Sitcoms on the Stage Part II: The Essence of the Vampire

Vampires. They seem to be omnipresent in popular culture. Growing up, media has surrounded me with them, from the Barnabas Collins fandom that existed when I was young to the Twlight-mania of today. So it is any surprise that when Van Nuys High School went to choose a fall production, they turned to vampires. Their selection was Varney the Vampire, or “The Feast of Blood”.

You’ve heard of it, no?

First, to assuage any fears, this is not a production about a giant purple dinosaur with the speech impediment that lures children to him under the guise of education but turns around and sucks the life force from them. That would be truly horrific and scary and any resemblence to the rehearsals for this production are truly a coincidence.

Varney the Vampire (full plot summary; another summary) was originally published between 1845 and 1847 in 109 (some say over 200) weekly installments as a penny dreadful (a serial story marketed to the working class). It was written by James Malcolm Rymer (although it has long been attributed to Thomas Preskett Prest instead). If you want to read the actual story, someone is posting it chapter by chapter on their blog. The story was actually quite influential, having contributed quite a few of the vampire lore notions to popular culture (but not the notion that they sparkle). Somewhere along the way, a fellow by the name of Tim Kelley adapted and condensed these stories into a play version, which has been performed in various venues to mixed levels of success (one review I found while researching this background begins: “Not since Sebastian Sly butchered “Madness at Midnight” has there been another stage play that bites as badly as “Varney the Vampire.” This play sucks. Literally.”)

This version of Varney concerns the events that occurred at the Inn of the Grouchy Wolf near Mt. Vesuvius in Italy. The Inn is owned and operated by Signora Bell. One evening, the kitchen man Gino and his sister Carla hear a noise. While investigating the noise, Gino is murdered by what Carla reports is a giant bat. Inspector Balsadella arrives to investigate, at which point we meet the current occupants of the Inn: Flora Bannerworth, her chaperone Miss Anderbury, the young artist Richard Dearborn, and his ditzy cousin Jennifer. We learn that Flora has fallen in love with Richard (to the disapproval of her chaperone), and that Jenny likes to wander the woods in search of birds nests. We also get to meet Sir Francis Varney, who has returned to the inn after 200 years to kill himself, having never gotten over the death of the love of his life, Amelia Quasimodo (who is haunting the inn as a ghost, unable to rest while Varney lives). However, when Varney arrives he meets Flora and falls in love, finding a purpose to live (if you can call it a life). Adding complication to the mix is the return of Gino as some form of hunchback zombie minyon, and Lady Cynthia Holland, a wannabe vampiress who wants Varney to seal the marriage deal and turn her into a real vampire.

As you can see the story is your usual series of silly complications, which isn’t surprising given it was based on the sitcom of the day. In that sense, this show is similar to last week’s show, Happy Days: The Musical, in that it was a sitcom put on stage. The plot improbabilities and sillyness was about equal. There were a few good lines, but quite a few of scenes did make me want to add commentary (I remember, for example, when the cross was put on the vampire’s head, and he complained about it burning, that I said to myself: “Head on. Apply directly for forehead”). There were a few very funny scenes, in particular the death of Lady Cynthia and the reaction of Flora to the garlic necklace (which I attribute to the actresses in the role having fun with the part).

This leads to the key factor that overcame the weak story and made this reasonably fun to watch: the cast had fun with it. Once you got past the poor writing, the student actors did quite a good job with the acting side, speaking clearly and with good characterization. A few segments were a bit overplayed, but that seems to be something the faculty director likes to do. It would be intereting to see how this production might work with student direction (in fact, it would be good if Van Nuys took up took up Ken Davenport’s suggestion and had full student control, including student directors, student producers (including fundraising and control over budget), student marketing directors, student casting agents, etc.).

In any case the cast was excellent (I should report here that I am biased in this, for my daughter had a role and many of her friends were in the cast). Leading the cast was Quest Sky Zeidler as Sir Francis Varney. We’ve seen Quest grow over the years, and he has quite a bit of fun with villinous roles. Here he built upon his Mr. Applegate of the Spring to create an evil, but not fearful, vampire. As Flora Bannerworth, Glory Smith was fun to watch, especially (as noted above) in her garlic reaction scene and the scene where she is on top of her intended, Richard Dearborn. As Dearborn, Matthew James Golden portrays the artist well, moving from a seeming milquetoast to a strong young man. Ariel Kostrzewski is fun to watch as Jenny: she captures the ditzy aspects quite well. Sameer Nayak played Inspector Balsadella quite comically, with some sort of odd Italian accent that made me wonder where the director learned about Italy (it wasn’t just this show, for the director has had bad Italian accents before). Lady Cynthia Holland, of the aforementioned excellent death scene (which prompted the line from Varney: “Can’t anyone learn to die properly”), was played by Taylor Morris. Amelia Quasimodo was played by Erin Faigin (my daughter), who brought a lot of emotion to her love for Varney, which came across quite well in here graveyard scenes. Gino, played by Cesar Alas, was fun to watch as the huntchback where he seemed to enjoy hamming in up. Rounding out the cast were Kiran Sanghera as Inez-the-Gypsy-Girl (yes, that’s how she was introduced every time), Jade Field as Miss Anderbury, and Priscilla Legaspi as Carla.

The production was under the stage management of Ericka Lopez, Alicia Ryan Lee, and Manmit Sigh, aided by the members of Actors in Action. Randy Olea was the faculty director.

Technically, there were hits and misses. The tech crew was lead by Marque Coy, and featured Nicolai Reeve, Sierra McDuffee, and Kenji Kang as sound engineers, Cody Banks as lighting designer (Jonathan Waters on moving lights), and Patricia Ponce and Ricksang Jachung as asst. lighting technicians. The sound was markedly better than in previous productions, although someone kept forgetting to turn off the backstage microphones. The lighting was reasonably good, although there were some miscues on Saturday night. The set was built by Mr. Tom Kirkpatrick and his stage class and looked a lot nicer than some of the sets we’ve seen in the past. In particular, the haunted grotto was particularly spooky, and there was a nice touch of having a picture of Amelia Quasimodo (with the real actress) in the inn.

Varney the Vampire has completed its production run. The Spring production of Van Nuys will be Evita. That should be interesting.

Upcoming Theatre and Dance. Next week brings “Bell, Book, and Candle” at The Colony Theatre on November 13; Amadeus” at REP East (ticketed for November 21), The Wild Party” at Malibu Stage Company on Friday November 26, and Randy Newman’s Harps and Angels” at the Mark Taper Forum (ticketed for Saturday November 27). December will bring Uptown, Downtown” starring Leslie Uggams at the Pasadena Playhouse on December 11, Next to Normal” at the Ahmanson on December 18, and for Karen and Ern, West Side Story” at the Pantages Theatre on December 24 (I’m not interested in that particular production, especially at Pantages prices).

Looking briefly into 2011: January will bring Tom Paxton at McCabes on my birthday, January 21 (pending ticketing), and perhaps the first REP show of the season. February will bring The Marvellous Wonderettes” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on February 12; Rock of Ages” at the Pantages on February 19, and Moonlight and Magnolias at the Colony Theatre on February 26. Of course, I learn of interesting shows all the time, so expect additions to this schedule.

As always: live theatre is a gift and a unique experience, unlike a movie. It is vitally important in these times that you support your local arts institutions. If you can afford to go to the movies, you can afford to go to theatre. If you need help finding ways, just drop me a note and I’ll teach you some tricks. Lastly, I’ll note that nobody paid me anything to write this review, and that I purchase my own tickets to the shows (although my daughter was in this production). In fact, I receive no remuneration for any reviews I write.


Proud Papa Mode

I just received a phone call from a very excited nsshere (my daughter). She just got her AP scores. As a 10th Grader, she got a 5 in AP World History (and 770 on the SAT Subject Exam in World History), and a 4 in AP Stats (and, IIRC, this is significantly better than the others in her class). I’ll also note her report card this June was straight A-E-Es.

For all the news you hear about the problems in LA Unified, or at Van Nuys, a bright and motivated student can still shine.


Van Nuys HS in the News

Reading an article in the Daily News over lunch, my eyes caught the following: “Valley schools appear on best list: Two San Fernando Valley schools were listed among the top 150 in Newsweek’s new compilation of 1,600 top American schools. Van Nuys High School ranked 55th on the annual list, while North Hollywood came in at 149. Newsweek compiles the list based on the number of Advanced Placement classes, and on standardized test scores. At least 15 schools from Southern California were ranked among the top 200.”

This is good news for Van Nuys, for other “name” schools in LAUSD (in particular, Granada Hills Charter) didn’t make the list. You can see the full list at the Newsweek site; Van Nuys is on page 3. Alas, their profile page doesn’t give more details, except for a disbelieving comment. [Other valley schools: LACES, #64; North Hollywood, #149; Monroe, #406; Hami, #468; Pali, #600; Birmingham, #646; Cleveland, #666; Venice, #732; El Camino, #1026; Granada, #1053)

Speaking as the father of a Van Nuys student (in the PA magnet), I can state that if the child is motivated, they get their tush worked off. My daughter did 2 AP last year, and will be doing 4 (I think) next year. They are weaker in how they enforce some discipline problems, but that’s a different story.

ETA: Just got a text from my daughter: “I HAVE STRAIGHT As!! I have a 96.8% in (AP) World History, and I set the curve on the Bio final.”


Dance to the Max

Last night, we went to the final performance of the Van Nuys High School Dance Department production “Momentum”. This production featured a number of student- or teacher- choreographed dances from both the beginning and advanced dance classes, as well as specific productions that were auditioned by dance members, productions from the VNHS Jazz and VNHS Hip-Hop Dance Teams, and (Saturday night only) the Senior Spotlight.

I’ll start with some general observations.

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A Devil of a Show

Last night, we went to go see our second show in this weekend of three: “Damn Yankees” at Van Nuys High School. Now “Damn Yankees” is not one of those typical high school shows, and it was nice to see it being done.

For those unfamilar with this 1955 show (which starred such folks as Gwen Verdon as Lola and Ray Walston as Applegate)… or its late 1990s revival (with Bebe Neuwirth as Lola and either Victor Garber or Jerry Lewis as Applegate), “Damn Yankees” is a sports-oriented retelling of the Faustian legend. It is set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. The story is set in motion when a long-time baseball fan, real estate agent Joe Boyd, offers to sell his soul to see his team, the Washington Senators, win the pennant away from those damn Yankees. Be careful what you say, for the Devil (in the form of Mr. Applegate) shows up and offers Joe the chance to leave his long-suffering baseball widow Meg and become the long-ball hitter the Senators need. Joe agrees, but insists on an escape clause: he can decide the evening before the last game to get out and return to his wife. Applegate waves his hands, and Joe Boyd disappears and young Joe Hardy replaces him. Joe shows up at the Senators locker room, and convinces the manager to add him to the team. Everyone is won over by this man, except for a young reporter who is suspicious. While she investigates his background, Joe begins longing for his wife. Joe’s visits back to his old home get under the skin of Applegate, who plots what he can do to get Joe away from his wife. He sends a skilled homewrecker, Lola, after him, but she fails to seduce him. Applegate decides to switch tactics to ensure Joe’s failure. He releases false information about Joe Hardy’s true identity being “Shifty McCoy”, an escaped criminal and con artist. When Gloria discovers this information, she presses charges, and Joe is forced into court. As the Senators prepare for the final game against the Yankees for the pennant, Joe goes on trial. Joe tells the Applegate he wants out, and Applegate says he has to confirm this at 5 minutes before midnight. But the trial has various delays, and at the magic mark, just as Joe is proven innocent, the delays prevent him from exercising the clause. Joe heads into the final game, but Lola has drugged Applegate, and he doesn’t show until the very end. In order to have the Senators lose (the plan all along, for then there will be loads of suicides and anguish from the fans), Applegate does the only thing he can do: turns Joe back as he is catching the final run. Joe Hardy disappears, and Joe Boyd returns to his wife. Applegate tries to convince Joe Boyd to go back to being Joe Hardy, but the older Joe prefers the love of his wife. I’ll note there’s a longer synopsis (alas, of the 1994 version) on Wikipedia; the primary difference appears to be the setting of the novelty number, “Whos Got The Pain” and the setting for “Two Lost Souls”. Van Nuys appears to have done the 1955 version, with the “Pain” number as part of the Talent Show, and the “Souls” number done in a nightclub.

Van Nuys did a pretty good job with this production—in fact, it was one of the best I have seen them do. This one had some very strong singing and dancing. Of particular note were Quest Sky Zeidler’s Applegate and Glory Smith’s Meg. Both were excellent: well acted and reasonable well sung (note that the Applegate role has never been cast for its singing prowess). Sean Scott was pretty good as Joe Boyd and Joe Hardy—I wasn’t that taken with the older Joe (especially singing), but the younger Joe was very strong and only had a few notes that he had trouble reaching for. Glessida Magaling was also pretty good as Lola: her singing was fine, but dancing for the “Whatever Lola Wants” number was weak. I blame this more on the choreographer than the student; the routine came off as fake-sexy and actually created some laughs. That routine needs to be super sexy, but that’s also difficult and uncomfortable to present with a high-school girl these days. Also particularly strong was Ashylyn Killham as Gloria and Aikiro Tiongson as Vanburen, the coach. Overall, even with the typical problems one sees in a high school production (some voices not 100% able to reach all the notes, a few confused lines, and the questionable choreography), it was a strong and enjoyable performance. Rounding out the cast were Tylor Morris (Lynch), Priscilla Legaspi (Miss Weston), Anjela Tokadjian (Postmaster), Safia Allibhoy (Commissioner), Maria “Alex” Geronilla (Doris), Talia McIlwain (Sister), Rhomas O’Hara (Rocky), Andrew Kim (Henry), Erin Geronimi (Linville), Regine Bautista (Lowe), Matthew Golden (Smokey), Mike Hill (Vernon), Kiran Sanghiran (Welch), and Ariel Kostrewski and Camille Santos in the ensemble. I’ll note that this casting gave the baseball team two women, which created an interesting scene in the discussion before Lola’s big dance (where the women were transformed, and looked more like the other player’s dates),

The set was also unique for Van Nuys: Mr. Tom Kirkpatrick and his stage class constructed a very raked diamond, with various locales (such as Joe’s home, the locker room) rolled up to the side. This made all the action easy to see, but must have been hell (well, so to speak) to dance on. The large orchestra (led by Mr. Robert Eisenhart) was also excellent, and provided great inter-scene music during scenery changes.

Where Van Nuys did have trouble was on the technical side: particularly, lights and sound. In the past this has been very strong, but for this production, something was missing*. The crew’s timing was off (lights did not come on sharply on cue, microphones came on off cue), and there were numerous crackles and static from the microphones. When the sound worked, it was great—but it got worse as the night went on. Other than the timing problems, I thought the lighting was pretty good: there were no real spots and no overuse of the moving lights, but there were some questionable color choices. The tech crew is under the direction of Mr. Marque Coy.
(*: That’s an in-joke for those familiar with the story: My daughter used to be on the technical crew, but was effectively forced off at the beginning of the semester. Hopefully, we’ll see her back on the Van Nuys boards as an actor or stage manager)

The production was directed by Mr. Randy Olea, who did a good job getting the students to bring believable characters out. Choreography was by Anita Morales and was mostly OK, except that they didn’t know how to get Lola to dance right. They really should have brought in Mr. N to at least do her routines—Mr. N is a strong dancer, and could have made Lola’s dances something special. There were no specific credits for make-up and costumes, but I did want to note in particular Quest’s makeup and the costuming in general, which was excellent.

Last night was the final production of “Damn Yankees” at Van Nuys High School.

Upcoming Theatre. As for us, what’s upcoming on the theatre calendar? Tonight brings the April installment of “Meeting of Minds” at the Steve Allen Theatre. Next weekend takes me to “12 Angry Men” on April 24 (the rest of the family sees it on May 2). May looks to be equally busy, with “Little Shop of Horrors at Cabrillo Music Theatre (May 1), and “12 Angry Men” for Karen and Erin on May 2 @ 2pm (while I get ready for a Games Night at Temple that I’m running). The weekend of May 8 sees Karen and me at the So Cal Ren Faire on Saturday. The weekend of May 15 sees the CDF Conference for Karen and Erin, followed by The 39 Steps” at the Ahmanson at 8pm. The next weekend takes Erin to the Ren Faire, while we see the May installment of “Meeting of Minds” at the Steve Allen Theatre (May 16). The fourth weekend in May brings the Spring Dance Show at Van Nuys HS (May 20-22). The last weekend in May brings the Bat Mitzvah of a family friend, as well as “The Wedding Singer” at Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall (May 30 @ 2pm). June so far is mostly open, although I’m expecting that we’ll see “South Pacific” at the Ahmanson some weekend that month, and potentially the June “Meeting of Minds”. As for July, the month starts with “In The Heights” at the Pantages on July 3. The next weekend I’m holding upon for the first show of the 2010-2011 Colony season, “Grace & Glorie” (likely July 10). That weekend may also bring “It’s Top Secret”, a musical that is part of the Festival of New American Musicals, running Jun 19-July 18 at the NoHo Arts Center (likely July 11). July will also bring ; “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at REP East on July 17 (pending ticketing); a possible July “Meeting of Minds, and “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on July 31 24 (likely moved due to a birthday party).

As always: live theatre is a gift and a unique experience, unlike a movie. It is vitally important in these times that you support your local arts institutions. If you can afford to go to the movies, you can afford to go to theatre. If you need help finding ways, just drop me a note and I’ll teach you some tricks. Lastly, I’ll note that nobody paid me anything to write this review. In fact, I receive no remuneration for any reviews I write.


Pardon Me, Miss Kate, But Is That The Moon I See?

Yes, I’m in Hawaii. But we did attend theatre last night, and the urge to review is upon me, so a quick one. Last night we saw the Van Nuys High School production of “Taming of the Shew”. You all know the story I’m sure: perhaps you saw “Kiss Me Kate“, perhaps you saw Shakespeare in the Park, or you forever remember the “Atomic Shakespeare” episode of Moonlighting. Of course, Elizabethan sets being difficult for a high school to come by, Van Nuys decided to set the store in the old West and costume the actors appropriately… but not change any of Shakespeare’s dialogue.

This was a high school production. As such, the acting capabilities were not always well honed. Some of the leads acted and emoted quite well, but still spoke their lines almost too fast to be heard. The actors that stood out in my mind were Dominic Gessel as Petruchio and Sandra Duran as Katherina — they tended to speak a bit fast, but I did enjoy their acting. I also enjoyed Quest Zeidler as Gremio — one of the few that spoke sufficiently slow to be understood. Others in the cast, for whom I’m not remembering specific comments with my Hawaii-befuddled brain, were Thomas O’Hara (Lucentio), Kiran Sangnera (Bianca), Sevan Ghadimian (Baptista Minola), Jordan Strokes (Tranio), John Armstrong (Hortensio), Michael Hill (Grumio), Sameer Nayak (Biondello), Gregory Harutyunyan (Vincentio), Megan Lovato (Widow), Alex Geronilla (Tailor/Sheriff), Ashley Portillo (Haberdasher), Arman Zardaryan (Curtin), Bronte Cox (Petra), Jade Field (Natalie), Taylor Morris (Josephina), Suad Turjman (Servant), James Sakburanaphat (Bartender), Laurel Anderson (Saloon Girl #A), Denisse Rodriguez (Saloon Girl #2), Aikiro Tiogson (Bar Brawler #2), Glory Smith (Saloon Girl #3), Andrew Koenig (Bar Brawler #3/Pedant), Priscilla Legaspi (Saloon Girl #4), and Jonathan Martinez (Bar Brawler #4).

One thing I did like about the show was the musical accompaniment. This band was quite good. It consisted of Janathan Reader (Bass), Cesar Alas (Guitar), Jung Lee (Violin), Iris Mayoral (Violin), Lisa Miller (Violin), and Michael Han (Washboard).

Of course, I don’t go to these shows for the drama, but for the technical. My daughter, Erin, did the conventional lights, and I thought they were quite good with nary a moving spot and a nice use of lighting for the moon and the sun. The moving lights run by Cody Banks and Joshua Price were used mainly for strobe effects, to illuminate the band, and for the curtain calls. Sound (by Chris Chesler, Emily Tugwell, and Niko Reeves) was reasonably good the night we were there, although I understand there were some mic problems. The dramatic stage managers were Sean Present, Manmit Singh, and Sayuri Pacheco; the technical stage manager was Anthony Flores. Patty Ponce was the spot light operator.

Upcoming Theatre: One more production remains in 2009, unless I review Wednesday’s luau: December 20 brings “Mary Poppins” at the Ahmanson. We’ll be going to the movies on Christmas Day (as well as having Chinese food), and the likely movie is “Nine – The Musical”. As always, I’m looking for suggestions for good shows to see, especially if they are on Goldstar or LA Stage Tix. Turning to 2010, January 2010 will bring another episode of Meeting of Minds on 1/17 (currently unticketed), as well as “Lost in Yonkers” at Rep East (starting 1/22, currently unticketed). Another interesting show, although we would have to make a weekend of it, is Duncan Sheik’s “Whisper House at The Old Globe in San Diego, running January 13 through February 21. February 2010 will also bring “The Andrews Brothers” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on February 13. Lastly, February will also bring “Camelot” at the Pasadena Playhouse (although they haven’t sent out the dates yet), with Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels” in March 2010.

Disclaimer: In light of the upcoming rules, you should know that nobody paid me anything to write this review. In fact, I receive no remuneration for any reviews I write.


Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy, Days of Summer

We’re getting closer to knowing what is happening this summer. At least nsshere’s school plans are in a known shape.

When she met with her counselor early this year, she planned to take French 2 over the summer in order that she could fit in her performing arts electives. Alas, not a single high school in the valley was offering French 2 (they were all Spanish); in any case, the issue became moot as LAUSD has cancelled most summer school classes… and most certainly any language classes. We looked into the community colleges, but the only college offering French 2 was Moorpark College, and that class was full (as an aside, I’ll note that the LA Community Colleges have cancelled their second session of summer classes).

A lead in the los_angeles community led us to explore UCLA Extension. They have a French 2 course for $480, but it was conducted entirely in French and was in the evenings in Westwood, increasing the difficulty of transportation. A friend referred us to BYU’s Independent Study program, which also had a French 2 course ($129). Our daughter met with her counselor, who was familar with the program, and indicated it was acceptable.

Voilà! I went to the BYU site, and she is now enrolled. The bullet (of the cancellation of LAUSD summer classes) has been dodged. We will still, of course, have to arrange for a proctored final exam, but it looks like they have exam centers at CSUN and Sylvan Learning Centers in Northridge.


Gotta Dance!

Last night, we went to the annual Van Nuys High School Student and Faculty Dance Production. It was spectacular.

Let me start out by noting that Van Nuys is a Performing Arts magnet within the larger high school (the other magnets in the school are Math/Science and Medical). But their theatrical program has been hampered by a poor teacher and weak productions. Thus, the dramatic skills of these young adults doesn’t come across as well as it could on the stage. The theatrical production attempts to showcase more broad comedic skills (farce in the winter, musical in the summer). The dance production, on the other hand, contained more professional quality dramatic expression and quality acting than I have seen in ages. This is a tribute to their instructor and his professionalism.

The program consisted of three acts: the first (shall we call it “Act 0”) was a “senior spotlight”, which gave each of the graduating seniors a chance to present an individual performance. Almost all of these were uniformely excellent; the ones that weren’t fell into the “pretty damn good” category. Performances of particular note were “Hurt”, performed and choreographed by Christine Dominguez; “Liberian Girl” performed by Joseph Gurrola and Quinn Harris, choreographed by Quinn Harris; “Bold As Love”, performed and choreographed by Adela Pineda; “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”, performed and choreographed by Mikel Bossette; and “Just Testing”, performed and choreographed by Kian Khiahan. Of these, I’d like to highlight three particular performers: Joseph Gurrola showed remarkable form and finesse and strength in his movements, and was just a remarkable dancer; Mikel Bossette has demonstrated herself to be a triple threat — she can act, she can sing, and boy can she dance — and I hope she goes far in the theatrical world; and Kian Khiahan, who had a remarkably improvised technopop routine that was just mesmerizing in its movement. All seniors in this program will go far.

Act I consisted of 12 pieces. Not all of them stick in my mind, although I enjoyed all of them during the performances. The ones that I particular remember were “Holding Out for a Hero”, dones by the entire VNHS Jazz Dance Team, choreographed by Mike Nakauchi; “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, performed and choreographed by Diana Flores; and “And So It Is”, the faculty performance, performed and choreographed by Mike Nakauchi. The fact that I did not list a performance here doesn’t mean it wasn’t excellent — rather, it means that the morning after the production I can’t match the names of the pieces to the performances.

Act II also consisted of 12 performances. Again, ones that I particularly remember were “The Calling”, choreographed by Mikel Bossette and performed by Mikel Bossette, Stephanie Hoston, April Machado, and Julia Rachilewski; “For You”, and extremely touching and powerful piece performed and choreographed by Joseph Gurrola; “Expression of the Subconscious”, performed and choreographed by Quinn Harris, “Shikdum-A Night in Bollywood”, performed and choreographed by Fariba Toha, and “Burn”, choreographed by Mike Nakauchi and performed by the Jazz Dance Team (although I found the music, by Nine Inch Nails, a bit loud on that one). However, as I noted before, just because I didn’t list a performance doesn’t mean it was poor — it means my memory is bad.

The VNHS dancers consisted of the following young adults (* indicates seniors): Beginner Dance: Nora Adamian*, Omary Aguilar, Arielle Bell, Lara Bersabal, Sheila Carlos, Jennifer Casas, Layla Chatthoranongsak, Annie Chareonsin*, Catherine Corea, Dani DeMond, Melissa Gestopa, Sydney Green, Diana Grigoryan, Lubaba Khan, Ariel Kostrzewski, Glessy Magaling, Ariana Martinez, Mayra Martinez, Trammy Nguyen, Eddie Perdomo, Juliene Picart, Jackee Rico, Christina Soldano, Katie Swanson. Intermediate/Advanced Dance: Kimberly Alegria*, BGreanna Burnette, Jessica Castañeda, Heidy Contreras, Ma Christina De La Rosa*, Chiza Eze, Annie Gaspar, John Geronnilla*, Tim Glick*, Melissa Larios, Marooshka Noronha*, Deeanna Padilla, Yadira Pulido, Justine Daphne Regala*, Sarah Smith, Paulo Tadle. Hip Hop Dance Team: Kimberly Alegria*, Jessica Casteneda, Joseph Cayanan, Layla Chatthoranongsak, Natalie Chavez, Stephenie DeCastro* (co-captain), Christina De La Rosa*, Charmaine Ramos* (co-captain), Justine Regala*, Paulo Dadle, Mary-Jannie Taylor. Jazz Dance Team: Christine Dominguez* (captain), Diana Flores*, Hasmik Fndryan, Romina Karla Gonzalez, Mireya Gonzalez*, Joseph Gurrola*, Jamie Quinn Harris*, Marissa Perplies, Gloria Roca, Zoe Shiovitz* (co-captain), Mary-Jannie Taylor, Maya Wright.

The performances were enhanced and amplified by the remarkable design work of the VNHS Technical Theatre Crew, led by Marque Coy (faculty). Moving lights were designed and operated by Josh Price and Cody Banks. Conventional lights were designed and operated by Shaunna Lucas and Erin Faigin. Spotlights were operated by Leslie Montano and Patty Ponce. Sound was by Emily Tugwell and Christopher Chesler. Some particular items in this area I remember were the incredibly beautiful background lights; the strong use of silhouettes for dancers; some of the moving light effects; and how in some numbers the sound seemed to move around the stage.

You can see a YouTube of the bows here, and it has links to some of the other specific performances.

Upcoming Theatre: This afternoon our theatre continues with “big” at West Coast Ensemble, to be followed by “The Green Room at Hermosa Beach Playhouse on May 24 @ 7:00pm. The end of May (May 28, 29, 30) brings Fiddler on the Roof” at Nobel Middle School. June 20 @ 8pm is “The Little Foxes” at The Pasadena Playhouse. Lastly, July 11 will bring “Fat Pig” at Repertory East Playhouse. Based on the reviews, we’ve decided to take a pass on “Marry Me a Little/The Last 5 Years” at East/West Players. Other shows pending scheduling and ticketing include “Spamalot” at the Ahmanson (7/7-9/6/09), the “Guys and Dolls” concert at the Hollywood Bowl (7/31-8/2/09), and Liza Minelli at the Hollywood Bowl (8/28-8/29/09). Also of potential interest are: “Setup and Punch” at The Blank Theatre Company (LAStageTix) (5/14-6/21/09); “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Neighborhood Playhouse (Venue Goldstar) (7/9-7/26/09); “Breaking the Code” at The Production Company in North Hollywood (5/15-6/20/09) (on LAStageTix, Venue Goldstar) (with “Equus” over the summer); and “The Apple Tree” at Crown City Theatre in North Hollywood (6/5-6/28/09) (LAStageTix). I’m also always looking for interesting productions on Goldstar and LA Stage Tix.