By Kristina Houck
While other kids listened to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, director Rick Simas said he played tunes from “Man with a Load of Mischief.” Now Simas is kicking off North Coast Repertory Theatre’s 32nd season with the off-Broadway musical.
“I’ve known this musical since the late ’60s,” said Simas, who co-directs San Diego State University’s master’s program in musical theater. “This was one of those rare finds that people who collected the recordings of musicals would look for because it was a fairly obscure musical and there weren’t a lot of copies of the album out there. I fell in love with the songs and played it over and over.”
Set in the early 19th century, an accident to a coach brings a nobleman, his lackey, a lady and her maid to a wayside inn in England. The musical explores themes of class, equality and first appearances, Simas said.
“I just love the music so much,” he said. “The music is really quite romantic; there’s a lot of intrigue to it. I think the story is interesting.”
With music by John Clifton, “Man with a Load of Mischief” originally opened in 1966 off-Broadway. The musical starred Reid Shelton, who later portrayed Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” and Virginia Vestoff, who was most famous for her role as Abigail Adams in the original Broadway production of “1776,” a role she reprised in the film adaptation.
Simas, who has directed more than 100 productions, first produced “Man with a Load of Mischief” in 1991 while teaching in the Bay Area.
“I’m probably the only person in the world who has directed two productions of ‘Man with a Load of Mischief,’” Simas said. “
I really loved it and had a great time with it. Audiences really enjoyed it. It was a great experience for all of us who worked on it.”
Opening Sept. 7, “Man with a Load of Mischief” is Simas’ eighth show at North Coast Repertory Theatre. (Previews will be held Sept. 4-6.)
The San Diego resident said he is excited to launch the local theater’s new season with one of his favorite musicals.
“I feel really quite privileged. It’s my pleasure to introduce North Coast audiences to this piece,” Simas said. “I’m particularly excited to see how audiences respond to it here because I haven’t done it in 22 years. I had a good experience with it and audiences really liked it, but if there’s no name recognition, if you’re not going to see “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady,” “Oklahoma!” or any of the other well-known shows, they don’t come with an expectation.
“I think a lot of people go to musicals because they know the title. They go in knowing the story. I’m interested to see how the audience will respond to this piece not knowing anything about it.”
“Man with a Load of Mischief” plays through Sept. 29 and stars Robert Yakko as “The Man,” Jacquelyn Ritz as “The Lady,” Ron Choularton as “The Innkeeper,” Annie Hinton as “The Innkeeper’s Wife,” Randall Dodge as “The Lord,” and Tatiana Mac as “The Maid.”
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.northcoastrep.org.