From the big tomato to the Big Apple

Jeff Gurner, Heather Ayers and John Bolton in the second course of Five Course Love<i>.</i>

Jeff Gurner, Heather Ayers and John Bolton in the second course of Five Course Love.

At the same time that many of us are coming home for the holidays, three plays with Sacramento roots are making progress in the wide world.

Sacramento composer Gregg Coffin’s Five Course Love began an open-ended run at the Minetta Lane Theatre, an off-Broadway venue, in mid-October. The reviews have been favorable. Syndicated columnist Liz Smith called it “a smashing production.” Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times said Coffin (who wrote the music, lyrics and book) has “a nice ear for catchy tunes.” Associated Press writer Peter Santilli wrote that the show offers “heaping servings of silliness … we’re also treated to more meat and potatoes than is commonly found in the average silly musical.” Back Stage predicted that “the show could have a profitable life after New York.”

Five Course Love originated at the Geva Theatre in Rochester, N.Y., and had an extended run with the Sacramento Theatre Company last spring. There was also a dinner cabaret production in Oregon. As Coffin told SN&R last week, those three productions “taught our team volumes about how to deal with the show in New York City.”

“We knew what played and what didn’t,” Coffin said. “What we didn’t know was whether or not there would be an audience in the Village or if we would have to go hunting in Long Island and New Jersey. The latter proved true. This show is a regional show, and those are the audiences that want to see it.”

Sacramento actress Janis Stevens also got fine notices in New York when she took Rick Foster’s one-woman play about actress Vivien Leigh, Vivien, to the Beckmann Theatre last September. Scott Harrah, writing for Show Business Weekly, said Stevens “gives one of the best biographical portrayals the New York stage has seen [recently].” Barbara and Scott Siegel of said, “It’s no small challenge to play a legend in a one person show, but Janis Stevens will surprise you—as she surprised us.” The show is up for consideration for a Drama Desk Award, and there’s talk of an off-Broadway run. Vivien was developed in part at California Stage in Sacramento and later had a run at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where it also got good reviews.

Sacramento playwright and producer William A. Parker has announced that his Waitin’ 2 End Hell will be recorded in Los Angeles in December for DVD release. The play, staged modestly in Sacramento several years back, enjoyed an extended run in New York two years ago, earning reviews in The New York Times and The Village Voice.