‘When the Lights Go Out’ Returns to Ventura

Kerrilee Gore's Dark Cabaret at the WonderHouse

Credit: Travis Shinn

An evening of glamor and mystery boasting an outstanding cast drawn from the music industry’s elite roster of top dancers and choreographers, When the Lights Go Out is the product of Kerrilee Gore’s rampant imagination. After taking several years off from presenting performances to have two beautiful children with her husband, Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore, and then delayed but not denied by the pandemic, Gore returns in a new space, with more collaborators and more surprises in store than ever. When the Lights Go Out offers something the 805 could use more of — an immersive cabaret experience populated by professional actors, dancers, and aerialists that’s driven by the dark, twisted fantasies of a rock sensibility. 

This Thursday, April 14, When the Lights Go Out begins a three-weekend run at a new space in Ventura known as the WonderHouse. Written, creative directed, and executive produced by Kerrilee Gore, this edition of the show involves a stellar group of co-creators, including director/choreographers Jason and Valeree Young and producer/WonderHouse host Gregg Curtis. Located in an industrial park in the Montalvo section of Ventura, WonderHouse offers three crucial elements that will enhance the overall experience. It has the flexibility necessary to accommodate the cabaret seating for the show’s immersive aspects, the technology required by its soundtrack and film projections, and the elaborate rigging that will keep its high-flying aerialists safe. 

Credit: Travis Shinn

The title, When the Lights Go Out, carries multiple meanings. It’s about theater and the flight of imagination that occurs every time the house lights drop before a performance, and it’s also a reference to what happens in the bedroom, whether that’s sleep and dreams or something more active. But for Gore, who has been working on and revising this story through several versions since 2012, its primary significance is emotional and, some would say, spiritual. Each act represents how the lights can go out in a person’s life as they reach a breaking point and head to a place of refuge that’s often a dark side. 

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The setting of many of these scenes of desperation, the appropriately named Broken Dreams Motel, belongs to Leo, a bad-boy antihero played by Leo Gallo. Leo’s talent for luring others, especially women, into compromising situations provides the impetus for several of the show’s musical numbers. For example, his secret deal with Josephine (Chanel Pepper), a lost soul clinging to an obscure cult, results in a spectacular aerial dance sequence. In this dream world, runaways, showgirls, and German spies share an uncanny ability to break into song or dance and even fly. 

Credit: Travis Shinn

If all this seems a bit much, it is, and that’s the idea. When the Lights Go Out amplifies the intensity of its soundtrack in vivid images and scenarios. Songs include David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “Goin’ Out West” by Tom Waits, and The Normals’ 1978 proto-industrial synth classic “Warm Leatherette.” Live drumming pushes these already hard-rocking tunes into overdrive — the sonic equivalent of the characters’ mental states.

With this intensity comes beauty. Virtually everyone involved has experience at the highest levels of rock touring choreography. Jason and Valeree Young have been supervising choreographers on several of Madonna’s tours, which are the gold standard for arena-level dance performances. Here’s a great video of the two of them talking about how they did the Rebel Heart tour with Madonna in 2015 when Valeree served as Madge’s stand-in for all of the many complex rehearsals. One of the things that the couple emphasized when I spoke with them last week about this show was how much time they’ve had to rehearse. If you have any interest in what goes into the making of stage performances by the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears, and Ricky Martin, here’s your chance to see these talents in action.

For tickets and information on When the Lights Go Out, visit here.

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