Topanga Youth Services Musical "The Producer's" Scores a Hit

May 31 2007

Topanga Messenger Article


"I want to be a producer, with a hit show on Broadway," or at the very least at Topanga Community House! Topanga Youth Services (TYS) staged a musical to remember on May 4 and 5 - the kind that you can't get the lyrics out of your head or the memory of 10 enthusiastic kids ranging in age from 10 to 15 singing, dancing and performing their little hearts out to a full house. As they marched out on stage singing "Opening Night" on the actual opening night, there was electricity in the air. Family and friends looked on as the actors nailed every line, lyric and expression with pure showmanship that would have made Mel Brooks proud.


Overheard were remarks like, "Gee, I didn't know Julian Scott had it in him!" To be followed by his proud parents exclaiming, "Neither did we!" The gender-bending theme evoked snickers from audience members saying, "It was quite uncanny watching Colton Callahan as drag queen director Roger de Bris next to Camilla Radoyce's producer Max Bialystock." Ava Portman, Karoline Villamil and Vanessa Frazier equally camped it up as everything from the director's fey assistants to glamorous chorus girls. Maya Bon traded her folksy Nutty Nut Nerds band lead singer for a part as ditzy siren, Ulla. Similarly, fellow bandmember Kansas Bowling tucked in her trademark dread-locks to don the numerous roles. Age and size seemed to be of no consequence as diminutive fifth- grader Sam Hay's "Boss" reprimanded gentle giant freshman Jake Savas' unhappy accountant. Local parent, restaurateur and former star of Broadway "Biloxi Blues" Adam Silbar said it best: "It doesn't matter if they sing on pitch and get every line perfect, as long as they are having fun up there. It engages the audience and they have a good time, too."

Director Karen Cooke chose the play based on its popularity and musicality. It's the mad-cap adventure of two unlikely business partners who hatch a plan to swindle a million dollars from their backers with a failed musical. But as Max (Camilla) says, "We did everything wrong, where did we go so right!"

Karen garnered the support of musical director Gordon Glor, choreographer Shae Kuehlmann, and assistant director Garrett Henritz. "I am so grateful to have such an amazing staff on this show." Karen has been working with theater and kids since she graduated NYU's Educational Theater program and has quite an impressive resume of credits herself.

Parents got in the act too, backstage that is. Zoe Hay took the lead creating costumes and sets and frenetically dressing the kids. Sandy Savas was seen perched on a ladder on Topanga Canyon Boulevard painting a sign. Special thanks go out to Topanga Elementary School, Topanga Community Club, and Tom Mitchell and Joakim Wiesel.

Coming up for TYS are filmmaking workshops with the Topanga Film Festival, dance classes with Shae and a rumored 2008 production of the musical, "Tommy," toned-down and re-written by Billy Portman. Incidentally, TYS now owns a professional sound system that is available for rent. This dynamic non-profit organization depends on government grants and support from the community. For more information about how to donate time or money or rent equipment or just get involved in the group, call Karen at (310) 502-3358 or visit the website at


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