Spotlight Series: Meet Monica Ricketts Who Discovered the Magic of Performing Onstage as a Child and Never Looked Back


This Spotlight  focuses on Monica Ricketts who discovered the magic of performing onstage as a child and never looked back or wanted to do anything else. I first asked her what she would like readers to know about her theatrical background.


Monica Ricketts (Monica): As a performing artist, the phrase: “good things take time” is a sentence I’ve heard for many years, but hadn't truly applied to my own life until I became a professional actor. By nature, I am a person who longs for immediate results in a fast-paced and “goal oriented” way. But, as I reflect on my last 7 years here in LA, I can recognize the truth in the statement: PATIENCE IS KEY.

Growing up I had big dreams, but in my mind, they were only that: unattainable DREAMS. From the time I was eleven years old, I was heavily involved in my local children's theater in the small town of Carson City, NV and auditioned regularly to get a taste of performing on that stage. I was shy and quite insincere, but once I had a costume, makeup and a script to recite, I suddenly found my VOICE and was surrounded by people like me, who had strong imaginations and a playfulness that was dying to be released. Being a theater kid, I was finally given the freedom to express this part of myself and let me tell you... it felt MAGICAL. I no longer had to hide or shy away from my passion, but rather, I was encouraged to emote, to sing loudly, to be funny and CONNECT.

This passion of theater carried me through middle school, giving me a safe place to discover different sides of my identity, and later, I found myself in the drama program at Carson High School, where I treated my class like a college program. I knew from day one that I wanted to succeed and learn and grow, and, trust me: it was NOT always easy.  But I learned to not give up, and somehow got back on my own two feet with each challenge that came to me. When senior year arrived, I got an opportunity that began to shift this belief when I auditioned for the lead role of Emily Webb in the play Our Town. This was the most difficult piece of theater that I had ever tackled, and I prepared for it with much determination. And to my great surprise, I got cast! This was my first venture playing a role that was both challenging, and outside of my school or familiar children’s theater, and it proved to me that that THIS was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: I wanted to pursue an ACTING CAREER.

Shari Barrett (SB): That just proves it doesn’t matter at what age you know. But when you know, there is little else that speaks to your soul as deeply as acting does.

(Monica): Once I graduated high school, I decided to drive down to LA to audition to be a Main Stage Performer for Disney Cruise Line, and at only 18 years old, I got cast as Cinderella and Snow White in the musicals onboard the beautiful Disney Wonder Ship. It was my first professional acting/singing job and I was THRILLED. While onboard, I got to explore the beautiful landscapes of Alaska on the cruise itinerary and live my dream of performing for ten months!  From that moment on, I was even more determined to continue to pursue my acting career.

Shortly after, I got cast in a regional production of “Pinkalicious” at the North Coast Rep Theater in Solana Beach, CA, and then I moved to LA to be a full-time actor. I soon got involved with local theater companies, and got cast as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical at the Actors Repertory Theater of Simi Valley, and that role changed my life forever. I learned how to laugh at myself, take risks, and dive deep into the heartfelt story of self-acceptance and appreciation, which taught me so much. After that production, I got cast in Spring Awakening at the NoHo Arts Center as Ilse, Hope Cladwell in Urinetown the Musical at Cupcake Theater), Kate Monster in Avenue Q at Cupcake Theater, and Ado Annie in Oklahoma! at Candlelight Pavilion. Then I began to dip my toes in film and commercials.

It was an exciting time - but I kept on feeling a desire to travel and perform abroad. After three years of auditioning for Universal Studios Japan (a theme park in Osaka, Japan), I finally got cast as a Marilyn Monroe lookalike/actor. I have had the opportunity to professionally portray Marilyn since 2014, and I feel quite blessed to carry on her legacy in such a special way. Working in Osaka also gave me the opportunity to travel and experience such a beautiful country. I hiked Mt. Fuji, I appreciated the history, immersed myself in the culture and broadened my horizons. It was a 10-month contract, and while I was away, I discovered SO much about myself and grew not just as a performer, but as a person as well.

(SB): But of course, the Los Angeles Theatre community soon called you back!

(Monica): When I came back to LA, I decided to change my focus and REALLY put my heart and soul into musical theater, because I realized just how much it meant to me and that it is my true calling. And that’s when a huge transformation took place.

The year 2019 was a life changing one: it began with playing Martha May Whovier in the wonderful holiday event Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood. The shortly after, I got cast in Musical Theatre Guild’s production of Minnie’s Boys as Miss Taj Mahal, and also got cast in 5 Star Theatricals production of Matilda the Musical as the Acrobat/Ensemble. It was absolutely incredible to suddenly be working at a level I had only imagined before! These experiences truly shaped my career and I’m so thankful for them.

And that summer, I got the biggest opportunity I’ve ever received: I got to play Sleeping Beauty in Into the Woods at the Hollywood Bowl. Suddenly I was performing alongside Sutton Foster, Patina Miller, Gaten Matarazzo, Sierra Boggess and Skylar Astin, all of who I had admired and looked up to for so many years. It was unbelievably rewarding and an experience I’ll never forget and solidified that this is where I BELONGED. I also received my first Playbill Credit, which was a huge step for me.

Later that fall, I performed at A Noise Within in Pasadena, CA in a workshop called A Sad Tale’s Best for Winter which was a feminist take on Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, written by Anna Miles of “A Beating of Wings” an Artist Collective.

And finally, I had the accomplishment of auditioning and getting cast as Evelyn Nesbit (the girl on the Swing) in Ragtime the Musical at one of the highest acclaimed regional theaters in Southern California: Musical Theatre West. This all happened in ONE year - and my goal of focusing whole heartedly on my theater career TRULY paid off.

I am so thankful for the support of my family, friends and representation who always encourage me to never give up. It is where I feel most alive, and feel so blessed to share my passion with the world. I can’t imagine my life without it. So, after these 7 years, I now know for certain that the phrase “good things take time” is true - being persistent, working hard and not giving up is what dreams are made of - and with that, PATIENCE is key.

(SB): That is quite a roster in the musical theatre world! What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled in March 2020?

(Monica): I was currently involved with a staged reading of an original musical about the Kennedy Family: called Rose Marie: A Kennedy Life Interrupted. It is a show I have been workshopping with James Mellon and Margaret Owens for a few years now and we were about to perform it for the public. I was also in the midst of auditioning for a few productions: including Mamma Mia for McCoy Rigby Entertainment. The shutdown was communicated via email with the production of Rose Marie, and for Mamma Mia, it was also communicated via email as well as on Julia Flores Casting website. And as far as I know, both productions plan on postponing to a later date as I haven’t heard that either of them will be cancelled permanently.

(SB): Now that you have some time off, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Monica): I have been very blessed to have such a wonderful and supportive online community that constantly inspire me to be creative. I have an Instagram account (@monicadanae) where I often share performance videos, create costumes/vintage fashion, and share my daily life. It has helped me keep my artistic interests alive and well, and I am grateful to have other people to inspire me.

I have also received a few voiceover opportunities that I can record from home, as well as Disney-inspired collaborations that have been well received. I also write poetry and am in the process of getting my book published (@poetrybymonica), so sharing via social media has been very helpful. And I have been staying busy by creating princess videos for children through Wishing Well Entertainment, where I dress up as their favorite character and either make a pre-recorded video with a message/story/song or we talk via ZOOM or FaceTime.

(SB): And certainly, almost every little girl I have ever known has wanted to be a Disney Princess.  What other thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Monica): This is a time of uncertainty for many of us, and one that I couldn’t have possibly imagined. The world without theatre is much less colorful, and a whole lot lonelier. And I have to be honest; it hasn’t been easy at all. It’s been especially heartbreaking to watch theaters put their productions on hold, have to cancel, or have to close their doors entirely. But we must not lose hope. Seeing this beautiful community come together through social media and other outlets to support each other in any way they can has been inspiring.

What I’ve taken away from this situation is the extreme importance of the performing arts in our world, and I know that I will never take this art form for granted ever again. Theatre is MAGIC and I’m honored to be a part of it. I miss every aspect of it - from the auditions, rehearsals, tech week, performances and backstage memories and laughter. My hope is that we can bounce back with more strength and passion than ever before, because the world will definitely need a couple hours of theatre bliss inside a theater after the Earth heals from this trying time. And I am certain that we will prevail!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Shon LeBlanc, Owner of The Costume House in NoHo


This Spotlight focuses on Shon LeBlanc, owner of The Costume House in NoHo who had 15 shows on his costume design schedule cancel within a week due to the COVID-19 shutdown to “FlattenTheCurve” of infection.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Shon LeBlanc (Shon): As of this year, I have been doing this for 35 years and have been fortunate to work with amazing people who gave me a chance to do what I do and push me to do better.  Sometimes that process has been frustrating; but in the end, it was a good thing as it helped me grow to become a better designer.  And as of now, I have done over 400 shows from classics to world premieres.  I also taught costume design at Academy of Art College in SFO, as I do many schools here as I believe in educating our up and coming theatre folk.

I own The Costume House in NoHo and create a great variety of show ensembles with my talented staff, joined the Costume Designers Guild, and was lucky enough to do the Disney series Encore.  Now let me tell you, my theatre background came in handy since that show’s theme is “let’s do a musical in 5 days and present it in front of a live audience!”  So after doing Encore, nothing scares me!

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Shon): The amazing Human Interest Story at the Fountain was running and got suspended, but it will rise again!!! As a matter of fact, I lost 3 shows in one day, and by the end of the week about 15 productions as we had schools either postpone or just cancel all together. Some included The Share Project which cancelled their yearly show, while the next show at the Fountain, shows at Sierra Madre, McCoy Rigby Entertainment and the Lounge cancelled, and the Encore season 2 is on hold.

(SB): How were those shutdowns communicated with you, the cast, and production team?

(Shon): Most people either called directly or sent a full company email to let us know. But I can tell you it was not easy for them to tell us. Every Producer or Director was really shaken and devastated.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Shon): Yes, luckily Human Interest Story will continue once things are lifted, and Joe and Betty at the Lounge has been pushed but will be produced. McCoy Rigby Entertainment has plans to present their season with a later start date to be determined. I have no idea what will happen with the schools, but Sierra Madre Playhouse will not open until March next year. So that means no traditional Christmas Story there this year

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Shon): I had just moved the shop in February, and then just a month later the shutdown happened. So things are a mess there right now. I am spending time going over there to clean things up, but it’s going slowly. But to keep myself in creative mode, I have been posting pictures of hats, jewelry, purses, and ties on Facebook. And people seem to appreciate it, so that will continue.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Shon) I miss the work, my fellow designers, and the cast, which makes me realize I really didn't know how important this community is to me. I miss the magic that happens in it each and every day. I mean where else can you get an email from Del Shores asking if you might like to do his next show, or stand out on the street in Hollywood and have a phone conversation with Nia Peeples? And have Robert Waldon and Chi Chi LaRue come to your shop on the same day. After all, where else would you get to do Show Boat, the Grandfather of all musicals, and the world premiere of Athol Fugard’s Exits and Entrances at the same time?

I encourage you to think about all that you have been blessed with, especially all the amazing people you have worked with and the shows that made you proud. The stinkers... get a laugh out of that!  Remember, we WILL be back together soon.

Please everyone...keep in touch.! Find me on Facebook at Shon LeBlanc; and follow The Costume House, which is located at 13222 Raymer Street, Suite A, in North Hollywood, CA. 91605. Contact me there for all your costume needs at 818-508-9933.  And remember we will all be ready to work once this is over. Please reach out for help when you need it and support your friends when they reach out to you. We are all in this together.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Multi-Talented Triple-Threat Actor John Devereaux from Hamilton Touring Company


This Spotlight focuses on John Devereaux, a multi-talented triple-threat actor who I shared the stage with in Little Shop of Horrors at the Westchester Playhouse after he arrived in Los Angeles from Houston, and who has gone on to charm audiences across the country in touring productions of Rent and Hamilton. John also appeared locally in Dreamgirls at the Pasadena Playhouse, Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, and during the Hollywood Fringe Festival in the world premiere of Recorded in Hollywood, among many other productions.

I was so looking forward to seeing him take the stage in Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre soon, but unfortunately the national tour in which he was appearing had to shut down along with the rest of the world’s theaters. So what’s he up to now?


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

John Devereaux as Collins in "Rent"

John Devereaux (John): I grew up in Houston, Texas and moved to LA in 2012 to continue my career in performance, beginning with studying Improv at The Groundlings. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a number of professional productions working with some of the best in the area, including McCoy/Rigby Entertainment, Center Theatre Group, and 5-Star Theatricals. I’ve also toured with the 20th Anniversary Tour of Rent and currently with the Angelica Tour of Hamilton.

John Devereaux on the Angelica Tour of "Hamilton"

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(John): I was in Miami with the Angelica Tour of Hamilton when we got word that our shows would be postponed/cancelled 

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(John): I do believe our company managers did the best they could in the moment with everything going on and there is probably nothing more challenging than managing a touring theatre company. After we had two meetings after two of our evening shows, we were implementing new procedures to keep the company safe (not doing backstage tours, not signing at the stage door, etc.), which left us wondering what was going to happen to the rest of our tour schedule. Then the cancellation of our next city, Jacksonville, was announced publicly on the Hamilton Instagram story before we found out ourselves. Knowing there was work to be done during that time, including the spread of information, I can see why we might have been the last to know. It was just a sad moment personally for me.

John Devereaux backstage in "Dreamgirls" at the Village Theatre

(SB):  Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(John): Dates are being rescheduled as word comes in. It may not be the company/tour that was originally supposed to do the engagement, but Hamilton will still happen in those cities at a later time.

(SB): That’s great to know that I may get the chance to see you in the show then! Were there other future productions on your schedule also affected by the shutdown?

(John): None as of yet. As of March, I’m scheduled to stay on the Hamilton tour at least through June 2021. But for now, I am coping with all of this by creating bits of humor online. Funny videos mostly on Instagram.

John Devereaux in"Spamilton" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

(SB): I have been enjoying many of them on your Facebook page! It’s great to see so many creative people bringing humor to the forefront during this pandemic.  

(John): To members of the Los Angeles Theatre community and those across the country, please remember our industry will bounce back. Ours is a business of escapism, people are going to need something else than a screen to entertain them once this is all done. We’re going to get through this.

In the meantime, take a breath. Spend time with the people you love or doing the other things you love or finding new things to love! To those for whom performance was their escape, it’s okay to feel that emptiness. It’s okay if there’s nothing there to replace it right now because this is a time to focus on the other parts of our lives that inform our performances; our art. Life is but an opportunity to be and as long as there is breath in our lungs, we can breathe life into anything.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



The Winners at the 50th Annual 'LA Drama Critics Circle' Awards Ceremony Held at the Pasadena Playhouse

The 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019. (Photo by Better Lemons)

The LA Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) held their 50th Annual Awards ceremony at the landmark Pasadena Playhouse where Better Lemons was in attendance to live tweet the evening's festivities and entertainment, Monday, April 8, 2019.

Wenzel Jones presided over the festivities, and Christopher Raymond served as music director with musical performances by Kristin Towers Rowles, Constance Jewell Lopez, and Zachary Ford.

There were four recipients of the 2018 Production award: Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Repertory), Come From Away (Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre), Cry It Out (Echo Theater Company), and Sell/Buy/Date (Geffen Playhouse / Los Angeles LGBT Center).

Better Lemons' Chief Operating Officer Stephen Box (Left,) Publisher Enci Box, and Playwright & Screenwriter Steven Vlasak at the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019.

The Antaeus Theatre Company received the most awards, with three of its productions winning a combined seven trophies. Celebration Theatre's Cabaret took home six awards, the most awards for a single production, including one for Revival. Tom Hanks received a lead actor award for his performance as Falstaff in The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of Henry IV in a competitive category. 17 awards were presented in other categories with 17 productions taking home the honors.

In its inaugural this year, the Theater Angel award was presented to Yvonne Bell in recognition of her "long career devoted to fostering theater in Los Angeles ... [and] successful fundraising campaigns" to help open several cultural institutions, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art and the California Science Center.

Eight previously announced special awards were presented, including the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater to Sacred Fools Theater Company and the Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band.

The LADCC was established in 1969  “to foster and reward merit in the American Theater and encourage theater in Los Angeles,” the LADCC site quotes from an announcement in the L.A. Times of that year.

Here is the list of award recipients as announced during Better Lemons' live coverage on Twitter:

Featured photo by Enci Box - Theatre patrons in the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse for the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, Pasadena, California, Monday, April 8, 2019. Enci Box contributed to this story and photos.


The Pasadena Playhouse To Host This Year's Drama Critics Circle Awards

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) has begun the celebration of its 50th anniversary by announcing its nominations for the year 2018 (Dec. 1, 2017 – Nov. 30, 2018). The Awards will take place on Monday, April 8, 2019, at the historic Pasadena Playhouse, in Pasadena's Playhouse District.

Although the Pasadena Playhouse will be hosting the LADCC Awards for the very first time, returning once again is onstage host Wenzel Jones of IMRU, the LGBTQI Radio News Magazine on KPFK 90.7, as well as local composer-conductor Christopher Raymond as musical director for his second consecutive year. The entire production will be in the hands of stage manager Heatherlynn Gonzalez, veteran of more than a decade's worth of LADCC service.

One or more plaques will be presented in each of 18 categories and seven special awards will also be presented. Topping the nominations, the Antaeus Theatre Company has a total of 12 in various categories, including for the McCulloh Award for Revival (plays written between 1920 and 1993) for their productions of both "The Hothouse" and "The Little Foxes."A Noise Within has 10 nominations, including for Production for "A Picture of Dorian Gray." The Center Theatre Group has a total of nine nominations, including for Production of "Come From Away." Both the South Coast Repertory and East WestPlayers have seven nominations each. And the Celebration Theatre and the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, each with seven and six nominations, respectively, are uniquely both up for the McCulloh Award for Revival for their individual productions of "Cabaret."

Sergio Trujillo, is nominated for Choreography for both "Ain't Too Proud," Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre and "On Your Feet," Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Allison Dillard, is nominated for her work in Costume Design for both "Bliss, Or Emily Post Is Dead," Moving Arts and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," Celebration Theatre. Set Designer John Iacovelli, a winner of multiple LADCC awards for Scene Design, is nominated for "The Little Foxes", Antaeus Theatre Company.

The LADCC special award recipients are as follows:

  • The Polly Warfield Award for an excellent season in a small to mid-size theatre will be awarded to Echo Theater Company.
  • The Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play goes to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band, originally produced by South Coast Repertory.
  • The Kinetic Lighting Award for distinguished achievement in theatrical design goes to sound designer Robert Oriol.
  • The Milton Katselas Award for distinguished achievement in direction goes to Cameron Watson.
  • The Gordon Davidson Award for distinguished contribution to the Los Angeles theatrical community will be presented to Native Voices at the Autry.

More of the complete list of nominees for the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for theatrical excellence in 2018 is here.

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle was founded in 1969. It is dedicated to excellence in theatrical criticism, and to the encouragement and improvement of theatre in Greater Los Angeles.

The Pasadena Playhouse is at 39 S El Molino Ave, in Pasadena. Standard general admission tickets (a small service fee applies) are $40 and are now available. All purchased tickets will be held at Will Call and tickets are also available at the door. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a pre-show reception in the courtyard. The show will commence at 7:30 p.m. and nominees will receive instructions via email regarding how to claim complimentary tickets.

For all other inquiries, email: criticsawards2019@gmail.com.


PODCAST: An Interview with Mary Bridget Davies of 'A Night with Janis Joplin'

In this podcast, Tony-nominated Mary Bridget Davies of the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment Production's A Night with Janis Joplin talks on becoming a mother, performing from an early age, her work with Playwright and Director Randy Johnson, the evolution of the show from its roots to its Broadway stint, playing with Robby Krieger from The Doors, working on a new album with her band, bringing enigmatic and iconic Janis Joplin back to life once again at the La Mirada Theatre, and "singin' the blues."

Photo by Jason Niedle
Mary Bridget Davies stars in her Tony-nominated performance as Janis Joplin in the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment Production's A Night with Janis Joplin.

A Night with Janis Joplin features a healthy selection of Joplin hits—especially those with Big Brother and the Holding Company - as well as songs by such irreplaceable artists as Bessie Smith, Odetta, The Chantels, Nina Simone, and the late Aretha Franklin - the latter icons all interpreted by four additional vocalists in the show, along with a live band and horn section to help recreate a repertoire of blues gems.

Although she enjoys singing fan favorites like “Piece of My Heart” or “Cry Baby,” Davies said in the interview that she finds her best challenge with Joplin's version of “Maybe,” which she sings in the second act, and with “Ball and Chain.”

Born eight years after Joplin died of a heroin overdose in Los Angeles, Davies has been interpreting Joplin since she was in her teens. Like Joplin, whose Port Arthur, Texas vernacular Davies has mastered - she studied hours of archival footage of Joplin's interviews - she began with listening to and singing Joplin's songs and vocal stylings with her mother in her native Cleveland Ohio. Later, she would do more research and read the collection of Janis Joplin's letters and other correspondence that say so much more about Janis Joplin than any journalist ever has. (Did you know she was a painter?)

The award-winning actress has studied improv at The Second City (in Cleveland at the time) and is a member of the Something Dada Improv Group in Cleveland as well. In 2005, she toured with the production of Love, Janis, and has toured in Europe with Janis Joplin's original band, “Big Brother and the Holding Company.”

Davies has since received a Tony Award nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance as Joplin in A Night with Janis Joplin at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in 2014, as well as winning the Theater World Awards and Theater World Awards for that year. Davis' band, The Mary Bridget Davies Group, released their album “Wanna Feel Somethin” in 2012, where she is currently working on writing songs for their next album.

A Night with Janis Joplin opens Friday, September 21, 2018, and runs through October 7, 2018, at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.  Visit their website for showtimes and tickets.

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