Vol. 12, No. 8 – Jan 16 – Jan 29, 2019 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Stages offer Shakespeare to Seuss

Welcome to a new year and new theatrical season line-ups for Ventura County stages. 2019 promises a wide variety of productions to entertain, educate and elate theater-goers of all ages.

Many of the theaters are in rehearsal periods in the month of January, with openings coming up in February. A few are on stage now.

Conejo Players, just a hop and skip over the hill, is beginning their season with To Kill A Mockingbird, running January 18 through February 9.

High Street Theater in Moorpark makes a lively and timely start with Mary Poppins, opening January 25.

Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center presents a limited run of Hamlet mounted by the California Shakespeare Company. Catch this production now through January 27.

The Elite Theater has traditionally brought original one-act plays to their stage in January. The One-Act Festival offers an evening for budding and experienced playwrights to have their works put before the public. This year, weather-related repairs to the building are taking precedence and the festival has been postponed to later in the season.

Ventura’s Rubicon Theater brings Heisenberg to the stage, running January 30 through February 17. The drama, starring Faline England and Rubicon regular Joe Spano, spotlights a chance meeting between two strangers and the myriad ways their lives change as a result.

February brings As You Like It to the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse while Breaking Legs will be presented by the Elite in Oxnard, and The Humans at the Santa Paula Theater Center.

The Ojai Art Center Theater will be celebrating the opening of their 80th season by reprising the first production mounted on their stage back in 1939. The suspenseful who-dunnit Night Must Fall opens February 15.

Popular musicals of a range of types will be on our stages, including Avenue Q, Sweet Charity, Pippin, Mama Mia!, Into the Woods, Seussical, the Musical and Sweeny Todd. There will certainly be something to suit everyone’s taste.

Comedies to be staged bring Vanities, Bless Your Heart and Moliere’s The Miser among others. Announced dramatic works offered are The Crucible, Proof and Seascape for starters.

Ventura County boasts some of the best theater productions in the Tri-Counties area. There are many high school and college productions to be seen, as well as youth productions. Several theaters also mount productions on secondary stages, filling in some gaps or presenting special works. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center always has something to offer, from local casts to touring companies.

As always, announced productions are always subject to change as the seasons go along. Each theater will be adding shows not yet announced as well as short run interim offerings on many stages. Check the website of each theater individually for the most up to date information.

Camarillo Skyway Theater – www.skywayplayhouse.org

Conejo Players – www.conejoplayers.org

Elite Theater – www.elitetheatre.org

High Street Playhouse – www.highstreetartscenter.com

Ojai Art Center – www.ojaiact.org

Rubicon Theatre – www.rubicontheatre.org

Santa Paula Theater Center – www.santapaulatheatercenter.og

Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center – www.simi-arts.org

See you at the theater!

Vol. 12, No. 8 – Jan 16 – Jan 29, 2019 – Movie Review

Marry Poppins Returns
3 Palm Trees out of 4 Palm Trees

by Victoria Usher

Marry Poppins Returns is a 2018 adventure, comedy, family, and fantasy film that was directed by Rob Marshall. It is a sequel to the original Marry Poppins film from 1964 and also based on the “Marry Poppins” books written by P.L. Travers. It was produced by Rob Marshall, John DeLuca, and Marc Platt. The screenplay was by David Magee. The story was by David Magee, Rob Marshall, and John DeLuca. The cinematography was by Dion Beebe. The music was by Marc Shaiman. It was edited by Wyatt Smith. The production design was done by John Myhre. The costume design was done by Sandy Powell. The film was distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and then it was released in cinemas December 19th, 2018. The stars of the film include Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Dick Van Dyke, and Angela Lansbury.

In this sequel, Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is now all grown up and he has three beautiful children of his own. His wife has sadly passed away very recently, and her illness unfortunately took all of their savings so now he has absolutely no idea what he is going to do about their financial situation. Of course, this is exactly when Marry Poppins (Emily Blunt) swoops in, bringing purpose, hope, happiness, and maybe even love into Michael’s life and into his children’s lives. The sequel goes in a very similar direction as the original film, but it also has its own unique spin on it and it also has its own lovely surprises that are different from the original film. There are moments throughout the film that are meant to make people remember the first film and feel nostalgic.

One of the best things about this film is how absolutely perfect and wonderful Emily Blunt is, she truly was the perfect choice for Marry Poppins in this sequel. She does an unbelievably brilliant job of turning the role into something that is all her own and not in any way trying to replicate or Julie Andrews’ performance from the original 1964 film. I can promise that you will not regret watching this sequel, it is an enchanting and magical ride from beginning to end.
(Rated: PG) (Running Time: 2h 10m)

Vol. 12, No. 6 – Dec 19, 2018 – Jan 2, 2019 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Escape to the islands with South Pacific

Some theatrical experiences just stay with you. The current production of South Pacific on the Rubicon Theater stage is one of those. I grew up on the songs of this show, listening to my father singing in the living room. It is the show that endeared me forever to the theater. And it has not lost its appeal. Apparently, others feel the same, judging by the full houses and sold out shows.

First premiered on Broadway in 1949, the timeless musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein still resonates with passion and emotion. The play, based on James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific”, weaves its magic through two love stories set in and around an exotic island during World War II.

South Pacific deals with sensitive subjects involving prejudice, acceptance, forgiveness and yearning, all as pertinent now as they were when the material was first written.

This production, deftly directed with insight and depth by Katharine Farmer, features a two-keyboard accompaniment by Brent Crayon and Jen Oikawa.

Ben Davis as Frenchman Emile de Becque and Madison Claire Parks as Navy Ensign Nellie Forbush make a formidable pair in the lead roles. They deliver in fine fashion the beautiful Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and more.

The enchanted young lovers Lt. Joseph Cable and Liat are played by Alex Nee and Jamie Yun to youthful perfection. Nee’s Younger Than Springtime is heartfelt and poignant. Jodi Kimura’s Bloody Mary is tuned to a fine edge. She entices Lt. Cable with the haunting Bali Hai, leading him to paradise.

Dealmaker sailor Luther Billis is given a well-crafted comic touch by Kirby Ward. He puts his all into There is Nothing Like a Dame and the hysterical Honey Bun numbers. Ward is surrounded by an athletic cast of sailors/dancers who fill the stage with spitfire. Likewise, Nurse Forbush is aided throughout by a bevy of talented nurses/dancers to keep the sparks flying and the toes tapping.

Emile’s children, played by Isabella De Los Santos and Ian Nunney, are both excellent. They deliver their song Dites-Moi and French dialogue with confidence and conviction. Both have participated in the Rubicon’s Stinky Feet Youth Theatre and learned well. They are each a talent to watch in the years to come.

Key Navy personnel Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison, played by Andy Umberger and Joseph Fuqua, display the crisp demeanor one associates with an officer.

The multi-use set pieces easily transform the scenes, backed by scenic projections which bring the audience onto the islands with the players. The compact stage seems to expand, and contract as needed to accommodate the large cast as well as the intimate scenes.

There are reasons South Pacific has long been an audience favorite. The music and lyrics are eloquent and meaningful. The characters and situations face familiar life hurdles. The energy, passion and sincerity are palpable. Even if you’ve seen South Pacific many times before, you will want to see it again. But hurry, seats are filling fast.

South Pacific runs through December 23. Performances are Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St, Ventura. Www.rubicontheatre.org or (805) 667-2900 for tickets. Prices vary. Make reservations soon as many shows sell out.

Vol. 12, No. 6 – Dec 19, 2018 – Jan 2, 2019 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine
Escape to the islands with South Pacific

Some theatrical experiences just stay with you. The current production of South Pacific on the Rubicon Theater stage is one of those. I grew up on the songs of this show, listening to my father singing in the living room. It is the show that endeared me forever to the theater. And it has not lost its appeal. Apparently, others feel the same, judging by the full houses and sold out shows.

First premiered on Broadway in 1949, the timeless musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein still resonates with passion and emotion. The play, based on James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific”, weaves its magic through two love stories set in and around an exotic island during World War II.

South Pacific deals with sensitive subjects involving prejudice, acceptance, forgiveness and yearning, all as pertinent now as they were when the material was first written.

This production, deftly directed with insight and depth by Katharine Farmer, features a two-keyboard accompaniment by Brent Crayon and Jen Oikawa.

Ben Davis as Frenchman Emile de Becque and Madison Claire Parks as Navy Ensign Nellie Forbush make a formidable pair in the lead roles. They deliver in fine fashion the beautiful Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and more.

The enchanted young lovers Lt. Joseph Cable and Liat are played by Alex Nee and Jamie Yun to youthful perfection. Nee’s Younger Than Springtime is heartfelt and poignant. Jodi Kimura’s Bloody Mary is tuned to a fine edge. She entices Lt. Cable with the haunting Bali Hai, leading him to paradise.

Dealmaker sailor Luther Billis is given a well-crafted comic touch by Kirby Ward. He puts his all into There is Nothing Like a Dame and the hysterical Honey Bun numbers. Ward is surrounded by an athletic cast of sailors/dancers who fill the stage with spitfire. Likewise, Nurse Forbush is aided throughout by a bevy of talented nurses/dancers to keep the sparks flying and the toes tapping.

Emile’s children, played by Isabella De Los Santos and Ian Nunney, are both excellent. They deliver their song Dites-Moi and French dialogue with confidence and conviction. Both have participated in the Rubicon’s Stinky Feet Youth Theatre and learned well. They are each a talent to watch in the years to come.

Key Navy personnel Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison, played by Andy Umberger and Joseph Fuqua, display the crisp demeanor one associates with an officer.

The multi-use set pieces easily transform the scenes, backed by scenic projections which bring the audience onto the islands with the players. The compact stage seems to expand, and contract as needed to accommodate the large cast as well as the intimate scenes.

There are reasons South Pacific has long been an audience favorite. The music and lyrics are eloquent and meaningful. The characters and situations face familiar life hurdles. The energy, passion and sincerity are palpable. Even if you’ve seen South Pacific many times before, you will want to see it again. But hurry, seats are filling fast.

South Pacific runs through December 23. Performances are Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St, Ventura. www.rubicontheatre.org or (805) 667-2900 for tickets. Prices vary. Make reservations soon as many shows sell out.

Vol. 12, No. 5 – Dec 5 – Dec 18, 2018 – Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Movie Review: 2.5 Palm Trees out of 4 Palm Trees

by Victoria Usher

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a 2018 science fiction and fantasy film that is based on the characters created by J.K. Rowling. It was directed by David Yates. It was produced by David Heyman, J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, and Lionel Wigram. It was written by J.K. Rowling. The film stars Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, and Zoe Kravitz. The cinematography was by Philippe Rousselot. It was edited by Mark Day. The casting was done by Fiona Weir. The production design was done by Stuart Craig. The costume design was done by Colleen Atwood. The set decoration was done by Anna Pinnock. The music was by James Newton Howard. It was distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures. The film was officially released in cinemas on November 16th, 2018.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second part of the Wizarding World film series that was created by J.K. Rowling. This second part of the series was filmed in a specific and unique way that shows foreshadowing as being the most pivotal part of the film. When foreshadowing is written well and filmed right it can be the perfect thing to use in a film series or in a television series, as long as it is used in moderation. However, when it becomes hard to keep track of what the actual plot is because the film starts to become so heavily filled with foreshadowing and maybe only a sprinkle of plot every now and again then the whole film can very easily become boring and cause the audience to lose interest extremely quickly. The main three things that this film has that almost make up for the excessive amount of foreshadowing are the gorgeous visual effects, the spectacular acting from the cast, and the beautiful soundtrack. These three specific all wrapped together truly help to carry this second film in a way that keeps the audience captivated and excited.

(Rated: PG-13) (Running Time: 2h 14m)

Vol. 12, No. 5 – Dec 5 – Dec 18, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine
Quirky Cinderella careens into Ojai

The Ojai Art Center Theater has taken some risks this season in presenting infrequently produced material for audiences to enjoy. Humor, depth and artistry has been gracing the OACT stage all season. In a wild turn of events, and for just three weekends, the 2018 season concludes with a new and decidedly quirky version of the fairy tale Cinderella. For a complete reality escape, this high energy musical production certainly fills the bill.

First, the style. Forget what you may have seen before. This production is done Panto style, described as a highly exaggerated fractured fairy tale with about as many surprises as one can absorb in an evening. Roles are reversed, twisted and sliced and diced with abandon. There is little evidence of tradition here. And it is all in good fun.

The offbeat concept was originally conceived and directed by Paul Whitworth for the Shakespeare Santa Cruz company with book and lyrics by Kate Hawley. Directed here by Richard Kuhlman, the frenetic action sneaks in many local and theatrical references to tickle the funny bone. But listen and think quickly, or you’ll miss it.

Most over the age of a toddler are familiar with the tale of poor Ella, who is misused and beleaguered by her evil step-mother and two less-than-dainty stepsisters. Her fairy godmother appears to help Ella rise above the cinders to catch the eye of an eligible prince despite many attempts to thwart her good fortune.

In this version, there is a side story involving Little Bo Peep and her band of sheep as well as a narrator-cum-activator character to assist the audience in fully appreciating the action by leading the audience to interact with the characters. Think fairy tale meets a young Shakespeare meets the melodrama. Add vividly colorful costuming, greatly exaggerated movement and expert piano accompaniment by Andy Street and there you have it.

The cast includes Sindy McKay-Swerdlove as the Fairy Godmother, Anna Kotula as the ditzy Queen, Coree Serena Kotula as the King (this is one talented youngster). Poosy Holmes bursts onto the stage as Buttons, the audience liaison, Jodi Brandt takes on the role of Prince Charming, and Denise Heller gives life to Cinderella. Michael McCarthy takes on Peep with unbridled zest.

Marisa Miculian embodies the evil step-mother, with Marilyn Lazik and Sheila McCarthy as the wildly overdone step-sisters. Brett Baxter, Bodhi Bourbon, Don Gaidano, Lenny Klaif and John Valenzuela fill in as multiple personalities. Cinderella’s father is credited to Tarrara Boomdeay (really?) who seems to be having a blast. In fact, they all are.

This is a production filled with slapstick action, continual audience wink-wink moments and an air of theatrical freedom that must be seen to be appreciated. In this difficult year of trials and tears, a true escape is sorely needed. This is it. Bring the whole family. There is something for everyone. Of course, there is a moral at the end but the bottom line is – just sit back and enjoy.

Cinderella continues through December 16. Show times are Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. $20 general admission, $18 for seniors and Art Center members, and $10 for those 25 and under. The Ojai Art Center is located at 113 S. Montgomery, phone (805) 640-8797 or www.ojaiact.org .at:

Vol. 12, No. 4 – Nov 21 – Dec 4, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine
Classic Christie mystery intrigues

Santa Paula Theater Center closes out its 2018 season with a classic Agatha Christie drawing room murder mystery now through December 16. A lesser known work, the play version was an adaptation of an earlier novel of Christie’s own by the same name. Several key points were assigned new identities and adjustments made to the original setting.

The result is a charming, albeit wordy (quite common to the time and style), mystery featuring Christie’s trademark fascinating characters, all of whom harbor secrets. A murder is committed, everyone is a suspect, and the surprising truth ultimately comes to light.

Director Fred Helsel has assembled a seasoned cast which carries off each distinct characterization with aplomb and conviction. This is truly an ensemble piece wherein each character tantalizes the audience with snippets of information to be pondered and pieced together.

The setting is London, England, year 1948, at the home of Sir Henry and Lady Angkatell (Ronald Rezac and Peggy Stekete) who have invited several friends and relatives to enjoy a weekend in the country. Things begin to go awry as their son Edward (Trent Trachtenberg) clashes with guest John Cristow (Chip Albers) and his seemingly dim wife Gerda (Joy Goldowitz). Also present is cousin Henrietta Angkatell (Jordawn Howard), Cristow’s mistress and Midge Harvey (Morgan Bozarth), a family friend.

The house is maintained by long-time family butler Gudgeon (Doug Friedlander) and a new housemaid, Doris (Jadzia Winter). As one character so well states “The thing about murder is that it upsets the servants so”. After all, they must maintain the manor.

The plot thickens when actress Victoria Craye (Vivian Latham), a former mistress of Cristow, rents a house on the same lane. When Cristow is found shot, Inspector Colquhuon (Andy Brasted) and Detective Sergeant Penny (Eric McGowan) arrive to piece together the puzzle.

One should pay close attention to the subtle hints in the dialogue as the play progresses. As all the characters employ English accents and due to the quirks of the vocabulary of the era, this can be a challenging aspect for some. There are so many plot twists and turns it wouldn’t be out of line to make notes for reference at intermission.

The exquisite setting by Taylor Kasch, beautiful period costuming by Barbara Pedziwiatr and just the right touches of mood music attributed to Helsel and Allan Noel add to the overall charm of the piece.

The play is filled with underplayed humor. Only one character, that of Lady Angkatell (Peggy Stekete) seems purposely designed to trigger laughs, which she does easily. Sir Henry (Ronald Rezac), her long-suffering devoted husband, gently guides her to saner pastures when needed. Both are a delight. All the characterizations are definitively outstanding.

By today’s standard of fast-paced, non-stop action that quickly telegraphs details, the elaborate exposition in this play may seem a bit extended to some. However, it is a classic style well worth the journey. Settle back and enjoy the wordplay.

The Hollow continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through December 16. Adults are $24, seniors and students $22, children 12 and under $18. (805) 525-4645 or www.santapaulatheatercenter.org for ticket and seating information.

Vol. 12, No. 3 – Nov 7 – Nov 20, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Bus Stop storms into Elite for a spell

A classic dramatic play, Bus Stop by William Inge, is now on stage at the Elite Theater in Oxnard. Born in Kansas, Inge was considered a quintessential midwestern writer who hit his stride in the mid-1950s. He wrote about life in small towns and the commonality of people as they are forced together under difficult circumstances. Bus Stop is said to be the play that put Inge into the public eye.

The cast of Bus Stop, under the direction of Brian Robert Harris, brings the audience into Grace’s Diner west of Kansas City when a cross-country bus is stranded overnight due to blizzard conditions. Headed for destinations out of state, the riders are a disparate group all with their own reasons to be on the move. As the night wears on, the characters learn much about each other and about themselves.

The diner is run by Grace (Aileen-Marie Scott), an easy going “been there” woman filled with an understanding of how things are and how to cope as best she can. Her high-school age helper, Elma Duckworth (Shayde Bridges), displays youthful trust and naivete that almost land her in trouble. The local sheriff, Will Masters (Michael Perlmutter), keeps order as needed in the small town. His soft, down-home friendly demeanor carries a tinge of the sharp edge of authority.

The bus is this night manned by Carl (Todd Tickner), a route driver who makes Grace’s a regular stop. Riders trapped in the unbidden stopover are Cherie (Hayley Georgeanne Cariker), a young chanteuse lured from her job in a nightclub by Bo Decker (Michael Wayne Beck), a petulant young cowboy fresh from the rodeo who has vowed to wed Cherie despite her protests. His low-key friend Virgil (Bill Walthall) tries to keep Bo’s volatile temper in check as Cherie waves off his advances. Scott Blanchard plays Dr. Gerald Lyman, an educator with a thirst for drink to cover his lack of self-confidence.

As the night wears on, so do tempers, patience and compassion. Altercations occur, angry words pour forth and fatigue nips at everyone. All the characters are united, however, in their need to be respected. This strong theme is challenged severely as some discover they need to respect themselves first and look below the surface for reasons to respect others.

Performances are strong throughout. The Elite does not have the luxury of providing microphones for their actors, and I found that often the realistic sound of the blizzard outdoors overshadowed the dialogue, especially in the opening scenes. Perhaps a slight adjustment of blizzard tempered, and voices raised would help equalize the volume for everyone’s benefit.

There are some personal moments of beauty as well. Bill Walthall plays the guitar with quiet passion. Hayley Georgeanne Cariker takes the stage by storm with her vocal rendition of “Black Magic” and the loving looks between Grace and Carl (Scott and Tickner are married in “real” life) offer an extra dollop of sweetness to the story.

Bus Stop continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through November 18. Reservations are recommended. www.elitetheatre.org or 805-483-5118. Adults are $20, Seniors and Students $17. Elite Theatre is located at 2731 S. Victoria Ave in Channel Islands.

Vol. 12, No. 3 – Nov 7 – Nov 20, 2018 – Movie Review

Bohemian Rhapsody
Movie Review: 3.5 Palm Trees out of 4 Palm Trees

by Victoria Usher

Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 biographical film about the British rock band Queen.

Queen was a British rock band and they were one of the most popular, most talented, and most influential bands ever. They had a unique style of music that people adored, and they also had exciting and refreshing personalities that people could never get enough of. The film Bohemian Rhapsody is set in the 1970’s and it observes the legendary band, Queen, as they work their way up to super stardom, all while paying extra special attention to the front man Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek) and showing the rest of the band members as the supporting actors. The film tells Queen’s story all the way up until the band’s show stopping Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985. Casting was done extremely well for Freddie Mercury as well as for the rest of the band members. The chemistry between all of the actors on screen truly makes you feel as though you are watching the real band interact. There are real events and real struggles shown throughout the film that Freddie Mercury went through during the course of his life. A few of Queen’s greatest and most well-known songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Will Rock You”, “Somebody To Love”, and others are played throughout the film in order to help set the mood, set the tone, and also to help go along with the plot in a special and unique way.

I believe that this was a wonderful film that any person who is a true fan of the band Queen would enjoy watching. One of the specific things that truly keeps you enthralled during the entire film is Rami Malek’s phenomenal performance as Freddie Mercury, the leading man from the band Queen. He allows himself to be completely taken over by his character and become Freddie Mercury. He captures the hearts of all the people watching him.

Directed by Bryan Singer. It was produced by Brian May, Graham King, Jim Beach, Roger Taylor, Dexter Fletcher, Jane Rosenthal, Donald Sabourin, and Richard Hewitt. The screenplay was by Anthony McCarten. The story was by Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan. The film stars Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, and Mike Myers. The cinematography was by Newton Thomas Sigel. It was edited by John Ottman. The casting was done by Susie Figgis. The production design was done by Aaron Haye. The costume design was done by Julian Day. It was distributed by 20th Century Fox.

(Rated: PG-13) (Running Time: 2h 14m)