by Lorie Lewis Ham
If you’re looking to see a show that is non stop laughs, A Royal Fanny, now on stage at the Reedley Opera House, is a must see! This is the latest in this series of original shows written by Reedley River City Theatre Co. artistic director Mark Norwood, along with his writing partner Darrell Devaurs, and a milestone for the writing team being their twentieth show together.
“We shook Fanny’s family tree and traced her roots all the way back to mid-evil England,” said Mark. “A Royal Fanny is the seventh installment in our Blossoms Up Series. Each title is a brand new work and audiences will quickly be keyed into the action even if this is their first Fanny show experience!”
The music style in Royal Fanny is more of a rock musical type with a touch of classical. One cast member described the music as kind of a mix between Queen and Rocky Horror Picture Show. The costumes are also sort of a mix, with beautiful Elizabethan style dresses combined in some cases with converse. The names of the characters themselves are enough to have you in stitches with The Ladies Who Are Tired of Waiting, Sir Horndog, Maid Kittenbreath and Lance Not So Much, to name a few.
The basic plot is such: Princess Fanny of Oblivia (played by Matt Wiebe) has been locked away in a tower for 30 years by her clueless parents. The kingdom was told that this was due to her unbearable beauty. Now, because Oblivia is at war with neighboring Ridicula, Fanny is being let out of the tower so she can hopefully marry the Ridiculan prince and save the day. The problem is that Fanny is completely unschooled in any comportment or refinery. Enter her secret half-sister Flossie (played by Mark), who moonlights as a charm and elocution instructor when she is not working as a scullery maid.
Also, while Fanny has been locked away there has also been a moratorium on romance, which the Queen (played by Jamie Briceno) ordered in hopes it would help spur the men to put an end to the war—resulting in my favorite song in this show “Kill All The Men”. This funny plot is filled with twists and turns including hypnotism, attempted murder, secret pregnancy, forbidden love and of course happy endings and is perhaps a bit more cutting edge than past Fanny’s. And no Fanny show would be complete without men playing women.
Though in the beginning Fanny doesn’t talk much, as it goes along we begin to see the Fanny we’ve all grown to love and who Matt pulls off wonderfully as always—he also gets to play the King. Mark’s character Flossie is a riot and one of the standouts of the show. However, Jamie Briceno as the Queen steals the show–not only does he look incredible in those amazing dresses and extremely high heels, but he has a beautiful voice and perfect comedic timing. And man those evil looks he gives.
The young lovers, played by Stacie Hall and Jacob Alvarado add a touch of drama and sadness to this otherwise crazy show with their pretty love ballads, and everyone in the show does a great job. It was nice to see Denise Norwood, Mark’s wife and RCTC choreographer and costumer, on stage again as well.
Mark states that the most challenging thing about staging an original musical is getting audiences to take the leap of faith and attend. “Audiences tend to gravitate towards titles that they are familiar with. I think it is tremendously exciting to be involved in a totally new work of art. Our audiences have the opportunity to be the first to experience something totally different. I know they will be blown away by the quality of this production if they will give it a chance.
“For me, the ultimate theatrical experience is creating new works from the ground up. Unfortunately, there are some that have the mindset that if it is “Local” it can’t be world class or even good. As long as I am blessed with the opportunity to work in this special community and in this wonderful building I will continue to strive to produce the best theatre anywhere.”
And River City has done just that! If you are looking for a fun top notch show that is guaranteed to brighten your day and fill it to the brim with laughter, do not miss Royal Fanny—it is a great night at the theatre and I think the best Fanny show so far. By attending the show, you also get the chance to help support local theatre.
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