Check it out
What: “City of Angels”
When: Friday, Sept. 14, through Sunday, Oct. 2; Fridays and Saturdays, 8:15 p.m; Sundays, 2:15 p.m
Where: Davis Musical Theatre Company, 607 Peña Drive
Cost: $18 general, $16 students/seniors
Info: 530-756-3682 or www.dmtc.org
Steve Isaacson, general manager and company leader, is very excited about the Davis Musical Theatre Company’s 2012-13 season, which begins Friday with the six-time Tony award-winning musical comedy “City of Angels.”
“It’s a very esoteric season,” Isaacson admitted. “It’s not your grandfather’s season.” But he believes DMTC audiences are sophisticated enough to embrace it, and he is looking forward to full houses and a lot of fun.
“The season ticket response has been great,” he said, enthusiastically.
“City of Angels” will be followed by the Alan Menken version of “A Christmas Carol” in November, Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” in January, “Urinetown” in February, “Oklahoma!” in April and Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” in June.
” ‘City of Angels’ is the most technically difficult show we’ve ever done,” Isaacson says. “It makes our production of ‘Titanic’ look like ‘Our Town.’ ”
He explained that the show tells the story of an author struggling to turn his book into a screenplay in the 1940s.
“There are 40 scenes, going from black and white to color and then color to black white, with set pieces that are identical in both color and black and white. There are so many set pieces that there’s no room backstage, so we’re being very inventive.”
Isaacson is excited about his cast of 30. He mentioned specifically “The Angel City Four,” who sing tight Manhattan Transfer harmonies throughout the show.
“And we have a great ensemble,” he added. “A show is only as good as your ensemble. It’s a very strong ensemble. I’m very pleased with it.”
In an unusual move, DMTC is presenting “A Christmas Carol” in November, rather than December. “It’s a fun, fun, fun show. Very Christmassy.”
This version of the Dickens classic is the one that was a 2004 TV production, starring Kelsey Grammar. It played every holiday at New York City’s Madison Square Garden from 1994 until 2003.
“I really wanted to do it closer to Christmas, but we kind of have a huge show — ‘Follies’ — opening on New Year’s Eve,” he explained.
“Follies,” which just closed on Broadway, is the iconic Sondheim hit and seven-time Tony winner about two couples who reunite on the eve of the demolition of their beloved theater. The show, last seen on the DMTC stage in 1989, centers on the couple’s dreams, harsh realities of times and the uncertainty of the future.
It’s also a dream show for longtime costumer Jean Henderson.
“Jean’s been with us 22 years as a volunteer,” Isaacson said. “She chooses to spend her retirement not sitting around relaxing, but she loves doing this and we love having her. We’re probably going to have to carry her out — in an absolutely gorgeous dress.”
Isaacson said he was most concerned about audience response to “Urinetown,” a satirical comedy musical that pokes fun at everything, from government bureaucracy and the legal system to corporate America’s mismanagement and social irresponsibility.
“It’s a funny, funny show with a terrible title. I love it that they spoof ‘West Side Story,’ they spoof ‘Fiddler,’ they spoof ‘Oliver,’ they spoof everything they could think of.”
Isaacson first saw “Urinetown” in New York and thought it was the funniest show he’d ever seen. But he was careful about how he introduced it to the audience when he announced the upcoming season.
“I was most concerned about our senior audience, but season ticket holders have been asking me already if they can get extra tickets so they can bring their grandchildren,” he said.
There were no such concerns about “Oklahoma!” The perennial Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, always a favorite, was last seen at DMTC in 2006.
The season closes with Bernstein’s “Candide,” not done at DMTC since 1989.
“Nobody does ‘Candide,’ ” Isaacson said. They are remodeling the theater, removing seats and placing them on the stage so it can be presented as much in the round as possible.
“To me, there has to be an education of the audience. I want to expose the audience to good theater, I want all theaters to be good. I don’t want theaters to fail. I don’t want theaters to go out of business. I don’t want theaters to put on shows that are not good.
“I want them to have the best talent available, so audiences go ‘Wow — that was good. I loved “Drowsy Chaperone” at Woodland, so let’s go see “City of Angels.” ’ ‘I’ve never heard of “Drowsy Chaperone”; I’ve never heard of “City of Angels.” Wow, there is incredible talent in this area.’
“That’s what I want. That’s what I hope we get.”
Starting its 29th season, DMTC is California’s longest-running, year-round amateur musical theater company. It has a dedicated group of volunteers — actors, directors, choreographers, musicians and backstage people. It’s easy to see what keeps people coming back year after year.
“We just had our ‘Hit of Hits,’ a thank you to 350 volunteers from this past year. We gave them a certificate of appreciation, every single one of them. It wasn’t an event for the public. We weren’t charging. The season-ticket holders were invited and some came. They just loved it.
“We had hors d’oeuvres, we had desserts. We did scenes from the past season and a preview of the next season. We had a blast doing that. I believe that nonprofits should be volunteer. I find it easier to get volunteers when you volunteer yourself,” said Isaacson, who along with his wife, Jan, is an unpaid volunteer.
“God knows this is stressful,” Isaacson said, laughing. ” I wake up every day stressed from this, but it’s worth it. It’s a lot of fun. We’ve lasted 28 years.”