Things don’t always go as planned.
—Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great was one of Russia’s longest reigning ruler lasting 34 years until her death at age 67. This fierce queen rose to the challenge by cleaning up the mess her childish husband/second cousin Peter III left behind. She took control and made her cherished Russia thrive in business and the arts. Her portrait by Johanna Baptist von Lampi the Elder, in her 50s, gives off a cryptic smile with a “don’t mess with me,” vibe.
In The Path to Catherine-The Musical, the show is divided into 2 different sections of the Russian Empress. There’s her given name Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg and of course, what she would later become, Catherine the Great. Like all natural leaders, Sophie came from humble beginnings. Her mother Joanna (Jessica Reiner-Harris does an excellent job as Sophie’s strong willed mother). Joanna jumped the gun in securing her daughter the title of ruler and was banished from by Empress Elizabeth (Robyn Roth) when she discovered Joanna spied on King Fredrick II of Prussia. Not to give up, Joanna groomed her daughter to one day be a powerful ruler in Russia. Eventually, she married her second cousin, even though she despised his presence. The road to become Catherine the Great was intense and arduous.
As a girl, she was a princess but her family wasn’t wealthy. Sophie was full of life, a little tomboyish. She received the necessary education as was required for a girl to come a lady and marriage bound. However, Peter III was a boy who preferred playing with toy soldiers then getting married. Sophie asks Elizabeth how she could love Peter, She grimly responds, “Peter isn’t loveable, tolerable at best.” That’s cold but honest. When they did marry, they both stayed on opposite sides of the castle. They were kids. They acted according to their ages.
Elise Walters does a phenomenal job as Sophie/Catherine’s mother, Joanna. The audience sees how a little girl would grow up to run the world, affectionately referred to as the Catherinian Era. Under her ruling, Russia flourished. Jessica Reiner-Harris as Joanna, Sophie/Catherine’s mother, is the original momager, but with a veiled sympathetic armor. Coming from a wealthy and royal family, she made it her mission that her daughter will succeed and guides the way. As a good girl, Sophie listened and did what was expected of her. It paid off. Even though Roth’s role as Empress Elizabeth was limited, she played it with grand regality. She’s having problems with Peter III but doesn’t show it. Under the helm of director Judith Rose, The Path to Catherine-A New Musical is a wonderful and truthful depiction of the girl who would grow up to become legendary royalty, who still was beloved by her subjects.
Covid policy is that the audience is vaccinated and masked at all times for the performance.
The Path to Catherine-A New Musical, plays at the Brickhouse Theatre, located at 10950 Peach Grove St., in North Hollywood, (off Vineland, just north of Camarillo) ends this weekend. Saturday, April 30th and Sunday May 1st at 3 p.m. Tickets available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5382768