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STAGE Celebrates in Style

STAGE luke The 25th annual Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (S.T.A.G.E.) came through with its promise of a super celebration with the stellar roster of entertainers (such as Lucas Grabeel, pictured here; photo by Chris Kane) who graced this year's benefit show, performing the incomporable songbook of George and Ira Gershwin classics. The event took place on March 21 and 22 at the Wlshire Theatre in Beverly Hills. Director David Galligan did his usual bangup job of staging the stylish production, along with the terrific conributions of musical directors Mary Ekler and Gerald Sternbach and choreographers Lee Martino, Dan Mojica, and Travis Payne.

Besides the rollicking song and dance numbers, there was a very moving snd well deserved presentation of the S.T.A.G.E. Producers Award to renowned writer-actor-director-producer-teacher Michael Kearns, one of the four co-founders of S.T.A.G.E. In his brief speech, Kearns made a poignant and eloquent tribute to the many talented artists of the entertainment community who have lost their lives due to HIV/AIDS complications. S.T.A.G.E. is the longest continuously running AIDS benefit event in the world.

On tasteful sets designed by Jimmy Coumo, the glittery array of talented singer-actor-dancers parlayed the golden-oldie Gershwin tunes into a richly entertaining evening. Loretta Devine's "Someone to Watch Over Me" was a sensation. The mutlitalented Grabeel, who young members of the audience ceertainly recognize form the High Schol Musical movies, tore into the exuberant number "I Can't Be Bothered Now" with showstopping panache. This charismatic young performer is a major star in the making.

SoCal Stages_blog Sam Harris' "Swanee" was a delight, and there was terrific fun in Mary Jo Catlett's comic routine "By Strauss" and "My One and Only Fling," featuring the charming and hilarious Forever Plaid guys. Jai Rodriguez' heartrending rendition of "But Not For Me" was splendid. It was a thrill to see the immortal Patricia Morison crooning "Embracable You." There were plenty of other fine turns in the spotlight from Vicki Lewis, Valarie Pettiford, Betty Garrett, Ian Abercrombie, and more.  Congrats to S.T.A.G.E. for its 25 years serving this most worthy cause while providing audiences with unforgettable entertainment, and to the wonderful performers and other individuals who so generously donate their time and talent.

--Les Spindle

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Lucas Gabreel performed the song "I can't be Bothered now".

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