Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer @ CAT

Last weekend was a busy theater weekend for my son and me. Friday night we saw Disney’s The Lion King at OCPAC, and then on Sunday afternoon my friend, Sheila, had two extra tickets to a production of Tom Sawyer playing in downtown Corona, presented by the Christian Arts and Theatre group. Of course, we said yes to joining her family of sisters, nieces, daughters, grandmas and granddaughters. Did Son mind being the only boy? Well, he bellyached for a bit, just like Tom Sawyer would’ve done, but then as soon as we were on our way he had a great time.

I must say I wasn’t expecting much, but thought Son would enjoy it. Children’s theater provides a wonderful opportunity for kids to explore all the different aspects of theater arts, but tends to have a backyard feel to it all. The talent of the CAT actors was impressive and the production elements were top notch.

Matt Dunn’s portrayal of Tom Sawyer was full of energy as he masterfully performed exuberant choreography with Isaac Monroe’s Huck Finn while belting out songs with a powerful voice. His rendition of “Light” truly showed his ability to finesse the sweet spots of a ballad. Isaac Monroe, playing Huck Fin, showed off his comedic skills with lots of facial mugging and good hearted physical comedy that had the kids in the audience giggling with glee. Hannah Irvine’s Becky Thatcher had the correct prerequisite mix of old fashioned manners and feminine innocence that makes the muddy-toed-Tom and bible-carrying-Becky romance so endearing. Robbie DeFoe was so believable as the villain, Injun Joe, I had to keep looking at his penciled on beard to remember he wasn’t an adult actor mixed in with the teens. Gabrielle Green’s performance as the Widow Douglas was especially touching with levels of delicacy in her performance that show her readiness for advanced acting classes. Cameron Barnett as Sidney Sawyer was another standout with easy comedic timing and impishness that give him that ‘it’ quality. Somebody get that kid an agent.

The show was produced by Christian Arts and Theatre, which is an after-school theater and visual arts educational program for students ages 6-18 based in Corona. Founded by Cyndi Monroe, CAT provides after-school activity conducted in ten-week sessions. Acting, dance and other performing arts are offered Monday through Saturday. Enrolled students have the opportunity to audition and perform on stage or work behind the scenes in a major theatrical production performed at the Corona Civic Center Theater.

The historic Corona Civic Center Theater building on Main Street has old world charm and beautiful architecture. I spoke to CAT founder, Cyndi Monroe briefly at intermission and I was impressed with her enthusiasm and obvious love for theater. I asked her about the Christian element in her organization’s name. She said there isn’t any proselytizing about religion, and anyone can join regardless of their personal beliefs. The basic values of honesty, integrity and love of neighbor are a cornerstone of who she is as a person and a leader. Personally, I think it’s a perfect match to have a group centered on good family values while learning about the glories of performing theater.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, add a theater outing to see The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to your family’s destination. Remaining performances are Saturday, June 5th, 2 & 7pm; Sunday, June 6th , 2 pm. Your whole family will be glad you did. Tickets can be purchased online here.

If you're not able to get out there this weekend, check out the CAT website for more information about the organization, future shows and their summer day camps.

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