News Column

The Fresno Bee, Donald Munro column

July 27, 2013

YellowBrix

July 27--On Wednesday, I started a mini-marathon.

That night I caught the new Good Company Players musical offering of "Curtains" at Roger Rocka's Dinner Theater. As I write this column on Thursday morning, still digesting that delightful performance, my plans are set for my extended weekend: a play a day through today. Five shows in all.

Part of my busy schedule is because I came back Monday to work after a two-week break. I try to see as many Fresno-area theater openings as I can, and it often takes me a little time to catch up when returning from time off. (One of the shows, CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," will already have closed by the time you read this -- sometimes you have to act fast.)

But the other reason is we're in the full swing of summer theater season, a time that always puts a little more swagger in my step.

And there's more to come this week.

One great thing about this time of year is that there's so much variety. Though I've only seen "Curtains" so far out of the following list, I know enough about the others to make some recommendations. Here's a guide for those looking for a fix of live theater:

Looking for a lighthearted, musical comedy whodunit? GCP's "Curtains" (continuing through Sept. 15) is a stellar production of a relatively new Broadway show. The pedigree is impressive: It's the final show from John Kander and Fred Ebb, the creators of "Chicago." And the local casting is wonderful, with Tyler Branco giving us a fiercely funny and original rendition of the title role -- a Broadway-obsessed Boston police detective investigating the murder of a musical theater star -- created in New York by David Hyde Pierce.

Hoping to see a New York star in an acclaimed recent musical? Sara Gettelfinger, who played in the original Off-Broadway production of "Grey Gardens," has traveled to Fresno to play the tour de force dual role of Young Big Edie and Old Big Edie in the StageWorks Fresno premiere (continuing through Aug. 11 at the Dan Pessano Theatre in the Shaghoian Hall complex) of the show. Gettelfinger, who just finished a run starring as Morticia in the first national tour of "The Addams Family," continues the StageWorks summer pattern of bringing in professional actors to join with a talented local cast. (She's joined by Jessie Withers, a film, stage and opera professional, who portrays the role played by Gettelfinger in the Off-Broadway production.) The story, about an eccentric mother and daughter who become recluses in a decrepit Long Island mansion, is based upon the acclaimed 1975 documentary.

Not interested in song or dance and looking for a play with some intellectual heft? The Woodward Shakespeare Festival production of "Inherit the Wind," the classic tale of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, poses intriguing questions about creationism vs. evolutionism in an age of science. There's sure to be plenty about to talk about on the drive home from Woodward Park. It continues through Aug. 10.

Need a "Les Miserables" fix? Reedley's River City Theatre Company is in the middle of its run of the musical, which seems ubiquitous this summer after the rights were released to community and regional theaters. One plus this production has going for it is the intimate space of the historic Reedley Opera House, which lets you get up close to a show known for its epic scale. It continues through Aug. 4.

Revisit a classic: It's been more than 10 years since "A Chorus Line" got a significant production in the Fresno area. Children's Musical Theaterworks is making the title its big summer show, featuring performers ages 15-20. One impressive note: The production, which opens Friday and continues through Aug. 10 at the Fresno Memorial Auditorium, includes a 17-piece orchestra.

Nook joins the list

The Barnes and Noble e-bookstore was a little slow getting in on the act, but my e-book about 40 years of Good Company Players -- "The Company We Keep" -- is finally available to read on Nook devices. The book has been available on Kindle and iBooks since its release June 26. Download it for $2.99 and read the in-depth story of Dan Pessano and the remarkable company he helped to build.

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6373, dmunro@fresnobee.com and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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