Summer brings a lot of mindless entertainment at the box office but local theatergoers are in for a treat with the local debut of "If/Then" at The Empty Space.
The Broadway musical, from the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning creators of "Next to Normal," explores the repercussions of choices as well as second chances. At the start of the show, urban planner and new divorcee Elizabeth (Nancee Steiger) faces two suggestions: Seek out new experiences or focus on her career, building up professional connections. These two different paths — full of romance, career advancement, friendship, betrayal and adversity — are explored in the show's two acts.
Director Maria-Tania Becerra said she pitched the show to the Oak Street theater, interested in exploring the show's themes.
"I wanted to do a thoughtful musical," she wrote in an email. "I wanted a musical that wasn't just about catchy music, though this show has amazing music, but I wanted it reflect humanity in some way."
Although in real life, we often second-guess ourselves, this show gives audiences a satisfying look exploring both options.
"We all make choices and ask what if I had done this or that. We get to see Elizabeth do just that. Live out both choices. It's a catharsis of sorts. But in the end we see that each choice merely led to a different life, but there was no right or wrong. Perhaps it is the same with us."
Musical director Michelle Weingarden said they would like to encourage some introspection among viewers.
"Our message is two-fold, that the audience is entertained but that walk away with thoughtful questions about their life."
The show also features Nick Ono, who is also the show's choreographer, Breanna Alcala, David Allen Alvarez, Aubrie Calloway, Bethany Lahammer, Nolan Blake Long, Isaiah Noriega, Howard-Rick Obando, Stephanie Schmidt, and Emily Thompson.
"If/Then" runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 22 at The Empty Space, 706 Oak St. Tickets are $15, $20 for preferred seating, $10 for students and seniors, and $60 for VIP, which includes a table for two, bottle of wine and two slices of devil's food cake and angel food cakes. Buy them at esonline.org.
It's a mod, mod world at Stars
If these boots are made for walking, then they're telling you to head to Stars Theatre Restaurant Friday for the opening of "Shout! The Mod Musical."
Marnie Forzetting does double duty as director and choreographer, tasks she first took on with the 2012 production of the musical embracing the lively tunes of the 1960s and '70s.
"The 2012 production was my directorial debut, however, I've been choreographing since I was a teenager," she wrote in an email. "Many, many years."
The musical follows the adventures of five women — Gianna De Keles, Carly Mattern, Madeline Engel, Rosie Ayala and Bethany Rowlee — who seek advice in the pages of the magazine "Shout!" Rather than a name, each is identified by a color (yellow, red, orange, green and blue). Many of their dilemmas center around the men in their lives as well as issues of respect.
"It's surprising, you would think almost 50 years later, these issues wouldn't be relevant today, yet many of them still are."
Other than Rowlee, who returns as Blue Girl, a well-heeled aloof woman, the rest of the cast is new to the show. The mix of performers brings something special to the production, Forzetting said.
"New faces bringing fresh new perspective to the characters, songs, and dances. ... it's been a pleasure working with the new cast members. They've worked very hard and risen to the occasion!"
Audiences will follow the beat to memorable tunes such as "Downtown," "I Only Want To Be With You," 'These Boots are Made for Walking," "Tell the Boys," "Wishin and Hopin'" and "Don't Sleep in the Subway."
"This is an upbeat, fun, yet poignant musical review which leaves you wanting more."
The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Stars, 1931 Chester Ave. It runs through July 29. Tickets range from $40-$69; available by calling 325-6100 or at bmtstars.com.
Last week in the roundup of upcoming summer youth theater, I did not include the offering from Bakersfield Community Theatre. Young performers are hard at work now rehearsing “The Wind in the Willows." Performances will be held July 29 and Aug. 5 at the theater, 2400 S. Chester Ave. We'll have more details as the performances near.
Call to artists
Those headed out to First Friday this week might think it's hot downtown but this gathering has nothing on the September offering, which features the popular Latination exhibition at Metro Galleries.
Gallery owner Don Martin recently issued the call to artists for the Latin-themed show, which opens Sept. 1.
Artists have until Aug. 25 to submit original work — created within the last four years — that reflects Latin life or experience.
All work must be labeled and ready for installation, dropped off during gallery hours (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday).
A $10 fee and completed entry form, available at Metro Galleries Facebook page, must be submitted with the piece, which must be available for sale. The juried exhibit awards a best of show and other honors, which include cash prizes.