by Terrance Mc Arthur
Long, long ago, in a gas station far, far away, you drove up to the pump and a bell rang. A squad of smartly uniformed young men scurried out, and the work commenced. They pumped your gas, checked your water and oil, washed and squeegeed your windshield, and checked the air in your tires, while you relaxed in your car. You didn’t have to lift a finger.
Come with us, back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, at the Reedley Opera House, for Reedley’s River City Theatre Company production of Route 66, a tuneful salute to “America’s Road,” the highway that tied the West to the East of the USA. Watch and listen as three clean-cut young men (Peter Boldt, Charlton Hughes, and Scott Chapman) treat the audience to more than two dozen songs related to the towns, people, and jobs associated with the road that stretched from St. Louis, Missouri, to Santa Monica, California.
The songs! Everything from the Bobby Troupe classic “Route 66” to “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” with stops along the way from “Gallop to Gallup” to “Tulsa Straight Ahead.” The classics wend their way from the Beach Boys (“Fun Fun Fun”) to Roger Miller (“King of the Road”), and a side trip to Willie Nelson (“On the Road Again”). You’ll even run into a “Long Tall Texan” and the “Highway Patrol,” see the “Girl on the Billboard,” and hear a “Beep Beep” (the Little Nash Rambler song). In and around the pop songs weave the jingles and commercials for cars, tires, and gasolines of the post-WWII era, Texaco to Ford to Hertz, along with the recreated spiels of disk jockeys from the cities you would pass along the imaginary cross-country journey.
Boldt is cocky and thin, a lot like John C. McGinley of Scrubs and Platoon, and with a similar impishness. Hughes, recently the Tin Woodsman in River City’s The Wizard of Oz, has a narrow face that always looks surprised. Chapman has a squarer face and a gentler demeanor. The three are of similar sizes and change costumes frequently, going from gas-station attendants to truckers to fringe-shirted cowboys to hippy-dippy surfer dudes, along with the occasional female outfit (Look out for a Southern California senior hot-rodder doing tight spins on a scooter). As the styles change, it’s like watching a kaleidoscope in a used car lot.
The show is brisk and brief. Caesar Torres was originally cast, but had to bow out of the production after some vocal problems he experienced during the recent Legends: One Hit Wonders. He is missed. Director-choreographer Alexis Elisa Macedo keeps this jukebox musical going at a mighty pace, while Aaron Mendoza’s backdrop permits access for the actors and highlights the locations of their progression along the highway often called “the Mother Road.”
It’s a fun trip that may bring back memories or open eyes to an appreciation of some musical gems of the past. So, why not? Get your kicks on Route 66!
Reedley’s River City Theatre Company is located at 1720 10th Street. For further information and to purchase tickets you can go to their website, or call 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500.
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