by Lorie Lewis Ham
A June 10 2 p.m. matinee has been added!
Check out the video interviews with cast members added at the end of this article!
This weekend something brand new hits the stage at the Reedley Opera House, but with some very familiar songs and “characters”. Legends is a musical and comedy review that pays tribute to celebrities such as The Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Sonny & Cher, Judy Garland, Kate Smith and more.
“This show has been a collaborative effort by the cast members under the direction of Mark Norwood,” said Erik Valencia, who plays Dean Martin in the show. “We have been referring to this production as ‘The Dream Ed Sullivan Show’ – a lineup of some of the greatest performers of all time, all on one stage. There really is no storyline for this show. It is more of a compilation of some of the greatest songs and performance moments of the last century brought together by our show host, Ed Sullivan.”
“It seemed like a good idea and from the rehearsals, it seems like I was right,” shared Mark. “The cast is superb and it gives people a chance to do something really fun.”
Some of the cast members shared about their parts in the show:
Tanamin Clark as Ed Sullivan & Kermit
What I love about both these characters is the great affection people feel for them. After all, who doesn’t love Kermit and the Muppets? And anyone who remembers the Ed Sullivan Show will tell you about how important he was, not just to television and the entertainment world, but really to the fabric of American culture for the 23 years the show ran.
I grew up on Kermit and the Muppets on Sesame Street and later on The Muppet Show and the various movies. Frankly, I think if I ever met a man who didn’t like the Muppets, I don’t think we would have anything to say to one another.
Even though I was born a year before the Ed Sullivan Show was cancelled, Ed was such a pivotal part of the lives of so many that as I grew up I was still aware of his influence on pop culture, even long after he had passed on. And isn’t that what really defines a legend?
Stacie Hall as Marilyn Monroe & Lucille Ball
One of the things I am enjoying most about playing these famous ladies is the things I’ve learned and observed researching them. They both pose their own challenges, of course, but challenges are fun. Everyone knows Marilyn is a sex symbol, but they may not have known just how intelligent and opinionated she was. I’ve sat up some nights just reading the encouraging things she’s said in the past and I think ladies young and old alike can relate to her supportive words.
With Lucy on the other hand, I need to be funny to do her justice… and I’m most nervous about this. Lucy’s comedic timing was always on point and her facial expressions were endless. It’s been difficult at times trying to find the funny in my own interpretation, but who wouldn’t have a blast impersonating Lucy? I wasn’t as familiar with her work before Legends as I am now, but she’s been a joy to research.
Aarne Kella as Barry Manilow
I remember hearing him just as I was becoming aware of popular artists in the 70s. My sister had at least one or two of his vinyl albums, and we would sing along and record into a tape recorder. My favorite was probably “Copa Cabana,” but that is not a song I will be singing. Two of my favorite artists at this time were probably the Carpenters and Manilow. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I appreciated were their clear, beautiful vocals. Manilow has a flair for melodrama, and I think that also resonates with me. Plus, he is a pianist and a singer. I am a pianist, and this will be quite a stretch for me to sing and play!
Denise Norwood as Sonny & Cher and Patsy Cline
I am enjoying the challenge of playing both genders in one song – – not only do I have to portray them physically, but vocally too! I am a huge fan of Sonny and Cher and I view this as a love letter to them. I had the privilege of doing a one-woman tribute show to Patsy Cline in RCTC’s early years, and am thrilled to be recreating one of the 30 songs I previously did. I followed Sonny and Cher from the start of their career, but did not know much about Patsy Cline until my daughter introduced her music and life story to me.
Jeff Lusk as Frank Sinatra and J.P. Richardson (aka The Big Bopper)
It is an honor to portray Sinatra. His voice is probably one of the most recognizable voices worldwide despite the fact that he passed away over a decade ago. Although I am a part of a younger generation, I am well aware of the influence Sinatra had on the entertainment world. The height of his popularity was really before the Rat Pack ever formed. With the formation of the Rat Pack came a renewed source of fame for the self-proclaimed “lounge singer.”
The Big Bopper was more of a character than Sinatra. Sinatra was suave and cool, the Big Bopper was large and loud. I first learned of his story thanks to the Hollywood hit “La Bamba” which told the story of Ritchie Valens. In that movie I learned about the day when a plane crash stunned the nation, a moment that Don McLean referred to as “the day music died.” It is a lot of fun to sing the Bopper’s one song because he had a personality that was larger than life itself.
Jessica Ham as Judy Garland
I have been familiar with Judy Garland ever since I watched The Wizard OF Oz when I was very young. She is my favorite Legend so it is an honor to play her.
In the past, RCTC has had Reedley native Jeremy “Elvis” Pierce perform on the Reedley Opera House stage this time of year, but this is the first year for RCTC’s production of Legends, stated Erik. “The goal is to keep Legends on the lineup for future seasons and feature different new celebrities each year.”
Performance dates are June 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 at the Reedley Opera House, 1720 10th Street, Reedley, CA
Ticket Prices: Sundays (2 p.m.) and Thursdays (8 p.m.) – $19 (dessert available for purchase)
Fridays and Saturdays (8 p.m.) – $25 (includes dessert)
Dinner and Show – $35 (dinner served Fridays and Saturdays, reservation required)
Check out River City’s theatre event page for more information.
Come back every Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a new Local Live!