Tom Durkin
Special to Prospector

Sierra Stages kicks off season with Sondheim’s ‘Company’

Having racked up five Elly Awards and an impressive 38 nominations in its first five seasons, Sierra Stages opens its sixth season with an ambitious production of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy “Company.”

Opening next week, Feb. 27, at the Nevada Theatre, “Company is different than any other musical ever written,” enthused Ken Getz, musical director.

“It’s 11 one-act plays linked together with songs that connect the action,” he explained. “It’s nonlinear, but every scene is a gem.”

The action revolves around Robert (played by J.R. Lewis), a conflicted 35-year-old bachelor with five couples for friends and three girlfriends (“a baker’s dozen of local and regional actors,” said Getz).

“It’s really a nice piece with good parts for everybody,” said Peter Mason, production director and president of the board of the nonprofit Sierra Stages community theater.

Everybody sings and dances, sometimes all together. The couples are each in different stages of love, marriage and divorce – and they all have funny and sometimes poignant advice on whether Robert (aka Bobby and Bubie) should get married. The girlfriends, of course, have their own ideas.

“Company” was one of the first adult-themed musical comedies on Broadway in 1970, but, “It’s still relevant,” Getz maintained. Society has changed, but men and women haven’t, he said.

Getz, on piano, will lead a live, nine-piece orchestra and four female singers known as “The Vocal Minority.”

“I love this show,” he grinned.

Season pass

“It usually comes down to what we want to do. Somebody has to have a passion to do it,” chuckled Robert Rossman, artistic director for Sierra Stages, as well as an actor and director.

Getz, Rossman and Mason, all founding members of Sierra Stages, gathered in their empty rehearsal studio Monday afternoon to talk with Prospector about “Company, the rest of the upcoming season, and the mission of Sierra Stages.

Known for their well-staged, well-acted Broadway style productions, Sierra Stages will follow up “Company” in July with J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan.”

“This is the original, not the musical,” Mason stressed. The cast will be mostly adults, and auditions are March 11 and 15. “We are always looking for new actors,” he added.

Then in September-October, Sierra Stages will end the season with the fun, family-friendly musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which will be directed by Rossman.

General admission for those shows is $25 each — or $55 for all three.

While Sierra Stages specializes in well-known mainstream plays that tend to appeal to a large audience, they also like to push the limits.

This year, they are producing “Proof” in May. Although the play won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play in 2001, the producers don’t feel it will have as wide an appeal. Therefore, it is priced separately.

Building on success

“It’s the mission of Sierra Stages to present plays that are affordable, accessible and quality productions,” said Mason.

Of course, quality doesn’t come cheap. Although in true community theatre style, virtually everybody works for free, Mason did say certain talent, both on stage and backstage, do get stipends.

And if a show has a good run, there are sometimes bonuses, he said.

Having established itself as one of Nevada County’s premiere theater companies, “our success has led people to ask for workshops,” Rossman revealed.

In conjunction with Wolf Gait Studio, Sierra Stages will present “The Actor Moves, An Introduction to Movement and Physicality for the Theatre” March 8.

The two-and-a-half-hour workshop will be taught by Rossman, a two-time Elly winner (best lead actor in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “Lend Me a Tenor”).

Tickets are $30 to participate, $15 to watch. Space is limited. For more information, contact Rossman at 530-0477-2564 or bob.rossman@sierrastages.org.

“We’re also planning a teen theatre workshop in the summer,” Rossman said.

Sierra Stages is also committed to fostering students by making tickets even more affordable. One hour before each performance, six free tickets are offered at the box office to students age 25 and under who present a valid student ID (limit of one ticket per ID). Student rush tickets will also be sold at the box office for $15, subject to availability, one-half hour before each performance.

Of course, if you want to get in for free, “We’re always looking for volunteers,” Mason suggested.

He urged both prospective actors and crew to call 530-346-3210 or email info@sierrastages.org to learn more about the opportunities with Sierra Stages.

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.


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The Union Updated Feb 21, 2014 01:02PM Published Feb 20, 2014 09:22AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.