Friday, August 9, 2019

“House Of Dreams” A Solid Gold Show In The Making

The first I heard of “33 1/3 House of Dreams” was from my dentist. It’s a long story but it seems that my dentist and Brad Ross, son of Stan Ross, were classmates. Some time ago he asked me if I knew or heard anything about it. I know it wasn’t a secret it just never caught up with me until a few months ago.

In a tribute to his Dad, Stan Ross who founded Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, Brad Ross and his friend and partner in this project, Jonathan Rosenberg, (a patient and special Ed teacher in La Mesa) collaborated with The San Diego Rep., San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, Steve Gunderson (musical arrangements) and Javier Velasco (choreographer and musical direction) to pump life into this lovely valentine.
Jacob Caltrider and Nicholis Mongiardo-Cooper
San Diego Repertory Theatre’s 44th season opened with a brand spanking new show, the world premiere of “33 1/3 House of Dreams”. It might not make much of an impression until you know what artists passed through its doors and what dreams were made and realized in that makeshift, threadbare Hollywood recording Studio in the early 50’s to the turbulent 60’s, psychedelic 70’s and lasted into the rock and roll 80’s…33 1/3 years in the same spot at 6252 Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood.
Janae Parson (center) as Tina Turner
Imagine a young Sonny and Cher (“All I Really Want To Do”), The Beach Boys (Good Vibrations”), a crazed Phil Spector (true to form Collin Leydon) and his ‘Wall of Sound’, Herb Alpert, the Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner (16 year old Janae Parson a star in the making), Ritchie Valens (“La Bamba”), Jim Hendrix, The Monkeys, Leonard Cohen, The Cascades, (“Rhythm Of The Rain”), Lola Albright  (“I Love The look of You”) and the Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” sung to perfection by Michael Parrott. The list goes on throughout the show highlighting at least 32 tunes and I could go on.

The show jumps out at you as the story is told in flashback and like its owners, there is little time to look back when you are in the middle of making a dream come true. Some of the dialogue might be slowed down a bit especially in the beginning few scenes while talking over the music made following the story difficult to fill in the narrative, but the beat goes on and sooner or later we do catch up.
Bethany Slomka, Jacob Caltrider, Nicholas Mongardo-Cooper and Aviva Pressman(center)
More than anything Gold Star Records was noted for its custom designed equipment, including echo chambers built by Gold. And so the story goes as narrated by Stan, “I can mix sounds better than anyone else in town, Ross (a talented song and dance guy Nicholas Mongiardo- Cooper) a sweet, gentle but determined and obsessed young Stan whose idea became a reality throughout the recording world. The name of the company is a combination of the two owners (Dave) Gold and STA (N) R (oss), east coast transplants.

Along with nine professional actors, Jacob Caltrider, Aviva Pressman, Bethany Slomka (as Gold’s wife), Christine Hewitt), Ron Christopher Jones, Dave Rivas and Colin Leydon and   Nicholas Mongiardo- Cooper and Bear Maneschalchi (as Sonny) in lead roles excellent support comes from the students from SDCPA’s Xchange Xperience as it did in “Hairspray”, “In The Heights” and Evita”; other collaborations that won critical success.

Sky Frank, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper Jacob Caltrider, Paul Chairez and Kiara Geolina
Using these young, energetic and talented young men and women (twenty-six in all) the directors were able to expand on the musical numbers, of which there were many, to give this somewhat jukebox of a different caliber musical a big look for a big dream. Bravos to Sky Frank, Joshua Penrod, Paul Chairez and Jacob Bader, all standouts in one role or multiple roles.

As happened to so many visionaries in era of Ross, in his quest to make music available to everyone, his marriage to Vera, “I’m not one of your fast playing 78’s. I’m more like a 33 1/3 long playing,  Weiner (the affable Aviva Pressman) suffered, friendships were strained and his partner, Gold (Jacob Caltrider), suffered a serious medical setback under the strain of being the go to person for all the companies ailments. He was genius of sorts and Ross depended on him to keep the equipment up, and the turntable revolving.

As things fell into place on opening night directors Velasco and Gunderson and choreographer Velasco’s diligent work paid off.   Sean Fannings moveable sets created different locations, Jennifer Brawn Gittings changing period costumes were reworked over time, Blake McCarty’s historical background projections from Rosa Parks to the sendoff of troops to Vietnam, to Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower to Ray Croc’s opening his first McDonalds in San Diego, focused on the passing years while Matt Lescault –Wood’s sound design was music to my ears and Philippe Bergman’s lighting kept us on track.
Sky Frank, Kiara Geolina and Paul Chairez
The off stage 21 piece band conducted by Tamara Paige and performed by the students of SCPA musicians will suffice to any big time musical and some of the music performed on stage was a resounding thumbs up for the musicians, especially drummer Defarest Files

The show runs a bit over two hours. It, no doubt will be pared down and tightened. For now though  “Listen To The Good Vibrations” of a home grown, honest to goodness house where dreams came true for Stan and Dave and everyone who came in support. 

At the Rep on opening night Cher and Tina, The Beach Boys and Lola came together for one last time. It was one hell of a party.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Aug. 25th
Organization: San Diego Repertory Theatre
Phone: 619-544-1000
Production Type: Jukebox Musical
Where: 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
Ticket Prices: Start at $25.00-$72.00
Venue: Lyceum Stage
Photo: Jim Carmody 

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