Broadway standards are a hit for many reasons: great songs, choreography, stories that continue to resonate with audiences. But that doesn't mean you put them up on a shelf like a music theater award. Like all big targets, these musicals are ripe for parody, and that's what Stars plans to deliver this weekend with "Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits."
The show has been on director Brent Rochon's to-do list for a number of years. He saw the first version of the revue, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini, in 1984.
"The guy who wrote it is a incredibly talented human being. The first time I heard it was in 1984 and I was rolling on the floor laughing. It's not insulting, just clever and funny."
Over the years, Alessandrini has revisited the show, updating when necessary (earlier this year, he mounted "Spamilton," a complete "Hamilton" spoof).
The version available to Stars pulls some of the best songs from the dozen or so versions of the show. This production takes on "Chicago," "Wicked," "Les Miserables," "Rent, "Mamma Mia" and more.
To bring this to the stage, Rochon found a quartet as dedicated as he to the craft: Rosie Ayala, Cody Garcia, Zach Gonzalez and Bethany Rowlee.
"I was really lucky to get the four performers I got. They not only sing and move but they can actually impersonate the people they at trying to impersonate. And that is a hard thing to do."
One memorable number is "Chita-Rita," featuring Ayala and Rowlee as Chita Rivera, who originated the role of Anita in "West Side Story" on Broadway, and Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for playing her in the movie version.
"It's a take on 'America' from 'West Side Story.' Bethany and Rosie playing those parts, they're two wonderful comediennes as well as singers."
Scott Dirkse accompanies the performers on piano, and Brenda Baldwin, Rochon's "right-hand-person," handled musical direction.
"We’ve created just a great symbiotic team. I couldn't do it without her."
With more than 20 numbers in the show, representing different musicals, costumes are key for setting the scene. Dynamic duo Laura and Madeline Engel, who have costumed Stars' last two shows, put together the 40-plus looks for the foursome.
"I've seen versions of this show, they try to do it basic, not a lot of costumes. It felt like it was cheating.
"They (the Engels) do an incredible job, with wonderful costumes that epitomize each number."
And in addition to performing, Rowlee styled the 30 wigs for the show, including Little Orphan Annie, Liza Minelli and Barbra Streisand.
With all that's going on in the world, Rochon said the show is a wonderful way to forget about your worries for a while.
"Laughing is the best way to let go of everything else and have a good time."
Doors open for "Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits" at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 12:30 p.m. Sunday and the show runs through June 17 at Stars, 1931 Chester Ave. Tickets range from $44-$63 and $25-$40 for those 18 and under, available at bmtstars.com or by calling 325-6100.
As pleased as we are to see water in the Kern River, the memory of drought is not far away from us. That's why "Urinetown," opening Friday at The Empty Space, should resonate with local audiences.
"This is a show about fragile resources, about drought and regulations, profiteering, and the lines between reasonable restrictions and oppression," director Ron Warren wrote in an email. "If there's a better set of themes particular to the residents of the Central Valley, I can't think of them."
The show is not all doom and gloom, Warren notes, praising its "zany fun." The titular mystery destination is where people go if they try to dodge paying to use public toilets, which are the only locations where people can do their business in the drought-consumed city. Megacorporation Urine Good Company, run by Caldwell B. Cladwell (Mike Mallinson), has control of the toilets and those who do not pay to use the facilities are banished to the penal colony. Bobby Strong (Alex Mitts), an assistant at Public Amenity #9, rebels when his father (played by Dominic Demay) can't afford to pay and is shipped off. When Bobby heads to the corporate office, he meets Caldwell's daughter, Hope (Alyssa Bonanno), and the pair envision a pee-for-free future.
Warren credits vocal director Kelsey Morrow with leading the large cast through a complicated score. Among his favorite numbers is "Run Freedom Run," a nonsensical gospel pastiche performed by Bobby and the rebels in Act 2.
"Through experiment and collaboration it has become one of the most uproarious things I've ever seen, and without giving away too much, Nancee Steiger's performance as Josephine 'Old Ma' Strong is not to be missed."
"Urinetown" also stars Perrin Swanson, Victoria Lusk, Mystie Peters, Brian Purcell and Evelyn Torres.
At the bar, adult beverages include a lemon drop cocktail, beer, cider and white wine. "There's a theme there," Warren said.
And the motifs don't end with the cocktails. Warren said they will conduct a "Flush With Cash" fundraiser to help make modest upgrade to their bathrooms, which are, of course, free to use.
" ... So patrons shouldn't be surprised if they see a toilet in the lobby!"
"Urinetown" runs Fridays and Saturdays through June 24 at The Empty Space, 706 Oak St. Tickets are $15, $20 for preferred seating, $10 for students/seniors or $70 for a VIP table, which offers a front-row table for two and a pair of bottomless drink passes. Visit esonline.org to reserve tickets.
Free youth workshop
Bakersfield Community Theatre is also offering a workshop for young performers this summer. Auditions for its session of "The Wind in the Willows" will be held this weekend.
The adventures of Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad and Mr Badger will rehearse 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays starting June 12 and running through July 28. Performances will take place July 29 and Aug. 5.
Any children ages 8 to 17 are welcome to take part in the free workshop and no experience is required. Auditions will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the theater, 2400 S. Chester Ave.
For more information, contact organizers Tim Fromm or Rebecca Worley at 831-8114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.