A Low-Key Charmer from Lamb’s Players Theatre

Christopher Vettel and Aubriella Navarro (photos courtesy of JT MacMillian).

Christopher Vettel and Aubriella Navarro (photos courtesy of JT MacMillan).

Some of the best family shows encourage people to learn more about the world around them. The great new musical at Lamb’s Players Theatre, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, is full of positive messages about nonconformity and the wonders of nature and science.

Based on the young adult book by Jacqueline Kelly, Calpurnia Virginia Tate (Aubriella Navarro) is a curious eleven-year-old living with her family in 1899 Fentress, Texas. Over time, she becomes close to her quirky natural history-loving grandfather (Christopher Vettel). The plot is made up of vignettes involving Calpurnia and other members of her clan.

Librettist and lyricist, Omri Schein, condenses the events of the 340-page novel into a swift 90-minute runtime. Schein’s writing naturally flows between lighthearted dialogue and upbeat songs from him and composer, Daniel Lincoln, throughout the low-key story.

While a few subplots involving Calpurnia’s brothers, Travis (Cole D’Agostino), Harry (Max Leadley), and Sam (Jacob Mears) could benefit from additional sequences and development, every scene between the protagonist and her grandfather is charming and full of warmth.

This is thanks to Schein’s writing, Associate Artistic Director, Kerry Meads’, seemingly easygoing staging, and the strong casting of Navarro and Vettel. I quickly cared about the central duo, because of their wonderful singing, acting, and natural charisma.

Sydney Joyner, Aubriella Navarro, and Jacquelyn Ritz.

Sydney Joyner, Aubriella Navarro, and Jacquelyn Ritz.

Colorful supporting performances from Leadley, Jacquelyn Ritz as Calpurnia’s mom, and Geno Carr, Lizzie Morse, and Sydney Joyner, as a variety of characters, contribute highly to the entertainment value of the evening. Each of the co-stars wears a variety of unique 1800’s inspired costumes by Jemima Dutra, and displays strong comic timing while crooning beautifully on Mike Buckley’s visually detailed set.

A four-piece band featuring music director and keyboardist, Ben Read, and Angela Chatelain Avila on strings play the various melodies. They add to the wholesome tone during both moments that are spoken and sung.

With only a couple subtle adult references to war and alcohol, the world premiere production has plenty to appeal for older and younger theatregoers. Both kids and adults can connect with Calpurnia’s love of knowledge and sympathize with her attempts to not live the traditional 19th-century female lifestyle that her mother expects of her.

The coming-of-age tale is a feel-good one with optimism and hope. Even audience members not familiar with Kelly’s writing will be won over by Calpurnia’s adventures at the Coronado venue.

Show times are Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m, Thursdays at 7:00 p.m, Fridays at 7:00 p.m, Saturdays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

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Lamb’s Players Theatre
1142 Orange Ave. Coronado CA 92118 Work Phone: 691.437.6000 Website: LPT website
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