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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

'Paint Your Wagon' Makes Most of a Little

The Camarillo play's enthusiastic cast overcomes thin ensemble numbers and bare stage set.

September 26, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe moved into Rodgers and Hammerstein territory with "Paint Your Wagon," the 1951 musical closing the Camarillo Community Theater's current season.

Set in the California Gold Rush era, the show has something of a rustic, rowdy "Oklahoma!" feel to it, miles from Lerner and Loewe's later, more sophisticated and better-known "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot." Not a hit when first mounted and much less frequently performed than the other two musicals, "Paint Your Wagon" has its own share of mock-rustic charm. And it did produce such songs as "I Talk to the Trees" and "They Call the Wind Maria" (pronounced Mar-I-ah).

In the story, widowed prospector Ben Rumson discovers enough gold to establish a town named after him. It's a town, at first, with 400 men and only one woman--Ben's teenage daughter, Jennifer. This is a situation that's eventually rectified, thanks to a trio of Mormons (a man and his two wives) and, later, a wagonload of saloon girls.

This production has been beset with problems, not the least of which was the abdication of the original director after early rehearsals. John Lordan stepped in to take over, and he, choreographer Kevin Carranza, musical director Andre Oei and the cast imbue the show with a lot of what is known in sports as "heart."

Dave Lambiotte stars as Ben, with Megan Pryor as Jennifer. Among the supporting cast are Chuck Davis as Mike Mooney, the accentless Irish immigrant; Ken Jones as Jacob Woodling, with Connie Contara and Cindy Woolley as his two wives (Sarah, Woolley's character, is the one who drinks alcohol); Robert Pryor as the storekeeper; and Brian Donohue as Julio Valveras, who becomes Jennifer's love interest.

The Camarillo group's last couple of plays have used large casts, composed of many children. The lack of adults willing to fill chorus roles here results in rather skimpy-looking ensemble numbers, and the stage set is also somewhat threadbare.

On the other hand, there aren't many opportunities to see "Paint Your Wagon," and the Camarillo group makes a noble effort with the resources available.

* "Paint Your Wagon" continues through Oct. 13 at the Camarillo Airport Theater, 330 Skyway Drive on the Camarillo Airport grounds. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets for all performances are $10; $8 for seniors, students and active military; and $5 for children. For reservations or further information, call 388-5716.

*

'Macbeth' Reprised in Moorpark: For its penultimate performance in their Moorpark facility, director William Fisher's California Shakespeare Company is reviving "Macbeth," first performed on its stage a few years back with a different cast.

This time around, Kelly Vincent--a fine young actor--portrays the ill-fated warrior as complex and brooding, as if Hamlet, the 9th century (or earlier) Danish prince, had somehow gained control of an 11th century Scottish regiment. It's hardly a conventional portrayal, but it does give the audience something to think about between the falling bodies and witches' incantations.

Tammy Moran's portrayal of ambitious, conniving Lady Macbeth is more conventional, and quite impressive; Craig Dittrich is noble king Duncan; Darren Pettie appears as both Macbeth's friend Banquo and foe, Macduff. The climactic broadsword fight between Macbeth and Macduff, choreographed by Vincent, is a highlight.

* "Macbeth" runs through Oct. 20 at California Shakespeare Company, 6685 Princeton Ave., in Moorpark's Varsity Park Plaza. Performances are at 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. General admission is $15; $12 for seniors (62 and older) and students. For reservations (strongly recommended) or further information, call 498-3354.

'Moon' Darker Than Expected: "Dark of the Moon," the musical scheduled to begin the Santa Susana Repertory Company's new season Friday night, has been canceled. Those holding tickets may apply to the Civic Arts Plaza box office for a refund or to exchange them for admission to any of several theatrical productions at Civic Arts Plaza.

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