Calling itself “a trip down Penny Lane” — uh, that would be a Beatles song — “The ’60s Show: A Curious Celebration of an Era” is more like a bridge between the past and present. With cast and crew from the Baby Boomer, Gen X and Millennial generations, the Homer Council on the Arts variety show attempts to answer the question, “What were the 1960s like?”
OK, never mind that. As singer Grace Slick said, “If you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there.” Or did Paul Kantner, Dennis Hopper or Robin Williams say that? To answer the question right, you need a cast of 38, a rocking house band with a guitar player who really was at Woodstock (but only in the audience) and an irreverent show poking fun at the political and cultural icons that made the 1960s one of the most influential in modern history.
“It’s woven together with the young characters in the show who think they know something about the ’60s and the characters who were there,” said director and writer Sally Oberstein of the show’s format.
The show takes place in a café where younger and older people hang out. The kids want to know something about the 1960s, but it turns out they don’t know a lot at all, Oberstein said.
“When they talk about Jerry Garcia, they’re talking about Cherry Garcia,” she said, comparing the Grateful Dead musician with the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor.
“That’s what makes this so dynamic,” said assistant director Hannah Heimbuch. “We have all these different age groups in the café having conversations about their lives and the music just flows from it.”
Oberstein directed previous variety shows like “Old Songs and Chapstick” and “Duct Tape and Reruns.” Writers Michael McKinney and Alan Olson helped her write the story, with help from assistant director Hannah Heimbuch. The multigenerational cast not only sets up the plot, but it expands the show’s appeal, Oberstein said.
“I wanted this to be entertaining to people who are younger. Even if you don’t know the ’60s, hopefully we won’t lose people with the ’60s humor,” she said. “It will be entertaining to any age level, and especially entertaining to people who lived through it.”
Numerous costumes and wigs allow the cast to play dozens of characters. At a photo shoot on Monday, some of them vamped for the camera in front of a replica of the Laugh-In Wall, a set piece of the Dan Rowan and Dick Martin TV 1960s comedy in which characters pop out of doors and shout quick jokes. The costume lineup included actors playing real people like Marilyn Monroe and characters like Fred Flintstone and Mary Poppins.
“We have a million-and-one costume changes, many of which will happen on stage — which is a cool part of the show,” Heimbuch said. “It’s everything from Davy Crockett to Winnie the Pooh to Fidel Castro to John Wayne.”
A Baby Boomer herself, Oberstein compared the 1960s to the 1920s, another decade that was culturally and politically memorable. Politically, socially and musically, the 1960s left its mark on history. All those elements have a place in “The ’60s Show,” but especially music.
“We’ve got everything from Johnny Cash to Grateful Dead to Joni Mitchell. We’re trying to cover it, which is impossible,” Oberstein said. “If we did one year we couldn’t have done it in two hours.”
Anchoring the musical numbers are strong singers like Sunrise Sjoeberg and new talents like Maggie Goedeke, as well as a multigenerational stage band. Music director Patrick Latimer, a Homer High School student, sings and plays keyboard and saxophone. He’s joined by Gen X talent Dylan Smith and former Elders on Fire member Hal Spence. Spence actually attended the Woodstock music festival, a few miles from where he grew up in New York. Rounding out the band are Kelly Jay on drums and vocals, Shelly Erickson on piano and keyboards, Cathy Stingley on fiddle and vocals, Anchorage Symphony violinist Daniel Perry, Pauli Hall on piano and a special appearance by the Homer Ukulele Group Society.
The music should get people snapping their fingers and tapping their feet, Oberstein said.
“People are going to want to dance and move,” she said. “It’s musical comedy, but there are a couple of places you’ll have to take a breath.”
“I think people will find themselves wanting to sing along to much of it. They’re familiar, catchy songs,” Heimbuch said. “It’s going to be a great show. It’s going to be funny, sweet and sad and memorable — and really great music.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com.
The ’60s Show: A Curious Celebration of an Era
7 p.m. Saturday; $8 youth, $12 HCOA members and $18 general admission
3 p.m. Sunday; $5 youth, $10 HCOA members and $15 general admission
Available at the Homer Council on the Arts, online at homerart.org and at the Homer Bookstore
Sally Oberstein with Michael McKinney and Alan Olson
Assistant Stage Manager:
Sabina Karwowski and Harmon Hall
Harmon Hall, Susan Bunting, Jennifer Norton, Schulzie and Bobby Paulino
Lynne Burt with Marie Walker, Belinda McCormick and Susan Bunting
Cast (all actors, singers and dancers unless noted):
Britny Bradshaw, Nolan Bunting, Landon Bunting, Brian Duffy, Maggie Goedeke, Ian Hall, Hannah Heimbuch, Michael Hurd, Curtis Jackson, Jules Joy, Maggie McCormick, Michael McKinney, Vonda Nixon (dancer), Audrey Russel, Sunrise Sjoeberg, Larry Slone (dancer), Bobbye Triplett Hurd, Daniel Wysocki
Patrick Latimer – keyboard / saxophone / music director / vocals
Kelly Jay – drums / vocals
Dylan Smith – bass / vocals
Hal Spence – guitar / vocals / keyboard
Shelly Erickson – piano / keyboard
Cathy Stingley – fiddle / vocals
Daniel Perry – violin
Pauli Hall – piano
Homer Ukulele Group Society