Friday, July 27, 2012

This North Coast Weekend

North Coast Rep opens the comedy The Red Velvet Cake War, set in Sweetgum, Texas.  Directed by Gene Cole, it features Jacqui Cain, Toodie SueAnn Boll, Gloria Montgomery, Denise Ryles, Matt Cole, Arnold Waddell and Janet Waddell.

Resuming this weekend (and alternating weekends with the Woody Guthrie show) at Ferndale Rep is the musical Cabaret, set in Berlin in 1929 and 1930, as Germany moved towards Nazi rule. I reviewed this production in the North Coast Journal. It's directed by Ginger Gene, with musical direction by Dianne Zuleger, and choreography by Linda Maxwell, lighting by Liz Uhazy and costumes by Erica Fromdahl. It features Charlie Heinberg, Elena Tessler, Kelsey MacIlvaine, Rae Robison and JM Wilkerson. Cabaret resumes its run at Ferndale Rep Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. July 27-28, and again on Aug. 10-11 and 24-25, with Sunday matinees on July 29, Aug. 12 and 26.

Next weekend at Ferndale Rep, Woody Guthrie's American Song is performed, alternating weekends with Cabaret.  At roughly the same time as Cabaret is set, the Great Depression was taking hold in the U.S. just as an ecological disaster called the Dust Bowl was driving thousands of already poor farmers from Oklahoma and other states, principally to California. An itinerant self-taught musician named Woody Guthrie joined their journey and wrote songs about the experience. Five of those songs, collected on Guthrie’s first commercial album, are among the 19 featured in Woody Guthrie’s American Song.

Woody Guthrie collected folk melodies and chronicled the 1930s and ‘40s, “from California to the New York island” (as his famous song says). Some of his songs (like “This Land is Your Land”) are so ubiquitous that many listeners today probably don’t know he is their author. Those old enough to remember the folk revival of the ‘60s (and the smaller ‘90s revival) are likely to recall songs like “Bound for Glory,” “Pastures of Plenty” and “Hard Travelin’” as done by Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger or by Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie, or more recently by Bruce Springsteen.

Guthrie’s songs do reflect America but not in a generic way, and their relevance recurs in our time. Just as Cabaret may remind us that beyond the repugnant noise of politics truly dangerous forces may be on the march, Guthrie’s lyrics reveal the human costs incurred by the rich exploiting the rest, masked by the smiley face of fake patriotism. That songs like “Union Maid” and “Deportee” (both in this show) are again topical in 2012 should be the real shock.

Members of the ensemble performing these songs at Ferndale Rep are Devin Galdieri, Jo Kuzelka, Steve Nobles, Dianne Zuleger, Jeremy Webb, KJ Jusefczyk and Roger Vernon. Pete Zuleger, Val Leone and Larry Hudspeth are the accompanying band. Woody Guthrie’s American Song is directed by Dianne Zuleger, with lighting design and technical direction by Liz Uhazy. It plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.  Aug. 3-4 and 17-18, with Sunday matinees on Aug. 5 and 19.

This is the last weekend for Show People at Redwood Curtain.

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