Livermore: Bankhead Theater, something for everyone | News | |


Livermore: Bankhead Theater, something for everyone

New season opens Sept. 7 with brilliant gala and concert

Momix: Viva comes to the Bankhead Theater on Oct. 19, combining dance, music, outrageous costumes and inventive props for an astonishing multimedia experience. (Photo by Charles Paul Azzopardi)

Cue the acrobats, the tenors and the comedians. The 2019-20 season at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore has something for everyone.

"Variety is the key for us because we have a broad constituency to cater to, a lot of different ages and interests, from dance to rock 'n' roll to opera," executive director Scott Kenison said. "You name it, we've done it."

Kenison books acts for the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, which presents top-name entertainment in addition to regional groups such as Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre, the Amador-Livermore Symphony and Livermore Valley Opera, arts events and cultural fairs.

"Most performances, I'm to be found in the lobby and almost every time there is a show, people will come up to me and say who they'd like to see," Kenison said. "If it is within our price range, we make it happen."

To put together a season, he attends the annual Western Arts Alliance Conference, which showcases available entertainment. He also seeks out acts he wants for the Bankhead and, if they are planning other shows in the area, they may add the Bankhead to their schedule.

The theater is currently closed to have environmentally friendly carpet installed, thanks to the "Green the Bankhead" project reaching its $500,000 funding milestone. It will reopen Sept. 7 when the new season kicks off with the Brilliance at the Bankhead Gala, a dinner reception and performance by Matthew Morrison and the Livermore-Amador Symphony.

Kenison was proud to announce special acts this year that are selling quickly, including Broadway star Lea Salonga, who appears May 8.

"She was the original Miss Saigon in London and New York, and she's terrific," Kenison said.

Another coup is "So You Think You Can Dance LIVE 2019," which has won 16 Emmy Awards and will be at the Bankhead on Nov. 29.

"It's sort of a big deal," Kenison said. "They usually play in much larger theaters, but there's no better place to see something like this."

Lonestar and Phil Vassar are joining forces to present "Holiday and Hits" on Dec. 9.

"They are a high-ticket item," Kenison noted. "One of the things I've been trying to do is increase the budget we're using for some of the artists. But it's selling, and selling well."

Mostly Kosher, performing jazz and klesmer music, will perform Dec. 23, the first night of Hanukkah.

Crawdad Republic will entertain on New Year's Eve.

"It's a local band -- a made-in-Livermore show -- and for the last three years it has done a New Year's Eve show," Kenison said. "We will have a dessert reception and a champagne toast."

Ticket prices depend on the cost of the acts, and $145 is the top price this season, a bargain compared to other venues that draw top names, Kenison pointed out.

The Bankhead now offers $20 tickets for each show.

"The entire last row of the theater is $20. Often if a show is not selling and we can afford to release more, we do," Kenison said.

The theater seats 500 and is a favorite with performers, he added.

"It's a beautiful theater, and we take really good care of them," Kenison said. "It is important for us they want to come back. We're here to open the doors for them when they arrive, and we have a crew of people ready to work."

Another new act will be the Four Italian Tenors on Nov. 17, performing opera arias as well as popular hits.

Hyprov will be an evening of improv under hypnosis Oct. 4, using 20 members of the audience.

Mesmerizing dance troupe Momix performs Oct. 19.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band is Nov. 11.

"Also, Stanford ValleyCare is having a speaker series this season," Kenison said, "with talks on strokes and recovery, super bugs, and how to deal with concussions (Sept. 12)."

Returning acts include Los Lonely Boys, coming Nov. 15.

"This Tex-Mex band was here a couple of years ago," Kenison said. "They are already selling really well."

The Choir of Man from the United Kingdom is returning Jan. 27, creating a pub as part of their show.

"They all sing and play instruments, and one thing that was really great last January was they invited members of the audience onstage to have a beer with them," Kenison said.

Cirque Mechanics comes with its "Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels," including a rotating tent frame for strongmen, acrobats and aerialists, on Feb. 9.

The Tap Pack from England, who combine cool tap dancing with smooth vocals, a live jazz band and lively onstage banter, performs March 28.

Comedy shows will again include the San Francisco Comedy Competition on Sept. 20; Second City from Chicago, March 20; and Capitol Steps, May 1.

In the spring, folk legend Arlo Guthrie will perform, April 24.

Tickets went on sale May 1 for Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center members, and in the middle of June for the general public.

"This year we did double what we did last year on the first day of sales, which was great," Kenison said.

Patrons who book more than five shows get 10% off, and members get 15% off. Membership, now at 900 and climbing, costs $125 per household.

The Bankhead is continuing its film series this season, with "Royal Wedding," "South Pacific" and "High Society." Tickets are $5.

But it's the live performances that make the theater sizzle.

"Something special happens when there is a living person in front of you, performing for you and the people around you," Kenison said.

For all the listings or to buy tickets, visit; go to the Bankhead Theater box office, 2400 First St., Livermore; or call 373-6800.

'Brilliance at the Bankhead'

The annual Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center fundraiser, "Brilliance at the Bankhead," next Saturday (Sept. 7) includes a 5:30 p.m. champagne welcome and dinner on the plaza with music by the East Bay Jazz High School All Stars plus live and silent auctions.

The show will feature Matthew Morrison, Broadway and television star of "Glee," and the Livermore-Amador Symphony. The Livermore High School Chamber Choir, which performed with Morrison at Bay Area Cabaret two years ago, will join him onstage for several numbers.

Tickets are $195, $295 and $500; go to or call 373-6800.

'Open Mike Night'

StarsDay, the open mike night started in June, from 6-9 p.m. the last Wednesday of each month at the side outdoor courtyard of the Bankhead Theater, has been extended through October. Musicians, singers and other acts should arrive at 6 p.m. to be assigned a time slot based on space available. Admission is free, and beverages and snacks are for sale from concessions. The Bankhead house band, Force of Magic, also performs at each event.

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