The theater and music department at Fresno Pacific University only produces a fully staged musical every other spring. That in itself makes “Little Women” a significant event – and my top arts pick for the week.
▪ The event: The Fresno Pacific production, under the direction of Bethany Rader, is the musical adaptation of the famous Louisa May Alcott 19th century novel about four sisters growing up without a father during the Civil War. A 2005 Broadway musical starred Sutton Foster as Jo, whose story we follow.
▪ The draw: The university’s theater and music department has been beefing up its stage-musicals program in recent years, starting in 2012 with “Godspell,” then 2014’s “The Sound of Music,” and now “Little Women.” The program first used the Fresno Memorial Auditorium for “Sound of Music” and returns for “Little Women,” an off-campus move that raises the bar for production values. The cast of 11 will be accompanied by a full live orchestra conducted by Erik Leung. Rader says the production “includes beautiful costumes designed by Brooke Aiello, an intricate set and fly system designed by Jerry Vocalino” and lighting and sound by Steven Herevia.
▪ The big vocal number: One of the things “Little Women” is known for is “Astonishing,” a song written by Mindi Dickstein and Jason Howland for Foster (famed for her terrific Broadway belt) that ends the first act. Sung by Jo (played by Meg Clark, a Fresno Pacific sophomore history major), the number celebrates the theme of empowerment. Says Rader: ”We have worked hard on this song for Meg, not because she can’t sing it, because she sounds amazing, but because I wanted to make sure she was feeling everything that needed to be felt along with ‘belting it pretty.’ It is amazing for me to see how at ease Meg is while singing this song ... Hearing this song is what made me want to do this show.”
▪ Details: There are just four performances: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 8; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10. Fresno Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St. www.eventbrite.com.
Sound the horns
▪ The event: The chamber group Moment Musical offers its spring “Sunday Serenade” concert.
▪ The draw: Lovers of the French horn won’t want to miss Czerny’s Fantasie Brillante for horn and piano, performed by Jennie Blomster on horn and Alan Rea on piano. The program also includes Schubert's Fantasie in F minor, one of the last and most profound works by Schubert that offers an emotional range of heart-rending pathos to carefree humor.
▪ Details: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 50 E. Santa Ana Ave 559-439-1890. Suggested donation $10/single; $20/family of 3 or more people.
▪ The event: The Tulare County Symphony closes its 2015-16 season with two pieces by Rimsky-Korsakov on in a concert entitled “Desperate Housewives.”
▪ The draw: Give the symphony’s marketing department credit: The program title catches your attention. The explanation: The main piece for the evening is “Scheherazade,” the fabled story of the woman who tells tantalizing tales to the Sultan every night, always leaving on a cliffhanger so he won’t murder her, as he has his former wives. You might call that ‘desperation.’ “ The second piece is the march “Procession of the Nobles.”
▪ Details: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, Visalia Fox Theatre, 308 W. Main St., Visalia. 559-732-8600 or www.tularecountysymphony.com. $20-$39.50.
See the movie
▪ The event: The Tower Theatre presents the 1995 movie “Dead Man Walking.”
▪ The draw: Before you see the Fresno Grand Opera production of “Dead Man Walking” on May 7, you can watch the big-screen version starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Based on the acclaimed memoir by Sister Helen Prejean, the movie brought Prejean’s exploration of capital punishment to a mass audience. The screening is co-sponsored by the opera company.
▪ Details: 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10, Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave. www.towertheatrefresno.com, 559-485-9050. $7.