I went to see the Sunday afternoon performance of "Lost And Found" in the 600-seat hall at the expanding Christ Community Church (CCC), in Carmichael. This was the third performance of the world premiere of this musical. The leading lights behind this new musical are Darin and Sheri Adams, both of whom have had formidable stage careers and who have settled into Carmichael to raise a family (not to be confused with Scott and Sherri Adams, another couple involved in Sacramento-area musical theater). Pepper Von is choreographer.
Darin Adams is Artistic Director of the Searchlight Theater project and Director of Arts and Worship at Christ Community Church. He has appeared at Music Circus (Capt. Brackett in 'South Pacific'), plus numerous other Bay Area (Peninsula Civic Light Opera in San Mateo, West Bay Opera, Berkeley Opera) productions. Sheri Adams has also done PCLO shows (among others), and they both spent nearly three years as lead vocalists and headline actors for Seabourn Cruise Lines.
The premise is entertaining enough: Sarah Foster's (Sheri Adams') music classroom of inner-city high-school kids are introduced to Paul (Darin Adams), an understudy opera singer who experiences the dream of succeeding the main singer and establishing a career of his own. Paul and Sarah strike up a romance and tutor the bright and sassy gospel, hip-hop, and opera-aware students, particularly the bright Timothy (Sequence Grisby), who has a troubled brother, Titus (Noah Hayes). Paul eventually drifts into an addiction with painkillers, and Sarah tries to save the marriage. Titus is killed in a drive-by shooting, and Timothy struggles to retain his relationship with his tutor, Paul.
The use of sung dialogue is reminiscent of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals: reminded me of "Evita," in a way. I liked the use of hip-hop: not enough hip-hop in musicals! The gospel singing is great as well, particularly by Rose, Timothy's mother (Darlene Tellis). Chester Patterson played an excellent Reverend Frank Jackson.
For the most part, the ensemble does a very good job. Not enough dancing, but ably executed. Pepper Von's moves were evident (Assistant Choreographer Venetia James).
The violence came too quickly, with remarkably little foreshadowing (the words were there, but not the music). Dreamlike. The exposition in Act I is a bit labored, and could probably be improved by axing a song.
The problem with the show (and the premise as well) is Paul's overweening egotism. Paul is introduced to the classroom as an already-successful opera singer, which stretches credulity as to his dedication to the students' well-being right from the start. Darin Adams is well-aware of the problem, though: the students rebuke Paul's self-centeredness several times during the show. The problem could be easily fixed too. If Paul was another teacher in the same school, like an English teacher, or a music teacher in another nearby school, his drift into addiction could then be more poignant. He would already be a grounded member of the community who experiences the American-Idol-like arc of fame, rather than being an alien landing from Mars.
I had the sense that I was a watching a metaphor of the Adames own lives as successful performers. Talking with an audience member who belongs to the congregation, I learned that the Adamses have been in Carmichael for about two years now, and CCC nearly lost them to another city at one point. The folks at CCC are very appreciative that the Adamses are with their congregation.
But what must it be like from the other side, to have the world as your oyster, and then settle into a specific community, with all its inanities, insufficiencies and inadequacies - even as nice a community as Carmichael? To play the big house, and then deal with day-to-day idiocies? Like the farmers used to say, it's hard to keep the young folks on the farm once they've seen Gay Paree.
At one point, troubled Titus tells big-head Paul, "we aren't your special project." This is the central truth of the musical. And what happens to the truth-teller in theater? You've guessed it. When the drive-by hoodlums arrive, and the guns start firing, it's Truth-teller Titus who catches a bullet.
And yet, it's crystal-clear Adams is all-too-well-aware of this. Like Paul's students, the folks at CCC aren't Adams' special project either.
So, a flawed musical, but maybe one that generates more genuine thought because of its flaws than if it had been smoother from the start.
One more weekend to go! Give it a look! Location is in Carmichael, on Manzanita, just south of Madison (map).
Lost and Found
Searchlight Theatre Project
November 3, 4, 5 - 10, 11, 12
Friday and Saturday - 7 p.m.
Sunday - 4 p.m.