Mustang Daily Staff Report
As soon as the red, orange and blue circles of light illuminate the stage and the drum set starts tapping a beat, the audience of SLO Little Theatre’s latest production, “Watergate and Other Solid Gold Hits,” is transported into an era of political scandal, long gas lines, seriously groovy fashion and some bangin’ musical hits. The year is 1970, the place is Washington, D.C., President Nixon has just been sworn into office and every bell-bottomed bunny is bouncing along to Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years.”
The musical, an original work from playwright David Vienna and artistic director Kevin Harris, tells the story of the 1970s from the eyes of the politicians ruling the national scene — a grueling, sticky, complicated, scandalous political mess of a decade pitting people against government and government against media — interwoven, of course, with the ensemble breaking out into covers of flashy pop hits that ruled the era — including President Nixon belting out “Lean on Me” to his White House Plumbers. It makes light of many serious and historic events of the time — like the Watergate break-in, Nixon’s resignation, the death of Elvis and the Carter and Ford presidencies.
Artistic director Kevin Harris said the most important part of putting on a production like this, though, is interestingly not the storyline.
“What we keep in mind is that in the end, it’s about the music,” Harris said. “If people don’t like the music, it’s a failure.”
He’s right. The play itself is filled with heated, fast-paced dialogue that is, at times, tricky to follow. But the main star of the show is the band, perched above the stage, capturing the audience’s attention with covers of Elton John, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Supertramp and many, many more.
“Watergate” is the biggest show of the year at the SLO Little Theatre, Harris said, and took a year to put together.
“There’s nothing better than sitting in a theater with actors, playwrights and musicians and figuring out how to tell a story,” Harris said.
The cast and crew are all local, Harris said, and the close-knit feel of the theater is why some of the audience members keep coming back.
Irma Macias and her husband were visiting from Whittier, Calif. and decided to go to the playhouse — for the second time.
“We like the community aspect of it,” Macias said. “It’s an intimate feel.”
While normally the theater gives $10 student-discount tickets for productions, “Watergate” tickets are selling for $35 to $50. But, Harris said, the theater encourages any student who wants to see a play without spending the money to volunteer with the productions.
Allison Montroy contributed to this staff report.