by Beki Pineda
DISCOUNT GHOST STORIES – Written by Pesha Rudnick and Rob Wright; Music and Lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen; Directed by Austin Regan. Produced by Local Theater Company (presented at Trident Book Store and Cafe, 940 Pearl Street) through June 29. Tickets available at localtheaterco.org.
A summer’s evening in Boulder: Stroll down the Pearl Street Mall toward the west end, passing by the solo jazz saxophonist, the three piece band with homemade instruments, past the patrons enjoying the patio seating at nearly every restaurant. You wander into the cozy Trident Bookstore past the book shelves picking up a cup of java or pot of tea on your way to the door at the back of the shop. Enter a small back patio where you’ll find a bright red stage and an open bar. The limited seating quickly fills up and then you begin to notice the ghostly figures wandering amongst the crowd.
A girl with a guitar is asked to leave but instead is confronted by the four musical ghosts who inhabit the space. Offering sympathy for being pushed aside, they want to tell her their stories and invite her to “join” them . . . at least, on stage. They proceed to tell the story of poor Clifford Griffin, a miner who lost his true love on his wedding night until he became “Bound for the Promised Land” by his own hand. The Chinese Riots, the duo of Florence and Mabel from the early Denver Taxi Service of the same name, the Indian warrior Tabernash, and Clara’s story are all told through clever songs. Each of the musical stories is told with humanity and humor. The original music by Mr. Oyen is amazingly varied and complete, well-arranged and melodic.
You’d think finding five actors who can sing and play a variety of instruments would be difficult. But Local scored five of the best. Jenna Moll Reyes is the “live” member of the group, playing guitar, various percussion instruments, a tiny accordion and a miniature piano. Faith Angelise Goins-Simmons brings a special presence to Clara while adding percussion background to the mix. The male trio starts with Erik Fellenstein whose talent on the fiddle is nothing short of gifted, along with a strong singing voice (and some serous eye candy!). He is joined by Tony Aiden Vo who plays a mean guitar. The final component is Runner Francisco on keyboards, percussion, guitar and mandolin as well as playing a silly Mabel, the ghostly taxi driver with bright red hair.
The evening is graced with meaningful songs that reflect on the difficulty of each journey through life, while simultaneously being riddled with humor. They jokingly ask the audience – isn’t this just what you wanted to hear – a musical about death!! Tony insists that he is “Doing Quite Well” after being beaten in the Chinese Riots. Florence and Mabel (Faith and Runner) mix it up in “Come Make Me Whole Again.” Tabernash’s song – “Let’s Go Deeper Down” – is ripe with innuendo and sly looks at the ladies in the audience. Gemma (Jenna) sings of her mother’s despair with “What’s the Point of Existence?” believing that we’re all just waiting to get to the grave. Clara, a slave woman separated from her children, mourns “Find Me.” The ghosts have welcomed Gemma to their midst with the opening song “Heaven is Our Home.” But she decides by the end of the evening that “Heaven is Not My Home” and proceeds to continue her search. Although “Everything Must Come to an End,” they all proclaim that they “sing so everyone will know we were alive.”
It’s a delightful half inside/half outside musical evening off the beaten path. I hope these few words will encourage you to seek out this unique performance and enjoy it yourself.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!