Sunday, August 18, 2013

Saturday Night.....all alone

Recently on the Las Vegas strip, a cast of passionate and talented performers transformed the third floor stage of the Hard Rock Cafe into 1928 Brooklyn, for an afternoon performance of Stephen Sondheim's musical, Saturday Night.

This is one of my favorite types of productions, where performers who don't work together on a regular basis team up to stage a one time show. It can either turn out to be a grand slam or a bunt, but that's what makes it fun. Here in Las Vegas, where most of our mainstays are amazing and big budget shows who are on a multi year run with mostly the same cast, collaborations like this is are an occasional breath of fresh air.

In Saturday Night, it's 1928, in Brooklyn, New York.....A time of prohibition and the "boom" just before the Great Depression. Several bachelor friends are restless on Saturday night because they have no dates. Gene, who works in a menial position in a wall street brokerage, has dreams of the exciting society life to be found in Manhattan, while his friends are content to stay in the neighborhood. Gene meets Helen who is crashing a party (as is Gene) and he schemes to "get rich quick"  and escape the humdrum of Brooklyn into the Manhattan society scene. However his plan backfires and he barely escapes jail.....

Ayler Evan (Gene).....Amanda Kaiser (Helen)

The Bridge is my rainbow,
The Bridge is my friend
And it's got a pot of gold at the other end.

(Lyrics from "Class)

The young guys in Saturday Night represent the unskilled and casual workers who lived at or just below the poverty line but within eyesight of the wealthy. This was especially true in a town like Brooklyn where one could smell the prosperity of the richest city in the world just beyond their front porch. However as most of us have learned, wanting something and knowing how to get it are two different things. (After all, we didn't even recognize basic civil rights yet in America.)  

In 1928 the U.S. had recently started putting quotas on immigration. Mass automobile production was making everything more accessible to the average American, and Wall street was in a boom market. This was also the height of prohibition, which internally corroded the country more than the legal sale of alcohol ever could putting the average American directly in contact with members of organized crime, to get their libations.

This was also the time of flappers, (think Clara Bow and the "It" girl). The 1920's represented a lot of change for women. They'd been given the right to vote.  Many had also dumped old restrictive habits and joined the men in speakeasies, jazz clubs, and the work force.  They gave up the corsets, smoked, drank and stayed out all night. Dances like the Black Bottom stomp were popular. The flappers scandalized many Americans.

There  was even an organization formed called the "Anti - flirt Association" which tried to persuade young Americans to behave "decently!"...Soon enough the crash of 29' changed most everyone's priorities in America from prosperity and pleasure to that of simply surviving.

Carnell Johnson, Olga Rios, Alex Olson
This production was staged using what is commonly referred to as Broadway Jazz which is an intimate hybrid of two American staples in performance...jazz cabaret and story telling. The intimacy of cabaret settings, the simplicity of storytelling, and the excitement of Broadway music and choreography are all melded into one.Broadway Jazz breaks all walls of performance. Performers seamlessly flow from traditional stand and deliver cabaret performance, to interconnected work with other performers, and even interaction with the audience. Music is stripped to it's core with a jazz trio adding a swing to the wonderfully arranged vocals.

Above paragraph Excerpt from the Playbill

Stephen Sondheim on writing "Saturday Night"....At the age of 22 I was a young and flawed professional, but not an amateur. I had worked on four musicals. There was a play called "Front Porch in Flatbush" that had never been produced. Written by two brothers (Epstein brothers) that were primarily screenwriters, and they had written this about their childhood.... I was asked to produce it as a musical.

Top row (left to right) - Alex Mendoza (Hank), Lance Bryant (Artie), Alex Olson (Bobby)
Middle (left to right) - Jen Baciagalupi (Celeste), Olga Rios (Florence), Margaret Menzies (Mildred)
Bottom row (left to right) - Daniel Hunter Jr. (Ray), Carnell Johnson (Dino), Herbert Thames (Ted)

Photographer (this and all photos)....Shamish Gamage

Not pictured in this blog;Gus Langley - Pinhead,Tim Molyneux - Nightclub Singer, Brian Scott - Narrator

The cast was comprised of mostly Las Vegas theater professionals who volunteered their time for a good cause....a fundraiser for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America,

Saturday Night

Las Vegas
Hard Rock Cafe
August 11, 2013

Andrew Wright......Director
Alec Ryan Bart......Musical Director
Callie Johnson......Choreographer
Taylor Coull...........Stage Manager


Brian Scott.................Narrator
Ayler Evan.................Gene
Amanda Kaiser..........Helen
Carnell Johnson.........Dino
Lance Bryant..............Artie
Daniel Hunter Jr.........Ray
Herbert Thames.........Ted
Jen Baciagalupi..........Celeste
Alex Mendoza.............Hank
Alex Olson..................Bobby
Margaret Menzies.......Mildred
Olga Rios...................Florence
Gus Langley...............Pinhead
Tim Molyneux............Nightclub Singer


Alec Ryan Bart...........Piano
John Kuhlman............Bass
Matt Murphy...............Drums

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Julies J. Epstein & Phillip G. Epstein

"Saturday Night".....Cast Photo

Special thanks to...

Caitlin Shea
Las Vegas Little Theatre
Hard Rock Cafe Staff and Crew
Cheryl Reuttiger and the Ruby Foundation
Angela Chan
Cirque du Soleil

For more information on the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America 
please visit our website at

Some of the above is a source from

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