The cast and audience appeared to have a rollicking time July 26 at the summer arts camp finale of Mostly Theatre Company's production of "Musical! The Bard is Back" at St. Mary's Catholic School Auditorium in El Centro.
Mostly Theatre Company is an arts and entertainment nonprofit run by Anne Irigoyen and her mother, Susana Irigoyen, along with a cast of critical supporters. It is designed for ages 14 to 21 in their teen/young adult division, which staged the July 26 performance and an encore on July 27 of the play by Stephen Murray.
Susana produced the choreography and played the role of Donna Thompson, one of a Greek Chorus, a mysterious cult of techies who sing a love anthem to duct tape as a repetitive warning about the curse of the prior disastrous attempt
at "the Scottish Play."
The plot line of The Bard is Back is whether a spirited theater group at fictional Hilltop High School can overcome a 20-year lapse of theater since a curse doomed a prior performance of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth." As the undaunted crew tempt improbable odds, they stage their take on "Romeo & Juliet"--with three Juliets (one on crutches)--and everything that could go wrong, does. But the show must go on, explained Trevor Drury, director.
Drury, with the company for two years as accompanist and music director, noted the production had gone really well despite its breathless dash to the finish line.
"Four weeks rehearsal is not a long time and I think the cast (of 14) has done a good job," said Drury. "One of my favorite things, it's great to see the shy ones really open up. Everyone brings something unique to the show. And that way it becomes our show."
One reason Hilltop High School insists on preceding with its first play in 20 years is because Principal Saunders is determined to impress the school superintendent. Saunders was played with superb aplomb by Alec Coronado.
Subtle facial tics and body language resonate far beyond a commendable script that, despite a pompous demeanor, brings empathy with the hapless Saunders. Coronado played a dual role of Larry, one of Hilltop's student thespians vying for a lead role. Despite a bravura performance he admitted to stage
"I was pretty nervous at the beginning but I tried not to let it show," said Coronado. "I enjoy performing with MTC but I want to be an animator. I really like 'Into the Spider-Verse' (animated/sci-fi film). So, I'd like to transfer from IVC to Laguna College of Art and Design."
Just prior to intermission the premier song of the musical, "See What Happens Next," was performed by the entire cast. It was especially dynamic thanks to the keyboard work of Lindsay Danesi. She played with the propulsive drive of Louisiana swamp blues pianist Marcia Ball.
"I have four daughters who've been through MTC," said Danesi. "But what I like is watching the kids blossom into their performer selves."
At intermission, audience member Marissa Coronado, Alec's mother, declared the production wonderful.
"I'm impressed because they only had four weeks to prepare," she said. "But you can see all the love they put into the production. I thought they would forget some of their lines. I would have."
Added her husband, Frank, "This could be a career for him, he's always been creative."
Enduring the wrath of Principal Saunders was Hilltop High School's drama coach, Miss Peggy Donhue, played with a range of emotion by Angela Ortega.
"I like all the harmony, and it explores all the vocal skills of the singers in this company," said Ortega. "The chemistry is really great and helps on and off stage and the play itself."
Performing as Hilltop High's Patrick Emerson, who wins the role of Romeo, was Erick Gonzales, who has been singing in school choirs since kindergarten.
"I like the way our production shows the different personalities of the characters and it's nice to see them come to life," he said. "It was stressful at first but the musical provided an accomplished and rewarding feeling."
Meanwhile, Bella Dinelli also played two roles: Winifred Burnside, the self-absorbed fictional author of The Bard is Back, and Marge Watson, the pushy stage mom. Enduring the browbeating from Marge was plucky Mallory Watson, performed by Natalie Lopez, who plays the conniving understudy Juliet who falls on her own sword when she comes down with laryngitis.
But hearts truly went out to Hilltop High's Denise Adams, cast as the original Juliet and played by turns with comedy and guilelessness by Deonne Vasquez. This was his fourth production with the company.
"I loved the songs and the crew," said Vasquez. "It was really funny when everything fell apart. I look forward to coming back to a fifth season."
MTC's youth division will perform "The Rainbow Fish Musical" Aug. 2, 7 p.m., and Aug. 3, 4 p.m. also at St. Mary's Catholic School auditorium.