by BARRY BLAKE
THE UNCERTAINTIES OF OUR TIME SEEMS TO HAVE BROUGHT US CLOSER. Knowing the joy and rigors of getting along with life has a renewed, richer meaning these days, especially for families, however you define yours. People seem to be demanding more from experiences than just passing time, getting time behind us.
You won't encounter much on television that is fresh, insightful or meaningful enough to want to remember. The "reality" shows are washed up. Another round of the old holiday movies? So the prospect of sitting glumly in front of a television, staring ahead, remote in hand, knowing for certain only that a string of commercials is bound to be along soon to interrupt that old movie, is worse than dismal.
This year a wonderful present the whole family can share is an evening of live theater. Brightly ribboned, our community theaters offer a rich selection.
Not thematically wrapped up with Christmas, but fun and festive nonetheless are the North Coast Rep's revival of the popular musical The Fantasticks and Vaudeville, the show that Dell'Arte is touring in Northern California and Southern Oregon during the holidays.
Vaudeville is an ambrosial blue plate special of song, dance, improv, storytelling, and slightly crazed and capricious body movement that isn't dancing, gymnastics or acrobatic, but is something that involves all of those. Vaudeville, brought to us by the Bower Family, is stuffed with slappy surprises, puns and witty humor that will tickle kids and oldsters.
They also play straight instrumental music. Well, maybe straight isn't precisely the adjective. Much of the music is original, written and performed by Dawn Falato, Emilia Sumelius and Gregory Maupin, who, together, are the Bowers. All the Bowers. That's about 11 of them, from Martindale Bower to Muszka Bower, not including "Stripes" Bower (Gregory M. Lojko) and Eddie Bower -- heh-heh -- (Michael Foster), who are responsible for light and sound.
There are some terrific sound effects in this show. Among those credited for additional music are Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, W.A. Mozart, Harry Belafonte and Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky. And let's not mince words. Let's call a banana a banana. There's a banana in Vaudeville.
The one-act, slightly over an hour show is played in the classical American vaudeville format, one where a variety of acts, unrelated in theme, follow each other. Singing, dancing, playing music, magic and comedy -- or any combination of the above -- were the staples. But eccentricity had its place, and its place was downstage center. If you could do something that hadn't been done, show something that hadn't been shown or juggle something that hadn't been juggled, you were on your way to fame and fortune in show biz. Play Ave Maria on the timpani with wooden spoons gangling from your nostrils? You're in! Dell'Arte's production of Vaudeville takes advantage of this curious leavening.
In its heyday vaudeville held to a rigorously regimented form. One kind of act opened the show, usually an unknown, and the acts progressed in quality, notoriety or eccentricity to the end of the show, when the headliner, appearing in the ninth or next to last spot, thrilled the crowd. The last act afforded the audience time to leave the theater. Variety is the charm of Vaudeville, but that is in part because just the three actors do all the acts.
Dell'Arte shows often have a scrupulous charm about them created by a disarming lack of pretension. Arrogance, unless it is made fun of, is missing. Even though the actors are typically multitalented, with skills and inventiveness that go way beyond the complexities of the theatrically ambidextrous, Dell'Arte performers seem almost to be making fun of their own talents, willing to etch their genius in folly before engraving their egos all over the place. A side effect of Dell'Arte training? Maybe. In a show as light and delightful as Vaudeville diffidence is gloriously welcome.
The show is very quick and smart. During one act, which was predicated on some antic, counterfeit contortions, a father in the audience down front had to leave the theater with his crying (perhaps tired or hungry) infant. "I don't blame you," commented Maupin quickly, "This is definitely not for the squeamish."
The Vaudeville tour returns to Blue Lake on Dec. 7 and plays through Dec. 16. It's a great family outing, cheap at the price. Don't forget curtain is at 7:30 pm.
Another family show, but of a much more traditional nature is King Island Christmas [cast photo at left], which opens Dec. 7 at 7:30 at the College of the Redwoods Forum, the perfect venue for this holiday musical. The production I saw last year was a sold-out, knock-your-socks-off show. That's the truth.
Based on a true story --account of an horrendous Arctic storm in 1951 that cannot stop a remote community on King Island from bringing food, provisions and a priest in an Inuit boat over a mountain in time for Christmas. It is an act of heroic unity, and what has happened since last Christmas --nowadays as simply 9/11 --undoubtedly give this show new and even deeper resonance.
The hype for King Island Christmas (and there is lots of it) notes that it is "poised to join the pantheon of holiday classics alongside A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, Amahl and the Night Visitor and The Messiah" and that's pretty heady company. But the show has been marketed on every front, and what the promoters stress as compelling is the fact that it is American and contemporary and that has a new meaning these days. Besides, proceeds are distributed to the Oomiak Fund for sick children.
Since its debut at the Perseverance Theater in 1997, production has spread until now there will be more than 20 productions running across the country. There is a record company. There is a cast album. And apparently there is a PBS production in the works.
With a little bit of something for everyone -- kids and adults, danger and suspense, religiously held faith and guts, sentimentality and realism, a neat blend of musical turns -- the show, for me, has something of the Sound of Music feel. King Island Christmas' Broadway sensibility has brought in strong reviews across the country. It's slick and commercial but winning.
Redwood Curtain Theater is hosting this year's Falderal Musical Theater Company's performances of A Disney Dazzle Holiday Spectacular. Friday is opening night (7:30). Tickets for this performance are $25 and include a catered meet-the-cast reception. [Falderal cast, photo at right]
Performed by 12 local singers, this show celebrates Walt Disney's 100th birthday. According to Shirley Groom, one of three Grooms in the cast, it is "a collection of songs from Zippity Doo Dah, Aladdin, to the Lion King, Mary Poppins and everything in between. You are coming to a world where elephants fly, chimney sweeps dance, and every wish you wish comes true."
Virginia Niekrasv-Laurent is the guest choreographer along with her dance ensemble, BRAVA! DanceEureka. Dances accompany some of the performance bits. Although Falderal does use costume pieces, they perform in formal, concert attire. So this is not a night specifically designed for little kids. "Mickey Mouse and Goofy will not be walking around shaking hands," the program notes read. Which is a comfort to me.
Dates for the concerts are Dec. 8, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 and $11. Matinees are scheduled for Sunday Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.
The Vagabond Players' production of A Christmas Story, Philip Grecian's adaptation of humorist Jean Shepard's movie, opened Friday, Nov. 30.
A Christmas Story is the company's debut show in its new venue, the Eagle House Theater in Old Town, Eureka. This move brings the Vagabond Players to a more convenient, more theater-like location, accessible to a much larger audience base.
"Hopefully this will also increase the talent base, which quite often includes families," said Beti Trauth, publicist for the show.
A Christmas Story, set during the 1940s in the Midwest, recalls 9-year-old Ralphie Parker's determination to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie lets his Christmas wish be known to his teacher, his mother and the Santa Claus at Goldblatt's department store. [photo at left]
Gene Cole is directing and also plays the part of the narrator. Brandon Marcus is young Ralphie; Kay Schladder is Mom; Jim Buschmann is Dad; Lily Buschmann is Ralphie's little sister, Randy. Shirley Santino is the teacher; her daughter, Hazel, is appearing as Ester-Jane. Kevin Doyle is Schwartz. Fantasia Oslund is Helen. Julio Miles is Flick. Kelly Hughes plays the bully, Scut Farkas.
Although the play has lots of kids in it, it's not a "kid's play." Call it a family play, a kind of Disney sitcom that runs about two hours and is written for and about a family.
One looks forward to seeing the Vagabond ensemble in new digs. Adam Liston, the tech director, has many shows under his belt; some seasons it felt like he carried the entire production out at the old Manila setting. This show brings together a lot of experienced people and enthusiastic young talent. Expectations are high.
Beti Trauth said the opening of the theater was linked with the Arts Alive! loop last Saturday in Old Town.
"Vagabond's move to the Eagle House is very much a part of the revitalization of Old Town. In fact, the Eureka Chamber's Mixer will happen right before the show on Thursday, Dec. 6," Trauth said. Dinner theater will also be part of this run.
The theater's set has been extended. Audience capacity is 80 to 120 with some balcony seating and great sight lines all around. Liston has been working on permanent lighting. This could be a fine spot for theater productions.
Vagabond's plans for future productions are ambitious. Jungle Book is set for spring production and will tour. Treasure Island looks to be the summer choice.
For now, A Christmas Story appears to be a wonderful addition to an armload of great holiday entertainment available to North Coast families this season.
Take advantage of our good fortune!
A Christmas Story Vagabond Players present Jean Shepherd's tale of Ralphie Parker's Christmas wish for a Red Ryder BB gun. Directed by Gene Cole. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 7 p.m. Sundays 2 p.m. through Dec. 22, Eagle House Theatre, Second and C sts., Old Town Eureka. $7/$5 students and seniors/under 5 free. 442-1533.
Vaudeville Dell'Arte Players Company present a holiday touring show that brings back the classic era of vaudeville through the antics of the fictional Bower family. Thursday, Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m. Eureka Theater, 612 F St. then at Carlo Mazzone-Clementi Theatre, Dell'Arte, Blue Lake Friday, Dec. 7 thru Sunday, Dec. 9,at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, thru Sunday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15 and 16, at 2 p.m. $5/$3 kids.
The Fantasticks This production of the world's longest running musical has been extended for one more weekend. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through Dec. 15, The North Coast Repertory Theatre, 300 Fifth St., Eureka. $15 general/$10 students and seniors/$8 students on Thursdays. 442-6278.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Meet the Herdmans and see how a series of disasters leads to the best Christmas pageant ever. Based on the book by Barbara Robinson, directed by Harper Mosley, with a cast of 42 players. Ferndale Repertory Theatre, 447 Main St. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 22, 8 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 22. $11/$9 students and seniors. 786-5483.
Disney Dazzle Holiday Spectacular Falderal Musical Theatre Co. presents an evening of songs from Disney movies celebrating Walt's 100th birthday with an all-star cast of singers, dancers from Brava! Dance Eureka and choreography by Virginia Niekrasz-Laurent.
Redwood Curtain Theater, 800 W. Harris St., Eureka. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7*, 8, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 matinees Sundays, Dec. 9 and 16, 2 p.m. $16 preferred seating, $11 general, *$25 Opening Night (includes catered meet-the-cast reception) $2 discount for matinees and Thursday performances. 822-6264/822-6838/442-7770
King Island Christmas Humboldt Light Opera presents a heart-warming oratorio set on a snowbound Alaskan island. Proceeds distributed by the Oomiak Foundation. College of the Redwood Forum Theatre 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8, 14. Matinees Dec. 2, 9, 15, 16 at 2 p.m. $10/$8 students and seniors/$5 children under 9. 822-3319.
Messiah 7:30 p.m. Dec 7, Christ Episcopal Church, 15th and H sts., Eureka. Humboldt Light Opera presents the Christmas section of Handel's Messiah. Free admission, donations of canned food gladly accepted. 268-3236.
Dance Illuminations Dec. 8, 7 p.m. Ballet Arcata Studio Theatre, 1251 9th St. Ballet Arcata presents contemporary and classic dance works for the season in a dinner theater setting with food from Humboldt food purveyors. $10/$5 under 12. 825-8915.
All Seasons Orchestra Winter Concert Dec. 8, 7 p.m. Church of the Later-Day Saints, 1660 Heartwood Dr., McKinleyville. Christmas favorites and music by Copland and Rimsky-Korsakov plus Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite."
Fortuna Christmas Music Festival Sunday, Dec. 9, 12:30-6 p.m. River Lodge Conference Center, Riverwalk Dr. 5th annual festival includes 11 performing groups including the All Seasons Orchestra (12:30 p.m.) Quartet Arioso, Humboldt Harmonaires, Fortuna High's Camerada Singers, Northern Lites Show Choir and Symphonic Band, TubaChristmas, the Scotia Band and several church choirs.
Chanukah Party Dec. 9, 4-7 p.m. St. Alban's Church, 175 Chester Ave., Sunny Brae. Spin the dreydle and eat latkes, Israeli folk dancing to the music of Chubritza. Suggested donation $5/$3 for students and seniors/under 5 free. 445-3997.
HSU Madrigal Singers Sunday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m. Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU. Harley Muilenburg directs 22 singers performing renaissance vocal music in period costumes. The merriment is marked by processing, singing, recitation and holiday revelry. $6/$2 seniors and children/HSU students free. 826-3928
A Celtic Christmas with Eileen Ivers Dec. 12, 8 p.m. Van Duzer Theatre, HSU. Fiddler from Riverdance and Cherish the Ladies offers traditional Irish holiday tunes, jigs, reels and humorous tales. $25/$20 children and seniors/$15 HSU students. 826-3928.
Arcata McKinleyville High School Orchestra Winter Concert at McKinleyville High School, Thursday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. The orchestra performs classics like "the Nutcracker Suite" and non-holiday type music too, all under the baton of Maestra Carol Jacobson. $3.
Eureka High Winter Concerts at Eureka High Auditorium, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 7:15 p.m. Vocal concert with EHS Concert Choir, Mixed Ensemble and Limited Edition. Thursday, Dec. 20, 7:15 p.m. Instrumental concert with EHS Orchestra, Concert Band, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble. Each show, $5 at door/$3 advance/family pass for 5, $12 advance. EHS Christmas CD available at shows, $12. 441-2521.
Arcata High Winter Concerts at Arcata High Multipurpose Rm., Wednesday, Dec. 19, 8 p.m. AHS Concert Band and Jazz Band under the direction of Burt Codispoti. Thursday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m. AHS Madrigal Choir and Arcata McKinleyville High School Orchestra under the direction of Carol Jacobson. 825-2400.
McKinleyville High Winter Concert Wednesday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m. McKinleyville High School. Performances by the MHS Concert Band, Jazz Band, Chamber Singers, Choir and the World Percussion Ensemble. $3. The event will be digitally recorded; CD orders available at concert. 839-6400.
55th Annual Community Christmas Concert at HSU Van Duzer Theater, Dec. 16, 7 p.m. An Arcata tradition continues with the Humboldt Chorale, University Singers, the Humboldt Symphony performing Corelli's "Christmas Concerto," HSU Brass Choir, Arcata High Madrigal singers, plus carol sing-alongs and "the Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah. Admission by donation, canned food collected for the Arcata Endeavor. 826-3928.
Trinidad Community Choir Christmas Concert Join singers and musicions from Arcata, McKinleyville, Oric, Trinidad and Westhaven as they sing traditional and contemporary sacred Chrismas music. Friday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m. at the Eureka Inn. Saturday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 16, 3 p.m. at the Trinidad Town Hall. Admission is free. 839-3021.
Mateel Winter Arts Faire Saturday, and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mateel Community Center, Redway. "Crawdaddy Christmas" includes arts and crafts by over 60 artisans plus Cajun and Creole food, music by the Bayou Swamis JazzMas and other and SoHum favorites. Plus a visit from Santa Claws. $3/free to those under 12 and over 65. 923-3368.
Ink People Holiday Gift Fair Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Dec. 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Eureka Municipal Auditorium, 1120 F St. Fine arts and crafts created by Humboldt County artists, food, beverages and music by students from Eureka High, Bayside Brass, Redwood Rhoadies and a recorder group. 442-8413.
Arcata Holiday Craft Market Saturday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m.-6 p.m, and Sunday, Dec. 9, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Arcata Community Center. Crafts market with music by the Interfaith Gospel Kids Choir, Sunnybrae Middle School Concert Band, Redwood Coast Children's Choir, Eileen Hempel-Haley, HLOC TeenCo and the Merry Melodymakers. 822-7091.
Freshwater School Holiday Boutique Friday, Dec. 7, 8 a.m. 4 p.m. Freshwater School Auditorium, 75 Greenwood Heights Dr., Eureka. Handmade items from area crafters, presented by Freshwater Community Club. 444-8671.
Jefferson Elementary Holiday Fair Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 1000 B St., Eureka. Arts and crafts, games and activities for kids, and of course Santa Claus. Proceeds benefit after-school program. 441-2493.
McKinleyville Holiday Open House Thursday, Dec. 6, 5:30-8 p.m. McKinleyville Shopping Center. Tree-lighting, parade, carriage rides, home-decorating contest and a visit from Santa. 839-2449.
Fortuna Holiday Open House part 1 Thursday, Dec. 6, 6-9 p.m. Redwood Village Shopping Center. Carolers, live nativity scene and rides on Fortuna VFD's antique fire trucks. 725-9261.
Fortuna Lighted Parade and Holiday Open House part 2 Friday, Dec. 7, Parade begins at 6:30 p.m. at Redwood Village and ends in downtown Fortuna at 13th and Main sts. Open house at area businesses with music by the Scotia Band Brass Choir and Fortuna High's Camerada Singers. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for portraits.
Arcata Holiday Open Houses Friday, Dec. 7, 6-9 p.m. Downtown it's "A Season of Wonder and Light" including decorations in all area businesses (Jacoby's Storehouse Christmas tree at left), a forest of Christmas trees, music by Interfaith Gospel Youth Choir and Bayside Brass plus Dell'Arte mimes in windows downtown. Santa Arrives by fire truck escorted by the HSU Marching Lumberjacks. Northtown merchants offer "A Celebration of Light" with a raffle and strolling carolers. 822-4500.
Ferndale Hospitality Night Open House Friday, Dec. 7, 7-9 p.m. The Victorian Village welcomes friends to block party on Main St. Merchants offer free beverages and goodies plus entertainment, carriage rides and a raffle. 786-4477.
Ferndale Lighted Tractor Parade Sunday, Dec. 16, 7 p.m. Farmers and ranchers parade decorated tractors and wagons depicting holiday scenes down Main St. 786-9675.
Hot Glass Studio Open House Saturday Dec. 8, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., 15th and L St., Arcata. Ongoing glassblowing and casting demonstrations. Cast glass by George Bucquet and pottery by Peggy Louden.
Open Studio and Art Sale Saturday Dec. 8, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday Dec. 9, 1 - 6 p.m. 1255 Creek Ct., McKinleyville. New and historical prints by John Wesa. 839-1754.
Light Up a Life Thursday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m. Arcata and Eureka city halls, Six Rivers National Bank, McKinleyville and Humboldt Bank, Fortuna. Hospice of Humboldt invites the public to light up the trees in honor of someone living or in memorial to a loved one. 445-8443.
Advent Tea Friday, Dec. 7, 1 and 7 p.m. First United Methodist Church Del Norte and 7th sts., Eureka. United Methodist Women of Eureka present two teas with music, readings, singing and the lighting of the Advent wreath. Child care is provided. Reservations required 442-3015.
Truckers Christmas Parade Saturday, Dec. 8, 6-8 p.m. Dozens of brightly lit trucks and trailers fill the streets of Eureka. Parade begins at Redwood Acres goes down Myrtle to 6th, down to California, over to 7th then up to H St. where is heads back to Redwood Acres via Harris. Awards at around 8:15 p.m. 442-5744.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park Christmas Tree Lighting Wednesday, Dec. 12, 6 p.m. At the Visitors Center, Avenue of the Giants between Weott and Myers Flat. Caroling, cookies, hot chocolate and cider. Santa arrives at 7 p.m.
Fortuna Christmas Home Tour Wednesday, Dec. 12, around Fortuna.. The Fortuna Garden Club presents a tour of four decorated homes followed by a reception at the Monday Club, 610 Main St., Fortuna. $7. Tickets available beginning at noon at the Monday Club. 725-1890/725-1536/725-5537.
Humboldt Child Care Council 20th Annual Children's Holiday Party Friday, Dec. 14, 10 a.m.-noon, Bayside Grange, Old Arcata Rd. at Jacoby Creek Rd. Free event features music, entertainment, food and activities for kids including cookie decoration, making bead ornaments and holiday crowns, and of course Santa will be there. 445-1195.
Sequoia Humane Society Holiday Food Drive and Open House Saturday, Dec. 15, 1-3 p.m. at the Animal Shelter, 6073 Loma Ave., Eureka. Drop off a bag of premium cat or dog food for hungry animals and visit the pet store for a gift for your dog or cat. Santa will be there to pose for a photo with your pet. 442-1782.
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