I’ve already told you about the opening of Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Let’s take a look at four other weekend theater openings: “School of Rock,” “Alice,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Shakespeare in Love.”
‘School of Rock’
Opens: Friday, Aug. 3 at the Selma Arts Center. Continues through Aug. 11.
The show: This rock musical (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes) is based on the 2003 film of the same name starring Jack Black about an out-of-work rocker who pretends to be a teacher at a prep school.
The backstory: The school-age performance rights for this Broadway musical, which is still playing in New York, were recently released, but adult-age companies will have to wait. (That’s the usual pattern.) Selma Arts Center is debuting the title with its newly founded teen theater company. The cast of 27 ranges in age from 10 to 19.
The director: Adrian Oceguera. He and Olivia Hayes, who plays the leading role of Rosalie in the show, were guests on the August episode of “The Munro Review,” produced by CMAC. You can watch the interview here:
I asked Oceguera after the show to answer a few more questions.
Q: The movie version came out before some of your cast members were born, I’m assuming. Were they familiar with the material?
A: Ha! Some of them were fortunate to have experienced the amazingness that is “School of Rock,” but to make sure for those who hadn’t, we did a screening of the movie at our company meeting. We also assigned “homework” to watch the movie. After that, the characters really came to life.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for you as director?
A: Honestly, scheduling. Previously, I directed a show in the winter (February) and thought it was difficult working around school events and functions. Only to realize that during the summer a lot of families like to take week-long vacations and have constant getaways. It was a little daunting trying to work around as many conflicts as I could.
Besides logistics (especially with “Bring It On” closing the week before we open), the most difficult part was integrating instrumental music on stage. I wanted the actors to put in time and commitment to learning what these rock instruments were about. Sure, there aren’t any Hendrixs or Santanas on stage, but we worked it out to where an actor could focus on one particular song during the rehearsal process. I am very proud of what they’ve been able to do.
Q: How do you feel being the first theater in the area to put on this title?
A: I’m really glad that we decided to take this title on. The raw energy and in-your-face attitude of the show really contradicts a lot of folks’ natural thoughts regarding musical theater, and I’m glad that I got to perform that with young actors. Teenagers are the perfect age group for this sort of thing. They (mostly) have an endless supply of energy, and are going through that “angsty” phase that helps fuel the passion beneath each one of the songs in the production. Most directors might tell an actor or cast to refrain from having attitudes or stay away from drama … I invite them to use it to power their show.
Q: What are your long-term hopes for the teen company?
A: I’d really like to see it grow and become a staple in the community just like a Children’s Musical Theaterworks or Tulare County Office of Education. These companies do what they do very well, and I’m hoping we can learn from that, but also put a Selma spin on it. At the end of the day, as long as there are more opportunities for the very hungry young performers of the Valley, I’ll be satisfied. More opportunity, more experience, more fun. That’s my dream!
Opened: Thursday, Aug. 2, at 6312 N. Delbert Ave., Fresno (private residence). Runs through Aug. 5.
The show: This original play (music, book and lyrics by Dakota Simpson; featuring songs by Jeremy Hitch) is a comic retelling of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
The backstory: Local theater can be dramatic in itself. The August episode of “The Munro Review” features Katie Hale (artistic director of the Outdustrial Theatre Company and original producer of “Alice,” and also an actor in the show) and C.J. Dion, another “Alice” actor. After the show was taped, I received a message from Hale saying that Outdustrial was no longer producing the project “due to unforeseen creative differences.” Hale and Dion are no longer involved with “Alice,” which is now being produced by Simpson Theatricals. Several cast changes have been made.
The director: Dakota Simpson.
The details: Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. The play will be performed outside. Seating is limited (but space is ample), and audience members are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. Donations (cash and checks) will be accepted at the door.
‘Beauty and the Beast’
Opens: Friday, Aug. 3, at Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium. A Children’s Musical Theaterworks production. Continues through Aug. 12.
The show: You know it well, from the talking teacup to the dancing scene in the library. This production features the youngest CMT performers, ages 6-13.
Director: Eric Estep.
Tickets: $14-22 adults, $10 children. The Munro Review is giving away a four-pack of tickets to any performance on the second weekend. To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite “Beauty and the Beast” character. Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6.
‘Shakespeare in Love’
Opens: Friday, Aug. 3 at Visalia’s Ice House Theatre. A Visalia Community Players production. Continues through Aug. 19.
The show: It’s the stage version of the 1998 Oscar-winning movie.
The director: Teresa Hylton. “It’s a fun, lighthearted romp,” she told the Visalia Times-Delta. “If you’re familiar with Shakespeare you’ll get some of the inside jokes, but you don’t need to be a Shakespearean scholar to enjoy the play.”
Tickets: $16; $12 for students in advance. $20 and $16 at the door.
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