by Lorie Lewis Ham
Another wonderful year of Valley theatre is behind us, and it is time again to take a look back. 2016 was filled with Valley premieres, musical classics, and amazing performances–too many to mention them all, but here are a few.
Let’s start with Valley and/or Fresno premieres. Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story hit the stage of the Reedley Opera House during the summer of 2016 with a bang! Joseph Ham perfectly embodied the singer from his vocal stylings, to his guitar playing, to his curly hair. The fact that actual musicians played his bandmates added to this amazing production. This was also the swan song for long time local director and founder of the Reedley River City Theatre Co., Mark Norwood. He definitely went out on a high note. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen there. I will confess to being Joseph’s mother, so if you doubt me check out Terrance McArthur’s review in KRL.
Also during the summer, the Valley premiere of Heathers the Musical hit the stage in Selma, presented at the Selma Arts Center by the Raisin’ Cain Players. Heathers is a very dark comedy with some disturbing content, but director Dominic Grijalva did an amazing job of putting this show together with some powerful performances by Claira Broach as Veronica and William Bishop as JD.
Another Valley premiere which KRL covered, and I so wish I personally could have seen, was the more edgy Casa Valentina presented by StageWorks Fresno. StageWorks never disappoints, and I have heard nothing but great things about this show. You can check out Terrance McArthur’s review for KRL.
Peter and the Star Catcher was yet another Fresno premiere presented by StageWorks Fresno, and this one was just plain fun! This unusual prequel to Peter Pan was non-stop hilarity and craziness! Terry Lewis, as the flamboyant Black Stache, had the crowd rolling in the aisles with laughter! The Good Company Players are presenting this show in 2017–watch for a review here in KRL.
Now on to some of the classics that graced Valley stages in 2016. Chris Mangels returned to the stage at Roger Rocka’s in the Good Company Players production of My Fair Lady and he was flat out amazing! He is easily one of the best actors to grace our Valley stages! This was definitely one of my favorite shows of the year. The entire cast did a loverly job.
Another classic presented by GCP on the Roger Rocka’s stage in 2016 was Camelot–one of my all time favorite shows! It was so much fun–I could have watched it over and over again.
As a huge mystery fan, Good Company Players production at 2nd Space of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution was another highlight for me. Noel Adams was wonderful as the defense attorney, and the show also featured two very talented actors that are quickly becoming favorites of mine, Alex Vaux and Chase Stubblefield. They were also in the Oscar Wilde play An Ideal Husband, also on stage at 2nd Space last year, which I enjoyed as well.
RCTC finished out the year with another classic, the Wizard of Oz, which was a first of another kind, Joseph Ham’s first time out as a director. It was a fun show and Tommie Hill as the Cowardly Lion was a crowd favorite.
Another favorite of mine this year was Big Fish at the Selma Arts Center. I had never seen this show before and knew nothing about it. The story is absolutely wonderful–it made me laugh, smile, and cry. I loved Tyler Jarrett as the main character Edward Bloom. Tommie Hill was also in this show and was hilarious–I have enjoyed watching this young man grow into an amazing actor.
Fresno Pacific presented a very timely play with their production of 9 Parts of Desire, a show that shares the real life stories of nine Iraqi women in the midst and aftermath of the first Gulf War. They also presented a lovely production of Little Women, The Musical starring the talented Meg Clark as Jo, as well as some fun readings, and Dark as Night: Selections From Shakespeare.
The College of the Sequoias in Visalia presented a couple of classics as well this season with their productions of The King and I, and ending their season with a lovely production of White Christmas. White Christmas was a perfect way to end my year in theatre.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include another favorite of mine, which was actually a concert reading as opposed to a full fledged production–Chris Mangels concert reading of his one-man-show A Christmas Carol. This was presented as a fundraiser for Bring Samantha Home by the Motley Fools, and while technically a reading, Chris was in costume and just plain amazing.
While not community theatre, I also loved the touring show of The Phantom of the Opera at the Saroyan in October of 2016.
There were many other wonderful shows in 2016–some we saw, some we missed. If you love theatre, this Valley is the perfect place for you as it is filled with a lot of great talent!
Some of the many shows I’m looking forward to in 2017 include The Christians, and Mothers and Sons presented by StageWorks Fresno; In the Heights at COS in Visalia; A Christmas Carol, and Hound of the Baskervilles presented by GCP; Gypsy at the Selma Arts Center; and Over the River and Through the Woods presented by RCTC.
Be sure to keep an eye out for KRL’s reviews and preview articles in 2017, and be sure to get out there and see some theatre!
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.