The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Back to Broadway - October 13, 2013
by Dick Frantzreb
Another High Voltage show, itís a day later, and Iím still coming down from the emotional high. Honestly, I donít know how I can go on much longer writing reviews of these shows because Rogetís Thesaurus notwithstanding, Iím running out of superlatives to describe them.
One thing that was different about this show is that there seemed to be more full-company numbers, perhaps because 9 of the 22 performers were new. And maybe because there were more group numbers, I was conscious of a lot of good ensemble singing. Believe me, with the whole cast singing and dancing, these full-company productions are wildly entertaining.
But the selections that highlighted solo voices were also outstanding. Many of these kids have developed big, professional-quality voices. Add to that their stage presence and acting ability, and you have a performance that is a pleasure to watch and listen to.
More than a display of talent, I get the feeling that these young performers are really working, giving it their all. You see someone running from offstage to take their place with others on the darkened set. Why? Because they were in the previous scene and just had a costume change. And you see kids on the verge of being out of breath because they were just part of an energetic dance number. And now they have a vocal solo. How can this happen? Because you canít tell a young person that something canít be done, just because it hasnít been done before. Ask them to do the impossible, and theyíll deliver. Furthermore, these young people know they are part of something truly special, a group effort that is, I dare say, unrivaled by anything else in the greater Sacramento area. More than that, theyíre part of a team, a team that depends on them and that builds them up. And the team is not just the other performers. Itís the directors and coaches, the costumers and make-up artists, and all those anonymous backstage people who are also giving their all. When this all comes together, itís a thing of beauty beyond what appears on the stage, spectacular though that is.
Letís focus more on what appears on the stage, though. The kids do a brilliant job of execution, but it is the leaders, like director/choreographer, Debbie Wilson, and vocal director, Jennifer Wittmayer, who plan the action and build the skills. Iíve seen at least 6 High Voltage shows now, and Iím constantly dazzled by the innovativeness of the staging. There is one clever scene after another (imagine each cast member singing and dancing with a muppet on one hand). There is nothing trite Ė only fresh ideas and new delights with each scene. And you see it in costumes, casting, blocking, set pieces Ė but mostly in the dancing.
These young performers, especially the most experienced, do more than carry out programmed dance steps. They move with the confidence and grace of experienced professionals, and itís a joy to watch them. But thereís even more to it than that. Iíve said before that the energy these kids put out could light a city. That energy certainly stirs something in the audience. You watch them sing and dance, and somehow you feel, not just more positive and more joyful, but more alive.
I have to say another word about the backstage people. There were numerous parts of this show where there were either full-company numbers following one another or where one or more performers were in back-to-back scenes. The costume changes in these cases must have been frantic, and Iím sure there are backstage heroes and heroines who are ensuring that it goes as smoothly as possible.
Iíve said itís all fresh, but in each show there are some numbers repeated from earlier shows, and theyíre as welcome as a visit from an old friend. This time I counted 9 of the 32 songs as having been in the last show in June. But it was great to see them again. And it was especially fun to see one of my all-time favorites, ďFreak FlagĒ from Shrek. I have to say, though, that the delights just pass too quickly. If I had the show on a DVR, Iíd watch it over and over Ė though nothing can match the electricity of a live performance in an outstanding facility like the main theater of the Harris Center.
Once again, Iím resisting mentioning individual performers by name, though as Iíve said before, these kids are stars to me, full of talent and complete performers, who do, individually as well as collectively, amazing things. But I invite you to click here and take a look at the program which will open in a new window. Youíll see ďConfrontationĒ from Jekyll & Hyde that was so powerful as to leave the audience practically breathless. Youíll see ďI Can Do ThatĒ from A Chorus Line that included not just great singing and dancing, but gymnastics. Youíll see ďOur ChildrenĒ from Ragtime that featured beautiful dancing by two cousins. But I have to stop. There were just too many highlights where individual performers really shone.Iím left with a feeling of sadness: sad for you if you missed this wonderful show and sad for the tens of thousands of Sacramentans who never heard of High Voltage or who donít have a clue that theyíre missing what is easily one of the best entertainment experiences in our region. Cheer me up, will you? Tickets for High Voltageís ďHoliday CelebrationĒ are on sale now.