by Nancy Holley
SPECIAL NOTE: Due to popular demand The Bright Lights of Broadway is extending our run of the show and adding 2 more performances on Friday, May 21 and Saturday, May 22 at 7:30.
Excitement is in the air! Emerging from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, ready to celebrate and entertain you, the Visalia Players present The Bright Lights of Broadway written by Jennifer Masters and Leeni Mitchell and directed and created by Rebecca Coffey-Godfrey.
The Players are thrilled to be back, doing what they do best, bringing joy to our community. Bright Lights was originally scheduled for October 2020, was postponed to February 2021, and is finally coming to fruition April/May 2021. Director Coffey-Godfrey commented, “My original concept for the show was a celebration of everything Broadway. The concept still celebrates Broadway, but because of the shutdown of theaters everywhere, the story has evolved into something greater and more powerful than I first imagined.”
The night of Broadway includes everything from Shrek to Les Misérables, from The Book of Mormon to Annie Get Your Gun. The numbers will have you cheering, laughing, crying, and stomping. Definitely a night of “Let Us Entertain You!”
When asked about their hopes for the show, the cast was effusive, invoking positivity and dreams for all of us as a community. From Kayla Vander Schuur, “I want to remind Visalia that, even through all the strangeness that has been the last year, the theater community is still finding new and innovative ways of thriving. I want the show to act as a fun event for family and friends who may not have had many opportunities to safely visit one another for a while.”
Supporting Schuur’s thoughts, was Hillari Loeffler, “I am hoping that it’ll bring people together once again and give us some hope for the future and how we can still enjoy community, the arts, and each other even in these different times.”
“We want to make you smile, suspend your disbelief, and join us as we travel through shows that we all know and love,” added Velva Hampson. Jason Bionda commented, “I’m hoping that this show kickstarts the reopening of community theatre here in the valley.”
Bionda’s thoughts were echoed and expanded by Rob Hansen, “I hope that the show will live up to its name (and then some) … that it will deliver a strong message of hope that uses entertainment to remind all of us that we can expect (and should be willing to work toward) not just a return to “normal,” but the beginning of better times … and not just on “Broadway” but here in the Central Valley.”
The past year has been difficult for everyone, but the cast and crew of the cabaret herald their participation in preparing this show as providing them with desperately needed hope and camaraderie. As noted by Masters, “Being a performer and writer has been a huge creative outlet for me which I have missed so much this last year. During this time, singing has brought me a sense of peace.”
Hampson, an essential employee, was emotionally drained by the pandemic, “My inability to be with my theater family was a very difficult pill to swallow. It is so good to be home in the theater, even with “home” looking a bit different.” Loeffler, as a mother of three, had found the theatre “a way of recharging. When everything came to a halt last year, I needed more than ever a creative outlet. Stepping on to the stage and pouring my heart and soul into a song is my therapy.”
Debra Hansen began her role with the production “to help them as much as possible in the difficult process of building a show. However, as the months of rehearsals have rolled along, the theater became a lifeline for me personally during this pandemic…my involvement has become my source of inspiration, creativity, and camaraderie during an otherwise bleak social landscape.” And finally, from Elizabeth Flood, “I don’t want this show to end because I am having the time of my life.”
The script that moves the show along, written by Masters and Mitchell, is narrated by Debra and Rob Hansen. The musical performers are supported by Marguerite Koster Crownover at the piano. Masters commented, “As a writer of the script, my hope was to capture not only the story of Broadway, but also to acknowledge the fact that this was a hard year for all of us. Spending time going over the script and then hearing it come to life was so exciting for me.”
The Bright Lights of Broadway, an outdoor cabaret, is being presented with the blessing of the Tulare County Health Officials based on mask wearing and social distancing. Masks will be worn by all participants and audience members. The only exception will be the cast while performing their musical numbers. Audience members, who bring their own chairs, will receive a $2 voucher that can be used for snacks and drinks. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. 4/30, 5/1, 5/7 and 5/8; matinees are at 2 p.m. 5/2 and 5/9.
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 even more local theatre reviews & articles (including more streaming Halloween shows) in our Arts & Entertainment section!
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can check the podcast out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, and also on podbean.