Sunday, January 29, 2023

“The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci: A Performance Piece In Excellent Shape at Old Globe.

 Heading to the theatre on opening night of ‘Da Vinci’ I expected to see at least a picture of the Mona Lisa or “The Last Supper” or anything else by the illustrious Da Vinci. But playwright/director Mary Zimmerman had a different idea. Surprisingly in this case, what you expect isn’t always what you get. What she gives us is pure unadulterated theatre. 

Of the 5,000 pages from the 28 existing volumes of Leonardo's notes, 50 volumes of text and drawings were transferred by him. It is from these 5,000 pages of these volumes that Zimmerman culled her art form using actual notes and drawings from the pages to weave it all together. Ergo, "The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci"

(from left) Wai Yim, Adeoye, Andrea San Miguel, and Louise Lamson 

Oft time referred to as a ‘Renaissance’ man, his books, notes and ‘Folios shed light on his interests in science, art (of course) anatomy, physics, architecture, weaponry, designs for workable machines like the bicycle, helicopter, submarine and military tank that would not come to use for centuries and…'the study of the flying ability of a bat’. 

Adeone and Andrea San Miguel

The man was a genius! And the entire cast and crew at the Old Globe, with virtuoso direction from Mary Zimmerman presents a multi-faceted glimpse into Leonardo’s inner most thoughts about life and death or even love,  that "great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you little know it, you will be able to love it only little or not at all."  DaVinci was never married and led a celibite life, so it was understood.  

Costumes, (based on the original designs by Allison Reeds) by Mara Blumenfeld (with assist by Charlotte Devaux). Sound design by Michael Bodeen. Lighting design by T.J. Gerckens. Scenic design by Scott Bradley. Original music by Miriam Sturm and Michael Borden, with acrobatic defying positions  (yes there were acrobatics included) by consultant Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi. 

(from left) John Gregorio, Kasey Foster, Andrea San Miguel, and Adeoye in The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci 

Eight actors, five men and three women all sharing the stage as a Leonardo, each with their part to tell, some more, others less, each assuming another faze of his life, some amazing acrobats, showing his perspective on weight, while some were hanging from one or another part of the scenic and prop/set design or by desk drawers that pull out acting as the backdrop on either side of the stage, from top to bottom where the actors would hang, sit, climb or move from draw to draw. Speaking of draws, there is a drawbridge as well as a swing bar that is used. Singing and dancing, bands, balls of rope stretching across and bisecting each other giving the appearance of his multifaceted life from a childhood dream of a falcon pecking him on the face to the dream he had about walking in the hills, as a boy, and finding the opening to a cave but was afraid to go in.

Cast of Leonardo Da Vinci

This reviewer was more impressed with the scenic design (it was so all encompassing that the eyes were drawn into each movement of the cast; Adeoye, Christopher Donahue, Kasey Foster, John Gregorio, Anthony Irons, Louise Lamson, Andrea San Miguel and Wai Yim) than what was being said, some of which was difficult to understand even with my aids. 


All in all, it was an experience so rich in visuals that almost took my breath away and without even knowing it the 90 minute or so experience is still difficult to explain. One must see to believe what a true theatre experience looks and feels like. It’s not a play. It’s not a comedy.  It’s not a musical nor is it drama. It’s a piece that requires imagination beyond the realm.

Originally staged at the Goodman Theatre in 1993, this revival runs through Feb. 26th 

Kasey Foster and Christopher Donahue

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 26

Where: Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego

Tickets: $33 to $116

Phone: (619) 234-5623

Photo: Jim Cox


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Disney’s “Frozen” One Spectacular Show.

 Ask anyone from 4 to 80 how they liked “Frozen” and what you get is a smile from ear to ear. Yup, that good. The 2013 animated movie was first released at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles. It was considered to be “Disney’s best animated film since the studio’s renaissance era. 

“Frozen” received two awards at the 86th Academy Awards, and numerous other accolades. It was the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to win Best Animated Film and earned over a billion dollars in world -wide box office revenue. What’s not to like? 

Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s Norwegian fairy tale “The Snow Queen”, it follows two royal sisters Anna (Saheli Khan) and Elsa (Mackenzie Mercer) throughout their childhood years in the castle, through their adult (Lauren Nicole Chapman and Caroline Bowman) years finding their own way through trial and error. 

Lauren Nicole Chapman

As children we learn that Elsa, groomed to be queen, has magical powers of ice and snow that can freeze hearts. As the Ice Queen she accidently inflicts her powers on her sister Anna freezing her heart.  The sisters are forced to separate as children by their parents who soon die at sea, leaving the girls on their own. Elsa comes back to the castle after the parent’s death and is there coronated. Then the castle is closed and Elsa goes into self -imposed exile in the mountains and for the most part Anna spends most of the time looking for her beloved sister. 

Accompanying Anna on the adventure are a magical snowman Olaf (puppeteer Jeremy Davis), reindeer Sven (Dan Plehal), and ice salesman Kristoff (Dominic Dorset).

Directed by Michael Grandage and with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson -Lopez and Robert Lopez over a dozen new songs were added to the original. The book, however by Jennifer Lee is somewhat all over the planet especially Anna’s journey to find her sister. Anna’s adventures and exploits, if you will, are meant to amuse the minds and hearts of the younger set, clever as they might be with the use of puppet characters, with special effects by Jeremy Chernick, lighting by Natasha Katz, choreography Rob Ashford, scenic and costume design by Christopher Oram and orchestration Dave Metzger.  

The chemistry between Chapman and Bowman is seen in all scenes with the two together from the harsh NO to Anna’s wanting to marry a young handsome and pompous Duke (Will Sarvarese) to her meeting up with Kristoff an ice salesman (Dominic Dorset) who is smitten with Anna and sticks to her like glue

Caroline Bowman

The piece de resistance is Bowman’s spectacular rendering of “Let It Go that absolutely brings the house down. “From “Love Is An Open Door” to “From The First Time In Forever” to “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” to ”I Can’t Lose You” the twenty or more musical numbers and with a chorus of dancers who tip the light fantastic, special effects that boggle the imagination and a perfectly wonderful cast, one can say with certainty Disney’s “Frozen” will be one for the books up there with “Lion King”, “Titanic” and “Mary Poppins”. 

And if you happen to see a smaller version of Anna and/or Elsa, dressed in sparkling gowns when you go, that’s just the way it rolls in the lobby of the Civic Center at least through the 29th.

Caroline Bowman as Elsa The Ice Queen

Enjoy. I did. 

Times: 7 p.m. Wednesdays. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays. 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Through Jan. 29.

Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., San Diego

Tickets: $39-$114

Phone: 619 570 1100

Photo: Matthew Murphy


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

“Blues in The Night”: A Little Something for Everyone At NCR

Karole Foreman, Elijah Rock, Ciarra Stroud, and Anise Ritchie. 

 There are no less than twenty five blues numbers in Sheldon Epps 1980 musical revue, “Blues in The Night” currently playing at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach through Feb 12th. Epps conceived and originally directed ‘Night’ on Broadway that was nominated for a Tony as Best Musical of the year. 

The show stars three leading ladies, one very charming male song and dance man, who spend their time lamenting the Blues. No new comer to San Diego audiences, Karole Foreman, smooth as ever, playful, funny and somber represents ‘Woman of the World” (“Rough And Ready Man”), Anise Ritchie is “Lady from the Road” ("Wasted Life Blues"), Ciarra Stroud as “Girl with A Date” (“Willow Weep for Me”) and rounding out the foursome is Elijah Rock as the “Man in The Saloon”. (“Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues”) 

Anise Ritchie:Lady From The Road

Marty Burnett works his magic on the intimate stage of NCR in a fine replica of rundown hotel where the bar is the background for most of the singing and dancing. The time frame is 1938/40 Chicago. Off to the sides are three levels showing the inside of each room the gals occupy. Topping off this great theatre experience, there is an on stage five piece band under the musical direction of Lanny Hartley, who happens to be married to director Yvette Freeman Hartley. Pianist Kevin Toney conducts the band with bassist Roy Jenkins, drummer Danny King, reeds player Malcolm Jones and trumpeter Thomas Alforque.

Clara Stroud:  Girl With a Date

Blues numbers from the likes of Bessie Smith (Baby Doll” and “Dirty No Good Blues”), Duke Ellington and Mack David (“I’m A Lucky So and So”), Harold Arlan and Johnny Mercer’s “Blues in The Night”, and Johnny Mercer, Gordon Jenkins, Bernard Hanighen “When A Woman Loves A Man/Am I Blue”?) all rang a bell. 

I must admit I’m not much into the Blues genre, more of the Big Band era of the 40's and 50's, although I do have some Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra (obsolete) CD’s. That said, many of the twenty or so musical numbers performed in 'Night" were and are familiar, making the talented and engaging cast of performers shine in every number. They are playful, somber, very much in tune with one another both singing and dancing, and when Rock came out in his tap shoes, my day was made. 

Karole Foreman: Woman of the World

Additional credit must go to choreographer Roxane Carrasco, Matt Novotny, lighting, Regan A McKay for her spot on period costumes, Christopher Williams for all the props, Peter Herman wigs, Matt Fitzgerald, sound and Cindy Rumley Stage Manager. 

With all this talent on one stage, “Blues in the Night” should be on you must see list. 


See you at the theatre.

When: Runs through Feb. 12th 7 p.m. Wednesdays. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Tickets: $57-$68

Phone: (858) 481-1055

Photo: Adam Rumley

 On line:

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Diversionary’s “Irma Vep” … FROM MESHUGAS TO MADNESS

 It’s ironic that when yours truly ventures out into the real world, it would be one of the first shows I’ve seen since the pandemic and the last show of 2022 for Diversionary: “The Mystery Of Irma Vep”. In fact, it’s the first time I saw the new restructured lobby of the theatre and the much spoken of new and comfortable seats. What a grand time I had watching two superlative actors, playing eight characters in Charles Ludlam’s “The Mystery Of Irma Vep."

LHJ and BB

No one can accuse Charles Ludlam of not being different. I say that not to malign the man, but in praise of the man. Anyone who can come up with the ideas he has come up, which are truly genius (as he has been called by some), comes off as a little loopy. His works are camp ‘representations of traditional work’ and his ‘gender bending performances as Camille or Maria Callas among others, are legendary’.

The Mystery of Irma Vep: ‘A penny dreadful’, now in production at Diversionary on Park Blvd. through Dec. 24th is a Gothic thriller starring Bryan Banville and Luke Harvey Jacobs dressed in drag playing no less than eight (it seemed like more) different characters acting out, clearly, Ludlam’s Vampire (wink, wink) thriller.

There are werewolves, howling wolves, vampires, ghosts and mummies thrown into the mix to scare the wits out of us. And sometimes they do come as a surprise in this great production. There is also a throw away limb or two, an oil painting (of the now deceased Irma Vep) that bleeds out of one eye, a series of squeaks, shrills, storms that rage and a combination of automated and self -inflicted props that work and some that don’t work among other things. (Evan Eason)

Most movie buffs will see it as both a satire and a farce poking fun at the Victorian melodrama vaguely resembling Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film version of Daphne du Maurier’s romantic novel, ‘Rebecca’ with all roads leading to Mandacrest and surroundings. 

Charles Ludlam was an American actor, director and playwright, born in 1943, Early on he was out of the closet and never shunned away from the negative reviews of the mainstream theatre critics who accused him of founding a theatre as ‘gay theatre for a cult audience’. 

He founded the Ridiculous Theatrical Company where he was able to showcase his talent for the gothic yet more serious side of his nature. Even though he taught and staged productions at NYU, Conn. College for Women and Yale (commedia dell’arte) and won four Obie Awards, the last two before his death due to complications from having the HIV infection, he is generally remembered by his most popular play “The Mystery of Irma Vep.”

It opened in 1984 off-off Broadway in New York’s Greenwich Village produced by Ludlam’s company, Ridiculous Theatre Company.  Ludlam was Lady Enid and others and his partner Everett Quinton was Lord Edgar. It went on to win a Special Drama Desk Award (cast and crew) and the two performers won the 1985 Obie Award for Ensemble Performance. It’s a rapid-change tour de force style that might leave you breathless even before the end of Act I. 

The story takes place in the 1880’s at the home of Egyptologist Lord Edgar Hillcrest (BB) who has just arrived home with his new wife Lady Enid (Luke Harvey Jacobs). Staring down at them in the living quarters of the Hillcrest mansion is a portrait of the former Lady of the house, Lady Irma Vep (anagram for vampire). 

Luke Harvey Jacobs as Lady Enid

His long time housekeeper, Jane (BB) does not like the intrusion one bit and has no intention of making the new Lady at ease. Then there is Nicodemus (LHJ) the one legged (his other is wooden) groundskeeper/ swineherd who has a long history with both the family and Jane. Each has their secret and both know all the family secrets of those living, past and present, at the estate!

The actors go back and forth alternating their (not necessarily in order) characters with amazingly speedy costume (Brooke Kesler) and dialogue changes to move the story forward. While the plot, if you will, to uncover what really happened to Irma Vep rambles (it’s a bit too long after the initial setup) along the lines of a whodunit mystery, with the obvious staring us in the face.

Bryan Banville as Jane Twisden and others

It’s campy throughout taking us from the cliffs of Hillcrest to Egypt and mummies, to buried treasures to unleashed sarcophaguses and back to the Hillcrest estate where we hope Lady Enid and Lord Edgar will live happily ever after. Matthew Herman designed the utilitarian set that worked beautifully for this production.

Between directors Matt M. Morrow and Allison Spratt Pearce and along with an  assortment of stage-hands, chaos is made to look like organized mayhem. With the theatre’s wide stage every seat in the theatre is a good one. Needless to say, almost every inch of the stage, with the two making use of the isles (or not) in the theatre,  no one ever knew whose lap either one of them might land, was utilized.

LHJ and BB

That said nothing could detract from the talent of both LHJ, a big guy, who inhabits the Lady Enid role as easily as the hunchbacked, limping and disheveled Nicodemus. He is a hoot with his miraculous fast costume changes. When he comes on as Lady Enid with his perfectly coiffed updo’s (Peter Herman) in frilly gowns, flowing, feminine sleep attire in one scene, and as the resurrected Egyptian mummy appearing and walking away from the sarcophagus in Act II, you just want to howl (pardon the pun) out loud. Timing, they say is everything in farce, and they’ve got it down pat.   

Banville, who is spot on perfect as prissy Jane and ‘I haven’t got a clue of what’s going on in my mansion’s Lord Edgar, he never flinches.  As Jane she/he is steely and menacing, just the opposite of the clueless Lord Edgar. (In another life Banville has appeared in many musicals, and if you’ve never heard him sing, make haste to the next musical he’s in.)

The whole setup is too funny to miss...

And I love Farce, don’t you agree?

Dates: Through Dec. 24

Organization: Diversionary Theatre

Phone: 619 220 0097

Production Type: Farce/Tour de force 

Where: 4545 Park Blvd., University Heights

Ticket Prices: Start at $20.00


Photo: Peggy Ryan

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Moxie’s “The Children” Puts Us In A Post-Apocalyptic Quandary

Catalina Maynard, Vanessa Dinning, Neil McDonald

 Imagine being checked out by a Geiger counter to measure the amount of radiation in your body? It will happen, just as we are being scanned by wands to alert if any weapons are on us. If we continue poo pooing climate change and gun control laws can the same fate hit us as the three characters in Lucy Kirkwood's "The Children"? 

Former nuclear scientists, /engineers’ husband and wife, Robin (Neil McDonald) and Hazel (Vanessa Dinning) are living in a small cottage on the British coast not far from a nuclear reactor where the inconceivable happened; a tsunami upended the reactor killing almost everything in its wake. It’s now six months after the disaster and they are dealing with the aftermath when they get a visit from an old friend and former colleague, Rose, (Catalina Maynard).

Catalina Maynard

Playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s 2016 play is based on an actual happening. The event that served as the inspiration for the play was the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Kirkwood moves the action to England where director Kim Strassburger and Dinning (whose accent comes natural coming from somewhere in UK) have the speech patterns down to a science. That’s the good news, bad news for these weary ears, aids and all. Yours truly had a few problems catching all the talk-over dialogue combined with the accents but surely, the point was not missed.

The play dishes out large quantities of what and how we prepare for future generations to survive/ live healthy lives/ grow to adults without major medical problems and how politics and the importance of environment control fit into the picture. The playwright pretty much doesn’t leave any stone unturned. With lots of after show talk, Kirkwood opens the door even wider for next gen to take action. 

With about one hundred minutes of give and take in this no intermission production we see all three actors peel layers and layers of back and forth, give and take exposing who they really are. They are not just two dimensional characters. When Rose comes to ‘visit’ Hazel and Robin one gets the impression it’s a normal visit until we learn Hazel and Rose have not seen each other in over thirty years. It takes lots of dialogue before we learn the purpose of her visit. She’s just returned from the states and has a favor to ask both of them. 

Neil McDonald

For the most part it’s friendly dialogue; catching up. They talk about children, Roses experiences in the states, etc. Rose has no children nor has she ever been married. When Robin comes in riding a tricycle, seemingly in a happy mood, the tension between Rose and Robin takes a while to drop to sea level by the time the truth of their relationship is revealed. Add McDonald’s Robin into the mix and this trio is headed down uncharted paths. McDonald is a study all unto himself. While assuming a cool veneer as he tries to soothe Hazel by taking care of her cows left at their farm by lying to her. He goes to the ranch  every day, according to her, to take care of them. Once again, more layers reveal just the opposite. But nothing gets by the affable and oft times impressive Hazel while she prepares salad for lunch. 

Dinning’s Hazel is more than a keen observer, as nothing gets by her at once noticing that Rose is all too familiar with the setup of her house. They all act as if nothing is happening while the banter between the three cuts and bruises to the core talking over one another, ignore each other, blame each other and barely listen. Finally, Maynard’s Rose, who is about as up -tight as a drum compared to Dinning’s relaxed, yoga mother, who prefers healthy foods to the alternative, tells her former cohorts, why she’s there. 

Vanessa Dinning

Simply put, she is reaching out to former employees of the reactor to go back and make it right, putting them all at risk. What to do? That is the question. There is the quandary, the Catch 22. Do we do what’s right for our children and their futures or do we serve our communities to the dangers they entail once again? 

Director Kim Strassburger with assist from Sandy Campbell have put together a top notch trio of excellent actors to bring these questions to the fore.  Who you think you see see isn’t necessarily who is uncovered. As mentioned before, layer upon layer of what and who they are, is revealed by plays end and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. 

All three have their chance to shine throughout. Dinning, a natural pleasant, no nonsense mother hen is just what her part calls for; loving, caring, devoted and it looks like she makes one hell of a salad.

Vanessa Dinning, Neil McDonald , Catalina Maynard

Catalina Maynard is perfect as the up tight former lover/ friend who can’t seem to find a comfortable space in her friend’s company. As for McDonald, bringing up the rear, Kirkwood’s play would be desperately missing an important piece. Beneath that concerned façade something malicious is at work.

For this San Diego Premier, Mae Ann Ross designed the sets, Ally Wood, the lighting design, Carmen Amon, the costumes, Gabby Stryker, stage manager, Julie Lorenz, set and of course the Moxie staff for making it all happen.

For our future and our children's future, I highly recommend it.

Dates: Through Dec. 4th

Organization: Moxie Theatre

Phone: 858 598 7620

Production Type: Dark Comedy

Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N San Diego, Ca. 92115

Ticket Prices: $25.00 to $50.00


Photo: Daren Scott

Friday, November 11, 2022

“Hamilton” Returns To Civic With More Bounce to The Ounce

The last time “Hamilton”, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ode to the first Sec. of the Treasury, was in San Diego at the Civic Theatre, was in 2018, only three years after it premiered on Broadway. 

Then as now, the hip hoppin’, jazz, blues, rap centric, R&B mega hit “Hamilton, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and eleven Tony Awards including Best Musical, the life and times of Alexander Hamilton comes full circle for over two hours in Miranda’s historical unfolding of America’s beginnings. 

Cast of Hamilton

This national tour of “Hamilton” through Nov. 30th with last minute changes in casting (due to Coved and other illnesses) almost or most of those performing on opening night were understudies. Did it make a difference? If you went with the flow of the audience reaction, the answer would be 'no'. If you ask moi, it could have been a stronger show as some of the voices were not up to par and the orchestra had a tendency to drown out some of the lyrics, which make up the backbone of the historical happenings.  Along with the amazing dancing under choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, the entire cast performed “with more bounce to the ounce” and a youthful energy than I recall.

Inspired by the 2004 biography "Alexander Hamilton" by historian Ron Chernow, “Hamilton: An American Musical” with music, lyrics and book by Miranda, the story traces the life of one America’s Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton, statesman, Secretary of the Treasury, and author of economic policies under George Washington. His personal history was that of an immigrant from the Caribbean, born ‘out of wedlock’ and brought to New York as a teenager to pursue his education. He became a representative to the Congress of the Confederate and, his likeness appears on our U.S. $10.00 bill. 
As his his back -story plays out in the musical. Miranda puts a new face on the young patriot who steadfastly pushed his way into the making of a country as a vulnerable patriot writing a majority of articles and or essays called the Federalist Papers defending the ratification to the U.S. Constitution. 
With a cast as colorful (read multi ethnic), and somewhat as diverse as our founding fathers. Alexander Hamilton is played by Deaundré Woods (again understudy) and took on the role as a much younger and less pushy, but none -the -less, keeping up his rivalry with Aaron Burr. When he isn’t going face to face to face with his nemesis (“I’m Not Throwin' Away My Shot”) Burr, played with consistency by Ellis C Dawson III, he nailed it in a huge production number….”The Room Where It Happened”). He tests the waters by supporting the revolution to break away from the Mother -Land. And who shows up?  Monarch King George III, played with scrumptious wit and snooty arrogance by Alex Larson (“You’ll Be Back”).

Even though the women in most bios of the founding fathers get short -changed, Hamilton was as much a romantic and a rogue that he almost threw away his marriage while engaging in an outside affair. Early on he met and married, the love of his life, one of the Schuyler Sisters, Angelica “I’ll never forget the first time I saw your face”,  (Charlotte Mary Wen”) who introduced him to her sister Eliza (Morgan Anita Wood) at the Winters Ball. 
The women in his life played a large part in the outcome of  his home life and his wandering  eye, and Miranda, equal opportunity master that he is, gives the women some of the most compelling lyrics and music with which to express themselves. (“The Shuyler Sisters”, “Wrek”, “Helpless”, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”)

On the battlefield and in the planning of the revolution, Hamilton won the respect of George Washington (the full voiced Tré Frazier… “Right Hand Man”) much to the chagrin, consternation, and I might add jealousy of Burr. As long as Washington stayed in power, Hamilton was protected from his enemies. 
The minute Washington stepped down after the battle and independence a reality, with the help of the Marquis de Lafayette (Paris Nix who also plays the dandy Thomas Jefferson to perfection), Hamilton was open game and Burr was clearly out to break the man. Unfortunately, Burr’s claim to fame was that he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton. (“It’s Quiet Uptown”).   
Paris Nix as Thomas Jefferson

Once again, the large cast with precision choreography is in a category by itself with some beautiful and muscle bound bodies making this spectacular another reason to be there. 
With outstanding conducting by Julian Reeve’s, musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, some too loud sound design by  Nevin Steinberg’s  yet deftly directed by Thomas Kail, outfitted by Paul Tazewell, and with Howell Binkley’s dazzling lighting, and David Korins scenic design, you might want to sign up for the lottery where tickets are about $10.00

Back door deals, political rivalries and back -stabbing never seem to end. Not then, not now.

Through Nov. 20
Production Type:  Musical
Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., San Diego
Ticket Prices: Prices Vary
Photo: Joan Marcus

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

“Into The Breeches” More Than A WWII Backstage Comedy.



George Brant’s 2018 comedy, set in 1942, now showing at The North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, is as much a backstage comedy as it is a lesson on how far we as a society have or have not come on accepting changing social issues as the country changes.

But as an audience member looking in on the comings and goings of a group of female players taking it upon themselves to keep their favorite theatre in Providence, Rhode Island open during war time, when most of the men were off at war it's another story. Things get off to a rocky start when the, long on tooth ingénue, Celeste Fielding, (Katie MacNichol) comes to theatre and finds her fellow competitor Maggie in charge. To say that Celeste trusts Maggie as far as she could throw her would be an understatement, but the show goes on in spite of the potential pitfalls, like board president Ellsworth Snow (James Newcomb). 

James Newcomb, Rosemarie Chandler, Mikaela Macias, Geno Carr
Taylor Henderson, Katie MacNichol, Melanie Lora and Shana Wride

The plays scheduled for this particular season are mostly roles for men… Shakespeare’s Kings Henry IV and V combined. That could prove a potential pitfall for the all-volunteer women ensemble. So, says Ellsworth Snow. More on him later.

For the last 26 years The Oberon Theatre in Providence R.I. has been putting on plays by Shakespeare entertaining their neighbors in Woonsocket and Pawtucket. But… this year most of the men are overseas fighting a war. Maggie Dalton’s (Melanie Lora) husband Andrew always directed. This year, he sends Maggie to R.I.., blessings and all to direct in his place. 

Rejected to fight in this war, Stewart Lasker (Geno Carr) the stage manager is classified as Swish (Look it up). Alongside Stewart is African American Ida Green (Taylor Henderson) the company’s costume designer, who is not allowed to act or give blood, because of the color of her skin. (true). That reduces a potential cast of over thirty parts to about five playing as many parts as costumes allow (Renetta Lloyd and Roz Lehman). All who come to audition are women, lest we forget.   

In case you hadn’t guessed, the women take on the men’s roles, ergo, the breeches. And just as a tease… in one of the funniest scenes in the show, they learn to walk like men. At Celeste’s suggestion, Ida brings out enough bean bags attached to a harness of sorts for each of the women to wear, to simulate (Ahem the men’s business) so the women can feel what it’s like to walk like a man. It’s silly little scenes like these that get a good laugh from the audience, and there are many like that. 

Take for example Ellsworth Snow (James Newcomb) president of the Theatre Board, who refuses to pay the women for playing the men’s roles. (Yes, the men got paid but the women did not. (What say you to that ladies?) Ellsworth’s wife Winifred (the perfect pitch comic Shana Wride) convinces him to put up the cash as she persuades him to give in to every other want the group needs. Oddly matched, the two are the perfect foils for all that takes place on stage and off stage. (Set by Marty Burnett)

Both Mikaela Macias and Rosemarie Chandler as June Bennett and Grace Richards come to audition and seem to have some basic knowledge of Shakespeare so they are hired on a dime. Both have husbands serving overseas. By the time the show is ready and everyone in places and “Lights up” - Curtain Time, all is well. 

Geno Carr

Under the deft direction of Diana Van Fossen and of course with playwright Brant fairly new play,  a new world of first’s plays out in front of us. How naïve we all were about gender equality. Even today women make less for doing the same job as men. If we aren’t aware of this fact today, we’ve been hiding under a rock.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the race issue was brought home to me in my own neighborhood before I was a teen, and anti-Semitism, the same. 

While “Into The Breeches” started a bit slow and could have been cut a bit, it brought home more than a behind the scenes comedy; it hit home in places we thought we had overcome. On the other hand, it is a tribute to all those involved in theatre, paying homage to everyone who ever stood in front of an audience and gave it their all, as do those in the cast of “Into The Breeches:.


We still have a lot more work to do.

Credit to Peter Herman for the 40’s style hairdos and wigs, Sound Design and Production, Ryan Ford, Lighting Design, Matt Novotny, Prop Designs Cindy Rumley, and Christopher M. Williams, Stage Manager. 

See you at the theatre.


Dates: Through Nov. 13

Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre

Phone: 858 481 1055

Production Type: Comedy

Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Ticket Prices: $54.00 -$65.00

Web: northcoastrep.oeg

Photo: Aaron Rumley