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Calendar Girls

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Inspired by a true-life story, Calendar Girls became a film starring Helen Mirren.  That was in 2003. Ms. Mirren has sustained her beauty and has continued to displayed her wide-ranging acting talents ever since.

Luckily, Tim Firth adapted the screenplay of Calendar Girls into a stage play. That show premiered in 2008 in Great Britain. And, like Ms. Mirren, the play, now being staged at the impressive Newport Theatre Arts Center in Newport Beach, through July 2, is beautifully sustained and remains theatrically viable.

Ably directed by Bob Fetes, with credibly functional stagecraft – set design, Andrew Otero; costuming, Claudia Berglund and Mary DiPaoli; lighting, Chris Henrriquez; sound, Brian Page – Calendar Girls allows us to willingly suspend disbelief and imagine the scenario unfolding before our very eyes.

That scenario portrays a cadre of upper middle-age British women deciding to pose in the rosy buff for the coming year's calendar in order to raise charity funds for the benefit of one of the ladies whose husband suffers from a dire diagnosis. But whether they're "naked" or "nude" becomes an amusing debate among the ladies – the former suggesting an explicit state of raw vulnerability; the latter supposedly conveying a more nuanced and aesthetic view of the unclothed feminine form.

At a running time of about two-hours and a cast of thirteen players, four of which are male roles fulfilled by the comically attuned Brian Bond, doing dual duty as both Lawrence and Brendan; Thom Gilbert as John; James Gittelson as Rod; and Matt Koutroulis as Liam – Calendar Girls packs a lot in on the Newport stage.

But it is the ladies who are the prime focus of Calendar Girls, and they are a mixed bag of personalities and proclivities. Della Lisa Kerr embodies Chris, the putative leader of this group of dare-doers; Michelle Bendetti plays Elaine with effective comedy timing; Kathleen Fabry is onboard as Mrs. Cravenshire; Mary Pat Gonzalez characterizes Brenda; curvy  Nancy Higley provides eye-candy as Celia; Michelle Miller-Day is formidable as Annie; Andrea LaVela as Maria is the one we love to hate; Lorraine Winslow does well as Jessie; and replacing the recently hospitalized Roxanne Martinez as Ruth is Kip Hogan, still on book but performing heroically and hilariously. Kudos to her.

Calendar Girls is a sort of feminine Full Monty. The stage version of that man-centered show is a musical. Unsurprisingly, it was recently announced that Calendar Girls is being reworked into a musical as well. It's due to premiere this year under the title The Girls. Nevertheless, mark your calendars for Newport's homegrown production.

What: Calendar Girls

Where: Newport Theatre Arts Center, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach

When: Through July 2; 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at 8 p.m.

Cost: $20

Information:  (949) 631-0288 or visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.