As a general rule, I don't like three-show weekends. While some might think that having the chance to go out and see a show every night is a great luxury, by Sunday, I'm tired and I just would like to enjoy the "day of rest" and not have to go to yet another show.
However, some 3-show weekends are better than others and when all three shows are plays I know I enjoy, it's not all that bad.
The weekend started at the Winters Community Theater's production of Miracle on 34th Street. Winters may be my favorite little theater. It is "community" and "amateur" in its purest form. You won't find any superlative actors here, but you'll find some solid performances and everyone having a great time and doing their best because they love what they are doing. Also, at Christmas time, they choose shows that can easily incorporate a lot of little kids and invariably there is one, usually the littlest one, who steals the show, this production no exception.
They perform in a community center, like a high school auditorium. The chairs are folding chairs, which are uncomfortable. I don't know what the set-up for regular nights is, but on opening night, chairs are set around big tables and everyone gets a dessert (usually cheesecake) and either champagne or punch before the show. For Christmas themed plays, you usually have the choice of cheesecake or pumpkin pie.
"Miracle on 34th St." is my favorite Christmas movie, so it was fun to see it on the stage and yes, there was a little kid who stole the show. I don't know how old she was--maybe 5? But she was just so excited to be on stage, and very earnest about doing everything she was suppsed to. You couldn't take your eyes off of her.
It was quite a different experience going to the Saturday Show, Mistakes were Made at Capital Stage in Sacramento. If Winters is my favorite little community theater, Capital Stage is my favorite professional theater. I also review the Broadway Series in Sacramento, touring Broadway shows, but Capital Stage is the Little Theater that Could.
They were founded in 1999 and at the time performed on the riverboat Delta King. I didn't review a production until 2005, when a colleague recommended that I review Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, the Dickens classic as seen through the eyes of Scrooge's deceased partner. At that time, I was only reviewing shows out of Davis if they had some sort of Davis connection, and the then-production manager, Peter Mohrmann, was a Davis resident. It was a shakey connection at best, but the show was outstanding and after that first production, I was allowed to continue reviewing Capital Stage shows.
After many years on the riverboat, they finally built their own theater in midtown Sacramento, which opened last year.
I can't think of a bad show I have seen there, and I love the ambience and the people involved. I have done a few feature articles about some of the upcoming shows, one of which was an interview with actress Katie Rubin, whom I first interviewed when she was a student at UC Davis. She has gone on to do amazing things and has also become one of Marta's best friends as well, which is nice.
For several years at Christmas time Capital Stage presented Every Christmas Story Ever Told, a very funny show that incorporates, well, every Christmas story and song you've known from your childhood. In the incestuous ways these show biz things often go, my favorite actor in that show turns out to be someone who is the cousin of someone in the Lamplighters, and, I learned recently, someone I probably saw in a production of Song of Norway in San Francisco back in the 1950s, when he was making his stage debut with his mother, who starred in that production.
This year they decided not to do a Christmas-themed show, but instead presented Mistakes Were Made, a very funny, and surprisingly poignant one-man show starring Eric Wheeler (whom I knew from Every Christmas Story Ever Told, among other shows). I very much enjoyed the show, which featured a puppet fish named Dolores who was featured prominently in the action.
The final show of the weekend was A Christmas Carol at Davis Musical Theater Company (DMTC). I think one of the reasons I didn't mind the three show weekend this time is that DMTC is in our own back yard, so it didn't involve a schelp a 20-40 minute drive to get to the theater.
I love A Christmas Carol. My first introduction to it came one Christmas when I was in grammar school and my mother decided to read it to Karen and me, a chapter a night. I had hoped it would become a family tradition, but she didn't do it again. I have since seen countless movie, stage and TV adaptations, including one with Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck as, of course, Scrooge, and the version by the Muppets as well.
I was eager to see this version, which had been done on TV with Kelsey Grammar as Scrooge, but which I had not seen before. I have to admit to being taken aback and not liking a lot of the incongruous bits at all (scantily clad Rockettes in Victorian London?) until I got home and looked up previous productions and realized that this had been a Christmas staple in New York, produced by Radio City and presented at Madison Square Garden for more than 10 years. Of course you're going to have Rockettes in Victorian London, then. There were other elements in this production that I thought might have been poor directorial decisions and a few voices that should not have had principal roles, but with holly in my heart, I mostly chose the "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all" rule I learned long ago from Thumper in Bambi and did not mention those whose performance did not live up to par. Fortunately Scrooge, played by our friend Steve Isaacson, was excellent, as I knew he would be. That goes a long way toward carrying any version of A Christmas Carol.