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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Artist of the Week: Casey Campbell

Six years ago, Costa Mesa High School music teacher Sandy Gilboe was looking for a new pianist for the jazz band. “A few high school students came to the audition, along with seventh-grader Casey Campbell,” said Gilboe. “It only took a few minutes to realize that jazz was totally in Casey’s wheelhouse, even as a seventh grader. The high-schoolers realized that as well and they fizzled out quickly, and Casey has been my jazz piano player ever since.”

Now a senior, Campbell will play Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” at the school’s annual spring concert. Gilboe tasked him with learning the piece a few years ago, hoping he’d be ready to play it at the end of his senior year. “He played it for me the other day so I could check his progress, and I was blown away!” said Gilboe.

Costa Mesa High’s spring concert will be performed on its campus at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 16.

Name: Casey Campbell

School: Costa Mesa High School

Grade: 12

Hometown: Costa Mesa

What instruments do you play? Piano, trombone and baritone.

How did you get involved in music? My first involvement with music was when I was 5 years old. My parents bought a 66-key Yamaha keyboard with built in “lessons” to learn simple songs. Soon I had taught myself to play lots of small tunes, and from then on I was totally hooked. Fortunately, my parents saw the potential and signed me up for real lessons soon thereafter.

What is your favorite piece of music? Who is your favorite artist of all time and why? “Rhapsody in Blue” has actually become my favorite piece of music over time It is truly a unique piece that blends the best of classical music with early jazz and is quite enjoyable to play. As far as my favorite artist is concerned, that would have to be the jazz piano legend Oscar Peterson. He combined smooth jazz, swing and blues into his own wonderful style that nobody else has ever really been able to replicate (though I continue to try).

Who have been your influences? Did you have a mentor in your development as an musician? If so, how did they help you? I have had many mentors that have helped me with music throughout the years, but the most notable ones are my piano teacher Laura Chang-McManus and my band director Sandy Gilboe. I have known both of them for many years now, and I would like to thank them for giving me the guidance and opportunities I needed to become the musician I am today.

What inspires you? My inspiration comes from others. I greatly enjoy listening to other people play, and often I will try to incorporate my favorite parts of their performances into how I play while adding my own twist to it.

The next challenge I want to take on is … to explore more of jazz and expand my abilities as a jazz pianist. I am proficient in jazz as is, but I would love to learn more about it. I will probably end up taking jazz piano lessons sometime in the future.

Other than music, are you involved in any other activities?  If yes, what are they? Besides being a musician, I am also a student pilot, knife maker and entrepreneur. A diverse set of interests maybe, but actually all of these are connected. I operate my own online business, Campbell Armory, which sells metal replicas of blades from popular shows, movies and video games. In turn, the profits I earn support my (costly) flight lessons. Currently, I am about 40 hours of flight time in and still loving every minute of it.

How do the arts figure into your long-term goals? I would love to keep music as a lifelong hobby. I certainly plan to explore my opportunities with music once I go to college as well, and I am currently considering it as a minor.

What is the best advice you have received? The best advice that I have received is to remember that the audience doesn’t have a copy of your music. They don’t know each and every note on the page like you do, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t end up playing exactly what’s written (as long as you cover for it well).

I hope my legacy as an artist will be … as a musician that lives on through others, whether it’s through people who I have taught and mentored or through those who I have played in groups with. The ability to pass on knowledge and inspiration is one of the most important parts of being a musician.

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