TOP

Roaring back: Chris Colfer is returning to Fresno to help Good Company celebrate a busy November

What a difference a year makes. Last November, the pandemic-bound folks at Good Company Players were rattling around in a big, echoing waiting room of dread. Covid had shut everything down. Everyone knew that live theater would be among the last of things to reopen.

Could the company survive?

Pictured above, clockwise from top left: The cast of ‘All Together Now!’ outside of Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater; Chris Colfer in ‘A Christmas Story’ (2002); Mary Piona offering a fractured version of ‘The Night Before Christmas’; and Shawn Williams reprises his role in ‘Elf: The Musical.’  Photos: Good Company Players

Fast forward from those dark days, as if you’re watching streaming video and racing through the boring parts of “Firefly Lane,” and glimpse the people of GCP coping as the months fly by: There they are applying for relief funds. Selling off old costumes. Rehearsing on Zoom. Calculating the square footage of rehearsal spaces for ventilation safety. Filming a “We’re Still Here” special for CMAC. Hoping and waiting.

It seemed to take forever for reopening to occur. But crucial government support, along with a tremendous outpouring of community support that included a successful GoFundMe campaign, made it bearable.

And because of some hard-working strands of mRNA (thanks, science!), we soon will begin a much different November. This time around instead of no activity, there aren’t enough hours in the week to contain all the activity.

SPONSORED CONTENT


Consider the second weekend of the month. GCP will present a one-time special concert at Shaghoian Hall on Sunday, Nov. 14, titled “All Together Now!” The big news is that GCP alum and “Glee” star Chris Colfer will emcee and perform. An all-star lineup of GCP veterans will perform a bevy of musical-theater hits.

On that same weekend, the company will be well into the run of its annual holiday 2nd Space show, “Holly Jolly Holidays.” At Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, it will be opening weekend of “Elf: The Musical,” another holiday favorite.

In fact, performers who are in both “Elf” and “All Together Now!” will have quite a Sunday: Tech rehearsal in the morning at the Shaghoian, then off to the Tower District for the matinee of “Elf,” and then back to the Shaghoian for the evening “All Together Now!” performance. Those will be some very tired dancing feet tucking into bed that night.

At the center of all this is Laurie Pessano at Good Company Players. I caught up with her on Friday to talk about the flurry of GCP activity soon to come. Here’s a rundown:

‘All Together Now!’

This one-time concert (7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14)  is out of the ordinary for the company, which specializes in long runs. Special anniversary performances have been held at the Tower Theatre, but “All Together Now!” is the first time for the company to venture out to Shaghoian Hall, a venue nearly three times the size of Roger Rocka’s.

“I think it’s going to be a great night,” says Pessano, who is directing the show. “It’s a celebration of coming back. We’re putting the stake in the ground and saying we’re here.”

Tickets are $50 and are on sale now.

The evening is part of a worldwide celebration of theater sponsored by Music Theatre International (MTI), the publishing company responsible for many of the live-theater productions performed across the country. MTI is offering groups around the world the rights to perform selected songs from its catalog free with no royalty or rental fees. Organizations may license MTI’s “All Together Now!” as a fundraiser and perform it live, streamed, or a combination of both over a four-day period from Nov. 12-15.

The result will be theater companies all over the world performing the same material on the same weekend in a concentrated display of the fact that live theater is back.

The opportunity was perfect for GCP to take up an offer from one of its most famed alums, Chris Colfer, who called the Pessanos during the pandemic to volunteer his services.

Colfer’s best known GCP performance was in 2002’s “A Christmas Story” at the 2nd Space Theatre when he played the role of Ralphie. Other GCP credits are the Junior Company (2002-2003), “My Heart’s In The Highlands” at the 2nd Space (2002) and “The Sound of Music” (2004) at Roger Rocka’s.

Having Colfer as a headliner is already attracting interest from fans outside the area interested in the streaming version of the show, Pessano says.

There are 15 songs in the lineup, including solos, duets, mixed trios and ensemble numbers, including selections from “Newsies,” “Once on this Island,” “Fiddler,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Ragtime, “Les Miz,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Mama Mia,” “Into the Woods” and “Frozen.”

The ensemble of 23 includes some of the biggest names on the GCP performance roster, including Terry Lewis, Emily Pessano, Shawn Williams, Janet Glaude, Camille Gaston, Teddy Maldonado, Jessica Sarkisian, Meg Clark and more. Even Kaye Migaki, the veteran choreographer, will join in the fun by performing in the number “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from “Hairspray.” Other performers are more recently additions to the company.


The Munro Review has no paywall but is financially supported by readers who believe in its non-profit mission of bringing professional arts journalism to the central San Joaquin Valley. You can help by signing up for a monthly recurring paid membership or make a one-time donation of as little as $3. All memberships and donations are tax-deductible.

“There’s just the joy of working with all these folks — some of them are part of our history, and some of them are new,” Pessano says.

By the way, if you’re a member of The Munro Review, stay tuned for an extra special ticket giveaway for this event. You’ll be able to win a pair of tickets.

‘HOLLY JOLLY HOLIDAYS’

Loosely modeled on the recent original GCP holiday show “Good Company for Christmas,” this festive musical revue features favorite stories, songs, and company members. The lineup includes two original songs by Art Maldonado, another original song by Shawn Williams, and a reprise of Mary Piona reading a fractured version of “The Night Before Christmas.” Plus there will be lots of original cast stories and appearances by Sherlock Holmes, Frosty the Snowman, the Coca-Cola Polar Bear and three reindeer. “Holly Jolly Holidays” opens Oct. 29 and runs through Dec. 19.

‘SUNDAY NIGHT LIVE’

I already told you about the special Halloween edition (7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31) of this monthly performance from improv-minded GCP company members. And I’m giving you a chance to win a pair of tickets! (Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26.) The night will include candy and a costume contest.

Mark your calendars: There will be one more 2021 installment of the series, on Nov. 28.

ELF: THE MUSICAL

Based on the beloved holiday film, GCP reprises the musical stage version with Shawn Williams (does he win a prize for having his name mentioned three times in this column? Or do I?) returning as Buddy the Elf. Other returning principal cast members include Camille Gaston, Steve Souza and Greg Ruud. The show opens Nov 11 and runs through Jan. 9.

Perhaps, in mid-January, all these folks can get some sleep.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

Comments (5)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Great news! Wonderful things happening! Looking forward to being there for at least some of these! Thank you, Donald!

    reply
  • Cleo

    Thanks for the great news on all shows for the holidays. What atreat for all of us who live the musical theater world !!

    reply
  • Julia

    Will the “All Together Now!” event be streamed? I can’t find any information about it.

    reply
  • Richard Asadoorian

    As one of the first GCP performers, I applaud you for keeping the arts’ scene alive.

    reply

Leave a Reply