The Ahmanson Stage. Image courtesy of Facebook.

Holiday Cheer; High Camp; HIV/AIDS Mass

“Come from Away,” through January 6, 2019 at the Ahmanson Theatre, will restore your faith in humanity. This uplifting musical tells the story of the international plane passengers stranded after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and how a small town welcomed them during the crisis.

American airspace was closed in response to the terror attack, and 38 planes were diverted to an unused airport in Newfoundland that had served as a fueling station before the era of transatlantic jet flights.

The town of Gander, with a population of about 9,000 people, rallied mightily, rapidly and efficiently to set up shelters, including their own homes, to house, feed, clothe and comfort the 7,000 passengers, flight crews and animals who were forced to stay onboard for 28 hours before being allowed out. They were not permitted to return to the US for five days. Other than planes, there really was no way out. And until they were on the ground, they did not know what had happened in New York and DC.

This musical starts hard and fast with “Welcome to the Rock,” and the cast deftly and seamlessly shifts between portraying multiple local characters from Gander and the passengers and flight crews. Although a few are composites, key characters were based on real people.

Beverly Bass (Becky Gulzvig), the first female pilot to helm a US air carrier, sings her triumphant story. Hannah (Danielle Thomas), a mom whose firefighter son perished in the collapse of the towers, bonds with Gander Academy director Beulah (Julie Johnson), whose son is also a firefighter. Divorced Texan Diane (Christine Toy Johnson) and British conference-goer Nick (Chamblee Ferguson) meet, fall in love and get married.

Ten years after the actual events, the passengers returned to Gander for an anniversary celebration with the people who did their best to make them feel at home during a terrible time. The creators of the musical, David Hein and Irene Sankoff, attended and turned their amazing stories into this wonderful musical.

In an era when children are being teargassed at our southern border, the story of welcoming strangers with an open heart strikes a meaningful chord.  Find tickets and more information here: https://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/ahmanson-theatre/2018-19/come-from-away/

DIXIE’S TUPPERWARE PARTY

She’s a trailer trash white lady from Mobile, Alabama with huge red hair, three ex-husbands (all dead) and three kids, and she’s a demon at selling Tupperware—even though she calls it plastic crap—for real.

At “Dixie’s Tupperware Party,” a guest production at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through December 30, actor Kris Andersson is Dixie in drag, but he really was one of the nation’s top sellers of Tupperware. Dixie still is.

Dixie Longate actually sells Tupperware at these staged parties. But it’s like no other Tupperware party you (or your grandma) ever attended.  It’s high camp funny, raunchy with lots of improvisation involving audience members, and quick-witted, rapid-fire patter by Dixie. After the show, you can purchase Tupperware in the lobby or in the comfort of your own home—along with the program you’ll receive a catalog and order form.

It’s a laugh riot. That cupcake caddy that doubles as a sheet cake carrier? Yeah, you can put 34 Jello shots in there, enough to get through a Church social or PTA meeting. And the sippy cup? You’ll never again spill a drop of your martini while you’re driving.

Dixie also pays tribute to Brownie Wise, who created the concept of Tupperware Parties, became a VP at the company and a pioneering business woman in the 1950s. She sold more Tupperware through parties than the company itself did.

This is a show that will keep spirits high (especially if you put some in the sippy cup!). For tickets and info visit: http://www.dixiestupperwareparty.com.

A CHORAL RESIDENCY AT SMC

The Santa Monica College Music Department has been hosting a Choral Scholars Residency with the award-winning professional choir, Chorosynthesis Singers, all week at the SMC Performing Arts Center. There’s still one free event, open to the public, today at 12:45 pm at The Edye, a voice masterclass with guest artist Dr. Stephen Lancaster, Baritone, featuring SMC students.

Dr. Lancaster will be featured Saturday, 12/8 and Sunday, 12/9 at the Broad Stage, as the Chorosynthesis Singers, the SMC Concert Chorale, and SMC Chamber Choir collaborate in a World AIDS Day Celebration concert, performing the world premiere of Seven Living Words of the HIV Positive, by Thomas Schuttenhelm, a work that gives voice to the emotional spectrum of a gay man’s experience of HIV.

The premiere is followed by a collage of collaborative performances in the Contemporary Mass for Volatile Times, which juxtaposes modern music between movements of William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices to explore the context in which composers have always written contemporary socially-conscious music.

The program includes with the ever-popular SMC Concert Chorale’s traditional festive sing-along to favorite holiday and Beatles tunes. (Tickets are $25; $10 students/seniors; first 100 student tickets for each performance are free and available at the SMC Music Office in Room 211 of the Performing Arts Center.)

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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