Stockton Civic Theatre Opens New Season With a Dolly

Sara St. Pierre, Melissa Esau, Joe Smith, Sierra Fraser. Photo: Jenny Key
Love and loss, laughter and disaster, music and murder. They’re all on the menu for the upcoming season of the Stockton Civic Theatre.
The season kicks off August 31 with a musical comedy about three working women who deplore and detest their sexist office boss and plot to upgrade their careers by downgrading his. The music and lyrics are the inspiration of a lady who needs no introduction, being as she is the belle of Nashville. I refer to Dolly Parton and the opportunity to see “9 to 5” right here in River City.
Although August 31 marks the start date of the season, it began for some of us a month earlier when a full house of SCT performers, managers, choreographers, directors, donors, patrons, volunteers, and curious fans gathered at the theatre on the evening of July 23 for the 69th annual Willie Awards.
The Willies celebrate the season past–and to come–with a salute to all the “super heroes” whose talents keep the curtain rising at Stockton Civic. Surprises that night included a preview of Dolly Parton’s words and music (crafted for the 2008 stage version of the the 1980 film in which Dolly appeared with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda). The audience got a taste of Dolly’s talents thanks to an engaging performance by Sierra Fraser singing “Backwoods Barbie” with the authentic country music twang that made us forget all about that other Barbie.
The Bard takes a curtain call.
I wasn’t sure if the Willies were named in honor of theatre sponsors such as William Karraker or William A. Smith, but  another William declared himself with a colorful Shakespeare caricature on the cover of the program and a golden image of the immortal playwright decorating the backdrop of the stage. One wonders what the Bard of Avon might say about having his image bless an evening of theatrical tributes in a city, state and nation that didn’t exist in his lifetime. What he might say? Sounds like a trivia question. Is there a trivia answer? Yes. Answer to “What Shakespeare Might Say” appears at end of story. 
Numerous awards were distributed at the Willies for excellence in all aspects of theatre. In addition, scenes from the past season were brought to life in both videos and live stage performances, allowing us a chance to revisit our favorite shows and renew a sense of their pleasures. The ladies of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” gathered again to render in chatty fashion the maternal strictures of “Clothesline: What My Mother Said”. Melissa Esau reprised her role as the no-nonsense talent agent of “The Little Dog Laughed”. And the cast of “The Fox on the Fairway” once again performed the strenuously humorous exits and entrances marking the finale of this frisky farce.
Dahlia Vocque, Sherry Dumos, Rhonda Cummings, and Cindy Braden in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.” Photo: George Hong.
Jack Lechich, Dani Loera, and Nikki Pendley in “Fox on the Fairway.” Photo: George Hong.
Following the August 31–September 24 run of “9 to 5,” SCT will offer the musical version of “Beauty and the Beast” as a holiday treat (November 16-December 17). Once again, the fairy tale classic will offer a prince desperately seeking to end the curse of beastliness and the young woman whose love may be able to grant him the blessing of redemption. 
“Beauty and the Beast” will be closely followed by the play-within-a-play plot of “Stage Kiss,” Sarah Ruhl’s romantic fantasy about two actors with a past whose lead roles in a melodrama create a melodrama of its own when an onstage kiss creates another world off (runs January 8-February 4).
“Cabaret” arrives April 11 and runs until May 5, with the naughty emcee of the Kit Kat Club welcoming us to the decadence of a Berlin soon to be engulfed by a social and political darkness that will leave customers unable to leave their troubles at the door.
The season ends in June (13-30) with “The Play That Goes Wrong,” a tongue-in-cheek look at a college production whose classical detective story with a title straight out of Agatha Christie (“The Murder at Haversham Manor”) goes hilariously off track. Everything goes wrong that can possibly go wrong,  but its young performers gamely try to hold the collapsing enterprise together until the final curtain frees them from theatrical chaos (unless the curtain comes down before then). Can they solve the crime at Haversham Manor before the lights go out? Will the audience depart before the lights?
Not to be overlooked in your theatre plans are the offerings of the SCT’s interactive theatre–the Pam Kitto Black Box Theatre. Such hits as  “Love, Loss and What I Wore” and “The Little Dog Laughed” were presented in this small, stageless theatre where playgoers can experience a participatory sense of closeness to the actors and involvement with their performances. 
Up first at the Kitto is Rajiv Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries” (October 6-21), the story of a relationship that begins in childhood friendship and progresses over three decades as two friends keep meeting and reviewing the problems that afflict them and unite them. Will this bizarre bond lead to something more than a recital of their pains and complaints?
If your visit to the Black Box Theatre leaves you wanting more, stay tuned for “The Doyle and Debbie Show” (Feb.23-March 9), a honky-tonkin’ comedy of country music icons who make beautiful music onstage and something other than harmony off. Dolly had nothing to do with this one, but trust Doyle and Debbie to keep the music (and the battles) humming.
And if you enjoyed seeing last season’s compelling mix of one-act plays in the little theatre, get set for more as another showcase of shorties premieres in “A Night of One Acts” (May 17-26). This assortment of comedy, drama and everything in between will provide you a theatrical smorsgasbord of characters and plots, creatively tailored for the minimalism of the Kitto Theatre and your sense of participation in the action.

Answer to Shakespeare trivia question: Your guess is as good as mine. My guess is that Shakespeare would react to the news of being a Stockton theatre logo by saying, “Zounds! ‘Tis the very essence of fame//when natives of an unknown land praise thy name!”    

Stockton Civic Theatre
2312 Rosemarie Lane, Stockton, CA
Box Office (209) 473-2424
Business Office (209) 473-2400

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  • One of the best-or best-critique of a theatrical season I have ever read. It not only makes us want to attend but also makes the reader appreciate the exquisite flow of the article.

  • The plays seem fantastic this year! I hope to see the Agatha Christie play since I am big fan of hers. Great recap of the upcoming seasons!

  • Can’t wait for another wonderful season of SCT shows. What a great line up and new chairs coming soon too. Exciting stuff in store!

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