My mother, dressed in her going-out clothes, sat down at the restaurant table to have a little lunch before seeing yet another (her second or third) visiting production of "Les Miserables," in San Francisco.
"How come?" I asked. "You never see anything more than once."
"I know, but this is different. It's such a wonderful musical; I just love it," she explained. "Have the prime rib sandwich, it's really good."
This was maybe 20 or 25 years ago. My mom and a couple of her pals from Lakeport hired a limo to drive them to the city. When we all met in front of the theater, the other ladies, dressed in their going-out clothes, were as giddy as my mom.
I thought about her when I learned rights to produce the show by regional and community theaters were available, and Walnut Creek's Contra Costa Musical Theatre would be closing its 53rd season March 21 with a production of "Les Miz" in the Lesher Center for the Arts.
Not particularly interested in seeing what I believed to be a musical about the French Revolution and high doses of passion, I didn't see the show until a couple of years later. I wound up seeing two tired road shows being herded around the country like so many cash cows. Then, a while later, I saw a fresh road show version of one of the revivals, and I loved it. I wore my going-out clothes; my mom would have been thrilled.
So go see the CCMT production, wear whatever you want, and prepare for some fun. The way I figure it is this: Music from "Les Miz," almost the entire show, actually, has been prized for auditioning actors for years, and numerous actors have lusted to be part of the musical. So there must be something to it.
And as it turns out, "Les Miz" tells a pretty incredible story, first published as a novel by Victor Hugo in the 19th century. It is the tale of Jean Valjean, who steals a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child, is sent to jail for 19 years, is released, violates his parole and spends much of his life on the run from the dogged Inspector Javert.
As he runs and hides, he meets an array of colorful characters and is caught up by the revolutionary group of young idealists who decide to make their last stand together. And there are tunes that have become classics, including, "I Dreamed a Dream," "Master of the House," "One Day More" and "Do You Hear the People Sing?"
The upcoming show has a pretty remarkable cast, including Noel Anthony (Valjean), Jerry Lee (Javert), Nicole Helfer, Derek Travis Collard, Robert Lopez, Catherine Bartomeo, Dae Spering, Alex Moore, Jade Shojaee, Brandon Beck and Michael McCarty, among others.
The show plays through April 20; tickets, at $46-$60, may be reserved at 925-943-7469 or www.ccmt.org.
"THE 39 STEPS": The wild farce based on the Alfred Hitchcock movie and a mystery novel by John Buchan is playing through March 22 at Pinole Community Playhouse.
Patrick Barlow adapted the show with tongue planted in cheek and bestowing considerable homage to Monty Python and Mel Brooks, so, yes, there is an unbridled passion for silliness. It is awash in kippered red herrings, hoary jibes at various Alfred Hitchcock movies, the pronunciation of tea and wild spoofs of 1930s thriller movies. Adding to its madcap pace is the fact that four actors play dozens of roles.
Performances are in the Community Playhouse, 601 Tennent Ave., Pinole. Tickets are $15-$18; call 510-724-9844 or go to www.pinoleplayers.org.
"WEEKEND COMEDY": The play by Jeanne Bobrick and Sam Bobrick is one of those light comedies that OnStage Theatre (and founder/artistic director Helen Means) discover and present so well.
This one is about two couples, one 50-something, the other 20-something, who have accidentally rented the same cabin for the weekend. Romance is on the minds of both couples. The older couple hope to rekindle theirs, the younger couple are celebrating four years together in unwedded bliss.
Means directs the show, which plays March 21-April 5 at Campbell Theatre, 636 Ward St., Martinez. Tickets, at $12-$18, may be reserved at 925-518-3277.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.