Arts & Culture


From left, Mike Miller as Roy Orbison, Cayce Clayton as Elvis Presley and Mike Kee as Johnny Cash in ‘The Best of the Original Legends Series.’
From left, Mike Miller as Roy Orbison, Cayce Clayton as Elvis Presley and Mike Kee as Johnny Cash in ‘The Best of the Original Legends Series.’ PHOTO BY SANDRA CORTEZ

‘The Best of the Original Legends Series” is a nonstop song-and-dance revue. If you saw some or most of the “Legends” series at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre in past years and thought, “been there, done that,” think again.

On the big stage at the Clark Center, with a terrific nine-piece band onstage and a fine ensemble of dancers, this is an all-new show.

Some of the original performers are back. Roy Henry pays tribute to Nat King Cole and Ray Charles again, and Mike Kee reprises Johnny Cash and sings Frank Sinatra songs. Cayce Clayton has returned from New York to play Elvis again. Mike Miller is in this one, in excellent voice with Roy Orbison songs. Renee Rettler-Geremia sings Patsy Cline, and newcomer Kelly Barrett, a Nipomo High School freshman, is a happy surprise in the Judy Garland numbers. Anna Romero and Duskie Kee do backup vocals and some narration, along with Bill Kirkpatrick.

The dancing kicks this show up a notch from the originals. Suzy Miller choreographs some of the fine dancers she has developed through past shows, adding a dynamic dimension to the songs.

Another big theater advantage is the use of film stills to recall the lives, loves and losses of some of the legends. These nostalgic images remind us of Orbison’s tragedies, Sinatra’s marriages and how beautiful the young Judy Garland was.

The Legends series was written and produced by Mary Meserve-Miller, and she created this new show as a benefit for theater students at Nipomo High School, who have been selected to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August. Nominated by PCPA, Nipomo is one of 100 schools, out of 3,000 nominated, chosen to attend.

Robin Metchik, executive producer of this show, is head of the Nipomo drama department. Meserve-Miller co-directs this Legends production with Bill McLaughlin. It is hoped that enough money will be raised to allow the students to travel.

There are 33 songs in the show, most accompanied by either dancers or film images. All of the voices are strong, and each performer reflects the essence of his or her character. Kee’s transformation from Sinatra-like numbers to inhabiting Johnny Cash— playing guitar — is great fun, and Miller is able to capture the unique vocal gyrations of Orbison. Rettler-Geremia puts emotion into Patsy Cline songs, and Clayton has Elvis’ moves down. The band and the dancers go easily from ballads to rock to country.

Some of the best dance numbers are a terrific tap for Ray Charles’ “Mess Around,” and a rousing “Jail House Rock” with Elvis (Clayton). Kelly Barrett goes from the young Judy in “Over the Rainbow,” to the torchy Garland as she dances and sings “The Man Who Got Away.” Clayton and Barrett also dance in the ensemble with Randy Hose, Gailyn Wensloff, Lisa Spencer, Madi Murphy-Sinclair, Cody Pettit, Travis Nefores, Holly Patterson, and Elihja Lechuga.

Molly McKiernan is dance captain and co-choreographer. The costumes, carefully tailored to each piece, are by Mary Barrett.

The versatile band, with its big sound, is essential to the professional feel of the production. Members are Dan Murry, David Feldman, George Pandis, Robert Alberts, Bob Osborn, Kent Anderson, Josh Feldman, Travis Harms and Rob Carter.

The production takes advantage of the technical possibilities at the Clark Center, with excellent sound and some great lighting effects.