Recycled Percussion: Pound for Pound, the Best Beat Around at Studio 54
A September 7th performance included members of the media – literally – began with attendees each being given a drumstick, assigned a color (black, red, green or blue) and sent to pick out their “instrument” from one of four color-coded trunks. Contents included plastic buckets, metal sink bowls, oxygen tanks, cake pans, carburetors, and hub caps. I may have even seen a bedpan.
The show is so interactive that audience members get to play almost as much as the four guys who comprise Recycled Percussion. Video screen prompts let you know when to bang, for how long, and what rhythm – all color-coded of course.
“Band” members are Justin Spencer, percussionist/drummer/band leader; Jimmy Magoon, electric guitarist; Ryan Vezina,
percussionist/drummer; and Todd Griffin aka DJ Pharaoh, spinmaster/keyboardist /vocalist. The New Hampshire natives have been creating their unique style of hybrid music (they call it “junk rock”) for the past ten years.
A central stage holds what looks like an organized junk yard. There are two distinct percussion stations made from trash cans, hub caps, and buckets. Magoon and his guitar appear on stage, setting a rock tone. Video instructions from a large overhead screen are given to the crowd – when to bang and when to stop. Other instructions follow from Spencer during the course of the show, as he encourages the audience to emulate his rhythm with their own noisemakers.
Spencer and Vezina, the two percussionists, are also cousins who open the show by engaging in a type of percussive warfare while blindfolded, as if they are dueling in tandem.
The four prove that percussion doesn’t have to come from metal, wood, or plastic. Vocals, finger snaps, chest and stomach slaps and thumps also create a rhythm. There’s a beat box vocal that sets up a beat that the audience answers, no words needed – ever. Spinmaster Griffin provides a comic relief supported by electronic sound that augments the beat into a fast-paced composition.
There is so much participation that your hands may actually ache, but you’ll hate to give the “instruments” back at show’s end. It’s that much fun. Not only do they engage the audience, the four are extremely engaging themselves. All possess mile wide smiles full of good natured mischief. They try to trick you into missing a beat, or banging one out by mistake.
An earlier phone quiz via video screen rendered a half dozen winners (plus entertainer Carrot Top and Las Vegas Weekly’s John Katsilometes) who donned masks and engaged in an onstage game of mimic the beat which then turned to catch the drumstick (Katsilometes won).
Spencer and Vezina climb two different tall metal ladders, playing the rungs and joints with drum sticks and swiftly changing places with each other without missing a beat. They climb up high and slide down to the floor. The audience clangs its approval.
They can pound and catch a multitude of drumsticks thrown at them from band mates on pedestals behind the audience – and all this without missing a beat or a catch.
A suspended beam full of hanging metal objects descends from the ceiling and every piece is played. Buckets, pots, hubcaps, farm tools – if it makes a sound, someone will get it to clank, bang, thump, plink, or boom.
Shaking hands with the two percussionists at the end of the show, I felt intense heat emanating from their palms. Percussion causes friction, which causes heat; the recycled part means that they can do it over and over again.
I’d be tempted to say, “You can’t beat that,” but with all of the moving parts, the metal, the plastic, the drumsticks, the talent, and the energy, the guys would be disappointed if you didn’t.
For further information:
The September 9th opening, full of military and media members roared appreciatively through the production which, despite having only one non-changing set, managed to keep the action (and laughs) flowing with clever wordplay and numerous, animated plot developments.
Perfectly cast, the production is the story of painfully shy Englishman and Sci-Fi proofreader Charlie Baker (Miles Coleman). Charlie is somewhat of a nebbish, whose hospitalized wife has cheated on him 23 times. Accompanying his British Army Staff Sergeant friend and explosives expert Froggy LeSueur (Matthew Arrington) on a trip to rural Georgia, Charlie stays at the inn of widowed Betty Meeks (Joan Mullaney) while Froggy goes on a top secret military assignment.
Four other characters’ lives entwine with Charlie’s during his stay at the lodge. Reverend David Marshall Lee (Jeff Tribbitt) is a preacher with a lot of secrets covering up a dark side. Catherine Simms (Aja Wilson) is Rev. Lee’s fiancée and, NOT coincidentally, an heiress. Ellard Simms (Ryan Remark) is Catherine’s dimwitted but good-hearted younger brother, and Owen Musser (Tony Sandrew) is a corrupt, racist county inspector who likes to harass Betty Meeks and intimidate just about everyone else.
These actors form an expert ensemble for Miles Coleman’s Charlie to engage, interact and almost literally bounce off of as they attempt to incorporate him into their lives. Coleman’s knack for physical comedy is apparent as Charlie must gesture, pantomime and even walk like a chicken, a young girl, and a nameless beast in an effort at (coerced) communication. Coleman, a London native himself, is a standout in a cast bursting with talent.
By that standard The Foreigner is a jolly good show, indeed.
About Super Summer Theatre:
The Foreigner will run from September 9-25 (Thursdays through Saturdays).
Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the gate, and can be purchased at the UNLV Performing Arts Box Office, Prestige Travel at Lake Mead and Rampart, or online at unlvtickets.com.
Guests may bring a blanket or chair for use in general-admission grass seating, suitable for enjoying a picnic or treats from the concession stand.
Gates open at 6 p.m. Performances run Thursday through Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. Spring Mountain Ranch is located 10 miles west of the Charleston/215 exit.
The 2011 season of Super Summer Theatre will feature productions of Annie, The Drowsy Chaperone, Fiddler on the Roof, and Five Guys Named Moe.
For further information:
(702) 594-PLAY (7529).