Rosie the Riveter celebrated in Walnut Creek as "Rivets" opens this week! Sunrise at Campobello in the East Bay - - Jekyll & Hyde and Beauty and The Beast captivate the South Bay

“Rivets”, a new musical created by Kathy McCarty and Michael Covington, and directed by David Clay is back, this time a little closer to home for Walnut Creek residents as it is now playing in the Knights Stage III theatre, on the ground floor of the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

“Rivets”, heralds the spirit and tenacity of the hard working women in the Richmond shipyards during World War II, women who stepped up to meet America’s need to produce our Victory & Liberty ships. While this tale focuses on the true stories of the women who actually worked in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards, here in California, it really tells the tale of the maturing of the working women workforce around the world. It champions the women who were called upon when their men enlisted in the war effort and they, the women, were needed to get the jobs done at home. These gutsy, patriotic and need driven women stepped up and fought prejudice on every level to do their best to help this nation and others win their wars and defeat the Axis forces.

During WWII, thousands of men and women worked in this area every day, in very hazardous jobs. Actively recruited by Kaiser, they came from all over the United States to swell the population of Richmond from 20,000 to over 100,000 in three short years. For many of them, this was the first time they worked and earned money. It was the first time they were faced with the problems of being working parents--finding daycare and housing. Women and minorities entered the workforce in areas previously denied to them. However, they still faced unequal pay, were shunted off into "auxiliary" unions and still had to deal with day-to-day prejudice and inequities. During the war, there were labor strikes and sit-down work stoppages that eventually led to better conditions. These severe prejudices handicapped the workforce of black and white and Hispanic workers. As one African American Rosie commented about the progress of labor and civil rights during this time, while huge gains had to wait for the post-war civil rights movement, the Home Front did, "begin to shed light on America's promise."

This is an inspired musical, an upbeat story that tells of men and women who came to Richmond, California, to help Henry Kaiser crank out a Victory Ship a week, to help us turn the tide on the Axis foes against America. It pulls at your heart strings as you hear of young, middle aged and older women who came from all over America, from small rural villages to metropolitan centers, educated and illiterate, all banding as one somewhat unified force to bring the assembly-line process together. Their final product, the Victory & Liberty Ships, would help win the war against the Nazi submarines that were sinking millions of tons of supplies, equipment and lives every day. It is a beautiful story of numerous lives in the collective whirlpool of humanity ringing in on the time clock, cranking out the work, bringing the ships finally down the “ways” into the bay and into war service reality.

Kathy McCarty told me that she began working on this story over four years ago when an elder friend she met in a convalescent care facility began relating to Kathy the personal stories of what it was like to be a female worker in the shipyards, what it was like to be a “Wendy the Welder” or “Rosie the Riveter” just like the image that became a rallying poster for women workers in the 1940’s. Grasping on to stories and memories that were fast fading from our collective consciousness, Kathy began carving out a story, in musical style, that would preserve this incredible tale of personal sacrifice and hardship that helped save America! This is a story of many different people and how this work process changed their lives.

Having written the story, Kathy was able to enlist Mitchell Covington, who wrote the musical score, very recently, in the process of carving a musical miracle out of an idea, all in just four weeks before the production was scheduled to open. With the help of a lot of friends and incredible multi-ethnic cast, this bright new musical was launched on its maiden voyage in the Contra Costa College, in the John and Jean Knox Center for the Performing Arts, last February, to tie in with the “Rosie The Riveter” memorial ceremonies in Richmond.
There are really far too many fine actors who each contribute immensely to this work to properly applaud everyone, but I have to give kudo’s to the lovely voice and strong presence of Shawn Creighton who plays Martha Mitchell, one of three Mitchell family members to work in the same plant. The superlative lead actors include Angelica Reyes, a young black lead songwriter/factory worker, who touches your heart; to Randy Nott, a love struck manager; to Matt Davis, who plays a blind musician performer so well that I have a hard time believing that he is not blind. The male chauvinist plant foreman, is played very well by Mark Ettensohn. Even small parts contributed significantly, by such fine actors as Jay Lino and Amaia Hierro, to name just a couple. Director Clay David actually had to step into one of the key roles in this show, due to another actor’s conflicting schedule.

The story makes a statement about racial and minority conflict and male chauvaunism that makes you cringe, and in the end makes you love the changes we all are experiencing today, that much more. There is a lot of tough stuff in this play, many words you may not wish to hear, but neither did the people who actually lived this terrible time in our country’s history. It was the worst of times and it was the best of times, and this show is a wonderful musical that has a lot to give. While it is not perfect, “Rivets” is a work in progress, definitely a work with a great potential

There are at the same time, numerous problems and certain advantages created by this grand musical trying to shoe-horn itself into this very small stage. They had to exclude numerous ship building props, scaffolding and sets pieces in order to get the huge cast on this postage stamp sized stage. An advantage to this theater: with such a small theatre, you are very close to the action and can hear just about every word. Director David Clay has done an excellent job with this production, especialy with the special challenges of this small theater.

Kathy McCarty is attempting to find venues for future productions. This current production plays Thursdays through Saturdays, performances on Thursdays are at 7:15 p.m., with Fridays at 8:15 p.m., and Saturday performances at both 2:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., now through June 7th, in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts at 16o1 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. The normal ticket prices are $25 each, but if you use the pass word or code, "Yes We Can" (a line from the show) you will get your ticket for $15, a $10 savings. Mention this to the box office for your discount. If you were an original “Rosie the Riveter”, just identify yourself as such at the box office and you will receive a complementary ticket!

In addition, there will be one very special series of productions, at the Richmond “Rosie the Riveter” memorial museum, staged at or onboard the SS Red Oak Victory (details still being worked out), a Victory ship built and Launched in the Kaiser Richmond Shipyard, performing between October 9th and 26th. This production needs a large stage because there are normally 45 members in this cast, most of who can be on stage at any one time! Once again I have to shout it out, Wow, what a show! Call (925) 943-SHOW (7469) for reservations and additional information on the production at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, or visit the web site at or for photos of the cast, or visit for information on the Richmond Kaiser Shipbuilding yard national park.

The Willows Theatre in Concord is currently producing a marvelous story of strength, courage, hope and inspiration with their outstanding production of Dore Schary’s Sunrise at Campabello.

When I was around ten years old my uncle, the Reverend Roscoe Conkling Hatch, used to write me postcards from his home in Hyde Park New York. He was at one time the minister of the Episcopal Church in Hyde Park, and the family minister to the Roosevelt family. I visited Uncle Roscoe when I was in New York in 1964. Among other things, he spoke of the great willpower of the Roosevelt family and in particular, of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s incredible determination in overcoming the onset of infantile paralysis (polio), which he contracted while the family vacationed at their summer home on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada.

This play is an extremely well produced encapsulation of that period in Roosevelt’s life, in 1921, just a year after having run as presidential hopeful James Cox’s vice president running mate. When Cox lost the bid for the presidency, Roosevelt returned to his law practice in New York, but still was a major political figure, involved in the Democratic Party political machinery. In this play, Roosevelt is surrounded by his children, his wife, Eleanor, his mother, Sara and his chief political advisor, Louis McHenry Howe.

Strength of character and the ability to pass that fortitude and hope on to others is what this remarkable play’s message is all about. Roosevelt’s strength of character and his ability to transfer that feeling of possibility on to a nation in the midst of a terrible depression, and then in the midst of the horrific 2nd world war, helped us to rebound and serge forward, to become a bigger and better partner in the arena of world affairs. This story takes us back to Roosevelt’s first great challenge, his encounter with polio, his unremitting determination to overcome his adversity, which begins to give us some insight into the moral and physical fiber of a great man. Just as it was then, so it is now, academic and historical political credentials are not the only criteria by which we might choose our great and important leaders.

The play begins with the family, following a strenuous day of playing at the beach, when Franklin comes down ill and is finally diagnosed several weeks later with infantile paralysis. This story shows us Franklin’s determined battle to overcome the illness and his monumental struggle to try to get strength back in his damaged legs, to allow him to stand without crutches. While he never completely conquered the damaging and debilitating effects of the illness, he finally accomplished the challenge of being able to stand (with leg braces) long enough to deliver the nearly hour long introductory speech for the party’s nomination of presidential candidate, Alfred E. Smith, in 1924.

This is a wonderful tale of family dynamics, of love and frustration, even disclosing some of the personal family in-fighting, and above all, the unending support that eventually helped Roosevelt to recover sufficiently to rise to the nomination for President of the United States, eleven years later, in 1932. As you may remember, Roosevelt was the only President ever elected to four consecutive terms in the history of our country.

Director Richard Elliott has certainly excelled in large part due to his foresight in choosing a stellar cast and in choosing such a superb support team.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is played perfectly by Tim Hendrixson and his incredible wife, Eleanor, is played equally well by Diana Boos. Franklin’s powerhouse mother, Sara, is played in extraordinary fashion by Barbara Grant. Political advisor Louis McHenry Howe is deftly characterized by Cassidy Brown. Franklin’s determined and articulate personal secretary, “Missy” LeHand is played well by Jan Lee Marshall. The Franklin’s daughter, Anna, is played very well by Kathleen Brower. Son’s, James Roosevelt (Jonathan Bock), John Roosevelt (Jack Indiana), and Franklin Roosevelt Jr. (David Kahawah), all contribute significantly to the production. Another excellent performance was given by Allen Pontes as Governor Al Smith. Several more actors contributed to the very powerful production, namely, Jeff Trescott, Ben Knoll and Alan Bare.

The excellent set was designed by one of my favorite set designers, John-Francois Revon, with costumes by Robin Speer, lighting by Robert Anderson and sound by Sean McStravick.

This brilliantly acted, highly moving and uplifting play, Sunrise At Campobello, continues Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m., and with Sunday performances at 3 p.m., now through June 1st. The Willows Theater is located in the Willows Shopping Center at 1975 Diamond Blvd., next to REI sporting goods. Ticket prices range between $30 and $40 with discounts for students, seniors and groups. Call the box office at (925) 798-1300 or visit their website at for more information. The main box office is located in Martinez, in the Willows sister theatre, the Campbell Theater located at 636 Ward Street. Tickets ordered by phone may be picked up at the Willows Theatre in Concord on the night of the show.

Beauty and the Beast and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde take their audiences for a grand ride in San Jose!

San Jose theatrical entertainment is as professional as it gets and it gets better with every passing theatrical season. It is rare that I can rave about two shows in the South Bay in one week, but for absolute certain, I have to give both American Musical Theatre and San Jose Repertory Theatre of San Jose a big hi-five for this week’s stellar performances.

The American Musical Theatre is currently producing a Walt Disney classic love story and outrageous comedy for the entire family, “Beauty and the Beast”. Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, the San Jose Repertory Company is presenting much the opposite in entertainment, the classic horror story, written in the late 1800’s by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”!

I realize that a lot of theaters are doing Beauty and the Beast and one can always expect a lot when Disney is attached to any production, let alone when the production is put together by the very talented people at San Jose Musical Theatre. Great in every aspect is what you get. Great acting, great voices, great set design and costumes are just the tip of the San Jose “Nice Berg” when it comes to this show. Director Glenn Casale has teamed up with Musical Director Craig Barna and Choreographer John Macinnis to bring together an international mix of theatrical design experience with high expectations.

This is a delightful fairy tale about a young woman, Belle (played by Nikki Renee Daniels), who is made fun of by her peers because she is an avid book reader and seeker of wisdom and truth. She also demonstrates great character as she repeatedly refuses the romantic advances of a very handsome but self-centered young man by the name of Gaston (Edward Staudenmayer). At the same time, she maintains a strong family bond with her father. Belle’s father, Maurice (Stephen Pawley), is a hapless inventor who is very intelligent, but eccentric. Maurice has entered his latest invention in a contest for inventors, but in order to get to the site of the fair, he must traverse the deep, dark and foreboding woods.

On the way to the woods, Maurice becomes lost. He wanders in the darkness until he comes to a large castle, completely overgrown with dense forest. He calls out for help and is admitted into this strange castle and discovers, to his dismay, that he has been taken prisoner by a large, strange, half-man/half-beast creature, for trespassing.

Meanwhile, back in the village from whence Maurice came, Gaston is still trying to persuade Belle to marry him. She scoffs him off and remains aloof from his perpetual pestering. When a close friend of Gaston, Lefou (Jeff Skowron), comes back into town after a trip into the woods, he is wearing Maurice’s scarf, a scarf that Belle knows quite well, as she wove it for her father. She demands that Lefou tell her how he came by the scarf. When he admits that he found it in the woods, Belle becomes afraid for her scatter-brained father and rushes off to rescue him.
Sooner than later, Belle comes across the Castle in the woods, and like her father, ventures inside, locates her father and begs that the creature allow her to take her father’s place. The father is allowed to return to the village and is thought crazy for his wild and wacky story about his daughter being held captive in a forgotten castle.

The castle is an enchanted castle, enchanted by a witch who was rejected by a young prince when she appealed to him to provide her sanctuary during a storm. Rejected and infuriated, the witch cast a horrific spell on the young prince, his castle, and all of his servants, for the prince’s lack of humility and concern for others. The curse gradually turns the prince into a hideous creature and all his servants into physical platitudes in keeping with their servant duties and names. There is Cogsworth (Michael Ray Wisely), the head servant, who is gradually transforming into a grandfather clock. In addition, Lumiere (Ron Wisniski), is becoming a grand candelabra, and Babette (Lindsey Bracco), a household maid, has pretty well converted into a large feather duster. Mrs. Potts (Jeanne Lehman) is rapidly becoming a full-fledged teapot, accompanied by her son, Chip (Tony Sinclair or Will Haubl), who is nothing more than a tea cup on a service cart or a “chip off the old block”, if you will. The personal maid known as Madame de la Grande Bouche (Marsha Mercant), is a grand dressing cabinet. The witch left the prince one opportunity to redeem himself and save the others of his household. She has left an enchanted red rose behind, that like a clock, shows that time is running out with the release of each withered petal. If he could find someone who truly loves him (looking as horrible as he does), before the last petal drops, then a kiss of true love will release him and the others from this dreadful enchanted life.

Now that Belle is held captive in the castle, will the opportunity arise for her to reverse the spell, find true love, save all the delightful characters in the enchanted castle, wed the creature and provide a safe haven for her father? You will have to see the show to find out, but let me encourage you to attend this outstanding and fanciful musical comedy and come away entranced and uplifted as did I. This is without a doubt, a great show for folks of all ages.

This terrific musical plays Tuesdays through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., continuing with Sunday matinee at 1 p.m., and a Sunday evening performance very early at 6:30 p.m., closing this coming Sunday evening. Call 1(888) 455-SHOW (7469) or purchase them on line at The American Musical Theater of San Jose is located in the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts at 255 Almaden Blvd. in San Jose. Tickets range in price between, $14.75 and $74.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde takes on an even darker side, with four Hydes along for the ride!

The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written many years ago by Robert Louis Stevenson, has been a widely acclaimed thriller and repeated many times upon the professional stage. Each production I have seen, including the touring Broadway musical version, have been very exciting, but seldom encapsulate the power and evil of the book itself. This new production and adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher, may be the most powerful yet. It is stunning visually, shocking verbally, and a totally captivating production.

There are very few shows by which I am so completely entranced that I can hardly take a moment to take notes. That was certainly the case until very near the end of this production. I sat there spell-bound, frozen to my seat by the incredible work in front of me. The heart-stopping re-envisioning of this great work is something you absolutely must see. You must see it to fully appreciate its power.

Director David Ira Goldstein, has pulled together a group of actors who are well-known accomplished masters of their trade to put Hatcher’s work through its paces. What is unique in the story here is that Mr. Hyde’s multifaceted character, his warped criminal sensibility, his manipulative character, and his bombastic diabolical character are each demonstrated by employing four different actors to portray him throughout the show. The marvelous melding of Dr. Jekyll into Hyde as the elixir that releases the Doctor’s evil subliminal-self is brilliantly portrayed.

The story revolves around a brilliant doctor who believes that men have split personalities, and that there must be a way to separate each personality, to bring it to the fore as needed. When he finally finds the appropriate tincture, he sets out to study the perversity of his own hidden self. Unfortunately, he realizes too late, that both personalities, his and Hyde’s, are contained within one human being, and they cannot be separated forever. Over time, Mr. Hyde (who is played by Stephen D’Ambrose, Carrie Paff, Ken Ruta and Mark Anderson Phillips), as his evil self, commits more and more crimes, it becomes harder and harder for his rational primary personality, that known as Dr. Jekyll (R. Hamilton Wright), to be in control.

The acting is outstanding, including Anna Bullard as Elizabeth Jelkes (Hyde’s female companion), Stephen D. Ambrose as Sir Danver Carew (and several others), Mark Anderson Phillips as Dr. H.K. Lanyon, Ken Rutta as Dr. Jekyll’s solicitor, Gabriel Utterson, Carrie Paff as many different characters and Alan Kaiser as an orderly.

Even the set, especially the “red door concept” designed by Kent Dorsey, was thrilling, intriguing and contributed immensely to the overall affect this show delivers.

This is probably the most powerful presentation of this play that I have seen to date and I strongly suggest that if you enjoy this kind of a thriller, then do not miss this stunning production.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” plays Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., with Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. and Sunday matinee performances at 2 p.m., now through Sunday, June 8th. Ticket prices range between $15 and $59 each. The San Jose Repertory Company Theatre is located at 101 Paseo de San Antonio, between 2nd and 3rd Streets, one block north of East San Carlos Street. Call (408) 367-7255 for reservations or visit their website online at for more information.

Also, remember, Scotts Seafood Restaurant is nearby at 185 Park Avenue and it is a great place to have dinner before you attend the American Musical Theatre, in the San Jose Center for the performing arts. It is practically across the street (diagonally) and you can park in the same building as the restaurant, have dinner, walk to the theater and quickly return to your vehicle afterwords. Call (408) 971-1700 for directions and reservations.