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VALLEY WEEKEND | BEST BETS

September 19, 1996

TONIGHT: Czech It Out

Are you ready for some down-home music?

Are you ready for some banjos and fiddles from the land of Dvorak and Smetana?

Druha Trava, which performs tonight at CSUN, is a bluegrass band from the Czech Republic. Druha Trava, or Second Grass, performs original material in the Czech language as well as traditional bluegrass and gospel. The band was named best bluegrass band of the year at the Banjo Jamboree Festival in Strakonice in the Czech Republic every year from 1992 to '96. And they consistently top the Czech pop and country record charts.

But, are they any good? The novelty of this act will wear thin quickly if these guys can't cut the mustard musically. Local bluegrass guru Frank Javorsek, the host of KCSN's "Bluegrass Express" and owner of the Blue Ridge Pickin' Parlor, says that, although he hasn't heard the band himself, other people tell him that the band is the genuine article.

Tonight at CSUN, you can decide for yourself.

* Druha Trava performs Czech bluegrass in concert at 8 tonight in CSUN's University Student Union Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St. Tickets are $8-$10. Call (818) 677-2488.

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WEEKEND: A Coke and a Smile

Also at the CSUN Performing Arts Center this weekend will be the musical revue "El Grande de Coca-Cola."

The show is set in a small club in Mexico where a big-name performer is supposed to do a show sponsored by the local Coca-Cola Bottling Co. But the big star never shows up and so the waiters, waitresses and owner try to cover for him. There's a lot of singing, a lot of dancing and a lot of craziness.

The show won the New York Drama Desk Award and was voted the best off-Broadway musical revue by Time Magazine in 1972. The show was also later broadcast on HBO. Diz White, a co-creator of the original show, is producing this version.

"The show has a lot of current references in it," White says. "We update it all the time." White describes the show as Pythonesque, where "the sillier the better."

* "El Grande de Coca-Cola," at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at CSUN's Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. Tickets are $10-$18. Call (818) 677-2488.

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SUNDAY

Go to Ireland, Cuba or Hong Kong--and never leave Glendale. That's the allure of the travelogue series at the Alex Theatre. The series was started after last year's closure of the Ambassador Auditorium, which had sponsored a similar program.

First up this Sunday are the sights of the Pacific Northwest, from the dome of Mt. St. Helens to the trail of Lewis and Clark through the Columbia Gorge. The film "North by West" was made by Gray Warriner, an award-winning filmmaker and documentarian from Seattle. Warriner says he shows off the region's natural beauty, but he also tells the truth about it. "It's beautiful country up here, but it comes with a price," he said. "And the price is your skin has to be waterproof."

These are no slide-show, social-studies-teacher productions, says Hal McClure, who will give his spiel on Ireland on Oct. 13. McClure, a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and current editor of Travelogue magazine, says that the advantage of travelogues over generic travel videos is spontaneity. The narration is live--and often unscripted. "Most of us rely a lot on serendipity," McClure said. "Sera, I call her, she's my patron saint."

Maybe Sera will inspire McClure to talk about running into John Travolta during his stay at Blarney Castle. Future vicarious trips are: Hong Kong and South China (Jan. 19), the Holy Land (Feb. 2), Cuba (March 16) and Greece (April 6).

* The Pacific Northwest Travelogue at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd. in Glendale. Tickets are $12. Call (800) 414-ALEX.

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