Something stressful this way comes…

Sam Valenzuela and Lalo Lopez acting like hams!

We had a designer run-through last night and the work was very, very rough.  There were a lot of questions from people, usually starting with the words “In the script it says…” and then adding a detail that hasn’t been spoken of, or addressed as of yet.  It’s funny how many things can be accidentally overlooked when focus is on one aspect of a play.

When we get into the last few weeks before Opening Night, things begin to get stressful sometimes.  Everyone begins to intensely focus on the task at hand.  People begin to “wear” their characters in the hallways and in the wings while waiting to go on stage.  The usual lively jokiness that abounds in the hallways may cause the actors to break concentration.

One of the many things that I try to do is be respectful of my fellow actors and before performances, I try not to fool around if I see them focused on their entrance.  One of the worst things that an actor can do is either miss and entrance or come onstage late. I would hate to be the cause of something like that, so I do my best to stay out of the way.

Since we open in two weeks, things are going to be tough and a wee bit on the stressy (yup, it’s a made up word) side. One of the best things that we as actors can do for each other is to know our lines, our scenes and entrances, and to keep the silliness to a minimum.  But I have to emphasize that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop laughing.

And with these people, I don’t think that will be a problem.

Lalo Lopez, Sam Valenzuela, Jay Vera, Anees Guillen, Maya Malan-Gonzalez, Jessica Castaneda

Big Spender…

Hello Patrons!!!

I figure that since enough time has passed, I can post some things about my ideas and concepts for this number in Sweet Charity.  Jeez, where to begin…

I performed Sweet Charity with another local group back in 2000.  I was one of the trio that start the Frug and Daddy Brubeck (after the original guy that was cast for it left the show).  I loved performing in the show not only because it’s great campy fun, but because of the Frug.  However, when it came time for the choreographing of this number, the staff decided that cutting out the middle section of the song was going to be the best way to go.  I was so disheartened by this.  You see, I am a great admirer of Bob Fosse and the unique style that he created.  I jumped at the chance just to perform some of these songs.  Little did I know that I would actually be doing the choreography that was from the movie.  So I guess I have to call it more of a re-staging than actual choreography.   I say this because to choreograph something is to create movements to a piece of sound or music, and to restage is to take something that is already created and teach it to new people.  And at the time, I was okay with that.

Then last year, when I found out about this show, it made me think of all the potential that it could have had.  The direction of the 2000 production was full of gimmicks. The costumes were stunning. And the dancing was fun, but unoriginal.

One night in the beginning of summer, I had a dream where music filled my head.  It was the da dada da da da of the trumpets at the beginning of Big Spender.  I was sitting in the audience, and the dance hall hostesses came down the isle talking to the men with their lines, “Hey good looking you wanna talk? What’s the harm in a little talk?” and all that jazz.  There was this mood of anticipation, excitement and yet unease that hung over the crowd because they were no longer safe in the separation between voyeurs and participants.  They were in the show. This feeling is something that I felt needed to be addressed but it never does.  It’s a great feeling to sit in a show and physically feel the vibe. Bob Fosse was able to create this sort of atmosphere ever so slightly in the movie by utilizing camera shots full of shadows, smoke and lipstick.  Unfortunately, in the amount of time we have in theater, this is not something that can be properly conveyed.

After the proposals, the hostesses head behind the bar (which is cut in the middle) , slightly upstage.  A safer distance from the audience and as they go behind, the bar slams shut behind them, in a small way symbolizing the fact that they are stuck in this life.  Incidentally, Charity isn’t in this number, and if you know the ending, you will know why I believe this would have been a great idea.  Unfortunately, the bars we have aren’t incredibly easy to move, so open they stay.  A small hint to the audience that this show is more than just a comedy about love.  As the hostesses sing the first verse and chorus everything happens behind the bar, but when they ask for some time to be spent with them, the genie is out of the bottle and isn’t secured until the end of the number.  It’s in your face.  It’s sexy.  It’s sassy.  And it’s a little dark.  But hey, they aren’t exactly innocent church ladies are they?

It was when I woke up from this dream that I kept thinking about this show.  I kept thinking, can I actually try to work on this show and create something Fosse-esque?  I thought about it so much that I finally got the nerve to ask the producer.   I started thinking and researching and planning right away even though I had almost 5 months time.  I found old Vogue photos that became my inspiration for some of the poses in the number.  Here are some of my faves:

These models were sexy yet classy.  Yet, I needed something a little more intense.  So the angles of the models are a little sharper and so are the attitudes.
I can’t decide if Big Spender or Rich Man’s Frug is my current favorite.  Although I’m A Brass Band is coming along quite nicely!  So at this point I am torn, and I hope that you are too when you see the show!
Until next time,  break a leg!