‘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

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‘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)

SCP’s ‘Fiddler’ 2017 Tech Week Chronicles from the pit

By Ande Jacobson

Starting at the end of this story, on opening night, this Sunnyvale Community Players production of Fiddler on the Roof received not one, but two standing ovations! Needless to say, all the hard work over the many months, and especially this final week, Tech Week, paid off. This last week was a doozy, but we not only survived, we thrived, and the show runs at the Sunnyvale Theater Thursdays – Sundays through 8 October 2017. Now on to the focus of this article, the path through our final week of rehearsals from the pit.

Tech Week, or more colloquially, Hell Week, is always an adventure in the theatre, particularly for musical theatre. Tech Week is that last week leading up to opening night when all the elements are combined, both technical and artistic, which in the case of a musical also includes the music itself. Everything that can go wrong often does, but somehow, magically, it all works by the time the last element is added – the audience. Fiddler on the Roof is a big show, and this Sunnyvale Community Players production includes a cast of 38 (with around 20 of them wearing individual mics) and a full 25-piece orchestra (with every instrument on its own mic) covering every part in the licensed orchestration. By the time we arrived at the first day of tech, the cast had been rehearsing for two months, and two sitzprobes with cast and orchestra together had been conducted.

The video below is a sample from early in the week. The pictures in the video are still shots of the stage action from scenes throughout the show, and the audio is from our recording session of the John Williams mini-symphony on the second night of tech. Note that this Williams piece was originally written for the 1971 film version of Fiddler on the Roof covering the opening credits, the Entr’acte, and the end credits. We will be performing this work in its entirety each show as intermission entertainment, featuring Eric Sun playing the iconic Isaac Stern solo violin part:

Continue reading

SCP’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ promises cheers and tears – opens 16 September 2017

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players’ production of Fiddler on the Roof is going to delight audiences in ways that no previous Fiddler production has. The well-known story is based on the works of Sholom Aleichem, often called the Jewish Mark Twain. Playwright Joseph Stein collaborated with composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick to create a captivating presentation of the lives of the people of Anatevka, a little village in Czarist Russia in the early 20th Century. Its themes of tradition vs. change, family, and community are timeless, and given the current state of the world today, they are especially timely. This Broadway favorite first hit the stage in 1964, became a highly acclaimed feature film in 1971, and is beloved the world over. Continue reading

“Shrek” – an ogre’s fairytale at SCP (opens 24 February)

shrek-bannerBy Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players’ junior production this year is Shrek the Musical. This is the full stage-version based on the 2001 DreamWorks animated film and the 1990 book by William Steig. There have been some subtle (and a few not-so-subtle) changes since the show’s initial Broadway release, but the story is still intact, and it’s a slightly twisted magical prince/princess kind of story with a happy ending and a rockin’ score. Continue reading

Solve “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” at SCP

drood-sceneBy Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players concludes its 45th season with The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This musical, written entirely by Rupert Holmes, turns the unfinished Dickens story of the young Edwin Drood on its head. From the time they walk into the theatre, the audience members will be invited to join in the fun as the Music Hall Royale tells the tale as a play within a play. Dickens never finished his novel because he had the audacity to die prior to penning an ending. As such, the company members can only go so far with the story on their own. Every performance, the company will ask the audience to vote on a variety of important plot points such as determining the identity of a detective who shows up in Act 2. They’ll also be asked to identify the murderer, because let’s face it, a mystery just isn’t worth its salt without a murderer. Finally, there will be one other outcome on which to vote, but you’ll have to come see the show to find out what. Continue reading

“Gypsy” swoops onto the Sunnyvale stage

gypsy-photoBy Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players proudly opens its 45th season with the theatre classic – Gypsy – the story of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother Rose, the person who defines the archetypical stage mother. This well-known musical includes songs such as “Some People,” “Together, Wherever We Go,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” and “Rose’s Turn,” along with several others that will be familiar to many audience members. Continue reading