“Tomorrow’s” At Hand: Bet’cher Bottom Dollar That The Segerstrom Center’s “Annie” Clears Away The Cobwebs And The Sorrow In Costa Mesa, Ca.!

May 16, 2015

 

"The Segerstrom Center For The Arts" Presents "Annie" May 13-May 24, 2015 In Costa Mesa Ca. www.scfta.com

“The Segerstrom Center For The Arts” Presents “Annie” May 13-May 24, 2015 In Costa Mesa Ca. http://www.scfta.org

“Hey Hobo-man! Hey ‘Dapper-Dan’!”–you’ve both got your style but “The Segerstrom Center For The Arts” in Costa Mesa California has got “Annie”! The Tony Award-winning” musical based on the world-famous comic strip by Harold Gray featuring a book by Thomas Meehan with Music by Charles Strouse and Lyrics by Martin Charnin settled into ‘the O.C.” for a two-week run beginning Wednesday, May 13th, 2015.

"When I'm stuck with a day that's gray and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin..." (Issie Swickle As "Annie" Sings To New Friend Sunny As "Sandy")  Issie Swickle Annie   LYNN ANDREWS Miss Hannigan   GILGAMESH TAGGETT Oliver Warbucks   ASHLEY EDLER Grace Farrell   GARRETT DEAGON Rooster Hannigan   LUCY WERNER Lily   Allan Ray Baker FDR   AMY BURGMAIER Mrs. Pugh, Ensemble, u/s Miss Hannigan   CAMERON MITCHELL BELL Bert, Ensemble   ANGELINA CARBALLO July, u/s Molly   JOHN CORMIER Ickes, Ensemble, u/s Rooster Hannigan   BRIAN COWING Bundles, Ensemble, u/s FDR   Adia Dant Pepper, u/s Annie   TODD FENSTERMAKER Drake, Ensemble, u/s Warbucks, FDR   CHLOE HORNER Swing   LILLYBEA IRELAND Tessie   EVAN MAYER Swing   JAKE MILLS Ensemble, u/s Bert   MEGHAN SEAMAN Ensemble, u/s Lily   HANNAH SLABAUGH Star to Be, Ensemble   SYDNEY SHUCK Kate   LILY EMILIA SMITH Ensemble, u/s Grace Farrell   LILLY MAE STEWART Molly   CHLOE TISO Swing   ISABEL WALLACH Duffy   Sunny Sandy   MACY u/s Sandy - See more at: http://anniethemusical.com/team.php#sthash.16bjwTB8.dpuf

“When I’m stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin…” (Issie Swickle As “Annie” Sings To New Friend Sunny As “Sandy”)

Set in New York City during a bleak depression-era winter of December 1933, everyone’s favorite orphan suffers the indignities of a “Hard Knock Life” at “The New York City Municipal Orphanage-Girl’s Annex” run by the embittered matron “Miss Hannigan” who regularly makes her young charges’ lives unbearable. Unlike most of the other kids there though, spunky Annie clings steadfastly to the belief that her parents are still alive and will one day return to claim her, having left her on New Year’s Eve 1922, with her part of a locket and a note claiming they would one day return and use it to identify her by. With the holidays quickly approaching Billionaire Oliver Warbucks invites her to spend two weeks with him, initially hoping that having an orphan spend the holidays at his Park Avenue estate will ‘improve’ his public image as a ruthless captain of industry. Yet once there, his heart softened by Annie’s irrepressible charm and optimism, he offers to adopt her only to be stunned when she (at first) refuses—asking instead for his help to find her real mom and dad. He agrees, offering a whopping reward for Annie’s parents, which is announced on NBC’s “Hour Of Smiles” radio program, where upon it attracts the attention of Miss Hannigan’s no-good just-paroled brother, “Rooster” and his floozy girlfriend, “Lily St. Regis” (“I was named after the hotel”.) They agree to cut Hannigan in on the action if she helps them with some ‘specifics” about the girl; but never fear: this classic family musical has as happy an ending as a Broadway musical has ever conjured up for our young heroine, “Daddy Warbucks”, her dog “Sandy” as well as her orphan friends and the entire nation, once President Roosevelt stops by Warbuck’s mansion to announce “A New Deal’ for Christmas”!

" 'Stead of treated, we get tricked! 'Stead of kisses, we get kicked!" ("Annie" And The Other Orphans Bemoan Their "Hard Knock Life") Issie Swickle Annie   LYNN ANDREWS Miss Hannigan   GILGAMESH TAGGETT Oliver Warbucks   ASHLEY EDLER Grace Farrell   GARRETT DEAGON Rooster Hannigan   LUCY WERNER Lily   Allan Ray Baker FDR   AMY BURGMAIER Mrs. Pugh, Ensemble, u/s Miss Hannigan   CAMERON MITCHELL BELL Bert, Ensemble   ANGELINA CARBALLO July, u/s Molly   JOHN CORMIER Ickes, Ensemble, u/s Rooster Hannigan   BRIAN COWING Bundles, Ensemble, u/s FDR   Adia Dant Pepper, u/s Annie   TODD FENSTERMAKER Drake, Ensemble, u/s Warbucks, FDR   CHLOE HORNER Swing   LILLYBEA IRELAND Tessie   EVAN MAYER Swing   JAKE MILLS Ensemble, u/s Bert   MEGHAN SEAMAN Ensemble, u/s Lily   HANNAH SLABAUGH Star to Be, Ensemble   SYDNEY SHUCK Kate   LILY EMILIA SMITH Ensemble, u/s Grace Farrell   LILLY MAE STEWART Molly   CHLOE TISO Swing   ISABEL WALLACH Duffy   Sunny Sandy   MACY u/s Sandy - See more at: http://anniethemusical.com/team.php#sthash.16bjwTB8.dpuf

” ‘Stead of treated, we get tricked! ‘Stead of kisses, we get kicked!” (“Annie” And The Other Orphans Bemoan Their “Hard Knock Life”)

Perhaps more than with any other musical in recent memory, Strouse and Charnin’s buoyant score not only captures the “feel” of the times perfectly, but also provides great insight into the characters whether it be the dejected sense of outrage and hopelessness expressed in “We’d Like To Thank You Herbert Hoover” to the jubilant “I Don’t Need Anything But You” (and of course, even after nearly thirty years, the immortal “Tomorrow” still remains one of the best anthems of resilience and faith since “Keep Your Sunny Side Up” graced the hit-parade back in the actual 1930’s!) Combined with Meehan’s always eloquent script that’s packed with plenty of great references to the ‘pop’ and political culture of the era, it’s no surprise that “Annie” has become one of the most endearing shows ever written. None other than Martin Charnin himself, who not only wrote all of these incredible lyrics, but served as the show’s original Director, has once again returned to the Director’s chair to helm this touring production, where he takes full advantage of all these textual and lyrical virtues. Keeping the pace fairly swift while accentuating all the best comedic moments available, Charnin changes things here and there–altering a line or perhaps throwing in an extra joke at intervals, making this particular production just unpredictable enough to keep it lively and fresh while still unfailingly remaining true to those essences that made “Annie” so great in the first place. Joining him as Choreographer is Liza Gennaro (whose father Peter helped stage the original show back in 1977.) Indeed, for this run Ms. Gennaro has likewise recreated several sections of her father’s Tony-Award winning dances here. Keeping it all humming is Keith Levenson behind the baton of the 10 piece orchestra, while equally distinguished is the scenic design by Beowulf Boritt and costumes by Suzy Benzinger which are exceptionally bright, colorful and uniquely suitable for a musical based on a comic-strip.

"Today I'm stealing coal for fire--Who knew I could steal ?!" (Issie Swickle As "Annie" & Sunny As "Sandy" And The Company Of "Annie") Issie Swickle Annie   LYNN ANDREWS Miss Hannigan   GILGAMESH TAGGETT Oliver Warbucks   ASHLEY EDLER Grace Farrell   GARRETT DEAGON Rooster Hannigan   LUCY WERNER Lily   Allan Ray Baker FDR   AMY BURGMAIER Mrs. Pugh, Ensemble, u/s Miss Hannigan   CAMERON MITCHELL BELL Bert, Ensemble   ANGELINA CARBALLO July, u/s Molly   JOHN CORMIER Ickes, Ensemble, u/s Rooster Hannigan   BRIAN COWING Bundles, Ensemble, u/s FDR   Adia Dant Pepper, u/s Annie   TODD FENSTERMAKER Drake, Ensemble, u/s Warbucks, FDR   CHLOE HORNER Swing   LILLYBEA IRELAND Tessie   EVAN MAYER Swing   JAKE MILLS Ensemble, u/s Bert   MEGHAN SEAMAN Ensemble, u/s Lily   HANNAH SLABAUGH Star to Be, Ensemble   SYDNEY SHUCK Kate   LILY EMILIA SMITH Ensemble, u/s Grace Farrell   LILLY MAE STEWART Molly   CHLOE TISO Swing   ISABEL WALLACH Duffy   Sunny Sandy   MACY u/s Sandy - See more at: http://anniethemusical.com/team.php#sthash.16bjwTB8.dpuf

“Today I’m stealing coal for fire–Who knew I could steal ?!” (Issie Swickle As “Annie” & Sunny As “Sandy” And The Company Of “Annie”)

The 25-member cast are uniformly amazing and are afforded plenty of opportunities to show off their collective brilliance on which the production runs so well. Given that the story begins so modestly in the confines of the orphanage, focusing on the cast’s younger members, the first really big full (adult) cast production number is the doleful “We’d Like To Thank You Herbert Hoover”, as a rag-tag collection of former high-rollers turned down-and-outers in a makeshift “Hoover-ville” underneath the 59th Street Bridge bemoan their by-gone glory days: “In every pot he said a chicken, but Herbert Hoover he forgot—not only don’t we have the chicken, we ain’t got the pot!”! Then, dispensing with the traditional ‘Servants Dance’ that introduces the hustle and bustle of the Warbucks mansion just before Annie realizes “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”, the “staff” nonetheless get their moments to shine via their inclusion in the big “NYC” number (complete with new added lyrics) after Annie suggests they might like to be treated to an evening at the movies as well, when Warbucks offers to take her to the Roxy on her first night as his guest. Subsequently, they also add luster and excitement while performing the title tune “Annie”, sung at Annie’s Christmas Eve Adoption celebration, which has been expanded somewhat with the integration of several verses from “We Got Annie”—a number cut from the initial Broadway run but eventually re-inserted into the 1982 film adaptation. Executed in tandem with one another, both songs are improved as a result giving Act Two a delightful lift.

"And if tomorrow I'm an 'Apple Seller' too, I don't need anything but you!" (Gilgamesh Taggett As "Daddy Warbucks" Celebrates With Issie Swickle As "Annie") Issie Swickle Annie   LYNN ANDREWS Miss Hannigan   GILGAMESH TAGGETT Oliver Warbucks   ASHLEY EDLER Grace Farrell   GARRETT DEAGON Rooster Hannigan   LUCY WERNER Lily   Allan Ray Baker FDR   AMY BURGMAIER Mrs. Pugh, Ensemble, u/s Miss Hannigan   CAMERON MITCHELL BELL Bert, Ensemble   ANGELINA CARBALLO July, u/s Molly   JOHN CORMIER Ickes, Ensemble, u/s Rooster Hannigan   BRIAN COWING Bundles, Ensemble, u/s FDR   Adia Dant Pepper, u/s Annie   TODD FENSTERMAKER Drake, Ensemble, u/s Warbucks, FDR   CHLOE HORNER Swing   LILLYBEA IRELAND Tessie   EVAN MAYER Swing   JAKE MILLS Ensemble, u/s Bert   MEGHAN SEAMAN Ensemble, u/s Lily   HANNAH SLABAUGH Star to Be, Ensemble   SYDNEY SHUCK Kate   LILY EMILIA SMITH Ensemble, u/s Grace Farrell   LILLY MAE STEWART Molly   CHLOE TISO Swing   ISABEL WALLACH Duffy   Sunny Sandy   MACY u/s Sandy - See more at: http://anniethemusical.com/team.php#sthash.16bjwTB8.dpuf

“And if tomorrow I’m an ‘Apple Seller’ too, I don’t need anything but you!” (Gilgamesh Taggett As “Daddy Warbucks” Celebrates With Issie Swickle As “Annie”)

Leading them all is nine-year-old dynamo Issie Swickle as the titular ginger-haired waif with the never-say-die optimism. A likable little lady with a truly prodigious voice and crisp-clear diction, this ensures that each of her songs positively resound throughout Segerstrom Hall’s substantial 3000-seat auditorium. Miss Swickle has us solidly on her side right from those first notes, and her best moments–well, they pretty much all are—but her opening salvo “Maybe” as Annie dreams of the parents who gave her up, is A-plus, as is the iconic “Tomorrow” sung to her new pal, “Sandy” a shaggy-haired terrier mix, after saving him from dog catchers in New York’s St. Mark’s Square. Gilgamesh Taggett is similarly spot-on as the Billionaire industrialist “Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks”. He too, has a voice to be reckoned with which is wonderfully showcased at the start of “NYC”, but it isn’t until after intermission with his solo “Something Was Missing” that the true potency of his inspiring vocal ability is finally heard. This song also features a particularly touching interlude between the pair as “Daddy Warbucks” leads “Annie” in a simple waltz when she consents to be his own little girl. However, Lynn Andrews practically steals the show as the buxom, bumbling villainess “Miss Hannigan”. Her raucous take may be a more sober depiction of the character many might remember but it’s perfectly in line with this entire production. Andrews’ ability to deliver a great gag-line or throw off a pun is always dead-on target (When the orphans excitedly tell her about hearing Annie on the radio, she curses her luck, sarcastically uttering “Next they’ll probably do a musical about her!”) Gifted with a fantastic singing voice as well, she manages to raise the roof with her Act One lament, “Little Girls”, then again joined as part of a dastardly trio of ne’er-do-wells in the jazzy, jivin’ showstopper “Easy Street”.

"You don't get there by playin' from the rule book--you stack the aces, you load the dice..." (Lucy Werner As "Lily St. Regis, Garrett Deagon As "Rooster" & Lynn Andrews As "Miss Hannigan" Dream Of "Easy Street")

“You don’t get there by playin’ from the rule book–you stack the aces, you load the dice…” (Lucy Werner As “Lily St. Regis”, Garrett Deagon As “Rooster” & Lynn Andrews As “Miss Hannigan” Dream Of “Easy Street”)

Another awesome aspect to this show is the first-rate characters who populate it, and outstanding support is provided by Ashley Edler as Warbuck’s devoted and ever resourceful secretary “Grace Farrell”. Although she may seem to be the picture of order and efficiency, Edler provides a few quick clues that Grace may have deeper feelings for her boss than one might first suspect. Moreover, Garrett Deagon in the role of Miss Hannigan’s Con-artist brother “Rooster” offers an interpretation that’s more sly than sleazy or overtly threatening; whereas Cameron Mitchell Bell demonstrates his striking tenor voice in service of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”, making for a terrific (if slightly pompous) “Bert Healy”—Star of the NBC “Blue Network’s” radio show, “The Oxydent Hour Of Smiles”. Jeffrey B. Duncan too, as the wheelchair-bound President “Franklin Delano Roosevelt” presents the commander-in-chief as kinder and more mild-mannered—not so much clueless about the dire straits his country is in, just in dire need of some inspiration. This makes Annie’s scene at the White House all the more effective where, having introduced him and his cabinet to the ideas expressed in “Tomorrow”, they immediately start plans for the “New Deal”.

"Gee Annie, I dream about havin' a mother and father again, but you're lucky--you really got 'em ." (Lilly Mae Stewart Is "Molly" With Issie Swickle As "Annie")

“Gee Annie, I dream about havin’ a mother and father again, but you’re lucky–you really got ’em .” (Lilly Mae Stewart Is “Molly” With Issie Swickle As “Annie”)

“Annie’s” own miniature cheering section are her fellow urchins, including Adia Dant as “Pepper”–the hot-headed ‘bully’ of the group, LillyBea Ireland as the emotional “Tessie”, and Isabel Wallach as the plucky “Duffy”, along with Sydney Shuck who plays “Kate” and Angelina Carballo as the gentle-spirited “July”. So too, pint-sized powerhouse Lilly Mae Stewart also exhibits some remarkable comic expertise herself as “Molly” the littlest orphan. Together, they rock the stage, first with “Hard Knock Life” (—which itself is an absolute knock-out,) then later with their rendition of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”, and again in the very ‘grand’ finale, “New Deal For Christmas.” Not to be overlooked either are “Sunny” and “Macy”–the dogs who share the position of Annie’s canine cohort, “Sandy”. They may not appear in many scenes, but when they do (including the show’s very last moments when reunited with Annie for good,) it’s unforgettable!

"I've just decided if my administration is going to be anything, it's gonna be optimistic about the future of this country!"  Gilgamesh Taggett As "Oliver Warbucks" Takes Issie Swickle As "Annie" To Meet Jeffrey B. Duncan As "F.D.R." & His Cabinet)

“I’ve just decided if my administration is gonna be anything, it’s gonna be optimistic about the future of this country!” (Gilgamesh Taggett As “Oliver Warbucks” Takes Issie Swickle As “Annie” To Meet Jeffrey B. Duncan As “F.D.R.” & His Cabinet)

At intermission on opening night, throughout the lobby could be heard patrons blissfully humming snippets of this tune or that (chief among them being “Tomorrow”, naturally) corroborating still further the power of this unabashedly “joyful” show! Little wonder then that by the time the curtain-calls rolled around thoroughly enchanted audience members couldn’t jump to their feet fast enough to give this “Annie” a genuinely well-deserved (and thunderous) ovation! So move them feet’ to 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa Ca. and “The Segerstrom Center For The Arts”. “Annie” plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM and Sundays at 1:00 PM and 6:30 PM through Sunday, May 24th 2015. (The 2:00 PM performance on Saturday, May 23, 2015 will also include audio description, open captioning and sign-language interpretation.) Tickets may be obtained by logging onto: www.scfta.org , by phone at (714) 556-2787 or in person between the hours of 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily at the Segerstrom Center box office located at: 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.

"Let's ring every bell from it's rafter and chime cross the land: Tomorrow's At Hand!" (The Company Of "Segerstrom Center's"  "Annie")

“Let’s ring every bell from it’s rafter and chime cross the land: Tomorrow’s At Hand!” (The Company Of “Segerstrom Center’s” “Annie”)

Production Stills By Joan Marcus; Special Thanks to the Media Relations Staff of “The Segerstrom Center For The  Arts”, and to the cast and crew of Troika Entertainment’s touring Production of “Annie” ( http://anniethemusical.com ) for making this story possible.

The Main Attraction: 3D Theatrical’s “Side Show” Exhibits That One Plus One Equals Double The Great Production In Fullerton, CA!

April 28, 2015
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“3D Theatricals” Presents “Side Show” April 25-May 10, 2015 At “Plummer Auditorium” In Fullerton, CA. : http://www.3dtshows.com

“Ladies and Gentlemen! Step right up” to see one of the most inventive extravaganzas ever to grace the Great White Way! We’re talkin’ about “Side Show” folks–the hit musical featuring a book and lyrics by Bill Russell with music by Henry Krieger based on the lives of real-life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton who became a Vaudeville sensation at the height of the Great Depression. Right now 3-D Theatricals at the landmark Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton California is presenting this first-class entertainment as the second offering of their big 2015 season! Nominated for five 1998 Tony Awards, the story chronicles the sisters’ rise from circus oddities to one of the highest paid acts in vaudeville and occasional movie performers, while exploring their search for love and normality amidst the spectacle and scrutiny of the spotlight during the 1930’s.

“Come examine these aberrations, their malformations, grotesque physiques–Come Look At The Freaks!” (The Cast Of 3D Theatricals’ “Side Show”)

As the audience piles into the auditorium, one by one cast members similarly fill the bare bleachers on stage that are situated under strings of lights and a gilt-edged proscenium curtain. Performed sans either overture or entre’ act, house goes to half as the first wraith-like refrain is heard beckoning viewers to “Come look at the freaks…They’ll haunt you for weeks!” Even if, historically, one knows the ending will veer at best toward the bittersweet, we still remain hopeful right along with the sisters, every step of their journey; such is the strength of both Russell’s book and the performances of lead actresses Jeanette Dawson and Afton Quast. One thing’s for sure—they don’t write ‘em like this anymore!

“We’re a pair remarkably mated (people swear we must be related!) We can’t bear to be separated-We Share Everything!” (The “Hilton Sisters” Hit The ‘Big Time’)

Directed by T.J. Dawson, “Side Show” really could be considered a top-notch ‘operetta’—given the long sumptuously sung sequences filled with heightened emotion and lofty musical phrases. Happily, Mr. Dawson’s spirited and continually fluid direction plays to all these strengths—skillfully giving each aspect its due without ever getting overwhelmed or bogged down, but instead, using all of the robust sensibilities at play to drive the show on to continually bigger and better levels of impressiveness. By the same token, Leslie Stevens’ expert choreography vividly recalls the times and situations inherent to entertainment of the 1930’s, from a roadside dingy shanty exhibition to the more cosmopolitan presentations of Broadway or Hollywood during the same decade. The opening montage of “Come Look At Freaks” is A-Plus, quickly introducing–through movement–all of the “freaks” and their various acts; also, the vintage vaudeville-inspired steps from a nifty soft-shoe as the girls begin to learn their craft to snippets of a sultry New Year’s Eve tango in The Big Apple wonderfully ‘inform’ and enhance the on-stage goings-on. Still another noteworthy aspect to this particular production is the way all the supporting technical elements all blend extraordinarily well to add to its overall effectiveness and enjoyment. The 20 piece orchestra (including a harp), under the helm of Conductor Allen Everman, provide the many magnificent but never intrusive melodies that make the show ascend to dazzling heights! Also meriting kudos are Kate Bergh’s costumes that take the show from drab dust-bowl inspired flannels to fabulously showy and sophisticated 30’s era glamour.

“Two birds in flight, delighting far above the fray; they’re winging, they’re singing, they’re bringing melodies our way!”

The production also features some terrific ensemble work, and the voices of each member are more than up to the score’s pithy requirements. Indeed, another of the show’s copious virtues is the way it sandwiches in some pretty heady sentimental moments between some genuinely soaring musical passages. In addition to the opening, the group succeed prodigiously with “The Devil You Know”, which steadily builds—starting as a solo first, then involving the entire company as they debate the wisdom of the twins leaving their side-show home to risk pursuing the (perhaps empty) promises of their new managers, Buddy and Terry. Shortly after, they also collectively amaze with the touching “Say Goodbye To The Freak-show”. Throughout, the various opulent “spectaculars” once the twins ‘hit the big time’ (featuring among other things, a line of dancing Egyptian chorus-boys or a flock of brightly colored “birds”) offer plenty of great opportunities for some terpsichorean grandeur.

“Evermore and always, we’ll be one though we’re two; for I will never leave you…” (Afton Quast is “Daisy Hilton” And Jeanette Dawson Is “Violet Hilton”)

Headlining as the Hilton twins, Jeanette Dawson is “Violet” while Afton Quast is her sister “Daisy”; both possess incredible voices that work brilliantly in concert with one another, while still remaining distinct and memorably individual. Moreover, both are on stage practically the entire time! Their ‘duologue’ titled “Feelings You’ve Got To Hide” is a triumph for each, while their act one closer, the potent “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” sharply captures the universality of the Hilton girls story; for better or worse, they really are just like anybody else with the same hopes and vulnerabilities as everyone–especially when it comes to desire and romance. Later, their concluding chanson, “I Will Never Leave You” is both beautiful and slightly forlorn, featuring some excellent harmony from both.

“You deserve a better life–no more worry, no more strife.” (Gregg Hammer Is “Terry Connor”, Afton Quast Is “Daisy”, Jeanette Is “Violet”, And Gary Brintz Is “Buddy Foster”)

As “Buddy Foster”, the first to “discover’ them, Gary Brintz is likeable and exceptionally empathetic; however, although genial enough, we ultimately learn that he’s after his big “break” too! Gifted with a voice to be reckoned with, Brintz makes “More Than We Bargained For” a significant bit of fore-shadowing early on, before flourishing with the more playful “One Plus One Equals Three”. As his associate, “Terry Connor” —a talent scout for the famous “Orpheum Circuit” who initially undertakes to oversee the girls’ career, Gregg Hammer has a rich, full and expressive voice which he unveils to remarkable effect with his second act soliloquy “Private Conversation” as Terry dreams of the courage to express his deep affections for Daisy. Together, Dawson, Quast, Brintz and Hammer all do a striking job, first with “New Year’s Eve” during which Buddy finally proposes to Violet, then later with the surreal “Tunnel Of Love” as each of this admittedly unusual quartet ponder the romantic possibilities and complications facing them. Nathan Holland also offers up fine support in the dual role of the often seethingly vicious and conniving side-show “Boss” and later as Director “Todd Browning”. It is he who first greets the audience, striking just the right balance of tantalization and salaciousness with the opening wherein he introduces his curious assemblage.

“The Devil you know beats the Devil you don’t–that ‘Promised Land’ could turn out to be dry…” (Jay Donnell is “Jake”)

Jay Donnell too, as fellow side-show performer and the sisters’ loyal friend and protector, “Jake”, is a down-right revelation. Not only does he have an awesomely Atlantean and soulful voice, he also wields the passion to deliver it to the back of the house when required. Donnell absolutely electrifies with his part at the start of “The Devil You Know”, but he really brings down the house with his dynamic Act Two benediction, “You Deserve To Be Loved” as he fervently makes known his long suppressed feelings for Violet. Elevating this song into a bona fide “aria” (for that’s how much raw power he packs into it) Jake begs her not to go through with a sham marriage to Buddy who really can’t love her the way he truly does. This number also reveals one of the more heart-wrenching plot elements: if only she could see beyond the ingrained racism of the time, Violet could at last experience the one thing she desires most of all—a husband who deeply cares for her; but fearing society’s reaction to an inter-racial marriage, she condemns herself to a life devoid of any love at all.

“Groping my way toward an unstated goal, don’t know where I’m going but feel like I’ve been there before.” (“Terry”, “Daisy”, “Violet” & “Buddy” Take An Uncertain Ride In “The Tunnel Of Love”)

So sit back and hang on, because you’re in for a thrill-ride that’s “as grand as the canyon” and twice as enjoyable! Likewise, don’t be surprised if, on more than one occasion you find yourself wanting to shout “Encore!” Plummer Auditorium is located at 201 E. Chapman Avenue in Fullerton, California. “Side Show” opened Saturday April 25th and will run through Sunday, May 10th , 2015; Show-times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM, with added shows on Thursday, May 7 at 8:00 PM and Saturday May 9 at 2:00 and 8:00 PM. Tickets may be purchased by phone by calling 714 589-2770, Ext. 1, between the hours of 11:00 AM–5:00 PM, Monday through Friday; 12:00–4:00 PM on Saturday, or by visiting the Plummer Auditorium box office two hours prior to show-time. Tickets may also be purchased on-line by visiting: www.3dtshows.com. (Special Group and Student discounts are available.)

Production Stills By Isaac James Creative  (www.IsaacJamesCreative.com) Courtesy Of Michael Sterling & Associates (www.msapr.net) and “3-D Theatricals”; Special Thanks To Michael Sterling, T.J. Dawson, Daniel Dawson, Gretchen Dawson And To The Cast And Crew Of “3-D Theatricals” “Side Show” For Making This Story Possible.

Just The Perfect Blend-ship: The Gem Theatre’s “Anything Goes” Is ‘The Top’ In Entertaining Revivals!

April 21, 2015
"One More Productions" Presents "Anything Goes" April 16-May 3, 2015 At "The Gem Theatre" In Garden Grove, CA. www.onemoreproductions.com

“One More Productions” Presents “Anything Goes” April 16-May 3, 2015 At “The Gem Theatre” In Garden Grove, CA. :  www.onemoreproductions.com

Weigh anchor with one love-sick Wall-street whiz-kid, a pretty but prim socialite, her determined mother, two less than enthusiastic religious converts, a dim-witted gangster who’s on the lam with his boss’s number-one “dame”, and a brassy female evangelist-turned-nightclub singer; throw in a load of unforgettable songs and some fancy-steppin’ and you have Cole Porter’s quintessential musical theater classic “Anything Goes”! Now “One More Productions”, the resident company at the landmark “Gem Theatre” in Garden Grove California, has given this modern madcap masterpiece of maritime misadventure the first-class treatment it so richly deserves.

"Good authors too, who once knew better words now only use four-letter words writing prose: Anything Goes!" The Cast Of One More Productions'  "Anything Goes"

“Good authors too, who once knew better words now only use four-letter words writing prose: Anything Goes!” The Cast Of One More Productions’ “Anything Goes”

The one-liners come fast and furious here courtesy of the new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman (based on the original by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton with revisions by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse) and it’s no exaggeration to state that Porter was at the top of his game when he devised the score guaranteeing audiences would (in the words of one of his more famous verses) “feel after every line, a thrill divine down your spine”! And why not? When the luxury liner “S.S. American” heads out to sea, the iconic title number exalts “the world has gone mad today and good’s bad today, and black’s white today and day’s night today….” as plenty of hijinks on the high seas are also piped aboard as two unlikely couples set sail in search of romance. Along the way they’re aided by a crew of singing sailors, an exotic plot-twist (or several) and some of ‘The Great White Way’s’ most memorable standards, including “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, “Friendship”, and of course, the rousing “Anything Goes”.

"I hate parading my serenading 'cause I'll probably miss a bar; but if this ditty is not so pretty, at least it'll tell you how great you are!" (Adriana Sanchez Is Reno Sweeney With Alex Bodrero As Billy Crocker)

“I hate parading my serenading ’cause I’ll probably miss a bar; but if this ditty is not so pretty, at least it’ll tell you how great you are!” (Adriana Sanchez Is Reno Sweeney With Alex Bodrero As Billy Crocker)

Directed by “One More Productions” Co-Founder, Damien Lorton, on opening night he advised those in attendance that “Anything Goes” was a show they had been wanting to do for some time; happily, their thoroughly captivating re-mounting of this old favorite has proven to be more than worth the wait! Lorton’s direction is swift and sharp making the most of the most manic moments this exquisite farce boasts. What he and his troupe manage to achieve in effect, is a brisk and bubbly “Tex Avery” cartoon brought to life, incorporating many delectable ‘screw-ball’ moments into the proceedings. Likewise, Roberta Kay’s vivacious, unfailingly suave choreography encompasses a plethora of dancing styles from ballet and ballroom to sultry Latin rhythms and good ol’ tap for those really “big” chorus numbers. Individually, Billy and Reno’s debonair dance-break during “You’re The Top” demonstrates some gilt-edged strutting worthy of “Fred and Adele Astaire” themselves; however, the production really gels when the entire ensemble is on stage.

"I can't wait to get the stage all set so I can let the 'Gypsy' in me out!" (Chris Harper As Lord Evelyn Has "Hot Pants" For Adriana Sanchez As Reno)

“I can’t wait to get the stage all set so I can let the ‘Gypsy’ in me out!” (Chris Harper As Lord Evelyn Has “Hot Pants” For Adriana Sanchez As Reno)

“There’s No Cure Like Travel (Bon Voyage)” earns the first big (and well-merited) applause of the evening, while “De-lovely” starts off surprisingly simple then swiftly builds into a swell dance interlude presenting several couples in an elegant tango that culminates in a genuinely sweet moment between Hope and Billy. Similarly, the triumphant title sequence features a nifty ‘challenge dance’ between Reno’s “Angels” and the sailors that steadily progresses until soon everyone on deck is involved. Directly after intermission they all gather once more for the reverent “Public Enemy Number One” before seguing into the roof-raising “Blow, Gabriel, Blow”—complete with some high-kicking hoopla (again courtesy of Reno and her girls.)

"And now I'm ready to fly! Yes, to fly higher and higher--'cause I've been through the brimstone and I've gone through the fire..." (Reno With Her "Angels")

“And now I’m ready to fly! Yes, to fly higher and higher–’cause I’ve been through the brimstone and I’ve gone through the fire…” (Reno With Her “Angels”)

Leading the cast is Adriana Sanchez who is instantly likable as Manhattan’s “Sensuous Sermonizer’, “Reno Sweeney”. Her take is a compelling blend of wise-cracking silver-screen legends like “Ann Miller” and “Betty Hutton” with the girlish exuberance of “Darla Hood” (of “The Little Rascals” fame) which is especially fitting because everyone on this wacky cruise is basically a big kid at heart. Her powerful voice and big personality are an awesome fit for these amazing songs, and hers is the performance that really guides the show as she’s the character most all the others are connected to. In fact, Reno kicks off most of the best-known songs, and in doing so never disappoints. Her melodic pairing with Chris Harper as “Sir Evelyn Oakleigh”—a charmingly befuddled British Knight with a fascination (if not exactly a faculty) for American slang, ranks as a bona-fide comedic show-stopper! Titled “The Gypsy In Me”, during their intermezzo, she’s overheard to breeze “This is so fun!”–and she’s absolutely right! The entire show is! Yet it’s Sanchez’s masterful handling of both the titular Act One closer, followed by Reno’s boisterous second act “revival meeting” (where she’s clad in a flaming Red gown) that serve as the production’s dynamic musical ‘one-two’ punch!

"Blessings on thee thou noble chap for putting this ship of ours on the map!" (Alex Bodrero As Billy Is Hailed As "Public Enemy # 1")

“Blessings on thee thou noble chap for putting this ship of ours on the map!” (Alex Bodrero As Billy Is Hailed As “Public Enemy # 1″)

Joining her is Alex Bodrero as the story’s hapless hero–Billy Crocker; while always appropriately dashing, Bodrero also brings an amiable “guy-next-door” quality that’s a mix of “Jimmy Stewart” and “Hank Williams” to this gutsy junior executive who stows away on the vessel in order to prevent the marriage of his lady-love. He especially shines with his solo “You’d Be So Easy To Love” in the first act, then later while delivering a sumptuous rendition of “Night And Day” (sung in the ship’s brig) which makes for a refreshing inclusion in the second. Megan Davis also does a commendable job as the debutante of Billy’s dreams, “Hope Harcourt”. Hers is a more sensitive, ‘human’ portrayal, hence a much more agreeable one. Instead of spending all her time pushing Billy away, it’s obvious Hope truly wants to be with him as well, making her soliloquy “Goodbye, Little Dream” all the more touching.

"If you ever feel so happy you land in jail I'm your bail!" (Adriana Sanchez As Reno Sweeney Assures Ira Trachter As Moonface Martin Of Their "Friendship")

“If you ever feel so happy you land in jail I’m your bail!” (Adriana Sanchez As Reno Sweeney Assures Ira Trachter As Moonface Martin Of Their “Friendship”)

Ira Trachter too, is delightfully dithery as “Public Enemy #13”: “Moonface Martin”, while Producer Nicole Cassesso is marvelously mischievous as the top ‘gun-moll’ of them all, “Erma”. Striking just the right balance between “bump” and “grind”, Erma confesses that she’s been “cursed with sex-appeal”, lamenting “It’s been my downfall”, to which one young passenger proclaims “She ain’t confessing—she’s advertising!” Fine support is also furnished by Carmen Tunis as Hope’s Mother, “Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt”. In what could be an easily over-looked or marginalized role, given her hilariously histrionic approach, it stands out for all the best (read: most side-splitting) reasons! Not to be overlooked either are Ashley Elizabeth, Lexi Cross, Hannah Clair and Ashley Bauer Harkey who all do a first-rate job as Reno’s “Fallen Angels”: “Purity”, “Virtue”, “Angel” and “Chastity” respectively. In addition, Cris Cortez, Tad Fujioka, Brandon Taylor Jones and Zack Martinez as a quartet of sailors all handsomely harmonize “There’ll Always Be A Lady Fair”.

"There'll always be a lady fair--a Jennie fair or a Sadie fair; there'll always be a lady fair who's waiting for you there."

“There’ll always be a lady fair–a Jennie fair or a Sadie fair; there’ll always be a lady fair who’s waiting for you there.”

Often a director will tell a performer to “have fun with it and the audience will too”; never has this been truer than with this show at “The Gem”: it’s apparent that the cast is having a blast there before the footlights, so viewers in turn can’t help but enjoy themselves right along with them! After rolling out the gang-plank on Thursday, April 16th, “Anything Goes” runs through Sunday, May 3rd 2015; show-times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM with Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM; “The Gem Theatre” is located at 12852 Main Street in Historic Downtown Garden Grove California. (Children and Senior discounts are available, and special “Student Rush” tickets are also obtainable for Thursday and Friday Performances.) For more information or to purchase tickets, call “One More Productions” at (714) 741-9550, ext. 221, or visit their website at www.onemoreproductions.com.

"Your devotion I prize, but you must realize, my boys, other girl's 'luxuries' are my 'necessities' " (Nicole Cassesso As  Erma Warns Her "Devotees": "Buddy  Beware"!)

“Your devotion I prize, but you must realize, my boys, other girl’s ‘luxuries’ are my ‘necessities’ ” (Nicole Cassesso As Erma Warns Her “Devotees”: “Buddy Beware”!)

Production Stills By Lisa Scarsi, Courtesy Of Dan Pittman at “Pittman PR” (www.pittmanpr.com) And “One More Productions” (www.onemoreproductions.com) Special Thanks To Dan Pittman, Damien Lorton, Nicole Cassesso, And To The Cast & Crew Of “The Gem Theatre’s” “Anything Goes” For Making This Story Possible.

A ‘King-ly’ So Cal Debut: Though Her Classmates Have Met Their Untimely Cessation, “Carrie, The Musical” Is A Grade-A Sensation!

March 21, 2015
"The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts" & Bruce Robert Harris And Jack W. Batman Present "Carrie, The Musical" March 18-April 5, 2015; 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada CA. (www.lamiradatheatre.com)

“The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” & Bruce Robert Harris And Jack W. Batman Present “Carrie, The Musical” March 18-April 5, 2015; 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada CA. (www.lamiradatheatre.com)

(WARNING SOME SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW) You can’t keep a good girl down! In 1988, it seemed that “Carrie, The Musical” would be simply another casualty along the Great White Way; that is, until 2012 when its creators came together to significantly rewrite book and score, from which was reborn a momentous show that quickly went onto a triumphant “Off-Broadway” run. Now “The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts” in La Mirada California, in association with Producers Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman have once again reunited the show’s original creative team to present the Los Angeles area debut of an all-new, completely reimagined, “immersive” theater production of this truly one-of-a-kind musical!

Based on the acclaimed novel by Stephen King, “High School Musical” this isn’t–it’s more like a cross between “Spring Awakening” and “The Twilight Zone” instead. Even so, this “Carrie” is like NOTHING you’ve ever seen before! Overflowing with profound performances, jaw-dropping sets and spectacular special effects, it features a revised book by Lawrence D. Cohen (who also wrote the screenplay for the classic 1977 big-screen adaptation,) with music by Michael Gore and lyrics by Dean Pitchford. No strangers to the often schizophrenic world of adolescence, between them, the pair have worked on such iconic “teen” entertainments as “Fame”, “Footloose” and “Pretty In Pink”; their songs here are pithy, and painfully honest, while also managing to send a few chills down your spine when called for. Although subjects like abuse and blatant ignorance are always a bit tough to take (and here it’s no different) both Cohen’s script and Gore and Pitchford’s score masterfully pinpoint and portray numerous aspects of the high-school human condition in ways few musicals in recent memory have been able to.

"Who will hold me when there's no one? When the smiles I used to see are not for me, what will I do? (Emily Lopez As "Carrie" Calms Her Misty Cotton As Her Mother)

“Who will hold me when there’s no one? When the smiles I used to see are not for me, what will I do? (Emily Lopez As “Carrie” Tries To  Calm Misty Cotton As Her Mother)

Totally transforming the stage into an intimate “black box” theatre—or specifically, “Ewen High School”, spectators are put right into the very heart of all the goings-on! Moreover, this ‘immersive’ atmosphere begins before audiences even enter the theater, when they are taken through a shadowy corridor reminiscent of a Halloween theme-park maze, which has been made to look like a high school that’s seemingly been through a recent cataclysm of some kind. The auditorium itself is decorated as the school’s gym in which all the action will take place, while center stage sits an inconsolable girl whom we will soon detect is “Sue Snell”— the lone survivor of a horrible tragedy. With this retelling, the story is seen in flashback through Sue’s beleaguered mind: “If only that day in the shower had never happened” she laments, recalling how, viciously taunted by her peers at school and brutalized by her psychotically religious mother at home, 17-year-old high-school outcast “Carrie Etta White” leads a lonely, tormented life until she discovers that she’s gifted with rare-yet-potent psychokinetic abilities; but when a vicious prank at her school’s Prom (right after she’s been named “Prom Queen”) goes horrendously wrong, Carrie’s unwary classmates and mother learn too late just how fatal a mistake it is to mess with a girl like her!

This new and innovative concept is the brainchild of Director Brady Schwind, and it pays huge dividends. Schwind keeps the action fluid, but not so rapid that many key elements or sentiments expressed are overlooked or rushed through; indeed, often there are several things happening simultaneously in several performance areas throughout the theater, and if anything, at times it can be a challenge to take them all in. Cautious minds also may rest assured that the story’s controversial “shower scene”, while containing some very brief nudity, is handled with great tact and discretion—yet another credit to Schwind’s directorial capabilities. Wisely too, he’s kept the special effects in the service of, instead of overpowering, the on-stage happenings. This is a musical more about people than ‘powers’, so when something phantasmic does occur, it startles–then amazes, making it far more memorable! Lee Martino’s spirited choreography also helps punctuate many of the key moments as well. Best described as hip-hop meets be-bop, she gives her dancers plenty of large group movements reminiscent of a vintage VH1 video brought to life!

"Oh my life is gonna take flight--can't wait 'til Saturday Night! You ain't seen nothin' yet-it's gonna be a night we'll never forget!" (The Cast Of The La Mirada Theatre's "Carrie, The Musical")

“Oh my life is gonna take flight–can’t wait ’til Saturday Night! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet-it’s gonna be a night we’ll never forget!” (The Cast Of The La Mirada Theatre’s “Carrie, The Musical”)

First making their collective presence felt as the ‘ghosts’ of Sue’s lost classmates, the fresh-faced and superbly talented ensemble seethe out of the shadows, slowly ‘materializing’ with each pulsating beat of the opening number which details the crucial pubescent problem of fitting “In” (“I’d crawl out of my skin, and so would you, ‘cause life just doesn’t begin until you’re IN!”) Joining again, they back up the Evangelic “Open Your Heart”, giving it a fittingly “glorious” consummation; then they effectively initiate the second act with the optimistic “A Night We’ll Never Forget”, wherein each prepares for their big evening. Once revealed, the actual “Prom” is so breath-taking that even as the plot speeds toward its ultimate inevitable conclusion, you genuinely hope it won’t occur.

More than with many other musical theater heroines, a lot rides on the performance of “Carrie” herself as singer and actor, and here, Emily Lopez in the title role of the taunted “girl with something extra-sensory” has us in her corner all the way! Possessing the enviable ability to bring clarity and intensity to the considerable emotions being expressed through song, her opening rant, appropriately titled “Carrie”, is forceful and affecting. Through it, we learn just what a wounded soul this girl is, as well as how she clings to the hopes for better days despite everything. Lopez again impresses with her part in “Evening Prayers” (a duet with her mother.) This may be the most surreal sequence but it’s also the one of the most vital, as it’s here that Carrie starts to realize the extent of her mental powers and the inner-strength they can bring her. She may begin literally cowering before a large hovering crucifix while locked in a ‘prayer closet”, but she certainly doesn’t end that way, leaving her confinement with a definite swagger! Her final moments of Act One are about as portentous as they get, as Carrie, announcing her decision to go to the prom, then exits with the same sense of serenity one would find in the eye of a hurricane, after demonstrating her “abilities” to her now terrified mother.

"You've become Satan's Bride-Pray for mercy! Get down on your knees! You've got Jezebel's pride and your soul is a hole of disease!" (Misty Cotton Is "Margaret White" With Emily Lopez As "Carrie")

“You’ve become Satan’s Bride-Pray for mercy! Get down on your knees! You’ve got Jezebel’s pride and your soul is a hole of disease!” (Misty Cotton Is “Margaret White” With Emily Lopez As “Carrie”)

As Carrie’s mother, Misty Cotton also does a superlative job in a decidedly tricky role; her “Margaret White” is an over-the-hill hippie/Jesus freak who surrendered her mind and logic long ago. “I can see you inside—full of sin and full of pride!” she condemns Carrie; still, Cotton succeeds at painting her in a more “three-dimensional” light with very human foibles than has been seen in earlier incarnations. Yes, she loves her daughter, but is so blinded by the light of her rigid “faith” that she can’t bear to face reality. Her rancorous “Eve Was Weak” is as infuriating as it is passionately delivered, but it’s after intermission that Cotton indelibly makes her mark with “When There’s No One”–a haunting melody that’s both beautiful and bone-chilling, because under all the soft words and dulcet tones, this is where Margaret finally surrenders what’s left of her tenuous grip on sanity. (“When the song dies, there is silence; when the tune that filled my days—no longer plays, the room is still…” she pines.) In the equally pivotal role of “Miss Gardner”, the girl’s coach who looks beyond Carrie’s plain, shy facade and sees someone worthy of self-esteem, Jenelle Lynn Randall is likewise a force to be reckoned with. Her song, “Unsuspecting Hearts” in which she gives Carrie the courage to accept Tommy’s invitation to the prom, may even bring a tear or two to your eyes.

No stranger to the La Mirada stage (appearing in last season’s award-winning “Les Miserables”,) Valerie Rose Curiel completely steps into the persona of quintessential ‘mean girl’ Chris Hargensen, and her rendition of “The World According To Chris” is a bona-fide highlight illuminating how Chris (the daughter of a local lawyer naturally,) has been raised to believe she’s inherently superior to other girls (“In every litter there’s a runt—Carrie White is ours” she gloats, later rationalizing her cruel behavior with, “nobody ever died from a scar!”) In fact, so ‘on the money’ is Ms. Curiel’s portrayal that on opening night when Chris finally “gets hers”, it was met with a spontaneous round of applause! In contrast, Kayla Parker’s “Sue” is similarly awesome as the affable girl next door with a conscience lacking in many of her compatriots at school. Her declaration “Once You See” is musical dynamite conveyed with the high-caliber urgency of a girl shaken into understanding the error of her callow, shallow ways.

"The world according to Chris is: Better to punch than get punched; better to burn than get burned --learn that and you're gonna go far!" (Valerie  Rose Curiel Is Chris Hargensen With Her 'Admirers'")

“The world according to Chris is: Better to punch than get punched; better to burn than get burned –learn that and you’re gonna go far!” (Valerie Rose Curiel Is Chris Hargensen With Her ‘Admirers'”)

Joining her is Jon Robert Hall as Sue’s boyfriend, “Tommy”—the lad whom she talks into being Carrie’s date. Together they make the kind of handsome, wholesome “dream couple” we all wish we had been a part of back in our own high school days. Hall too, has a clean, expressive vocal styling evocative of a young Richard Marx which he puts to excellent use during Tommy’s “Dreamer In Disguise”, infusing it with depth and soul. With Parker, their romantic duet “You Shine” (as Tommy wishes he could take his lady-love to the Prom instead) also rates a giant thumbs up! Offering a more ‘humane’ take on the role made famous by John Travolta in the film, Garrett Marshall also does a noteworthy job as Chris’ juvenile-delinquent boy-toy “Billy Nolan”. More a big, boisterous puppy dog with a booming voice to match, Billy tentatively regrets what they’re planning (“Isn’t this a little low—even for you?” he asks Chris.)

Set your mind to seeing “Carrie, The Musical” ASAP! After beginning previews on Thursday, March 12th, the show opened on Wednesday, March 18th, where it will run through Sunday, April 5, 2015. Show-times are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm; there will be two performances on Friday April 3 at 7:30 pm and 11:00 pm; with only one matinee at 2:00 pm on Sunday, April 5th. “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” is located at: at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada, CA. Tickets for this engagement can be purchased at their website, located at: www.lamiradatheatre.com , or by calling the Box Office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 (Student and Senior discounts are available.) For more information about “Carrie, The Musical” visit www.experiencecarrie.com .

(www.experiencecarrie.com)

(www.experiencecarrie.com)

Production Stills By Jason Niedle (tethos.com) Courtesy Of David Elzer At Demand PR (www.demandpr.com) And “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts”; Special Thanks To David Elzer, Brian Kite, Bruce Robert Harris, Jack W. Batman And To The Cast & Crew Of “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” Production Of “Carrie, The Musical” For Making This Story Possible.

 

A ‘Bali Ha’i-Powered’ Experience: Nothing ‘Cockeyed’ About It–“South Pacific” Is A Show To Love In Long Beach, CA.

February 17, 2015
"Musical Theatre West" Presents "South Pacific" February 14-March 1, 2015 At "The Carpenter Center For The Performing Arts" In Long Beach CA. (www.musical.org)

“Musical Theatre West” Presents “South Pacific” February 14-March 1, 2015 At “The Carpenter Center For The Performing Arts” In Long Beach CA. (www.musical.org)

Talk about “some enchanted evening”! Although “I expect every one of my crowd to make fun of my proud protestations of faith in” musical theater that can be fanciful and romantic while also remaining significant and socially-conscious, “Fearlessly I’ll face them and argue their doubts away” by asserting that there are few better ways to celebrate February’s season of love and valentines than with one of the most acclaimed stage romances of all time—Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”! Thankfully, “Musical Theatre West” at “The Carpenter Center For The Performing Arts” in Long Beach California, has unveiled, precisely this show as their first of 2015! A rare and jubilant—but also important–entertainment, “South Pacific” made its debut in 1949, before going onto win numerous awards—among them, a Pulitzer prize, and it remains ranked amid only a handful of musicals to ever attain such an honor. This is conceivably due to its peculiar, timeless, quality; although set at the height of World War II, it especially speaks to our current situation today—maybe even more so than when it was originally produced, and you can rest assured that MTW’s latest production lives up to all of the show’s ‘enchanting’ merits.

"Who can explain it, who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons, wise men never try..." Alessa Neeck is "Nellie Forbush" with Christopher Carl as "Emile DeBecque"

“Who can explain it, who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons, wise men never try…” Alessa Neeck is “Nellie Forbush” with Christopher Carl as “Emile DeBecque”

A true classic if ever there was one, I am definitely NOT in ‘a conventional dither’ when I state that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s score is filled with practically one amazing showstopper after the next, and certainly all have become bona-fide standards in the canon of noteworthy American music. The book is also by Oscar Hammerstein and Joshua Logan (the show’s original director), based on James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning novel “Tales of the South Pacific” (–or more specifically, two stories within it.) The action takes place on an island (where else?) in the ‘South Pacific’, and concerns two romances that run parallel to each other with some comic relief thrown in. The first involves Navy nurse “Nellie Forbush” from “Little Rock, A-R-K”, who quickly falls for the slightly older “Emile DeBecque” after meeting him at an officer’s club dinner. DeBecque is a French expatriate and area plantation owner with (unbeknownst to Nellie) two small children by a previous relationship with a native woman. By the same token, idealistic newcomer to the island, Lt. Joe Cable soon finds himself entranced by a young exotic beauty named “Liat”, who is the daughter of “Bloody Mary”, a sassy local peddler around the Navy base. Caught between their blossoming courtships and the ever-looming reality of the war against Japan, both Forbush and Cable struggle to reconcile their (for the time) unconventional affairs of the heart with their own prejudices and insecurities.

"Close to my heart she came...only to fly away; only to fly as day flies from moonlight." Christopher Carl is "Emile DeBecque"

“Close to my heart she came…only to fly away; only to fly as day flies from moonlight.” Christopher Carl is “Emile DeBecque”

With direction and choreography by Joe Langworth, who himself was the Associate Choreographer of the hit 2008 “Lincoln Center” revival, there’s a refreshing, unforced, quality running through the entire production that speaks to both the strength of the material and the commendable talents of those performing it. When it comes to dances and group achievements, Langworth saves most of the really clever moves for the scene-changes and brief ‘in-one’ segments, but perhaps by reason of their very brevity, these sequences truly charm and enliven thanks to some rather sharp moves and acrobatic exchanges. Examples of his imaginative terpsichorean craftsmanship include an ingenious combination “mariner’s horn-pipe/jitterbug’ for the sailors as part of their big “Bloody Mary” number (–which, not coincidentally, earns one of the most prodigious ovations of the evening!) Subsequently thereafter, the “Seabees” earn still another hearty round of applause for their efforts with, “There Is Nothing Like A Dame”; by the time the second act is unveiled, it’s the ladies turn to bask in the spot-light as they reignite the goings-on with an energetic, burlesque-inspired kick-line performed as part of the stylish gag-number, “Honey Bun”.

"I am caught and I don't wanna run, 'cause I'm havin' too much fun with 'Honey Bun'" Alessa Neeck  is "Nellie Forbush" with Spencer Rowe as "Luther Billis"

“I am caught and I don’t wanna run, ’cause I’m havin’ too much fun with ‘Honey Bun'” Alessa Neeck is “Nellie Forbush” with Spencer Rowe as “Luther Billis”

Broadway’s Alessa Neeck stars as the wide-eyed, “Cockeyed Optimist”, Ensign Nellie Forbush, along with Christopher Carl—likewise an artist of some note along “The Great White Way”, who appears as the French Planter, Emile DeBecque; together, Neeck and Carl make a handsome, not to mention very melodic, on-stage couple whom viewers won’t find it hard to ‘root’ for. Ms. Neeck’s portrayal emphasizes Forbush’s small-town southern upbringing and she even throws in an appealing southern lilt to her voice. Her opening, “Only A Cockeyed Optimist” is conveyed simply but cheerfully, while shortly after, her take on “Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” is a sheer delight, starting off as a solo, but quickly erupting into a full-on lively dance-interlude with all the nurses; then, her abrupt romantic ‘about-face’ with “I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy” (including its encore) is yet another authentic highlight this lass really delivers on! Meanwhile, Mr. Carl’s appropriately deep and resonant voice is one to fall in love with, and his rendition of the iconic “Some Enchanted Evening” early on is the evening’s first full-fledged show-stopper, but it isn’t until the second act with his lamentation “This Nearly Was Mine” (—complete with the song’s seldom heard ‘bridge’,) that the pure profundity of this man’s ability to instill raw emotion into what he’s singing is completely felt.

"My eyes look down at your lovely face and I hold a world in my embrace..." Patrick Cummings is "Lt. Joseph Cable" with Cailan Rose as "Liat"

“My eyes look down at your lovely face and I hold a world in my embrace…” Patrick Cummings is “Lt. Joseph Cable” with Cailan Rose as “Liat”

Joining them is Patrick Cummings from the San Francisco Opera as Lt. Joseph (Joe) Cable. Gifted with a rich tenor voice, in keeping with the over-all style of this production, he begins his alluring chanson, “Younger Than Springtime” (sung just after he’s met and become thoroughly enamored with Bloody Mary’s daughter,) softly enough, but gradually lets it build into a tremendous crescendo that reveals the ample might of his striking vocal talents! Similarly, his rendering of “You’ve Got To Be Taught”—which spells out the primary message of racial acceptance for “those whose skin is a different shade” that “South Pacific” proclaims, is initially kept low-key, steadily building to a passionate apex filled with recrimination—against himself and the “society” he was brought up in. The production also incorporates a first-act duet between Nellie and Joe titled “My Girl Back Home”, which was cut from the original 1949 staging, but later reinstated for the 1958 film. Here, it deepens the understanding of the pair’s deeply entrenched mind-set toward race-relations that they grew up around, and each are impressive in presenting it.

"Bloody Mary's chewin' Betel Nuts --and she don't use Pepsodent!" Jodi Kimura is "Bloody Mary"

“Bloody Mary’s chewin’ Betel Nuts –and she don’t use Pepsodent!” Jodi Kimura is “Bloody Mary”

“South Pacific” also features several remarkable character roles, and here too, they don’t disappoint! Jodi Kimura, furnishes laudable support as “Bloody Mary”. Kimura offers us a much more relaxed, honest and unaffected ’person’, and less of a caricature than “Mary” is all-too-commonly seen as. This doesn’t mean, however, that she doesn’t vocally bestow the goods where it counts though. Her interpretation of “Bali Hai” is full and seductive as the song should be, while her supposedly ‘upbeat’ second act ditty, “Happy Talk” (sung to a malaria-weakened Cable) has an intriguing tinge of desperation also strangely befitting the situation, as shortly following, Joe will announce that he is unable to marry her daughter. As that same vulnerable young lady “Liat”, Cailan Rose also manages to stand-out nicely in a frequently overlooked role, depicting her as a fresh-faced and innocent ingénue who is easy to empathize with. Although dialogue-wise, she may not have much to say, Rose nonetheless makes her mark with a whimsical little dance-solo performed as part of her ‘mother’s’ breezy melody, “Happy Talk”. Spencer Rowe also does an exceptional job providing many rib-tickling moments as the tattooed Seabee Luther Billis. Proprietor of “Luther Billis Enterprises” (among other things,) he’s the character that ostensibly connects all the stories as he’s pretty much connected to all (or at least, most of) the lead players. In addition, his various antics go a long way in lightening the mood of what could, at times, be a fairly heavy show. Moreover, listen for Melvin Ramsey as “Seabee Kenneth Johnson” to supply some dramatic low notes at the end of “Nothing Like A Dame”, as well as some equally formidable foot-work during the choral reprise of “Bali Ha’i”.

"You can't light a fire when the wood is wet, you can't make a Butterfly strong; you can't  fix an egg when it ain't quite good--and you can't fix a man when he's wrong!" Alessa Neeck as "Nellie Forbush" and her fellow nurses are "Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair"

“You can’t light a fire when the wood is wet, you can’t make a Butterfly strong; you can’t fix an egg when it ain’t quite good–and you can’t fix a man when he’s wrong!” Alessa Neeck as “Nellie Forbush” and her fellow nurses are “Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”

Given the day and place that the events in this story are set against, in an exhilaratingly dignified gesture of gratitude, on opening night Executive Producer, Paul Garman asked all the actual Veterans of WWII in attendance to rise and be acknowledged for their service, at which they readily received a rousing round of applause! Indeed, this patriotic salute would later be reinforced immediately after intermission, when omitting the entre-act, the cast requested audience members to stand and join them in singing the National Anthem. Not only did this unexpected bit of spectator-participation inaugurate the second-half in an elegant and spirited way, it also further reinforced the era the show occurs in: the first scene in Act Two begins during a “Thanksgiving Program” on the military base, where just such a tradition would be observed!

"If you don't talk Happy, and you never dream, then you'll never have a dream come true!" Jodi Kimura is "Bloody Mary" with Patrick Cummings as "Joe" & Cailan Rose as "Liat"

“If you don’t talk Happy, and you never dream, then you’ll never have a dream come true!” Jodi Kimura is “Bloody Mary” with Patrick Cummings as “Joe” & Cailan Rose as “Liat”

“The Carpenter Center For The Performing Arts” is on the northern end of the campus of “California State Long Beach”, located at 6200 E. Atherton St. in Long Beach, CA. Don’t wait and later lament “This Nearly Was Mine”—get your tickets now! Having opened Saturday, February 14th, “South Pacific” will play Fridays at 8:00 PM, Saturdays at 2:00 PM and 8:00 P.M, with Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM, through March 1st. Special added shows are on Thursday, February 26th at 8:00 PM and Sunday evening 22nd, at 7:00 PM; Tickets are available by visiting the “Musical Theatre West Ticket Office” at 4350 E. 7th Street, Long Beach CA., by calling (562) 856-1999, ext. 4, or online by logging onto: www.musical.org.

 

"Bloody Mary is the girl I love--now ain't that too Damn Bad!" The Seabees sing their praises to Jody Kimura as "Bloody Mary"

“Bloody Mary is the girl I love–now ain’t that too Damn Bad!” The Seabees sing their praises to Jody Kimura as “Bloody Mary”

Production stills by “Caught In The Moment Photography”, Long Beach CA. (www.caughtinthemoment.com) Courtesy of “Musical Theatre West”; Special Thanks to Paul Garman, Lori Yonan, and to the cast and crew of “Musical Theatre West’s” “South Pacific” for making this story possible.

A Wildly “Wubbulous” Show: “Seussical—The Musical” Proves ‘Anything Truly Is Possible’ In Fullerton, CA.

February 10, 2015
Cathy Rigby Stars In 3-D Theatrical's "Seussical, The Musical" February 7-22, 2015 In Fullerton, CA.; February 28-March 8, 2015 In Redondo Beach, CA.

Cathy Rigby Stars In 3-D Theatrical’s “Seussical, The Musical” February 7-22, 2015 In Fullerton, CA.; February 28-March 8, 2015 In Redondo Beach, CA.

When was the last time you really had ‘FUN’ at the theater? If you have to think about it, then run, hop, skip or jump to the landmark “Plummer Auditorium” in Fullerton, California where 3-D Theatricals, Southern California’s Ovation Award Winning Theater Company takes a walk on the whimsical side with their first show of 2015: the charmingly quirky and family-friendly “Seussical—The Musical” starring Cathy Rigby! Based on selections from the enormously popular works of children’s author, Dr. Seuss, “Seussical, The Musical” is equal parts Broadway musical, Big Top circus, rock concert, MGM extravaganza,—and all enchantment. Like your favorite amusement park ride, once the last note ends, 3-D Theatricals’ rip-roaring new production makes you want to run right out and experience it all over again!

"Oh the thinks you will find lining up to get loose--oh, the thinks you can think when you think about 'Seuss'!" (Cathy Rigby & The Cast Of 3-D Theatrical's "Seussical, The Musical")

“Oh the thinks you will find lining up to get loose–oh, the thinks you can think when you think about ‘Seuss’!” (Cathy Rigby & The Cast Of 3-D Theatrical’s “Seussical, The Musical”)

Featuring Music by Stephen Flaherity and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (who both share credit for also writing the book) the idea was co-conceived by Ahrens, Flaherty and Eric Idle (–the guy from “Monty Python” who would also later score with his musical “Spamalot”!) That the entire enterprise is largely ‘sung through’ with plenty of extended musical sequences interrupted only by very short interjections of all-rhyming dialogue, keeps the happenings flowing from one great melodic escapade into the next. The tales that seem to drive the plot are “Horton Hears A Who”, “Horton Hatches The Egg”, “The Butter Battle Book” and “Gertrude Mc Fuzz”—even the notorious “Grinch” (he, who stole Christmas) makes an appearance! The opening “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think” (taken from the Doctor’s book of the same name) is about as rousing as they come, and sharp-eyed viewers will definitely see many familiar characters from their grade-school book shelves.

"You're the Biggest Blame Fool in the Jungle Of Nool--and I don't care who I tell!" (Amber J. Snead is "Sour Kangaroo" with Matthew Downs as Horton, The Elephant)

“You’re the Biggest Blame Fool in the Jungle Of Nool–and I don’t care who I tell!” (Amber J. Snead is “Sour Kangaroo” with Matthew Downs as Horton, The Elephant)

Afterward, the story begins “On the 15th of May in the Jungle Of Nool”, at which we’re taken to a lush, sumptuously hued jungle where lives Horton a simple, good-hearted elephant who believes “A person’s a person—no matter how small”. The first act pretty much follows his exploits trying to save the microscopic land of “Whoville” (which exists, we’re told, “in the tiniest planet in the sky” that’s found at the center of a mere speck of dust.) The second, when he’s tricked into sitting on an egg belonging to a vain and lazy bird named “Mazie”. Be prepared for some terrific audience participation after intermission, as the surprises (—and some ingenious ‘mise-en-scènes’–) come fast and furious!

"Notice me Horton, put down the clover; this your next-door neighbor calling. There's a new Leaf you neighbor's turned over." (Matthew Downs Is Horton, The Elephant & Melanie Mockobey Is Gertrude McFuzz)

“Notice me Horton, put down the clover; this your next-door neighbor calling. There’s a new Leaf your neighbor’s turned over.” (Matthew Downs Is Horton, The Elephant & Melanie Mockobey Is Gertrude McFuzz)

Directed and Choreographed by multi “LA Ovation Award” winner David Engel, who was part of the original Broadway company, he perspicaciously plays to all the book’s strengths, keeping the action going at a near whirlwind pace, which makes those times when things do slow down a bit all the more meaningful. Likewise, his choreography (and there is plenty of it) is expertly based on Broadway’s original staging by Kathleen Marshall. Movement here runs the gamut from 50’s “sock hop” dances to 80’s Hip-Hop; “Choreographer” Engle has found numerous ways to open up and enliven the proceedings through some inspired stepping, and even some remarkable mid-air maneuverings (with the captivating assistance of “Aerial Choreographer” Paul Rubin!) The sets by J. Branson and George Bacon’s costume design (both courtesy of “Music Theatre Witchita”) all effectively conjures up the look and feel of a Dr. Seuss illustration, and all are F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C; but it’s the lighting design by Jean-Yves Tessier that truly makes the show come alive with bold, vibrant, colors and some rather amazing lighting effects (particularly in the second act.)

"High or low, Gee she's fabulous! Watch her go, Gee I'm envious!" (Victoria Matlock is the "Amayzing" Mayzie LaBird with Cathy Rigby)

“High or low, Gee she’s fabulous! Watch her go, Gee I’m envious!” (Victoria Matlock is the “Amayzing” Mayzie LaBird with Cathy Rigby)

As the celebrated mischief-maker, “The Cat In The Hat”, Cathy Rigby serves as our sprightly host for the evening, popping in and out of all the on-stage undertakings and guiding spectators through the various adventures and misadventure more or less familiar to anyone who recalls Dr. Seuss’s stories. She literally jumps out of the pages of “The Cat In The Hat” book when making her first appearance, proclaiming “Howdy do and hello—I’ll be running the show”! Ms. Rigby also puts her agility and athletic training to exceptional use—as well as her ‘flying’ experience from other shows. According to Director Engel, the unique arraignment of her number “A Day For The Cat In The Hat” seen here was specifically created for the actress when she joined the show as the last “Cat” during its run on the “Great White Way”. Her rendition of it is A-Plus, and it ‘evolves’ (as many of the numbers do) from a simple duet with “Jo-Jo” (the son of the Mayor of “Whoville” whom Horton has befriended) into a huge splashy dance sequence titled “McElligot’s Pool”, in which the chorus executes a brilliant ballet while Rigby herself ‘takes to the air’ with some incredible acrobatic moves of her own–high above the stage! Moreover, her exuberant handling of the second act reprise of “How Lucky You Are” makes for a bouncy pick-me up directly after intermission; throughout, she throws in plenty of clever ‘tricks up her sleeve’ to keep the audience guessing, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying–and she’s just plucky and likable enough to pull them all off and then some!

"I have wings and I can fly, around the moon and far beyond the sky..." (Matthew Downs As Horton, The Elephant Commiserates With Grant Westcott As "Jo-Jo")

“I have wings and I can fly, around the moon and far beyond the sky…” (Matthew Downs As Horton, The Elephant Commiserates With Grant Westcott As “Jo-Jo”)

The pleasant but put upon pachyderm at the center of much of the events, “Horton, The Elephant” is performed by Matthew Downs, who does a sensational job in playing up the ‘quiet hero’ Horton is, portraying him as an all-around nice guy, “Caught between a dust-speck and an incubated egg”, as opposed to a universal ‘schlub’. His lullaby “Solla Sollew” to the newly orphaned egg which he’s been tricked into tending is superbly poignant and well-delivered. Right there by his side (whether he always sees it or not) is Melanie Mockobey, who is a genuine delight as the insecure, but ultimately valiant bird, “Gertrude McFuzz”. What a voice she has too, which is wonderfully displayed in “The One Feather Tale Of Miss Gertrude McFuzz” and “Notice Me Horton”; later, one humongous unwieldy tail lighter (–after she learns that anyone can be ‘pretty’ but real beauty comes from within), she shines with “All For You”. Not to be overlooked either is young Grant Westcott as “Jo-Jo”, the little “Who” who thinks the great big ‘thinks”. Westcott has a voice bona-fide three times his Bantam size and he puts it to excellent use in the service of “Anything Is Possible” and several quieter, but still stirring duets with Horton such as “Alone In The Universe” and his part in “Solla Sollew”.

"I've got brains in my head and feet in my shoes--so steer yourself in any direction you choose." (Grant Westcott As "Jo-Jo" & The Company Are "Havin' A Hunch")

“I’ve got brains in my head and feet in my shoes–so steer yourself in any direction you choose.” (Grant Westcott As “Jo-Jo” & The Company Are “Havin’ A Hunch”)

Amber J. Snead also offers outstanding support as “Sour Kangaroo”—one of Horton’s many detractors in the Jungle Of Nool; she magnificently takes center stage, showcasing her dynamically robust voice early on with “Biggest Blame Fool” (about Horton) and again at the show’s climax, in essence driving “The People Versus Horton The Elephant”. Gregory North is also a real force to be reckoned with as the blustery “General Genghis Kahn Schmitz” whose military Academy “Jo-Jo” is proscribed to. While North doesn’t sing much, he still makes the most of this prime-character role. But, in point of fact, the full ensemble is the primary “Co-Star” in all of these goings-on. As a group, they demonstrate some refined choral work—both during the larger jungle sequences and as the assorted “Who” townsfolk especially. As a dance team, being that the show is 90% song, it also means it’s 90% dance, and in this respect, what a breath-taking bit of artistry they consistently manage to achieve there! All through the show they present some fairly astounding terpsichorean treats, but “Having A Hunch” (wherein “Jo-Jo” discovers that anything really is possible) is one of the most down-right astonishing numbers (containing some dandy examples of ‘show-biz’ razzle-dazzle using their gloved extremities,) you’re likely to see this or any other season! In addition, after the stories are told and the day is won, they throw in a bonus audience-pleaser before the final curtain, this one a jivey jitter-bug singing the praises of that most ‘Seussian” of delicacies, “Green Eggs And Ham”!

"I'm General Genghis Kahn Schmitz! I scare children out of their wits!" (Gregory North is "The General")

“I’m General Genghis Kahn Schmitz! I scare children out of their wits!” (Gregory North is “The General”)

From page to stage, this production is guaranteed to bring back a few happy memories for those whose early years these iconic stories were so much a part of, and is precisely what an exciting evening of theater should be. Don’t you deserve a few good smiles? Then come be a kid again and treat yourself (and those you love) to this cotton candy-coated carnival of a show! Having opened February 7th 2015, “Seussical, The Musical” will play weekends through February 22nd, 2015 with show-times on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, with Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm, and added performances on Thursday, February 19th at 8:00 pm and an added Saturday Matinee at 2:00pm on February 21st . “The Plummer Auditorium” is located at 201 E. Chapman Avenue, Fullerton, CA. Subsequently, starting Saturday February 28th, the show moves for an additional six performances to “The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center” located at 1935 E. Manhattan Blvd. in Redondo Beach, CA. Show-times there are Saturday, February 28th at 8:00 pm, Sunday, March 1st, at 2:00 pm, Friday, March 6th at 8:00 pm, Saturday, March 7 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, with a final Sunday Matinee on March 8th at 2:00 pm. Tickets for both engagements may be obtained by calling 714 589-2770, or by logging onto the “3d Theatrical’s” website located at: www.3dtshows.com. (Special Group and Student discounts are also available.)

"Be happy you're here--think of life as a thrill; and if worse comes to worst (--and we all know it will) Thank your lucky star you've got this far!" (Cathy Rigby As "The Cat In The Hat" And Her Quartet Of  Assistant "Things")

“Be happy you’re here–think of life as a thrill; and if worse comes to worst (–and we all know it will) Thank your lucky star you’ve got this far!” (Cathy Rigby As “The Cat In The Hat” And Her Quartet Of Assistant “Things”)

Production Stills By Isaac James Creative  (www.IsaacJamesCreative.com) Courtesy Of Michael Sterling & Associates (www.msapr.net) and “3-D Theatricals”; Special Thanks To Michael Sterling, T.J. Dawson, Daniel Dawson, Gretchen Dawson, Jeanette Dawson And To The Cast And Crew Of “3-D Theatricals” “Seussical, The Musical” For Making This Story Possible.

‘Start A New Fashion, Buck All The Trends’: “Billy Elliot—The Musical” ‘Shines’ With Plenty of Genuine ‘Electricity’ In La Mirada, California

January 20, 2015

“It’s like that there’s music playing in your ear, and I’m listening, and I’m listening, and then I disappear; and then I feel a change–like a fire deep inside, something bursting me wide open impossible to hide…”—Billy Elliot

"The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts" & McCoy-Rigby Entertainment Present: "Billy Elliot-The Musical" January 17-February  8, 2015; 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA (www.lamiradatheatre.com)

“The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” & McCoy-Rigby Entertainment Present: “Billy Elliot-The Musical” January 17-February 8, 2015; 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA (www.lamiradatheatre.com)

Based on the hit 2000 British drama about a 12-year-old boy from a small North-Eastern England town who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” and McCoy-Rigby Entertainment in La Mirada, California continue their winning 2014-2015 season by presenting the Southern California regional premiere of the ten-time Tony Award-winning “Billy Elliot—The Musical”! Set in 1984 amid an increasingly bitter miners’ strike, young Billy discovers that he prefers the girls’ ballet class at the local community center to the boxing he’s actually been sent there for. After witnessing his remarkable ability on the dance floor, his teacher swiftly realizes that this boy has true potential, but no-one, let alone his conservative working-class family, is likely to tolerate a ‘bloke’ who dances!

"Suddenly I'm flying--flying like a bird, like 'electricity' sparks inside me and I'm free!" Mitchell Tobin Is Billy Elliot

“Suddenly I’m flying–flying like a bird, like ‘electricity’ sparks inside me and I’m free!” Mitchell Tobin Is Billy Elliot

Directed by Brian Kite with plenty of intricate, jaw-dropping ‘uber-choreography’ by Dana Solimando, the production is graced with a top-flight score comprised of music by Elton John, and lyrics and book by Lee Hall (who adapted it from his screenplay.) “Sir Elton’s” music hearkens back to the best of his earlier ‘hit maker’ period of the mid-1970’s, when he literally ruled the pop-charts with one iconic hit after another. While occasionally interspersing some salty language, Hall’s book too, is exceptionally witty and Director Kite makes the most of these comic elements, which eases the show’s heavier or even slightly more ‘controversial’ components (such as pre-teen cross-dressing.) Take for example, the enterprising way the action of the striking workers clashing with riot-gear clad police is transposed in contrast to the lighter, more innocent workings of the Ballet studio, as Billy (at first awkwardly, but soon adeptly) learns his craft. Even the moment when Billy discovers that his buddy “Michael” has taken to dressing in his sister’s clothes is handled with sensitivity and playfulness rather than as something shocking or off-color, and even gives rise to a lively number “Expressing Yourself”—which itself erupts into a sensational ‘tap-line’ so vibrant you can’t help but cheer at it’s conclusion.

"Bowl them over, knock 'em out--show them what life's all about..." Vicki Lewis As Mrs. Wilkinson (Center)  & The Girls Of The Ballet Class

“Bowl them over, knock ’em out–show them what life’s all about…” Vicki Lewis As Mrs. Wilkinson (Center) & The Girls Of The Ballet Class

Solimando’s indispensable contributions include plenty of eye-popping instances of ballet, tap, swing, and even some Irish ‘clog dancing’ reminiscent of “The Lord Of The Dance”. This is a certifiable ‘dance heavy” show wherein the dance and movement must absolutely amaze and, gladly in this regard, Ms. Solimando and the cast more than rise to the requirement. Foregoing a traditional overture in favor of a short film setting up the historical and political framework against which the story will be played, the opening, “The Stars Look Down” offers the ensemble a terrific chance for some great group harmony as the miners take center stage to sing of their plight, commitment to their cause, and hopes for better days. Act Two kicks off with lots of laughs and another sterling collective effort, as the striking miners perform “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher” as part of their union’s annual holiday show, which features a chorus-line of little masked “Margaret Thatchers”. Toward the end, an extended combination “finale/curtain call”, affords one more Gold-Medal showcase for “Billy” and the young ladies of the company as they delight with a snazzy, unexpected, ‘line-dance’ that promptly brought the auditorium full of ‘First-Nighters’ to their feet!

"You might have it, you might not, all you really have to do is 'Shine'!" Vicki Lewis As Mrs. Wilkinson Guides Mitchell Tobin As Billy

“You might have it, you might not, all you really have to do is ‘Shine’!” Vicki Lewis As Mrs. Wilkinson Guides Mitchell Tobin As Billy

Earlier that evening, Producer Tom McCoy took a minute before the show got underway to inform those in attendance that on the previous Saturday, the lad who was set to play “Billy” was rehearsing his big climactic number, when he was injured, thus requiring a quick replacement. As extraordinary fortune would have it though, with only five days left before opening, just such a replacement was found. Understanding this–and seeing what a truly roof-raising performance was given on opening night, turns this already memorable evening of theater into a down-right phenomenal one! That ‘last minute’ replacement is a young ‘Super-Trooper’ by the name of Mitchell Tobin who had been part of the second national tour of the show, and to say his performance here in the title role is astounding would be a complete understatement! What wouldn’t be though, is to assert that he gives one of the very best performances Southern California has experienced in the last few years—at least! Add to it how his character is on stage throughout 90% of the goings-on, it becomes even more considerable a feat. His brief ‘shadow dance’ early on tenders a glimpse into still more outstanding things to arrive; and arrive they certainly do. It’s apparent even as he ‘burlesques’ learning those first couple of unsure moves that this kid is one hell of a talent! Indeed, Tobin manages to keep topping himself in each successive number–whether it’s Billy’s Act One “Angry Dance” closer (when circumstances dictate that he must miss his big audition for the “Royal Ballet School” causing him to ‘act out’ his frustration), his second act “Dream Ballet” staged as a breath-taking Pas-de-Deux between Tobin and Billy’s ‘older self” (pristinely executed by Brandon Forrest), or his eleventh hour dazzler “Electricity”. In fact, on opening night, this latter interlude effectively “stopped the show” as the eager spectators kept plying forth ovation after much-deserved ovation!

"We will go down--but rise again! And we will all go together when we go..." The Town's Striking Miner Sing.

“We will go down–but rise again! And we will all go together when we go…” The Town’s Striking Miners Sing.

Joining him is Vicki Lewis who likewise doesn’t put a foot wrong as Billy’s sympathetic Ballet Teacher, “Mrs. Wilkinson”. Her introductory salvo, “All You Have To Do Is Shine” is A-Plus—backed by a chorus of little Ballerinas in neon tutus (providing yet another dynamic sampling of Ms. Solimando’s really ripping Choreography!) Here, Lewis gives the boy the basics urging him: “It doesn’t matter if you’re large or small, ‘trapezoid’, or short or tall; even if you can’t dance—at all! All you really have to do is ‘shine’!” It’s also no surprise that this number earns the first humongous round of applause in an evening filled to the brim with them. David Atkinson similarly does an impressive job as Billy’s widowed father, “Jackie Elliot”.

"We will go and we will shine and we will go and seize the time." David Atkinson Is Jackie Elliot With Mitchell Tobin As His Son, Billy

“We will go and we will shine and we will go and seize the time.” David Atkinson Is Jackie Elliot With Mitchell Tobin As His Son, Billy

Although his best moments aren’t until after intermission when his relationship with his son is really developed, he paints a believable, well-rounded portrait of a working-class man who, while being acutely aware of his own life’s limitations, isn’t blind to the potential for a better life that Billy’s incredible gift could bring him. His moving rendition of “Deep Into The Ground” (as the elder Elliot dolefully recalls his life ‘working underground’ and the sudden loss of his wife) is a particular highlight: “Once I loved a woman, she meant all the world to me; saw ourselves a future as far as I could see; but I was only forty-seven when they took her down from me…”

""What the Hell is wrong with wearing a dress? Being who you want to be? Who the Hell is it you try to impress?!" Jake Kitchin As Michael Plays 'Dress-Up' With Mitchell Tobin As Billy

“What the Hell is wrong with wearing a dress? Being who you want to be?” Jake Kitchin (Right) Is Michael With Mitchell Tobin As Billy (Left)

Excellent support is also furnished by Marsha Waterbury as Billy’s Grandmother. Gram’s mind, we learn, isn’t what it used to be, but the one memory she can still savor after thirty years of enduring a less-than-blissful marriage, is how she and her late husband would go out dancing. This inspires one of the more touching refrains, aptly titled “Grandma’s Song”, during which we learn that Billy may even have dancing in his blood! Furthermore, young Sammy Gayer as Mrs. Wilkinson’s daughter “Debbie” gets all the best laugh lines and she definitely makes the most of them, as does Jake Kitchin when he gets to ‘strut his stuff’ as Billy’s gender-bending school-friend, “Michael”.

""Know I was always there--I was with you through everything, and please Billy, know that I always will be." Billy Elliot Recalls His Late Mum's (Kim Huber) Words As Mrs. Wilkinson Reads "The Letter"

“”Know I was always there–I was with you through everything, and please Billy, know that I always will be.” Billy Elliot Recalls His Late Mum’s (Kim Huber) Words As Mrs. Wilkinson Reads “The Letter”

Never mind ‘could’, this production ‘can’—and surely does—‘shine’! “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” is located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada, California, and after previewing on Friday, January 16th, 2015, “Billy Elliot—The Musical” opened on Saturday, January 17th, where it will run through Sunday, February 8th. Performances are at 7:30 PM on Wednesdays & Thursdays; 8:00 PM on Fridays; 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM on Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. Special “Talkbacks” with the cast and creative team after final curtain are set for Wednesday, January 21st and Wednesday, February 4th. Tickets can be purchased at “The La Mirada Theatre’s” website, www.lamiradatheatre.com , or by calling “The La Mirada Theatre Box Office” at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310. (Student, Senior and Group discounts are also available.)

"If you wanna be a Dancer, dance; if you wanna be a Miner, Mine; if you wanna dress like somebody else, fine...Fine...FINE!"

“If you wanna be a Dancer, dance; if you wanna be a Miner, ‘mine'; if you wanna dress like somebody else, fine…Fine…FINE!”

Production Stills By Michael Lamont, Courtesy Of David Elzer At Demand PR (www.demandpr.com) McCoy-Rigby Entertainment And “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts”; Special Thanks To David Elzer, Tom McCoy, Cathy Rigby, And To The Cast & Crew Of McCoy-Rigby Entertainment & “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” Production Of “Billy Elliot-The Musical” For Making This Story Possible.

There Are No ‘Greener Pastures’: Max Liebman’s “Heidi” Is A Rediscovered Vintage TV Treat!

January 3, 2015

HEIDI wrap9b.indd

“If you follow the foot-path through the cool, green meadows alive with blue mountain streams, you will soon become aware of the fragrance of sweet pasture land…it is here, at the foot of the majestic Swiss Alps, that you will find the pleasant little village of Dorfli…” So begins “Heidi”, the rarely seen television musical version of Johanna Spyri’s treasured children’s classic. Now available on DVD from “Video Artists International”, there’s an underlying sense of friendliness and amiability running through the entire production of this delightful tale of a spirited little orphan girl’s amazing journey from her gruff-but-loving Grandfather’s home in the Swiss Alps to the city of Frankfurt, Germany (where she’s been delivered to help aid a young invalid,) that makes it appropriate for ALL viewers.

"Under every star you find a Dreamer, dreaming just the way you do; if you think you're the only dreamer, look and you'll see quite a few." Jeannie Carson Is "Heidi"

“Under every star you find a Dreamer, dreaming just the way you do; if you think you’re the only dreamer, look and you’ll see quite a few.” Jeannie Carson As “Heidi”

Since NBC is now producing one (albeit very lauded) “Live” theatrical production a year, it’s striking to note that “Heidi” hearkens back to that magical time in TV and pop-culture history when such presentations were practically weekly viewing fare! Produced and Directed by Max Liebman as part of his “Spectaculars” series for the network, “Heidi” was originally broadcast live on October 1, 1955. Based on themes of influential German Composer, Robert Schumann (who was recognized as one of the most influential composers of the ‘Romantic’ Era) the Music is by Clay Warnick with Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh–just after her huge success with the inimitable “Peter Pan”. To be sure, her song “I Love To Ramble” (—sung as a duet between Heidi and Peter,) is a very worthy follow-up to “I Won’t Grow Up” featured in that production. Dances and Musical numbers were staged by James Starbuck, and the book was adapted by William Friedberg and a young fledging “Superstar” Playwright in the making, Neil Simon.

"The roses blowing wild, the giant apple tree--await their favorite child anxiously...Heidi."

“The roses blowing wild, the giant apple tree–await their favorite child anxiously…Heidi.”

Once the rollicking opening chorus concludes, young Heidi enters led by her “Aunt Dete” looking for the girl’s estranged Grandfather whom the scheming aunt accuses of being “A mean old man whose lost his senses!” Soon they learn from the village pastor that “Grandfather” hasn’t been down to the village for ten years! Undaunted, the pair travel up the mountainside to his cabin, and though he isn’t initially too keen on the idea of taking the girl in, he nevertheless relents. (“Am I gonna stay here tonight or am I gonna live here forever?” she asks; “We’ll see” her grandfather replies. “I hope it’s forever because I like it here very much!” Heidi responds.) Despite the pastor urging Grandfather to send Heidi to school and church, his suggestion is promptly rebuffed: “She will learn more here from the goats and the birds!” he asserts. In fact, the very next day she meets Grandfather’s two goats—a light one named “Swanli” and a dark one named “Bearli”, which Peter, the young goat-herd collects daily to herd on the mountainside. Time passes and Heidi grows to love her mountain home as much as she’s come to love her Grandfather; everything seems to be going along wonderfully until Aunt Dete suddenly reappears: “There’s a widower in Frankfurt who has offered Heidi a wonderful opportunity” She tells them, reporting he has a fine home in Frankfurt where Heidi is to be brought in order to be a companion to the man’s ailing young daughter named “Klara”. “I’ll be back—you’ll see” Heidi tearfully promises her equally distraught Grandfather, “—I’ll be back!” But insofar as Dete is Heidi’s ‘Legal Guardian’, the two have no choice in the matter.

"I hate to read and write, etcetera-er; I get to fidget from doin' digits--I count the mountain goats much better-er" (Wally Cox is "Peter")

“I hate to read and write, etcetera-er; I get to fidget from doin’ digits–I count the mountain goats much better-er’ (Wally Cox is “Peter”)

Act Two opens in the house of “Herr Sesseman” in Frankfurt. “The excitement was immense” the narrator details, “all the servants had been busy from early morning in preparation for the arrival of the little playmate from Switzerland.” This inspires a clever number—“Antiques” (“They serve no purpose or earthly need, but throw them out? Oh no—indeed! They’re ‘valuable’ Antiques!”) Longing to see the mountains from the local church-steeple (the only place tall enough that she might catch a glimpse of them, she’s told) Heidi wanders away from the Sesseman household and finds herself on an adventure in the city where she meets a new ally, an Organ-Grinder named “Eric”. Showing her around, he even takes her to a Marionette Theater featuring the “Bil and Cora Baird Marionettes”—many of which are bound to be familiar from their appearance in the iconic blockbuster, “The Sound Of Music”. (Word is their number here, “Oudt Comes Oom-pa-pa”” directly inspired the staging of that film’s “The Lonely Goatherd”.) Unhappily, even as Klara grows stronger, Heidi grows sadder and weaker, so by the time winter blossoms into spring, the answer is obvious: the terribly homesick girl must be returned home, which makes for a bitter-sweet culmination to the act. The third act is also the most abbreviated, as the narrator explains: “Heidi was home again; the days flew happily by, but she could never forget Klara…then June came with its deep blue sky and warmer sun, inviting all the flowers to come out…and one day, a strange procession was seen coming up the mountain…” Thus arrives Klara to visit her much missed comrade, leading to a touching finale that’s as poignant and joyous as they get (—just don’t be surprised if it leaves a little tear in your eye!)

"I hear the mountains calling me, dressed in all their greenery..." (Jeannie Carson Is "Heidi")

“I hear the mountains calling me, dressed in all their greenery…” (Jeannie Carson Is “Heidi”)

Leading a thoroughly likable, A-Plus cast, is Jeannie Carson in the title role. Reminiscent of a young Mia Farrow, she effectively inspires a near-instant sense of empathy from us, the viewers, which is distinctly important for the character she’s playing. In addition, Carson has a crisp and expressive voice which she puts to great use early on in “Pick Yourself A Star” ; later, her handling of the Act Two closer, “Pastures Of Your Home” ends the act forcefully but with a sense of hope (and both tunes similarly demonstrate Ms. Leigh’s often under-appreciated talent for a clever turn-of-phrase.) As her Grandfather, Broadway veteran Richard Eastham gets his chance to shine with “I Go My Way” wherein we learn how came to be a brusque, embittered man who remains suspicious of the outside world (“I go my way, even though I go my way alone!” he sings.) Eastham has a sumptuous baritone and he especially impresses with it here. His other solo, “Greener Pastures” is another awesome accomplishment, delivered as Grandfather desperately tries to console himself upon losing his now beloved grand-daughter: “You dream beyond some distant hill lies the answer to a dream you must fulfill…young and restless you are bound to roam until you’re old enough to know–there are NO pastures that are greener than the pastures of your home!”

"Oh, I wish I could go pick flowers on a mountain top!" (Natalie Wood Is "Klara")

“Oh, I wish I could go pick flowers on a mountain top!” (Natalie Wood Is “Klara”)

On the verge of film stardom herself with “Rebel Without a Cause” (released, literally, just weeks after this telecast,) 17-year-old Natalie Wood plays “Klara”. Although at the time of its original airing critics argued against the comparative ages of Carson and Wood, considering the “heightened reality” involved, and the viewer’s ‘suspension of disbelief’ (–they do, after all, tend to burst into song here and there,) this really isn’t a problem, and they actually do come off as fairly plausible in their individual roles. As seen here, Wood’s “Klara” is lonely but good-natured, basically facing her disability but still eager to find a friend in the unusual little mountain girl. While perhaps a bit more abbreviated in this tele-play than it arguably should have been, thanks to Wood’s indelibly appealing performance, it nonetheless loses none of the impact giving us a “Klara” who is much more warm and sympathetic than has been seen in other interpretations as well. This in turn, makes it easier to ‘root for her’ and to be genuinely moved by her ultimate ‘recovery’ at the story’s close.

"I love a tender voice that tells me I'm divine; no voice, I fear, is quite as sincere, and so I'm in love with mine!" (Robert Clary Is "Eric")

“I love a tender voice that tells me I’m divine; no voice, I fear, is quite as sincere, and so I’m in love with mine!” (Robert Clary Is “Eric”)

Also making their outstanding mark here are several other performers who themselves went onto to substantial show-business careers–including Wally Cox, who does surprisingly well as the goat-herd “Peter”, and the delightfully puckish Robert Clary (perhaps best known today from his role as the diminutive Frenchman “LeBeau” on TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes”.) As “Eric”, Clary interjects the second act with some jubilant energy with “I Love Me” (which also features the show’s best choreography as well!) Moreover, legendary character actress Elsa Lanchester demonstrates all the appropriate ‘airs’ of haughtiness and arrogance as Klara’s Governess, “Fraulein Rottenmeier”, while never coming off as seriously menacing. Her playful “Etiquette Song” even makes a fun “round”, featuring “Heidi”, “Klara”, “Sebastian” (the Butler) and herself (“Speak but be graceful—never with a face-full” it cautions.) Furthermore, the Academy Award-winning Jo Van Fleet (1955’s Best Supporting Actress for “East of Eden”) is “Aunt Dete”, who does a fine job proving that greed and down-right smarminess truly can be masked by a pretty, smiling face. Not to be overlooked either are the “Schmeed Trio”, who provide plenty of authentic Swiss ‘yodeling’. They too, are given several terrific moments in the spot-light, first leading the chorus (including Peter) in an enjoyable “Yodeling Song”, then with “Yodel-Dee-Hi”—the Act Three opener which also offers up some equally authentic Swiss folk dancing as the whole village ‘celebrates’ Heidi’s return.

"I say to myself: 'Repeat after me, no care in the world shall come between me and 'Yodel-Dee-Dee!" (The Renowned Schmeed Trio)

“I say to myself: ‘Repeat after me, NO care in the world shall come between me and ‘Yodel-Dee-Dee’!” (The Renowned “Schmeed Trio”)

Sweet, but never ‘saccharinely’, “pick yourself a star’ and be enchanted by this “Heidi’s” spell–here is old-fashioned “family-friendly” entertainment at its absolute finest. Presented in black & white, V.A.I.’s digitalized transfer from the original kinescope is largely pristine, with the soundtrack particularly profiting from the digital clean-up process. Likewise, as “Oldsmobile” was the sponsor of the original airing, all of their original, vintage commercials (also presented live at the time) are included in this DVD release as part of the “Bonus Materials”. For more information, or to order a copy of this newly rediscovered masterpiece from television’s “Golden Age”, log onto: www.VAIMusic.com .

Special Thanks To Paul Lambert For Assistance With The Vintage Photos And To Foster Grimm And The Staff At “Video Artists International” (www.VAIMusic.com) For Making This Story Possible.

Dear Friend: There’s Plenty To Love About “The Chance Theater’s” Restaging Of “She Loves Me” In Anaheim, CA!

December 8, 2014
"The Chance Theater" At "The Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center" Presents "She Loves Me" December 5-28 2014, 5522 La Palma Avenue, Anaheim CA.

“The Chance Theater” At “The Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center” Presents “She Loves Me” December 5-28 2014, 5522 La Palma Avenue, Anaheim CA.

“Will wonders never cease?!” Just in time for the holidays, “The Chance Theater” at “The Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center” in Anaheim California, is presenting “She Loves Me”! Charming, romantic—the perfect show to celebrate the season with, it features music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick–the same team who created the unforgettable “Fiddler On The Roof”, with a book by Joe Masteroff (himself known for his work on “Cabaret”.) Often called a “jewel from Broadway’s Golden Age”, “The Chance’s” inspired revival provides audiences with a sweet little yuletide tale that makes a delightful Valentine to this festive time of year!

"Will he like me? Who can say? Oh, this evening seems a million years away!" (Erika C. Miller Is "Amalia")

“Will he like me? Who can say? Oh, this evening seems a million years away!” (Erika C. Miller Is “Amalia”)

A very human story with refreshingly realistic performances, the action is set almost exclusively in and around “Maraczek’s”–a small, perfume store in Budapest, Hungary circa 1937. There, clerks “Georg Nowack” and “Amalia Balash” escape the workaday grind (not to mention mutual hostilities with one another) through passionate letters to anonymous pen pals–never guessing that they are actually, unknowingly, writing to each other! Almost immediately we discover that our hero, “Georg” is preoccupied with a serious correspondence he has with a mysterious young lady he addresses only as “Dear Friend”. On one particularly hectic day, “Amalia” enters looking for a job—determined not to take no for an answer, and suffice it to say theirs is ‘dislike at first sight’. However, as the days eventually progress (–and after more than their share of continued misunderstandings) Amalia finds that “right before her eyes, the man that she despised has turned into a man she likes”, until naturally, it all ends wonderfully (–as all the very best holiday exploits do!)

"Three more minutes, two more seconds, TEN more hours to go..." (Stanton Kane Morales is "Georg" With Corky Loupe As "Sipos")

“Three more minutes, two more seconds, TEN more hours to go…” (Stanton Kane Morales is “Georg” With Corky Loupe As “Sipos”)

 

Adapted from the original play “Parfumerie” by Playwright Miklos Laszlo, “She Loves Me” stays pretty close to its source material that gave rise to such classic films as “The Shop Around The Corner”, “In The Good Old Summertime”, and more recently, “You’ve Got Mail”. Sarah Figoten Wilson’s insightful direction plays to the many strengths contained in Masteroff’s swift-moving libretto while emphasizing the honesty and veracity of the situations depicted–and, most especially, those depicting them. The engaging result is genuine, believable ‘people’ as opposed to your standard “Musical Theater Characterizations” so common in previous versions of the show. Then too, where it does appear, Christopher M. Albrecht’s nimble choreography is sharp and energetic—injecting a bit of animation and liveliness into the story while incorporating some sprightly Hungarian folk dance-moves to boot! (Indeed, sharp-eyed viewers may also notice how Albrecht has deftly thrown in a few ‘knowing nods’ to the Author and Song-writing team’s other, previously mentioned classics in several numbers.) There’s even a “Gypsy Violinist/Flower-girl” who pops in and out of the action, serving as a kind of tuneful ‘spirit’ of the city.

"I'm a very good sales-girl--really good! And I know the Parfumerie business inside and out!" (Erika C. Miller As "Amaila" Entreats Beach Vickers As "Mr. Maraczek")

“I’m a very good sales girl–really good! And I know the Parfumerie business inside and out!” (Erika C. Miller As “Amaila” Entreats Beach Vickers As “Mr. Maraczek”)

"All night, circling the floor, 'til dawn lit up the sky...no one younger than I, in days gone by!" (Beach Vickers Is "Mr. Maraczek" With Stanton Kane Morales As "Georg")

“All night, circling the floor, ’til dawn lit up the sky…no one younger than I, in days gone by!” (Beach Vickers Is “Mr. Maraczek” With Stanton Kane Morales As “Georg”)

Being a smaller cast musical, everyone pretty much gets their moments in the spot-light. Leading them is “Chance Theater” founding artist Erika C. Miller, as “Amalia” and Stanton Kane Morales as “Georg”. Possessed with a gorgeous soprano voice with just the right touch of tremolo, Ms. Miller’s “Amalia” isn’t so much disagreeable or temperamental as she is determined, which causes her to be somewhat quirky at times. Her ‘aria” (for that’s exactly what it is–) “I Don’t Know His Name” is nothing short of sensational, effectively showing-off her amazing talent. When it becomes a duet with her fellow shop-girl “Ilona”, they each elevate this to a bona-fide Act One highlight! Then again, Miller’s is a role with numerous shades to it and she does a top-notch job showing them all. The Act One closer, “Dear Friend” offers a flawless opportunity to divulge Amalia’s more ‘ hidden’ introspective nature and sensitivity, while the second act’s “Vanilla Ice Cream” (—one of the score’s more famous inclusions) is a fantastic occasion to introduce an element of comedy into the proceedings as well. This immediately segues into Georg’s solo-turn with the title number, and here he really dazzles (think of the two numbers as a sort of  thrilling ‘one-two’ punch in the second act!) Morales too, has a sumptuous tenor voice capable of significant power and expressiveness, and his first act ‘soliloquy’ “Tonight At Eight” is full of intense vocal gymnastics, but includes several good moments of subtlety too. Together, Morales and Miller make an overall winning combination (besides being a most melodious couple–whether their characters see it at the outset or not!)

"How I envy you, each evening when work is through--for I only have me to be with, while you have you!" (Taylor Stephenson Is "Kodaly" & Camryn Zelinger Is "Ilona")

“How I envy you, each evening when work is through–for I only have me to be with, while you have you!” (Taylor Stephenson Is “Kodaly” & Camryn Zelinger Is “Ilona”)

A popular figure at “The Chance”, Camryn Zelinger once again proves her magnificent chameleon-like qualities as the lovelorn “Ilona”—so utterly and enchantingly ‘becoming’ the character that she’s nearly unrecognizable from her previous projects. “Ilona”, it turns out, has been having a not-so-clandestine ‘involvement’ with her co-worker, ladies-man “Steven Kodaly”. Taylor Stephenson’s “Kodaly” is more about laid-back charm than out-and-out ‘sleaze” here–if anything, he’s your typical “driven’ guy looking out for himself first, rather than about any (outward) malice. Stephenson’s handling of “Come With Me, Ilona” is deliciously seductive revealing his striking voice that really could make a girl melt! In fact, this one too, is definite ‘standout’ number in an evening full of them! (Of course, as is often the case, before the final curtain is rung we’ll learn that Kodaly is an even bigger rat than his laconic, easy-going facade would have us believe–one who “works hard—at all the wrong things!”) As the spat-wearing, puckish “Mr. Maraczek”, Beach Vickers is also thoroughly likable (but still capable of ample boisterousness and swagger.) His energetic “Days Gone By” is an avuncular bright-spot early on, then a little poignant in its later reprise; meanwhile, Daniel Jared Hersh is likewise a ‘force’ as young go-getter “Arpad Lazlo”—initially the shop’s delivery boy who is ultimately promoted to shop assistant. He single-handedly re-charges the goings-on with his amusing Act Two opener, “Try Me”. Moreover, Corky Loupe’s take on the long-suffering clerk, “Ladislav Sipos” isn’t so much sycophantic or mousey (as it would be so easy to portray him as.) Instead, he’s more practical than pathetic.

"I have trained myself- going shelf by shelf- and I know each item in the store." (Daniel Jared Hersh is "Arpad" with Beach Vickers As "Mr. Maraczek")

“I have trained myself- going shelf by shelf- and I know each item in the store.” (Daniel Jared Hersh Is “Arpad” with Beach Vickers As “Mr. Maraczek”)

In addition, excellent supporting contributions are made by Matt Takahashi, who poses equal parts pretension, bluster, and hilarity as “The Café Imperiale’s” slightly jittery-but-still-overbearing “Maître d’ ”. His gifted ‘management’ of “A Romantic Atmosphere”—the one really big production number and also the funniest–makes this into a major hit; while Elizabeth Adabale also does an A-Plus job as a Billie-Holiday-esque “Blues Singer” in the same Café whose song-stylings and snippets of authentic “30’s era” standards help the transition from the shop to the restaurant (–one of the longer sequences, and one of the very few scenes to take places out of “Maraczek’s”) to come off as clever and seamless. Not to be overlooked either is Tina Nguyen’s “Gypsy Violist”; one of only two musicians the piece utilizes (the other being the dynamic work of pianist Ryan O’Connell who appears on stage throughout) she may not speak, but still makes her vibrant presence known in the very best possible ways nonetheless! As an ensemble, the entire bunch achieve some stunning collective work, such as in the opening, “Good Morning, Good Day”–a jaunty introduction to all the key players (and those they serve.) They also demonstrate terrific harmony during “Sounds While Selling” (which humorously exhibits the day-to-day undertakings of the shop.) Toward the end, the “Twelve Days To Christmas” is yet another energetic group effort that helps send the show out on a very positive, (if a touch, frenetic) note.

"Think of all the Love-Affairs we assist--what more noble calling is there than our?!" (Matt Takahashi Is The "Maitre'D" Of "The Café Imperiale")

“Think of all the Love Affairs we assist–what more noble calling is there than ours?!” (Matt Takahashi Is The “Maitre’D” Of “The Café Imperiale”)

The simple orchestrations for “She Loves Me” both delicately–and brilliantly–recall the best of the old Hungarian school of musical composition (think Franz Liszt or Bela Bartok) with lots of dramatic embellishment and violin underscoring (–thanks again to the impressive work by Ms. Nguyen!) What’s more, Scenic Designer Bruce Goodrich demonstrates his own brand of ingenuity with a keen “fold away’ set that literally opens and closes as the store’s ‘hours’ dictate—and he’s done just as noteworthy a job as the show’s Costumer as well, furnishing smart, urbane, period garb that’s also right on the money. So why not present yourself with this big, bright, “musical candy-box” of a show? Having opened Friday December 5th, “She Loves Me” will play through Sunday, December 28th, 2014. Show-times are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, Saturday Matinees at 3:00 PM and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 PM ; “The Chance Theater” at “The Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center” is located at 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA., and tickets for all performances can be obtained by calling (714) 777-3033 or logging onto: www.ChanceTheater.com .

"She love me! (True, she doesn't show it.) How could she, when she doesn't know it?!" ( Erika C. Miller Is "Amalia" With Stanton Kane Morales As "Georg")

“She loves me! (True, she doesn’t show it.) How could she, when she doesn’t know it?!” ( Erika C. Miller Is “Amalia” With Stanton Kane Morales As “Georg”)

Production Stills By Doug Catiller At “True Image Studio” (www.trueimagestudio.com) Courtesy Of “The Chance Theater”; Special Thanks To Casey Long, Sarah Figoten Wilson, And To The Cast & Crew Of “The Chance Theater’s” “She Loves Me” For Making This Story Possible.

 

May The Merry Bells Keep Ringing: ‘One More Productions’ Rings In The Holidays With Their Bright And Shiny “Holiday Gem” In Garden Grove, CA.

December 2, 2014
"One More Productions" Presents "The Holiday Gem" November 28-December 21, 2014 At "The Gem Theatre" 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA

“One More Productions” Presents “The Holiday Gem” November 28-December 21, 2014 At “The Gem Theatre” 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA

How many opportunities do you have to leave your cynicism at the door and sincerely appreciate the best of what this season is supposed to be? Now, “One More Productions”—the resident production company of the landmark “Gem Theatre” in Garden Grove California, once again invites audiences to have themselves “A Merry Little Christmas” with their annual “Holiday Gem”—a jubilant family oriented celebration of all things ‘Noel’! Sure to fill spectators with the ‘spirit of the season’, the score is loaded with well-known standards, holiday classics, and a few surprises–all connected by a simple but effective story of two young girls and the tune-filled Yuletide adventure they find themselves taken on. In fact, “One More Productions” has deftly managed to offer Garden Grove (and all of Southern California, really) the stylish equivalent to a live-action “Rankin/Bass” Christmas Special all its own, boasting equal parts heart, talent, and sheer enjoy-ability. There‘s so much to like here it’s almost like having to choose which present to open first or which one you like the most!

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, soon the bells will start..." Chris Harper is "Elroy" with Shayna Gayer (L) as "Hope" & Lisa Scarsi (R) as "Holly"

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, soon the bells will start…” Chris Harper is “Elroy” with Shayna Gayer (L) as “Hope” & Sophia Scarsi (R) as “Holly”

To be sure, it’s been a full and prosperous year for the group at “The Gem” since reopening last December after a fire in May of 2011 disrupted operations for two years, and happily, in many ways this is like a homecoming for more than a few of the performers who have graced the theater’s stage over the past twelve months. The story (and yes, there is one) concerns two small sisters named “Holly” and “Hope” who have recently moved out West to Garden Grove; Holly, the elder sibling seems to be having the “Southern California Holiday Blues”: “No snow, No Grandma!” she laments—even going so far as to call her belief in Santa Claus himself into question. No sooner than she does this though, that an elf named “Elroy” (who introduces himself as a “Holiday Magic Technician”) appears via the auspices of a magic snow globe that can transport those who use it to any place or any time—provided they truly believe in the magic of Christmas (“With each song, the magic of the season just grows and grows” Elroy tells the girls.)

"They're gonna build a Toy-land town all around the Christmas Tree!" John Gillies Is 'Assistant Elf' "Ernie"

“They’re gonna build a Toy-land town all around the Christmas Tree!” John Gillies Is ‘Assistant Elf’ “Ernie”

Immediately, when the stately red-velvet curtains part, they reveal a picturesque wintry town-scape worthy of a “Currier and Ives” print. After a melodic visit to Santa’s Artic workshop, Act Two picks up with a trip to Victorian England reminiscent of a scene right out of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Following the unabashed playfulness and joviality of the first act, things are slightly more refined and secular–there’s even a point where the audience is invited to sing along to such old favorites as “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful”, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy To The World”—with all their various verses intact. Afterwards, much of the second part is really more a series of solo turns, (and even a terrific trio) punctuated by a few amazing company-performed medleys honoring a more traditional Christmas observation, and of course before the night is through, rest assured “Jolly Old St. Nick” will make an appearance–leading a chorus line of tap-dancing Santas!

"Wink and giggle, wiggle your beard--keep up your grin! Get out and sell the spell of ol' Noel!"

“Wink and giggle, wiggle your beard–keep up your grin! Get out and sell the spell of ol’ Noel!”

As the ‘Lead Elf’ “Elroy”, Chris Harper favors the route of “Child-like” over “child-ish”, making for a genial guide on this magical musical tour. Then there’s young Sophia Scarsi as “Holly”.  No stranger to “The Gem Theatre” stage having previously appeared this year in “Violet” and “Gypsy”, she gives the first act a real shot in the arm with an A-Plus rendition of Irving Berlin’s iconic “White Christmas” (—complete with its seldom heard opening verse!) She also shines in the second act with her  sensitive handling of “Where Are You Christmas” (–from the big screen version of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”.) ‘Tiny-Titan’ Shayna Gayer also is an adorable bundle of energy with a voice several times her diminutive stature as her little sister, “Hope”. Meanwhile, Brandon Taylor Jones has a nice “Dennis Day” like quality to his rich tenor voice which he puts to excellent use in the service of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” and the poignant “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”; while Tad Fujioka, (another proven talent at “The Gem”,) offers both a lighter touch of humor with “Mr. Santa” before delivering a more sublime take on “My Buddy”.

"Slice up the fruitcake--it's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough!" (The Kids Of "The Christmas Gem")

“Slice up the fruitcake–it’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough!” (The Kids Of “The Christmas Gem”)

Jade Taylor also makes for a great “Bette Midler-esque” “Mrs. Claus”, possessing an incredibly supple and robust voice which she awesomely demonstrates with “The Man With Bag” and the Act One closer, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”; while Nicole Cassesso too, once again more than proves her value to the “One More Productions” family of players leading the troupe in “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”; shortly thereafter, she does a similarly impressive job along with Dayna Laramie and Rene Bordelon in a brilliant send-up of Barbra Streisand’s “Jingle Bells” which immediately segues into the more “Andrews Sisters” inspired “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”. Her touching rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You” is also a bona fide crowd pleaser! Not to be over-looked either are the younger members of the cast who each make a delightful contribution as well. They include Preston Coulis, Seth Elliot, Rebekka Galperin, Delaney Manna, Khloe L. Martinez, Zack Martinez, Isabel Melgoza, Brianna Sanchez and Kole Williamson. Conjointly, their turn with Jerry Herman’s timeless “Need A Little Christmas” will warm even the frostiest disposition, as will their vivacious medley of the kid favorites “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”, “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth’ and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (sung individually at first, then shrewdly ‘intertwined’ and sung simultaneously in perfect harmony!)

"With joyful ring--all carolling, one seems to hear words of good cheer."

“With joyful ring–all carolling, one seems to hear words of good cheer.”

Then again, the entire enthusiastic ensemble work is nothing short of first-rate, and each cast-member can readily lay claim to ‘a voice as big as the sea”! “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” is a buoyant opening that contains some nifty footwork, and ”Sleigh Ride” is another superb chorale-piece featuring some fast and fancy dancing and prancing—compliments of Choreographer Shauna Bradford-Martinez. Likewise, Ms. Bradford-Martinez infuses “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with lots of clever comic capering. Anthony Encina also provides some genuinely graceful moves as the show’s “Ball Room” Choreographer, adding his elegant stamp onto “It’s That Time Of Year” and “The Christmas Waltz”. Later, decked out in exquisite ball gowns, top hats and tails, the cast show-off their collective vocal-dexterity as well with “Oh, Holy Night”, “Do You Hear What I Hear”, “The Carol Of The Bells” and the upbeat finale of Comden and Green’s bubbly “Be A Santa”.

"I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places, that my heart embraces..." Nicole Cassesso with Brandon Taylor Jones (L) & Tad Fujioka (R)

“I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places, that my heart embraces…” Nicole Cassesso with Brandon Taylor Jones (L) & Tad Fujioka (R)

Showcasing one great tune after another—with several of the more inspired music choices you probably haven’t heard in years, the witty original book by Chris Harper presents a down-right ebullient exploration of this holiday called “Christmas” in its many meanings. Whether it’s about “Santa Claus” and reindeer for some people, the sacred birth of their Lord and Saviour for others, or merely a reason for getting together with family, friends, and loved-ones for some joyous year-end festivities, you can bet it’s covered here! Aiding immensely in making the magic happen is Wally Huntoon’s thrillingly evocative sets—whether they be Santa’s Candy-Cane Colored Workshop, a snow-covered forest, or an ‘Olde English Village” set adrift in time. Costume Coordinator Lalena Vigil Hutton’s costumes also run the gamut from traditional Victorian garb, to the ‘Holiday-Ornamental’ gaiety of Santa’s Elves (complete with red-and-green curl-toed footwear) to some chic 1940’s-era evening wear, and each help to create the look and feel of “That Hap-Happiest Season Of All”!

"Be Kris Kringle--bell's a-jingle, what you bring'll fill the World with Joy!"

“Be Kris Kringle–bell’s a-jingle, what you bring’ll fill the World with Joy!”

So ‘come all ye faithful’–for a genuinely rousing time filled with the joy of the holiday season and ‘make this December one to remember”! Located at 12852 Main Street in Garden Grove California, “The Gem Theatre’s” “Holiday Gem” opened Saturday, November 29th, where performances will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, with Sunday Matinees starting at 2:00 PM through Sunday, Dec. 21. In addition, there are two special “Family Day” Matinees on Saturday December 6 and 13, starting at 2:00 PM. (Tickets for kids 12 and under on these days are only $10, and after the show, families are welcome to stay and meet Santa and his elves, have photos taken, and do coloring crafts with the cast.) Special student rush tickets are also available for Thursday and Friday performances. For more information or to purchase tickets, call “One More Productions” at (714) 741-9550, ext. 225, or visit the website at www.onemoreproductions.com.

"There'll be much 'Mistletoe-ing' and hearts will be glowing when loved-ones are near!" (The Cast Of "One More Productions' " "The Holiday Gem")

“There’ll be much ‘Mistletoe-ing’ and hearts will be glowing when loved-ones are near!” (The Cast Of “One More Productions’ ” “The Holiday Gem”)

Production Photos By Lisa Scarsi, Courtesy Of Dan Pittman At “Pittman P.R.” (www.pittmanpr.com) And “One More Productions”; Special Thanks &  “A Happy Holidays” To Dan Pittman, Damien Lorton, Nicole Cassesso, And To The Cast & Crew Of “One More Productions’ ” “The Holiday Gem” For Making This Story Possible.


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