Several years ago, two members of our praise and worship team auditioned and won roles in the community based production "The Messiah." They described their experience as life inspiring. They have continued to participate in this seasonal musical over the last few years. This year's "one act Christmas Play with Music" directed by award winning Jennie L. Hamilton in the newly renovated CAT (Community Actor's Theater) is a scaled down production with a minimalist functional set that paints the story of Jesus' birth in very clear strokes. C.A.T. is in its twentieth year of presenting quality based theatrical productions for not only the South East San Diego Community, but all of San Diego's theater goers
Before the last performance, a Sunday matinee, theater guests socialized in the anteroom; I joined them and quietly sat down, a growing feeling of appreciation for Ms. Hamilton's leap of faith and love of community theater, made me smile. I began to reminisce silently about rehearsals with Calvin Manson's Ira Aldridge Theater Company in the old C.A.T. theater before renovations. These updated additions retain the quaint community theater atmosphere and blend it with an ambiance of progress and growth. Once inside the 100 seat theater itself, there was a sense of where Jennie Hamilton's vision to continue offering quality experience is heading.
Prerecorded musical accompaniment over a much improved sound system showcased the nuanced singing of Esther Downing(Praise and Worship leader at East Village Community Church)who opened the show. Esther Downing easily wove her stylisations from jazz inflection through contemporary pop phrasing to the stunning vocalese on the classical traditional favorite, "O Holy Night."
Carl Hebert's vocal star shimmered throughout his solos. He is part of the Praise and Worship team at East Village Community Church, a soloist with the internationally acclaimed MLK Choir under the direction of Ken Anderson, and a much sought after soloist for local churches. http://www.mlkccsd.org/ He also doubled with a credible performance as the characters of Obed and Joseph.
A scene stealing entry with noticeable comedic timing and delivery allowed Antonio Zepeda to sparkle as the irrepressible Aram. This young man should develop into a fine character actor with room to create depth of persona.
Theodore Robinson Jr. as Rabbi Joseph, Nyapal Gatkuoth as Rebekah, Lucinda Calhoun as Mary/Elizabeth gave solid performances. Danny Lee Armour, Glen Roberts and Danny Hoffeberg were plausible Wisemen (although their singing of "We Three Kings."could have benefited from a pitch pipe sounded before an acapella rendition). Aryana Shamburger and Mary Jenkins were adorable children whose natural skills will benefit from continued theater performances.
Joanna, played by Sabrina Echols shined with sincerity and genuine humility. Of note, she brought an extra essence of realism into a heartfelt prayer monologue that sent electric sparks throughout the audience. You heard it here first: Look for more from this young actress in the future!
Leland P. Smith, also an East Village Community Church and Men's choir member served as the stage manager. Although the audience was barely a full house in number for the last production of this 2012 season, several community leaders and supporters were in attendance including Rev. and Mrs. Reinggold. Jennie Hamilton's production is well worth the visit next year. From what I understand, Community Actor's Theater's production of "The Messiah" is an annual performance.
The new season opens with "Big Daddy Returns" February 2013 http://www.communityactorstheatre.com/
C. A. T. (Community Actor's Theater)
2957 54th Street
San Diego, CA 92105
East Village Community Church San Diego
Senior Pastor: Dr. Jimmie F. Hubbard Sr.
Note: Esther Downing is a seasoned performer whose credits are too long to enumerate in full as is Carl Hebert. Also, Leland is a veteran of the African American New York theater scene. All three along with award winning playwright Clarence Cuthbertson http://www.zoominfo.com/#!search/profile/person?personId=187077137&targetid=profile, concert violinist Mikhail (Michael) Dvoskin and pianist Katerina Petrosyn, visual artists, jewelry makers, and myself are participating-contributors to East Village Community Church's ongoing ministry to the Christian Arts Community of San Diego.