‘Paint Your Wagon’ opens Sept. 3 at Woodminster Amphitheater, Oakland

L to R, Michael Cassidy as Jake Whippany, Stephanie Rhoads* as Cherry Jourdel, and Tracey Leigh Freeman and Jessica Robinson as Fandango dancers
L to R, Michael Cassidy as Jake Whippany, Stephanie Rhoads* as Cherry Jourdel, and Tracey Leigh Freeman and Jessica Robinson as Fandango dancers
L to R, Michael Cassidy as Jake Whippany, Stephanie Rhoads* as Cherry Jourdel, and Tracey Leigh Freeman and Jessica Robinson as Fandango dancers
L to R, Michael Cassidy as Jake Whippany, Stephanie Rhoads* as Cherry Jourdel, and Tracey Leigh Freeman and Jessica Robinson as Fandango dancers

Producers Associates, Inc. will finish the 44th season of the Woodminster Summer Musicals with Paint Your Wagon, Lerner & Loewe’s so-called “California musical.” Set in the California wilderness of 1853, the show tells the story of a crusty old gold miner, Ben Rumson, his daughter Jennifer, and a townful of miners and other colorful Gold Rush characters. Songs include “I Talk To the Trees,” “They Call the Wind Mariah,” and “Wandrin’ Star.”

Woodminster’s Paint Your Wagon will be performed on September 3-5 and 9-12 under the stars in historic Woodminster Amphitheater in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park. The show starts at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (Sep 3-4 and 10-11) and at 7 p.m. on the Thursday and Sunday performances (Sep 5, 9, and 12). Tickets are $25-$40, with discounts for seniors, half-price tickets for groups of 25, and season tickets that offer a savings of about 15%. The organization continues its “Kids Come Free” program, where children and teens 16 or younger who are attending with paying adults can get free tickets on performance nights.

New for 2010, the organization has instituted a $10 Preview Night as part of its ongoing effort to offer affordable ways for people in the community to enjoy live theater. The last dress rehearsal (September 2, 8 p.m. for “Paint Your Wagon”) will be open to the public. All tickets are $10, with no further discounts, and all seating is open, first-come, first-served. There will be no advance sales for Preview performances. Tickets will be available only at the box office on the night of the Preview performance.

While not as famous as other Lerner and Loewe musicals like My Fair Lady or Camelot, Paint Your Wagon had a respectable 289-performance Broadway run and a much longer run in London’s West End. A 1969 screen version starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood, though quite different in plot, used much of the same music and has helped to keep interest in the stage musical strong. The show has been a staple of regional theaters for decades, remains popular with audiences, and is slated for a potential Broadway revival.

In Woodminster’s 2010 production, the role of Ben Rumson will be played by Kelly Houston, who has been in a number of musicals at Woodminster, as well as TheatreWorks, American Musical Theatre of San Jose, and 42nd Street Moon, as well as the famous The Muny in St. Louis. The rest of the cast of 32 is comprised of professional and non-professional actors coming from over 20 cities around the Bay Area and beyond. The Woodminster general auditions for 2010 attracted over 300 people.

Woodminster’s Paint Your Wagon is directed by Joel Schlader. Choreography is by Jody Jaron, who drew inspiration from the original Broadway choreography by Agnes DeMille, and has included the famous “jump rope on point” ballet by fandango girls. Vocal direction is by Kim Vetterli. The orchestra is composed of members of Musicians’ Local #6, conducted by Richard Vetterli.

The Woodminster Summer Musicals are performed under the stars at Woodminster Amphitheater, an open-air performance facility in Joaquin Miller Park high in the Oakland Hills. The park’s spectacular views and serene woodsy environment made it the perfect setting for the amphitheater, cascades, reflecting pool, and paths that were originally built as a WPA project in 1939-40. For many East Bay families, it is a long-standing summer tradition to enjoy a picnic in the park and then see a musical at Woodminster.

Producers Associates, Inc. was founded in 1967 by the late James Schlader (who died May 8, 2010 at age 96) and his wife, Harriet, to provide affordable live summer family entertainment in the East Bay, and to foster a love of live theatre. For more than four decades, the organization, in partnership with the Oakland Park and Rec Department, has been producing summer musicals at Woodminster Amphitheater. Healthy season tickets sales, attendance by groups, and special opportunities for families have made Woodminster shows the best attended performances in Oakland. Today, it sells the highest number of individual tickets of any of the major resident performing arts organizations in the city. For more information about the 2010 season or history of the organization, visit www.woodminster.com.

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