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“…a spectacular production” –For All Events

The Most Happy Fella

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Book, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser

Music Direction by Mary Chun
Stage Direction by Elly Lichenstein

$35 in advance / $40 at the door  General Admission
$25 in advance / $30 at the door  Youth, 21 and under
$9 (advance sales only)  Jr and High School Students (Sep 2 only)
Subscribe and save up to 31%! 
September 10 and 17 only (included in ticket price) 
WINE TASTING WITH COPPOLA WINES  Wine Tasting/Performance Combo: Taste Coppola Wines at 7pm, then see Most Happy Fella at 8pm

From the composer of Guys And Dolls comes this touching, dramatic and intensely personal love story. Your heart will be warmed by this May-December romance when a city bride is wooed by an aging Italian grape farmer who nearly botches everything until his true goodness shines through. With an absolutely gorgeous score, it’s a simple and touching love story that makes for an extraordinary night of theater.

Tony, a middle-aged vintner, makes a mail order marriage proposal which is accepted under the lady’s mistaken assumption a photo of his young, handsome foreman is her intended husband. Featuring two of Cinnabar’s most beloved musical performers, Stephen Walsh and Jennifer Mitchell.

Generously Underwritten by Producer's Circle Member: Dr. David Noorthoek, with Buffington Clay-Miller of Clay Foundation-West


Tony Esposito

Stephen Walsh


Jennifer Mitchell


Krista Wigle*


Michael van Why


Sergey Khalikulov


Diana Kehrig


Domonic Tracy


Jake Hughes


Brandon Casbeer


Carmello Tringali


Gene Wright

The Doctor

Eric Levintow

The Postman

Gene Wright


Warren Theuret

The Priest

Jorge Covarrubias

The Cashier

Barry Watkins

Creative Team

Music Director

Mary Chun

Stage Director

Elly Lichenstein


Nancy Rush

Stage Manager

Ingrid Emming

Scenic Designer

Wayne Hovey

Costume Designer

Pam Enz

Lighting Designer

Robin DeLuca


Cesar Cancino

Paul Dab

With thanks to Brenda Vahur

* Appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional stage actors and stage managers in the United States

CancinoCesar Cancino (Piano) enjoys a musically diverse career as pianist, musical director and conductor. He was for many years the musical director/pianist for “Teatro Zinzanni” and toured with singer/songwriter Joan Baez as her musical director and pianist. Most recently, he was the Musical Director/Pianist for Life Without Makeup starring the legendary Rita Moreno at Berkeley Rep. Mr. Cancino has performed throughout North America, Europe and Australia in such venues as Montreux Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, Int’l Music Festival of Mexico City, Atlanta Summer Pops Symphony and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Local credits include Rrazz Room, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 42nd St. Moon and others. He has appeared with such diverse artists as Florence Henderson, Paula West and Maria Muldaur.

Casbeer Brandon Casbeer (Al/Ciccio) is thrilled to be returning to Cinnabar Theater. He was previously seen at Cinnabar Theater as Remendado in their production of Bizet’s Carmen in 2013. Favorite roles include Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi with Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute (BASOTI),  Jack in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods and Chip Tolentino in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Brandon is an active participant in various events including Fête Concerts Series 2015, and Reserved for Amy 2014. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied with César Ulloa. When not performing Brandon works as a Celtic Shamanic practitioner and keeps a private vocal studio in San Francisco.

ChunMary Chun (Music Director, Conductor) “One cannot resist the charm, energy, and allégresse that was displayed on the podium by Mary Chun.” 
– Le Figaro, Paris. A fierce advocate of new work and equally passionate about reviving classics by the masters, mary chun (music director) conducts opera and musical theater in the Bay Area and beyond. In 2014 she made her Chinese debut as Music Director for the premiere of Avenue Q in Beijing where the two-month run was met with sold-out success and won the distinction of Best Musical Production in the Large Theater Category. Invited to return last year for the Chinese premiere of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Mary music directed both the Beijing and Shanghai productions of this Pulitzer-prize winning musical. Beginning her 6th season as resident music director at Cinnabar and 16th season as principal conductor for Earplay, Mary has conducted operas new and old in Europe and the US and worked with notable composers such as John Adams, Libby Larsen, and Tan Dun, to name a few. Nominated by the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle for her work with recent Cinnabar productions Fiddler and The Marriage of Figaro, Mary received the Best Music Direction Award in Small Theater Category for The Marriage of Figaro. Mary’s most recent Cinnabar productions were City of Angels last September and The Magic Flute in June.

CovarrubiasJorge Covarrubias (The Priest) is very excited to return to Cinnabar once more to work with this amazing staff and great cast.  Previous credits include My Way: a Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Sound of Music, Funny Girl (Paul), Brigadoon (Angus), Scrooge (Bob Cratchet), Catch Me if You Can (Tailor). Two Gentlemen of Sonoma (Rodrigo/Zorro), Fiddler on the Roof (Russian), Carousel, City of Angels (Sonny), Kismet (Guard) and Little Mermaid.

DabPaul Dab (Piano) graduated from SF Conservatory of Music in 2014 and co-founded the Fête Concert Series with fellow alumni. He teaches private students at SF Community Music Center and classroom outreach with SF Opera Guild. Paul is excited for his first show at Cinnabar Theater!


DeLucaRobin DeLuca (Lighting Designer) is a busy little stagehand/designer, jumping from the Wells Fargo Center to Diversified Stage to her active life in freelance lighting. She graduated from SSU in 2013 with a technical theatre degree and works hard to make that degree work for her. She is a regular designer at the Raven, at San Domenico School and for Cardinal Newman High School. When she finds time off, it is usually spent gaming.

Ingrid Emming (Stage Manager) began stage managing in 2007, most recently for Cinnabar’s The Magic Flute. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Colorado State University’s Department of Design and Merchandising, and 2016 marks her 18th year of private professional practice specializing in architectural and interior design. She is happy to be back!

EnzPamela Enz (Costume Designer) has been designing costumes for Sonoma County theater for over 15 years, and is thrilled to join the Cinnabar team for this production. Pam has been honored with nominations for costume design from Critics Circle, SOTA and Broadway North Bay, and was the first (and only) recipient of the Rosie Award for costume design when she worked last with Elly Lichenstein on a production of Man of La Mancha.

HoveyWayne Hovey (Set Designer) has been working in the technical side of theater for more than 40 years, doing everything from backstage work to set, sound and lighting design and stage management. He has provided set design for Cinnabar’s Jacques Brel is Alive and Well, The Marriage of Figaro, Bad Dates, Mahalia Jackson, and light design for more than 15 shows at Cinnabar, including last June’s The Magic Flute.

KehrigDiana Kehrig (Marie) became a regular member of the New York City Opera Co @ Lincoln Center for 10 seasons, singing numerous roles under the direction of Julius Rudel and Beverly Sills.  Diana has sung in major opera Houses throughout the United States and Europe. She has acted in many seasons of summer stock, cruise ships, and in the Schlossfestspiele in Heidelberg Germany in the Student Prince for 9 summers. Diana toured with Russian National Orchestra in Gordon Getty’s Plump Jack thought Europe and Russia. Since her first movie role in Foul Play, she’s been doing TV, Film and Commercials in SF.

KhalikulovSergey Khalikulov (Joey) is thrilled to be making his Cinnabar Theater debut! Recent credits: George, Sunday in the Park with George (Foothill); Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni (Waffle Opera); Joe Cable, South Pacific (Foothill; BATCC Nomination); Freddie, My Fair Lady (Broadway by the Bay); Figaro, Le nozze di Figaro (SFCM); Dulcamara, L’elisir d’amore (SFCM).


Levintow Color 2016Eric Levintow (The Doctor) is very excited for his debut with Cinnabar! Eric performs regularly in opera and musical theater productions throughout the Bay Area. Favorite roles include the Jets Gang in West Side Story, Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, Javert in Les Miserables, and Herbie in Gypsy. Enjoy the show!


LichensteinElly Lichenstein (Stage Director) joined Cinnabar in 1975 after a short career as a cellist in Belgium. Studying voice with Cinnabar’s founder Marvin Klebe, drama with Fred Curchack and Richard Blake, and movement with Ann Woodhead, she sang at least 50 roles with the company until retiring from the stage in 1999. A passionate proponent of intimate theater and opera, she serves as Cinnabar’s artistic director, directs opera (including last season’s The Magic Flute) and musicals, and made a stage appearance in autumn 2014 as Golde in Fiddler on the Roof. This season you can see her in Jane Anderson’s The Quality of Life.

MitchellJennifer Mitchell (Rosabella) is delighted to return to Cinnabar where she last played Tzeitl in Fiddler on the Roof, as Stephen Walsh’ daughter! Credits include: Oklahoma! (Laurey) – Broadway by the Bay; Le nozze di Figaro (Barbarina) – Opera San José; The Light in the Piazza (Clara), Carousel (Julie) – Spreckels Theatre Company; The Boy Friend (Polly) – 42nd Street Moon; Così fan tutte (Despina) – Pocket Opera.

RushNancy Rush (Choreographer) has choreographed for Cinnabar Theater regularly since 2009 with the fabulous Young Rep talent here, and is thrilled to work with the (adult!) cast of The Most Happy Fella! Originally from Chicago, she studied dance there, then to San Diego (BA in Dance), performing at two dinner theaters and a dance company. Moving north she was principal dancer/instructor with a dance company in San Francisco. The last 15 years Nancy has been teaching gymnastics to children.

TheuretWarren Theuret (Max) has had the pleasure of performing with Cinnabar since 2013. He has appeared in Carmen, Marriage of Figaro, Falstaff, Fiddler on the Roof, City of Angels (assuming numerous roles including the man in the iron lung) and The Magic Flute.


TracyDomonic Tracy (Clem) made his professional debut at the Cinnabar Theater as Stine in City of Angels. A Pittsburg native, he recently received his B.A. in Theater Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. His previous work includes playing Roger in UCSC’s production of Rent and touring with the University’s traveling Shakes-to-Go production of As You Like It. Domonic would like to thank everyone that got him here, and looks forward to a long career in the arts.

TringaliCarmello Tringali (Giuseppe) is thrilled to be making his Cinnabar debut as Giuseppe. Carmello is a versatile performer and Bay Area native. He has performed a wide variety of roles in terms of voice type, musical style and character.


Van WhyMichael van Why (Herman) holds a BA in music from SSU where he studied vocal performance. He is a professional entertainer specializing in 20th-century popular French, Italian, Neapolitan, and American cabaret/café music ( He has offered lecture concerts on the subjects of chanson and canzone at colleges, universities, and cultural organizations throughout the Bay Area. Michael is always grateful to return “home” to Cinnabar. In addition to his solo concert presentations, his theatrical roles include Albin in La Cage aux Folles, Man Two in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, and numerous roles in Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies, as well as Padre Perez in Man of La Mancha, Bartley in Riders to the Sea, and more.

WalshStephen Walsh (Tony Esposito) Performance credits include lead roles in Candide, Gianni Schicchi, The Boys from Syracuse, The Most Happy Fella, La Cage Aux Folles, Fiddler on the Roof, and roles in other musicals and operas including The Secret Marriage, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and Into the Woods. He has sung with the San Francisco Choral Artists, Chanticleer and the San Francisco Opera Chorus. Mr. Walsh has been the principal cantor at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco since 1993. He lives with his family in Vallejo.

WigleKrista Wigle (Cleo) is extremely happy to be returning to Cinnabar after performing here as Third Lady in The Magic Flute least season, and as Dame Quickly in Falstaff, Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro, and in Tomfoolery. Recent roles include Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw, Clorinda in La Cenerentola, The Soprano (Trio) in Trouble in Tahiti, Cleo in The Most Happy Fella, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Musetta in La Bohème, Blonde in The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Carlotta in the Las Vegas and San Francisco productions of The Phantom of the Opera. Future:  Yetta Schmendrick in The MeshugaNutcracker! (Off-Broadway/East Coast Tour).

WrightGene Wright (Pasquale/Postman) made his Cinnabar debut as First Priest in The Magic Flute.  Gene has appeared on the SRJC stage in Jesus Christ Superstar and Phantom of the Opera. In 2014 he was the bass soloist for the Redwood Empire Messiah, and performed them again this December with the Solano Chamber Society and the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Gene is a member of Take Jack, a vocal band that performs a wide repertoire, including many original compositions. He studies voice with Jody Benecke, and with Ruth Ann Swenson/David Burnakus.

Barry Watkins (The Cashier) Check back soon for Barry’s story.

Jake Hughes (Al/Young Man) Check back soon for Jake’s story.

from Talkin’ Broadway

Cinnabar has staged a truly delightful production. Wayne Hovey has once again created a beautiful environment in which the terrific cast can cast their spell. A lovely painted backdrop sets the scene of golden California hills and a lush vineyard. At stage left there is a rustic barn, and at right a beautifully rendered craftsman-style cottage. Despite the minor second act doldrums, director Elly Lichenstein keeps the action moving along briskly and uses her large cast well, creating energetic party scenes as well as tender moments for solos and duets.

Her cast, in return, serve her well, delivering natural, sincere, and powerful performances. Stephen Walsh is wonderful as Tony—his charm fills the room, and we can’t help but root for him to win the girl, despite the wide difference in their ages. His voice is big and bold and his phrasing brings out the best of Loesser’s gorgeous melodies. As Rosabella, Jennifer Mitchell is both tender and vulnerable, without seeming meek or overly pliant. But if anyone steals the show, it’s Michael van Why in the role of Herman, who may in actuality be the “most happy fella,” since he always seems to have a smile on his face and a good word to say about everyone. Van Why has a wonderful and easy physicality and a rubber face that brightens the stage every time he’s on it.

Though the show itself clearly isn’t my favorite, it nonetheless has an undeniable appeal. The beautiful melodies, the May-December romance, and the variety of musical styles combine to create an evening of delights served up by one of the North Bay’s most skilled theatrical organizations.

from For All Events

Don’t Miss Cinnabar Theater’s “The Most Happy Fella”!

“The Most Happy Fella” was written for Robert Weede playing Tony Esposito in the title role. The demanding score and script was beautifully played and artistically sung by Stephen Walsh, and he was surrounded and supported by an ensemble team which together made the performance all the more special.  Most notable performers in the cast included Jennifer Mitchell as the young Rosabella, Krista Wigle as the wonderfully comical Cleo, Diana Kerhig as Tony’s sister Marie,  Sergey Khalikulov as Joey, and the incredibly hilarious Michael van Why as Herman.

“Standing On The Corner” is the signature song of this show, containing the difficulties of close four part men’s harmonies, and it was splendidly performed by Herman’s quartet of friends, but the scenes involving the three chefs in “Sposalizio” and “Abbondanza” were even more impressive, performing Loesser’s chromatic harmony with ease.  Nancy Rush’s choreography was truly supportive of the period, as were Pamela Enz’s costumes.
Kudos to Wayne Hovey for his innovative set design, maximizing the small performance space that is Cinnabar to appear larger and varied through the use of simple draw curtains which took the audience effortlessly from a San Francisco café to a splendid and colorful view of the Napa Valley.

Musical direction by Mary Chun was precise and supportive.  At first I was skeptical that this orchestra of three (two pianos and percussion) would produce the rich and varied sonorities of Loesser’s score, but Mary made it all work, with the score played by pianists Paul Dab and Cesar Cancino with percussionist Kevin Neuhoff.

Director Elly Lichenstein has presented a gem of a production in “The Most Happy Fella”, and it truly is a show to see.  Given the fact that this is the first time for Frank Loesser’s inarguably best piece of musical theatre to be produced in the North Bay, it may be a long time before it will be seen here again.

from KRCB Second Row Center

It’s been twelve years since Stephen Walsh last played Tony the grape grower, in the classic Frank Loesser musical ‘The Most Happy Fella,’ at Cinnabar Theater. And to employ an over-picked cliché, in his second run of the show at Cinnabar, Walsh has only gotten better, deeper and rich—like a really, really good wine.

The show itself—about romantic complications arising when the much older Tony, an Italian wine-maker in Napa, impulsively leaves a love letter for a San Francisco waitress—is a blend of fantasy romance and soap-opera heartbreak. It’s like something John Steinbeck might have written if asked to pitch an idea for a musical about love.

Nicely directed by Elly Lichenstein, with her patented knack for filling the stage with things to look at, the production pivots on the performance of Walsh, who not only sings gorgeously, but nails the role of a love-struck sweetheart who believes he’s too old and unattractive to deserve happiness. Walsh makes Tony’s emotional journey so believable it’s impossible not be happy when happy and devastated when his desperate attempt at love hits snags, which it does from the very beginning.

This is hardly light and fluffy musical material. There is real human drama here, and the music—with the exception of the poppy ear-worm ‘Standin’ on a Corner’— is complex and operatic, beautifully light and dark, bubbly and haunting, and occasionally a bit weird. This is the kind of show in which people sing whatever is in their soul, even if that means singing a single name over and over and over.

As Amy—whom Tony seems to think is named Rosabella—Jennifer Mitchell is charming. She’s especially strong in the early scenes where she is tricked—due to Tony having sent her a photo of his foreman instead of himself—into believing that her coffee shop pen-pal is the young and handsome guy she recognizes from the photo when she arrives at the Vineyard. She’s there in Napa, having impulsively agreed to marry the man she’s been swapping letters with. Mitchell sings beautifully, and plays the early flirtations of love and attraction to lovely effect.

When she learns of the deception, a series of actions take place that steer the tale in the direction of tragedy, but never leaves us doubting that true love might somehow be possible for Tony, one way or another, no matter how unlikely.
Michael Van Why, as Tony’s optimistic farmhand Herman, is magnificent—like the Scarecrow of Oz crossed with Curly from ‘Oklahoma’—and his guileless courtship of Amy’s friend Cleo—a power-force performance by Krista Wigle—is a nice balance to the rockier romance of Tony and his “Rosabella.” The music, played simply on two pianos and a set of drums, is nicely directed by Mary Chun.

There are many reasons to see this show, but in the end, it all comes down to Walsh, who returns to a favorite role after a dozen years, and somehow makes it even better, giving one of the best performances of his career, and easily one of the North Bay’s best musical productions of 2016.


Jennifer Mitchell (Rosabella) and Stephen Walsh (Tony)

Domonic Tracy (Clem), Brandon Casbeer (Jake), Michael van Why (Herman), Jake Hughes (Al)

Sergey Khalikulov (Joey)

Michael van Why (Herman), Krista Wigle (Cleo)

Stephen Walsh as Tony Esposito

Jennifer Mitchell (Rosabella) and Stephen Walsh (Tony)


Carmello Tringali (Giuseppe), Gene Wright (Pasquale), Brandon Casbeer (Ciccio)

Jennifer Mitchell as Rosabella

Photos by Eric Chazankin

September 10 and 17 only
Tasting included in ticket price

Taste Coppola Wines in our studio at 7pm
See “The Most Happy Fella” at 8pm

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Banner photo Stephen Walsh and Jennifer Mitchell in The Most Happy Fella (Photo by Eric Chazankin)