by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
I have to admit, I was impressed.
Walking up to the brand new, $20,000,000+, community supported, performing arts center, built for the students of Arcadia High School was an awesome experience. And that’s not merely modern “slanguage” i.e. cool or epic!; I mean that in the literal dictionary definition of stupendous, astonishing, stunning and sublime; in other words, inspiring awe.
I wouldn’t normally write an amatuer theatre review, as in this case for Arcadia High. However, a premiere performance mounted as a debut for a state of the art production facility, that rivals theatres such as the Broad or the Ahmanson, more than raises the bar for everyone involved including the viewing audience. And so the question now really is not so much as, “How did they do?” but instead, ”How will they live up to it?”
Years ago, I read an article about the film industry during a time when period pieces were making a comeback via such movies as Restoration with Robert Downey Jr. The article talked about the tough task faced by even the best, most talented, iconic actors to find their way through the increasingly grand visual “wow” factor that is “technically” possible today.
Because of the juxtaposition of age, talent and experience versus the new facility itself, the students of Arcadia High are much in the same position; at the cusp of theatrical greatness, heading into an ambitious adventure, where anything is possible, opening the field for potentially developing now, a real, verily distinct, Julliard-like performing arts curriculum.
This new addition to the city of Arcadia sets us up for much more than mere pleasure. It brings a higher community based value and expectation for the students and the city itself; in other words, undeniable and visible prestige. In some ways, “the pressure’s on.”
I voice this (as always from experience and deep respect) as a performer who spent many years, gifted by a National Endowment of the Arts scholarship at a college level performing arts school which included a comprehensive theatre, film and dance arts education, including regular main stage Broadway style musicals plus athletics and other categories. There was a lot to participate in. And at the same time, we were expected to endeavor our most professional efforts (even on my first year, at age 10). It was a “chunk!”
In this case, with the gift a professionally designed, modern 1200 seat theatre with side balconies and a fully equipped tech booth, the teachers, directors, set, wardrobe etc. and especially the actors have so much more than most artists with which to apply their craft. They also have much more responsibility to utilize the stage for top-tiered, crackerjack, amazing. Unequivocally challenging and utterly exciting!
So how did they do?
Well, the Arcadia High School players, for their first production decided to mount what has become one of the more popular old school spoof revivals from Broadway to LA, The Drowsy Chaperone. It’s a magnificently large show able to accommodate tons of actors, singers, dancers, musicians and a slew of back of house designers and crew ready for creativity (i.e. everyone gets a part).
Did they put on a seriously “sexy” show. No. It’s a high school. Hello. There are limits.
Was I wishing the student driven, costumes and choreography were a bit more glamourous. Well, sure. In a show like this, the sky’s the limited. But they did put their best, most colorful glitz forward and that was sparkle factor a’plenty.
Was I hoping for a few more high kicks by the lead actress in the the highlighted number of the show. Definitely. I mean, after having seen it done on Broadway in 2006 at the Marquis Theatre, I was anxious for the physically audacious “showing off” during the song, “I Don’t Want to Show Off,” which IS the comedy of the moment.
But what these kids did do, was outstanding. And the lead singer could sing! (as could the rest of the cast), vocally showing off by belting out the best numbers bringing the play home and the audience to its feet for a well-deserved standing ovation.
They lived up to it – in every way!
Arriving last minute because of a prior commitment and traffic, I showed up just before the top of the show and was most graciously given a front row seat just under the (totally exciting) footlights!
The curtain opened and the rest is truly history. The premiere performance of The Drowsey Chaperone provided a special treat for all complete with a dedicated and again, vocally, talented cast, throwing out a few spot on characters and fancy footwork, aided by the absolutely unique experience of un-canned music played backstage behind the curtain by the school’s outstanding band! The Arcadia Performing Arts Center is such an achievement that features so much promise. I can’t wait to see what these kids come up with next. BRAVO!
“As We Stumble Along”…