Friday, February 25, 2011

Little Miss Sunshine's VW bus pulls into the Playhouse!

So first, I need to acknowledge the fact that I'm a horrible blogger. I keep wanting to write, and then I either can't think of something interesting to write about or I'm exhausted from work. So, since my life has centered around work lately that's what I'll write about. This past month has been insanely busy around the La Jolla Playhouse. Not only are we 34 days from the end of our fiscal year with a LOT of money left to raise in development - but we started previews last week of the biggest (and last) show of our season. It's argueably the biggest musical we've done in four seasons.

It's the world premeire musical Little Miss Sunshine, adapted from the Academy Award-winning film of the same name. It has a top notch creative team and a stellar cast of Broadway actors. The musical is a collaboration between James Lapine and William Finn, whose previous collaborations include Tony-winning hits Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. William Finn is also the composer of In Trousers, Romance in Hard Times and A New Brain. James Lapine is the Pulitzer and three-time Tony Award-winning book writer/director of the musicals Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Passion, among many others. Needless to say, the show has STAR potential. I was a little star struck meeting James Lapine a few months back in a meeting. He's a theatre genius.

Two weeks ago Sunday was the final dress rehearsal, and my friend Mike and I headed into the packed theatre to witness the first "public" performance of the world premeire. The director James Lapine came in front of the audience to welcome everyone and tell us that we have "bragging rights" to have been the first people to ever see the show. This is pretty exciting as it has plans to move to Broadway. Something the La Jolla Playhouse is known for - producing shows that have a life on the Great White Way after leaving the sunshine (no pun intended) of Southern California.

The show begins with Richard Hoover, played by Hunter Foster, addressing a crowd at a self help conference entitled 10 Steps to Success. Hunter originated the role of Bobby Strong in Urinetown, was in the original cast of the Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors and was most recently in Million Dollar Quartet. And he just so happens to be the brother of another big Broadway name, Sutton Foster, who originated the role of Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie. That's another show that has La Jolla Playhouse roots, and had it's world premeire here a decade ago in 2000.

The 10 year old girl who plays Olive Hoover is absolutely perfect for the role! Her name is Georgi James and is the cutest thing since sliced bread. She was in Billy Elliot and A Tale of Two Cities on Broadway. She has one heck of a career ahead of her! It's hard not to compare the character to that in the movie, played by Abigail Breslin who was nominated for an Oscar for the role, but Georgi puts her own stamp on Olive Hoover and makes the character as loveable as ever.

The rest of the stellar cast includes Malcolm Gets (Caroline in the City) as Frank, Dick Latessa (Hairspray) as Grandpa, Jennifer Laura Thompson (Footloose, Urinetown and Wicked) as Sheryl Hoover, and Taylor Trensch (National tour of Spring Awakening) as Dwayne Hoover.

What is so cool about this show is that it takes place mainly in the infamous VW yellow bus. How the show portrays driving across county on stage is pretty awesome! The doors and roof detach and are carried off stage by the chorus members when the Hoover family departs on their trip from Albuquerque, NM to Rodando Beach, California. The roof is flipped over when taken off stage to reveal a road sign. Then the characters are fully visible to the audience while they are "driving." The driving is really the characters moving the bus with their feet - Flintstone style. It's pretty hilarious. The stage has tracks across it used for moving scenery. Different road signs are moved across stage at different times to give the illusion of the bus driving. The backdrop is a horizon that moves to also give the illusion of driving. Clouds also move up and down from the "sky" ie. the fly system. The scenery is pretty simplistic but beautifully done.

I won't describe in detail what the play is about, since I'm sure most people have seen the movie. But if you haven't seen it go rent it!! It's so funny and also a story about family that is really heartwarming. In a nutshell it's about a family with its share of problems that embarks on a road trip to enter their daughter Olive (a spunky girl who doesn't fit the traditional mold of beauty pageant girls) in a pageant called Little Miss Sunshine. 

So, we have one more week of previews before our official Opening Night on March 4th. We have a swanky pre-party with hor d'oeuvres and cocktails for donors and VIPs, and a fun after party with desserts and dancing - where the cast joins. It should be a blast! I promise to post soon with pictures from the event.

Happy Friday everyone!  

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