What: Opera by Ellen Warkentine and Andrew Pedroza, presented by The Garage Theatre
Where: Garage Theatre, 251 E. 7th. St., Long Beach
When: Thursdays, Fridays at Saturdays at 8 p.m. through Oct. 29
Tickets: $18, $15 for students and seniors. Cash only at the door.
Information: (866) 811-4111,www.thegaragetheatre.org
By John Farrell
It started, so they tell us, with one song about one particular photograph of a car reclining on a keyboard.
If you've surfed the Internet you know that picture, or one like it. Funny pictures of cats (yes, and dogs, too) are a dime a dozen: a momentary laugh, downloaded from a phone or a camera and left there for ever.
Ellen Warkentine and Andrew Pedroza found one of those photographs, and wrote a song about it. Then they found another, and another, and finally they realized that they had more than just a few songs. They had the beginnings of an opera, and now, at the Garage Theatre through then end of this month “LOLPERA,” the result of years of collaboration, is joyously crowded into the Garage Theatre's very small theater for performances that are remarkable, theatrically and musically. You owe it to yourself (and any four-footed feline in your life) to see just how special it all is.
The Garage is a small theater, and just crowding the seven musicians into the place, with Warkentine of the keyboards and six other performers playing everything from violin to harp, is worth seeing. Add to that 16 performers, singing and acting through more than two hours of music, and an audience that fills both sides of the performance space, and you've got a crowd.
No matter. Director Jessica Variz manages to keep everything moving, with plenty of dance movements, plenty of colorful characters, all in a set that cost just $600 dollars and is filled with lots and lots of televisions and computer monitors (mostly, but not all defunct) assembled by set designer DiCapria, with projections of funny kitty photographs on two walls that not only advance the story photographically and comically (many are very funny indeed, even if the cats in question don't know it) but also contain the words of the text that is being sung: a kind of super super-title that should be distracting, but is actually just a small part of the wonderfully engaging performances from all the cast.
This is not “Cats,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on T. S. Elliot's poems, but an original story that tells about life, love, and the battle between Ceiling Cat (Steve Sornbutnark) who is pure white and watches over you all the time and Basement Cat, (Angel Correa) who is black of fur and of heart. Astro Cat (Michael Burdge) is playing his music as the other cats try to live their lives, commuting to work, loving and giving birth, all the time looking to find cheezburger.
Precious Cat (Sayaka Miyatani) and Dreamer Cat (Pedroza,) Happy Cat (Allie Nelson) and Serious Cat (Ashley Allen,) Gutter Cat (Dinah Steward) and LOLrus (Anthony Pedroza) all contribute to this feline extravaganza, which plays out to music which is intriguing and worth hearing more than once, mixing jazz idioms with classical references in a compelling score.
There is so much going on in this production: funny pictures, the story line which mixes fantasy with more than a little recognizable human reality, the exciting dance numbers, solo arias and a triumphal final number (sans Basement Cat, who has been given a fatal bath) that you may need to see it more than once. ”LOLPERA” is ambitious, exciting, hip and down-to-earth. Bring your own cheezburger.
John Farrell is a Long Beach opera critic.