Redondo Beach's rich history, from its majestic Hotel Redondo to when George Freeth first brought surfing to the mainland, is traced in the original musical “The Strand, A Beach Musical,” which returns to the South Bay beginning Thursday, May 2, at the Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Performing Arts Center.
First performed in Redondo Beach nearly eight years ago, “The Strand” is produced by the nonprofit Fantasia Family Music, which introduces local students to the performing arts. Local singer/songwriter John Brown, along with his wife Susan, founded Fantasia 20 years ago.
“We thought that this is a chance to go back to our roots and do live music instead of accompanied tracks and go back to where we started when we used to write a lot of our own scripts,” said Susan Brown, who is directing the production.
The story begins with the birth of sea turtles on the Redondo Beach shore in the early 1900s when a young boy, Willy, saves one baby, whom he calls Honey Girl, from a hungry seagull and sets the turtle free.
At the same time, Freeth is in town to give the locals a surf demonstration. Decades later, Willy, who now owns the Hotel Redondo, is trying to save it from foreclosure by the ruthless investor Henry Harrison. He has help to save the aging hotel from his grandchildren, Kai and Leia. But the grandchildren become involved with Henry’s daughter, Angeline, and his egotistical son, Zack, which complicates matters.
Adding to the fantasy element, Honey Girl returns to the spot where Willy saved her eight decades earlier to find a very changed Redondo Beach. But with the Hotel Redondo, which in actuality was torn down in 1925, can history be saved in “The Strand”?
“The Strand” was first produced in 2011 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.
The last time “The Strand” was produced was in 2012, when it was staged at the Norris Center for the Performing Arts in Rolling Hills Estates. Since then John Brown wrote a new song and the story has been streamlined and revamped for a younger audience.
“It is an adult play but we wanted to create a 'Strand' junior first and get it into middle schools and churches and high schools,” said John Brown, a well-known local musician who had contributions from surf guitar legend Paul Johnson of The Belairs (“Mr. Moto”), Jeff Foskett, who has been with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys for years, and Billy Watts, for the show's music.
Their son Evan has also contributed to the music, behind the scenes and on stage of “The Strand” and its evolution over the years.
Evan, who earned a degree in theater at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, helped build sets, design costumes and work on the lighting, he also wrote two songs for the first production. He also stared as Freeth and another character in 2011. He ended up directing and acting in the 2012 version. In the new version he will be playing lead guitar when they cover surf music. His father is also in the band as well as one of Evan's students at J.H. Hull Middle School, where he is the band director.
“We discovered these new avenues to walk down, so to speak, with the script with the music ... and (we made) everything more complete and significant and representative of the South Bay,” said Evan about the show's changes.
Since its 2012 production, “The Strand” was submitted to contests and went through some workshops, but it was put on the backburner.
“We thought this was an opportunity to take some of the critiques we received at workshop,” Susan said.
John said they started Fantasia Family Music 20 years ago to distinguish itself from other performing arts companies in the area by developing and writing its own productions. He has had a lot of local success with the John Brown Band, performing in the South Bay for nearly 30 years. With the revamped musical, he hopes others will be interesting in licensing “The Strand” for other productions.
“The Strand, A Beach Musical” will be performed Thursday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m.; Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, May 4, at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The Peninsula High School Performing Arts Center is located at 27118 Silver Spur Road in Rolling Hills Estates.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit fantasiafamilymusic.org.