Anaheim High’s ‘Failure: A Love Story’ spins spellbinding tale

  • John N (Abel Rosas, center) is beckoned by everyone he has ever loved to join them in the great beyond in Anaheim High School’s production of “Failure: A Love Story.” (Photo courtesy of Teffanie Amador)

    John N (Abel Rosas, center) is beckoned by everyone he has ever loved to join them in the great beyond in Anaheim High School’s production of “Failure: A Love Story.” (Photo courtesy of Teffanie Amador)

  • Mortimer Mortimer (Lorenzo Belmontez) and Gertrude Fail (Alexia Rosa) argue about love in Anaheim High School’s production of “Failure: A Love Story.” (Photo courtesy of Teffanie Amador)

    Mortimer Mortimer (Lorenzo Belmontez) and Gertrude Fail (Alexia Rosa) argue about love in Anaheim High School’s production of “Failure: A Love Story.” (Photo courtesy of Teffanie Amador)

  • December (Litzy Espinoza, left) and Mae ( Wendy Medina) in Anaheim High School’s production of “Failure: A Love Story.” (Photo courtesy of Teffanie Amador)

    December (Litzy Espinoza, left) and Mae ( Wendy Medina) in Anaheim High School’s production of “Failure: A Love Story.” (Photo courtesy of Teffanie Amador)

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Set in the postwar decade of the 1920s, Anaheim High School’s “Failure: A Love Story” follows the Fail family as they explore loss not only as a cause of suffering and grief, but as an event that can bring loved ones together in remembrance of a life.

Lorenzo Belmontez delivers a charming performance as Mortimer Mortimer, the confident entrepreneur who is “so famous he is named after himself.” Whether flashing self-assured smirks or making heroic promises to his brides-to-be, Belmontez drives every scene with a strong voice and vivid facial expressions.

Stephanie A. Chavez is the Disney-princess-esque Nelly Fail, the youngest of the Fail sisters and the first of Mortimer’s love interests. Sporting a lightness in her step and voice, Chavez  prances around the stage with a sweet innocence that makes her death all the more sudden and tragic.

Ashley Dourado is the loud, boisterous Jenny June, the second Fail sister, with the heart of gold. Dourado demonstrates a fearlessness as an actor and as a character as she leaps and bounds with a vigor and energy.

The makeup design by Vicki Sundgren, Julia Mora, Bianca Trujillo and Juan Munoz puts a steampunk spin on the production. Airbrushed, intricately-drawn cogs and gears mark the skins of the actors and actresses reflecting the industrial times of the 1920s era, while eyeshadows and lipsticks add splashes of color in the otherwise bleak, monochromatic world.

As one character says in the play: “Just because something doesn’t last doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great success.” The same can be said for Anaheim’s High School’s production “Failure: A Love Story” – a play that leaves you with bittersweet melancholy as it ponders the value of life.

Andy Lee is a junior at Northwood High School.

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San Clemente’s ‘Mary Poppins’ is practically perfect

“Mary Poppins” follows the story of a dysfunctional family in Edwardian London whose magical nanny helps them remember that there is much more to life than wealth and prestige.

San Clemente High School’s production is admirably focused, with the ensemble mastering extremely demanding choreography in numbers like “Step in Time,” in which they tap dance on the rooftops, or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” in which they spell out countless words with their bodies. From park-goers on a jaunty stroll to disgruntled toys pining for help, the ensemble dives into each new character with invigorated attitude.

Cassidy McCleary is the lovely Mary Poppins. Poised to perfection, she struts about, lighting up her castmates and dazzling with her immense vocal range. Her interactions with the Banks children are reminiscent of a motherly storyteller as she leads them through various adventures, all the while dancing and singing along with the rest of the cast.

Bert, the charming jack of all trades, is brought to life by Jack Katke. His chipper cockney accent is endearing, and he is always wonderfully lost in the moment, whether it’s listening intently to Mary Poppins or engaging the audience with small talk in the rain.

The Banks children, Carlie McCleary as Jane and Maggie Anderson as Michael, are an adorable team full of endless energy and sass. Their love and worry for their father is apparent in their tender treatment of him, and their pure, childlike vocals shine through in every number. As their soft and kind mother, Winifred Banks, Tamara Armstrong showcases a journey to empowerment as she transitions from quavering to determined.

The props team, led by Maisy Strand and Abby Ambach, has created a slew of items that are both functional and fantastical. Cast members use them to their advantage, from riding carousel horse-inspired bicycles in “Jolly Holiday” to climbing ladders into the stars and flying kites that spell out “Believe.” Each prop is vibrant, detailed and purposeful, helping to bridge the gap between reality and storytelling.

Complete with believable British accents, dancing statues and magnificent costumes, San Clemente’s production of “Mary Poppins” is a wonderful whirlwind in which the cast makes use of the small stage by filling it with heart.

Katherine Schloss is a senior at La Habra High School.

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