Theater Van: “Making Paradise The West Hollywood Musical”

LATINOS MAKE PARADISE By Diego Valiente

Cornerstone Theater is known for its unique method in combining professional actors with community members to tell a real story. Making Paradise The West Hollywood Musical is no exception.

Based in 1984, Making Paradise: The West Hollywood Musical (Directed by Michael John Garcés and Mark Valdez) is about how young activists fight for LGBT rights and unite the senior and Russian community in their journey to incorporate the city of West Hollywood and make it like no other city in the history of the world. This musical touches AIDS, hate-crimes and the friendship that makes West Hollywood possible today. 

I have never lived in West Hollywood but of course I have visited the city for shows or drinks with friends. I believe anyone in Los Angeles is familiar with WeHo but I doubt we all know the history of this amazing place. I discovered I knew very little about the incorporation of West Hollywood and all the efforts it took to be what it is today.

A very entertaining, alive and out of the norm musical; overall a great show. Tom Jacobson the playwright gives as a first act that is surprising and upbeat but a second act that tries to wrap up everything at once and distracts from the real heart of the tale. Musically Deborah Wick La Puma does an amazing work with great ensemble of voices and very catchy melodies, on the other hand Shishir Kurup the lyricist, makes a very forced effort to make the songs smart and rarely you get to catch the whole point of the song. Sometimes less is more and remember simple is always better.

A 30 something cast is choreographed by Shetal Gandhi, some numbers are brilliant and some carry repetitive steps but it is fun – you may want to dance with the cast!. Great musical direction is executed by Kyle de Tarnowsky.
The chorus and dancing ensemble is remarkable but in my opinion not well used, you spot very talented actors and dancers that could’ve been placed more wisely.

There is great commitment from the stars of the play Desiree (Chris Fara), Curly (Derek Manson), Henri (Diana Mera), Jesus (Richard Rocha), Rose (Lori Kaye) and Maria (Desiree Jade Sol).  Diana Mera and Richard Rocha give tremendous moving moments; they performed a wonderful duet at the beginning of the play called "Paradise" and later they beautifully interpret very deep songs such as “Generically made for loving” and “Ghosts in the machine”. Lori Kaye and Desiree Jade Sol shocked the audience with “We set ourselves apart” and “Disguised as myself”.

This play is worth of having your attention and for you (if you like it) to pass the word around. This is historic and our Latinos are singing their heart out so please support them.

Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park
7377 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA
Tickets @ www.cornerstonetheater.org 


Photos by by John Luker (Diana Mera (first photograph) – Diana Mera and Richard Rocha (second photograph)

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