Sunday, May 7, 2017

Jimmy Dean makes rare appearance at Broadway Theatre in Vista.

It’s been a while since Ed Graczyk’s “Come Back to the 5 and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” has been seen on our local stages. By my count it’s been between fifteen and twenty years. It’s an interesting study in time travel as the show flashes back and forth over a twenty -year period.

The play recently opened at The Broadway Theater in Vista and plays through May 21st. It is a blast from the past for those who can remember ‘Five and Dimes’, Woolworths Five and Dime, James Dean and where you were when he died. 

Years ago, I happened on the movie while surfing my T.V. The 1982 film of the ’76 play directed by Robert Altman and starred Sandy Dennis and Cher, (who was highly praised in her new dramatic role) caught my attention and has been on my radar every time it comes to our local stages, which is few and far between.  

Graczyk’s play takes place in Woolworth’s five and dime store in 1955 in the small town outside of McCarthy, Texas close to where the movie “Giant” was being filmed. It’s now 1975 twenty years later and the ‘all female’ Jimmy Dean Fan Club or the 6 Disciples are getting together for a reunion.

Julia Giolzetti, Renetta Lloyd, Heidi Bridges, Brooke McCormick and Erica Marie weisz
I don’t know about you, but the first and last reunion I attended (my something year class reunion) didn’t qualify for a repeat. But for Mona, Sissy, Stella May, Edna, Joe/ Joanne, die in the heart James Dean fans, they did plan another twenty -year reunion.

My guess is that after the all the laughter, reminiscing, truth squad revelations and finger pointing at this last one that few would show. But we will never know.

One of my all time favorite movies is “Giant”. Not so much because of James Dean, but because of the scope of this ‘giant’ epic. It spans two generations of Texans. It highlights the overt racism and oppression of women.  It traces the twenty-five year relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson and how they dealt with the changing tides. Yes, Taylor was a tiger in that film.

The movie “Giant” came out in 1956 and according to my calculations I was ‘only’ nineteen and still looking through Photoplay, Motion Picture Magazine, and a Life Magazine that featured Taylor as Leslie, soon to become Jordan or ‘Bick’s wife.

The family ranch was called Reata and it was on the Benedict family ranch that Jett Rink (James Dean) was one of the handymen. My favorite James Dean movie is “East of Eden” even though he was a pivotal figure in “Giant”. Let’s face it, he was a disrupting figure in his three movies, ergo he was an attraction to teens that loved rebels as in “Rebel Without a Cause” 

James Dean was 24 when “Giant” was being filmed. He died in a terrible car crash right outside McCarthy Texas where the movie was being filmed. Dean’s final scene in the movie was dubbed in by Nick Adams since Dean’s character Jett Rink, along with the actor were too drunk to be understood.  

Emily Candia, Jimmy Masterson ans Michelle Marie Trester
With veteran director Kathy Brombacher at the helm and an almost all girl cast with Texas accents that one could cut with a knife, the group comes together for a reunion on the anniversary of Dean’s death, twenty years later.

The 5 and Dime is decorated like a fourth of July celebration (Douglas Davis) with red, white and blue streamers hanging from the doorway and across the store front to a shrine with shiny photos of James Dean in the usual poses. Sitting on a shelf is a picture of the girls and Joe just after graduation.

There is a single light shining on the pictures. Across the room is a counter with several bar stools and hanging on the back wall is another lighted picture of The Last Supper.

Juanita (Kimberly Wooldridge) is the holier than thou proprietor who also has to face the truth about her beliefs and her saintly (so she thinks) husband. Woodbridge is a busy beaver from the outset making sure none of the girls acts irreverently toward her Lord.

Brooke McCormick, Erica Marie Weisz and Renetta Lloyd
The now Mona (Brooke McCormick) is the first to arrive. When Giant was being filmed, she was chosen to play an extra in the film and is living on that moment in history as her claim to fame. She’s somewhat delusional and has more issues than Carter has Little Liver Pills.

OH! Mona claims that her now grown son Jimmy Dean was conceived by none other than the star himself. It all happened after a one -night stand that was the ‘affair to remember’.  She can’t help but think everyone is jealous because she was the one chosen to bring the son of James Dean into the world.   

The momentum shifts back and forth as each now member of the fan club straggles in and time freezes as we look at the then teenagers and what they have become now.

I dare say, to the eye not much has changed in twenty years as the now women have matured but for one. She looks like an outsider, and as the playwright weaves past events with the present, she was the he who was ostracized for dressing in drag when they performed at a talent show singing “Sincerely” imitating the McGuire Sisters.

The then Joe is the now Joanne (Renetta Lloyd) who also stops into town driving a yellow Porsche that was supposedly the one that Dean used in his fateful crash but in fact it was…Well no spoilers here.

The reunion is full of surprise and disclosures, the reopening of old wounds and hurts and a coming to Jesus and acceptance at plays end. It is also laced with downhome humor yet strikes a discordant and sometimes mean tone, as some of those assembled are just unhappy seeing others revel in what they believe is their good fortune.

Heidi Bridges, Kimberly Wooldridge (in background), Erica Marie Weisz and Renetta Lloyd
It takes a while to get from here to there, and more than a few sensitive and ahead of their times topics that are pretty much mainstream now to coalesce.  Most are divulged in this coming to Jesus saga and it does have some life altering and lingering affects on most of the women gathered.

Heidi Bridges is upbeat but biting as Stella May who counts among her children the number of oil wells she and her rich husband have.

Julia Giolzetti is the not too bright Edna who counts as her gold the six or seven children she has delivered and is about to drop another. Giolzetti has a minor role but takes it on the chin from Stella May who uses her as batting practice.

Erica Marie Weisz is perfect as the now Sissy who still brags about her big boobs and her sexual prowess. Her counterpart, Emily Candia as the younger Sissy is equally bragging about the size of her boobs and her cemetery conquests. As a roller derby whiz, she now wants to try out as an ice skater as in the Follies.  

Michelle Marie Trester plays young Mona with a youthful enthusiasm that sets the tone as she rambles on about her being chosen to be an extra in the movie. That scenario never changes, it just grows more intense as she ages.

As her counterpart Brook McCormick is now a walking hypochondriac, a fragile bird ready to crack or break at any moment. McCormick’s is excellent as her stress and anxiety is written all over her face. In one of the telling scenes she unfolds a block of white something that she claims is from one of the decaying pillars at Reata.

Jimmy Masterson plays young Joe an almost look-a- like a very young James Dean. His is a surprising story played with gentleness at odds with the rest of the cast.

Costume designers Bobbi Smith and Reneta Lloyd costumes are picture perfect and fit right in especially the red jackets with the emblem “Disciples of Jams Dean” sewn on the back. Randall Hickman designed the lighting and Katie Silva is responsible for operating the lighting and sound board.

“Come Back to the 5 and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” isn’t a perfect play but Brombacher and her fine ensemble make you feel as if you are taking a trip back in time where some dreams came true and others were shattered.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through May 21st
Organization: Broadway Theatre
Phone: 760.806.7905
Production Type: Comedy/Drama
Where: 340 East Broadway Vista, CA 92084
Ticket Prices: $23.50
Photo: Ken Jacques


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