HARLINGEN — The goons stumble across the stage like discarded vaudevillians in their garish clothes while the piano rolls to the beat of their fumbling feat.
And they bounce and stagger in a sort of deliberate confusion as they scramble to please club owner Curtis Jackson, played by Eduardo Gallardo, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School.
“OK! OK! OK! OK!” Gallardo declares in the opening lines of “Sister Act,” which opens Saturday at the Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory.
“Baby you look good! Baby you SOUND good!” he says with manipulative flattery to Dolores played by Cadee Velasquez, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School South.
“Can I sing in your club?” she says with gullible glee.
And those blatantly clashing lines so hilariously captivating in a sort of verbal slapstick of contradictions set the tempo for an outrageously brilliant demonstration of talent once again on display at the PAC. The performance revealed a fiesta of magnified characters all bumping into each other and then finding some resolution: Nuns, prostitutes, police officers, bartenders, they all came together to craft a delightful presentation of characters trying to find their way in the world.
And in the midst of it, small snippets of frank spirituality.
“I am fine!” blurts Dolores, at which Mother Superior aka Adrianna Rodriguez, 15, gives her a lecture.
“In a city of one million people, you couldn’t find a friend to take you in. At a time when success in the music business is blossoming, you can’t get a job. God has sent you here for a reason. Take the hint.”
Dolores, you see, is a material witness to a murder, and the Philadelphia Police Department is hiding her at a convent where she will bring new life to the music program.
The students have spent months honing their characters in preparation for the opening show. They presented themselves at a premier showing Thursday for school children in Harlingen and surrounding areas. Audiences were impressed.
“It’s good to see everyone expressing their talent and seeing the school and community come out to support them,” said Javier Gonzalez, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School.
As was Demond Wilson, resident artist/director, who has worked with them throughout the arduous process from chaos to completion.
“This is an opportunity for students to show off what they do,” he said, adding this might be the first chance for many children to see a live performance. Thus, it could lay the foundation for many future stars at the Conservatory in the coming years.
There was a sort of calculated and measured chaos to the whole experience in which the students over long hours of practice had woven disembodied caricatures of action and dialogue into a fine perfection. But it was a perfection that would be further enhanced by more drill, more emphasis, more rehearsal on Thursday afternoon after the show.
This of course would be a continuation of the minute polishing of tiny details on Wednesday when there were the tense and unrelenting discussions of such matters as articulations and transitions and sets.
“GooD! D! D! They can’t hear you!” said Lee Ann Ince, fine arts coordinator for the Harlingen school district.
More “D” “D” “D” from Wilson, still more from Ince, all for the opening lines “Baby you sing so GooD.” They ran through that one part several times Wednesday all to ensure a fabulous and entertaining performance for the community.
And Bruce G. Gonzalez, 17, training his voice and manner to be a convincing “goon” of his uncle, Curtis Jackson the club owner, constantly went over his lines.
“They say what I have skips a generation!” he says.
“That’s a funny line!” says Ince. “They want to hear it but you’re throwing it away.”
And so they ran through it again, and again, and again… until the delightful presentation on Thursday with everyone laughing at Bruce’s deliberate clumsiness falling over his fellow goons.
The humor was sort of a contrapuntal face to the serious of things like Devin Claudio aka Police Officer Sweaty Eddie Souther suddenly discarding his fear and frailty and now declaring before the audience that “If I let myself try, I could be that guy” while the kids in the audience with burning hearts and yearning passions for acceptance and validity in a sometimes chaotic world erupted into a spontaneous round of enthusiastic c