San Diego County Arts Editor

Local rock station 91X (XTRA-FM) may not be scoring many points for originality, but originality doesn't feed the hungry--and that's the point of the station's ambitious fund-raising efforts for the African Famine Relief Trust Fund.

In the last two weeks, 91X has jumped on the feed-the-world bandwagon first sparked by the British rock star effort, Band Aid, which recorded "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and raised millions for famine relief. More recently, American pop stars created USA for Africa, and it has made "We Are the World" the summer's big anthem.

Inspired by all this, 91X has dubbed its project "Sand Aid" (San Diego Aid for Africa) and has enlisted local celebrities and officials (including Mojo Nixon, Steve Garvey, Cliff Robertson, Country Dick Montana, Mayor Roger Hedgecock and Police Chief Bill Kolender) in recording a rewrite of the Band Aid tune, dubbed "Will They Know It's Summertime?" Already, 91X has adapted the USA for Africa logo to its purposes, and a "Sand Aid" record album--featuring the "Summertime" track plus new material by local lights Nixon, Bobby Volare, The Monroes, Glory House, Vivian Jenkins, Marty Eldridge and Tamre Colby could be in the stores by today.

Over the weekend, 91X and a charitable organization called Project Concern held a 53-hour "radiothon," auctioning various prizes and rock memorabilia, and collecting pledges. According to station spokeswoman Nancy Cochran, weekend contributions totaled $111,672. Twenty percent of that will go directly to African famine relief, the remainder to help finance Project Concern's nutritional, educational and medical programs on four continents, including North America. Maybe 91X hasn't come up with a novel approach to the famine-relief effort, but Cochran boasts that "as far as we know, we're the first radio station in the country to have recorded a song and an album, and we're real proud of that."

SYMPHONY NOTES: The San Diego Symphony Orchestra held a more self-serving radiothon at Seaport Village this past weekend, and the results were also encouraging. Symphony spokeswoman Carol Brown reports that $132,905 in pledges were recorded. That is $33,000 above the projected goal for the 39-hour fund-raiser.

The orchestra has also announced that the fabled Boston Pops Orchestra--known to some classical curmudgeons as the world's classiest jukebox--will perform at the Civic Theatre on Aug. 1, sponsored by the San Diego Symphony. San Diego is the last stop on the Pops' 15-city national tour celebrating its 100th anniversary. John Williams, resident conductor and a well-known Hollywood sound-track composer, will conduct. Ticket prices will range from $47.50 to a mere $15. The performance is underwritten by a grant from the Signal Cos.

RIVER'S RUN: The reviews are in, and it looks as if "Big River," the musical based on "Huckleberry Finn" that premiered last summer at the La Jolla Playhouse, will survive on Broadway. The production--directed by La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff--opened last week at New York's Eugene O'Neill Theater.

The New York Times' Frank Rich bemoaned the slowdowns in Act II and wondered if adults would have sufficient patience for the work, but he nonetheless wrote that " 'Big River' . . . the last Broadway musical of the season . . . is the first that audiences can attend without suffering either profound embarrassment or terminal boredom. The show has a lot going for it . . . McAnuff is full of clever ideas about how to bring Mark Twain's masterpiece to the stage."

Clive Barnes of the New York Post commented that the show "flows rather than flies, but its current is in the right direction, its eddies in the right places, and even its sludge . . . more or less acceptable." Douglass Watt of the New York Daily News complained that " 'Big River' 'jus' keeps rolling along' . . . amiable, and almost totally uninvolving . . . (it) commits the unpardonable sin of being dull." Associated Press drama critic Michael Kuchweara raved: "The most imaginative musical Broadway has seen this season . . . It would stand tall in any year." Jack Kroll of Newsweek wrote, "At last Broadway has a musical of substance."

According to the show's Manhattan publicist, Josh Ellis, "ticket sales have been very, very good--not sellouts yet, but the day after the show opened, the producers put it on sale through Sept. 30." Sources at the O'Neill Theater box office confirmed that sales were good. Ellis added that a key factor in the show's fate is looming: On Thursday, the Tony Awards committee will decide whether to include a Best Musical category for the 1984-85 awards, because the season has been so weak in musicals. As a musical that received some of the season's best reviews, "Big River" is certain to be nominated if the category is included.

FLASH IN THE PAN: The Hot Flashes, San Diego's premiere improv act, which for five months last year did turn-away business at the Old Town Opera House, has given its final performance. In three years the four talented women, known for their ingratiating feminist humor and wildly imaginative, highly physical improvisational comedy, won fans in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. "We were just creatively dry," said Maureen Gaffney. The final performance was given last weekend at the Grass Roots Cultural Center in Golden Hill.

Former Flashes Maggie Gillette and Sheri Glaser will continue to work together, however, as the Forever Young Egomaniacs. Gaffney has scheduled May 10 and 11 performances at the Old Globe Theatre with Kathy Najimy as the Kathy and Mo Show. The other Flash, Robyn Samuels, will devote herself to writing music.

ARTBEATS: Old Globe Theatre artistic director Jack O'Brien has named the cast of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which will open the rebuilt Lowell Davies Festival Stage in Balboa Park on June 7. David Ogden Stiers will play Oberon, Katherine McGrath will play Titania, Tom Lacy will be Bottom and Jonathan McMurtry is to appear as Starveling . . . COMBO has placed an exhibit featuring photos, brochures and descriptive material relative to the first in a series of California Arts Council grants on the ground floor of City Hall. The exhibit is open to the public through May 6 . . . Los Lobos, a Latino rock band acclaimed by many of the nation's rock critics as among the best bands of 1984, will perform at 8 p.m. May 10 at UC San Diego's gymnasium. Tickets are $9.

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