Being relatively new to the Coachella Valley cultural vibe, I’ve been anxious to experience what community theater has to offer. Being in such close proximity to Los Angeles, I expected to find talent itching to flap those theatrical wings and right I was. I’m not talking about the big tour shows that hit the McCallum Theater during the season (like Mama Mia which was here last weekend) or the other performing arts venues like LaQuinta Grooves in the Grove, or the Coachella Music Festival.
I’m talking about Mickey and Judy whipping up the kids in the barn by declaring “Let’s have a show!”
Urinetown currently playing at the Palm Canyon Theater in Palm Springs was the tony award-winning hit of 2001-02 on Broadway. Back then the production was described as:
“Neo-Brechtian absurdist melodrama about a city in the midst of a drought so devastating that a malevolent corporation has been able to take control of all the toilet facilities. Greed, corruption, and betrayal run rampant and the public desperately seeks relief.”
That about sums it up. This delicious romp through Broadway history with its satirically rousing numbers like “It’s A Privilege To Pee,” lampoons musical theater in general, with absurd over the top characters like the “Our Town narrator,” Officer Lockstock and his trusty sidekick, officer Barrell. Did I mention the “Les Misérables” first act ending, complete with waiving red flag and two-step choreography.
The singing was respectable and in some places pretty darn good, with rousing harmonies struck at the end of each song; the choreography was better than one might expect from a local production; costumes and set decoration were convincing and overall, the show was good old fashioned light entertainment. We all enjoyed the escape from reality, while supporting our friends Bonnie & Roger Grace, who had parts in the show. In the end, that’s what it’s all about anyway.
Community theater is a labor of love. We do it because IT’S FUN, and we love to support our friends. It’s a grand opportunity for discovery, whether you’re creative and handy enough to build a set, learn to sing harmony or maybe tap dance (I’m waiting for someone to do 42nd Street so I can learn to do that,) sew costumes, or even tackle a leading role. Hey, it could happen! Alfie Boe , the recent lead in the London production of Les Misérables was a natural talent who was pretty much destined to remain a mechanic until he was nearly plucked from obscurity to sing with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and the rest, they say, is history.
I did a google search of local community theater, and the results were pretty scattered. As far as I can tell, there are three local theater groups which you absolutely should explore: the above mentioned Palm Canyon Theater, the Coachella Valley REP, and The Indio Performing Arts Center, with Artistic Director Bob Reinhagen, who is my old friend and actually the first director I worked with, back in our Falmouth Theater Guild days on Cape Cod. A life time ago, but what fun we had – building sets, playing in the orchestra, singing in the chorus, making costumes, occasionally taking a speaking role. Micky and Judy had nothin’ on us!
But I am betting there is more local theater, which I hope you will tell me about. So please do, by clicking reply. I”m all ears!