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Music theater is a rewarding art form

A few weeks ago, I provided my personal email in this column. I encouraged readers to reach out to discuss upcoming cultural events happening in their community. I was more than thrilled that the same day the column hit the street, a local theater company took me up on the offer.

Today I’m proud to help amplify the good news that Okanogan Valley Orchestra and Chorus — known as OVOC — is presenting the popular and vocally challenging musical, “Into The Woods.”

The musical runs May 9-17 at the Omak Performing Arts Center. I’m kindly asking readers of this column to send me photos of a packed house.

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Why local theater matters.

Theater, particularly musical theater, is one of mankind’s most rewarding art forms. There is truly nothing else quite like it. The technicolor spectacle of golden age Hollywood musicals like Singing in The Rain are part of a tradition that continues today in Disney’s assembly line of beloved animated films.

As transcendent as film has been since Charlie Chaplin flickered onto the screen, recent blockbusters like Frozen and Disney’s live action version of “Into The Woods” (released in 2014), still fall a mile short of the magic of searching the eyes of a working actor. Watch a master thespian disappear under the lights and into his craft and tell me it ain’t cooler than Jiminy Cricket.

Walt Disney Pictures has literally thrown hundreds of millions of dollars and every trick in the book at trying to capture the mojo of experiencing a musical in real time.

Disney is coming ever closer, but the road to the Omak Performing Arts Center is much closer to home. Unlike digital streaming, the dollars you spend on Omak’s reprise of “Into The Woods,” will stay in your own arts community. The journey to becoming a patron of the arts, starts with buying a single ticket. As Dr. Hunter S. Thompson always said, “buy the ticket and take the ride.”

I can speak from experience that there is renewable source of energy when you leap on stage to act and sing in front of a live audience. It’s an energy that works on a loop that you share with an audience — only because there is an audience. It’s as real as Nicola Tesla’s coil and someday soon I believe scientists will be able to explain it. This energy hangs in the air waiting for anyone to claim it. The actors, the audience; everyone can potentially be swept up in it. But there is one trick. You have to be there. No special glasses are required, local theater is the world’s oldest version of 3D entertainment. It was ancient before Shakespeare got his hands on it. It’s an art as old as fire.

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Because you can’t experience this onyour phone.

Yes I know. In an age of streaming a million movies on your telephone, it’s easy to stay home and be cozy. But you’re missing out.

“Game of Thrones” is waiting for you any night of the week. But the actors and crew that traveled from all over your region only have 5 nights to share a fairy tale that will turn back into pumpkin when the last curtain closes on May 17th and the beautiful sets are no more. I promise you that a sold out theater is the fairy tale these actors are wishing and working for.

Last Friday, I spoke with Lisa Lindsay from Okanogan Valley Orchestra and Chorus about the production of Into The Woods, and the troupe chose to tackle Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 classic this season.

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1.  What has been the most difficult aspect of creating Into the Woods?

“Into the Woods” was composed by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics). He is a fan of tongue twisters, timing changes, key changes, tempo changes, etc. all in the middle of the song. The lyrics themselves are difficult in that they change as the play moves along. 

We may sing a particular “Into the Woods” chorus at the beginning, but the next time the lyrics are completely different. The cast has been plugging away at the music since January with some amazing musical and vocal directors. They have all been very positive, patient, and encouraging in helping us create the music. With one week until opening, it has been so rewarding to see all of our hard work come together to create a very thought-provoking tale.

2.  Why should people come see this production?

With the help of current television series such as “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time,” fairy tale stories still appear to be popular, no matter the age group or style of tale. Into the Woods is another such story in that it is a collection of our favorite fairy tales all intertwined together in one larger story. 

So much work has gone into creating this production, I believe the community would be missing out on not only a great story, but many great performances from around the valley. We have so many amazing actors and vocalists that are creating such a magical show.  Many of those performing are traveling from Chelan, Oroville, Nespelem — not all of them are from Omak. 

The dedication of the cast and production crew are evident in the performance coming alive on stage.  It’s so amazing to see what is present in our own backyards and the talent from this area never ceases to amaze me.

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Stay tuned to 100 Miles of Music:

This week over pho, I interviewed Billy Stoops, the gentleman behind the Sunbanks Music Fest over in Electric City on May 15-17. Mr. Stoops will be announcing acts through this column for the September edition of his bi-annual festival.

Next week, I’ll be publishing an interview with members of the internationally respected stunt kite team, Fortuna Kites. Fortuna is the crew that will be bringing their windless kites and workshops to the kids at the Conscious Culture Festival on June 19-21 in Tonasket.

Davin Michael Stedman is a songwriter and entertainer involved with Conscious Culture Festival. Email him at staxxbrothers@gmail.com

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