GOOD TENTATCLE DAY: Devoted Fresno followers of Heidi Blickenstaff – the Good Company Players alum whose Broadway career is really revving up these days — have a lot to keep track of. After her starring performance in “[title of show,]“ the spunky little musical that made it all the way to Broadway, she returned to the powerhouse show “The Little Mermaid” for a limited run. In her first engagement with “Mermaid,” she understudied the major role of Ursula the Sea Witch. Now she’s back nightly as a replacement for Ursula through April 5. She dropped me an email recently from New York and wrote about the character:
She’s a pastiche of Madeline Kahn, Patti Lupone, Shirley Temple, Hannibal Lecter, Mae West, Bette, Judy, Cher… I could go on and on. She’s so schizo… I love her. She is delicious… I’m learning so much. I feel so lucky to have had [title of show] and Mermaid back to back like this. They are opposites in almost every way, and yet both are so exciting and fulfilling.
Broadway.com did a very fun slideshow feature documenting the grueling process that Heidi undergoes each night to transform into Ursula. And she talked last week in Playbill.com’s well-known “Diva Talk” column about what it’s like to shift from understudy to starring role — and what the future holds for her. It’s a delightful interview, so check it out.
On the jump: “Little Women” all set for a Thursday opening at Roger Rocka’s, a fond farewell to “Footloose,” the Reedley River City Players gear up for “Show Offs,” and an 85-year-old actor threatens to steal the show in the upcoming Lindsay Community Theater production of “Damn Yankees.”
OPENING: It didn’t take long for the musical version of “Little Women,” which opened on Broadway in 2005, to hit Fresno. The Good Company Players production opens Thursday (and continues through May 17) with a cast that includes some well-known GCP talent, including Lorraine Christensen, Ashley Taylor, Nicholle Cash, Seth Scott and Terry Lewis. There’s another familiar name in the lead role of Jo: Taylor Abels, daughter of GCP alum and Children’s Musical Theaterworks founder Joel Abels. While the show will certainly appeal to female fans of the Louisa May Alcott novel, director Elizabeth Fiester notes that men shouldn’t worry that it’s strictly a “chick flick” outing. “There’s a lot for the men to enjoy,” she says. “And, men, you can win big points with the women in your life by suggesting a night at this musical.”
WHO NEEDS THE GYM: “Little Women” opens on the heels of the just-closed “Footloose” — get it, the heels? — which was such a physical show that a lot of cast members dropped numerous pounds. I wrote about that in my Sunday Spotlight column. I’m thinking that director Scott Hancock could start a “Footloose” exercise program on the side to pick up some extra income.
UPCOMING IN REEDLEY: The River City Theatre company, based at the historic Reedley Opera House, has its annual “Show Offs” musical revue coming up soon. This event features performers and musicians in some of their favorite numbers and bits. From the company’s Web site:
River City Theatre is celebrating our sixth season and we have a tremendous storehouse of incredible moments well worth recapturing. Join us as we take a look back at some of the highlights and “lowlights” that have made River City Theatre entertainment dynamite in a small package. Thanks to you our future is promising and Show Offs will also give you a sneak peek at the excitement ahead.
The show runs March 27-29 and April 2-4.
BASEBALL VETERAN: When the Lindsay Community Theater opens its production of “Damn Yankees” on Thursday, it will feature a former professional baseball player in its cast: Glenn Edwards, 85. After playing high school and World War II Army ball, Edwards went on to meet his bride, Mary, while wearing No. 23 for the Fort Smith Giants in 1947. And what does Edwards have to say about his latest gig? “This show could go on a year,” he says. “I’d do it again.”
The show runs through March 28.
ALSO: Broadway lost a distinctive voice this week in the form of Ron Silver, who so superbly captured the rapid-fire patter of David Mamet in his 1988 Tony Award-winning performance in “Speed the Plow.” (He’s probably best known to “West Wing” TV fans as the fast-talking Bruno Gianelli.) He died Sunday; here’s an L.A. Times remembrance.
AND: The New York Post is reporting that another Tony winner, Natasha Richardson — daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson — is critically injured after a skiing accident. Very sad news.