The List: ‘St. John Passion,’ ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ and more
Welcome to The List, a curated offering of promising events for the weekend. Why stand in line to see “The Avengers” when there’s a whole world of local stuff to enjoy and support? (You can always catch an “Avengers” weekday matinee.)
1. Experience the grandeur of ‘St. John Passion’
You have to go back to 1957 for the last time the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale performed J.S. Bach’s monumental “St. John Passion.” The 2019 version this weekend will be one to remember. The Master Chorale, under the direction of Anna Hamre, is performing a semi-staged version of the famed (and famously difficult) oratorio, which recounts the last days of Jesus. The production includes 160 singers, 35 instrumentalists, a bunch of period costumes and several guest actors and soloists, including Terry Lewis as Jesus, Lim Forgey as Pontius Pilate, Brian Thorsett as The Evangelist, and Maria Briggs and Julie Miller as the female soloists.
A semi-staged version of the Passion is a rare event. On the April episode of “The Munro Review on CMAC,” I interviewed chorus president Alan Peters and stage director Allison Windmiller about what the audience can expect at Sunday’s performance. The interview begins at the 3:45 mark:
It sounds like it’s going to be a memorable event. One interesting thing Peters told me is that the choir in this production plays the part of the “mob,” which is one of the important players in a Passion story. Another fun fact: One of the singers in this St. John Passion performance also sang it in 1957: John Donaldson. Congratulations, John.
If you go: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28, Shaghoian Hall. Tickets are $25. A pre-concert lecture will be held at 1:30 p.m.
2. Neil Simon’s ‘Brighton Beach’ returns
When Neil Simon died last year, he left behind a rich legacy that includes his acclaimed autobiographical “Trilogy” series. “Brighton Beach Memoirs” is the first of those plays, and director Karan Johnson and Good Company Players have brought it back to the 2nd Space Theatre for a run that continues through June 16.
Coming very soon, I have a wonderful interview with Johnson and Fresno theater newcomer Lyndsey Rae, who plays the role of Blanche, about the process of putting together the show.
Sneak preview of that interview: Johnson has played Blanche before. What is it like for an actor to play a director’s former role?
If you go: Through June 16, 2nd Space Theatre. Tickets are $20 general, $18 students and seniors.
3. ‘Three Musketeers’ in Visalia
At College of the Sequoias in Visalia, director Chris Mangels and a swashbuckling cast are in the opening weekend of “The Three Musketeers.” James Ward of the Visalia Times-Delta has an interesting interview with Mangels, who talked about his concept for the adaptation of Alexandre Dumas novel:
So much of the original novel revolves around duty and honor, and we address that heavily, but our production focuses most on the concept of identity. Whereas many adaptations embrace the inherent chauvinism of the novel (women are often either treasure to be rescued or villains to be destroyed) our production works to look at how the women of the story are confined by circumstances and societal expectations. Much of our plot explores how each of these women are looking to find agency in a world that treats them as second-class citizens.
There are also some great Times-Delta staff photos to go with the story. Be sure to check them out.
Mangels notes that COS often tackles plays with mature subject matter, but “Musketeers” is one you can bring the whole family to.
If you go: Through May 5, College of the Sequoias Theatre. Tickets are $14 general, $12 seniors, $10 students.
4. And don’t forget …
I’ve already filled you in on Keyboard Concerts, which hosts the Armenian Cadence Ensemble on Friday.
And don’t forget about my last-minute big giveaway for the Fresno Art Museum’s “Grand Gatsby Speakeasy and Casino Night” on Saturday. I’m giving away a pair of tickets (value $80). Deadline to enter is 9 p.m. Friday.