Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! “Imagine” Steve Landes as John Lennon at Segerstrom Center

For fans of the mop-topped quartet from Liverpool who took America by storm in 1964, “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” is the next best thing to a reincarnation of the real deals. For those collectively called baby boomers, it’s hard to believe that February 9 marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan show. Celebrating the genius of the iconic band that changed America’s Pop Music scene forever is “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” on stage at the Segerstrom Center April 25 and 26.This show will have Boomers reliving their long haired youth with melodies that mesmerized their generation. “Rain” brings the captivating allure of Beatles music to younger audiences as well, blending theater, concert and nostalgia into a magical show.The cast for the Orange County production includes Paul Curatolo as Paul McCartney, Steve Landes as John Lennon, Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr and Joe Bithorn as George Harrison with Chris Smallwood on Keyboards. Steve Landes (John Lennon) explained to me that there are actually three rotating casts when the show is on the show, each having a couple of weeks on the road. Each show, however, has just one set of performers which is quite a feat because as Landes explains, “The Beatles continually evolved in the short 6 year span that they electrified America with their music. The 60’s themselves were about constant change, in fashion, appearance and attitude. The Beatles were trend setters, leading the way in Pop culture.”The Beatles had such a wide range of music that it seems impossible that their actual recording career was so short (1960 -1970) and concert appearances were rare. “Rain” brings alive the music from the diverse stages that the Beatles incarnated culturally. From early hits to classics and on down “Abbey Road,” “Rain” takes audiences back to a time when all you needed was love and a little help from your friends.After talking with Landes Aka Lennon, I fell in love with the Beatles all over again. He was so knowledgeable about not only the Beatles’ music but their personalities, especially that of John Lennon. Landes, wasn’t born when the Beatles burst on the scene so I was curious what had sparked his interest in the ‘Fab Four.’ He explained that his parents had been fans in the 60’s and his older sisters had amassed memorabilia as well so he discovered plenty of collectables in the attic. Landes calls himself “a life-long, second-generation Beatles fan. He taught himself guitar at 10 listening to Beatles records and at age 17 he joined the Beatlemania cast. In 1998, he teamed up with “Rain” and the rest is history – Rain/Beatle history.Although they did not start out as a tribute band, “Rain” has been together longer then the Beatles, who broke up in 1970. Landes describes “Reign (note the spelling), saying they started as an original band in 1975, playing clubs in LA and Orange County, before the concept of ‘tribute’ bands existed. They became so popular at performing Beatles hits that they were the first – a novel idea back in the day – Tribute band. Their name was so often misspelled in the media that they became ‘Rain’ and coincidentally, there’s a Beatles tune with the same name.”Perhaps because they were pioneers, “Rain’s” intention was not to just cover Beatles songs but to do songs that the Beatles had never performed live and to capture them note for note, just as they were on the records. For this reason, melodic, guitar and harmonies-driven rock is performed live. Landes and his mates approach Beatles music with the same respect that a classical musician treats classical music.“Rain” is as much stage show as tribute band. Landes says, “The focus is the band, but so much of the production is a show because of lights, media and sets. We were on Broadway and won a Drama desk award.” Landes, who was John in the Broadway production, continues, “It was unbelievable to take the show to Broadway – the pinnacle of Rain’s run but we continue updating the show to keep it fresh for fans. New LED High-Def screens and streamlined video content and modern technology, have made the show better than it was on Broadway.”The Beatles were Landes inspiration to because a musician and John Lennon is his idol. Of Lennon, he says, “John Lennon stood for peace, love, women’s rights. He proved we can be a positive force in helping people and creating peace. He was human, certainly not a saint but I’m a believer that we can all create positive change in the world because of the ideals taught to us through the songs and example of John Lennon.”Landes has never personally met a Beetle but has interacted with folks who basked in their sphere. He delights in behind the scenes stories because it enables him to relive the memories. He recalls “Sid Bernstein, who produced the Shea Stadium concert, saw the show and ‘wept’ because our performance took him back in time.”Like the Beatles, “Rain” has its share of fans who attend show after show. There’s an East Coast group calling themselves “Raindrops” who appreciate the musicians as talented individuals who just happen to put on a great Beatles show.But according to Landers, “the bottom line is the music – Beatles songs have a simple positive message that is relevant today and continue to grow in popularity with their infectious energy that stands the test of time.”With over 200 songs to select from, Landers, says “it’s impossible to pick a favorite.” He loves the first albums, saying “those early era songs speak to me with their youthful energy.” In his John persona, he has the only solo song, “Give Me the Chance.” It’s presented in the encore as a prelude to setting up a post Beatles atmosphere.“Rain” is a show for all ages and Landers says “it’s so great to watch the audience relating to the music and message of the Beatles.”“Rain – A Tribute to the Beatles” is a musical extravaganza where audiences “Imagine” “Yesterday” as they “Come Together” for a “Hard Day’s Night” of theatrical joy at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on April 25 – 26. For tickets and information call 714-556-2787 or online at

Cypress art showcased

The Cypress Art League held its 39th annual Open Spring Show on April 26 and 27. It was a tremendous success with 208 entries, which is a new record for the club since the last recession. We had a number of new participants so the types of work submitted added some new and fresh flairs to the exhibit. Cypress Mayor LeRoy Mills presented the awards to the winners on Sunday afternoon including the City of Cypress Award and Mayor's Award.The judge indicated that the art was so exceptional she had difficulty in choosing the winners. If you did not have the opportunity to see the plethora pieces in the exhibition, you can still appreciate the winning works on display at the CAL Gallery until May 16. The Gallery is located at the Community Center, 5700 Orange Ave., Cypress.The following is the list of all the winners and Honorable mentions. Please let me know if you need know if you need any additional details.Special Awards:City of Cypress Best of Show Award – Tony Podue; Mayor's Award -Leslie Stedman Menetrey Frame Maker Award-Bienvenido Sibug;Art Supply Certificate 1st Place-Pat Edep; Art Supply Certificate 2nd Place-Rafael Maniago; Art Supply Certificate 3rd Place-Kathleen McCready; Leon Picture Framing Certificate-Bob Meyer; Leon Picture Framing Certificate-Sylvia Gweon; Diamond International Award-Young Ae Choi.Division I Awards: (Those considered masters, teachers, professional and winners of 3 or more 1 place award in any juried show)Oil/Acrylic:1st Place-Veronica Kortz; 2nd Place-Leslie Stedman Menetrey; 3rd Place-Bob Meyer; Honorable Mentions-Rafael Maniago, Pat Edep, John Fox.Water Color:1st Place-Carrol Wolf; 2nd Place-Juan "Magoo" Valencia; 3rd Place-Juan "Magoo" Valencia; Honorable Mentions-Hedi Roethel, Carrol Wolf.Other Media:1st Place-Jacki Long; 2nd Place-Les Molineux; 3rd Place-Leslie Stedman Menetrey.Honorable Mentions-Leslie Stedman Menetrey, Les Moineux, Bob Meyer.Division II Awards: (3-D, Photography and Digital Art)3-Dimensional:1st Place-Maggie Le Duc; 2nd Place-Bob Rosenfield; 3rd Place-Maggie Le Duc. Honorable Mentions-Steve ColerPhotography:1st Place-Jackie Dvorman; 2nd Place-Jacki Long; 3rd Place-Nelly Gomex.Honorable Mention-Carol Louis-Javorik.Digital Images:1st Place-Renee Stewart-Jackson; 2nd Place-Renee Stewart-Jackson; 3rd Place-Eldridge Sims. Honorable Mention:-Renee Stewart-Jackson, Charles Malim.Division III (Artists beginning through advanced, but not awarded 1st place in any 3 shows)Oil/Acrylic:1st Place-Raul Pizano; 2nd Place-Dolores Youseff; 3rd Place-Dolores Youseff. Honorable Mention-Rosario Grint.Water Color:1st Place-Carol Taylor; 2nd Place-Susan Rapske; 3rd Place-Susan Rapske.Honorable Mention-Susan Rapske, Liberty Dickinson, Jaqueline Dvorman, Brett Holleman, Nima KamboyaOther Media:1st Place-Margie Conway; 2nd Place-Francis Wei; 3rd Place-Dolores Youseff.

Arms and the Man

There is nothing understated or discreet about the great dramatist, George Bernard Shaw’s well-recognized rapacious wit, nor should his scandalous exploration of socialissues be overlooked; hence, under the fine direction of Anthony Galleran, Long Beach Playhouse’s impressive Mainstage production of Shaw’s Arms and the Man is not onlya perfect case in point but also one of the most engaging and highly entertaining playsof the season.With Shaw, nothing is off limits, and there are multiple layers to explore. Beginning with a straight forward confrontation between romance and pragmatism,the underlying depth of Arms and the Man sinks its sweet tooth into class distinctions, warfare, the human condition, gender roles, and idealism. The action is set in 1885during the time of the Serbo-Bulgarian War.An exhausted and scared enemy soldier, Captain Bluntschli (Michael J. Knowles) scampers into the upstairs bedroom windowof the flamboyantly extravagant, Raina Petkoff (Hallie Mayer), and Bluntschli doesit with no better sense than a clumsy cat burglar on the lam. Raina gives shelter to the handsome renegade mercenary, and while she unknowingly makes an effort to hide it,her cloying giddiness is easily transparent. In spite of the sexual tension between thetwo, Raina’s oblivious cover-up is her eagerness to boast about her dashing fiancée, Major Sergius Saranoff (Alex Bennett), and his heroic bravery and leadership in the combat arena.Bluntschli, on the other hand, shockingly admits his distinct fear ofwar, his distain for gallantry, valor, or any of the other fervent notions that Rainafinds enthralling, and he admits that he much prefers carrying chocolates insteadof pistol cartridges. Hearing that, Raina offers the hungry pragmatic soldier a fewof her chocolate creams stash, and his new moniker is born – “The Chocolate Cream Soldier.”Once Sergius returns from the war, Raina begins to reevaluate her antagonisticstandards and she discovers that her newly-formed appreciation of life ultimately outweighs her inherited ideals of the inglorious romance of war. With a new perspective, Raina no longer respects or admires Sergius’ viewpoint, and it becomes inevitable that the integrated sub-plot between Sergius and the Petkoff’s unflappable and saucy maid, Louka (Charlotte Williams) will heat up. Galleron’s exceptionally strong cast offers generous, bold and revealing depictions of their characters.Michael J. Knowles is outstanding as Bluntschli lending him just the right amount of wisdom and level-headedness. Charlotte Williams and Doyle Smiens prove to have as much fun as they can as a couple of mismatched domestic helpers. Sarah Genevieve Green is wonderful as Catherine Petkoff, and as Raina, Hallie Mayer hits the mark on every level. Even with razor sharp humor, the ineradicable Shavian style shines through every word of this magnificent thought-provoking and forward-thinking masterpiece.Shaw leads the audience into believing that Arms and the Man is a light-hearted sort of sit-com entertainment, when in actuality Shaw’s subliminal message is a confrontation of social issues of the times. The real crux of the matter is the masked and unrestrained political drama and the futility of war of which Shaw was obviously adamantly opposed. Director: Anthony Galleron, Set Design: Greg Fritsche; Light Design: Daniel Driscoll; Sound Design: Sean Gray; Costume Design: Donna Fritsche.Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach, CA 90804. For Tickets: 562 494-1014 option 1. Runs through Dec. 6.

Melody Betts brings the halls of the Segerstrom Center alive with ‘The Sound of Music’

The halls of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts are alive with the “The Sound of Music,” which runs through July 31. The beloved musical will delight audiences as always with a few of “Our Favorite Things” such as the Tony, Grammy and Oscar award winning score by Rogers and Hammerstein. In the touring show, director Jack O’Brien has gone back to “The Sound of Music’s” classic 1959 stage roots, giving audiencesa fascinatingly complex look at the characters inspired by the true story of the VonTrapp Family Singers.His characters are people faced with difficult choices in dangerous times. O’Brien says, “This production is not your mother’s familiar 'The Sound of Music.'" I feel by looking more closely at this remarkable work, it reveals itself as deeper, richer and more powerful than ever before.” O’Brien’s “The Sound of Music,” “Do-Ri-Mi’s” on a fresh and lively path with a cast of youthful players led by Kerstin Anderson as Maria. Rather than going for big name stars, O’Brien chose actors who subliminally react to the story.It is their interconnection that makes the musical flow. When reading over “The Sound of Music” book, O’Brien says “Something caught my eye: Maria is probably, as a postulant, no more than six or seven years older than Liesl! She may be many things, country lass, a climber of trees, a young renegade, but she is clearly not an established star! How interesting!”He continues, “In through the audition door walked Kerstin Anderson. She opened her mouth, she sang, and tears welled up in my eyes. If ever there were an enchanting young woman standing on the brink of discovery – this was it. Please, as I do, welcome her.”Nor is Kerstin the only potential star in the outstanding cast performing at Segerstrom Hall. Straight from her off-Broadway run as a featured soloist in “Invisible Thread," where she earned nightly standing ovations, Melody Betts, takes center stage as Mother Abbess.Betts, too, is unlike her counterparts in the featured role. When asked if the famous film inspired her in the role of Mother Abbess, Betts replied “I adore everything about the movie but I couldn’t use it to influence my performance because the woman who plays the part in the movie and me, well, we’re two entirely different human beings. There’s a large gap between us when it comes to age, perspective, everything so I had to come from a fresh place. My mother’s younger, closer in age to Maria, so she relates more easily to choices Maria makes. Oh, and sometimes, my Mother Abbess is a little spicier.” Betts is an accomplished actress, singer and songwriter who recently relocated to New York. Dispute a master’s degree in acting and five years of professional and regional theater experience, Betts hesitated to audition for “The Sound of Music.”Betts was unaware the part was available but encouraged by her New York manager, she tried out. “I wasn’t sure what they were looking for or if they would hire me because the show’s cast is traditionally white, and I’m a woman of color," she said. "I wasn’t that confident. However, Audra McDonald was sensational as Mother Abbess in the NBC Live special and she broke the ground that helped me add Mother Abbess to my resume.I’m so glad this happened because I’m working with the likes of Jack O’Brien (director) and Andy Einhorn (music supervisor) who have helped me improve as an actress and as a singer.” Betts explains that her “The Sound of Music,” despite being an iconic musical known the world over is fresh and lively because, in her words, “It starts with Jack O’Brien, his concept for this piece is to make it more human that past productions. It’s a classic so others tend to approach it from the same angle as always.For example, Maria’s connections to the church and her relationship with the captain stand out while everything else fades into the background. In Jack’s vision every relationship matters, every character is important. This makes the show more relatable to more people.”The Mother Abbess, as Betts describes her, is essential to the plot because she moves it along. She says, “I consider the Mother Abbess to be like three pillars that hold the story together, she starts us off, she sets the stage and she’s the guide that moves us through the entire piece – she also helps Maria make life-changing choices.” According to Betts, she and her character have some characteristics in common, “Mother is the woman in charge and I like that! She runs to Mother Abbess and tries to bring her own life experiences to it as we, actors, do in a role. She is stern but does her job with compassion, understanding and love, while remaining direct and honest. I kind of wish I was more direct, balancing honestly and truthfulness with acceptance of what is, as she does. She’s no nonsense as am I, but we both feel compassion for others.”There are many things that Betts likes about “The Sound of Music” and her part in it. Among her “favorite things” are interacting with all the ladies that are the Nuns. She says “They’re so wonderful onstage and off. And I love singing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain” nightly. It’s a challenge for me and it’s never the same.” She continues. “What I like best about the story is that it is timeless. We relate to it today, just as audiences related to the Von Trapp’s story years ago and will still relate years from now.It sends a message of hope when Maria and the family escape. She finds her happy place. Audiences realize that good can overcome evil in the world.” Betts, in her role as Mother Abbey, delivers a powerful “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” in a pure, commanding soprano. However, she says “My favorite song is "The Sound of Music." The lyrics are so expressive, if you really listen, they paint such beautiful pictures and I love it.” “The Sound of Music” is a family friendly delight.And as Betts says that “the show will leave people of all ages with the message to live their best life possible. We can all use a little bit of that.” “The Sound of Music” is being performed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts thorough July 31. For tickets and information 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily: The Box Office (600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626); Phone: 714-556-2787. Or online at Photo by Matthew Murphy

Smokey Joe’s Café makes its way to the Stage Door Repertory Theatre

As its second show in its fifth season, Stage Door Repertory Theatre brings the musical review, Smokey Joe’s Café, to its stage, and whether you’re a fan of the work of songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, or if the songs are long before your time, you will be amazed at how many classic hit tunes the creative and prolific duo wrote.They were particularly influential in the rock ‘n roll scene in the ‘50s and the ‘60s writing incredible hit after hit such as Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Hound Dog,” Love Potion No. 9,” “Charlie Brown,” and, the unforgettable, “Stand By Me,” just to name a few. The show itself is set in the true venue of the genre, and the appeal of Smokey Joe’s Café is not coming from some kind of abstract theatrical brilliance or show stopping special effects or even some kind of thrilling lighting extravaganza; on the contrary, it is an uncomplicated musical celebration of the unbelievable number and variety of beloved catchy, novelty, and soulful songs in the Lieber and Stoller catalogue.The Smokey Joe’s Café song list includes 40 of Leiber and Stoller’s numbers, and SDRT’s production gives two particularly outstanding performances featuring the quartet, Franklin Richardson, Matthew P. Berardi, Van D. Hudson Jr., and Manuel Arturo singing and grooving along with “Keep On Rollin’” and “Searchin’.” With his bass vocals, Manuel Arturo is the show’s stand out, and his “Little Egypt” performance is flawless.Arturo and James Frietas both shine on “Stay Awhile.” Linsey Rene shimmies her way in with Frietas on “Teach Me How to Shimmy,” and Imani Hayes’ sassy “Don Juan” is really fun. Brenda Oen’s “Hound Dog” has the girls cheering and the guys squirming, while Kennedy Hammock’s “Pearl’s a Singer” is a gem of a number.“I’m a Woman” is the best of the female quartets featuring Imani, Brenda, Linsey, and Kennedy. SDRT’s production was not without its flaws; however, so here goes: on Friday night, the sound in Act I was off balance. While the seven piece band directed by Rick Heckman was rockin’ out, it was impossible to hear the vocals in the first act.The problem was corrected by Act II and the balance between the music and the vocals was ideal from then on. Although the highly spirited, energetic and diverse cast gives performances that are slightly uneven, the production itself runs very smoothly and there isn’t a single moment of down time.The songs roll seamlessly from one number to the next making it the coveted rock ‘n roll LP album you simply can’t take off the record player. Alyssa Heckman and Ken Carrell’s highly effective and clever choreography is particularly eye catching and the numbers, “On Broadway,” with Berardi and Hudson Jr., and the full cast’s “D.W. Washburn,” are both exceptionally fun to watch.A trip down memory lane or if you’re a new fan strolling through some of the great oldies but goodies, SDRT’s Smokey Joe’s Café is well worth the trip. Stage Door Repertory Theater 1045 Armando St, Ste B, Anaheim, CA 92806. For Tickets 714 630.7378. Runs February 27, 2016 through March 12. Director: Nick Charles; Musical Director: Rick Heckman; Choreographers: Alyssa Heckman and Ken Carrell; Dance Captain: Manuel Arturo; Costumes: Julie Charles and The Cast; Lighting Design and Board Operator: Nick Charles; Sound Mixer: John McQuay.

Danica Paulos shares the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater experience

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater does not need too much of an introduction. The man and his choreographic works are internationally celebrated, having performed in 71 countries abroad. The company is known for the powerful expressions of dance and choreography as it relates to the American experience, particularly through the lens of American Americans. Every dance number is vibrant in detailed through artistic expression. As the company embark on their West Coast tour this month with a stop at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (April 6 through April 10, 2016), that legacy will be represented by the rich plethora of dancers carrying on the Ailey tradition. One of those dancers is already being regarded as one of the best up and coming stars in this field. Danica Paulos, the pride of Huntington Beach, California, is recognized as a dance whiz. Dance Magazine has lauded Paulos as one its “25 to Watch.” Trained to perform at the Orange County Dance Center and the Professional Performing Arts School in New York, among others, Paulos joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2014. Paulos recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions about being part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater experience. Dennis J. Freeman: What led you to become a dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater? Danica Paulos:“In high school, I had an interest in studying modern and contemporary dance in New York City. I auditioned for the Ailey School during the summer before senior year and I fell in love with the class. It was a ballet and a Horton-based modern audition, which were two subjects of dance that felt very natural and fun for me. I decided to join the school because I really looked up to the company members. However, I had no belief that I would ever make it to their level of professionalism. I worked very hard in the school and auditioned for Ailey II and got the job. It was in that moment that I realized that maybe I had a shot in making it to the first company.” Dennis J. Freeman: Why did you decide to dance with this particular dance troupe? Danica Paulos: “We tour more than any other American modern dance company and it has opened my eyes to experiences and cultures that I never thought I would live in. This company gives back to the community by doing mini performances for students and giving dance classes to kids everywhere we go, which is the absolute best part for me.” Dennis J. Freeman: There are a lot of people who would give everything to be part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. What has the experience done for you? Danica Paulos: “I am one of those people who would give everything to be here. I was hired on a temporary contract to replace an injured dancer for four short months during an international tour. I was to return to Ailey II after this particular tour, so every single moment felt like it could be my last. I gave everything in every rehearsal, performance, and class because I did not know how long the experience would be for me. I did not want to take one moment for granted. Being here was not handed to me on a silver platter, I truly felt like I had to prove my worth in order to be among these dancers.” Dennis J. Freeman: What particular dance number is your favorite to perform? Why? Danica Paulos: “No Longer Silent” by (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) Artistic Director Robert Battle is one of my favorite ballets to perform right now. It is organized chaos and if you are not fully aware and present on stage, the whole dance can lose its power. Performing it gives the company a sense of community that reads strongly from the audience. By the end of the dance we are all exhausted, sweaty and holding on by a thread; but we help each other make it to the end which is a really beautiful experience.” Dennis J. Freeman: Who inspires you-both as a performer and as a person? Danica Paulos: “Belen Pereya, another dancer from the company, is someone who comes to mind. She has such a beautiful presence on and off stage that I observe and try to emulate. She is one of those people who gives nothing but love and brings joy and light when she walks into a room. She can do any style of dance and excels in our repertoire. I think she is an honest and open-hearted dancer, which are innate qualities that are necessary to be an artist.” Dennis J. Freeman: What can this generation learn from the works of Alvin Ailey? Danica Paulos: “Mr. Ailey said, ‘I want to help show my people how beautiful they are. I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.’ I think that the work of Mr. Ailey reminds us that we are all human beings and we all have real human experiences. He was not afraid to show his life in a literal sense. He put his life and experiences on stage and many people to this day can still relate to his work. This simple fact is a testament to how Mr. Ailey was a visionary in his time. He showed us that it’s okay to be who we are and that knowledge is very liberating.” Dennis J. Freeman: How does it feel to be coming back home and performing in front of people you know? Danica Paulos: “I have been looking forward to this homecoming since I joined the company and now that it is finally here, it is surreal. It feels as if I am literally bringing my whole New York life to my old life in California, meshing them both together and hoping that they mix well. Sometimes I get nervous thinking about it, as if there’s some type of pressure to show everyone how much I’ve grown since I moved away. But then I remember that there is nothing but love and support in the audience. As we say in the company, ‘Nothing to prove, everything to share.’” Dennis J. Freeman: As a dancer, what is it like to perform in front of thousands of people every year? Danica Paulos: “For me, it is a dream come true to be given the opportunity to do what I love. I feel most comfortable on stage. Performing is a thrill for me, but it can also be very exhausting. When you are dancing for an audience, you give them part of your most vulnerable self so doing that over and over can be emptying. You have to find ways to refill and recharge yourself so you can continue to inspire new audiences every night.” Dennis J. Freeman: Why is “Revelations” such a moving and important part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater depository? Danica Paulos: It is moving because it is so authentic and real. Mr. Ailey choreographed “Revelations” based on his and his dancers’ real life experiences. The steps are the same as when it was first made, so the current dancers have a standard which we must uphold. We have the duty to tap into the emotions that his ballets portray, which means that each dancer must have a strong sense of self to continually expose their emotions to the audience.” Dennis J. Freeman: How difficult is it to move up to senior dance status within the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater? What does it mean to you to have achieve this feat? Danica Paulos: “For me, it is not about seniority. I feel that every dancer has something to share and learn. I try to learn and grow from each and every artist.”

Mike McLean sins no more in ‘Guys and Dolls’

Since its conception in 1950, “Guys and Dolls" has been heralded as “the most perfect Broadway Musical ever written.” Some critics credit the great score by the fabled Frank Loesser. Others point to the witty book by Joe Swerling and comedy legend Abe Burrows. Whatever the magic that contributes to the timeless musical, Segerstrom Center for the Arts patrons are in for a treat when the comic book world of 1940’s New York City arrives at the Center April 14-19, 2015.The 65 years young musical “Guys and Dolls” is, admittedly, familiar to audiences yet continues to delight all ages. It’s had any number of revivals, been performed everywhere from Broadway to community theater and is standard touring company fare. So, what’s so special about the latest offering? Actor Mike McLean, who plays Benny Southstreet in the current company, has the answers as to why his “favorite musical of all time” is the show to see in Orange County.McLean, a native of Costa Mesa, was a laid back California kid who became interested in theater at Newport High School. After studying the arts at USC he performed in musical theater throughout California, including playing the role of Benny Southstreet in “Guys and Dolls” in his first professional production.He’s an actor, comic, singer, and dancer. Well, maybe not a dancer’s dancer but he describes himself as “an actor who sings and moves well.” He moved to New York in July of 2014 and loves the energy of the city which he says works well for his part as Benny in “Guys and Dolls.” After having a couple months to soak in the vitality of the Big Apple (he landed the role in “Guys and Dolls” shortly after his arrival in the city), he overcame culture shock and says, “I feel the energy of New York and bring that exuberance to the part."As for “Guys and Dolls,” a musical straight from the ‘Golden Age of Broadway, being this young guys’ favorite show and the reason he auditioned.“It’s the complete package, the jazzy music of Frank Loesser, an upbeat story and classic comedy, "McLean said. "I love the script and style of the show and the opportunity to live in that world. The place and era are so exciting. As an actor, I can become a gambler in a zoot suit, living life to the fullest and having fun doing it.”“Guys and Dolls” is a series of snappy comic sketches that evolve into great songs.“The main characters represent the romantic miens in the plot. Benny is the personality that moves the show along in a humorous manner," McLean said. "He’s the ‘go to guy’ who keeps the wanna be high rollers on track. This is a funny show and my character drives the show, keeping it light, doing stuff like looking for a place for the gamblers to gather for an underground crap game.”“Guys and Dolls” is an engaging show about small time gamblers and petty criminals and the women who love them. From the opening number “Fugue for Tinhorns,” the cast of crazy characters with hoodlum handles such as Nicely-Nicely, Benny Southstreet, Rusty Charlie, Harry the Horse and Big Jul will charm audiences. These ‘wise guys’ are more goofy goons then “Sopranos” and way more fun which is why McLean says they're so likable. He names Adelaide as his favorite character saying “she’s very funny, yet sincere. Her song "Adelaide’s Lament” sung with a chronic cold brought on by her 14-year engagement to Nathan Detroit always has me singing along backstage.”He continues, “Sky Masterson is the character I would most like to play because he sings ‘Luck Be A Lady’ but the role that is the most relatable for me is that of Nathan Detroit. He’s a mover and shaker, always hustling and bustling to get things done. I think that’s a bit like the job description for actors. We’re always hustling to get the next break.”Although McLean has had past experience in portraying Southstreet, this is his fourth go round in the part; he went beyond revisiting the 1955 movie to get into the mobster mindset. He read David Runyon’s stories which are the basis of the “Guys and Dolls” characters, to master the unique dialogue, a mixture of highly formal language and slang.McLean believes it’s the great score that makes “Guys and Dolls” such an enduring tour de force of musical theater. There are so many wonderful melodies, “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Adelaide’s Lament,” “Marry the Man Today,” and the title song “Guys and Dolls,” to name a few.McLean, however, tags “Luck Be A Lady” as his favorite."It’s so iconic," McLean said. "It's high energy and I get to perform in it. It’s my opportunity to make my mark on the show. Act one, scene one introduces all the characters, setting the stage for the time period and launching the story."He lists other show highlights as the dance number “Take Back Your Mink” performed in the Hot Box Night Club. He says “all the showgirls are showing off their stuff and that’s reason enough to love this number.”Romance triumphs as the gamblers lose their bet and end up at a Mission prayer meeting where McLean recites his favorite line, “I always was a bad guy and a gambler but I ain’t gonna do it no more, I thank you.”“Guys and Dolls” is playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, April14-19, 2015. McLean says this is a show for everyone and Orange County audiences will get a taste of New York without the freezing temperatures."I’m excited to show off my home theater to the rest of the cast.”For tickets and information in person at the Box Office, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, California 92626; Phone, 714-556-2787; Online at

19th Annual Cypress Car Show set

The 19th Annual Cypress Car Show will be held on Saturday July 26 as part of the Cypress Community Festival. According to Cypress Car Show Chairman, Gary Hudson, there were more than 75 classic cars and street rods for Festival visitors to admire at last year’s show.Festival visitors will be able to walk right up to a wide variety of dreams-on-wheels including: street cars, muscle cars, corvettes, classics, trucks, vintage vehicles and sports cars. Awards will be presented to the winning entries at 3 p.m. on Festival Day in the Chili Cook-off and Car Show area of the Festival.The 2013 Best of Show title was captured by Tim Avila, owner of an orange and red 1941 Willys All-Steel Coupe named “Tequila Sunrise.” The 2013 People’s Choice Award went to Carlos Sanchez and his 1967 VW.The Cypress Car Show and Festival are held at Oak Knoll Park located on Orange Ave. just west of Valley View. Hot rod, vintage and classic car enthusiasts are invited to participate in the show. Festival Day begins with a 5K/10K Walk/Run and Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at 7 a.m. Games, rides, entertainment, food, shopping, a chili and salsa contest, the Chamber Business Expo and much more are all part of this free annual event.The Cypress Car Show is organized by the Friends of Cypress Recreation and Parks, Inc., a non-profit benefit corporation. Proceeds from the show are used for a wide variety of community improvement and beautification projects.The Cypress Car Show application packet may be obtained online by visiting the “Maps and Forms” tab on the Cypress Community Festival website located at or follow this link:

Cypress Committee organizes for 35th Annual Community Festival

At its scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 21, members of the Cypress FestivalCommitteeorganized to set plans in motion for the 2015 Cypress Community Festival celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Cypress in July 1956.This year will mark the 35th Annual Community Festival. The event will be held onSaturday, July 25, at Oak Knoll Park immediately following the Cypress 5k/10k Run/Walk.The Cypress community can be proud that its festival is the largest single-day event of its kind in Orange County, annually attracting tens of thousands of visitors to enjoy live entertainment, arts and crafts booths, a car show, vendor booths, kids rides, a chili cook-off and salsa competition, and a pancake breakfast.The festivalcommitteeis made up of individual volunteers and civic groups. The civic groups include the Cypress Area Chamber of Commerce — in charge of commercial vendor booths; the Friends of Cypress Parks & Recreation — organizing the car show, chili cook-off and salsa competition; and the Cypress Kiwanis, untiring flippers of pancakes and sausage patties.The first step in organizing for this year’s huge anniversary was to nominate and elect a slate of new officers:· Todd Seymore, Chair;· Wanda Slade, Vice-Chair;· Lynn Adams, Treasurer; and· Maria Daniels, Secretary.Volunteers are needed to work on the followingcommittees:· Development of Festival Sponsors, chaired by Lynn Adams and Wanda Slade;Operations;· Booths and Vendors, chaired by Wanda Slade;· Entertainment, chaired by Jon Ramos;· Public Relations, Social Media, and Festival Website, chaired by Shelley Henderson;· Coloring Contest, chaired by Maria Daniels; and· Volunteer Coordination, chaired by Marie Chance.If you would like to volunteer to help the FestivalCommittee, or you have questions, emailinfo@cypressfestival.comor next scheduled meeting of the festival committeewill take place onFeb. 18 at the Cypress Senior Center, 9031 Grindlay St. in Cypress. Meetings are open to the public, and those interested in volunteering are encouraged to attend.

Leaping Lizards! It’s Garrett Deagon in “Annie” at Segerstrom Center

The sun comes out “Tomorrow” and continues every evening (with several matinee performances for the younger set) from May 13 to 24, as the ever optimistic Musical “Annie” brings a smile, because “You’re Never Dressed Without a Smile” to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.The classic show “Annie” is as complete a package as was the 1977 Tony award winning musical. This latest tour adaption is styled more on the original then was the Broadway revival of the iconic musical. The only holdover from the New York production is Sunny the dog (AKA, Sandy). So here’s what to expect – great voices, endearing kids, an adorable dog and outstanding character actors.“Annie” is based on a 1924 comic strip that captures the political and economic essence of an era of financial collapse and still faces adversity with hope. Essentially, its creator Harold Gray used comic characters to comment on the state of the country. These fabulously funny characters live on today on stage and screen and continue to delight audiences of all ages.The eccentric personalities are part of “Annie’s” charm and the character actors embodying her wonderfully wacky world are the frosting on “Annie’s” cake. One of the outlandish ones is Garrett Deagon playing Rooster, the unscrupulous brother of Orphanage mistress Miss Hannigan.Deagon, a native Californian, fell into Musical Theater naturally. His mom sings and plays guitar and his dad was into improve theater. Dragon says “I worked around Orange County, after graduating from UC Irvine, as a hobby before I realized I could make money doing what I love so I moved to New York. I landed the gig in ‘Annie’ and now I’m just riding the wave and glad to be on the way to the Segerstrom to see my home town people.”Deagon is a comic character actor who says “I was inspired by the comic greats, think Charlie Chapin. I consider myself a singing character actor and I do a lot of physical comedy. I suppose I’m a theatrical ‘Jack of all trades’ because you have to nurture all the skills, even things like juggling. As an actor you expand your horizons so that you’re not limited.”The tall, wiry actor claims he had his eye on the part of Rooster in “Annie” because Rooster is a villain. He says “Daddy Warbucks brings Annie home and offers a $50,000 reward to her parents if they come forward. That’s a tempting amount of money back then, heck it still is for greedy scoundrels like my character Rooster who tried to dub Annie into thinking he’s her father.”Deagon is no stranger to villainy claiming “I like villains, my body type lends itself to these roles, especially Rooster because he is such a goofy villain. I live a wholesome life so I just let it all out on stage.”And let it out he does, as he with ditzy girlfriend Lily cavort on stage, madly singing and dancing with drunken Miss Hannigan to “Easy Street.” What Deagon likes most about rollicking Rooster is “his quick thinking, he’s always plotting and planning. He’s a quick witted rogue, but the thing that I least like is that he uses that wit to swindle a little girl.”As for Deagon’s big number,’ “Easy Street” he says “It’s so much fun. It’s more gritty and jazzy then all the upbeat, inspirational songs in this happy musical. Dancing to this song is really cool too. This is character dancing, not a ballet skipping across the stage. There’s lot of waving arms and comedic movement.”“Annie,” may be set in the Great Depression but it is a happy face love song to people’s resourcefulness and resilience. While “Easy Street” is definitely a ‘show-stopper there are many big familiar songs in “Annie” that will have audiences humming along such as “Maybe,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” and that national anthem to optimism “Tomorrow.” Deagon’s personal favorite tune is the energetic “Hard Knock Life” sung by the scene stealing orphan’s. He says “it’s not just the words but the instrumentation that is cool.”Speaking of kids, there’s an old truism that actors never like to share the stage with children or animals because they always steal the show. Deagon would agree, after all there are seven little girls and a dog on stage most of the time. That doesn’t bother him because he claims that it brings out the kid in him and that it is inspirational to the little girls have a ‘break-through moment on stage, saying “they always boost the big people actors morale because there’s never a dull movement with any of the youngsters. If a kid or Sandy misses a queue it’s O.K., we just cover it and that keeps everyone on their toes. It’s natural.”Deagon's favorite character isn’t the oblivious choice Miss Hannigan played by Lynn Andrews of whom he says “she has great comic timing and is the highlight of the show.” He continues “It’s the loveable nine year old Lily Mae Stewart playing Molly, the youngest orphan who steals my heart and the show. Well, along with that canine ham, she wishes it was a hambone, Sandy. They run this musical.”Rooster is the perfect fit for Deagon and he’s happy with the part. As for other roles, he says,“I like to think I’m a nice guy so if I were older I’d enjoy playing the kind hearted tycoon Daddy Warbucks. The character I relate to best is Miss Hannigan, she’s goofy and very funny but she takes care of the kids. There are many great parts for character actors, the roles are such cartoons.” This makes sense; the story is based on a 1930’s cartoon strip.Deagon says “There’s no show that will make you feel as good as ‘Annie.” The heartwarming and funny “Annie” is at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts May 13 to 24. For tickets and information: in person, at the Box Office, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, California; online at; by phone, 714-5582787.