The play will definitely be the thing come March 15-16.
This weekend, something will happen in the local cultural scene that, as far as anyone knows, has never happened.
Not two, not three, not four, not five, but six (6) local theater productions will take the stage on the same dates.
Plays, six ways.
The selections are an 18th century classic romance, a 19th century classic romance, a debut comic mystery involving two nine-year-old sleuths, a “jukebox musical” involving some of the biggest pop hits of the 1970s, a classic radio theater presentation, and a Disney musical.
The shows are:
“Pygmalion,” Plays For Non-Profits, opening March 15-16 at Hood River Valley Adult Center and concluding on March 31 at Columbia Center for the Arts;
“Big Smoke,” Columbia Center for the Arts, which opened March 8 and runs through March 15.
“Sense and Sensibility” at Hood River Valley High School’s Bowe Theater, which opened March 1 and closes March 15-16. (Rachel Harry directs; the show was profiled in the Feb. 27 Kaleidoscope.)
“Mamma Mia!”, from Stages, which opened March 8, and runs through March 23, at Wy’east Performing Arts Center.
States “Mamma Mia!” Director Mark Steighner, “Our production came about when, on the very same day we learned we could not get the license for ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (it is now restricted to school productions only), ‘Mamma Mia’ was announced as being released for amateur licensing. We are one of the first community theater productions in the Northwest.”
“Beauty and the Beast” opens at TDHS this weekend and runs through March 23.
“War of the Worlds” radio theater play, Zion Lutheran Church, The Dalles.
It’s notable that, in the two-weekend span of March 8-10 and March 15-17, a total of six local productions took place: “War of the Worlds,” by new The Dalles-based theater group Serious Theater, has extended its run through this weekend.
Overall, there are now 11 distinct theater groups in Hood River-The Dalles-White Salmon-Bingen, if you include the high school drama programs at Hood River Valley High School, Columbia High School and The Dalles High School.
Here’s the rest of the list:
Adult Center Theater, Hood River
Big Britches Productions, at the Bingen Theater
Columbia Center for the Arts
Judie Hanel Presents, various venues
Plays for Non-Profits, various venues
Stages (Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association)
The Dalles Theater Association
“Sense and Sensibility” is a fast-paced adaptation of the Jane Austen classic novel, and employs props on wheels, a puppet, cast members as horses and dogs, and other costume, set and staging devices.
“Pygmalion” by Plays-for-Nonprofits, is a staged reading of the George Bernard Shaw’s classic play about Victorian-era society. This production is sponsored by Elaine Johnson, in memory of her husband, Scott Johnson.
The plot concerns the distinguished British phonetic scholar Professor Higgins (Tom Butler) who makes a bet with his kindly colleague Colonel Pickering (Bill Weiler) that he can transform a cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle (Sullivan Mackintosh) into a refined, respectable lady.
Notes Director Lynda Dallman, “The results are hilarious, touching and unexpected because, as you might expect, this girl has a mind of her own.”
Also in the cast: Helmut Reidl, Pam Reidl, Dell Charity, Adrian Chaton, Elena Lundby, Irene Fields, Janelle Child and Tom Burns.
Tickets are available for purchase at Waucoma Bookstore, www.showtix4u.com and at the theater doors for the dates of each performance. Proceeds benefit Hood River County’s History Museum and the Library Foundation.
“Mamma Mia!” fills Wy’east Performing Arts Center, on the Odell middle school campus. Steighner directs a large cast in the Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association (CGOA).
CGOA Stages revisits the global phenomenon that ran long on the London and Broadway stages and was made into a 2008 film starring Meryl Streep.
The “jukebox musical” wraps most of the hits by the 1970s pop group ABBA’s hits around not one, but two tales of love, set on a Greek island.
Jennifer Hanlon-Wilde stars as Donna, a single mother who has raised her daughter, Sophie, in her taverna on a beautiful Greek island. Sophie is about to be married and, unbeknownst to Donna, invites her mother’s former lovers to the wedding in hopes of finding out the identify of her father.
Steighner leads an on-stage band that features Kathy Hannen-Smith and Corin Parker on keyboards, Dennis Castañares on guitar, Paul Thompson on bass and Michael Grodner on drum kit.
Audience members are not only encouraged sing-along, but can come in their favorite ABBA or “Mamma Mia!”-inspired costume.
Seen by over 60 million people worldwide, “Mamma Mia!” opened in London in 1999, then made its way to Broadway in 2001, where it ran for 14 years, making it the ninth longest running musical in history. The movie version was released in 2008 and became the fifth highest grossing film of the year. With a cast of 30 actors, singers and dancers, “Mamma Mia!” is a large-scale production.
“There are dozens of songs, and much more choreography than many musicals. And the ensemble is on stage almost continually,” said Steigner.
Susan Sorensen worked with the cast on the dances, assisted by cast members Maza Brady and Lauren Gray. The “Mamma Mia!” cast has been working on the show since December.
Steighner explained that “‘Mamma Mia!’ is a so-called “jukebox musical” because it strings together Swedish pop group ABBA’s most recognizable songs, “like a greatest hits concert, seamed together with a slightly nonsensical plot that nevertheless contains genuine warmth and relatable characters.
“It’s easy to overlook plot holes when you’re happily singing along with ‘Super Trouper’ or ‘Waterloo,’ and traditional character development can’t compete with the likes of ‘Dancing Queen.’”
Additionally, lighting designer Mark Dane and CGOA have made some significant improvements in the Wy’east PAC’s lighting capabilities. “The only way to add color to the lights involved Mark using a powered lift, as the lighting instruments are inaccessible without it,” Dane said.
Cast members include Hanlon-Wilde (Donna Sheridan), and Michelle Firshing, who plays her daughter, Sophie. Emily Vawter and Lesley Saunders are Donna’s fun-loving friends, and Reuben Betts, Darin Brunstad and David Dye play Donna’s former flames and possible fathers of her daughter. The cast is a mixture of new faces and local theatre veterans and range in age from high school students to mature adults.
Said Steighner, “For people who have only seen the film version starring Meryl Streep, they may be surprised that the play contains much less dialogue and much more music. Several of the songs were cut from the film and instead appear in the movie sequel.”
Steighner adds, “Mamma Mia!’s book is best approached with a grain of salt and, by switching off one’s critical facilities but as a whole, the show is upbeat and joyful, a celebration of some of pop music’s catchiest and most timeless hits. Although ABBA’s music videos from the ‘70s and ‘80s look pretty dated, their music is well-produced and still sounds fresh.”
Visit the following restaurants for a pre- or post-show special offer: 6th Street Bistro, Divots, Grace Su’s China Gorge, 64oz Taphouse, 3 Rivers Grill, Volcanic Bottle Shoppe and Celilo Restaurant.
“Big Smoke” plays at Columbia Center for the Arts, Fourth-grader Gretchen Hedberg and third-grader Cooper Castello head the multi-ages production.
They are onstage for nearly the entire show and deliver the vast majority of the lines in the play, and have worked extremely hard to memorize lines, build strong acting skills, and develop their characters, said Director Sullivan McKenzie. They are supported by an ensemble of adult actors who each play several different roles and create the atmosphere for the kids’ adventure.
The protagonists, Bethany and Jimmy, are third graders in a big city. Mackintosh notes, “While the Columbia Gorge is not an urban environment like the city in the play, we still see that their connections to their neighbors are what make this enormous city their home.
“Like Bethany and Jimmy, Gorge residents frequently run into friends and neighbors at the grocery store, on the sidewalk, at coffee shops. We see kids in school and at summer camps grow up into young community leaders. I grew up knowing I could count on my neighbors for a cup of sugar, a ride home from school, or a simple friendly word. And if I were ever on a daring chase to recover a stolen cake recipe from a dastardly villain, I know I’d have a community by my side all the way.”
Several teens support the technical elements of the play. As part of CCA’s Teen Apprenticeship program, which involves proposing and executing an independent project, Noble Williams (ninth grade, HRVHS) composed theme music, and Ella Harty (10th grade, Trout Lake School) designed the costumes. Homeschool students Hanna Clute, Audrey Fuentes and Theo Levine run lights, sound, and backstage mayhem.
Adult Ensemble: Jesse Harkin, Jennifer Harty, Julie Hat field, Matt Moran and Cynthia Yoshida.
Crew: Director Sullivan Mackintosh; stage manager Rebecca Stryker; assistant stage manager and backstage crew, Theo Levine; lights, Hanna Clute, Jesse Harkin;
Sound, Audrey Fuentes; composer, Noble Williams; costumes, Ella Harty; set, Douglas Hawksworth.