Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Day in Hollywood/A Night in The Ukraine

A big group of us made it to Sunnyvale Community Player's outstanding production this Friday - and we were all so glad to be there! The entire thing was very "Gaslighter" like, making me very envious of the folks having such a fantastic time on stage

The show starts out with ushers at the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, introducing us to the life of an usher and big hits from the 1930s, winding up with an introduction to the the second act, a Marx Brothers Comedy, A Night in The Ukraine.

We were greeted by the entire cast in the opening number, full of energy and great spirits. I thought their usher costumers were very cute, but found myself a bit perplexed by the subtle differences as Act I progressed. Why did Mike Rhone have a gold strap hanging over his shoulder? Head usher, I guessed, but they all had a different number of bands between their brass buttons on their chest, which I couldn't figure out. Personally, I would've loved to have seen actual costume changes during Act I to better fit the song each person was singing. Yes, it would've meant quick changes - but my years at the Gaslighter say it would've been possible. I suppose remaining in their usher costumes is probably how the show is typically done.

The sets were really neat, with rotating doors and a clever "ankle stage" (thanks to John Whenger for explaining this all to me during intermission!)

We were all very impressed by the amazingly talented cast, as they all spread their wings during Act I. In particular, we were very impressed with Aaron Weisberg on the saxophone! Wow! Bariton, Alto and Tenor saxes! Teri Weitze was a wonderful hoot when she sang "Nelson", and Molly Gazay was mesmerizing with her rendition of "The Best in the World". Keith Pennings never ceased to amaze us with his piano playing *and* ukelale playing! Kristin Brownstone did a delightful job with "Too Marvelous for Words", as well.

Geri Carlson Sauls did it again, with a fantastically choreographed "Famous Feet", and a bringing down the house "Doin' The Production Code".

One of my favorite numbers was "Japanese Sandman" featuring Mike, Anna & Molly.

If musical reviews are not your thing, you are sure to enjoy the second act, A Night in the Ukraine! This is where Teri Weitze really comes alive as Mrs Pavlenko, a wealthy widow. She did a masterful job of being thoroughly disgusted with her staff and visitors, putting on a wonderful sour puss whenever it was needed. Keith Pennings, as Carlo, played wonderfully off of Kristin Brownstone, as Gino (the silent Marx brother). These two lit up the stage with their constant joviality and horsing around. "Gino's Harp Solo" was incredibly funny!

Mike Rhone did a wonderfully sappy "hero" as Constantine, who falls in love with Nina Pavlenko, played by Anna Traina. They were both perfectly syrupy sweet as they fell in love over some dropped papers. Of course, foibles led to heartbreak, which brought us to the delightfully silly "Again" sung by Mike & Anna.

Aaron Weisberg did steal the show as Samovar (Groucho Marx), with clever appropriate come backs to the audiences occasional groans, bouncing around with unbounded energy and an excellent sense of comic timing.

This was such a fun show - everyone in our group had a wonderful time. We found ourselves singing songs from the show when many of us got together again on Saturday night. We had a blast! There's just one more weekend for this show - and I can't recommend enough to get out there and see it!

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