(Patrick O’Heffernan, Ajijic). Lola Beltrán, Luis Fonsi, Mick Jagger, the Supremes, ballerinas from the Hernández School of Ballet in Guadalajara and even President Trump rocked the Auditorio De La Ribera for three days this past weekend with music and dance during Lip Sync12, the 42nd annual production of what is the largest and longest running lip sync review in the world.
Produced and directed by former comedian/actor/model Michael McLaughlin, now in his 12th year of directing the show, Lip Sync is the year’s major fundraiser to improve the Auditorio. This year the program and the cast were more diverse than ever, a goal of McLaughlin’s in an effort not only to raise funds for the Auditorio and local charities, but to bring the Mexican and Ex-pat cultures together. The program consisted of 25 acts, some with multiple singers and dancers. Audiences thrilled to “Despacito”, “You Don’t Own Me”, “All That Jazz”, and “Spoonful of Sugar. They also sang along, dodged golf balls, laughed at a search for car keys, and got up close and personal with dancers who came off the stage in a Billy Porter number.
Whether the songs were in Spanish, English or German, they resonated with the crowd. All of this was moved along smartly by McLaughlin while he joked about the performance of Canadian hockey teams, got down on his knees to talk with a tiny dancer from the Hernandez School of Ballet and gave the women in the audience advanced warning of when they could run to the men’s room and avoid the line in a woman’s room at intermission.
Lip Sync12 ran like a well-oiled machine but Michael says looks can be deceiving. Getting the more than 50 people it takes to produce the show syncing together onstage and backstage took three months of work, but not necessarily a tight organization. “I thrive in chaos”, he says. I enjoy chaos more than a structured program myself and the show is actually kind of loose. I don’t really direct, I just try to get the actors on and off stage at the right times.”
They did hit their cues, right down to Donald Trump lip synching “Senorita”, coming in exactly on time (it was an edited video, no waiting for Air Force 1), in line with McLaughlin’s belief that “The art of directing can be described as ‘Keep’em moving onstage”.
And that is one of the secrets of Lip Sync’s popularity. “I try to keep the acts short,” he says, “and short introductions for the songs, which are an average of three minutes long.” He has also added dancers and dance numbers in recent years and throws in a few surprises, like the golf balls hit into the crowd during “Thanks for the Memory” and flying in Mary Poppins for “Spoonful of Sugar.”
Despite the short 3-month production preparation time, many of the actors — all of whom were local this year except the Hernández Dancers – start working on their acts and costumes much earlier. Liddy Townsend who lip synched Lola Beltrán’s “Por Un Amore” said she starts about six weeks before production begins and sings the song about 30 times a night – driving her neighbors crazy.
Over the 12 years Michaels has produced Lip Sync, it has paid for improvements in sound and lighting and the acoustics of the hall. This year he wants to help pay for a new floor in the dance studio – about $7000US – because the existing one has holes in it. And of course, the expansion of the woman’s room on the priority list. The Jalisco Secretary of Culture has announced plans for upgrades to the facility and the funds raised by Lip Sync will be spent in coordination and with the permission of the Secretary
Michael claims that the hardest part of this is the creativity part – selecting songs and acts and surprises. “After 11 years of shows, I have to up the ante entertainment-wise for the paying public,” he says. That should be no problem based on this year’s performance and because the great record he has to build on.
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