OMG, You Guys!

This afternoon, I decided to keep with the theatre theme and watch something that had been sitting on my Tivo for a while: the MTV broadcast of Legally Blonde. This was a broadcast back in October of the stage version of Legally Blonde.

My opinion? Well, I’ll write a full review when the stage version comes to Los Angeles. The music is quite good, and grows on you over time. I also enjoyed the casting. The plot, as with the original movie, is very empowering for women… which is why this is another show (like “Wicked”) that is popular with the teen girl crowd that attends Broadway shows.

But I’d like to comment more on the question of whether the broadcast would help or hurt the stage production. My opinion? It can only help. First, the broadcast will introduce loads of people to the show and how the staged version works, and familiarity breeds popularity. Second, it is the equivalent of a pan-and-scan showing of a movie: you still want to see the original widescreen to see all the action you miss. The cinematography of the broadcast version focused on individuals, and you lost the overall scope. Lastly, there is still something incomparable in a live production and seeing the people on stage that a little box just cannot provide.

All in all, a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.


Cow Patty! Not!

Last night, we saw the opening night production of “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” at Nobel Middle School. To begin with, I must disclose that my daughter was in the production, so there is a *little* bias :-).

For those not familiar with production, “Stinky Cheese Man” is based on the book by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, and was adapted for the stage by John Glore, who graciously granted Nobel Middle School exclusive non-profit rights in Southern California (it was recently presented commercially in the area). It is a collection of well known fairy tales, with various twists on them. The best known of the stories in the bunch is probably the version of “The Three Little Pigs”, from the wolf’s point of view. Other stories included in the collection are Chicken Licken, The Princess and the Bowling Ball, Ugly Duckling, Frog Prince, Little Red, Jack’s Story, Cinderella, Tortoise and the Hair, and The Stinky Cheese Man. South Coast Rep described the play as follows:

The extremely cockeyed—and enormously popular—children’s book is even more fun when the fairy tales take on lives of their own and go berserk right on stage! Characters burst into song. Rumpelstitskin turns up in Cinderella’s story. Jack sends the Giant back up the beanstalk (which he hasn’t even planted yet). Chickens can’t wait for their cues. The audience can’t wait to applaud—and you’ll never want it to end!

Especially for a middle school production, the quality was excellent. Lines were said clearly and distinctly, and with appropriate emotion, and the kids seemed to be really into their characters. Costuming was simple but quite good: all but one of the actors wore colorful T-shirts with their character’s name printed on them (even the extras wore shirts that said “Extra”). The sets were constructed by the art classes and were quite good. Lighting had some trouble in the beginning but that got resolved later in the program. Not one kid appeared to forget their lines, although a few rushed them out without waiting for the audience to quiet down. The use of the outside script was good, and led to a very entertaining production (extremely funny at times).

I’m not going to list all the kids in the program, because there are *lots* of them and all are under 15. Suffice it to say they were all excellent. Particular standouts were Jack/Narrator (Jon B.), Cow Patty Kid (Jessica L.), Chicken Licken (Camille M.), Big Bad Wolf (Quest Z.), the Giant (Daniel B.), and I must not forget the Evil Step Mother (nsshere). But in reality, all were quite good.

The production continues tonight at 7:00pm and tomorrow (Saturday) at 5:00pm. I hope that some of the staff of the Performing Arts Magnet at Van Nuys HS show up for one of these productions — this would be a wonderful feeder program for their magnet.

And with that, our 2007 theatre year comes to an end, unless I schedule something last minute over Winter Break. I hope you enjoy reading these reviews as much as I enjoy writing them. I do encourage everyone to go to live theatre — it is an incomperable experience. Our theatre starts up again on 1/5/08 at 2:00pm, when we’re squeezing in a production (between a Bat Mitzvah service and a Bat Mitzvah reception [no, not nsshere’s]) of “The Color Purple” at the Ahmanson Theatre, followed on 1/12 by “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Cabrillo Music Theatre.


The Record of A Life

Last night, we went to see the last musical in the Pasadena Playhouse 2006 season: “Ray Charles Live”. “Ray Charles Live” tells the life story of Ray Charles Robinson Jr., better known as Ray Charles. It does this around a central conceit similar to that used in the musical “Forever Plaid”: Ray Charles has returned to record, live, the album of his life telling his life story, with the actual people in his life involved. As a result, the show takes place in a recording studio milieu, with the recording engineer off to the side, and no real scenery save for projections and costumes. As such, the central focus of the show was the man and his piano, Mr. Ray Charles.

With a show such as this, where there is no new music and the plot (being a life story) is pre-ordained, the strength is in the casting. Make a mistake there, and the show falls flat on its face. In this case, the Pasadena Playhouse team did an excellent job. Ray Charles (as the adult) was played by Brandon Victor Dixon, a strong singer and piano player who became Charles. Excellently playing the adolescent Charles was Wilkie Ferguson, while the young boy Charles was played by Jeremiah Whitfield-Pearson. Della B, the wife of Ray Charles, was played by Nikki Renee Daniels, a remarkable singer. Mary Ann Fisher, one of the original Raelettes and a notable “road wife” was played by Angela Teek. The remaining Raelettes were played by Nraca, Meloney Collins, Sylvia Maccalla, and Sabrina Sloan. Ray Charles’ mother, Retha Robinson, was played by Yvette Cason, who we last saw at the playhouse in the musical “Sisterella”. The recording engineer for the session, Tom Dowd, was playeed by Matthew Benjamin. Ray’s long-time manager, Jeff Brown, was played by Harrison White, with his later manager, Joe Adams, played by Maceo Oliver. Ray’s long-time friend and Atlantic record executive Ahmet Ertegun was played by Daniel Tatar, who was in the Playhouse production of “Last 5 Years”. Rounding out the excellent cast in the ensemble, the Ray Charles band, or other small roles were Phillip Attmore, Aaron or Christopher Brown, Tara Cook, Dionne Figgins, Matthew Koehler, Leslie Stevens, Rocklin Thompson, and Ricke Vermont.

As I said: I thought the acting was great, although at a few moments it looked like dancers were just going through the motions. At other moments, you could see the actors were really getting into their roles and enjoying what they were doing. I also enjoyed the variety of shapes and sizes: the casting director was not afraid to cast some rounder women, and to put them into dancer’s outfits. I think that was a tribute to Charles: as he noted in the show, he loved all women, and being blind, focused on other attributes.

Where the show had problems was the central conceit, and the fault for that belongs with the book writer, Suzan-Lori Parks. I can understand why she chose the approach: she had to distinguish the musical from the movie biographic, “Ray”. But in doing so, the approach distanced you from the story and made it less real. It also led to the recording engineer character having to lead Charles on to tell the story, and that was like pulling teeth. I also think the second act dragged a little: one or two numbers could have been cut or shortened, and the audience’s attention would have held a bit better. I don’t know if these problems can be corrected before the show moves to Broadway, as promised.

Ray Charles Live was directed by Sheldon Epps, who is also the artistic director of the Playhouse. This is Sheldon’s 10th year as artistic director, and he has done a great job there. My only problem is that they seem to forget the Lars Hansen era as A.D. and the excellent programs produced then. The production was choreographed by Kenneth L. Roberson, with musical supervision by Rahn Coleman, scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Donald Holder, sound by Carl Casella, hair by Charles G. LaPointe, video by Austin Switzer, and orchestrations by Harold Wheeler. The on-stage band was conducted by Eric “Cayenne” Butler, with Louahn Lowe (Keyboard I), Joel Scott (Keyboard II), Jack Allen (Guitar), Hilliard Wilson (Bass), Raymond Pounds (Drums), Fernando Pullam and Nolan Shaheed (Trumpets), Fred Jackson and Chalres Owen (Saxophones), and Garnett Brown on Trombone.

The production has been extended, and continues through December 23rd.

The Pasadena Playhouse has announced its 2008 season, and many of my predictions were borne out. The season consists of “Orson’s Shadow” by Austin Pendleton; “Mask”, a musical written by Anna Hamilton Phelan with music and lyrics by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck; “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” by George Bernard Shaw; “Vanities” by Jack Heifner with music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum and directed by Judith Ivey; and a surprise production to be announced.

For us, what’s next is a concert by legendary folk musician Tom Paxton at McCabes on 12/2 @ 7:30pm (that’s tonight!). Following this is the highly anticipated “The Stinky Cheese Man And Other Fairly Stupid Tales” at Nobel Middle School on 12/6 @ 7pm, 12/7 @ 7pm, and 12/8 @ 5pm — tickets for this donation-supported production are available at the door. On 1/5 at 2:00pm, we’re squeezing in a production (between a Bat Mitzvah service and a Bat Mitzvah reception [no, not nsshere’s]) of “The Color Purple” at the Ahmanson Theatre, followed on 1/12 by “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Cabrillo Music Theatre.


High Schools and Fleas

Last night, we went to Van Nuys High School to see the Van Nuys Performing Arts Magnet perform the play “A Flea In Her Ear.” We went primarily because nsshere is about to graduate middle school, and thus we have to make our choice regarding application to a magnet school. At the top of our list for magnets is the Van Nuys Performing Arts Magnet, which (a) has the highest AP exam pass rate in LAUSD for the second consecutive year, (b) allows its students to take classes in the co-located Mathematics and Medical magnets, and (c) has an excellent performing arts program. The family had visited the Granada Hills HS M/S/T magnet earlier in the day, and had come away unimpressed (which was disappointing as Granada Hills is our residential school fallback). We already know that although Granada Hills has reasonable test scores, their theatre and performing arts program just isn’t in the same league as VNHS.

So, we went to the show last night, courtesy of comped tickets from the magnet advisor. Their facility is beautiful. The school was originally built in the 1910 timeframe, and after various earthquakes, the auditorium has been rebuilt as a professional theatre, with a full thrust stage, numerous lighting bridges, full sound system and sound mixer boards, and comfortable seating. Combine this with elaborate sets, including staircases and rotating turntables, all constructed by the students… and right away there was “tech envy”.

The show, “A Flea In Her Ear” is a true old-fashioned sex farce, written by Georges Feydeau. Samuel French summarizes the plot as “Raymonde suspects her husband, Victor Emmanuel, of infidelity and she turns to her best friend, Lucienne, to help her gain proof. They concoct a play-based on a perfumed letter-to trap him at the Hotel Coq d’Or in Montretout. In true Feydeau fashion the plan misfires; the plot is complicated by confused identities, revolving beds, a great many doors and the fact that the stupid hotel porter, Poche, is the exact double of Victor Emmanuel. Period: the early 1900s.” In other words, there are all the classic elements of a farce: mistaken identities, exaggerated actions, lots of craziness, and loads of slamming doors. Farces are the hardest comedies to do, as they do not depend on jokes but on exact and precise timing. You can find a good description of the plot and the characters, as well as an explanation of farces, here.

Van Nuys Performing Arts Magnet did an excellent job with the piece, especially considering that the cast included a fair number of 9th graders. They had the timing and the blocking down pat, and most of the actors did an excellent job of projection. Some were clearly nervous and spoke their lines a little fast; I believe that they will slow down with more experience. More annoying were some sound and static programs that occurred in the second and third acts. But these were technical; the actors did a great job of compensating.

The cast consisted of Timothy Glick (Camille Chandebise), Mikel Bossett (Antoinette Plucheux), Cody Banks (Etienne Plucheux), Aria Pakatchi (Dr. Finache), Kaitlin Walters (Lucienne De Histangua), Julia Rachilewski (Raymonde Chandebise), Dominic Gessel (VIctor Emmanuel Chandebise/Poche), Melvin Galloway III (Romaine Tournel), John Geronilla (Carlos Homenides De Histangua), Rayna Hallett (Eugenie), Paulo Tadle (Augustin Feraillon), Patricia Ponce (Olympe), Celina Pacheco (Baptistin), and Patrick Pavia (Popoy). I was particularly impressed by Ms. Walters, Ms. Rachilewski, Mr. Gessel, and Mr. Geronilla — all of who were excellent, played their parts quite well, and spoke very clearly.

The technical credits are all students as well. Sound was by Brian Bengler and Jayson Hill, lighting by Shaunna Lucas, Michael Bizarro, and John Dizon, and stage management by Brian Monterrosa, Jonathan Rivas, and Mayra Mendoza.

We came away very very impressed with the Van Nuys Magnet. It also helped that we ran into someone we knew in the audience–the mom of a girl that nsshere went to preschool with. The older daughter of the family is in the medical magnet, and gave nothing but glowing reports of the school. Personal recommendations from someone you trust are very important in something like this.

While we’re on the subject of school musicals, I must plug “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”, which is being performed at Nobel Middle School, at the corner of Lassen and Tampa in Northridge California, on 12/6 @ 7pm, 12/7 @ 7pm, and 12/8 @ 5pm. No set ticket prices; donations at the door.

Our theatre plans? Next up for us is the new musical “Ray Charles Live” at the Pasadena Playhouse on 12/1 @ 8pm (that’s tonight!); followed by a concert by legendary folk musician Tom Paxton at McCabes on 12/2 @ 7:30pm (that’s tomorrow!). Following this is the highly anticipated “The Stinky Cheese Man And Other Fairly Stupid Tales” at Nobel Middle School on 12/6 @ 7pm, 12/7 @ 7pm, and 12/8 @ 5pm — tickets for this donation-supported production are available at the door. On 1/5 at 2:00pm, we’re squeezing in a production (between a Bat Mitzvah service and a Bat Mitzvah reception [no, not nsshere’s]) of “The Color Purple” at the Ahmanson Theatre, followed on 1/12 by “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Cabrillo Music Theatre.


Expect The Unexpected

Last night we went to one of our favorite venues, the Repertory East Playhouse in Santa Clarita (Saugus) to see The Unexpected Guest. The Unexpected Guest was written by Agatha Christie in 1958, and was adapted into a novel in 1999. This is critically acclaimed as one of Christie’s best plays.

The Unexpected Guest takes place at a foggy estate in Wales. As the play opens, we are in the main sitting room of Richard Warwick (Edward Harminer). There are lots of game trophies on the wall, including a mounted elephant gun, and we see the back of a man in a wheelchair. We then hear the sound of a car breaking down, and a man (later identified as Michael Starkwedder (Eric J. Stein*) enters the scene. He discovered that the man in wheelchair has been shot in the head. As he is reacting to this, in comes the man’s wife, Laura Warwick (Caroline Bielskis), who confessess to the murder. Unconvinced by her explanation, Starkwedder tries to come up with another murderer that would acceptable to the police. He finally concocts the story that Warwick was murdered by MacGregor, the father of a boy Warwick ran over two years previous. At this point, the investigation begins (headed by Inspector Thomas (Blair Bess) and his assistant, Sergeant Cadwallader (William O Ross)) and we meet the family. We learn that Warwick was loved by no one in particular. We learn that Warwick was originally a strong and well liked big game hunter who was injured in an accident, and became mean and vindictive after his confinement in a wheelchair. His hobbies were shooting at cats, squirrels, and raccoons from his wheelchair, and drinking. His wife, unsatisfied, had found a boyfriend in Julian Farrar (Daniel Lench*). His step-brother, Jan Warwick (Charlie Fecske), who was mentally-disabled in an unidentified fashion, was angry at his brother for threatening to send him to an institution. Warwick was cared for by Henry Angell (Bill Quinn), who was not treated well, but was well-compensated for the abuse. Also in the household was Warwick’s mother, the senior Mrs. Warwick (Christina Rideout), who was well aware of her son’s faults, and Mrs. Warwick’s caretaker, Miss Bennett (Lynne McAllen). By the time we’re in the second act, we learn that MacGregor is reported to have died in an accident in Alaska two years before this shooting. This, of course, eliminates him as a suspect. As we learn more and more about the families, plausible murders keep being identified… or eliminated. The play ends with a completely unexpected ending, which I shan’t give away.

As always, Rep East did an excellent job. I was particularly impressed by the performances of Eric J. Stein (who looks remarkably like my next-door neighbor), Bill Quinn (who was excellent as always), and Charlie Fecske. Two performance were a little less than: I found Lynne McAllen’s performance to be a little bit stiff and lifeless, although that may have been what her character was like. I also had trouble with the accent of William O Ross — we weren’t quite sure of what he was trying to pull off, but it was difficult to understand. Also notable in this production were the excellent sets designed by Katie Mitchell (who also served as stage manager), and the ominous sound design by the always excellent Nanook (Steven Burkholder).

The remainder of the staff for this production includes Julie Schnieder as Director, assisted by Falon Felix. Lighting Design was by Kelley C. Kippen, with costumes by Dusty Dawn Reasons. The program (as well as all REP publicity material) is designed by the ever capable Mikee Schwinn. The Artistic Director of REP East is Ovington Michael Owston.

“The Unexpected Guest” continues at REP East until December 8th. For more information, visit the REP East Home Page. Tickets are available through Goldstar Events or directly through REP East.

REP East has announced their 2008 season, which looks quite good. No dates as of yet, but the shows planned are: “Steel Magnolias,” “W;t,” “The Full Monty: The Musical,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “Ten Little Indians”. The 81 Series (short run shows for mature audience) are “Hurleyburly”, “Necessary Targets”, and “Suburbia”.

While at the REP East, I spoke to both “O” and Mikee about my latest concern: Why we can’t publicize the wonderful theatre in the greater Los Angeles area? I know that in some sense the LA Theatre Community does itself in: the focus is on the “big” or “name” theaters (CTG, Pasadena Playhouse, Pantages, Rubicon, South Coast, etc.), WeHo, NoHo, and the near-in Valleys and environs. It is difficult to get attention to the excellent theatre in the outlying areas such as Santa Clarita or Thousand Oaks. The mainstream print media often makes publicity difficult, and as noted before, there is no Los Angeles Theatre podcast. I’ll say it again: there needs to be a “Broadway Bullet” style podcast for the Los Angeles Theatre scene that turns the spotlight on productions large and small, from shows like “The History Boys”, “Color Purple”, or “Wicked” to the Equity Waiver houses. That spotlights shows being revived or shows in their initial productions. That spotlights both imported actors as well as film/TV actors treading the board and our wonderful regional talent. We need this (but, alas, I don’t have the talent or connections to do it).

So what’s next on the Theatre calendar? Next up for us is the new musical “Ray Charles Live” at the Pasadena Playhouse on 12/1 @ 8pm; followed by a concern by legendary folk musician Tom Paxton at McCabes on 12/2 @ 7:30pm. Following this is the highly anticipated “The Stinky Cheese Man And Other Fairly Stupid Tales” at Nobel Middle School on 12/6 @ 7pm, 12/7 @ 7pm, and 12/8 @ 5pm — tickets for this donation-supported production are available at the door. On 1/5 at 2:00pm, we’re squeezing in a production (between a Bat Mitzvah service and a Bat Mitzvah reception [no, not nsshere’s]) of “The Color Purple” at the Ahmanson Theatre, followed on 1/12 by “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Cabrillo Music Theatre.


Promoting Theatre in Los Angeles

All day, I’ve been trying to figure out what to write. Nothing seemed to gel — perhaps the headache I was fighting today got to me (as always, one gets sick when one takes a vacation day). But reading the newspaper today, the topic came to me.

Why isn’t Los Angeles proud of its theatre scene?

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Broadway and New York Theatre podcasts. The interviews that the American Theatre Wing produces in its Downstage Center series are excellent. Michael Gilboe does a great job with Broadway Bullet, producing interviews and including show clips that promote not only Broadway, but the Off-Broadway scene as well. The Macy*s Thanksgiving Parade is well known for promoting Broadway shows.

But Los Angeles?

In a recent Broadway Bullet, there was a discussion of a new venue in Los Angeles, the Upright Caberet. In the discussion, it was implied that Los Angeles had no Caberet scene, and no theatre scene. Look at Los Angeles’ promotional parade, the Hollywood Santa Parade. The only theatrical promotion is for Wicked, which is on Hollywood Blvd. But there are loads of TV and Movie stars. Perhaps this made sense when the parade was done by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce… but nowadays, the parade is run by the City of Los Angeles.

Where’s the promotion of Los Angeles’ excellent theatre scene? We can rival Broadway (and certainly have better prices). From our larger theatres such as the Ahmanson, Pantages, Kavli, and others to our small equity-waiver houses, Los Angeles is producing a top-notch theatrical product with top-notch talent, both on the board and in the wings. I’ve been attending theatre in Los Angeles since 1972, and it has been first rate. But where’s the promotion? Where is the Los Angeles Theatre Scene podcasts? Where are the Los Angeles musicals in the parades? Why wasn’t Ray Charles Live performing? The Wonderettes? The other great productions, large and small?

We should stop placing ourselves in the shadow of Broadway and New York. We should stop placing our theatre in the shadow of TV and movies. Especially with the writer’s strike: you want original content? Go see theatre in Los Angeles.

P.S.: If I am wrong, and there is a podcast about theatre in Los Angeles, please let me know.


Upcoming Theatre Notes

Some interesting theatre notes, gleaned whilst persuing the papers during a late lunch:

  • A musical production of “Rocky” (based on the first (and best) movie in the Rocky series) is under development. The libretto will be by Thomas Meehan (“Producers”, “Young Frankenstein”, “Annie”), with music and lyrics by the team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (“Once on this Island”, “Ragtime”, “Seussical”, and many others). The director is reported to be Joe Mantello (“Wicked”, “Assassins”), but no other production details were mentioned.
  • Officially opening later this week is another Meehan-penned production, “Cry-Baby” (based on the John Waters film starring Johnny Depp). It opened to previews at the La Jolla Playhouse last week. The musical features an original rock ‘n’ roll/doo wop score by David Javerbaum (executive producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”) and Adam Schlesinger (of the pop group Fountains of Wayne).
  • The Pasadena Playhouse is being uncharacteristically slow on announcing the 2008 season (which we paid for back in June). However, news has leaked out about their August 2008 production. According to Playbill.Com, the Playhouse will be producing a musical version of “Vanities”, the three-actress musical about Texas cheerleaders who come of age in the ’60s and evolve into the 1970s. The production will be directed by Tony Award-winning actress Judith Ivey. The production features a book by Jack Heifner, with music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum. The production is based on “Vanities, the musical” which was originally produced at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto in the summer of 2006 and showcased at the 2006 National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) Festival of New Musicals. This production is headed for Broadway in fall 2008. It will be at the Pasadena Playhouse Aug. 22-Sept. 28, 2008 (which means we see it on Sept. 20, 2008).
  • And speaking of the Playhouse, their production of “Can-Can” was a big winner at the Ovation Awards. The Playhouse usually doesn’t do well at those awards (for whatever reason), so this is a great win. “Can-Can” won four awards: Direction of a musical, Lead Actress in a musical, Featured Actor in a musical, and Set Design (alas, Kevin did not win Lead Actor for “Can-Can”).

I Now Pronounce You Man and Wife, and Man and Wife, and Man and Wife, and…

This afternoon, we trudged out to Thousand Oaks to see the first show of the 2007-2008 Cabrillo Music Theatre season, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” The musical is based on the 1954 MGM Movie Musical starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell with songs by Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul (both also known for Lil Abner). It was originally adapted for the stage in 1979 with a book by Lawrence Kasha and David S. Landay, where it had a successful national tour, but closed on Broadway after five performances (but it did win a Tony for Best Score). It was revived again in 2005, when additional songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn were added. This production was more successful, and appears to be the version used by Cabrillo Music Theatre.

The story of “Seven Brides” is based on the movie adaptation of the short story “The Sobbin’ Women,” by Stephen Vincent Benét, which in turn is based on the Ancient Roman legend of The Rape of the Sabine Women. The musical tells the story of Adam Pontipee and his six brothers in Oregon in the 1850s. He’s decided he needs a wife, and thus goes into town to get one before he returns the next day. He wins over Millie, a local waitress who is sick of men, looking forward to a home with just her husband. He brings her back to the cabin, where she discovers the brothers. She eventually warms to the cabin and the life, and teaches the brothers how to court women. They go into town to a social, and are doing fine until a fight breaks out, resulting from their banishment from town. But they have found girls to love in the town, and so, after reading about the Sabine Women, they go into town and kidnap the women… but forget the preacher. This results in the men living in the barn, and the girls in the house. After a while, however, sparks do fly and courtin’ does occur (and Mille has Adam’s baby). The suitors from town finally get to the cabin, and attempt to take the women back… but all the women claim the baby is theirs, resulting in six shotgun weddings for the brothers. You can find more details in the MTI Plot Synopsis.

As you can tell by reading the plot, it is contrived and dated, and has aspects of political incorrectness from today’s point of view. So why do the show? Because it is a super dancing show, with joyful tunes and a large cast. This is great for regional production… and Cabrillo did their usual excellent job with it. They put together a strong cast of good dancers and reasonable actors, with strong orchestration, sets, and makeup. Their costumes were a little bit incongruous at times (especially Adam’s polo shirt — I didn’t think those existed in the 1850s). They should have fixed one lyric that referred to Mille as having wheat hair and blue eyes (which was being sung to a brown-eyed brunette). I also found the choreography a bit odd at time: since when do brothers in 1850’s Oregon know ballet moves? But on the whole, I had no significant complaints with Cabrillo’s execution.

The production starred Stuart Ambrose* (Adam) and Shannon Warne* (Millie ). Both were very strong singers and dancers, and were a pleasure to watch. The brothers consisted of Jonathan Sharp* (Benjamin), Joe Hall¤ (Caleb), Drew D’andrea¤ (Daniel), Trevor Krahl¤ (Ephraim), Andrew Reusch (Frank), and Jeffrey Scott Parsons (Gideon). Of the brothers, I was most impressed with Jonathan Sharp, who was a strong singer as well as a dancer. Most of the other brothers were more experienced as dancers (and it showed), but their acting was reasonable. Their eventual brides consisted of Aubrey Elson¤ (Alice), Karlee Ferreira¤ (Martha), Sarah Girard (Dorcas), Cassie Silva (Ruth), Andrea Taylor (Sarah), and Marni Zaifert¤ (Liza). All of these were reasonable actors who got into their roles quite well, and excellent dancers. I was also amused by Andrea Taylor’s ponderable in her bio: “If a cat always lands on its feet, and buttered bread always lands butter side down, what would happen if I tied buttered bread on top of a cat?”

Turning to the minor roles… the suitors who lost the girls were Alexander Gomez (Zeke), Eric Hoggins¤ (Luke), Erik Kline (Carl) [his day job is at Google], Jacob Leatherman¤ (Matt), Raymond Matsamura¤ (Jeb), and Don Pietranczyk¤ (Joel). Townspeople included Terrie Benton (Mrs. Kines), Carol-Lynn Campbell (Mrs. Bixby), Jonathan Carlisle (Mr. Perkins), Larry Craig (Mr. Sanders) [a founding member of the Colony Theatre], David Friel (Mr. Kines), Julie Jones (Mrs. Newland), John D. LeMay (Mr. Bixby), Lynda Reed (Mrs. Perkins), and Josh Shipley (Preacher). The children’s chorus consisted of Ashley Marie Arnold, Heidi Bjorndahl, Ben Gutierrez, Madeline Holcombe, Kurt Kemper, Tate Lee, Quincy Unseth, and Sydney Unseth. All of the actors in the minor roles got into their characters; I enjoyed watching them play the parts while others were doing the main singing and dancing.
(*: Actors Equity Member; ¤: primarily dancing credits)

The show was choreographed by John Charron. Musical direction was by Steven Applegate. Lighting design was by Rand Ryan, sound design by Jonathan Burke, prop design and scenery by T. Theresa Scarano, and wardrobe supervision by Christine Gibson. Hair and makeup were by Paul Hadobas and Ashley Hasson. Production stage management was by Linda Tross* and Lindsay Martens*, assisted by Rachel Samuels. The production was directed by Lewis Wilkenfeld.

One last thing while we’re on the show. nsshere and I were musing on how to update the show. I suggested “Seven Brothers for Seven Brothers”, the all-men version of the show. She countered with “Seven Boys for Seven Bruddahs”, and then we started riffing on all the possibilities. I can just see it now…

So what’s next on our theatre calendar? Next weekend there is no theatre, as I’m busy with my 30th High School Reunion on Saturday evening, and working at A Day Out with Thomas at OERM on Sunday afternoon (come on out and say “Hi”). Theatre currently starts up again after Thanksgiving with “The Unexpected Guest” at REP East (Myspace) on 11/24 @ 8pm. This is followed by “Ray Charles Live” at the Pasadena Playhouse on 12/1 @ 8pm; Tom Paxton at McCabes on 12/2 @ 7:30pm; and the highly anticipated “The Stinky Cheese Man And Other Fairly Stupid Tales” at Nobel Middle School on 12/6 @ 7pm, 12/7 @ 7pm, and maybe 12/8 @ 5pm.