Two great shows on stage this month in the capital city
November 13, 2008
Forget the economy! Carson City is musically rich. Carson City theater fans have a winning pair of productions to chose from this weekend. One show is a Broadway smash and Pulitzer Prize winner of years ago, “South Pacific,” based on the short stories of James Michener about the U.S. Navy at work (and play) in Polynesia. This is traditional American musical theater at its finest, with Rogers and Hammerstein music and lyrics. In 1949 it set Broadway theaters on a new path with songs like “You’ve Got to Be Taught” that tried to teach a lesson about racial tolerance. The Western Nevada Musical Theater Company put this show together under the always clever and thoughtful direction of Stephanie Arrigotti, with Gina Kaskie-Davis creating the dance sequences.
Sarah Pennybaker plays Nellie Forbrush and does a fine job of “Washing That Man Right Out of My Hair.” She is joined by Mark D. Williams, a professional traveling actor, as the French planter with biracial children. The “You’ve Got to Be Taught” is faintly quaint in these days of a black president-elect. But oddly enough, back in 1949 there was a lot of anxiety about including such a plea for tolerance in a Broadway musical.
South Pacific plays at the Community Center on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 23. There is also a matinee Saturday, Nov. 22, at 2 p.m. Tickets are at the door.
“South Pacific” is among the last of the musicals before “Oklahoma” carved a new path for such entertainment.
Then there’s the other show in town, “I Say Nevada,” an original musical revue of 15 scenes with eight actors and musical backing from a smooth and unobtrusive three-piece combo, with the show’s composer-writer Bobby McGee on the keyboards. This is a premiere and is playing at the Brewery’s Donald W. Reynolds Theater at 449 W. King St. These highly original and entertaining acts poke fun at much of Nevada, everything from our Guv to Area 51 and alien creatures, to the pronunciation of the state and “unsolved mysteries” about the state. The Proscenium Players put this one together with Eloise Koenig directing, assisted by Maizie Harris Jesse.
To open the night, Lisa Bommarito and Carla J. Wilson attempt to explain why Nevada is a trapezoid shape. Lisa examines during the show other “unexplained mysteries,”and she does it in high style, winning plenty of laughs. Carla also does a fine turn in “Rendezvous,” opening the second act.
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Early on is the number everyone is waiting for, “I Say Nevada.” Jonni Moon, fresh from her terrific performance in “Blythe Spirit,” leads the cast in this lesson about a hard or soft “a” in Nevada. (Some Washington pols could benefit from hearing this song.)
Jeff Whitt, a veteran PP actor, is all over the stage in this show and surprise!; he even lets his hair down. He brings a fine sense of professionalism and comedy to the show. You’ll enjoy him when he teams with Lisa, Ethan Gray and Kristan Lambert, who opens the show with a “love song” to Sen. Harry Reid. A fine voice and lots of humor (will Harry ever see this? He should).
Ethan Gray is appearing in his first PP production, and does a very funny mimic of our nearby guv, Arnold. New talent, new life for the company. He’s also sharp as a cowboy.
Norm Subotky is another PP vet who brings a quiet but funny presence to the action.
Despite the accent on laughs, there are some serious moments in the show, particularly in “Not Very Funny,” touchingly sung-talked by Ray Finnegan, a refugee from police work who brings thoughtfulness to his song. A fine moment and needed change of pace.
“I Say Nevada” winds up with a touching tribute to our land with “A Place in My Heart for Nevada.”
Robert Leonard Reid (AKA Bobby McGee when he teams with June Joplin of Comma Coffee as they appear at a local wine bar), shows his talent with his funny, fast, tuneful revue. Reid is the author of many children’s books and an accomplished musician as well as writer of songs and music. He catches the tone of Nevada neatly, and while it may baffle transplanted New Yorkers he’s right on the button with his satire. “I Say Nevada” is just right for local audiences but probably over the head of those east of the Mississippi.
“I Say Nevada” runs Nov. 14-15 and 21-22 and tickets are available at the door. If you missed opening night you also missed the free Donnerburgers the Players offered that night. Donnerburgers? You’ve got to see the show.
So which is better? Apples and oranges, of course. Both demonstrate the vitality of music on stage, the continuing beauty of the old shows and the importance of the new. Not many towns of Carson’s size in America that could stage these two shows for three weekends. And then there’s the wonderful troupe of African drummers and Carson area kids on stage with “Anouaze Beat” at the Children’s Museum Nov. 14-15. Riches on all sides!
– Sam Bauman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.