Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dreams Come True a Little

I didn't know if I would be asked back again, this year. If I wasn't invited back, I had made up my mind that I would not feel jealous and left out. I would be supportive, instead, and buy tickets to cheer on my friends. I would not be the old Petty Pete that I'm still trying to leave in the past.

The second annual "A Little Tokyo Christmas" was performed last month, at the East West Players theater in downtown Los Angeles. I was asked to return, to sing and dance, and I was very happy to be included. I didn't really invite anyone to come see me perform (I know . . . a bit hypocritical). BFF Kathy couldn't believe that I almost didn't invite her and her children.

The holiday show, while well above community theater level, is definitely a hodgepodge of a community show, much of it cheesy and even corny - which I love! The cast consists of Asian American actors, directors, and playwrights, some with notable stage and screen credits. Actors such as Tamlyn Tomita, John Cho, and the radiant Amy Hill volunteered their time to be part of a one-day-only event with two performances. So, for someone like me, it is a fun privilege to get to play on stage with so many talented folks.

Tamlyn was on 'glee' this season, so, of course I had to foist myself on, I mean, talk to her. I get starstruck too easily, so I have to make some effort to rein it in and not geek out too much with "recognizable names" such as her (or "gleek" out, in this case). Rodney K. was also back in the show this year, my unofficial mentor and role model for how to age fabulously as a Japanese American gay man.

This year's theme was "A Little Tokyo Christmas goes to Las Vegas." We opened with the tune made famous by Elvis, "Viva Las Vegas." Other acts included a Supremes medley and an elf toyshop sketch mimed by a superb acting troupe. There was also a beautiful trapeze act worthy of any Cirque du Soleil show, and a rousing performance of "Proud Mary" toward the end of the second act (I couldn't sit still in my seat during the dress rehearsal for that one!).

Not very Christmas-y? Well, we had a theme to adhere to, as much as possible, and everyone contributed with their strongest talents and fortes. Really, though, it felt more like a Motown Christmas during rehearsals, which I had suggested as the next theme.

One of the numbers I sang in was a Four Seasons song called "Let's Hang On." I wasn't familiar with the tune but I was thrilled to learn and perform a nostalgic doo-wop number. I absolutely relish singing any type of four-part harmonies, and adding dance moves puts me right into performance heaven. I don't know if I'll ever accomplish my goal of being in a production of "Forever Plaid" or even "Jersey Boys" but performing this one Frankie Valli/Four Seasons song allowed me to live out that fantasy for a bit.

I love the instant family atmosphere that I always feel with this particular theater group, with friends both old and new. I love the perspective it provides of being part of the Asian American communities in Los Angeles. It's always like a fun reunion whenever I am part of a project with East West Players. And it's a chance to meet the younger, up-and-coming actors, dancers, and singers, some of them already well established in the professional theater world.

If there is a third annual A Little Tokyo Christmas show, I'll give you a little advanced notice here in this blog.


KK said...

Peter I would love to see you perform again someday. Post it or let me know when you do and if i can fly out, I will! Hugs!

Peter Varvel said...

Thanks, KK! Show or no show, I can't wait to see you again!