Did you ever wonder how Catherine the Great became “the Great” – or, for that matter, “Catherine?” The longest female ruling monarch of Russia had an unusual beginning – and Patricia Zehentmayr (book and lyrics) and Jan Roger (music) decided to find out more and share the secret with today’s audiences. In a world premiere production, THE PATH TO CATHERINE tells the true story of how three women changed the world.
The life of a German noblewoman was pretty constricted in the 1740s. You might daydream about Prince Charming; you might get involved in the intrigues of court life. Or you might marry, typically to a man selected by your father. And if none of that worked for you, there was always the nunnery. As it turned out, Empress Elizabeth of Russia (Robyn Roth), the daughter of Peter the Great, was beating the bushes for just the right wife for her nephew, Peter. Unfortunately, Peter wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and certainly wasn’t material to run a country – but his son, born of a comely noblewoman, might be the answer.
And so the Empress invites teenaged Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst (Elise Walters) and her mother Joanna of Holstein-Gottorp (Jessica Reiner-Harris) to Russia for a meet and greet. Although Sophie seems a bit of a flibbertigibbet with a teenager’s penchant for excitement, she might do nicely – except for her mom, who is doing a little wheeling and dealing in her own search for power. Both Elizabeth and Joanna are certain that they can control this silly youngster – until Sophie begins to exhibit a mind of her own. How did Sophie become Catherine the Great? You’ll have to see the show to find out what happened to the trio of ladies on a quest.
Director Joanna Syiek helms the production with care, while the talented trio emote and sing to the tunes of a live three-piece onstage band conducted by Jan Roper. THE PATH TO CATHERINE is an ambitious musical introducing more than 20 songs. Happily, the trio of singers is up to it – and more – as their voices swell. Kudos to costumier Sustaita Gallegos for her sumptuous period gowns and to Zad Potter’s stage management and lighting. And let’s not forget about the prolific Write Act Repertory, under the producing artistic leadership of John Lant since 2003, who volunteer year after year at this venue offering their artistry, talent, and time.
THE PATH TO CATHERINE is a fascinating and elegant production which will appeal to history buffs, especially those intrigued by royalty and seats of power. The play is also fun, melodic, and – surprisingly – a true story. You can’t beat that. Current COVID policies are mandatory.
THE PATH TO CATHERINE runs through 5/1/22 with performances at 7 p.m. on Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Brickhouse Theatre is located at 10950 Peach Grove Street, North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $20. For information and reservations, go online.