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Amber’s Sweets sing-along weekend

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This weekend was a big one for fans of sing-along theater and cinema. The Amber’s Sweets crew, best know for their shadowcast production of “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” put together a two-night extravaganza of acting, singing and audience participation.

Friday night was the premiere night of “Dr. Horrible,” which was originally aired as a series of shorts starring Neil Patrick Harris as the aspiring super villain, Dr. Horrible. With his Ph.D. in horribleness, Dr. Horrible tries to gain entry into the Evil League of Evil, led by Bad Horse, who is, in fact, a horse. In between his evil video blog broadcasts, Horrible vies for the affection of Penny, a girl he meets in the laundromat. Hilarity ensues when Captain Hammer, Horrible’s arch nemesis, also decides to fall for Penny.

Although the production of “Dr. Horrible” was directed by Ashley Porciuncula and produced by Tim Meunier, the same pair who are responsible for the “Repo” shadowcast, the two shows are very different breeds of theater.

“‘Repo’ and ‘Dr. Horrible’ are completely different creatures,” said Keith Fowler, who plays the heroic Captain Hammer. “It’s entirely up to us tonight to make ‘Dr. Horrible‘ great. There’s no looking at the screen or graphic sequence, so it’s an entirely different feel. We actually have to sing. We can’t just lip-synch. It’s more work, truthfully.”

“‘Dr. Horrible’ is different in many ways from ‘Repo,’” said Dani Fontana, who plays Dead Bowie in “Horrible” and Graverobber in “Repo.” “‘Dr. Horrible’ is all about superheroes and super-villains, and ‘Repo’ is all gothic with organs, repossession and whatnot. ‘Dr. Horrible’ is our goody-two-shoes show. It’s more family fun and less blood and gore.”

Anyone who has seen “Dr. Horrible” knows that because it was intended as a series of Internet shorts, it’s very minimalist in set design and budget. The talent of Harris and Nathan Fillion alone make it worth watching. So while it might not be hard to create small sets for a piece that takes place in basically three different locations, it would be a challenge to secure actors talented enough to sing well, make people laugh, and fill the shoes of NPH (as Harris is known to fans) and Fillion, two actors with very devoted fans.

“Yes, I do feel pressure to portray Neil Patrick Harris, but not cripplingly so,” said David “Turtle” Akona, who plays Dr. Horrible. “It is daunting, but it’s a good challenge.”

Even though it was the very first “Dr. Horrible” ever put on by the Amber’s Sweets team, the show exceeded expectations.

Akona’s portrayal of Dr. Horrible was spot on. His singing was phenomenal and he even looked and sounded like the real Dr. Horrible. Akona had Harris’ mannerisms as Dr. Horrible down pat, and it is safe to say he was the star of the show.

The other actors (Fowler as Captain Hammer and Alanna Sowles as Penny) also did a spectacular job. Fowler’s depiction of the puffed-up Captain Hammer was humorous and delightful.

Furthermore, it was impossible to tell that playing Penny was Sowles’ first professional acting gig.

“I was stage managing at Runaway Stage Productions for one of their children’s shows, and people kept on coming in and out of their theaters asking where the ‘Dr. Horrible’ auditions were,” Sowles said. “I went in and said, ‘I have no monologue, I have no résumé, but can I sing for you? Because I will blow you away.’ And about two weeks later, I had the part.”

December 2011 marked the year-anniversary performance of the Amber’s Sweets “Repo” shadowcast. They had big-name guests from the movie such as Bill Moseley and Nivek Ogre in attendance. So what could the Sweets team possibly do to keep their production spicy and new? They introduced a whole new cast by giving the understudies the chance to play the leading roles.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea to give the understudies leading roles,” said Trevor Gjeltema, who played Graverobber. “It’s really kicked up our responsibilities as understudies, and it’s nice that the main actors get to play other smaller parts. It helps everyone be more aware of how the show gets put together.”

After the usual lineup of Sac Horror Film Fest commercials, including the hilarious heavy-metal snack food song, the show got started. This time, to celebrate the premiere of “Dr. Horrible” and musicals everywhere, there were lyrics to most songs in the top of the screen so that, in addition to the usual jeers and calling out, people in the audience could also sing along with their favorite songs.

Saturday’s “Repo” performance also had a few surprises up its sleeve. During a rather serious scene where a character named Rotti Largo sings a ballad (for lack of a better term), the sound suddenly cut out and Rick Astley’s famous ‘80s hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” queued up. The audience had been Rickrolled.

In another energetic scene where Shilo Wallace dances around her room with giant stuffed animals and sings a rebellious tune, Dr. Horrible joined the gang in his horrible outfit of evil and danced around stage with Shilo and her crew.

Finally, another highlight of the show was when Amber’s wig fell off during a rather aggressive dry-humping number. Always the professionals, Miss Amber, played by Alia Omran, stayed in character and fluffed up her own hair, making the wig mishap seem nearly intentional.

The Sweets team has garnered so much attention that there’s nearly always someone special in the audience. Saturday night was no different.

The person in the most spectacular costume (besides the actors) had to be Alex Moore, who the cast dubbed “Mamber.” Mamber and his friends came all the way from Phoenix, Ariz., to see the Sweets team perform, and Moore’s version of Amber Sweet was phenomenal. Yes, it’s true. He was a big dude in a mini skirt with a diamond-studded bra, but he pulled it off beautifully, and rightly so, considering he had the costume specially made for the trip.

“I came all the way from Phoenix, Ariz., to see the Sweets cast,” Moore said. “I saw their videos on YouTube about six months ago. They’re the best shadowcast ever.”

So what does the future hold for the Amber’s Sweets production team?

“We are trying to do (“Dr. Horrible”) much sooner,” Akona said. “The next ‘Repo’ is in October I think, so quite a ways away, but we’re trying to do the next ‘Dr. Horrible’ in like another month and a half or so.”

“We did ‘Dr. Horrible’ last night and I believe we’re going to do more productions of that,” Gjeltema added. “I’ve heard whispers of other things coming up, but I don’t know anything for sure, so unfortunately I can’t say much as of now. I’m told that were supposed to expect interesting things coming up in the near future, and of course I always have a huge amount of faith in Tim Meunier and Ashley Porciuncula to produce amazing work.”
 

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