When the average American tourist takes a cruise to Estonia, all he sees are the spires of charming villages and frothing waves buffeting verdant rolling hills. When Tony Spinosa took the same cruise in 2014, he saw a tiny but formidable country which fought for its freedom from a superpower through artful and nonviolent means. As history recalls, Estonia won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1987 through a peaceful uprising enriched by the melodies which reflected a culture going back generations. The SINGING REVOLUTION is the commonly-phrased name for the nonviolent movement that led to the 1991 restoration of sovereignty in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Mass demonstrations giving voice to national songs grew into a 400-mile human chain linking the three nations – and finally into the independence of each.
Inspired by true events spanning nearly 40 years, award-winning producer/stage director/ choreographer/writer/arts leader/performer Tony Spinosa knew that he had discovered the basis for a poignant, fearless, and powerful tale of dedication to an ideal despite all odds. As Spinosa opined,
“I have developed a deep appreciation for the people of Estonia as I learned about their passion, integrity, and perseverance. To see this small Baltic country achieve their re-independence from the Soviet Union through the power of peaceful protest is a beautiful example to the world that violence is not always the answer.”
Freedom – Love – Resilience. What could be a stronger foundation for a moving, meaningful story wrapped in music? With book, lyrics, and music by Spinosa and book and lyrics by James Bearhart, SINGING REVOLUTION acquired shape and form. It took eight years of planning and hard work – and one pandemic – before Spinosa was able to bring his production to life. Making its world premiere and sponsored in part by the Estonian American National Council, SINGING REVOLUTION comes to Los Angeles in 2022.
Taavi Tamm (James Everts) doesn’t want the Soviet Union in his small and cozy country – but here they are. Soon his quiet preferences turn into social activism when his father, like so many other men in Estonia, “disappears” one day, never to return. And then he meets Sofia Solokov (Bella Hicks), who just happens to be the daughter of the commander-in-chief (Michael Scott Harris) charged with taking control of Estonia by order of the Communist party chiefs in Moscow. Thus Taavi and Sofia take on the personae of an Estonian Romeo and Juliet. The show even gives the audience the chance to hob-nob with the bumbling ghosts of Josef Stalin (Adam Wylie) and Vladimir Lenin (Anthony Marciona) as they try to shape the future. Woven among factual events are the tragedies, hopes, and dreams of the people who lived them – with some chuckles thrown in. The story follows its characters from 1952 to 1991 – from Soviet occupation to freedom.
But, above all, SINGING REVOLUTION is a musical. As such, there are lots of strong singers and some very talented dancers telling the story. Kudos to leads Everts and Hicks, who shine in their roles. The big cast does some numbers which will knock your socks off – all in Europop style with lots of bouncy rhythms. Even though the show is presented in a small theater, the numbers are Broadway big – loud, exciting, and young. Spinosa also directed the production, so he knew exactly what he wanted his personalities to project – and they do so with skill and energy.
SINGING REVOLUTION is definitely in a category of its own: ordinary people surviving through dangerous and fearful historic events all around them. The production features lots of music – and even has a live five-piece band led by music director Brent Crayon to keep the beat going. There is also careful attention paid to today’s current COVID situation. Proof of vaccination is required, and masks must be worn by audience members inside the theater. For those of you who enjoy history, resilient people, travel, love stories, toe-tapping tunes, and something a little different – SINGING REVOLUTION is definitely for you.
SINGING REVOLUTION runs through February 20, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Broadwater Theatre is located at 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038. Tickets are $40. For information and reservations, go online.
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