Just as the worldwide pandemic was in its earliest infancy, SALVAGE made its debut in Los Angeles and proved to be a serious crowd pleaser lauded by critics across the city. Unbeknownst to the creators, cast, and crew, this well received and award-winning production was also the beginning of the end for live theater. In just three short months, all theaters in the U.S. would turn off their lights, draw their curtains, and shutter their doors for the next 18 months. How fitting that SALVAGE introduces the “new normal” of live theater as the pandemic begins to wane and live theater makes its long-awaited comeback.
With book and screenplay by Tim Alderson and music and lyrics by Mark Heard, Pat Terry, Randy Van Warmer, and Tim Alderson, SALVAGE examines the role of choices we all make in life – and their sometimes unexpected consequences. Director Damian D. Lewis and music director Colin Linden have combined their talents to create a musical which lets lyrics and spoken words combine to add a little something extra to each medium.
Old timer Preacher (David Atkinson) spends most of his time hanging out in his old buddy’s bar – mainly polishing off bottles of Wild Turkey and occasionally plucking out a little ditty on his guitar about his bad decisions and lost dreams. Then, into Preacher’s empty cocoon, steps Harley (Sam O’Byrne), a chatty young fellow who couldn’t resist seeing the inside of the bar where his musical hero, Floyd Whitaker, died. In his hand is his old companion and best friend, the guitar which he scrimped and saved to buy and which must now be pawned to support him and his pregnant girlfriend. And with that guitar go his dreams to become a music composer and professional musician.
As it turns out, three men are trapped in that little saloon – the taciturn, surly, rarely sober Preacher; young and eager Harley, the talented kid ready to surrender his dreams and aspirations for responsibilities and obligations; and the inhospitable, irritated barkeep Johnson (Leonard Earl Howze), a man who may have some secrets of his own. Even if nobody seems to be listening, Harley keeps asking what really happened to Floyd Whitaker. When Harley’s girlfriend enters the bar looking for him, the pretty and very pregnant Destiny (Natalie Llerena) finally breaks the standoff. It quickly becomes apparent – to Preacher’s and Johnson’s astonishment – that she wants Harley to keep his guitar and his musical hopes alive. But even more surprises are in store. You’ll have to see the production to tie all the invisible threads together.
SALVAGE tells its tale through lyrics and music coupled with the spoken word. Happily, David Atkinson, Sam O’Byrne, Natalie Llerena, and Leonard Earl Howze seem ready, willing, and more than able to offer their acting skills – liberally sprinkled with songs – in this musical vehicle. SALVAGE cannot fail to remain an audience pleaser as it blends melody and meaning into the story of people who are lost – but may find their way through music. Kudos to the creators of the poignant lyrics – worth listening to and spurring the story forward.
Joel Daavid’s scenic design is picture perfect – a seedy bar with lots of dark shadows threatening to shut out the light forever and only the glow from a garish neon sign spilling into the shadows when the door opens. Matt Richter’s lighting and Chris Moscatiello’s sound enhance the musical production while Chiara Cola’s costumes strike just the right note. SALVAGE is a real treat for audiences who love drama, music, complex people, and dreams. The production also adheres to local, state, and national COVID-19 guidelines, including proof of vaccination and masks indoors to insure safety. SALVAGE is 90 minutes long and performed without an intermission.
SALVAGE runs through November 14, 2021, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Hudson Theatre is located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, go online.