By Pat Launer
Here’s a chance to be part of history. Well, a little slice of it, anyway.
Lamb’s Players Theatre is trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, presenting the longest marathon theatrical performance ever. It’s a brilliant idea, conceived by development director Colleen Collar Smith as a unique fundraiser. The goal was to raise $100,000 in 100 hours.
That’s right. One hundred hours of theater, nonstop. That’s more than four days, 24 hours a day. So, if you’ve got a hankering for live performance at, say, 3 a.m., Coronado is the place to be.
I was there for the kickoff and it was great fun – for actors and audience alike. This is no-nonsense theater: no props, costumes, sets or lighting. Just a platform and a bunch of music stands. All the performers are wearing the new Lamb’s ‘100 Hours t-shirt.’ It’s very casual, but unwavering in terms of quality. The marathon celebrates 20 years of productions at the Coronado venue. That adds up to 52 plays, 50+ performers (the same 20 actors have to be involved in the first 75 hours, then others can be added to the mix), and, as I said, 100 nonstop hours.
The Guinness regulations are stringent. There must be at least 20 audience members at all times. Folks, (including me, and fellow theater critic Jim Hebert, of the U-T San Diego) sign up for 4-hour stints, and are given badges and ‘paddles’ with our audience number (to be handed off to particular ‘sub’ staffers if you’re taking a bathroom or snack break; the adjacent Lamb’s café is open all night). The entire event is impeccably organized (specific break times of two minutes, only 5 minutes between shows, etc.). Guinness is videotaping the whole thing for verification purposes.
But that’s all behind the scenes. What’s onstage is totally ebullient and enjoyable. The first show was “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The singing was superb; all the Lamb’s regulars were there, with the title character played, once again, by Rick Meads, and with Deborah Gilmour Smyth reprising the role of Narrator. She was pushing her stellar voice so much, I don’t know how she’ll last 100 hours. (performers may be in 2-3 shows in a row, but a highly complex schedule allows sleep-time for all. There are cots backstage and two across-the-street hotel rooms).
“Joseph” is a shortie, so it took up only half of its two-hour allotment. G. Scott Lacy provided outstanding accompaniment, but judging from the array of instruments at the ready, other musicals will have a larger band.
Since the kickoff put the group ahead of schedule, all times are subject to change (new shows may be added at the end, or others repeated, to make up the time). Call the box office to check, if you’re looking for a specific show. You’ll find everything from the hilarious comedy “You Can’t Take It With You,” to the downhome musical, “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” from Shakespeare (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) to Sondheim (“Into the Woods”). If musicals are your thing, there are two trifectas: “Godspell,” “The Music Man” and “Guys and Dolls” back to back on Sunday night, roughly 7 p.m.-1 a.m.; and “1776,” “Into the Woods” and Lambs’ own homegrown “Mixtape” on Monday, approximately 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m., capping off the event.
Back in the theater, with a slight cast-change, the game, giddy cast barreled from “Joseph” right on to Mary Chase’s “Harvey,” with David Cochran Heath once again completely irresistible as that ever-cheerful guy with a BFF who’s a six-foot rabbit. Always a charming, heart-rending story.
Whoosh! That ended, and next up was a serious change of pace: “A Man for All Seasons,” Robert Bolt’s 1960 drama about Sir Thomas More, the 16th century Chancellor of England, who refused to endorse King Henry VIII’s desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon (no sons produced) so he could marry young Anne Boleyn. (As we all know, it didn’t work out well for either woman.)
Halfway through this wordy work (which definitely benefits from the pomp of ornate costumes and full production values), our shift was over. The next 4-hour group of audience designates was already in place, and we were escorted out. Regular audience members come and go at will; you can enter and exit at any time during or between performances.
By the end of the first night, Lamb’s had already exceeded its $100,000 goal, and is now shooting for $200,000. Admission is by donation at the door; you can give whatever you want before you enter, or contribute online.
In addition to the incredible logistics of snagging all these people and plays and helpers and observers and participants, the performers are pretty much on their own. There’s one rehearsal per musical – and none for the plays! So, literally anything can happen. But these are pros, and everyone’s in such high spirits. (Well, they were the first night; will they still be at 4 a.m. Saturday, or 4 p.m. Monday? Somehow, I think they will.)
This is a truly delightful, one-of-a-kind way to support theater, do something different, and help make history. Don’t miss out.
[symple_divider style=”solid” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”]
Pat Launer is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at www.patteproductions.com.