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The Composer | Premiere Cast | Concha Chairs


Meet the Cast of the Viva Concha! 2006 Showcase production! 
- Notes by Composer and Producer Candace Forest -

Aimee Puentes

Aimée Puentes - Concepción "Concha" Arguello

Aimée was quite miraculously "discovered" by my next-door neighbor in an art gallery in Carmel just as auditions were getting underway.  I felt, and the audience agreed, that her singing, dancing and acting brought Concha's complex character vibrantly to life in a performance.
Codrut Birsan

Codrut Birsan - Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov 

I will always remember Codrut's first phone call to me to set up an audition. I told him I was looking for someone to play a Russian. He said, "I am from Romania, very near there." He brought just the right combination of aristocratic bearing and swashbuckling gravitas to his portrayal of the great Russian explorer.

Jonathan Smucker

Jonathan Smucker - Davydov

I "discovered" Jonathan Smucker when I went to see Codrut Birsan perform in a concert of opera scenes. He and Jonathan were cast together in a couple of the scenes. I really liked Jonathan's voice a lot and thought he would be a good Davydov to Codrut's Rezanov. I was right. We all got to see Jonathan do Rezanov too in an understudy dress rehearsal and he was terrific in that role as well.

Anja Strauss

Anja Strauss - The Virgin Mary

Anja was the first person I cast back when I had planned to do the Showcase in a 100-seat hall. After I heard Anja's sing the Virgin Mary's aria, I knew that we needed a bigger venue and that's how we ended up in The Victoria Theatre! Her performance was perfection in every way, which is of course, as it should be for the Holy Mother.

Lua Hadar

Lua Hadar - Ygnacia Arguello

Lua and I have been friends and colleagues for a very long time. It was when I was co-producing her CD (It's About Time) in 2005, I made the decision to cast her as Concha's mother. As it turned out, she and Aimée were the perfect mother/daughter pairing. It made it very easy for the audience to see why Concha was such a charmer because her mother was quite a gal!

Sibel Demirmen

Sibel Demirmen - Isabella Diaz

Another recent arrival from New York, Sibel was the understudy for Isabella. When Sandra Rubalcava had to withdraw from the cast, Sibel was immediately brought into the role. Her lovely voice and countenance particularly mesmerized the audience in the hauntingly beautiful "Island of the Angels."

Ross Halper

Ross Halper - Father Urrea

It was such an honor and delight to work with Ross. His portrayal of
Father Urrea has set the benchmark for any who follow. It was a particular joy to work with Ross in the development of "The Divine Loophole," one of my favorite moments in the show.

Jimmy Kansau

Jimmy Kansau - Brother Diego

Originally, Brother Diego was written for baritone Frederick Matthews. His San Francisco Opera schedule made it impossible for him to perform in the showcase.  Luckily, Jimmy Kansau auditioned and I decided to reset the title song from the show, "Rose of the Presidio" for his crystalline lyric tenor voice.

Isaiah Musik Ayala

Isaiah Musik Ayala - Santiago

Concha Arguello was much sought after by several young Californios both caballeros and soldiers. I decided to roll them altogether into the character of Santiago de Aguilar, played with appropriate swagger by Isaiah.

Douglas Mandell

Douglas Mandell - Commandante Don José Darío Arguello

Our director, Victoria Holder, has frequently worked with Douglas Mandell up at Goat Hall, a venerable spot in Portrero Hill. I ended up engaging Doug's whole family. His wife, Miriam Lewis, helped us in wardrobe and their charming daughter, Rose, didn't have to stretch too far to play little Rosa Arguello, Concha's youngest sister.

John Hutchinson

John Hutchinson - Dr. Georg von Langsdorff

John is a veteran actor and a playwright himself. It was a lot of fun working with him. I downplayed the historically documented friction between Rezanov and his medical officer, preferring rather to show the two in a reasonably amiable relationship.

Raul Ramon Rubio

Raúl Ramón Rubio - Governor Arillaga

I hope that the real Governor Arillaga was as nice as Raúl, who contributed a lot more than his prodigious acting talent to this production. In addition to his full artistic life, Raúl works tirelessly in the effort to end the embargo against his native land of Cuba, an endeavor I wholeheartedly support.

David Zubiria

David Zubiria, baritone - Luis Arguello

David arrived just in the nick of time  to play Concha's big brother, Luis.
His specialty is being a quick study and he proved it admirably in this role.
I got connected to David through Teatro Visión. He's also worked frequently with TheaterWorks.

Sandra Castleberry

Sandra Castleberry - Maria/Ensemble

In addition to her lovely voice, Sandy is a very talented and experienced performer.  She appears frequently with Oakland Opera Theater and Goat Hall Productions. She was drawn to Viva Concha! because she has a genuine passion for new work.

Dalma Kovacs

Dalma Kovacs - Teresa/Ensemble

Well known for her jazz singing, Dalma  got her first experience of musical theater in Viva Concha! Her work onstage was exceptional but the biggest treat for the cast and crew was her fabulous jazz singing at our parties! Dalma is currently in Romania where she studies music and English at the University in Brasov. We miss her a lot and hope she comes back soon.

Alyssa Jepsky

Alyssa Jepsky - Gertrudis Arguello

Alyssa has a great deal of stage experience having appeared in Annie, The Wiz and The Mikado and  touring as a soloist with the Friends of Broadway. A real pro, Alyssa was a great joy to work with and no doubt has a bright future in this business that she loves so much.

Claudia Landivar

Claudia Landivar - Carmen Rodriguez/Ensemble

Claudia actually landed her part over the phone. She came highly recommended and when I called her, explained the role of Carmen and sang her the part, she laughed. It was exactly the laugh I was looking for! Lucky for us, she sings beautifully too and is a wonderful actor and such great fun to work with.

Priscilla Melo

Priscilla Melo - Margarita Arguello

I met Priscilla when I was conductor of the San Francisco Children's Chorus.
We've worked together quite a bit and she was the first call I made when I started casting the sisters of Concha. She's a real trouper.

Hattie Mullaly

Hattie Mullaly - Elena Ventura/Ensemble

I'd heard Hattie sing Cabaret a lot in the City. I always really liked her voice and stage personality. She reminded me of one of my favorite actresses, Celeste Holm, who, like Hattie, is from Oklahoma. Hattie was helping me out in the office just prior to the Viva Concha! auditions and I asked her to audition because I thought she would be perfect for the part of Elena Ventura.  And so she was!

Erick Casanova

Erick Casanova- Renaldo/Vladimir/Ensemble

Erick appeared on the scene after the show was cast. He really was excited by the project and agreed to help with Props. At his first rehearsal with us, we asked him to stand-in for the Commandant. He really made an impression and soon after, when we lost a cast member unexpectedly, Erick stepped right up to the plate. He has some really great moments as a drunken sailor in We Ride the Waves.

Mark Enea

Mark Enea - Liam Maloney/Geraldo/Ensemble

Mark had just returned to San Francisco from living in New York for a year and Viva Concha! was the first audition he came out for. While he played both his characters to the hilt. My personal favorite is his disgruntled Yankee sailor planning to jump ship in We Ride the Waves. It's a really great duet performance by both Mark and singer/dancer, Ken Scott.

Gary Mendelson

Gary Mendelson - Juan/Ivan

With a great dancer as Yank #2, the dance duel I had always had in my imagination came to life in a wonderful comedic Pas de Deux with Gary as "Ivan the Braggert" and Ken, the exhuberant Yank. Gary then thrilled us all
at the Wrap Party with his amazing banquet from his cousin's fabulous
North Beach restaurant, Ricos.

Ken Scott

Ken Scott - Patrick Harper

It became a bit of a joke that we couldn't keep our Yanks. Originally there were supposed to be 3 of them.  We lost one on the very first rehearsal so started with 2. Then, the #2 Yanks started to come and go. At my wits end, I put up a loud and desperate call and happily Ken Scott was recommended by our assistant director, Beth Wilmurt.  Because of Ken's terrific balletic ability we were able to fully realize the concept behind We Ride the Waves.

Victoria Holder Victoria Holder - Stage Director

Ms. Holder’s working  knowledge of both the Spanish and Russian language will be put to use in the upcoming showcase of Viva Concha! Rose of the Presidio. The show’s composer and producer, Candace Forest is delighted that she was able to engage The Victoria Theatre. "I think it’s rather nice that Victoria originated this first fully staged production of Viva Concha! in a theatre named after her!"

Martha Rodriguez Salazar - Conductor

Ms. Rodriguez’ whole life has been dedicated to music, first as a flutist and singer, then as a transcriber and interpreter of ancient Spanish and Mexican music. Ms. Rodríguez has organized several flute festivals in Mexico and is the co-founder of the Mexican Flute Association. In 1995 Ms. Rodriguez began her conducting career, directing various ensembles including chamber music, flute and vocal choirs and operas. She is the assistant conductor of Coro Hispano de San Francisco. Ms. Rodriguez teaches flute, voice and piano at Mills College, College of San Mateo, Community Music Center in San Francisco and in her private studio.


Colin Russell - Choreographer

Colin Russell, is an internationally known dancer, choreographer and ballet master. Mr. Russell is the former director and choreographer of the National Ballet of Iceland and has choreographed for Stafford Arts Festival, Pitlochry Festival in Scotland, Benicia Ballet, Peninsula Youth Ballet and South Valley Ballet Company among others. Mr. Russell received his training from Nadine Nicoleava-Legat, Dame Marie Rambert, Stanislav Idzikovsky and Lydia Kyacht. Mr. Russell is a former member of the Royal Academy of Dance, British Association of Russian Ballet, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, the Canadian Dance Teacher Association and Dance Masters of America. He is much sought after as a Ballet Master and has traveled widely as such. He is also very experienced in choreographing American musical theater works having worked on over 40 productions of the standard repertoire.
We are very fortunate and honored having worked with such a distinguished colleague on this premiere production of Viva Concha! Rose of the Presidio.