The Golden Chain Theatre’s first offering of the 2016 season, opening Friday, is an original musical written and directed by James Mierky and Jennifer Piccolotti - “Shake” featuring a cast of 28 and 23 classic songs from 1964.
Mierky and Piccolotti have been looking forward to writing their second original musical, and the word from rehearsals is “Shake” is another must see GCT production.
Set on an all girls school campus (Elmhurst College), “Shake” follows the journey of the students and faculty as well as a group of boys who, understandably, like to spend as much time as possible on the campus.
When the school’s board of trustees hire a new dean of students, played by Darla Dean, who wants to discontinue the school’s arts department, it is up to the student body and their friends to find a way to save the program.
“I love playing the person people love to hate,” Dean said.
The situation is further shaken up with the arrival of a Brazilian foreign exchange student Andy, played by Karen Urrutia, who helps others see things from a new perspective.
Songs from 1964 that will be performed by the young and energetic cast include “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay and the Americans, “She Loves You” and “Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and The Pacemakers, “Wishin and Hopin” by Dusty Springfield, “Dancin in the Streets” by Martha and the Vandellas, and “You Don’t Own Me” by Leslie Gore.
The band that plays all the songs in the show is made up of Mierky, Piccolotti, Bill Samuelson, George Rich, and David Quinday.
The creative process
Piccolotti said the vision for the musical started from her and Mierky’s love for the music from that era - especially the Beatles.
“In researching music of the early 60s, we came across Billboard’s top 100 from 1964 and discovered that particular year was full of very well known hit after hit that would be great to write a show around,” Mierky said.
The creative process started with the music.
“Much of our inspiration for writing the story was taken from the live action Disney movies of our youth. Tommy Kirk, Annette Funicello, Kurt Russell, Frankie Avalon - those movies that made us feel good as kids,” Mierky added.
“The idea developed with James and I, but when it came time to write, it was a true collaboration of the two of us, my daughter Lyric (Piccolotti), and Melinda and George Rich,” Jennifer said. “The music had to come from 1964, be recognizable, evoke a strong emotion, and be able to fit in the storyline.”
Although they like all the songs in the show, Jennifer said her favorite song is “A World Without Love” by Peter and Gordon.
“It’s a powerful ballad in an emotionally pivotal part of the show,” Piccolotti said.
Mierky likes the show’s theme song “Shake” by Sam Cooke.
“Although it is not as well known, it inspired the title and I’m a big Sam Cooke fan,” Mierky said. “Honestly, all the songs are great. It’s hard to choose just one. We do a mashup of “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” and “Saw Her Standing There” that’s another favorite of mine.
The majority of the cast was not even born in the 60s, but they quickly picked up on the classics.
“Exposing these kids to this music has truly created some new fans for classic bands such as the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, the Temptations and the Supremes,” Mierky said.
The Mierky-Piccolotti team were the creators of “The Ladies of Tin Pan Alley,” the successful musical GCT produced in 2014.
Urrutia, along with Jennifer Moore, who plays Kathy, also serve as choreographers for the show.
“I have been dancing since I was three and Jennifer and I have been creating choreography for shows for people of all ages,” Urrutia said. “What’s been special is this is the first time that Jenn and I are performing side-by-side in lead roles in a big show.”
Along with Urrutia and Moore, cast members include Erik Sotelo (Steve), Lyric Piccolotti (Johnny), JR Romero (Smitty), Amber Persson (Ginger), and Alli Ruiz (Margie).
Sotelo, a 2009 graduate of Yosemite High School where he was an outstanding wrestler, is stepping on stage for the first time in his life to play Steve in the production.
“Erik is brand new to the stage and is wonderfully natural and engaging,” Jennifer Piccolotti said. “He plays the role of Steve and we are so happy he has decided to come join us.”
Jennifer Piccolotti feels “Shake” combines what people love most about musicals.
“Iconic, memorable music that will take many back to their youth, and a story that makes people feel good and inspires them,” Mierkey said. “This show is full of a cast of young, energetic actors that are exciting to watch, and ‘Shake’ will make a great night out for your family.”
“Shake” Opens April 1 and closes April 17. Shows are 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday (doors open 6 p.m.) - 2 p.m. Sunday matinees (doors open 1 p.m.). Tickets available online at goldenchaintheatre.org, (559) 683-7112 Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., or at the door the day of the show.
Musical numbers in “Shake” and who originally performed them:
* “Yesterday” by the Beatles
* “Elmhurst Hymn” (written by James Mierkey)
* “Shake” by Sam Cooke
* “Where Did Our Love Go” by Diana Ross and the Supremes
* “Come a little bit closer” by Jand the Americans
* “Money” by the Kingsmen
* “Can’t you see that shes mine” by the Beatles
* “Saw her standing there” by the beatles
* “She loves you” by the Beatles
* “You don’t own me” by Leslie Gore
* “Girl from Impanema” by Astrud Gilberto
* “Don’t let the sun catch you crying” by Gerry and the Pacemakers
* “You really got me” by the Kinks
* “Twist and shout” by the Beatles
* “Hard days night” by the Beatles
* “Do you want to know a secret” by the Beatles
* “In a world with out love” by Peter and Gordon
* “The way you do the things you do” by the Temptations
* “Wishin and hopin dusty” by Springfield
* “Bread and butter” by Newbeats
* “I get around” by the Beach Boys
* “Dancin in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas
* “Do you love me” by Dave Clark five
* “Baby I need your lovin’” by the Four Tops
* “Shake” reprise