Arts & Entertainment

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.

Art Exhibit Currently on Display at Activity Center Through November 21st
Arts & Entertainment

Art Exhibit Currently on Display at Activity Center Through November 21st

La Mirada~The Arts Colony of La Mirada enthusiastically invites the public to view their annual “Mirrors of your Mind” art show currently being held at the La Mirada Activity Center through November 21st from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, excluding weekends.

An array of fine local artists have displayed their artworks for your enjoyment. The closing awards reception will be held on Saturday, November 21, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The Activity Center is located at 13810 La Mirada Blvd., behind the fire station. The show is installed in the upstairs library which has easy access by elevator or stairs. For more information call 562-902-3160, 562-941-4116 or 562-448-3427.

Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award-Winning “Number the Stars” Makes Its L.A. Premiere at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award-Winning “Number the Stars” Makes Its L.A. Premiere at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

La Mirada~Phantom Projects Theatre Group will bring Lois Lowry’s dramatic story about the Danish Resistance during World War II to life at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, one-day-only, November 19th, 2015. Tickets can be obtained by calling the La Mirada Theatre Box Office at 562 944 9801 or visiting: PhantomProjects.com.

The novel, which debuted in 1990, is based on one of the biggest selling books aimed at young audiences. But, as FORBES indicated in a feature on the troupe, “Phantom Projects isn’t children’s theatre, its powerful theatre aimed at one of the hardest audiences to reach.”

The story centers on ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen (Veronica McFarlane), who lives with her family in Copenhagen in 1943. She becomes a part of the events related to the rescue of the Danish Jews, when thousands of Jews were helped to reach neutral ground in Sweden in order to avoid being deported to concentration camps. She risks her life to help her best friend, Ellen Rosen (Molly Malia Arii), by pretending that Ellen is Annemarie's late older sister Lise, who had died earlier in the war as a result of her work with the Danish Resistance.

The production, under the direction of Phantom Projects’ co-founder and Producing Artistic Director Steve Cisneros, is a faithful adaptation of the book. In anticipation of the premiere, the entire cast and creative team was presented with special 25th Anniversary Editions of the book, signed by the author herself, Lois Lowry.

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!

RENT Opens for First Time at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

RENT Opens for First Time at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

La Mirada~La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts& McCoy Rigby Entertainment (2014 Ovation Award Nominee for Best Season!), announce the second show of their 2015-2016 season, RENT, book, music & lyrics by Jonathan Larson, musical direction by John Glaudini, choreography by Dana Solimando and directed by Richard Israel (Floyd Collins).

RENT will preview on Friday, October 23, 2015 (with a press opening on Saturday, October 24) and run through Sunday, November 15, 2015 at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd in La Mirada.

An all-new production of Jonathan Larson's story of talented friends struggling in New York City in 1995 with drug addiction, AIDS, and poverty is one that transcends to current times.   Mark, Roger, and Tom are friends living in the East Village of New York City.  While Mark deals with the break up to his girlfriend Maureen to Joanne, Roger meets Mimi and Tom meets Angel.  Together, they all strive for a life not full of riches but of love and the right to express such uniquely. Dashed with humor, this intensely emotional masterpiece by the late Larson is passionate and rocks with musical numbers and vocals.

RENT stars Mark Whitten, Devin Archer, John Devereaux, Lawrence Cummings, and Cassie Simone, Emily Goglia, and Amber Mercomes.  Ensemble includes, Cooper Howell, Chassey Bennett, Daniel Dawson, Alyssa M. Simmons, Luke Monday, John Pinto Jr., Craig Michael Lucas, Aaron Gordon, and Chanel Edwards-Frederick.

RENT is directed by Richard Israel, choreographed by Dana Solimando, with musical direction by John Glaudini.  Casting Director: Julia Flores. Scenic Designer: Stephen Gifford. Costume Designer: Thomas G. Marquez. Lighting Designer: Steven Young. Sound Desinger: Josh Bessome.  Video Projection Design: Jonathan Infante.

Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, RENT has become a pop cultural phenomenon with songs that rock and a story that resonates with audiences of all ages. This is theatre at its best -- exuberant, passionate, and joyous.

Performances will be 7:30pm on Wednesdays & Thursdays; 8pm on Fridays; 2pm and 8pm on Saturdays; and 2pm on Sundays. There will be no matinee performance on Saturday, October 24.  Talkbacks with the cast and creative team will be on Wednesday, October 28 and Wednesday, November 11.

Tickets range from $20 - $70 and can be purchased at 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 available.

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada, near the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue where the 91 and 5 freeways meet. Parking is free.


Phantom Projects Theatre Group Announces PAY WHAT YOU WILL Day for All Shows at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Arts & Entertainment

Phantom Projects Theatre Group Announces PAY WHAT YOU WILL Day for All Shows at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

La Mirada~No longer will price have to be a factor for any teen, family, or student who wants to be part of a live theatre experience. Phantom Projects Theatre Group has made every show in its 2015/16 Season at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts available at any price. No patron will be turned away.

"The idea that anyone might not be able to be in the audience because of financial limitations pains me greatly. We are a non-profit, yes, and ticket sales are crucial, but at the end of the day, the educational element of what we do is far more important. We want to remove any excuse as to why someone can’t be a theatregoer,” commented Producing Artistic Director Steve Cisneros, who created the company at the age of 17 when pricing often limited his theatre-going abilities.

Pay What You Will tickets will be made available on Saturday October 17th, in-person only, at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts Box Office. Tickets may be purchased from Noon to 4:00 pm. Tickets, available via cash only, will be available on a first come, first served basis.

The 4-Show season, any of which are available on this day, include: Number the Stars, based on the book by Lois Lowry (November 19, 2015), To Kill a Mockingbird based on the novel by Harper Lee (February 18, 2016), Bruce Gevirtzman’s The Center of the Universe (April 21, 2016), and the 10th Annual Young Artist Project (August 6, 2016).

La Mirada Blog Announced as Official Media Sponsor of Phantom Projects Theatre Group’s 2015/16 Season at La Mirada Theatre
Arts & Entertainment

La Mirada Blog Announced as Official Media Sponsor of Phantom Projects Theatre Group’s 2015/16 Season at La Mirada Theatre



La Mirada~Phantom Projects Theatre Group, which has deep roots in the City of La Mirada, is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with another La Mirada favorite, the La Mirada Blog.

The Blog will become the official Media Sponsor of Phantom Projects’ 2015/16 Season, which includes the Los Angeles Premiere of Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Center of the Universe, The Young Artist Project, and The Phantom Cabaret.

"The La Mirada Community has been so supportive of us over our nearly 20 years in existence. From City Council, the residents, the theatre, and of course Tony Aiello and the La Mirada Blog,” commented Producing Artistic Director Steve Cisneros, a La Mirada High School Graduate, who created the company at the age of 17. “We have been featured in FORBES, LA Times, OC Register, KCAL, FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, you name it. But to have support from a media outlet in our own backyard means the most.”

“The Arts have always been such an important part of the fabric of the La Mirada community,” commented Blog founder Aiello, “We are extremely excited to take our valued relationship with Phantom to a new level. We have always been strong believers in the profound positive effect the group has on our young adults and their involment in the community.”

The partnership will include numerous giveaways throughout the year which include season tickets, individual tickets, signed posters, inside looks at the behind the scenes process of building a live show, and more to be announced.

Plus, loyal La Mirada Blog readers will enjoy a special 10% discount, announced throughout the year.

For more information call (714) 690-2900.


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).

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