Urinetown, is it satire or a look ahead?

By Ande Jacobson

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.

The instrumentalists include:

  • 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.


References:
Urinetown: The Musical (script)
Urinetown The Musical (cast recording)
Urinetown: Vocal Selections

(Photos and videos courtesy of Sunnyvale Community Players)


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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

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

‘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

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)


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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