La Mirada Blog

Articles by Sandra Green

REVIEW: Catch the Dream at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: Catch the Dream at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

When it comes to diversity in the arts, the McCoy Rigby Entertainment Group is ahead of the game (you know what I'm talkin' about), especially with their latest presentation, the Tony and Oscar Award winning musical Dreamgirls, currently in its off-Broadway run from now through April 17th at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts that continues to bring phenomenal productions to our own diverse community.

Brittney Johnson, Jasmin Richardson and Danielle Truitt star in the production of "DREAMGIRLS" - Directed and Choreographed by Robert Longbottom and now playing at LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS.

Set in the early 60's when the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York was busting at its seams with performers like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and The Supremes, an amateur night of sorts is where Dreamgirls begins.

This musical moves quickly as The Dreamettes (channel The Ronettes) miss out on their chance of stardom.  They are quickly offered to sing back up for the star known as Jimmy "Thunder" Early and despite hesitation by the groups lead singer, Effie (played by Moya Angela) Lorrell (Brittney Johnson) and Deena (Jasmin Richardson) the other two-thirds of The Dreamettes convince Effie this can be the groups "big break."

Cut to The Dreamgirls, now taking stage with Early, popular with hit after hit--- no.  What actually happens is indicative of the early 60's when musicians like Little Richard or Muddy Waters penned the songs that would be sung by the non-African American contemporary--- a popular hit on the backs of an artist not credited. Soon the tension becomes apparent amongst The Dreams (formerly The Dreamettes) and a split and replacement of a lead singer transpires.  Over a course of nearly a decade, we see the evolution of a female trio, the decline of a musical genre, and the success of writers and performers alike.

I went to see Dreamgirls without much known of the story as I have never seen the movie that starred Beyonce, Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson.  I'm happy I didn't because going in with preconceived notions on how this cast "should" perform hits like "one Night Only" and "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" would be unfair to the cast.

Exclusive Interview With Member of The Imagination Movers Showing This Sunday at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

Exclusive Interview With Member of The Imagination Movers Showing This Sunday at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

"Reach High, Think Big, Work Hard, Have Fun!"

This Sunday, March 6th, The Imagination Movers are coming to the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts for two shows only-grab your tickets and your kiddos and get ready to have some fun!

Described by some as a cross between the Blue Man Group and Red Hot Chili Peppers FOR KIDS, the Imagination Movers promise a fast paced and entertaining show!  So who are the Imagination Movers--- have you EVER watched the Disney Channel???

This awesome quartet featuring Scott Durbin, Dave Poche, "Smitty" Smith, and Rich Collins bring forth music in a unique style delivering messages about reading, holidays, dogs, the tooth fairy, and so much more--- all matters kids care about in a "care about kids" way.  Their performance art captures the attention of kids and will not bore parents (like me who have heard way too many of some not-so-hip kids music)!

I had a chance to learn more about The Imagination Movers recently from Scott Durbin himself (you know, the one that used to have the long hair- now sporting a Mohawk-keyboardist and vocalist):

La Mirada Blog: What is the goal with The Imagination Movers in their performances that are "education" centered when teaching is now taking a different approach ie: Common Core?

Scott Durbin: Honestly, I think as long as the Movers keep true to creating music for the body and brain we’ll be on the right path. We know that childhood obesity is a significant problem and so we’ve made it a priority to promote being physically active. We feel that when you couple that with encouraging creative thought and expression, you’ve got the makings of a winning combination. But we don’t stop there - at the end of every concert, we tell kids everywhere to consider picking up and learning a musical instrument. We feel through our own modeling of playing live music for families, kids will see the power at their proverbial fingertips, and the educational research certainly supports the positive cognitive and emotional impact that learning music at an early age can have.

LMB: Tell us a little bit about your work with The Buddy Walk.

SD: We've been national partners with the Buddy Walk Program (through the National Down Syndrome Society) for a few years now. We’ve attended Buddy Walks, performed at them, raffled off signed guitars and other Mover memorabilia as well as donated a percentage of the money we raised during our crowd-funding campaign which helped bring about our most recent CD/DVD release, Licensed to Move. Working with the Buddy Walk Program has been a mission that is close to our collective hearts and as long as we get to do what we do - we’ll be serving the Down’s community selflessly.

LMB: What are the plans of Imagination Movers for the upcoming year?

SD: Big thing is we’ll be working on our 10th album. That’s crazy in and of itself! Through the ups and downs, the four Movers have remained friends and continue to be creative. We’re proud that the songs we wrote for the Disney show as well as the new music we’ve added. We continue to write and to create content that seeks to challenge our audience instead of pacify them. As for other endeavors, we’re hoping our animated concept, Super Movers, finds a broadcast home. I mean any show that let’s kids know that EVERYONE has the power to become a super hero (super kind, a super big brother, a super dancer), is something I’d want my kids watching; and we’ll continue to play live music for families near and far.

Catch The Imagination Movers this Sunday at two shows—1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  Show Length is estimated at 60 minutes.  Tickets are $15/Child and $20/Adult.  VIP Passes are $25 in addition to admission and include a meet-and-greet with the band including time to take photos and receive autographs.

Call the La Mirada Performing Arts Center Box Office at 562-944-9801.

Mockingbird Flies Into La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

Mockingbird Flies Into La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

If you are one of the many who pre-ordered and read last year’s “Go Set a Watchman”  last summer, you may have distaste for me merely bringing up the subject.

That release of Harper Lee's possible first draft or possible sequel to the beloved and Pulitzer- prize winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingird”, was not met by all with open arms.  Some (like me) refused to read it-- us librarians tend to be finicky on literary integrity and sources.

It is true what the author Neil Gaiman has put so eloquently:  "Google will bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian will bring you back the right one."  So how is this librarian to determine if Watchman was a sequel to Mockingbird?  Was the book never meant for publishing in the first place?  Or is it better to just pretend that Watchman was never released and focus on Lee's beautiful masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird?  I prefer the latter.

For me, I first read Mockingbird in ninth grade.  Soon to follow was me partaking of the film version.  In case you have never seen the film, you'll catch a glimpse of a young Robert Duvall and a not-to-be-missed Gregory Peck.  The film (released in 1962 by Universal) could not have been more poignant for a country at a turning point.  The Civil Rights Act was on the table amongst our country's law makers.  Dr. King was a household name for the non-violent protest movement.  JFK was in the White House.   I fell in love with the book.  I fell in love with the film.  To Kill a Mockingbird is a story that transcends time.

Now, in 2016, Phantom Projects takes on the stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Steve Cisneros, the producing artistic director of Phantom (and a La Mirada native) follows up on a phenomenal performance of “Number the Stars” with Lee's Mockingbird.

Taking stage for ONE DAY ONLY (shows at 10:00 a.m. (SOLD OUT), 1:00 p.m. (SOLD OUT), and 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 18th); I encourage you not to miss out.

Cisneros’ goal, to bring to stage performances that tackle topics for teens, is a one of a kind mission; Phantom Projects is unlike any other theatre troop you'll find nationwide.  Each season, two performances are based on literary pieces (previously presented were Lois Lowry's The Giver, S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, and Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham).  The third upcoming show of the current season, "Center of the Universe” was written by co-founder Bruce Gevirtzman and shows April 21st. Concluding the season with the fourth show is "The Young Artist's Project" on August 6th, wherein a cast is given only 14 days upon meeting to put together their best performance.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a story set in 1930's Maycomb County, Alabama.  Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer, is left to raise his two children- inquisitive Jem and tom-boy Scout.  Jem and Scout are set on finding creative ways to lure the neighborhood recluse, Boo Radley, out of his home, their imaginations run wild in true childlike innocence.  When Atticus takes on a case of defending a young African American man, Tom Robinson, accused of raped, a lesson in race relations in the Jim Crowe south unfolds and Jem and Scout discover their fathers shoes are not easy to fill. 

Remember, Harper Lee's Mockingbird was released in the early 1960's, a time that could only be better than if it were released in present day.  If you are curious of the timing of this stage performance, take heed that Cisneros chose this piece about two years ago yet the timing couldn't be better to bring this book to life.

REVIEW: Empire Captures the Spirit of New York City
Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: Empire Captures the Spirit of New York City

Skip the search for a restaurant for Valentine’s Day weekend. Instead, take the one you love, or even make it a family trip, to go see Empire, the latest production from The McCoy Rigby Entertainment Group. La Mirada’s Performing Arts Center hosts the first run of Empire, an entertaining and Broadway bound musical about the construction of the Empire State Building. This musical is entertaining, intriguing, and you as La Mirada residents get to be the first to enjoy this marvel!

Empire opens in New York City’s “Hey Day” of the roaring 20’s-- glitz, gold, glamor, wealth! All the magic and feeling you've read about in books by the likes of Fitzgerald, this is the time, striking while it's hot! But as quickly as that wealth may have come, it's quickly lost as America is hit by the stock market crash of 1929 and The Great Depression. What are the money makers who have held on to their money and still soaring high to do? Ask John J. Raskob and Al Smith-- a High Financer and the former governor of New York. Together, Raskob and Smith have one goal in mind-- build the largest building in the world to rule the New York city skyline. For such a task, they enlist architect, Michael Shaw, and Smith's "Can-Do" gal, Frankie Peterson.

Kevin Earley (far left), Stephanie Gibson (center) and the workers are featured in the musical “EMPIRE” - directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and now playing at LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS.

To create a monument of such stature, Peterson tackles the workforce and Shaw the design. Together they gain the trust of their employees, a diverse migrant work force. We see the Al Smith building become a symbol of the power, magnitude, and enigmatic spirit of the people of New York, the “Empire State." Irish, Italian, and Mohawk Indian, all join in to earn an honest living and end up being the integral part of the story and reflecting the beauty of this building.

Enjoyable, lively, and a performance filled with romance and laughter, Empire is a delight and truly one of the most enjoyable productions to come to the La Mirada Performing Arts Center. Mesmerizing use of scenery projection and a cast pulling off dance numbers and acrobatics are all part of a special and nostalgic musical ready for Broadway.

Cast includes Kevin Earley, Stephanie Gibson, Tony Sheldon, Michael McCormick, Charlotte Maltby, and Joe Hart. Ensemble cast: Josh Walden, Cooper Stanton, Justin Michael Wilcox, Caleb Shaw, Tommy Bracco, Michael Baxter, Michael Starr, Juan Caballer, Joe Hart, and Caitlyn Calfas, Rachel Osting, Rachel King, Fatima El-Bashir, Tory Freeth, Christine Tucker, Richard Bulda, Jordan Richardson, Gabriel Navarro, Rodrigo Varandas, Katharine McDonough, Josh Walden, Tommy Bracco, and Juan Caballer.

Book, Music and Lyrics by Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull. Musical Direction by Sariva Goetz. Directed and Choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Produced by Sue Vaccaro, Ricky Stevens, and The Rivet Gang. Production Stage Manger: Jill Gold. Assistant Stage Manager: Nicole Wessel. Flying Sequence Choreographer: Paul Rubin. Casting Director: Julia Flores. Scenic and Co-Projection Designer: David Gallo and Brad Peterson. Costume Designer: Leon Wiebers. Lighting Designer: Jared A. Sayeg. Sound Designer: Philip G. Allen.

Phantom Projects Tackles Tough Topics Through Live Theatre
Arts & Entertainment

Phantom Projects Tackles Tough Topics Through Live Theatre

I was driving in my car the other day when my five year old asked me, "Mommy what does bombing mean?"

For once, my reply wasn't, "Where did you hear that from?"  Rather, I found myself turning off the news radio channel and tried to answer my son’s question.  Part of me felt my child had a right to know what a bombing was because he needs to know right from wrong, but the other part of me, like most parents, didn't want to discuss anything and change the subject altogether.  Truth be known, today's current events are sparking conversations, questions, and confusion from our children and as parents we may find ourselves in a predicament we simply are unfamiliar with.  We don't know the answers--- and you know what?  That's okay.

This is not the first time mankind is questioning the actions of some. Why is there suffering in the world?  What is the reason for such acrimony and discourse?  How do we begin to make peace with one another when the focus is often on our own differences?  When movies depict war, television blasts non-stop political banter and books take past events and put a modern "Hollywood spin" on conflict, what are parents left to tell their children?

This week, I had the pleasure of attending Phantom Projects production of Number the Stars, based on the book by Lois Lowry.  I read this book years ago as a sixth grader and now as a school librarian, it sits quietly on my book shelves only to be checked out occasionally.  In Number the Stars, ten-year old Annemarie Johansen goes about life in Denmark in 1943 with her best friend, Ellen Rosen.  Confused by the looming presence of German Nazi soldiers, Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirstie (Annemarie's younger sister), have so many questions for their parents, all of which can't be explained or the complete truth withheld from the young girls.  Soon, Ellen's parents are gone and Annemarie and Kirstie are told they must pretend Ellen is their sister.  The Johansen’s, with the help of their late daughter's fiancé, Peter and Uncle Henrik, assist in the escape of The Rosen’s and other Jews to Sweden.  At the doorstep of fear, Annemarie chooses bravery and soon discovers many others do as well.

Under the direction of Steve Cisneros, Number the Stars pulled together a cast of actors that excelled in their portrayal of Lowry's characters.  The young actors in this cast (Veronica McFarlane as Annemarie, Molly Malia Arii as Ellen, and Noelle Lidyoff as Kirsti) were extremely talented and believable. Their hard work and dedication (as well as the entire cast) was visible as they stay true to the character Lowry's created.  I was extremely pleased with this performance and am eager to see the additional productions from Phantom Projects under the direction of Cisneros.  It's not often a cast and director take a chance on a book that only a few may have heard of-- those of you that have read the story understand fully how brilliant it is to take this story to stage, especially in light of recent events.

REVIEW: “Cast Doesn’t Fail” in La Mirada Production of RENT
Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: “Cast Doesn’t Fail” in La Mirada Production of RENT

The Company performs "Seasons of Love" in the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment production of the Tony Award-winning "RENT" - directed by Richard Israel and now playing at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts through November 15th.

One of La Mirada's greatest places to visit is the Theatre for the Performing Arts.

How lucky are we residents to have Broadway shows and stars grace the stage of our community theatre? The number of shows and variety more so has offered my husband and me a great reason to find time for a date night sans children. Not to say that our children's theatre shows aren't great--- they are!

However, when I want to rock out to some classic rock, take in a musical, or simply have a good cry, there is always a show I can take in at the La Mirada Theatre for Performing Arts and this time around, it just so happens that we were lucky to take in RENT.

I went in to seeing RENT knowing that it would knock my socks off. Then again, the opinion I received about how fabulous the show would be was from a good friend who has seen it ten times. You read that correctly, ten times. Both her and her husband had their reviews about the different performers who have taken on the role of Mark, Roger, Mimi, Tom, Angel, Maureen, and Joanne.

Of course, I didn't know who any of these characters were until the curtain dropped at the end of the evening. To say that I was pleasantly pleased is an understatement.

RENT is a musical, so expect plenty of singing and songs, oh the songs!  It wouldn't be considered PC for me to sing "Out Tonight" amongst my kiddos at home, but I've heard "Seasons of Love" sung by friends as well as the original cast years ago on an afternoon talk show appearance.

This cast doesn't fail you at all. Mark Whitten, Devin Archer, Lawrence Cummings, and John Devereaux' voices are gorgeous but Cummings definitely steals the spotlight in his performance as Angel and "Today 4 U".  And watch for the vocals of both Emily Goglia and Amber Mercomes, yes honey, on the same stage, singing the same song.  Wow.  Did I say wow?

I encourage you to take a date night for yourself and your main squeeze. Go see RENT. Don't deprive yourself of this opportunity to see what all the hype and history of this musical is about. And don't forget, No Day But Today!

REVIEW: “First Date” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: “First Date” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

The company performs in the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts/McCoy Rigby Entertainment Southern California Premiere Production of the Broadway Musical "FIRST DATE" - directed by Nick DeGruccio and now playing at LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS.

Welcoming in the new 2015-16 McCoy Rigby Season is First Date, a musical comedy fresh from Broadway making its Southern California debut!

This charming and hilarious performance is set in real time as first time blind-dater, Aaron, and “dateaholic,” Casey, enjoy a few drinks and get to know one another.  Nothing says awkward like, well, a First Date.

Casey (Erica Lustig) is energetic and artistic yet when it comes to meeting the right guy, her track record proves otherwise.  Aaron (Marc Ginsburg), is an investment banker recovering from a previous relationship and is everything Casey isn't.

 So how does their First Date go?  Exactly as one would suspect; fellow restaurant patrons transform into best friends, family members, and those oh-so-bad boyfriends.

Talent is not limited though, as we see the intentions of a wickedly creative waiter also at hand.

Throughout the night, Casey directs Aaron over what questions he should ask (and not ask) and Aaron overshares his previous dating history or lack thereof.

What makes First Date truly unique is the quick wit of the other couples in the restaurant portrayed by supporting cast members Kelley Dorney (ex-fiancé/ Miss Google-thang herself), Scott Drier (a most musically and creatively inclined waiter), Stacey Oristano (Casey's perfect sister /Jewish grandmother), Justin Michael Wilcox (Aaron's best friend/"voice of reason"), and Leigh Wakeford (Casey's BFF/ Previous Rocker Boyfriend).

REVIEW: The Wonderfully Magnificent Mary Poppins at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: The Wonderfully Magnificent Mary Poppins at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

Brandi Burkhardt stars as Mary Poppins (center) and Leigh Brian Wakeford (on knee) stars as Bert with the company in the LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS/McCOY RIGBY ENTERTAINMENT production of MARY POPPINS, directed by Glenn Casale and now playing at LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS.

Editor’s note: We would like to introduce Sandra Green to the La Mirada Blog team as a theatre reviewer. Welcome aboard Sandra!

La Mirada~As the last showcase of the McCoy Rigby Entertainment series for the 2014-2015 season, the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts welcomes the wonderfully magnificent Broadway musical Mary Poppins, now showing through June 21st.

Not just for kids, theatre goers of all ages and tastes will enjoy this production directed by Glenn Casale and choreographed by the late Dan Mojica.  In no way do you need to be familiar with the Disney movie or original book by PL Travers-- Mary Poppins brings to life the fun and magical antics of a British nanny trying to tame the mischievous Banks children.

For those who are familiar with the Disney film Mary Poppins (also celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year), you will enjoy the beloved score featuring “Chim-Chim Chiree”, “Step in Time”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, and many more.

Brandi Burkhardt (Mary) and Leigh Wakeford (Bert) lead the strong vocals in this show as well as engage the crowd with their show-stopping performances both “above” stage and crowd (choreographed by Paul Rubin).