Big Theatre Coming to the Valley This Summer

Jun 6, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Lorie Lewis Ham, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win tickets to 4 big musicals coming to the Valley this summer!

The San Joaquin Valley is very rich in great theatre all year long and we at KRL enjoy covering it and sharing our finds with our readers. As part of our 5th anniversary celebration, it seemed a perfect time to highlight some of the great shows coming to the Valley this summer! We are also giving away tickets to four of these shows so you can celebrate with us.

The first of the shows we are featuring is StageWorks Fresno’s production of Into the Woods, which opens on July 2. I asked artistic director for StageWorks Fresno, and the director of the show, Joel Abels, some questions about the show:

KRL: Why did you choose to do Into the Woods?


I love this show! It is my favorite Sondheim piece and I felt the timing was right for StageWorks Fresno to bring this show to local audiences.

KRL: Please tell us a little about this show?

Joel: This show has become a “modern” classic. So much so that it took nearly two decades to bring this Broadway hit to the screen in the way that it deserved. It is basically a weaving together of a variety of fairytale characters and how their lives intermingle and what happens after, “ever after.” A great mix of comedy and tragedy to bring together a fully realized storyline.

KRL: Does it provide any special directing or staging issues?

Joel: It does and it doesn’t. I think the biggest creative challenge for this production is the unique qualities that the Dan Pessano Theatre brings to the table. It is a smaller venue with a pretty severe thrust which really creates challenges for actors to be seen from a variety of angles. The great thing about this for audiences is that it really brings the story to the forefront, literally!

KRL: What are you most excited about, about doing this show?

Joel: Many things! Very excited about this adult cast. Many local performers, and many of whom I have worked with, some not. It really is a stellar group. The cast includes: Brooke Aiello, Peter Allen, Tyler Branco, Shannon, Brewington, Gianna Console, Lauren Folland, Hailey Galbraith, Kirsten Haupt, Karen Hansen-Smith, Amalie Larsen, Amber Lewis, Terry Lewis, Sammy Linkowski, Jordan Litz, Emily Miller, Harrison Mills , and Chris Van Vleet.

Additionally we are very excited to be using the costumes from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s recent acclaimed production. A very different approach to the overall look and feel of the show. They are pretty fantastic.

KRL: Will there be anything different about your production?

Joel: Not so much different in the actual structure of the show. The concept is different and the direction I am taking the show is different for me. This is the third time I have directed this show and I needed to create something that was fresh for both actors and audiences.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Joel: Don’t miss this show? Limited number of seats and performances and we truly do anticipate it to sell very well, so go! Go forth and buy tickets!! You can get more details on the StageWorks Fresno website:


Reedley’s River City Theatre Company will be producing an older show, but another great, grand show–West Side Story. While it is a pretty big show for such a small stage, RCTC has already beautifully performed other big shows like Les Miserables and Hairspray. West Side Story opens on July 10. We chatted with the show’s director, and the RCTC artistic director, Mark Norwood:

KRL: Why did you choose to do West Side Story at the Opera House this summer?

Mark: It’s a wonderful show. The RHS production a couple of summers ago was so special and I wanted a continuation of the theatre magic that the students involved created.

KRL: How will you face the challenges of all of those dance numbers on the small stage?

Mark: The Opera House Stage is incredible. Whether there are three or thirty people up there, the space

KRL: Will there be anything unique about this production?

Mark: Seeing a large musical such as Les Miserables, or Sweeney, or West Side Story in an intimate setting is quite unique and a great gift to our audiences.

KRL: What do you feel it is about this show that makes it so special?

Mark: The issues dealt with in West Side Story still resonate today. West Side Story is innocent by today’s gang standards of brutality, but the social issues and divides have not changed, only grown bigger and deeper.

Tickets can be purchased on the RCTC website:

The next show we are featuring is actually a Valley premiere! In the Heights will be opening in Selma presented by the Raisin’ Cain Players, on July 17, directed by first time director, but very well known local actor, Dominic Griljava. “In the Heights was a project Dominic approached the arts council with several months ago,” stated Nicolette Anderson, Selma Arts Center Coordinator. “It has been his baby. I’m excited to see this fresh new show and the new talent he will bring.”

We chatted with Dominic about the show.

KRL: Why did you want to do In the Heights?

I am a huge fan of the show and its creators, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria-Hudes. Their work is an honest and realistic look into Latino culture, with a few well-spun stories that people of all backgrounds can relate to. On top of that, In The Heights offers a one-of-a-kind score. Several of the songs are rapped over modern hip-hop and R&B tracks and the rest explore the energetic and vibrant genre of Latin music, which includes reflections of Salsa, Reggaeton, Bolero, Bachata and more. By the end of the performance, you will have so many songs stuck in your head you won’t know which one to sing first!

KRL: Please tell us a little about this show?

Dominic: I’m not good at giving a synopsis, so here is what says about the show: In the Heights centers on a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door, pines for the gorgeous girl working in the neighboring beauty salon, and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at college with surprising news for her parents, who have spent their life savings on building a better life for their daughter. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighborhood get a dose of what it means to be home.

KRL: Does it provide any special directing issues?

Dominic: Choreography plays a major role in this show. I plan to keep the rhythm of Washington Heights alive throughout the entire performance so that places a great deal of work on my choreographer. He and I are working together in order to successfully tell this story through the steps. theatre

KRL: What are you most excited about, about doing this show?

Dominic: Lately, my daydreams center around people coming to see this show and leaving affected by it. At its heart, In the Heights is a story about real people with dreams who may be struggling but still persevere in hopes of achieving success. I believe that anyone can come into this show not knowing a word of it and see himself or herself, or someone they know, in a character or two. It’s just that universal.

KRL: This is a Valley premiere for this show correct? And your directing debut? How exciting are both of those things?

Dominic: The Raisin’ Cain Players are the first community theater in the area to stage In the Heights and everyone involved is extremely excited to bring this stellar show to the Valley. As far as my directing debut, being at the helm of it all does add a significant amount of pressure but I am delighted more than anything to have the opportunity to create with my friends and colleagues and make something special. I took the last year to dip my feet into the production side of things including choreography and digital set design, but now I’m in the hot seat and driving this thing. It’s still a trip to think about. (Editor’s note: we have been informed there was a high school production of this show in Madera in 2013, but this is the premiere in the Valley for a community theatre.)

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Dominic: We don’t have the tickets on sale just yet, but they will be available soon on and prices are $20 for Adults and $15 for Students/Seniors. More info will be posted soon on

Lastly, we are featuring CenterStage Clovis‘ production of Mary Poppins, which opens on July 23. Mary Poppins and Into the Woods seem to be the popular shows among theatre companies this year as there are a few productions in the Valley. But just like when the Valley saw three productions of Les Miserables in one summer, each production is unique and well worth seeing! We chatted with CenterStage’s artistic director Chris Lang, and the show’s director Scott Hancock.

KRL: Why did CenterStage choose to do Mary Poppins this year?

Chris: CenterStage had immense success with our production of Beauty and the Beast in 2009 and we felt it was a good time for us to tackle this challenging production. We are also the first major production of Mary Poppins in the Fresno/Clovis area, and the technical demands of the show, (Flying effects, large set pieces and our live orchestra) would lend well to the production at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre.

KRL: Why did you want to direct Mary Poppins?

Scott: First off, it’s a relatively new title for theater companies like us to be able to do. Staging something you haven’t seen several times is always a fun challenge, for me and the cast and crew. Secondly, it’s a family-friendly musical that speaks to all ages, so I’m curious as to how the audience will receive it.

KRL: What are you most excited about, about this show?

Scott: The sheer spectacle of it. From costumes, to sets to the flying actors, the scope of the show is the largest I have ever worked on.

KRL: Anything special or different about your production?

Scott: Since we haven’t started rehearsals yet, I can’t really comment. (Rehearsals have now started since we did this interview) What I can say is that we have a stellar cast and I know they’re going to knock this show right out of the ballpark. Add to that our superior live orchestra, and the audiences are in for a real

KRL: Any special challenges to this show (like flying?) ?

Scott: The flying is a new animal to me, so I’m going to be learning it along with the flying cast members. I always enjoy the challenge of introducing a new element to any project.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Scott: The stage play sticks much closer to the original books than the Disney film treatment, which I’m very excited about. There are levels of character growth and development that (while I love the movie,) it just didn’t capture.

You can learn more about the show and purchasing tickets on the CenterStage website:

And as if this wasn’t enough for Valley theatre goers to look forward to, the Selma Arts Center’s production of Into the Woods opens June 19, Oliver! is currently on stage at Roger Rocka’s, CMT is doing Peter Pan Jr., Encore Theatre in Tulare is doing Big Fish, and The Graduate opens in Visalia presented by Visalia Players June 12. The Cripple of Inishmaan is almost done with its run at 2nd Space, and Tribute to the Movie Musical is currently on stage in Hanford presented by the Kings Players. You can keep us with all of these shows at KRL, and get more details on our local theatre event page.

To enter to win a pair of tickets for Mary Poppins, Into the Woods presented by StageWorks Fresno, West Side Story, and In the Heights–simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “summer theatre,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 13, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Please do not enter unless you know you can use the tickets.

You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


  1. I’d love to win tickets to allow me to see my sister and best friends in their shows!

  2. Love local theater and have time this summer to go see plays!

  3. Well, technically, the Raisin’ Cain Players production of In The Heights is not a Valley premiere production; Madera South High School produced the show in April 2013, directed by Ginger Latimer. The lead of the Selma production co-choreographed that production.

    • Thanks for the heads up on this–I had someone else mention it on Facebook today. I guess then this is the community theatre valley premiere of the show.

  4. I’m so excited to see all these shows!

  5. Such a great line up of shows!

  6. So excited to see all of the amazing productions the valley has to offer!

  7. I LOVE all of these shows! I also love the people putting them on. We are so lucky to have such talented companies and actors in the valley!

  8. I would love to win tickets!

  9. We have our winner! Thanks so much for entering and I hope you make it to some of these shows still, and that you keep coming back to KRL for more theatre reviews and articles!
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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