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Theater ends season on high note

Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2003

Mention that David Webster is putting on another cabaret at Pier One Theatre in Homer and many longtime Homerites get a tad misty-eyed for days gone by.

Back in the day in Alaska time, that's about 10 years ago the theater had a tradition of putting on a cabaret at the end of the season. The shows were mostly music with a dash of plot and a serious helping of end-of-the-season celebration. Nearly all the season's cast found their way on stage.

In 1993, Webster took the cabaret show one step further and wrote "On the Road," a musical with all original tunes and a story about some kids driving up the Alaska Highway.

As Webster put it, "On the Road" just wouldn't die. It came back three separate seasons, packing the house each time.

But when theater organizers started murmuring about resurrecting the show again this year, Webster said he couldn't let it happen.

Instead, he created "The Electric Rolaids Antacid Test," which runs through this weekend at Pier One.

The play focuses on the aging members of a Homer bar band who are belting out the same songs they have played since high school in the '60s.

When the group wins the Nenana Ice Classic, dreams of making it as professional musicians are revitalized and they go on the road.

"It's about getting older, and still thinking you might make it as a musician," Webster said.

A member of Too Fat to Fly, a local classic rock and blues band, Webster said while the play isn't based on reality, it certainly draws from his experiences as a sax player.

"After you play, you always think, 'I could do this for a living,'" he said. "You think, 'We'd be really tight if we did this every night.'"

Webster said the title came from the similarly named Tom Wolfe book, "The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test," combined with a Woodstock mantra about the dangers of brown acid that band member Hal Spence changed in recent years to antacid.

The production includes an ambitious line-up of 20 songs, which Webster describes as the kind of songs you think you know as soon as you hear them.

"There's only a certain number of notes," he said.

The Pier One productions are the only times Webster has ever written music, though his career as a sax player goes back to fourth grade.

Something about the deadline of a show inspires the musician beyond his usual boundaries, he said.

Some of his favorite songs in this year's production were written late in the game, after auditions were held, he said. The plot inspired some of the songs, and some of the songs inspired the plot, but at a certain point, Webster said he had to let go and let the musicians and performers take off with what he had written.

The cast of 26 performers includes Peter Norton, Craig Phillips, Dan Westerberg and Emmitt Trimble as the band members, Gary Thomas as a TV producer, Mary Jane Shows as a waitress, Gaye Wolfe as a bartender and a host of bar patrons familiar to many in the area.

Music will be performed by Shawnie Olson, Jim Buncak, Craig Stempniak, Hal Spence and Steve Fields as well as "Estrogen Sisters" Jennifer Norton, Carolyn Norton and Lana Pattison.

Webster said the production will appeal to all, though some of the jokes will go over the heads of the post-Woodstock generation.

In addition, some of the language makes the show "at least PG-13," Webster said.

The last Pier One Theatre production of the season, "The Electric Rolaids Antacid Test" runs through Saturday.

Carey James is a reporter for the Homer News.



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