Theater Group at SBCC to entertain its first live audience since March 2020
Katie Laris has reason to celebrate.
After all, she and the rest of The Theatre Group at SBCC will hear laughter, see a big room full of smiles and enjoy enthusiastic applause.
Tonight — drum roll, please — their live audience is back.
“There’s no way to describe how incredible it is, to be a performer with a live audience,” said Ms. Laris, director of “Here We Go Again! A Musical Revue.” It’s the first Theatre Group at SBCC production with a live audience since the pandemic interrupted the troupe’s performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in March 2020.
Tonight, it’s a different story as the theater group celebrates its 75th anniversary and the state’s reopening with a varied revue of Broadway song-and-dance numbers at the Garvin Theatre at Santa Barbara City College’s west campus. Curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
The troupe adapted the pandemic with filmed productions of an earlier musical revue and a radio play adaptation of “The Thin Man,” but in both cases, the performers stood on a stage and looked out at empty seats. That changes tonight, and that means everything to Ms. Laris.
“It’s because you’re sharing the same moment in time. It means every single member of the audience impacts the experience, as does every single member of the cast and every single member of the crew,” Ms. Laris told the News-Press this week.
No two performances are the same, she noted. “If an audience comes in and they’re in a good mood, that affects the performance. If that’s not the case, that affects the performance.”
Musical direction for the show is by David Potter, who accompanies the troupe on the piano alongside percussionist Steve Stockmal. Choreography is by Christina McCarthy.
There’s a fictional narrative that unites all the song-and-dance numbers by the 21 performers.
“We are framing ‘Here We Go Again!’ with the idea that there are two super fans of The Theater Group at SBCC who are having a trivia contest about The Theater Group at SBCC,” Ms. Laris said. “The fans are given the job of hosting a retrospective of the theater group’s 75th anniversary of productions in Santa Barbara.
“We have a bunch of numbers from both musicals the theater group has produced and musicals we want to produce,” Ms. Laris said. “It’s a great variety that really spans the decades from the 1930s up to the present.”
The show will begin with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and Stephen Sondheim’s classic song “Comedy Tonight,” Ms. Laris said.
“I love that song. It’s clever. It’s emotionally engaging, has a happy ending and is heartwarming,” she said.
From there, the troupe will perform songs from musicals such as “The Addams Family,” “Grease” and “The Little Shop of Horrors.” At one point, the troupe will step into “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.”
“We are minimizing our costumes, but everybody looks great, and they bring different elements to different songs,” Ms. Laris said. “Mostly, there’s a focus on the stories these songs provide.
“One of the wonderful things about a musical theater song is it takes us on a story, on a journey. The song that comes from a musical tends to reflect a character’s emotional transformation, a character’s discovery of something they didn’t realize before they started singing.”