Midsummer stages heat up

David Kahawaii (left) is JoJo and Carl Danielsen is The Cat in the Hat in the Woodminster Musicals production of Seussical the Musical.

Summer used to be a dead time in Bay Area theater. No longer. Here are some hot shows to check out this weekend and in the weeks to come.

Terrence McNally, the man who wrote Master Class and Love! Valour! Compassion! wrote this pair of one-acts in the early ‘70s and set them in warring rest homes to examine how bucking the status quo can often be the best revenge. Square MaMa resurrects the one-acts for your summer viewing.
– Terrence McNally’s Bad Habits, through Aug. 30 at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th ST., San Francisco (one block from 16th Street BART station). www.squaremama.com

One of Canada’s most acclaimed performance art duos, 2boys.tv, Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard, bring their unique repertoire of “epic multimedia performance” to the States. Described as an “inimitable blend of burlesque, video projections, opera, show tunes and old films,” the boys will present Puree and Zona.
2boys.tv, through Aug. 31 at New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. $22-$34. 415-861-8972; www.nctcsf.org.

Every summer, Thunderbird Theatre premieres something funny. This year we get a show with a tag line: “Jane Austen Sucks (blood).” Yes, Jane Austen meets vampires in Pride & Succubus, the creation of Claire Rice.
– Thunderbird Theatre’s Pride & Succubus, through Aug. 23 at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom St., San Francisco. $17-$25. 415-289-6766; www.thunderbirdtheatre.com.

One of the most intriguing offerings of the summer, Gary Aylesworth’s The Ballad of Edgar Cayce is a “bluegrass operetta” about one of the world’s most famous so-called psychics who attempted to channel spirit voices to answer the great questions of existence such as: was there really an Atlantis? The show is performed by Aylesworth and Peter Newton, who also supply the live music.
– Gary Aylesworth’s The Ballad of Edgar Cayce, through Aug. 30 at Traveling Jewish Theatre, 47- Florida St., San Francisco. $15-$20. 415-831-1943; www.constructioncrewtheater.com.

The characters of Dr. Seuss come to musical life in Seussical the Musical created by the same team that brought Doctorow’s Ragtime to the stage. Kids and adults appreciate the travails of Horton, who hears a Who, Maisy the Duck, who admires her tail and the Cat in the Hat.
Seussical the Musical, through Aug. 17 at Woodminster Amphitheater, Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland. $23-$38. 510-531-9597; www.woodminster.com.

Carly Ozard, Lynn Ruth Miller, `Seven Brides’

Such a busy weekend so full of entertainment treats. Here’s a quick recap.

Friday night, on a whim, I headed down to the Octavia Lounge for the official cabaret debut of homegrown diva Carly Ozard, a musical theater performer about town. Her show, Bitter and Be Gay, is all about how men she meets while performing in musical theater usually turn out to be gay. The show’s cute tag line is: “Everything she touches turns to gay.” Imagine a cabaret version of Kathy Griffin and you’ll begin to get the idea.

Ozard, accompanied by pianist Barry Lloyd and bassist Daniel Fabricant, likes to refashion lyrics to songs to suit her show’s theme, usually to good comic effect, and when she chooses to use her big Broadway belt, she can make a strong emotional connection with her audience.

Unfortunately, Ozard’s show was a one-night-only gig, but if the folks at Octavia Lounge are smart, they’ll bring her back. This was an auspicious beginning to what could be a bright cabaret career. It’s been too long since we had a brassy, belting broad on the local cabaret stage.

Visit Ozard’s site: carlyozardlive.com

Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing two of the extraordinary Lynn Ruth Miller’s shows. The nearly 75-year-old writer/storyteller/actor is taking two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland (they can’t get enough of her there), and she’s been working out the kinks during what are essentially open dress rehearsals.

Miller has been on a roll lately. She had a great piece written on her in the London Times: www.timesonline.co.uk and she’s been mentioned TWICE in Jay Leno’s monologues on “The Tonight Show.” Apparently Leno was intrigued by the fact that Miller does a form of striptease and is calling her the “stripping granny.”

The shows I saw, Another Side of the Looking Glass and the cabaret show Aging Is Amazing. The former is a collection of autobiographical stories that cohere into quite a moving, inspiring show. Miller has had an extraordinary life, and her take on aging, once you’ve stopped applauding her, makes you want to leave the theater and live life with Miller’s gusto.

The cabaret show is the one with the striptease, though Miller is a coy stripper. The striptease is more about the funny costume than it is about baring flesh, but she warbles wonderfully for someone who can’t sing, and she brings humor and levity to the issue of aging, which Miller seems to be doing better than any of us.

Visit her site at www.lynnruthmiller.com for a complete schedule of her performances.

The brothers do some high stepping in the Woodminster Summer Musicals production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Photos by Kathy Kahn

And finally, I made it to closing weekend of Woodminster Summer Musicals’ Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

The night was chilly under the fog and stars in the Oakland hills, but the show was completely charming and just the kind of thing you want to see at Woodminster. Seven Brides will never be a classic musical (it was actually a splashy MGM musical before it was adapted for the stage), but when done right, the show has all the ingredients for a musical theater lift.

The standout of this production is Alex Sanchez’s exuberant choreography. When those seven brothers start leaping around the stage, the effect is thrilling. Whenever the brothers and their eventual brides (once they get over being kidnapped) start dancing, the stage comes to vibrant life. Among the brothers, you can’t help noticing that Joven Calloway as brother Frank is an extraordinary dancer whose lips and mid-air splits are mind boggling.

Leads Robert Robinson as Adam and Mindy Lym as Milly (right) bring gorgeous voices to the Johnny Mercer- Gene de Paul score (with additional songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn).

The Woodminster season continues with Seussical Aug. 8-17 and The Pirates of Penzance Sept. 5-14. call 510-531-9597 or visit www.woodminster.com for information.

So many new seasons: Woodminster Summer Musicals

Woodminster Summer Musicals, the annual theatrical tradition of musicals under the stars, will produce three shows this summer at the Woodminster Amphitheater in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park.

The season, Woodminster’s 42nd, opens with the high-stepping Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (July 11-20). Next up is Seussical: The Musical (Aug. 8-17), and the season concludes with the classic operetta The Pirates of Penzance (in the 1980 Broadway version).

If you haven’t ever seen a Woodminster show, you really should try this quintessential Bay Area experience at least once. Bring a picnic, stroll through the grounds and enjoy the WPA-built amphitheater, complete with stunning views and a waterfall on its western side. The shows are a combination of professional actors and community performers.

Auditions, by the way are April 6 and 12 at Woodminster from 1 to 4 p.m. Click here for information.

Show tickets range from $23 to $38 (with a $2 discount for children and seniors). The “Kids Come Free” program allows children 16 and younger to attend for free with paying adults. Call 510-531-9597 or visit www.woodminster.com for information.