Hot, hot Norwegian repression

A freewheeling discussion between star Brooke Aiello and director Heather Parish of “Hedda Gabler”? We’ll drink to that

THEATER PREVIEW

It’s Hedda Gabler’s birthday morning, and she’s kicking off the celebration with a mimosa. The thing is, I’m so clueless about alcohol in the a.m. that I get to the end of a 90-minute breakfast interview at Irene’s Cafe before I realize that the grand dame of 19th century theatrical realism sitting across from me isn’t drinking straight orange juice. Champagne before 9 a.m.? I’m shocked. Aghast. This is no mere woman … this is a monster!

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Past fling: Ted Nunes is Eilert and Brooke Aiello is Hedda in “Hedda Gabler.” Photo / The New Ensemble

Actually, Brooke Aiello — one of Fresno’s most passionate acting talents — is nursing not one but four beverages as we talk about The New Ensemble’s new production of “Hedda Gabler.” There’s coffee from Irene’s, black tea from Starbucks, a glass of ice water and her tall, frothy birthday drink. There’s a method to all this, even though I don’t quite understand it: something about sweet followed by sweeter. Or is it sweet followed by bitter? It doesn’t matter; she has a process in mind. This is someone who has definite views on many things, including the liquids in her life.

“I’m going to be very well hydrated today,” she happily tells me.

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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:

1.

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 farewell ‘Titus Andronicus’

Woodward Shakespeare Festival tackles the bloody play about revenge in director Greg Taber’s last show as executive producer

THEATER PREVIEW

Greg Taber, whose dedication to Woodward Shakespeare Festival over the years has heated up half a dozen Fresno theater summers, is stepping down as executive producer after he finishes the last production of the season. For that milestone he decided to direct Shakespeare’s brutal and little performed “Titus Andronicus,” with Jay Parks in the title role. I caught up with Taber, known for his commitment to theater that nourishes the intellect, to talk a little about the play, which opens Thursday, Aug. 3.

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Revenge: Rene Ponce, left, and Jay Parks, right, who plays the title role in Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s “Titus Andronicus.” Photo / Victor DesRoches

Q: You mention in your director’s note that most people don’t know anything about “Titus Andronicus.” As you try to generate interest in your production this summer, what’s your 30-second pitch to people about the show?

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Win tickets to Selma Arts Center’s ‘Carrie’

To get in the mood, readers submitted their own high-school prom photos.

UPDATE: Congratulations to our winners: Silvia Fisher and Michelle Olson. Plus, at the end of this post, check out the photo gallery of vintage prom pics submitted by readers.

ORIGINAL POST: Hopefully your high school prom went better than Carrie’s. Then again, the musical “Carrie” — based on the classic Stephen King novel about a girl with telekinetic powers who is picked on by her classmates — is pretty much the baseline for a prom from hell, so that isn’t saying much.

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Outsider: Abigail Halpern plays the title role in the Selma Arts Center production of “Carrie.”

Still, to get you in the high school mood, and to mark the new production of “Carrie” at the Selma Arts Center, the Munro Review is giving away two pairs of tickets for any opening weekend performance. Plus, as a winner, you’ll get two extra special perks: a backstage tour after the show AND a photo onstage with the cast.

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Going beyond the genital jokes

As StageWorks Fresno opens the local premiere of “The Full Monty,” its six steelworker strippers sit down to talk about body image, gender roles and the challenges of taking off their clothes in the intimate Dan Pessano Theatre

THEATER PREVIEW

The six men who promise “The Full Monty” in the new StageWorks Fresno production are sitting in the lobby of the Dan Pessano Theatre, and there’s nary a nipple nor belly button in sight.

In just a few hours at rehearsal on  this Tuesday evening, these men will be bumping and grinding down to a state of undress that may or may not include a glimpse of what those of a Victorian sensibility might refer to as the actors’ nether regions. (We’re going to dispense with the “Will they?” or “Won’t they?” take-it-all-off tittering right at the top of this story: As an audience member, you won’t find out until the final moments of the play. And I’m not going to ruin any surprises. There will be no more coy references to that red-hot question in the words that follow.) But for now, the atmosphere is clothed and introspective.

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Let it go: James Schott plays Jerry in the StageWorks Fresno production of “The Full Monty.” Photo / StageWorks Fresno

Maybe stripping does that to people.

Being introspective, that is. Not the clothed part. In fact, the lack of clothes is the topic of conversation.

“I’m coming to grips with the fact that isn’t quite as easy as I thought to get down to a bunch of tighty whities in front of a bunch of people,” Aaron Pierce is saying. He plays Ethan, one of the out-of-work steelworkers in this musical adaptation of the 1997 film.

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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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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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