What: “Kiss of the Spider Woman”

When: Performances are Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, till Jan. 20.

Where: Cascades Theatre, 148 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend

Cost: $25

Contact: cascadestheatrical.org or 541-389-0803

“Kiss of the Spider Woman” opens Thursday at Cascades Theatre in Bend. The first of two musicals on the second half of the community theater’s season, it comes replete with lavish costumes, a large set, live orchestra and a stage-filling cast of 21. (The other is “She Loves Me,” coming in June.)

“This (has a) full set, full cast, full orchestra. This is a full-on musical production,” said director Michelle Mejaski. In a new approach for the community theater, the show is a joint production from CTC and her company, Mejaski Choreography, which proved itself quite capable with “Jesus Christ Superstar” last summer in Drake Park.

If you’re familiar with the source novel by Argentine author Manuel Puig, or you’ve seen the 1985 drama starring William Hurt (who earned a Best Actor Oscar), you may be aware of the darker matters in this story of two cell-mates in a South American prison. Molina, played here by Dave Felton, is a gay man serving time for corrupting a minor. Valentin is a revolutionary who arrives in bad shape due to the torture he’s endured. He’s played by Rick Johnson, who starred as Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Molina escapes the madness of torture by fantasizing about Aurora (played by Christine Capucci, who also appeared in “Jesus Christ Superstar”). The Spider Woman of the title, she can kill with her kiss.

In the film, William Hurt’s Molina fantasized about Aurora as a film actress. However, in the musical adaptation by Fred Ebb, John Kander (music) and Terrance McNally (book), Molina’s fantasy world involves visions of her as a musical diva.

“Because it was made into a Broadway musical, rather than a movie actress, he is fantasizing about a musical actress — like a Liza Minelli,” Mejaski said. “And so now there are songs and dances. It’s a unique musical in the fact that it’s an emotional roller coaster, because in one scene, you might be having a prisoner absolutely tortured, whether mentally, emotionally or physically. And then all of a sudden, the band strikes up. It is the most happy music. Here comes Aurora and her dancers in glitter and boas, and we do a full-on, huge dance number.” Scott Michaelsen serves as musical director.

Mejaski is thrilled with the way the cast members are embracing their respective roles. Ed Victor, no stranger to the Cascades Theatre stage, plays the prison warden.

“Oh, he’s great, with his stature, (as) the warden. … He is being such a (jerk). He is so good,” Mejaski said, laughing. “You love to hate him.”

Possessed of a booming voice, but not known for singing roles, Victor is working with vocal director Trish Sewell on his singing, Mejaski said. “He is amazing at giving his best Rex Harrison,” she said, referring to the British actor who played Professor Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”

The cast includes Raine Countryman as Marcos, Brad Knowles as Esteban, Evan Smith as Emilio, Josh Davis as Fuentes, Robert-Paul Merola as Carlos, Tanner Willhite as Raymondo, Tara Johnson as Marta, Glenn Echon as Aurelio, Rhonda Townsend Schantz as an observer from Amnesty International and Adam Cash as Gabriel.

Echon is among some of the newer faces in the cast. According to his program bio, he is a Central Oregon Community College student by day and a karaoke DJ by night, and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” marks his Bend stage debut. Cash, a graduate of Sisters High School, appeared on a Bend stage in “The Who’s Tommy” at 2nd Street Theater. He recently moved back to Central Oregon after living in Orange, California, where he attended Chapman University and co-wrote and directed an adaptation of modern cult classic “The Room” that, with any luck, will one day find its way to a Central Oregon stage.

But of course, the show is also populated with stage veterans such as the perpetually nimble Mary Kilpatrick, who’s part of the dance ensemble, which includes Elise Franklin, Anna Hargrove, Shaley Vaughan and Shea Reiner. Gary Loddo designed the show’s set, which includes three prison cells clearly constructed with conviction.

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