We never plan on seeing a theatrical production twice, but we're always open to the possibility. This worked well with Sixties Chicks.
Friend and fellow Rotarian Nita Sell along with her husband have been season ticket holders for Harlequin Productions in Olympia for years. They are great advocates for local arts. They are also hosts who put on quite a spread.
The June production at the Harlequin has been a musical or musical revue for quite some time. It's something we plan for. Last year a bunch of our Culture Vulture friends traveled from Tacoma for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I had never liked the movie, but Peg had seen a stage production at the Fifth Avenue in Seattle and recommended the play. We had a great time as always, and so we look forward to whatever the Harlequin comes up with.
By April 2009 Nita began asking about interest in a revue called Sixties Chicks. We bought in right away as did many of our usual group. For the first time, granddaughter Bunky invited her friend Chris, who had recently proposed. It promised to be fun. It was.
Although it was a little cool and a few drops of rain were felt every once in a while we had a nice potluck. Everyone brought a casserole to share and their own choice for the outdoor grill. There was plenty to go around and enjoy. The Sells live on Black Lake, which is just minutes from downtown Olympia. It was a little cool for most of us, but the Sell's dog charged into the lake for a quick dip. The rest of us settled for chips and dip.
After stuffing ourselves we headed off for the theatre. There are no bad seats at the State Theater where the productions are staged. Mostly our group was together. We were close enough to slap, shove, and nudge and whack each other as we watched and listened. In other words, the men act like children . . . mostly well-behaved children. With a combination of images and news clips projected on the back of the stage and a great house band, the four singers of Sixties Chicks did a fantastic job singing and entertaining. They each acted as back-up singers as well as soloists.
Elise Lenna Campello - Elise has performed in a number of shows at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. She's also doing a tour of Mercer Girls with the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle.
Elise drew solos on some of the vapid songs of the early sixites: It's My Party and My Boyfriend's Back and did a very nice job with them. During the second act, she really showed her abilities with Janis Ian's Society's Child and Jefferson Airplane/Grace Slick's Somebody to Love.
Melissa Fleming - We had seen Melissa in last year's Rocky Horror where she played Janet and did an excellent job. She has been performing on cruise ships and working on local productions that I am sorry I've missed. The Fantastics and A Year with Frog and Toad would have both seen me in the front row singing along to myself.
Melissa soloed on Remember (Walkin' in the Sand), which had great choreography. She sang the Janis Joplin Mercedes Benz number just as Janis probably sounded when she first left Texas. Although the song is cute, I would have much prefered Piece of My Heart featuring Janis when she was with Big Brother and the Holding Company . . . a true classic. Melissa's true stand-out performance was with the beautiful Carole King song, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
LaVon Hardison - I am sorry that I did not see LaVon in two previous productions at the Harlequin: Stardust for Christmas and Intimate Apparel. I would like to see her in a straight drama or a comedy for that matter. She took on the needed personas for her Sixties Chicks songs.
I felt that LaVon was given some of her songs because she is Black. Or maybe she chose them. I don't know. She performed those songs well . . . really well, but I felt that others could have done a nice job with them also.
Where I really enjoyed LaVon was her growling version of the Beatles tune Come Together and her absolutely sweet take on John Denver's Leavin' On a Jet Plane. Oh, babe I hate to go . . . Very nice.
Jenny Shotwell - I was shocked when I read her credits. Peg and I had seen Jenny in two starring roles (Tacoma Musical Playhouse and Lakewood Playhouse) as well as a third time in the chorus of Rocky Horror. I will not forget her, again. She will be playing the lead in Tacoma Opera's The Daughter of the Regiment. This of course means Peg and I will probably be at the Rialto to watch her.
Jenny was the lead in one of the funniest songs of the night, Leader of the Pack. She was great and the back-up singers were hilarious pretending to ride and roar on motorcycles. Jenny sang two Carole King songs and nailed those AND had three songs that were worth the price of admission by themselves. She sang Etta James' jazz classic At Last that would have quieted a street riot. With White Rabbit she sent shivers through everyone that lived during the sixties and both those that came before and after. Mezmerizing. She has such a strong voice and yet, Joni Mitchell's A Case of You accompanied mostly with an accoustic guitar was so simple and just lovely.
Elise, Melissa, LaVon and Jenny all joined together for the encore song of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. With the lyrics projected on the screen the audience joined them and cheered them as they ran off the stage and up the aisles. I'm guessing that these fantastic singers were born a good ten years after the sixties ended, but they certainly sang the songs well. Peg and I loved the production so much we traveled to Olympia a second time to see it. This time we brought along Peg's older sister, Pat and their youngest sister, Kate, who came back to Tacoma to visit with her children. This was Kate's first trip to downtown Olympia. We explained that the block east of the theater is like the Haight-Asbury district in San Francisco during the 60s . . . except it's so much smaller we call it Ha.
Kate was chastised for putting a cigarette out on the sidewalk. A passerby explained, she should lightly stub out a partially used cigarette and place it on top of the waste bins, where someone else could smoke the rest of it. Ah, yes . . . communal cigarettes.
After the production we drove off to bubbly conversations about the songs and the singers. We had a nice time on the return trip until we arrived at the downward slope of the hill overlooking the Nisqually Delta. In the day time the image of the delta with Mt. Rainier sometimes standing head and shoulders about the trees is one of my favorite views in Washington State. At night with bridge work going on and traffic being funneled down to one lane, there was nothing favorite about it. I forced myself to think of past trips and adventures involving the Nisqually River . . . while the songs of the sixties floated in and out of my mind. The floating will go on for another couple of weeks.