Locals prepare for San José theater, stage performances


If you can find your way to San Jose next weekend, there are two live shows with a decidedly Los Gatos twist: Saturday, November 11, ‘Mythbusters’ alumni and Los Angeles native Kari Byron. Gatos, takes the stage and “Down the Rabbit Hole”, while young performers in a November 10-19 production of “Fiddler on the Roof Jr.” will be dance steps they learned from Los Gatos resident Jennifer Copaken.

This version of “Fiddler” will be performed by a troupe of young singers and dancers from the Children’s Musical Theater in San Jose, which is celebrating its 50th season. Copaken, the show’s choreographer, helped choreograph the Broadway versions of “The Lion King” and “Into the Woods,” among others.

“The wonderful thing about children’s musical theater is that everyone who auditions has a role,” Copaken said of open auditions for children ages 8 to 15. “We try to find what is special in each child and celebrate that in the production. “

The cast rehearses five days a week.

“8-year-olds bring enthusiasm and excitement,” said Copaken. “For many, this is their first production with the grown-ups. What I love is that you bring in older kids with 14 or 15 shows under their belt, and they reach out to the little ones to help them learn the choreography and build their confidence.

Copaken joined the Children’s Musical Theater in 2008, when his daughter Samara Yellin was only 4 years old. Samara is now 13 and says she enjoys musical theater.

“I love it all, but I probably love singing the most,” Samara said.

Samara, who is in eighth grade at Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos, sings “Matchmaker” in “Fiddler”. She plays Chava, one of five daughters in the musical about a father named Tevye, who tries to maintain his Jewish religion and culture in the face of outside influences.

“Chava is a very strong character who wants to be educated,” Samara said.

“Fiddler on the Roof Jr.” November 10-19 at the Montgomery Theater, 271 S. Market St., San Jose. Buy tickets at cmtsj.org.

Down the street at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 S. Almaden Blvd., is where “Down the Rabbit Hole” takes place. The live performance was developed from the “White Rabbit Project”, a Netflix show starring Byron and his fellow “Mythbusters” alumni, “Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara.

“We’re going to re-run some classic experiments with audience participation,” Byron said. “It’s a very child-friendly show.”

A classic Byron skit transforming Belleci into a human puppet.

“Tory thought he was going to have a good Italian meal, but instead we hooked him up to all these electronics and I made his arms do what I wanted them to do. We can review that. “Said Byron.

A battle of the sexes will also likely be included in the show.

“We’re dealing with common misconceptions about the genre, so we’ve taken out one or two of those acts,” Byron said. “It’s almost like a game show.”

Byron lives in San Francisco and travels to Los Gatos regularly to see his parents. She graduated from Los Gatos High School in 1993.

“I’m really excited to do this show in San Jose because I feel more comfortable near my home,” she said. “It’s also a great live interface with the people who have supported us over the years. “

She hopes people will “ask their strangest questions.”

“I challenge them to ask me something that I’ve never asked me before,” she challenged.

“Down the Rabbit Hole” arrives on stage Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. ET. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com or at 800-982-ARTS.


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