Written by 6:15 am fullerton, Review, The Electric Company, Uncategorized

World Premiere: Electric Company Theatre Presents: The Leo Fender Project – Review

photos by Jon Blea

Written by Patrick Chavis

This was a unique experience. One, I don’t often see plays at 9:30 am. Second, besides a few teachers, I was noticeably one of the oldest people in the audience and was surrounded by a bunch of kids from Orangethorpe Elementary. However, there I was to review the new, original play by OC playwright Callie Prendiville Johnson. She is also the director and the co-artistic director of The Electric Company Theatre, the group producing the show. Johnson has created a musical about local historical figure Leo Fender. The kids in attendance and I found it fun, educational, and, most importantly, the play ROCKED!


The Leo Fender Project is a children’s musical about Leo Fender. Hailing from Fullerton, California, Fender created one of the earliest and most impactful electric guitars the world has ever seen. Leo is our narrator in this musical play, and he’s played by Ron Gutterman. He sings and talks about his journey: his humble origins working on a farm, his love of music and radios, and his eventual genius idea to create his famous electric bass and guitars.

From watching and listening to this musical about the late inventor, kids will learn about creativity, invention, how to think for themselves, and out-of-the-box thinking. While this musical should be accessible to kids from all over the United States, it was cool to see it with the elementary school students attending Leo’s alma mater. Maybe a kid in the audience will create the next great instrument or something we can’t even imagine yet. The play covers significant parts of Leo’s life and incorporates live and imaginary props to keep the audience’s attention, which is no easy feat with elementary school kids.

Before the show, the audience is given a piece of paper with a guitar fretboard. The cast members hand out pencils, and you can design a guitar. There’s a picture of my (first) guitar design below. How did I do? Maybe I should stick to reviewing theatre. During certain songs, the cast members hold up postcards to help the audience sing along with the songs. The cast members also go into the audience during the show and talk to the kids. The audience interaction is on point, and given the number of kids in attendance, it’s necessary.


The stage is covered with electric guitar Fender Tube amps. There are multiple tan backdrops with guitar-design blueprints drawn all over the tarp—the tube amps on stage, with a few extra pieces, turn into makeshift businesses on stage.


Besides Leo, five other cast members/singers/performers play various characters to help propel the musical: Miles Henry, Wyatt Logan, Aimee Noelle Ordaz, Emily Taylor, and Danny Kimes. The cast wears green mechanic-type jumpsuits from costume designer Tana Carmichael.


Ron Gutterman is very charming as Leo Fender. The accompanying singers were, dare I say it, electric. Wesley Chavez’s score is simple and without many frills. For a show like this, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

The Sound:

I don’t know how they could improve the sound situation in this amphitheater, but it’s a consistent problem when I’ve gone to this theater company’s shows. If they could fix the sound issues, it would go a long way in improving the quality of the production. As the show progressed, the sound quality improved.

This is a show for the kids, and I saw the kids have a ball at this show.

This was the kind of play I would have loved when I was that age, and at my age, even i learned a little more about fullerton’s guitar legend, the great leo fender.

Feb 14 – 18,2023

8.1 Overall
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Set & Design7.5
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Good show! OCR Recommended!

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