‘Big Fish’ is going to make a splash in Sunnyvale

By Ande Jacobson

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

Something’s coming to Sunnyvale very soon

By Ande Jacobson

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

Once on This Island – take a virtual trip to the tropics this December

By Ande Jacobson

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

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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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 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

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)


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‘Fiddler’ 2017 breaks all SCP records – L’Chaim!

By Ande Jacobson

This run just keeps surpassing itself. The Sunnyvale Community Players production of Fiddler on the Roof continues to receive not one, but two standing ovations every performance, and as of 29 September 2017 (one quarter of the way through its penultimate weekend), the run completely sold out. As written in the background pieces – promising cheers and tears, tech week chronicles from the pit, and why his run – this production means a great deal to everyone involved with the show. Rather than rehashing the background already discussed at length, this article attempts to provide some more video insights into this heartfelt journey. Continue reading

SCP’s ‘Fiddler’ 2017 – why this run

By Ande Jacobson

Half-way through, this Sunnyvale Community Players production of Fiddler on the Roof continues to receive not one, but two standing ovations every performance. Not only that, each and every performance of the first two weekends has drawn sold-out houses. Beyond those inside the theatre, many times lines of hopeful patrons formed hoping to take the seats for any no-shows. Tickets for the remaining two weekends (eight performances) are selling quickly.

There is a lot to love about this production for both performers and audience members alike. The story is as applicable now as it was in the period depicted talking about traditions, and dealing with the challenges of a changing world. As I wrote in my background pieces promising cheers and tears and tech week chronicles from the pit, this production means a great deal to all of us involved with the show, and for one of our dearest, it is the fulfillment of a life’s dream. This is also the biggest production SCP has ever mounted in several respects including its 38-member cast and its full 25-piece orchestra with every instrument on its own mic. And those spontaneous standing ovations at two separate times every show are unprecedented for a SCP production.

The story contains several vivacious moments, as well as some somber reflection as shown in the following tech week video samples.

 

As for the life’s dream, the special video below is from early in tech week. The pictures in the video are still shots of the stage action from scenes throughout the show, and the audio is from a recording session of the John Williams mini-symphony on the second night of tech. The recording session was part of an interview for a major national magazine. This Williams piece was originally written for the 1971 film version of Fiddler on the Roof and was broken up to cover the opening credits, the Entr’acte, and the end credits. We perform this work in its entirety each show as intermission entertainment featuring Eric Sun as he achieves a major life goal playing the iconic Isaac Stern solo violin part. Eric’s virtuosity is impressive, but the thing that makes this production so emotionally charged is that he won’t be around much longer than the show as he is suffering from terminal brain cancer. This run is Eric’s farewell tour. As his final musical act, he will be putting his vintage 1855 Vuillaume violin down after this run to share it with promising young artists through the Eric Sun – Karen Law Vuillaume Fellowship for community-building projects.

 

Like many others in this production, Eric is also an accomplished engineer and worked his way from intern to engineering manager at Facebook picking up several patents along the way. This feature story with NBC Bay Area was filmed the first Sunday of the run, and the piece aired two days later telling how Eric reenergized his music to connect so many others in the community while he still could.

Many of the people involved with this production have done the show before in various capacities, but for all of us, this run is by far the most memorable and poignant, and audiences seem to agree.

The show continues Thursdays – Sundays through 8 October 2017. Don’t miss this extraordinary production, and get your tickets soon before it’s too late.

Tickets are available online through the Sunnyvale Community Players website or by phone at 408-733-6611.

Performances are at the Sunnyvale Community Center Theater located at: 550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale CA 94087.

References:
Fiddler on the Roof (Special Edition) by MGM (Video & DVD)
Fiddler on the Roof: Based on Sholom Aleichem’s Stories
Fiddler on the Roof (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Fiddler on the Roof: Vocal Selections
Tevye’s Daughters: Collected Stories of Sholom Aleichem
Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories (Library of Yiddish classics) by Sholom Aleichem
Collected Stories of Sholom Aleichem
 

 (Photos and videos courtesy of Sunnyvale Community Players)