Three new theater openings around the central San Joaquin Valley dominate my arts picks next week. Visalia’s College of the Sequoias, the Selma Arts Center and Fresno’s Children’s Musical Theaterworks all debut productions.
‘In the Heights’
The event: COS presents “In the Heights” (music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes), a musical about a Dominican American community in New York City, in a production directed by Chris Mangels.
The draw: Even people with absolutely no interest in Broadway or who are living in an isolated cave in the Himalayas have probably heard of Miranda’s “Hamilton,” the hottest show in a decade. “In the Heights” was his first show and features a score fusing the sounds of hip-hop and salsa. Mangeles says the way it explores the idea of marrying the rich but strict traditions of one’s cultural heritage with an evolving modern world is not unlike what “Fiddler on the Roof” did for Jewish immigrant culture in the 1960s.
The immigrant angle and the current political scene: “We are again drawing strong lines between ‘us and them’ and immigrants are being too often – in my opinion – getting labeled as ‘them,’ ” Mangels says. “With the exception of the indigenous Native Americans, we are a country almost completely composed of immigrants. This show resonates most for me because it is not just a musical about what it means to be a person of Latin heritage in America today … it is a show about what it means to be ‘American.’ This show celebrates diversity as the true backbone of our community and our nation, and I couldn’t be more proud or honored to be sharing that message right now.”
More online: Go to www.fresnobeehive.com for “5 Things to Know About College of the Sequoias’ ‘In the Heights.’ ”
Details: Opens 7:30 p.m. Friday, College of the Sequoias Theatre, 915 S. Mooney Blvd. Through March 19. cos.ticketleap.com/, 559-730-3907. $24, $22 seniors, $20 students.
The event: The Selma Arts Center presents the classic musical “Gypsy” (music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents). Nicolette Andersen directs.
The draw: The musical, based on the memoirs of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee and her domineering mother, Mama Rose, deftly balances lighthearted humor and more serious themes. “For many, burlesque was not so much the answer as something they were thrust into,” Andersen says. “Even with its desperate undertones the musical is essentially lively and fun. Burlesque is just a small part of the story but more focuses on a relatable relationship between a mother and daughter.”
Details: Opens 7 p.m. Friday at Selma Arts Center, 1935 High St., Selma, and runs through March 25. www.selmaartscenter.com, 559-891-2238. $19, $17 seniors and students.
‘High School Musical’
The event: Children’s Musical Theaterworks brings back “High School Musical,” the stage production based on the Disney Channel film.
The draw: CMT first did the show in 2007, and it was one of the company’s top five most popular shows (out of more than 85 shows). There are 63 cast members ages 12-20 plus two adult performers. The production is the directorial debut for former CMT performer and current choreographer Michael Dumas.
Details: Opens Friday at Fresno Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St. Runs through March 19. www.cmtworks.org, 866-973-9610. $14-$22.