BONNERS FERRY — The Pearl Theater’s stage was graced by local talent last weekend and will be again this weekend, in the performance “Hearts Open Wide” created by Paul Rawlings. Rawlings’ vision was brought to life by a cast of seven that invited the audience on an emotional journey, exploring human interaction through music and images.
“I am a music lover and for a long time I have been listening to music, thinking that there is something deeper in that song than it is getting credit for, or that the song is actually saying more than you think,” explained Rawlings.
It was his vision to take these songs and explore them, using the stage and the cast to reveal the philosophy behind them.
Jesse Tobin, who made a name for herself with her original production, “The Liberation of the Butterfly” in 2014, joined with Rawlings as his co-producer and co-director.
“From the first show I ever did with Paul, ‘No Cure for Love,’ I was struck by his incredibly genuine heart for people, and his desire to create art not just for art’s sake, but to create art for others, art that moves, that touches, that resonates, that heals,” said Tobin. “I was so very honored — and a little nervous — when he asked me to collaborate to bring his vision to life.”
Rawlings and Tobin spent hours poring over music, creating a journey for the audience to join them on, from a starting point to a destination. Along the way, they are invited to take part in the highs and lows, triumphs and struggles.
“We really wanted to find a way to create a journey through each song, and also visually with costume and imagery, so that from start to finish, it would create a sort of emotional train that the audience could climb aboard and come along for the ride,” explained Tobin.
Joining Tobin on stage were husband and wife, Jeremiah and Skye Campbell. Their melodious voices, paired with the ability to convey the emotion of every song, kept the audience on the edge of their seats.
“Paul, our director, had an idea for a show that was all revolving around the way that people interact with each other. The darker side of that and the ways we can help each other and unite each other,” said Skye Campbell.
Jeremiah Campbell explained the show was about the whole enjoyment of discovery for him.
“There was so much that was fun about doing this show,” he said. “I think that the whole process of putting the show together. It was much more collaborative then most shows that I have been in.”
Also no stranger the The Pearl stage was 15 year old India Rain. Unlike the others, who first emerged on stage dressed in black, Rain stepped out in a white dress, like a breath of innocence in a darkened world.
Rain’s favorite song to perform was “Let Me Roll It.”
“I’ve never really done anything like it. It’s just different to have covers of songs, because it is like a musical,” said Rain.
Like the current carries the water through the journey of the river, the music was the heartbeat of the performance. The band was made up by Craig Binnall, Jerry Causi and John Marquette. Marquette, who played lead guitar, brought a classic rock-and-roll feel, that was accentuated by his vocals on some of the songs like “Still Learning to Fly” by Rodney Crowell.
The renditions of the songs were familiar at times, and other times took on a life of their own, such as Tobin’s version of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, which was haunting in a quiet way.
“For me personally, my favorite bits are the parts where, for each character individually and for the show as a whole, the trajectory comes to a ‘rock bottom,’ and it sort of culminates into a turning point for the story arch,” said Tobin.
“I just find that there is something beautiful about moments where we find we can’t do this life thing on our own, when we reveal our fragility, our vulnerability, our scars, when we finally drop the pretense that we have everything under control and we reach out to each other,” Tobin continued, “because that is the moment when we begin to heal, is when we show others the truth about ourselves, and allow them to do the same.”
By the end of Act 1, the audience was left feeling the darker side of alone, but Act 2 began the ride back up. Paired with the songs, were emotion laden, evoking images, cast on a screen above the stage, creating a perfect pairing.
“I hope that people will find themselves in each stage of the journey with us — from the anger, the sadness, the pain, right on through the vulnerability, to hope, to joy and elation and freedom,” said Tobin. “Art has a funny way of bypassing the mind and going straight to the heart, and I hope that people leave with a sense of catharsis, a sense of having gone on a journey and come out on other side feeling a little lighter.”
As the performance drew to a close with “Good To Be Alive” by Andy Grammer, sung by the whole vocal cast, smiles radiated out across the audience. Just like the sadness and devastation in the beginning, the hope and joy was contagious.
“These are all people that I consciously wanted to work with ahead of time. I chose them and invited them to be a part of it and boy am I glad they did,” said Rawlings of the cast. “There are no weak links. It is just so good. They were fabulous.”
“Wow,” said photographer Sue Wilson, who watched and took photos from the balcony of the Pearl. “What an amazing group of talented singers/musicians. Paul Rawlings newest creation is a must see!”
“Hearts Open Wide” will take to the stage at The Pearl Theater again at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7 and 8, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.
For more information: thepearltheater.org or call 208-610-2846