The Sacramento Choral Calendar
The Best of Broadway - June 18, 2013
by Dick Frantzreb
This was the sixth High Voltage performance that I’ve seen in the past few years, and I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. As I expected, the show was a delight from beginning to end. And that’s despite (or maybe due to) the fact that, of the 28 production numbers last night, 15 of them were in the Cabaret Show last March. But who cares? They can run “Freak Flag” from Shrek The Musical, “December 1963” from Jersey Boys, and “Not Dead Yet” from Spamalot in every performance and I – and the whole audience – would be delighted anew.
(Click here to open the program in a new window.)
Actually, it’s unfair to suggest that some of the numbers were mere repeats of what I had seen before. For a start, the wealth of staging resources at the Harris Center (Three Stages) allow for more creativity than the Oak Hills Church where High Voltage’s cabaret shows are performed. I had the sense that many of these songs were restaged and re-choreographed to take advantage of the big stage at the Harris Center, with its big screen at the back of the stage. And I have to add that the images planned by 14-year-old Projections Designer, Zach Wilson, were amazing: beautifully suited to each musical selection and of exceptional quality (high-resolution).
Here’s another innovation in last night’s show (besides all the outstanding new songs). This marked the first time I’ve seen one of these productions signed (for the hearing impaired) throughout. And especially dazzling was the full ensemble number, “For Your Eyes Only” in which the entire cast signed every word – while dancing and singing. It was a stunning achievement.
What wasn’t different last night was the quality of the talent on display. I heard outstanding solos, duets and trios from numerous cast members, delivered with such poise and conviction that one forgets their tender age. I was also impressed with the choral singing. More often than in past shows, I heard a strong, multi-part choral sound – and occasionally some outstanding soulful ad lib part layered onto the group sound.
Then there’s the dancing – one of my favorite parts of each of these shows. This time I’m sure I saw more tap dancing than usual, and somehow it’s always a special treat. It was great to see again the virtuoso tap duet, “Moses Supposes” from Singin’ in the Rain, which I understand was the same choreography as in the movie. And then the whole company was tap dancing in “King of New York” from Newsies. And those are just a couple of the highlights of the choreography, which always seems fresh and innovative – even awe-inspiring. Awe-inspiring? Performing such complex moves in so many numbers – while singing what is often very sophisticated music – and delivering it all with precision, energy… and a smile: that is awe-inspiring.
I started to write this review by singling out some of these cast members, pointing out their individual contributions. But I can’t do it because I don’t want to slight anyone. All of these young people have moments when they shine individually, and yet they blend so beautifully as a team when performing together. Many of them will move on to be stars and get the personal recognition they deserve. But what I love about them right now is how they work together, demonstrating the richness and depth of the talent in the group. Along this line, it’s interesting to note that there are no bows after each number – the stage just goes dark and the performers run off while the music continues for a few seconds to allow the set-up of the next scene. It seems like part of the ethic of High Voltage that they are a company: no stars, though many have an area in which they seem to excel. Even at the conclusion of the show, there are quick ensemble bows, followed by whole cast running off stage to get ready for the usual meet-and-greet in the lobby.
Those I can single out are the chief creative geniuses behind these productions, Debbie Wilson (Director and Choreographer) and Jennifer Wittmayer (Vocal Director). The excellence of their work is on display along with the performers, as is that of Costumer Mary Curry, Producer Angie Teter, Stage Manager Kathy Frew, Lighting Designer Luke Rolls, Sound Technicians Karl Pedroni and Dave Teter, and backstage crew chiefs Alexis Vasile and Micah Long. But they are the tip of the iceberg of the army of people (including the whole formal El Dorado Musical Theatre organization led by CEO Rick Wilson) who make these shows work so well and bring this marvelous talent into focus.
I was sitting there, watching one show-stopping number after another, and the thought that occurred to me was, “This is just pure fun.” That sentiment was echoed by the wildly enthusiastic audience, all of whom jumped to their feet to acknowledge the outstanding show we had seen. And if you haven’t seen a High Voltage show, I think I envy you: you are on the brink of a wonderful discovery.