News Column

The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif., Chris Smith column

May 3, 2014

By Chris Smith, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.



May 03--High-school drama productions can't win Tony Awards.

So why does Susane Byrne, the performing arts guru at Montgomery High, seem like someone whose name was just pulled from a fancy envelope?

Her elation springs from word that the play drawing the most Tony nominations this year is the comic operetta, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder."

And the production's music director is one of her 2001 graduates, Paul Staroba. For "A Gentleman's Guide," he plays the keyboard while he conducts the orchestra.

His beaming former teacher, Byrne, went to New York'sWalter Kerr Theatre, on West 48th Street, to see the play, described by "Variety" as a "a deliciously dark, elegant and playful musical comedy about a distant heir who facilitates the demise of eight icky kin who stand in his way to a Downton Abbey-sized fortune."

Byrne's opinion: "It is by far the most clever, smart and entertaining musical currently on Broadway."

For some reason, she especially liked the music.

AMID THE CHAOS at the scene of a crash on Highway 12 in east Santa Rosa a week ago, at least a couple of people saw what the driver of a Wheelchair Express transport van did.

He pulled up mere seconds after an eastbound Ford Mustang driven by a 20-year-old woman suspected of DUI slammed into a westbound Nissan Sentra carrying two women and a child in a car seat, causing the Sentra to roll onto its roof.

Witnesses say one passer-by stopped to help the 4-year-old. And the wheelchair transport driver, seeing that two women dangled upside down in the Sentra, ran over and strained to lift it enough to relieve the pressure on one of the victim's head and neck.

One of the firefighters who arrived to spell him was heard to say he might well have saved her life.

HIS ODE TO JOY: Meanwhile, more than a year after Joy Weiss of Petaluma died in a crash on Highway 101, someone who loved her is eager to know who removed a roadside memorial he created -- and why.

Christian Friedrich says he was never aware of a complaint about the cross and living plants he placed in a pasture there beside the highway. But someone went to a fair amount of effort to uproot and carry it all away.

"It just really depresses me," Friedrich said.

This is not the first time in recent history that a roadside shrine was removed in the North Bay and it was not the doing of Caltrans, the CHP or a property owner.

In a couple of cases, a note crudely made to seem official was left behind. It declared that the scraped-away memorial was "illegal and dangerous" and was removed by "S.M.C.R.A. Safe Motor Cycle Riders Association," an organization that appears not to exist.

This apparent vigilante eradication of shrines to loved ones lost to highway crashes sure seems like a strange hobby.

Couldn't these people just pick up some of the trash?

A MAKEUP ARTIST performed her magic Friday at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, out by the Mecham Road landfill.

A hard-working, dirty-jeans place occupied by injured and orphaned animals and the people who treat, feed and clean up after them, the rescue center hasn't ever before attracted a Hollywood beautician.

But one came out as part of a large production team that shot video and photographs for advertisements suggesting that the sort of folks who get dirty rescuing wildlife are the sort of folks who drive Subarus.

Director Doris Duncan and staffer Michael McGuire submitted to sitting in the makeup chair before the cameras captured them doing what they do.

The pair didn't let the filming go too much to their heads. They figure the typical viewer will lock onto their ungroomed co-stars, a rescued turkey vulture and a coyote.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)

___

(c)2014 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

Visit The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.) at www.pressdemocrat.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)