When I was a child, my mother would take us on all manner of adventures to broaden our horizons — like going to spend a weekend at a friend’s cabin in the San Gabriel Mountains in a small town.
What did we do there beside hike? We attended a play put on by the local acting group! We did that in many small towns on our vacations, actually. I loved them!
While Cambria has had it’s own Little Theater groups (one of which I belonged to), stellar drama performances at Coast Union High School and the Pewter Plough performing professionally written productions, another Cambria entertainment tradition is truly unique — The Cambria Follies. Since the 1970s, it has showcased local talent in variety shows or themed musicals, all original to our small village.
This year, the tradition continues (and it really has been a tradition for many attendees) with “Shakedown in Slabtown” (one of Cambria’s old monikers). I’d had the pleasure of meeting Randy Schwalbe a number of years ago while working on the high school productions. As he was no longer doing the school plays, he was asked by Mike Broadhurst of the Lions Club, to direct and Schwalbe happily accepted.
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A retired industrial engineer from Boeing Satellites, Schwalbe has a BA in Music Education (he conducted the orchestra for the Coast Union musicals) and an MBA as well. He wrote this year’s Follies “Shakedown in Slabtown” with input from the cast.
I asked him what the most fun thing about the production was: “The combination of the script and the cast. When the cast members laugh at bits on stage after repeated hearings at rehearsals, you know you have good material. And I love my cast. They are fearless.
“Another fun aspect of this show is inviting the cast members to create, not only their character, but adding to or altering the script to make something even funnier or more outrageous is welcome. However, I am arbiter when something crosses the line. So my script was the starting point, but thanks to input, particularly from Renee Linn, the script has matured to its present rendition. Unfortunately, I cannot publish it because it contains too many local and dated references.”
Managing 17 actors, five tech crew members, an orchestra and all the Lions Club volunteers that help produce the Follies, I figured there had to be some challenges. “The most challenging aspect of this assignment as director of the Follies was finding appropriate and entertaining material. I perused many scripts (a majority of them melodramas), but nothing seemed to work or would have needed major rewrites.
“So I decided to go it alone, and write my own show, completing it in the space of two weeks this past January. Not only did I feel the material I created was appropriate and fun, but it saved on the cost of royalties. You’re welcome, Mike. The Shakedown in Slabtown is a musical comedy about the eminent doom of our charming little village of Cambria.
“The story is about good vs. evil — an evil construction company attempting to urbanize the Cambria Village with freeways and an environmental justice team attempting to stop this plan. There is adventure, intrigue, historical references, plot twists and even romance are all interwoven in the story line. And this show features popular songs accompanied by a live orchestra led by Jeff Mar and dazzling dance routines choreographed by Shirley Kirkes-Mar.”
Seeing your neighbors and friends, business owners, etc., is such a hoot! Do yourself a favor and get your tickets now as it always sells out. Experience a truly “Cambrian” activity!