Yearly Archives: 2014

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas With ‘Scrooge: The Musical’

Scrooge-The-Musical-2014-spreckels-2Scrooge: The Musical
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Directed by David Yen
Music Direction by Tina Lloyd Meals
Choreography by Michella Snider

For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company

RUN: November 28 – December 21, 2014
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(November 28, 2014)

Based on the popular 1970 film Scrooge, and adapted for the stage in 1992, the musical follows the timeless story of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. There have been many retellings of the novella, from classic stage productions to Doctor Who’s science fiction adventure. The musical warms the heart and left half the audience singing excerpts on their way to the parking lot, a sure sign of a successful production. The songs are catchy, cheerful numbers, interwoven perfectly with the plot to bring the story along. It did not feel as though the action stopped in order to have a song, it is an integrated musical flowing in and out of the dialogue.

Rather than elaborate sets, the Spreckels production uses projections as the backdrop (designed by Gene Abravaya and edited by Rio Macchia), allowing for spine-chilling apparition scenes and snow covered London streets. Make the Most of This World was particularly effective, combining the projection system with audience interaction and the brilliant acting of Tim Setzer as Scrooge.


Creating Dickens’ quintessential character requires a balance of comedic timing, authenticity, and care not to become too outrageous in the portrayal. Tim Setzer as Scrooge kept the audience riveted without breaking the magic. Bob Cratchit (Ben Acedo) was immediately charismatic in an amiable fashion, and an excellent dancer. He and Abby Chambers as Mrs. Cratchit drew empathy for their family. The children, while sincere, did not have a powerful stage presence.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Pam Koppel) radiated a sweet disposition, slowly melting the cold heart of Scrooge, as she guided him through long lost memories. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Jon Rathjen) was jolly and enthusiastic, but difficult to hear, as his voice did not project well. The visit to Fred (Zack Howard) was staged brilliantly, with a rousing game of The Minister’s Cat.

Scrooge-The-Musical-2014-spreckels-3Costuming (Pamela Enz) was a mix of eras, with 1899 being the primary choice, in a vivid array of colors. Christmas Past wore a lovely walking dress inspired by 1875, matching her nostalgic presence. I was pleased to see there were no corsets on the outside, a look that has unfortunately become the norm for Victorian era theatre productions.

Scrooge: The Musical is an enchanting production for the whole family, kindling the generous Christmas spirit in each of us, and ringing in the holiday season with laughter and merriment. Prepare for a delightful evening that will leave you smiling and humming for days.

Exotic Charm – ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

SSU-Importance-of-Being-Earnest-2014-bollywoodTHE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Judy Navas

Sonoma State University Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
Evert. B Person Theatre

RUN: October 30 – November 9, 2014
RATING: 2 of 5 stars

November 2, 2014

Elegant and engrossing, Oscar Wilde’s witty commentary on Victorian upper class society has entertained audiences since 1895. Written at the height of his popularity, its delightful insight into the triviality of society has an appeal to this day. Sonoma State University’s production brings an exotic element to the famous play by introducing the setting as India during the Raj, when the British government formally took control of India during 1858-1947. The director, Judy Navas, was inspired by a visit to India to set Earnest in Calcutta, rather than London, giving the play a “fresh perspective” It succeeds admirably, accentuating the general silliness of the characters, while adding color and depth to scenes that would not be possible had it been set in traditional London drawing rooms.

Peter Crompton’s set design and Jenny Nguyen’s lighting are sumptuous in their Indian flair, keeping a light elegance that complements the play. Act II opens with vivid desert colors, silhouetted intricate gate designs, and graceful palms embracing an intimate fountain courtyard, perfect for the meeting of Algernon and Cecily.

SSU-Importance-of-Being-Earnest-2014-proposalIn the challenging role of Jack, who must flirt, cavort, and glare stoically in rapid succession, Rusty Thompson is brilliant, combining physical comedy and verbal wit, a true joy to watch. The ladies, Cecily (Katee Drysdale) and Gwendolyn (JoAnn Amos), flit about in an array of colorful gowns with vivacious energy, although there could be more variety of expression and timing in the delivery of their lines. Miss Prism (Renee Hardin) and Dr. Chasuble (Dominic Dei Rossi) are charming, and Lady Bracknell (Cat Bish) is tolerable, but the true stars of the production were the servants. During the entirety of the play, Lane (Tristan Atkinson) and Merriman (Allan Chornak) were absolutely delightful. From fearful tip-toeing in with tea during Cecily and Gwendolyn’s encounter, to fanning Lady Bracknell as she blustered, they were comedic gems in the play, and a tribute to Judy Navas’ inventiveness. Also of note is the live sitar music provided by Peter Van Gelder during scene transitions.

While it may not be the most polished production of Earnest, the exotic setting and new perspective of the production is well worth seeing. Sonoma State University’s Earnest is cleverly staged with beautiful sets and filled with humorous moments. Setting the play during the Raj was a stroke of genius.

Luck is a Lady for ‘Guys and Dolls’

spreckels guys and dolls 2014Guys and Dolls
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Directed by Gene Abravaya
Music Direction by Janis Wilson
Choreography by Michella Snider

For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company

RUN: October 10-26, 2014
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(October 11, 2014)

Broadway’s golden era is brought to life in Rohnert Park with a twinkle in the eye. Join fast-talking gangsters, upstanding soul saving citizens, and scantily clad chorus girls in a romp through New York in 1950. The play is filled with beloved musical numbers, such as “I’ll Know”, “If I Were a Bell”, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”, “Luck Be a Lady” and “Guys and Dolls”, performed by a stellar singing cast. Turn off the baseball game and find a seat at Spreckels, before the run is out.

Tough gangsters with hearts of gold roam the streets of this production, portrayed to perfection. Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Ted Smith) bumbles his way into the audience’s heart, Benny Southstreet (Kyle Stoner) is hilarious as the stringy sidekick trying to make good, Harry the Horse (Benjamin Sweeney Acedo) dominates with the style of a young George Clooney, and Big Jule (David Crone) could have emerged out of a Godfather movie. Their partner in crime, Nathan Detroit (Tim Setzer) manages charm under duress between desperately trying to find a location for the roving craps game, and his lovely but impatient fiancée. The hoodlum antics were the best part of this production, scene stealing with every appearance on stage, much as their cinematic counterparts did in the Humphrey Bogart era of films.

Prancing their way through charming campy dance sequences at the Hot Box, the chorus girls clearly enjoyed their roles, whether kicking their heels up in bright yellow feathers, or tossing pearls aside in “Take Back Your Mink.” Miss Adelaide (Denise Elia-Yen) brought the full Bronx attitude to her role, slurring her way through every emotionally charged confrontation with absolute confidence. Elia-Yen captured the enthusiastic nasal shrillness of New York without becoming irritating, striding through the play in an ever-changing array of lovely vintage dresses.

spreckels-guys-and-dolls-cuba-2014The romantic storyline of Sarah Brown (Stephanie Dietz) and Sky Masterson (Anthony Martinez) prompted by a bet, and ending in true love, was well handled, but not brilliant. Dietz has a beautiful singing voice, and was outstanding in the drunk Sarah scenes in Cuba, but not believable in the upright mission good girl role. She may have been showing that the character was not entirely happy in the mission, and was looking for excitement, but it came across with a bit of a white swan vs black swan conundrum. The entire Cuba sequence was fantastic, with snarky tourist travel, Michella Snider’s dancing, and the comedic bar fight.

Spreckels’ Paradyne Projection System was integrated with particular effect in this production, swiftly changing scenes from blinking neon lights of Broadway to shabby brick buildings, or the lush tropics of Havana. The set design (Eddie Hansen and Elizabeth Bazzano) was kept streamlined, to co-ordinate with the projections, and worked well with the simple yet elegant costume designs of Pamela Enz. I was impressed with the subtle blue accents of the romantic couples that slowly evolved into full blue gowns for the women in the moment when they decided to give their guy a chance.

In the stress of modern life, it is revitalizing to attend a vintage comedy such as Guys and Dolls. If laughter is a medicine, Spreckels has a prescription ready with this scintillating musical. Join the street toughs, saints, and showgirls of Guys and Dolls in Rohnert Park for an evening of thrills, mirth, and an all-around great show.

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