The game is soon to be afoot at Tabard Theatre

By Ande Jacobson

Tabard Theatre Company opens its New Beginnings season on Friday, 13 September 2019 with the west coast premiere of Sherlock Holmes & the Mystery of the Crown Jewel. It’s a big story with all lots of charm and plenty of twists and turns as would be expected in a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The show’s book, music, and lyrics were written by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman. The playwrights have woven several clever callouts to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s source material as their tantalizing musical mystery showcases characters both familiar and new in a family-friendly story that will delight audiences of all ages. Continue reading

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Find out what’s behind the facade

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) is beginning an explosive new season guaranteed to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. To open the season, SCP is presenting an innovative production of Jekyll & Hyde. With music by Frank Wildhorn; lyrics by Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse, and Steve Cuden; and book by Bricusse. The show is a musical horror-drama that’s loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story entitled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The show made it to Broadway in 1997 following its world premiere in Houston, Texas and a national tune-up tour. The show enjoyed several subsequent tours, and a Broadway revival in 2013. Since its Broadway debut, the story has remained consistent, but the music has evolved with various songs being altered or replaced in the revival and subsequent tours.

The story follows Dr. Henry Jekyll, a London physician intent on finding a way to control the beast within everyone. He’s motivated by a personal tragedy, his father’s descent into madness. After being rebuffed by the authorities when he asks for permission to test his formula on a human subject, he continues his work using himself as his test subject, and the rest as they say is history. He effectively splits in two with Edward Hyde emerging to wreak havoc on the streets of London, and over time, Jekyll becomes unable to contain the Hyde within him. Of course there’s more to it than that. There’s the love story, there’s the friendship being tested, and there’s the schism between rich and poor throughout the city. There’s also a lot of mayhem. It’s a dark, yet thought-provoking story. Continue reading

A World Without Religion

By Ande Jacobson

Alex and Rowan Jeffries shared much in life. Being fraternal twins, that sharing started with their birthday. They didn’t share a room growing up, as their parents didn’t think that it proper for a girl and a boy to do so long term. From the time they were out of their cribs, they enjoyed their own bedrooms, independent sanctuaries to pursue their private thoughts wherever those took them. Even though they didn’t share a room growing up, they were very close. Now in their late 40s and well-established in their careers in academia with full professorships in their respective fields at the same university, Alex in biochemistry and Rowan in music, they shared a house. The twins lost their parents in an unfortunate accident when they were finishing up their graduate studies. Since then, they had relied on one another as their only remaining family. Neither Alex nor Rowan had ever been married. They each had broad circles of friends, but neither had time nor interest to seriously pursue any romantic entanglements. They lived in an expensive area, and while neither felt comfortable taking on the cost and burdens of home ownership alone, together they had no qualms. And of course they still had their own rooms. Their house started with four bedrooms including only one master suite. They’d converted a second bedroom into another master bedroom suite by building onto the house a bit to enlarge the closets and add a private bathroom, so in the end, they each had their own suite. One of the remaining bedrooms was their shared office, and the last was their guest room for those rare occasions when they had a visitor or two staying with them. They also had a number of musical instruments including a baby grand piano and an electric piano in their living room. Although only Rowan pursued music as a career, they both grew up playing the piano as well as a few other instruments each, and their parents had instilled in them the attitude that a house was not a home without a piano, so they kept that tradition alive. Continue reading

‘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

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