West Broward Performance Ensemble’s “Paradise” captivates audience

by Valentina Padula

SHOWTIME: The West Broward Performance Ensemble and Color Guard perform live on Jan. 29 at Pines Charter. The show included a variety of props, dance features and classic songs that added a unique touch to their Paradise performance. Photo by Andy Rumpfeldt

  The West Broward Performance Ensemble has endured many setbacks since the inception of COVID-19, but beginning on Jan. 15, their performance of Paradise, a 1950’s drive-in theatre show began their musical season at West Broward High School. Resigned to scarce drill practices and Zoom calls to prepare for their show this year, they were still able to put out a performance that delighted its audience.

The show, based on Elton John’s “Pinball Wizard”, took place on Jan. 15 and 23 at West Broward and then on Jan. 29 at Pines Charter. It included dance features, songs and soundscapes that added emphasis to its theatrical theme. The Ensemble has been able to pull together a diverse and entertaining show with the strong performances from Color Guard’s various flags, props and dance sequences.

“After 13 years at West Broward, this will be the performance I distinctly remember for the rest of my life. The students using protocol were able to rehearse and perform without exposing each other to COVID,” said Dean Calmer, Band Director. “This performance was about students showing adults that we can still work together in a pandemic as long as everyone cares for each other.” 

 The performance started with a pre-show where performers got into character as theatre attendants. They used a variety of props like car seats, a backdrop with the title Paradise, pinball machines and a 50s style buggy car to set the scene. There was a soundtrack with music and a voiceover that set the vintage mood before the performance began.

  “The props we have are what give the crowd the visual of being in that theatre,” said Angelica Pita, a senior band captain. “They are all fun but essential to the visual of the show.”

 As the show began, a drive-in announcer welcomed the audience. They started out the performance with a swift excerpt from “Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra, the familiar sounds of pinball machines in the background. They showcased various formations while Color Guard went through their own dance sequences on the side.

  “It is really good music, and if you are familiar with that music then it is all the better because if you hear it you will get the reference in,” said Samuel Correia, freshman mellophone.

Afterward, they smoothly switched to the song, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf. The Color Guard danced with bright flags as the Ensemble shifted into a set formation to firmly play along, and it was a clear introduction as to how the show will progress.

  “The show begins with Frank Sinatra’s ‘Summer Wind’ and it goes into ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ by Meat Loaf, which is genius if you ask me because it fits our theme so well,”  said Sofia Sutter, junior mellophone. 

  Moving into the classic “Blue Rondo a la Turk” by Dave Brubeck, soloist Jacquelynn Arias came in, singing above the beat to her own lyrics. She displayed her vocal talent as the Ensemble played, with Color Guard joining the formation to spin their rifles into the air in a captivating jazz sequence.

  “We have a soloist named Jacquelynn Arias who is an amazing singer that showcases all her amazing vocals,” Sutter said. “She has to train herself to sing above the beat, which is really difficult and which she manages to pull off really well.”

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: The Ensemble rehearses for their performance, Paradise, that was performed on Jan. 15, 23, and 29. The show, inspired by Elton John’s “Pinball Wizard”, adapted old hits and uniquely modernized them. Photo by Kacey Bellamy

  After Brubeck, the music suddenly shifted to the modern song, “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. The ensemble stopped playing and instead joined the Color Guard for a long dance sequence, moving along to Cyrus’ pop ballad. With this, they showcased their ability to modernize old hits by adding a unique contemporary style into the soundtrack.

  “We see the dance feature where we sample the song ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus,” Correia said. “That definitely stands out.”

  Afterward, the music slid into their inspiration, “Pinball Wizard” by Elton John where the Ensemble picked up their playing, percussion adding their own touch to the song. Color Guard threw a yoga ball into the air, acting as a pinball spinning within a pinball machine, and two pinball machines are briefly added into the performance.

  “The songs we play emphasizes the drive-in movie theater theme because it brings you back to the different ways they played music in the 50s and it shows you how we made it modern,” Pita said.

As the show ended, the Ensemble powerfully drew out the last note and ended with a flair. Grabbing the audience’s attention with diverse songs, unique setting and variety of props, everyone involved displayed their ability to modernize old hits and flexibly add in recent songs.

   “By the time we were halfway done with the show, we realized that by this time in a non-COVID season, we would not have been this fast at putting the show together,” Pita said. “Since we put so much dedication and gave our one hundred percent, there was no doubt in my mind that we could achieve this.”