Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reflections on The Carmel Follies

It’s uncomfortable to be cast as the talentless doofus at a musical review meant to showcase local artistry. Even more so when wearing a hula skirt and a coconut bra.

But testing my discomfort level appears to have become a midlife challenge, which is why I found myself on the Pacific Repertory Theatre stage in Carmel over the weekend, plodding along, like a dancing bear on mescaline, in a hula skirt and a tutu.

I suppose my appearance in the Carmel Follies is somebody’s notion of low comedy, but it was my idea of public humiliation. I was teamed with three other “good sports” – Sam Linder, Thompson Lange and Bob Mulford – to be the comic foils/horrors for a couple of numbers at the Follies. I call us the “Ick Girls.”

The show seems to have been a big success during its two-day run. The gala opening, which included an auction, was a successful fundraiser for PacRep. What’s more, I’m told that the Ick Girls were greatly entertaining, that we amused the crowd as we stumbled our way across the stage in a wretched display of choreography. It helped that much of the audience was appropriately inebriated.

I just hope that seeing doofuses stumbling about is not the lingering memory for the Carmel Follies audience; so much other unique and real talent was on display.

For instance, the multi-talented Gracie Moore Poletti was the host of the show. She is real talent. At the Follies, she showed she can dance, she can sing, she can make you laugh, she can memorize her lines and her dance steps, and she can hold a show together. I’m troubled that all the audience might remember of her is that a quartet of lumpish middle-aged louts in hula skirts managed to lift her without dropping her at the end of “Honey Bun.”

And then there’s Allyson Spiegelman, the captivating ballerina who appeared onstage early in the second act. She is beauty, elegance, grace – and perhaps a better “good sport” than the Ick Girls after allowing herself to share the stage with a bunch of old guys in tutus.

Fortunately, our presence on stage was limited to a few slapstick minutes. That meant we didn’t have to destroy the tender “Beauty and the Beast” mood set featuring the splendid Reed Scott and the, uh, homely Steve Woods. That meant our antics didn’t interrupt a fun original Wizard of Oz number featuring Lydia Lyons and Otis Goodwin.

And there was so much more we did NOT ruin, including great solo work by Thelma Howard, Steve Guerra and Daniel Simpson. And we sure as hell did not want to upstage true talent like Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Hulsey, baritone Peter Tuff and Layne Littlepage. Director Walt de Faria was appropriately patient with the Ick Girls; in fact, he coached the terrible-ness into us.

All in all, The Carmel Follies proved a terrific introductory sampler of the real talent that blesses Monterey County. Producer Stephen Moore said he expects the Follies will be an annual event, and I do urge him to continue to scout for and feature the community’s hidden gems for future shows.

Meanwhile, the Ick Girls – Sam, Thompson, Bob and I – are already planning rehearsals for Can-Can, our act for next year. In our case, of course, it will be the Can't-Can't.

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