Entertainment & Arts
REVIEW: Empire Captures the Spirit of New York City E-mail
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Entertainment & Arts
Written by Sandra Green   

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 E-mail
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Entertainment & Arts
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 21:25

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 E-mail
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Entertainment & Arts
Monday, 16 November 2015 19:16

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 E-mail
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Entertainment & Arts
Wednesday, 11 November 2015 10:21

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 E-mail
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Entertainment & Arts
Saturday, 31 October 2015 23:00

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!


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