Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Patriot Act: The Trial of George W. Bush

This is a preview article. The show opens on September 8th.

If you’re one of those people who sit at home watching 24 hour television news, whether CNN, MSNBC or Fox, if you shout at the screen when something upsets you, feeling powerless to make your voice heard, have I got a deal for you!

California Stage is putting George With. Bush on trial for malfeasance in office, dereliction of duty, war crimes, and treason.

“A Patriot Act: The Trial of George With. Bush,” by Todd Blakesley, opens on September 8 at The Space, 2509 R Street at 25th and will run through October 7.

Ray Tatar, Artistic Director of California Stage says that the play is like a "Town Hall", where the community airs its feelings.

“There is no denying that many Americans feel cut off from the president, while others feel betrayed,” he says. “A Patriot Act” will give some audience members an opportunity to choose to join one of three juries and others may actually testify to help determine if the president has improperly used his office, violated the constitution, or whether he is innocent of all charges.” This is a play which will appeal to everyone, whether you support the president or call for his impeachment.

California Stage is no stranger to controversial subjects. “If you look at the plays that we’ve done over the last 10 years you’ll notice that there are things that happen to do with social justice, equality of women, war,” Tatar pointed out. Recent productions have included a play about the difficulty of a returning Iraqi vet, and a play about the life of Jeannette Renkin, the first female Congressperson, who voted against war in 1917.

“A Patriot Act” has only been presented once before, in San Diego. When Tatar was offered the opportunity to bring the play to Sacramento, he jumped at the chance. He contacted Davisite Mark Heckman to ask if he wanted to co-direct. Heckman was intrigued to do something he had never done before – total immersion theater. He explains that there is a framework and that some of the play is scripted, but the juries and most of the witnesses are audience members who volunteer to be in those positions. Additionally, during the course of the show observers will be encouraged to contribute to the proceedings, if they desire. “Those parts are definitely unscripted,” Heckman says. “It’s like working without a net.”

Adding to the realism will be the prosecution and defense teams. The cast includes four real-life lawyers who are also actors. The lead attorney for the Defense is Jeff Kravitz a noted local authority on issues of Constitutional Law and Civil Rights, Michael Garabedian backs him up. The Prosecution team includes Auburn Attorney, William A. Bergen backed up by Tiffany Schultz. Supporting actor attorneys include Athena Bergen (daughter of William A. Bergen), and Mark Stone, who works in Claims Adjustment, where he does civil litigation. “I deal with attorneys probably every day of the week and I have cases that go to trial.”

Athena Bergen feels she’s been preparing for this role most of her life. “In high school I went to Washington D.C. on a trip for young leaders. We observed Congress. We had to pass Senate bills. Then I went to Davis and participated in rallies and protests for the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Now I am doing this show that obvious has a political bent and it’s just really exciting to watch the progression.”

Progression has also taken place with Blakesley’s original script as well. “It’s significantly rewritten now,” explained Heckman. “This will be much different than what was produced in San Diego last fall. Different because the playwright, through doing the production before, learned a few things about what will work better and of course much, much different because events have surpassed what he’d written before.”

How do the actors, who, in real life, are not exactly supporters of the president, approach their roles? “People think they have the facts and they’ve made up their mind, which is a problem we have with politics right now,” says Athena. “The way I’ve crafted my character, I am a thinking human being, but I’m just a little over the top on some issues.” She found that after studying the facts of the case, and doing a lot of research, she was able to present an honest, credible defense of the president for the crimes of which he has been accused.

The role of prosecution attorney was a perfect one for Mark Stone. Long before this acting opportunity came along, the actor wanted to write his own play and started reading a lot of the books about the Bush administration, but he became so depressed he put them aside. He had collected over 30 books either on the war in Iraq or the presidency and the issues that led up to the war. “I think you could spend the rest of your life, or at least my life, researching this issue,” he says. It gives him an excellent background to question witnesses.

“We should have a very educated audience,” says Athena. “There will be some individuals who are going to be little fireballs when they want to be witnesses. They’re going to give us a run for our money.”

The actors and directors hope that “A Patriot Act” is going to vitalize its audiences. “Once I became involved, I started getting really excited again and realizing that I have a part in the system and I can be involved and I’m going to do what I can, so I’m hoping that will happen to the audience. People might come thinking ‘Oh–who cares? We did that in Iraq; we did this in Afghanistan; I’m not interested any more’ and they come to this and it lights a fire under them again. Hopefully we won’t have people just not caring. Apathy is the worst.”

“It’s not a lecture or just a debate, it’s more interesting than that because it’s in this high stakes courtroom situation, but by the same token it’s not lightweight theater. It’s not a fluffy comedy,” said Heckman.

“People will feel like they’re involved. They have a personal stake. It’s not just something that is happening ‘over there.’ This is happening to me. I’m involved.”

While the actors continue preparing for their opening night, co-director Tatar is out shopping for “good looking realistic plastic uzis” to add yet another layer of realism.

“A Patriot Act” is not a play that observers will leave behind at the theater as they drive home.

$10 previews, Aug. 29-30, Sept 6,7
Opens Sept 8 runs thru Oct 7
Fridays and Saturdays 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.
General Admission $19, Groups of 7 or more $12
Students, Seniors, SARTA members, $15
Opening night fund raiser, $75 single, $125 couple (includes dinner)

California Stage at The Space
2509 R St., R at 25th in Midtown Sacramento

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


There are so many lines and lyrics in Sherman Edwards & Peter Stone’s “1776" which have relevance today that it’s sometimes difficult to remember that the musical is not set in contemporary times.

Director Glenn Casale has given the Music Circus audiences a blockbuster finale in this production, making its Music Circus debut. The Broadway show opened in 1969 and ran for three years, being nominated for five Tony awards, and winning three

As the show opens, it is the last week of June 1776 in Philadelphia. It tells the story of what happened at the Continental Congress leading up to the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, and it accurately portrays the serious personal and political issues at stake – frequently in the characters' own words, written by them at the time. It gives us an opportunity to see the delegates as ordinary men, struggling with the concept of independence, afraid of separating from King George.

Though classified as a “musical comedy,” there are very long stretches of dialog with no music, and more serious interactions than comic ones, though there are plenty of funny lines and enough music to hold it together.

The cast is exceptional. James Brennan is an impassioned, cantankerous John Adams, the man determined to see his dream of independence achieved, despite the fact that he is generally considered "obnoxious and disliked,” and so his words often fall on deaf ears.

Teri Bibb plays Adams’ wife, who is back home in Massachusetts, tending the family farm and raising the children, but who sends loving letters to her husband. Their duets, “Till Then,” and “Yours, Yours, Yours” show the softer side of Adams, the depth of their relationship, and the important role Abigail had in Adams’ political life.

Conrad John Schuck is a delightfully lecherous Benjamin Franklin, peppering his dialog with “wise sayings,” and arguing for making the turkey the national bird. But at the same time, he is a major force in convincing his fellow delegates to sign the document. It is also Franklin who convinces Adams to let Richard Henry Lee (John Scherer, last seen as the delightful Cornelius Hackl in “Hello Dolly”) be the one to bring the matter to the floor for a vote because Adams is, as is often repeated, “obnoxious and disliked.” Schuck capably fills Franklin’s shoes and appears to be the man we all imagine Ben Franklin to have been.

Matthew Ashford is the newlywed Thomas Jefferson, who wants no part of writing any document because he is anxious to get home to his wife, but once Franklin arranges for Martha Jefferson (Bets Malone) to make a conjugal visit, his thoughts are able to turn once again to political matters.

James Barbour, as Edward Rutledge, the representative from South Carolina, is a fascinating character, full of Southern charm, and cynicism opulent garb, and a smooth-as-butter drawl. His “Molasses to Rum,” about slavery and the hypocrisy concerning that issue, was one of the most memorable of the night. It was greatly enhanced by Kyle Lemoi’s lighting design.

William McCauley held the action together as John Hancock, and Mark Zimmerman holds firm to his loyalty to the crown as John Dickinson, of Pennsylvania.

There’s no suspense, of course, in this musical. We all know that eventually everyone is going to sign the document. But by the time all the colonies have finally come to an agreement, the moment is so emotional, it was difficult to keep the tears from flowing.

This is a timely production and should remind all of us what our founding fathers went through in creating this country and establishing those principles that all of us sometimes take for granted.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jekyll & Hyde

There are two villains in the Music Circus production of “Jekyll and Hyde, the Musical.” The first is Mr. Edward Hyde, the evil alter-ego of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Mike McGowan). The second is Robert Sereno, sound designer for the show.

“Jekyll and Hyde” is a vocally demanding show which requires top quality voices (which director Marcia Milgrom Dodge has found) and there is no earthly reason why such voices should be amplified to at least ear-splitting levels, and at most occasional distortion. Would a sound designer dare to mic Ethel Merman? I longed for ear plugs before the lengthy first act ended and I overheard other patrons complaining about the volume after the show as well.

“Jekyll and Hyde” (the latest working of the Robert Louis Stevenson book) is not a show for children. It is dark and cruel, romantic and sensual, but macabre and disturbing. But it does accurately depict the story of the idealistic young Dr. Jekyll, distraught at his inability to help understand his father’s madness and subsequent death. The doctor wants to study the good and the bad side of human beings, in the hope of being able to remove evil from the world and prevent others from suffering the pain he has suffered watching the death of his father. Failing to get backing from his hospital’s board of governors, Jekyll becomes his own guinea pig.

The experiment backfired, of course, and instead of understanding evil, he actually becomes evil and ultimately destroys everything he most holds dear.

There have been countless adaptations of the Stevenson book, including more than 60 movie versions alone. The current production did not start out as a stage show. It was first a studio recording by Frank Wildhorn (music) and Leslie Bricusse (libretto). The music found its audience and a production conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn opened in Houston in 1990. It later had a three year run on Broadway and was nominated for four Tony awards.

Mike McGowan is making his Music Circus debut, tackling the dual role of Jekyll and Hyde. He has a strong, steady, opera quality voice and his transformation from one personality to the other was seamless. Because of the nature of theater in the round, our side of the house wasn’t always able to see the expression on his face, but his instant transformation at the final bow gave everyone a chance to see the transformation in action and it was impressive. His “This is the Moment,” the moment when he takes the chemicals he has been preparing and begins the transformation to Hyde was outstanding.

Jekyll’s fiancee, the early feminist Emma Carew (Liz Pearce) stands by her man at all costs, even when he’s not quite himself. Pearce gave a solid performance, though her vocals were merely adequate. (She gets high marks, however, for singing one song while walking in a circle around the stage on platforms which were constantly shifting up and down.)

Maria Eberline as the prostitute Lucy, however, was superb. She brought fire and passion to the role, yet there was the underlying earning to find happiness in her life. Her “Bring on the Men,” following a poignant scene in her dressing room was excellent.

An outstanding number was the duet between Lucy and Emma, “In His Eyes,” where each sings of her love for Jekyll. It was eerily reminiscent of “I Knew Him So Well” from “Chess.”

Bob Richard’s choreography was excellent, especially in darker, more frenetic numbers like “Murder,” as Hyde begins his killing spree.

The chorus has some wonderful numbers in the show, including “Facade,” describing the faces we present to the world and the face that we hide inside; and “Murder, Murder,” in the panic that ensues following the murder of the Bishop of Basingstoke, which sets off a string of other murders as Hyde’s fury begins to be released.

Kyle Lemoi’s lighting design was essential to the mood of this piece. The pools of light for “In His Eyes” and the lighting for Jekyll’s laboratory were particularly impressive.

This is not a show for everyone. But going into it realizing the nature of the story and understanding that this is perhaps more operatic than musical theater will help in the enjoyment and appreciation of it.

So will ear plugs.

Friday, August 17, 2007

High School Musical

A boy and a girl meet on vacation and feel an attraction to each other. They sing to each other sweetly. When vacation is over and they go their separate ways, thinking they will never see each other again. Back at school, they tell their friends about the vacation romance. It turns out that she is the newest student in his school, but he’s not the guy she fell for; he’s a jock and lives in a jock world. What to do, what to do?

No, it’s not a remake of “Grease” – but yet it kind of is. It’s “High School Musical,” the “Grease” for the 21st century, and a snazzy, extremely energetic production is running at the Woodland Opera House through September 16. The production is directed by Amy Vyvlecka with choreography by Stephen Hatcher and it will thrill every adolescent in Yolo County, and their parents will have a good time too.

“High School Musical,” with book by David Simpatico and songs by a whole bunch of people, too numerous to mention, is the stage adaptation of the wildly successful Disney made-for-TV movie released in January of 2006. The film’s soundtrack was the best selling album of 2006, and it was the most watched program for the Disney channel in the UK.

We had the misfortune to be seated in the back row of the Woodland Opera House and the combination of youthful voices which have not yet mastered the art of projection, restless younger children in the audience, and, perhaps, the overhang of the balcony made it extremely difficult to catch much of the conversational dialog which moves the plot along.

But it’s a simple plot and you don’t really need to hear the dialog clearly (unless you are trying to understand of the names of individual characters so you can give them proper credit in a review!)

Troy Bolton (Justin Kelley) is the star basketball player who has suddenly discovered both an interest in Gabriella Montez (Kayla Sheehan) and a singing voice he didn’t know he had. After going through a session of detention in Mrs. Darbus’ (Patricia Glass) drama class, during which both students find out about auditions for the upcoming musical, “Juliet and Romeo,” they contemplate auditioning.

There are complications. Troy’s father (Trent Beeby) is the basketball coach and won’t hear of his son singing. Reigning drama queen, Sharpay Evans (Emily Jo Seminoff) and her twin brother Ryan (Tyler Warren), afraid of a little competition, have arranged for auditions to conflict with the game at which the school could win the championship, which means the audition also happens to be the same day that the school “braniacs” are participating in a scholastic decathalon and they are counting on Gabriella to help them win.

(Yes, suspend your disbelief before you leave home!)

Music, mischief and mayhem ensue and of course it all works out in the end.

The choreography in this production is spectacular. Every number is great, but a basketball number, “Get’cha Head in the Game” takes your breath away. “Cellular Fusion” which is also very clever, is reminiscent of the telephone number in “Bye Bye, Birdie” updated to the cell phone age.

There are several very good performances. Leading the pack is Rob Blake, who, in the persona of the announcer on the school radio station, keeps a running commentary on what is going on. Blake had absolutely no problems with projection and owned the stage whenever he was on it.

Sheehan and Kelley were very sweet as the lovers, Gabriella and Troy. Kelley has the tall, lanky build of a basketball player, yet manages to do full back flips that would normally be attempted by a more compact person. Sheehan has a sweet, clear voice that works well for her character.

Seminoff as the “bad” girl, Sharpay, plays her role to the hilt. Her years of theatrical experience really show as she pulls out all the stops to be as nasty as she can be to get her way. Warren, as her twin brother is a good dancer and is a good match for Seminoff.

Emylee Rose Covell does well in the smaller role of Taylor McKessie, Gabriella’s best “braniac” friend, who comes up with the scheme that solves several problems, and Erik Catalan gives a solid performance as Troy’s best friend Chad Danforth.

Worth watching in the chorus is young Casey Camacho, who has no speaking lines and is merely one of the crowd, but is so enthusiastic about his role that he stands out.

This is a show that has a lot going for it, and has a proven track record among the younger set. The Woodland Opera House does well by the show and nobody who goes to see this production will come away disappointed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hello, Dolly

It was nice to have her back where she belonged.

“She” was Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levy (Brooks Almy) and where she belonged was the Music Circus, putting her hand into things and heading up an exquisite production of the Jerry Herman musical, “Hello, Dolly,” based on “The Matchmaker,” by Thornton Wilder.

James Brennan’s direction is irresistible. The choreography by DJ Salisbury is to die for.

There aren’t enough superlatives to fit this show. For starters, Almy was a great Dolly, the matchmaker who arranges things – like furniture and daffodils and lives. She makes the most of each scene. Her moment of truth, as she lets her dead husband know she is ready to move on into a new phase of life, “Before the Parade Passes By” was a knock-out, and a solo comic moment at a dinner table was outstanding.

Steve Vinovich is Horace Vandergelder, the Yonkers businessman, curmudgeon and “half-millionaire” for whom Dolly has set her very ornate cap and whom she plans to win under the guise of finding him a bride, though Vandergelder’s chauvinistic “It Takes a Woman,” explaining why he needs a woman in his life, make one wonder why she’d be interested in the job in the first place! Vinovich provides just the right amount of bluster without being too bombastic.

Vandergelder’s two employees, Cornelius Hackl (John Scherer) and Barnaby Tucker (Mitch McCarrell) could not be better. While the boss is away, the two decide to sneak off to New York for an adventure and get more than they bargained for. Scherer is one of those actors who takes charge of a stage and brings an electricity to every scene he is in. McCarrell was the perfect foil and ... well, I won’t spoil the surprise, but he has incredible muscle control!

The two enter the hat shop of Irene Molloy (Jayne Paterson) and her clerk Minnie Fay (Melissa Bohon) and are forced to hide when Vandergelder shows up unexpectedly. The choreography for the “Motherhood March” is one of many high points of this production. Peterson and Bohon are both superb, with Paterson the softer, more mature of the duo and Bohon’s giggly personality well suited to the 17-year old Barnaby.

Also visiting New York are the artist Ambrose Kemper (Efren Ramirez) and Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde (Bradley Benjamin – yes, Derrick, her name really IS Bradley!). The two want to marry, but do not have Vandergelder’s permission, as he feels Ermengarde is too young and immature. Dolly has promised to fix that little situation too. Benjamin doesn’t have much to say, but she cries just about better than anybody I’ve ever seen on stage.

Most of Act 2 takes place at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, “the fanciest place in New York.” The choreography for the waiters has always been one of the most memorable parts of “Hello Dolly” and this production is no exception. The waiters – Jacob ben Widmar, Kurt Domoney, Ivor McKay, Michael Ramey and Gabriel Williams – are simply outstanding in the “Waiter’s Gallop,” which energetically sets up the moment everyone is waiting for: the arrival of Dolly herself, singing the title song.

My advice is to put on your Sunday clothes and get yourself over to Sacramento and catch this delightful production while you have the opportunity. “Dolly may never go away again,” but “Hello Dolly” will be leaving at the end of the week.

Friday, August 10, 2007


My father always thought that if a little was good, then a lot must be really good. The ghost of my father must be residing in the amplification system of Music Circus’s production of “Annie.” I have seen many shows at Music Circus over the years, and for some reason, “Annie” seems to get more oomph from the sound system than any other. Perhaps it’s because of having children on the stage, or maybe more hard of hearing people tend to come to see “Annie,” but I sure longed for ear plugs every time one of the principals screamed out another solo, or the little girls did an ensemble number.

The unfortunate thing is that this production does not need all that amplification (which occasionally distorts the voices). The kids are absolutely terrific. Carly Speno, Aubrey Niemi, Kendyl Ito, Heather McDonald, Hayley Smith and six year old Miriam Mars are pros, every one of them. Choreographer Bob Richard has given the girls some great dance numbers and they shine in each, particularly in the “Hard Knock Life” number.

For anyone who has been living under a rock since 1977, “Annie,” based on the cartoon of the same name is the story of a young orphan growing up in a New York orphanage run by a sadistic alcoholic. She longs for the parents who left her on the orphanage steps 11 years ago, half of a silver locket around her neck, and a note promising to return to retrieve her. She's invited to spend Christmas with billionaire Oliver Warbucks, who eventually adopts her, and almost everyone lives happily ever after.

The musical with book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin has been charming and delighting audiences for three decades and the current production certainly seems to be following suit.

For “Annie” to be a success, you need an outstanding young actress to play the title role, originated by Andrea McArdle. I’ve seen good Annies and not so good Annies, but Kelsey Smith is one of the best. This 11 year old has an amazing voice which doesn’t waver, not for a moment. Her unyielding optimism is infectious and she belts out a great “Tomorrow.”

Thank goodness hair and wig designers Ron Swanson and Paul B. Guthrie chose not to put Annie in one of those ridiculous red Afros that so many productions use. Instead they have given her an attractive wig with enough curl to be “special,” but not to make her look like the cartoon.

Reprising his role from the 2001 Music Circus production is Mark Zimmerman as Oliver Warbucks, advisor to everyone from FDR to Gandhi, whose heart is melted by a perennially cheerful little girl looking for her family. Zimmerman and Smith have work quite well together. Their dance was a very sweet moment.

Warbucks' secretary, Grace Farrell, is a strong showing by Christy Morton. She has a wonderful voice and maintains the fine line between efficient secretary and woman hiding her romantic feelings for her employer.

Adinah Alexander is the wretched Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphan asylum. She’s the matron you love to hate, hissing orders at the girls while tippling from a silver flask she claims is “medicine.” Her salute to "Little Girls" displayed wonderful comic timing, and her dance with her sleazy brother Rooster (Jim Walton) and his girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Annie V. Ramsey) was particularly fun to watch.

Walton wrings every bit of emotion he can from the role of the dapper con-man determined to use Annie to get money for himself. The gum-chewing Ramsey is his perfect match.

Kami Threlfall shines in her small bit as a Star to Be in "N.Y.C." and Ron Wisniski does a credible FDR. Richard Rice Allen is distinguished as Drake, Warbucks’ butler; and Michael Dotson gives a spot-on impersonation of Depression era radio announcer Bert Healy.

Annie’s dog Sandy is played by Lola, a rescue dog adopted from the Connecticut Humane Society, from which the original Sandy was also adopted. (Surprisingly there is no extra dog used in this production as the “stray dog,” as has been done in previous productions.)

The Music Circus tech crew deserves special mention for this show. These unsung heroes race onto the stage in pitch dark, pick up large set pieces and run them off, still in pitch dark, without ever slowing or interfering with the action of the show itself.

This production of “Annie” is outstanding and will delight adults and children alike. And if they could just turn down the amplification a touch, it could be darn near perfect.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Kiss Me Kate

The Music Circus is brushing up on its Shakespeare with this week’s sprightly production of Cole Porter’s classic “Kiss Me Kate,” under the direction of Glenn Casale and choreographed by Dan Mojica.

The particular production is based on director Michael Blakemore and choreographer Kathleen Marshall’s 1999 revival of the show, which won the 2000 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.

“Kiss Me Kate” is the story of a touring Shakespeare Company, now presenting Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” Starring as Petruchio and Katharine are the once-married, now acrimoniously divorced Fred Graham (Paul Schoeffler) and Lilli Vanessi (Lynn Wintersteller). It is obvious that there is still a spark between them, which erupts in a full fledge on-stage confligration in the middle of Act 1 of the production and threatens to close down the show.

Schoeffler and Wintersteller are superb. Their feelings for each other, both positive and negative sizzled on the stage. Wintersteller’s Lilli, as well as her character Katharine, have fiery temperaments, to which the actress gives full rein in her “I hate men” in which she displays a voice which can range from operatic quality to guttersnipe as she growls her intense hatred of the opposite sex.

Schoeffler is everything one could want in a leading man. He’s tall, dark, handsome, suave, a bit sardonic and a take-charge guy, yet his sensitivity spills out in his “So In Love.” As Petruchio, his “Where is the life that once I led?” was outstanding.

Robert Stoeckle is General Harrison Howell, Lilli’s fiancĂ©, the domineering military man who is more Petruchio than Petruchio himself.

Toni Trucks is irresistible as Lois Lane, playing the role of Bianca in the play within the play. She’s in love with Bill (Kevin Spirtas), but is a gold digger who can’t keep away from other men, yet, as she tells him she’s “Always true to you (in my fashion).”

Spirtas is a man in love, who also has a gambling problem. (The problem is merely a ruse to add two additional characters to the plot and is never really taken all that seriously.)

Stealing the show, in roles designed to steal the show, are Barry Pearl and Herschel Sparber, known as “Man 1" and “Man 2,” who are thugs trying to collect a debt. Both are hilarious and their “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” stops the show (for several well-deserved encores).

Bernard Dotson is Paul, a role which really has no function in either the story of Fred and Lilli or Katharine and Petruchio, but gives a chance for a great dance number, “Too Darn Hot,” in which he sizzles.

Dan Mojica’s choreography is especially good in the ensemble numbers.

“Kiss Me Kate” has lots of references which date the piece and no woman is ever happy when Katharine subjugates herself to Petruchio, but this production is a real gem and offers patrons a rollicking good time.