by Terrance Mc Arthur
It’s summertime in Reedley, time for the River City Theatre Company to trot out another edition of their Legends series. This year, it’s Legends: Icons, where a group of 10 performers honor famous singers and groups, with some sweet touches of humor added to spice up the tributes. Tributes they are, to over 30 great acts of the past, some of whom are still thrilling audiences. From Andy Williams to The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, Janis Joplin to Rosemary Clooney, Simon & Garfunkel to ABBA, the music keeps coming and the audience keeps clapping. The songs come fast and furious, with singers changing costumes and wigs frequently.
Julie Valdez pops open the show with a sly “Mambo Italiano,” the Clooney version rather than the Perry Como one. She rides Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” with confidence and authority. She tears up the place in a Judy Garland counterpoint duet with Streisand, and puts some very-Streisand moves into her rendition of “People” that add to the sparkle of her red velvet outfit. Her strutting version of Cher’s “It’s in His Kiss” wraps up the show with a neat, but feisty, bow.
I’m always happy to see Jessica Williams’ name in a River City program, because I’ll always enjoy her performance. She licks “Lollipop” with the Chordettes, is a “Dancing Queen” as part of ABBA (with some artful lighting that erases color lines), she makes Donna Summer live for a “Last Dance,” and she gives “Respect” to Aretha Franklin.
Jayromy Mercado just finished a run in the Selma Arts Center’s School of Rock, and he has magically transported to the Opera House. He becomes Paul Anka, Elton John (love the “la-la” heads popping in from the wings of the itty-bitty stage), Bobby Darin, Art Garfunkel, and a romantically-confused Buddy Holly romancing three different women—who find out about it and take comic revenge. He is thin and puppy-dog goofy/cute, with his shirt cuffs half sliding over his hands.Shelby Diquirico is tall and stands out as Petula Clark, taking the audience “Downtown,” as well as being the other part of ABBA. Mac Mcintosh is a mostly-grey-haired wonder, singing Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Paul Simon, and Tom Jones (Love the wig on that one!).
Bethany Houghton is sweet and melodic as Karen Carpenter, and brings the Nancy Sinatra version of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” in as a slow, plaintive ballad. Allison Botello belts out Joan Jet’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” nicely (but I kept hearing Weird Al’s “I Love Rocky Road” in my head). Glenda Stewart has no solos, but her vocal support and strong dancing add immensely to many songs.
Tidy Gill and Joseph Hill co-directed the musical evening, and Gill also performed ably as Pat Benatar (What a “Heartbreaker!”). Isaiah Bueno played a lively Little Richard character in RCTC’s recent Memphis,” and he does a full-tilt “Tutti Fruity” here, along with Ben E. King and Prince (very close to his style).
If you like any of these songs, you have to see them on the Opera House stage—“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “ Piece of My Heart” (Janis Joplin), the Garland-Streisand “Get Happy”/ “Happy Days Are Here Again” duet, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” (Etta James), “So Far Away” (Carole King), “Dancing Queen,” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Cindy Lauper). With 31 flavors to choose from, there’s bound to be something you’ll like.
Legends: Icons plays at the Reedley Opera House through September 2. The theatre is at 1720 10th St. in Reedley. For information and tickets, call 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500, or check the RCTC website.
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