Some smooth sailing in Clovis’ ‘Little Mermaid,’ but also choppy seas

THEATER REVIEW

Call me easily amused, but I’ve always been a sucker for tap-dancing seagulls. In the CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre production of “The Little Mermaid,” I was particularly tickled by the song “Positoovity,” sung at the top of the second act. In it, a flock of orange-legged perky gulls (Ariana Ault, Jacob Cozzi, Sydney Ennis, Honoria Felton, Zachary Guerra, Luciana Lopez and Riley Marie McBee) have a stomping good time. As they back Scuttle (a funny Will Gotten) on vocals, their goal is to cheer up the floundering Ariel (Lorraine Christensen), who has traded her gorgeous voice for human legs. Now she just has to figure out how to walk.

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Christian David is Sebastian and Lorraine Christensen is Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Photo / Brandon Crane, CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre

It’s a fun number and a great moment. I didn’t experience as many of those kinds of moments in this “Little Mermaid” as I would have liked. The waters got a little choppy during other parts of the show. The cast, crew and creative team have put a lot of effort into the experience, but it sometimes falls short compared to other community theaters in the area and CenterStage productions I’ve seen in the past.

I’ll detail what I like about the production first, and then I’ll focus on things that didn’t rock my boat quite so much.

Shipshape

The singing: Ariel, the youngest of the seven mermaid daughters of King Triton (an amiable Christopher Livermore), is said to have a glorious voice. Christensen, a veteran of Clovis productions, sounds very nice in the role. Her “Part of Your World,” in which she sings of her desire to ditch underwater living and completely revamp her respiration system, is sweet and stirring. Livermore sings with an impressive kingly resonance. Kari Mason offers a big, brassy voice as Ursula, the octopus villain. Caleb Harbin, as the sturdy Prince Eric, sounds strong and sure in “One Step Closer.” And Juliana Richards, as Flounder, shows she can belt it out in “She’s In Love.”

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For this mersister act, Ariel’s ‘Little Mermaid’ siblings compete for water rights

The CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre production opens Friday, July 27

THEATER PREVIEW

There’s more than one mermaid in this sea. Ariel — aka the sweet, young woman-fish who falls in love with a dude without proper gills — might get most of the attention in “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” But you can’t forget about her six lovely, talented, golden-voiced, sometimes jealous, first-names-also-start-with-A sisters. (The official term for these siblings is mersisters, even though that word looks as if it should rhyme with Worcestershire sauce.) As CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre prepares to open its summer musical production, I decided it was time to spread some of the media love.

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The cast of “The Little Mermaid,” which opens Friday, July 27. Photo / Brandon Crane, CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre

And thus, the Clovis Mersister Challenge was born.

The idea: Make these aquatic anomalies compete in a series of grueling events, then crown the winner. The prize: bragging rights throughout the world’s oceans.

On a recent evening before rehearsal, we left Ariel in her star dressing room and gave her mersisters a chance to make a splash. Here’s a rundown. Be sure to check out the YouTube video (shot and edited by Brandon Crane) to get all the sights and sounds.

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A fond adieu to 2017

I’ve already told you my Top 20 favorite cultural events for 2017. Now here are a couple of year-ender wrap-up lists that I can’t resist:

My favorite stories of the year

My criteria: It’s completely subjective. I just like how these stories came out. For some, it was the fun in reporting them, and for others the joy in writing them. (Note: Because of my hybrid year — working through May as the Fresno Bee’s arts reporter, and the remainder of the year in my new role at The Munro Review — you’ll find stories from both platforms.) Here they are in chronological order:

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In the moment of totality: my photograph taken from Mary’s Peak in central Oregon on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo / The Munro Review

In Delphi, a mysterious past provokes navel gazing: In this travel piece from Greece, I visit the strangely moody location where the famed oracles changed the ancient world.

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Holiday theater: previews for Santa

At CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre, four talented singers tackle “Plaid Tidings,” and at Reedley’s River City Theatre Company, Kris Kringle gets put on trial in “Miracle on 34th Street”

Santa is certainly busy this month, but even he needs to take a break now and then. And why not do it with live theater? In honor of The Big Red Guy, and with help from the directors, we take a look at two promising holiday-themed local openings: “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” at CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre; and “Miracle on 34th Street,” at Reedley’s River City Theatre Company:

‘FOREVER PLAID: PLAID TIDINGS’

The director: Scott Hancock.

The run: just four performances over this one weekend: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, Clovis Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 808 4th St., Clovis.

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The cast of “Forever Plaid”: Kyle Dodson, Darren Tharp, Brandon Crane and Adam Kitt. Photo / CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre

The plot: “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” is a semi-sequel to the incredibly popular “Forever Plaid.” The four plaids (Adam Kitt, Darren Tharp, Brandon Crane, and Kyle Dodson) return to earth for a second time and (at first) are not quite sure why. Through song and self discovery, they realize that they are here to do the Christmas show they never got to do while they were still alive.

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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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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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