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: “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