Monday, August 16, 2010

What's the buzz? Tell me what's happenin'!

More comments about "The Producers", presented by the Hawthorne Players, July 30-Aug. 8,2010.

The big production that I spent the majority of my summer hours working on is over. I still have some costumes to clean and put away, but the majority of it is stored in our costume warehouse.

The latest buzz was the third of a series of wonderful reviews by local theatre critics. We have a local arts radio station that reviews all manner of theatre events, from the highly polished shows that come to the Fox Theatre, to local community theatre events. They reviewed our show in several different versions through their radio and internet programming.

The first review was sent to us through FaceBook, so I can't exactly find where or when it was posted. The various aspects of our production were highlighted, including costumes, regarded by this reviewer as OFTEN GLITZY. If only he knew how many yards of sequins I used to create that glitz! I should count that up some day!

One aspect that was really brought out was the set design. This was truly a professional level design, with the movement off and on the stage planned to the last nano-second! There were lots of flying set pieces and movement in and out of large wagons. One wagon was a huge file case, and it had doors through which came 6 dancing girls! That one was always interesting as it had to go in quickly, disappear for a dance number and then reappear! Genius!

When I first saw the sets that our designer Ken had created, I panicked--would those costumes I made show as professional of a level as the sets? After all, my first 8 shows that I costumed were for elementary school kids, and at times I felt like these costumes hadn't progressed much beyond that level. I was in a great deal of self-doubt until the entire thing was put together on stage during tech week. The costumes did show up OK, and I got plenty of compliments on them, but the sets were still the outstanding feature of this show. However, the sheer number of costumes was something that impressed many people, there were hundreds of them, all with multiple pieces to bring them together for complete ensembles. That was the biggest challenge for me!

The second review came in during the week off between shows, and it was glowing. You can see this by going to and checking current reviews, Hawthorne Players "The Producers". More compliments for the entire show. One recurring theme from local professional critics as well as "man on the street" kibitzers has been "Could a community theatre group actually do justice to this show?" It requires a great deal of technical support, which translates into dollars put into it. The reviewer said, "Yes, Yes, Yes!" as an answer to that question. This was a gamble for our theatre group, because they knew they would have to put big money into producing this show, and if there wasn't sufficient ticket sales, it could be a disaster. We had modest ticket sales the first weekend, and it got better and better as the shows progressed, to close to a sell out on the last Sunday show. (In a theatre that holds almost 600). But, I don't know if we broke even, even with that number of tickets sold.

The third excellent review came on Aug. 10, when "Two On The Aisle" was aired. This is a local internet based video show, done twice a month, in which 8-10 of the best local shows are critiqued and videos of portions of the shows are shown. These reviewers were extremely complementary, mentioning the costumes more than once.

The actors, Kent Coffel, who played Max, Dominic Windsor who played Leo, were always characterized as appropriately playing their parts to give the characters some real depth. This is a show in which stereotypes are played to the hilt, and our leads really did that with a great deal of personal interpretation, which made it just hilarious. Ryan Cooper is always outstanding, and his Carmen Ghia interpretation made every one howl with laughter, even down to the flick of his little finger! You had to see it to get the full impact of that comment, words just wouldn't do it justice! Alan Aguilar, who played Roger DeBris, was over the top, especially when he first appeared in his "Chrysler Building" dress. I was given credit for creating this, but I only created the canvas, my assistant costumer, Emily Stroble, created the details, and it is truly a work of art! Great job, Emily!

Set design, costume design, lighting design were always mentioned. Our poor sound designer got left out of the critiques. I guess you take sound for granted, unless you can't hear. That wasn't the case for this show, except when some cantankerous wireless mics decided to wield their quirky heads and not work properly.

Another consistent aspect of the positive reviews was for the orchestra. It was just great! The local junior high band teacher led this group, and there were many music educators and well-known local artists in that orchestra. It was just a pleasure to listen to them, lots of interaction between the orchestra leader and singers! He kept it moving along quickly, and provided hilarious musical interludes between scenes. Very good work!

If we can withstand the financial aspects of this, we do have the satisfaction of knowing that we produced an excellent, entertaining show, destined in the opinion of many of being award winning. I guess that made it all worth while, giving up that big piece of time and money to produce it. After all, as Max repeats over and over again in the show, "We Can DO IT!" That was a mantra I had to play over and over in my head to get to the finish line, and we did prove to all, WE DID IT!

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