‘Breaking Up’ is hard to love, but the songs are fun

Good Company Players production continues through mid-January

THEATER REVIEW

I’m pretty lukewarm about “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” the Neil Sedaka jukebox musical pulling the holiday shift at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. (It runs through Jan. 14.) On one hand, some of the singing is very good in this Good Company Players production. The comedy is often crisp and the production design is nice, especially the costumes.

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The cast of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” Photo / Good Company Players

On the other hand, the storyline is absurdly dumb, but that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The narratives of most jukebox musicals are little more than flimsy excuses to string along a selection of well-known songs, in this case such Sedaka classics as “Lonely Nights,” “Where the Boys Are and “Next Door to an Angel.” Some musicals of this genre, such as “Mamma Mia” (a GCP offering coming soon to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre), manage to feel clever and accomplished when those songs come together, as if the writers figured out how to put together a complicated puzzle. Others, like “Breaking Up,” offer plots that just sort of limp along.

Here’s a quick review rundown:

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In appreciation of Good Company’s ‘A Christmas Carol’

Director Dan Pessano finds holiday magic in a happily streamlined version of the Dickens classic

THEATER REVIEW

Dan Pessano directs a brisk and bountiful production of “A Christmas Carol” at the 2nd Space Theatre. Ever since the show opened the first week in November, a large and holiday-spirit-filled cast has been entertaining audiences with the classic tale.

It can be hard for me to get into the Christmas mood that early in the calendar, which is probably one reason why I put off seeing the production near the beginning of the run; Thanksgiving travel plans out-of-state and lots of other theater commitments also impacted my reviewing schedule.

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Noel Adams is Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” Photo / Good Company Players

But I finally got over to see the Good Company Players production last weekend. It’s a joy. Pessano uses a bare-bones adaptation of the Dickens novel by playwright Romulus Linney to streamline and focus the show. (The running time is less than 90 minutes, including intermission.) But this just isn’t a case of slicing away text to make a shorter show. Linney condenses things, yes, but Pessano also finds his own way to make the experience feel fresh and newly insightful. (It actually reminds me of what Brad Myers at Fresno State managed to do with his crisp new production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”) The result is a production that feels sleek yet cheerily old-fashioned, a nice combination.

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What makes Scrooge tick?

Noel Adams, who plays the leading role in the Good Company Players production of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ muses on playing the famed butt of cranky jokes

Noel Adams, who stars in the new Good Company Players production of “A Christmas Carol,” is a first-time Scrooge. But he brings a lifetime of theater experience to the role. I checked in with the longtime GCP actor about his highly appropriate first name, his favorite Christmas Ghost and his take on playing the most famed cranky guy in literature. The play runs at the 2nd Space Theatre through Dec. 23.

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Noel Adams, left, plays Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” Photo / Good Company Players

Q: What is your earliest memory of “A Christmas Carol” as a child? Was it the book, movie or a play?

A: My earliest memory of “A Christmas Carol” goes back to maybe 4th grade and a Classics Illustrated version of the story. CI was a graphic novel (comic book) series of condensed, illustrated versions of classic literature. I was struck mostly by the love and goodness of the people around Scrooge, the Cratchits, Fred, Fezziwig, in the face of his wretchedness.

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‘Breaking Up’ is hard, but picking a favorite Neil Sedaka tune is easy

Good Company Players opens the Sedaka jukebox musical in a run that goes through Jan. 14.

When Jacob Cozzi was 8 years old, he had a crush on a girl who lived down the street.

Which explains why his favorite song in the Neil Sedaka jukebox musical “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” now in its opening weekend at Good Company Players, is the tune “Next Door to An Angel.”

“I don’t really know what she’s up to now,” says Cozzi, who in the overall scheme of things wasn’t 8 that long ago — he’s worked his way up through the GCP’s demanding Junior Company program — but is now nabbing roles in mainstage productions.

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Sedaka memories: Kay Wilkins, left, Caitlyn Lopez, Tim Smith, Melanie Heyl and Nicholas Nunez in “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” Photo / Good Company Players

Wouldn’t it be cute if his crush showed up for a performance and recognized him?

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Backstage spy: When you’re frozen on stage, what’s going through your head?

As one of my favorite productions of the year reaches its final weekend, here’s a chance to go behind-the-scenes

And now, for the second and final part of our closing-week tribute to the wonderful “Drowsy Chaperone” at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, we get an entire series of fun videos. This production has lots of moments when the actors have to hold their positions for long periods of time. And now, finally, we have the answer to the burning question: What do they think about?

Special thanks to Emily Pessano for being our Spy (and for her editorial comments sprinkled throughout.) There are only four more performances of this top-notch show remaining.

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Backstage spy: ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

UPDATE: And now, for your continued viewing pleasure, here’s the second installment in our video countdown to the closing weekend of “The Drowsy Chaperone”:


ORIGINAL POST: Faithful readers of this site know at least two things: I’m a big fan of the Broadway musical “The Drowsy Chaperone”; and I think the Good Company Players production of this warm and funny show is first-rate.

Only one weekend of “Chaperone” remains at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. To give this production one last hurrah on The Munro Review, I asked cast members to put together a series of videos on what it’s like behind-the-scenes at this fast-paced, good-hearted show.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Nov. 3)

You can win a pair of tickets to New York-based Ballet Hispánico, which performs Saturday at the Saroyan. Plus: It’s time for ‘A Christmas Carol’

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

Ballet Hispánico

Simply put, this is one of the prime dance events of the year, and it’s thanks to the Lively Arts Foundation. The New York-based Ballet Hispánico is making a special “run-out” to the West Coast just for Fresno.

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Direct from New York: Ballet Hispánico performs Saturday in Fresno.

Plus: I’m giving away a pair of tickets to Saturday’s Saroyan Theatre performance to a lucky reader of The Munro Review. (Details on the giveaway are below.)

Diane Mosier, artistic director for Lively Arts, who prides herself on keeping up on the contemporary dance scene, has followed Ballet Hispánico for about six years.

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A must-see ‘Drowsy Chaperone’

Good Company Players revives one of its best (and funniest) productions of the decade at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, and it’s just as good the second time around

THEATER REVIEW

As we stumble along on life’s crazy journey, let us give thanks for Jessica Sarkisian and Good Company Players. They make us laugh. A lot.

And laughing, along with loving, is what makes life worth living.

Why single out Sarkisian? Because she has the good fortune to play the title character in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” the supremely silly and accomplished musical theater experience now on stage at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. It isn’t just luck on Sarkisian’s part, of course: She brings to the role a wonderful voice, a crackling good sense of comic timing, a sardonic expression that could curdle almond milk, and an expert ability to approximate a slow-burn of low-level inebriation throughout a two-and-a-half hour show. (Either that, or she’s constantly sipping real vodka backstage.)

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She wants to show off: Emily Pessano, seated left, and Jessica Sarkisian, seated right, and the cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Photo / Good Company Players

When Sarkisian gets to the big finish in “As We Stumble Along,” her first-act show-stopper of an anthem, my favorite moment was an expertly rendered circular-path wobble in time to the music, rather like a drunken dosey doe. It’s as if her brassy vocals were saying “I’m sober enough not to slur my words,” but her feet were declaring, “I’m permanently buzzed.” I consider it a fairly magnificent accomplishment.

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