Guys and Dolls

Guys and DollsReview:
Guys & Dolls, the 1950 hit Broadway musical full of gangsters, gamblers and “dolls,” has seen many revivals over the last sixty something years, along with a hit movie in 1955 starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. The Spreckels Theatre Company and director Gene Abravaya have created another fun, fast-moving, finger snapping adaptations of this classic musical. The wonderful cast sing and dance their way through the two-hour show accompanied by a live orchestra and before you know it, you’re humming the show tunes on the way out to your car.

Guys and DollsTim Setzer as Nathan Detroit, Denise Elia-Yen as Miss Adelaide and Anthony Martinez as Sky Masterson are all strong leads with great stage presence that truly made this show a pleasure to watch. There are many other characters in this production that have their moment in the sun with their own solos and duets in song and dance. The group ensemble dance and musical numbers are some of the best, with Luck Be a Lady and Sit Down, Your Rockin’ the Boat as crowd favorites.

Guys and Dolls

This is a family friendly Musical Fable about Broadway with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

Guys and Dolls is playing at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park. October 10-26, 2014.

For tickets and more information, click here

Photos by Eric Chazankin

Tickets provided in exchange for review
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Catch Me If You Can, The Musical

Opening night at Catch Me If You Can, The Musical was a fun and romantic night for the whole audience. What happened after the curtain call provided the romance but I’ll get to that later.

10268407_632961293441264_6431982098452584014_nDirected by Gene Abravaya, this Spreckels Theatre production stars Zack Howard, a relative newcomer to the acting stage, although apparently not a newcomer to singing or performing. Zack plays the young con artist and check forger, Frank Abagnale, Jr. Zack has a wonderful voice and confident stage presence. David Yen did a great job as FBI agent Carl Hanratty and several of the songs he sang with Zack and Garet Waterhouse, who played Frank Abagnale, Sr., seemed to be crowd favorites. That was until the second act when Kelly 10306393_632962863441107_4389878122253809944_nBrandeburg, who plays Wendy Strong, the fiancé to Frank Jr, wowed everyone with a spectacular number called “Goodbye.” She almost stole the show! Many lively song and dance numbers from the cast kept the play moving along at a fast pace. The audience was on their feet at the end with applause!

Something happened after the curtain call that will not be repeated after any other show, but it should be mentioned here because it was done so well. The star, Zack Howard, asked the audience to stay for something special. He had his girlfriend escorted up on the stage and proceeded to re-sing the plays opening song, “Live In Living Color” which he’d changed some of the words to. The whole cast sang and danced along with him. He then got down on one knee and proposed. Of course she said yes. Very romantic on a large scale. Congrats to Zack and Lauren!

History: Based off of semi autobiographical story, most people became familiar with Frank Abagnale, Jr. in 2002 when Stephen Spielberg’s hit movie Catch Me If You Can, starring Lionardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, came out. Catch Me If You Can, The Musical became an award winning a Broadway Musical in 2011.

Catch Me If You Can is playing May 9-25, for tickets to to Spreckels Performing Arts Center

Photos by Eric Chazankin

Tickets provided in exchange for review

Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Get Your Gun Annie Get Your Gun Annie Get Your Gun Annie Get Your GunPlay Review: Annie Get Your Gun

Did you know the song, “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” was written by Irving Berlin for the Broadway musical  Annie Get Your Gun? This musical is considered Irving Berlin’s greatest achievement in theater, with more hit songs from one show than any other Broadway musical.

The Spreckels Theatre Company presents Annie Get Your Gun, the fictionalized story of the real life Annie Oakley who was a famous sharpshooter. She toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the late 1800’s, becoming the first American female superstar.

The updated version of this musical is full of talent. The two main leads, Denise Elia-Yen as Annie Oakley and Zachary Hasbany as Frank Butler, who is Annie’s sharpshooting rival and love interest, shine with their performances, along with a supporting cast of actors who’s names routinely pop up in the local North Bay theatrical scene such as Tim Setzer, Anthony Guzman, Brittany Law, Dan Monez, and Dwayne Stincelli. Put them all together with dance choreographer Michella Snider (who performs a fun tap dance number with Joseph Favalora) as well as an ensemble cast of other talented actor/singer/dancers and you have another hit show!

Artistic director Gene Abravaya turned over the directing reins this time to Sheri Lee Miller, a well respected North Bay actor and director. This was her first time directing a play at the Spreckles Center and using the huge stage, live orchestra, fun costumes and creative sets, she delivers a top-notch theatrical performance.

Spreckels Theatre Company in Rohnert Park presents Irving Berlin’s
Annie Get Your Gun
Playing only two weeks, February 14-23, 2014.

Adaption by Peter Stone
Directed by Sheri Lee Miller
Music Directions by Janis Wilson
Choreography by Michella Snider
Costume Design by Pamela Enz
Photography by Eric Chazankin

Tickets provided in exchange for review

Scrooge: Play Review

by Eric Chazankin
Scrooge, photos by Eric Chazankin

This is a review of  Scrooge The Musical which is currently playing at the Spreckels Theater in Rohnert Park,  directed by Gene Abravaya and starring Tim Setzer along with a full cast of talented actors. This play is based on the Charles Dickens story,  A Christmas Carol.

I loved the play, which kept everyone entertained at a fast clip throughout. This theatrical performance is listed as an “E-Ticket” experience, which is derived from Disneyland’s pre 1982 ticketing system that referred to rides rated “E for unusually interesting or thrilling.” That completely describes this play. It is performed in a smaller theater with an maximum audience of 98 who are sitting on bleachers set up on two sides of the room.  Most of the performance is taking place on the floor in front of the by Eric Chazankinaudience, as they look down upon the scene. Some of the actors get up close and personal with the audience as they are at eye level with the first row of seated viewers. There is a minimal stage with various props that fit into it and two huge walls which are the background.  Scene changes and “special effects,” including some ghosts, come from 5 projectors on the ceiling.

Tim Setzer, starring as Scrooge, puts on a spectacular performance and carried the play. He has a great stage presence and wonderful singing voice, creating many haunting harmonies with his fellow actors. This is the 3rd play I’ve seen with Tim Setzer as the star and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all, this one is my new my favorite. Do you want to by Eric Chazankinget in the Christmas spirit? Go see this play and take the family with you!

(suitable for 10 and up or those who can sit quietly for 2 hours)

For more information or tickets, see Scrooge The Musical at Spreckels Theatre Company Nov 29- Dec 22

Tickets provided in exchange for review

Young Frankenstein: A Review

Young Frankenstein at Sperkels Performing Arts Center
Photos by Eric Chazankin

Director Gene Abravaya has another hit on his hands! After a very long day I barely made it time to see this musical comedy. I’m glad I did as it was a fast paced, laugh-a-minute delight!

Based on the story and screenplay by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, this parody of classic horror films from the 1930’s became the award-winning 1974 comedy film Young Frankenstein. In 2007 it opened as a Broadway musical called The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. Both versions were big hits. The Spreckels Theatre Company is preforming their version full of classic lines, crazy characters, running gags and musical numbers.

Young Frankenstein at Spreckels Performing Arts CenterThis talented assemble of singing actors stars Tim Setzer as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein and Jeffery Weissman as the hunchback Igor. They are a hit comedic team together. Add in Mary Gannon Graham as Frau Blucher, who is just a fun character to play with her accent and the horse whinnying gag running every time her name was mentioned. Then you have Allison Rae Baker as the sexy assistant Inga, Denise Elia-Yen who is Elizabeth Benning the tease of a fiancé, Braedyn Youngberg as The Monster, and John Shillington as Inspector Kemp and Harold the Hermit, along with a host of other dancing, singing villagers performing on a big stage with a live orchestra.

My favorite songs were Frau Blucher’s rendition of He Was My Boyfriend and Victor, The Monster, Inga & Igor singing and dancing Puttin’ On the Ritz, complete with top hats and tails. If you want to have a fun time and leave your daily cares behind for a few hours, I highly recommend this hilarious play as way to accomplish that.

Directed by Gene Abravaya
Music Direction by Sandy and Richard Riccardi
Choreography by Michella Snider
Set Design by Eddy Hansen
Costume Design by Pamela Enz

Young Frankenstein runs May 10-19, 2013 at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park

Tickets provided in exchange for review

The Price

Play Review

The Price-Photo by Eric Chazankin
The Price-Photo by Eric Chazankin

The Price by Arthur Miller is an intriguing family drama that was first a Broadway play in 1968. It is now being performed at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma. The issues of love, regret, hurt, betrayal, death, and family favorites in this story are pertinent to any era. The four actors in this play did a great job of making me care about the story and what was happening on stage.

Samson Hood plays Victor Franz. He had a huge role and was not off the stage once throughout the play. He was very convincing as the worn out cop, tired spouse, and long suffering brother who’s now forced to sell the family furniture and deal with emotions he would rather have left alone.

Charles Siebert plays Gregory Solomon who is an old antique dealer. He gets unintentionally stuck in the middle of a family feud by being randomly picked out of the phone book to give a price on the furniture needing to be sold. He provides the humor with his Russian accent and many distracting side stories as he drags out the “deal” on the furniture.

Madeline Ashe plays Ester Franz, Victor’s wife. I felt her frustration with the whole situation, how she loves her husband yet doesn’t fully understand the family dynamics that lead to his self-sacrificing ways all these years. As his wife, she wants the best for him and thinks if he just retires, it would solve everything.

John Shillington plays Walter Franz, the brother of Victor. He spends the second half of the play trying to convince all that he is not a successful, self-serving jerk of a doctor who abandoned not only his father but his brother. Now after 30 years, he has seen the error of his ways and is back to make amends.

This play doesn’t answer any questions or solve any of life’s dilemmas. It does make you think though and it was definitely entertaining.  I wished Mr. Siebert had a bigger role as his presence lit up the stage.

Directed by Sheri Lee Miller
Cinnabar Theater March 22-April 7, 2013

The Price by Arthur Miller, Charles Siebert

Tickets provided in exchange for review

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum

Play Review:

Photos by Eric Chazankin
Photos by Eric Chazankin

It has been awhile since I’ve been able to attend a play. This musical comedy was a good choice to bring my spirits up. A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, performed by the Spreckels Theatre Company was well attended on this particular Saturday evening performance. This was originally a 1963 Tony Award winning Broadway play which was also made into a movie a few years later. I’ve not had the privilege of seeing any of these previous versions. I found my first experience with this story delightful and entertaining. It seemed a little slow at first but that is the norm for most stories as one is introduced to the various characters. The second half picked up the pace and was quite comical as it moved towards the grand finale. Tim Setzer as Pseudolus had a huge role and was rarely off the stage for more than a minute or two.  Matthew Lindberg as Hero, Alan Kafton as Hysterium, and Matthew Proschold as Miles Glorious stood out in their roles as well.

Director Gene Abravaya shared his vision of the future for Spreckels with a group of us before the play. He hopes to see Spreckels become one of the main performing theaters in Sonoma County, someplace that people young and old will think of first when they say, “Where can we go for some good entertainment?” With the great talent pool of actors he has to choose from in this area, I see that as a very attainable goal. Now it’s up to us to help get the word out about this wonderful venue. I am looking forward to the next production this group puts on. But in the mean time, I recommend seeing this show before it’s over.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The ForumThis play is for teens and up. While there is nothing offensive in the story line, I think the story and humor would be over the head of younger children.

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Burt Shevelove and Lary Gelbert

Directed by Gene Abravaya
Music Direction by Sandy and Richard Riccardi

Feb. 8-17, 2013
More info: Spreckels Performing Arts Center

Tickets provided in exchange for review

She gives HOPE

Midnight

Susan Scherl, Executive Director of HOPE Animal Shelter says, “Sometimes things you yearn for don’t seem possible. As a child, I wanted a pet with all my heart but it was not allowed.”

As the story goes, at 12 years old Susan found a barn kitten at a riding stable and snuck it home under her sweater. At first her mother refused to let her in the apartment with the dark haired fur ball, but finally relented.  She said, “We will let your dad decide when he gets home. But you will have to keep it in the bathroom until then.”  Susan spent the rest of the day on the floor with the kitten, sleeping in her lap. That evening her father said, “I’m sorry sweetie, we just can’t have pets in this apartment, you are going to have to take it back.”

Fast forward, as an adult, Susan finally adopted her first pet, a cat named Troodi. For thirty years she pursued a career in advertising in New York. She loved her work, but there was still a dream sleeping in her heart. It was on a trip to Africa where that dream sprang to life. She saw animals living their lives in the wild, and at the same time she observed the extreme poverty of so many African people. She came away from that trip knowing that she wanted to do something different with her life, something that had more meaning.

Guided by inspiration she found in a Sanskrit word, “Ahimsa,” which literally means “non-violence”.  She dreamed of founding a no-kill animal shelter. That led her to the people at Best Friend’s Animal Shelter in Utah to whom she went for advice.

It takes time for dreams to come true. In 1996, Susan’s journey led her to Santa Fe, NM. She started a TV production company, and spent her spare time working at an animal shelter doing what she could for abandoned cats and dogs. In 2000 she moved to Tucson, AZ. She worked in a veterinary office. She volunteered at the Humane Society, where she eventually became the Shelter Manager.

In 2005, working closely with a veterinary office and other supporters, her dream finally came true. She founded and today directs a non-profit organization known as HOPE Animal Shelter…Tucson’s only no-kill animal shelter for cats and dogs. The dream is under way but as Susan will tell you, there is much more to do. For example, she is now dreaming of a larger facility and more property on which to care for the animals.

Perhaps you want to know more about Susan’s shelter. You may wonder how you can help. Please know that we at Ajo Veterinary Clinic support and have much respect for this organization.

We encourage you to visit their website for more information. Hope Animal Shelter

Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Brick & Big Daddy
Photos by Eric Chazankin

Review by Kim Murphey

March 9 was the opening night for the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. This play is the 1974 revised version dealing with  family characters and their sexuality, death, greed and alcoholism, all taking place on the night of Big Daddy’s 65th birthday party.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen the 1958 movie version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman, so my recollections were hazy at best as to the differences between the two versions. Today there are many things that are ok to talk about openly  and language that is tolerated now that would not have been in the 50’s, so it was obvious as I watched the play what the differences were between the two.  Listening to my fellow seat mates discuss their opinions of the changes during the intermissions was also interesting when  comparing a classic done in a different way.

This play features Charles Seibert* as Big Daddy, Jenifer Cote as Maggie, Clint Campbell as Brick, Kate Brikley* as Big Mama, Tice Allison as Grooper, and Beth Deitchman as Mae.

Jenifer Cote as Maggie seems to have the lions share of the lines throughout the play, especially in the first scene where she is basically carrying on a conversation with herself as her husband Brick is working on getting drunk and not listening to her much. As the play progresses, other family members enter and leave the conversation  as we come to understand the dynamics of this big southern family. They are all dealing with their own various disappointment in life as they digest the information that the family patriarch Big Daddy is dying and how the estate may or may not be divided when he passes.

Charles Siebert, who is a famous theater, movie and TV star and director, plays Big Daddy. He is perfect for this role with his commanding voice and dominating presence. I could easily imagine him running a Southern plantation and this family. I thoroughly enjoyed his character and the whole play. 

*This actor appears through the courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the U.S.

6th Street Playhouse
Directed by Michael Fontaine.
For Mature Audiences
March 9-25, 2012
Tickets between $15-$32

 Historical Railroad Square in Downtown Santa Rosa.

Tennessee Williams1958 movie of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Charles Siebert

Tickets provided in exchange for review

Review: The 39 Steps

39 Steps-5151
Photos by Eric Chazankin

Review by Kim Murphey

Opening night of the play “The 39 Steps” at 6th Street Playhouse was sold out. We all were treated to a fast paced, hilarious show directed by Craig Miller, starring Adam Burkholder, Paul Huberty, Larry Williams, and April Krautner.

Having never seen the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie or the Tony Award winning Broadway play, I had no preconceived ideas of what the story was about. I was in for a treat. This comedic show with multiple characters played by the talented four person cast was non-stop from the second it started. Watching Paul Huberty and Larry Williams change characters right in front of your eyes by switching hats and accents (and sometimes clothes) was funny and convincing at the same time, two very talented guys. The “action” scenes were done well too, the train chase scene being my favorite.

This story was originally written in 1915 by Scottish author John Buchan, the first of five novels about an all action hero with a surprising knack for getting out of sticky situations. It was later adapted as a radio show, three movie versions, this comedic theatrical version which started in London and moved on to Broadway and a BBC TV series.

Interested in a good evening out? See this play from Jan. 6 -21 at 6th Street Playhouse. Tickets are between $10-25.

Historical Railroad Square in Downtown Santa Rosa

Alfred HitchcockJohn Buchan

Tickets provided in exchange for review