By David Dixon
One of the fresh aspects about San Diego Musical Theatre’s production of the 1990s-themed musical, “Pump Up the Volume,” is the casting of up-and-coming performers.
Seven players take part in a revue that features renditions of songs from the likes of Celine Dion, Destiny’s Child, U2, Jennifer Lopez and Boyz II Men. There are also references to shows like “Animaniacs,” “Power Rangers,” “Pokemon” and “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper.”
A major star in the show is La Mesa resident/performer/singer, Cassie Bowerman.
Bowerman grew up in the city and has lived there for almost her entire life.
She attended La Mesa Middle School before the name changed to La Mesa Arts Academy. During her time there, Bowerman was part of a show choir.
“I think that’s what really kept me educated about music,” she said.
Later, she was cast in shows produced by Christian Youth Theatre. Bowerman doesn’t sing professionally in La Mesa as much as she used to, but she would take part at open-mic nights in Cosmos Coffee (which is now the coffee shop, Public Square). Although Cosmos Coffee has changed since Bowerman was younger, she likes how artsy the space remains to this day.
One reason that Bowerman is an appealing presence in “Pump Up the Volume,” according to the co-creator/music arranger/music director Jon Lorenz, is her versatile singing.
“We needed somebody who could sing like Mariah Carey and Bowerman gets to perform songs from her, Britney Spears and Lisa Loeb,” he said.
The star wasn’t as familiar with grunge music prior to being involved with the world premiere show at the Horton Grand Theatre.
“Learning about that kind of music and diving into different styles has been really interesting,” Bowerman said. “It definitely said a lot about the times and what people were feeling.”
Since the piece from Lorenz and director/choreographer, Colleen Kollar Smith, is brand new, the performers are given a little bit of creative freedom with their roles. They waited to form scenes and music until they worked more with Bowerman and the other artists. Bowerman also helped Kollar Smith with a few dance moves.
Among her favorite genres of music that she gets to sing are pop tunes from boy bands, Britney Spears and Hanson. What makes these musical numbers fun for her, is the nostalgia from when she was younger.
“It takes me back to specific days like blasting NSYNC at home with my friends,” she said. “I love reliving those feelings.”
During the run, she hopes that ’90s fans don’t watch the tribute by themselves.
“I want people to go with a group that’s special to them,” she said. “I’d like audiences to be nostalgic and reminisce about times when they were younger together.”
Outside of her work in “Pump Up the Volume,” Bowerman will continue to be part of her cover band, the Cassie B Project. Her band performs in places like Viejas Casino & Resort, Pala Casino, Tin Roof and Vin de Syrah. Throughout the summer, the group will continue to perform on Monday evenings at Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo. “It’s a really fun atmosphere,” she said. “We play right at the entrance and it’s like the kids get to see their own live band.”
Singing almost nonstop this season, Bowerman is giving people many opportunities to see her live. The La Mesa resident is proving to be a versatile vocalist and entertainer.
“Pump Up the Volume” plays at Horton Grand Theatre through Sept. 10. For tickets or more information, visit sdmt.org or call 858-560-5740. For more information about the Cassie B Project, visit cbmusicproductions.com.
—David Dixon is a freelance theater and film writer. Reach him at email@example.com.