Posts filed under: Theatre Awards & Praise

2017 Elly Awards

The Elly Awards for excellence in youth theatre were presented on September 10.

Sutter Street Theatre received the most awards with eight in the following categories.

  • Sutter Street Theatre: Best Overall Children’s Theatre Production for The Hobbit
  • Allen Schmeltz: Direction for A Seussified Christmas Carol
  • Eileen Beaver: Costume design for A Seussified Christmas Carol
  • Adele Trapp: Leading Female – Youth in A Seussified Christmas Carol
  • Ken Anderson: Leading Male – Adult in A Seussified Christmas Carol
  • Mike Jimena: Lighting Design for A Seussified Christmas Carol
  • Allen Schmeltz: Sound Design for A Seussified Christmas Carol
  • Riley Anderson: Supporting Male – Youth in The Hobbit

SUTTER STREET THEATRE’S “WHOREHOUSE” IS HAPPY, JOYFUL, WARPED FUN

Folsom Telegraph LogoReview by Gerry Camp

            As always, the Sutter Street Theatre is great at musicals. And their newest, Larry King and Peter Masterson’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” is up to their highest standards.

It’s the story of a brothel in the imaginary town of Gilbert, Texas in the 1970s (based on true events) which is a delightful place to work or visit. Presided over by Miss Mona (the wonderful Connie Mockenhaupt), under the protection of the sheriff (Connie’s husband Mike Jimena, who is perfect in the part and steals the show), the brothel’s “guests” include the mayor and the local football team, who look forward to their annual orgy as they make clear in a wonderful locker room dance.

A local TV personality with a ridiculous head of hair (played way over the top by Jay Evans) decides to close down the business, causing panic among the working girls, the politicians, and the guests. Even the governor, a delightful David Valpreda, is upset, but like a typical politician, he does “The Sidestep,” which is a hilarious song and dance.

Here’s what I liked about the show:

As Jimena said when introducing the play on opening night, Sutter Street Theatre is a family. As a regular, I was especially delighted to see family members I love having a great time. In addition to Connie and Mike, I especially enjoyed a couple of my favorites.

The best moment in the show came when Hannah Hurst, who has been excellent in dozens of shows, appears to apply to work. Dressed modestly, she seems totally inappropriate, and is told so by Miss Mona. Her back story is revealed in one tiny nod, the most moving bit of acting of the evening. She is given the work name “Shy.” Though the part is small, “Shy” is the character you’ll be talking about after the show.

My second favorite is Christopher Celestin, Elly nominated actor (and playwright!) who has been working behind the scenes too much lately. In this show, he steps in and out of four parts with the ensemble of young males, but in seconds in each scene he’s in he becomes the one you watch.

Musical accompaniment is provided effectively by Cory and Kale Coppin. The songs, while not great, are often funny and pleasant. Mockenhaupt has the best, the show-closing “Bus From Amarillo.” Allison Gilbreath’s direction and the accomplished choreography by Connie Mockenhaupt and Dian Hoel ensure there is never a dull moment. The “working girls” at the Chicken Ranch are lovely and sexy, and their song and dance numbers imply they are happy in their chosen profession.

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SUTTER STREET THEATRE SPOTLIGHTS AN AMERICAN CLASSIC

SUTTER STREET THEATRE SPOTLIGHTS AN AMERICAN CLASSIC

Review by Gerry Camp

    Folsom’s treasure, Sutter Street Theatre, can seemingly do anything, from classic comedies, full-cast Broadway musicals, gross-out farces, and delightful family stories. And sometimes—not often enough, in my humble opinion—they tackle one of the great plays. This they’ve done by bringing us Thornton Wilder’s masterpiece, “Our Town,” playing through July 16.

    Most readers will know that the play depicts life in a small town, Grover’s Corners New Hampshire, in the early 1900s. It is presented on a bare stage—here all black—with few props, the actions being mimed by the cast. The play frequently reminds us that it is a play as the main character, known only as the Stage Manager, narrating the story, moving back and forward in the characters’ lives, speaks directly to the audience throughout.

    To pull this off demands actors who become the characters, making the audience believe in their lives as the Stage Manager tells their stories, showing life’s universal patterns, their daily lives, love and marriage, and death.

    Director Allen Schmeltz has assembled a cast who draws us in completely. James Gilbreath is warm and compassionate, with frequent gentle humor, as the omniscient Stage Manager. The focus of the story is on George Gibbs (Daniel Putman), the son of the local doctor (Keith Casey) and his wife (Jessica Plant), who falls in love with his next-door neighbor, Emily Webb (Lauren Tyner, who steals the show, positively glowing in the heart-breaking part).

    The two mothers selflessly but unsentimentally manage their families. Doc Gibbs is overworked, but has a moving scene with George when he suggests that he be of more help to his mother. Rich Kirlin is perfect as Emily’s father, especially when he has an awkward talk to George on the morning of the wedding, suggesting afterward that there should be a custom where the father of the bride is never alone with the husband-to-be. His scene before the wedding, in which he gives Emily to George, wonderfully conveys a father’s love and feeling of loss.

    Maybe I’m being a spoiler when I reveal that the third act is about Emily’s death at twenty-four in childbirth. Joining the other recent dead in the cemetery, she decides, against their advice, to go back and re-live her twelfth birthday. I defy anyone, whether you’ve seen the play before or not, to hold back tears as she learns that nobody realizes the beauty of life while they’re living it. She finally lets go, speaking the play’s most moving lines: “Good-by, Good-by world. Good-bye Grover’s Corners . . . Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking . . . and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths . . . and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”

    Many reading this will have seen the play before. Never mind; if you love great theater you owe it to yourself to see this wonderful production of one of the American theater’s greatest works.

“The Hobbit” – A Folsom Telegraph Review

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Great Adventures and Scary Monsters in “The Hobbit” at Sutter Street Theatre

Review by Gerry Camp

Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, a shy, stay-at-home creature dwelling in the land of Middle Earth in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” When Bilbo is told by the wizard Gandolf he must go on an adventure to slay the fearsome dragon Smaug and regain the treasure Smaug has stolen from the dwarf kingdom, Bilbo faints at the thought. When he comes to, he learns that he will be accompanied on this adventure by a dwarf, Thorin, who is almost as reluctant as Bilbo.

Sean Stewart, one of my favorite actors, is Bilbo in Sutter Street Theatre’s latest family series production. I have been fortunate to have acted with Sean in FreeFall Stage’s “Shadowland,” and I’ve seen him in several other plays. For an actor so young, twelve-year-old Sean, an Elly-nominated performer, is always convincing, whether as a Peanuts character, the son of a dying mother, or a schoolboy with his first love. His Bilbo has a wonderful British (or Hobbit?) accent and draws his audience easily into this fantasy world. When I learned Sean was playing Bilbo, I knew I had to see this show.

Ken Anderson is a compelling Gandolf. No one would disobey his instructions. Haydon Namgostar, a rather large dwarf, seems perpetually angry, but is always there when he is needed.

As this group makes its way to the Misty Mountains, where Smaug dwells, Bilbo at one point gets separated from the others in the dark Mirkwood. There he finds a magic ring, which makes him invisible when he puts it on. Having this ring saves his life when he is confronted by an evil magical creature, Gollum. Gollum is my favorite creature in the show, a life-size grotesque puppet created by theatre genius Michael Coleman and animated by Riley Anderson in a black costume that renders him virtually invisible as he brings the puppet to life. Riley is excellent in the monster parts of the show, later showing up as a life-size spider.

There are a total of eleven actors in “The Hobbit,” many playing several of the twenty plus characters, trolls, elves, guards, goblins, eagles, in fantastic costumes created by Sutter Street costumer Eileen Beaver and Felicia Slechta. Gavin Brossard stands out as a troll, the Great Goblin, Beorn, and finally as Smaug, the dragon himself, another puppet created by Mike Jimena. All the members of this ensemble do a super job, keeping the story moving from one unexpected threat to the next.

Director Allen Schmeltz has taken this much-condensed version of the story, adapted by Markland Taylor, and made it into a wonderful adventure, a perfect afternoon of theatre for children of all ages. It’s scary, but not too scary for the youngest in the audience who will especially enjoy the thrills.“The Hobbit” plays Saturdays and Sundays at 1 P.M. through April.

“‘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.

 

Willy Wonka brings his quirky magic to Sutter Street Theatre

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Willy Wonka brings his quirky magic to Sutter Street Theatre
By: Gerry Camp

Willy Wonka at Sutter Street Theatre in Folsom, CARoald Dahl’s novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” has become a children’s classic since its publication over fifty years ago. It has been made into a movie twice, first in 1971 with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and in 2005 with Johnny Depp in the part. Sutter Street Theatre brings the 1971 version with music by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley to Folsom, shortening the title to “Willy Wonka.”

Most adults probably know the story about magical chocolate maker Wonka, whose factory has been closed to the public for ten years while still somehow producing the world’s most famous candy, and how he sponsors a contest to allow five children, each with a parent, to tour his factory. The children are selected by finding a golden ticket in one of his chocolate bars.

The first act introduces the children who find the golden tickets. Augustus Gloop (Benjamin Matta) is a glutton who can’t stop eating. Veruca Salt (Jenna Lunday) is a spoiled brat who demands that her daddy (Jay Evans) buy her everything she wants—instantly. Violet Beauregard (Izzy Weaver) is the world gum-chewing champion, and Mike Teavee (Trace Lundrum) is addicted to television. It would be difficult to imagine four more obnoxious children, and all are acted effectively with all their grotesque behavior made clear and supported by their equally grotesque enabling parents. The standout among these monsters is Jenna Lunday’s Veruca, who easily earns the dislike of the audience.

The exception to the horrific depiction of children in this story is Charlie Bucket, played brilliantly by Jonathan Matta. Charlie comes from a family so poor his four grandparents have been sharing the only bed in the house for seventeen years and all they ever eat is cabbage soup. But Charlie is an honest boy who cares for his family, especially his doting Grandpa Joe (Mark Joyner). Charlie’s duet with Grandpa Joe, “Think Positive,” is a delightfully performed answer to the bad behavior of everyone else and a musical highlight.

The second act has Willy Wonka leading the tour of the chocolate factory during which the behavior of each of the four awful children causes them to be sucked into Wonka’s factory’s processes and transformed in various ways. Charlie is not transformed but is almost dismissed by Wonka for disobeying an order. But Charlie is okay in the end and wins the grand prize.

Even if most of the characters are unpleasant and suffer for their behavior, the show is quite entertaining. The music is delightful, Willy Wonka is played by Sutter Street newcomer Derek Byrnes, standing a foot taller than anyone else. Byrnes plays the elusive character convincingly, and the wonderful Charlie of Jonathan Matta is delightful throughout. This is one of Sutter Street’s huge musicals, with a cast of thirty, and director Mike Jimena and choreographer Dian Hoel (who also plays Mrs. Teavee) insure an afternoon of delightful music and dance.

 

Sutter Street Theatre Wins 2nd Place Out Of 64 Theatres In Sacramento A-List!


 

COLE PORTER’S “ANYTHING GOES” SAILS INTO THE SUTTER STREET THEATRE

 

COLE PORTER’S “ANYTHING GOES” SAILS INTO THE SUTTER STREET THEATRE

Review by Gerry Camp

anything-goes Old Logo-minIt could only happen at Sutter Street Theatre. A huge musical with a cast of 24, choreography with the style and energy worthy of touring professionals, and of course the best songs in the American musical theatre songbook: Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” “It’s Delovely,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” and of course the title song “Anything Goes”—all presented on a stage that looks like it might be slightly larger than your dining room. No other community theatre company within fifty miles tacklesyear after year, the great classic musicals. That’s why I believe Sutter Street Theatre year after year is named the number one theatre group in the area. 

But Sutter Street is able to pull these miracles off annually because they have four secret resources no other group can match. The first is the management team of Mike Jimena and Connie Mockenhaupt. Mike directed this show, moving his excellent cast smoothly through a production that never slows. He also designed the perfect set and the effective lighting. Connie is not just a manager; she’s a star performer as she shows here in the lead as the evangelist become singer Reno Sweeney,who not only can belt out Porter’s hits but also reveals a delightful and occasionally shocking naughty streak.

The second asset on view here is the choreography of Dian Hoel, whose talent turns the whole cast, including some quite young dancers, into skilled hoofers who perform knockout production numbers you almost can’t believe. Behind these numbers, and behind the love duets and solos, is the fantastic accompanist John Wilder, who makes his keyboard sound like a full orchestra. The fourth magician is costume designer Eileen Beaver, who makes everyone look perfect, most with several changes. (And she’s an Elly nominated performer who is on stage in this show as well as behind the scenes!)

But none of this would add up if Sutter Street was unable to attract true star performers to inhabit their classy productions. My three favorites, in addition to Mockenhaupt, are three returning featured players. Michael Sicilia, last year’s Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls,” here is hilarious as Lord Evelyn, so eager to learn American idioms he keeps a notebook handy to jot down any he hears (and then misuses them delightfully.) Alison Gilbreath takes over the stage whenever she appears. Her “Let’s Step Out” brings down the house. And Rick Kleber, unforgettable in “Guys and Dolls” and “Spamalot,” is a total hoot as Moonface Martin, public enemy #13 masquerading as a priest. His big solo, “Be Like the Bluebird,” was for me the musical highlight of the evening.

You may have noticed that I’ve said nothing about the plot of this show. In fact, there are seemingly dozens of plots. But I don’t think you come to a Cole Porter show to get wrapped up in story. You come for the great songs, the fantastic singing, the amazing dancing. And “Anything Goes,” playing weekends through October 2, is another wonderful night of musical theatre you won’t see anywhere else.

 

Elly Award Nominations 2016 for Sutter Street Theatre

 

Sutter Street Theatre is proud to have received 22 Elly nominations for excellence in theatre.

The following received nominations.  Congratulations to all those nominated.

Mikala Venable
Eileen Beaver (2)
Lisa Matta
Adele Trapp (2)
Tessa Tally
Don Zimmerman
Drew Matthews
Kyle Namgostar
Sean Stewart
Connie Mockenhaupt (2)
Kevin Branson
Mike Jimena (2)
Crystal Evans
Cassie Hamilton
Benjamin Matta (2)
Joshua Matta
Rick Kleber

 

Gripping political drama plays at Sutter Street Theatre – The Best Man

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Monday Jul 25 2016

Gripping political drama plays at Sutter Street Theatre

By: Gerry Camp

Since I began covering shows at Sutter Street Theatre four years ago, I have come to look forward every season to the annual offering of a play featuring Stephen Kauffman. After a distinguished legal career Kauffman began working in local theatre in his 60’s and has appeared in 25 plays and musicals winning many awards. For Sutter Street Kauffman and his wife (and frequent director) Janelle and their production team bring serious drama (and Neil Simon classics) to Sutter Street’s stage.

This year’s offering is Gore Vidal’s 1960 drama of presidential politics “The Best Man.” In 1960 the candidacy of the Democratic Party was split between Adlai Stevenson (whom Vidal supported) and John F. Kennedy (whom he despised). Vidal has blended the two candidates into the womanizing but politically principled Harvard-educated patrician William Russell (Blake Flores in the strongest performance I’ve seen from this regular Sutter Street actor and director) and Senator Joseph Cantwell (Ross Branch, a regular in Kauffman’s offerings, as a JFK with the humor and personality replaced by a riveting viciousness).

In 1960 political conventions were quite different from those of today. Rather than coronations of nominees selected in primaries and caucuses, conventions were conducted to choose, sometimes through many ballots, between candidates with their own groups of delegates. In the convention shown in this play both candidates seek the endorsement of ex-president Arthur Hockstader (Kauffman), which will ensure one of them the nomination. As he always does, Kauffman the actor disappears into the character, making the audience believe he must have been an effective and popular president and showing his delight in the backstage wheeling and dealing. The drama is created by the fact that each candidate has a secret bit of “dirt” about the other, unknown to the delegates, with the potential to destroy if it became known. Will they agree to keep what they know under wraps, or will one or both drop his bomb?

Director James Gilbreath has used his excellent cast to turn this somewhat dated play into a compelling, suspense-filled drama. I was especially impressed by Alison Miller as Russell’s estranged wife Alice, supporting her husband despite his infidelities, and by Rich Kirlin as Russell’s campaign manager Dick Jensen, who struggles to persuade the idealistic Russell to embrace the dirty realities of real politics.

It may seem risky for Sutter Street to offer a play about behind-the-scenes presidential politics to potential customers who may be weary of today’s political scene. To people who feel this way, I urge you, if you love theatre, to take a chance. This is a suspenseful, gripping drama by an outstanding playwright performed brilliantly by some of the best actors in the area at the peak of their talents. It’s excellence as drama will make you forget completely about the choices our current political scene offers.

Sutter Street Theatre Flies Through “A Wrinkle in Time” Review

 

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Sutter Street Theatre Flies Through “A Wrinkle in Time”

Review by Gerry Camp / Folsom Telegraph

            Live theatre always demands a collaboration between the audience and the performers. No matter how elaborate a stage set may be, we viewers always agree to pretend we’re watching real people doing real things in real places. Sometimes a playwright relies on this contract to take his audience to fantastic places: Oz, Wonderland, or, in the fantasy voyage “A Wrinkle In Time,” to far-off planets, both good and evil. The play, adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s classic novel by John Glore, plays at Sutter Street Theatre weekends through July 17.

            Grace Mauro is riveting as the brilliant but awkward Meg Murry, whose father has disappeared on a super-secret government mission. The weird lady down the block, Mrs. Whatsit, might be able to help her reach him, understanding that she must travel through time and space using a process called a “tesseract,” which is a very risky undertaking.

            Accompanying Meg will be her eccentric little brother Charles Wallace (he reads minds), played with great authority and charm by one of the best young actors in the area, Sean Stewart. (Seeing the change in Charles Wallace when the evil force IT takes over his mind late in the play is very creepy.) Also along for the adventure is Meg’s timid friend Calvin (Caiden Falco), who deftly adds a comic touch as a regular kid who surprises Meg and himself by demonstrating real courage when things get especially scary.

            The remainder of the dozen or so characters are played by three actors. Mrs. Whatsit, a sort of whimsical bag lady who also appears as the evil Man With Red Eyes, was played opening weekend by stage manager Jennie Vaccaro filling in for Linda Taylor who was ill. Vaccaro, carrying a script, was excellent. The children’s mother was played by Felicia Slechta, who also was very comical as Mrs. Who, and later appeared as a faceless but friendly being referred to as Aunt Beast. Keven Branson was forceful as the voice of Mrs. Which, a glowing ball and as Mr. Murry, the father, and in numerous brief parts.

            How do you present on stage a tale that shows its characters zooming through space and time, confronting aliens, and facing threats on several planets? Shakespeare once told his audience, “Let us . . . on your imaginary forces work,” and the playwright and director Michael Coleman ask the same of their audience. The unobtrusive narration by the actors and the minimal set of folding screens and boxes skillfully moved as the action takes place, accompanied by Coleman’s unworldly sound and light effects, help us imagine we are seeing strange worlds.

            Many adults  like me will remember the novel with pleasure from their childhood reading. But those unfamiliar with the book who can immerse themselves in a great story well told, and young viewers who enjoy being taken on thrilling adventures, will find “A Wrinkle in Time” a delightful afternoon of theatre, one in which they participate as well as watch.

Sutter Street Theatre’s “The Foreigner” offers laughs and emotion

 

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Monday Jun 13 2016

Sutter Street Theatre’s “The Foreigner” offers laughs and emotion

By: Gerry Camp

Charlie Baker (Tim Yancey), a depressed sci-fi proofreader with zero self esteem–he describes himself as “profoundly boring”—is “The Foreigner” in Larry Shue’s multiple award-winning comedy, Sutter Street Theatre’s latest gift to Folsom.His wife cheats on him (he mention 23 lovers) and may be dying. His buddy Froggy LeSueur (Aurelio Martinez, a newcomer at Sutter Street with a true comic flair) decides he needs a vacation and deposits him in a run-down Georgia hunting lodge. Charlie says he is too shy and upset to speak to anyone, so Froggy tells his friend Betty, the owner of the lodge (Eileen Beaver), that Charlie is a foreigner and speaks no English.

“This is a play for theatre-lovers who love over-the-top comedy, but also, for those who like a play with real feeling beneath the farce, this is a must!”

Soon the other guests at the lodge are discussing their most intimate secrets in front of Charlie, and he learns that Catherine (Vanessa Voetsch) is pregnant and her fiancé, the not so pious Rev. David Marshall Lee (John Hopkins) is marrying her for her money and plans, with his KKK buddy Owen Musser (Jason Titus) to have the lodge condemned so they can make it over into the headquarters for the coming “invisible empire.”

Catherine’s apparently not-too-bright brother Ellard (a hilarious Kevin Judson) sets out to teach Charlie his version of English, making “fork,” for example, a three-syllable word: “fow-war-ka”, etc. Charlie “learns” rapidly, his learning accompanied by hilarious mimicry, pantomime, and dancing. In Act 2 Charlie’s “native” language begins to emerge, a sort of Russian/Polish gobbledygook, and soon Charlie is entertaining by enacting stories, which the others seem almost to understand, and even teaching his language to his listeners.Of course Charlie knows all the plotting, and he and Ellard, who is not as dim as he first appeared, concoct a plan to foil the evildoers.

Director Blake Flores milks this comic setup for non-stop laughs, and the competent cast keep them coming. In addition to Judson, who seems to be having huge fun playing the seeming simpleton who ends up reading Shakespeare, I was especially entertained by Eileen Beaver as Betty, who exudes kindness through the thickest Georgia accent imaginable and knows Charlie will understand her if she just shouts loud enough.

The clear star of the show, as he must be, is Tim Yancey as Charlie. With very few (English) lines, Yancey shows Charlie’s growth as a person—he tells Froggie he grew a personality—by becoming someone else. So timid at the beginning he could not finish his own sentences, he is, at the end, a hero who can terrorize the foulest villain imaginable (Titus’s Owen) into running in fear from the house. I’ve seen Yancey in two other totally different roles, both brilliantly played, and he is clearly one of the finest actors in this area. Watching what he does with his face and his body is worth the price of the ticket.

This is a play for theatre-lovers who love over-the-top comedy, but also, for those who like a play with real feeling beneath the farce, this is a must!

Sutter Street opens “Spamalot,” the silliest musical ever

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Thursday Apr 14 2016

Review by Gerry Camp

So you’re trying to break into a French castle, and you create a large wooden rabbit. The French take it inside, and only then do you remember you should have hidden inside it. Silly? Yes. But that is the kind of things you expect if you are a fan of the comedy of Monty Python.

Written by Python’s Eric Idle, “Spamalot” is about King Arthur creating the Knights of the Round Table to find the holy grail, but it is also about how to make a Broadway musical. Its best song is just like the big number in all Broadway musicals; it’s even called “A Song That Sounds Like This.” But someone says it can’t be a Broadway show because “we don’t have any Jews.” Silly? Yes. And so funny that the show won the Tony as Best Musical in 2005 and has played in at least twenty countries.

Sutter Street Theatre has again done the impossible, presenting this version with a cast of 22 playing at least 30 roles. Genius director Connie Mockenhaupt has made it work, aided by the magnificent accompaniment of John Wilder, the fantastic costumes by Eileen Weaver, and the inventive choreography of Dian Hoel, who has chorus girls and can can dancers invading every scene. Sutter Street is at its best when doing musicals, and this show adds another jewel to its crown.

The show opens with a historian, (Mike Jimena) reading a history of medieval England. The cast thought he said “Finland,” and perform a dance slapping each other with fish. When we’re back in England we meet Robin (Michael Sandidge) collecting victims of the plague. Lancelot (Derek Byrne) drags in a corpse (the rubber-faced Tom Bost) who sings and dances to prove he’s “Not Dead Yet.”

King Arthur, played by Rick Kleber, whose rich baritone will be remembered from last season’s “Guys and Dolls,” appears accompanied by his servant Patsy (Mark Androvich), who claps two coconut shells to sound like the hooves of his horse. Arthur is recruiting knights for his quest, and Robin and Lancelot agree to join him. He soon confronts a very left-wing peasant, Dennis Galahad (the hilarious Scott Minor) who attacks Arthur for not being properly elected. Arthur bases his claim to be ruler on the evidence of the sword Excalibur, and conjures the Lady of the Lake (Allison Gilbreath) who gave him the sword. She and her “Laker Girls” turn Dennis into Sir Galahad. God (a voice over) sends Arthur and his knights off on their holy quest.

Act Two continues along the same silly lines including a meeting with the terrifying Knights who say Ni, who demand that Arthur produce a shrubbery. The Lady of the Lake reappears, complaining that she hasn’t been seen in this act, singing “What happened to my part?”

There are too many more subplots to describe here, and sight gags pop up in every corner. If you think that silly can be terrific fun, you must see this show, which I predict will be selling out every performance. The show ends as “a show that ends like this,” a wedding, and an audience sing along with the cast.