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Tuesday, Jul 03, 2012

In ‘Harmony, Kansas,’ farmers reap courage of their convictions

A rave review of Diversionary Theatre’s current musical tops our coverage of plays in local production

By David L. Coddon
theater The cast’s voices ring out harmoniously in Harmony, Kansas.
- Photo by Ana Pines

Much as Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain turned the American cowboy myth inside out, Harmony, Kansas proffers a revisionist take on the American farmer in all his amber waves of traditional values. Skillfully directed by James Vasquez and distinguished by a male-chorale score that can send chills through Diversionary Theatre, Harmony, Kansas is that rare message-musical that’s neither overbearing nor sanctimonious.

Bill Nelson and Anna K. Jacobs’ new musical follows lovers Heath (Jacob Caltrider) and Julian (Tom Zohar) and the friends with whom they gather weekly just to sing. When an opportunity comes to take their all-male chorus public, Heath fears the “outing” will jeopardize the farm he and Julian have invested their lives in. How all seven of the gay men stand up for their sexuality and for their friendship unfolds in 18 songs, from the lush “Kansas Land” and the resolute “I Will Sing” to a few larks like “I Bring the Snacks” and “Homo Kid from Kansas Blues,” plus a sight-gag number with a mechanical bull. The tremendous appeal of Harmony, Kansas, however, is in the harmony of the cast as a whole and Zohar, Bill Nolte (as Fuzz) and Anthony Methvin (as Kent) in particular.

The show runs through July 22 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights $37-$51.



If Shakespeare were writing today for TV, As You Like It would be one of Nick at Nite’s legacy comedies, so often is it produced and enjoyed. The melancholy Jaques aside, it’s always seemed to me a tad fluffy. While the tale of love, reconciliation and masquerade is the same, The Old Globe’s new summer-festival production is sumptuous and full of surprises. Director Adrian Noble fills the Forest of Arden with merry song and dance (original music by Shaun Davey), while Ralph Funicello’s set pieces are whimsical—check out how he cleverly conceives trees and blue sky.

Dana Green is a livewire Rosalind and Jacques C. Smith a not-too-melancholy Jaques, while Allison Spratt Pearce makes a howling comic foil as the love-struck (by the dressed-as-a-man Rosalind) Phoebe.

This production of As You Like It, though lengthened by its musical inventions, also prospers by them. It runs through Sept. 30 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up.

Write to davidc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.


Opening

Dames at Sea: A young Utah woman arrives in New York with dreams of stardom and then—voila!—becomes one. In between, there’s singing and dancing. In previews July 4 through 6; opens July 7 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org

Divine Rivalry: Master manipulator Niccolò Machiavelli pits Leonardo Da Vinci against Michelangelo in a mural-painting competition in 16thcentury Italy. Opens July 7 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

Man of La Mancha: Don Quixote dreams the impossible dream, or so Miguel de Cervantes tells us, in this classic musical. Opens July 5 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. cygnettheatre.com

The Nightingale: A young emporer in ancient China is feeling claustrophobic within the Forbidden City when he hears the sweet song of a bird. Yes, this, too, is a musical, with tunes by composer Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater. Opens July 10 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org

Spider Baby the Musical: In this fun-filled adaption of a 1964 cult horror flick, three inbred siblings terrorize a couple of relatives who visit with malicious intent. Presented as part of Gam3rCon, the gaming convention, it opens July 8 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. spiderbabythemusical.com


Now Playing

Pride and Prejudice: Arts Off Broadway and Ivy Players present the stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel revolving around protagonist Elizabeth Bennet. Through June 27 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org

Coming Attractions: In this comedy, the proprietor of a hotel that had once catered to celebrities who wanted to get away from prying eyes has died, and some colorful folks have come to pay their respects. Runs through July 1 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com

Hoodoo Love: A young woman flees the cotton fields of Mississippi in hopes of becoming a blues singer. As you might expect, there are obstacles in her path. Through July 1 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. moolelo.net

Blood and Gifts: A piece of historical fiction, this one centers on a CIA operative during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and is rife with geopolitical intrigue involving the Americans, the Brits, the Soviets, the Afghanis and the Pakistanis. Runs through July 8 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org

Rent: Artists living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side struggle to get by in this Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical. Presented by San Diego Musical Theatre, it runs through July 8 at the Birch North Park Theatre. sdmt.org

’Til Death Do Us Part: Late Nite Catechism 3: You, the theatergoer, are a member of a catechism class and part of the show in this interactive comedy. Through July 8 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. welktheatersandiego.com

Legally Blonde: A musical version of the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, not to mention the novel of the same name, in which a vacuous young woman enrolls in Harvard University to win back her boyfriend. Through July 14 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com

Wicked: The Wizard of Oz was told from the point of view of Dorothy. This musical follows Galinda and Elphaba, who’d go on to become the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West, respectively. Through July 15 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com

Incorruptible: In 13th-century France, the miracles have dried up at a local monastery because rivals have stolen the bones of a patron saint. Hijinks ensue. Through July 21 at Onstage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org

Harmony, Kansas: In this world-premiere musical, a gay farmer is convinced by his city-slicker partner to join a gay men’s singing group in a not-so-gay rural community. Through July 22 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org

Joe vs. the Volcano: Remember the 1990 movie starring Tom Hanks about a guy who thinks he’s dying of “brain cloud” and agrees to jump into a volcano? Well, now it’s musical theater. Through July 29 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org

Made in the USA: A revue of various music styles that are the genuine American article, including folk, gospel, ragtime, blues and country. Through July 29 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com

The Man Who Came to Dinner: A pompous critic and radio personality is injured in a fall on the way to dinner at the home of a small-town Ohio family and must stay longer than planned as he heals. Through Aug. 5 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com

miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb’s Players Theatre, it runs through Sept. 2 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org

Inherit the Wind: The Old Globe takes on the classic fictionalized version of the true story of the Scopes “monkey trial,” at the end of which a high-school teacher was convicted for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. The 1955 play used the trial as a parallel to the McCarthyism of the era. Through Sept. 25 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

Richard III: King Edward IV’s malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England’s throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare’s history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

As You Like It: If it’s a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe’s 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

Once Upon a Wedding: Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13. onceuponaweddingthemusical.com

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net






 
 
 
 
 
 
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