By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
SEQUIM — Still in her snow-white bridal gown, Holly walks away from her suburban wedding, away from the Establishment, across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the “Summer of Love.”
She finds herself on Hippie Hill in San Francisco, where everything — everybody — opens her eyes to a new way of life.
And Holly, portrayed by Mindy Gelder, has a musical magic carpet on which to ride in “Summer,” the show opening tonight for a three-weekend run at Olympic Theatre Arts, Sequim's community playhouse at 414 Sequim Ave.
Jaie Livingstone, herself an accomplished singer and music director, is staging “Summer of Love,” written by Roger Bean, as an ode to the 1960s, with two dozen classic rock songs, a live band on stage and a cast and crew of 30.
The performers include many who are far too young to remember the '60s, but also a handful who were there and lived to tell about it.
One of this group is Pat Owens, who plays River, leader of the tribe of hippies hanging out at Golden Gate Park; another is Penny Pemberton, who is the lavender lace-skirted Mama, aka Mother Nature.
“One of the reasons I wanted to get involved was to help keep it honest,” said Owens. “There was a lot more to the hippie period. . . . I was a part of it. I wanted to make sure this didn't turn into the McDonald's version.”
And as it turns out, “Summer of Love” is a show Owens is proud of.
“It's a kick,” he said, adding that the music sent him right back to his youth. The cast travels from “Everyday People,” “Somebody to Love,” “War (What Is It Good For?)” and “One Tin Soldier” to “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and “Do You Believe in Magic?”
And that's just the first part of Act I. One of Owens' favorite passages comes in Act II, when his character is in the midst of an acid trip.
River is with two young women, Saige (Lola Hassan-Adams) and Daisy (Nina Mendiburu) at the beginning of the story. He's into free love. Then he takes this drug-induced voyage, with the Blood, Sweat & Tears song “Spinning Wheel” playing. The tribe gathers around him, each one holding up a looking glass. He sees himself in these mirrors, and envisions his future with one woman.
At the same time, Holly and Curtis' odyssey is unfolding. The would-be bride and groom meet again on Hippie Hill, after Holly has shed her wedding dress for a slip, a groovy vest and a headband. Curtis, played by James Willis, has followed a trail of baby's breath — part of Holly's bridal headdress — across the bridge. He means to bring her back to, well, the 1950s.
Instead, the couple is drawn into the Haight-Ashbury scene, with its protests of the Vietnam War, its self-determined women, its marijuana and its LSD.
Act II's songs include “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Get Together,” “Dream a Little Dream,” “Piece of My Heart” and “White Rabbit.”
“The show isn't about drugs,” said Livingstone.
“They were just a part of the time that we are portraying,” a summer of exploration and song.
“Stick around for the music festival tonight,” Mama tells Curtis. “Music can make you feel.”
Livingstone, for her part, has had her heart stolen by Willis' bewildered bridegroom, and by Gelder's portrayal of Holly, a woman who defies what's expected of her.
“I wish I had had the courage to just be me in my 20s,” the director said.
“Both Holly and Curtis find themselves, and find something new about themselves, through their interactions with the hippies in the park.”
“Summer of Love” begins at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays tonight through Feb. 23; also, one pay-as-you-wish performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12. Tickets to weekend shows are $22 for adults and $10 for those 16 and younger.
Advance tickets are available at www.OlympicTheatreArts.org, and at the OTA box office, open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 360-683-7326.