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Tantalizing First Love a Theatre experience

By Catherine Gonzales 

Editor’s Note: Catherine & John Gonzales came on a Focus on Mexico program in February 2008. A couple of years later Catherine joined the Focus team as an in-house buyer’s representative. Even as busy as she is, she found time to get involved with the Lakeside Little Theatre here in Lake Chapala, returning to an early love of musical theater.  We’re so glad she did. 

Tantalizing First LoveSome Hidden, and not so hidden talents, are discovered here on Lakeside.  Many people find out, in their “jubilation” (Marie’s new and improved word for retirement) that they have talents they never knew that they had.  Perhaps they decide to volunteer to help and teach kids, when they had never been a teacher.  A friend picked up a paintbrush for the first time in her life, and her art is now sold on the internet and is in great demand. I knew that I could sing, so it wasn’t a hidden talent, but I had not been singing for a long time. The combination of having free time and an environment of adventure,  the expats at Lakeside can uncover new talents and, in my case also resurrect  old talents.  

As a kid growing up in New Orleans, our school performed Gilbert & Sullivan operettas every year.  As a soprano, I was cast as Josephine in the “H.M.S. Pinafore” and Yum Yum in “The Mikado.”  I was also in the chorus in “Pirates of Penzance.” 

Fast forward 40 years.   I heard that the Lakeside Little Theatre (LLT) was going to hold auditions for “Chicago,” my second favorite musical (first is “Les Miserables”).    Although, I had not been in a show for 40 years, the opportunity to be in “Chicago” was very tantalizing.  I so loved the songs.  Well, unfortunately, due to some technical and legal details, LLT could not put on “Chicago.”

However, with the creativity and talent you could expect from a director like Barbara Clippinger, she created “A Taste of Broadway,” which is a collection of delightful Broadway show tunes that are all woven together by a narration of anecdotes that Barbara and her son wrote.  The result was a sold-out run within three days of Opening Night.

So, yes, I did audition.  And, yes, I did get a part.  I knew that I could sing and generally, as a newcomer, I would be in a chorus where I could “hide out.”  If I missed a note or ran out of breath, no one would really notice.  The challenge was dancing.

 Broadway show tunesThe Broadway show tunes I had to sing AND dance to were “Hello Dolly,” “Hey Big Spender,” “All He Cares About is Love,” “Razzle Dazzle” and “All that Jazz” (I was so happy to be in three songs from Chicago).  Each of these songs required dancing; not only dancing, but dancing with props (fans, cowboy hat, purple drape).   I had never danced in my life.

 Our choreographer was Alexis Hoff and her husband, Fleming Halby.  Poor Alexis.  She had to turn me into a dancer.  I wasn’t sure if it would kill me or her first.  Her patience was remarkable.  Fleming would work with me one-on-one. 

Alexis performed with the ballet in New York at the Harkness Ballet and on Broadway.  When she moved to the First Chamber Dance Co. in Seattle, she met her husband Fleming. Fleming had trained and danced with the Royal Danish Ballet before he moved to NYC and then Seattle.  The partnership of Alexis and Fleming is such a great asset to our theatre here at Lakeside. 

Watching Alexis and Barbara choreograph each of the numbers (“Small World” and “Ring Them Bells” didn’t have dancing) was a joy.  Barbara had been a dancer on Broadway, worked on many popular shows and also worked in Las Vegas shows.  So, after practicing our dancing in the rehearsal hall, we moved to the stage, then lights were added, then costumes, then the set, then the music.  Watching each of the “layers” of the show come together to create  the final show, and Barbara’s vision,  was a joy. 

Lakeside Little Theatre GroupOur Music Director was Pattye Simpson.  I had first seen Pattye perform as Pasty Kline when I first arrived on Lakeside.  Pattye has an operatic voice and background.  Given the talents of Barbara, Pattye, Alexis  Fleming and many more people in carpentry, lighting and stage management,  I am struck by how remarkable that all this talent is living in a little fishing village in Mexico.

I feel truly blessed to live in a place where hidden talents can be explored and trained to such a level that the community is enhanced and all of our lives benefit.   

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