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Favorite 2009 'entertainment' of Signal staff members

Posted: December 23, 2009 3:49 p.m.
Updated: December 25, 2009 6:12 a.m.

Aleks Gajewski, left, said she finally gained enough confidence to ask Tony Vincent to take a photo with her in the BART station after the "American Idiot" musical. "We were waiting for the BART to take us back into San Francisco and ended up chit-chatting all the way into the city," she said.

Here are the eclectic top choices of entertainment from the past year, as made by Signal staff members.

Aleksandra Gajewski, Signal staff writer: "Green Day's ‘Dookie' album was the first CD I ever bought with my own money. I was 10 years old. With the band providing the majority of tracks to the soundtrack of my life, it was only natural for me to buy tickets to the ‘American Idiot' musical based on the band's 2004 epic ‘American Idiot' album.

"The production was staged at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, so I made a weekend trip out of it. I booked a flight to San Francisco, hung out with some friends on Halloween, and on Nov. 1, rocked out to Green Day's music in the Roda Theatre house.

"The musical was nothing like any other musical I have seen. The dialogue between songs was limited (sometimes nonexistent), which I found very different from other musicals where dialogue helps carry the show throughout. In this musical, the focus was on having the music speak and carry the message. The cast and creative crew did Green Day justice through their pulsating wall of sound and sheer energy. The entire production encompassed what Green Day's punk-rock music is all about: creating an energy and emotion that inspires and speaks to a state of mind and a way of life. You couldn't help but tap your foot and sing along.

"Not only did I get to watch a musical 100 percent based off of one of my all-time favorite band's music, but my favorite Broadway actor, Tony Vincent, played a key character in the show as well. Tony Vincent performed in other musicals such as ‘Rent,' ‘Jesus Christ Superstar' and my personal favorite, Queen's ‘We Will Rock You.'

"After the show, my friend and I headed toward BART, the subway system in the bay area. As we were waiting for our train, who else but Tony Vincent walks by?! I am never one to get ‘star struck,' but I was literally shaking and sweating with nervousness when I realized it was him. I eventually gained enough confidence to approach him and tell him how much I enjoyed his performance. We ended up sharing the BART ride all the way back into San Francisco, chatting about bands and other musicals.

"The experience was definitely one of my highlights in 2009."

Melissa Gasca, Signal staff writer: "Does it get any better than having Ellen Degeneres boogie by you? I had the privilege of sitting in on my third ‘Ellen' show, taping this past October - you have to take advantage of living just a short drive from television central, right?

"Highlights of the show included guest appearances by Katie Couric and Kate Gosselin. Who knew the well-known journalist had such a sense of humor? I was cracking up when she told the audience that she pulls mischievous pranks on her daughter. And for the first time, I had an inkling of sentiment for Kate Gosselin when she told us she replaced her wedding ring with a ring of eight studs for her children.

"I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing Ellen live."

Stephen K. Peeples, Signal online editor: I love the SCV, but my favorite escape of '09 was a day trip outta town.

In early spring, wife Nadine and I drove to Ventura Beach to commune with Our Mother Ocean.

We do that fairly often via Highway 126, but this time we took a detour when we hit Santa Paula.

We cruised north on Highway 150 into the coastal mountains and Los Padres National Forest, through Ojai, and finally west on Highway 33 back out to PCH on the north end of Ventura.

We took Highway 101 south to Ventura Pier, walked on the beach, and looped back east to the SCV via 126.

It was a delightful throwback to rural SoCal, with postcard scenic vistas different from our own. Ever see oil oozing out of a hillside? You will on Highway 150 en route to Ojai.

There were also lots of cool local restaurants and shops to explore along the way, though we resisted because, after all, we did want to get to the beach before sunset.

Our trip took about three and a half hours; with more stops we could have stretched it to five or six. It was close, inexpensive and felt like a mini-vacation.


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