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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 3 months ago

'Light My Fire' lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy

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Florida Studio Theatre's '60s flashback a mellow musical memory tour
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

Remember the fabulous ’60s? If so, you didn’t party hard enough. “Light my Fire” strives to get the party started at FST. Sex, drugs and rock ’n' roll is the name of the tune.

Rebecca and Richard Hopkins developed this revue; Jim Prosser arranged it. The music spans from the Summer of Love right up to the Bummer of the 1970s. We’re talking the usual K-Tel suspects: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beatles, and more! Yes, the songs that defined a generation. Order now while supplies last!

Seth Eliser has the voice and musicianship to do justice to the wide variety of music the decade produced. (Photo: Matthew Holler)

So, how can you fully explore a musical revolution in a 90-minute revue? The answer is, you can’t. You have to find some angle — protest music, singer-songwriters, whatever. The show’s creators have covered all those bases. This time around, they just want to party.

A powerhouse band brings the good-time music to life. Vocalist Alayna Gallo and guitarists/vocalists Seth Eliser and Dale Obermark get the spotlight and chat up the audience. They’re all great musicians. Drummer Marcus James and keyboardist Jim Prosser also have serious musical chops, but they stay in the background with a minimum of patter.

The tunes are roughly chronological. But it’s more about mood and memory.

Dale Obermark does justice to the singer-songwriters of the '60s. (Photo: Matthew Holler)

The revue opens with a cocktail of Kinks, Stones and Steppenwolf. After a snarky nod to the fab ’50s, it dives into surf music, then fires up a Bic lighter for The Beatles and the British Invasion. After that, a bit of happy-happy pop stuff, (The Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”), not quite bubblegum, but sweet enough.

Then, the counterculture dawns like rolling thunder. Bob Dylan points out that, “The Times They Are A-Changing.’’ Inevitably, this leads to The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” (Like, the more things change, the more they stay the same, dig?)

The second act gives short shrift to Hendrix’ take on “The Star Spangled Banner,” then kicks into a lovey-dovey interlude (Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” and Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart”). Sex naturally segues to drugs. The stoner segment lights up with Hendrix’ “Purple Haze,” Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, and the Fab Four’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Next up, there’s a nod to women’s lib (Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”) and the struggle for Black civil rights (Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”). The revue closes with Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train,” Dylan’s “Forever Young” and The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.” On that optimistic note, the music stops. No hints of stagflation, Jimmy Carter and the oil crisis to come. The future still looks bright! Ah, what fools we were …

Alayna Gallo is a singer n the Janis Joplin/ Tina Turner, mold, and she does a pretty good Cher impression. (Photo: Matthew Holler)

Gallo is a charismatic, full-throttle performer, with a bluesy voice on the Joplin-Turner wavelength. She grooves to the music, and does a hilarious imitation of Cher and a soulful approximation of Janis. (Straight-up imitations, beyond homage.) Eliser and Obermark are both guitar heroes, and they can sing, too. They’re also not-too-shabby on the obligatory comic banter.

Prosser is a fine arranger with a fierce assignment. Stuffing 45 songs into 90 minutes isn’t easy, and a few of his cuts are Procrustean. But the revue has a beautiful flow as a whole.

Susan Angermann’s costumes combine period accuracy with a sly, smart wit. Her winks at Cher and Dylan’s fashion choices are a hoot. Gallo’s eye-popping jumpsuit is like a Pop Art painting come to life.

Catherine Randazzo’s direction and Darren Server’s musical direction all honor the show’s good-time spirit. Good times!

And that’s what it’s all about, man.

This musical mystery tour never strays from the party road. It’s a lot like riding on a tour bus through Haight-Ashbury in 1967. “Through our windows to your left, you’ll see a stoner in full hippy plumage.” Expect a few fun facts, but nothing too deep.

Simply put, this show is a hit parade. Big names, Top-40 tunes. You’ll hear Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” but not their “Snowblind Friend.” Talents like Nick Drake or Spirit who didn’t climb the charts don’t make it either.

Fun and nostalgia are the Alpha and Omega of this crowd-pleasing, hand-clapping musical time trip. If you’re looking for a good time, get on board.

If you’re looking for a deep dive into a decade of musical revolution, Ken Burns has an excellent documentary series.

 

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