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Sierra Rep aims to entertain with fall season

Sierra Repertory Theatre patrons will be able to enjoy a bawdy Southern fairytale, a 17th century French romance and a church-themed musical in the group's fall schedule, with a Christmas holiday favorite winding up the 2016 season.

Fall productions will include the bluegrass musical "The Robber Bridegroom," the classic comedy "Cyrano," and the return of the "Church Basement Ladies." The season concludes with the holiday favorite, "A Christmas Story," in November and December.

Harmony Wheeler, Sierra Repertory Theatre's marketing director, said since 1980 SRT has focused on its original mission to present audiences with a broad range of theatrical literature at the highest production quality possible, to pay artists and staff a living wage and to make a vibrant contribution to the community's economy, culture and spirit.

At the Fallon House in Columbia, "The Robber Bridegroom" plays Sept. 2-25 in a rousing, bawdy, Southern fairy tale from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Driving Miss Daisy." The musical has one of the only genuine bluegrass scores ever heard on Broadway.

Set in 18th century Mississippi, "The Robber Bridegroom" follows Jamie Lockhart, a rascally robber of the woods, as he courts Rosamund, the only daughter of the richest planter in the country. The proceedings go awry, however, thanks to a case of double-mistaken identity. An evil stepmother, intent on Rosamund’s demise, and her pea-brained henchman, make for a rollicking country romp.

The glorious setting and dress of 17th Century France come to Sierra Rep’s East Sonora Theatre Sept. 24 through Oct. 16 with Edmond Rostand’s classic play "Cyrano." A great swordsman with a beautiful soul is hampered by a huge nose that makes him believe he is incapable of being loved by the beautiful Roxane.

When he learns that Roxane and a handsome young soldier named Christian are infatuated with each other, he writes impassioned love letters for her suitor that lead to a calamitous love triangle, swordplay and humor.

The Church Basement Ladies return to Sierra Rep’s Fallon House Theatre Oct. 14 through Nov. 27 with "A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement," In this latest installment it’s 1960 and the ladies are back with an all-new musical and are once again required to face change head-on.

Against the shifting tide, these pillars of the church stand strong in their faith and in their friendships with more crazy antics, great songs and lessons reluctantly learned. This is the third Church Ladies production by Sierra Rep and will include a brand-new cast directed by original SRT Church Ladies cast member Becky Saunders.

The 1960s musical revue "Beehive" also is running through Aug. 28 at the East Sonora Theatre.

Wheeler said she visited SRT several times in her younger years.

"SRT helped develop my love for live theatre and the magic and change it can create," Wheeler said. "SRT offers a great variety of musicals and plays — often works that are not as well-known. We have everything from the big classic musicals to one more challenging play each year."

She said SRT's professional actors and designers come from all over the country, and often tell her how blessed they feel to visit the beautiful and welcoming California foothills.

"Theatre is often an escape from daily stress, and that is the case even more so here at Sierra Rep where one of our buildings is located in a state park and the other is only an hour's drive from Yosemite," Wheeler said.

Shows are Wednesdays through Sundays. Wednesdays, Saturday and Sundays are at 2 p.m. while Fridays and Saturdays have 7 p.m. shows and Thursdays have some at 2 p.m. and some at 7 p.m. Tickets are $32 general admission for all shows except Saturday/Sunday matinees, when the prices go up to $37 for general admission.

Season tickets range from $150 to $250 depending on which package is purchased. SRT offers full and half seasons with either no limitations or some limitations.

The Fallon House Theatre is at 11175 Washington St. in Columbia State Historic Park. The East Sonora Theatre is at 13891 Mono Way in Sonora, just past the Junction Shopping Center.

For more information on the fall season or group and individual tickets, call the Box Office at (209) 532-3120 or visit Sierra Repertory Theatre Season tickets go on sale Sept. 1 and the general public can purchase tickets starting Oct. 1.

— Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.