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“If I had started when I was 16, I would have been happier,” she said, adding that when she discovered dance-based exercise in college, it provided needed stress relief and she slept better at night. Ozbil said anyone interested in the free classes can show up to a session with identification, but people under 18 need to obtain consent from a parent or guardian. The classes take place at Little House (800 Middle Ave.) at 6 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays and 5:40 p.m. Thursdays, and at Arrillaga Family Recreation Center (700 Alma St.) at 9 a.m. Saturdays.
“Altar Boyz,” the musical closing Center REPertory Company’s season at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts, comes out of such a specific cultural moment that today, only 13 years after its debut, it comes off as a period piece, The 2004 hit off-Broadway musical parodies the boy band pop craze of the 1990s with groups like the Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync, The preshow music plays a sampling of those bands in case anyone needs a refresher course, Written by Kevin Del Aguila, the show takes the form of a concert of a super Christian boy band called the Altar Boyz, Their peppy songs (by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker) have lyrics like “Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait” comfort dance shoes strappy and “Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone.”..
The Center REP production is hardly the Boyz’ first visit. SHN brought a touring production to San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre in 2007. Concord’s late Willows Theatre Company first produced it in the East Bay in 2008, and other groups have done it here and there ever since. Directed and choreographed by Keith Pinto, this new production revels in 1990s excess. The dance moves are entertainingly over the top in their cheesiness. Victoria Livingston-Hall’s costumes for the group are hilarious fashion disasters, all-white mishmashes of ripped pants and athletic gear, a mesh shirt here, a pleather jacket there, all bedecked with silvery studs and flair. The four-piece backing band led by music director Ben Prince is dressed in similarly ludicrous white tracksuits.
Kate Boyd’s white and blue set consists of a semicircular platform surrounding the band and several diagonal pillars vaguely suggesting a pyramid, with flashing, multicolored concert lighting by Kurt Landisman, Naturally enough, most of the guys have the names of the authors of the gospels, Sean Okuniewicz is boyish-voiced and square as Matthew, the ostensible leader of the group, The single-named Tyce is hilariously dramatic as Mark, who clearly has a crush on Matthew but isn’t ready to say it, Justin Sabino’s Luke is amusingly dim, going off cluelessly on literal-minded tangents, and Josh Ditto is full of infectious cheer as the thickly accented Juan, William Hoshida is an earnest bundle of wannabe-cool mannerisms and dated slang (such as adding “-izzle” to words) as comfort dance shoes strappy Abraham, a Jewish guy who somehow wound up in a Catholic-themed band — and, in fact, writing the lyrics (fictionally, at least)..
There isn’t a plot as such, but there’s a narrative thread involving an electronic device that purportedly monitors how many souls in the room are burdened with sin. The group’s goal is to get that number to zero by singing goofy pop songs about Jesus. Along the way they tell the story of how they got together, which is amusingly patched together from each member’s conflicting accounts, like the gospels of their namesakes. It’s an awfully entertaining show, with comically awkward lyrics rife with supposedly accidental double entendres. One of the best gags is the collective gasp when Abraham says the group has evolved. Sure, it’s slightly funnier if you remember the boy bands it’s spoofing. In any case, as a tongue-in-cheek pop extravaganza it may not save any souls but it sure does lift one’s spirits.
The figure at the center comfort dance shoes strappy of TheatreFIRST’s new play “HeLa,” Henrietta Lacks, is a thorny subject, An African American mother of five who died of cervical cancer at the age of 31 in 1951, Lacks’ cancer cells proved immortal, replicating in labs to the present day, Semi-anonymously labeled “HeLa,” these cells proved invaluable to medical research, leading to breakthroughs such as the polio vaccine, But the samples were taken without Lacks’ knowledge or consent, and her family was not consulted nor compensated..
Though there were articles about Lacks published as early as 1976, her story became more popularly known after Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” A movie with the same title, based on the book, debuted on HBO this April. TheatreFIRST’s play is cowritten by two local playwrights with a particular knack for science plays, Lauren Gunderson and Geetha Reddy. Since artistic facilitator Jon Tracy took over last year, the company has reinvented itself to focus entirely on commissioned new works with creative teams that are at least half female identified and two-thirds people of color.
There were apparently a number of conversations behind the scenes about the fact that the diverse group of artists creating “HeLa” is not primarily African-American, so shortly before the play opened Tracy announced that TheatreFIRST will follow with a second piece about comfort dance shoes strappy the Lacks family in the 2018-19 season, created by black artists, The focus of “HeLa” is on Lacks’ continued life after death through her lingering and multiplying cells, Embodied with self-assured charisma by Jeunee Simon, Henrietta lingers as a ghost, observing the researchers making use of the product of her body, taking pride in the accomplishments of her cells while being aggravated that she’s given no credit for them, and encouraging her children to stick up for themselves, She’s always providing sardonic commentary to living people who can’t hear her..