“Hoboken to Hollywood: A Journey Through the Great American Songbook,” has been playing to sold-out crowds and critical acclaim for several months at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica. That trip from Hoboken to Hollywood required a few stops in Glendale, however, to achieve its success.
“H to H” puts theater-goers in the audience at a taping of a Frank Sinatra network television special in the 1960s. The show is a mix of comedy and music. Luca Ellis plays Sinatra and carries the show with his impersonation. He manages not only to hit the timbre of the Chairman of the Board, but also nails the phrasing and “cool” of the great crooner. Backing his performance is the 12-piece band powered by Glendale names.
Craig Kupka, who taught music and led the bands at Glendale’s Hoover High School from 1994 through 2010, is the lead trombone.
His students Colin Kupka (Craig’s son) on sax and Nicholas Klingenberg (on bass) also make the music happen. Add to that the fact that trumpet player, band director and “H to H” co-writer/co-creator Paul Litteral plays with Craig Kupka’s Glendale Community College Big Band (which Craig directs), and you have a serious Glendale connection to one of L.A.’s most celebrated musical events of the season.
Craig Kupka received his master’s degree in composition from UCLA, has published seven CDs of original music and has played with rock and jazz bands, done movie and TV soundtracks and has performed as a soloist with the L.A. Philharmonic. His career as a professional musician took a detour when he had children and became a music teacher at Hoover High in 1994.
“I taught jazz, basic music and the history of rock ’n’ roll,” Kupka said.
He now works as the director of Jazz Bands at GCC. That includes the aforementioned Big Band, a more developmental group known as “Saturday Jazz,” and the GCC Combo.
Kupka is involved with the show via his relationship with Litteral. The two met while playing for the Pasadena City College jazz band, where they “hit it off musically right away,” according to Litteral. It was from that connection that Litteral joined the Glendale Community College jazz band and brought Craig into his production of “Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara.” This was where, incidentally, Litteral met Ellis.
“We did a special holiday show of ‘Louis & Keely’ in Glendale and Luca was there,” Litteral said. “We brought him on stage as a special guest and it was just awesome.”
One of the best moments in “H to H” is the tenor sax battle during the song “Route 66.” Colin Kupka trades sax solos with his counterpart, Josh C. Harris. Hoover graduate Colin Kupka is 23 years old. He took up the saxophone at an early age (at his own insistence) and began winning national awards by age 11.
“I love playing with my dad,” said Colin Kupka. “It’s a treat to play this great music and have my father doing it along with me.”
“Hoboken to Hollywood” has been extended three times at the Edgemar, but will be ending its run there at the end of April. Just remember that the Chairman wouldn’t be represented so well without Hoover High.
What: “Hoboken to Hollywood: A Journey Through the Great American Songbook”
When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April
Where: Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica
Contact: (310) 392-7327 or online at www.hobokentohollywood.com