Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Opened in 1925 and closed in 1987, the Fox Theatre had been nearly destroyed by the wrecking ball numerous times before a bunch of community activists convinced the city several years ago to help them to try to preserve the hulking beauty. It has been a long road, with the tarnished gem many millions of dollars away from being restored into what the Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation desires: a state-of-the-art, cultural-arts center in the heart of downtown Fullerton. But the effort to raise awareness—and dollars—continues, and in June, perhaps the most significant event at the Fox since its halcyon days of hosting premieres of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks films occurred inside the building. Some 250 people, all outfitted in white construction hats, watched an hour-long, musical-theater homage to films of the 1970s. Assembled by the Maverick Theater's Brian Newell, the multimedia spectacle was definitely rough around the edges, but the lights, sound, signs and, most important, energy imbued a spark of life into this old bird that had been missing for more than 20 years. There was a glint in the grand dame's eye, and anyone who was there walked out knowing that when (and if) the Fox ever does reopen, it is a very special place, indeed.
This bong-water-addled send-up of the notoriously bad anti-marijuana propaganda film was a complete ensemble effort, so singling out one actor in the highly talented cast might seem suspect. But Mike Martin, as Reefer Madness's narrator and oh-so-guilty conscience, was so funny and commanding that he nearly walked off with the show. Whether brandishing an enormous joint over his head as if he were Zeus threatening to fire lighting bolts down from Mount Olympus or breaking the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience, Martin injected an air of smiling menace that truly displayed that sometimes Satan does come as a man of peace.
Another ensemble effort, and another example of one cast member shining so brightly she nearly eclipsed the rest of the cast. Many an actress salivates over the chance to play Noises Off's blond, myopic, dumb-as-a-post bombshell. Jennifer Lyon looked the part, and she certainly possessed a deer-in-the-headlights demeanor. But what she accomplished with this fairly stock, if fun, character, was truly outstanding, transforming simple-minded Brooke into a ravishingly executed full-dimensional character that, contrary to everything that seemed to be happening onstage, may have been the smartest one in this wild farce. Many actresses have played this role and generated plenty of laughs, but few have ever understood, as Lyon did, that there can be far more to Brooke than meets the eye.
Since 1983, Santa Ana's St. Joseph Ballet Academy has been turning its mostly underprivileged 400 annual enrollees—ages 8 through high school—on to dance. Many have gone on to pursue careers in the highly competitive field. But less publicized are the academy's services that have nothing to do with ballon, cabrioles or èpaulement. Free academic help, including college-prep testing, is offered to all students, who arrive each afternoon at 3:30, after their regular classes. As a result, since 2005, every St. Joseph student has not only graduated from local high schools, but has also moved on to college coursework. California Institute of the Arts, Northern Arizona University and UCLA are among the institutions that this fall welcomed freshmen who had been members of the St. Joseph class of '09. Most had received academic scholarships, with Jessica Camacho leading the pack with her full-ride to Wellesley. Considering that many St. Joseph students come from Latino households in which parents work multiple jobs and do not have the time to help with homework, the feat is even more amazing. Perhaps the surrounding Santa Ana Unified School District, which has long struggled to raise its graduation rates, could learn something from St. Joseph. Surely the instructors would throw in a free pas de deux.
Greater California took almost five years between sophomore release Somber Wurlitzer and this year's All the Colors, and the result was a lush record that paid tribute to the best of power-pop and Byrds-y psychedelic rock, all while establishing its own distinct voice. Produced by Long Beach music mainstay Ikey Owens (Free Moral Agents bandleader/keyboard player for the Mars Volta), the album's a colorful celebration of '70s nostalgia that's represented even on the CD itself, which is designed to resemble a View-Master reel. Warm, summery tracks such as "All the Colors" and "Five Senses"—buoyed by intricate instrumentation that includes vibraphones, trumpets and a Hammond organ—will set up residence in your brain, and you'll welcome the company.
A gallery is as much a work of art as the pieces it displays, and the Hibbleton Gallery's glass and black-trimmed storefront, red door, blond-wood flooring, and clean white walls are a rigorous contrast to the stimulating underground art it exhibits. Swing by to see a show, attend poetry readings, or stop in for local music or movie nights, and you'll see that the work is chosen with real thought and a precise sense of aesthetics by curator Jesse La Tour. You'd be hard-pressed to find an Orange County gallery that's smarter than this year-old gem.