Freewheeling family theater
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories
Mark Twain walked the streets of Sacramento (which he dubbed the “City of Saloons”) back in the 1860s, and wrote articles for the late, lamented Sacramento Union. There’s a local elementary school that bears his name, and students still read Twain’s stories in school. Kinda makes you wonder why the B Street Family Series (launched in 2002) is only now taking advantage of the local connection and doing an omnibus show based on Twain’s book The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (and six other short tales penned by Twain).
The great author is played by Greg Alexander in a wild wig, and he emcees what amounts to a variety show, with segments focusing on topics from a stolen elephant to a brutal barber. There are also stories about a good little boy (who gets blown sky high because he was carrying nitroglycerine) and a bad little boy (whose penchant for playing pranks and telling lies leads him to become a legislator as an adult). It should be noted that some of the adaptations are a bit freewheeling, but then again, that’s in the spirit of Twain’s originals (which were generally tall tales).
Plenty of costume changes, sound effects, country cousin accents and all manner of jokes—even a few short songs—feature in this fast-moving, family production. Director Lyndsay Burch keeps her cast—big Rick Kleber, skinny John Lamb, rubber-faced Amy Kelly, comic specialist Greg Alexander and promising intern Meaghan Macy—on the go throughout. Tony Poston’s sound design almost serves as a sixth cast member.