Local Talent, Little Theatre, Big Punch

Watergate CastRecently, I attended the musical, Watergate and Other Solid Gold Hits at the SLO Little Theatre. Written by David Vienna and directed by Kevin Harris, this 70’s rock, anthem-driven, funk-filled, politically-charged musical is everything you want it to be and more.

Going in, I must admit I was slightly skeptical. The narrative is developed and influenced by a wide array of musical numbers from the 70’s. Knowing before hand that over thirty songs were to be performed, I wondered if the Little Theatre bit off a little more than they could chew.

Glad to be proven wrong, the cast was brilliant and the band was on fire. The two leads, Marcus DiMaggio as Washington D.C. newcomer Charlie Memphis, and Kerry DiMaggio as Jane Isley, a political organizer with a conscious, set the tone for the evening with strong voices and believable performances. A memorable highlight for Kerry DiMaggio was her rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” who absolutely hit it out of the park.

Each time Suzy Newman—as Charlene Memphis, the vivacious mother of Charlie—joined the stage, new life fused into the production. Her performance of the Elvis tune, “A Little Less Conversation,” was great, but it was her impeccable dialogue delivery I found to be most memorable.

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Music Motive Director Steve Hilstein, after his performance of Watergate.

Also worth noting is Seth Blackburn as a believable (and humorous) Richard Nixon, Ryan Loyd as a dancin’ Jimmy Carter, and Lester Wilson as Tom Landford—who, of the smaller roles, was most impressive.

Without proper music to back the cast’s booming vocals, the show would’ve fell flat early in the first act. For nearly three hours the Watergate band held their own, impressing the audience throughout.

Musical director Stephen Tosh, also on keyboards, manages the impressive feat of reproducing thirty-two classic songs in ways which didn’t feel forced and over filled. His help wasn’t too bad either. Adam Levine, guitarist, shined on “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Dust in the Wind,” while bassist Bill Wingfield covered the low end and groved most notably on “Superstition” and “Magic Man.” Also, Music Motive’s own Director, Steve Hilstein, was found behind the drum set, bringing the beat and wowing the audience right off the bat with Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and later with “Go Your Own Way.”

Watergate and Other Solid Gold Hits runs through March 24th and is a must see show for anyone who loves local theatre. It’s currently selling out, so don’t miss your chance! For tickets and more information, click here.

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