by Terrance Mc Arthur
The Reedley Opera House is an old-fashioned building. It’s the perfect place for old-fashioned musical “mellerdrammers.” The River City Theatre Company, for its tenth anniversary, has brought back the 2005 show that started the Fanny series of plays, Blossoms Up!
It’s a rule of comedy that a man in a dress is funny, and a big man in a dress is funnier, and a bunch of supporting-character men in dresses is still funny, and a male puppet in a dress is……How far do they want to go with this thing?
The big man in a dress is Matt Wiebe, who was wonderful as Tevye in River City’s Fiddler on the Roof. He’s big-boned and beautiful as Fanny Feastyoureyes, a plot complication who takes over the show. Fanny is brazen and bold, tender and kind, and Wiebe makes you care and laugh and indulge the other-gender side of your soul.
Steve Jones plays Fanny’s older sister, Fiona Feastyoureyes. He’s squarish and brusque, a combination of Patton Oswalt from King of Queens and Vickie Lawrence from Mama’s Family. Fanny and Fiona have extra stage time in this revival production, as it is framed as a tribute to Fanny’s past. The duo manages to raise laughs and eyebrows along the way.
The story revolves around the plans of the evil Split Pitts (Mark Norwood) to steal the last acres of the ranch of young Lance Goodacre (Jacob Alvarado) and its blushingly-named variety of nectarines. Pitts hoodwinks the boy into wagering the property on the outcome of the Plumnuts County Beauty Pageant and Bake-Off. Of course, Lance’s sweetheart, Polly Pastyoureyes (Stacie Hall), ought to win, but there ARE other contestants: a “freely”-selected audience participant and Pitts’ entry…Fanny.
Alvarado (the Rabbi in Fiddler) has a broad smile and dances his way into your heart. His earnest attitude and loving glances are endearing. The object of his endearing glances is Polly Pastyoureyes (Stacie Hall). Hall is sweet and lovely, bestowing a mild-but-charming speech problem upon her character. Her “paws” will make you pause.
Chris Giese, Tanamin Clark, Clarence Wingate, and Don Applegate are Mayor Sap and the other judges of the rigged contest, trying to make sure that Fanny wins. They also play their own wives, but this show doesn’t treat men-in-women’s-clothes as a demeaning thing (Giese looks almost stately in a dress); It’s merely a commentary on how married couples start to look alike as the years go by. Clark, who channeled Ed Sullivan and Kermit the Frog in last year’s Legends revue, does extra duty with a Muppetish judge at the end of his arms. During the intermission, I heard a woman ask her tablemates, “Did you notice that one of the judges was a puppet?” If the cast doesn’t notice, why should we?
Norwood wrote the book and lyrics (Darrell Devaurs composed the music). Norwood directed the show. Norwood plays the villain, and he puts his heart (black as it may be) into all of his efforts. Smirking along in a V for Vendetta outfit, getting a wide range of meanings out of the sentence “Shut up,” and unabashedly provoking boos from the audience, he is the master of that stage, and all things go according to his despicable plans…more or less.
The show is goofy, fun, and frolicsome, with a chorus that makes the definition of “enthusiastic” look bland. Go! Take someone you can nudge when you get the jokes, but not someone who will hurt you if they nudge back…and they will.
Blossoms Up! continues its run at the Reedley Opera House, 1720 10th Street in Reedley, through March 10. Thursday through Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Dinners are available Friday and Saturday. Contact the box office: 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500. You can keep up with RCTC shows and get more info on their KRL theatre event page.