Burlesque dancers and luchadoras? That's not your average week for theater in Bakersfield but this Friday you're in luck.
Bakersfield Community Theatre kicks off its 90th season with "Luchadora," a family-friendly tale similar to "Mulan" with a Latina twist.
Nana Lupita (Clary Ortega-Welch) seems like your average Wisconsin grandmother — until the discovery of a worn pink wrestling mask sparks tales of her exciting childhood growing up in Texas in the 1960s. Gabriela Pensamiento plays the teen Lupita, a tomboy whose days consist of palling around with friends Leo and Liesl (William Cecil and Darwin Wilkenson), working at her father's flower stand and watching lucha libre, Mexican professional wrestling.
After discovering her ailing father (Martin Perez) is moonlighting as a wrestler, Lupita enlists a magical mask maker (Erandy Frias) to help her step in and train in his place.
Director Maria Morales Mercado said the selection of the show, which makes its West Coast debut at BCT, was made by producer and artistic director Porter Jamison but she connected with the material. Growing up in California in the late 1960s, Mercado described her Abuelita Adelita as a gentle, wise woman and magical cook who turned into a "Mexican Mr. Hyde when lucha libre (or roller derby) was on TV."
"If you were smart you never got in between her and the action on TV," she wrote in an email. "If you did, you would certainly get a scolding from her ... and might even get a 'chancla' (flip-flop) thrown your way if you didn't move!"
She would like audiences to enjoy the show and be inspired to take a second glance at someone who might be from different generation, ethnicity or social class and learn more about them.
"I hope we are reminded to be thankful for what we have and are inspired to pay kindness forward."
"Luchadora" plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Oct. 13, 14, 20 and 21, as well as 2 p.m. Oct. 15 at Bakersfield Community Theatre, 2400 S Chester Ave. Tickets are $14, $10 for seniors, students and military; available at bakersfieldcommunitytheatre.org.
The bonds of family are also strong in Ovation Theatre's latest production "Gypsy," which also opens Friday. In what is probably the most entertaining tale of a stage mother ever, Rosie Ayala stars as Rose, who pushes daughters June (played by Addison Cline and Josephine Resolme as a child and Kelsea Johnson as an adult) and Louise (Sophia Resolme then Amelia Mejia) into show business with the aid of manager Herbie (Hal Friedman). When June eventually abandons the act, Rose turns to Louise to take center stage, this time as a burlesque dancer, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Director Adam Cline said he advocated doing this show at the new theater since he's in love with the music.
"I first saw this show on Broadway with Patti LuPone as the lead character Rose," he wrote in an email. "She was amazing in that role and reminded me a lot of Rosie. I’m so excited for Rosie to play this part and I know you all will fall in love with her from the start. The songs are in her vocal range and she absolutely nails them!"
He also notes the amount of talent in the cast, from the leads to the chorus is "overwhelming."
Although the family is struggling to succeed on the stage, Cline said there's a lesson in it for us everyday folks as well.
"This show is a reminder to us that life isn’t always a walk in the park. If you want to make it in life you have to work for it, even if it means doing something you don’t want to."
Hard work was evident in the work behind the scenes with Cline tallying 440 hours for cast and crew (40 hours on design, 120 hours on rehearsals, 100 each on sets and costumes, 32 hours on props and 48 hours on production).
Cline is excited for people to come out and the see the fruit of their labors.
"You will not be disappointed!"
”Gypsy” runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, continuing through Oct. 29 at Ovation, 1622 19th St. Tickets are $30, available at 866-568-2846 or theovationtheatre.com.