If I were to guess the amount of musicals I’ve seen, both live action and animation combined… fifty sounds about right. Probably a bit more than the average person sees in a lifetime, especially if musical theatre isn’t their cup of tea. So when I heard about a writing duo who together had penned nearly that many in a mere eight years together, I was astonished. After asking me to be their Emcee, I was flattered. When they said “we’re doing it all in one night”, I was absolutely baffled. And despite the all of its circumstances and misfortunes, the show did, in fact, go on.
Michael Ricciardi and John D. Nugent, like any other productive tandem in show business, complimented each other well. Michael was the dialogue, John was the music. One relaxed, the other wound-up. A plan and a vision. Ambition alone would not get this show airborne though, much less land it soundly at the end of the night. They loaded the program with select scenes and songs from a handful of their favorite original works, plus a variety of filler, and I was essentially the ring-leader in between the numbers on stage. It got the point where Mike & John were booking a mixed bag of entertainment acts to round out the night with. Pretty standard fare, you know the drill: a magician, stand-up comedian, Mother Goose… even the Easter Bunny made an appearance. Let me tell you, the one-night-only Curtain Call Cabaret just about had it all.
Our venue was Big Jim’s Restaurant in Sun Valley, home to the finest Mexican cuisine north of the border. I would dare say every meal was flown in from the heartland each day. The restaurant had an attached bar (little did we know that karaoke on Sunday nights began at 9pm sharp, Easter being no exception), both of which connected with a larger, separate dining room and stage. Despite the less-than-inviting appearance of Sun Valley in general (heading too far north in the
San Gabriel Valley and it goes south quickly), the whole place was rather impressive; puzzling the venue had a virtually blank slate, indefinitely… so therein lies our angle.
Apparently our heroes coerced the restaurant owning couple into a small wager, as to whether or not we could pack the house for 5 and 7 o’ clock shows. This Dinner & A Show theatre type of production is kind of a dying medium, so we were literally taking an all-in approach for a type of show that had everything to gain from some clever innovation. And it turn… should both shows sell out… Mike & John got the stage like a blank check. Until the end of time. Oh, the excitement!
Casting and rehearsals gave us an ever-changing version of our production, as expected with any other less bonded theatric endeavor, so it was never really guaranteed who & what would appear on the final card that night. We had a strong core of acts and performers that kept a through line the entire way through though, without whom I’m not so certain the show would have even gone one. Truly an ensemble effort.
Long story short, our little “two hour show”, which started around 5:45 came to it’s thrillingly and moderately paced conclusion just shortly after the clock struck 10. Needless to say, the 7 o’ clock patrons shuffled in and took over as the 5’ers got tired, carried the weight for a while, then trickled out themselves. But a little kid ended up wining the big chocolate Easter Bunny at the end of the night, so all was right with the world.
So did we technically “sell out” both shows? Well, there wasn’t a second show, but the first one was packed to the brim, which ran late, completely over the following timeslot, so in my book we’re good to go. But my word isn’t final and I don’t really know if there ever was verdict decided; whether or not Mike & John have secured their musical theatre haven and can now unleash their wild collection of works unto the world is still unknown. If I ever hear back from them though, it’ll probably mean time for the sequel.