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Theater Review: “A Jewel in the Crown City”

“A Jewel in the Crown City” plays through February 24, 2019, at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado.
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

It looks like a party onstage – and it is. Lamb’s Players Theatre celebrates 25 years in Coronado with a tasty smorgasbord of famous hits from past shows in “A Jewel in the Crown City.” The party continues (and has been extended) through Feb. 24 at the theater.

Lambs co-founder Robert Smyth serves as narrator for this delightfully tuneful jaunt through the theater’s history in Coronado.

But first, ancient history: Lambs started off in 1978 in a small in-the-round space in National City. From there, they moved to Downtown San Diego’s Lyceum before Coronado became their permanent home.

Here’s something I never knew: John D. Spreckels, builder of the building where we now find Lamb’s Players, insisted that two items be part of the structure: a bank and a theater. But Smyth tells us that hardly anybody knew there was a theater in the building. So they had to first find and then excavate the space before they could create theater there. The theater opened its doors in 1994, as Smyth puts it, “20 minutes after the fire marshal cleared us.”

The first show was the musical “She Loves Me.” Since then (if not before), Lamb’s Players Theatre has taken its place as one of the local theaters that puts out a reliably fine product. Though they’re equally fine in any dramatic form, they’re especially good at – and known for – fine work with musicals, and tonight’s cast of 16 (several of whom have performed at Lamb’s for upwards of 20 years) are here to remind you of some of those shows.

You’ll hear excerpts from standards like “West Side Story,” “Les Miserables,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “South Pacific,” “The Music Man” and “Guys and Dolls,” all of which are represented here with fine performances.

It’s an upbeat, glorious show with fine performances all around, but I must single out Bryan Barbarin, who nearly steals the show with two utterly different songs: the poignant “Tin Man Song” from the Lamb’s-written musical “Oz,” (“all I ever feel is hollow”) and the funny “Fugue for Tinhorns” (“I’ve got the horse right here”) from “Guys and Dolls.”

Then there’s Brian Mackey, singing “Pool,” Prof. Henry Higgins’ warning to the citizens of River City that they’d better get that pool table out of town because it’s “the first big step on the road to degradation.”

And let’s not forget the band (Cris O’Bryon, Rik Ogden, Dave Rumley, and Oliver Shirley) providing splendid backup for many shows for many years.

There’s something here for everybody. I’ll just mention a few of my favorites from the past. I was blown away by the 2005 Lambs production of Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” not just because it’s fascinating but because it requires a *swimming pool.* That’s right, full of water. Onstage.

Smyth tells us the theater’s mission statement is “to tell good stories well.”

They’ve done that for more than 25 years in this town. Let’s hope they’ll be around for their 50th.

The details

“A Jewel in the Crown City” plays through February 24, 2019, at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado.

Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Wednesday at 2:30 and 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or lambsplayers.org