by Lorie Lewis Ham
2015 was another year of awesome theatre for the San Joaquin Valley. This Valley is blest with a lot of talent! Theatre fans here never need to head out of the Valley to see a great show.2015 was the year of Mary Poppins and Into the Woods. The Raisin’ Cain Players in Selma started off the year with its production of Mary Poppins–this was the first Raisin’ Cain Players show KRL had ever covered, and we were impressed. Next was the CenterStage Clovis production in the summer, and then the year ended with a young Mary Poppins cast presented by CMT. Raisin’ Cain Players continued to impress with a moving production of Into the Woods–Samantha Gagliardi as the Witch took my breath away with her performance of “Last Midnight.” Less than a month later, StageWorks Fresno presented their beautifully flawless production of Into the Woods. The Princes, played Jordan Litz and Terry Lewis, were my favorite part of the show. Earlier in the year, CMT did a production of Into the Woods Jr.
These two companies also presented the Valley with some local premieres. StageWorks Fresno followed up their production of Into the Woods with Dogfight. Again Jordan Litz shone, along with his leading lady Ellie West. The entire cast of this show were amazing, but then a StageWorks Fresno production is always top quality.
The Raisin’ Cain Players presented the local premiere of In the Heights. While there was a high school production of this show in Madera in 2013, this was the premiere in the Valley for a community theatre. This show rates as my favorite show of the year–not just their wonderful performance, but the story itself is so uplifting that In the Heights is now on my list of favorite shows. Dominic Griljava should be very proud of his directorial debut!
The Reedley River City Theatre Company took a darker turn last year with a very ambitious production of Sweeney Todd, and their production of the dark thriller, Wait Until Dark, where Brianne Vogt shone as the blind Susy Hendrix. Their big production in the summer was West Side Story, also on the dark side. I applaud them for taking a bit of a risk this year, and doing a good job of it. They did lighten things up a bit at the end the year with a wonderfully fun production of Plaid Tidings.
Mark Norwood stepped away from the RCTC stage for a change to perform in the GCP production of Shenandoah at Roger Rocka’s in 2015.
Another favorite show of mine last year was the GCP production of Shadowlands at 2nd Space. It is not only a sweet love story, but a very interesting story about a favorite author of mine, CS Lewis. Gordon Moore did a splendid job as Lewis, and Julie Lucido was perfect as Joy.
Over at Roger Rocka’s a couple of highlights presented by GCP were All Shook Up, and the fun, dance heavy show Crazy For You. Greg Grannis absolutely blew me away with his singing and dancing in that show!
Sadly missing last year was the Cal Arts production of the Rocky Horror Show, but Visalia Players took it on and presented the Valley with a very fun production of the show!
A newer theatre co in town, Curtain 5, presented a new one-act version of Dorian Gray at Fresno Soap Co. A young Ian Jones was a big surprise as Dorian–I can’t wait to see what this young man does in the future. Ian did an incredible job, and it was interesting to see one of my favorite books come alive on stage.
College of the Sequoias presented an absolutely amazing production called The Henriad. This was a unique show, adapted from Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV (Parts 1 & 2), and Henry V. The show was presented by their student run production company, the Experimental Theatre Ensemble. It was adapted and directed by Chris Mangels. There were many standout performances in this show, including Diane Fidalgo.
J. Daniel Herring directed the bold show last year, Venus in Fur, at the Cal Arts Center. Brooke Aiello and Terry Lewis were wonderful is this very edgy, risqué show.
There were many more shows in the Valley last year than what I’ve mentioned, these are just some of my personal highlights–many other great shows were reviewed here by our own Terrance McArthur, and sadly, there were several others we had to miss.
There are theatre companies not only in Fresno and Visalia, but Selma, Reedley, Hanford, Tulare, and a brand new one in Sanger. So be on the lookout for a lot of great theatre to come in the new year–much of which we plan to cover here in KRL. Who needs San Francisco and LA when you have talent like this right here?
Though not exactly Valley theatre, another of my favorite shows came through with Broadway Fresno this last year-Camelot! I’m so excited to see that GCP will be doing that show in 2016! And I can’t wait to see what else Valley theatre has in store for us in this new year. Check back here at KRL often to see reviews, previews, and check our local theatre event page.
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.