The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the theater community to be even more creative than usual to survive, a struggle for many companies even in the best of times.
As theaters dealt with dwindling audiences, theater artists dealt with dwindling opportunities. Theaters have postponed or canceled performances or worse, shut their doors completely. Streaming theater was an outlet for some, but most agree it’s a less than ideal replacement for the communal experience of an in-person show.
But streaming theater gave Emerson Collins and Blake McIver, two performers with decades of experience between them, the opportunity to work together. What they developed as a streaming piece for the Public Theatre of San Antonio has now transmogrified into a full-fledged touring production.
Sonoma Arts Live will host I Dreamed a Dreamgirl, Collins and McIver’s two-man tour de force based on their life experiences and careers—from Star Search to Ragtime to Full House to Rent—for one weekend of performances in August. The two describe the show as “showtunes, duets, Disney favs (and deep cuts), mashups and medleys that (probably) shouldn’t exist.” The title itself is a mashup of Collins’ love of Les Miz and McIver’s love of Dreamgirls.
Audiences have responded positively so far. “It’s been overwhelming,” said Collins. “We opened the tour in Palm Springs, and there was a standing ovation at the end of the first act, and that was the first time I truly thought, ‘Okay, we’ve made something people really enjoy.’ Also, we did a test run of it in LA for the harshest critics among our friends. My best friend, a standup comedian who hates musicals, said, ‘I actually loved the whole thing.’ In Dallas, an audience member said, ‘I didn’t know any song you sang, and I had an absolute blast,’ so it seems to be playing well for people.”
This is what Collins and McIver hope for their Sonoma County audiences. “There is so much darkness right now; our goal here is truly to just provide a silly, fun and joyful evening,” concluded Collins. “We sing all or part of 49 different songs in 90 minutes from Aida and Chess, a Disney villains’ medley, standards and things from Britney to Barbra. So truly, we just want you to leave smiling a little more than when you came in.”
‘I Dreamed a Dreamgirl’ runs Friday, Aug. 19 and Saturday, Aug. 20 at Andrews Hall in the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 7:30pm. $30–$45. 866.710.8942. Proof of vaccination with ID and masking are required to attend. sonomaartslive.org