Nothing But Broadway

At a time when gang activity has the city up in arms about what to do to curb the violence, a small group of local high-school graduates has decided to do something about it. And at the same time, Stephanie Morse and her cohorts in Markham Theatre Productions are giving something back to the educational system that trained them.

Markham was founded last summer by three young adults, each of whom graduated from Santa Barbara area schools and are currently attending college within California.

“There are not a lot of opportunity for our age group after high school,” said Morse, who wasn’t one of the founders but has signed up this year as producer. “They decided to put together a performing company to showcase the talents of Santa Barbara’s youth.”

Hence the birth of “Nothing But Broadway,” a revue of stage musicals from throughout the decades, which will be performed three times this weekend. While last year’s shows were too small to generate much income, the group is hoping to reap some profits this summer, which will all be donated to the Santa Barbara School District to help facilitate the continuation of music and theater education in the schools.

“When we became aware of the budget cuts in the elementary schools, we were really disappointed because we all remember how important theatre and music were for us,” said Morse, who graduated from San Marcos. “But now the arts have been virtually taken out of the curriculum altogether.”

Morse said the goal goes beyond simple fundraising to include fostering an understanding of how important theater and music education can be.

“I was very shy when I was growing up, the girl who would never raise her hand,” she recalled. “But I was pushed to be in choir and performances, and now I’m so much more outgoing and confident. So it goes way beyond training people for a career in the arts, which I don’t plan on myself. But it’s so important, because it’s what gets some kids to go to school in the first place, just like sports might for other children.

“In light of recent gang violence especially, it’s a good outlet to be able to get your creative side out. It can help you get interested in school instead of turning to the other path.”

This year’s “Nothing But Broadway” revue features all new material, and about half of the cast of 14 are returning members from 2006’s show, Morse said. Selections come from musicals spanning more than half a century, from “Lullabye of Broadway” to “Spamalot.” While the sets are necessarily minimal, the singers and dancers will be fully costumed in outfits from the musicals, and the set list includes such big dance numbers as “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago” and “I Can Do That” from “A Chorus Line.”

“People of any age should appreciate it,” Morse said. “And it’s just so important to give something back.”

“Nothing But Broadway” will be performed at 2 pm on Friday July 27 and 2 & 7 pm Saturday July 28 at Marjorie Luke Theatre at Santa Barbara Junior High, 721 E. Cota St. Tickets are $15; students/seniors $10. Call 805-680-5552.

Roughing It Up

Legend has it that “Shakespeare in Love” was just a cute romantic comedy until playwright Tom Stoppard lent his mighty wit to the script, emerging with the kind of rapid-fire repartee that raised the level of the love story. A similar sort of story-within-a-story provides the structure within Stoppard’s “Rough Crossing,” which winds up its run this weekend at SBCC’s Garvin Theatre, and is well worth the trip to the Mesa.

Space prevents disclosing much of the storyline of this comic ensemble farce, but suffice it to say that the quick lines, double entendres and running gags provide more than a fair share of belly laughs, while the convoluted plot twists pay off for those who pay close attention. Meanwhile, Ed Lee in the straight man role as the ship’s steward (and play narrator?) proves he belongs up there with Tony Miratti and Jon Koons, two of Santa Barbara’s best comic actors. Don’t miss it.

Call the Garvin Theater for more info: 805-965-5935.