by Nancy Holley
Nostalgia galore may be the best way to describe the Visalia Player’s production of My Way, a tribute to the music of Frank Sinatra. According to directors Gary Benjamin and Sylvia Garoian, My Way has been under consideration for a number of years. For Garoian, My Way rose to the top for the 2010-2011 season because it “offers some of the greatest music of the 20th century, with performances by current artists attesting to its timeless quality.” Benjamin notes there were three Sinatra eras: “the bobby socks 1940s, the swinging sophisticate 1950s, and the later reflective years, providing musical pleasure for decades of fans.”
The cast includes Marla Alberstein and Tim Rich, familiar to Ice House patrons and new comers, James (Jamie) Hitchcock and Rosalinda Verde. Although the script refers to the actors and actresses as Woman 1, Man 1, Woman 2, and Man 2, the performers are themselves, not portraying characters. You meet them as Marla, Jamie, Rosalinda, and Tim shortly after the start of the show. There is chemistry between the couples (Man1-Woman1 and Man2 – Woman 2), and not unexpectedly, there is a bit of conflict when Man 1 pays “too much attention” to Woman 2.
In her “Heart of Hearts”, Marla Alberstein has always seen herself as a cabaret singer. In My Way, her dream comes true as a torch singer, the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland. My Way is truly a trip down memory lane for Marla as one of her songs, “My Funny Valentine,” was a favorite of her mother. Other songs remind her of listening to Frank on the radio with her father. She says her songs bring “happiness that fills her soul.” Being able to sing melodies, she has known since her youth without having to be “a character” is very special for her.
Jamie Hitchcock is full of enthusiasm for his theatre debut in My Way. Jamie’s enjoyment of Karaoke, featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, led him to have the courage to audition. Thinking that he needed to be in character for his first ever, theatrical audition, he donned a vintage tux to help give him confidence. When describing his initial theatrical experience, he included “the encouragement of fellow cast members and the Ice House living up to its name as rehearsals occurred without the advantage of heat.”
Tim Rich is very excited about his first “full on musical.” He is challenged by songs from a venue different from the church choir and solo singing with which he is most familiar. The choreography required is forcing him “to step out of his comfort zone and dance on stage.” Tim believes that “people will love this show,” relating to the relationships between the couples as the love songs unfold and to the mentoring Jamie provides Tim.
Rosalinda Verde is a newcomer to the Ice House, but is no stranger to theatrical performances. She majored in music at college and made operatic appearances in San Diego. Rosalinda was recently responsible for the Opera presentation associated with the Arts Consortium Festival. She says her interest in Frank Sinatra stems from watching a “Rat Pack” movie with her brother. My Way has been a learning experience, as she had to research melodies that were less well known to her, but she is certain “the music will be filled with memories for lots of people.”
Although all productions require technical support as well as on-stage performers, Benjamin reflects that musicals additionally need the invaluable expertise of a musical director and choreographer. For My Way, Benjamin and Garoian are ably supported by Gail Conn and Janice Talbert in creating a professional crowd-pleasing production.
My Way opens at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 7, 2011 and runs for three weekends with evening performance at 7:30 p.m. on 1/7, 1/8, 1/14, 1/15, 1/21, and 1/22 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 1/9, 1/16, and 1/23. For ticket information visit the Visalia Community Players website.