I found it almost impossible to sit still and not sing during Center Rep's impressive production of "Ella, the Musical." But I urge audiences to resist the temptation and just let singer Yvette Cason wrap you in her velvety tones.
The Broadway veteran seems to be channeling the great Ella Fitzgerald throughout the show as she goes from Ella's first stage appearance at the famed Apollo Theatre's talent contest to a European concert following the death of her beloved sister.
Directed by Robert Barry Fleming, whose hits for Center Rep include "Ain't Misbehavin'," "All Shook Up," and "Smokey Joe's Café," this production doesn't hit one wrong note as Cason sings such favorites as "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "How High the Moon" and "That Old Black Magic."
Accompanied by the considerable talents of Mark Lee (drums), Joe McKinley (bass), Kelly Park (piano), and Mark Wright (trumpet), Cason seemed to be having as much fun as the audience on opening night. The accomplished jazz vocalist easily captured Ella's "good girl" persona and had no problem "scatting" until she brought the house down.
Actor Cassidy Brown as Ella's agent and Anthony Rollins-Mullens in a variety of roles created another level of enjoyment to an already full evening of great music performed by consummate professionals.
Scenic designer J.B. Wilson's glitzy yet simple set beautifully lit by Kurt Landisman added the finishing touches.
"Ella" runs through Oct. 12, at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center. For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW (925-943-7469) or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.
"An Evening of Mark Twain" takes place at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at Cue Productions Live, 1835 Colfax St., in Concord. Adapted and directed by Kathleen MacKay and presented by Butterfield 8, the staged reading includes excerpts from "The Diary of Adam and Eve," as well as several short anecdotes, and some favorite quotes from the man often considered to be the "greatest American humorist of his age."
The two diaries are told in the first person, giving a delightful perspective on Adam and Eve, and a very thoughtful commentary on men and women in general.
"We invite the audience to stay after the reading and join us for a Tea and Talk-Back," says MacKay. "The bar will also be open after the show, and we will be serving a special Twain-inspired cocktail and desert."
Although the staged reading is a free event, the company will gratefully accept donations. For more information, go to www.8butterfieldcompany.com.
Patricia McGregor directs and Paloma McGregor choreographs California Shakespeare Theater's final production of its season, "A Winter's Tale."
Set in the near future through a Narnia-esque door to fantastical lands, the alternately comic and poignant tale features music, miracles, dance, audience participation and, of course, Shakespeare's famous bear.
The show runs Sept. 25-Oct. 20, at the beautiful Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda. Call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org for tickets.
There are open auditions for the Altarena Playhouse production of Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's "Side Show," from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 20-21.
Directed by John Maio, the show runs Jan. 17—Feb. 23, at the Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., in Alameda. Based on the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton, it tells of the circus act of two conjoined twins who became famous stage performers in the 1930s.
The cast includes eight women (ages 16-50) and eight men (ages 16-60). Performers should prepare two Broadway songs, 16 bars each that show vocal range. There will also be cold readings from the script and dance auditions.