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Costa Mesa Christmas perennial 'La Posada Magica' moves to L.A.

September 24, 2009 | 10:30 am


The recession taketh away, and the recession giveth.

"La Posada Magica" enjoyed a 15-year holiday season run at South Coast Repertory on the strength of an alternately funny, dark and touching script by Octavio Solis about the Christmas spirit lost, then found, and lively music by Marcos Loya. Then it got swept out of its niche on SCR's 2009 schedule, a victim of economy-driven cost-cutting.

But Costa Mesa's loss is now L.A.'s gain, with the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble's announcement of a Dec. 4-24 run of the show, its Los Angeles premiere.

The play tells the story of 14-year-old Gracie, whose faith in God, not to mention her Christmas spirit, has been squelched by the recent death of her baby brother. Solis' script finds her turning into a would-be saboteur of her neighborhood's annual Posada -- a traditional Christmas procession reenacting Mary and Joseph's search for shelter in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus' birth -- then allows her to fight her demons, a mischievous, surrealistic bunch, before coming out the other end of her spiritual tunnel. It's one of those shows where "you'll laugh, you'll cry" usually is not an empty promise.

The Odyssey isn't going with rookies: Director Diane Rodriguez, associate producer at Center Theatre Group, staged four editions of "La Posada Magica" at South Coast early in this decade; most of her cast has been in SCR productions of the play; and Loya, the co-creator, is back as musical director and leader of the onstage band, a function he filled at South Coast every year, starting with the 1994 premiere.

Tiffany Solano, who was 17 when she first played Gracie in 1999, is returning to the role. The actress (above right, seen playing the part at SCR with Denise Blasor, Sol Castillo and Carla Jimenez, who'll also be in the Odyssey's cast) still looks "very young," says Rodriguez. "She'll be able to pull it off -- some baggy overalls, and she'll be ready to go."

Rodriguez said that cast members Crissy Guererro, who played Gracie for several years at SCR starting in 1995, and Blasor pitched the show to the Odyssey after learning that South Coast wouldn't be doing it. The production also is hoping to find a venue on the Eastside for a few performances on top of the Odyssey's dates, Rodriguez said.

There are no hard feelings from south of the county line, she added. "South Coast is completely on board with it. They're lending us some costumes and masks, and little props like tombstones and things like that."

It's too early to say whether South Coast will rekindle "La Posada Magica" in Costa Mesa in 2010, spokeswoman Soyia Ellison said. "But we're hoping to."

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: "La Posada Magica." Credit: Henry DiRocco / South Coast Repertory

Related stories:

South Coast Repertory to scale it down but keep it new in 2009-10 season

Gracie Under Pressure