Rapper Doug E. Fresh stands center stage as he beat-boxes his classic hit, “The Show” as Congresswoman Maxine Waters (right) along with the others enjoy the event.
On Thursday, March 28, the Fernando Pullum Community Performing Arts Center (FPCPAC) hosted the Aspire Gala and Silent Auction at the Wilshire Ebell Theater that benefit- ted the productions of the Pullum Community Arts Center.
At FPCPAC, students interested in singing, acting, dancing and playing musical instruments can receive free lessons and access to perform in high quality stage plays that allow them to display those skills in professional quality arenas.
The real prize of the night came from the stellar opening scene performed by the students of the FPCPAC who pulled off a complex musical dance routine that took viewers through time via dance and music. Exploding from all directions around the stage and from down the aisles, students danced, jumped, and dis- played dances from hip-hop themed moves to acrobatic swing dances. The routine, from the upcoming musical play produced by Fernando Pullum and directed by Brandon Rainy, called “Feeling Good” is set to premier May 2-5 at the Washington Dream Theater.
“I think they did a good job. For a lot of them, it was their first time on stage,” said Rainy. “They definitely pulled their weight, going on stage before Kelly price and others who have been in the game so long.”
Pullum Students dance and sing to the intro of “Feeling Good,” Pullum’s next play.
According to director Rainy, the play, “Feeling Good” is about a hip-hop artist who is trendy and is popular for his time. The main character is not happy in his career, because he wants to leave some type of legacy like the greats. In the discussion about what defines those artists that transcend time, he begins a journey to reconnect to what that is, in order to redesign and reinvent his brand. Along the way, the main character connects music from post prohibition artists like Billy Holliday and Duke Ellington to more contemporary artists. The play also highlights the real life story of Thomas Dorsey, the father of gospel music.
Also gracing the stage were Doug E. Fresh, Kelly Price, YoYo, Sheila E and the E Family.
Highlights included Doug E Fresh, who is known for being a high quality beat-boxer. In this performance he took that art form to the next level by playing the harmonica while beat-boxing to the tune of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.”
YoYo, who graced the crowd with an a cappella rap from her hit song “Step Into the 90’s,” spoke eloquently about the importance of the Pullum Music program, just before introducing song- stress Kelly Price. Price, who came out in a sparkling black gown accented by equally sparkling red peep toe pumps, took the opportunity to address those who are different in the industry, “I didn’t fit the mold,” said Price before belting out many of her well known hits.
Fernando Pullum also spoke to the audience before conducting a jazz piece with students from his program. “It’s amazing to me to see [the Pullum students] step up to that high performance level and to see them step up on that stage with such a legendary performer,” said Fernando Pullum about the students’ performance at the Gala. “It gives [the students] confidence and the motivation to continue to work hard and demonstrates to people what kids are capable of if given the opportunity.”
Closing the Gala was Sheila E and her talented family, led by Sheila’s father, percussionist Pete Escovedo. Although initially disappointed from the splint that held Sheila’s arm, the crowd was relieved to hear Sheila exclaim, “I will play with one arm!”
For more information about the free pro- grams offered at the Pullum Community Arts Center, go to www.pullumcenter.org.
Photos by Troy Tieuel