by Nancy Holley
Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.
Looking for fun? Let the Visalia Players entertain you with Respect, a musical journey through 20th century America. Director Leeni Mitchell describes Dorothy Marcic’s history of cultural change from 1900 to 2000 through American songs as continually evolving.
Originally a one woman show, subsequent productions of Respect have included casts ranging from four to seven. Mitchell has been in constant contact with Marcic during the Visalia Players’ production and has found her delightful and supportive. Building on Marcic’s flexibility, Mitchell has mounted a show with six talented women of varying ages and experiences.
Although over 60 songs are referenced, Respect is not a musical revue, but rather a story of change in perspective. Narrated by Dorothy (Susan Mathews) the evolution of women in America from the vision of “A Bird in A Gilded Cage” to “I Am Woman” comes to life. In addition to moving the show along, Mathews has the opportunity to change characters and sing such hits as Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”
Each of the women has a stage name, but they portray a variety of characters throughout the evening. Karen Simpson (Eve) noted, “I play 15 characters that no one else plays. If you add the ensemble work, the number grows to 26.” When asked about the characters she portrays, Simpson quipped, “I want audiences to be surprised at who my characters are and to come away saying….Really!”
Marla Alberstein, a veteran of musical comedy, describes her character, Eden, “as a woman who has always relied on sexuality to get what she wants, but at the same time is frustrated by that necessity.” Alberstein’s favorite numbers include “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home”, “As Long as He Needs Me”, and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
Through her participation, Ronnette Torrence has found a new avocation – acting. Torrence actually screamed into the phone when she learned that Mitchell needed a Rosa Parks. “Rosa Parks took a risk not knowing what would happen. It is an honor to play her character.” Torrence has been a Gospel singer for years, but wasn’t certain that she wanted to do “Respect.” “Aretha Franklin is the queen of soul. Anyone who sings ‘Respect’ has to do it right!”
“I really wanted ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’, and I got it!” Samantha Muse (Faith) thinks of herself as a person who likes and knows older music, but would have found living in that culture difficult. “I don’t know how women lived when they weren’t able to speak their mind.” Nevertheless, her character is a hopeless romantic leading her to sing such songs as Debbie Reynolds’ “Tammy” from the 1950s.
As the youngest member of the cast, Jenny Ponce (Hope) has enjoyed the learning opportunity. “In my culture machismo often exists, but not in my house. It was important for me to see how that has changed over the years. The music says it all.” Ponce sings two numbers popular over half a century before she was born: “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “My Man”.
On Sunday February 2 after the matinee, “Back Stage at the Ice House” will be hosted by Sharon DeCoux, a veteran Visalia Player. Audience members will have an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the show and the opportunity to ask questions and interact with cast/crew.
Respect opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 24, 2014 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 1/24, 1/25, 1/31, 2/1, 2/7, and 2/8 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 1/26, 2/2, and 2/9. NOTE: As of this writing, the matinee performance on 1/26 is SOLD OUT!
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
Check out more local theatre reviews this week right here in KRL & even more theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!
To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLRES in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website Ticketing information page.