Three wonderful and exciting shows, "Scrooge", "Swingtime Canteen" and "OVO" delight this reviewer! Aurelia's Oratorio and Christmas Carol and the Rrazz Room too , Something old, something new - - This week's offerings are sure to delight you!

Cirque Du Soleil's celebrates 25 years by opening "OVO" in San Francisco!

Photo of "The Master" by Beniot Fontaine

The Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette is presenting a new twist on Dickens’ Christmas Carol in a delightful musical version entitled simply “Scrooge” which you may remember was a very successful movie made in 1970. The movie starred Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Marley’s ghost. The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards including: Best Art Direction (Terence Marsh, Robert Cartwright , Pamela Cornell); Costume Design (Margaret Furse), Best Original Song, and Best Score.

The book and lyrics for this musical were written by Leslie Bricusse, who is a British songwriter and composer known for many, many award winning songs, songs that have provided many actors and singers with some huge hits. Some of Bricusse’s more famous songs and singer combinations are as follows: Sammy Davis, Jr. had hits with two of Bricusse's songs - "What Kind of Fool Am I?" (from Stop the World - I Want to Get Off) and the #1 hit "The Candy Man" (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Other recording artists who have had popular success with his songs include Matt Monro and Frank Sinatra ("My Kind of Girl"), Shirley Bassey ("Goldfinger"), Nancy Sinatra ("You Only Live Twice"), Maureen McGovern ("Can You Read My Mind"), and Diana Krall ("When I Look in Your Eyes"). Bricusse also sang the opening theme of the U.S. television series, “It's A Living.”

This musical takes the Christmas Carol story to a new level of entertainment and introduces several songs that have become popular in their own right; for example, “Thank You Very Much”, “I Hate People” and “It’s Not My Fault”.

Director Jessica Richards has done an excellent job with a show that is greatly simplified by utilizing a set that provides a constant background for the story. In addition, and most importantly, she has selected an excellent cast consisting of many local actors whom I have had the good fortune to encounter before. I doubt that there is anyone in my reading audience who is not familiar with the story of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”, so I won’t belabor the story itself, just the nuances that make this show particularly enjoyable. Scrooge (played in excellent fashion by John Blytt) is irascible in the beginning, but becomes more human throughout his encounter with the three ghosts. His transition is quite joyful and there is at least one scene that is quite different, quite funny, the funeral scene. In this production, Scrooge finds all of these people celebrating outside his home and they are singing “Thank You Very Much!”, knowing what Scrooge does not know or realize, that his debtors are celebrating the fact that he has recently died and they will now be released from their debt to him.

The cast includes Clive Worsley (Town Hall’s artistic Director) as Bob Cratchit, Melynda Kiring (as Mrs. Cratchit and a number of other characters), Dennis Markham, who plays Scrooge’s nephew and Grace Miazga-Chaffery, who has an incredible voice and plays very well Fezziwig’s daughter. Randy Anger is outstanding in his role as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He plays several other characters with great credulity as well. The various children are quite superb (students of the Town Hall theatrical education programs), including Aiden Behrendt who has a sweet voice and portrays young Tiny Tim. I just don’t have space today to cover every actor who deserves credit, instead I will just strongly encourage you to go and see "Scrooge" which plays now through December 20th. Shows are at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with a 2 pm matinee and 7 pm evening show on December 13th and 20th, and a 3 pm matinee on December 19th. Ticket prices range between $12 for children 12 and under, with all others ranging between $22.50 and $29.50. The Town Hall Theater is located at 3535 School Street at the corner of Moraga Road in Lafayette. Call the Box office at 283-1557 for reservations or contact the website at for additional information or to purchase tickets on line. Fun music, excellent voices, great fun, go “Scrooge” yourself this Christmas!

Don't wait until springtime, its swingtime right now, in Walnut Creek. with Diablo Actor's Ensemble's "Swingtime Canteen".

Diablo Actors Ensemble in Walnut Creek is bringing back some of the second World War’s more pleasant memories and songs, that I am writing to you about on this December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, in their production of “SWINGTIME CANTEEN. ” Picture a foggy evening on December 23rd, 1944 in a USO Canteen in London. Four very lovely ladies are gathered to entertain our troops (you the audience), both British and American stationed in London.

These delightful dames are there to sing those great songs of that era and they are performing their hearts out to entertain our fighting troops who are out on a little R&R (Rest and Recreation) for the evening. The gals come from every walk of American life, from a Hollywood glamour gal to the sweet little girl next door. But when the top brass discover that this entertainment group is an all-female unit, about to disembark for the Pacific War Front, they send the girls a telegraph message that they may not send them after all, feeling this may be too dangerous.

Despite the air raids with bombs bursting nearby, the threat of cancellation, and other personal setbacks, USO Swingtime Canteen Corps Unit 319, sings and swings through all those fabulous favorites from the early forties. You'll hear "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree", "Sentimental Journey", "Sing, Sing, Sing", "I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time" and many more! The off-Broadway production ran for over 300 performances and was a smash hit. This show is directed by Scott Fryer with musical direction by Kim Vetterli - who plays a piano with passion alongside her husband, Dick Vetterli, who plays a mean set of drums.

This show is a real sentimental journey back to a time when good and evil seemed more easily defined, and everyone pulled together for a greater cause. “SWINGTIME CANTEEN” is based on a real event that took place on Christmas Day 1942. On that day Coca-Cola sponsored an 11 hour marathon radio program that broadcast live programming from 43 separate army and navy bases. In the show, the band from the Hollywood Canteen has arrived in London to take part in this broadcast. At holiday-time, a Christmas medley of I'll Be Home for Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas are performed with gusto.

Four delightful actresses: Jessica Fisher plays the very sexy Hollywood bombshell “Marriane”, Laura Morgan delivers a terrific portrayal of “Topeka”, Laurel Ryerson delivers a soul searching and self-absorbed Lilly McVey, looking for a good agent, Jenna Stich plays well Katie, a younger more innocent family member just tagging along.

Hope Birdwell does an excellent job with costumes and Loren Hoselton has created a simple set that works well.

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and drop that bag of troubles behind the door at the “SWINGTIME CANTEEN”, located in the Diablo Actors’s Ensemble Theatre at 1325 Locust Street in Walnut Creek. Call (866)811-4111 for tickets and reservations. This show plays Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm, with the Friday the 18th show at 8:30 pm, Saturday matinees at 2 pm. Why don’t you take in this most enjoyable evening of nostalgia, reliving those great old favorites from the forties, along with some excellent acting in a fun filled show, which continues now through December 20th. There is a large public parking garage right across the street from the theatre.

Cirque Du Soleil celebrates 25 years by laying a new egg on our Bay Area doorstep, an "OVO" that will bring ovations and adulation, an "egg"-stra ordinary show from every aspect.

In San Francisco, Cirque Du Soleil is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an “egg”-septional tribute to the importance of the little things in our lives, the world of insects, in their new U.S. Premier of “OVO”. For the first time ever, a Cirque du Soliel production is headed by “Gasp” - - - “A WOMAN”. This woman, Deborah Colker, is first and foremost a dancer/choregrapher who is originally from Brazil. She is also the first female director of a Cirque production.

This company has been producing mind-popping, eye dazzling, deliciously creative art form acrobatic spectaculars since their humble beginning as street performers on many little corners in Quebec, Canada 25 years ago. From the water wonder of the world, the “O” production in Las Vegas, to Alegria, to Dralion, to Ka, to Kooza, to Mystére, through the balance of 20 shows being produced world-wide, and now “OVO” in San Francisco, Cirque du Soleil is the most prominent Circus entertainment company in the world.

This production is bound to be another smash hit as the characters ( a world of fantastic insects) perform a panoplies of juggling, tight-rope walking, wall climbing, trampoline jumping, high-wire trapeze acts, contortionism, all bringing the best performers in all the world into their circus tent to provide you with breath taking excitement. The costumes are always artistic wonders, the choreography a magnificent blending of dance, acrobatics and music and melding them into a kaleidoscope of brilliant and breath-taking colors and unusual images. There were so many acts that kept me glued to the seat that I cannot begin to describe them all. Beginning with a troop of “ants” passing kiwi slices one to another down a line, and in every configuration you could imagine slices of fruit being transported, back to the nest. There were a pair of aerialists who performed after one emerged from a dangling cocoon of silky material in what resembled a beautiful metamorphosis. A wonderful pair of romantic aerialists flew through space on a dangling rope. An incredible slack-rope walker amazed us with his balancing act and trampoline artists bounced their way into our hearts. The cast of “OVO” comprises of 54 performing artists from 13 different countries.

When a mysterious egg appears in their midst, the insects are blown away and incredibly curious as to what this iconic object can be. Everyone wants to adopt it, to take it home with them and in the process of finding it a proper home, love blooms, magical feats astound and humor soars in this colorful, wonderful hidden secret world of make-believe!

Once again Cirque du Soleil has found another way to dazzle our senses and suspend our reality in a show that exudes great beauty, combined with unearthly and mystical musical accompaniment. In Latin, “OVO” means egg, and the egg in this show is the symbol of evolving life force, the cycle of life. In this show we experience a unique glimpse into a miniature part of life in a little world all around us, perhaps a lot more colorful and humorous than we could ever imagine.

“OVO” continues through January 24th in the great blue and gold tents adjacent to the AT&T park at Third Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard in San Francisco. The performance schedule reveals Tuesdays through Saturdays show begin at 8 pm, on Fridays and Saturdays there are additional performances at 4 pm, and on Sundays there are performances at 1 pm and 5 pm. There are no performances on Mondays. Tickets range between $45 and$135 per seat and can be ordered by calling 800-450-1480 or by contacting their website at for more information.

Lucie Arnaz lights up the Rrazz Room in San Francisco!

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This week’s entertainment guide covers a number of entertainment opportunities around the Bay Area, including that grand perennial old Christmas favorite, the Center Repertory Company’s “A Christmas Carol” being performed in Walnut Creek, as well as a delightful revisioning of the Invisible Circus of “Imaginaire” in “Aurella’s Oratorio” at Berkeley Repertory Company in Berkeley. In addition, we will explore another entertainment venue called the Rrazz Room, in San Francisco.

Aurelia’s Oratorio (Cirque du opera) brings a standing ovation in Berkeley!

"A Christmas Carol" delights young and old alike in Walnut Creek!

Center Repertory Company's Director Scott Denison has honed his artistic palette down to a fine art with his current production of Charles Dickens’ heartwarming tale of reclamation. No matter how many times I see this company’s production, even in its 12th reincarnation, this great show always warms the cockles of my heart! The cast is re-engaged again this year, for the most part, in the same roles, but with a few important (albeit it subtle) changes to add some spice and variety.

Scrooge is once again captured perfectly by Jack Powell. It seems that even though I raved about his genuinely moving performance last year, he has even grown more believable this year. Bob Cratchit is again delivered convincingly by Jesse Caldwell. Marley’s Ghost is even better this year with the sterling performance of Jeff Draper and Evan Lachman is quite excellent as Tiny Tim, a role played eleven years ago by his older brother, Daniel Lachman. Daniel has moved on to play Tiny Tim’s older brother, Peter Cratchit in this production. Michael A. Berg delivers the most delightful Fezziwig ever and Michael Ray Wisely is back again (thank goodness) as the wonderfully whimsical and devilish Ghost of Christmas Present. Wisely’s portrayal is one portrayal I really look forward to each year, as he is the best of the best in this wonderful role. Kerri Shawn once again reprises in superb fashion the role of Mrs. Cratchit. One very important contributor each and every year is the musical quartet that adds Christmas carol music to enhance the mood. This quartet adds measurably to the mood of this production in clear and beautiful tones and its members consist of Robin Melnick, Barbara Reynolds, Tim Reynolds and Molly Thornton. As you are well aware, there is a plethora of fine acting talents that bring this show to full realization, far more that I could begin to applaud individually.

Fine actors who know their roles and their character bring "A Christmas Carol" to life again and again, but it could never happen without the excellent creative team that consists of Director Scott Denison, Costume Designer Melissa Anne Davis, Choreographer Jennifer Perry, Sound Designer Jeff Mockus, Music Director Mark Hanson and Lighting Designer John Earls.

Certainly everyone must be familiar with this tale of the hard-hearted money lender, Scrooge, who considers Christmas reveling a humbug! This is the magical story of how his former business partner, Jacob Marley, returns to the living world on the eve of his death to give his old associate a spiritual warning that the life he has lead while alive on this earth, will influence his experience of life in the afterworld. He foretells of visitations from three spirits who will arrive, one after the other. They are his only means of possible redemption and will give him one opportunity to amend his heartless ways and find redemption in the eyes of his fellow men.

This perfect theatrical experience lightens the heart and encourages even more compassion toward those less fortunate than ourselves, in these very difficult times. “A Christmas Carol” continues tomorrow morning with a 9:30 am performance along with 7:30 pm performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., closing this coming Sunday, December 20th. Call (925) 943-7469 or visit their website at for ticket information. The Box Office is open Tuesday-Thursday, Noon-6:00pm, Friday-Saturday Noon-7:30pm, and Sunday Noon-6pm.

Aurelia’s Oratorio (Cirque du opera) brings a standing ovation in Berkeley!

The Berkeley Repertory Theatre is currently presenting a very different entertainment opportunity with a stage show that is an entertainment evolution of circus skits, slight of hand, slight of body, aerial daring do and stage illusion, brought to us from French actress, Thierree Chaplin in the form of “Aurelia’s Oratorio”. Miss Thierree grew up in show business, performing in intimate troupes that introduced the idea of cirque noveau. With dancing, puppetry, acrobatics and unimaginable body manipulation and slight of hand, a whimsical evening of fantasy and imagination fills her audience with awe and applause.

Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, along with her husband Jean Baptiste Thierrée, created Cirque Bonjour, Cirque Imaginaire and Cirque Invisible, innovative troupes that inspired Cirque du Soleil.

After watching this incredible show of acrobatic dancers, the thought that captured my imagination was that there has never before been a more “Material Girl”, who uses flowing folds of curtains, drapes, clothing and material to such great imagination and flourish.

In the opening act, she gives new meaning to the term “dresser drawers”. A chest of dresser drawers stands by itself center stage. It becomes a chest of drawers in which one actually dresses! This you can only see to believe as Miss Thierree appears to don her entire evening apparel from undergarments to dress to shoes while extracting each article from its respective drawer, while she herself seems to reside, to be completely contained, within the same dresser at the same time while she is dressing. You’ve heard of slight-of-hand, well this is a demonstration of what might well be called “slight-of-body!”

She becomes a stage magician, using what appears to be the stage curtains as her aerial acrobatics tools, as she wanders in and out of the folds of the curtains, ascends the curtains, descends the curtains, engages the curtains in more ways than one could ever imagine her doing so. She glides above and across the stage on material aerial ropes and bands of material much as a fireman would use a pole to descend in a firehouse. She and her team of performers perform a series of delightful skits, puppet shows, freak shows, a kite “flying a person”, and acts that are reminiscent of vaudeville and traveling circus performers from many years ago. It is a 70 minute chaos of clever skits that keep you engrossed from beginning to end, and leave you begging for more.

Aurelia’s Oratorio will delight audiences with performances on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with earlier performances on Wednesdays and Sundays at 7 p.m., and matinees on Sundays at 2 p.m., now through Sunday, January 24th. Tickets range in price from $33 to $71 with a $10 discount for seniors and students one hour before curtain. You can and should (if at all possible) visit their website at to help you perceive what this incredible show is all about. The Berkeley Repertory Rhoda Theatre is located at 2025 Addison Street in Berkeley. You may call (510) 647-2949 for tickets and more information as well. Box office hours are noon to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

Lucie Arnaz lights up the Rrazz Room in San Francisco!

There is a sophisticated new night club in San Francisco that is offering the best in cabaret, jazz, comedy and popular entertainment that is eager to earn your appreciation and it is the Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko, located at 222 Mason St., San Francisco.

Karen and I visited the closing performance of Lucie Arnaz last night and thoroughly loved every minute of it. My wife often listens to Ronn Owens and Brian Copeland on radio station KGO (810 on the radio dial) and picks up on the many delightful guests they have on their shows. This past week, Brian interviewed the multi-talented actress, singer, dancer and producer, Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. My wife was so intrigued by her interview that she suggested we call the Rrazz Room and see if there was any chance we could get in to see her final show before she left this venue this past week. We were fortunate to get in with our last minute request and were totally captivated by her outstanding performance and terrific band, led by her pianist and music arranger, Ron Able.

Lucie tells about her life in the entertainment business, mixed with memorable melodies that embraced aspects of her life and even about her husband, actor-producer Laurence Luckinbill and their children. Starting with music by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Chuck Steffan and Ron Able, moving on to Madeline Stone, and “All I am is just a Housewife” (a song from the musical “Working”), and finally to restored arrangements of music and songs originally written by her father, Desi Arnaz, the entire evening was an exhilarating evening of great listening and storytelling.

If you by any chance remember the good old days in Las Vegas, when you could go to a night club and enjoy great entertainment without having to mortgage your house, then the Rrazz Room will bring back fond memories of intimate entertainment where you feel like you are in the entertainer’s living room and he or she is speaking and singing directly to you. By all means, drop in at the Hotel Nikko on Mason Street. You can call for reservations at (866) 468-3399 and/or visit their website to get a flavor of the terrific variety of coming events. With new acts and performers almost nightly, you need to visit the website. By the way, Karen and I are planning to see Florence Henderson entertain in the Rrazz Room beginning on January 5th. We saw Ashford and Simpson there two weeks ago.

The Rrazz Room has a two-drink minimum for all-ages and seating is host escorted and assigned on a first come first serve basis. They have a variety of very nice drinks, alcohol or not, and they have a bistro meal menu. What is really cool is that they even have a dress code: upscale casual; inappropriate attire includes ripped jeans (I don’t care what they cost!), flip flops, baseball caps, and jerseys! Tickets to the Rrazz Room events are non-refundable. Prices range between $30 to $80 each, depending on the performer and /or event.