Reviews are by Donald Munro; NR = not reviewed. For performance information, see calendar listings on Pages 17-19.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: StageWorks Fresno brings William Finn’s celebrated musical about a group of determined child spellers to the Bonner Auditorium at the Fresno Art Museum. (Opens Friday, Sept. 2)
Rock of Ages: Playhouse Merced presents the jukebox musical based on the hits of Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and others. (Opens Friday, Sept. 2)
My Fair Lady: Director Dan Pessano, in the finest tradition of Good Company Players, offers a sweet, fresh spin on the well-known story of a Cockney flower girl who takes London society by storm. A trio of strong performances (Chris Mangels as Henry Higgins, Breanne Gallagher as Eliza and Teddy Maldonado as Alfred) delivers the classic songs and sparkling humor this oldie-but-goodie title needs. David Pierce’s handsome set design adds to the appeal in the intimate Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater space. Through Sept. 11.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: Woodward Shakespeare Festival presents Tom Stoppard’s absurdist comedy about two minor characters from “Hamlet.” While the outdoor park setting probably isn’t the best setting to attempt such a challenging play, director Jacob Sherwood shows a fine spark and insight as he and his cast traverse a dizzying array of wordplay, physical comedy, absurdist philosophizing and intense existentialist introspection. There were some weaknesses on opening weekend, particularly with rushed lines and a glossing over of some of the play’s headier moments, but there is a homespun charm and strong ensemble spirit to this intellectual chew toy. Through Sept. 10.
Witness for the Prosecution: In this Good Company Players production of the Agatha Christie classic at the 2nd Space Theatre, you’ll get an old-fashioned whodunit romp complete with stuffy English barristers (David Otero and Noel Adams) wearing wigs. They’re battling over the guilt of the amiable defendant (Alex Vaux in a nice performance) accused of killing an older woman he befriended. But where does his enigmatic German wife (Erica Riggs, mysterious and ambiguous) fit into this? Director Karan Johnson offers a brisk pace and a solid sense of courtroom intrigue, though the big “reveal” could have used more dramatic spark. Through Oct. 9.
NEXT WEEK’S OPENINGS
Memory House: In a one-time benefit performance, Amelia and Alice Ryan offer a staged reading at the 2nd Space Theatre. (Plays Tuesday, Sept. 6)