A Look Back at Theatre in the Valley in 2019!

Jan 11, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Reedley News, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Another year of theatre in the Valley has come and gone, and it was another amazing one. There is so much talent in the Valley that no one needs to go to New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to see a great show. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights!

As usual, 2019 saw some Valley premiers, such as Be More Chill presented by the Selma Arts Center. It was a fun and very modern show with a compelling message. The main character was played by Ian Jones, who I have enjoyed watching on stage ever since I saw him play Dorian Grey brilliantly. It also featured two members of our podcast family, Teya Juarez and Sean Hopper.

Be More Chill

Cast of “Be More Chill”

Also on the SAC stage earlier in the year was one of my favorite plays, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This one featured Jared Serpa as the main character Christopher and he was incredible! Another great cast that included Terry Lewis and Chris Mangels who each performed one weekend of the show as Christopher’s father. This one is also a mystery, so right up my alley. Ruth Griffin did a wonderful job of directing this technically challenging show.


Christopher (Jared Serpa) in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

Another of my favorite shows of the year was also on the Selma Arts Center Stage, Cabaret. The show Cabaret itself is now on my list of favorite shows, and SAC did an amazing job. Meg Clark as Sally Bowles blew me away in probably her strongest performance to date and Abigail Nolte as the Emcee was absolutely amazing! The show itself is incredibly dark and moving, and Michael Flores directed it perfectly from the set, to the lighting, to the casting-it was amazing.


Emcee (Abigail Nolte) in “Cabaret”

2019 was definitely a wonderful year for the Selma Arts Center. They also did Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in which Aaron Pierce as the Beast was fantastic, but even better yet was his performance in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder was hilarious! Also in this show was Randall Kohlruss who showed his incredible range as an actor, and his great comedic timing, as he played almost the entire D’Ysquith family. One of the older shows that hit the SAC stage in 2019 was Wait Until Dark.

Cast of “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder”

The College of the Sequoias presented The Three Musketeers, which featured some big sword fights and a fun night at the theatre for any fan of the swashbuckling classic. I also was able to see Chris Mangels once again in his incredible one man show of A Christmas Carol on the COS Stage.


Aramis (R.L. Prehiem), Athos (Mason Beltran Garcia), and Porthos (Andrew Maximino Martinez)

A brand new theatre company called Near/Far Theatre performed its first show last year. I look forward to seeing what they bring us in the future. One of those at the helm is another member of our podcast family, Julia Reimer.

And another relatively new theatre company, Action Community Theater in Clovis, showed that not only could they provide a fun night at the theatre, but also raise money for the Syrian Refugee crisis, all in one night.

Good Company Players 2nd Space Theatre was home once again to several lovely shows last year, a favorite of mine there being Shot in the Dark, which provided not only an interesting plot, but also a mystery to solve. An extra bonus for me was the wonderful cast that included my son Joseph Ham, as well as the talented Chase Stubblefield, Emily Kearns, Henry Montelongo, and the always delightful Gordon Moore.


Cast of GCP’s production of “A Shot in the Dark”

Roger Rocka’s saw the return of the multi talented Louise Mandrell in the GCP production of Calamity Jane.

Another of my absolute favorites of the year, and possibly of all time, was the Good Company Players production of Man of La Mancha at Roger Rocka’s. The entire cast was great, and Chris Mangels as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote/Alonso Quijana was phenomenal! He is definitely one of the top actors in the Valley! I also enjoyed seeing my son Joseph Ham as the antagonists of the story, the Duke and Dr. Sanson Carrasco.


Sancho Panza (Miguel Molinar), Don Quixotic (Chris Mangels) and Aldonza (Amalie Larsen)

For me the theatre year ended with the fun and charming Christmas show Elf starring the very talented Shawn Williams, who we also saw in Newsies-both wonderful Good Company Player shows on the Roger Rocka’s stage.

Buddy (Shawn Williams)

This year also saw the end of an era as StageWorks Fresno performed their final show, The Book of Will. They also produced another favorite of mine of the year, La Cage aux Folles. Joel Abels and Terry Lewis were incredible in this show, as was the entire cast. The loss of StageWorks Fresno as a theatre company will be greatly felt—they gave us many amazing shows over the past several years.


Zaza aka Albin (Joel Abels)

2019 saw a lot of changes happening with Reedley’s River City Theatre Co. and I look forward to seeing what 2020 has in store for them. They ended the year with a lovely production of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

RCTC cast of “Joseph”

It was a year that also saw the Enchanted Playhouse in Visalia sadly have to leave their Main Street Theater, and move their productions to the Fox Theatre. We had the pleasure of seeing The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe earlier in the year at the Main Street Theater, and then Prince Caspian at Fox Theatre. And we published many preview articles for long standing theatre companies like the Visalia Players, Kings Players in Hanford, CenterStage Clovis, Golden Chain Theatre in Oakhurst, and the Merced Playhouse, as well productions at Fresno State and Fresno Pacific. And reviews of some of the Woodward Shakespeare Company’s summer productions.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Rogue Festival. Fresno has one of the biggest fringe festivals in the US. Each year it is a delight filled with all types of entertainment, including theatre. It is coming up again this March—watch for articles here in KRL!

This is only a sampling of the multitude of shows that hit Valley stages in Reedley, Selma, Sanger, Fresno, Hanford, Oakhurst, Visalia, Merced, and Clovis! We are lucky to be surrounded by so much theatre! So in the new year be sure to go out and see some of it, and you will not only be supporting the arts, you will be having a wonderful time! Also, be sure to watch for our reviews and preview articles here in Kings River Life and KRL News and Reviews! Click on the links on the show titles above to find both my own and Terrance McArthur’s reviews from 2019.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors–many of whom were mentioned in this article. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean. A new one goes up next week!

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


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