October 9, 2008

Love, Intrigue, Star-Crossed Lovers — Helicopters

By Margot Abbott VALLEY TIMES

TO COMPLETE ITS TRANSFORMATION from Pleasanton Playhouse to Tri- Valley Repertory Theatre, the company will begin its new season with the international hit show, "Miss Saigon."

Created by the same team that brought us "Les Miserables," -- Alain Boublil and Claude-Michael Schonberg along with Richard Maltby Jr. --"Miss Saigon" is a new take on Puccini's opera, "Madama Butterfly."

On Broadway and the West End, the show was staged with a cast of hundreds, huge sets and the famous helicopter. I saw the show in London and wasn't too impressed with the helicopter, but I was totally taken by the spectacle of Kim trying to get inside the gates of the American Embassy where Chris was.

The show is a classic story of two lovers against a backdrop of war and the resulting societal pressures that keep them apart. It's not a new plot but one of our favorite old ones and it always works if we care about the lovers.

In this case they are Kim, the Vietnamese girl, and Chris, the American GI. The story brings them together long enough to fall in love and sing beautiful love songs and then tears them apart.

I traveled a lot as a child with my family and being left at the station or outside the gates of the Embassy is a scary situation as far as I'm concerned --whether the Viet Cong are after you or not. Which is why I didn't care about the helicopter.

Let that girl through the gates! Now!

The cast is huge with an array of characters from a cadre of dancing Viet Cong -- go figure -- to bar girls and GIs, to stateside charity workers, to the Engineer. Half-Asian, half-French, the Engineer, who belongs nowhere and everywhere, runs the bar where Chris and Kim meet. He is cynical, theatrical and fascinating. We follow the Engineer from his bar and his deals through the regime change to a refugee camp and his "American dream."

John Baiocchi is the director. His cast includes Antonio Rodriquez III as the Engineer, Kelly Park as Kim and Ronald Houk as Chris. There is a large cast for this show and plenty of great pop singers to manage the sung-through score.

Joe Simiele is the vocal director, Jo Anne Fossleman the music director and Amy Nielson the choreographer.

The Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre presents "Miss Saigon" at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays from Oct. 25 to Nov. 9 at the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center's Bankhead Theatre in Livermore.

Tickets are $35 for adults, $33 for seniors 60 and older, and $25 for juniors 18 and younger. There is a $1 facility fee added to ticket prices by the theater. Tickets can be purchased at the theater box office, 2400 First St. in Livermore or go to www.trivalleyrep.com for ticket and other information.

THE CITY OF PLEASANTON Civic Arts Stage Company, in partnership with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, will present Washington Irving's classic "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," which tells the tale of Ichabod Crane and his close encounter with the Headless Horseman.

Directed by Rebecca Ennals, the show is told with an ensemble of actors of all ages who play multiple parts and act as storytellers. There are people, animals and even towns brought to life in creative, theatrical ways.

I like this quote from actor Morgan Weder, a fifth-grader at Fairlands Elementary School in Pleasanton: "Community theater is a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. The actors are like a family with lots of different personalities." Ain't that the truth!

"I think the audience is going to like this play very much," Morgan said. "It's very interactive and has something for everybody - - rivalry, love, suspense and, of course, the Headless Horseman!"

"The Legend of Sleep Hollow" plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays Oct. 17 to 25 at the Amador Theater, 1175 Santa Rita Road, Pleasanton. Tickets range from $8 to $20 and may be purchased at the office or by calling 925-931-3444. You can also visit www.civicartstickets.org.

Reach Margot Abbott by e-mail: [email protected],

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