Modesto, California is a community of about 212,000 people, just under 100 miles southeast of San Francisco (about 1.5 hrs drive). It’s also just under 60 miles west of Yosemite National Park.
Modesto Performing Arts (MPA) is Modesto’s oldest community theater company and, in 2017, is celebrating its 50th season. Created by Paul Tischer in 1968, Paul remains as the organization’s Artistic Director. MPA was originally called Modesto Youth Theater and was based at Modesto High School, where Paul taught drama for 45 years. When the Gallo Center for the Arts opened in the fall of 2007 in Modesto, MPA became one of the Center’s six resident companies. Others include Central West Ballet (CWB), Modesto Community Concerts Association, Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Townsend Opera, and YES Company. Since the opening of the Center, MPA has performed most of its shows there in the Foster Family Theater, which is the smaller of two its performance facilities.
As it celebrates 50 seasons of existence, each season MPA now stages two musicals each summer and one during the holidays. In addition to BETM, this season MPA previously produced a production of Oliver! and will follow BETM this holiday season with its performance of A Christmas Carol. Past seasons have seen the likes of such big musicals as Guys and Dolls, Man of La Mancha, Oklahoma!, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Peter Pan and The Sound of Music, just to name a few of the 90 shows it has produced over its 50 season history.
Unlike many other community theaters, MPA is able to bring in professional performers, including equity actors, through agreements with unions. The company also uses a full community orchestra that plays live during performances.
This production of BETM is a collaborative effort between MPA and Central West Ballet (CWB) and is being directed by MPA’s long time Artistic Director Paul Tischer. The choreography is by CWB Artistic Director Rene Daveluy (the first time he’s done any choreography for MPA). When asking Daveluy if he’d choreograph the show, Tischer said he didn’t know what to expect. “I wasn’t sure musicals were his thing. But when I asked him, he eagerly accepted. And the collaboration has been terrific. Rene is one of the most imaginative, talented choreographers I have ever worked with. His dance numbers for ‘Billy Elliot’ would rival that of any professional production of the show. I can’t even think of enough superlatives to describe his choreography. Audiences are going to be blown away.”
Tischer added that he believes the cast makes up some of the best singers he’s ever had in an MPA production. “And Elton John’s music is not that easy to sing, but they come through as professionally as any director could hope for,” he said.
For this production of BETM, which opens at the Gallo Center for the Arts on 5-Aug-2017 and runs until the 13th, MPA has assembled one of its largest casts ever, which will be led by a newcomer to the role of Billy — Mitchell Welsh.
To see a complete listing of the rest of the Modesto Performing Arts cast, just click on the Cast Information button.
Credit: Some production photos in this article are by Andy Alfaro/The Modesto Bee