‘The Will Rogers Follies’ has staying power

Will Rogers from 1922 / Photo Credit: Google Images

By Ande Jacobson

Sometimes a show touches you in ways that you don’t really expect going in. My recent run of The Will Rogers Follies was such a show. I wrote a previous commentary/promotional article chronicling the journey to opening from the pit’s perspective, and the music was both challenging and very rewarding to play, but the show became so much more than any one piece of the production. The run finished several weeks ago. Still, the story continues to linger in my mind as I contemplate how things could be if more people held attitudes like Will Rogers. The show is a musical with book by Peter Stone, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and opened on Broadway in May 1991. The story, told by the title character, takes a biographical look at the life and times of Will Rogers via musical acts, conversations, and monologues that contain many quotes from Rogers’ actual speeches and writings. Rogers was known as an entertainer and humorist, but more than that, he was a keen observer of people. He had an almost unheard of talent for poking fun, even at controversial subjects, without offending anyone. He’s also very well-known for stating that he never met a man he didn’t like. Continue reading

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FMT presents a breathtaking new look at ‘Cinderella’

By Ande Jacobson

This summer, Foothill Music Theatre (FMT) is presenting the South Bay premiere of an exciting, fresh look at an old rags-to-riches story with its production of Cinderella. It’s still a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical adaptation of the French story, Cendrillon, ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre, with all of the beloved songs. This 2013 revision finally took the show to Broadway for the first time and includes a modernized book by Douglas Carter Beane to go along with an updated orchestration. The show retains all of the charm and family-friendliness of the original television and Disney animated presentations while the latest changes make it more relevant to 21st century audiences. Continue reading

What if you could see the future?

By Ande Jacobson

TCK Publishing brings a lot of new authors to light, and one of their latest is Jenna Ryan. Her debut novel, The Channeler: A Future Forewarned (Continuum Series Book 1), was published in January 2019. Classified as a young adult fantasy romance novel, Ryan covers a lot of ground in the book’s 241 pages. The story, told in first person by protagonist Caleb Michael Swift, nicely captures the college experience while mixing in copious amounts of supernaturally inspired angst. Caleb seeks a normal life as he navigates his junior year in college. He has lived with his “aunt” Nikki from a very young age. Readers eventually find out that Nikki isn’t really his aunt. She was his mother’s dearest friend, and she took him in after his mother’s untimely death. Caleb never knew his father, and as the story unfolds, he learns some very surprising things about him. Continue reading

Playing to live vs. living to play

By Ande Jacobson

In December 2012, I wrote an article about the role of the pit musician in musical theatre. That article was written from a musician’s point of view and focused on the physical environment; equipment; training; mindset of performers who worked in the shadows; versatility that was required of pit musicians; and only mentioned compensation as a cursory aside. This article takes a closer look at the differences between pit musicians who live to play as opposed to those who play to live and discusses the challenges community theaters face with respect to pit musicians. Continue reading

‘The Will Rogers Follies’ pit chronicles in getting to opening

By Ande Jacobson

West Valley Light Opera (affectionately known as WVLO) is presenting a spectacle chronicling the life and times of Will Rogers in its production of The Will Rogers Follies. The show opens on 22 June 2019 and runs through 20 July 2019 at the Saratoga Civic Theater. Will Rogers’ personality comes through in this stage adaptation highlighting the more memorable aspects of his life. Rogers was known for offering his observations from his many travels, and while he poked fun at various controversial topics along the way, he did so gently, offending no one and appealing to people from all walks of life. This production is full of folksy charm, the color and glitz of The Ziegfeld Follies, and of course a smattering of rope tricks. Continue reading

‘The Wiz’ pit chronicles

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) opened The Wiz on Saturday, 27 April and continues Thursdays – Sundays through 19 May 2019. This closing production of its 50th season has become a quick crowd favorite for many reasons such as its stellar cast, impressive technology incorporated into the show, and of course the orchestra. With many musicals, the orchestra, while certainly not incidental, is often unnoticed. This time, music director and co-producer Kevin Surace has recreated the power of the Broadway arrangement with a 23-piece instrumental ensemble. Due to the cozy performance space and the equally cozy pit, his orchestra is spread across multiple locations in the theater as the pit cannot contain it. As a result, the music wafting through the facility is noticed in a very good way. Great care has been taken to individually mic each player and balance the entire ensemble to achieve a smooth, powerful sound. This article discusses how we got there, and what it’s like in the pit for The Wiz. Continue reading

‘The Wiz’ will make the finale to SCP’s 50th season sparkle

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) is pulling out all the stops to close its 50th season. In honor of this auspicious occasion, SCP is mounting a massive production of The Wiz running from 27 April through 19 May 2019. The show isn’t often done, though it tells a familiar story that L. Frank Baum first wrote in 1900 in his children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There have been numerous treatments of his story in film, on stage, and even in print since then, but The Wiz is unique. It is the MoTown version of the story first seen in Maryland in 1974. It took its place on Broadway in 1975, and since then has enjoyed numerous revivals in Europe and the U.S. showcasing African-American culture. It follows the tale of friendship and hope, featuring Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, and of course the illustrious Wiz. The good and bad witches from the original story also make their presence known. There are even flying monkeys. What’s different? The music. The tone. The energy. Continue reading

Hershey Felder shares his love of Debussy to start TheatreWorks’ 50th year

By Ande Jacobson

TheatreWorks celebrates the start of its 50th year with an incredible gift – the world premiere of Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story. The presentation is immensely personal for Felder and for TheatreWorks Founding Artistic Director, Robert Kelley, to whom Felder dedicates this astounding production. Felder includes the following message in the program:

“I would like to dedicate the creation and the world premiere of A PARIS LOVE STORY to someone who, in his quiet and humble way, has demonstrated that he is the most generous, supportive, kind, thoughtful, sensitive, artistically refined, and genuinely giving artist working among us today – Robert Kelley, TheatreWorks Founding Artistic Director.

“Thank you to Kelley, and everyone at TheatreWorks, for having me for all these years and thank you to audiences who have followed these characters wherever we together have ventured. And now thank you for joining me in Paris. – Hershey Felder”

Continue reading

The Course of Life

Fiction by Ande Jacobson

Ken started on the course early Sunday morning. With the sun slowly rising, illuminating the tiny droplets of dew covering the greens and fairways, Ken adjusted his cap on his neatly trimmed dark brown hair, stretched his long arms, placed his lengthy frame in position to address the ball, and hit his first tee shot. His swing connected beautifully but, alas, he had overcompensated for his nagging slice and severely hooked the ball. Ken watched his ball sail well out to the right until he lost sight of it as it peaked behind the tree line separating the first and ninth fairways.

“Quaaack!” Ken heard as he picked up his clubs. “I must have hit a duck over there,” he thought.

Since he went out as a single in the early mornings, he didn’t have to wait for other members of a foursome. He walked through the tree line and halfway down the ninth fairway following the flight path of his ball. He spotted the ball lying atop the single mound in the center of the fairway and looked around but couldn’t find any obvious evidence of the duck he thought the ball struck in flight. Continue reading

Taming the Savage Spring

Fiction by Ande Jacobson

Thomas Drummond peered through the lobby door at the gray sky and the slick walkway winding through the parking lot outside of his Drummond Software Solutions (DSS) headquarters in Guttersburg, Maryland. He couldn’t tell how much of the reflection off the pavement was water and how much was ice, but he couldn’t wait any longer. He had to get to his appointment. He always dreaded the dangers that awaited him just beyond the lobby during the savage spring. This was the most treacherous time of the year, late March.

It was still cold enough at times to encounter a thin layer of ice on the pavement in the early morning or at night, but it was often warm enough during the heat of the day to spark a change in the air. For many, spring meant an awakening as the flowers started to bloom and wildlife cycles began anew. While beautiful from a distance, sometimes that awakening could get just a little too close, which made spring more dangerous than winter, at least some of the time. Continue reading