Lords and Ladies! Time for a manor-born musical at North Coast Rep

By Diana Saenger

The nobleman isn’t noble, the lackey is no lackey, the lady is no lady, and the maid is no maiden in Ben Tarver’s “Man with a Load of Mischief” playing through September at North Coast Repertory Theatre. It’s all been set to music, too, with lyrics by Tarver and John Clifton and tunes by Clifton.

When “Man with a Load of Mischief” debuted off-Broadway in 1966, it earned raves from critics and had four revivals. For its NCRT premiere, director Rick Simas said audiences will come to appreciate it as much as he does.

“I began collecting original recordings of musicals at age 15,” Simas said. “Many people do not know this show, but I fell in love with it. It’s filled with song, humor and love.”

The romantic comedy is set in a roadside English country inn in the early 19th century, a staging challenge for an intimate space like NCRT’s house. “It’s very complicated because it must be a collaborative effort,” Simas said.

Due to the various instruments and singers moving about, sound designer Nicholas Drashner and light designer Matt Novotny took center stage.

“In tech rehearsal we had 40 to 50 light cues with an expectation of musical numbers having the correct angle of light on an actor, who must be in the same spot for every performance, and at the same time, the sound must move as the actor does,” Simas explained.

“Everything on stage, and behind, must carry out the theme of the period. Show music director Steven Withers had to coordinate all of this along with the choreography. He’s a native of San Diego and worked for many local theaters as director and pianist.

“We have (another) wonderful music director in Ron Councell. He’s an accomplished accompanist whose performed at many San Diego theaters and is music director for Unity of San Diego, as well as the associate conductor and accompanist for the San Diego Festival Chorus.

“Choreographer Jill Gorrie is also a teaching artist who has worked on productions worldwide. She is pursuing her MFA in musical theater at SDSU, and is on the dance faculty at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and CAP21 in NYC, and teaches master classes throughout the country.”

Simas said he is more than thrilled with his cast, which includes: Robert Yakko (The Man); Jacquelyn Ritz (The Lady); Ron Choularton (The Innkeeper); Annie Hinton (The Innkeeper’s Wife); Randall Dodge (The Lord) and Tatiana Mac (The Maid).

“They are all very accomplished and fulfill their characters through their singing and acting talents,” Simas said. “The audience at NCRT enjoys these types of comedies and this musical is full of intrigue and romance. It’s also quaint and silly like ‘Dames at Sea’ and ‘Spelling Bee.’ ”

If you go

■ What: ‘Man with a Load of Mischief’

■ When: Matinees, evenings Sept. 4-29

■ Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

■ Tickets: $40-$57

■ Box Office: (858) 481-1055

■ Website: