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Old and New Fare for PCPA Anniversary

Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts’ Theaterfest celebrates its 25th anniversary this year--in Solvang and Santa Maria--with a summer-long program of old and new fare.

“ ‘The Fantasticks’ was our very first musical, ‘A Man for All Seasons’ our first play and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ our audience’s most beloved and requested show,” said artistic director Jack Shouse of the three reprises. Also on this summer’s lineup: “The Nerd” by the late Larry Shue (author of “The Foreigner”), “Evita” and “Quilters.”

James Pickering, who created the role of “The Nerd” at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, will reprise it at PCPA. The story finds Pickering’s character making a birthday visit to a man whose life he saved in Vietnam. The meeting turns into a shambles when it looks as if the nerd will never leave. Kenneth Albers, who directed the original production in Milwaukee, will repeat his duties here.

“The Nerd” and “Evita” are already on the boards, with “The Fantasticks” opening Thursday and “Fiddler” and “A Man For All Seasons” on the July 27. “A lot of people from Los Angeles see our work in Solvang,” noted Shouse, who’ll spend the next months shuttling between the Solvang and Santa Maria sites. “We primarily service the central coast. But in the summer, our audiences come from all over the state.”

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THEATER FILE: Feb. 21 will be the opening night for that six-week engagement of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roller-skating spectacular, “Starlight Express” at the Pantages, part of its previously announced spin through the Southland. It will play San Diego first, opening at the San Diego Civic Theatre Dec. 26 . . . Chazz Palminteri’s one-man show, “A Bronx Tale” has extended--again--at Theatre West. It will play through Aug. 27, before heading for a run at New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre.

In Long Beach, the International City Theatre season continues Aug. 4 with “Autumn Elegy,” Charlene Reddick’s story of a 50-years married couple facing cancer. Deborah LaVine directs . . . Charles Lanyer has the title role in Thomas F. Bradac’s staging of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” opening July 22 at the Grove Shakespeare Festival.

The Los Angeles Theatre Center is offering a new subscription package, the six-play “Exploring Downtown L.A.” Included are pre-show hors d’oevres and entertainment at a string of area eateries. The cost: $96.

CRITICAL CROSS FIRE: “Romeo and Juliet” is enjoying a popular summer in productions at the Grove Shakespeare Festival in Garden Grove and the Old Globe in San Diego. Here’s what critics had to say about Richard E.T. White’s San Diego staging.

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From Dan Sullivan in The Times: “Leaving the Old Globe, you wonder if you haven’t see (the play) too often. Leaving the Grove, it’s a new play again, filled with possibilities. Shakespeare is a genius or a drone, depending on his helpers.”

From Welton Jones in the San Diego Union: “ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ doesn’t work very well as a screwball comedy. Nor as a summer romp of crazy, lovable teen-agers. Anybody with even a casual knowledge of the play might have sensed as much. But with this production, White has proven it.”

Grumbled Jonathan Saville in the (San Diego) Reader: “This is a traditional--which in this case means unimaginative--staging, in which there is a paucity (not quite a total absence) of new ideas to illuminate familiar passages or to throw fresh perspectives on the actions and themes of the play.”

Said the San Diego Tribune’s Bill Hagen: “White’s approach to the play is pretty straightforward, although he does put extra emphasis on the (male) camaraderie . . . ‘Romeo’ is a play that sags when the title characters aren’t in the forefront, which is all too evident in this sometimes-static production.”

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And from William E. Fark in the (Escondido) Times-Advocate: “White has wisely chosen to leave the story in its original Renaissance setting and draw parallels to the present . . . Little has been cut from the manuscript to accommodate this modern approach, but the pace is brisk with a few dull spots. Even so, the play runs well over three hours.”


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