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Audition Notices

 

“‘Oliver’ at Sutter Street Theatre” – A Folsom Telegraph Review

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‘Oliver’ at Sutter Street Theatre

Sutter Street Theatre has once again done the impossible. Of the dozen or more community theaters in this area, Sutter Street is the only one who year after year brilliantly puts full cast Broadway musical theater on its impossibly small stage.

This year’s offering is “Oliver,” Lionel Bart’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.” From this grim novel of orphans finding ways to stay alive amid slave-like workhouses and criminals Bart has fashioned a show, directed by Connie Mockenhaupt, with wonderful songs you’ll be singing all the way home. The workhouse orphans open with their desire for “Food Glorious Food.” Oliver (played with charming innocence and a lovely voice by Jonathan Matta), after asking for more gruel, is sold by pompous Mr. Bumble (Mike Jemina) to an undertaker and his wife (Sonny Alforque and Laura Smith): “That’s Your Funeral.” Bumble has a hilarious scene in which he attempts to seduce Widow Corney (Dian Hoel, usually Sutter Street’s choreographer and dancer who shows she’s also a terrific screamer): “I Shall Scream”!

Oliver escapes to London where he is befriended by Artful Dodger (Benjamin Matta) and welcomed into aging criminal Fagin’s youthful pickpocketing gang with “Consider Yourself.” Fagin (a sinister but charmingly seductive Chris Witt) and the gang suggest “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two.” Oliver earns the affection of the prostitute Nancy (the always glorious s Alison Gilbreath) and the suspicion of her big, dark, chilling boyfriend, thief Bill Sykes (a terrifying Jay Evans). Nancy’s soaring pledge of loyalty to Sykes, “As Long As He Needs Me,” is the musical peak of the show.

Other musical highlights are Oliver’s yearning “Where is Love?” Oliver and the ensemble’s “I’d Do Anything,” and Fagin’s contemplation of reforming his life, “Reviewing The Situation.” Chris Witt as Fagin is new to Sutter Street, and his subtle performance steals the show! He has a long history in theater, and I hope he sticks around so we can see what else he can do.

Costumer Eileen Beaver (with three helpers) as always does a wonderful job putting the cast of near thirty into period costumes. Set designer Mike Jimena has created a beautiful London skyline over London Bridge, which also becomes the enclosure of Fagin’s den, the Three Cripples Pub, and other locations through the use of moveable prop pieces. Mockenhaupt’s direction and vigorous choreography make sure the activity never slows. Audience members in the front row are literally inches away from flying arms and legs and occasionally flying bodies.

There is some graphic violence in this play. If bringing young children to a performance adults should be aware and prepare them. Those who know how superbly Sutter Street does musicals won’t need my recommendation, but if you haven’t seen them before, you won’t find a better evening of theater anywhere close by. But get tickets early; the show will probably sell out, as it surely should.

Holiday in the Hills 2016 – Review

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“Holiday in the Hills,” A Folsom Tradition at Sutter Street Theatre

Review by Gerry Camp

For many families, the holiday season is the time for traditions. For some families in the Folsom area, Sutter Street Theatre’s annual production of “Holiday in the Hills” is not to be missed. Written by the managing directors of Sutter Street, Connie Mockenhaupt and Mike Jimena, the show has just opened its eleventh incarnation.

In her “Director’s Notes” in the program, Mockenhaupt explains: “The story takes place in the late 1800’s right here on Sutter Street where the residents of the town and surrounding areas have gotten together to celebrate the Holidays. A lot of research went into the people and places that were here in the late 1800’s, give or take a year or two, and everyone you see was an actual resident or visitor to Folsom at that time of year.”

Sound like a boring history play? Nothing could be further from the truth. The research Mockenhaupt speaks of is all in the play’s Playbill, not on the stage. What is on the stage is the most scintillating evening of holiday-themed song and dance I’ve ever enjoyed. You won’t care that Kelly Mauro is playing the part of Elizabeth Hood, who operated the Western Exchange House. On Sutter Street’s stage Mauro, an Elly award winner, is a beautiful singer and spirited dancer, and she plays violin for a “hoedown” dance number. Her daughter Grace, also an Elly winner, is identified as Irma Levy, a talented young student, and Mauro’s eight-year-old daughter Annie, a charmer who steals the show for the second year running, is identified as Fannie Hake, who became a famous Dance Hall Entertainer. But there is no “final exam” where you will be expected to name the characters. Instead, you will sit entranced at the beauty and charm of this family of performers.

Another family, frequent performers at Sutter Street, is the Matta clan, here represented by brothers Benjamin, Jonathan, and Joshua and sister Rebekah. Never mind who they are supposed to be playing, just enjoy their fantastic dancing and singing.

Dian Hoel is supposed to be stage performer Adah Isaacs, who performed tied to the back of a running stallion. At Sutter Street, Dian, in addition to performing in this show, is also the show’s choreographer, who has made the cast of 34 into professional-quality dancers.

I can’t forget Connie Mockenhaupt, the show’s co-author and director, as the saucy Emma Spencer, the town madam, who flirts shamelessly not only with the men in the cast, but those in the audience as well. And Connie’s husband, Mike Jimena, holds the show together as Peter J. Hopper, the owner and editor of the Folsom Telegraph. His reading of “The Night Before Christmas” is always a highlight of the show. And John Wilder’s brilliant non-stop keyboard accompaniment can’t be topped.

If “Holiday in the Hills” is not one of your family’s annual traditions, perhaps it should be. See this year’s show and you’ll likely resolve to return next year and hopefully many years to come. It is the most fun show you’ll see this Holiday season! Oh, and you will be a participant in the show as well. Guaranteed.

 

The Bully & Alice In Wonderland

The Bully & Alice In Wonderland

January 7 – January 29, 2017

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BREAKING BORDERS Touring Company’s School Show

Call (916) 353 – 1001 for more information.

The Fabulous Fable Factory

February 11 – March 19, 2017

Based on the musical by Joseph Robinette and Thomas Tierney

Directed by Allen Schmeltz

This is a delightful story of an inquisitive youngster who discovers an old factory operated by a Mr. Aesop and a human machine of nine fablemakers.  After she accidentally turns on the Fable Making Machine the adventure begins and some of Aesop’s best-known fables come to life including The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare and others. The young girl surprises everyone, including herself, with her moral-making ability.

This charming show features the actors playing all the parts including the Fabulous Fable Making Machine.

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The Hobbit

March 25 – April 30, 2017

This is the classic fantasy about a young and extremely reluctant Hobbit who leaves home and sets off with a band of adventures to slay a dragon and recover and enormous treasure.  Join Bilbo, Thorin, Gandalf, Trolls, Elves, Goblins, the Master of Esgaroth and Smaug the Dragon as they weave this adventurous tale.  Told with wit and humor, THE HOBBIT is sure to please all ages.

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