to continue our partnership with Jon Fox Productions and Pocket Opera.”

To purchase tickets call the box office at 226-7372 or go online to www.nvoh.org.

Thursday, Dec. 31 / Marvin Hamlisch: One Singular, Sensational New Year’s Eve Celebration / 8:30 p.m., $165: show and party / $95: show only

Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch presents an evening of songs to celebrate the New Year including classics like “A Chorus Line,” “The Way We Were” and “The Sting.” A festive party in the Café Theatre follows the performance, with dancing, dessert and champagne.

Saturday, Jan. 9 / “The Sound of Music” Sing Along / 7 p.m., $12

Sing along to the 1965 Academy Award-winning film written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Subtitles are provided to the classic songs including “Edelweiss,” “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “Do-Re-Mi.” The best costume — Maria, Captain Von Trapp, the Baroness, Mother Abbess or the kids — wins a pair of tickets to an Opera House show.

Friday, Jan. 15 / An Evening with Perla Batalla / 8 p.m., $21

Grammy-nominated vocalist, composer and arranger Perla Batalla returns to the Opera House to present a compilation of original compositions interspersed with traditional Spanish language classics arranged to reflect her rich bi-cultural personal and musical heritage. This activity is funded in part by the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Saturday, Jan. 16 / Best of SF International Comedy Competition / 8 p.m., $30/$35

Hosted by San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition winner Tom Simmons.

Saturday, Jan. 23 / African Children’s Choir /  8 p.m., $35/$40

Comprised of some of the neediest and most vulnerable children in their countries, many of whom have lost one or both parents, the African Children’s Choir helps these children break away from the everyday cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

Friday, Jan. 29 / A Night of Music for New Orleans / 7:30 p.m., $25

Napa Valley’s top student musicians perform a benefit concert for New Orleans victims. This classical concert sells out every year and proceeds support 40 local high school students and assist with completing the rebuilding of a community center in New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina. A dessert reception with music follows in the lobby.

Saturday, Jan. 30 / Napa Valley Opera House 130th Anniversary Celebration featuring Ruth Ann Swenson / 7 p.m., Performance & Party: $130 / Performance only: $75

It’s a milestone year for the Napa Valley Opera House which marks the 130th anniversary of the Opera House’s first performance in January 1880 with an event featuring renowned soprano Ruth Ann Swenson, followed by a reception in the Cafe Theatré featuring live music, sparkling wine, dessert and merriment. Rarely seen historic photos and memorabilia will illuminate the roots of this cultural cornerstone of the Napa Valley.

Swenson, accompanied by Whitney Crist, will present a tribute to Louisa Tetrazzini, the Italian soprano of the early 1900s who performed on the Opera House stage. Swenson has won critical acclaim for her performances in the world’s major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera National de Paris, Royal Opera Covent Garden and Berlin State Opera. In addition, she’ll perform pieces by Handel and Gershwin, and tunes from Broadway and film.

Underwritten in part by Berit and Robert Muh, and Anne and Greg Evans, and The Jewish Community of Napa Valley

Saturday, Feb. 6 / Soul Street: Breakin’ Backwards / 7 p.m., $25/$30 / Hip hop dance workshop: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., $15

Soul Street Dance of Houston presents their newest concert Breakin’ Backwards. Four male street dancers perform their contemporary mix of choreography to the most popular music of past decades. Music selections include: Count Basie, Elvis Presley, the Temptations, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson and more. Soul Street performers will also offer a hip hop dance workshop for participants of all ages. For information, e-mail evy@nvoh.org. Space is limited.

Saturday, Feb. 13 / The Bobby Hutcherson Quartet /  8 p.m., $35/$40

Throughout his prolific 35-year career, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson has proven to be one of the most innovative and endearing figures in contemporary jazz. For their Opera House debut, the Quartet will be featuring work from the new CD, “Wise One.”

Feb. 17 – 20, 8 p.m.; Feb. 21, 2 p.m / Lucky Penny Productions presents “The Shape of Things” / $25

Evelyn is an art student who plays Pygmalion when she sets out to make over Adam. Adam is ready to do just about anything to become the man she wants him to be. Adam’s friends Phillip and Jenny aren’t sure what to make of Adam’s transformation and how the insistent Evelyn has commandeered his life.

Neil LaBute’s cutting, wicked comedy challenges the American obsession with outward appearance and asks “How far will you go for approval? For love? For art?”

Friday, March 5, 7 p.m. / Garage Band 101 /  $12

Garage Band 101 is an 11-week rock band program sponsored by the Napa School of Music that takes students of all ages through the process of developing their own rock band. The program culminates with a concert giving the participants the added experience of entertaining an audience with a rocking live performance. This show features songs by AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.

Saturday, March 6, 8 p.m. / The Wailin’ Jennys, $30/$35

Back by popular demand, the Wailin’ Jennys — three voices, two founding singer-songwriters, one singular vision — have toured three continents enjoying burgeoning international acclaim and a growing fan base. Their album, “Firecracker” spent over 30 weeks in the Top 5 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart.

Sunday, March 7, 2 p.m. / Pocket Opera: “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella), $30/$35

Rossini’s sparkling retelling of the tale of a girl, her jealous step-sisters, and a prince in search of a wife.

Friday, March 12 /  Best of SF International Comedy Competition / 8 p.m., $30/$35

Hosted by 33rd Annual SF Stand-Up Comedy Competition finalist Mo Mandel.

Saturday, March 13, 5 p.m. & 8 p.m. / Capitol Steps, $40

The Capitol Steps return to the Opera House for another rousing night of musical political satire. Although not all of the current members of the Steps are former Capitol Hill staffers, taken together the performers have worked in a total of 18 Congressional offices and represent 62 years of collective House and Senate staff experience. Since they began, the Capitol Steps have recorded 29 albums, including their latest, “Obama Mia!”

Friday, March 19, 8 p.m. / Jake Shimabukuro, $30/$35

Jake Shimabukuro is recognized as one of the world’s most exciting and innovative ukulele players and composers. Renowned for lightning-fast fingers and revolutionary playing techniques, playing jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk, flamenco, and rock, his mission is to show that the ukulele is capable of more than traditional Hawaiian music.

Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m. / BeauSoleil, $30 / $35

Since forming in 1975, Grammy Award winners BeauSoleil with Michael Doucet takes the rich Cajun traditions of Louisiana and artfully blend elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex, country and blues.

Friday, April 9, 8 p.m. / The Gene Krupa Orchestra with the Four Freshmen, $40/$45

Carnegie Hall, January 16, 1938 — The Benny Goodman Orchestra swings its way into big band history, and Gene Krupa, pounding out “sing, sing, sing” on the tom toms, made his own bit of history. By the late 1930s, Krupa had emerged as a national phenomenon and his appearances on stage and film catapulted him to superstar status. Now leading the new Gene Krupa Orchestra, accomplished musician Michael Berkowitz brings the Krupa magic back to life for a whole new generation.

Joining the orchestra is the current incarnation of the Four Freshmen, a group began in 1948 as four students at Butler University in Indiana and went on to play nearly every college in the USA, performing in all 50 states and 44 countries from Asia to Australia.

Saturday, April 17, 8 p.m. / Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, $40/$45

The Monterey Jazz Festival has been a nexus for great jazz performances for more than 50 years. This tour brings that Monterey magic to Napa, featuring a combination of current jazz greats: Kenny Barron, seven-time Grammy nominee Kurt Elling, and Russell Malone.

Friday, April 23, 8 p.m. / “Every Little Step," $12

This 2009 documentary film explores the journey of “A Chorus Line” from its initial idea to its current Broadway revival and goes behind the scenes with exclusive interviews and footage of the revival’s audition process, revealing the dramatic journey of the performers. On hand will be the director and actors from the NVOH production of “A Chorus Line,” premiering in May 2010.

Sunday., April 25, 7 p.m. / Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Tour, $55/$65/$75

Expanding his musical vision with technology, 17-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist Pat Metheny will perform original compositions in an ensemble presentation with no other musicians onstage but featuring Orchestrion, an ensemble of mechanical instruments controlled entirely from Metheny’s guitar and pen.

April 29 – May 1, 8 p.m.; May 2, 2 p.m. / Lucky Penny Productions presents “The Love List," Cafe Theatre, $25

Norm Foster’s “The Love List” tells the story of two men who write a list of qualities defining the perfect woman, and much to their surprise, she appears. Called hilarious, sharp and irresistibly funny, the play examines the quest for perfection and unexpected consequences.

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