A mostly sure-footed ‘Fiddler’ remains solidly on the roof

CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” includes a stellar leading performance and top-notch scenic and lighting design

THEATER REVIEW

Tevye is the sun at the center of the “Fiddler on the Roof” solar system. If he doesn’t flood you with light, gravity and nurturing, all-encompassing warmth, you might as well forget it.

That’s a major reason why CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s production works as well as it does. Darren Tharp, a seasoned community-theater actor making his debut as Tevye, often shines in a booming, well crafted performance as theater history’s most famous dairyman.

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To Life: A scene from CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Photo / Kyle Lowe

His “If I Were a Rich Man” is a delightful exercise in crisp comic timing. The nostalgic “Sunrise, Sunset” is heartfelt and achingly sung. Director Scott Hancock coaxes emotion and depth from this strong and nuanced actor.

I’m still not convinced that Tharp, who recently turned 40, is quite old enough to dig into Tevye as deeply as he might in the years to come, and he finds it a little harder in the second act to command the stage like he does in the first. But it’s still a notable outing.

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A handsome and soaring ‘Hunchback’

Children’s Musical Theaterworks offers a sophisticated and inspired take of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” that feels closer to the Victor Hugo novel than the Disney movie

Abigail Paxton, director of the impressive new Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” gives us some great highs and memorable lows. She and her hard-working cast members — a talented bunch ages 14 to 20 — take us on a sweeping theatrical journey from the dizzying heights of the world’s most famous cathedral to the somber depths of human despair. (It plays for only four more performances through Sunday, July 23.)

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I make it a practice not to do standard reviews of CMT shows — at least in terms of offering negative critiques of individual performances — because these young performers are still in a learning environment. But I want to share 10 significant thoughts on “Hunchback.”

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It’s got great bones. By that I mean the overall structure and resonance of the show. This Disney adaptation can trace its lineage directly from the animated 1996 movie, but the revamped stage version dispenses with a kiddie sensibility. Paxton commits wholeheartedly to the melancholy tone of the material without making it too grim. (All that youthful energy helps.) And I’m impressed by how every person on stage, from the solo-belting principal characters to the background ensemble members, seems invested in the concept as well.

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On the Central Coast, Festival Mozaic blends music and gorgeous locales

San Luis Obispo County provides the backdrop for a notable festival focusing on orchestral and chamber music

For nearly 50 years, Festival Mozaic has been one of the jewels of San Luis Obispo County’s cultural scene. Over a period of nearly two weeks, world-class musicians and enthusiastic audiences intersect in a series of chamber and orchestral concerts held in notable venues, from the venerable downtown San Luis Obispo mission to a ritzy private chapel in far-flung Shandon.

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Shandon concert: The private Serra Chapel is the setting for one of Festival Mozaic’s most anticipated events. Photo / Festival Mozaic

I’ve always wanted to attend, and this year I’m going to check it off my To-Do Cultural List. The festival kicks off today (Wednesday, July 19) and runs through July 30. I’ll be there for the first weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are still available for most of the events on the schedule.

In the meantime, I talked by phone with music director Scott Yoo, who has been with the festival since 2005. (He brings impeccable musical credentials; in February 2016 he was named artistic director of the Mexico City Philharmonic.) With his help, here are Five Things to Know About Festival Mozaic:

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There’s a lot in a name: Founded in 1971, it used to be known as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival. The name change to Festival Mozaic came in 2008. In terms of programming you can expect a healthy dose of Mozart, but there’s so much more, including early music, period instrument concerts, jazz, contemporary music, opera, chamber music, solo recitals and world music. Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Charles Ives and Olivier Messiaen are all composers you’ll encounter.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (July 20)

Cambridge choir makes a stop at Fresno’s St. James Cathedral. Plus: It’s the kickoff of California Opera’s summer festival, “Angels in America” hits the big screen, and Inner Ear poetry does its thing at Bitwise.

There are two Thursday evening events this week I want to make sure you know about, so I’m offering this version of “Donald’s List” a little early. Here’s a rundown on promising cultural events for the weekend:

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California tour: The Selwyn College Cambridge choir performs Thursday, July 20, in Fresno.

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If you love choral music, you don’t want to miss the Thursday performance of the Selwyn College Cambridge choir visiting from England on a West Coast tour. The ensemble sings a concert titled “One Equal Light: A Celebration of European Choral Music” at St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno.

Sarah MacDonald conducts the choir, which is made up 29 singers (16 female and 13 male), who are undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Cambridge. She is the first woman to hold the post of director of music in an Oxbridge Chapel. MacDonald is a longtime friend of Fresno State opera professor Anthony Radford — they were both in the Ontario Youth Choir when he was 20 — and when she knew she was coming on tour to California, she wanted to visit Fresno.

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Win tickets to ‘Full Monty’ at StageWorks

UPDATE: Congrats to our randomly selected winners: Karen Hau (whose stripper name is “Trixie Georgetown”) and Adan Alvarez (“Tammy Jansen”).

My top three favorite names from among all 70 entrants, by the way, are “Nipper Newlon” (Lisa Marie Boyles), “Lady DeWitt” (Dorian Follansbee; say that one out loud for the full effect) and the legendary “Pusskit Acacia” (Bradley Money). The all-time worst stripper name: ” Lumpy Vartikian” (thanks to Chloe Quesada). Don’t quit your day job, Chloe. To all: Thanks for playing!

ORIGINAL POST: Leave it to StageWorks Fresno to get a little steamy in July. “The Full Monty” opens Friday, kicking off a three-weekend run. This Broadway musical adaptation of the beloved 1997 movie follows a group of laid-off male factory workers who decide to put on a strip show to raise money. (And they aren’t exactly the Chippendales.)

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Here’s your chance to score some of the theater season’s hottest tickets — for free. 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 Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, all at the Dan Pessano Theatre.

Here’s how you enter: Leave a comment on this post telling us your “stripper name” using the following formula: Your first name is your first pet’s name, and your last name is the name of the street you grew up on. (Which makes my stripper name “Lightning Morningside”. Va-va-voom!) Or if you have Victorian sensibilities and would rather remain demure, tell us why you’d like to see “The Full Monty.” (Then again, if you have Victorian sensibilities, maybe you shouldn’t be seeing it anyway.) You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at Will Call. Deadline to enter is 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19. I’ll get back to the winners that evening.


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Donald’s notes: Summer Arts, Week 3

Sunday’s update includes a recap of Saturday’s wonderful percussion demonstration, certainly one of the highlights of this year’s festival

This is a roundup of news, reviews and notes from the third week of the CSU Summer Arts program, which is back at Fresno State after a five-year absence. I’ll be updating this post as the week progresses. If you have Summer Arts tidbits or thoughts on a performance you’d like to share, email me at donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com. For the public calendar of events, click here.

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The event: Two world-renowned percussionists, the Brazilian master Mario Pam and Afro-Latin bandleader John Santos, come together Saturday evening in a “Percussion Discussion” at CSU Summer Arts. (The above video is from a rehearsal prior to the lecture.)

The intro: The audience is greeted by Umi Vaughan, the course coordinator (and CSU Monterey Bay professor) who arranged the meeting. “You guys have walked directly into my dream come true,” he exclaims to the audience.

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Bells are ringing

In Children’s Musical Theaterworks’ local premiere of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” expect a dark and sophisticated musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel

THEATER PREVIEW

Don’t look for Disney’s name in the title of the new musical version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” While the production includes some of the more well-known musical numbers by Alan Menken from Disney’s animated movie, it keeps to the original text’s more mature and darker themes. This is more sophisticated fare than you might expect from the folks who brought you “The Little Mermaid” and “Tarzan” on Broadway.

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Complex character: Ian Jones plays Quasimodo in the Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Photo / CMT

And for that reason, says Abigail Paxton, director of the local premiere of the show at Children’s Musical Theaterworks, she hopes that audiences will approach the material with open minds, both toward the idea that younger actors can handle darker material, and that powerful literature can be translated into musical theater without it becoming silly and frivolous.

“I think this a story that a lot of people need to know — and, let’s face it, not everyone is about to sit down with a 500-page novel to devour,” she says. “It’s Menken’s little musical masterpiece. The score is powerful and resonates alongside the plot to convey Victor Hugo’s work.”

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House Hunters International: the Russian Peasant Edition

As CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” opens, Tevye gets a chance to go shopping for a rich man’s house

THEATER PREVIEW

Like many of us when it comes to real estate, Tevye the milkman dreams big. He fantasizes about living in a home with “one long staircase just going up, and one even longer coming down.” And who can blame him? In “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye’s family of seven, plus a cow, is crammed into a far too cozy Anatevka fixer-upper.

“If I Were a Rich Man,” one of “Fiddler’s” most beloved tunes, offers a specific wish list for a house (rooms by the dozen, real wooden floors, a fine tin roof) that would have the most seasoned Realtor scouring the Multiple Listing Service for possibilities. Yes, Tevye sings that he plans to build this large and impressive edifice by himself, but why not skip the added timeline of a custom job and see what’s on the market instead?

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If he were a rich man: Tevye the milkman meets up with Adam Kitt, the “Singing Realtor,” for an afternoon of house shopping. Photo / The Munro Review

In honor of CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s new production of the stalwart Broadway classic, then, The Munro Review offered to do a little matchmaking of its own. Why should Yente get all the fun? We arranged to connect Tevye (who’d love for each of those five daughters to get her own bedroom) with a musical-theater-loving real estate professional, Clovis-based Adam Kitt (he calls himself “The Singing Realtor”), on a house hunt.

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