Nutcracker Avoidance 

Workshop gives high school students the chance to produce musical farce.

Award-winning choreographer Andrea Weber (who regularly choreographs shows for Shotgun Players and took a hilarious turn in their Dasvedanya Mama) is now on the faculty of Contra Costa College's Young Actors Workshop. The workshop, which is being revitalized by director Clay David, gives a group of 25 to 35 high school students the chance to work with theater professionals to mount an original musical. Weber is steering her group through her Not Necessarily Nutcracker, which features "intrigue, murder, corporate oppression, and reggae mice" -- surely a welcome antidote to the coming onslaught of Christmas shows. Not Necessarily Nutcracker runs this weekend and next at Contra Costa College.

Speaking of teenagers and musicals, I have a soft spot in my heart for Emerald Rain's Young Zombies in Love, one of the first shows I ever reviewed back in 2001. Happily, they're staging it again, with a few changes. While it's still a funny, original rock musical about teen zombies, the cast is entirely different, there's a new song, and some things have been tightened up so the whole silly thing makes more sense. While it's too bad to lose lines like "thirty-seven teenagers get on a bus for a field trip and zero come back -- what's wrong with this picture?," the addition of zombie dancers does make things livelier. Few shows will be able to match the Halloween opening night, where there was more wild makeup on the audience than there was on the cast, yet YZIL is still fun. Bernadette Quattrone and her surprising pipes take up the heroine role as Lu, Henry Perkins is a more robust Nick, and Noah James Butler steps into the SWAT King's combat boots. The Fodder Twins are even funnier, if possible, and Gaby Alter's score (now available as a cast recording on CD) still rocks. This incarnation of YZIL is only playing in San Francisco, at Venue 9 on Ninth Street between Howard and Folsom, until December 7.

Thessaly Lerner, whose most recent work, Champion! was a hilarious take on cheerleading, is at it again. Her new political satire, The Canadian Play, features the machinations of "sexually confused" American president James Sandwich and his deranged wife, First Lady Whitbred Sandwich. Sounds delish. The Canadian Play is the latest presentation of the Shotgun Theatre Lab. The Lab, an ongoing side project, runs Monday and Tuesday nights at LaVal's. The shows are all previously unpublished or unproduced works, built and costumed from existing Shotgun stock, with post-show discussions. Also, they're cheap. The Canadian Play runs through November 19 at LaVal's Subterranean.

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