Donald’s notes: Constantine Pappas gets big break in ‘Phantom’

Quick updates on Miles Gaston Villanueva, the Selma Arts Center Awards, some stylish GCP housewives, Heidi Blickenstaff in ‘Freaky Friday,’ and a last word on the Fresno Philharmonic’s new music director

A roundup of stuff on the arts beat that recently caught my eye:

‘Let the Dream Begin’: A national Raoul

If you spent any time taking in the local opera scene in recent years, you knew the talented and charismatic Constantine Pappas — and probably guessed that he was going big places. From memorable roles at the California Opera Association to strong performances with Fresno State Opera Theatre as a voice major, Pappas offered a voice and dynamic stage presence that was hard to miss.

Photograph of Constantine Pappas made up as an old man and a young man.
All made up: Constantine Pappas in a recent rehearsal as Raoul (both old and young) in the national tour of ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’

After a stint singing on a cruise ship and time doing some smaller stage roles, including a Connecticut run in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Pappas was set to appear in a summer production of “The Fantasticks” at Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora. Then he got the call from his agent: He’d just landed a role understudying the character of Raoul in the national tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

That’s a big deal. This is the same big first-tier production that toured through Fresno in 2016, complete with a redesigned massive set and impressively sized orchestra.

Besides being ready to go on at a moment’s notice to play the starring role or Raoul — the only suitor of Christine in the musical with an un-disfigured face — Pappas also plays various ensemble roles in the show. He’s listed on the website as the “Porter.” He tells me:

The Porter is one of the guys in the opening prologue who helps the auctioneer present the items being auctioned. I also have a variety of other roles in the show (soldier, flunky, stagehand, opera box guest, opera singer, fireman).

The actor who plays Raoul hasn’t had to call out sick since Pappas joined the cast as an understudy. But some performances with him filling in are scheduled in advance to cover vacation days. He’ll perform Raoul at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 11. Pappas will have some special people in the audience: On Thursday, his girlfriend and some out-of-town friends will be there. And on Saturday, “I’ll have the whole Greek entourage from Fresno driving in for the weekend and seeing the show! Lots of excitement!”

Fun Broadway fact: Constantine’s uncle is Evan Pappas, who starred in the 1992 Broadway production of the musical “My Favorite Year.” I was just listening to it this morning.


Fresno actor plays Beverly Hills criminal: Catching up

Miles Gaston Villanueva is another actor with Fresno roots whose career is thriving. The Fresno State theater alum recently had some big news to share: He’ll be playing Lyle Menendez on NBC.

bradmiles

One of Villanueva’s mentors, Fresno State theater professor Brad Myers, caught up with his former student at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore. Myers had this to say on Facebook:

This is Miles. Miles’ talent is bigger than his left bicep and his heart is bigger than his right bicep. Miles is becoming more and more famous. He is a soap opera star (Young and the Restless); he just starred in a stage play opposite Al Pacino; and look for him this Fall playing the infamous Lyle Menendez in NBC’s mini series “Law and Order True Crime.”

According to Deadline Hollywood, the series will debut this fall:

The eight-episode first season will focus on the infamous case of Lyle (Villanueva) and Erik Menendez (Gus Halper), brothers who were convicted in 1996 of murdering their parents seven years earlier. After a mistrial and deadlocked juries — there was one trial but two separate juries, one for each brother — the brothers later were re-tried and convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Edie Falco also stars in the series as defense attorney Leslie Abramson.


Large group of actors standing in front of a SACA backdrop.
All dressed up: Happy faces at the Selma Arts Center Awards.

And the award goes to: SACAs bash

Actors can clean up quite nicely, especially for awards shows. I missed the inaugural Selma Arts Center Awards gala and fundraiser Saturday night, but the Facebook aftermath was impressive. Dominic Grijalva posted the above photo and writes: “Just some of my beautiful familia from shows past and present. #SACAs were a HUGE success. Congratulations to Juan Luis Guzman for putting this whole thing together along with everyone else who made it happen. We all walked away winners!”

Speaking of winners, here’s the complete list:

saca awards

Grijalva is co-director of “35mm,” the next Selma Arts Center production. It opens June 16.


good company damn yankees housewives
Baseball widows: the cast of Good Company’s ‘Damn Yankees,’ which continues through July 9 at Roger Rocky’s Dinner Theater. Photo / GCP

I love this photo

Thanks to famed Good Company Players costume designer Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed, the housewives in “Damn Yankees” look ready for prime-time. A nod to GCP for innovative marketing.


#WCW: ‘Freaky Friday’

Heidi Blickenstaff onstage in 'Freaky Friday.'
Mom-daughter swap: Heidi Blickenstaff in ‘Freaky Friday.’ Photo / Margot Schulman

GCP alum and Broadway star Heidi Blickenstaff, a favorite of this blog, continues to wow audiences in the new musical “Freaky Friday.” The show is playing at Houston’s Alley Theatre through July 2. There she bumped into none other than Skyler Gray, former artistic director of Fresno’s Children’s Musical Theaterworks, who is now literary manager at the Alley, for a wide-ranging discussion that includes big props to Blickenstaff’s formative years at Good Company Players. Here’s a PDF link to the article Gray put together for the “Freaky Friday” program.

By the way: If you haven’t listened to the original cast album of “Freaky Friday” yet, you’re missing out. Blickenstaff is terrific.


Sign of the times?: No room at Pardini’s

IMG_0791Finally, I couldn’t resist this photo at Tuesday’s big unveiling of new Fresno Philharmonic music director Rei Hotoda. The words “SOLD OUT” haven’t been used at one of the orchestra’s events in a long time (and part of that is due to the fact that it plays in the vast Saroyan Theatre). But the Hotoda announcement, which was held at Pardini’s, attracted an overflow, standing-room-only crowd of several hundred, and Fresno Philharmonic staff — who dug up the sign in their office — had to turn people away at the door. Could that bode well for the future?


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Author: Donald Munro

Covering the arts in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond.

2 thoughts on “Donald’s notes: Constantine Pappas gets big break in ‘Phantom’”

  1. Hey! Nice article on my nephew Constantine! Super proud of him. Per your “fun fact” My Favorite Year was on Broadway in 1992 not 1979. I’m old but I’m not that old. 😊Love your blog. All best, Evan

    1. Thanks, Evan. Didn’t mean to age you prematurely! (For some reason, iTunes lists the musical as 1979. Glad you caught that.)

      I was totally serious when I wrote that I was listening to the music this morning. I find “Twenty Million People” a fantastic early-morning wake-up song — better than coffee! Sometimes I even sing along with you. 🙂

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