Youth theater company staging ‘Most Happy Fella’ – The Mercury News


The Napa wine country circa the mid-1950s is the setting for the classic Frank Loesser musical “The Most Happy Fella,” which comes to the El Cerrito High Performing Arts Center for shows by the Berkeley-based Youth Musical Theater Company over the next two weekends.

The play, one of Loesser’s seldom staged works, has a score of almost 40 songs, including “Standing on the Corner” and “Warm All Over,” performed by a talented cast of actors ages 13 to 22, and backed by a full professional orchestra.

The quick synopsis of the plot: “Rosabella, a young woman from San Francisco, is wooed by Tony, an aging Italian grape farmer from Napa Valley. Their age difference naturally leads to trouble, but love prevails.”

YMTC Artistic Director Jennifer Boesing calls the play exciting for the company, “not just because of its operatic scope and because it’s so rarely done, but because it’s a love story about the transformative power of kindness and forgiveness. And, at this moment in history, when so many people feel divided and afraid, it’s hard to think of anything we need more.”

David Möschler is the musical director; and Pam Crane is choreographer. A 30-piece orchestra will play the original orchestrations of Don Walker.

The book, music, and lyrics were written by Frank Loesser, who also was the composer of stage classics “Guys and Dolls” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

Möschler notes that Loesser wrote the music to “Guys and Doll” and “How to Succeed in Buusiness,” while “The Most Happy Fella”  was a five-year effort.

“The work remains powerful and challenging because of the intense love and craft he put into what many consider his magnum opus, and more so because the scope of the story transcends his craft as a songwriter with its message of the power of forgiveness,” Möschler said.

Performances are at 7 p.m. July 21, 22, 28 and 29, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees on July 23 and 30.

The July 23 performance includes a pre-show talk at 1 p.m. and the July 28 show opens with a talk at 6 p.m. at El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater, 540 Ashbury Ave. in El Cerrito.

Tickets are $15–$28, with discounts for students, seniors, military, teachers and groups.  Tickets are available online at or at the door one hour before curtain. The July 28 show is “pay as you will,” when seats will be offered for cash-only at the box office. Reserved seats can still be purchased online.

Rotary scholarships

Three Albany High School seniors are getting assistance from the Rotary Club of Albany as part of the legacy of Joe and Dorothy Villa, who in 1982 established a scholarship named for the couple.

Albany Rotary annually awards funds to one to three graduating seniors and this year’s selections are Miriam Simon, Emma Sugarbaker and Cody Rapella, who received their checks and were congratulated at the Rotary chapter luncheon meeting on June 13 at at Valparaiso Restaurant on Solano Avenue, where the club meets each Tuesday.

“The Villa Scholarship began with a donation by the Villas in late 1981 with the idea that the accrued interest would fund two annual scholarships (the original awards were two $500 scholarships). The first awards were given out in May of 1983,” the club notes.

“Joseph Villa was a prominent Albany Rotarian, a past president and Paul Harris Fellow. A first generation Italian American, he grew up in Albany initially working in a produce market. Eventually, he became the owner of a chain of local markets and stores under the name of JV Liquors and JV Markets.”

The scholarship has awarded $57,000 over 34 years.

The Villas created the scholarship as a way to give back to their community and Joe Villa “designed the scholarship to help students like himself who had to work or overcome some adversity through their high school years, to give a pat on the back and recognition to the student who had a responsibility or burden which limited the time he or she could devote to school success.”


A story in The Journal on July 14, “More litigation filed over online posting,” had an incorrect byline due to an editor’s error. The story was written by Damin Esper.




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