Stage Talk by Carol Viescas
‘The Yeoman and the Guard’ — Gilbert and Sullivan Company of El Paso’s 48th annual production presents, for the first time in the company’s history, the classical operetta, “Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and His Maid” July 28-Aug. 6, at Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial. Showtime is 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $10 ($8 students, seniors and military) in advance; $12 ($10 students, seniors and military) at the door. Information, reservations: 584-9319, 479-2485, GSelPaso.org or on Facebook at GandSElPaso.
“Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and His Maid” was called “a genuine English opera” when it premiered in London in 1888. It tells a tale of bravery, deceit and disappointed love, against the background of the Tower of London, the notorious site of torture and royal treasure in the early 16th century (Shakespearean times).
‘Viva El Paso!’ — El Paso Community Foundation, El Paso Live and EPCC present the summertime outdoor musical extravaganza with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 29, at McKelligon Canyon Amphitheatre. Tickets: $20 ($12 ages 2-12, seniors 65 and older and military with valid ID) (Ticketmaster). Information: ElPasoLive.com.
The show chronicles the 400-year history and cultural evolution of the El Paso region through drama, song and dance by a cast of over 50 performers, including mariachis.
‘Sister Act’ — UTEP Dinner Theatre presentation of the hit musical has been extended through July 30. The theatre is in the UTEP Student Union West building.
Dinner is at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with showtime at 8 p.m.; non-dinner matinee is at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $31.50 to $41.50 Thursday; $34.50 to $46.50 Friday and Saturday (includes meail); and $17.50 to $27.50 Sunday (no meal). Information: 747-6060 or utep.edu/udt.
Based on the hit Whoopi Goldberg film, “Sister Act” The Musical tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look — a convent.
‘Into the Woods’ — Sun City Musical Theatre, 3733 Shell Suite C, closes its season with the Tony Award-winning musical, through July 30, in collaboration with UTEP. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15; $12 students and military; $10 age 12 and younger. Information: suncitymusicaltheatre.com or on Facebook.
Written by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim this is a take on everyone's favorite storybook characters and bring them together for a timeless, yet relevant, piece and a rare modern classic.
‘EDA from Ballet to Broadway’ — The eclectic show of two aspiring dancers who come to New York to fulfill their dream of being on Broadway is 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12-13, at Chamizal National Memorial, 800 S. San Marcial. The dancers visit different theatre groups, preparing to debut their respective musicals. Featured musicals include “West Side Story,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Grease,” “Lion King,” “Wicked,” and “Les Miserables.” Admission is free. Information: 727-3168.
‘Calendar Girls’ — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, presents the comedy by Tim Firth through Aug. 13. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $11 ($9 seniors; $8 students and military). Information: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
Based on the true story of eleven Women’s Institute members who posed nude for a calendar to raise money for the Leukaemia Research Fund.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] — Shakespeare on-the-Rocks presents the hilarious romp through the entire Shakespeare canon at 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Aug. 18-20, at the Glasbox, 210 Poplar. All of the bard’s 37 plays are spoofed in 97 minutes by a cast of three, directed by Vanessa Keyser. Tickets: $10 ($8 for full-time students with ID, seniors 65+ and active military; $6 group rate for 10 or more). Information: 540-3813.
‘Headsets: A View from the Light Booth’ — No Strings Theatre Company opens its season with the comedy Aug. 18-Sept. 3 at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Downtown Mall, in Las Cruces. Directed by Ceil Herman. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Sundays Aug. 27 and Sept. 3; and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31. Tickets: $15 ($12 students and seniors over 65; $10 all seats Thursday. Reservations: (575) 523-1223.
This hilarious and charming backstage comedy was written by William Missouri Downs, author of “Cockeyed,” “Mad Gravity” and “Seagulls in a Cherry Tree.”
‘Once on this Island’ — El Paso Community College Performer’s Studio 2017 summer repertory presents the musical with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24-Sept. 3, at EPCC Transmountain Campus Forum Theatre, 9570 Gateway North, directed by Keith Townsend. All proceeds go to scholarships for Performance Studies students at EPCC. Admission: $15 general admission: $10 non-EPCC students, military; $8 EPCC students, faculty, staff and seniors. Available at the door; box office opens two hours before each performance (cash or checks only; age 7 and over only admitted).Information: 831-5056 or forumtheater.wix.com/epcc.
The Caribbean love story is based ”My Love, My Love; or The Peasant Girl.” A peasant girl on a tropical island uses the power of love to bring together people of different social classes.
El Paso Playhouse auditions — El Paso Playhouse, 2501 Montana, hosts auditions for is 2017-2018 season. Information, audition times: 532-1317 or elpasoplayhouse.com.
• July 30-31: “Real Women Have Curves” by Josefina Lopez. Show dates are Sept. 8-Oct. 1.
• Aug. 20-21: “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelly’s horror classic. Show dates are Oct. 20-Nov. 5.
Las Diosas del Burlesque — The Consul General of Mexico in El Paso and Central Cultural Mexican Paso del Norte hosts the burlesque troupe under the direction of David Abdiel Alcalá Castro at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at El Paso Community College, 9050 Viscount, Building A, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces, 211 N. Main. Admission is free. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloudcroft melodramas — Cloudcroft Light Opera Company’s live open air melodrama performances at 7:30 p.m. at Zenith Park’s pavilion on Burro Ave. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Early arrival recommended. Information: (575) 682-2733 or cloudcroftlightopera.com.
“Never Trust a City Slicker” is Sept. 1-3, and Sept. 15-16.
G&S offers 'Yeomen' for 1st time
In the nearly half-century of its existence, the Gilbert & Sullivan Company of El Paso had not performed “Yeoman of the Guard” — until this year.
“Joan (Quarm, the late, great founder of the group) refused to do it,” said Stephanie Conwell, who now leads the group and directs the show. “We are coming up on our 50th season – this is our 48th – and we are trying to do some new and different things. We did the two one-acts back-to-back last year. This year, we jumped in with both feet and did ‘Yeoman.’”
As with most Gilbert and Sullivan shows, the plot is convoluted. It takes place in the Tower of London in 1550.
“The character who starts the story is Col. Fairfax. He is charged with sorcery, conspiring with the devil. His cousin wants to inherit his estate, so if he is beheaded for this charge, the cousin will inherit,” Conwell explained.
To foil his cousin he asks his captors if they can find him a wife. Enter traveling entertainers Jack Point and Elsie Maynard, who are trying to earn money for Elsie’s sick mother. Of course Elsie wants the 100 crowns and agrees to marry Fairfax. But then another Yeoman, whose life the colonel once saved, breaks him out of jail. The two are married but have no idea what the other looks like. And thus begins the usual merry mix-up that includes a love triangle with Phoebe.
“It is not as happy an ending as some Gilbert and Sullivan, which is why Joan didn’t want to do it,” Conwell said. “Plus making all the Yeoman of the Guard uniforms. They have been a stinker to do, but turned out really well. The entire cast has been working on them – making shoe ornaments and neck ruffles during rehearsal.”
The faces of the cast should seem familiar to regular G&S-goers. As with all G&S, the show is double-cast. David Castro and Nathaniel Natkin are Fairfax, David Tomblin and John Wieve are Jack Point, Maria Arenas and Jasmine Fernandez are Elsie, and Jessica McKay and Ashleigh Curry are Phoebe.
Making the costumes wasn’t the only challenge. G&S depends on UTEP students to help fill roles. This year, most were busy with recitals and the current productions of “Into the Woods,” or “Sister Act.” So filling the cast list took more work.
“The music is also much more difficult,” Conwell said. “Sullivan really wrote an opera instead of an operetta. Even though most of the cast are trained musicians, it was a challenge. The language (because of the time period) is more Shakespearean, instead of Victorian. But they really enjoyed the challenge.”
That learning process, she said, was really the joy of the process of putting the show together.
“The cast had to research what lines mean. We learned a lot of new Shakespearean terms and how to interpret them so the audience gets it. The cast worked together and helped each other out when not on stage.”
Even though the cast ranges in age from 18-75, Conwell said, they all get along amazingly well.
“Everyone seems to adore each other. We also have families working together. Jessica McKay, her mother and father, brother and sister-on-law are all in the show.”
Next year, Conwell said, the company plans to do Quarm’s first G&S show, “Patience.”
“She did it at the old Upstairs Theater Downtown and set it in 1969. We’d like to do it and either set it in 1969 or 2018. It was the only show we’ve ever done not set in the original time period.”
For the 50th year celebration, G&S will produce one of the duo’s most famous pieces, “Pirates of Penzance.”
Carol Viescas is a veteran of
community theater and teaches
journalism at Bel Air High School
Gilbert and Sullivan Co. of El Paso presents “Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and His Maid” 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday July 28-Aug. 6 at Chamizal National Memorial. Information: GSelPaso.org.
Feature storyCopyright 2017 by Cristo Rey Communications.
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