Music Circus’ 2009 season: flappers, lumberjacks, cats

What’s not to love about Music Circus’ seven summer shows?

<i>Thoroughly Modern Millie </i>opens the Music Circus season with thoroughly modern flappers.

Thoroughly Modern Millie opens the Music Circus season with thoroughly modern flappers.

Photo By charr crail

Now that truly hot weather has arrived, it’s time for the Music Circus to rev up. This year’s program features seven summer musicals that will play short runs during July and August.

The season opens with Thoroughly Modern Millie (July 7-12). This show began as a movie musical in 1967 and transitioned to the stage in 2002. It’s a spoof of entertainment from the “flapper era” of the 1920s, about a small-town girl who goes to the big city hoping to marry a wealthy man and strike it rich. The title role will be played by Sacramento native Mara Davi, who has appeared in several Broadway shows.

Next up is Altar Boys (July 14-19), a 90-minute send-up of “boy bands” along the lines of ’N Sync. The show will be put together by the same team (director Stafford Arima, choreographer Christofer Gatelli) that guided the still-running off-Broadway production in New York.

The classic Guys and Dolls comes next (July 21-26). It’s been 15 years since the Music Circus has mounted this old chestnut, which was brand new back when the Music Circus was founded in 1951. Actor Gary Beach, a Tony winner in 2002, will play gambler Nathan Detroit.

Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods follows (July 28-August 2). It’s a witty and musically complex inversion of several well-known fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, retold from a somewhat more sophisticated and ironic point of view, including the upside and downside of wish fulfillment.

A dance-oriented piece of Americana, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, will also hold the stage (August 4-9). Originally developed as a Hollywood musical (with a cowboy/Western setting) in the 1950s, Seven Brides was later reworked as a stage piece, and it’s proven popular with Sacramento audiences. This will be the sixth Music Circus production since 1984.

Man of La Mancha will tilt at windmills (August 11-16), with Walter Charles (veteran of 13 Broadway productions) as Don Quixote. This show was hugely popular in the 1970s (with four Music Circus productions). The score is anchored by the anthemic song “The Impossible Dream.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats wraps up the summer series with the longest run of the season, almost two weeks (August 18-30). Veteran actor Ken Page will play bewhiskered Old Deuteronomy, a role he created in the original Broadway production back in 1983. Cats falls into the category of shows that audiences love (and critics generally love to hate): It’s got a lot of furry costumes and feline mannerisms, with an episodic structure that puts more emphasis on style than story. Touring productions have visited Sacramento several times; this will be the second Music Circus production (the first was in 2003).

A special fundraising event, featuring legendary actress Carol Channing, has been added on August 31. Proceeds will benefit California Musical Theater, which produces the Music Circus series, hosts touring shows on the Broadway Sacramento series, and runs the Cosmopolitan Cabaret in downtown Sacramento. Channing will be joined by Jo Anne Worley and others for a two-hour performance. Tickets ($75 and $250) are being sold separately from Music Circus subscription plans.