“Book of Mormon” ringing in righteous humor at Segerstrom Center

“The Book of Mormon” playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts May 13 -25 is exactly what audiences might expect from the outlandish creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of “South Park” teamed up with “Avenue Q’s” Robert Lopez. It’s funny, outrageous, and yes, shocking but the dancing is energetic and the tunes are catchy. Sure, some may think it’s blasphemous – I prefer to consider it insightful concerning the nature of faith and the way America attempts to stamp its brand on the world.Fans of “South Park”, atheists, the skeptical, the pertinacious and even a few open minded Mormons will laugh until their bellies hurt. And, the theater loving public will have just as much fun because this is a show that won nine Tonys, including Best Musical.The story revolves around a pair of naïve, but hopeful teenage missionaries who just completed Mormon boot camp. With visions of Disney World floating in his head, Elder Kevin Price prays he’ll be sent to Orlando, Florida. Instead he and his companion Elder Cummingham are sent to Uganda to convert the poverty beleaguered locals to Mormonism. The fresh faced duo are like fish out of holy water as their faith is shaken by warlords, wretchedness, and brutality.Religious junkies and the Mormon Anti-defamation League may take offense at the barnyard humor and satirical mockery of Mormonism. They shouldn’t because as ensemble member Anthony Chatmon, who plays a Ugandan doctor says “I consider myself a Christian and at first I thought the show was risqué but slowly the trend to consider it anti-religious is drifting in the opposite direction. This is because the musical is so well crafted. It has heart and it’s honest. I play a candid African who knows nothing about the Christian deity, yet this doesn’t shake my confidence in representing God in my personal life.”Chatmon who joined the California cast in Los Angeles and just completed his 100thappearance in “Book of Mormon” describes the show as traditional musical theater at its best, saying “it has everything audiences expect in a musical with big meaningful songs that carry the story to a satisfactory conclusion.”“If there’s a moral lesson to be learned from “Book of Mormon” it’s not about what’s right or wrong but rather about being ok with yourself,” Chatmon says. He continues “we can all be different but work towards a common goal. The character Elder Price loses his rigid, restricting ideas and spreads his message with love and compassion which works much better. “ Or as producer Bobby Lopez puts it “we show a character that loses his faith and we give his faith back to him in a better way.”It seems as though there are no boundaries in “Book of Mormon” because of the provocative humor so perhaps it’s best not to take it too seriously – just enjoy it for the laughs and music. Chatmon would argue that boundaries do exist, saying “the producers have pushed the limit of satire to just the right point to keep it from going overboard.” And he continues “It lampoons religion, not just the Mormons but all religions in general. It hits religion head on as fanciful because of the unseen power that controls lives.”There’s no doubt that “Book of Mormon contains strong and suggestive language, as well as raunchy imagery. There is, after all, a rather large phallic symbol on stage, actually several. Chatmon also mentioned a Ugandan pageant with any number of peculiar props. There are plenty of ludicrous moments but it’s a musical with sweeping production numbers. Chatmon explains, “The songs create the funny moments. That and the fact that the Ugandans know nothing about what the missionaries are trying to preach. Adding to the humor, Elder Price hasn’t actually read the Book (of Mormon) so he makes up things.”All nonsense aside, “Book of Mormon” is a traditional musical, one that the New York Times has dubbed the “The Best Musical of this Century.” Sure, audiences get a peek into a “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” complete with dancing demons, coffee cups, gays, and Genghis Khan. And Chatmon’s character has the final word “I have maggots in my scrotum.” Dispute this or perhaps because of it, “Book of Mormon” is great musical theater with humor.“Book of Mormon” is the first original, non-adaptation, non-review musical to appear on Broadway in recent history. This and big power ballads like “I Believe” are what all the hype is really about. “Book of Mormon” makes fun of and embraces the all-American playbook musical and that’s why it delights ‘sold out’ audiences show after show. Spectators leave the theater with a spring in their step and a smile on their faces.Segerstrom Center for the Arts and “The Book of Mormon” are hosting a lottery ticket policy for the Orange County engagement April 13 – 25. The production will conduct a pre-show lottery at the Segerstrom Hall Box Office (600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, California 92626), making a limited number of orchestra tickets available for $25, cash only.To enter the lottery, fans can arrive at the box office 2 ½ hours prior to each performance to have their names placed in the lottery drum. Winning names will be drawn 30 minutes later. The lottery is available in person only at the box office, with a purchase limit of two tickets per person. Lottery participants must have a valid photo ID. For information: online at SCFTA.org or by phone at 714-556-2787.

Katie Travis brings the music to ‘Phantom of the Opera’

The music of the night soars into the Segerstrom Center for the Arts with the arrival of the “Phantom of the Opera,” Aug. 5 – 16. The stunning new touring production celebrates Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic operatic Musical with a fresh take on the iconic story. Theater purists will be pleased that all the magic of the original remains, just with a more realistic approach. Critics herald the touring “Phantom” as “powerful, gorgeous…and better than ever” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).Producer Cameron MacKintosh describes it as a “visual feast” saying, “My productions aren’t done to be lavish just for the sake of it. They’re done because I realize it’s the best way to tell a story.”The maestro himself, Lloyd Webber recognizes this “Phantom” as something special because some of the new orchestrations, while similar to the originals, have tremendous scale. Katie Travis, starring as Christine Daae, explains it this way:“Everything people love about the Phantom is still here but it is a more authentic adaptation,” Travis said.Playing the role of Daae is a dream come true for opera-trained Travis. She first saw the show when she was just 4-years old and knew that she would be Christine one day. After many years of study, not to mention about 10 different audition attempts, her dream was accomplished. She says “Every dream starts with a spark and I had that spark when I was really young. I came to realize that things take time and hard work. That’s why it’s so special that it’s finally happening for me.”That spark, that passion is in Travis voice when she talks about Christine. The youthful, vibrant Travis brings her own personality to her role because she relates to the issues Christine struggles with. She describes Christine as a person attempting to understand and cope with many things. Travis’ Christine is complex, she misses her father’s wisdom, and she has multifaceted relationships with the men in her life. She is seeking the definition of love and in this life-like take on the musical, she makes choices based on her emotional needs.“As a young woman, I think about these kinds of things," Travis said. "I question relationships and how to manage life challenges along with a career."Travis’ lovely soprano voice is breathtaking but what makes her Christine soar is that Katie, the actress and Christine, the character-seem to have an almost mystical connection. She says “Christine is smart, in tune with the world around her, including the spiritual rim because her father has just died and she is seeking answers about her world. This intrigue results in her involvement with the Phantom and Raoul. The show is a journey for her to realize that answers don’t always come from her father. She must find her own answers and let go.“We are similar, I too, am open and captivated with all the wonders of the world, including the spiritual world. I have that same curiosity and wonderment about what exists on this planet and outside it. Career-wise, we are at about the same place, pondering what will come next. I relate to her, more so now that I’ve soaked her up a bit. I totally understand the conflict she’s in. She’s doing what she thinks is best, that’s what we all do.”This updated version of the Phantom has fabulous sets, innovative staging and new choreography. Modern technology and creative lighting add to the spectacular appeal of the timeless musical. What makes it special to Travis is that director Laurence Connor allows Christine to make her own choices.“From my standpoint this production is about a woman trying to make the best choices, does she always, that’s questionable," Travis said. "She takes in the situations around her and reacts. That’s real life and what I love best about the show.”The story revolves around Christine and her relationships with the Phantom (Chris Mann) and her childhood sweetheart Raoul(Storm Lineberger) and the chemistry between the players is a key element of the plot. What she feels for the Phantom is a darker, more dangerous attraction then she has with Raoul. She knows he’s the “bad boy, you can’t take home to mother” but who is he really – her father, lover, teacher? Christine has to decide what her feelings are really about. And then there’s Raoul, the nice guy, he’s steady and dependable, yet tender, singing “Let me be your freedom, Let daylight dry your tears, I’m here, with you, beside you to guard you and to guide you.” As Travis says, “The chemistry is important, but there are many complicated emotions and multiple components to her relationship with both men.”The “Phantom” is a huge production with a cast and orchestra of 52 players. The chemistry between the leads evolves into camaraderie that includes the entire cast. Travis says “We work well together, especially because we’re on tour. We sing our lines so personally. The words ‘Anywhere you go I will be there’ take on a whole new meaning when you live on the road. We’ve christened ourselves Phamily.”Although, a grittier more gothic show, this Phantom is every bit as grandiose as past productions. The enormous chandelier, which weights over a ton and contains, six thousand beads, hangs above the audience as the story unfolds, a cylindrical wall, weighting 10 tons, rotates around the stage revealing brilliant sets, a ‘Hall of Mirrors’ showcases the magnificent “Masquerade Ball.”The original exquisite costumes are made up of 1,200 separate pieces. The dazzling wedding gown worn by Christine in the final scene weights 35 lbs. Travis says, “The train is so long and heavy that there is no backing up, to move around I have to make full turns.”The "Phantom of the Opera" has been seen world-wide by thousands of people and according to Travis “is a part of our theatrical history with its fantastic visuals and incredible musical story. We are passionate about sharing our fabulous show.”“The Phantom of the Opera” is playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Aug. 5 – 16. For tickets and information, you can show up in person at The Box Office, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, California, 92626. Tickets and information can also be obtained by phone at 714-556-2746 or online at SCFTA.org. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily.

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ comes to life at the Stage Door Repertory Theatre

In today’s bizarre world of Botox and fillers, lifts, tucks, and liposuction, the idea of selling one’s soul to the devil for the preservation of youth and beauty may seem highly illogical and completely unnecessary; however, from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa takes the Gothic horror story of a magnificently beautiful young man – whose aging, hedonistic evil, and corruption shows only in his portrait – and he audaciously transports the English literary classic tale into modern times. Is this too much of a risk?Does it lose value in its new translation? Visionary director Rose London adds her signature to the portrait along with a dedicated and strong cast, and SDRT’s provocative and clever rendition of the scandalous Dorian Gray becomes surprisingly relevant in spite of modern day advancements in medicine.We find ourselves in London, 1988. There is a hip, cool art world vibe in the air. Basil Hallwood is the talented young artist (Mark Rosier) whose unrequited love for his friend, Dorian Gray (Jason Cook) torments him and shakes him beyond desire.As an expression of his carnal obsession, he paints a jaw dropping portrait of Dorian, but Basil’s painting appears to go one step farther – it captures Dorian’s soul.With one wish, history is changed forever. Yes, the play itself is dark, but as London herself says, “…don’t be afraid to laugh at the funny parts.” And, although the story is one of sexual deviation, corruption, violence, and murder, the comedy that ricochets between the lines is worth a few laugh-out-loud chuckles including inside references about Cook’s previous role as Count Dracula at a local theater.All the while, the portrait that Basil has painted of Dorian is, for most intents and purposes, a basic illustration of photo-realism that has everyone who sees it feeling breathless and as awe-struck as though they’ve just caught a glimpse of a smirking Mona Lisa or a newly released never before seen Warhol exhibition.As time moves on and decades pass by, the painting creepily transforms. As the malevolent and evil Dorian commits more and more reprehensible and unforgiving crimes, the portrait begins to bear a resemblance to one of those scary B horror film clowns that brings back nightmares just thinking about the mockingly cunning evilness.The painting itself may have made an even bigger statement if some type of creative lighting or some type of special effects had been used; however, that does not deter from the storyline nor the entertainment value of SDRT’s latest must see production.While the acting by the entire ensemble is superb, what makes this production particularly special is the obvious mutual trust and admiration between Rosier and Cook. There is an undeniable sense of commitment and dedication amongst the talented cast with several members taking on multiple roles. Justine DeAngelo shows her range in her portrayal of five very different characters throughout the play.The other notable mentions are: Carlos Lopez as Harry, Adam Joseph Ferry as Alan/James, Wendy Karn as Victoria, Kevin Manalang as Rolf/Theodore, and Steven Teats as An American Senator. The bottom line? SDRT’sThe Portrait of Dorian Gray is worth the trip, and in case you’re wondering… it never gets old. Director/Set Designer: Rosemary London; Asst Director/Stage Mgr: Judy Mina-Ballard; Costume Designer: Heather Enriquez; Lighting Design: Marianne Papadopoulos; Executive Producers: Nick Charles/Julie Charles. The play runs through June 25.Stage Door Repertory Theatre 1045 N Armando St, Ste A, Anaheim, CA 92806. Phone 714-630-7378. www.stagedoorrep.org.

“Sinatra Singing Sinatra” celebrates an American icon

Frank Sinatra Jr., the vocalist most qualified to sing the songs of the legendary Frank Sinatra is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Ol’ Blue Eyes birth date with a very special Centennial show “Sinatra Singing Sinatra, As I Remember It” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Saturday, May 2.Segertstrom Center patrons will trip down memory lane as Frank Jr. makes all that is old, new again. But as Sinatra’s progeny said in a phone interview this show is not about him, it’s a Centennial Celebration of his father’s life and “in this situation, I’m a musical biographer.” He continues “Frank Sinatra would have been 100 this year so there are two items to consider, as I see it, in my creation of the program. First, there is the legend which anyone who is an admirer of Sinatra knows through his music. And then there is the man himself which is why the show is briefly biographical.”Segerstrom Center patrons won’t be “Strangers in the Night” to the magic of the man and the music that was Frank Sinatra as his son shares his first-hand recollection of life with his famous father. The new multi-media show is told through stories, rare photos, videos and of course, the songs of the iconic crooner. This is a unique look at the man behind the music as Frank Jr. “remembers it.”Sinatra Jr. describes his show as a “one of a kind multi-media experience,” saying “In the show, I’m more than just a participant, I’m an observer of what was. The overall picture is that when Frank Sr. died in 1998, I wanted to do a celebration of his life so I put together a show about his music. I thought the show would last a year or two but people wanted more so we’ve been doing the musical show since 1998. I have performed in major clubs and showrooms around the world.” He continues, “The Centennial Celebration has gone visual to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the man.“It Was A Very Good Year” when Frank Sinatra was born and 2015 is a good year as well as Frank Jr. goes visual to assist in telling Frank Sinatra’s story and shares his personal memories of the life and times of an American icon. He says that “by using stories, pictures and films to tell the Frank Sinatra chronicle, we keep alive the memory of what he was to so many people. And perhaps we’re creating new ones as the timeless music of a 39 piece orchestra performing live backs the celebrated songs of Sinatra.”“Sinatra Sings Sinatra, As I Remember It” is not a tribute show to a famous entertainer; it is a celebration of a life lived to the fullest. Frank Jr. explains “The story is not really a tribute; it is a biography, well a musical one of a great singer. We have all of his original music and gorgeous orchestration. In tribute shows the media presentations are based on old footage of their performances. In our show we use photos, and other visual effects as well as my personal recollections. Our show is all about Frank Sinatra from the beginning of his life to the final years.”Frank Sinatra Jr. re-introduced audiences to lush Big Band sounds in 1985 when he opened at the Four Queens Hotel in downtown Las Vegas backed by an 18-piece orchestra. He attributes the show’s long seven year run to people being tired of the celebrity impersonators that were so popular in Las Vegas at that time, saying, “People wanted to hear a real singer with a real orchestra. Those were among the happiest days of my life.”As the casino shows evolved from showrooms to concert halls, Sinatra Jr. has spent the past half century touring the world performing his fathers’ classic songbook in his show “Sinatra Sings Sinatra,” sparking a renewed interest in live music and the brilliant big band sounds reminiscent of a bygone era when entertainers wore tuxedos and audiences dressed for the theater.Modern audiences might use the word glamour to descript this lifestyle. Frank Jr. would not agree that glamour is what he is bringing to the stage. He says “If we pool a 100 people they will all have different opinions about what glamour means. I don’t believe that word applies to this magnificent music. I would rather say it’s about the atmosphere of that time, it was a different time when this music was going on and that is what we represent.”With 2015 marking the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra, there are celebrations and tributes planned around the globe but there is no one more knowledgeable about Frank Sinatra the man and his music then Sinatra Jr. He said in an earlier interview in the Daily Mail Online “The legend has overtaken the man. We’ve lost the humanity, that there was a person there. Now that we are celebrating 100 years since his birth it is more important than ever to strip away the myth and concentrate on the man.”Frank Sinatra Jr. is the ultimate authority on his father not only from a personal perspective but on his music as well. He was Frank Sinatra’s manager and musical director for the last seven years of Sinatra’s performing life. He says “this was a learning experience. I was so pleased to be doing this because I was able to contribute to his life and I did. He was a perfectionist as all great artists are. He wanted things done in certain ways, always.”This is not Frank Jr.’s first appearance on the Segerstrom Center stage, he’s played there several times but it’s the first audio, visual show he’s done. He says “the Segerstrom Center is such a large venue that the show will be a touch more grandiose. This is different from cabaret settings which are more intimate. Real artists can make a large stage as intimate as a cabaret – Frank Sr. was the grand master of all that, he could make any stage intimate.”In “Sinatra Sings Sinatra, As I Remember It” Frank Jr. will bring that intimacy to the Segerstrom stage by giving people the songs they want to hear, keeping memories alive in the music and allowing glimpses into Frank Sinatra’s life with little bits and pieces of his own recollections. He says “I try to keep this on an informal, conversational level. All I’m doing is recalling my own personal memories.”Let’s ‘fly to the moon’ as Sinatra Sings Sinatra” at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, Segerstrom Hall on Saturday, May 2. For tickets and information in person: The Box Office, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626; by phone 714-556-2787; online SCFTA.org.

A ‘Spectacular Spam Party’ for DA’ Hawaii Seniors Club

Da’ Hawaii Seniors Club had a “Spectacular Spam Party” on Tuesday, Aug. 26, during the club’s evening meeting at the Cerritos Senior Center which was filled with activities that evening. Spam is an inexpensive Hormel meat product which was a staple food in Hawaii during World War II and is still popular in Hawaii. Da’ Hawaii Club members think that Spam is better than ham and use it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.President Danny Chang opened the meeting with the pledge of allegiance and his wife, Winona, led the members in singing of “Hawaii Pono’i.” Club members then sang “Happy Birthday” in English and Hawaiian to four members who celebrated their birthdays in August.Birthday celebrants were David Ethington, Janet Higa, Frances McCormick and Helen Tangcay.After a brief business meeting, Program Chairperson Glenda Ujiie announced the theme for the night. She and her committee had decorated the front wall with balloons and a poster for a Spam Party.They prepared each table with live red hibiscus flowers in colorful Spam can vases. The refreshment committee prepared trays of Spam musubi, fresh pineapples, two decorated cakes and a variety of chips.Members were asked to bring their own creative dishes using spam that filled two long tables. There was spam fried rice, spam with noodles, spam with vegetables, and even spam tamales, teriyaki spam won ton, spam and egg foo young patties, spam and vegetable or fruit kabobs, and many more unique dishes.After members filled their plates and enjoyed all the wonderful Spam dishes that were prepared, they intently watched and listened to the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and a World War II Veteran.The story of Zamperini’s life was very inspirational because it showed his perseverance during all the adversities he faced during the war and his forgiveness of his Japanese torturers. If Zamperini had not died this year, he was supposed to be the Grand Marshall in the 2015 Rose Parade. He still will be remembered in the parade and also in a movie about his life in 2015. The movie was directed by Angelina Jolie.The evening ended with club members singing of the song, “Spam Better Than Ham,” with cheerleaders Winona Chang, Irene Naruko, Mary Jane Fujimura and Hedy Harrison Anduha holding up the letters, “Spam” while leading cheers for Spam.The men in the club raised their hands, waved pom poms and cheered loudly for spam, “so ono (delicious) to eat!”Club members thanked Glenda Ujiie and her committee for all their hard work. As a souvenir of the Spam Party, everyone received a “Spam Champ” paper award to wear for participating in the Spam party.

Crimes of the Heart

Cypress College Theater and Dance Department brings Beth Henley’s Pulitzer-prize winning play, Crimes of the Heart to its Studio Theater, and Henley’s “Southern fried dark meat” of a comedy is a portrait of “good ol’ boy” sisterhood in the face of paradoxical tragedy and misfortune.It’s 1974, and the three dysfunctional Magrath sisters rally and reunite in youngest sibling, Babe’s (Leslie Reyna), hour of need. The girls meet up at granddaddy’s homestead in the small town of Hazelhurst, Mississippi, and while ailing gramps is lying in the hospital, the causal question may be whetherhe is teetering on the brink of recovery or heading to the “promised land” anytime soon. And, although the audience never gets a peak at him, grandpa’s the patriarch who took the girls in and raised them after the girls’ mother hung herself (along with the familycat) not long after their dad ran out on them.As the audience peers into the notorious Magrath’s drafty kitchen, scandalous stories and deep-seeded secrets of the family’s painful past are slowly revealed. Today is “Plain Jane” sister, Lenny’s (Lindsay Marsh) 30th birthday, but no one has remembered, and this could possibly be one of the worst birthdays ever. After all, isn’t turning thirty one of those times of self-reflection?It may very well be, and it is Lenny who stuck around to care for gramps as the two younger siblings moved on with their lives. The girls’ arrogant cousin, Chick (Alexis Salazar), finds great joy in harassing Lenny with every opportunity and today is no exception. If Lenny’s frazzled life wasn’t sadly disappointing enough, she also learns that her beloved 20-year-old horse, Billy Boy, was struck by lightning and is now dead. But, the most pressing problem at the moment is the widely-publicized shooting of Babe’s Senator husband, Zachary.Babe was aiming for his heart, but she squeezed her eyes shut and got him in the stomach instead. When asked, “Why?” Babe exclaimed that she “just didn’t like his looks.” When Babe innocently reveals the shocking truth about the preamble to the shooting, it’s an account that may have caused a deeply-engrained Southern reactionto the pieces of the puzzle, and a frenzied public execution would surely have followed. In the end, the tragic calamities that shadow the sisters are not a way to keep them apart, but more of a vehicle to bind them together as sisters, as family.As the mousey, Lenny, Marsh finds the perfect nuance and she shows a sincere understanding of her character. Paulina Quintanilla has the role of the hard-drinking, chain-smoking middle sister, Meg, and she is finally ready to reveal her vulnerability to her sisters and herself.Reyna has the challenge of portraying Babe, a young woman who appears slightly daft at first but may not be as “off-her-rocker” as it may appear. Mentionable performances are Gerald Monreal as Doc Porter and Nicholas Avila as Barnette Lloyd. While the pot on the stove may be stirred with family bonds, its laughter that adds the spice to the heart of this melodrama.Along with Prop Designer, Dan Stephens, Scenic Designer Jeanine Lambeth Eastham’s beautifully detailed and well-stocked “heart-of-the-home” kitchen setting isso believable and finely detailed that one might expect the aroma of fried extra-crispy chicken to be permeating throughout the studio.Director: Katy Realista, Ed. D, Scenic Designer: Jeanine Lambeth Eastham, Prop Designer: Dan Stephens; Hair and Makeup Designer: Marci Alberti; Lighting Designer: Harrison Haug; Sound Designer: Jenna Riley; Costume Designer: Becky Ogden. Cypress College 9200 Valley View Street, Cypress CA 90630. Box Office 714-484-7200.

“42nd Street” star Patrick Heffernan taps into Segerstrom Center

Take your dancing feet down to “42nd Street” playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Nov. 10 – 22. “42nd Street” tapped its way into the hearts of 80’s audiences winning the 1981 Tony for “Best Musical” and “Best Choreography.” Until then precision tapping with big kaleidoscopic numbers hadn’t been popular since the depression era Warner Brothers films. Broadway’s “42nd Street” bought back Busby Berkely’s style of musical extravaganza. Then as grandiose shows with elaborate sets became popular Broadway staples, tapping once again took a back seat to splashy modern choreography. That tap is still one of the most entertaining and electrifying dance forms is proved by the success of the 2001 hit revival of “42ndStreet.” Now, the celebrated show is on tour and coming to the OC bigger and better than ever. In the words of director and book co-author Mark Bramble “When we did the revival, I said, let’s do the MGM color version.” That’s exactly what audiences will get when “42nd Street” swings into the Segerstrom Center. In addition, to fanatic tap numbers, are some of the greatest classic songs ever written, such as “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and it’s signature song “42nd Street.” “42nd Street” is the story of hopes and dreams of Broadway glory as it follows a young ingénue from chorus girl to star. It showcases the reality of working on Broadway. That and of course, the incredible tap numbers are what drew dancer Patrick Heffernan to audition for the ensemble in the touring production. Heffernan was just the type of dancer Randy Skinner, who co-choreographed the 1980 show and revived the choreography in 2001, wanted. He says of the young, energetic cast of 38 “we have a whole new generation of dancers who can tap brilliantly, so I added more challenging steps.” Heffernan, who hails from Mission Viejo, began his affair with theater around the 6th grade. His first musicals were in family friendly community theater in Irvine, once bitten he never looked back. He moved to New York to attend Wagner University on Staten Island where he minored in dance and majored in theater performance. He says of the move across the county “It was a nice way to bridge the gap between New York and Orange County. New York is the center of the theater world and I don’t think I would have had as many opportunities to join that world without attending Wagner University. It’s all happening in Manhattan and that’s where I need to be.” “42nd Street” is renowned for flashy tap numbers. Heffernan considers his strong point to be musical theater dance, and says of “42nd Street” that he has always been attracted tolarge, glitzy shows featuring dance, especially tap because “tap is exciting, it stimulates more senses, visual, audio, sight then other dance forms.” He continues, “I’m attracted to musical theater because of the story telling and because of my training. I have skills in singing, dancing, and acting and this has benefitted me in the long run with more respect and more roles.” Director Mark Bramble labels “42nd Street” as a Cinderella story with a show biz twist. It’s the tale of a hopeful hoofer, Peggy, fresh from the boondocks who lands a job in a Broadway chorus, replaces the leading lady and becomes an overnight star. As Bramble says, “It’s a story that makes you feel good. People always want to see an affirmative, optimistic story.” For an ensemble player like Heffernan, it’s the story of his life. Being in the ensemble is where Heffernan says he relates best to the show because “that’s where I work. We, the cast, audition in real life, we audition in the story. We do our best to get the job, in the show & for real, because that’s what makes us happy. It’s a musical but it’s also our story.” There is no doubt that “42nd Street” with its big production numbers is a show that everyone knows. Heffernan says “the two creative geniuses’, Bramble and Skinner have brought the touring production to a fresh and exciting place with a talented youthful cast.” The Great Depression is the backdrop for “42nd Street,” something audiences often overlook because of dazzling dancing. Bramble wanted to give the show authenticity while allowing his actors room to grow into their parts. To this end he assigned each actor the task of finding someone who was alive during the Depression and listening to their stories. Heffernan says “We had no idea what happened in the 30’s so we had to contact someone from that era – for me it was my grandmother who told me about her parents’ lives. Most of us are too young to have been aware of those times so hearing the stories from one another was a great bonding experience.” Despite “42nd Street" being set in the Depression it is hopeful, optimistic, upbeat and fun. And what Heffernan likes best “is it’s about theater, it’s easy to relate to because it’s about us, the cast. In the 1930’s, they were dancing for their lives. Now it’s about our lives, just with less desperation. And in hard times, people go to the theater to laugh, to be entertained and to forget their woes. That never changes.” Heffernan recommends “42nd Street” to audiences, saying, “The classic musical is one of the best tapping shows ever.” He believes “42nd Street” continues to excite audiences because of the elaborate spectacle and joyful songs. “42nd Street” is playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Nov.10 – 22 in Segerstrom Hall. For tickets and information in person: The Box Office (600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, Ca. 92626); by phone: 714-556-2787: online: SCFTA.org. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily.

Abracadabra: Jeff Hobson and ‘The Illusionists’ appear at the Segerstrom Center

What do you get when you combine Las Vegas magic with Broadway pizzazz? An electrifying magic show on steroid’s combining seven legendary Illusionists with high tech extravaganza. This isn’t your Uncle Joe’s magic show; it’s a mix of comedy, magic, danger and acts of awe-inspiring wonder. The magical sensation “The Illusionists,” running at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Feb. 2 -7, will render patrons spellbound. It is no hocus, pocus that the roster of “The Illusionists” reads like a gang of comic book superheroes. Jeff Hobson, aka "The Trickster," explains that his moniker and that of his fellow Illusionists was given to them by the show’s producer, Simon Painter. Hobson, who as the show’s host works the crowd, says he’s “The Trickster” because “I’m more light-hearted, not so serious. I’m more of a pickpocket, a scammer, more irreverent. I’m a naughty boy, stealing things from the audience.” Hobson is a comedian as well as a magician and as host he keeps things together and moving in this show that can be compared to Cirque du Soleil with magic because of its variety and the razzamatazz staging. Sharing top billing with Hobson are Yu Ho-Jin, a rising superstar in the world of magic; Dan Sperry, The Anti- Conjuror, described as Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield because he merges magic with the macabre; Andrew Basso, The Escapologist, an Italian Houdini; Kevin James, The Inventor, is an inventor of magic, a comedian and collector of the strange and unusual; Ben Blaque, The Weapon Master who performs incredibly dangerous acts using crossbows; and Jonathan Goodwin, a stunt performer like no other. As “The Illusionists” tours the world, some acts have disappeared and others reappear in their place. It isn’t magic that there are always seven sensational stars on stage and that "The Trickster," Hobson, has led the parade of magic men through the show’s four year run. As a professional magician, Hobson has transformed from “Host of Las Vegas” to host of “The Illusionists.” He’s a natural showman, not just because of his magical abilities; he’s won numerous awards for magic, but also because of his comedic skills. Hobson became enthralled with magic around age 7, but has always been the class clown. “I’m a big fan of old school comedians and when I realized I had a gift for making people laugh that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," Hobson said. "From Vegas to Broadway and beyond, I’ve been living the dream for three decades.” For Hobson, magic and comedy are intertwined, so what came first, the chicken or the egg?” “It was comedy first, but magic was my hobby from an early age and is my first love. It always enthralls and intrigues folks," Hobson said. "They want to figure it out; they’re curious and become awe-inspired not knowing how it’s done. Laughter is healthy and puts people in a better place. I perform both so when people don’t laugh, there’s still magic. I have them going both ways and that’s a gift I can give audiences.” Speaking of eggs, Hobson is well-known for the egg and bag trick, which he describes as the simplest trick in the world. He says “you put an egg into a bag; egg disappears and reappears, so what! Magic has nothing to do with the trick; its 90 percent presentation. It is how you do it, what you say and to sell it is the key. I sell it better than other magicians. That’s why I’m famous for it.” “The Illusionists” is more than a Las Vegas style magical revue; it’s a full scale Broadway production. Hobson explains “In ‘The Illusionists’ each performer is a mini-show within a show and the staging includes original music, dramatic components, specialized lightning. It has Broadway elements and to fulfill the directors and producers visions it needs a Broadway type theater. Certainly it could be done in Vegas but just not as well. There is something special about large theaters that Las Vegas showrooms just don’t have.” “The Illusionists” is not your average magic show. “Our show brings seven world class illusionists together on one stage," Hobson said. "It’s never been done like we’re doing it with state of the art technology and high definition screens to show the magic up close so audiences don’t miss anything. We’re the avengers of magic, each with unique superpower skills. “ “The Illusionists” is an action packed spectacle of large scale visional intensity that includes dramatic lightning, explosions, fire elements, dancers and a live band. As an added element the entertainers perform individual acts and share the mystical spotlight in ensemble pieces. “The appeal to audiences is the diverse styles of enchantment, each sorcerer displays his own brand of wizardry and a variety of talents are showcased,” said Hobson. “Audience participation in the show is important because it lets the spectators see that astonishing phenomenons are actually happening, that we’re not pulling the wool over their eyes. Of course, there are always skeptics so audience members verify the magic and large screens engage people at a distance in the storyline and draw them into the drama.” The world of magic is a small one. What Hobson likes best about “The Illusionists” is working with his friends and viewing them from the wings as they professionally entertain. He says “It’s great to watch artists who know their craft so well. My show highlight is seeing the audience having a great time and watching the conjurers cast their spells, moving people from being unsure about what’s happening to standing ovations.” Hobson urges folks from five to 105 to see “The Illusionists,” saying “it’s a family show for all ages and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see seven brilliant magicians perform breathtaking wonders on one stage.” Fall under the spell of “The Illusionists” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Feb. 2 – 7. For tickets and information, in person at The Box Office, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa 92626; By phone, 714- 556-2787; or online at SCFTA.org. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily.

Janine DiVita in best new musical of the year-‘If/Then’ come to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Following a short but sweet Broadway run, the season’s hot ticket item, “If/Then,” which critics are billing “Best New Musical of the Year” will be at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Jan. 19 -24. And as an added bonus for theater buffs, in seven select cities only, the touring company features a star studded company that includes four of the original Broadway cast members. Costa Mesa is the final stop for Tony-award winners Idina Menzel (Wicked), and LaChanze (The Color Purple), with co-stars Anthony Rapp, and James Snyder before the intense musical about New York City and life changing decisions travels on. Superstar Menzel says she is excited. “I’m so thrilled to launch the show’s national Tour and to send it across the across the county and the world," Menzel said. "I am very much looking forward to sharing this original musical with Broadway fans who weren’t able to travel to New York and see it there.” The New Yorker magazine says of “If/Then” that “in its formal daring, and in the intelligence of its execution, it moves into new territory with intense and thrilling results… You absolutely never know what is going to happen, right up to the last, powerfully moving beat.” New York actress Janine DiVita is a natural stepping into the role of Anne in this brave new musical which showcases the intensity and vitality of the city that never sleeps. After majoring in musical theater and communications at the University of Michigan, Broadway beckoned and DiVita moved to the Big Apple where she landed roles as diverse as Rizzo (Grease) to Reno (u/s in Anything Goes). The versatile actress, who recently shot “Boy Choir” opposite Dustin Hoffman, says “acting, singing and dancing are essential skills for a performer but you need to be an actor first to keep the other two fine-tuned.” The backdrop for “If/Then” is the City and its constantly changing energy which is a metaphor for the heroine’s (Menzel as Beth/Liz) twin re-birth. For DiVita, being a New Yorker makes the narrative authentic, she says. “The subject matter is familiar because it’s all about lives intertwining and our choices," DiVita said. "This is a city of opportunities where you are always meeting new people and interacting with them. The spirit of New York comes through in the staging, music and direction of our show. One of the storylines is about far Westside development to extend the subway and this is happening in real time as Hi-Rises continue being built. It’s very cool that I have this actual experience to draw upon for my character.” Tim Kitt wrote the music based on the idea that “New York is a place where people hope to find their calling because every day there is the potential for something to happen that is life changing.” This is a statement that DiVita agrees with 100 percent, saying, “the show is life changing, it makes you grateful for your life and hopeful for a future where anything is possible. One of my favorite lines is ‘you learn how to love the not knowing, so here I go.” There are major shifts in fortune in “If/Then” that result from the most insignificant of actions and this is what makes it such a compelling story. DiVita describes the musical as being about chance, choices and fate as well as love and relationships. As Anne, a central character, she is tied to the lead Elizabeth and it is her purpose to support Liz/Beth in the journey to find herself. Anne is in a relationship with Elizabeth’s friend Kate (LaChanze) and she, too, makes choices that influence other characters in small ways. She is Kate’s wife in a lesbian relationship, which she says “is not what’s really important; love is love and I appreciate the diversity in the storyline and the realistic loving way it is portrayed.” The main character is Elizabeth and the musical follows parallel paths as two stories unfold simultaneously. This modern woman faces the crossing of choice and chance in alternative existences of what might have been and what could be. There are clues to aid audience awareness of the on-going occurrences in the entangled scenarios. Audiences recognize natural, loving Beth by her glasses and business woman Liz when she’s without them. DiVita has an interesting take on her character. “Anne, unlike Elizabeth, doesn’t necessarily have dual personalities," DiVita said. "The only difference for me is that my relationships with Beth/Liz are different in each storyline and this affects my character. It’s fulfilling and fascinating as an actor to play a character who’s essence remains the same while she’s on different paths and has different personality traits.” “If/Then” is an intellectual, smart show about which Menzel says, “This musical is about a woman restarting and reshaping her life and it explores a lot of intense themes that are close to my heart.” DiVita concurs. “It’s a very personal show on many levels and you feel it. It’s impossible not to bring yourself and your own experiences to it because it is so personal,” said DiVita. DiVita, who has been touring with “If/Then” as Anne and as an understudy to the lead Elizabeth since the beginning says, “road audiences seem to respond more to the humor then their New York counterparts, especially the romantic comedy aspects which really shine. It’s about new beginnings and the comedy and tragedy in the show are reflective of life, it’s very relationable. This is a powerful musical that gladdens the heart with its sincere message that life is beautiful and there are always second chances.” The absolutely fascinating and stimulating musical “If/Then” with an all-star Broadway cast is at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Jan. 19-24, 2016. For tickets and information: in person, the box office is located at 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, California 92626; Phone 714 -556-2787; Online, scfta.org. Office and phone hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Angels Trout, Trumbo chase Texas for title

About halfway through the 162-game season, the hottest team in baseball is smack dab here in Orange County.The Angels are sizzling but unlike the Icarus from Greek mythology, their wings ain’t made of wax and they’re not going into a tailspin anytime soon.Mike Trout – maybe the second coming of Mickey Mantle or at least the best 20-year-old to come along in a generation or so – is leading the league in batting average, last time I checked (.345 at press time). And when he’s not crushing the ball, he’s wreaking havoc on the base paths and robbing opponents of home runs.Mark Trumbo’s batting .353 with 10 dingers and 53 RBI.Albert Pujols is stroking the ball like, well, the Albert Pujols we know as greatest slugger in The Show for the last 10 years and the best first baseman since Lou Gehrig.And how about that pitching rotation? Jered Weaver, with eight wins, and C.J. Wilson, with nine, sport the second and third lowest ERA in the American League.Manager Mike Scioscia has also shored up the team’s only weakness: the bullpen. Yes, it’s a bullpen by committee, with household names such as Frieri, Downs, Hawkins, Walden whom I’ve nicknamed the “Pen Pals,” but as long as the Angels starters go deep into the 6th or 7th innings, the pals are shutting the door on opponents.So how many all-stars will the Angels field? Hmmm. Maybe five? I mean, Trout, Trumbo, Weaver and Wilson should make it, right? And Pujols, currently fifth among first baseman, is a wild card.But on to more important business: Hey Texas, can you hear the footsteps? Granted, the Rangers, led by the other-worldly talent of Josh Hamilton, boast the best record in baseball but … the Angels stumbled out of the gate like a lame horse, they’ve been playing catch-up ever since and they’re within four or five games of the leaders of the AL West, which a colleague of mine – a bloody Boston fan – refers to as “The AL worst” because only two of its teams have won more than half their games.Yeah, Texas is tough. The Orioles, to mix winged things with flowers in a messy metaphor, are no shrinking violets. The Yankees are formidable.But facts are facts. The Angels are the best team in baseball since early May.Does anyone believe that Trout and Trumbo – both fresh-faced 20-somethings – are going to get rubber-legged down the stretch? Or that the surging Pujols will peter out and not improve on his .270 average and below-par, for him, power numbers? Or that Weaver and Wilson won’t work their wiles well into September?It comes down to the pen pals. C’mon boys, bring it. OK, OK, it’s July, but it’s never too early to regress to boyhood – or girlhood for you gals – and dream a little, is it? So allow me this: How cool would it be for the Angels to win their second World Series on the 10-year anniversary of winning their first?Remember Erstad, Salmon, Anderson and Percival? The names have changed but the game – the grand play on the grand stage, Americana-style – goes on, and what a summer it’s going o be.tBrady Rhoades is the editor. He can be reached brhoades@localnewspapers.org.