‘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

Advertisements

‘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

PYT brings back the not-so-little ogre that could in Shrek

Licensed by MTI.

By Ande Jacobson

It’s time again to visit that loveable band of misfits in a story that turns a well-known fairytale concept upside down. Peninsula Youth Theatre (PYT) is mounting a colorful production of Shrek the Musical based on the 2001 DreamWorks animated film Shrek and the 1990 book Shrek!. The stage version has music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, and the show has all the charm of the animated film. Continue reading

SJ SaxMas is coming to town!

SaxMas for the last time at Vallco in 2017

By Ande Jacobson

For some, the holiday season starts when decorations begin appearing all over town, which these days could happen as early as July. For others, it’s Thanksgiving. That feast signals the start of gatherings with friends, family, colleagues, or even among friendly strangers on the street. For others still, it’s when those ubiquitous brass quintets start playing all over enticing listeners to drop a few cents (or dollars) into their bright red kettles. None of those can hold a candle to the thrill that has enthralled San Jose on the third Saturday of December for over two decades (in 2018, it’s the 15th, the earliest possible date). That fateful day marks the holiday tradition known as the San Jose Saxophone Christmas, or SJ SaxMas for short. This year marks the 25th Annual SJ SaxMas, and it’s set to be the biggest yet. Continue reading

PYT’s Willy Wonka lets the imagination soar

By Ande Jacobson

Although the show has already opened and continues only through the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2018, this isn’t a review. A review wouldn’t be proper given this reviewer is leading the orchestra for PYT’s current production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. This is instead a bit of an introduction, and a notification to not miss a holiday lead-in that will whet the appetite and get audiences into a festive mood in time for Thanksgiving. And of course there is lots of chocolate on stage (in the pit, backstage…).

The story started out as a beloved children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, written by British author Roald Dahl in 1964. Children of the 1960’s and 1970’s will likely remember it fondly, with its tale of a magical factory making the most mind-boggling treats imaginable. It is said that Dahl’s personal experience with chocolate companies as a boy inspired the story. In his native England, Cadbury used panels of schoolchildren to test their new creations. In Dahl’s novel, his alter ego, Charlie Bucket, along with four other lucky children including Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teavee, find the magical golden tickets that give them access to tour Wonka’s factory. Charlie’s Grandpa Joe used to work at that factory until it closed its doors years before. Along the way, before Charlie finds his ticket, Grandpa Joe tells Charlie the most amazing stories from his time there.

In 1971, Dahl’s story reached the big screen in a whimsical film entitled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder as the mysterious and reclusive Willy Wonka. The movie was later adapted for the stage, first in 2004. This original stage production contains elements from both the novel and the film. With permission from the Dahl estate, Tim McDonald and Leslie Bricusse wrote the script. Bricusse also started with the music and lyrics that he and longtime musical collaborator, Anthony Newley, wrote for the film and added some new songs for the stage presentation. Newley was not involved in the stage adaptation as he had died before work began.

There have been later film and stage adaptations entitled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but PYT’s production is the original Willy Wonka stage version.

Director/choreographer Meg Fischer-Venuti and vocal director Holly Smolik have shaped two very large and enthusiastic casts (actors are ages 8-18) to bring their vision to life with an energy that is contagious. To enhance the visuals, Andrew Breithaupt’s sets, Leonardo Hidalgo’s lighting design, and Char DeRoin’s costumes all combine to titillate the imagination.

The music in this show is also beautiful and very well-orchestrated. The score has most of the music from the original movie, plus some additional charts that were expanded for the stage. Memorable hits include Pure Imagination, several Oompa Loompa songs that get inside your head, Think Positive, and I’ve Got a Golden Ticket. A personal favorite is also I See It All On TV which is kind of an eerie tango.

As previously mentioned, there will be no A Good Reed Review review of this one as I will be on the podium leading the very talented community orchestra. The musicians include: woodwinds: Doreen Oroshnik, Joel Greene, Rebecca Ritger, Kathy Switky, Bev Hansberry, Jordan Selburn; strings: Jaime Yuen, Ethan Dea, Rob Gloster, Jonathan Erman, Michael Firefly Perry; brass: Susan Schadeck-Chase, Ricky Martinez, Ricky Hall, Jim Deloach, Joe Kelly, Jason Loveman; keyboards: Del Quan, Doug Forsyth; and percussion: Carlos Velascos. Not all musicians will be playing every performance.

This is an imaginative, “feel good” show with a great message, and of course lots of chocolate. Get your tickets now before they are all gone.

What: Roald Dahl’s Willly Wonka

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA.

When: 10-18 November 2018, see: Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka at PYT for more information.


Additional references:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (book)
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka (Leslie Bricusse Songbook)


A Good Reed Review also gratefully accepts donations via PayPal to help defray the costs of maintaining this site without creating paywalls.
Donate with PayPal

Redwood City Players’ ‘Dogfight’ brings the company to life

By Ande Jacobson

In 2013, Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov realized a portion of a dream she has held from the time she was 18. In working toward her goal of owning (and running) a theater company, she began doing some independent consulting working with San Francisco Bay Area schools on inclusive programs in theater arts. Over time, her outreach grew to include community theater groups in addition to several local schools. Her program provides training to inspire performers, designers, and technicians in theater arts and assists with various theatrical productions of both classical and new works. In 2016, her program formally became Redwood City Players (RCP). Now in July 2018, her company is mounting the first production of its own. That production is Dogfight, sponsored under the Fractured Atlas 501(c)(3) public charity, and the show opens on 14 July in McDonald Hall on the Redwood City American Legion post. Continue reading

PYT’s Joseph will rock the MVCPA this May

By Ande Jacobson

Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will rock the Mountain View CPA this May. This family-friendly favorite opens on 12 May 2018 and runs through the 20th. This Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice collaboration has the distinction of being their first musical to be performed publicly. The show started its evolution as a school concert piece in 1968. A Decca Records release followed in 1969, and then in 1970, the first stage production appeared. The first West End production debuted in 1973, and it finally hit the Broadway stage in 1982. Since then, the show has been revived multiple times though it’s still a very tight rock opera telling the biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. The show runs just under 90s minutes (including intermission).

Director/choreographer Marcie Shapiro and music/vocal director Steve Shapiro have shaped two very enthusiastic casts to bring their vision to life. The Shapiros have been heavily involved in community theatre and youth theatre in the area. They have a great affinity for inspiring these young actors (aged 8-18) to tell the story with confidence and verve and to execute some very challenging choreography with energy and precision. Some big messages in this show are the importance of community, believing in one’s self, and making one’s dreams come true.

The Shapiros have some powerful experience with the messages in this story, and they have incorporated an adoring tribute to Eric Sun in this PYT production. Eric brought a vast community together last fall as he fulfilled a final life dream in a recent local production of Fiddler on the Roof. The Shapiros collaborated on that show as well, and although it was not specifically a youth theatre production, several Joseph cast members were also in the Fiddler cast. The story in Joseph begins in a schoolroom. The Shapiros have named the school SunDream Elementary in loving memory of this inspiring man and all that he brought to the community.

While most of the music from Joseph isn’t particularly well-known outside of the show, it is catchy and uplifting. It’s a combination of pop and rock with a little jazz thrown in for good measure.

There will be no A Good Reed Review review of this one as yours truly will be in the pit playing in band. The musicians include:

  • Bass: Andrew Lawrence;
  • Cello: Rob Gloster;
  • Drums: Jeff Baker;
  • Horn: Jerry Simon;
  • Keyboards: Steve Shapiro (keyboard/conductor), Doug Forsythe;
  • Percussion: Bob Wylie;
  • Trumpet: Ken Thomas;
  • Woodwinds (two per performance): Ande Jacobson, Asa Stern, Ron Bowman.

This is a lively and touching show that is appropriate for all ages, so don’t miss it. Get your tickets now before they are all gone.

 What: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA.

When: 12-20 May 2018, see: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at PYT for more information.


Additional references:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Cast Recording)
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (DVD)


A Good Reed Review also gratefully accepts donations via PayPal to help defray the costs of maintaining this site without creating paywalls.

 Donate with PayPal


 

SCP closes its 49th season with “La Cage aux Folles”

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players finishes its 49th season with a groundbreaking Harvey Fierstein/Jerry Herman classic, La Cage aux Folles, which runs at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre Thursdays – Sundays, 21 April – 12 May. Fierstein and Herman didn’t originate the story – Jean Poiret did that in 1973 with the play that spawned multiple adaptations for the big screen and the stage. The first adaptation of the play was for the screen in the 1978 Franco-Italian comedy of the same name that received many accolades from critics worldwide. There were two sequels to the original film. The first was released in 1980, and the second followed in 1985. In 1996, the Mike Nichols/Elaine May American remake, titled The Birdcage and starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, made the rounds, and it continues to be a popular film today.

The Fierstein/Herman Broadway adaptation hit the stage in 1983 to a fairly warm reception. Over the years, several revivals have surfaced, and each garnered more award nominations than the original, all noted for their witty dialogue, accessible story, and typical Jerry Herman music that’s full of flash and zest to go with the lively choreography. SCP is presenting the 2010 version of the show.

The plot focuses on a gay couple whose son is getting married … to a woman. The story is at turns sweet, serious, and farcical as it takes audiences on a journey. The couple, Georges and Albin, have been together for ages, and together have raised their son, Jean-Michel. Though he wasn’t planed, Jean-Michel was born of a one-night-stand that Georges had long ago. Georges and Ablin have spent their careers in the entertainment industry – specifically drag entertainment. As entertainers, their lives aren’t much different than any other night club owner or performer, but the twist comes during the fateful “meet the parents” event. Their son’s fiancée’s father is an ultra-conservative politician. Somehow, even the farcical elements seem a little topical these days.

The cast is headed by Ray D’Ambrosio as Georges, and George Downes (otherwise known as WooWoo Monroe) as Albin. Their son, Jean-Michel is played by James Schott, and his fiancée Anne is played by Becca Euchler. The prospective in-laws are played by Chris Moylan and Rachel Michelberg in grand fashion.

See the full cast list here.

The production staff includes:

  • Director: Matt Welch
  • Vocal Director: Diane Milo
  • Music Director: Benjamin Belew
  • Choreographer: Anna Prenares
  • Producers: Jen Maggio & Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov

The tiny, but mighty pit includes:

  • Keyboard/Conductor: Ben Belew, Matt Bourne (one performance only);
  • Woodwinds (2 per show): Ande Jacobson, Jordan Selburn, Barb Raboy, Keith Leung (one performance only);
  • Brass (2 per show): (Trumpet) John Escalera, Rebecca Bishop; (Trombone) Jason Loveman;
  • Bass (1 per show): Michael Perry, Stephen Adkins
  • Drums and Percussion (1 per show): Bob Wylie, Christine Lovejoy

Though it won’t be obvious from the house, the orchestra will be live and sequestered down in the covered pit. That removes any danger of a dancer falling in and damaging any of the instruments.

Tickets are available online through the Sunnyvale Community Players website or by phone at 408-733-6611. A Good Reed Review readers can get a $3/ticket discount by using the code “Zaza” when ordering. Again, the show runs Thursdays – Sundays, 21 April – 12 May 2018.

Performances will be at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre located at: 550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale CA 94087.

The big messages here are that it is OK to be what you are, and love will triumph over just about any hurdle thrown in its path. The ending is satisfying, and audiences will leave the theatre with smiles on their faces and songs playing in their heads long after the curtain falls.

Please join Sunnyvale Community Players for this production. You will be glad you did.


References:
La Cage aux Folles (New Broadway Cast Recording)
La Cage aux Folles
La Cage aux Folles (1979) / The Birdcage (1996) (Double Take)
La Cage aux Folles (script)

(Photos courtesy of Sunnyvale Community Players)


A Good Reed Review also gratefully accepts donations via PayPal to help defray the costs of maintaining this site without creating paywalls.
Donate with PayPal

PYT presents Disney’s perfect musical – “Beauty and the Beast”

By Ande Jacobson

Peninsula Youth Theatre is mounting an extravaganza not to be missed. Beauty and the Beast is just about the perfect musical. The fairy tale dates back to 1740, originally penned by French novelist Gabriell-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Since then, there have been many invocations of the story in various forms, from print to film on both the large and small screens. Although it wasn’t the first time the story made it to the big screen, Disney released its animated spectacular with a Broadway-like score in 1991 and then transformed it into a Broadway musical in 1994. More recently, audiences have enjoyed the live action version of the Disney story in the 2017 film of the same name.

When Disney began production of its animated version of the story, the Broadway musical team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman wrote the music and lyrics. Although Ashman died before the film’s release, his lyrical work remained, and Tim Rice was brought in to work with Menken on the expanded version destined for the Broadway stage. Linda Woolverton wrote the book, first for the animated film, and later expanded it into the full two-act stage version. The stage musical characters are deeper, and the story tugs at the emotions of the audience.

The story is now very well-known. A spoiled young prince shuns what he thinks is a haggard old woman offering a single rose in trade for shelter because her appearance offends him. She warns him to look beyond appearances, but he’s far too self-absorbed to listen. She’s really a powerful enchantress who teaches him the most valuable life lesson imaginable. Turning him into a hideous beast, she tells him that if he can learn to love, and be loved in return, the spell can be broken. Alas, the prince isn’t the only one caught up in the curse. Everyone in his employ is also affected, and each is slowly becoming an inanimate object. And so the race is on. Can the prince break the spell before the last rose petal drops?

The result is “a tale as old as time” filled with comedy, heartfelt laments, action, and adventure for the entire family. Several new or expanded musical numbers appear in this stage adaptation that were not in the original animated film. Interestingly, the 2002 Special Edition DVD release of the animated version includes one of those expanded numbers (“Human Again”). It was originally written for the animated film but was cut for length for the theatrical release.

Director/choreographer Brian Miller and vocal director Holly Smolik have shaped two very large and enthusiastic casts to bring their vision to life with an energy that is contagious. Both Miller and Smolik have a great affinity for youth theatre, and they are experts in harnessing their actors’ unbounded energy for good. The result is astounding as these young actors (aged 8-18) strut their stuff with confidence and execute some very challenging choreography with precision and pride.

The music in this show is also beautiful. The score has a very classical feel as it adds great drama to the action, and the songs will stay with audiences long after they leave the theatre.

There will be no A Good Reed Review review of this one as I will be on the podium leading the very talented community orchestra. The musicians include: woodwinds: Doreen Oroshnik, Marty McHan, Rebecca Ritger, Steven Holmes; strings: Jaime Yuen, Karen Law, Jessica Yuen, Rob Gloster, Jonathan Erman, Dan Meyers, Stephanie Spaid; brass: Dan Swinehart, Ed Lacina; keyboards: Del Quan, Karen Adkins; and percussion: Bob Wylie. Not all musicians will be playing every performance.

This is a lively and touching show that is appropriate for all ages, so don’t miss it. Get your tickets now before they are all gone.

What: Beauty and the Beast

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA.

When: 3-11 March 2018, see: Beauty and the Beast at PYT for more information.


Additional references:

From another perspective, why call this the perfect Disney musical? Jordan Peterson talks about how Beauty and the Beast is one of the very best that Disney has to offer:

 

Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary (DVD)
Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical
Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical (Sheet Music)


 

Spreading holiday spirit and wishing a very merry SaxMas to all!

By Ande Jacobson

Music is in the air this holiday season. While San Jose’s 24th Annual Saxophone Christmas is over, on 16 December 2017, 217 saxophonists playing everything from sopranino to bass saxes spread the joy of holiday music through the air at both Christmas in the Park and Vallco. To get a sense of what this event was like and raise your holiday spirits, please enjoy the following sampling of several selections from previous San Jose SaxMases. Continue reading