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Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekend (5/10-5/11)

Our weekend had three highlights:

First highlight, we discovered a new place to eat. It's a very hip, modern place in Manhattan Beach called "LA Food Show". From the same group that came up with the California Pizza Kitchen, this restaurant features California cuisine fused with Asian, Mediterranean and American flavors. Through their extensive menu and on their website, LA Food Show claims they are exploring the sensory universe that is Los Angeles. Since LA is a unique melting pot of cultures that is constantly in the process of re-inventing itself, the spirit of invention and cross-culture experimentation is at the heart of LA Food Show.

I loved the ambience of the place (clean, bright, modern decor - lots of steel and glass - featuring red, black and white colors). The food was good too. Jojo and I started with Asian lettuce wraps with a spicy-sweet peanut dipping sauce. Very good, light and refreshing. For my main entree I had chicken dan-dan noodles with cool cucumber slices. It was good - the spicy chicken perfect with the noodles and the cool cucumber. Jojo enjoyed his grilled chicken breast with ginger sauce, grilled asparagus over fragrant Jasmine rice. The servings were generous but certainly not ginormous like some other places. The servers were pretty attentive making sure our water glasses were constantly filled and coming by to ask us if everything was ok several times (without making use feel like they were breathing down our necks). Prices were good too (between $10-20.00 per dish). All in all a very good dining experience.

Second highlight, we saw "Ms. Saigon" at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center (RBPAC). Before I talk about the play, I have to say that the RBPAC might be my new favorite theater. The place is small and intimate (just a tad larger than the Repertory Theater back in Manila). Smaller theaters make the whole experience seem much more personal rather than huge stadium-like arenas where theater productions are almost like watching a movie. What I like about live theater is watching each actor up close and feeling like I am part of the show rather than a mere spectator. RBPAC had that intimate feel where it didn't even matter where you sat, since every seat had a great view of the stage. The smaller setting also brings about a better listening experience since you don't feel like any of the music quality is lost through the amplification of sound. And the best part is, Redondo Beach is less than 20 minutes away from home. The experience was so good we are considering signing up to be season ticket holders.

Ms. Saigon was breathtakingly good. I've seen the play before and absolutely loved it the first time I saw it. Of course then, Lea Salonga was playing the title role of Kim. Fresh from her London stint and her Tony win, the show was so highly anticipated with press reviews so lavish that naturally everyone wanted to get tickets. All that pizzaz plus having my mom play the soundtrack daily made me sure that I would love the show even before I saw it at the Meralco Theater in Manila. But this time, there was less hype and fanfare that I got to really sit back and enjoy the performers and the story. While the cast of actors were mostly unknown they were all SUPERB especially Jennifer Paz (another Filipina) who mesmerized us as Kim. Amazingly, the effects were awesome too. Despite the small stage, the show's highlights featured the climactic "fall of Saigon scene" complete with a working, life-sized helicopter and The Engineer presenting his "American Dream" with a real-life pink Cadillac. The stage sets seamlessly shifted and transported the audience back to the era of 1975 Saigon and 1978 Bangkok.

SPOILER ALERT (skip this paragraph if you haven't seen the show). What I love about Ms. Saigon aside from the wonderful music and lyrics, the lavish stage and effects, and the multi-talented cast of characters, is its poignant storyline. In a nutshell, the story is set during the end of the Vietnam War and is about Kim, a bar girl in Saigon, and Chris, an American sergeant. They meet by chance and fall in love. But on a fateful night, they are separated and Chris is forced to leave for the US. Three years later, Chris marries Ellen after believing that Kim has died, while across the world, Kim and her a son (by Chris) patiently wait for his return. The most touching scene is when Kim and Ellen meet face to face for the first time. Kim is heartbroken when realizes she has lost Chris but more than that she fears that her son, Tam, has lost his father and a chance for a better life. Kim tries to give away her son to Ellen who refuses saying she could never take a child from his mother. In the end, Kim ends her own life so Tam can join Chris and Ellen. There was not a dry eye in the theater and everyone watched with baited breath. Saying the play is wonderful is an understatement - even Jojo who is a Ms. Saigon first-timer thought so too! And while I usually like "happy ever afters", this show is a definite exception. While many look at Ms. Saigon as a tragic love story, I see it as a wonderful depiction of a mother's ultimate love for her child where she sacrifices her life for his.

Speaking of a mother's love, the third highlight of our weekend was celebrating Mother's Day. Since my mom is a half a world away, we celebrated by sending her a bouquet of flowers and calling to greet her on the special day. Then we took my mother-in-law for dimsum with the whole family. We had quite a wait since the place was full and seating 15 people in one table is almost impossible. But we did get seated almost an hour and a half later, turning our brunch into lunch, but making it a celebration nonetheless.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to my mom, my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, my grandmothers, aunts and to all my friends that are currently enjoying motherhood!


James Blackman said...

Thank you so much for you kind words it was fun reading your wonderful over view of my show and my company.I will post your commnets on the board back stage everyone will enjoy reading it.

I agree my theatre is the perfect size I truly hope you become a season subscriber you sound like someone I would work very hard to entertain all year!

You should try my other 500 theatre in Hermosa Beach the shows there are fun and the setting is very close go to and join us there too.
Thank you so much for coming and seeing my show and saying such nice things.

Your New Freind
James Blackman
Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities

Joanne said...

WOW! I am so thrilled to get a comment from James Blackman! This is such an honor. I can't believe he stumbled across my blog and read what I had to say about his theater and his production of Ms. Saigon. I doubt that he will be back to read this comment ... but what the heck ...

Mr. Blackman, thank you for your comment. And yes, we had a wonderful time at the show last Saturday. I failed to mention it in my post but I especially enjoyed your bit at the beginning of the show. You were hilarious! It truly made an afternoon at the theater more personal and memorable. More power to you and your company!!!

jol said...

The highlights of your weekend were truly exceptional; your narration makes me feel the immensity of your enjoyment. I saw Ms Saigon at the Cultural Center of the Philippines; the big stage fitted this magnificent production.

jml said...

Miss Saigon is indeed one play that I will always cherish. I enjoyed every single song in the play and it amazes me to this day ,how brilliant the composers was to have been able to deliver the story of the entire play through such extraordinary and splendid melody and lyrics. I would have loved to see it once again.
The new theatre and play company sounds like a gem. I am sure that you will enjoy being season subscribers. It brings back many wonderful memories of the numerous seasons that we enjoyed watching the Repertory plays here in Manila.

joyeee said...

Wow dets... we definitely should eat in that restaurant this october! sounds like a really good place! haha:)

Oh yeah, I hope Miss Saigon wouldstill be showing by that time...I would really love to watch it again especially with your great reviews on it!!!:)

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