The 2008 film, Bottle Shock, took a real incident where California wines were put to a blind taste test with French wines, and the California wines won, something that surprised everyone, including the California wine makers. There’s not much to the story, so the film had to find some fictional “human interest” episodes to portray. The result was fairly predictable and somewhat plodding.
So, someone decided to turn it into a stage musical, and the result is Bottle Shock! the musical, playing what is billed as a world premiere engagement through July 23 at CCAE Theatricals in Escondido.
The film relied on a score featuring rock music popular in the 1970s. The stage musical features a more contemporary sound, crafted by Charles Vincent Burwell, with Book, Lyrics and Additional Music by James D. Sasser.
And then, of course, there’s another, more popular, film about wine, set in the Santa Ynez Valley and titled Sideways. Bottle Shock is tame by comparison, and it celebrates its wine, where Sideways kept some people from drinking Merlot for at least a while.
The similarities start and stop at a bar called Jo’s (Taylor Renee Henderson), in downtown Calistoga. I guess that there always has to be a bar where the locals go to relax and taste the latest. In this case, among those who go there are wine scions Steven Spurrier (Louis Pardo) and Jim Barrett (T. J. Mannix), whose winery makes the Chateau Montelena brand. Others stopping by are Bo Barrett (Will Riddle), Jim’s son, Gustavo Brambilla (Patrick Ortiz), another wine grower, and Samantha “Sam” Fulton (Emma Degerstedt), a student in the winemaking program at the University of California, Davis.
Since it’s not hard to guess the outcome, the show’s success comes from savoring the journey. J. Scott Lapp’s direction keeps his attractive cast in the forefront, and makes the many scene changes fun for the audience to watch (scenic design by Jo Winiarski, lighting design by Janet Pitcher, sound design by Jon Fredette). Speaking of savoring, audience members can meet onstage before the performance and, for a fee, taste a local winery’s fare, or the Chateau Montelena and Gustavo Wines, or, between the Saturday matinee and evening performances, recreate the bind taste test of California and French wines.
Too bad this critic makes it a policy not to drink at performances.
Bottle Shock concludes CCAE Theatricals 2022/23 season, a highlight of which was a production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lepine’s Sunday in the Park with George. A new season begins in September. A great many events go on at California Center for the Arts, Escondido, and I’m glad to report that CCAE Theatricals is now a major component of the Center’s programming.
Bottle Shock performs on an irregular schedule. Check the CCAE website for performance information and ticket purchase.
Cast members not identified in the review are Michael Cavinder, Libby Johnston, Chase Lowary, Jonah Mayer, Joey Miceli, Ariel Silvana Murillo, Katherine Paladichuk, Kelly Prendergast, S Rii, and Maybelle Shimizu. Additional creative team members are Taylor Peckham, Orchestrator/Conductor, Peter Herman, Wig & Hair Design, Holly Lapp, Props Master, Lexi Deleon and Kate Thorvick, Assistant Stage Managers, Lindsay Brooks, casting director, Nathan Mendez, Fight Choreography, Vadim Feichtner, Musical Direction, Toranika Washington, Choreography/Intimacy Direction, and Kira Vine, Production Stage Manager.