After almost a year, Upstage Theater’s production of Falsettos (with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by James Lapine) is ready for prime time. Its short run hits the Second Stage at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts tonight and runs through this Sunday, 11-13 March 2022, and it’s definitely worth seeing. I first mentioned this upcoming production last December in my profile of Val Zvinyatskovsky. He submitted a proposal for this show early last year and was given the formal approval last summer for the project in which he’s stage directing, music and vocal directing, and doing the lighting and sound design. It’s taken a lot of hard work, and it’s time for audiences to enjoy the fruits of this company’s dedication. Tickets are on sale now. Continue reading
Every so often we are fortunate to cross paths with somebody with that intangible spark that makes them stand out in a really good way. They bring enthusiasm to all they do, and they inspire others to reach far beyond what seems possible. I ran into such a person some years ago, and I’ve been amazed by what this young fellow has done and continues to do.
I first worked with Val Zvinyatskovsky when he was but 10-years-old. He played the role of Jojo, one of the leads, in a youth production of Seussical that I was music directing. This particular group used live orchestras drawn from the greater musician community to give their young actors the privilege and thrill of performing in musicals in a way that would prepare them for potential careers in professional theater. Through the rehearsal process, this young actor stood out as one of the most skilled, prepared, and polished young thespians I’d seen. He not only had all of his lines and blocking down pat long before the cast needed to be off book, but his musical timing was impeccable. He never missed. Even so, it wasn’t until we got into the run of the show that I realized just how accomplished and curious this young man was. Continue reading
SJ SaxMas is returning to San Jose this December! 2019 was the last time sax players from all over the area (and beyond) gathered in San Jose to serenade audiences with wonderful saxophone holiday music. The pandemic prevented last year’s event, but this year SJ SaxMas is returning albeit a little bit smaller and more carefully. All of the players and volunteers will have to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or a negative COVID test to participate – no exceptions. They are excited to return to make music together after such a long and unexpected hiatus. For those who want to play, the ensemble is limited to a maximum of 150 players to accommodate the COVID safety protocols in the rehearsal space and performance venues. For more information on that, see sjsaxmas.com. Continue reading
Sunnyvale Community Players’ (SCP) is destined to make a big splash with Big Fish, opening on 23 October 2021. This is the musical based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, and the 2003 Tim Burton film, Big Fish. A little over a decade after the film debuted, the musical version of the story made it to Broadway in a show with book by John August (who also wrote the screenplay for the Burton film) and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. There are a few small differences in the plotline details between the movie and the musical, but the overall story remains. Big Fish follows Edward Bloom, a man who tells a version of his life history through his mythic stories that mesmerize anyone who will listen, especially his wife, Sandra. His storybook adventures are about living life to the fullest and being the hero of your own story. They are about love. They are about imagination and what the future holds. They also hide a deep secret that he never told his son Will about. Will is desperate to know the real story about his father’s life, as he is on the cusp of becoming a father himself. The show has a lot of heart and humor as it follows a dual timeline intermixing Bloom’s fairytale adventures with present day reality. It also provides some engaging life lessons to which everyone can relate. Continue reading
As Stephen Sondheim wrote back in 1957,
“Could it be? Yes it could.
Something’s coming, something good.”
And his work is coming to Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) on September 11, 2021 and running through October 3, 2021.
After over 18 months, SCP is returning to its home at the Sunnyvale Community Theater, live, to present a work as relevant and timely today as it was when it first opened on Broadway in 1957. West Side Story is a story of forbidden love and the need for acceptance amidst societal turmoil. This musical with its classic score by the incomparable Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, and choreography by Jerome Robbins is a challenging undertaking for any theater company. It’s a big show in every sense of the word, and the SCP cast is 35 strong supported by a live, 20-piece orchestra. The material is technically challenging and emotionally charged, and everyone is ready and eager to perform this exciting work for live audiences. Continue reading
2020 has been quite a year for us all. For those missing the joys of live theatre, Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) has quite a treat in store this December. In keeping with all the safety protocols in place to keep audiences and actors safe from the pandemic, SCP is mounting a streaming run of Once on This Island. The show, based on the book My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, has book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the duo who originated Seussical and Ragtime. Once on This Island opened on Broadway in 1990. It later began an award-winning West End run in 1994, and more recently enjoyed a Broadway revival beginning in 2017. At present, a Disney+ film adaptation is in work to bring the show to an even wider audience.
Once on This Island is a mystical story of love, sacrifice, and acceptance set in the French Antilles archipelago in the early 1900s and is extremely topical today. The show is packed with lively Caribbean inspired music and dance that will delight the entire family. Continue reading
West Valley Light Opera (affectionately known as WVLO) is working hard to open its next production, Once Upon a Mattress, with music by Mary Rodgers (yes, the daughter of that Rodgers), lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Jay Thompson, Deal Fuller, and Marshall Barer. This little theatre staple has been around since 1959. The show, running 7 March – 4 April 2020 in Saratoga, brings Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of “The Princess and the Pea” to the stage with a lively score, vivid staging, and lots of wit and humor. The story follows a hapless prince and an unconventional princess (originally played by Carol Burnett) trying to overcome an evil queen’s cunning and hilarious attempts to keep them apart. There’s a second love story in the mix as that couple deals with an urgent (and emergent) situation. Through it all, audiences will enjoy the many colorful characters in the kingdom. This is a happy, fairy-tale show guaranteed to have audiences smiling and fighting the urge to hum along with the many familiar songs such as In a Little While, Happily Ever After, Sensitivity, and Normandy. Continue reading
The Thanksgiving feast is over with friendships and family love refreshed, and it’s that wonderful time of year when holiday music is plentiful and spirits are high. Yes, it’s that time of year when the saxophones return to San Jose to start the next quarter century of a festive holiday tradition, San Jose Saxophone Christmas, or SJ SaxMas for short. Continue reading
Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) continues its season of unconventional heroes 26 October – 10 November 2019 with Urinetown: The Musical. This one is a satirical comedy that first hit the stage in 2001. The show has book by Greg Kotis, music by Mark Hollmann, and lyrics by Hollmann and Kotis. The music and lyrics hearken back to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht both in musical style and in its lampooning of humanity’s darker propensities. It takes on the legal system, capitalism, and most grievously – corporate greed, while also focusing on social responsibility and revolution highlighting an unlikely hero. Along the way, it not only brings Weill and Brecht to mind, it also has callouts to several other musicals and parodies the Broadway musical art form itself.
What is Urinetown you might ask? SCP pulled together a little commercial with the hero of the story, Bobby Strong (Steve Roma), and an inquisitive Little Sally (Becca Euchler) to answer that question:
The story deals with a dusty town suffering from a 20-year drought. Severe measures have been put in place such that private bathrooms have been eliminated, and people are forced to pay for the privilege to take care of their most personal daily needs. Needless to say, this causes unrest and discontent in this dystopian environment, and a hero emerges to try to rectify things for the people.
Director Thomas Times, adds another layer to the concept by setting the story in the not-too-distant future (19 years hence) in East Palo Alto, an area that knows something about droughts and social separation. Times talks about his vision for the show in this Peninsula Backstage installment:
While this sounds like a very dark story, there’s plenty of humor and breaking of the fourth wall.
The Urinetown cast is ready for an audience and is guaranteed to make folks laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of their seats as they watch the story unfold. While the plot is driven by the principals (who are all standout performers in this one), the ensemble is very important. Many in the cast have studied this show extensively, and they surprised vocal director Juanita Harris with how quickly they learned the complex music in rehearsal, doing so much more quickly than is often seen at the community theater level. They also have been dazzling Derrick Contreras with their execution of his athletic choreography on the road to opening.
Ande Jacobson’s orchestra for Urinetown is small, only five players.
- Keyboard: Val Zvinyatskovsky;
- Bass: Greg Goebel;
- Percussion: Peter Wallack;
- Brass (trombone, euphonium): Jason Loveman;
- Woodwinds (clarinet/bass clarinet/soprano sax/alto sax – 1 per performance): Jordan Selburn, Kathy Switky (backup), Mark Beyer (rehearsal sub).
While most of the players are adults and are very experienced in the orchestra pits around the Bay Area, one player is enjoying his first pit experience with this show. Keyboard player Val Zvinyatskovsky is only 13 years old. While he’s an experienced and gifted actor having performed in over 20 musical theater productions with a number of the local youth theater groups in the area, his instrumental pursuits have been of a more personal nature to date. He is an accomplished pianist having begun his piano studies at the tender age of four. He has also done a bit of composition along the way. He hopes to eventually pursue a career in the arts, and he is up to the challenge of playing keyboard in the Urinetown pit in the first of many theater orchestras going forward. His big dilemma will be whether to be on stage, or under it for each of his future productions.
The artistic staff includes:
- Director: Thomas Times;
- Assistant Director: Kyle Dayrit;
- Choreographer: Derrick Contreras;
- Vocal Director: Juanita Harris;
- Music Director: Ande Jacobson.
For the full staff list, see: Urinetown staff.
Tickets are available online through the Sunnyvale Community Players website or by phone at 408-733-6611. The show runs Thursdays – Sundays, 26 October through 10 November 2019. Use the code “Plunger” for a nice discount on your tickets through the end of the run. If you want an even larger discount, use discount code “TLKBCK” for the Sunday, 27 October performance only, and stay for the bonus talkback after the show.
Performances are at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre located at: 550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale CA 94087.
Please join Sunnyvale Community Players for this production. You will be glad you did. Due to some intense satirical content, this show is not suitable for very young children.
(Photos and videos courtesy of Sunnyvale Community Players)
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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