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Manteca High thespians staging Stage Door production tonight
Kassidy Klinesmith (playing Terry Randall) Tony Padilla (playing) Keith Burgess perform onstage. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• WHAT: Stage Door
• WHERE: Manteca High theater, 501 E. Yosemite Ave.
• WHEN: Tonight at 7 p.m.

Walter Winchell said “Broadway is a main artery of New York life – the hardened artery.”

It’s supposed to be glitz. And glamour. And the place where those with big dreams of making it on the big stage flock to try and carve their path.

But it’s also hard. There are more people than there are parts and competition to secure a slot in a performance can be fierce – especially when one’s rent and one’s livelihood hang in the balance.

Stage Door – the production that the Intermediate and Advanced Theater classes at Manteca High are currently tackling – shows that cutthroat lifestyle through the eyes of a group of stage actresses living in a communal boarding house.

There are more than two-dozen roles in the performance, but few are important as those of Terry Randall and Jean Maitland – seemingly the only two actresses in the entire house that are going anywhere anytime fast. When Maitland, played convincingly by Megan Gonzalez, gets an opportunity to be in “the pictures” she’s quick to sacrifice the Broadway lifestyle. Randall, played by Kassidy Klinesmith, isn’t quite as quick to sign on Hollywood’s dotted line.

On one hand she knows that she’s sacrificing the riches that await her if she leaves her dreams of truly being a stage actress behind, but on the other hand is incredibly close to achieving the goals that she set out for herself. And with friend Kaye Hamilton (Evelyn Somerfield) floundering without work, Randall has been footing the “$12.50-a-week” boarding fee charged by Mrs. Orcutt for two people.

The great thing about stage performances, especially those carried out by high school drama students, is that there truly is no pretentiousness in any of the performers. While there are more than two-dozen roles, some only have a few lines while others have elaborate exchanges that must have taken weeks of studying to memorize.

And sometimes they fumble through. Ruby Talavera, who played Mrs. Orcutt, had a hand in nearly all of the scenes as the boarding house owner and had to interact with the majority of those she shared the stage with. And she nailed it.

There’s always that point, about halfway through the first act, when the performers shed the butterflies and become comfortable in the roles that they’ve been preparing for and begin acting them out like there is no audience – something that we saw with Klinesmith’s performance as Randall especially.

Not everything turns out hunky-dory. A depressed Hamilton commits suicide and her death sends shockwaves through the communal living facility.

It puts things into perspective for Randall, but casts a pallor over the performance as a whole and adds a heavy theme to the mix.

Yes, the Manteca High theater department, under the direction of Dawn Coyan, has hit another homerun. It’s a complex one, and the constant shuffling of characters can make it somewhat hard to follow at times, but when it finally does grab traction it grabs traction in a hurry.

Hardened arteries might not be the worst thing in the world, especially under the bright lights of Broadway.