Celebrating its 40th season, the nonprofit Lyric Theatre regales the public with extravagantly staged productions of classic light operas. Feast ear-buds on sweet sounds performed by a volunteer troupe of opera-trained actor-singers, a full chorus, a 24-piece live orchestra, and one extremely skilled conductor's baton. The Lyric Theatre's The Sorcerer begins the quartet by mixing Victorian comedic stylings with Bollywood-inspired staging. The Gondoliers, Gilbert and Sullivan's lively tale of royal mix-ups, makes a melodic mockery of the British social system. The nautical chuckle-fests H.M.S. Pinafore and season-closer The Pirates of Penzance tickle funny bones of all ages with peppy maritime music and historically accurate knot-tying jargon.
A musician strums a ukulele onstage as hips sway around him in a hula dance. Laughing heartily with his friends at a nearby table, one man pinches seaweed-wrapped squares of sushi rice—authentic Hawaiian musubi—from shared plates as he talks up his latest adventures. At another table, the diners sing along with the ukulele player, eyes twinkling as the melody calls up memories of home.
This feeling of camaraderie, the spirit of aloha, is what owner Peter Be and his wife, Rena, wanted to capture when they opened Da Kine Cafe in 2010. When Rena, who was born in the Kalihi Valley on the island of Oahu, craved true Hawaiian eats, her choices were limited to lackluster mainland-style interpretations, such as lau lau wrapped in a tortilla instead of taro leaves. She put together a menu of authentic Hawaiian cuisine, with 10 variations of the hot noodle soup called saimin and 10 types of poke, which the head chef of the mainland's most famous Hawaiian restaurant dubbed the best in town. Classics such as the gravy-soaked beef patty of the loco moco fill the menu, waiting to be washed down with fresh-fruit smoothies and on-tap ales from the islands or local microbreweries. Gluten-free options are also available.
The décor reproduces the laid-back Hawaiian feel that Rena and Peter remember, so that even the restaurant’s stage wears a grass skirt. On Ohana Saturdays, visiting musicians take the stage, many of them winners of the Hawaiian islands' most prestigious music accolades, the Na Hoku Hanohano awards. Performers include slack-key-guitar player LT Smooth as well as the singer Mailani, accompanied by esteemed ukulele player Dr. Trey. Starting in the springtime, weekly festivals celebrate Hawaii's music, its dance styles, and its excessive number of festivals.
At Menlo Hub, both food and art find a place on the menu. The modern restaurant's walls are blanketed in original contemporary paintings, and on some nights, the dining space reverberates with music from live bands and solo musicians. But even on nights with performances, the main attraction is always found in the kitchen. Here, chefs design casual American dishes sprinkled with elements of Mediterranean cooking.
The menus focus on simple steaks and seafood, complemented by organic produce sourced from nearby sustainable farms. The artfully plated dishes include California sea bass, New York steaks with gorgonzola demi-glace, and eggplant-wrapped lamb shanks. While most visitors sample the cuisine in the airy main dining space, private groups eat in a secluded room warmed by a corner fireplace.
At the lively bar, flat-screen TVs broadcast sporting events as bartenders mix fruit-infused martinis and pour a range of California wines, which are made from grapes that are just thankful that they never became California raisins.
Fox Theatre lures crowds and musical acts alike with an auditorium drenched in the glimmer and charm of theater’s history. Surrounding a proscenium stage draped in red is enough gold to please a group of kings or outfit one rapper with his requisite bling. Bas-reliefs and intricate patterns line the walls while below, rows of seats on the floor and balcony beckon with simple comfort.
The dazzling, art-deco exterior of The State Theatre sends moviegoers back in time to Hollywood’s heyday. The elegant 1934 theater eschews the big-budget productions and 3D infomercials of today’s movie industry and instead screens classic films and indie features. On opening nights, The State Theatre often hosts Skype Q&A sessions with the directors and other filmmakers.
The Gallo Center for the Arts houses two state-of-the-art theaters that showcase an abundance of theater, music, dance, and lectures throughout the year. Colorful spins and stiletto-sharp swirls seize the stage in a dizzying display of Argentinean culture with Tango Buenos Aires, and advice aficionados will revel in the clever contemplations of Ann Landers successor Amy Dickinson, whose column is published in more than 200 newspapers nationwide. Music mavens, meanwhile, will bask in the artistic prowess of the Philharmonic of Poland, a powerful acoustic experience helmed by the wand of sonic sorcerer Boguslaw Dawidow that massages eardrums with works by Strauss, Lehar, and Mozart. More hands-on classical connoisseurs will be privy to a fully educational musical experience with Jeffrey Siegel's informative keyboard conversations, which are half witty lecture, half virtuosic performance, and half lesson in remedial fractions.