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Legends: One Hit Wonders On Stage In Reedley

IN THE August 30 ISSUE

FROM THE 2017 Articles,
andTerrance V. Mc Arthur,
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by Terrance Mc Arthur

In the land known as Reedley, there is a gem of a theatre, the Reedley Opera House. That theatre is home to a gem of a theatrical troupe, the River City Theatre Company. The RCTC is now presenting a little gem of a show, Legends: One Hit Wonders, onstage until September 10.

One-hit wonders are performers or bands who only had one Top-40 hit in their careers. They never were able to capture ‘lightning in a bottle’ a second time. This edition of Legends, an annual event for RCTC assembled and directed by Tan Clark, brings together a collection of these songs, a trip through the decades. Some of the musical examples have been moved around, edited, or removed to shorten the running time, so I may gush over performances no longer included. Go figure.

theatre

Left to right-Joseph Ham, Carissa Hall, Jayromy Mercado, & Laynee Roth-Petithomme

Larry Ham and Joseph Ham frame the music as Older Man and Younger Man, talking about the eras and some artists, introducing clusters of themed songs, and showing that the young people in any decade do all they can to annoy their elders. Joseph, as energetic as ever, breathes a joy into “Get Together” (The Youngbloods), “Who Put the Bomp” (Barry Mann), and “Kiss Him Goodbye” (the Steam hit better known as “Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey-ey, Goodbye”), and has a delightfully panicked look when he is drawn into a dance number. Larry is irascible in his sequences with Joseph, and he gets to talk his way through Baz Luhrman’s “Everybody’s Free” (You know, the mock graduation speech that tells you to use sunscreen…I’d never heard it, before).

Caesar Torres performs a lot of heavy-lifting, vocal-chord-stressing songs, and it isn’t surprising that he lost his voice on opening night. An acceptable work-around was found; on numbers where he soloed, the original recording was played, and Caesar lip-synched. What saved it, although his voice was gone, was he still had his moves. He struts, spins, and gyrates as if pursued by demons. “Sh-Boom,” “Do You Love Me,” “Kung Fu Fighting,” and “Feelings” get the Caesar treatment, and are better for it, voice or no voice.

Clark, besides writing and directing, is also a performer in the ensemble, bringing back memories of Barry McGuire (“Eve of Destruction”) and The Penguins (“Earth Angel”). There’s a hint of amusement in his smile, and his enjoyment of the old tunes shines through.

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Tan Clark

Steve Jones is the executive Director, and he takes a few turns on the stage, performing as “Alley Oop” and Steve Martin (“King Tut”). Wildly comic, he even shows up silently in a “Kung Fu Fighting” homage to martial arts films.

Jessica Williams has been a joy to behold in several River City productions. Here, she is the vocal director and gives a calm presence to Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.”

Stephanie Barnett pounces through 4 Non-Blondes’ “What’s Up?” and “Harper Valley PTA,” where Jones plays all the other characters with a basket full of wigs. Carissa Hall lends a wistful sound to the Amii Stewart disco version of “Knock on Wood.” Laynee Roth is strong on some disco hits and “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”

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Stephanie Barnett

Mason Garcia is physical and brooding, and gets to do a touch of head banging with his massive head of hair. Jayromy Mercado strikes comic gold with Clark on Homer & Jethro’s “Battle of Kookamonga” (a parody of “The Battle of New Orleans).

All the songs were hits in their day, and we remember them, if not the people who made them famous. It’s like a giant K-Tel Records album (If you don’ t know what that is, ask your parents), filled with some treasured memories and some songs that make you go “Huh?”

Reedley’s River City Theatre Company is located at 1720 10th Street. For further information and to purchase tickets you can go to their website, or call 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian with the Fresno County Public Library and has published several short stories.

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