33 1/3-House of Dreams By Sandra Castillo
The songs were lauded and celebrated by millions of people and quickly became commercially successful, chart-topping sensations calibrated to perfection in the hands of those commandeering the controls at Gold Star Recording Studios. Once situated at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine in Hollywood, California, before it was vacated in 1984 and later destroyed in a fire after its closure, the famed independent recording studio, founded by Stan Ross and David Gold, churned out a plethora of songs that yielded more than 100 Top 40 hits and made stars out of the musical acts who recorded them.
The Righteous Brothers, Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, Sonny and Cher, Hugh Masekela, Herb Alpert, Brian Wilson, The Crystals, Tina Turner, Iron Butterfly and The Ramones were just a few of the many recording artists who employed the services of Ross and Gold to lay down tracks that dominated the radio airwaves, while placating the record-buying public’s insatiable hunger for music wrapped in layers of combustion and sound…loud, bold, extravagant, Mono-rich sound.
When producer Phil Spector waltzed over the threshold of Gold Star, the ingenuity and technological innovations made possible by Ross and Gold-with help from engineer Larry Levine-parlayed the team’s in-studio experimentation and achievements into what eventually became known as the “Wall of Sound,” a phrase coined by Spector when he heard the massive echo back-wash reverberating within the confines of the studio during the recording process. When he applied this in-studio technique to the production of the mixes, the results were stupendous, thunderous, Wagnerian-in scope, thereby establishing his name and professional reputation with songs he affectionately referred to as “little symphonies for the kids.” “The Wrecking Crew,” a group of seasoned session musicians who worked with Spector at the time, was the impetus for the sonic boom blasting through the walls at Gold Star.
Responsible for some of the most unforgettable, dynamic hits of the 60s, Spector was the Architect of Sound behind such classics as “He’s A Rebel,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Be My Baby,” the Ronettes’ requiem to teenage lust that sent millions of America’s youth, namely young males, into throes of unrequited passion upon hearing lead singer Ronnie Spector breathlessly coo the four, little words forever immortalized in music-“Whoa oh oh oh.”
All this rich, lavish history, by way of Gold Star Recording Studios, has been recaptured for the stage in the production of 33 1/3-House of Dreams at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. An exhilarating rush of sound and spectacle, the musical extravaganza combines the storied past of one of rock n’ roll’s greatest eras and the music that erupted out of the iconic building into two-plus hours of dazzling, show-stopping entertainment. 33 1/3 boasts a stellar cast that embodies the spirit-and-elan of a phenomenon unmatched during its thirty-three-year reign in the business that operated from 1950 to 1984.
Brad Ross and Jonathan Rosenberg collaborated as writers for 33 1/3 to usher the memory of Gold Star to the forefront of the 21st-century, while revisiting seminal chapters of its history relegated to the studio and the people involved with it. Ross, the son of the late Stan Ross, pays respectful homage to its legacy and the legacy of his father with a production that intimately follows the timeline of its sparse beginnings to eventually becoming one of the most sought-after recording studios in the country. Steve Gunderson’s musical arrangements elevates the overall ambience of the production with its soaring overtures and perfectly positioned musical interludes.
Director Javier Velasco-as the creative overseer of 33 1/3-leads the principles through Gold Star’s inception all the way to the mid-1980s, the decade that witnessed the cessation of creative output from the studio. As the choreographer, he is also responsible for the impressively synchronized moves which take the dancers through a labyrinth of seamless ebb-and-flow, stop-and-go. All this momentum, courtesy of the students from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, bedazzles the audience which gets swept up in an undercurrent of euphoria and nostalgia set to a rousing, electrifying beat.
The primary actors, in their respective roles, fully engage the story of 33 1/3 with flair and a degree of panache that culminates itself into stand-out personalities of those who were there from the very beginning. Stan Ross (played by Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper) becomes this bigger-than-life impresario based on his relentless, ambitious drive and determination to turn Gold Star Recording Studios into its own star. His business partner, David Gold (Jacob Caltrider), is the technical wizard of the collective, given his vast expertise of the dynamics and recording equipment utilized at the studio. Vera Ross (Aviva Pressman) is the dedicated, supportive wife of Ross, but, inevitably, unleashes her dissatisfaction at playing second fiddle in his bid to crank out the songs and turn them into Number One hits. Then, there’s Mitzi (Bethany Slomka), a spitfire of a woman who injects enough wit and sass to fill in the gaps and spaces that oftentimes encumber musical productions, even with the likes of this outstanding play.
33 1/3-House of Dreams is currently playing at the San Diego Rep at the Lyceum Theatre in downtown San Diego and has been extended until September 1st, due to its popular demand. Catch it while you can!
For more information and tickets, visit www.sdrep.org