On Stage

On Stage


Cabrillo Music Theatre hits one out of the park, bringing Tony award-winning Damn Yankees to the Kavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Auditorium. Written by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, Damn Yankees combines musical theatre, baseball, comedy, dance and a touch of magic to tell a classic tale of fanaticism, temptation, fame, love and regret. Originally debuting on Broadway in 1955, it won 11 Tony awards, including Best Musical, and was adapted for the motion picture screen in 1958.

An aging sports fan, Joe Boyd (John Atkins), leaves his wife (Sarah Tattersall) and home behind after making a pact with the devil (John Sloman). With the devil’s help, Joe becomes the baseball superstar Shoeless Joe Hardy (Travis Leland), leading his beloved Washington Senators toward the American League pennant.

Joe cleverly negotiates an escape clause into the devil’s contract, beginning a sparring match of wit, temptation and trickery. Discovering Joe longing to return to his wife, the devil calls on sultry seductress Lola Banana (Renee Marino), who applies her formidable talents to lure Joe astray. Sports fans will relate to the many baseball references, but you don’t need to enjoy the national pastime to appreciate this timeless story and lighthearted musical romp.

The show is very well-cast. Like the characters they portray, the cast comes together as a strong team, combining, as they would say, “90 percent skill and another half” teamwork, spirit, talent and passion. Choreographer John Todd creates a fun, fresh and seamlessly flowing blend of athletics, mime, baseball, gymnastics and modern dance. Lola, Gloria (Katheryne Penny) and Buster (Joshua Rivera) bring an amazing level of energy and athleticism to the choreography, but in a show that almost never rests, the entire cast delivers an impressive and perfectly coordinated game. It is especially noteworthy how Todd and director Kirsten Chandler keep every face in the cast so appropriately and delightfully expressive throughout even the most strenuous and demanding moments.

Musical director Cassie Nickols and the Cabrillo Music Theatre Orchestra deliver a touching and beautiful rendition of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ original score. With memorable songs such as “You Gotta Have Heart,” “Whatever Lola Wants” and “A Little Brains, A Little Talent,” Damn Yankees spawned more popular hits than almost any other Broadway musical. The orchestra and cast consistently come together in perfect harmony, throughout a passionate and emotional soundtrack.

No review of this production would be complete without mentioning five young performers who really delight and capture the hearts of the audience. Addie Chandler, Calista Loter, Micah Meyers, Drew Rosen and Macello Silva join Cabrillo’s cast as one of Shoeless Joe’s youngest fan clubs. They sing two songs and perform several parts throughout the show, holding their own triumphantly amongst this very talented cast.

Damn Yankees is two hours of fun, spirit and comedy. It is a show that will truly entertain and delight the entire family with “miles and miles of heart.”

Damn Yankees through Oct. 25 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. 449-2100 or www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.


On Stage

On Stage


Outside it might be present-day Ventura County but inside the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse it is Venice, Italy, circa 1964. Director Ken Patton and his talented cast bring Nine to life, and it is enough to make anyone want to be Italian. The venerable musical, featuring music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and book by Arthur Kopit, has been an audience favorite since it debuted on Broadway in 1982. For its current incarnation at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, Nine feels like an old friend who has had a little work done and can still be counted on for a memorable night of great music, some naughty fun and more than a little drama.

Inspired by Federico Fellini’s classic film 8-1/2, the musical centers on Guido Contini, a famed Italian director who is caught in a perfect storm of middle-age crisis and creative stagnation. Seen through Guido’s eyes, Nine drifts between reality and fantasy until it takes up residence simultaneously in Guido’s brilliant yet tortured mind. Andy Mattick makes his Skyway Playhouse debut as Guido, capturing both his bravado and vulnerability. With a strong voice and commanding physical presence, Mattick brings Guido’s middle-aged pathos and panic to life.  

The play opens as Guido is scheduled to begin shooting a film for which he doesn’t yet have a script or even an inkling of an idea for a script. Desperate for a hit after a series of flops, Guido turns to the women of his life, both past and present, flesh and fantasy. First and foremost is Guido’s wife, Luisa, played with great sensitivity by Alexandra Lastort. Their marriage is on the rocks, thanks mostly to Guido’s mistress, Carla, portrayed with gleeful sexiness by Sara Marie Calvey. Then there is Claudia, the movie star, whom Mary Zastrow infuses with both tenderness and diva temperament.

Guido’s other women include his producer Liliane La Fleur (Chelsea Vivian), who at one point Guido imagines to be a dancer he was enamored of as a boy. Liliane sings “Folies Bergeres” as she struts and flirts with Little Guido, played by the adorable Wesley Umali. Another highpoint is when Saraghina (Autumn Ericson), the prostitute who teaches Little Guido about love, performs the lusty “Be Italian.”  

Dean Johnson conveys a surprising multitude of places with his Spartan set design. Raquel Karoly’s costumes run the gamut beautifully from mistress’ lingerie to wife’s day dress and austere nun’s habit to technicolor showgirl outfits. The videos created by Ryan Kelley expand Guido’s world, transporting us to the spa and the sea, and even show us the sweetness of Luisa’s screen test. Skillful choreography by Ken Patton and Eric R. Umali add spice to the mix, with a sultry tarantella and Folies Bergeres number, as well as the graceful movement of the women within Guido’s world. Under the musical direction of Paul Duffy, the actors sing with conviction and emotion.

The play culminates with Guido’s heartwrenching “I Can’t Make This Movie,” and the bittersweet “Getting Tall,” sung by Little Guido. In the end Guido is left to make peace with his past and present, fantasy and reality. As the lights come up, you can’t help but wish the fantasy would last a little longer. 

Nine through Nov. 8 at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo. For more information, call 388-5617 or visit www.skywayplayhouse.org.


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