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A Big Fish In A Small-time 'Show Boat'

October 10, 1987|HERMAN WONG | Times Staff Writer

Appearing in a community-theater production of "Show Boat" is quite a different experience for Sandy Burnard, who has spent the last decade as a leading lady on the national musical-revival circuit.

She has toured in big-budget shows opposite male stars from Donald O'Connor (in "Little Me") to John Davidson (in "Oklahoma!") to Joe Namath (in "Li'l Abner").

But the Yorba Linda Musical Theatre's production of "Show Boat," now playing at the 315-seat Forum Theater, offers special compensations, Burnard said.

She not only gets the chance to sing opposite her favorite leading man--her husband, Daniel Bain--but she and Bain get to act as an unofficial community-theater faculty on the art of putting on a classic musical.

"There's a delight in working in (community theater)," she said. "Call it the enthusiasm, the sheer spontaneity of the people. Whatever it is, it's infectious and great fun."

Burnard and Bain, who is directing this production (the first Orange County revival of the show in 10 years), are the first paid professional headliners to be brought in by the year-old Yorba Linda company.

Especially because both are alumni of a "Show Boat" that toured the nation in 1981 (Van Johnson was the star), "This production is a real learning situation for our cast, " producer Virginia DeLand said.

"When you have someone like Daniel and Sandy as the guiding hands, and bringing the kind of expertise they bring, you can't help but have what amounts to a workshop setting," said DeLand, who started her company last season with "Scrooge," "The Pirates of Penzance" and "Oklahoma!" This $15,000 production of "Showboat" is the first of three shows the group will stage this season.

While some in the 30-member cast occasionally have appeared in small Orange County or Los Angeles theaters, most have been recruited from local volunteer support guilds, DeLand said.

Cast members include Harris Angell as Cap'n Andy, Norma Bancale as Parthy, Teresa Short as Julie, Marcie Ann Schmidt as Ellie, Fred Valencia as Frank and George Bouldin as Joe.

Burnard stars as Magnolia Hawks, the sweet but not-so-prim mistress of the Cotton Blossom. Bain, whose background includes theater studies in London and dramatic and musical plays in California, is playing the dashing gambler Ravenal.

"The musical is 60 years old," Bain noted, "but the songs are glorious, and the story still stands up--real characterizations, very recognizable, sympathetic people." The plot, by Edna Ferber, is characterized by wistful romance, familial sentimentality and a touch of social consciousness. The score, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, includes the teasing "Make Believe" and the soaring "You Are Love."

Bain and Burnard are not newcomers to the Forum, by the way. The couple, who live in Northridge, first played there two years ago with their "Two for the Show" revue. And they are scheduled to return for a pops concert Dec. 20 and again for an all-Gershwin program April 9.

Burnard plans a leave of absence between those two engagements: "Our baby--a little girl, we think--is due in January, and I'm just about ready for a sabbatical."

Laughing, she added: "Our baby's already a real stage trouper--a 'Show Boat' veteran. Maybe we ought to name her Magnolia."

"Show Boat" runs Oct. 8-9-10-11 and Oct. 15-16-17-18 at the Forum Theater, 4175 Fairmont Blvd., Yorba Linda. Curtain time is 8 p.m., except the 2 p.m. matinees Sundays. Tickets are $10 adults, $8 children and seniors. Call (714) 779-8591 for information.

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