A fake mustache that gives its wearer super powers. A wealthy heir and a beautiful dame on the hunt for a kidnapped genius. All tossed in with retro cool and a modern twist. This could only be the work of the High Street Broadcast, an ensemble that has been bringing live radio shows to the stage since 2007. The group’s latest original production is The Stache: Brush with Danger, coming to the DownStage Theater at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center for one night only on Sunday, Aug. 19.
It has performed on SVCAC’s main stage before but The Stache kicks off HSB’s inaugural DownStage Cabaret Series in the theater’s second-stage venue.
To heighten the cabaret experience and give the evening an extra dose of realism, the intimate DownStage space will take on the look and feel of a 1930s nightclub, with the audience seated at tables placed around the action. To make it all the more authentic, drinks (wine, beer and soft drinks) and dessert will be sold, and the High Street Combo band, led by Art Gibson, will be playing hits from the era as well as some original music.
“It was the style we were going for,” says Ryan Neely, an HSB founding member and co-writer of The Stache. “It’s exciting for our group because the DownStage Cabaret will lend itself very well to what we do. It affords us a greater intimacy with the audience.” That’s very important. After all, Neely adds, “The audience is the missing element. They’re like an additional character.”
The characters “onstage” will be played by Neely, Scott Gilbert, Liz Stockton, Anna Graves, Jen Ridgway and Will Shupe, who co-wrote The Stache with Neely. “We’re very fortunate,” says Neely. “We had an idea to create a show and write the material and play the parts.” That was more than 10 years ago, and since then the members of HSB (as well as guest actors, who feel like an extended family) have honed a creative process that works. Collaboration is key. So is having fun while taking their craft very seriously.
“High Street Broadcast is our passion project. It’s like our sandbox,” Neely adds. “We start with improv and jot down ideas. Some are transformed into sketches. There’s a lot of back and forth. We talk about genres we’d like to do.”
The Stache is an homage to classic noir detective dramas. “It’s inspired by The Shadow and Dick Tracy, as well as some early superheroes like Batman and Superman,” Neely adds. Like those old-time radio shows and every High Street Broadcast performance, The Stache features live sound effects and music.
Rounding out HSB’s DownStage Cabaret Series will be Trouble at Thunder Gulch (Sept. 23), a take on the classic Hollywood Western; and The Keeper of Gates Island, a thriller akin to The Island of Dr. Moreau (Oct. 14). HSB has more information about its productions at its website, HSBaudio.com.
The Cabaret Series is intended to fulfill one of SVCAC’s visions. “The DownStage Theater was created as a second-stage space to complement the main-stage offerings,” says Fred Helsel, SVCAC’s Assistant Community Services Manager. “It was created as an alternative performance space for more intimate theatrical experiences, workshops and concerts. It is a very versatile space.” The space has already played host to several productions for Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi’s Literature in Action programs, including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. On Sept. 9, it will feature Divas in Danger, part of the storytelling series called Tales on the DownStage.
“My favorite thing about the DownStage Theater is the unlimited possibilities,” adds Helsel. Unlimited is a word Ryan Neely and High Street Broadcast might use for what the future holds for them, too. After all these years and with dozens of performances under their belts, placing their own twist on classic genres and stories, the group is just getting started.
See The Stache: Brush with Danger on Sunday, Aug. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. For tickets and more information, call 805-583-7900 or visit www.simi-arts.org.