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Review - How unusual can you get?

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By Lupita Gonzales

For the Optic

One of the kickoff events for NMHU’s 120th Birthday/Homecoming schedule was a variety show Saturday evening at Ilfeld Auditorium, billed “Politics as Unusual Variety Show Featuring New Mexico Elected Officials.”

They couldn’t have given it a better billing, as the various individuals undoubtedly showed the small but grateful audience a side of the featured public officials in a light that the general public might never have expected.

Yes, the various “players” were entertaining, a term not generally associated with the serious, business-like demeanor or activities of those in the political limelight. Some acts were low-key, some reflected skills that probably wouldn’t show up in the board room, and others were downright hilarious. It brought home the point that politicians are people, too.

In a last-minute change, President Jim Fries took on the role of master of ceremonies, rather than Rep. Ben Ray Luján, as earlier posted. He did a fine job of showcasing his penchant for humor, telling jokes that had the audience members chuckling, if not guffawing.

Fries explained that the money made at this performance would be used to provide updating of the sound system for Ilfeld Auditorium. He also recognized the efforts of Donna Martinez and Sharon Caballero in the fundraising effort.

Try to imagine Joey Herrera in a multicolored wig, tights and a shorter-than short, spangled mini-dress lip-syncing Tina Turner’s “Rolling on the River.” A more sedate followup was Christine Ludi’s oral interpretation of “Voices of Women,” recitation of poems and quotations from Emily Dickinson, Hillary Clinton and Maya Angelou. The tone changed with Ron Ortega’s hilarious monologue about his picture showing up at the bottom of a recent Optic obit page.

Then it was President Fries’ turn, and what a turn it was. He and Debbie Daniels tripped the light fantastic across the Ilfeld stage, with graceful dips and fancy footwork of two steps. However, the next performer, Ernesto Salazar, changed the mood entirely, with his medley from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” dancing the hoedown, purporting to play the guitar and mouthing the “I’m in the Jailhouse Now” lyrics, setting the audience to clapping to the rhythm.

Part II of the show began with Fries singing “Here’s a Wishing Well,” with a follow-up of his dancing as he sang.
He not only dances, he sings.

Then, Tonita Gurule-Giron and Caetano Kjelstrom entered in colorful Mexican costumes and wowed the audience with their Ballet Folklorico renditions of “La Iguana” and “Alingo Lingo.”

Luis Ortiz, a Las Vegas City Schools board member, then took the spotlight, picking on a guitar, and challenging the audience to “name that tune,” with an obvious blown-up depiction of Lou Diamond-Phillips flashing upstage. Well, Ortiz tried….

And for the finale, the many-hatted senator, president, and former superintendent Pete Campos took center stage as Theodore Roosevelt, another man of many hats. Roosevelt via Pete, instructed the audience, “Look at yourselves and realize what you really have. . . The treasures we have in Las Vegas. Give life our best. Go back in history, but continue to go forward.”

During intermission and after the show, audience members had the opportunity to vote for their favorite acts by dropping dollars into jars bearing the name of each performer. The winner will be announced Tuesday.