The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Rising Star Review
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show January 10-18, 2014
Reviewer Gerry Camp

Sutter Street Theatre is under reconstruction. The stage has been lowered a couple of feet to floor level and seating is scheduled to be raked. The current show, the annual “Rising Star Review,” is presented on the bare stage. No beautiful set by Mike Jimena. Props limited to a chair dragged out and back by director Allen Schmeltz.

None of that matters, because as soon as the show starts the audience is mesmerized by the amazing parade of talent on display. The show really takes off with tiny 17-year-old Amanda Ramos singing “Breathe” from “In the Heights,” a song I’ve never heard from a show I don’t know. I’ve seen Amanda in several shows and she is always the best thing in the show. There is nothing tiny about her voice, which filled the theater with this song and the other two numbers she performs.

The second surprise is 13-year-old Hannah Hurst, doing a monologue from Shaw’s “Saint Joan” in which Joan decides to accept death rather than spend her life in prison. Hannah has another monologue later and then takes the roof off the theater with Carol Burnett’s “Shy” from “Once Upon a Mattress.” This is another big talent!

Christopher Celestin can always be counted on to surprise and delight. He sings “Being a Geek” and transforms from Mr. Geek to Mr. Cool by changing from horn rim glasses to shades and becoming a different person in the middle of the song. He has a couple of duets later in the show: a delightfully acted rendition of “Anything You Can Do” with the charming Monique Lonergan, and a knockout rap song, “Cold as Ice” which Chris wrote. He and Amanda Ramos sing/act the song.  In my dreams I see a two-person show starring Chris and Amanda.

There are two family acts in this show. Sisters Mia Comstock, 11, and Zoe, 9, are super together, but the breakout in this show is little Zoe, who becomes a star here singing “Naughty” from the musical “Matilda” and “I Know Things Now” from “Into the Woods.”  With luck we will continue to see great things from these two beautiful sisters.

The family that really rules this show is the Matta siblings: Rebekah, 17, Benjamin, 14, Joshua, 12, and Jonathan, 9. Performing sometimes together, each takes complete possession of the stage with solo numbers. My favorites are Rebekah’s song and dance, “It Had Better Be Tonight,” Jonathan’s “I’ve Got the World on a String,”  Joshua (you may remember him as the tap dancing star of the recent “Pinocchio”) here doing “Come Dance With Me.” Their mother Lisa makes a brief appearance as the mean person who inspires Jonathan’s moving “Where Is Love” from “Oliver.” Monique Lonergan flirts with all the brothers in “My Guy,” and the one who wins the title is . . . well, I won’t spoil it for you.

I was privileged to talk to Lisa, the mother of these four amazing kids, after the show. I learned that performing in this family goes back to Lisa’s mother, who performed professionally for many years. She passed the gift on to Lisa, who sang professionally in Los Angeles and has acted extensively as well. She home schools her kids and has been their teacher not only in math and science, but most importantly (for us) in singing, dancing, and acting. She confided to me that her hope, becoming a parent, was to instill her love of the stage in her offspring, and she has succeeded and given theatergoers in Folsom many hours of pleasure watching them perform.

The other two performers are 14-year-old Michael Warner, who has a wonderful voice, and Richard Lui, who is over 14, but who also has a fine voice and plays guitar with great style. He sings a song he wrote himself about a friend who was his mentor.

Finally I must mention Chelsea Ciechanowski, one of my favorites in last year’s edition, who appears in only one number this year, the song “Happy Ending” by British singer Mika. This song, which closes the show, brings her on stage with eight of the other performers in an ensemble piece she is credited with directing. It’s a perfect close to a great afternoon of music and outstanding young talent.

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