"Kiss Me Kate" is Too Darn Hot to Miss "The Last 5 Years" Switches Time Cabrillo Stage Teases with Fun-filled "Hairspray"

The Sixth Street Playhouse has been bursting onto the current theater scene with talent, creativity, and undeniable crowd-pleasers under its new Artistic Director Craig A. Miller.  Their latest production is a full-powered musical that took 15 Tony awards on Broadway.  Kiss Me, Kate is entertaining and clever, a huge production that would stand up to any off-Broadway competition.  But of course this is Santa Rosa, not New York, so the parking is free, the G. K Hardt Theatre seats are plush, excellent wine in the lobby is $6 and ticket prices are $15 to $35. 

Kiss Me, Kate is a classic fun-filled romp directed by Craig A. Miller, with an orchestra conducted by Janis Dunson Wilson.  The surprise of the production could be the fancy footwork choreographed by veteran Tony Ginachetta.  How can these "locals" look so professional?  The large cast shows off their dancing chops to Cole Porter's tunes, singing lyrics that bring individual charm to their characters.  Favorite songstress Daniela Innocenti Beem belts out the opening number and sets the bar high for a chorus of harmony.  The audience recognizes familiar refrains of Too Darn Hot, Another Openin' Another Show, Tom, Dick or Harry and Always True to You in my Fashion.  It's tough to keep your feet from tapping. 

The plot is a madcap "play within a play" based on William Shakespeare's timeless and chauvinistic The Taming of the Shrew.   An acting troupe has a leading man and leading lady who are bitter ex-spouses in real life.  Onstage, they must summon all their acting skills to carry off their roles.  The on-ups-manship and innuendos are hilarious, played with glee by Taylor Bartolucci and Barry Martin.  Their stage staffers, fellow actors, new love interests, and a couple of crazy gangsters bring depth and intrigue to the mayhem.  It's all about love, however and wherever it develops.

The stage sets revolve seamlessly, the costumes by Julia Kwitchoff are nostalgic and the direction is quick and on cue, giving the audience abundant entertainment.  The actors work well to deliver songs and laughs, including Jeremy Berrick, Kelsey Mielle Byrne, Henry Chazankin, Anya Chemiss, Rahman Dalrymple, Shari Hopkinson, April Krautner, Juliann Lorensen, Michael Lumb, Anthony Martinez, Joseph Miranda, Jesse Pennington, Jon Rathjen, Jocelyn Roddie, Sam Starr, and Dwayne Stincelli.  Don't miss it!

Playing at the Sixth Street Playhouse now until September 4th.  Tickets at (707) 523-4185 and at www.6thstreetplayhouse.com

Cabrillo Stage in Santa Cruz/Aptos offers "The Last 5 Years", a drama sung to music in their small Studio Theater.  The unusual script enacts the same five years in the lives of a young couple.  One character starts at the end of the relationship and moves back, while the other begins at the beginning and moves forward in time.  The roles are sung with bravado and real emotion in this 90-minute production.

Located on the Cabrillo College campus, the Cabrillo Stage studio theater offers free parking and easy access off Highway 101 in Santa Cruz/Aptos.  Catch a ticket at cabrillostage.com or call (831) 479-5744 now through August 14th.
"Hairspray", Broadway's musical comedy, bursts onto Cabrillo Stage in Santa Cruz with colorful costumes, rock 'n roll music, hilarious acting and songs that get your feet tapping.  From beehive hair-dos to slick dance moves, the simple plot pulls it all together.  Tracy, a short, plump high-schooler, longs to dance on the local version of "American Bandstand" in Baltimore.  How she gets there, wins the heart of a teenage heart-throb, and champions segregation of the show provides something to cheer about.  The onstage live video was very clever, and the huge cast of characters was so perfect that the actors didn't have to say a word to be believable in their roles.  It's a campy joy-filled tribute to the fun and good times of a past era, especially if you have awareness of what was current in the '60s.  My husband and 20-something daughter both agreed with me:  What a terrific show!  

Cabrillo Stage's main 500-seat theater offers comfortable seats, free parking, and easy location just off 101 in Santa Cruz/Aptos.  Playing through August 14th.  For tickets go to cabrillostage.com or call (831) 479-6154.