For the Aerospace Players, it's about the love of theater.
Started in 1988, the nonprofit has been an artistic outlet for employees as well as friends and family of the Aerospace Corporation and Los Angeles Air Force Base.
“It's one of those clubs that everybody participates in across the company, which is nice,” said Tammy Choy, a Manhattan Beach resident and a vice president in the Aerospace Corporation who also works on the sound/technical crew. “It ties in our local contractors Air Force, friends and family, so it's really a nice kind of club that everybody participates in.”
Beginning Friday, July 19, the Aerospace Players will bring the family-friendly musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” to the James Armstrong Theatre in Torrance. The production runs through Saturday, July 27.
Redondo Beach's Angela Asch is one of the two directors, choreographer and is part of the ensemble. Asch's father Taylor Thompson, and his then wife, Tenna Tucker, helped form Aerospace Players while the Aerospace Corporation was creating many clubs. She was in her first play in 1990.
“They started out in a cafeteria and they ran solely on donations, there were no tickets... there was no money involved,” recalled Asch. “They built sets in the driveway of some of the houses of people who were part of the group. Everybody just gave their blood sweat and tears to make the shows come alive.”
Bob Minnichelli, a Redondo Beach resident who plays Judah, has been involved with Aerospace Players for more than 30 years.
“I’ve had many different roles,” Minnichelli said. “I've done ensemble, I’ve done spotlight operator, I directed a couple and produced a couple, all sorts of roles. It's common for people who have been involved with these shows long enough.”
Narrator Ann Grennan, a Redondo Beach resident, said most of the cast are not trained and no one is turned away who is interested in participating, no matter the talent level.
“It's a lot of people, it's a lot of communication, it’s a lot of different personalities, it's a lot of different skill levels,” Grennan said. “I claim we're a community theater with a nod toward the aerospace and engineering people. We have a lot of engineers, Air Force and those who have families. Usually to be the lead... you need a lot of singing skills because there's not enough time to teach you how to sing and act in that short time... I’ve been with the group for about nine years, its been fun to see how some people are learning.”
Lisa Stout, who is part of the ensemble and shares the stage with husband Jason, who plays Simeon, and their four children, who are part of the children's chorus, said they allow everyone to be in the spotlight.
“It's not about who's the lead, who gets all the attention, it's are we all contributing to the story,” Stout said.
In the Biblical story of redemption, Joseph, the favored son of Jacob Canaan, is left for dead by his jealous brothers who abduct him and destroy the special coat that was a gift from his father. After being sold into prison by his brothers, the Pharaoh learns of his unusual abilities. The brothers are forced to search for work years later when a famine hits Egypt and soon begging for help from Joseph. The musical features songs such as “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door.”
“It's the type of show where you can see it a million times and every time you see it, it's different because there are so many ways to interrupt it... you're telling the story out of the Bible, but of course you're telling it in a way that's contemporary and updated,” Asch said.
Grennan added, “I keep the story moving while all these guys do the hard work. It's a fun role... in spite of the fact it's this sad story in a way. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice turned it into a lot of fun.”
Music of different eras are used to tell Joseph's story. Even the Pharaoh, played by Manhattan Beach's Bob Borich, is an Elvis Presley impersonator.
“The hardest part is the movement,” said Borich of playing Elvis. “When you really get into it and see what that man was able to do and dance on his toes, it's amazing... it is gravity defying some of the stuff he did. Not that I can recreate it, but it adds a real physicality.”
Jason Stout plays Simeon, one of the 11 brothers, who has a French solo.
“To make some silliness out of the character, it's a fun flamboyant sort of part, so it's a lot of fun to play,” Stout said.
Performances take place Friday, July 19, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 20, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 21, at 2 p.m.; Thursday, July 25, at 7 p.m.; Friday, July 26, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, July 27, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $24 for adults or $22 for seniors and students.
The James Armstrong Theatre is located at 3330 Civic Center Drive in Torrance.
For tickets, call the box office at (310) 781-7171, or visit aeaclubs.org/theater.