Thursday, July 21, 2011

Muse August Preview: Musicals and Makeovers

Opening Friday, August 5 at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre is the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. With its implications of cannibalism, this groundbreaking tale of a murderous barber and complicit purveyor of meat pies was controversial when it opened on Broadway in 1979. But it won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, and accolades for its stars, Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury.

 After numerous revivals, touring versions and other productions since, this musical thriller has become a Sondheim classic. The Ferndale production is directed by Diane Zuleger and stars Craig Benson as Sweeney Todd and Elisabeth Harrington as Mrs. Lovett. Also featuring Steve Nobles, Philip DeRoulet, Brandy Rose, Kyle Ryan, Luke Sikora and Elena Tessler, it runs weekends through August 28: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Friday August 12 is Date Night—couples get a complimentary Sweeney Toddy. For reservations: 1-800-838-3006 or

 Among August premieres, the results of significant renovations to two North Coast theatrical venues will be on view. The John Van Duzer Theatre at Humboldt State will debut its major makeover, which includes a refurbished lobby, new lighting instruments and all new seats in the auditorium for the first time since the facility was dedicated (as the Sequoia Theatre) in 1960. First to experience these renovations will be audiences for the Humboldt Light Opera Company summer show opening there on August 5: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a jazzy musical comedy about two con men on the Riviera is based on the 1988 film comedy that starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine.

 Its music—said to spoof Henry Mancini and other espionage movie composers—is by David Yazbek, who also wrote the music and lyrics for The Full Monty, another Broadway musical based on a movie. Jeffrey Lane wrote the lyrics for this show, which ran on Broadway from January 2005 to September 2006.

 The HLOC show stars Casey Vaughn, Bill Ryder, Hannah Jones, Jim Buschmann, Cindy Cress and Shaelan Salas. It’s directed by Carol Ryder, with musical direction by Molly Severdia, choreography by Lela Annotto-Pemberton, Ciara Cheli-Colando and Shaelan Salas. Justin Sousa conducts the orchestra. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels romps on the Van Duzer Theatre stage Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through August 20, beginning with an opening night gala on August 5. Due to subject matter, this production is not recommended for children under 11. More information: 445-4310 or

 Meanwhile, the “extreme makeover” of the Arcata Playhouse, courtesy of the Arcata Sunrise Rotary Club, will be partially complete when it pauses on Saturday, August 6 for a fundraiser to help finish the job. It’s a “Country Cabarette,” an evening of music featuring Cadillac Ranch and the Lonesome Roses, plus guests that include Jacqueline Dandeneau, Rose Armin-Hoiliand, Halimah Collingwood and Steve Irwin. It all starts at 7 p.m., and includes raffles and a chili contest.

 The Wizard of Oz, Yip Harburg, who also wrote the lyrics to “Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” and so the North Coast will hear the original version performed just weeks after Jeffrey Hatcher’s parody in NCRT’s The Government Inspector.

Before that, the Arcata Playhouse will host Broadway musical performer and Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre grad Gale McNeeley, for two performances of his show, Over the Rainbow, at 8 p.m. on July 30 and 2 p.m. on July 31. The show is a tribute to the lyricist and writer on

 For all Arcata Playhouse events (and to volunteer to help with the makeover): 822-1575 or Continuing on stage in August: North Coast Repertory Theatre’s production of the comedy, The Kitchen Witches, weekends through August 20. 442-NCRT (6278).

 Also in August, Humboldt Light Opera Company’s KidCo runs a “Write Your Own Musical” workshop for children ages 7 to 18, August 1-12, with the resulting musical performed on Saturday, August 13. KidCo will also hold auditions for its November production of Alice in Wonderland on Saturday, August 20 at the Arcata United Methodist Church. Kids from K-12 should be there at 1 p.m. and expect to stay until 3 p.m. There’s also an audition workshop on August 6. Complete information on both workshops and auditions at

 North Coast Repertory Theatre will hold open auditions for its November-December mystery, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, on August 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. at NCRT. There are roles for 3 women and 5 men, ages 20s to 60s. For more information call 268-0175 or email the director at

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