Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: AUGUST 27, 2010
Sometimes, you need a bit of outside intervention to get you back on track. It could come in the form of a matchmaker or a music mix or an interested immigrant. In a theatrical trifecta – “Hello, Dolly!,” “ miXtape ” and “Song of Extinction” – three knockout productions show you that a little push propels you forward, urges you to move on – from stagnation or age or even illness and death. In other words, you get by with a little help from your friends — or a teacher, or even a yenta.
Like Dolly Levi, the ultimate meddler. There’s nothing she loves better than butting into other people’s business, to find them – or herself – a mate, a night on the town or a taste of happiness. There’s a reason that Dolly isn’t seen too often around town. The immortal 1964 character, whose music and lyrics were created by the incomparable Jerry Herman, is way larger than life, both dramatically and vocally. Fortunately, Starlight Theatre, and director/choreographer Dan Mojica , have a powerhouse in local favorite, Melinda Gilb . With her big voice and huge hats, she commands the stage — and its colorful characters. If she ramped up the humor a notch (she’s definitely got the chops), she’d be absolutely perfect. The cast, production and orchestra, are stellar, too. Isn’t it high time for you to say “Hello, Dolly” again?
And while you’re humming timeless tunes, take yourself back to the ‘80s, that era of outrageously unfortunate outfits and diverse musical output. Lamb’s Players Theatre’s talented Colleen Collar Smith and Jon Lorenz have mined all the rock anthems, TV-show themes and sad laments to bring us “ miXtape ,” the tales of eight perpetually unsettled Gen Xers , whose lives are chronicled in mix-tapes that they made or were given, to mark their feelings and the stages of their unfulfilled lives. In the tradition of “Boomers,” this vibrant, inventive, enormously energetic creation, sung by a spectacular cast, accompanied by a sensational band, is destined for a long and triumphant run.
But not everything is melodious in these dog days of summer. You should definitely not ignore thought-provoking dramatic fare, especially when it’s as gripping and splendidly presented as ion theatre’s “Song of Extinction,” winner of the American Theatre Critics Association’s 2009 New Play Award. Playwright EM Lewis sets her piece in Portland , Cambodia , Bolivia and the imagination, capturing multiple journeys of mortality, survival and redemption. Claudio Raygoza has created a stunning soundscape and shepherded a marvelous ensemble, centered by luminous Robin Christ, heartbreaking as the dying mother, with Tom Hall and Matthew Alexander riveting as her distracted husband and distraught son, and Diep Huynh compelling as the kid’s caring but conflicted teacher, haunted by his memories of the Cambodian “killing fields.”
Three killer productions to choose from; why not end your summer on a high note?
“Song of Extinction” runs through September 4, at ion theatre in University Heights .
“Hello, Dolly!” continues through September 5, at Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park .
Lamb’s Players’ “ miXtape ” is an open-ended production at the Horton Grand Theatre downtown.
©2010 PAT LAUNER