If David Smith-English had to choose one word to describe Clackamas Repertory Theatre's first new season in two years — it would be "fun."
Smith-English is CRT's artistic director and he noted that every one of the three upcoming productions will give audiences something to smile about.
First up is "Desperate Measures," from June 30-July 24; this will be followed by "The Sound of Music," from Aug. 4-28; and the final production is "The Book Club Play," set for Sept. 8-Oct. 2.
The three-production season was originally planned to open in summer of 2020, but pandemic restrictions put a stop to all live performances. And virus safety measures are still in effect.
Cyndy Smith-English, the executive director of CRT and David Smith-English's wife, noted that Actors' Equity Union, which represents professional actors, requires that all cast and crew must be vaccinated and boosted; they must also be tested two times a week for the first two weeks.
"We ask them to wear masks, except when they are on stage," she noted.
There have also been some cast changes and CRT is currently looking for an Equity actress for "The Book Club Play" and a 10-year-old boy for "The Sound of Music."
Audition notices will be on the CRT website at clackamasrep.org.
Cyndy Smith-English encourages people to take advantage of the $100 season ticket pass, including tickets to all three productions, which she calls a "screaming good deal."
Director Smith-English said this musical gone wild "follows Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' very closely," even to the point of being written in iambic pentameter.
"I love it—it makes the jokes work better," he noted.
"Desperate Measures" is set in Arizona in 1892 and revolves around handsome Johnny Blood who must put his fate into the hands of a colorful cast of characters including a mysterious sheriff, an eccentric priest, an authoritarian governor, a saloon girl gone good and a nun out of the habit.
"It's really a satire, and the references to today make it really fun and it involves the audience as well," Smith-English noted.
The cast includes Dave Cole (Johnny Blood), Alan King (Father Morse), Todd Hermanson (Sheriff Martin Green), Sarah DeGrave (Susanna AKA Sister Mary Jo), Mark Pierce (Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber) and Lauren Allison (Bella Rose).
'The Sound of Music'
Jayne Stevens, assistant managing director of CRT, will direct "The Sound of Music," one of the most popular musicals of all time; it is based on the real-life story of the Von Trapp Family Singers, in the era immediately preceding World War II.
Maria, a young nun in an Austrian abbey, becomes a governess in the home of Georg von Trapp, a widowed naval captain with seven children, and brings a new love of life and music into the home.
Classic songs from the musical include "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and "Do-Re-Me."
Cyndy Smith-English noted that she and her husband chose "The Sound of Music" to honor Jim and Janice Osterman, musical lovers who have been generous supporters of CRT for over 18 years. Unfortunately, Janice Osterman passed away, so now the play will honor her memory, David Smith-English said.
Merideth Kaye Clark plays Maria in the production and Leif Norby plays von Trapp; both actors are members of Actors' Equity Union and both have appeared before in CRT productions, including 2013's "Kiss Me Kate."
"When we thought about the show, those two were perfect for the roles," said David Smith-English.
He added, "Having those two in the cast sets the tone for the show."
Cynthia Smith-English added that Clark's two young daughters are in the musical, playing two of von Trapp's children.
'The Book Club Play'
"The Book Club Play" is the final offering in the CRT season; it follows what happens when a famous documentary filmmaker turns the camera onto the members of a book club.
"We find out how people misbehave when a camera is on them," Cyndy Smith-English said.
David Smith-English, the director of the play, noted that Mark Schwahn and Tom Walton, the two actors who were in last summer's CRT outdoor production of "Popcorn Falls" are in the play.
"I am totally looking forward to working with Tom again after 'Popcorn Falls.' He is one of my favorite actors to perform with. 'The Book Club Play' will be our sixth show in a row together," Schwahn said.
He plays Will, the ex-boyfriend of Ana and the college roommate of her husband Rob.
"Will is a fairly uptight, museum curator who is very passionate about book club and literature and who doesn't really approve of reading popular fiction," Schwahn said, adding that Will's past relationships with both Ana and Rob come to the surface in some very surprising ways.
Walton plays Rob, who is a "lovable, underachieving 'yes-man,' that slowly finds a voice and direction through his on-stage, book club revelations," he said.
He added, "I am over-the-moon excited to be onstage with Mark again. I feel as if I have found a timeless artistic partner and I am considering putting a clause in my future contracts that require a part for him as well."
Both men said that audiences will appreciate this funny story that doesn't shy away from dealing with relationships, both dysfunctional and genuine.
Live theater returns!
What: "Desperate Measures," "The Sound of Music" and "The Book Club Play"
When: Check website for dates and times
Where: Osterman Theatre at Clackamas Community College, 19600 S. Molalla Ave., Oregon City
Details: Season ticket holders pay only $100 for all three productions. To purchase tickets, visit clackamasrep.org/tickets-events or call 503-594-6047.
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