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Three Stages gets audiences 'In the Mood' for 2011-12 season opener

Season kicks off Aug. 27 with national tour of the musical review, “In the Mood”
By: Laura Newell, Telegraph staff writer
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As the community gets excited for the opening weekend of Three Stages’ new season, the cast and crew practice and prepare around the clock. “In the Mood” will open the new season at Three Stages Performing Arts Center at Folsom Lake College, with performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28. “In The Mood” is an authentic big band theatrical swing revue. It’s the music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Erskine Hawkins, The Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, and other greats from the 1940s. “We really give this a real taste of what this period was,” said producer Bud Forrest. “It’s a variety show — a sample of everything from the big band era.” Now in its 17th year, the show features a company of 19 singers, dancers and a big band orchestra. Show preparation The “In the Mood” cast and crew arrived in Folsom a week and a half early to prepare for their international tour which starts at Three Stages. Forrest, also the music director and artistic director, put the show together himself in the 1980s, and said it has continued to grow every year. The show began touring in 1993. “Folsom is our kick-off for our international tour,” Forrest said. “This is our first time in Folsom, but we are enjoying it. The Folsom Chamber of Commerce has been wonderful to us.” The cast and crew stayed at Lake Natoma Inn in Folsom and rehearsed on a strict schedule daily. Going through questions, details and curtain rises, smiles and laughter fill the Black Box rehearsal room in Three Stages on Saturday, Aug. 20. Singers tapped their feet, snapped their fingers and sang in harmony while perfecting the lyrics of songs from the 1940s. The big band sounds came alive as Forrest played the piano and lead four singers’ perfect lyrical details. In another room, swing dancers make the music alive with movement and expression. Near them, the production manager goes over details of the show with the crew behind the scenes. “The production manager looks at everything to put the show together,” said Andi Schultes, production manager, technical director and lighting director. He’s been with the show for four years. “We contact the venue and find out what’s needed. We know what we need, but we have to ensure all the venues have what we need.” Schultes said she will work at Three Stages everyday for eight or more hours to fine tune the nuts and bolts of the technical areas of the show — risers, lighting and dance floors. “All of the technical aspects need to come together to make the show work,” she said. There are three crew members to make the show come together behind the scenes. “The beauty of this performance is seeing the way it touches the people in the audience,” Schultes said. “This music is so true and touches everyone, the cast, crew and audience, in many ways. It’s a tribute to the military service. The music in that era really brings people together. It’s a trip back in time.” SUBHEAD: A touring lifestyle “In the Mood” is an international touring group, which sometimes means spending more time on the road than at home. “You have two separate parts, the cast and the production crew,” said Schultes. “We (the production crew) travel around in a truck and arrive before the production and work on set. The cast travels together and only see each other most of the time.” She said they all live in hotels while on tour. “Nobody goes home during the tour,” she said. “My home is in Ohio. You take that time, kiss the kids goodbye and go make that money. We do it because we love it.” She said on a social aspect the cast and the crew have very different lifestyles while on tour. “We are here working for so long that we get to meet the stage crews at different venues and talk and socialize with them,” Schultes said. “So it’s a lot of fun because we are constantly meeting and working with new people.” But the cast, she said, only travel and work with each other, so they don’t get that same experience. Mark Brignone is a singer and the master of ceremonies during the show. This is his second year. “I was nervous to be on tour because of the unstable nature. This was my first touring act,” Brignone said. “But, I’ve found that the crew became my stable aspect that I needed. This is my family. The bus is our home.” Liz Baumgartner is a swing dancer and singer in the show. This is also her second year with the show and said it is very difficult to have a social life while touring. “I become a hermit because we are working so long and hard,” Baumgartner said. “I just enjoy going to restaurants and seeing the cities we visit.” She said it is also nice to find alone time. “It’s finding those quiet moments to call your family that are nice,” she said. Forrest said everyone has a spot on the bus to call their own during the tour. Cast get two seats to to pin up pictures and make it their own “home.” Forrest said it is possible to have a family and marriage while on tour, but the family has to understand that this is their lifestyle. He said the cast and crew’s partners need to understand and accept that their mate will be away for months at a time touring. “My family knows that I’ll just fade away for three months on tour,” Brignone said. “Then, when I come home, I’ll have lots of stories to tell them.” SUBHEAD: The show must go on The cast and crew said in reality this is a job like any other. They put in hours working, practicing skills and providing communities with a product. The only difference is it is also a lifestyle. “On a show day, your day is focused on the performance — How do I get my voice ready? How do I organize my time before the show? What will I eat to get my body ready? And how do I prepare?” Brignone said. Schultes said during the tour, this is a full-time, 24/7 job. “I don’t step away from this job,” she said. “There is no 9-to-5 day. Everything during the day revolves around making the production happen. And everyday is different.” The crew said the lifestyle is definitely not for everyone, but they do it because they love it. They said as performers they go where the work is. Touring comes with the territory of being a performer. “We want to inspire people to come see the show,” Brignone said. “It’s not all about ticket sales, it’s about giving people that emotional experience.” For more information, visit threestages.net. * * * “In the Mood” When: 2 p.m., 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday Where: Three Stages, 10 College Parkway, Folsom Cost: $25-$39, premium $45 Information: threestages.net