Like her idol Linda Ronstadt, the genre-hopping music legend who has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, GerRee Hinshaw wants to share her story with you through song. The world premiere of Raised on Ronstadt, written and performed by Hinshaw and produced by Boulder’s Local Theatre Company, is a deeply moving original work about the memories that bring Hinshaw joy and music’s ability to connect people across cultures.
Raised on Ronstadt is a uniquely American story. Hinshaw illustrates her family’s “American Dream” along with her struggles as a Mexican American who has lost some of her culture and language. Through a series of monologues and musical performances, Hinshaw draws audiences into her inner world through poignant vignettes about growing up between two cultures. She mines her specific experience as a Latina in the United States to speak to fundamental truths about identity that transcend cultural differences.
Listening to Ronstadt’s music allowed Hinshaw to feel more connected to her Mexican roots. Hinshaw explains that Ronstadt had to fight with her producers to record an album in Spanish because they were afraid it would alienate English-speaking audiences. Nevertheless, Ronstadt persisted, and the result was her groundbreaking 1987 LP Canciones de Mi Padre, which went double platinum and remains the bestselling non-English language album in U.S. history. Ronstadt’s music taught Hinshaw that you shine your brightest when you’re true to yourself.
Production designer David J. Castellano does an excellent job of turning eTown Hall into Hinshaw’s family home. The room is decorated with records, family photos and musical instruments. The lighting design by Sean Mallary is incredibly effective at blending concert-style and theatrical lighting. His use of colored lighting to represent the American and Mexican flags is particularly striking.
Director Dee Covington and Hinshaw have worked together for 20 years, and their trust in each other is evident. Hinshaw seamlessly transitions from family jam sessions to church to her parents’ divorce. Covington cleverly directs the band members to be active participants in the story; they not only play music but portray people from Hinshaw’s memories.
Every song in Raised on Ronstadt is pulled from a story that Hinshaw tells the audience. The ensemble performs songs from Ronstadt’s discography and those of other artists who influenced Hinshaw’s life. You’ll be tapping your toes and fighting the urge not to sing along to hits like “Somewhere Out There,” “Natural Woman,” “You’re No Good,” and more.
To help audiences connect with the material and each other, Local Theatre Company Co-Artistic Director Betty Hart is hosting two post-show “Come Together” events to further explore the work. Following the performance on Oct. 29, Hart will lead a 20-minute community discussion on the show’s themes. The Nov. 5 performance will be followed by a community meal where audience members can break bread and reflect on Hinshaw’s journey together.
The show is only scheduled to run through Nov. 6, but I sincerely hope this is not its last iteration. This is so much more than a traditional jukebox musical. With its crucial message of embracing all parts of your identity, Raised on Ronstadt is a show that needs to be seen onstage and a story that deserves to be shared with as many people as possible.
ON STAGE: Raised on Ronstadt by GerRee Hinshaw. Various times through Nov. 6, eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder. Tickets here.