We're in the thick of summer musical season, and among the titles opening this weekend, there's one for nearly every taste and age group. Looking for a big, brassy classic? Try "Hello, Dolly!" at CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre. (It even boasts a full-sized live orchestra.) An edgy, rock-oriented offering with adult themes? "RENT" at Visalia's Fourth Wall Theatre Company fits the bill.
For the younger crowd, Children's Musical Theaterworks presents "Disney's Cinderella: Kids." Older children (and the whole family) will find a lot to love about "Hairspray" in Visalia, presented by the Tulare County Office of Education Theatre Company, which has done some first-rate productions.
And, finally, there's a local premiere of a recent Broadway hit: the Good Company Players production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," which offers a touching present-day story tangled with a boisterous 1920s Jazz Age musical.
We asked each production to give us the rundown on their show:
'Disney's Cinderella: Kids'
Details: Friday and Saturday and July 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. (shows at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and July 30) at the Fresno Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno. Tickets cost $12-$22.
The company: Children's Musical Theaterworks is the Valley's premiere nonprofit theater company dedicated to the training of young performers in the area of musical theater and the arts. Since 1997, CMT has produced 47 mainstage and touring productions. CMT aims to provide Valley audiences with the highest-quality productions by youth in downtown Fresno.
The show: "Disney's Cinderella: Kids" takes the beloved Disney classic and brings your favorite characters to life. All of your favorite characters are along for the ride: Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother and the Evil Step family. Don't worry, the mice help Cinderella make all her dreams come true! This fast-paced show will leave you humming your favorite Disney classics, such as: "A Dream Is a Wish," "The Work Song," and "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!"
The stars: Mallory Lozano and Emily Estep alternate playing the role of Cinderella, Ally Wettstead and Jackie Whalen alternate playing the role of the Fairy Godmother, Tanner Johnston plays Prince Charming, and the cast also features 68 more performers ages 6-11.
Watch for: The pumpkin carriage is sure to enchant and the beautiful set by Ian Loveall is stunning. But, nothing can compare to the talent of these kids.
Target audience: Families who are looking for an outing that is appropriate and engaging for all ages!
'Hairspray: The Broadway Musical'
Details: Friday and Saturday, July 28-30 at 7:30 p.m. (2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and July 30) at the L.J. Williams Theater, 1001 W. Main St. on the Redwood High School campus in Visalia. General admission tickets are $12; VIP seats cost $20. (Tickets can be purchased at either of the Tulare County Office of Education's Visalia facilities, 2637 W. Burrel Avenue or 7000 Doe Avenue, Suite A or at the L.J. Williams Theater box office a half hour before each performance.)
The company: County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak created the Tulare County Theatre Company in 1998. Hairspray marks the program's 14th summer production. The goals of the company include teaching solid fundamental theater skills, instilling professional discipline and work ethics, establishing career connections and giving young people a safe and challenging place to create and express themselves.
The story: Hairspray the musical is based on the 1988 John Waters film "Hairspray." The songs include 1960s-style dance music and "downtown" R & B. In 1962 Baltimore, Md., plump teenager Tracy Turnblad's dream is to dance on "The Corny Collins Show." When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight. She then launches a campaign to integrate the show with African-American friends. Hairspray is a social commentary on the injustice of parts of American society in the 1960s. The musical was made into a popular movie in 2007. The musical's original Broadway production opened in 2002 and won eight Tony Awards.
The stars: Karen Burley (Tulare Union High School) as Tracy Turnblad; Mikey Hamilton (Golden West High School) as Link Larkin; Steven Braswell (Redwood High School) as Corny Collins; Krista Kugler (Golden West High School) as Penny Pingleton; Dallas Karavites (Golden West High School, 2011 graduate) as Seaweed Stubbs; and Armando Romo (Redwood High School, 2011 graduate) as Edna Turnblad.
Watch for: During the last dance number, Edna Turnblad (Tracy's mother) makes a surprise appearance out of a giant can of hairspray.
Target audience: Hairspary will be enjoyed mostly by teens and adults.
Details: Saturday and July 28-30 at 7:30 p.m. (also 2 p.m. on July 30) at The Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students.
The company: CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre was founded in 1992 as a source of theatrical entertainment for the Clovis area and the Valley. A nonprofit organization, it's goal it to produce one high-caliber family-centered Broadway-style musical per year.
The story: "Hello, Dolly!" is set in 1890 when all of New York City is abuzz because widowed, brassy matchmaker Dolly Levi is in town. She is seeking a wife for grumpy Horace Vandergelder, the well-known "half-a-millionaire." The show is full of memorable songs, including "Put On Your Sunday Clothes," "Ribbons Down My Back," "Before the Parade Passes By," "Elegance," "Hello, Dolly!," "It Only Takes a Moment" and "So Long, Dearie."
The stars: Clytee Ramsey stars as the iconic Dolly Levi. George Akina portrays Harace Vandergelder. Also featured are Hanna Nielsen (recently seen as Christine in COS's "Phantom of the Opera"), Evan Wade, Nick Gardner and Sarah Josephian.
Watch for: A big show with a 50-person cast and 22-person live orchestra. Dancing that will wow you. It all surrounds Clytee Ramsey in the role she has made famous for Valley audiences time and again.
Target audience: Families. This Broadway-style musical is for all ages.
Details: Friday and Saturday and July 29-30 at 8 p.m. and Sunday and July 31 at 2 p.m. at the Main Street Theater in Visalia. Tickets cost $15. (Profit from the show will be donated to WECARE in Fresno County, Friends of Tulare County and the Kings County HIV department for peer support and education.)
The company: Produced by the Fourth Wall Theatre Company and directed by Corey Ralston.
The story: This rock opera tells the story of one year in the life of a group of bohemians struggling in modern day East Village New York. The story centers around Mark and Roger, two roommates. While a former tragedy has made Roger numb to life, Mark tries to capture it through his attempts to make a film. In the year that follows, the group deals with love, loss, AIDS, and modern day life in one truly powerful story.
The stars: Peter Allwine as Mark Cohen, Auggie Hernandez as Roger Davis, Sarah Gallegos as Mimi Marquez and JJ Pestano as Angel Dumott Schunard.
Watch for: A group of seasoned performers paired with a rocking band. The hope is to raise awareness about HIV and reduce stigma in the area.
Target audience: Anybody who loves emotionally driven live theater and rock music. There are some sexual themes in the show, so it has a suggested PG-13 rating.
'The Drowsy Chaperone'
Details: Through Sept. 11 at Roger Rocka's Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon Ave. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $29-$49.
The company: Founded in 1973, Good Company Players produces 12 shows a year between Roger Rocka's Dinner Theater and the 2nd Space Theatre, both located in Fresno's Tower District. Between the two venues, Good Company Players has mounted more than 400 productions since its inception.
The show: To chase his blues away, a musical theater fan drops the needle on his favorite LP, the 1928 smash musical hit comedy "The Drowsy Chaperone." As the cast album plays, the show magically bursts to life in his one-room apartment telling the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet who's giving up show business for married life, her producer set on sabotaging the nuptials, the drowsy (read "tipsy") chaperone, the debonair groom, the dizzy chorine, the Latin lover and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs for no apparent reason.
The stars: The cast includes Sarah Schweppe in the title role, Emily Pessano as Miss Janet Van De Graaff, a starlet who is giving up show business to marry the debonair Robert Martin (Daniel Hernandez).
Watch for: GCP's scenic designer, David Pierce, found very creative ways of turning everyday household necessities into a glamorous musical spectacle.Target audience: "The Drowsy Chaperone" boldly addresses a great unspoken desire in all of our hearts: to be entertained. If you've ever sat in a dark theatre and thought, "Dear Lord in heaven, please let it be good," this is the show for you!