From the kids to the pros, this Carmen cast is stellar

jtarica@thetribunenews.comOctober 12, 2013 

I’m not a theater person by any stretch of the imagination. But drama does run in the family a bit, and not just the off-stage kind.

So hanging out at the Performing Arts Center last week watching the final rehearsals for this weekend’s production of “Carmen” was a familiar experience — to the point of déjà vu. Little Miss Eighth-Grader is singing in the opera as a member of the Central Coast Children’s Choir, playing one of the scruffy street urchins. Thirtysomething years ago, I played the same role in the same opera, as a kid tagging along with parents and a stepmother who were big into music and theater.

We didn’t play a major role and only had a couple parts where we sang with the chorus and made mischief onstage. That left lots of time to run around behind the scenes, goofing around in the dressing rooms and watching the action from the wings — all of which was probably more of a highlight than the actual performing. So I wasn’t a star or ever a serious theater enthusiast.

But this group of kids — and this production — is a whole different story. They’re more talented and focused than I ever was.

Even before she got involved in choir, Miss Eighth-Grader showed a real vocal flair. She’s got legitimate skills, though I can still out-wail her on our Playstation karaoke game, where my accomplishments are legendary. I rock Bon Jovi like nobody’s business. And don’t even think about challenging me on Madonna or Cyndi Lauper. No kidding.

But that’s with a lot of background music and vocals. Put us head to head a cappella, and she would destroy me, which is why I don’t sing anywhere outside our living room. But she does, and it’s a thrill to watch her continue to hone her talents.

Back in the dressing room in the final preparations for opening night, Miss Eighth-Grader and the other kids are the portrait of professionalism. Where I might have scampered off to the empty pavilion to slide around in my socks on the wood floor, these kids spend their time between scenes hitting the books. They are quiet, attentive and well-behaved, even on a Thursday night that requires more than five hours at the PAC reaching to nearly 11 p.m. on a school night.

Such are the demands of the theater on dress-rehearsal day. Out on stage, they belt out their songs and act with gusto, representing the Children’s Choir well in a production that unites five major community performing groups, leading with Opera San Luis Obispo and including the Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo, the Cuesta College Concert Choir and the San Luis Obispo Symphony.

It’s an impressive feat, and how the organizers have brought so many varied performers together so seamlessly in such short order is a testament to the extensive talent this county is blessed with.

The show opened on Saturday night and finishes with a matinee at 2 p.m. today. If you’re an opera buff, a choir fan, a ballet enthusiast, a lover of the symphony or “Carmen” diehard who just wants to hear Georges Bizet’s classic performed in the original French, come check out this show.

For information on tickets, visit


Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at or on Twitter @joetarica. Stay updated by adding Joe Tarica on Google+.

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