Music tours have taken Kaaren Ragland and her group, The Sounds of
the Supremes, to more than 30 countries. Lots of funny things happen
on the road, but one incident that still makes her chuckle happened
during rehearsal for an America Red Cross benefit concert in Kenya.
“We were doing a sound check on the beach, and camels walked by. I
thought, ‘Oh boy, where am I?’ ” she said.
That shouldn’t be a problem when the female trio joins other
Motown tribute bands in the first of the city-sponsored concerts
Sunday at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank.
Growing up, Motown was a big inspiration to Ragland, who explained
that the unique spelling of her first name is the result of her
mother having too much free time in the hospital pouring over tons of
books on babies’ names.
Ragland listened to groups of the 1960s who inspired Motown, which
is a style of rhythm and blues with elements stemming from black
“I absolutely loved all Motown,” she said. “But I never
anticipated joining the group.”
In 1977, Ragland was singing at The Improv in Hollywood and
working with Phil Moore, a music arranger for some of Hollywood’s top
names, including Lena Horne in the 1940s.
He was arranging music for many Vegas acts, including a group Mary
Wilson of the original Supremes started after Diana Ross’ departure
in 1970 to start a solo career. When Wilson’s trio was losing one of
its singers, Moore introduced Wilson to Ragland. She auditioned, and
got the job.
“I replaced Scherrie Payne,” she said. “Physically, I resembled
her quite a bit.”
Ragland remembers the first rehearsal at Wilson’s home, which, she
said, was “palatial.” Along with singing the Supremes’ songs, Ragland
was learning the choreography from Cindy Birdsong, who had replaced
Florence Ballard of the original Supremes.
The experience was overwhelming, to say the least.
“I was in awe of them,” she said. “They were icons.”
But she kept her cool.
“You do your thing. When you are that young, you are fearless,”
The new group achieved worldwide success, even performing for
Today, Ragland keeps the sound alive through the group she founded
in 1989, The Sounds of the Supremes. Joining them in Sunday’s Motor
City Memories concert are tribute groups of the Temptations,
featuring Temptations former lead singer Richard Street, and Junior
Walker & the All-Stars.
What makes Motown evergreen to audiences, Ragland said, is the
wonderful material by superb writers.
Her group stays true to the material and choreography of the
original Supremes. And each of the singers gets a turn at singing the
lead vocals, she said.
“The music brings back a lot of memories and we encourage people
to sing along,” she said. “It’s just a fun evening.”
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for picnicking, and the concert begins at
6:30. Tickets at the gate are $7, $4 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for
children 3 to 12 and free for children 2 and younger. Parking is $5.
For more information, call 525-3721 or check the Web site
GAY MEN’S CHORUS PAYS
TRIBUTE TO ELTON JOHN
For his great music, showmanship and courage, the Gay Men’s Chorus
of Los Angeles honors Elton John this weekend at The Alex Theatre in
David Cobb, a chorus member and fanatic of the rock phenomenon of
the 1970s and 1980s, suggested to the group’s music advisory
committee use of John’s music for an upcoming concert, and members
embraced the idea.
“For a gay chorus, who better to honor than one of the most
successful gay performers there has ever been,” Artistic Director
Bruce Mayhall said. “He had a top 40 record every year for 25 years
in a row. It’s amazing.”
Aside from his great music, John showed great courage admitting he
was gay at a time when most gays were not out, Mayhall said.
John’s music is also familiar to the next generation, he said,
with his writing the music for “The Lion King.”
“It’s everybody’s contemporary music,” he said.
John’s early music was so different than what was popular at the
time, Cobb said. Guitar gods were rocking the music world, but here
was John, writing sensitive, sweet pieces, sitting behind a piano.
“He spoke to me because I played piano at an early age,” he said.
“His vocal delivery was unique at the time and was attached to
beautiful songwriting, a sound nobody had heard.
“He was outrageous with his costumes and glasses, adding flash and
glamour and style to playing at the piano, and looking back on it as
a soon-to-be-gay man, it appealed to me on a subconscious level.”
The show’s songs range from his early career through today. One
segment features “My Strongest Suit,” from the musical “Aida,”
“It has this great text saying that a person’s strongest suit is
how he dresses, so the references to Elton are obvious,” he said.
While the piece is a song-and-dance number for the chorus, it also
includes a parade of the most outrageous Elton-esque costumes.
Making an encore appearance are the chorus’ puppets, which
audiences really adore, Mayhall said. This time, they will be
performing to “Crocodile Rock.”
The concerts are 8 tonight and 3 p.m. Sunday. Chorus member Bill
Bowersock is producer. Tickets range from $15 to $45 and are
available by calling The Alex Theatre box office at 243-2539. The
Alex is at 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale.
POTTERY ARTIST SHOWS AT ARTS CENTER
“Then & Now,” an exhibit of works by award-winning ceramicist
Ricky Maldonado, are on display at the Creative Arts Center Gallery
Maldonaldo, a master coil builder and multiple-award winner, is
known for his geometrically detailed pottery. His work is included in
many public and private collections and has been shown in numerous
publications, including “Ceramics Monthly.” He is also this year’s
recipient of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts,
Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday
through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. The Creative Arts
Center is at 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank. For more information, call
‘RAPUNZEL’ OPENS AT
THE FALCON THEATRE
“Rapunzel,” written by Lori Marshall and directed by Joseph Leo
Bwarie, opens today at The Falcon Theatre in Burbank.
Based on the classic fairy tale of love and deception by the
Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel and friends look high and low for happiness
in a magical forest, only to find that it was right in front of them
Performances are 1 and 3 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays through
Sept. 7. Tickets are $10. The Falcon is at 4252 Riverside Drive,
Burbank. For reservations, call 955-8101.
ACTION/REACTION THEATER RETURNS TO BRAND PARK
As part of its third annual summer season in Glendale’s Brand
Park, the Action/Reaction Theater Company presents the musical comedy
“The Fantasticks,” with book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by
Harvey Schmidt. Performances are tonight, Friday and Saturday. All
performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
When it closed in New York in 2002, “The Fantasticks” set a record
as the world’s longest-running musical with more than 17,000
performances spanning a 42-year run. Beyond New York, “The
Fantasticks” has played in every state of the U.S., as well as 67
countries. With memorable songs, such as “Try to Remember,” the
musical tells a story involving two fathers who instigate a mock feud
to inspire their children to fall in love.
The company will also produce Paul Osborn’s romantic comedy “The
Vinegar Tree,” July 25 and 26 and Aug. 1 and 2. All shows begin at
Admission is free, however, due to budgetary constraints, a $10
donation would be gratefully received.
Michael Holmes directs the Equity productions, with musical
direction by Ghadi Shayban, choreography by Alex Pevic and costumes
by Don Nelson. Brand Park is at 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale.
Productions are staged in front of the historic Doctor’s House
Museum. Guests are welcome to bring picnics and refreshments. For
preferred seating and more information, call 786-1045.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Holmes, the
Action/Reaction Theater Company is an ensemble of actors, directors
and playwrights, consistently recognized among the top small theater
companies in Los Angeles.
‘THE JOURNEY’ CONTINUES
AT GLENDALE CINEMAS
“The Journey,” winner of the Audience Choice Award at the Milan
International Film Festival, is being shown at the Glendale Cinemas,
501 N. Orange St., Glendale.
It is directed by Edwin Avaness and Emy Hovanesyan. It stars Sona
Tatoyan as Eve, a photojournalist assigned to document the 1991
independence movement of Armenia.
For more information, visit the Web site at www.evesjourney.com.
BRUCE LEE CONVENTION AT BURBANK AIRPORT HILTON
Bruce Lee fans and martial arts enthusiasts from around the world
will be meeting at the convention this weekend at the Burbank Airport
Hilton Convention Center.
Show hours are noon to 6 p.m. both days. Tickets are $15 and are
available at the door or through Ticketmaster. The convention center
is at 2500 Hollywood Way, Burbank. For more information, call
SHOWING AT LIBRARY
A retrospective exhibit by Mary Heussenstamm is on display through
July 31 at the La Canada Library, 4545 Oakwood Ave., La Canada
A resident of La Crescenta, Heussenstamm is known mainly for her
watercolor portraits, but the exhibit includes papier-mache masks,
collages and still lifes never seen by the public.
For more information, call 790-3330.
SUBJECT OF ART DISPLAY
Abstract paintings by Armenian artist Alexander Sadoyan are being
shown at Patrick’s Cafe in Glendale.
The exhibit continues through July 31. Patrick’s Cafe is at 6320
San Fernando Road in Glendale. For information, call 246-8170.
ART WALKS 2003 FEATURES DEMONSTRATIONS
The Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce and the News-Press
are co-hosting the Art Walks 2003 demonstration and sale by local
fine artists from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today along the 2300 and 2400
blocks of Honolulu Avenue in Montrose.
For more information, call 249-7171.
PHOTOGRAPHER SHOWS AMERICA’S HEROES
Glendale photographer and author Delmar Watson will present a talk
on “When America Had Heroes” at the Ice-Cream Social fund-raiser
presented by the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society from 2 to 5
p.m. Sunday at the Eagle Rock Community Cultural Center.
Watson will show photographs taken from 1900 to the present shot
by members of the Watson photojournalistic family. Photographs are of
early Los Angeles and Hollywood.
The center is at 2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock.
FREE CLASSICAL MUSIC
Symphony in The Glen celebrates its 10th anniversary season of
free classical music concerts beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday in Griffith
Conducting the orchestra is television and film composer Arthur B.
Titled “Dreamcycles,” the concert’s program will feature works by
Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Warlock and a new work by Rubinstein. The
pre-concert activity begins at 4:30 p.m. with everyone receiving a
free kazoo to play along with the orchestra.
Future concerts are Aug. 10 and Sept. 7.
The concerts are in the Old Zoo picnic area near the
merry-go-round at 4800 Crystal Springs Drive. Free parking is
available. For more information, call (213) 955-6976.
OPEN HOUSE AT CASA ADOBE DE SAN RAFAEL
Members of Glendale Beautiful are sponsoring an open house with
free tours from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Casa Adobe de San Rafael, 1330
Dorothy Drive, Glendale.
Glendale Beautiful members maintain the state historic landmark,
which was built in 1870 for Tomas Sanchez, the first sheriff of L.A.
County. The adobe contains period furnishings and historic artifacts
The Casa Adobe also will be open July 20 and 27. For more
information, call 246-3634.
VOCALIST APPEARS AT PENELOPE’S
Big-band vocalist Jennifer Gates will perform from 6:30 to 9
tonight at Penelope’s Cafe Book and Gallery, 1029 Foothill Blvd., La
Gates’ talent began to blossom in junior high school, where she
sang in the chorus.
For more information, call 790-4386.
JAZZ FILLS THE
GARDENS THIS WEEK
The Nairobi Trio, actually a six-piece group, is this week’s
featured act in the Under the Oaks Concert Series at 2 p.m. Sunday at
Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge.
This trio is noted for straight-ahead jazz, alternating with hard
bop classics from the 1950s and 1960s.
The season will include other American music genres like folk,
zydeco, Native American, Hawaiian and bluegrass. These are styles
from which much of America’s musical heritage has grown. The series
is free with gardens’ admission. Under the Oaks Theater seating is on
a first-come-first-served basis.
Descanso Gardens is at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Parking is free. Admission fees
are $5; $3 for seniors and students; $1 for children 5 to 12, and
free for members and children 5 and younger. For more information,
‘THE MUSIC MAN’ CLOSES
AT CENTRE THEATRE
The romantic musical “The Music Man,” by Meredith Willson, closes
today at Glendale Centre Theatre.
Real-life husband and wife, Bill Lewis and Charlotte Carpenter of
Burbank, are in the lead roles. Lewis is also directing the play
about a fast-talking, fly-by-night salesman who falls in love with
River City’s no-nonsense librarian.
Tickets range from $14 to $17. For reservations, call 244-8481.
Glendale Centre Theatre is at 324 N. Orange St., Glendale. The next
production is Alan Ayckbourn’s “Tons of Money” opening Wednesday. It
is directed by Burbank resident George Strattan.
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