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  • Autumn Cruz /

    Justin Munoz searches the prop room for things he might be able to use in an upcoming Music Circus production. So far, he's found a baby carriage, a stuffed life-size female figure and a (presumably) fake condor.

  • Autumn Cruz /

    Paige Wilson paints part of a set for "Crazy for You" in the California Musical Theatre warehouse. Every minute of stagecraft requires hours of behind-the-scenes preparation.

  • Autumn Cruz /

    A warehouse full of costumes represents more than 60 years of Music Circus presentations.

  • Autumn Cruz /

    Some costumes are stored based on the musical they came from. A yellow card marks the apparel used in a past performance of "Camelot."

  • Autumn Cruz /

    Scenic artist Allison Kauling works on a set at the California Musical Theatre scenery shop for the upcoming production of "Crazy for You."

More Information

  • What: Sacramento's summer tradition continues with "The Music Man" through Sunday; "Fiddler on the Roof," Aug. 14-19; and "Crazy for You," Aug. 28- Sept. 2.
    Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
    Cost: $25-$65
    Information: (916) 557-1999,

Cathie Anderson: Some of Music Circus' magic starts in an industrial warehouse

Published: Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012 - 9:10 am

Not all the magical moments of Music Circus happen in Wells Fargo Pavilion. No, the magic starts in a hotbox of a warehouse, intentionally tucked away in an obscure industrial park.

There, you'll find carpenters, welders, painters, designers and prop minders working to create sets and find costumes that will delight audience members, a number of whom sit close enough to touch the actors.

"These guys are really miracle workers," said Scott Klier, the associate producer of California Musical Theatre. "We give them very little information, and they take the basic rendering and really transform it."

The upcoming production of "Crazy for You" will feature birch trees created by technical director Nicholas St. James. He's welding them from metal tubes. They'll be coated with paper, painted and smattered with a bit of oatmeal. And what about the village homes from "Fiddler on the Roof?" Carpenter Phil Smith and his crew are constructing the aged facades.

Then there are the two costume rooms, each big enough to house a McDonald's restaurant. One is filled with racks and racks of what Klier calls odds and ends – ladies' hats, leather riding boots, evening dresses for demure ingenues, petticoats for can-can girls, child-sized Mary Janes, jodhpurs and any other last-minute production need. In-house designers created the costumes, at a cost of thousands of dollars.

The other room has the high-end showpieces – costumes created by William Ivey Long and other Broadway designers, each ensemble valued at tens of thousands of dollars and rented for a short time.

Klier hopes to see a day when they can afford air circulation units to help preserve these treasures and the 62 years of costume history created by Music Circus designers.

"The costumes tell the world of the play because of the nature of our space," said Klier, referring to the intimacy of theater in the round. "We can't have a lot scenery. We can't have a lot of stuff up there. It's really about the connection of the actors and the audience, so the costume really has to take them to that world of the show – that time period or that location."

A world of memories

Malcolm and Nancy Howe have spent 40 years traveling the world and collecting memories from all their postings. Now, they're selling many of them off, one piece at a time.

Today, the Howes will open The Penny Farthing, an antique shop named for the distinctive high-wheel British bicycles, at 110 L St. in Old Sacramento.

Once a British subject, now an American, Malcolm Howe was posted to China, Hong Kong, India, Budapest, Cairo and other places as a diplomatic security officer. And, for 22 years, he served in the military.

Nancy Howe refers to herself as a "camp follower."

"We've just collected as we've gone," Malcolm Howe said. "We ended up actually with, like, 2 1/2 storage units full of different bits and pieces and half a garage-full."

When they got their green cards, the couple began making sales at antique fairs in Daly City, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo and other locales, but they found it expensive to travel.

Now in his 60s, Malcolm Howe is contemplating retirement and thought a brick-and-mortar antique store would be something fun to do when that day comes. Nancy Howe will run things until her husband retires.

Each piece in this shop evokes memories, including the sculpture of the Thai goddess, $85, or the spirit house, $145.

"In Thailand, they have a personal shrine in their homes," Nancy Howe said. "… They put a couple of banana leaves and some sweetmeats on it, and then they say their prayers."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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