Tag Archive: petrina olson


Insurgo Theater specializes in improv, but Marko Westwood proved on Feb. 2 that he’s not so bad at it, either. When an elderly couple that lives below Westwood had their rent money stolen, Westwood organized a last-minute benefit concert to keep the couple from being evicted.

“THANKS,” a concert featuring dancers from Westwood’s Repertory Dance Theater and performers from the Insurgo troupe, was the result. Tickets were $10 at the door and a donation box was made available on Insurgo’s homepage with the goal of collecting the $400 minimum payment.

All told, the effort was reciprocated with $820.

"Twelfth Night," Insurgo Theater Movement

Considering the short notice, the cohesion in the show was impressive. Insurgo kicked in several scenes from their erotic Shakespeare rendition called “Twelfth Night,” which was a wise plug for current and upcoming shows. Other improv skits from their “Improvious Bastards” series illuminated the breadth and talent of the performers and were fantastically funny to watch.

Dance numbers made up about a quarter of the show. “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” previously performed in a show at the Onyx in January, made an appearance and featured Serena Bartholomew and Petrina Olson. Olson also performed “Gravity,” a contemporary number full of lyrical swings and falls. Marko and Megan Westwood performed “Always/again,” an amazingly poignant study in dependence and separation. “Inner Sanctum on the Outside of My Sleeve,” by Jewel Racquel, centered around a red plywood cube and concluded the show in appropriate avant garde fashion.

Mick Axelrod performed several installments of “Wordsplay,” a charismatic and literary riff on the oh-so-eloquent English language — think rap, 17th-century style. The acts were both lexically aloof and conversational, an interesting juxtaposition that made them quite enjoyable. Ava Galore’s vocals were excellent as well in “Wherever He Ain’t,” a strong character number backed by a voice that can’t be knocked. Geo Nikols lip-synced to “Billie Jean” and graciously kept the program from getting too serious.

Quirky comedy was well represented and well received. Sam Craner performed “The Date,” a skit about a man preparing a candle-lit dinner when his date cancels at the last minute. Rosalie Miletich Ellis and Dave Surrate took the cake for acts that induced a head-tip, a wrinkled brow and a laugh. “The Interview” took place between an interviewer and a potential employee, who would spontaneously switch into canine mode and bark and growl at the interviewer. The doggie-style skit was just barely on this side of palatable, which is, of course, exactly how Insurgo likes it.

So despite the short notice and the hodge-podge program, the show was a success in more ways than one. Perhaps Westwood and the Insurgo gang should produce impromptu concerts more often. They certainly have a knack for it.

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As anyone at the Onyx Theatre will tell you, experimentation is always good.

So is collaboration. Marko Westwood, in conjunction with RagTag Entertainment, brought both to the stage on Jan. 7 and 8 with “A Little Song and Dance.”  Ten choreographers joined forces with vocalists and musicians and put on the Broadway-themed concert as a benefit for education, with proceeds donated to the Miley Achievement Center in Las Vegas.

As a show, “A Little Song and Dance” was very different from the usual Onyx fair. Christopher Peterson’s renditions of Marilyn Monroe’s “I Want to be Loved By You” and Carol Channing’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”  were about as adult as it got. (Peterson, who is behind the “Eyecons” show, changed the “diamonds” to “condoms” in the latter song, with suggestive hand gestures and altered choruses and verses to match.)

The rest of the concert was a combination of musical theater, character dance and vocals. While some of the choreography was unremarkable and a few of the transitions were rocky, the sincerity of those involved glimmered through. The vocalists especially were excellent; Ava Galore was the quintessence of the exasperated woman in “Wherever He Ain’t,” from “Mack and Mabel” and Leah Kreitz and Michael Close were fabulous as both singers and characters in “Sssssss,” which opened the show.

Collaboration between vocalists and dancers was another strong element of the performance and an intriguing aspect that could be explored more in subsequent concerts. “Brothers,” featuring dancers Jaime Velilla and Westwood himself, was performed to RagTag Entertainment’s vocals of “Will I?” from “RENT” and was as magnetic as the opener. Having the vocalists in the house while two dancers twined around each other onstage was immersing and a choreographic feat by Westwood.

“Sssssssss” was an a cappella and dynamic version of “Steam Heat” and embodied the best that the show had to offer: ingenuity, audience-friendly characters and big, belting voices. A construction worker played percussion in the background while Kreitz and Close sang from a bus stop downstage. Unexpected comedy was lent by the musical accompaniment, utilizing the likes of a balloon and a bottle of pills. Two claps at the end triggered a Clapper and laughs from the audience. Dancers Jose Favela, Jesus Nanci and Erin Sullivan showed off some stomp-style skills and tipped a fedora to Bob Fosse.

Two other numbers were Fosse-themed. “Hey There Big Fella,” to a remix of “Big Spender” was a predictable but bodacious number choreographed by Westwood that featured the usual bar downstage and sexy attitudes from the dancers. “All That Jazz,” choreographed by Serena Bartholomew, was quick and rife with smiles from the dancers, which helped mitigate sections that weren’t as clean as they could have been.

Character numbers were seen in Petrina Olson’s “Target Practice,” to a track from “Annie Get Your Gun,” and Tiffany Caudullo’s “The Harsh Truth,” to “Turn Back, Ol’ Man” from “Godspell.” Olson’s choreography, complete with fake rifles, was simultaneously tom-boy and girly, a trick that was potentially hard to pull off but well-executed. Caudullo’s choreography, featuring Westwood as Jesus, was tastefully understated. Her vocals were well-projected and the technique of accompanying dancers Anna Fazio and Adrianna Rosales was apparent.

Fazio also performed to “Look at Me Now” from “The Wild Party,” demonstrating some of the stronger technique in the show with extroverted, infectious energy. Onishia Murillo choreographed a delightful and surprisingly fresh number to “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” with herself, Bartholomew, Kreitz and Marissa Mendoza as the personality-filled orphans. “Hear Me,” to “Listen” from “Dreamgirls,” another number by Olson and danced with Nanci, was standard, perhaps overdone contemporary, but it made good use of the space and the dancers exhibited emotion well.

Two violin numbers rounded out the show. Caudullo, dressed appropriately in two different glittering gowns, performed “Show Me” from “My Fair Lady” and “Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera.” Both provided visual reprieves and underscored the many hats worn by these performers.

If “A Little Song and Dance” had been a boat, a few sailors would probably have been bailing water. However, professionalism wasn’t necessarily the point here; Westwood is onto something and it isn’t girls in underwear. He’s found an under-represented genre, incredible potential in partnerships between groups and and a less visible age range to cater to, and he would do well to keep experimenting.

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