Disney creates magic on Ice and 42nd Street brings back those wonderful Lullabies of Broadway!

Walt Disney On Ice brings back to the Bay Area a delightful taste of Walt Disney’s “100 Years of Magic” with more than 60 of Disney’s characters from 18 wonderful stories all told in a superb show on ice in the HP Pavilion in San Jose this coming weekend, October 22nd through the 26th.

Can we ever get enough of the wonderful, magical stories of good overcoming evil, honor overcoming dishonor and love overcoming hatred, echoed again and again in the fantasies and fairy tales brought to life through the wonderful mediums of film and digital entertainment? Every year when I get a notice that Disney will be visiting our area I get excited because that means I’m going to be spending some more time with my grand-daughter at one of the Ice Arenas taking in the grand costumes, sets, music and choreography produced for the Disney Ice Shows.

My childhood friends, Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, the Princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio, are joined by the wonderful new Disney era of modern heros such as Aladdin, Mulan, Belle, Buzz Light-year and Woody, Nemo, Timon, Pumbaa, Stitch and the Incredibles, to name a few, in the current Disney On Ice traveling shows.

Bringing all these characters to life in one show doesn’t allow very much of the original tale to be told that encompasses each character or characters, but it doesn’t seem to matter to my granddaughter. She just grins and waves at each mini-production, each vignette as it wends its way around the ice stage and off, as the next group of Disney characters are introduced. Occasionally she exclaims “Jessie” or “Belle” as another of her favorite characters takes the stage. It is a marvelous parade, a magical parade and I am so glad I can share it with her.
Favorite songs come to life in the multi-ethnic, multi-national collage of characters who populate the beautifully presented “It’s a Small World” production. Dutch men and women, Russians, Pacific Polynesian Islanders mingle with Africans, Europeans, Asians, South Americans and children from all corners of the world come together to celebrate the oneness of the world. Spectacular lighting, fireworks and brilliant and beautiful skating thrill the audience in an evening of entertainment that passes much too quickly!

This is a great opportunity for you to take your children and their children down to the south Bay to revisit the many, many memories created by the Disney Studios over the years.
Every aspect of the production is outstanding due in large part to the contributions of Scott Lane (costume design), David Potts (scenic design), LeRoy Bennett (lighting design), Sarah Kawahara (choreographer) and Paul Guerrero (asst. choreographer). Jerry Bilik (director and story adaptation) brings all of these diverse elements together for a great evening of entertainment.

Production times are Wednesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at both 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., with Saturday performances at three different times, 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.. On Sunday, October 26th, there are two shows, 1:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. (the closing show). Tickets range in price depending on location and level, date and time and prices range between $16 and $45 each. The front row seats are called VIP seats and sell at the price of $75 each. You can purchase tickets by calling (510) 625-TIXS (8497) or on line at http://www.ticketmaster.com/ or any Ticketmaster outlet. This show remains in San Jose only for this one weekend before it moves on to another city. Don’t miss this great chance to “put a little joy in your life!” The HP Pavillion is located at 525 West Santa Clara Street in San Jose.

CCMT's "42nd Street" brings back an evening of wonderful dancing, music and humor to Walnut Creek.

“Come on along and listen to the lullaby of Broadway - - how sweet the sound and the lyrics of the grand modern musical, “42nd Street”. I call it a modern musical, although the original story evolved as a novel by Bradford Ropes and subsequently was made into a movie in 1933. In 1980, this new musical was a three million dollar gamble, taken by producer David Merrick, as all previous attempts to take a movie musical and re-write it and produce it as a Broadway musical, had been major failures (ie: the 1974 flop “Gigi”). Merrick thought the nostalgia craze sweeping the nation foretold an eagerness for audiences to look back at the great music of the 30’s and decided this was the time to take a jump back to the past to create a modern but “old fashioned” musical. He took “familiar” songs from the movie’s soundtrack and added a handsome dash of new but nostalgic music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin. Then he infused the feeling of Busby Berkeley’s choreographic magic, via the great genius of dance choreographer, Gower Champion, and “wa-la!” - - forty pairs of tap dancing feet created a cacophony of metallic and melodious sounds as the curtain slowly rose on the first act.

Unfortunately, opening night of that show brought with it the tragic revelation that the great Gower Champion had died of cancer only hours before this soon to be highly successful show opened. 42nd street turned out to be not only Champion’s last show, but Merrick’s final success!

The story tells the story of a major Broadway producer, Julian Marsh, trying to mount a musical at the height of the depression. But the story centers around a young and naïve dancer from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Peggy Sawyer (Courtney Iventosch), who arrives at the theatre and barges in at the tail end of the try-outs for a new musical. In the process, she practically runs over the famed director, Julian Marsh (Tom Reardon). Embarrassed, she rushes out of the theater, but leaves her purse behind, a purse with the worldly sum of $.30 in it.

Maggie Jones (Heidi Schmidt), an associate producer, gathers up Peggy’s purse and seeks her out after the rehearsal lunch break. Maggie and several girls from the chorus line invite the bewildered Miss Sawyer to join them for lunch at the “Automat”. When dance director Andy Lee (Martin Newton) runs into the girls on their way back to the theatre, he discovers that Peggy is a pretty darn good “hoofer” and before long, producer Marsh also discovers her talent as a dancer and creates a scenario where he suddenly needs a backup dancer, and Miss Sawyer is invited to join the company.

The star of Marsh’s new show is a well known but fading star, Dorothy Brock (played superbly by Terry Darcy D’Emidio). Brock arrives with a chip on her shoulder. Her very wealthy Texas boyfriend, Abner Dillon (Matthew Gracy), is putting up $100,000 to fund this show. We, the audience, discover that he is worse than ten stage mothers, telling the director and all who will listen, how he wants his girlfriend, Dorothy, treated and directed.

There are several sub-stories in the plot, including a secret but poor boyfriend of Dorothy Brock , Pat Denning (Vincent Perry), who hangs out backstage. Lead male dancer, Billy Lawlor (Jason Hite), mounts a romantic advance on Miss Sawyer as well. The show is packed with humor, romance, great dancing and music, and very funny lines. At one point, Maggie Jones tells Miss Sawyer, “All you need to know about musicians is that they keep them in a “Pit”, and that’s for a good reason!”

Miss Peggy Sawyer stumbles and fumbles her way into the hearts of her dance-mates and they help her to survive until the show is ready to open “in Philadelphia”! Miss Sawyer has a miscue in a dancing routine and causes a tragic collision with Dorothy Brock, who goes down with a broken ankle. Of course the producer, Marsh, has to cancel the run in Philadelphia when his lead dancer and starring actress (one in the same) ends up out of whack! Knowing that the show is about to fall into the abyss of theatrical also-rans, the cast goes in mass, to Marsh and implores him to put Peggy Sawyer into the lead role, certain that she has the voice, the looks and the effervescence to make the show work. Basically, the unproven “million-to-one-shot” proves to be a star underneath the nervous anxiety and does in fact, pull the show together.

Courtney Iventosch (Miss Sawyer) is a very talented dancer with a great voice and an incredible vitality. She also has the potential to be very attractive, but she is at this time, as thin as a bean pole, not exactly the look that inspires poems and passionate passes by the stage-door Johnnies! She is a first class, talented dancer and performer, but please, please find a way to put a little meat on her bones. I look forward to seeing this young lady perform again, in another show. She is superbly talented!

There are many very talented performers in this show who I have not mentioned. Heidi Schmidt (Maggie Jones) is a real professional with excellent stage presence and timing and a lady who exhibits great perfection in her characterization. Amy Nielson (another dancer by the name of Anne Riley) is terrific on all counts, a real asset to the show. Dancing lead, Billy Lawlor (Jason Hite), is an excellent and convincing young performer, with a superb voice. I wish I had more space to give kudos where due, but I am running out of space and time. Terry Darcy D’Emidio really brings a special poignancy to her role, and she almost steals the show!

I cannot say enough about the scenic design of the sets and background and foreground drops! The city and train “scapes” are really quite grand. Wow! Kelly Tighe has once again claimed the “top of the hill” designation for scenic design. Costumer Melissa Patterson has brought together perfect garments and everyone looks superb! Choreographer Renee DeWeese has brought together routines that should win an Olympic Gold Medal for excellence. This is a very tight, superbly directed musical, and under the magic wand of Jennifer Denison Perry it truly comes alive! Musical Director Ken Bergmann and his orchestra deliver the great music in this show with grand gusto!

The Contra Costa Musical Theatre is currently presenting this great musical in Walnut Creek at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts. “42nd Street” plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.. Call (925) 943-7469 (SHOW) for additional information or visit the website at http://www.lesherartscenter.org/ and click on the buy tickets on line. The Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts is located at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek.