Audience: S Araki


Bright Star

OMG! Bright Star was so amazing.

The topic matter of this show is not for the family, it is more for adult audience. Yes, it is very disturbing at times of what the story is telling but it is loosely based on a true story that happened. Real life stories are not all rosy and a fairy tale happy story. Reality is sometimes cruel, horrible, and sometimes they need to be told. I think this is what the writer of this musical was trying to express.

I think the cast and crew of Bright Star at the Gem Theatre did an amazing job of bringing this story to life. Yes, some of it was really hard to swallow... a baby dumped in the river to die. I hated how life was thought so unimportant as to just get rid of the problem like that. That's horrible! But it happens. There are people like that. We don't like it but there are people like that in real life.

Now as for performances, I think Nicole Cassesso was amazing how she played both the teenage girl and later the woman of the same character so convincingly. Rick Chambers is so athletic that it adds to the grandness of the show. Tad Fujioka was hilarious as he talks to the audience and makes remarks that is like, "oh, he did not just say that, did he?" The entire cast (and there were many young and new faces I didn't recognize from previous OMP shows) were very seasoned in their dancing and singing.

Although some scenes were hard to swallow due to the adult content, it was performed amazingly. Thank you, Damien for bringing this show to us. I had never heard about this musical, but it has opened my eyes to different and meaningful musicals I would not have otherwise seen.

Just a few words about the other audience reviewer. I don't agree with the previous audience reviewer. Not every show is for a family friendly audience. As a theater or any entertainment venue, you try to gear your subject matter to a variety of audience tastes. I volunteer for an ethnic film festival which is highly successful and has received is highly acclaimed for their presentation. The film subject matters are not always my taste but they are well made for sure.

That being said, I highly recommend this show but for a mature audience. Don't bring your children to this show.



Reflections On A Lifetime in Theater - Nicole Cassesso & Damien Lorton

I have been waiting for this show but I didn’t know what to expect. But I knew that it would be great because Damien and Nicole are outstanding talents and both of them on stage together would be even more amazing.

From the moment, Damien and Nicole took the stage, it was amazing. I love the way they presented this … on an onstage seating so it feels like you are in a private club complete with an onstage bar with a real live bartender ready to serve us a nice drink while we enjoyed the show.

Damien is not only an amazing director but at the core of it, he is an amazing storyteller. After all, isn’t that why he is such a successful director and brings us hit after hit of musical productions to us?… We are so lucky to have an amazing theater so close to home! I am so grateful that he brings not only shows that are popular but also some less well-known musicals that are so wonderful and deserves to be shared with audience everywhere.

He has introduced many shows I have never heard of but I loved every one of them.

Damien is an amazing singer and entertainer and I loved the selection of songs he chose to sing, especially the quick-paced, hilarious song from “The Producers” that he starred in, and the tender way he sang, “Something Good” from “The Sound of Music.”

I didn’t know that Nicole never sang the pivotal lead in a broadway musical until her debut in “Always Patsy Cline” at the Gem Theatre in 2016 as Patsy Cline. She sang a melody of hits and songs from “Always Patsy Cline” including “Stupid Cupid,” among other hits. Nicole can really belt it out. She has such a beautiful voice. I am glad she decided to share her God-given gift with everyone on stage.

I loved the stories the best, about how they started, the ups and downs of their road to a successful production company, how they found their home at The Gem Theatre, and so much more.

It was really a fun show. I enjoyed it so much. Highly recommended



West Side Story

Wow! I was speechless. Just saw one of my all-time favorite musicals, West Side Story at The Gem Theatre.
The musical was just so powerful. I was left in awe.

Tony, played by Brandon Taylor Jones, was portrayed beautifully as a caring, peaceful teen who falls in love with his former gang's rival, The Sharks’ gang leader.'s sister. Even though he was no longer part of The Jets, (his former gang), this rivalry of the two gangs makes the relationship between Maria and himself difficult. Brandon was impressive in his performance and especially wowed me with his ability to hold his notes on his musical numbers.

Erika Baldwin who played Maria has an angelic soprano voice and her acting had me in tears. Riff (Race Chambers) is a very athletic dancer and amazed me with the jump from the balcony to the stage in a scene in Act One. He also wowed me with how high he can leap up and his dancing ability. Nicole Cassesso couldn’t have been better casted as the feisty Anita, her dancing and singing just thrilling to experience.

Danny Diaz as Bernardo, the Sharks’ leader gave an amazing performance. The entire cast was excellent in their acting, dancing and singing. I especially liked the lighting and the set design, cleverly designed and constructed. The Gem Theatre is quaint and Director Damien Lorton’s amazing use of the aisles and including the audience as part of the show (Maria pointing the gun around the gangs and the audience), is simply brilliant.

I also love how this theater uses live bands in all of their productions. I know the cast recognizes the band but when they turn to the back of the stage and recognizes the band who performs offstage with impeccable timing (even though they do not see the action), I wonder if the audience knows what they are clapping their hands for.

The choreography was amazing because without the choreography West Side Story was just be a play, not the superb musical One More Productions has presented here. The costumes and wigs matches the show perfectly Love, love, love it. And to all of the production staff and volunteers, I say thank you for your part in this amazing show.

Instead of the usual individual bows, it ended with the entire cast bowing and only Brandon Taylor Jones (as Tony) and Erika Baldwin (as Maria) taking individual bows together. The audience, obviously moved by the performance they just witnessed, gave a standing ovation that lasted a very long time.

They played to a sold out opening weekend. So far, all of the shows as of 7/21/2019 have been sold out. I heard guests were turned away the first weekend because the shows were sold out.

Tell your friends about this show. It will be running until August 11th.
A must-see musical. Really.



15th Anniversary Hearts for the Arts Fundraiser Gala

Wow! From the moment you walked into the theater, you could feel the energy and excitement in the air. The event was packed, a SOLD-OUT event from what I heard. It was wall-to-wall people. I received a glass of champagne as I entered by a young GEM actor. The live music as I walked around was a pianist playing some really nice music. There were many delicious trays of appetizers, including deviled eggs, that were being served. At first, I couldn’t see the beautiful baskets displayed all around the lobby for the silent auction because of the crowd. There were some amazing items including a Disneyland Park Hopper, a spa pass, a girls night out, and even a doggie treats basket.

The GEM actors served as waiters and escorted us to the tables which were onstage. Damien and Nicole, the co-founders of One More Productions, welcomed us with some sweet stories of how they started. This was their 15th anniversary and you could tell that they put a lot of hard work getting this far.

As various courses were served, we enjoyed songs sung by Debbi Ebert who was fun and oh what a beautiful voice she had. She was very entertaining, too… The food was prepared by Head Chef Michael from Louie’s on Main Street. It was delicious and well prepared. The whiskey that was served with the dessert was a nice surprise.

This was so much fun and everyone in the room was so supportive of the theater. I especially liked it at the end, when all of the GEM actors sang a song led by Nicole and conducted by Damien. It’s so amazing and I was so thrilled to be part of the family that helped these future talents get the chance to experience and learn from the Gem Theater. This was an amazing experience and if you missed it, make sure to see the other musicals coming up in the season, to support them.



The Dottie Maraschino Show

It is simply amazing how Michael La Masa transforms into Dottie on this show with his unique sense of style and I totally was convinced Dottie was a female performer. Why? Because Michael not only is a superb actor with all the right curves and elegance of a beautiful woman but the songs he performs is simply divine. Dottie is playful with the audience, dressed in a lovely red floor-length gown and matching long gloves in the first act. I especially loved the California melody mash up “California, Here I Come” and “Hooray for Hollywood,” songs I have heard of before. Most of the songs were old melodies that I didn’t know or heard of at all. Some were songs I only knew the titles of. But they were beautifully done. “The Professional Show Business Comedy” by Dottie and Damien was so cute and hilarious, like a vaudeville comedy shtick. It had me laughing out loud. Then the audience got a little dirty for my taste and dirty jokes started to pop up. I didn’t care for that so much.

Michael La Masa is a GEM Theatre alum who was on “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in the early beginnings of the One More Productions. In the second act, Dottie sings songs about various places around the world. Again, I am not up with old classic musical tunes. Most of the songs were not familiar to me. And when asked to sing along with a show tune I didn’t know, it was a bit awkward to say the least. I guess these songs would be familiar to an older crowd (and there were quite a lot of older people in the audience), but all in all, the show was entertaining and the live music was amazing. The STEMS were amazing backup singers.

I recommend seeing this one.



Hello, Dolly!

This is one of my favorite classics. And I'm a Barbara Streisand fan. So the bar is already set high. But this production of Hello Dolly! made me a fan for life of The Gem Theatre. The talented performers, the lighting, the beautiful costumes, and amazing musicians are professional. The acting, singing and dancing is the best ever. And it's so affordable, free parking and close to home. Dolly played by Adriana Sanchez brings a perky, outrageousness that is so cute and funny. Every actor in the show from the leads to the supporting roles are so talented. I just loved the show. Can't wait to see more amazing musicals here.



The Producers

I was blown away by the professional quality of the show. The acting, singing, dancing & comedic timing was amazing. I couldn't help but burst out laughing. I like how the “fake news” was brought in to connect it to today's audience. Damien was brilliant and I'm so happy to see him take the stage this time. He has so much talent tio share with us all. I love, love, love this show and the cast.