Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Maverick Theater Delivers Kiss Sweetly

If you’ve never been to the Maverick Theater in Fullerton, give yourself a post holiday present and take in the February run of Prelude to a Kiss.  The Pulitzer and Tony-nominated comedy written by Craig Lucas is the story of two young lovers whose whirlwind romance and new marriage takes an unexpected turn when an unknown old man happens upon the wedding reception and congratulates the young bride with a kiss.
With this kiss newlywed bride, Rita, and the old man become bound in a magical twist of fate that sends Rita and her new husband on a mysterious journey.  The true strength of their love is tested beyond the surface connections that first drew them together, awakening each to a painful knowledge of the complexities of love.

Jax DiBenedetto, gracefully navigates Rita’s soulful transformation from young bride to elderly man, not only with body language and vocal inflections, but with her entire being. Ben Green plays Peter as an insecure man who blossoms in Rita’s presence. His adoration lights the way like a beacon in the night toward unraveling the metaphysical wife swap mystery.  DiBenedetto and Green exude a magnetic attraction laced with wistful eye contact and playful banter, leading to sultry kisses.  Director David Chorley choreographs their physical romance with delicacy suitable for the play’s romantic comedy style and OC’s palate. Like an expensive perfume, there’s a sweet romantic vibe with an underlayment of sexual undertones, making this my pick for a sweet February date night. Get a babysitter and hold hands in the dark as the story unfolds.

Supporting cast members Michael Buss and Sherry Domerego as Rita’s parents add a comfortable blend of humor and plot nuance. Ryan Young as Peter’s boisterous buddy, Taylor, gets lots good laughs but may need a bit of floss to clear the chewing of scenery from his teeth.

Robert Kokol plays The Old Man with a lovely mix of melancholy and joie de vivre. His portrayal of a young Rita encased in an elderly vessel illustrates life’s bittersweet irony. Maybe we can only truly appreciate life as we approach the end of our journey.

The rapport among the three lead actors, their collaboration in bringing alive the humor that Lucas has woven into the characters’ awkward situation, lets the whole story sing.  Cast and director have created moments worth savoring.  Book your tickets now to surprise your honey with a February theater fling.

When: Through February 19th. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays
Where: Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Suite B, Fullerton
How much: $20 ($10 for students with I.D.)
Length: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Suitability: Teens and up
Call: 714-526-7070

Thursday, January 26, 2012

CATS Play Purrfectly at Segerstrom

Cats were prowling the theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  A series of vignettes based on a book of poems by T.S. Elliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this show is equal parts kitty opera and prance off.  The fantastical, world of Jellicle cats are gathered together for their yearly Jellicle Ball and take turns performing in hopes of being chosen by the benevolent leader, Old Deuteronomy, to ascend to the Heavyside Layer and come back to a new life.

The original Broadway choreography stands the test of time and I loved recognizing the opening number Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’ choreography which I learned during college years of musical theater dance classes. The opening number is a CATS standard for the theater geek and I got goosebumps – a fine foreshadowing of the feline fun to come.

Directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, who based his presentation on the original direction of Trevor Nunn and choreography of Gillian Lynne, CATS still holds the audience captive, even if my son’s eyelids did start to droop halfway through Act II, which can be attributed more to late night homework sessions rather than any loss of interest in the prowling and prancing on stage.

Alex had two favorite numbers that he’s been talking about all week. The acrobatic duet Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, performed by Mario Martinez and Katy Burns, is probably the most physically taxing numbers to dance and sing simultaneously, and is a definite crowd pleaser. Alex’s other fave number was the well known Magical Mr. Mystoffolees, surely the most intricate and challenging dance solos in the show (sung by Chris Stevens as Rum Tum Tuggger and flawlessly danced by Chaz Wolcott as Mr. Mystoffolees).

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous cat ballad, Memory, is Grizabella the Glamour Cat’s soliloquy remembering her youthful days in the sun. I found this tour’s interpretation of Grizabella to be odd, but the opening night audience loved Melissa Grohowski’s performance. The tattered cat is old and weary, but Grohowski’s Grizabella had a overly pronounced limp and one heck of a repetitive twitch. The makeup design gave her the look of (dare I say it?) road kill complete with drooping bloody lip. The glamour cat’s makeup should’ve read as withered glamour and sadness, but as Grizabella made her limping, twitching entrance, Alex leaned over and whispered to me, “Is that a zombie cat?” Grizabella the Zombie Cat?  Not quite Webber and Nunn’s vision, I’m sure, but it gave us the giggles. I mean, what nine year old boy doesn’t love a good zombie cat?

Christopher E. Sidoli was perfect as the old, palsy-plagued Asparagus (“Gus”) and the larger-than-life Tigergrowl. He skillfully mastered the acting transition from worn-out theatre has been — complete with aged voice and shaking paw -– to the younger version of “Gus” playing Tigergrowl on stage. His singing voice was strong and rich, and he was absolutely playful and charming in the role.

My personal favorite performance of the night was given by OC native, Madison Mitchell as Demeter.  Demeter and Bombalurina (Ashley Chasteen) perform a slow and sultry duet in Macavity: The Mystery Cat.  Mitchell’s feline grace paired with a velvety mezzo soprano made for a mesmerizing performance. Think silky fur, slow cat walk and quick reflexes: the quintessential feline.
This national touring company congers a fantastical music and dance experience for the whole family. Meow.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Open Casting Call for Pageant of the Masters

The world famous Pageant of the Masters is looking for volunteers to participate in the 2012 summer show of “The Genius”. Open casting calls will be held at the Irvine Bowl on the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach. Be a part of the magic of living pictures. It’s a great summer family fun activity!

Not familiar with Pageant of the Masters? Check out my post from last summer.

As a college student on summer break thirty years ago, I was a pageant volunteer.  I worked at Las Brisas restaurant during the day and performed in the pageant at night.  The show is double cast so the commitment is every night every other week. Volunteers will perform in the pageant seven nights in a row, then will have seven nights off.  You can ask approved substitutes (same body type and height) to step in if you have a schedule conflict, so don’t let the time commitment keep you away.  It’s an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.  Whole families volunteer each year, so talk to your family and discuss the possibility of being a part of something wonderful this summer.

Here are just a few of the pieces of art being recreated this summer

John Singer Sargent: The Oyster Gatherers of Cancale

NORMAN ROCKWELL: Picasso vs. Sargent

Samuel Morse: Gallery of the Louvre

Paul Manship: Armilary Sphere (Cycle of Life)

Casting Call- “The Genius”
Irvine Bowl:  650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

Saturday, January 7th, 7pm – 9pm
Sunday, January 8th: 2 – 5pm
Thursday, January 12th: 7 – 9 pm
Or call for an appointment after January 12th

Volunteers of all ages are needed. No theater experience necessary.
For more information call (949)494-3663 or visit the pageant website.

You should be in Pictures!

The king of trial and error Thomas Edison once famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Few people are more aware of the amount of time and effort that will be required to turn her inspiration into the 2012 Pageant of the Masters than its director Diane Challis Davy. But, even as she finalizes her selections of artworks for next summer’s world-famous theatrical celebration of art in “living pictures” – tableaux vivants – Challis Davy is excited about the possibilities inherent in its theme, The Genius.

“The theme actually originated back in 2009 when we produced The Muse,” Challis Davy explained. “That show examined women’s roles in making and inspiring art, and was selected from a feminine point of view. I thought it would be interesting to craft a ‘companion’ show, one with a masculine sensibility, focusing on the power, strength and intelligence inherent in masterful works of art.”
Longtime Pageant scriptwriter Dan Duling, already busy researching the narration for the show, added, “Genius exists in every field of endeavor, and it’s a fantastic source for moving stories of triumph, tragedy and courage. If you’re looking for inspiration, this show is going to dare you to think big.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Nutcracker at the Irvine Barclay Theater

Taking my tree climbing boy, who usually has rocks in his pockets and holes worn in his pants, to a ballet was bound to be an experience.  The lights dimmed, the music swelled, the dancers began to spin a tale of a holiday party…..then a tap tap tap on my shoulder.  My boy whispered, “Isn’t there any talking??” And thus began a boy’s first experience at the ballet.  He moaned and groaned as the ballerinas lifted their party dolls in perfect unison. He tossed and turned in his seat in excruciating agony as the men in tights pirouetted at the party.

Then it happened.  The fog rolled in as the party guests retired.  Rodents with red beady eyes creeped in and a fierce battle ensued between the mice and the toy soldiers.  The boy perked up at the prospect of battle and if swords were used it couldn’t be all that bad.

Me? I marveled at the beauty of the dancers and the exquisite costumes. There’s something about ballerina pink tights and tutus that bring out the girlie girl in me. I was mesmerized by the American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer, Irina Dvorovenko, whose grace and femininity was intoxicating.

There was an adorable little girl near us who would sneak into the aisle from time to time, to get a better look or to imitate the action onstage. I think it’s wonderful that that was okay. This Nutcracker is a great, non-stuffy introduction for kids to ballet.  The Barclay Theatre is the perfect venue for an intimate theatrical experience where children can see all the action up close.

After the performance, as we walked to the parking garage, my boy ran ahead and did a jaunty pirouette.   Priceless.

Press Release
Come celebrate the beauty and pageantry of the holidays with Festival Ballet Theatre’s annual production of the beloved ballet, The Nutcracker, through December  24, 2011, at Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Set to the timeless music of Peter Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara, a young girl who receives the gift of a nutcracker soldier from her mysterious godfather. During the night, magical events unfold: the Christmas tree grows taller, toy soldiers and little mice become larger, and Clara’s nutcracker comes to life. He battles the ferocious Mouse King, and just when it seems all is lost, Clara distracts the Mouse King and saves her beloved nutcracker. Her act of bravery transforms the nutcracker into a handsome Prince who takes Clara on a magical journey to the Kingdom of Sweets , where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances. As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a beautiful Pas De Deux. Clara awakens from her dream and finds herself by her Christmas tree with her beloved nutcracker.

This full-length, traditional production is choreographed and directed by Festival Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla, and features a cast of professional dancers along with more than 200 Southern California children.

Select performances feature internationally acclaimed guest artists from American Ballet Theatre: Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky (Dec. 10 & 11), and Gillian Murphy and Gennadi Saveliev (Dec. 16, 17 & 18).  Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer  Carla K├Ârbes and Joffrey Ballet Principal Dancer Fabrice Calmels are featured at the December 20 – 24 performances.

Tickets are $35 for children, $37 for seniors, and $40 for adults. Special Family Night performances on December 10 and 16 at 7 p.m. are only $30 per ticket if purchasing four or more tickets. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 949.854.4646 or visit The Irvine Barclay Theatre is located at 4242 Campus Drive in Irvine.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rave Party or Adult Preschool? Blue Man Group has the Perfect Mix of Funky Fun.

Sometimes I wonder about the underbelly of techno entertainment out there these days. Underground rave parties, black lights and neon strobes, techno beats – not really my scene, but Blue Man Group creates a rave vibe that’s safe and fun for the whole family.

Incorporating music and non-verbal comedy with a primal, yet innocent sense of wonder at its core, the blue men invite the audience to partake in the wonderment of simple childhood joys…with a twist. Marshmallows, crunchy cereal and preschool paint become props used to explore and entertain in a way that has made the Blue Man Group an international phenomenon.  Why is it so appealing?  The BMG brand of entertainment lets the audience leave their adult worries for a bit and become immersed in a refreshingly unique entertainment environment:  Adult Preschool.

Adults are given permission to bump their “bootyshaker” and dance to techno rock and Lite Brite visuals for an eclectic hour and 45 minutes of silliness and fun melded with a Discovery Zone sense of science thrown into the mix.  No wonder the original three blue men founded their own private elementary school.

Head over to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts to enroll in your very own Blue Man Group Adult Preschool Techno Rave experience. Tell ‘em Drama Momma sent you. Class dismissed.

Where: Segerstrom Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Through Nov. 20. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays
How much: $25-$92.50
Length: 1 hour, 45 minutes (no intermission)
Suitability: May be too intense for young children – Drama Momma recommends ages 8 and up.
Tickets: 714-556-2787

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shrek The Musical

Once upon a time an ugly green ogre came to the land of orange where plastic surgery was a perfectly accepted way to banish any slight imperfection. The ugly ogre taught the people from the county of oranges it’s a beautiful thing to let your freak flag fly and perhaps, being the REAL YOU is the new beauty.

Shrek The Musical, deftly adapted from the first Shrek movie and the original 1990 story by William Steig gave Orange Countians their moneys worth. The musical is funny, light-hearted and charming. Several of the songs, while not of Sondheim's standard are catchy (I Know It's Today with its beautiful harmonies has been stuck in my head for days) and the message is one we should encourage everyone to learn - accepting oneself is the foundation for happiness. Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and even Lord Farquad illustrate it's who you are, not what you look like or what status you have, that counts. "Shrek" works first and foremost for the same reasons that all good stories work: we can relate to the characters, their challenges and insecurities.

Unless you’ve been living in a swamp you know the plot. What’s newsworthy is the abundance of talented performances by this top notch cast. This high-class touring production features an eye-popping array of colorful costumes for an army of fairytale characters, constantly changing scenery with backdrops displaying moving projections of clouds and the very plot-important sunset.

"Shrek" is full of smart dialogue and clever, character-revealing songs. Shrek offers plenty of humor for grown-up theater fans, poking fun at Wicked, The Lion King, Les Mis and more. The second act Shrek-Fiona duet, "I Think I Got You Beat," - an audience favorite with its celebration of flatulence and belching - remain, as does Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer," which is still used as a curtain-call addition.

Lukas Poost captures Shrek's bigger than life personality. Wearing a ton of padding and makeup, he still manages to have both a lumbering and agile physicality with energy throughout the 2.5 hour production. I enjoyed Poost’s characterization of Shrek and was pleased he didn’t fall back on an evening of imitating Mike Myers.

Playing Fiona, Liz Shivener wins over the audience with her exuberance and whit. She plays the bipolar sweet and sour balancing act of beautiful princess / ‘ugly’ ogre with skill.

Ande Jordan has the donkey’s share of the show's scene-stealing lines. Jordan’s vocal delivery will remind you of Eddie Murphy's over-the-top Donkey from the films, but the role played any other way would just not be Donkey, so Drama Momma understands and lets it slide.

Merritt David Janes gets the Drama Momma award for best comedic performance as Lord Farquaad. His physical comedy and timing is the best I’ve seen in a long time and reminded me of the classic Korman/Conway physical comedy bits in the old Carol Burnett Show. I loved it all and you will, too.


Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Segerstrom Hall

October 4 – 16, 2011

Tuesdays – Fridays at 7:30 p.m.

Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

The 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, October 15 will be sign-language interpreted.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Segerstrom Hall

600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA

Tickets: Start at $20; tickets on sale Sunday, August 28

In person - The Box Office

600 Town Center Drive

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily

Online -

Phone - (714) 556-2787

Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily

Monday, October 3, 2011



Shrek photo 3 by Joan Marcus 
On Thursday, October 6 at 4 p.m., the public is invited to a free mini-performance by the cast of SHREK THE MUSICAL at South Coast Plaza on the ground level of Carousel Court. Cast members will sing a selection of songs from its fun and lively score. Following the performance, cast members will be available to sign autographs and meet audience members. There will also be ticket giveaways to see SHREK THE MUSICAL during its engagement at Segerstrom Center October 4 – 16.

SHREK THE MUSICAL, based on the Oscar®-winning DreamWorks film that started it all, brings the hilarious story of everyone’s favorite ogre to life on stage.