It seems 2020 will remain a trying time for live theater, especially for our own community playhouses.
Stars Theatre Restaurant is aiming to connect with its supporters with some new recorded performances available to stream now.
Those missing their musical theater can tune into "Stars on the Green: My Favorite Things." The benefit concert was filmed last week at Stockdale Country Club featuring a varied list of performers: Timothy Armijo, Abby Bowles-Votaw, Sheryl Cleveland, Gianna De Keles, Zachary Gonzalez, Amelia Mejia, Alex Neal, Bruce Saathoff and Frank Sierra. Brock Christian accompanied the performers on piano.
In keeping with the show's subtitle, the program features a mix of songs from traditional favorites — "West Side Story" ("Maria"), "The Phantom of the Opera" ("The Music of the Night"), "Les Miserables" ("A Heart Full of Love"), "Chicago ("Razzle Dazzle") and "Camelot" ("Take Me to the Fair") — as well as contemporary musicals — "Dear Evan Hansen" ("Waving Through the Window"), "Waitress" ("What Baking Can Do") and "Bright Star" ("Bright Star") — and some lesser-known shows such as "Kiss of the Spider Woman" ("Dear One") and "The Rink" ("Colored Lights").
Saathoff, who also directed the show, credits Gonzalez with the idea after he saw another Southland theater doing an outdoor "concert under the stars." Stars board director Randy Jelmini contacted the country club to arrange the performance at the venue.
And hot on the heels of this show's release is the announcement that there will be a follow-up concert, “Stars on the Green: Home for the Holidays,” being recorded at the same venue and made available to stream on Dec. 14.
"We thought a holiday concert would be a great idea," Saathoff, who is also the theater's artistic director," wrote in an email. "I'm not sure if it's a series per se, we are itching to get back in our building and perform, but it is something that helps generate some revenue to keep the doors open."
Kern County is precariously close to moving into the state's purple tier of economic restrictions but even in the less-restrictive red tier, the downtown theater isn't planning to reopen soon for indoor dining.
"Currently it is not cost-effective to resume our dinner program at 25% capacity," Neal, who is also the theater's operations manager, wrote in an email. "We have had to make tough decisions and are working on a skeleton budget in hopes to be open as soon as the state and local government allow us to start operations again. Entertainment is our main product for our patrons."
While some other performances from local theaters have been streamed live, the decision was made to present these concerts (and the new one-man show "Einstein: A Stage Portrait") as a recording.
Saathoff said the issue is in securing the necessary technological capabilities to livestream.
"We value the use of live music and in the normal 'Zoom' world the time lag makes this almost impossible without the right equipment," he wrote. "We are still investigating options, but in the meantime we feel that recorded music still gives performers the chance to perform and the audience the chance to see those performances."
Neal said this show serves as a "lifeline" for theater patrons and performers until "we can turn on the stage lights and welcome them back in person."
Saathoff added, "We know that this isn't the same as live performances, but we hope the concert will give them a reminder of what they love about theatre until we can all be together again."
Beyond the holiday concert, there aren't any productions in the works. Neal said he hopes the community will stand by the theater as it awaits word that it can reopen, possibly in the spring.
"We are only as strong as the support from out community," he wrote. "We welcome any donations and support they can offer in these difficult times."
"Stars on the Green: My Favorite Things" is available to stream now through Dec. 6. Tickets are $20, available at bmtstars.com/tickets.