The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Lincoln Theatre Company Choristers
A Dazzling Disney Musical Adventure - May 21, 2017
by Dick Frantzreb
The “Dazzling” part of the title of this concert was right on. This was heaven for those of us who love Disney music — and who doesn’t? But there was more to it than that. For one thing, this was more of a show than a concert, as I’ll presently demonstrate. But I was also dazzled by the extraordinary variety of Disney songs. I’ve seen more than one area concert devoted to Disney music in the last couple of years, but none can match the sheer number of Disney songs that I heard this afternoon, many of which I don’t even recall having heard before.
After a greeting by Lincoln Theatre Company President, Paul Schechter, Director Eric Rainwater gave the audience a second welcome as the chorus members assembled on the risers — the women in colorful, poncho-type tops and the men with white shirts and bowties. From the first song, it struck me that the women had a particularly nice unison tone, and though the women outnumbered them, the men provided a good balance.
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As the program began, I found myself wondering whether the older folks in the audience would be familiar with some of the recent Disney songs. For example, the first selection was a medley of songs from the recent stage and movie version of Beauty and the Beast. I’m guessing that many in the audience were hearing at least some of these tunes for the first time. But they made for good listening, and besides, there would soon be something familiar for everyone in the audience.
Besides the extraordinarily wide representation of Disney music, another good thing about this concert was the variety in presentation formats. There were solos, duets, quintets, all men/all women — mixed in with songs from the full chorus. Then there were the children — the fifteen 10- to 18-year-old Junior Choristers. They first appeared when young Kaitlyn MacLeod took the solo part in “Alice in Wonderland.” Then 9 of her fellow Junior Choristers entered the stage in front of the adults for “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. The presentation of this song was a good example of the staging that characterized many of the songs in this concert. While the number was being performed, three girls went through a trunk that had been placed downstage. They represented the sea characters in the movie, examining one-by-one the items in the trunk that represented life on land. “Cute” is what I wrote in my notes, the first of the many, many times I used that word.
The next song, “Never Smile at a Crocodile” was from the Junior Choristers, and as they sang, they acted out the words. These kids were also the focus of the next song, “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King.
There was “cute” from the adults, as well. Mary Jo Garrison poured a lot of style into her performance of “He’s a Tramp,” from Lady and the Tramp. But the “cute” came from Don Moen who played “the tramp,” standing next to her. Throughout her song, he made appropriate dog vocalizations that delighted the audience. Director Eric Rainwater even put in an appearance as a performer, playing the guitar and singing a descant to John Griffin’s melody in “Bella Notte” from Lady and the Tramp.
Just before intermission, both the Choristers and Junior Choristers teamed up for “Disney Spectacular,” and that’s exactly what it was: a potpourri of the principal parts of at least 18 Disney songs (I may have lost count). But one of the most notable features of this “spectacular,” apart from the wonderful music, was the choreography. Jeff Teague has choreographed Lincoln Theatre Company stage productions, and his work was very much in evidence in this afternoon’s concert. There were many choreographed routines throughout the “Disney Spectacular,” most involving the Junior Choristers. Honestly, I was surprised at how well the kids handled keeping the music and complicated routines — all different — in their heads. Besides this number, there was an abundance of choreography throughout the afternoon, and it made the wonderful, familiar music that much more entertaining.
The second half of the concert started with the Junior Choristers entering from the back of the theater, playing the “Theme from Indiana Jones.” (This was a surprise because I had forgotten that the Indiana Jones franchise had been purchased by Disney from Lucasfilm.) This was followed by more kazoo playing, this time of the “Star Wars Theme” (another Disney acquisition). Along with the music was a cute skit by the kids.
Then all the Junior Choristers assembled around one audience member, and their spokesperson asked “Is it your birthday? No? That’s great!” Then they made the woman stand while the kids sang her “The Unbirthday Song” from Alice in Wonderland. It was this kind of creativity in the presentation of so much of this music that made this concert more of a show — and an engaging experience for young and old.
It seemed that as this concert/show progressed, it became increasingly theatrical, and that trend was about to hit its peak. “A Pirate’s Life for Me” from Peter Pan was performed by men from the Choristers (plus a woman, a tenor?), and they all appeared with elements of pirates’ costumes, including hooks for hands and some of them brandishing swords.
But the dramatic peak came with the next number in which Peggy Schechter played the part of the sea witch, Ursula, from The Little Mermaid. She was dressed perfectly as she sang “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” with Junior Choristers member Grace Fidler as Ariel in a non-singing role. This wasn’t just a song but an acting tour-de-force by Peggy that could have fit perfectly into a stage production of the show.
The men of the Choristers and 6 of the women then performed a cute version of “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid, with good harmony and a refreshing calypso beat. Then the Junior Choristers took the stage again for “Winnie the Pooh,” which was followed by a very animated solo by James Kubochi. The Junior Choristers were also the focus of the next several songs. These were songs I don’t recall having heard before (but I was glad to be introduced to them): “I See the Light” from Tangled; “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas; and “Strong” from Cinderella.
The finale of the show was a medley of music from Aladdin. The Junior Choristers were once again the focal point of this medley, with elaborate choreography that had them acting out the scene behind each song. Once again, I was amazed at all the choreography they had memorized, and to my eye, they pulled it off perfectly.
The finale of the finale was the most familiar (and best) song from Aladdin, “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me.” Peggy Schechter was out front with the kids, acting as a sort of cheerleader. The kids themselves had colorful streamers (like those used in rhythmic gymnastics), and their routine with them created a lot of visual interest on stage. When the number concluded, the audience erupted in cheers.
In their reaction, the audience were recognizing what a diverse, entertaining experience they had been through and perhaps acknowledging the tremendous thought that had gone into planning this program. First, there was the contribution of Director Eric Rainwater, who had managed to cram more musical selections into 2 hours than anyone would have dreamed possible and who seemed at times more like a ringmaster than a director as he tried to keep everything moving. Then there was choreographer Jeff Teague, who was certainly a major factor in bringing out the showmanship of the performers, especially among the children. Then there were Paul and Peggy Schechter whose dramatic sense was no doubt behind many of the theatrical highlights of the program. But the real hero (heroine) of the show has to be Candy Rainwater. She sat at her synthesizer flawlessly accompanying every number, in many different musical styles, for one hour straight in the first half of the show and for almost that length of time in the second half. It seemed to me to be a feat of endurance as much as talent, but there was plenty of talent in her playing. And in the final analysis there was a lot of talent on that stage — much of it just emerging — in the Lincoln Community Theatre Choristers' most ambitious production of its short existence.