The Warner Grand Theatre has hosting Oliver!, Lionel Bart’s delicious and timeless musical version of Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist.
The story has gone from a hit Broadway musical to a perennial at musical theaters all over the country. It has been revived on Broadway, made into a hit film, and contains more exuberant musical numbers than many easily forgotten new works.
And, if experience means anything, expect Encore Entertainers, which has now come to be the Warner Grand’s biggest musical comedy producer, to make sure the show is a great production, and an affordable one as well.
Tickets are $22 for adults and there are four performances scheduled. There will be a large number of younger patrons in the audience (Encore Entertainers has as its mission developing young talent) but every production they have presented at the Warner in the past few years has been good, even astonishingly good. And, the energy the audience brings not only to the Warner’s but to downtown San Pedro, even if it is for only a couple of weekends a year, suggests what can happen if and when the theater comes back.
The Warner Grand Theatre needs, demand even, professionally produced musicals on its ample stage. There have been attempts, including a so-far-abortive plan to use San Pedro’s sparkling theatrical venue for Music Theatre of the South Bay, and, several years back, great The Relevant Stage productions. But it still hasn’t found a company that can fill the house every few months.
Summer Cacciagioni started encore Entertainers in 2007 in Redondo Beach. She and her husband Marcelo work together to make these productions possible. Cacciagioni found the Warner in 2010 and started producing shows in San Pedro. The relationship has flourished.
Cacciagioni is directing the production of Oliver! and playing Nancy, a role she has long wanted to sing. She couldn’t talk on the phone (she needed to save her voice for performance) but answered questions by email after a recent rehearsal.
“I love the old vibe of the Warner Grand Theatre,” she wrote. “From the moment I first walked into the building I knew I wanted to bring my productions there. There is so much life to that space and it is stunningly beautiful. The Warner Grand is a good fit for Encore because it is in the heart of a wonderful community! We have been overwhelmed by how welcomed we have felt by the people in San Pedro. It seems like everyone we come in contact with wants to assist us with building our program here. We were overwhelmed by the number of tickets we sold to our first production! The people of San Pedro are so supportive of their kids!”
There are problems with the theater, though.
“It is a bit tricky to direct productions at the Warner Grand because the stage is very shallow,” Cacciagioni said. “We always have to modify our set designs to make things work. For example, when we presented Annie there last year, we had a gorgeous circular staircase that was in four very large pieces. Now usually,those stairs stay onstage for the entire production and different set pieces and drops are used in front of them. However, at the Warner Grand those pieces wouldn’t fit and had to be taken on and off stage four different times in the production. It took a very large crew of people and a lot of maneuvering to make it work.”
Summer and Marcelo Cacciagioni are proud parents themselves, with two daughters who are already seasoned performers. Lily-Rose is just eight months old (she was born just before the last Encore Production) and has already been onstage three times. Her sister, Alora, is already an experienced actress, and she hasn’t quite turned five yet. She has been in more than 20 performances.
Next up for Encore Entertainers is a production of Hairspray! at the Warner Grand the weekend of July 25 to July 28.
“This is going to be a fun show,” Cacciagioni said. “We are planning on having our Sunday matinee be a ‘Sing-along’ during the performance.”
In the two years Encore has been in San Pedro, the company has grown.
“When we started Encore we were only doing productions in the Redondo Beach-Manhattan Beach area,” she said. “Now, we have two separate groups that do anywhere from four to seven productions a year. We also have a studio space in Redondo Beach where we teach acting, dancing and singing classes. In addition to the studio, we also have an all-girls performance troupe called No Boys Allowed! which is made up of 20 girls between the ages of seven-fourteen. The troupe tours around the Los Angeles and Orange County areas and performs in multiple venues throughout the year.
Encore has grown very quickly within the past two years in San Pedro. Our casts have gotten bigger with each production. Oliver! has a cast of 83, and yes – you will see them all onstage at one time!”
Tickets are $22 and $17 for students and seniors. Performances are June 28 at 8 p.m., June 29 at 2 and 8 p.m. and June 30 at 2 p.m.