Hope and redemption
Only Fritz Ynfante could have pulled it off. “It” is the nearly impossible task of working with a group of people—ranging in age from adolescence to mature adulthood—who, with few exceptions, had no exposure to, let alone experience with, song and dance and theater, and getting them to come up with a show that not only entertained but also moved, enlightened and inspired.
“It took all of two-and-a-half months of hard work,” Ynfante, a veteran stage director, said when congratulated on the final product. Asked how many of his cast had experience as singers and entertainers, the voluble Ynfante exclaimed: “None! We had to work almost from scratch!”
The show was titled “A World of Pure Imagination,” taking the audience on a “tour” of a place called “La La Land,” which is described as “a place of solace, of peace, of sanctuary, of music and the arts, of pure imagination.” Though they were all clearly amateurs, even if a few exhibited remarkable talent and verve, the performers put on an impressive show, professional and rising to the demands of the art and the admittedly mercurial Ynfante.
More noteworthy was where the show was taking place—at the Sacred Heart Auditorium of SELF, or Self Enhancement for Life Foundation, a private rehab center where residents seek, in the words of its director Martin Infante, “to heal the wounds of dependency,” whether this be to drugs, misbehavior, or destructive habits.
Through songs ranging from Broadway classics to pop standards, “A World of Pure Imagination” explores issues of heart and hunger, love and longing, hope and
hopelessness. Truly moving was the finale, a medley of Christmas standards with all the performers lifting lights in the darkened interiors, pinpricks of a brighter tomorrow that all of them, I’m sure, are struggling to reach and achieve.
“I find working with the residents here in SELF particularly fulfilling,” said
Ynfante. “There is something truly gratifying when you see them change before your very eyes. It’s as if you wave a magic wand, sprinkle some fairy dust, chant the proper spell, and they metamorphose from gawky, plodding klutzes to dexterous creatures of light and grace.”
Indeed, a favorite saying in SELF is: “No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” For sure, the days, perhaps months and even years, to come will still be difficult. But if mounting a show that is the equal of any professional staging is an indication, there is indeed hope for the residents struggling against their demons and searching for their better selves.
One thing I enjoyed immensely while viewing “Rogue One” was how the film, described as a “prequel” to “A New Hope,” the first of the “Star Wars” film franchise, melds almost seamlessly with the rest of the story arc. Though it is a “stand-alone” production, chronologically, “Rogue One” is set between “Revenge of the Sith” (2005) and “A New Hope” (1977), bridging the disruptions created by a disjointed storyline that was 30 years in the making.
“Rogue One” introduces us to a pair of young, attractive heroes: Jyn Ersol
(Felicity Jones), a young woman seeking her missing scientist father, and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), an intelligence officer with the Rebel Alliance. Cassian is tasked with the mission to find Jyn and use her to find her father, Galen Erso, who is working with the Empire to create a new weapon designed to annihilate entire planets.
But Galen sends a message to the Rebel Alliance that he has implanted in the weapon a fatal flaw that will lead to its destruction. Thus, the mission of the pair and their companions shifts from targeting Galen to finding the plans for the “Death Star” that will lead to the defeat of the Empire.
“Rogue One” even has a lovable mascot in the tradition of C3PO and R2D2—the enforcer droid K-2SO, who is sassier, more confrontational but just as loyal as the two other sidekicks. Also notable is Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior who aspires to Jedi Knighthood and gives the audience a taste of true heroism.
All in all, not a bad prequel as prequels go, and an excellent film worth its place in the “Star Wars” pantheon.
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