1. SEE ‘ORDINARY DAYS’
It’s beautiful. There are only three performances left: 8 p.m. Friday; and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Director Anthony Taylor’s Q&A interview is here, and my review is here. [Details]
How to pinpoint the most exquisite moment in the excellent and moving “Ordinary Days” from the Organic Theater Factory at The Voice Shop? There’s so much in this spare, nimble and intimate musical about four New Yorkers grappling with life in the city to contend for that honor.
It could be the part when Dominic Grijalva, playing a relentlessly sunny artist named Warren, lets his optimism brim over the day he meets a new friend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (Grijalva sports an expression on his face somewhere between cloyingly naive and wisely philosophical.) Or it could be when Terry Lewis, playing a lovestruck suitor named Jason who can’t quite bring himself to declare his love for his live-in girlfriend, sings of his “Favorite Places” in the city. (Lewis’ tender high tenor lines ache with frustration.)
Another candidate for triumphant moment: when the wonderful Taylor Abels, portraying an acerbic and self-involved graduate student named Deb, has a mini-breakdown and longs for an antidote to Manhattan’s chaos in the song “Calm.” (Abels hits musical-theater heights in the solo, immersing us in her character’s woes and wishes as she conveys the narrative as a master storyteller, all while belting it out in gorgeous voice.)
If you attended Audra McDonald’s ravishing concert last year at the Warnors Theatre, you probably were captivated by her rendition of “I’ll Be Here” from the new musical “Ordinary Days.” Now you have the chance to see the show itself in Fresno. (It opens Friday and continues through Dec. 8.) I talked with director Anthony Taylor about his new Organic Theater Factory production for a story in Friday’s 7 section. Here’s the extended version of that interview:
Question: What is the show about?
Answer: “Ordinary Days” is the story about the relationships and connections of four people living in New York City. Some of the relationships are direct and some of the connections are passing, but it’s a story about how we DO all connect and how we find friendship and love in the most obvious AND most surprising places.
Pictured: Ashley Taylor, Terry Lewis, Dominic Grijalva and Taylor Abels. (Photo by Kristin Goehring.)
I’ll have details about the shows in Friday’s 7 section. In the meantime, to get you in the theater mood, I’m giving two tickets away to “Ordinary Days” for opening night 8 p.m. Friday. This production from the Organic Theater Factory is an intimate musical about two couples whose lives intertwine in New York City. The cast is stellar: Terry Lewis, Ashley Taylor, Taylor Abels and Dominic Grijalva.
Because people don’t know much about this 2009 musical, I won’t ask any specific questions about it for the giveaway. But here’s a twist: To enter, leave a comment on this post picking a cast member and telling us your favorite local theater performance from that actor. (If you aren’t familiar with their work, no problem, just leave a comment saying you want the tickets.) I’ll pick one comment at random as winner. Deadline is 3 p.m. TODAY.
If you win, you’ll be able to pick up the tickets at the door. Please don’t enter more than once. Check your email at about 3:30 p.m. today to see if you won, because that’s how I’ll be notifying winners. Complete rules on the jump.
As we look ahead to the end of November and early December — always one of the busiest cultural times of the year — here’s a quick glance at local theater you don’t want to miss.
This new musical from composer Adam Gwon is a last-minute addition to the schedule. I just received word today it will be staged Nov. 30-Dec. 8 by Fresno’s Organic Theater Factory at The Voice Shop. From the company’s website:
Ordinary Days tells the story of four young New Yorkers whose lives intersect as they search for fulfillment, happiness, love and cabs. Directed by Anthony Taylor and performed by Terry Lewis, Taylor Abels, Ashley Taylor and Dominic Grijalva; Adam Gwon’s vibrant score rings startlingly true to life.
The cast recording has received prominent priority on my iPod ever since I bought it. The show includes the beautiful song “I’ll Be Here,” which Audra McDonald sang at her most recent Fresno concert.
1. GET DIRTY WITH ‘LES MIZ’
For today’s 7 cover story, I feature the Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “Les Miserables.” Director Skyler Gray has decreed this production be as gritty as possible, and when I visited the set earlier this week, the young cast — most in the 16-20 range — was having fun getting as dirty as possible. The show opens today and continues through Aug. 13. Meanwhile, check out this gorgeous cover photo shot by Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss for 7:
1. SEE REGGAE ROYALTY The Wailers — you know, they played with that dude Bob Marley, perhaps you’ve heard of him? — headline Tower Theatre on Sunday. It’s a special matinee show, starting at 3 p.m., with a number of local acts starting things off, peeps like Patrick Contreras and More Than Without. [Tickets]
You can’t get theater much more exposed than the new production of “Glory Days” at The Voice Shop: A bare stage sporting little more than a bare wall, a bench and some Astroturf. Four actors dressed in contemporary street clothes. A tiny venue in which the front row is so close to the performers that you can see every pore. A book and score in which nostalgia and introspection is key but very little action takes place.
Yet something impressive happens in this intimate production from the Organic Theater Factory. You forget about the smallness and simplicity of the space as you’re slowly absorbed into the lives of four beautifully delineated characters. Thanks to stellar casting and top-notch vocal direction, this tale of four high school friends who reunite after their first year of college encompasses the audience just as surely as if director Anthony Taylor had been able to replicate an entire high school football stadium on stage.
The storyline is familiar to anyone who ran with a certain crowd at a certain time in their lives and then regrouped for a reunion. The chemistry between then and now can be tricky. Will (Taylor Babcock) asks his friends to meet up at stadium to share an evening together. The place has a special significance. In high school, none of the four could make the football team. Instead, they became — as the slightly outcast and “different” in high school often do — a fiercely bonded foursome.
1. PUT A LITTLE OPERA IN YOUR LIFE
The best opera deal in town returns as California Opera Association’s performance-packed summer festival opens 7 p.m. today with a “Festival Artists Showcase” at the Fresno Art Museum. Admission is free. I have a rundown on the festival, which includes seven smaller-scale performances at the museum and two fully staged operas at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis — all free! — in Friday’s 7 section. You can find a complete schedule on the festival’s website. Below, Zachary Sheely — who will star in this year’s “Lucia de Lamermoor” — is pictured in last year’s “Madama Butterfly.”
The Organic Theater Factory opens the musical “Glory Days” opens tonight at The Voice Shop in the Tower District. I chatted with director Anthony Taylor about the show for an interview running in Friday’s 7 section. That interview will be condensed because of space limitations, but here it is in full. (Meanwhile, this is obviously Taylor’s big Beehive day. Check out his hilarious dramatic reading of one of Mike Oz’s pieces of hate mail below.)
Question: What’s the show about?
Answer: “Glory Days” is the story of four best friends from high school who come back to their alma mater’s football field after their first year away at college. It’s about the four of them reconnecting and discovering how they’ve changed and trying to figure out if they can adapt to these new and “grown up” versions of themselves. The show is told in one act with no intermission.
You’ve read about it on the Beehive, and now there are only three more chances to see the Organic Theater Factory’s production of “The Last 5 Years” at the Star Palace at Warnors Theatre: 8 p.m. tonight,8 p.m. Wednesday and 8 p.m. Friday. And think about it: When was the last time there was something to do on a Tuesday night of a holiday week? Or on the day after Thanksgiving?
The stars aligned at the Star Palace last night for Ashley Taylor and, by extension, the strong inaugural performance of the Organic Theater Factory.
For years, the hard-working Taylor has tackled one character role after another on the Fresno community theater scene — from Mary Sunshine in “Chicago” to Gertrude the Bird in “Seussical” — as a solid performer. But something special happens in Jason Robert Brown’s intimate musical “The Last 5 Years.” As Cathy Hiatt, the struggling actress whose story of a disillusioned marriage is told in reverse chronological disorder, Taylor gives a transluscent performance. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous — there were times when I closed my eyes and thought about how often it matched the level of Sherie Rene Scott’s version on the original cast recording.
Just as impressive is the way Taylor mines the emotional territory of her character, never overplaying the sentiment or joking up the giddy moments, always relating on a fiercely human level. She’s a wonderful fit for the role, and she gives an already moving play even more of an impact.
My singling Taylor out for special notice isn’t in any way meant to slight her partner on stage, Peter Allwine, or the production overall, which has a scrappy, low-key charm. It’s just that when it comes to Taylor, it seems this is one of those rare times for an actor when everything truly clicks — performance, type, spirit — and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
I caught up with Anthony Taylor, artistic director of the new Organic Theater Factory, to ask him some questions about the inaugural performance tonight at the Star Palace at Warnors Theatre. (The show continues various nights through Nov. 27.) Here’s the interview:
As far as you know, will this be the first theater production at the Star Palace?
I’m not sure if this is the first theater production in this space, but I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a very interesting space though and part of the mission of the company is to find new places to produce theater in Fresno. It doesn’t have to be in a traditional theater to be enjoyable and in some cases the unique nature of the space can add to the overall product.
How will you use that space? How many seats?
We will be seating 100 people in the space and using the stage that exists there for concerts as the primary space for acting. Our director, Danielle Jorn, has really brought a fresh perspective to using space in exciting ways too. The first thing she told me was that we were going to need a projector, and so we are using a projector to enhance scenes and speak to where characters are throughout the show. In the future I’d love to do a show with the large floor to ceiling windows as the backdrop and the skyline in the background, but we’ll save that for another show.
UPDATE 5 p.m. 11/19: We finally have a winner: Steve Hernandez. (Please, folks, if you enter these giveaway contests, be sure to check your email to see if you won!!!)
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Fresno welcomes a new local theater company Thursday when the Organic Theater Factory opens its first production, the two-person musical “The Last Five Years.” It plays 8 p.m. at the Star Palace at Warnors Theatre on various nights through Nov. 27. We have TWO tickets to give away to Beehive readers for opening night. For the winner, I’ll pick one comment at random among those posted to this entry. You have until 9:30 a.m. Thursday to enter. Winners will be notified in an e-mail, so leave a real one. No repeat comments. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something in the past 30 days. Complete rules after the jump.
In the meantime, check out this promo video about the play: