Theatrically, there is an embarrassment of riches this weekend in Bakersfield. Three shows are opening at community theaters and Cal State Bakersfield is presenting its showcase of student playwrights and directors. That's in addition to two other shows already playing.

Here's a look at what's hitting the stage:

Appropriate for spring, something's really growing at Stars Theatre Restaurant with its new show, "Little Shop of Horrors."

Director Joe Lowry clearly embraces the humorous undercurrent of his show, describing it as focusing on "just your garden variety human experiences: greed, jealousy, murder, with a faint glimmer of love and self-sacrifice thrown in to keep false hope alive."

The musical stars Zachary Gonzalez as Seymour and Erica Kimmel as Audrey, two down-on-their-luck residents of Skid Row working at a floral shop owned by Mr. Mushnik (Nate Pugh). Seymour happens upon a mysterious plant that only thrives when fed human blood.

Depending on the production, Audrey II, the (spoiler) man-eating plant, is portrayed with varying levels of puppetry.

Lowry promises the Stars' version "is true to the classic man-eater." Cory McCall serves as puppeteer and Kenneth Whitchard gives voice to the homicidal growth.

The show also stars Lizzy Lake, Aubrie Calloway and Lisa Ramos as a Greek chorus by way of 1960s street urchins and Peter De Keles as sadist dentist Orin.

“Little Shop of Horrors," 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Stars Theatre Restaurant, 1931 Chester Ave. $25-$70. 325-6100.


From natural growth to spiritual, we move to Bakersfield Community Theatre, which opens "Godspell" this weekend.

Director Rebecca Worley said she was drawn to the story of the 1971 musical.

"It’s about a group of strangers coming together for the first time, telling stories from the Bible, and forming a community," she wrote in an email. "This appeals to me as it holds the most fundamental piece of human nature, storytelling and communing with each other."

The show follows Jesus (Adam Fernandez) as he leads Judas (Alissa Morrow), John the Baptist (Erick Casallas Gomez) and the rest of his followers (Janice Bondurant, Ariel Clark, Beth Clark, Fred Cremer, Kelsey Gaines, Deborah Renno, Teresa Rimmer and Leslie Thompson) in first acting out parables then the Passion of the Christ.

Worley said one of the big challenges was making connections in the musical comprised of little stories and songs rather than a through storyline.

"The cast had to work hard to create their relationships with each other because those relationships aren’t written in the script," she said. "They also had to create their characters out of almost nothing in the script. I’m very proud and impressed with what they have created."

“Godspell," 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Bakersfield Community Theatre, 2400 S. Chester Ave. $10-$16. 831-8114.

'Two Gentlemen of Verona'

There are a few local directors with whom Shakespeare is in good hands. One of those, Bob Kempf, challenges himself, bringing "Two Gentlemen of Verona" to The Empty Space stage starting this weekend.

One of Shakespeare's earliest, craziest comedies, the show follows best friends Valentine (Nolan Blake Long) and Proteus (Carlos Vera) who end up in pursuit of the same woman: Silvia (Mystie Peters), the beautiful daughter of the Duke of Milan (Angela Poncetta). The situation is complicated by a third suitor, Thurio (Brent Starrh) and Julia (Shelbe McClain), the woman Proteus had pledged his love to back home.

Kempf, known for taking the Bard's plays out of the classic interpretation — he set "Romeo and Juliet" during the Summer of Love last year — brings a modern spin to this rarely produced play.

The show also includes Shelbe McClain, Claire Rock, Victoria Lusk, Shaquille L. Hill and Olivia Vega. There's even a canine thespian, Kiki Whipple, playing Crab, "the sourest-natured dog that lives."

Hoping for Shakespeare fans with a soft heart, the theater will conduct a pet supply drive during the run of "Verona." Guests can drop off new or slightly used blankets or towels and unopened bags or cans of pet food during the run of the show through April 28.

Food donations will help the Bakersfield Pet Food Pantry, which provides emergency pet food for owners to continue caring for their family pets despite economic hardship. The SPCA will receive the blankets and towels to give its animals warm and cozy beds.

For every donation, you will be entered to win a basket filled with Shakespeare-themed gifts and prizes. (Raffle tickets may also be purchased.)

During the play's run, the theater will hold its annual Bard's Birthday Bash on April 22. (The old chap clocks in at 454!) The event will start at 2 p.m. with a matinee show, cake, cocktails and other fun.

“The Two Gentlemen of Verona," 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, The Empty Space, 706 Oak St. $10-$20. 327-7529.

Theatre of New Voices

Over on the collegiate side of things is Theatre of New Voices at Cal State Bakersfield. As part of its Theatrefest season, the CSUB theater department plans the show, pulling student-written one-acts from a playwriting competition held the previous year. In addition to student playwrights refining their works, student directors apply for spots to bring the one-acts to the stage.

Reservations are recommended for the show, which runs 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at CSUB's Dore Theatre, 9001 Stockdale Highway. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors (60 and older), CSUB faculty and staff and $5 for students. Note: Late seating will not be allowed. Call 654-3150 for more reservations.

Also around town

Along with the aforementioned new shows, two are continuing their runs this week: “The Stockdale Social Club” at Gaslight Melodrama and "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" at Stars Comedy Theater.

"Stockdale" runs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Gaslight, 12748 Jomani Drive. Tickets are $14-$25. Call 587-3377 for reservations. "Picasso" will be performed 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Stars West, 2756 Mosasco St. Admission is $20. Call 325-6100 or visit for tickets.

Dancing at the Stars brings in $51,000

The dance shoes have been put on the shelf and the total is in for this year's Dancing at the Stars. The annual fundraiser for the downtown theater grossed about $51,000 this year.

As is the case each year, the theater is the big winner but those who worked hard rehearsing routines also deserve kudos.

Accountant Marianne Keathley and choreographer Cody Garcia took first place Saturday night both for fundraising and their routine, choreographed to "Cuban Pete." The pair dressed as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, lip-syncing dialogue before launching into their dance.

Attorney Elliott Magnus and dancing partner Ann Conrad took second place, dancing to a routine with multiple songs, including Beyonce's "Single Ladies."

And choreographer David Moreno delivered a high-energy routine with Deputy District Attorney Tara Deal that included NSync's "Bye Bye Bye," Britney Spears' "Gimme More" and "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" by C+C Music Factory.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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