By John Farrell
Encore Entertainers is a dream come true for Summer Cacciagioni, who created the musical theater production company for rising stars in 2007, 15 years and more after she began her then-fledgling career in musical theater. She had wanted to direct her own theater company for students ever since she was in high school. When her mentor, Alex H. Urban, died, she decided, the support of her husband Marcelo, to give it a shot.
Encore Entertainers could also be a dream-come-true for the Warner Grand Theatre, which has long needed companies willing to use the eighty-one year-old house. Judging from Encore Entertainers first production there, the musical Annie which was given four performances February 2-5 (you can find a review of one of those performances on-line in Random Lengths News’ web-site) the company has found a perfect match with a large group of participants and a much larger audience in San Pedro.
“People are just amazingly receptive (to our work) in San Pedro,” Summer Cacciagioni said in a recent phone interview. “Our first performance was doing some of Annie on a Christmas Parade on a float in San Pedro. We had little children pretending to sweep the street as we went by. We printed a 1000 fliers and got rid of them in the first few blocks – we could have given away 2000.
“Everyone has been so welcoming in San Pedro. The San Pedro Ballet School contacted me to offer their facilities for rehearsal before I had even gotten going. I didn’t even have to find a rehearsal space.”
Even more surprising to her was the official reception she got at the second performance of Annie in San Pedro: “It was fantastic beforehand, and the I got the award (a presentation from newly-elected City Councilman Joe Buscaino). I have never gotten an award before” she said with real enthusiasm.
The award was just icing on the cake, though. “It was our 26th show for Encore Entertainers and we sold more tickets on line for the Friday performance (at the Warner Grand) than we have ever sold for any show before,” Summer Cacciagioni said. “So many people came that Friday night we had more than 600 people in the audience. It was the biggest audience we have ever had at any performance for the public.”
That response, so direct and genuine, has already brought about changes in Encore’s production schedule. Encore is going to present Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Warner Grand June 28-July 1. But, because of the enthusiastic response from San Pedro, they are also going to bring their production of Les Miserables, originally scheduled for two weekends at the Centinela Valley Center for The Arts, July 20-22 and July 27-29, will now be performed the second weekend at the Warner Grand instead.
“We love that stage, love the feel of it, love the energy of it, love the history of that theater,” Summer Cacciagioni said. “If you could just make it a little deeper, it would be perfect.”
In their first production of Annie Encore had a crew of twenty to make set changes as well as a cast of seventy five on stage. For the mansion of Oliver Warbucks the set consisted on a double staircase as well as a drop.
“We had to take the circular stairs off and on for times during the show,” Summer Cacciagioni said. “Everyone had to work – we had 20 people running on and off the stage. We added one dance so that the crew could make the changes.”
The production was remarkable for its details, and Summer Cacciagioni is proud of the production –”Everything on that stage was ours except two drops.. We have a costume designer (Cheryl Ortiz) who designs and then builds and sews all the costumes.”
The production process at Encore Entertainers is a long one. Before announcing a production, a house must be secured and rights obtained. Then there are auditions, and a weekly process of rehearsals that involve as many as three different casts, children as young as 4 up to 21, plus many adults as well. The auditions for the upcoming San Pedro production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be held this Sunday, February26, starting at 2 p.m. at the San Pedro Ballet School, 1231 South Pacific in San Pedro.
“You don’t have to know anything to audition,” Summer Cacciagioni said. “We have sings for you to sing, and everyone is welcome.
“When I started the company it was just for children up to 21, but I have found that parents want to be involved, too. They love performing with their children, getting to know their children’s friends, finding out what inspires them to perform. We had two parents at our last performance in Redondo Beach – it was their first time on stage – and they have come back for other performances.”