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‘Hello! My Baby’ Comes to La Colina Junior High Stage

Gangsters Johnny Giovanni, played by Luke Mullen(center) and his henchmen Dickie the Duck, played by Brandon Nnoli (left) and Kid Vicious, played by Marco Shalhoob (right). Click to view larger
Gangsters Johnny Giovanni, played by Luke Mullen(center) and his henchmen Dickie the Duck, played by Brandon Nnoli (left) and Kid Vicious, played by Marco Shalhoob (right). (La Colina Junior High School photo)

Something unique and exciting is coming to La Colina Junior High March 17-19, 2016. The school will have the opportunity to premiere the local school version of the new-fashioned musical comedy, Hello! My Baby.

Hello! My Baby tells the story of a group of “song pluggers” in the early part of the 20th century who lived in the Lower Manhattan neighborhood known as Tin Pan Alley. 

These song pluggers, would stand on busy street corners like newsies and convince passersby to purchase their sheet music to take home and play on their pianos. It was the earliest days of pop music.

The visionary behind this joyful, upbeat musical is famous Santa Barbara local, Cheri Steinkellner.  Steinkellner has written classic comedies including Cheers, The Jeffersons and Facts of Life.

She has won four Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes and is Tony-nominated for her work on the musical Sister Act.  

Inspired after directing the musical Anything Goes at Goleta Valley Junior High, Steinkellner gathered together classic vintage tunes in the public domain and created Hello! My Baby.

What is most charming about Hello! My Baby is that it revamps the Great American Songbook, making both musical theater history as well as American history come alive for students in 2016. 

Issues such as tenement living, immigration, women’s rights and socioeconomic inequality plus the invention of the telephone and the radio all contribute to the good old-fashioned humor while exposing the roots that have made America a great and diverse nation. 

A myriad of colorful characters keep the audience involved in the number of plots and subplots and brings something for everyone to the stage. 

Betty Gold (seventh grader Maddie Thomas) is a Jewish girl from a multi-ethnic New York tenement neighborhood who must find a way to support her sisters and does so by posing as a boy in order to get a job as a song plugger, singing her (now his) way through the streets of New York in hopes of selling sheet music. 

She meets Mickey McKee (eighth grader Ben McAvene), an Irishman and top tenor, who becomes her song-writing partner as they work side by side, man to man, to write a crackerjack song that will earn them enough money to keep doing what they love.

Meanwhile, Betty’s (now Buddy’s) new employer Ethel Coots (eighth grader Eva Moschitto) and her husband Bert (eighth grader Anthony Jensen) run the publishing business that only touts operetta, keeping Mickey’s dreams at bay. 

Buddy (Betty) sings with the musical Coots twins Albie and Artie (played by twins Andrew and Jakob Miller) to earn his (her) keep.

When they aren’t dodging the gangsters Johnny Giovanni (Luke Mullen) and his henchmen Kid Vicious (Marco Shalhoob) and Dickie the Duck (Brandon Nnoli), whom they pay for protection, the Gold sisters get themselves into all kinds of mischief including an invitation to a debutante ball held by the wealthy tycoon Stanford J. Tierney (Jack Boyd) for his lovely granddaughter Alice (Jazara Hutton).

Her brother and heir to the fortune, Junior Tierney (Will Pace) falls for older Gold sister Frances (Kara Boger) shocking his rather uptight grandfather, while the younger Gold sister Violet (Kailey Wipf) cheers them on.

In the end, after a multitude of songs that will take the older members of the audience down memory lane and have the rest of us cheering, love wins.  Even the low-down Johnny Giovanni will find love with his Sicilian bride Marie (Bella Dozer).

The production team at La Colina this year includes vocal music and theater teacher Shannon Saleh as musical and managing director, the gifted Miller James as director, the ever-creative Jessica Hambright (Ballonoff) as choreographer, with Radu Azdril and Tom and Lorna Padden doing technical and set production.

The show will run for the public March 17-19 at 7 p.m. in the La Colina Auditorium at 4025 Foothill Road in Santa Barbara. There will be an additional matinee Saturday, March 19, at 2 p.m. 

Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door before each show.

Brigitte Wright represents La Colina Junior High School.


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