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Auditions for Fresno's first rock opera this Tuesday and Wednesday
At 6 p.m., this Tuesday and Wednesday, October 9 and 10, at the Revue Cafe (620 E. Olive Ave. in Fresno), local actors and singers will get a unique chance to audition for a new musical rock opera. What makes this production special is that it's not only the world premiere of this new show, "Anabella in Blue," but that it's also the creation of local musician turned theatrical impresario, Christopher Lavagnino.
Lavagnino, a Fresno native and Clovis High graduate, had no plans to write a musical, let alone a rock opera. His only experience with theater was when he was cast in his one and only musical, playing the title role in "Jesus Christ Superstar" years ago.
"I originally wanted to write a concept album, given that I was in bands since I was 15," he says. "I wrote these songs, but not for the theater."
Lavagnino played the music he'd written for a friend, who told him he didn't write an album but had written a musical -- a rock opera -- instead. He says that the visual of actors combined with the music and lyrics added a whole new dimension -- a third dimension -- he had never considered before, but that have totally brought his work to life in a whole new way.
"Anabella in Blue" was to have premiered last year. Auditions were held, casting was done and recordings were done of some of the vocals.
"We were tweaking it," Lavagnino says. "There were additions here, subtractions there. She was ready, but the economy wasn't ready."
The financial backers abandoned the project before it really got off of the ground. It's a different story today, Lavagnino says. He says the financing is in place, the contracts are signed.
"It's a done deal," he says.
Because the show almost found life in 2011, Lavagnino already has so much of the production planned out. The show will debut February 21, 2013 at the Tower Theatre and run for four performances, culminating with a matinee and evening show February 23. The show will beneifit the Marjorie Mason Center and the Economic Opportunities Commisssion Safe Place program with an already planned silent auction at the already planned after party (the catering is even already booked). Part of the silent auction will feature original artworks done 16 different artists working through the Downtown Community Arts Collective. Each artist will do an original piece based on one of the 16 songs in the show without knowing how the context of how the song fits into the show.
"Their work will be purely inspired by the music itself," Lavagnino says.
Without giving too much of the plot away, Lavagnino says that the character Anabella could be the poster child for the Marjorie Mason Center, which is a big reason he feels compelled that the show be of benefit to the center.Interest in the production has spread. There are talks already of other productions possibly being staged in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Lavagnino says he's already had nibbles from a certain production company on Broadway.
As for the auditions, those interested in trying out are asked to bring 16 bars of sheet music in either pop, jazz, R&B, show tunes or rock. To get an idea of what the music is like, Lavagnino hinted that many of the songs are posted on YouTube.
"I can't wait to see who's out there, who's coming back," he says of the auditions. "With all of the talent out there, it's going to be one hell of a show."
Sound engineer Peter Wolf and Christopher Lavagnino discuss "Anabella in Blue."