With an enthusiastic cast singing and dancing to songs like “She Loves You,” “Twist and Shout,” “Hard Days Night,” and “Do You Love Me,” there was a lot of toe tapping taking place at the Golden Chain Theatre’s opening weekend of the feel-good musical “Shake.”
Written and directed by James Mierkey and Jennifer Piccolotti, the show is set at an all girl college in 1964, and features a cast of 28 and 23 classic songs from the same year.
Although young, 2015 Minarets High School graduate Lyric Piccolotti is already an experienced actress having playing roles in “Wold West Women,” “The Ladies of Tin Pan Alley,” “Godspell,” “Jack the Ripper,” “I Can’t Believe it Didn’t Win a Tony,” “Wonka the Musical,” and “The Wardrobe.”
In “Shake,” Piccolotti plays to perfection the role of the cool, leather-jacketed auto mechanic Johnny Liebowitz, and sings one of the most emotional songs in the show, “In A World Without Love,” by Peter and Gordon.
“I like the role of Johnny because he has a bit more emotional depth than the stereotypical bad boy character,” Piccolotti said. “These songs were popular before my time, but honestly I’ve always been a huge fan of music from that era and only really appreciate modern music on occasion. There is something charming in the old music.”
Fairly new to the GCT, this is Darla Dean’s third show, and second musical after appearing in “The Altos,” and “Fiddler on the Roof” last year.
Darla Dean plays Elmhurst’s mean and despicable Dean Rittenberg.
“What I love most about playing Dean is that I can be someone that is basically my polar opposite,” Dean said. “I find it so much fun playing a character that everyone loves to hate.”
Dean made a promise to her friend Amy Fouse-Schneider, who recently passed away, that she would audition and be on the stage at some point.
“Amy was a beautiful soul that made a huge impact at GCT and in our community,” Dean said. “Now I’m officially addicted and having the time of my life.”
With the majority of the cast under the age of 25, Dean, 34, said she absolutely loves being around the ‘kids.’
“There’s no way you can’t be happy when the moment you step in the door you are smothered with hugs,” Dean said. “I feel blessed to work with them ... they inspire me.”
Another young actress in the show is Amber Persson, who was impressive enough to be GCT’s 2014 co-lead actress of the year (with Tawni Jackson) for her impressive dramatic work as a young Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.” She plays goody-two-shoes Gertrude Liebowitz in “Shake.”
“Those two characters are very different - Helen Keller is a very strong character, and I had to be very physical in that role,” Persson said. “I like the role of Gertrude because it allows me to sing and dance. It’s different than anything else I have done before.”
Jennifer Moore, 21, plays the heartbroken Kathy, and her good friend and business partner Karen Urrutia plays foreign exchange student Andy De Andrade. Moore and Urrutia also choreographed the show, spending more than 100 hours in rehearsal with the cast.
“This is the first time that Jenn (Moore) and I are performing side by side in lead roles in a big show outside of our own creations,” Urrutia said. “’Shake’ has been an incredibly fun and challenging adventure for us both. James (Mierkey) and Jennifer (Piccolotti) made me feel so comfortable in this new territory and gave me the role of Andy, which I have absolutely fallen in love with.”
Urruita said in addition to all the singing and dancing, the story is heartwarming.
“Not only do you get to see an incredible musical, you get to see an original musical, written by local artists with an amazing live band,” Urruita said. “I believe that live music is a gift and a wonderful treat. A band playing some classic 60s songs, a great group of performers to dance along, and a new story - really, what could possibly be better?”
Urruita said her favorite number in the show is the mashup of Dave Clarks Five’s “Do You Love me,” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancin’ In the Street.”
“The whole cast is in it, the song is super fun, it’s got some great tricks and really cool choreography,” Urruita said. “It’s the point in the musical when everyone is celebrating so the whole mood is upbeat and I think everyone just has a great time dancing in that number.”
Susi Gordon was in the audience, and was all smiles after the opening night show.
“What a gifted theatrical cast ... The talent these kids and adults had was so entertaining ... great fun for all ages and never a dull moment,” Gordon said. “Such a talented cast, and you can feel their passion for entertaining. Great story, great dancing, and great singing. Watching this new musical made me realize I definitely need to come see more Golden Chain shows.”
“Shake” - Golden Chain Theatre - 42130 Highway 41 - 7 p.m. April 8, 9, 15, 16, and 2 p.m. April 10 and 17. General admission $15, seniors (55 and over) $12, students and active military $10, children (4 - 12) $8, under three free. Group rates available. Tickets and Details: goldenchaintheatre.org, (559) 683-7112.