TODAY! Shows Around the Southland to Bring Music into Your Holidays

Bob's Holiday Office Party

TODAY! Insurance agent Bob Finhead's whacked out friends and clients stop by his Neuterburg, Iowa (population 382) office for their annual holiday bash. The town mayor, the sheriff, the twin farmer sisters, the stoner, the town alcoholic, the town "party girl" and the pastor's "emotionally disturbed" wife have already RSVP'd for this year's event, but Bob has dreams of a bigger life and wants to escape their narrow-minded thinking.
Last show is today, Thursday, December 20, 2018.
Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. Los Angeles, CA. 90039

The Black Hole: A new Alt-Holiday Comedy

TODAY! Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group is presenting Michael Sargent's "off-beat holiday comedy about a new young hire who throws things out of orbit at The Black Hole – an underground club for men in L.A. just 12 days to 'X-Mas 1984.' Can longtime lovers Fred & Joey fight gravity? Or will they be sucked into The Black Hole?" Recommended for Ages 16 and up.
Last show is today, Thursday, December 20, 2018.
Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group at Z.J.U. 4850 Lankershim Blvd North Hollywood CA 91601 playing until Thursday, December 20, 2018.

Bob Baker's Nutcracker

"Bob Baker's adaptation of the ballet classic and one of Bob Baker Marionette Theater's most beloved shows since it's opening in 1969! For the first time outside of its original location, the imagination dwells in a space specially outfitted for optimal holiday and puppetry joy." The Bob Baker Marionette Theater will feature over 100 handcrafted puppets from the Sugarplum Fairy and her Promenading Cakes, through the Waltzing Flowers, and all "the wonders beyond the Mysterious Door!"
Now through December 30, 2018.
The Pasadena Playhouse  - 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

A Christmas Carol

A Carol Christmas is a new musical version of the immortal Charles Dickens classic set in America right now. Instead of a man named Scrooge we have a woman named Carol, a successful, driven, demanding, Home-Shopping Network maven who cares nothing for Christmas and wants her staff to work right through the holidays. All of the characters you know and love — Marley, Cratchit, Fred, and Tiny Tim are women in this fun, charming, and touching family-friendly new musical."
Playing now until December 30, 2018.
The Group Rep/The Lonny Chapman Theatre - 10900 Burbank Blvd
N. Hollywood, CA 91601

A Christmas Story

TODAY! In 1983, the movie "A Christmas Story" was released--now a classic in its genre-- was based on radio personality and author Jean Shepherd's first volume of stories, his 1960's radio shows, and his iconic character, Ralphie Parker. Shepherd wrote the screenplay with Leigh Brown and director Bob Clark [best known for the Porky's trilogy] Now the Sierra Madre Playhouse is presenting the stage adaptation of A Christmas Story as its holiday attraction. The Parker family gets its Christmas tree. Ralphie's dad, The Old Man, wins a very special prize in a contest. Ralphie is pursued by a girl in his class. Ralphie is pursued by the class bully. And, most famously, Ralphie sets off on a campaign to acquire his most-desired Christmas present, a Red Ryder BB air rifle.
Playing today, Thursday, December 20, through December 30, 2018.
“You'll put your eye out, kid.”
The Sierra Madre Playhouse - 87 West Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024

It's a Wonderful Life

This 1940's live radio-style version of Frank Capra's timeless classic comes to life onstage at the Pasadena Playhouse this year, with Simon Helberg "as the down-on-his-luck George Bailey whose guardian angel shows him what his town would have been like had he'd never been born."
Playing now until Sunday, December 23, 2018
The Pasadena Playhouse  - 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

The Nutcracker

The Los Angeles Youth Ballet will tell the story of The Nutcracker, originally written by E.T.A. Hoffmann and ballet score by Tchaikovsky, whose ballet "received its debut over 100 years ago in 1892." Spend an evening with family for this enchanting Holiday classic in the one of the City of Glendale's treasured landmark theatres.
Playing Friday, December 21, 2018 – Sunday, December 23, 2018.
Alex Theatre - 216 N Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203

The Nutcracker

Los Angeles Ballet will present their annual production of The Nutcracker. "One snowy Christmas Eve, at a great townhouse where a party is in full swing, local magician Herr Drosselmeyer arrives with gifts for the children, including a wooden nutcracker for Clara, the oldest child. When the clock strikes midnight, an adventure begins and the Nutcracker comes to life, leading our heroine Clara into a war between mice and tin soldiers, and into the enchanted Land of Sweets where a dance festival awaits them as a reward for defeating the dastardly mouse army." Set to Tchaikovsky's iconic score, The Nutcracker features original choreography by Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, set design by Catherine Kanner, and costume design by Mikael Melbye.
Playing December 22 - 24, 2018, with two shows each day.

UCLA Royce Hall - 10745 Dickson Court, Los Angeles, CA 90095

Santasia

SANTASIA – A Holiday Comedy” by Shaun and Brandon Loeser, is celebrating its 19th year, the off-Broadway "laugh out loud annual holiday romp, is the perfect blend of Yuletide snark and sentiment, and has been compared to “The Carol Burnett Show”, “The Kids in the Hall”, “In Living Color”, “Saturday Night Live” and Vaudeville. This multi-media holiday special has it all including classic Rankin and Bass Claymation inspired movies, musical parodies, and heartfelt holiday moments.
Playing now until December 23, 2018.
Whitefire Theatre - 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks 91423

Special

Presented by Ol' Bait Shop Productions is the World Premiere comedy, "Special," that commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the worst variety show in television history with a behind-the-scenes imagined look of how "The Star Wars Holiday Special" came to be. Riding on the coattails of what was at that point the most popular movie of all time, it featured appearances by cast members, including Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, with guest stars, a "holographic" Jefferson Starship, a cartoon sequence with the first appearance of Boba Fett, a celebration of the Wookiee holiday Life Day (because there's no Christmas in Space), and Imperial Storm Troopers. What could possibly go wrong? Everything.
Playing now through January 13, 2019.
Theatre of NOTE - 1517 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Sugar Plum Fairy

"Sugar Plum Fairy is a thoroughly original story about a 12-year-old girl who dreams of dancing the lead in The Nutcracker with a cast of characters you won't forget," said Ashton Marcus. "...an offbeat holiday treat that Adults and Kids love! Join in if you like, (think G-rated “Rocky Horror” fun) and don't forget to wear your ugly holiday sweater, tutu or silly Hanukah hat. It's 75 minutes of madcap merriment that will send you home smiling!"
Playing now until Sunday, December 23, 2018.
Skylight Theatre - 1816 1/2 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

The Wonderful Winter of Oz

Panto at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium! The Lythgoe Family Panto will take you to the enchanted land of Oz through the British tradition of pantomime, in a retelling of the L. Frank Baum family classic, where audiences participation is part of the show, promising an "evening full of song, dance and holiday merriment, with Kermit the Frog as the Wizard!"Today, Thursday, December 20, 2018, through Sunday, December 30, 2018.
Pasadena Civic Auditorium - 300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

Inside the Creative Minds Behind MEMORY 5D+ - A Harmonic, Yet Explosive Experience

I had the pleasure of sitting down with four of the creatives of MEMORY 5D+ - AN IMMERSIVE MUSICAL ODYSSEY TO A DISTANT PAST at their satellite production offices in Alhambra - from China, its creator Ulan Xuerong, musicians Erkin Abdulla and Lucina Yue; and from California, writer John Hughes.

With the wonderful assist of Eileen Cheng who translated for the three Mandarin artists, we were able to get noteworthy insights into the makings of MEMORY 5D+, which will be having its world premiere at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium May 26 and 27.

Ulan, the founder and current general manager of her production company China Film HuaTeng Movies & TV Culture Company (CFH) shrewdly sought out contributors familiar with Western tastes in entertainment to introduce the Yin-&-Yang-rooted, classic Mandarin arts to non-Asian audiences. Quite evident in the round table interview, just in first-impression appearances, the cultural mix from traditional Mandarin to blended Chinese and Western to Americanized Western - a perfect example of Yin & Yang in everyday life. Ulan (the total female Yin) carried a lovely air of guarded formality dressed most stylishly from her striking jade jewelry to her shiny silver oxfords. Lucina and Erkin possessed a open ease in their respective smart, fashionable attire. John (the total male Yang), accustomed to working behind the scenes as a senior visual effects artist at Dreamworks Animation, attended in comfortable casual jeans and a Oakley-logo-ed tee. The words 'harmony' and 'love' (and the ideas behind them) were brought up repeatedly in their descriptions of MEMORY 5D+.

The Tao philosophy of Yin & Yang serves as the basis of MEMORY 5D+, with complementary opposites, that when combined, fuse to form a stronger unit of cosmic strengths.

Yin's attributes include qualities of darkness, softness, femininity, being cold and wet; and is associated with water, earth, moon and nighttime. Yang - hardness, masculinity, being hot and dry; and is linked with fire, sky, the sun and daytime.  Results are harmonic against the background of universal creation, the opposing forces combining to form the mountains and rivers and other harmonic elements of nature.

The title itself MEMORY 5D+ refers to Ulan's recollections of her beloved Chinese cultural heritage, presented in five dimensions via creative designer Tom E. Marzullo's multi-dimensional, immersive, state-of-the-art concert production techniques (including high-def digital video and lighting, surround sound, lasers and aromatic sensory technology). Don't worry, no 3-D glasses needed to be worn. But do expect show-stopping visuals from Tom (whose own impressive resumé includes designing and directing international tours for Justin Bieber, Prince, Luther Vandross and KISS).

Ulan trained as a child to become an actress. "Acting is in my blood."The beginning seeds of MEMORY 5D+ came to Ulan decades before, but she finally started working to realize her vision just three years ago. Ulan wanted to share her centuries-old Chinese tradition via music, dance and visuals. Ulan founded CFH to implement her worldwide delivery of her proud, creative histories. Ulan chose the specific musical instruments in the show with their very distinctive sounds as to how they fit into enhance the MEMORY 5D+ story line. Ulan's hoping the Pasadena audiences like the show. "It would mean we did it right!" Afterwards, CFH plans to tour MEMORY 5D+ internationally.

John credits yun-qi (Chinese for 'luck') and networking (between friends and friends of friends), that put him together with Ulan. One day, John came home to find his wife (who's Chinese to his Liverpudlian lineage) chatting with Ulan in their living room. After hearing Ulan's passionate, very clear description of what was to become MEMORY 5D+, John made the easy choice of signing on to script and shape Ulan's vision. "Although it's a show focused on traditional Chinese music, it's also highly visual in a way that I haven't really seen before." John has sharpened his experienced eye for visuals working on big Hollywood productions (including Kung Fu Panda 2, Moana, I Am Legend, Spider-Man 3). Actually, the choice wasn't that easy as he had to decline work on the Wreck-It Ralph sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.

John describes MEMORY 5D+ as immersive. "You're in the environment embedded in the visual performance of the show, a visual experience that's larger than the stage, surrounding you, above you, behind you, filling the auditorium." In the process of adapting this unique Chinese show for Western audiences, John changed as little as possible, instead adding visual touches throughout to clarify the communication of the eastern Taoist philosophy of Yin & Yang for Westerners' more accessible comprehension. In MEMORY 5D+, Yin and Yang transform into competing characters for the affection of a young maiden. The 'good guy' and 'bad guy' don't 'win' in the absolute sense. In MEMORY 5D+, love and harmony remain the prominent through-line with no winners or losers. John commented, "My job was quite simple." He made simple adjustments to the order of the twelve segments of the show. "Lots of the elements were already in place and worked very well." Despite also being the visual effects artist for Oscar-winning animations Frozen and Big Hero 6, John left all visual effects decisions to Tom and his live concert expertise.

Ulan credits John with making her original ideas more dramatic, more striking; making the storyline more consistent in reaching the hearts of the audience.

The 43-member cast of MEMORY 5D+ will most skillfully demonstrate examples of Chinese performance arts - Chinese acrobatics, Dolan Muqam (an integration of ethnic group Uygur's singing, dancing and music), Khoomei (Tuvan throat singing), Shadow Play, Suzhou Pingtan (storytelling and ballad singing), Tibertan folk songs and Urtin Duu (Mongolian Long Tune).

As part of this four million dollar production, seventeen of China's revered musical performers (considered national treasures) will perform their artistry on rare traditional instruments. Test your own musical instrument acumen on how many of these musical devices from Chinese history you have heard of. MEMORY 5D+ will include guqin (Chinese zither), ‘cowboy' flute, gijak, guzheng, konghou, morin khuur (Mongolioan horsehead fiddle), pipa (Chinese lute), Tuva drum (Shamanic drum), and two chordophones - Topshur and Yekele.

Lucina Yue will be playing the Konghou (Chinese harp). Lucina has mastered four different types of harps - the modern Konghou, the old Konhou, the western harp, and the triple harp. A former actress, Lucina's virtuosity of the contemporary Chinese Konghou has led her to many firsts - performing at the Lincoln Center, at the United Nations headquarters and at New York Fashion Week.  Lucinda also has the honor of being the first Konghou performer to appear on Chinese stamps.

Guitarist Erkin Abdulla will be performing his original compositions in MEMORY 5D+, combining his Flamenco proficiency with the essence of Uygur's Dolan Muqam, Turkish folk songs and hints of Brazilian samba and Southern American Blues. Erikin continues striving to make folk music more inclusive, more modern integrating additional international musical elements and ancient Chinese musical forms into western styles. Erkin entertained with a sampling of Turkish folk songs at the press round table.

For an insight to where in the Yin & Yang scale you yourself might fall in, come with an open mind to MEMORY 5D+ - AN IMMERSIVE MUSICAL ODYSSEY TO A DISTANT PAST at the Pasadena Auditorium May 26th or 27th and let it be filled with new knowledge of a culture you might have thought you've known all about. For an unique exposure to centuries of Chinese culture, concise and abridged, combined with an immersive light and sensory show experience, log onto Memory5D.com and all Ticketmaster outlets for available tickets.