After a five-year break, Peggy Christianson is back at the helm of the Cambria “Follies,” and she returns with cutting-edge technology to fuel the show. She wrote “Vacation: The Musical,” a song- and dance-filled musical comedy about three different groups of Cambrians who leave town for much-anticipated holidays and return, happy to be home.
Christianson was inspired for both the idea and the technology on a vacation cruise of her own. In a show on the ship, the entertainers were backed by an LED video display.
“It was a visual show behind the live show,” she said, seeing it as a way to creatively change sets and backgrounds fast, without the usual timeouts to close curtains and change sets.
When she got home, she went to check it out at a trade show in Las Vegas and eventually rented the equipment in Los Angeles.
With this technology as background to scenes, props can be quickly rolled on and off stage.
“It’s a new element, a new way to present,” she explained.
When her Follies actors are in scenes in the Caribbean, they have a tropical background of palm trees and exotic flowers (shot at Avila).
When they travel down a road in hand built Smart Cars, the scenery of Highway 1 flows along behind them as though they are moving. When dancers perform “Singing in the Rain,” it rains.
The central characters include a Cambrian couple who go on a cruise to escape their adult children’s demands. They are played by Al Curtice and Kathryn Taylor. Caesar Viveros and Alex Zaragosa play an engaged couple who go to Vegas to win money for their wedding. Three women who head for the warm Caribbean are played by Renee Linn, Carla Newman and Susan Hay.
An ensemble of singers and dancers keeps things moving with an array of songs set to familiar tunes, but with new words.
“Many songs are adapted to tell the story we’re telling,” Christianson explained.
For example, “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” becomes “Every Day We Just Get Phoned,” for the cruising couple. “My Guy” is “Mai Tai,” for a Caribbean vacationer who drinks too much. “Footloose” is sung at the airport conveyer belt, where shoes must be removed. Ed Steele is the TSA agent. Many other songs are woven throughout the show.
Christianson said the songs were not only altered to suit the scenes, but were also edited down. “I like things to move.”
“Country Roads” features Smart Cars built by Jay Burbank and driven “Fred Flintstone style,” the director said. “Singin’ in the Rain” is a tap number, with yellow slicker-clad dancers Luann Kelley, Tiffany Stephens, Yvonne Kantor and Lucy Moreno. Stephen Gryte dances the Gene Kelly role.
Lois Scott made the colorful umbrellas for the ensemble. Christianson said cast members have gone through dozens of store-bought practice umbrellas while rehearsing.
The cast, which ranges in age from 12 to the 70s, includes high school and middle school performers, as well as many singers and dancers who will be familiar to previous “Follies” audiences.
Lucy Moreno will appear as a “special surprise guest” in a Vegas scene.
Lani and Joe Zaragosa are back to facilitate lighting and the video.
Christianson said the show has taken a year of planning.
There were pre-rehearsals of some songs and dances, and rehearsals for the whole show are held five nights a week for six weeks just before opening. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, she said.
“We do it for the laughs. We have a good time — it’s like a kid play-acting.”
The Cambria Follies
The Cambria Follies returns with five evening shows at the Cambria Veterans’ Hall, 1000 Main St. Shows are all scheduled for 7 p.m. on five consecutive evenings: Aug. 28, 29, 30, 31 and Sept. 1. Tickets are priced at $15 for general admission, with reserved seating available for $20 or $30. Tickets are available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce.