StageWorks is bringing ‘Fun Home’ to Fresno

The company announces its 2018 season, which includes “The Fantasticks.” Plus: recaps from CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP, Shine! Theatre, the Selma Arts Center, College of the Sequoias, Children’s Musical Theaterworks, Good Company Players, Fresno City College, Fresno State and Reedley’s River City Theatre Company.

UPDATE 6 (Sept. 27): The CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP cancelled its production of “Frida” at the Fresno Art Museum.

UPDATE 5 (Sept. 12): I’ve added the Fresno State theater season, which originally had its own post in May, into this roundup.

UPDATE 4 (Sept. 11): I’ve added the remainder of the 2017 season for CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP.

UPDATE 3 (Sept. 4): I’ve added the 2017-18 season for Shine! Theatre.

UPDATE 2 (Aug. 28): I’ve added the 2018 season for the Selma Arts Center.

UPDATE 1 (Aug. 13): I’ve added the seasons for Children’s Musical Theaterworks and Visalia’s College of the Sequoias.

ORIGINAL POST: Stop the digital presses: StageWorks Fresno has snagged the rights to perform “Fun Home: The Musical.” The show was nominated for an impressive 12 Tony Awards in 2015 and won five, including best musical.

In “Fun Home,” composer Jeanine Tesori and writer-lyricist Lisa Kron transform the cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s popular graphic-novel memoir, subtitled “A Family Tragicomic,” into a spare and beautiful musical.

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National tour: “Fun Home” continues on the road through the end of the year. A local production opens June 29 in Fresno. Photo / “Fun Home” tour

Bechdel’s adult self is narrator, looking back at herself as a 9-year-old navigating through childhood and as a 19-year-old college freshman embracing the fact she’s lesbian.

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(Updated) Instagram photo contest: Win tickets to ‘Lion King’

Enter by posting an animal from your own “savannah” on Instagram

UPDATE: Congratulations to randomly selected winner Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young! She receives a four-pack of tickets to the closing weekend of Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “Disney’s Lion King, Jr.”

As promised, here’s a menagerie of contest entries, starting with Dorina’s. (They are all so sweet. I wish I could have given tickets to each and every entrant.)

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The ‘Lion’ doesn’t sleep Friday night

Children’s Musical Theaterworks offers community-theater premiere of the Disney Jr. version of “The Lion King”

This is worth a roar for Children’s Musical Theaterworks: The company is opening one local premiere after another. CMT tackled “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” last month with its older players (ages 14-20), and now it’s offering the local community theater premiere of “Disney’s Lion King, Jr.” with a cast ranging in age from 6 to 13. The show opens Friday, Aug. 4, at the Fresno Memorial Auditorium.

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Circle of life: the cast of “Disney’s The Lion King, Jr.” Photo / Sandy Tacchino, Children’s Musical Theaterworks

Here are five things to know about the production:

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This show is exposing lots of children to the theater bug. There are 39 kids in the Savannah Cast and 41 in the Grassland Cast, making 74 total (six of them are in both casts.). The three biggest roles are the characters of Rafiki, played by Vega Ankrum (Savannah Cast) and Mia Carino (Grassland Cast); Scar, played by Jake Corson (Savannah Cast) and Jeremy Marks (Grassland Cast); and Simba, played by Nathan Gettman (Savannah and Grassland casts).

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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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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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