Louise Mandrell takes on ‘Calamity Jane’
A roundup of this weekend’s theater openings:
Fresno finally gets to meet Louise Mandrell.
Anticipation has been building in the theater community for months for the Good Company Players production of “Calamity Jane,” now in its opening weekend at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. The classic musical stars Mandrell in the title role. Here’s a rundown:
The show: “Calamity Jane” is one of those musicals that started out first as a movie — this one from the 1953 film starring Doris Day. The musical, written in 1961 with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster and music by Sammy Fain, is loosely based on tales from the life of Martha Jane Cannary, an American frontierswoman and professional scout. In the show, the Old West sharpshooter slowly sheds her “tomboy” image as she falls in love with the famed “Wild Bill” Hickok.
The star: For the first time in its history, Good Company is bringing in an above-the-marquee name to appear in a local show. Known for her solo country music career and the TV show “Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters,” she has logged thousands of hours of stage and TV experience (and headlined a theater bearing her name), but she’s always wanted to tackle the stage. This will be her musical theater debut. She moved temporarily to Fresno last month for the duration of the run. Some of her fans from across the country are making the trip to see the show.
The production: Lori Pessano directs the show, which also features Jacob Carrillo, Tami Cowger, Dorie Sanders, Teddy Maldonado, Brian Pucheu, Dan Pessano and Emily Pessano.
Details: Through Sept. 16, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon Ave. gcplayers.com, (559) 266-9494. $29-$49.
In a quirk of scheduling, not one but two theater companies in the Valley are opening the musical “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”:
CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre celebrates its 20th anniversary season at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre with its musical production of the popular show, which portrays Huck (Max Debbas) and his friend Jim (La-Mont Walker) traveling down the Mississippi River. While Huck is running away from those who want him to comply with the demands of civilization, director Josh Montgomery explains that Jim is “running for his very freedom and family. Both are leaving behind their pasts and reaching for their futures.”
The cast of 27 ranges in age from 13-73, with most playing multiple roles. ” ‘Big River’ is all about humanity, our relationships as humans, and our sameness in mind, body and spirit,” Montgomery says. “It represents the ending of oppression and the journey to freedom through a friendship that deepens on the big river.”
For an extended interview with Montgomery about the production, go to fresnobeehive.com.
Details: Through July 28, Mercedes Edwards Theatre, 902 5th St., Clovis. centerstageclovis.com, (559) 323-8744. $15-$18.
The Tulare County Office of Education Theatre Company opens its version of “Big River” at the L.J. Williams Theater in Visalia. The cast of 38 includes a guest artist for the first time: Harrison Mills as Jim.
Says director Brian Roberts: “I felt the relationship between an adolescent Huck and an adult Jim was just too important. Having Harrison involved has been a joy and very inspiring to our young performers.”
Details: Through July 28, L.J. Williams Theatre, 1001 W. Main St., Visalia. tcoe.org/theatreco, (559) 651-1482. $12-$20.
Children’s Musical Theaterworks opens “Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (Kids)” in a 40-minute stage adaptation based on the popular film. The show is directed by Jenny Myers and stars CMT’s youngest performers, ages 6-10.
Details: Through July 28, Fresno Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St. cmtworks.com, (559) 442-3140. $12-$22.
The E&e Performing Arts Center in Kingsburg presents “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.” The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm are fractured as two narrators and several actors attempt to combine all 209 stories into one story.
Details: Through Sunday, Draper Street Theatre, 1440 Draper St., Kingsburg. engstromtheatre.com, (559) 897-1111. $10-$12.
‘Sixteen in 10′
Jump Right In Productions presents “Sixteen in 10 Minutes or Less,” an original play written by Bradley Hayward, at the Broken Leg Stage. The cast features high school students from the Fresno-Clovis area.
Details: Through Aug. 5, Broken Leg Stage, 1470 N. Van Ness Ave. jumprightin.co. $15.
By Donald Munro