Director Porter Jamison intends to ask a bit more of his audience for "Lost Bakersfield" -- prepare to sing along, catch flying objects and use your knowledge of local history -- with one important exception:
"We're not going to make them stand up and dance the funky chicken."
Opening Friday at the Spotlight Theatre, the show almost defies description, Jamison said.
"It's one of those things that I dread people asking me. I've never seen a show like this before. I'm sure they exist. ... It is kind of like a bunch of people at a party who happen to be able to have discussions and make wisecracks about the history of Bakersfield."
Rather than a structured play, "Lost Bakersfield" is a theatrical experience, which Jamison compared to an old movie theater double feature with a newsreel and cartoon. The show will offer a mix of story-telling, slideshow, singalongs and audience participation.
The kernel for "Lost Bakersfield" came about 15 years ago during a conversation with friend Kathi Loughman, but it was Jamison's work at the Spotlight that led to the show's development.
"Fast forward to working with (Spotlight board president) Peggy Darling. She was fixated on having to have a name show. I said, 'You just need a show that piques people's interest. I will pitch you a show that doesn't exist at all and I bet you will want to see it.' (After) she said, 'You need to do the show, create and develop the show.'
"I kind of been talking myself into it while trying to make a different point."
Iconic places and famous figures are not ignored, but "Lost Bakersfield" embraces the lesser-known .
"The concept is that things that used to be important but for one reason or another we let them go. (Like) your favorite Thai restaurant that was there for two years, and you go back two months later and it's gone. The sense this was what was important while it was here."
Of course, there is a bit of culinary name recognition with places like Maison Jaussaud, a well-known restaurant and nightclub located where Golden West Casino now resides on Union Avenue.
"The highest kind of cuisine in town, Maison Jaussaud was the creme de la creme. After awhile, particularly as the environment of Union Avenue changed in the '80s, things changed. A lot of the restaurants that were fine dining either left or had to change."
Audience members may get a taste of local history with See's Candies, which Jamison initially considered tossing into the crowd.
"Throwing hard candy, getting a See's candy in the middle off your forehead, we don't want that. We might find a way to pass them along."
Other "Lost" stories involve Col. Thomas Baker, Bakersfield Inn and El Tejon Motel. The Bakersfield Sound, the subject of an exhibit at the County Music Hall of Fame Museum in Nashville and a recent local art show, also lands a few notes.
"The Bakersfield Sound has been getting a lot of good attention. But there are some (people and places) that aren't as well known. Wynn Stewart, if it wasn't for him, the Bakersfield Sound wouldn't have happened the way that it did. ... Most of the clubs that drove the Bakersfield Sound, most are gone or repurposed."
For the show, Jamison tapped his cast for their recollections.
"David Zent, he's also doing some of the songs. He has a different level of history about Bakersfield. He knows a great many people with a great many stories."
Along with Jamison and Zent, the cast is made up of Jennie Babcock, Alissa Morrow, Terri Gann, Tim Fromm, Mickey Farley, Morning Miller and Zach Payne.
Jamison said although the show will certainly resonate with longtime residents -- "It's amazing how their faces light up (discussing the material)" -- it accommodates newcomers as well.
"We're trying to make sure that even for someone who has been in town for a year, it's entertaining and informative.
"We're trying to find a way to make people truly remember or learn how things were in a celebratory fashion."