Must-see TV? Must avoid is more like it these days. My idea of a must-see is Itzhak Perlman, who returns to Segerstrom Center for the Arts tonight (Jan. 24) in Costa Mesa, courtesy of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. []

I’ve seen the celebrated violin virtuoso at least half a dozen times, but the performance that most vividly comes to mind was the one he gave a few years ago, on the day a huge storm swept across So Cal. Perlman is never less than extraordinary, but on this particular day he seemed well aware his audience had made unusual efforts to get to SCFTA, and performed even more passionately than usual.

All in a day’s work for Perlman, however. He’s the only musician apart from Yo-Yo Ma I’ve ever seen who throws himself into his work as wholly and completely. Unless Niccolò Paganini or Jascha Heifetz reappears on the scene, it’s as close to perfection as we’re ever likely to get.

Tonight’s “Evening with Itzhak Perlman” at Segerstrom Hall is a little different, however. The 16-time Grammy winner will not only perform live, he’ll take part in a multi-media retrospective, including rare home movies and anecdotes about his career—after being urged to do so for many years.

Perlman will be joined by his longtime collaborator, pianist Rohan De Silva. There’ll be a prelude as well—a pre-concert lecture at 7pm by KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen. The Philharmonic Society has partnered with the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic for this special event.

Possibly you only know Charles Nelson Reilly from his TV game show appearances, and never met him or were lucky enough to see him in his one-man show—as I did—it matters not. I highly recommend you get out to the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica to see “It’s Only a Show!” (extended through Feb. 17; 310-397-3244).

Paul Linke’s one-person play is a tribute to Reilly, his close friend, mentor and collaborator. Even if you only know Linke from his role in “CHiPs” and never had the privilege of seeing him in his emotionally devastating but ultimately life-affirming solo performance “Time Flies When You’re Alive,” this is a stellar show no lover of theatre should miss. 

This homage to the brilliant actor-comedian-director, directed by Edward Edwards, is “really about those rare individuals one encounters in life,” says Linke, “who change our life trajectory forever. We all carry these special people with us, and they combine to help make us who we are. It’s really about honoring them.”

Linke recalls Reilly’s tenure in Uta Hagen’s early 1950s New York acting class that launched a roster of future stars, his mother’s complete lack of support for her son’s chosen profession, his appearance in numerous Broadway plays, and his role in the creation of “The Belle of Amherst,” in which he directed Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson.

Also remembered is Reilly’s audition for a television producer in the mid ‘50s when he was dismissed with, “They don’t allow queers on TV.” Ironically, Linke tells us, his lasting legacy may be as an inspirational role model for young men questioning their sexuality, who saw him on TV in the ‘70s and beyond.

I must take exception to the title. “It’s Only a Show!” is more than a show, more than one actor paying tribute to another. It’s an opportunity to watch a master storyteller at work. Linke is nothing if not compelling. He has you in the palm of his hand from the get-go and he knows it; he’s as comfortable talking to an audience of strangers as he is a group of friends in his living room. It’s one of the things that sets him apart as a solo performer.

Author: Jordan Young