Audrey power

StageWorks Fresno’s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ gives us a memorable Audrey, and her namesake chews up the scenery to perfection

THEATER REVIEW

The plant steals the show in StageWorks Fresno’s chipper “Little Shop of Horrors,” which is as it should be. Carnivorous leafy life forms are a rarity in the musical theater canon, especially ones that sing and dance, and the plant is a big part of why this much-loved musical has become a community-theater staple. I envy neophyte audience members to this show who get to experience that voice — and those moves — for the first time.

LS 7
Knockout performance: Abigail Nolte, right, is a standout in “Little Shop of Horrors.” Photo / StageWorks Fresno

It actually takes two actors to make Audrey II, as the mysterious plant is known, do its thing in the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium. Will Bishop, who voices the plant, is terrific. He brings a wry edge and an excellent singing voice to the role, paying homage both to its Motown roots while still finding his own contemporary take. And Logan Cooley, as the “body,” is spot-on in terms of the plant’s movements, connecting with and adding to Bishop’s artistic interpretation.

Continue reading “Audrey power”

Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Oct. 12)

Options include a Fresno State lecture-recital about a memorable woman scientist, theater openings in Merced, Visalia and Reedley, and a photo exhibition about Afghanistan

Here’s a rundown on promising arts/culture picks for the weekend. (Note: I’m posting this a day earlier than usual because of a Thursday night option.)

Remembering Hypatia

Earlier this year I got to wander the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, and there I learned about a remarkable woman: Hypatia, who is said to be the first woman philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. She was renowned for her intelligence and scientific insights. But she got caught up in the religious battles of the times. Hypatia was a pagan, and she was (horribly) murdered by an angry Christian mob in the year 415 A.D.

voice-and-silence-1

Hypatia’s life story is the focus of a fascinating sounding interdisciplinary lecture-recital on Friday at Fresno State. The event is an exploration of the ways in which women use their voices and are silenced in male-dominated societies.

Continue reading “Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Oct. 12)”

All across the alien nation

With a stellar production design and pumped-up ensemble, ‘Green Day’s American Idiot’ is a stomping good time

THEATER REVIEW

Fresno City College’s incendiary production of “Green Day’s American Idiot” opens with the cast singing a raucous version of the title song. The number unfolds with thrashing choreography on a grunge-punk-industrial set pulsing with video projections and drenched in moody lighting. Near the end, one of the show’s pivotal characters, Johnny (Josh Taber), takes a flying leap and lands on a bare mattress in the middle of the stage.

It’s a sliver of a moment in a show filled with visual and aural excess, but it caught my eye.

idiot1.edittif
Visual and aural spectacle: The cast of “Green Day’s American Idiot.” Photo / Fresno City College

Why? Because it’s so playful.

Sure, there is grit and angst aplenty in this punk-rock tale of generational disaffection. How could there not be? Its characters fight for a chance to make a difference in a country that is embroiled in two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), mired in economic inequality, and pandered and sold to by a relentless corporate media. Not to mention the murky torrent of alcohol and drug abuse that washes through the show like a raging river.

Continue reading “All across the alien nation”

Exclusive: The plant tells all

As StageWorks Fresno opens a three-week run of ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ we ‘interview’ the veteran actor who plays Audrey II, with an assist from Logan Cooley and Will Bishop

THEATER PREVIEW

She’s a big girl, this strange and interesting plant, when you see her in person. Or do you say he’s a big boy? Think about it: The famous alien life form in “Little Shop of Horrors” has a male voice but is named Audrey II. When it comes to plants, there’s no need to get so gender specific.

One thing is certain, however: There’s no harder working actor in Hollywood today than the beloved Leaf Erickson (a stage name given to her years ago by an uninspired agent, but it stuck), the only singing and dancing extraterrestrial life form known on the planet.

LS4
What a coup: The Munro Review snags an interview with Leaf Erickson (Ms. Leaf for short), the only one of his/her kind in the world. Photo / StageWorks Fresno

Ms. Leaf has been in every single production of “Little Shop of Horrors” since the show began, which means the veteran actor spends a lot of time on the road. At the moment she’s starring in the StageWorks Fresno production of the classic musical, which opens Friday, Oct. 6.

Ms. Leaf (her requested way of being addressed) has a reputation for being a little cranky, which you’d expect considering how hard she works and long she’s been performing. To my surprise, she agreed to a sit-down interview. To preserve her voice, she asked the two local cast members who “assist” her onstage — Will Bishop, who helps in the vocal department, and Logan Cooley, who offers full-body-puppetry expertise — to speak for her in the royal “we.” Our wide-ranging discussion included life on the road, favorite foods, the character of Audrey II, and even, ahem, Ms. Leaf’s sex life. Here are excerpts:

Continue reading “Exclusive: The plant tells all”

Now exploding at a City College near you

‘Green Day’s American Idiot’ makes its local premiere in a hard-charging Fresno production

THEATER PREVIEW

A decade or so ago, if you’d had the chance to peek into the childhood room of 11-year-old Marcus Cardenas, you would have seen something very important to him on the wall:

A poster for the Green Day album “American Idiot.”

Not that the young Marcus really understood all the lyrics in Green Day’s passionate and political songs. He was still pretty young. But he listened ravenously to such oft-played tunes as “Holiday” and “September.”

americanidiot1
Three friends: Marcus Cardenas, left, Josh Taber and Dylan Hardcastle star in the new production of “Green Day’s American Idiot.” Photo / Fresno City College

Besides, kids can still pick up on the emotionality of so-called “adult” lyrics, even ones such as Cardenas, whose parents tried to shield him from the images of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were streaming into living rooms across the country via the nightly news. When Green Day, in “Holiday,” sings, “Sieg Heil to the president gasman, Bombs away is your punishment,” it’s pretty clear that it’s no love song for George W. Bush, who was in office at the time.

Continue reading “Now exploding at a City College near you”

A bloody but sterile ‘Particle’

Fresno State production of Sam Shepard’s final play, ‘A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations)’ is ambitious and bewildering

THEATER REVIEW

Sam Shepard’s “A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations),” his final work, is something of a bewildering experience. The play is best appreciated, I think, by two groups: stalwart fans of the playwright; and people who are very familiar with the classic Greek tale of Oedipus, which Shepard intertwines with a modern-day retelling of the narrative. By the conclusion, the old and new versions have tangled into a strange and nearly incomprehensible knot.

ParticlePromo7
Seeing red: Steven Lee Weatherbee plays Oedipus and Otto in Sam Shepard’s “A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations).” Photo / Fresno State

The new Fresno State production, which continues through Saturday, Oct. 7, is stylistically ambitious and earnestly presented. It’s also a nice dedication to Shepard (known for such classics as “Buried Child,” for which he won a Pulitzer, and “True West”), who died just a few months ago. But the production also can feel sterile and fussy, as if it’s daring the audience to keep up with its intellectual games.

There’s a lot to unpack in the premise. Oedipus — whom the playwright Sophocles immortalized — is the baby famously prophesied to one day kill his father and marry his mother. Such a horrific human tragedy would seem to be a calamity we can safely relegate to ancient times, you’d think. We’re much too “civilized” today to entertain such possibilities.

Continue reading “A bloody but sterile ‘Particle’”

Win tickets to StageWorks Fresno’s ‘Little Shop’

UPDATE: Congrats to our two winners, Alina Gonzalez and Anjali Davis. Enjoy!

ORIGINAL POST: StageWorks Fresno closes its 2017 season with a show that could eat the entire Fresno Art Museum: the much-loved “Little Shop of Horrors.” This quirky classic musical about a man-eating plant from outer space opens Friday, Oct. 6, at the museum’s Bonner Auditorium.

little-shop-of-horrors-cover-2_2_orig

The Munro Review is giving away two pairs of seats for any opening weekend performance. You can choose from 7:30 p.m. Friday (opening night) or 7:30 p.m. Saturday, or 2 p.m. Sunday.

Here’s how you enter: Leave a comment on this post answering this question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you hate going to the dentist? (1 being you positively adore the experience, and 10 being you’d rather let your teeth rot away than sit down in that chair.) Or, if you’d prefer not to discuss your dental issues, tell us why you’d like to see the show.

I’ll pick two winners at random. You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at Will Call. Deadline to enter is midnight Wednesday, Oct. 4. I’ll get back to the winners the next morning.


To subscribe to the email newsletter for The Munro Review, go to this link:

https://tinyletter.com/donaldfresnoarts

Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Sept. 29)

Choices include ‘The Tempest’ at Fresno Soap Co., chamber music at Keyboard Concerts and ‘Scoundrels’ in Visalia

Here’s a roundup of promising cultural/arts picks for the weekend:

‘The Tempest’

Think you’ve already seen “The Tempest”? Probably not with an all-women cast. An enthusiastic band of actresses take on the challenge of Shakespeare’s island-adventure comedy in a production that opens Friday, Sept. 29, at the Fresno Soap Co.

FullSizeRender (8)
An all-women “Tempest”: Bridget Paul (Ferdinand), Casey Ballard (Prospero), and Paige Tucker (Miranda). Photo / provided

The performers bring to life all the characters in the play: men, women and all those famous other-worldly characters. (Plus, there’s one inanimate object making a debut: Stephano’s companion, Trinculo, is a hand-puppet.)

The cast includes Bridget Paul (Ferdinand), Casey Ballard (Prospero), Paige Tucker (Miranda), Patricia Fretwell (Alonso), Sara Smith (Antonio), Kayla Weber (Caliban), Tania Haigounian (Stephano with Trinculo) and Kathie Mollica (Gonzalo).

Continue reading “Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Sept. 29)”