Musical talents: shining stars and upcoming stars

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By Gale Stoddard

I had the pleasure, in one day, to watch two musicals that surpassed my expectations.

My song Greg and his wife Patty chauffeured me to the Anaheim Center for the Performing Arts at Service High School in Anaheim, where my granddaughter Sarahi, who is a senior, performed in her school’s annual musical, which is the Rosary Academy’s 48th production of Red and Gold.

Six weeks before that, the Servite High School students worked tirelessly preparing for their performance. There are 370 students at the all-girls Catholic school who dedicated hundreds of hours conceiving, writing, and choreographing the dance numbers plus meticulously selecting and rehearsing songs for the revue.

For two hours, students danced and sang onstage to the amazement of parents and relatives who marveled at their dexterity in executing all of the complex dance movements. The cast was in sync as they moved in and out and off stage during the change of props.

According to the school, the Red and Gold Musical Revues contribute to the development of leaders and visionaries. The energy and excitement of Red and Gold helps students comprehend the value of innovation, initiative, creativity, friendship, and responsibility, and Red and Gold builds communities.

Nikki Pontius was in charge of the overall production, working with students to inspire them to give their very best. The result was a highly energetic show, finely-tuned, and showing a lot of promise.

Head of School Shawna L. Pautsch said she was proud of the many hundreds of attendees who packed the auditorium, as they applauded the cast enthusiastically. It was yet another musical magic performance by the students who show much promise to becoming shining stars on the musical stage of their future.

It’s theirs for the asking. Congratulations goes to Rosary Academy for the exceptional academic students who show the world that even at a very young age, they can do it all.

Also included in my day was a show at the GEM Theatre on Historical Main Street in Garden Grove.

“Bullets Over Broadway” is a hilarious comedy about the making of a Broadway musical. It’s a love letter to the Golden Age of Broadway complete with showgirls, gangsters, and a cast of entertaining, zany characters filling the bill, which is based on the acclaimed 1994 Woody Allen film—a six-time Tony-nominated musical that features hits from the roaring 20s.

The musical landscape is bursting with songs and comedic ditties such as “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” Also on the song list is “Let’s Misbehave,” “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” “There’s a New Day Coming,” and many more up-tempo songs from the exhilarating 1920s, an era where people spent their nights dancing to the Charleston.

Hailed by “Time Magazine” as “A musical theatre gold,” the cast was top-notch, especially with “LA Times” Woman of the Year 2017 recipient Nicole Cassesso performing, dancing, and singing her way into everyone’s hearts.

As always, for more than two hours, the audience was transported to a time and place when music and dance took over people’s lives because the talkies reigned. Songs were heard on the radio and Al Jolson’s films brought droves of new fans to watch the phenomenal entertainer sing without a microphone on the big screen. The talents of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and many talented tunesmiths shone through. The talented actors sang with gusto as they belted out songs reminiscent of that era.

The driving beat of “Up the Lazy River,” which was a huge hit for the Mills Brothers was intertwined into the play until the finale. The hard-working multi-talented 14 musicians made everything move smoothly as they weaved their musical magic on stage behind the cast.

The audience was informed before showtime that the 14 actors and actresses had apprenticed at One More Productions at the GEM Theatre when it was first conceived more than a decade ago under the tutelage of founder and artistic director Damien Lorton and Executive Director Nicole Cassesso.

Those same 14 talented local actors are now fully employed on Broadway and with road companies. One More Productions was awarded seven International Broadway Awards last year. Kudos to the hardworking staff and volunteers who helped make all of the musical productions smashing successes. The City of Garden Grove among other supporters gives financial support to the worthwhile artistic endeavor.

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