MAR 1, 2016

John Viars, executive director of the Des Moines Community Playhouse announces a roster of upcoming productions to patrons who filled the Playhouse lobbies Monday. Photo: Brent Isenberger. 

Like a late-night radio DJ, the Des Moines Community Playhouse is playing requests: At the season announcement last night, we learned that upcoming shows include the most requested musical and the most requested drama in surveys of theater patrons, according to Executive Director John Viars, who announced the lineup.
The musical? "West Side Story." And the drama: "Steel Magnolias."
Also in the lineup: a new stage version of "The Great Gatsby,"
"Rock of Ages," "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein" and the family show for the holidays, "Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka."
For season ticket information: 515-277-6261 or  
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Josh Buchsbaum, left, winner of this year's Iron Somm, enjoys a glass with Winefest's executive director, Natasha Sayles, and Ben Nelsen, who took home last year's award.


By Wini Moranville 

Sommelier Josh Buchsbaum edged out Ben Nelsen in the second annual Iron Somm competition Saturday at The Temple for Performing Arts. Nelsen was the defending champion in the sommelier showdown, sponsored by Thrivent Financial. Buchsbaum is affiliated with the restaurants Proof and Lurra Cocina, Nelsen with Splash Seafood Bar & Grill.
The sellout crowd of 124 diners also won -- big time. In a grand ballroom setting, we enjoyed a lavish four-course meal, with each course prepared by a top local chef. The sommeliers each chose a wine to pair with every course. It was up to the audience to decide which wines best complemented the food -- and that's where the good times really took off. The tastings were "blind," meaning not only were we not told what varietals we were tasting, we didn't know which somm picked which wine. Great conversations ensued.

Because these two pros oversee the most dashing wine lists in town, it's not surprising that some of their picks veered well off the beaten path. The Poggio di Bortolone Frappato 2014, a bright and shimmery Sicilian red chosen by Nelsen, proved an ace pick with the refined-rustic potato and sausage-stuffed pasta prepared by Derek Eidson of Centro.
Another showstopper: La Palazzetta Brunello di Montalcino 2009, an elegantly aged Tuscan chosen by Buchsbaum to complement spoon-tender braised short ribs prepared by Mike Holman of Catering DSM.
For the dessert wine, the delightfully unexpected Pineau des Charentes was served alongside a warm oatmeal cake created by Christina Moffatt and Holly Evans of Crème Cupcake. (If you've never tried Pineau des Charentes, read all about this fortified wine in my recent dsm article.)

The Iron Somm competition is produced by Winefest Des Moines, which made a $25,000 contribution Saturday to Bravo Greater Des Moines in support of local arts and culture.

Look for more Winefest fun in the coming months, including a series of Wine Flights -- tastings and small-plates pairings at local restaurants. And mark your calendars for Winefest 2016, June 4-11. Find out more at
Actress Alison Ewing, a native of Mason City, is Fraulein Kost in the national tour of Roundabout Theatre Company's "Cabaret." (Photo: Joan Marcus)
Alison Ewing grew up in Mason City, where her first theatrical role at age 10 was in "The Music Man," by Mason City's own Meredith Willson. Today, she's back in Iowa with the touring musical "Cabaret," which opens tonight and runs through Sunday at the Des Moines Civic Center.

"It's an honor to bring such an important piece to my home state," says Ewing, who graduated from Mason City High School in 1992. "There is also nothing like the type of hospitality and reception you get when you perform for Iowans!"

Ewing's career has ranged from voice-overs to Broadway, from the San Francisco Bay Area (her current home) to a French-language production of "Cabaret" staged in Paris.

In the 1972 movie and on stage since 1966, versions of "Cabaret" stem from a 1939 novel, "Goodbye to Berlin." The story intertwines the lives of performers and patrons in a Berlin nightclub as the Nazis rise to power.

The show is presented by Des Moines Performing Arts. Tickets: $35 to $111 on Ticketmaster or at the Civic Center box office.
Flame patterns aren't unusual on guitars. On pianos? Only from City Sounds. Pianos from last year's program have yielded unusual artwork that will be sold by auction Sunday. 

City Sounds: The Des Moines Public Piano Project has announced its first "City Sounds Brunch," hosted by Centro on Sunday, March 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event includes a silent auction on dozens of pieces from the 2015 pianos that have been transformed into decorative art.

The project's 2015 pianos were painted by local artists and distributed around town for people to play and enjoy during warm-weather months. "Our board thought it would be a good idea to continue the life of these pianos through transforming them into pieces of art for the public to own, while creating a fundraising opportunity that contributes to the sustainability of the project," explains Kathryn Dickel, chairwoman of the Public Piano Project board.

Jazz pianist Janey Hooper and Parranderos Latin Trio will perform throughout the event. Piano locations for 2016 will also be revealed. Reservations are recommended; the only cost is the normal menu price of whatever you choose to eat.
Meet professional dancers and gain a better understanding of their artistry at Ballet Des Moines' third annual Black + White Ball this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. 

Ballet Des Moines' third annual Black + White Ball will be held this Saturday, March 5, at HoQ, 303 E. Fifth St.  
Organizers encourage black-and-white attire with masquerade masks. Hors d'oeuvres and cocktails will be served. This fundraiser, which supports Ballet Des Moines, will include introductions of the company's professionals by Artistic Director Serkan Usta.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. ball are $125 (a $75 young professionals rate is available for patrons age 35 and under). The price includes admission to  
a performance of "Peter Pan" at the Des Moines Civic Center March 26.  

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