Downey musician returns to rock musical

DOWNEY - Steve Probst has Sister Mary Jolene of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School in Downey to thank for a life of music.As an 11-year-old in 1971, Probst was swept up by his teacher's passion for guitar. Now at age 49, Probst performs 200 high-profile shows a year with internationally renowned Hotel California - A Salute to the Eagles who launch an original musical at the Blue Moon Theatre in Whittier on April 30. In addition to lead vocals, Probst plays banjo, lead, rhythm, acoustic, double neck and 12 string guitars with the nationally touring Hotel California. For more than two decades, the band has touched the hearts of fans by faithfully and accurately reproducing the Grammy award winning sounds of the Eagles. The dynamic, highly-acclaimed band launches a bold new production, "New Kid in Town," which tosses musical theatre convention out the window by using dance to drive the affecting narrative woven through the lyrics of Eagles songs. The musical runs from April 30 - May 16 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with tickets priced between $10- $30. The Blue Moon Theatre located at 16200 E. Amber Valley Drive in Whittier. An inspired concept by award-winning producer Shawn Hillman shifts the storytelling balance from song to dance, hence "dansical" versus "musical." In addition to a compelling love story supplied by some of rock's finest storytelling songwriters, the Eagles, choreographer Amy Weisenhorn has created the added bonus of a wide array of dance styles, including contemporary, jazz, modern and ballet. Hotel California plays live on stage while dancers interpret the love story with movement. The band, which usually performs in venues with 1,000 seats or more, agreed to a three-week run at the 340-seat Blue Moon Theatre to help the newly formed non-profit theatre raise funds. They traveled directly from the East Coast on their tour bus to perform the run in Whittier. "We're excited to partner with the Blue Moon on this musical," said Probst, who also writes songs and creates music for film and television. "As a band, we decided it was an important time to step up and support theatre and the arts in general as much as can." "I can vividly remember playing 'If I Had A Hammer' in class with Sister Mary Jolene," laughed Probst. "That's when I was first hooked on music." Probst began singing with a band which played rock music at school assemblies at Griffith Junior High School in Downey. Although Probst owns 10 guitars, he still performs with the 1974 Fender Stratocaster given to him by his father during this time. While at Warren High School, Probst and his band, Silver Shadow, won a music competition called "The Way Outer Broadway Show" at the Downey Theatre. Probst graduated from Warren in 1979 and spent one semester at Cerritos College "playing guitar under a tree." He gained notoriety as a guitarist and vocalist for two decades both in bands and as a soloist. During this time, he opened for such artists as the Little River Band, Dave Mason, Randy Meisner (Eagles), America, Three Dog Night, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rankin, Richie Furay, 38 Special, and John Kay and Steppenwolf. Five years ago, Probst obtained his "dream gig" by joining Hotel California playing, performing art centers, theatres, arenas and other high profile engagements. In his off time, he writes songs for other artists to record and creates music tracks for films and television. When he's home, he plays guitar at his church in Riverside. "The positive way people respond to Hotel California's performances is very rewarding for me," said Probst. "After shows people tell us how the concert brought back feelings from years before." Probst's love of music extends to his family. He is married to Liz, a music instructor and elementary school teacher. They have two children, Emily, 18, who plays the flute, bass guitar and the euphonium, which is a brass instrument also know as a "baby tuba." She attends college at California Baptist. Son Jonathan is 16 and plays the trumpet and guitar. Emily and Jonathan play in the Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corp in Diamond Bar. "Both of my children are natural musicians, but I'm pretty biased about that," said Probst. "New Kid in Town" follows a young man on a journey of self discovery that leads him far from home. After a misunderstanding with his girl and his parents, the young hero hits the open road. It doesn't take him long to realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence, so he longs for what he had. This premiere engagement is a showcase of Eagles megahits such as "Take it Easy," "Heartache Tonight," "Hotel California," "Witchy Woman" and, of course, "New Kid in Town." The combination of lyrics and dance drives the plot without dialogue. It reveals that dance as a form of storytelling- whether in the form of a ballet or contemporary choreography -can be as potent and emotionally jarring as any reflective Sondheim ballad or a belted Broadway song. "I think this is an ideal show for theatergoers looking to broaden their horizons," said Probst. New Kid in Town featuring Hotel California - A Salute to the Eagles runs April 30 - May 16. Shows are Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 4 pm and 8 pm and Sundays at 4 pm. Tickets are $10- $35 and may be purchased online at www.bluemoontheatreco.com or phoning (800) 838-3006.

********** Published: April 23, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 1