Home for the holidays on two stages
by Charlene Baldridge
Published - 12/06/08 - 12:48 AM | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tom Andrew (left) is George Bailey and Jonathan Dunn-Rankin the radio host in Cygnet Theatre’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” through Dec. 24 at Cygnet Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd.                                             PHOTO BY RANDY ROVANG
Tom Andrew (left) is George Bailey and Jonathan Dunn-Rankin the radio host in Cygnet Theatre’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” through Dec. 24 at Cygnet Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. PHOTO BY RANDY ROVANG
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It’s time for holiday offerings at local theaters, some old, some new and some revised. Thanksgiving week held two openings, one revisited, another new.

The Wednesday (Nov. 26) opening of “It’s a Wonderful Life:  A Live Radio Play” at Cygnet Theatre Rolando came off without a hitch. This “Wonderful Life,” presented for the third year, is even more wonderful due to the addition of three seasoned actors to the ensemble: Tim West, Jeannine Marquie and David McBean. All play multiple roles and deepen the already affecting work. They also make parts of it funnier, as when McBean mugs as one of George Bailey’s children. There’s nothing like a McBean mugging. He’s been absent too long from our stages, and his fine baritone helps underpin the musical portions of the show, which are mostly mock commercials during the “radio broadcast” hosted by former real-life announcer Jonathan Dunn-Rankin. Once again, Tom Andrew assays Bailey, subtly suggesting Jimmy Stewart, who starred in the 1943 film. Even those who swear to resist are awash in tears by the end, when Clarence Oddbody (West), the angel sent to prevent Bailey’s suicide, gets his wings. As always, sound effects are in the capable hands of multi-instrumentalist/Foley artist Scott Paulson. The piece, which takes us through the Great Depression, has resonance with the present time. It’s a dear, wonderful evening in the theater, something to be shared with family year after year.

Performances go through Dec. 28, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. Dec. 24, at Cygnet Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd.

For tickets and information, visit www.cygnettheatre or call (619) 337-1525. 

Seen Friday, Nov. 28, the West Coast premiere of Ricky Graham and Jefferson Turner’s drag and gag musical, “Scrooge in Rouge — A British Music Hall Christmas Carol” provides groaners, shtick and a dizzying parade of hilarious wigs (Peter Herman) and quick-change costumes (Jennifer Brawn Giddings) in its telling of Charles Chicken’s “A Christmas Carol,” a multi-character piece enacted by only three ubiquitous and frantic actors, Eric Vest as Charlie Schmaltz, Tony Houck as Lottie Obbligato and Kim Strassburger as Vesta Virile.

Accompanied by Rick Shaffer, the musical numbers are quite jolly, well articulated and rife with patter-song-like references to Gilbert and Sullivan and, appropriately, to Stephen Sondheim’s more frantic lyrical moments in “Sweeney Todd.”

A known quantity, Vest is adorable whether male or female. Possessed of a voice that ranges from baritone to legit soprano, Houck is simply extraordinary, especially when the role calls for him to purposely stray from pitch and make a foray to the piano for correction. This excellent singer/musician is a good actor to boot.

Strassburger’s Scrooge is rather one-note, though in all fairness she is not a natural baritone. It’s a cute show, clever musically, bawdy of sensibility, giddy lyrically (“You’re Endowed, Mr. Scrooge” for one), and well worth seeing if you’re not “Caroled” out by now. Rayme Sciaroni directed and acted as musical director.

Performances go through Dec. 21, 7:30 Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd.

For tickets and information, visit www.diversionary.org or call (619) 220-0097.
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