Reviews are by Donald Munro; NR = not reviewed.
The Who’s Tommy: StageWorks Fresno kicks off its 2016 season with a new production of the rock musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Joel Abels directs. (Opens Friday, July 1)
Backwards Broadway – A Cabaret: This Visalia Players production features favorite Broadway torch songs sung by the opposite sex. Corey Ralson directs. (Opens Friday, July 1)
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Hamlet: Woodward Shakespeare Festival struggles with the Shakespeare classic. Director Broderic Beard, stretched thin by also playing the title role, is not able to articulate a cohesive vision of the show nor plumb much of its emotional depths. With a small cast (just 12 players with no doubling of roles), Beard scales down the production, which works fine in some ways and fails in others, including a head-scratching depiction of the death of Polonius. The high acting point comes from Casey Ballard as Laertes, who connects with the text and brings the focus and energy the role needs. Through July 16.
Hello, Dolly!: The classic Jerry Herman musical gets a solid but uneven production directed by Steve Souza, whose leading lady, Janet Glaudé, on opening night struggled to craft a consistent and cohesive Dolly. At times she played this larger-than-life character so softly she almost faded into the background. At others, she offered flashes of brashness that felt disjointed and sometimes even cranky. I wanted more flair and fun from her. Gordon Moore was a delight as the crabby Horance Vandergelder. There’s much to like about the show, including a small but mighty band of Dolly waiters welcoming her back home. Through July 17.
I Hate Hamlet: Good Company Players presents Paul Rudnick’s comedy-drama about a TV star scared to play Hamlet on stage. Through Aug. 14. This fresh summer hit at the 2nd Space Theatre is a witty and well-written romp, and director Elizabeth Fiester strikes a fine balance between insider Shakespeare jokes and general silliness. CJ Dion is a standout as the ghost of John Barrymore, who nurses TV actor Andrew Rally (an amusing Chase Stubblefield) through the angst of playing one of theater’s most challenging roles. The small ensemble cast is uniformly top-notch. Through Aug. 14.
NEXT WEEK’S OPENINGS
1776: Playhouse Merced opens the Founding Fathers musical. (Opens Friday, July 8)
The Buddy Holly Story: Joseph Ham plays the title role in a jukebox musical saluting the famed rock ‘n’ roller. (Opens Friday, July 8)