A country fair that boasts Blackjack, the Giant Steer ("10,000 hamburgers on the hoof"); Harley, the Giant Pig; and an Uncle Sam on stilts is an unlikely venue for a performer whose show is called "5 Octaves Off Broadway."
But Arianna, a 22-year-old, light coloratura soprano from Anaheim who has more than a five-octave vocal range, gave it her all during a 45-minute show on the outdoor stage at Valley Fair 2000 at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center in the far reaches of San Fernando Valley.
That, despite an audience that never numbered more than 19 at any one time. But it was a Friday afternoon, after all, a slow day at the fair.
Indeed, at one point, Arianna lost almost a third of her audience when a group of four got up to leave. They had a bus to catch. But to her credit, they left reluctantly, waving goodbye to the auburn-haired singer in the short black tube dress with a black shawl draped around her shoulders.
Arianna returned their waves as she launched into "My Heart Will Go On" from "Titanic," which literally stopped the departing fair-goers dead in their tracks. The bus would have to wait.
That wouldn't surprise Bill McClure, owner of McClure's Bar and Grill, a Tustin nightclub where Arianna has been performing the second Saturday of the month since February. Live entertainment at the club typically runs from jazz to rhythm and blues--not Broadway show tunes and pop standards.
"She goes over very well," said McClure, who discovered Arianna singing karaoke at his club one night. He sees a potentially bright future for the young singer, whose repertoire includes the title song from "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" from "Funny Girl."
"I think she could probably go into one of those Broadway shows," McClure said. "She's very theatrical and has the instrument to go with it."
Like thousands of other talented young singers, Arianna's ultimate dream is a career on Broadway.
It is, she readily concedes, an uphill battle--even with her impressive five-plus octave range. But Arianna is determined to do it--with the help of Joseph Tatner, her manager of five months.
Tatner created Arianna's act, a two-hour show that includes lighting and fog effects, costume changes, and a sword fight. He has also increased her bookings and made it his mission to make producers, bookers and the media sit up and take notice.
Although a two-day, four-show gig at a country fair might not indicate it, Arianna's singing career has been on an upswing since Tatner took over.
Her first CD, a self-produced collection of pop and operatic tunes called "Miracle," will be released in August. That comes on the heels of Arianna's first color poster. (Shot at the Mission Inn in Riverside, it shows her wearing a black and red gothic ball gown and holding a rose in front of a large oak door). The CD and poster will be sold at her shows and through her Web site, www.ariannausa.com.
Arianna has been booked into a three-date engagement--the first on Tuesday--at the Cinegrill in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Hollywood Boulevard nightspot where Cybill Shepherd performed last month.
Says Cinegrill director J.D. Kessler, who normally books unknowns for only one night: "She's got quite an extraordinary voice. Even though she's a soprano and has a huge range, she has a quality that could very much be adapted to pop music."
In June, the same month she appeared at the fair, Arianna had a personal audition with a casting director at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles for an understudy position in the current production of "James Joyce's The Dead."
And only a week before, Andrew Lloyd Webber's personal secretary called to ask for Arianna's press kit and demo tape to pass on to Webber's musical director.
The movie version of "Phantom of the Opera" is being cast, and if there is any role Arianna yearns to play, it's that of the young opera singer Christine.
"It's one of those roles that, from the first time I heard it, I knew I had to do it," she said.
Arianna credits her career strides to Tatner, 39, who, it turns out, is also her husband of eight months.
Not that they're eager to let the word out.
Says she: "We don't deny that we're married, but we don't advertise the fact either. It's kind of to keep that whole 'availability' mystery as a performer."
Says he: "The thing is if anybody thinks I'm her husband or boyfriend, they automatically think, 'Oh, God, yeah, the husband.' We don't want to deal with that because they automatically assume I don't know what I'm doing."
Tatner, however, is no show-biz newcomer.
An Orange County native who grew up in Garden Grove and Anaheim, he is a former child actor-singer-dancer who landed small parts on "The Brady Bunch," "The Partridge Family" and "Fame," in addition to numerous commercials. He later had a fling in stand-up comedy but dropped out of show business about 15 years ago to go into the computer field.