REVIEW: Mill Town Players’ “California Dreamin” is Instant Classic

Photo by ESCOBAR PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

On a winter’s day, I stopped into a historic auditorium and I pretend to pray. Because miracles need not apply to the Mill Town Players’ new instant classic hit show built around Malibu sunshine and California culture of the 1960s: “California Dreamin’.”

In this latest creation by Mill Town resident duo – Director and Choreographer Kimberlee Ferreira and Music Director Joshua C. Morton, “California Dreamin’ ” is a hip, and craftily covered slice of California music with a top-notch group of newcomers and fresh faces in Pelzer.

The live band is awesome, the sunburst set (Kim Granner) is West Coast perfection and beautifully-light in sunny orange and yellow hues by John King and the sound quality is top-notch.

And credit them for their set list that doesn’t strive to be comprehensive, but limited to a handful of artists and a very short time period in American music.

Folks, this show is fresh and well-done. The dancing and movement is spot-on, crisp and playful and fluid. Ms. Ferreira is an experienced storyteller whether she’s working with a Beach Boys medley or my personal favorite segment, the Mamas and Papas, a grossly neglected group with hits like “Monday, Monday,” “I Saw Her Again Last Night, and of course, the show’s titular song, with the lovely harmonies supplied by the ladies in the ensemble, Meris Privette (last seen as the star of “Bye, Bye Birdie”) and Bailey Tyler (star of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at the Market Theatre Company).

And for Ferreira’s secret weapon, she unleashed featured dancer Kaylyn Herd, who even has a solo number and embellishes the show with colorful moves in army fatigues in a nod to the armed forces in Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” as Gidget in “Surfin’ Safari,” and, of course, in mod attire and go-go boots.

This synergized ensemble takes us on a  journey of the tumultuous period from the lighter stuff  like the adorable Monkees portion with Mitchell Smith, Mark Spung-Wiles (who also takes on John Fogerty in a Credence Clearwater Revival medley), Christopher Sloan and Brian reeder, to the Rickenbacker sounds of The Byrds and the protest songs from “Hair!”

Sloan shows his stuff leads in songs like “California Dreamin’ ” and even blows his trumpet on a couple of tunes.

Reeder makes his Mill Town Players debut with “California Dreamin’.” Better known  character actor in comedies and musicals (“Sister Act” at Centre Stage), he is a performer who never disappoints. And his range of voices serves him well in vivacious and entertaining covers like “War What Is It Good For?”

And the Mill Town band includes some familiar talents names: the great Russ Chapman on bass, Trent Gilbert lead guitar, Robert Johnson on drums, Timothy J. Lee on dual guitar work, Christopher Sloan on brass and Mckelvie Wilder at the keyboards.

Donna Norman is Stage Manager for this production and the period costumes are by Katie Halstensgard.

“California Dreamin’ ” continues through Feb. 11. Shows are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Pelzer Auditorium, 214 Lebby St. in Pelzer. Call (864) 947-8000 or visit http://www.milltownplayers.org.

 

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