In the Meantime: Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater & the Good Company Players Are Back! (sort-of)

Apr 28, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Food Fun, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Live theatre—there’s nothing like it, right?

Sitting in a theatre with other audience members around you, watching onstage performers making you laugh, cry, gasp.
And for a whole year, there’s been nothing. Like it? NO!

Now, baby steps are being made at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, with the help of Dan Pessano and the Good Company Players.

On April 23, the Dinner Theater reopened for sit-down dinners, with a video retrospective featuring classic songs from past shows. After that blast from the past, the stage comes alive with In the Meantime, a cabaret-style performance featuring a few GCP veteran performers.

All Covid precautions are being followed. To get in, you have to show your vaccination card or negative test results from within two days. Tables are socially distanced, limiting the seating capacity to 25%. When away from your table, you must be masked. During the program, performers are not masked, but the audience must be.

All photos are samples from the cuisine at Roger Rocka’s (Your menu may differ)

The evening began with the meal. Oh, my oh my! We ordered the Salmon and the Flatiron Steak dinners. Both started with a wondrous salad of greens with strawberries, almonds, feta cheese, raisins, and a raspberry vinaigrette. My wife is excited by almonds in a dish, praising the Valley-centric qualities. The medium-rare steak had just the right amount of color, with a rich sauce that accented the flavor. My salmon flaked apart at the slightest touch, soft and buttery in texture, while the pineapple-accented sauce invited lip smacking. Later, we indulged in the vanilla ice cream (Drinks and desserts are had for an additional price).

When the lights dimmed, a video of highlights from past productions began; spanning the years from 1980 to 2020.Old-favorite songs and old-favorite performers danced and sang upon the screen. Six-time Tony Award-winner Audra Mc Donald, in her Junior Company childhood, showed early glimmers of her amazing talent. Heidi Blickenstaff, who also grew up to grace Broadway stages, belted out “Tomorrow” from Annie, while cuddling a massive pooch that dwarfed her. The dearly departed also appeared; the late Steve Pepper’s image provoked sighs from those who remembered him. After clips from shows like Will Rogers Follies, Newsies, and the last musical to grace the stage before the pandemic closure—Something Rotten, the film ended.

Dan Pessano has always been the ultimate host for the Good Company Players, and he provided the solid foundation for the cabaret portion of the evening with his commentary and anecdotes as Jessica Sarkisian entertained with songs and stories from her years on the little stage. Her voice soared in songs from The Drowsy Chaperone, A Chrostmas Story, and other shows, and a song Dan cut from a production of Beauty and the Beast. The multi-talented Terry Lewis tickled the plastic ivories of a keyboard in accompaniment, and contributed a few vocals.

For the opening night, Donald Munro joined the others onstage, trading comments, and offering his own thoughts. His online efforts to keep the performing arts in the minds of the Valley public were recognized by his presence…and the gift of a tux for the occasion.

Other performers will be featured in performances into May, including Meg Clark, Shawn Williams, Emily Pessano, Camille Gaston, Ted Nunes, and Sara Price, sometimes as soloists, sometimes working with others, on a rotation during the Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday matinees. On May 20 (Lord willing and the Covid don’t rise), fully staged musicals will return to the Dinner Theater stage with the opening of the ever-popular Nunsense. In the meantime, come and enjoy In the Meantime.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.


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