LAMB'S Players Brings Another World Premiere to the Stage

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is Adventurous, Fun, and Full of Heart 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Aubriella Navarro as Calpurnia Tate
I so enjoy the personality of each theatre company and how they aim to thrive in this ever-changing world where the attention span is mostly reduced to 120 characters and 30-second videos. LAMB'S Players Theatre brings another world premiere musical this year betting on the young adult novel by Jacqueline Kelly, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. With a plot set before the turn of the century in 1889, the soon-to-be 12-year-old Calpurnia Tate lives with her family in a small Texan town. Calpurnia is not interested in learning how to sew, bake, or play the piano, the basic norms for young ladies her age, and what her mom Margaret diligently supervises. She wants to be a scientist and explore! Her grandfather who lives in the family home, has his studio with specimens, concoctions, and conclusions. Calpurnia at first is intimidated, but then wins him over through the love of books, observation, and scouting.

I have not read the novel but I would sense it has the potential to morph into a straight play as well; yet, Omri Schein, LAMB'S associate artist, performer, and playwright, took it up a couple of notches by adapting it into a musical, writing the libretto and the lyrics along with composer Daniel Lincoln. 

World premieres like anything new, seeing the light for the first time, need to marinate, get worked on, and soften the edges, especially with new songs. In the case of Calpurnia', the songs flow and are catchy. 

Kerry Meade directs the 90-minute piece with a cast of eleven actors, some in their professional debut like Calpurnia's onstage brothers Cole D'Agostino, Max Leadley, and Jacob Mears. In their LAMB'S debut, Milly Cocanig in the role of Lula Gates, Calpurnia's best friend, Jacquelyn Ritz as Margaret Gates, her mother, and Christopher Vettel as the grandfather Walter. Other cast members include Geno Carr as Alfred Tate, Sydney Joyner as Viola the house employee, and Mrs. Brown the piano teacher -belting out some serious high notes-, and Lizzie Morse in various roles. Aubriella Navarro as Calpurnia Tate is also in her LAMB'S debut with a fantastic performance that draws the audience into the story along with the rest of the cast delivering a nice blockage and rhythm as the piece as well as the music, flows, and is very charming. 

The music is performed live which is always a plus, directed by Ben Read who also plays the keyboards, Angela Chatelain on strings, Oliver Shirley on bass, and Anthony d'Conde in percussion. Patrick Duffy's design made everything sound right and in place.  Mike Buckley's set design of the Tate's living room and Walter's office made a nice impression with Jessica Couto's props that were on point with jars, papers, fake bugs and so on that flared the piece with a realistic vibe, guided by Nathan Person's lighting design, bright and contouring the different rooms giving each scene a nice fitted space. Jemima Dutra's costume design gave us pretty period dresses and suits with great footwear for the men.

I consider this piece to have several strengths starting with the duration and no intermission, it is family-friendly and engaging, the songs are likable and do not sound forced into the story like many musical premieres, and, most definitely, the leading lady, Aubriella Navarro and Christopher Vettel as her grandfather Walter, as Navarro makes us fall in love with Calpurnia and the relationship with her grandfather who embraces her inquisitive mind and teams up with his granddaughter for a cool discovery. 

Bravo to LAMB'S for continuing with these risks that deliver and lead new audiences coming to the theatre.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is currently playing until May 5th. There is also a Wednesday matinee which I find very convenient with the opportunity to explore Coronado pre or post-show. For more information on other show days and times please click here

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