The Musical Theatre Students applause their director Scott Farthing and pianist Catherine Tibbitts (Colin Reef/Lariat)
The Saddleback College musical theatre students, led by director Scott Farthing and pianist Catherine Tibbitts, took the stage Wednesday night in the McKinney Theatre. The performance consisted of twenty-two different musical theatre students performing pieces from “And Music by Richard Rodgers”.
“There is this notion that most people go to the theatre to be entertained rather than be prompted to think or ponder their thoughts,” Farthing said. “Richard Rodgers and his body of work challenges those beliefs because his pieces mirror cultural and societal issues in the real world. In turn, you’re forced to think which is beautiful.”
Each student was required to pick one song and perform that song in it’s entirety. They were told to pick a song, study its themes, and perform that song not just vocally but with a distinct characterization in mind.
“I wanted each student to not only memorize their song choice, but really dive into the character they were representing,” Farthing said. “In doing so, they would not only entertain the audience but prompt them into listening, really listening.”
Richard Charles Rodgers is an American music composer of more than 900 songs and for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for major motion pictures and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. His compositions have had a significant cultural and societal impact on music up to the present day, and has an enduring appeal over the decades.
Richard Rodgers is one of two people to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy award for movies, recording, television and Broadway. He has also won a pulitzer prize for his composition of “Oklahoma”.
The first piece in the show is meant to intrigue the audience and catch their attention. It describes how a performer views the audience and the many different types of audiences that exist.
“A big black giant who looks and listens/ With thousands of eyes and ears/ A big black mass of love and pity/ And troubles and hopes and fears… One night it’s a laughing giant/ Another night a weeping giant/ One night it’s a coughing giant/ Another night a sleeping giant,” The Big Black Giant from Me and Juliet composed by Oscar Hammerstein and performed by Zach Andrus.
The Big Black Giant is best characterized as the mass of people that make up a listening audience. They are the watching eyes that articulate every subtle gesture by the performer. They are the coughing mouths voluntarily or involuntarily interrupting a performance. They are the bored bodies longing for a moment to regain excitement. This song was likely chosen so as to make us, the audience, think and be entertained all at once.
Brandon Rashtian performs “Younger than Springtime” from South Pacific composed by Oscar Hammerstein II (Colin Reef/Lariat)
The eighth performance of the night was performed by Brandon Rashtian. His song describes the plights of war and finding true love in the process. The song shows that love just happens and does not follow the rules of racial separation prevalent in the United States at that time.
“I chose this piece because it describes love so passionately,” Rashtian said. “The lyrics describe an American man in the middle of a war and how he falls in love with an Asian woman. Even in war, love can be found in the most unfamiliar places.”
“Younger than springtime, are you/ Softer than starlight, are you/ Warmer than winds of June/ Are the gentle lips you gave me/ Gayer than laughter, are you/ Sweeter than music, are you/ Angel and lover, heaven and earth/ Are you to me,” Younger Than Springtime from South Pacific composed by Oscar Hammerstein II and performed by Brandon Rashtian.
Rachel Blugrind performs “I Can’t Say No” from A Connecticut Yankee composed by Lorenz Hart (Colin Reef/ Lariat)
The ninth performance of the evening was performed by Rachel Blugrind.
In the song, the protagonist describes her sexual awakening and the conflicts that it brings. She describes to her friend the attention she is now receiving from men “since she filled out” and her inability to say “no” to their advances.
“When a person tries to kiss a girl/ I know she orta give his face a smack/ But as soon as someone kisses me/ I somehow, sorta, wanta kiss him back!” I Can’t Say No from Oklahoma composed by Lorenz Hart and performed by Rachel Blugrind.
The character singing the song has a deep admiration for the company of men, very deep. She is explaining to one of her friends that even though she knows she is supposed to show restraint around men, she can’t because the man she is suppose to marry is away. It is clear in the song that she views herself as someone who isn’t used to indulging in carnal pleasures such as the one she is thinking about.
The rest of the pieces performed focused around the hardships of the 1920s through the 1960s. It hints at what life was like in that era and how song can translate it.
The musical theatre students will be performing another show towards the end of December. The Saddleback College Choirs and Symphony will present A Feast of Lights, which has been a holiday tradition for over 25 years. Perhaps one of the oldest traditions at Saddleback College, this year’s program will highlight both old and new holiday favorites for chorus and orchestra. Get the holiday season started off with this sparkling concert for all ages.