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'Hearts Open Wide' an amazing experience

September 2, 2018
Hearts Open Wide
Jerry Causi, bass, Jeremiah Campbell, vocals/keyboards, Craig Binnall, percussion, Inda Rain, vocals, and Jesse Tobin, vocals
By Mike Weland

Paul & Barb Rawlings
Playwright Paul Rawlings created a masterpiece that would be home on any stage in the world with "Hearts Open Wide." That's his wife and production assistant Barb Rawlings in the background.
Yet again, a performance by local performers, in a production written by a local playwright, has raised murmurs both nights of its opening weekend, "how is it that one small town is blessed with such amazing talent?"

Written, or perhaps a better term is used in the program, "created" by Paul Rawlings, "Hearts Open Wide" can't be dubbed a play, as there's too much music, too little dialogue. It can't be called a concert, as there's too much depth, too much heart and too much emotion.

It's an amazing amalgam of music, choreography, imagery and poignancy that is in a class of its own, and it would be as well received on a Broadway stage as it has been on the stage at the Pearl Theater.

And, with one weekend left in its run, those who miss this powerhouse are also going to miss what might be a final chance to see one third of the cast, two people who've grown up on local stages, perform locally; Jeremiah and Skye Campbell are indeed off for that bigger stage; they'll be moving to Seattle soon to pursue their love of performance.

"Please hold your applause until the end of the act," the program says, a line of unneeded type as, from start until the end of each of the two acts, you want to applaud the whole way through, but there isn't a gap or a pause of sufficient duration, and there's too much going on to close your eyes to whistle or clap.

Though Rawlings didn't write a line of dialogue, "Hearts Open Wide" is a work of genius, calling into play a group of songs so diverse you'd never think to hear them performed on a single stage in a single show. John Prine, Hank Williams, John Denver, Leonard Cohen, Rodney Crowell, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd.

Jeremiah and Skye Campbell
After "Hearts Open Wide" finishes its run, husband and wife Jeremiah and Skye Campbell will set out for bigger stages in the Seattle performing arts scene.
The songs shouldn't work together at all, yet they do, flowing like a river, ebbs and flows and rapids and calms taking the audience unsuspectingly on a ride that becomes deeply meaningful as the lyrics and harmonies weave an emotional tapestry that touches on the darker sides of our nature, the grit, yet slowly, without seeming to try, lifts the spirit from despair to hope to sunshine, an array of small, seemingly insignificant details swirling in the turbulence to settle into order in the mist.

It's the type of experience which undoubtedly has a different flavor to all who taste it, yet in the cacophony of excited chatter that follows the applause once the lights go up, it becomes clear -- while everyone got there by a somewhat different path, somehow, nearly everyone arrived at the same satisfying destination.

"Hearts Open Wide" is seven performers/musicians, three older; bassist Jerry Causi, drummer and percussionist Craig Binnall and guitarist/singer John Marquette, who provide a solid and somehow apt accompaniment to the youth of Jeremiah and Skye, both on vocals and keyboards, Jesse Tobin, who in addition to singing co-produced and co-directed with Paul, and the girl in white, India Rain, who looks a little out of place at the outset, but slowly, inexorably proves, by performance's end, to be the only one who was in the right frame from the very beginning.

The music, the harmonies, the choreography by Jesse and Skye, the costuming, the imagery -- it all took the audience on a ride unexpected and unlike any other, and several in the audience Saturday night had come back for a second go after Friday night's debut.

Some who see "Hearts Open Wide" will see a kaleidoscope of meaning and nuance, others may not quite understand what they've experienced without time to ruminate, to try to think it through. Yet, like the river, it breaks into a million sparkles when you try to shine an understanding light on it.

In addition to those mentioned already, "Hearts Open Wide" also owes some of its magic to production assistant and creator's wife Barb Rawlings, who also put together the imagery with Jeremiah, stage manager Diana Tombleson and lights and sound guru Lynn Haworth.

"Hearts Open Wide," all 26 live songs of it, returns to the Pearl Stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 7-8. Tickets are $12 in advance at Bonners Books, Mountain Mike's, online at www.thepearltheater.org or by calling (208) 610-2846. Student tickets are $5 and tickets at the door are $15.

Doors at the Pearl, 7160 Ash Street, Bonners Ferry, open at 6:30 p.m., as does the Pearl Cafe with great food and a fine selection of beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. While you're there, be sure to ask about season tickets to the Pearl Theater, as an amazing new season starts October 6!
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