ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Cinnabar’s Young Repertory Company and their amazing “Annie,” through Sunday, December 15, 2013

Laura Sandoval, 13, is one of two local actors playing the adorable orphan, Annie, in Cinnabar Theater’s Young Rep production of the family musical “Annie,” on stage through December 15, 2013.  Image: courtesy Cinnabar Theater.

Laura Sandoval, 13, is one of two local actors playing the adorable orphan, Annie, in Cinnabar Theater’s Young Rep production of the family musical “Annie,” on stage through December 15, 2013. Image: Nathan Cummings, Cinnabar Theater.

In case you haven’t heard, Cinnabar Theater’s Young Repertory Theater has the holiday musical that everyone north of the Golden Gate is buzzing about—Annie.   Featuring local youth, who sing and act with gusto, the superb show is delightfully staged in Cinnabar’s intimate hill top theater just down the road from historic Petaluma.  The heartwarming musical sold out within hours of being announced and Cinnabar’s new Executive Director, Terence Keane, reports they’ve been hounded like crazy for tickets.  That’s no surprise as all of Cinnabar’s performances in their 41st season, both professional and youth, have been slam-dunks—from The Pavilion to La Cage Aux Folles in their professional company, to Rent, from their youth corp.

I was lucky enough to buy a ticket to Thursday’s performance, added earlier this week, and it was so worth the extra effort.  From the moment I entered the cozy theater and saw rows of kids perched in the front rows awaiting the show, my heart leapt…the energetic vibe was palpable. No doubt part of their enthusiasm was due to being out late on a school night and the super-sized brownies and rice crispie treats available in the lounge.  Once the show began though, they were quiet as mice, discovering the thrill of theater and immersing themselves in the original 3-D, high-definition style of storytelling.  Kudos Cinnabar!

Set in the 1930s, during the gloom of the Great Depression, Annie is a story of hope and optimism that was first staged in 1977 and went on to become one the world’s most beloved family musicals.  Based on Thomas Meehan’s book, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, Cinnabar’s production is under the helm of directors Dezi Gallegos and Brain Bryson with music direction by Sandy and Richard Riccardi and Choreography by Nancy Rush. Cinnabar’s entire youth rep program is in the capable hands of Nathan Cummings who has plenty to be proud of—Petaluma may be far from Broadway but, thanks to the training they receive at Cinnabar, some of them may be Broadway bound.

An adorable cast of orphans, who auditioned for their roles in August 2013, complete the cast of Cinnabar’s “Annie,” on stage at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater through December 15, 2013.  Image: courtesy Cinnabar Theater.

An adorable cast of orphans, who auditioned for their roles in August 2013, complete the cast of Cinnabar’s “Annie,” on stage at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater through December 15, 2013. Image: Nathan Cummings, Cinnabar Theater.

Annie, a true spuntress, is a whip-smart orphan who is on a mission to find her birth parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan.  Despite her loneliness, Annie is all light and sunshine, delivering positivity and kindness to everyone she encounters.  When Annie meets the industrious billionaire, Mr. Warbucks, she helps him realize that having all the money in the world means nothing unless you have someone to share your life with.  Of course, when big money is involved there are always a few plot twists, and Annie deliver them in spades, along with a blossoming love story.

While each young actor brings something special to Cinnabar’s production, I was bowled over by thirteen-year-old Laura Sandoval who played Annie on Thursday.  There are two casts and Sandoval is part of the “Leapin’ Lizards” cast and splits the lead with Lucy London, part of the “Oh Boy cast.”  It was obvious from Sandoval’s first solo, “Tomorrow”—that famous sing-when-you-are-down-in-the-dumps tune, that she had the voice and acting talent and charisma sufficient to anchor this core of young performers.  As her infectious optimism spread, and the song caught on to include more and more of her fellow tousled orphans on stage, it was clear that these kids had really worked hard on this production.  Half of the fun though is in watching them move around the stage in Diana Banas’ rag-a-muffin orphan costumes attempting to stay in sync and in tune at the same time.  “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” was delightful.  Cast stand-outs were Marvin Roca as the tycoon Warbucks, Maryanne Boas as FDR, Bashya Terronez as the orphanage supervisor, Miss Hannigan, and Ian Purcell, as Rooster, Miss Hannigan’s no-good brother and Samantha Royall as Grace, Mr. Warbuck’s kind-hearted secretary.  And I wouldn’t be ARThound if I didn’t mention the adorable Grace Miguel as the stray dog, adopted by Annie.

Laura Sandoval, 13, is one of two local actors playing Annie, in Cinnabar Theater’s Young Rep production of the family musical “Annie,” on stage through December 15, 2013.  Image: courtesy Cinnabar Theater.

Laura Sandoval, 13, is one of two local actors playing Annie, in Cinnabar Theater’s Young Rep production of the family musical “Annie,” on stage through December 15, 2013. Image: Nathan Cummings, Cinnabar Theater.

You know a performance has worked its magic when the people leave humming the last tune they heard and are polite to each other as they all try to exit Cinnabar’s rubric parking lot at the same time.  Annie’s message bears repeating again and again…families come in all shapes and sizes and there’s always hope for brighter days ahead!

Cinnabar’s “Annie,” on stage at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater through December 15, 2013 includes an insanely cute cast of talented local actors, all in Cinnabar’s Young Rep Program.  Image: courtesy Cinnabar Theater.

Cinnabar’s “Annie,” on stage at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater through December 15, 2013 includes an insanely cute cast of talented local actors, all in Cinnabar’s Young Rep Program. From Act II, set in FDR’s oval office where, Annie, surrounded by Roosevelt’s cabinet of advisors, inspires the President to be optimistic through rough times. Image: Nathan Cummings, Cinnabar Theater.

More about Cinnabar’s Young Rep Theater:  Founded in 1983, Cinnabar Theater’s Young Repertory Theater is Sonoma County’s largest and longest-running program for youth in the performing arts, serving hundreds of students annually from Sonoma County and beyond. In addition to several fully-staged youth productions each year, Young Rep includes year-round classes and summer camps, adult choruses and concerts as well as opportunities for students to perform in Cinnabar’s professional season. Young Rep is open to youngsters aged 4-18, who benefit from the instruction provided by working theater professionals. No child is turned away due to inability to pay.

Details: Annie runs through Sunday, December 15, 2013.  The show is completely sold-out.  Best chance for tickets is to show up 30 minutes before the performance and wait for no-shows or audience members selling tickets.  Remaining performances:  Dec 13 & 14th at 7:30 PM  and Dec 15th at 2 PM.  For more information, visit www.cinnabartheater.org, or call 707.763-8920 from Monday through Friday between 10 AM and 3 PM.  All 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.

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December 13, 2013 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Craig Wright’s “The Pavilion”—old lovers meet at a high school reunion and unload 20 years of baggage—at Cinnabar Theater through September 22, 2013

Sami Granberg (left) and Nathan Cummings portray old lovers who encounter one another at a high-school reunion in "The Pavilion," Craig Wright’s bittersweet comedy which opens Cinnabar Theater’s 41st season.  Photo” Eric Chazankin

Sami Granberg (left) and Nathan Cummings portray old lovers who encounter one another at a high-school reunion in “The Pavilion,” Craig Wright’s bittersweet comedy which opens Cinnabar Theater’s 41st season. Photo” Eric Chazankin

Can you turn back the clock on love and start over?  That’s just one of the questions raised in Craig Wright’s delicate drama The Pavilion, which opens Cinnabar Theater’s 41st season.   Emmy nominee Wright, who also penned episodes for TV shows like “Six Feet Under” and “Lost,” is no stranger to the difficult but endlessly fascinating state of human connection and creating characters that embody the walking wounded.  The Pavilion, written in 2,000 and directed by Tara Blau, delivers many laughs amidst the universally familiar pain and frustration of love gone sour.  The play’s psychological acuity represents a slight but welcome shift in Cinnabar’s programming.

The Pavilion is enacted by three main characters and is set around a 20th high school reunion in Pine City, a small town that feels a lot like old Petaluma.  Sami Granberg and Nathan Cummings portray old lovers, Keri and Peter, who encounter one another at a high-school reunion.  Keri is now married and her life as a bank employee who escorts people to and from their safety deposit boxes is as stagnate as her marriage.  Peter is a big beefy likable guy, a therapist who’s in need of therapy himself.  He’s in a relationship but has come to the reunion hoping for another chance at love with Keri whom he abandoned twenty years ago after getting her pregnant.  Peter’s betrayal of Keri altered both of their lives for the worse and he wants redemption.

As the Narrator, Jeff Coté starts the play off philosophically by setting its context as the slow forward march of time.  He also adroitly plays a surprising number of secondary characters at the reunion who nudge Peter and Keri through their interactions.  Aided by Coté’s mastery of gestures, these humorous encounters reveal a motley collective of broken and warped souls at the Pine City reunion.

Under the feigned joviality of reconnection, everyone wants something.  Peter is most honest about his sense of dissatisfaction about where life has led him.  He is desperate to salvage lost love which he has fantasized will be his only real shot at happiness in this life but he must first get Keri to talk with him.  The clock stopped for Keri emotionally when she made the painful decision to terminate her pregnancy.  Twenty years later, she is still childless and anguished, and she claims she wants nothing to do with Peter.  A bevy of push pull signals reveal otherwise though.  The burning questions—will reconnecting heal their old wounds or inflame them?  Will talking about what transpired and the mistakes that were made free them to move on with their lives separately, or, will they find happiness ever after with each other?

Cinnabar Theater’s Tara Blau directs an exceptional dramatic journey which is well worth the price of admission (which is about half of what you’ll pay elsewhere).  Joe Elwick’s set is a wonderfully simple slice of small town nostalgia— a wooden dance hall, the Pavilion, with just a few tables and mood-setting Japanese lanterns whose backdrop is a picturesque lake.  To one side, there’s a garden and swing.  The Pavilion, ironically slated for destruction right after the reunion, holds a special place in the hearts of those former students and suggests the fragility of the past.

In Wayne Hovey’s capable hands, the beautiful lighting becomes a vehicle of great transformation, capable of evoking a myriad of moods and the magic of shooting stars.

From the beginning of the play, the Narrator (Coté ) functions as an all-seeing poetic consciousness capable of tracking the movements of the universe, from the enormous cosmos right down to the development of the little pavilion that is human consciousness and further down to this particular moment in Pine City High’s history.  Philosophically, every person becomes a lens through which the whole reflects itself and every passing moment a unique outgrowth of this unique universe.  It’s impossible to erase the past and start over but Peter imagines he is entitled to happiness and begs the Narrator to intervene and stop the inevitable.

Jeff Coté (left) and Sami Granberg star in "The Pavilion", a romantic new play  that opens Cinnabar Theater’s 41st season.  Coté is the Narrator and he comically plays a number of secondary characters—male and female— at a 20th high school reunion.  Granberg plays Keri, who has been seething since high school over being abandoned when she got pregnant. Photo:  Eric Chazankin

Jeff Coté (left) and Sami Granberg star in “The Pavilion”, a romantic new play
that opens Cinnabar Theater’s 41st season. Coté is the Narrator and he comically plays a number of secondary characters—male and female— at a 20th high school reunion. Granberg plays Keri, who has been seething since high school over being abandoned when she got pregnant. Photo: Eric Chazankin

Petaluman Nathan Cummings steps into the role of Peter with ease.  Here’s a guy who screwed up royally years ago and Cumming makes him fascinating as he ruminates dreamingly on why he’s entitled to another chance and how he’ll become a better man through love.  His shining moment comes when he takes to the pavilion and serenades Keri with “Down in the Ruined World,” a ballad which he delivers with intention.

Sami Granberg creates a resonant Keri—in a red satin dress, she’s still a youthful looking woman but she is frozen in bitterness and resigned to her fate.

The Pavilion is one of the most engaging plays I’ve seen at Cinnabar.  The story is laced with the pathos of regret and there’s no easy answer to the emotional wreckage that has emerged…the acting is genuine and it all rings true.

Details:  The Pavilion ends September 22, 2013.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Cinnabar Theater is located 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, at the intersection with Skillman Lane, Petaluma, CA 94952.

Tickets: $25 for adults and $15 for ages 21 and under. Significant discounts available as part of a ticket package.  Purchase tickets online at www.cinnabartheater.org, or call 707.763-8920

Monday through Friday between 10 AM and 3 PM.  Tickets may also be available at the door, but advance purchase is recommended.  Seating is general admission but the theatre is open about 30 minutes prior to each performance.

September 14, 2013 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment