Photography by Kevin King
Ojai Valley News - Friday, January 26, 2018
Youth Musical Precipitates an Enjoyable Evening
Review by Sami Zahringer
Lately, we cannot count on rain in the Ojai Valley but you can at least count on it raining, literally, at OYES Youth Center Stage for the next two weekends in their dazzling new production, “Singin’ in The Rain, Jr.,” complete with actual rain on the stage.
Despite all the disruption of the Thomas Fire, Ojai Youth Entertainers Studio (OYES), the-little-acting-company-that-could, has pulled off a triumph to rival last year’s acclaimed production of “Annie” and their smash hit, “The Lion King.” The enthusiastic, hard-working cast and seemingly indefatigable crew have shown a resilience that is genuinely inspiring in its energy and sheer heart, and which fully embodies the spirit of “The show must go on!”
The production features three separate casts plus a Tots’ cast, to accommodate the increasing number of young people OYES is attracting through popular classes in musical theatre, improvisation, acting, voice, and, coming in the Spring, a stage-combat class.
At the time of review, it was the turn of the Tiger Cast to tread the boards, and to watch them belt out the many memorable tunes in the production, so clearly enjoying every minute of it, was an audience-rousing treat. Directors Daena Bleu Santoyo, and Cassie Kelso (Santoyo also wearing a great many other hats in the production team) have coaxed solid performances from their talented actors who are, regrettably, too many to list in full here. The story takes place in 1920s Hollywood, The “talkie” has just arrived in the form of “The Jazz Singer,” shaking up the industry, making studio heads nervous, and marking the transition away from silent cinema. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the darlings of the silent screen but things behind the scenes are far from harmonious. In addition, diva extraordinaire Lina’s talents are strictly limited to her looks, and her ear-splitting voice and broad New York accent are decidedly more suited to silent movies. How is the studio to produce a talkie with a leading lady like that? Zesty Jasmine Kaiwai is hilariously scene-stealing as Lina, and Melia Rigsby is in fine voice as screen legend Don Lockwood. Aided by his best friend Cosmo, (a truly, inspired ham-it-up, vaudevillian performance from wise-cracking Hunter Keenan in the role) Don persuades studio head R.F. Simpson (Jocelyn Trent) to convert their latest silent movie into a talkie. Enter golden-voiced Kathy Seldon (the delightful Kyra Maal-King) to voice-over Lina’s lines and to steal Don’s heart. Vocal Director, Connie Woodson, has got the best out of the talented principals and the big, all-cast numbers, choreographed by Emma-Rose Allen* are pure razzle-dazzle. Even the youngest performers hit their marks and stay in-step in the dance numbers - remarkable after the six week gap in rehearsals due to the Thomas fire.
Special mention ought to be made of the wonderfully trilling “Moses Supposes” performance by Emily Shurmer as the elocution teacher; Taylor Carney as the Radio Announcer; Ula Leavitt as the frazzled film director; and Alula Alderson as Lina’s best friend, Roz. Costumes and set design by Artistic Director, Megg-Sicotte Kelly, situate us firmly and colorfully in 1920s Tinseltown and, as Technical Director, she has created an ingenious, show-stopping, on-stage rain-maker. Children’s musical theatre might not be your first idea for a pre-dinner treat but, if you have an hour to spare in the next two weekends, there can be few things in the valley more worthy of your time for sheer delight and hilarity than “Singin’ in The Rain, Jr.” with its snappy dialogue foot-tapping, well-known show-numbers, memorable performances, and high production values. OYES goes from strength to strength. “Singin’ in The Rain, Jr.” runs through February 11th at OYES Youth Center Stage, 907 El Centro St. Ojai. Fri. and Sat. at 6pm, and Sat. and Su. matinees at 2pm. Tickets are $10. For more information, go to OYESpresents.org
*With choreography assisted and co-instructed by Sarah Arlon