ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Review: Cinnabar Theater opens its 42nd season with a touching Fiddler on the Roof, celebrating beloved musical’s the 50th anniversary—extended twice, closes September 28, 2014

Cinnabar Theater captures the happiness and tears of Fiddler on the Roof with a beautiful production celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary.  Stephen Walsh (L) is Tevye and Elly Lichenstein (R) is Golde in the timeless musical which includes 45 incredible singers, dancers, and musicians.  Photo by Eric Chazankin

Cinnabar Theater captures the happiness and tears of Fiddler on the Roof with a beautiful production celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary. Stephen Walsh (L) is Tevye and Elly Lichenstein (R) is Golde in the timeless musical which includes 45 incredible singers, dancers, and musicians. Photo by Eric Chazankin

There are many gaps in my cultural exposure and the musical, Fiddler on the Roof was one of them—until I saw Cinnabar Theater’s opening night (September 6) performance, which had me and an enthusiastic audience humming, clapping, and tearing up throughout.  What better way for Cinnabar to kick off its 42 season than by celebrating the 50th anniversary of this beloved musical whose poignant story about embracing change is captured in the swirl of dance and glorious song. Directed by John Shillington, choreographed by Joseph Favalora, with music direction by Mary Chun, this is a big-hearted production that celebrates what Cinnabar excels at—talented actors making a human connection so palpable it feels like they’re doing it especially for you.

The story centers on Tevye, father of five strong-willed daughters, who is struggling to maintain his family’s Jewish traditions in the tiny shtetl (village) of Anatevka which, in 1905, begins to reel as Tsar Nicholas II’s anti-Jewish propaganda campaign spreads and begins to incite fear and hatred of Jews, even in the far corners of the Imperial Russian empire. Stephen Walsh, who wowed Cinnabar audiences in last November’s hit, La Cage aux Folles, plays Papa Tevye with Cinnabar’s own Elly Lichenstein (Artistic Director) as Golde, his wife.  Their on stage chemistry is palpable and they each play their roles with emotional conviction and good-hearted humor. It was nice to hear Lichenstein, a formally-trained opera singer, singing again and embracing a pretty decent and consistent Yiddish accent.   She had the audiences in stitches in the scene where the couple is in bed and Tevye relates his frightening dream to her.  “This role has enormous personal significance for me,” said Lichenstein. “All four of my grandparents came to America from villages like Anatevka, and it excites me that our magnificent cast is so committed to tell their story.”

In Walsh’s hands, the milkman Tevye is a warm-hearted father, steeped in faith and tradition, who only wants the best for his daughters, each of whom challenge his notions of what is right.  Is it following tradition and marrying them off to men of means, picked by a matchmaker, who can provide for them financially and offer them security, or, is it letting them pick the men they love, who inspire them and make them happy?

As the story progresses, Tevye becomes concerned not only that his daughters are falling in love with poor men, but that they are stepping away from their faith.  In one of his many dialogs with God and his conscience he reflects on his struggle to accept the men they have chosen.

“Accept them?” How can I accept them?” Tevye groans. “Can I deny my own child?  If I try to bend that far, I will break. On the other hand, there is no other hand.”

The daughters are all delightful in their feisty and independent search for love and meaning in their lives—Jennifer Mitchell is Tzeitel, the eldest, who wants to marry a poor tailor instead of an aged butcher. Molly Mahoney is Hodel, who falls for a Bolshevik who would take her far from Anatevka. Erin Asha is Chava, who falls in love with a non-Jew. Lucy London is Bielke and Megan Fleischmann is Shprintze. The roles of their suitors are played by equally talented young men.

(l to r) Dancers Nate Mercier, Joseph Favalora, and Jorge Covarrubias celebrate life in Cinnabar Theater’s joyous production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

(l to r) Dancers Nate Mercier, Joseph Favalora, and Jorge Covarrubias celebrate life in Cinnabar Theater’s joyous production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

The action is set against another of Fiddler‘s delights—its marvelous set by Joe Elwich who has masterfully re-purposed the gorgeous salvage lumber from last season’s “Of Mice and Men” into a modest rustic village which frames the small stage. The fiddler, talented violinist Tyler Lewis, sits atop a small sloping roof, quite close to the off-stage orchestra and serenades gloriously throughout. The peasants’ rich spiritual lives are reflected in their costumes which take on a life of their own in several moving dance scenes. Each of the 40-odd costumes is unique and all designed by Cinnabar’s fabric wizard, Julia Hunstein Kwitchoff.

The original Broadway incarnation of this beloved musical racked up an astonishing 10 Tony Awards by introducing unforgettable songs like “Tradition” and “If I Were a Rich Man.”  Music is by Jerry Brock, lyrics by Serldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein. Cinnabar’s small orchestra, under Mary Chun’s capable direction, brought great energy to the production. Clarinetist Larry Lipman’s haunting solos were played beautifully throughout.

As I watched Fiddler unfold, I couldn’t keep from thinking how relevant this musical is today.  Religious conflict is prevalent in so much of the world and has created such upheaval that entire populations are still being forced to leave their homeland. And family dynamics are reeling and shifting constantly. Parents everywhere are struggling to accept their children’s choices which are different from those they would make.   Many Americans are intensely proud that they can trace their heritage to villages like Anatevka and they can personally relate to the sadness and plight of the villagers who are forced to leave.  Cinnabar’s engaging production, with its strong emotional core, brings out the many facets of this timeless story about the bittersweet evolution of family life.

On Sunday, September 21, Cinnabar offers a special performance and party (long sold-out) commemorating the day the musical first opened on Broadway.

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, Stephen Walsh as Tevye and Elly Lichenstein as Golde star in an ebullient production of "Fiddler on the Roof.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, Stephen Walsh as Tevye and Elly Lichenstein as Golde star in an ebullient production of “Fiddler on the Roof” that includes many age-old rituals. Photo by Eric Chazankin

Details: Cinnabar Theater is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA.  There is ample parking on the lot at the crest of the hill, just feet from the entrance. Fiddler on the Roof has been extended twice and there are10 remaining performances. There are a few available seats for these—Thursday, September 25th (8 PM), Friday 26th (8 PM), Saturday 27th (2 PM and 8 PM), Sunday 28th (2 PM) Tickets:  $35 General, $25 under age 22, $9 middle-school and high-school. Buy tickets online here or call the box office at 707-763-8920 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on weekdays.   Last minute: Occasionally, there are “no shows” and if you arrive at the theater 30 minutes prior to a show, you might be able to get a seat. Arrive early for all performances as all seating is general seating, save for opening night, where the house saves seats for subscribers.

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September 17, 2014 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 9th Taste of Petaluma is this Saturday, August 23, and bigger than ever—meet the newcomers

Miriam Donaldson and Josh Norwitt’s Wishbone will serve bacon jam blt's and iced coffee for Saturday’s 9th Annual Taste of Petaluma. Wishbone, new to Taste, proudly identifies with Petaluma’s ranch heritage. Their unforgettable slow-cooked bacon jam is an amazing alchemy of bacon bits (they use Love Family Farm bacon, where they get first pick of the pork), 24-hour caramelized onions, maple and coffee.  The jam is slathered over house-made sourdough toast that comes from a wild starter from the couple’s Roblar Road cattle ranch and apple farm.  Vine ripened heirloom tomatoes and greens finish it off.  “You can knock out brunch for 150 people and every single serving is amazing,” says Donaldson. Wishbone will be hosted by the Phoenix Theater, in downtown Petaluma for Taste. The restaurant itself is located at 841 Petaluma Blvd. North, in the historic Three Cooks Café brick building.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Miriam Donaldson and Josh Norwitt’s Wishbone will serve bacon jam blt’s and iced coffee for Saturday’s 9th Annual Taste of Petaluma. Wishbone, new to Taste, proudly identifies with Petaluma’s ranch heritage. Their unforgettable slow-cooked bacon jam is an amazing alchemy of bacon bits (they use Love Family Farm bacon, where they get first pick of the pork), 24-hour caramelized onions, maple and coffee. The jam is slathered over house-made sourdough toast that comes from a wild starter from the couple’s Roblar Road cattle ranch and apple farm. Vine ripened heirloom tomatoes and greens finish it off. “You can knock out brunch for 150 people and every single serving is amazing,” says Donaldson. Wishbone will be hosted by the Phoenix Theater, in downtown Petaluma for Taste. The restaurant itself is located at 841 Petaluma Blvd. North, in the historic Three Cooks Café brick building. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The 9th annual Taste of Petaluma is this Saturday, August 23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s all about connecting with Petaluma’s small-town charm and rich sense of community—bite by glorious bite.  Taste is a benefit for Cinnabar Theater’s youth repertory programs and if you’ve ever attended one of Cinnabar’s remarkable youth performances, you understand what a treasure Cinnabar is.   This year, Taste of Petaluma is bigger than ever with over 100 of Petaluma’s restaurants and food, wine and beverage purveyors participating at 54 locales.  Some 85 musicians will be playing in a dozen locales downtown too, offering just as promising a musical menu (full performance schedule here). The event draws people from all over the Bay Area and $40 gets you 10 generously portioned tastes of your choosing.

Recently, I participated in two “mini-tastes” and had the chance to meet the owners and chefs of several new restaurants, hear their stories and sample what they’re preparing for Taste.  I tried everything from  bacon jam BLTs with duck egg mayo and heirloom tomatoes on homemade sourdough from Miriam Donaldson and her team at homey Wishbone on Petaluma Blvd. North, down by the Police Station, to  Wagyu New York Tataki from Joe O’Donnell at upscale Seared on Petaluma Blvd. North’s restaurant row.  Both of these inviting establishments opened in the past year, have chefs and staff in their 20’s and 30’s, and represent the energy and diversity in our local food scene.  As if cooking weren’t a full time job, many chefs are growing their own vegetables and fruits and are highly attuned to what’s peaking on a daily basis.  Their menus are constantly changing and they are experimenting with their bounty.  A few are even raising their own meat.  They’re all joyous about having a hand in every step of the process and that includes scoring some great salvaged wood or a glass case or pulling all-nighters ripping out flooring.  “It’s been nice to move around,” says O’Donnell, “but Petaluma feels like home and it’s got everything I need close at hand. There’s no place like it.  We’ve caught up.”

Zodiak co-owner Kristin McMaster is serving their signature Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs with Cool Mango Slaw at this year’s Taste of Petaluma.  McMaster’s radiant personality and high energy propel her through long days as she lives out her restaurant, music club, beer hall, and gallery dream with her fiancé and business partner, John “Jonesy” Jones.   The young couple, passionate “garage-salers,” who live in the neighborhood peeked into the enormous space when the old Kodiak Jack’s was closing and they were having an estate sale.  They fell in love with its potential and made an offer on the space the next day.  They mixed and poured the concrete and Kristy painted the space herself.  Zodiac’s wonderful vibe includes daily live musical performances, and professionally displays of local art.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Zodiak co-owner Kristin McMaster is serving their signature Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs with Cool Mango Slaw at this year’s Taste of Petaluma. McMaster’s radiant personality and high energy propel her through long days as she lives out her restaurant, music club, beer hall, and gallery dream with her fiancé and business partner, John “Jonesy” Jones. The young couple, passionate “garage-salers,” who live in the neighborhood peeked into the enormous space when the old Kodiak Jack’s was closing and they were having an estate sale. They fell in love with its potential and made an offer on the space the next day. They mixed and poured the concrete and Kristy painted the space herself. Zodiac’s wonderful vibe includes daily live musical performances, and professionally displays of local art. Photo: Geneva Anderson

“Even though it’s bigger than ever, Taste was a lot easier this year,” explained the event’s founder Laura Sunday, who estimates that 1,500 people will turn out. “A lot of restaurants contacted me early, eager to participate, and several of the hosting venues took the initiative and told me who they were partnering with.  This is the only tasting event on this scale I know of that doesn’t operate like a food fair.  People actually get to go into a restaurant, check out the ambiance, and sample very generously.  You couldn’t buy better advertising.  We’ve got new establishments eager to introduce themselves to the community and lots of well-rooted restaurants and vendors who do this year after year because they enjoy giving back to Petaluma and to Cinnabar Theater.”

Stay-tuned to ARThound for more on Taste of Petaluma.

More About Cinnabar:  Cinnabar Theater, located in the old red Cinnabar Schoolhouse on Petaluma Blvd and Skillman Lane, opens its 42 season on Friday, September 5, 2014, with the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, celebrating this golden oldie’s 50th anniversary.  The heartwarming story centers on Tevye, father of five strong-willed daughters who is struggling to maintain his family’s Jewish traditions. Stephen Walsh, who wowed Cinnabar audiences in last November’s hit, La Cage aux Folles, plays Papa Tevye with Cinnabar own Elly Lichenstein (Artistic Director) as his wife.  “This has enormous personal significance for me,” said Lichenstein. “All four of my grandparents came to America from villages like Anatevka, and it excites me that our magnificent cast is so committed to tell their story.” The original Broadway incarnation of this beloved musical racked up an astonishing 10 Tony Awards by introducing unforgettable songs like “Tradition” and “If I Were A Rich Man.”  Music is by Jerry Brock, lyrics by Serldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein. Fiddler ends September 21 with a special performance and party commemorating the day it first opened on Broadway.  Runs: Sept 5-21, 2014, just 10 performances; tickets $35.  Pounce! This is selling out.  Cinnabar Theater is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit.

Zodiaks (256 Petaluma Blvd. North) signature Dr. Pepper braised baby back ribs basted in house-made Carolina-style BBQ sauce are meaty, juicy, tender and not at all greasy.  I’d add proud…they aren’t slathered in layers of sauce that obscures the quality of their succulent meat.  Red cabbage is just the starting point for Zodiac’s artful mango slaw, tossed with a zingy dressing with hints of lime that defines its personality and pairs well with the savory ribs.  Zodiacs will also be hosting 10 local craft brewers— Lagunitas, 101 North Brewing, Moylans Brewery, Morris Distributing, North Coast, Bear Republic, Hen House, Petaluma Hills, St. Florian's, Moonlight.  A ticket will get you 5 samplings of your choice.  Zodiaks will also host an After Taste of Petaluma Party from 4 p.m. onwards.  Musicians John Allair and Julia Harre will play a happy hour for the party. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Zodiaks (256 Petaluma Blvd. North) signature Dr. Pepper braised baby back ribs basted in house-made Carolina-style BBQ sauce are meaty, juicy, tender and not at all greasy. I’d add proud…they aren’t slathered in layers of sauce that obscures the quality of their succulent meat. Red cabbage is just the starting point for their artful mango slaw, tossed with a zingy dressing with hints of lime that defines its personality and pairs well with the savory ribs. Zodiacs also host 10 local craft brewers— Lagunitas, 101 North Brewing, Moylans Brewery, Morris Distributing, North Coast, Bear Republic, Hen House, Petaluma Hills, St. Florian’s, Moonlight. A ticket will get you 5 samplings of your choice. Zodiaks will also host an After Taste of Petaluma Party from 4 p.m. onwards. Musicians John Allair and Julia Harre will perform. Photo: Geneva Anderson

 Cinnabar’s Young Repertory Theater opens its new season on November 28, 2014 with the classic musical, The Wizard of Oz.  This charming adaptation by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company is based on the beloved classic motion picture and features our adorable local munchkins on stage along with Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man.  There’s no better way to celebrate the holidays! Runs: November 28-December 14, 2014; tickets $15.  Pounce! This too will sell out.

Details:  The 9th Annual Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 23, 2014 from 11:30 AM to 4 PM.  Ticket packages are $40 and consist of 10 tasting tickets, good for 1 taste each.  Advance tickets can be purchased in person until Friday, August 22, 3 p.m. at the following venues in Petaluma—

Gallery One – 209 Western Ave.

Velvet Ice Collections – 140 2nd Street, Theater Square

Blush Collections – 117 Kentucky Street

Cinnabar Theater between 10-2:30 weekdays

Tickets can be purchased online here (with $4 surcharge per ticket). Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the event from 10:30 AM onwards at Helen Putnam Plaza.  Only 1500 tickets will be sold.

Advance tickets can be picked up at WILL CALL at Helen Putnam Plaza (129 Petaluma Blvd. North) after 10:30 AM on the day of the event.  The first 1,000 guest to purchase tickets will receive a free Taste of Petaluma tote bag.  All participants receive a plastic wine glass.  You can purchase more tickets throughout the day for $4 each.

Wishbone co-owner and chef Miriam Donaldson, of Humble Pie fame, is fighting the good food fight in Petaluma at her new locale in the funky brick building previously occupied by the Three Cooks Café—“Raise up! Eat up! More locally-raised meat, veggies and cheese than you can shake a stick at, a full espresso bar, a fun wine list, and the best record collection this side of 101.”  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Wishbone co-owner and chef Miriam Donaldson, of Humble Pie fame, is fighting the good food fight in Petaluma at her new locale in the funky brick building previously occupied by the Three Cooks Café—“Raise up! Eat up! More locally-raised meat, veggies and cheese than you can shake a stick at, a full espresso bar, a fun wine list, and the best record collection this side of 101.” Photo: Geneva Anderson

Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell often puts in 15 hours days at Seared and they are paying off—it’s the best steak house in town.  Celebrating its one year anniversary this August, Seared, 170 Petaluma Blvd. North, occupies the space that Graziano’s had for over 30 years.  O’Donnell’s pedigree includes Scottsdale’s Le Cordon Bleu and cooking stints in San Francisco, Sausalito, Olema, and years spent helping out at McNears, owned by his father Ken O’Donnell, also a partner in Seared.   “We’re trying to take a different approach to the steak house mentality here. We do a lot of interesting small plates and top quality servings of great meats and fishes.”  Seared is serving chili pepper cod aquachili with avocado, cilantro, on a crisp tortilla with pickled onion AND Wagyu New York tataki on a crispy Kennebec potato chip.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell often puts in 15 hours days at Seared and they are paying off—it’s the best steak house in town. Celebrating its one year anniversary this August, Seared, 170 Petaluma Blvd. North, occupies the space that Graziano’s had for over 30 years. O’Donnell’s pedigree includes Scottsdale’s Le Cordon Bleu and cooking stints in San Francisco, Sausalito, Olema, and years spent helping out at McNears, owned by his father Ken O’Donnell, also a partner in Seared. “We’re trying to take a different approach to the steak house mentality here. We do a lot of interesting small plates and top quality servings of great meats and fishes.” Seared is serving chili pepper cod aquachili with avocado, cilantro, on a crisp tortilla with pickled onion AND Wagyu New York tataki on a crispy Kennebec potato chip. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Seared Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell brings a strong Asian influence to his cooking. His Sichuan-tiered Wagyu New York is all about the art of layering.  The meat, an Americanized Kobe grass-fed beef, is seared to rare. A kennebec potato is sliced to make chips and dusted with a combination of seaweed, salt, sugar sesame and then grilled.  The chips get a dab of black garlic puree (fermented garlic slow-cooked over a week) before the meat is placed on top and then topped again with a scallion ginger puree, some soy bourbon reduction, Sichuan peppercorn  and a few pink-tinged micro shiso (asian microgreens).  Sichuan peppercorns are a staple of Asian cooking that O’Donnell uses frequently.  Harvested from prickly ash shrubs, they have a fragrant aroma and are more floral than peppery.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Seared Executive Chef Joe O’Donnell brings a strong Asian influence to his cooking. His Sichuan-tiered Wagyu New York is all about the art of layering. The meat, an Americanized Kobe grass-fed beef, is seared to rare. A kennebec potato is sliced to make chips and dusted with a combination of seaweed, salt, sugar sesame and then grilled. The chips get a dab of black garlic puree (fermented garlic slow-cooked over a week) before the meat is placed on top and then topped again with a scallion ginger puree, some soy bourbon reduction, Sichuan peppercorn and a few pink-tinged micro shiso (asian microgreens). Sichuan peppercorns are a staple of Asian cooking that O’Donnell uses frequently. Harvested from prickly ash shrubs, they have a fragrant aroma and are more floral than peppery. Photo: Geneva Anderson

McEvoy Ranch’s Winemaker, Margaret Koski Kent will be pouring McEvoy’s 2013 Rosebud rosé at Thistle Meats which also stocks McEvoy’s prized olives.  Kent initially headed McEoy’s expansive gardens and then studied oenology at Napa Valley College and apprenticed in Italy.  She helped launch their expansion into wine.  With a nod to tradition and in pursuit of a wine that would complement their high-end virgin olive oil, McEvoy began to interplant grapes on its estate around 2006 and then dedicated several acres to separate vineyards for pinot noir, syrah pinot noir, syrah, grenache, viognier, alicante bouschet, refosco and Montepulciano. It then expanded to a Hicks Valley property with pinot noir clones. McEvoy is now producing several wines and winning awards and Kent could not be happier with her job.  Photo:  Geneva Anderson

McEvoy Ranch Winemaker, Margaret Koski Kent, will be pouring McEvoy’s 2013 Rosebud rosé at Thistle Meats which also stocks McEvoy’s prized olives. Nan McEvoy grew in Hillsborough with Thistle co-owner Molly Best’s grandpa and there’s an enduring connection between the families. Kent initially headed McEoy’s expansive gardens and then she studied oenology at Napa Valley College and apprenticed in Italy. She helped launch their expansion into wine. With a nod to tradition and in pursuit of a wine that would complement their high-end virgin olive oil, McEvoy began to interplant grapes on its estate around 2006 and then dedicated several acres to separate vineyards for pinot noir, syrah pinot noir, syrah, grenache, viognier, alicante bouschet, refosco and Montepulciano. McEvoy is now producing several award-winning wines. Kent could not be happier with her job. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Thistle Meats (160 Petaluma Blvd. North) will sample their delectable charcuterie—house-made sausages, pates and terrines, along with McEvoy Ranch's vibrant 2013 Rosebud rosé.  Thistle’s Salami Cotto (above) is cured and then poached, a process which is shorter than some of the other Salami techniques but yields a tender, velvety and very flavorful meat.  Thistle’s pork, all pasture raised, is sourced from Green Star Farm in Sebastopol; River Ranch in Potter Valley, Mendocino; B & B Family Farms in Petaluma, and Llano Seco Ranch in Chico, one of the last Mexican land grant properties that remains intact.  Thistle is a whole animal shop and receives and uses the entire animal.  Their artful displays of exquisite cuts of meats are worth the visit.  Workshops in butchery and salumi making are in the planning phase.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Thistle Meats (160 Petaluma Blvd. North) will sample their delectable charcuterie—house-made sausages, pates and terrines, along with McEvoy Ranch’s vibrant 2013 Rosebud rosé. Thistle’s Salami Cotto (above) is cured and then poached, a process which is shorter than some of the other Salami techniques but yields a tender, velvety and very flavorful meat. Thistle’s pork, all pasture raised, is sourced from Green Star Farm in Sebastopol; River Ranch in Potter Valley, Mendocino; B & B Family Farms in Petaluma, and Llano Seco Ranch in Chico, one of the last Mexican land grant properties that remains intact. Thistle is a whole animal shop and receives and uses the entire animal. Their artful displays of exquisite cuts of meats are worth the visit. Workshops in butchery and salumi making are in the planning phase. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Some guys always have a great story to tell and Twisted 2’s owner Dick Warner holds court at his famous Happy Hour (and a Half), every Thurs-Sat from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Here, he talks baseball with Katie Watts, Petaluma’s Press Democrat correspondent at a mini-Taste of Petaluma held for local journalists. Warner’s warm personality is a fine accompaniment to the legendary wines he serves and sells.  His ace in the hole is the amazing fresh pistachio nuts he generously offers customers.  He worked on a ranch near Fresno for 15 years and negotiated a lifetime supply of these gems for all the good business he brought them. “You can’t find wine that pistachios don’t go with and everyone loves them.”  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Some guys always have a great story to tell and Twisted 2’s owner Dick Warner holds court at his famous Happy Hour (and a Half), every Thurs-Sat from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Here, he talks baseball with Katie Watts, Petaluma’s Press Democrat correspondent at a mini-Taste of Petaluma held for local journalists. Warner’s warm personality is a fine accompaniment to the legendary wines he serves and sells. His ace in the hole is the amazing fresh pistachio nuts he generously offers customers. He worked on a ranch near Fresno for 15 years and negotiated a lifetime supply for all the good business he brought them. “You can’t find a wine that pistachios don’t go with and everyone loves them.” Photo: Geneva Anderson

Twisted 2 (29 Petaluma Boulevard North) in the Lanmart Building is offering Ono Sashimi fresh from Kona, Hawaii with sushi rice, seaweed slaw and a sip of owner Dick Warner’s specially selected 2012 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc from Dan Morgan Lee’s winery in Monterey County.  Warner, a renowned wine specialist, pairs courses of their prix fixe dinner menu with wines he selects. Julie Warner cooks and grows almost all of the vegetables she uses herself. Happy Hour (and a Half) is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.  Reservations are essential in this intimate 360 square foot treasure.   Photo: Geneva Anderson

Twisted 2 (29 Petaluma Boulevard North) in the Lanmart Building is offering Ono Sashimi fresh from Kona, Hawaii with sushi rice, seaweed slaw and a sip of owner Dick Warner’s specially selected 2012 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc from Dan Morgan Lee’s winery in Monterey County. Warner, a renowned wine specialist, pairs courses of their prix fixe dinner menu with wines he selects. Julie Warner cooks and grows almost all of the vegetables she uses herself. Happy Hour (and a Half) is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Reservations are essential in this intimate 360 square foot treasure. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Tiffany Saxelby Sax's Joint

Sax’s Joint, a 1950’s style diner, co-owned by Tiffany Saxelby, creates delicious cupcakes with buttercream frosting that are all made from scratch with the finest ingredients. They will serve a selection of mini-cupcakes at Marisa’s Fantasia, 29 Petaluma Blvd. North. Surprisingly, these gorgeous treats look rich but they are not too sweet. Each packs a special mouthwatering surprise—the interior is filled with dollop of scrumptious creamy homemade fruit conserve, caramel, mocha or chocolate. Along with dessert, Sax’s will also serve their popular Chicken Fried Chicken—fileted fresh chicken breast, egg washed and dipped in dry floured seasoning mix, deep fried, served in a cup with homemade country gravy. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Night owl?  Speakeasy (139 Petaluma Blvd. North, in American Alley at Putnam Plaza) is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily and is the only place in town where you can go for late night gourmet bites.  Owners and life partners, Amber Driscoll and Roger Tschann, have built their reputation on serving elegant tapas-style delicacies in their intimate space. For Taste, their new chef, Josh Dellwo will prepare empanadas with Niman Ranch steak and potatoes topped with a lime cilantro cream, crumbled queso fresco and microgreens. Dellwo’s light flaky crust and the interplay of the tangy lime, cilantro and beef elevate this South American snack into a gourmet treat.   Speakeasy, which opened in late 2012, has been so successful that the owners are expanding across the alley with The Big Easy, a banquet-size space where they can showcase music and offer an extended list of wine by the bottle.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Night owl? Speakeasy (139 Petaluma Blvd. North, in American Alley at Putnam Plaza) is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily and is the only place in town where you can go for late night gourmet bites. Owners and life partners, Amber Driscoll and Roger Tschann, have built their reputation on serving elegant tapas-style delicacies in their intimate space. For Taste, their new chef, Josh Dellwo will prepare empanadas with Niman Ranch steak and potatoes topped with a lime cilantro cream, crumbled queso fresco and microgreens. Dellwo’s light flaky crust and the interplay of the tangy lime, cilantro and beef elevate this South American snack into a gourmet treat. Speakeasy, which opened in late 2012, has been so successful that the owners are expanding across the alley with The Big Easy, a banquet-size space where they can showcase music and offer an extended list of wine by the bottle. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Gustavo Martinez, chef and owner of Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza, was trained by Japanese chefs in Lake Tahoe and has been a sushi chef for 16 years now.  After working in Santa Rosa, he opened is Petaluma restaurant in November 2012 and never looked back—his Petaluma clients are “much nicer” and his (sushi) bar is hopping on weekends. His ceviche roll, a creative shout out to his Mexican heritage, is a spicy fusion of salmon, serrano peppers, and avocado topped with several varieties of fish, red onions, wine, lime juice & cilantro. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Gustavo Martinez, chef and owner of Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza, was trained by Japanese chefs in Lake Tahoe and has been a sushi chef for 16 years now. After working in Santa Rosa, he opened is Petaluma restaurant in November 2012 and never looked back—his Petaluma clients are “much nicer” and his (sushi) bar is hopping on weekends. His ceviche roll, a creative shout out to his Mexican heritage, is a spicy fusion of salmon, serrano peppers, and avocado topped with several varieties of fish, red onions, wine, lime juice & cilantro. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza (20 E Washington Street) will serve Ocean and Ninja Rolls. The Ocean Roll (in foreground) is calamari tempura and cream cheese, topped with salmon, lemon slices, crab, scallions and eel sauce. The Ninja Roll is shrimp tempura and crab, topped with tuna, avocado, red snapper, tobiko, eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Paradise Sushi in Petaluma’s River Plaza (20 E Washington Street) will serve Ocean and Ninja Rolls. The Ocean Roll (in foreground) is calamari tempura and cream cheese, topped with salmon, lemon slices, crab, scallions and eel sauce. The Ninja Roll is shrimp tempura and crab, topped with tuna, avocado, red snapper, tobiko, eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise. Photo: Geneva Anderson

 

August 21, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Food, Jazz Music, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review—Cinnabar Theater’s fabulous“Figaro”—Mozart’s playful and tangled web of matrimony

Mozart’s music soars at Cinnabar Theater as (l to r) Kelly Britt, Cary Ann Rosko, and Bharati Soman star in a hilarious production of "The Marriage of Figaro," through June 15, 2014.  Photo: Eric Chazankin

Mozart’s music soars at Cinnabar Theater as (l to r) Kelly Britt, Cary Ann Rosko, and Bharati Soman star in a hilarious production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” through June 15, 2014. Photo: Eric Chazankin

A big Figaro, up close and personal in Cinnabar’s intimate schoolhouse theater is a treat you can’t pass up.  After last season’s sold-out run of Carmen, Artistic Director Elly Lichenstein and Music Director Mary Chun reunite to close Cinnabar Theater’s 41st season with Mozart’s glorious marriage of music and theater.  The opera opened last Saturday to a sold-out house and closes June 15 but it has been so successful that an additional performance has been added on Wednesday, June 11.

For those who haven’t experienced Mozart’s magical farce, The Marriage of Figaro which premiered in Vienna in 1786, Cinnabar’s is a wonderful introduction.  It has all the special touches that we associate with Cinnabar’s bankable perfectionism and it’s in English.  Jeremy Sams’ smooth translation of Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto eliminates the fuss of subtitles and lays out all complex plot twists, of which there are many. For those who know Figaro, here’s a chance to sit back and enjoy the scheming, with a new twist—it’s set in the 1920’s rather than the usual 18th century.

The performance takes place on a small ground-level stage with gorgeous sets by Wayne Hovey that take their inspiration from a well-appointed Downton Abbey-like estate. Wherever you’re seated at Cinnabar, you’re just a few feet from the action, so you can take in the expressions on the singer’s faces and the fine details in the costumes and props, making it intense and immersive, just as opera should be. You’re in for a visual treat with the 1920’s inspired costumes created by Lisa Eldrege, who outfitted the entire cast of 22 in hues of black and white, gray, and gold.  The gents sport country tweeds and linens and the ladies, lavish evening attire and gowns appointed with delicate lace.  The chorus members wear individualized servant’s uniforms.

Figaro is one of my favorite operas because of the wonderful match between Mozart’s lively music and the onstage drama.  Mary Chuni and her small but ample orchestra of ten outdid themselves AGAIN.  Snuggled between two walls and sitting in a snaking line, they opened with a gorgeous overture and proceeded to play beautifully for all four acts, in perfect sync with the action.

Soprano Kelly Britt, as the young maid Susanna, glows with bright energy and has natural chemistry with her fiancé, Figaro (Eugene Walden), and with Countess Rosina (Bharati Soman) and a palpable revulsion for the skirt-chasing Count.  Susanna does the most singing of all the characters and Britt’s powerful voice carried her through the opening night performance, growing lovelier and more nuanced as she relaxed into her role.  Her Act III duet with the Countess, about a letter intended to the dupe Count, was a wonderful blending of two naturally lyrical voices.  Her Act IV garden aria, “Come Here” (“Deh vieni”), where she sings of love and confuses Figaro, was touching.

Soprano Bharati Soman has her debut at Cinnabar as the pained Countess Almaviva.  Shes loves her husband, the Count, but knows that he wants to cheat on her with Susanna, her maid, who is engaged to Figaro, the Count’s servant.  Photo: Eric Chazankin

Soprano Bharati Soman has her debut at Cinnabar as the pained Countess Almaviva. Shes loves her husband, the Count, but knows that he wants to cheat on her with Susanna, her maid, who is engaged to Figaro, the Count’s servant. Photo: Eric Chazankin

Soprano Bharati Soman has her debut at Cinnabar as the Countess Almaviva and what a lovely voice and countenance she has.  She’s in love her husband, the Count, but knows that he wants to cheat on her with gorgeous Susanna, her maid, who is engaged to Figaro, the Count’s servant.  At times regal and at times terribly vulnerable and regretful, Soman sang the Countess’s two great arias with poise and great tenderness— Act II ”Oh Love give me some comfort!” (“Porgi, amor”) and Act III “Where are the beautiful moments?” (“Dove sono I bei momenti”). 

Baritone Eugene Walden, as Figaro, has a natural comedic flare and excelled in his solo arias and in the wonderful ensembles. In the Act I duet, “Five, ten, twenty” (“Cinque, dieci, venti”), where he’s taking measurements in the bedroom, his endearing chemistry with Susanna set the tone for the rest of opera.

Charismatic baritone Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek sang the role of the scheming lord of the manor, Count Almaviva, impressively, revealing his brooding insecurity.  Almaviva fancies himself a wild womanizer but without his money and position, he’d be washed up. Smith-Kotlarek’s Act III revenge aria, “Shall I live to see” (“Vedro, mentr’io sospiro”), is an incisive commentary on class, revealing the Count’s seething anger about his vassals Susana and Figaro outwitting him and finding the happiness that has eluded him.

The cheating Count Almavira (Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek) tries to woo his suspicious wife Countess Almaviva (Bharati Soman). Photo: Eric Chazankin

The cheating Count Almavira (Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek) tries to woo his suspicious wife Countess Almaviva (Bharati Soman). Photo: Eric Chazankin

Standouts in the ensemble include the wonderfully animated mezzo soprano Krista Wigle as Marcellina (Dr. Bartolo’s housekeeper) who claims Figaro owes her money and, if he doesn’t pay, he will have to marry her.  Wigle has the “it” factor—it’s  impossible to take your eyes off her and she’s a delight in every scene she’s in.

Mezzo-soprano Cary Ann Rosko shines in a pants role as Cherubino, the Count’s flirtatious young page, whom the Count suspects is having an affair with his wife.  Rosko’s impish antics are delightful, especially when Susanna and the Countess dress him in girl’s clothes as a disguise. Rosko’s Act II aria “You ladies know what love is” was well sung and the leap out the window that followed comically executed.

Cudos to Wayne Hovey, who spent years doing Cinnabar’s lighting, and is now applying his engineering skills to set design. His set of fluidly shifting walls get top billing, right along with the music and singing—they expand, contract and pivot to create a garden and three beautifully appointed rooms replete with period paintings and portraits.

(l to r):  Kelly Britt, Cary Ann Rosko, and Bharati Soman.  Mezzo-soprano Rosko is delightful in the pants role of Cherubino, the Count's flirtatious young page.   Photo: Eric Chazankin

(l to r): Kelly Britt, Cary Ann Rosko, and Bharati Soman. Mezzo-soprano Rosko is delightful in the pants role of Cherubino, the Count’s flirtatious young page. Photo: Eric Chazankin

Details: Cinnabar Theater is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA, 94952.  The Marriage of Figaro has 7 remaining performances—June 6 (sold-out), 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, and 15.  Buy tickets online here.   ($40 General, $25 under age 22, $9 middle-school and high-school.)

June 6, 2014 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinnabar Theater’s “Of Mice and Men,” through April 13, 2014

 

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents John Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” starring Samson Hood (left) as Lennie and Keith Baker (right) as George.  The unlikely friends drift from job to job across the farms and fields of California, holding fast to their dream of one day having an acre of land they can call their own.  Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents John Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” starring Samson Hood (left) as Lennie and Keith Baker (right) as George. The unlikely friends drift from job to job across the farms and fields of California, holding fast to their dream of one day having an acre of land they can call their own. Photo by Eric Chazankin)

The 1937 New York Times review of the Broadway stage production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” reads “If the story were callously told, the conclusion might be unbearable. But Mr. Steinbeck has told it with both compassion and dexterity…In the bunkhouse of a ranch in CA, the story ensnares rootless lives and expands into dreams of a glorious deliverance. (Brooks Atkinson , original review Nov 24, 1937, NYT, p. 20.) It’s now seventy-seven years later and the play, performed at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater under the tight direction of Sherri Lee Miller, delivers all the potency and magic that it had back in the Great Depression when audiences could personally relate to the bleak life of migrant workers. Most of us read the novella in high school and were under strict pressure to knock out an essay on some aspect of Lennie and George’s relationship. Revisiting the story and its archetypal characters as adults is another experience all together. Miller has pulled together a team of impeccable actors who bring these tragic characters to life and revitalize their struggles. The audience on opening evening was squirming with anticipation and revulsion at the injustice of Lennie’s plight, the imploding of dreams and the ugly, unquestioned racism of the times. ­­

Set in the 1930’s, the play is carefully staged by Joe Elwick to reflect the grit and sparseness of ranch-hand life in Salinas Valley at the time. From the opening scenes at the riverbank, marked by a simple line of rocks along the stage line, to the sturdy simplicity of the handcrafted log cabin bunk house, which serves as a humble home for the workers, to Crook’s isolated room in the hay barn; the set works both as a backdrop and catalyst. And in Cinnabar’s intimate space, it all makes for a near perfect experience. I’d be willing to bet that the Broadway revival opening in April at the Longacre Theatre with James Franco as Lennie has nothing over Cinnabar’s.

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring (L to R) Kevin Thomas Singer, Samson Hood, Tim Kniffin, and James Gagarin.  After the boss’s son Curley attacks Lennie for no good reason, Lennie squeezes Curley’s hand too hard and crushes it.  Slim tends to Curley while lumbering Lennie is shocked at what he has done.  Photo by Eric Chazankin

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring (L to R) Kevin Thomas Singer, Samson Hood, Tim Kniffin, and James Gagarin. After the boss’s son Curley attacks Lennie for no good reason, Lennie squeezes Curley’s hand too hard and crushes it. Slim tends to Curley while lumbering Lennie is shocked at what he has done. Photo by Eric Chazankin

The great pleasure in the production comes from watching Samson Hood embody Lennie, who is mentally challenged. It’s not much of a stretch for him physically—he’s a giant of a man with huge hands and a lumbering gate that already speak volumes. But the magic is in his thoroughly convincing facial expressions and the absolute sincerity of his child-like delivery, whether he’s hunched over and trying to hide that he has stroked his little mouse to death, or is excitedly dreaming of raising rabbits and living off the fat of the land or is spilling secrets that he’s been asked to keep quiet about. Kind-hearted and simple Lennie doesn’t understand the power of his own strength or the complexity of the world or the ugliness of human nature and he is completely dependent on George to navigate his course.

 As George, Keith Baker, is an intriguing combo of protective caregiver and a go-getter with big dreams. He is gruff and impatient with Lennie one moment and then, after lashing out, he whips back to tender and sentimental. The friendship is exacts a heavy toll on George who must constantly protect and cover up for George as they drift from job to job holding on to their dream.

James Gagarin plays Curley, the ranch-owner’s son with such spite and fury towards everyone that we shudder with revulsion and feel no empathy him when his hand is crushed accidentally by Lennie.

As one-armed Candy, Steinbeck’s for foil the aged and abandoned, Clark Miller manages to convincingly convey the pain of isolation and physical frailty. The scene involving the shooting of his ancient and beloved dog will tug at your conscious. It’s made all the more dramatic by the using a real dog who is old but not so decrepit as to be near death. The idea of shooting it to put it out of its misery seems wrong and is one of the play’s more dramatic moments, beautifully navigated by Clark Miller and by Anthony Abaté who plays callous Carlson with bone-chilling precision.

After the loss of his dog, Candy has nothing to live for but after he overhears George and Lennie discussing the farm, he offers them his life savings (some $250) to go in on the farm and he has something to fix his dreams on. Steinbeck’s play is full of dreaming and, in contrast, the harsh reality of the life of itinerant workers. The men poor their blood and sweat into keeping up the owner’s ranch for a minimal wage and three daily meals—work may keep a man honest but the capitalist system is stacked against the worker who toils his entire life and never advances.

As Crooks, the black stable hand who is forced to live in the barn, Dorian Lockett is cagey, defensive and so disempowered that he is wary of everyone. The repeated use of the word “nigger” predictably drew cringes from the Cinnabar audience who had empathy for Crooks’ plight and recognized his insightfulness and warmth once he let his guard down and began to dream of a place, a piece of land, where he too could be free.

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring Dorian Lockett as Crooks.  Photo by Eric Chazankin

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring Dorian Lockett as Crooks. Photo by Eric Chazankin

Ilana Niernberger, Curly’s vulgar wife does a marvelous job of guiding the audience through a love-hate relationship with her. At first, she appears to be a tart who flirts shamelessly with the workers and is interested in stepping out on her new husband Curly. In the barn, alone with the men, we see her vulnerability and that she is lonely and craves emotional attachment and conversation. Her flirtatious nature ushers in the play’s tragic climax. When she coaxes Lennie to stroke her hair, she finally and fatally understands that he is not able to gauge the power in his touch. Her screams for help only worsen things. As Lennie covers her mouth and tells her to be quiet, he breaks her neck.

The play’s emotional trajectory goes from hope in the American Dream to the shattering of that hope. Cinnabar has taken this great classic and elegantly brought it to life.

Run-time: Two hours and 20 min, including one intermission

Creative Team: Of Mice and Men stars Keith Baker and Samson Hood as the famous friends, George and Lennie. The ensemble of talented actors also features Anthony Abaté (Carlson), James Gagarin (Curley), Tim Kniffin (Slim), Dorian Lockett (Crooks), Clark Miller (Candy), Ilana Niernberger (Curley’s wife), Kevin Singer (Whit), and Barton Smith (The Boss). Directed by Sheri Lee Miller.

Design Team: Joe Elwick (scenery), Pat Fitzgerald (costumes), Wayne Hovey (lights), Jim Peterson (sound). This production is generously underwritten by Sandra O’Brien and Elly Lichenstein.

Details: Of Mice and Men  has been extended an additional week through April 13, 2014, at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA 94952. Performances: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 for ages 21 and under; $25 for adults. Purchase tickets online here or call Cinnabar’s Box Office at 707 763-8920 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on weekdays. Tickets may also be available at the door 15 minutes prior to each performance, but pre-purchase is recommended as Cinnabar shows tend to sell out!   For more information about Cinnabar Theater — www.cinnabartheater.org .

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

review: “La Cage aux Folles”—lively, hilarious, heartfelt—at Cinnabar Theater through November 10, 2013

Cinnabar Theater has sold so many tickets for its risqué production of “La Cage aux Folles” that it has extended the musical through November 10, 2013.  The exotic Cagelles make their first appearance as mysterious silhouettes behind transparent screens.  Photo: Eric Chazankin)

Cinnabar Theater has sold so many tickets for its risqué production of “La Cage aux Folles” that it has extended the musical through November 10, 2013. The exotic Cagelles make their first appearance as mysterious silhouettes behind transparent screens. Photo: Eric Chazankin)

There’s a tender story of family at the heart of the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein multi Tony-award-winning musical comedy La Cage aux Folles and Cinnabar Theater’s revival, which opened last weekend, plays it to perfection.  That makes two hits in a row for Cinnabar’s 41st season and, having recently fulfilled their subscription goal by a whopping 168 percent, the future’s looking bright for the small theatre company in Petaluma’s old school house.

This is the West Coast premiere of the revised score of La Cage aux Folles which was developed for the 2008 award-winning London revival.   In 2010, this version moved on to accolades on Broadway and the West End.  The original songs, with their emotionally grabbing lyrics, are all still there and the story, with some slight tweaks, is still intact.  Under the careful stage direction and choreography of Sheri Lee Miller and musical direction of Mary Chun, Cinnabar’s production literally soars.

For La Cage, Cinnabar’s stage has been transformed into the Saint-Tropez night club La Cage aux Folles replete with magical dancing Cagelles (chorus line) in glorious drag— J. Anthony Favalora, Jean-Paul Jones, Quinn Monroe, Cavatina Osingski, and Zack Turner.  By way of opening remarks, Cinnabar’s new Executive Director, Terence Keane, challenges the audience to guess who among the Cagelles is male and who is female.  In most cases, it’s a tough call as the make-up and acting are that good.  The production starts off artfully and doesn’t let up with the creativity or energetic rush—the Cagelles first appear as mysterious curvaceous silhouettes behind transparent screens which they then burst out of as they dance and sing “We Are What We Are,” with Georges joining in.

The story, which some audiences found shocking 33 years ago, is now a classic— Nightclub owner Georges (Stephen Walsh) and transvestite performer Albin/Zaza (Michael Van Why) have been married for more than 20 years.  Georges is also Albin’s manager.  Together they have raised Jean-Michel (Kyle Stoner), Georges’ son, the unexpected result of a one night stand with a gorgeous show girl named Sybil.  Jacob, the couple’s live-in transvestite butler, who dresses as a maid, played by the hysterically funny James Pelican, has also helped raise the boy.  When 24-year-old Jean-Michel arrives at their doorstep to announce he has fallen in love with Anne (Audrey Tatum), Georges can hardly believe that his boy is marrying a woman.  He has even more trouble accepting that Anne is the daughter of the bigoted Minister of Moral Standards, Edouard Dindon (Stephen Dietz) (who would eradicate homosexuals entirely if possible) and that the intended in-laws—Edouard and his wife Marie (Madeleine Ashe)—are coming to their house for dinner.  But it is Jean-Michel’s request that Albin not be present when the prospective in-laws visit and that their blaringly gay apartment be re-decorated that puts the household in a tizzy.

Anchoring the show is Michael Van Why’s pitch perfect performance as Albin / ZaZa, a role he reprises and seems born to.  In Act I, he comes off as a grand, self-involved diva but very soon it’s evident he’s quite maternal, compassionate and a more than a tad fragile navigating the pitfalls of middle age.  Half the fun in this production is watching Albin don various outfits and moods.  He actually dresses less flamboyantly than in some productions of La Cage but with a twist of his finger and sideways glance, he really works it.  That face, with those huge doe eyes, is hard to resist and Van Why, a classically trained singer, can really carry a tune.  From his opening solo “A Little More Mascara” to his numerous duets with Walsh, he is a joy to behold.

Stephen Walsh (left) is Georges and Michael Van Why is Albin/ZaZa in Cinnabar Theater’s poignant production of “La Cage aux Folles.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Stephen Walsh (left) is Georges and Michael Van Why is Albin/ZaZa in Cinnabar Theater’s poignant production of “La Cage aux Folles.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Stephen Walsh is also amazing as Georges.  His on stage chemistry with Van Why is palpable and his tenderly rendered “Song in the Sand” and “Look Over There” are aching love songs we can all relate to.  The performance serves as a kind of opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come in the past 30 years in our acceptance of gay and alternative lifestyles, so much so that many of the songs which may have once been provocative are now anthems of pride.

The couple is bolstered by a strong supportive cast, all of whom seem to be having the time of their life. One of the funniest moments happens when the supposedly uber-conservative Marie Dindon, played delightfully by petite Madeleine Ashe, discovers that the plates in the redecorated apartment (where they are supposed to be having a “normal” dinner in a “normal” home) are embossed in gold with homoerotic love scenes.  Out pops the tigress in her and she’s not getting back into the cage without a good romp.  Another standout is the vivacious Valentina Osinski as the celebrated restaurateur, Jacqueline.  And what a pleasure to see Cinnabar’s Artistic Director, Elly Lichenstein, who has opera in her veins, take to the stage as the delightful Madame Renaud and sing, beaming with pride at the magic that surrounds her.

Cinnabar’s Music Director Mary Chun is usually conducting Cinnabar’s small orchestra, but for La Cage, she plays the piano vibrantly and queues from the bench.   The clear stand-out, though, is trumpet player Daniel Gianola-Norris  whose numerous solos, some muted and some not, produced an evocative sound that left me wanting more. Gianola-Norris is a trumpet teacher at Santa Rosa Junior College and owns and operates “Music to My Ears,” a music education center located in Cotati.

David Clay’s inspiring costumes, which include an array of sensual form-fitting evening gowns and di rigueur glam accessories, make this modest budget production seem like a million bucks.

Cinnabar Theatre, with its warm feel and exceptional acting, is the best kept secret in the Bay Area.  The charming theatre seats just 99 people and there’s nothing more wonderful than attending a spectacular performance that unfolds just a few feet before your eyes. Added to that are special touches, like the delicious homemade cookies and brownies served at intermission, which are outrageously priced at just $1, and the good vibe community feeling that permeates the place. It’s almost impossible not to have a great time.

Run time: Two hours and twenty minutes.

Book by Harvey Fierstein / Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman / Based on the play by Jean Poiret.

Details: La Cage aux Folles has been extended through November 10, 2013.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets: $35 for adults and $25 for ages 21 and under.  Purchase tickets online at www.cinnabartheater.org, or call 707.763-8920 from Monday through Friday between 10 AM and 3 PM.  Advance ticket purchase is essential as this show is selling out rapidly.   Sat Oct 26 and Sun 27 are sold out.  Seating is general admission and the theatre opens about 30 minutes prior to each performance.

Cinnabar Theater is located 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, at the intersection with Skillman Lane, Petaluma, CA 94952.

Cinnabar’s Production Team:  Music Director—Mary Chun, Stage Director and Choreographer—Sheri Lee Miller, Scenic Designer—David Lear, Costumes—Clay David, Lighting Designer—Wayne Hovey

The Cast: Albin / ZaZa—Michael Van Why, Georges—Stephen Walsh; Jacob— James Pelican; Jean-Michel—Kyle Stoner; Anne—Audrey Tatum, Jacqueline—Valentina Osinski, Monsieur Dindon—Stephen Dietz; Mademoiselle Dindon—Madeleine Ashe; Monsieur Renaud—Clark Miller; Mademoiselle Renaud—Elly Lichenstein

Cagelles (Chorus Line)— J. Anthony Favalor—Sassy Sparkles, Jean-Paul Jones—Chantal, Quinn Monroe —Mercedes, Cavatina Osingski—Hannah from Hamburg), and Zack Turner—Anita Spotlight

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Dance, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cinnabar Theater wraps in 40th season with a ravishing “Carmen” and the acclaimed Alphabet Players concert, “Stories of the 20th Century,” on Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cinnabar Theater has added a performance on June 12, 2013 to its sold out run of "Carmen," the classic opera by Georges Bizet. The production features Mark Kratz as Don José and Rebecca Krouner as Carmen. Photo by Eric Chazankin

Cinnabar Theater has added a performance on June 12, 2013 to its sold out run of “Carmen,” the classic opera by Georges Bizet. The production features Mark Kratz as Don José and Rebecca Krouner as Carmen. Photo by Eric Chazankin

There’s really nothing that Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater can’t do— it has wrapped its 40th season with a sensational, fiery “Carmen,” Bizet’s beloved story of seduction and jealous rage set in Seville.  At last night’s opening, mezzo-soprano, Rebecca Krouner—raven-haired, statuesque, impetuous and channeling the devil—seemed to embody Carmen.   Her voice seemed to get richer as the evening progressed and her on-stage chemistry with her leading men—Mark Kratz as soldier, Don José, and Jason Detwiller as the dashing toreador, Escamillo—was palpable.  All Cinnabar’s operas are performed in English.  How wonderful to hear Carmen’s catchy and melodic arias sung in English with the lush accompaniment of Cinnabar’s highly-talented 11 member orchestra conducted by Mary Chun.  “The Flower Song” (“La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetée”)(Act I), “Habanera” (“Love is a rebellious bird” or “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”)(Act I) and the “Toreador song” (Act II)—all came to life as the glowing voices of the woodwinds, strings and brass melded with the voices.  If you’ve seen Carmen in a big house, Cinnabar’s intimate space transforms the experience into something very private and accessible with a completely different feel.  Carmen is all about seduction–through music, voice, and dance and bodies exuding and responding to passion.  The vivacious singers are so close that you almost feel every embrace, slap and wayward glance.

Sensual moment—Krouner in a smoking haute red silk halter dress…all curves brilliantly accounted for. This bias-cut dress had a detachable brocade cape that was joined to the dress at the bosom with several fabric strips that fanned out across her décolletage and shoulders.  After running his hands passionately over her body, Don José (Mark Kratz) was well occupied as he both sang his aria and removed this cape, button by button and strap by strap, to get to the goods.  Whoa!!!!  Costume designer Lisa Eldredge out did herself.

Stand-out performance—soprano Julia Hathaway, as Frasquita, a smuggler and Carmen’s sidekick…the twinkle in her eye, her commanding presence, her distinctive voice …she’s got natural heat and a capricious air that really bolstered the production.

If you want to see this opera, jump NOW because the entire run is sold-out except for a new performance has just been added on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets here20th_century

Up this Sunday, June 2, at 2 p.m. at Cinnabar Theater, the acclaimed Alphabet Players perform “Stories of the 20th Century,” the final concert of their “Through the Centuries” series.   The performance will celebrate the 20th Century with a delightful diversity of poetry and story set to music.

The Program:

William Walton’s Façade
Featuring the poems of Edith Sitwell
Michael van Why and Elly Lichenstein, Guest Artists

Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire
based on the poems by Albert Giraud
Karen Clark, Guest Artist

Paul Hindemith’s Frog Went a Courting
And more

The Alphabet Players
Leslie Chin, flute
Roy Zajac, clarinet
Terrie Baune, violin
Karen Rosenak, piano
Daniel Gianola-Norris, trumpet
Steve Parker, alto sax
Kevin Neuhoff, percussion
Judiyaba and Gwyneth Davis, cellos

 

Elly Lichenstein, Artistic Director, Cinnabar Theater, introduces Terence Keane, Cinnabar’s new Executive Director, to the audience at the May 31, 2013 opening of “Carmen,” Cinnabar’s last production in its celebratory 40th season.  

Details: Cinnabar Theater is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA, 94952.  “Carmen” is sold-out, except for the newly added June 12, 7:30 p.m. performance.  ($35 General, $32 Seniors 65 & Over, $25 under age 22)

“Stories of the 20th Century” is June 2, 2013 at 2 p.m. Buy tickets online here ($20 General, Seniors; $15 Under Age 22)

Early arrival is recommended as there is no assigned seating. For more information, call 707-763-8920 or visit http://www.cinnabartheater.org

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carb-loading for a cause—the 15th Annual Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa and Beer Tasting is this Saturday, May 12, 2012, and it benefits Cinnabar Theatre’s Youth Programs

Save Saturday, May 13, 2012, for the 15th Annual Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa and Beer Tasting at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, Petaluma

Most of us don’t need an excuse to eat but this Saturday offers a great reason to indulge—it’s the 15th Annual Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa and Beer Tasting, an all-you-can-eat extravaganza— and all the proceeds fund Cinnabar Theatre’s wonderful youth programming.  The event runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at Herzog Hall at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma.  This year, 55 teams of chili and salsa challengers and 14 Bay Area breweries are participating and there will be chili and salsa galore to sample and judge, and plenty of beer, including special microbrews, to quench your thirst.  The goal—to determine the best-of-the-best when it comes to meat chili, veggie chili, traditional salsa, fruit salsa.  Defending their 2011 title for best meat chili by individual will be Tree Huggin’ Hippies; best meat chili by restaurant/ Whole Foods; best vegetarian chili/ Tree Huggin’ Hippies; best traditional salsa/ Tree Huggin’ Hippies and best fruit salsa/Sonoma Salsa.  There’s also a People’s Choice award given in each of the categories.  Come early, eat plentifully, and see if you can spot the taste of victory.

The cook-off’s founder and organizer, Laura Sunday, deemed “Empress”—who also runs Taste of Petaluma every September—has fond memories of last year’s contest and high hopes for this one.  “Last year we had 15 young guys from Chicago who attended our Chili Cook-off for a Bachelor Party.  They drove up from SFO in a limousine and partied all day long with us.  I asked them how they heard about us. They said they wanted to go to a chili cook-off to celebrate and when they researched it, ours kept coming up as the best in the West, so they planned their entire trip around our event.”

Last year, the event was attended by 1,300 people and raised $50,000 for Cinnabar Theater’s youth programs which include a variety of classes in the performing arts for children of ages 4 through 18; Cinnabar’s Young Repertory Company, which produces 4 fully staged shows annually; and Cinnabar’s very popular Summer Camps, which provide an immersive 4 week training leading up to a staged performance or musical revue.  This year, there are three camps offered that will perform Musical Madness (Broadway hits revue), Rock ‘n’ Music Roll (rock opera) and Les Miserable.

“We’re heading into our 40th season for our Young Rep program and are proud to say that no child is turned away for lack of funds,” said Elly Lichenstein, Cinnabar’s Artistic Director.  “We have between 450 and 500 students coming from all over the North Bay every year and we offer a range of scholarships and the Chili tasting is our biggest fund raiser of the year—it’s vital to our survival.”    Lichenstein is proud that her program has launched several careers in the arts.  One Cinnabar alumnus is in Hollywood making movies and several students, now sprinkled across the country, are pursuing acting careers.

“What I love about the chili cook-off is that it’s such a celebration,” said Lichenstein.  “Everyone’s having a great time, packed in this hall like sardines and eating away, and it brings out a whole different demographic than we see during our regular performance season—these are people who love chili and they don’t necessarily love theatre and it’s fabulous.”

How does the competition work?  Some chili contests adhere to purist rules about what chili is and isn’t and what it can and can’t be.  Some contests, for example, don’t allow beans in chili.  In Petaluma, things are flexible and Sunday doesn’t give entrants any rules about chili or salsa.   “I love beans! If you want to put beans in your chili, I will not say no.”

Because there are only 55 contestants, and entry is handled on a first-come, first-served basis, anybody with a hot recipe and the requisite $65 to $75 entry fee who entered before the March 15, 2012 deadline, made the cut.  Most of last year’s winners are back to defend their titles, including the mystifying Tree Huggin’ Hippies who won the meat chili, vegetarian chili and vegetarian chili by individuals divisions.

Each contestant has been asked to prepare a whopping 9 gallons of the recipe entered, enough for the panel of judges and community tasting.  Chili judging will be by a blind taste test and all chili and salsa will be served to the judges in 2 oz. plastic cups.  The judges will have no contact with the chili or salsa challengers.  Judging is on the basis of taste and personal preference of the V.I.P. judging panel—a team of 13 foodies and community members selected by Dick Kapash, the retired founder of Petaluma’s SOLA Optical.   “I can’t get enough of those fine chili dishes…the chili, salsa and beer just keep getting better every year,” said Kapash, who has worked with Laura Sunday for about 9 years planning the event.   Each judge tastes either chili or salsa and votes.  This year’s judges are Dick Kapash, David Glass, Ryan Williams, Yovanna Bierberich, Steve Jaxon, Jason Jenkins, Mike Harris, Geraldine Duncann, Mary McCusker, Jason Davies, Geneva Anderson, Joe Davis, Nick Grizzle.

When asked to judge again, I agreed immediately.  I love the competitive edge it brings out, the fun of people watching and the joy of eating.  I opted for salsa—refreshing, tart and spicy—I make it frequently and am always up for a new twist.  And, frankly, I am interested in seeing how others adjust their recipes to get that fresh flavor burst in non-tomato season.  When you’ve got juicy sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes at your fingertips, everything is already easier.

Awards: There will be 4 “People’s Choice” trophies given for Meat Chili, Veggie Chili, Salsa and Beer.  A panel of distinguished judges from the community will award “Judges’ Choice” trophies for Best Restaurant, Business, Service Organization, Individual, Salsa, and Vegetarian Chili, and an overall “Grand Champion Chili.”  Other awards will be given for best team costumes, best booth decorations, most spirited team, best salsa and chili display, and any other wacky contest that the organizers can come up.  Runners up will also be awarded.

Live Entertainment: Although the main event on Saturday will be the chili and salsa contest, in Behren’s Park, just next to Herzog Hall, there will be music by Soup Sandwich, an 8 piece local Ska band (1 PM to 1:45 PM), and Sonoma County favorites Stony Point, performing a crowd-pleasing mix of rock and blues plus some original tunes for dancing and listening pleasure (3 PM to 4:30 PM).  Local dance companies Raks Rosa Dance Company (belly dance, middle eastern)(1:45 to 2 PM) and FIERCE Dance Company (hip-hop) (2:45 PM to 3 PM) and are also on the docket.  The Amazing Caine will perform dazzling magic tricks and Fred Speer of Clark’s Pest Control will offer a Bug Zoo and promises a collection of very interesting insects.  (full entertainment schedule)

If you sign on for the beer tasting component of the event—an additional $15–you’ll have your fill of the offerings of 15 local micro-breweries producing the finest premium ales around.

More About Cinnabar Theater:
Cinnabar Theatre winds up its 39th  season with Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday,  playing May 25-June 10, 2012.  This 1946 hilarious tale features a not-so-dumb-blonde, her less-than-honest brute of a boyfriend, and the no-nonsense reporter who helps her uncover Washington’s dirty little secrets and life’s glorious possibilities.  Get your tickets here or call 707.763.8920.

Sing We & Chant It, Cinnabar Chamber Singers, Spring Concert, with Michael Shahani, Directing.  Cinnabar Chamber Singers is a thing of rare beauty: breathtaking music arranged for several parts, sung by people who find fulfillment and fellowship, offered up to the public in concert.  They teach us something about music, art and life, as the notes wrap themselves gently around our hearts.  The Spring Concert features Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata #131, Mark Kratz soloist (Don Ottavio in this Spring’s Don Giovanni), as well as a set of beloved madrigals and exciting new works.  (May 27, 2 PM, Petaluma’s United Church of Christ, 825 Middlefield Drive, Petaluma) Get your tickets here or call 707.763.8920.

Details: 15th Annual Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa and Beer Tasting is Saturday, May 12, 2012, from 1 to 5 p.m., at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, Herzog Hall, Petaluma (located at East Washington and Payran Streets in Petaluma) Chili, salsa and beer tasting $40, Chili and salsa Tasting $25, Kids under 12 $10, under 5 free.  ID necessary for beer.  Tickets can be purchased in advance online, or the day of the event.

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Food, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment