"Locals Only": The star-crossed surfer romance opens at SMC
There was a "buzz" around the theater as people got their tickets for the much anticipated preview, which James Martin, SMC Music Department Chair, introduced as, "Quite an experimental performance."
The musicians in the orchestra pit waited patiently for the audience to hush. Towards the back of the main stage were multimedia module screens displaying a scene of dusk over the choppy ocean with a very faint figure bobbing up and down, holding what looked like a fishing pole.
“There are over 30 departments from SMC that collaborated on this production,” explained Martin. Adding that, “Not every school can do this.”
The birth of "Locals Only" stemmed from a conversation that SMC President, Dr. Chui Tsang had one day with “High School Musical” executive director, Bill Borden. It just goes to show, it's all about who you know.
Borden in turn wrote the book and concept for the "Locals Only" theatre production. “It’s an interested foray for him from the world of film into the world of theatre and also a new thing for us to collaborate with someone from the film world,” said Perviz Sawoski, SMC Theatre Department Chair and Director.
More than 16 months of preproduction ultimately involved 11 distinct departments at SMC, according to Sawoski. The show is a multimedia project, due to the huge involvement with the film department. The digital design technology department created animation from art department murals. Credit for hair, make-up and costume concepts go to SMC's multi-talented cosmetology department. The business department contributed by creating marketing materials, and the computer science department created social media shells for spreading the word online. The photography and journalism departments combined efforts to create the informative lobby display at the Main Stage. And of course, the theatre, dance and music departments took care of the production, itself.
The lead character's father, Buzz Sr. opened the show with a matter of fact statement about who is accepted at their West Side beaches and who is not. "Ocean Park, Venice and Santa Monica are locals only, the valley surfers are considered outsiders," he says.
The show then continued with musical number that incorporated contemporary music with undertones of 1950's do-op songs. It is here that the audience first meets the show's lead vocalist and main character, Buzz Jr.
Buzz, played by SMC student Harrison Meloeny, is a beach bum born and raised in the Venice beach community, growing up with his mother and the ghost of his father.
Meloeny, a second year theatre and marketing student, was highly appreciative of the warm welcome he received from the SMC theater community. “Something that surprised me was how supportive the community is here. The whole environment is so positive,” Meloeny said.
You would never know by Meloeny's performance that he was hospitalized just two weeks before the opening night. “It had to do with dehydration and overworking myself,” Meloeny said. With over 20 musical acts in the 90 minute production, its no wonder why the young actor was pushed to exhaustion.
Come opening day, Meloeny sang with the professional gumption and talent of a long-seasoned performer. Behind him, the audience could vaguely notice the background dancers seamlessly changing the set into the next scene, turning the multimedia module screens above into three dimensional stage sets.
“There is a lot of interactive multimedia in this show,” Sawoski said, which is evident through the rapid set changes back and forth from the three dimensional sets to multimedia screens.
The screens hoisted above the stage showed a film of Venice local beach-goers created specifically for this production by the SMC film department. The screens at times also displayed graphics showing text messages to and from various characters. Namely from the character Ariel, the “Valley Girl”, played by Autumn Powers, who is Buzz’s love interest.
Buzz’s female surf buddy "Jazmin" is played by Nellie Veitenheimer, a previous character on “The Glee Project,” exemplified her very soulful, tender voice in her solo.
From scene to scene the production pokes fun at various stereotypical Southern California characters, such as the Venice boardwalk Rastafarians, roller-skaters and muscle heads, and the preppy country club suburban housewives from the valley and their spoiled children.
The closing number "One with the wave" brings both the locals from the west side and the newcomers from the valley together through the “wave".