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Out & About / Ventura County | Theater Notes

It's 'Kismet'

Conejo Players' dusting off of '50s musical should be just the ticket.

November 19, 1998|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It spawned a number of pop song hits and a film version, and has been revived on Broadway a couple of times. Still, "Kismet" remains one of the less frequently performed musicals. That's a pity, because the 1953 Broadway hit has some strong characters, an exotic locale (11th century Baghdad) and a stirring, often witty story line. Thank the Conejo Players and director Georgeanne Lees, then, for bringing the show to Ventura County.

Oddly, for a show set in the ancient Middle East, the melodies of "Kismet" are based on themes by 19th century Russian composer Alexander Borodin.

It worked, though: Adapted by Robert Wright and George Forrest, the score produced well-known songs including "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" and "Stranger in Paradise." It may be the only show that includes in its lyrics the word "onomatopoeia."

The story revolves around Haji, who makes a meager living selling individualized poems to passersby. He gets mistaken for a nobleman and, of course, adventure, romance, and singing and dancing ensue.

Richard Osborn is dashing and romantic, heading the very large cast as the poet Haji, with Jessica DeBrunner as his daughter and Justin Lees-Smith as her royal love interest. The comic leads are Thyra Lees-Smith and, alternating as the comic Wazir of Police, Gary Romm and Chris Fiel.

Musical direction is by Dan Redfeld, Kevin Parcher handled the prerecorded instrumental score and Mia Kang is the choreographer. Even if this production of "Kismet" wasn't particularly strong, it would be worth seeing as a novelty. The fine production makes the show all the more appealing.

* "Kismet" continues through Dec. 12 at the Conejo Players Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (including Thanksgiving), and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets for all performances are $8 Thursdays; $10 Fridays and Sundays; and $12 Saturdays; group, senior and children's discounts are available. For reservations or more information, call 495-3715.

*

Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance in Simi Valley: "A Chorus Line" takes place during the course of one day, as a Bob Fosse-like director (played by Michael Sollazzo) auditions dancer-singers for an upcoming Broadway production. During the course of the session, each singer tells personal stories, sometimes using song and dance.

Conceived by veteran choreographer Michael Bennett and written by James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Edward Kleban and Marvin Hamlisch, the show has a large and capable cast.

Among them are Miles Alden, who performs the early showstopper "I Can Do That"; Nicole Trowbridge as the flighty Kristine; Lindsay Day, who sings "Dance 10, Looks 3"; Julio Villegas who as Paul is learning to handle his sexual orientation; Lorraine MacDonald as the jaded Sheila; and Deidre Fisher as Cassie, whose relationship with Sollazzo's character is a major component of the show's minimal plot. David Ralphe directed, Dani Brown choreographed, and Gary Poirot did his usual excellent job of musical direction.

Certain aspects of the dancers' stories make the show inappropriate for children, but the production is an overall winner, with the dancing, particularly, far above local community theater standards.

* "A Chorus Line" continues through Nov. 29 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave. in Simi Valley. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 adults; $12 students and 55 and older; $8 children 12 and under (though we would not recommend this show for young children). For reservations or more information, call 581-9940.

*

Fairy-Tale Musical at Moorpark College: Another show seldom seen locally is "Once Upon a Mattress," now playing at Moorpark College under the direction of Marilyn Anderson. The comic musicalization of the fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea" is quite appealing and deserves exposure. (The 1959 original production made a star of Carol Burnett, who played Princess Winnifred; the rest of the original cast remains consigned to obscurity.)

Again, there's a strong supporting cast, and a small orchestra to supply musical background (a bit too loud, at times, for some of the singers). It's family fun, well-produced, and as good a reason as any to discover the ambitious, newish Moorpark College theater.

* "Once Upon a Mattress" concludes Sunday at the Moorpark College Performing Arts Center, 7075 Campus Road in Moorpark. Performances are at 7:30 tonight; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets to all performances except tonight are $10; $8 students and seniors; $6 children under 12. All tickets for tonight's show are $5. For reservations or further information, call 378-1485.

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