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SCR Kicks Off Season With 'Italian Straw Hat'


South Coast Repertory kicks off the 2008-09 Season with the World Premiere of its first commissioned musical:  An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville.  John Strand (book and lyrics) and Dennis McCarthy (music) incorporate flavors not only of vaudeville but of ragtime, light opera and barbershop quartet in their adaptation of the classic farce by Eugene Labiche set in early 1900s New York.  Stefan Novinski helms the hilarity with musical direction provided by Dennis Castellano.  An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville will run from Sept. 5 through Oct. 5 on the Segerstrom Stage.  Low-priced previews are available from Sept. 5 through Sept. 11.  Opening night is Sept. 12.  Press night is Saturday, Sept. 13 at 8:00 p.m.  Tickets to An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville may be purchased online at, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or in person at the SCR box office.

Strand is a Charles MacArthur Prize winner, author of the SCR hit Lovers and Executioners as well as the West Coast Premiere of Tom Walker.  McCarthy is a film and television composer, and two-time Emmy Award winner, who has composed music for five SCR productions; and Novinski is a multi award-winner who delighted audiences with his staging of last season's A Little Night Music.

An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville features a first-rate ten-person cast led by Daniel Blinkoff.  He portrays Fadley, the hapless bridegroom whose horse has eaten a young lady's hat, sending him on a frantic search to replace the hat or his wedding will be derailed.  Blinkoff has appeared in seven SCR productions, most recently as Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol.  Also returning to SCR are Alan Blumenfeld (Born Yesterday and A Feminine Ending), Patrick Kerr (The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, Habeas Corpus and The Triumph of Love), Damon Kirsch (A Little Night Music), Kasey Mahaffy (Taking Steps) and Founding Artist Richard Doyle.  New to SCR are Michelle Duffy, Matthew Koehler, Melissa van der Schyff and Erika Whalen.

The creative team for An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville is composed of Christine Kellogg (Musical Staging), Donna Marquet (Set Design), Shigeru Yaji (Costume Design), Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz (Lighting Design), Drew Dalzell (Sound Design), Megan Monaghan (Dramaturg) and Jamie A. Tucker (Stage Manager).

Jean & Tim Weiss are the Honorary Producers and Haskell & White LLP is the Corporate Producer of An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville.  Segerstrom Stage Season Media Partner is KOCE-TV.  Orange Coast is Media Partner.

 Associated events taking place during the run of An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville include:

POST-SHOW DISCUSSIONS   Wednesday, Sept. 17 & Tuesday, Sept. 23

Discuss the play with members of the An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville cast during free post-show discussions led by South Coast Repertory's literary team after the 7:30 p.m. performances on September 17 and 23.

INSIDE THE SEASON:  An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville   Saturday, Sept. 20, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  $12

Inside the Season is a series of interactive classes that provide a comprehensive inside look at the theatrical production process.  Each two-hour class is led by Literary and Education Associate Linda Sullivan Baity and features creative personnel from South Coast Repertory's current production.  Tickets are $12 each and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (714) 708-5555.  (Tickets to An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville are sold separately.)

TICKETS to An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville can be purchased online at, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or by visiting the box office at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.  Performances begin on Sept. 5 and continue through Oct. 5.  Ticket prices range from $20 to $70.  Low-priced preview performances are available from Sept. 5 to Sept. 11.  Performance times:  Previews:  Friday, Sept. 5 and Saturday, Sept. 6 at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 7, Tuesday, Sept. 9 and Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and Thursday, Sept. 11 at 8:00pm.  Regular Performances:  Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.; and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m.  Discounts are available for full-time students, patrons 25 years of age and under, educators, seniors and groups of 15 or more.  There will be a "Pay-What-You-Will" performance on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 2:30 p.m. ($10 Minimum) and an ASL-interpreted performance on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 2:30 p.m.

 LOCATION:  South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, at the Bristol Street/Avenue of the Arts exit off the San Diego (405) Freeway in the Folino Theater Center, part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  Parking is available off Anton Blvd. on Park Center Drive.

COMING UP:  dead man's cell phone (9/21-10/12), The Heiress (10/17-11/16), Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (11/7-23), A Christmas Carol (11/29-12/27), La Posada Mágica (The Magical Journey) (12/11-23).

PHOTO EDITORS:  Digital images of South Coast Repertory productions are available at

Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory, under the artistic direction of David Emmes and Martin Benson, is widely recognized as one of the leading professional theaters in the United States.  Founded in 1964, SCR is committed to theater that illuminates the compelling personal and social issues of our time, not only on its stages but through its education and outreach programs.  While its productions represent a balance of classic and modern theater, SCR is renowned for its extensive new play development program, including the Pacific Playwrights Festival.  Of SCR's more than 400 productions, 103 have been world premieres with subsequent stagings achieving enormous success across America and around the world.  SCR-developed works have garnered eight Pulitzer Prize nominations with Margaret Edson's Wit winning the prize in 1999 and David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole in 2007.  Located in Costa Mesa, California, in 2002 SCR opened the Folino Theater Center, an expanded three-theater complex that includes the 507-seat Segerstrom Stage, the 336-seat Julianne Argyros Stage and the 94-seat Nicholas Studio.


JOHN STRAND (Playwright) is most recently the author of Lincolnesque, a comedy about politics and madness in Washington, D.C. (The Cleveland Play House, directed by Michael Bloom) and Lorenzaccio, his adaptation of Alfred de Musset's 1834 French classic (The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, D.C., directed by Michael Kahn).  Strand also wrote the book for the musical The Highest Yellow, with a score by Michael John LaChiusa, at Signature Theatre, Arlington, Virginia.  His other plays include Lovers and Executioners, Arena Stage, winner of the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play; The Diaries, commissioned by Signature Theatre and nominated for a MacArthur Award; and Tom Walker, commissioned by Arena Stage.  Additional plays are Otabenga, directed by Michael Kahn at Signature Theatre, nominated for a MacArthur Award; an adaptation of Molière's The Miser set in Reagan-era America, at Arena Stage; Three Nights in Tehran, a comedy about the Iran-Contra affair, Signature Theatre; and The Cockburn Rituals, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.  Strand spent ten years in Paris, where he worked as a journalist and drama critic, writing in English and French, and directed New York University's experimental Theatre Wing in Paris.

DENNIS MCCARTHY (Composer/Musical Arrangement) returns to SCR where he previously composed music for SCR productions Much Ado about Nothing, Of Mice and Men, Getting Frankie Married—and Afterwards, The Beard of Avon, On the Jump and Dumb Show.  He also composed the music for the SCR's Theatre for Young Audience's The Only Child, written by Quincey Long.  He has been writing music for television for more than 30 years.  His career began as a conductor/arranger for Glen Campbell, whose concert tours took him around the country and overseas for many years.  Once based back in Los Angeles, he began composing for episodic television series and worked as musical director on numerous television variety productions such as "The Barbara Mandrell Show."  He worked with Nelson Riddle and Marty Paich and orchestrated for film composer Alex North.  Over the years he has written music for over 2,000 television episodes and television films including "V," the long-running "MacGyver," "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Star Trek: Voyager," "Star Trek: Enterprise," "The Twilight Zone," "Dynasty," "Private Benjamin," "Beantown," "The Colbys," "Hotel," "Birdland" and "Houston Knights."  McCarthy has also composed music for "Project Greenlight," "Dawson's Creek," Hidden in Silence, Armed and Innocent, Overkill, A Texas Tragedy and Having Our Say.  He has won two Emmy Awards for his work on "Star Trek" and composed the music for the series' first feature, Generations.  He is a 12-time winner of ASCAP's Most Performed Composer Award.  He is a Southern California native, 43 years married, the father of three and proud grandfather of nine spectacular grandchildren.

STEFAN NOVINSKI (Director) is a freelance director based in Los Angeles.  Recent credits include last season's A Little Night Music at SCR (Critic's Pick Los Angeles Times); Nighthawks at the Kirk Douglas Theatre; J.O.B. the Hip-Hopera (LA Weekly and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle nominations for Best Direction and Best Musical); Toy Story The Musical (Walt Disney Creative Entertainment); The Map Maker's Sorrow (Summer Play Festival, NYC); Wreckage by Caridad Svich for New Dramatists; Around the World in 80 Days at The Colony Theatre Company; The Skin of OurTeeth at the Evidence Room (LA Weekly Award, Best Revival 2003); and at The Open Fist Theatre Company: The Time of Your Life, The Cosmonaut's Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union (LA Weekly Awards for Direction and Best Production 2003), As I Lay Dying (LA Times Critic's Pick) and Fen (Garland Award for Direction).  Currently he is in pre-production for a musical version of Toy Story with music by GrooveLily for Disney Creative Entertainment.  Prior to arriving in Los Angeles, Novinski served as the associate producer of The Big D Festival of the Unexpected at Dallas Theater Center which produced new works by artists such as Irene Fornes, Len Jenkin, Naomi Iizuka, Erik Ehn and Octavio Solis.  He holds an MFA in Directing from the University of California, San Diego.

DENNIS CASTELLANO (Musical Director) has musically directed the SCR productions of A Little Night Music, A Christmas Carol, Happy End, Sunday in the Park with George and A Chorus of Disapproval.  Recent credits include Cinderella and the American premiere of Twice Upon a Time for Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities; Me and My Girl and A Chorus Line for The Music Theatre of Wichita; My Fair Lady, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Guys and Dolls and Annie Get Your Gun for McCoy Rigby Entertainment; The King and I, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum and Thoroughly Modern Millie for Musical Theatre West; Li'l Abner for the Musical Theatre Guild; and just this past summer conducted Sweeney Todd and Evita for the Sacramento Music Circus where he has conducted for the past 20 seasons.  Castellano serves as the Head of the Music Theatre Program at UC Irvine and is very proud of his many students performing in New York and around the country.

DANIEL BLINKOFF (Fadley) previously appeared at SCR in Nothing Sacred, The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, Major Barbara, The School for Wives, Nostalgia, Pinocchio and A Christmas Carol.  Los Angeles theater credits include American Tales (Antaeus/Deaf West), A Distant Shore (Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre), Pera Palas (Theatre @ Boston Court), Road and Lunchpoet (Yale Cabaret Blue). Regionally: Imaginary Invalid, A Kiss for Cinderella (Cleveland Playhouse), Are We There Yet, The Seagull (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Stepping Out with Mr. Markham (The Ensemble Studio Theatre), The Summer In Gossensass (Theatre Row, N.Y.C. written and directed by Maria Irene Fornes), Dinosaur Dreams and The Last 60 of 99 (New York Stage & Film), Beaux Stratagem, Twelfth Night and Blood Knot (Yale Repertory Theatre), Leander Stillwell (Stage Left, Joseph Jefferson Citation), and Flesh and Blood (Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, Joseph Jefferson Citation Best Actor).  Film and television credits include Rockabye, With Honors, Crossing the Bridge, Snook's Girl, "Close to Home" (recurring), "Charmed", "NYPD Blue", "Law and Order", and "Missing Persons".  Blinkoff is a member of The Antaeus Theatre Company in L.A. as well as The Actor's Center in New York.  He received his MFA from The Yale School of Drama.

ALAN BLUMENFELD (Felix/Beauperthuis) appeared at SCR previously in A Feminine Ending and Born Yesterday.  On Broadway he appeared in Laughter on the 23rd Floor.  Regional theatre credits include Ubu Roi, Much Ado about Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Flea in Her Ear and School for Wives at A Noise Within; We Are Family, Creatures, Rhinoceros (Garland Award) and Threepenny Opera at the Odyssey Theatre; The Skin of Our Teeth, Dracula, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Merry Wives of Windsor (LA Drama Critics Award) and Charley's Aunt at Theatricum Botanicum; Henry IV, Part I at Ojai Shakespeare Festival; Twelfth Night at The Globe; Bleacher Bums and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at The Little Night Fox Theatre; Inherit the Wind, That Championship Season, Damn Yankees, A Streetcar Named Desire and West Side Story at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts; Romeo & Juliet, Henry IV, Part I and All's Well That Ends Well at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and Misalliance, Pillars of the Community, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III and Cyrano de Bergerac at American Conservatory Theater.  Film credits include Righteous Kill, The TV Set, Pathology, The Ring, Heartbreakers, Dinner and Driving, Jingle All the Way, The Flintstones, Tin Men, K-9, Worth Winning, Problem Child and In Her Shoes.  On television he has made over 200 guest starring appearances including "Heroes," "Mad Men," "Grey's Anatomy," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Gilmore Girls," "CSI," "Without a Trace" and "Judging Amy."

RICHARD DOYLE (Noncort) is an SCR Founding Artist.  He appeared last season in The Importance of Being Earnest; the previous season in Hamlet, My Wandering Boy, Life is a Dream, Nothing Sacred and A Christmas Carol; and previously in The Adventures of Pør Quinly, Born Yesterday, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Habeas Corpus, as Eddie in A View from the Bridge, Intimate Exchanges (1993), The Last Night of Ballyhoo and the world premieres of The Beard of Avon, On the Jump, But Not for Me, BAFO, The Interrogation of Nathan Hale, She Stoops to Folly, Wit, Hospitality Suite and Highest Standard of Living.  Other credits include Relatively Speaking, Proof, Major Barbara, Much Ado about Nothing, A Delicate Balance and Intimate Exchanges (2004), for which he earned a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nomination.  He won an LADCC Award for his role in Sally Nemeth's Holy Days and was nominated for his role as Reverend Hale in The Crucible.  He was a guest artist at the Pasadena Playhouse in the world premiere of Matter of Honor playing Gen. John M. Schofield.  "Cheers" fans will remember him as Woody's snooty father-in-law Walter Gaines.  He has many other film and television credits.  As a voice-actor, Mr. Doyle has become a familiar voice in commercial advertisements, CD-ROM games (i.e. MGS-4), documentaries and animated series.  Listen for him on "Wolverine and the X-Men" series on Nickelodeon; as Hogar the Troll in the animated feature Clutch Powers; and gamers will recognize him as Lycomedes in the new "Jason and the Argonauts".  Doyle is the holographic host in the Union Theater at the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois.

Michelle Duffy (Annabelle/Baroness) makes her official debut at SCR after being in the reading of An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville during the 2007 Pacific Playwrights Festival.  Her most recent appearances in Southern California include Rusty in Mask and Pistache (Ovation Award) in Can-Can at the Pasadena Playhouse, Lilli/Kate in Kiss Me, Kate at Civic Light Opera of South Bay, Violet in The Fix for MTG and Liz in The Times at The Festival of New American Musicals.  Other Theater appearances include American Conservatory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, TheatreWorks, San Fransisco Opera, The Colony, LATC, A Noise Within, ICT, La Mirada, La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe, Goodman, Milwaukee Rep, Northlight, Wisdom Bridge, Drury Lane Oakbrook.  Michelle has also worked internationally at Vienna's English Theatre, Tokyo's ANA Theatre, Birmingham Rep and London's Barbican Theatre. Some standout roles include Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire at American Conservatory Theatre (Garland Award, Bay Area Theatre Critic's Circle nomination), Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George at TheatreWorks (BATCC Award), Abby/Branflake in the World Premiere of Continental Divide (TIME Magazine Theatre Event of the Year) and Catherine in Suddenly Last Summer at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.  Recent film and Television credits include Eileen Keller in R.L. Stine's "The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It" and "Las Vegas." She has appeared in over a dozen national television commercials including Budweiser,, Toyota, Lowe's and Febreze.

Patrick Kerr (Uncle Fez/Viscount) appeared at SCR previously in The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, Habeas Corpus and The Triumph of Love.  Other local stage work includes The Underpants at Geffen Playhouse; Dealer's Choice at Mark Taper Forum and Light Up the Sky at Pasadena Playhouse.  New York appearances include the recent Broadway revival of The Ritz, The Devils at New York Theatre Workshop, Mabou Mines' The Warrior Ant at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music and Jeffrey at the Minetta Lane Theatre.  He has guest starred on many television programs but is probably best known for his recurring roles on "Frasier" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Damon Kirsche (Emilie/Nisnardi) appeared at SCR previously in A Little Night Music as Carl-Magnus. Broadway and Off-Broadway appearances include On a Clear Day..., Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, Tip-Toes, Strike Up the Band, Very Warm for May, and Sweet Adeline. This summer, after numerous "Freddies," he created his first Prof. Higgins for Musical Theatre of Wichita's My Fair Lady, where he had appeared previously as The Scarlet Pimpernel. Other recent appearances include: Franklin Shepard in Merrily We Roll Along at TheatreWorks; Ravenal in Show Boat at Casa Mañana with the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra and Abner Yokum in Li'l Abner for Reprise! Broadway's Best where he was seen previously as Kodaly in She Loves Me and Granit in On the Twentieth Century.  In concert, Damon has been a featured soloist at the Kennedy Center, Weill Recital Hall, 92nd St Y, Lincoln Center, Berliner Dom and with California Philharmonic. He sings throughout Southern California with vintage swing orchestra Mora's Modern Rhythmists. He is a proud member of L.A.'s Musical Theatre Guild and received his training at The Juilliard School.

MATTHEW KOEHLER (Bobby) is making his SCR debut.  Theater credits include Tracers and Godspell at The Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Great Expectations at Hudson Theatre and The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Cabaret at International City Theatre, Ray Charles Live! at Pasadena Playhouse (NAACP Award), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Actors Repertory Theatre of Simi, You Can't Take it With You at Scottsdale Community Players, Guys and Dolls at Downey Civic Light Opera, Brigadoon and Into the Woods at Mount Baker Theater, Anne of Green Gables and A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Barn Theatre, The Wager at Arizona Performing Arts Theatre and The Scarlet Pimpernel at Lynden Performing Arts Guild.  Film and television credits include North, Little Boys, Screw Cupid, Sense of Entitlement and "Scrubs."

KASEY MAHAFFY (Tardiveau/Farnsworth) made his SCR debut last season as Tristram Watson in Taking Steps. Theatre credits include Out Late at MACHA Theatre Company; The Violet Hour at Ensemble Theatre Company; Metamorphoses at Pioneer Theatre Company; Little Women at Kansas City Repertory; The Miracle Worker and Assassins at Berkshire Theatre Festival; Tartuffe and Much Ado About Nothing at Sonnet Repertory Theatre; The Merchant of Venice at Portland Center Stage; Life is a Dream and Trip to Bountiful at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; The Laramie Project, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Winter's Tale and The Servant of Two Masters at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts; Snow White and the Several Dweebs and Something's Afoot at Oregon Cabaret Theatre; and Kiss Me Kate, Evita, South Pacific and My Fair Lady at Rogue Music Theatre.  Film and television credits include Ocean's Thirteen, "Medium," "Girlfriends," "Veronica Mars," "Crossing Jordan," "Joey" and the new web-series "Is this Thing On?"

MELISSA VAN DER SCHYFF (Virginia/Clara) made her first SCR appearance in the 2007 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville.  Theater credits include Zhivago at La Jolla Playhouse, Big River at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway (for which she received a 2004 Tony Award for Special Achievement in Theatre along with her castmates), Mark Taper Forum, Deaf West Theatre and the National Tour; Fall and The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie at the McCadden Place Theatre; Ballad at Theatre Geo; Laura Dennis at Zephyr Theatre; Santa Fe Music Hall at Old Santa Fe Music Hall; Waiting for the Parade, Dancing at Lughnasa and Assassins at the Greer Garson Theatre Company; Old Heads and Young Hearts at The Drill Hall in London; and A... My Name is Alice at Southwest Repertory Theatre.  Film and television credits include A Lot Like Love, Wyatt Earp, The Great Commission, Able Edwards, Hollywood Salome, Broadway "The Movie," Backfire, "The Whitey Show," "Chicago Hope" and "Love and Marriage." Melissa has also been featured in the video games McKenzie & Company and Environmental Surfer and has just completed filming the sketch comedy series "National Lampoon's Lemmings" which can be viewed at

ERIKA WHALEN (Helen) is making her SCR debut.  Theater credits include 1776 at Actor's Co-Op, the world premiere of Making Beautiful at the Powerhouse Theater, Hello Dolly! at Welk Resort Theatre, A Christmas Carol at Glendale Center Theatre, Annie at Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, The Sound of Music with Limon/Carr Productions, the world premiere of The Bus at Big Bear Performing Arts Center, Out of this World with Musical Theatre Guild and Carousel, Mame and Camelot at Cabrillo Music Theatre.  Television appearances include "Criminal Minds."  In addition to being an SCR Professional Intensive Program graduate, she is a graduate of the UCLA Department of Theater, Film and Television.

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