Special gift at Wyndham Grand

The holiday season is all about reconnecting with family, friends and loved ones. Wyndham Grand, the largest hotel franchisor in the world, with 9,280 locations has partnered with family memento speciaists at Savor and reality television star and winner of the 17th season of ABC’s The Bachelor, Catherine Giudici Lowe. Together they are launching a way for families to experience the forgotten joy of tech-free travel with Wyndham Grand’s lastest Reconnected program.  

In the spirit of giving during the holidays, Wyndham Grand will randomly surprise guests with one of 99 free Reconnected Travel Keepsake Boxes (a $130 value) during their stay before Dec. 31, 2021. The gift box is equipped with a Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 camera, travel labels and storage for vacation souvenirs. Boxes are not available upon request and gifting is at the discretion of each hotel’s management team while supplies last.  

Wyndham Grand

As a mother of three, Catherine knows how important it is to stay connected to her family. She includes her tried and true tip in the Reconnected Travel Keepsake Kit on memory-making while traveling with her own family.

The one page tip guide includes ‘Digital Detox’ where you ditch all digital devices for one hour a day and go on a walk, hike or jog with a loved one. ‘Capture the Moments’ of a day with an Instax Mini camera. Document memorable moments early in the morning to late at night to include in a keepsake box. Be sure to write the date, time and location. Also, ‘Collect Postcards’ and write a special memory of the place on the card to keep in your box

For those looking to win a 10-night stay to a Wyndham Grand destination of their choice in 2022, submit a brief write-up of how you would use your hotel stay as a way to reconnect with family and friends. Families have to also make a pledge of how they will make the time to disconnect from their digital devices during the holidays.

To enter, travelers can email wyndhamgrand@citizenrelations.com before Dec. 31, 2021. More details can be found at www.wyndhamgrand.com/reconnected.

10 Hotel Del Coronado’s Holiday Festivities in 2021


Holidays at The Hotel Del Coronado are brighter this year with the help of EPIC Entertainment Group. This year The Hotel Del Coronado welcomes loyal guests, locals and new travelers to ‘Home for the Holidays’ with 10 different immersive holiday experiences. Here’s what you can see and do while visiting or staying at The Del.

  1. Ice skating is back at The Del. Lace up skates and skim along the ice right next to the beach. Advanced reservations are recommended and sold online.
Multiple drink and food options are available at The Del

2. Before, during or after ice skating ‘Frostbite’ Lounge offers cozy seating and a fire pit by reservation for up to six people. Order food and drinks from a holiday-themed cocktail and snack menu while watching skaters whirl by you and the colorful lights.

Spectacular Lightshow nightly

3. EPIC ENTERTAINMENT Group decorates the legendary Norfolk Pines on the Founder’s Lawn for a dynamic ‘At First Light’ lightshow with colored lights orchestrated to holiday music and snowfall. In 1904 these trees were the first electrically lit outdoor Christmas Tree in America. The show is 11-minutes long and run every thirty minutes from 5 to 9 p.m.

23-ft lobby Christmas tree

4. The return of the perennial favorite includes the spectacular two-story lobby tree decorated with 10,000 sparkling lights with more than 2,000 ornaments in red, gold and forest green. Guests can purchase many of the ornaments dazzling on the tree at the nearby shops.

The Center Tree is a towering 25 feet

5. Go on a scavenger hunt to find 20 themed Christmas trees ranging in size from 8 feet to a breathtaking 25 foot tall tree out in the Victorian Garden. Visit the shops inside The Victorian, the Welcome Center inside the Beach Village, and check for trees in The Cabanas and The Views.

Sand art at The Del Beach

6. See a Holiday Movie on the Beach. Snuggle up with a loved one on Del Beach for a movie in the picturesque theater under the stars on Dec. 11, 18 and 31.

Jingle Roast on the Beach

7. S’mores on the Beach at your own private bonfire on Del Beach. Cozy up for hot beverages, housemade marshmallows, graham crackers and a variety of chocolates. Jingle Roast is from Dec. 15 – 25 at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Jolly St. Nick at The Signature Shop

8. Photos with Santa will take place on the Paseo Lawn on Dec. 16-18 and Dec. 22 – 24. Receive a keepsake photo with jolly Santa when you make a reservation for a visit. Santa is in shops and his spirit is everywhere around the hotel.

Start a new family tradition at The Del

9. Victorian Tea is served during the holidays on Dec. 17, 19, 20 and 21. Take a step back in time with a classic Victorian Tea featuring a variety of teas, finger sandwiches and sweets while beautiful music sets the atmosphere. There are special kids’ plates too, so little ones can join the adults to start a family tradition.

10. Go Holiday Gift Shopping for inspired gifts and The Del’s 29th annual holiday ornament can be found at the various shops at The Del. The beautiful handblown glass ornament is inspired by the hotel’s 1888 stained glass “Coronation Window,” which was restored earlier this year

The Beach Village is a gated community at The Del

Stay in one of the Beach Village Cottages or Villas for ocean, beach, pool and palm tree views. The villas are equipped with a full kitchen to make meals to enjoy outside on the patio or large balcony. A private welcome center checks Beach Village guests into the private and gated section of The Del. The staff are available to cater to guests needs. There are multiple swimming pools and hot whirlpools for guests to use near each cottage or villa. For reservations for a Beach Village, The Victorian, The Cabanas or The Views guest room, click here.

Meeting The Band’s Visit Cast

After seeing THE BAND’S VISIT opening night performance at The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, I was invited the next day to a meet-and-greet with members of the band and four of the leads in the show: Janet Dacal (Dina), Sasson Gabay ( Colonel Tewfiq), Joe Joseph (Haled) and Coby Getzug ( Papi). As the moderator, Benny Aguayo and the cast enlightened me about the making of the movie, then the musical, and why The Band’s Visit is so important to see right now after what we have experienced the past two years.

Benny Aguayo and some of The Band’s Visit cast

How does your character’s journey amplify the importance of human connection? 

Joe: Let the music take you to an emotional place. Art is essential. It fosters empathy and gives people experiences they many not have in their life. These are people in a small town and that thread connects with people in the audience. These characters deliver something bigger than us and puts the audience in touch with their emotions and soul.

Coby: The theme of connection is a choice to sing a piece where people are hungry to listen. The show drops all language cultural barriers. We have found the audience leans forward to share this experience with us. Traveling with the show, we bring to the audience Arabic music and instruments that some of the audience may have never heard before. It’s a collective experience. For my character Papi he has everything going wrong, because he is not great with girls, yet his new friendship with Haled sparks a chance encounter that changes his life with a beautiful human connection.

Sasson: What I like is to see is the enjoyment of the audience while performing this show. The characters in the play solve their life and salvation through music. Music helps solves Twefiq’s problems, Dina wants to be a dancer and music makes her feel alive again. The creators connect people with Chet Baker, Gershwin and others to grab the audience. The musical is quieter than many, but evenly paced to form that connection.

Janet: It’s a show of serenity, peace and something that humankind needs to see right now while dealing with the isolation of the pandemic. It’s all about human connection. One of the basic themes after the last 18 months is that we all agree that we need each other to survive. Human connection is what we have all been yearning for, just like the character Dina. She has been yearning to feel alive. She comes to life with her shared human experience with Twefiq.

Coby and Joe

What are your thoughts about the magnitude of silence, peace, and tranquility of the show? 

Sasson: It’s a play with music, its a musical, but not a traditional one with a lot of song and dance. This offers a lot of emotion, peace and tranquility, sometimes the magnitude of silence. This production builds and builds slowly with a deep breath. Bit by bit the audience joins the actors on a journey through one night in Israel. You can relate and see yourself in their journey.

Coby: Something really human takes place – to listen to other humans. These characters don’t open and share especially well with strangers, so their silence gives the audience time, and the music you hear and the absence of it at times makes this such a special experience.

Janet: Musical notes are part of the pause in a scene and like in the film, there are long silences to give the audience an idea of the space of what this town is like. At times it makes you sit in your discomfort. The characters communicate in their non-native language. The writers were creative to take it from the film to the stage and keep the silence. 

Joe: There are four languages in the show: English, Hebrew, Arabic and music. Music allows the characters to cut through language. My character Haled is the worst with language, yet he is a carefree guy and his song helps Papi and the girl at the roller rink unite and embrace. Haled uses jazz to connect, calm his friend, and show his love of Chet Baker. When words fail, music works. It’s a force that cuts across all cultures and boundaries.

The musical has no intermission. What’s it like to perform the show in one act? 

Janet: No intermission keeps you and the audience in the show and engaged from the beginning to the end. As an actor, it is wonderful to be done in 90 minutes. Especially with 8 performances a week.

Coby: It takes you a couple minutes for the audience to tune their ear into the music and dialogue of the show. Without an intermission, the audience and we as a cast continues on this story’s journey without any interruptions. 

Sasson: The audience receives a whole experience. Without an intermission, you don’t have to cut the show abruptly. When one visits the restroom, purchases a snack and drink, it takes a few minutes to get back into the show again. It allows the availability of language, of music and love to resonate without getting out of your seat.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Can you talk about the shows depiction of universal languages of music and love as told through the eyes of your character? 

Sasson: The music transforms the delicate film to a delicate musical production. When David Cromer approached me to do the musical, I immediately said yes. This is the first time many audiences have seen Arabic music. The show opens people to these cultures. The audience exposure is rewarding to see each night. I’m proud that this show and the film do that to people.

Janet: What I like is Israelis playing Egyptians and Egyptians playing Israelis. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you are a human being. It was easy as a Cuban descent to play an Israeli woman. We have similar background in a way. My parents had to leave their county and start a new life.

Joe: I first saw the show on Broadway with Tony Shalaoub. The show is about people dealing with a constant fight for survival. It’s a show about unexceptional people living in an unexceptional place. 

Janet and Sasson

Sasson, did you ever imagine while filming the movie well over a decade ago in the desert, that you’d later be performing it on a Broadway stage in America? 

Sasson: The low budget film was made in 21 days in the Southern part of Israel. We were invited to the Cannes Film Festival and applauded for it’s commercial and critical success. This show changed my life and my career. Fans of this gentle film wanted to make it into a Broadway production. It took over 8 years to put this musical onstage with actor Tony Shalhoub as Tewfiq. When he left the show I was asked to play Tewfiq again.

Do any fans of the film approach you and share their thoughts and feeling of the impact the story had on them? 

Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

Do you have any favorite songs, melodies, lyrics, or even moments of silence in David’s score? 

Janet: The role is Dina is a beautiful role for women. David Yazbek wrote the music and lyrics which captures Dina through her songs. Its an expression of who she is through the melodies. They are hauntingly beautiful and it’s a true honor to play this role. I feel so lucky doing this show. She enjoys singing the song ‘Omar Sharif’ in the show. When she recently adopted a male dog, she named it after the song, Omar Sharif.

Coby: ‘Waiting’ is my favorite song. The line “There’s two kinds of waiting, there’s the kind where you’re expecting something new, or even strange, but this kind of waiting, you keep looking off out into the distance, you keep looking off out into the distance, even though you know the view is never going to change, you wait…” Every day has looked the same for these people for so long and then this band of musicians comes into town and for less than 24 hours changes the lives of everyone they meet.

Joe Jospeh as Haled – Photo by Broadway in Hollywood

Joe: The friends thread comes through in the song ‘Haled’s Song About Love.’ The scene of young couples at the roller rink are enhanced with the instrumental nature of love. The instruments the band plays enhances the gentle emotional response. They take you by the hand to enhance the story. Every night we perform is dynamic and rewarding.

How do you feel LA audiences will respond to the musical? Both Janet and Coby are from Los Angeles. 

Coby: I was excited to be back in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The last time I stepped foot in this hotel was during my 10th grade Winter Formal. Bringing back to the language and music, my mother is from Israel and never thought she would see her son speak Hebrew onstage. She invited 40 family and friends to come see the show tonight.

Joe: The show is an analogy of what we do 9 times a week. We connect with the audience in a fundamental way for the need to be together as social animals. It’s a blessing at each performance. Theater is an ecosystem of the economy. Diverse people seeking entertainment go to restaurants near the theatre, park in the lots, stay in nearby hotels, shop in stores. A theatre brings people to a destination spending more money than just a ticket to a show.

Janet: I went to a performing arts middle and high school in Los Angeles with students from all different backgrounds. I was exposed to so many different types of people and cultures. It opened me to different cultures and how we are all human.

Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

When it comes to acceptance of cultural diversity, can you draw from your own experiences and relate them to moments in The Band’s Visit? 

Sasson: There are so many borders and boundaries inhibiting us in life. This show gives us a chance to dare and do it. Dina’s character initiated the Israelis and Egyptians to be together.

Coby: The show exposes the audience to be open to new cultures. It’s a story of resilience and hope. This show opens one to a cultural tapestry of humankind..

The Band’s Visit closes on December 19, 2021. Tickets are available at Broadway in Hollywood

5 So Cal Holiday Experiences

Celebrate the holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood while enjoying an array of yule time festivities that include “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” and “Grinchmas,” daily through Sunday, January 9, 2022. Highlights included in the price of admission are the dazzling “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” nightly light show starting at 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Stroll through the village with roofs blanketed in snow and festive colorful lights, garlands and holiday decorations hung on window frames and doors.

Sip sweet Hot Butterbeer while listening to the Hogwarts students frog choir sing a cappella harmonized holiday-themed songs.

At dusk, stunning imagery and animation display are projected illuminating Hogwarts castle. The sounds of arrangement music from the Harry Potter film series fill the area.

Jill Weinlein

Also at Universal Studios Hollywood meet and greet with The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and Who-ville residents as they gather near the 65 feet high topsy-turvey “Grinchmas” tree. There is a nightly tree lighting accompanied with a snowfall flurry.

Visit the Who-vile Post Office to write a postcard to send to The Grinch. For every postcard mailed, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Discover a Star Foundation will make a donation to School on Wheels which benefits homeless youth in Southern California.

Radisson Blu Anaheim

The Radisson Blu Anaheim has launched a new holiday-themed ‘Home Alone’ guestroom package for families. Inspired by the nostalgic movie “Home Alone” and Disney+ “Home Sweet Home Alone” reboot, guests can book a special room now until December 31, 2021, and celebrate the holidays McCallister-style.

You won’t go hungry with this package that includes Kevin’s favorite ice cream sundae, mac and cheese and freshly baked cheese or pepperoni pizza. Soft drinks plus a jar of M&Ms and freshly baked cookies await your arrival. Guests also receive two turtle dove ornaments inspired by Mr. Duncan’s toy store in Home Alone 2 for a keepsake. 

This offer is available for stays from now through January 15, 2022, and rates are based on two people per room; a fee will apply for additional guests. 

Vanessa Tierney Photography

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills is hosting its annual holiday high tea every Sunday in December until Christmas. Located in the elegant Lobby Lounge, the staff will be serving a finely curated selection of teas from around the world, plus an array of sweet treats and flutes of champagne. A classical harpist will entertain guests with soothing and sophisticated music.

“We are thrilled to welcome guests to Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills to share the joy of the holiday season and create cherished memories with loved ones,” said Antonio Bugarin, Hotel Manager at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. “From the special menus at our award-winning restaurants, Jean-Georges Beverly Hills and The Rooftop by JG, to the festive glamour and décor, guests can expect a curated, luxurious experience, while still enjoying the nostalgia of traditional holiday favorites.”

Reservations for the high tea is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Prices start at $110 per person and $65 per child.

Jill Weinlein

Enchanted at Descanso Gardens offers 10 different light installations along a one-mile pathway. Stop to enjoy the mesmerizing colorful floral light display synchronized to music, and see swirling symphony lights in trees.

Stand in one of the many lit-up stained glass houses by contemporary sculptor Tom Fruin, and notice the patterns on the ground around the sparkling installations from HYBYCOZO on the Luminous Lawn.

The Ancient Forest transports guests to another land with its exquisite lighting effects. Enter the Garden of Good Fortune to be surrounded by hundreds of red lantern lights hanging in trees and reflecting off the stream and pond.

Enchanted entry tickets start at $25 and must be purchased in advance.

This review was also featured in JustLuxe.

Holiday Fun at Ventura Harbor

It’s of my favorite times of the year to visit the city of Ventura and Ventura Harbor. Bring the family to one of the most wonderful times of the year at Ventura Harbor Village. Shop local, see live reindeer, stand under faux snow flurries, see boats of all sizes decorated for a special Holiday Boat Parade, and listen to carolers clad in costume warm your spirits

The Winter Wonderland & Holiday Marketplace at Ventura Harbor Village is on Saturday, December 11, featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus with their reindeer. Santa is going to start the day with a Stand Up Paddle at 11 a.m.  

The picturesque harbor shines brighter during the holidays with harbor views while dining on covered patios. Visitors can shop along the promenade to find seaside gifts for underneath the tree. Holiday shoppers can give the gift of year-round experiences with gift cards from Islands Packers, Ventura Boat Rentals, The Ultimate Escape Rooms, Ventura Comedy Club, and Ventura Dive & Sport. The seaside destination entices shoppers with a Holiday Shopping Passport, whereby they can get stamps and enter to win a $150+ holiday gift package plus $25 each week of gift cards from November 27- December 19, 2021.   www.VenturaHarborVillage.com.

Winter Wonderland & Holiday Marketplace

On Saturday, Dec. 11, the Ventura Harbor Village is hosting its annual Winter Wonderland & Holiday Marketplace from noon- 4 p.m. Visit with Santa & Mrs. Claus and their live reindeer, enjoy live carolers, a faux snowfall for kids and much more while you shop at locally-owned stores and art galleries. ‘Tis the season for giving, with two opportunities to make a difference to help others this holiday season.

  1. Canned Food Drive benefitting Food Share Ventura County. Bring ten cans and receive a fun complimentary reindeer antler head band, perfect for the holidays, stocking stuffers and photo opps. 
  2. Sock Drive benefitting Ventura Rescue Mission. Get in the spirit of giving by donating socks, the item most often requested by shelters during the winter.

All Aboard the 2021 Island Packers Harbor Light Cruise and Parade of Lights Cruise

  • Island Packers Public Harbor Lights Cruise: View holiday lights with friends/family during a one-hour Island Packers Public Harbor Light Cruise from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Check for dates available on  December 8-12, 15 and 19 and December 20-23, 2021. The cost is $17 for adults, $14 for seniors 55+ and $11 for children. 
  • For those who wish to see the colorfully-lit boats up close, look no further than Island Packers Parade of Lights Public Cruise topped off by a spectacular fireworks on December 17 and 18, 2021 at 5:45 and 6 p.m. The cost is $36 for adults, $33 for seniors 55+ and $26 for children under 12 years old.  Group rates are also available www.IslandPackers.com

The Band’s Visit is Just What We Need Right Now

At Opening Night of THE BAND”S VISIT inside the Dolby Theatre, theater patrons were giddy with excitement. For some, this was the first time they have stepped into a theater to see a live show in almost two years.

Based on the book by Itamar Moses and low budget Israeli film of the same name by Israeli screenwriter and director Eran Kolirin, the story was developed into a musical by Producer Orin Wolf’s love of the story. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s National Fund for New Musicals it was made years later and opened on Broadway in 2017. Receiving favorably results from audiences and critics, this little show swept the Tony Awards nominations and won 10 awards including Best Musical, as well as Best Director of a Musical, David Cromer, Best Score and the two leading acting awards with Tony Shalhoub as Tewfiq Zakaria, the colonel of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra.

Sasson Gabay and Janet Dacal

Now one of Broadway in Hollywood’s productions, the touring company has actor Sasson Gabay once again performing as the lead character. Sasson is no stranger to this role, as he played Twefiq in the movie and on Broadway after Shalboub left the show.

The show begins with the line “Once not long ago a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important” to introduce Colonel Twefiq and his band of musicians arriving in Israel and excited to perform for a local cultural organization in Petah Tikva. The miscommunication at the bus station between Arabic and Israeli translation, lands the band in a “bleak” “boring” and “beige” desert town. 

Director David Cromer cleverly uses a revolving stage to introduce the townspeople in the “Waiting” scene, where every day is the same. Confused and hungry, the band of musicians in light blue Sargent Pepper style uniforms inquire with Dina (Janet Dacal), a local café owner about something to eat and their whereabouts. Again due to a language barrier, they strike up a conversation in English, as Dina sings along with Itzik (Clay Singer) and Papi (Coby Getzug) “Welcome to Nowhere.” Lighting designer Tyler Micoleau casts a beautiful orange glow across the stage signaling dusk. 

With no buses arriving until the following day, Dina and a few locals exhibit an act of kindness by taking these men in for the night. Soon their lives become intertwined in unexpected ways and this lackluster town soon wakes up and shines, just as Dina and others in town break down their walls and come alive with the presence of these strangers.

The Band – Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

THE BAND”S VISIT reminds me a little of the musical “Come From Away”, it’s a feel good story with music and lyrics by David Yazbek. The lively number “The Beat of Your Heart” has Avrum (David Studwell) singing about how love sparks something upbeat. He sings how “In love and music all is fair” while sharing to Itzik, Simon (James Rana) and Camal (Yoni Avi Battat) how he met his wife. “Love starts when the tune is sweet” is the theme of how music and love are the universal language. These four characters joyfully sing “Summertime” from the musical Porgy and Bess, and the magic of music brings Israeli and Egyptian strangers together on common ground. Later in the show, Simon plays his clarinet to soothe the couple’s crying infant, bringing peace and harmony into the fractured household.

Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

The audience claps multiple times throughout the show, especially after Dina brings out a playful side of the Colonel. Dacal’s melodic voice has the audience lean towards the stage as she sings about her fond memory of watching Egyptian movies with Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif “flying in a Jasmine scented wind” in song “Omar Sherif.” Shai Wetzer is fantastic on the Arabic percussion tapping the “daraba”, which means “to strike” with gusto in Arabic.

Joe Joseph – Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

For such a dull town, the local roller rink is full of swirling and sparkling colors as Haled (Joe Joseph) sings the jazzy “Haled’s Song About Love” so buttery soft and smooth to inspire awkward Papi (Coby Getzug) to take a step towards love. 

Another favorite scene is when Tewliq and Dina sing “Something Different”. He sings in Arabic, while she freely sings and dances about reviving a spark inside. Lighting director Tyler Micoleau has Dina’s seductive shadow illuminated on a back wall, as she twirls around Tewliq. 

Throughout the play is the mention of Chet Baker and his hit song ‘My Funny Valentine’. Even though Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote this song for the musical “Babes in Arms”, Baker’s signature song is sung in such an exquisite style that it gave me goosebumps. Not only are the characters awakened, the audience is too.

Another beautiful voice is the Telephone Guy (Joshua Grosso) who we only see his profile for most of the show, as he obsessively waits next to a pay phone hoping his loved one will call. When the phone finally rings, he picks it up and sings ”Answer Me” so exquisitely that he steals the scene, even as the ensemble join in. 

The next day when the band gathers at Dina’s cafe to catch their bus, it’s a mirror image of the opening scene. It’s time to say goodbye as they board their bus to “Petah Tikvah”. 

When the stage cuts to black and the actors take their final curtain bow, stay in your seat for an added bonus of music and good cheer.

THE BAND’S VISIT offers laughter, inspires hope, and ultimately brings all of us together for 90 minutes to celebrate friendship and the basic need of human connection.

THE BAND’S VISIT features music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner David Yazbek, and a book by Tony Award-winner Itamar Moses. It is based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin, and is directed by Tony Award-winner David Cromer.

Showtime is at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. The show ends on Dec. 19, 2021.

Tickets start at $30 (subject to change)

Contact: 1-800-982-2787 or BroadwayInHollywood.com.

Dolby Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA

A Christmas Carol runs through January 1, 2022

The excitement was contagious, as the staff of the Center Theatre Group prepared for the reopening of the Ahmanson Theatre for “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”. They dropped off an envelope to every chair in the theatre before the doors opened to theatre patrons. Inside was a white card that read: TOGETHER AGAIN We’ve Missed You! Tonight’s Performance is Dedicated To You: The First To Return.

The pre-show is a lot of fun to watch

The Ahmanson has been dark for 628 days. Think about that length of time for a theatre to be closed. When they planned to reopen, they wanted to do it with a BANG! They wanted a story that would engage the audience and warm their soul. Securing the five-time Tony winning production “A Christmas Carol” with seasoned actor Emmy Award-winner Bradley Whitford as Ebenezer Scrooge, Kate Burton and Alex Newell was the perfect combination to attract theater goers back inside.

Audiences must arrive early to show their vaccination card, identification and receive a purple bracelet to enter into the theatre. A delightful pre-show entertains the audience with members of the ensemble walking out onstage to play music, wave, and throw out small tangerines to those who raise their hand and are ready to catch.

The ensemble has fun throughout the show

Looking up, one notices hundreds of lanterns hanging from the ceiling above the audience. Lighting Designer Hugh Vanstone has designed over 20 Broadway shows and won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design for this show when it was at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City. 

The musical is based on a novella written in 1843 by Charles Dickens and is a clever new interpretation of Dickens’ timeless story. Adapted by Tony Award winner Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and originally directed and conceived by Tony Award winner Matthew Warchus (“Matilda”), Scrooge is visited by four ghosts.

The first ghost is former business partner Jacob Marley (Chris Hoch) who has been “dead as a doornail” for seven years. Weighted down by the chains he forged in life, Hoch wows the audience and Scrooge towards the end of the show with his golden voice.

Bradley Whitford is wonderful as Scrooge

Rob Howell’s creativity and skillful expertise as the Set and Costume Designer for the show also won a Tony Winner. He cleverly has four thin door frames in the center of the set to represent a front door and doors leading into hallways. These pop up and come down flush with the stage floor during certain scenes. Howell dresses Scrooge in an exquisite red jacket to add a pop of color and the ghosts in colorful garments to draw our attention to the dark stage.

This timeless and very timely tale focuses on isolation and redemption. “A Christmas Carol” features sound design by Tony Award winner Simon Baker; The sound effects of doors closing are integral in the show, especially when Scrooge’s assistant Bob Cratchit shuts the door in frustration and resignation.

This ensemble enjoy swinging the bells in their hands to Christmas tunes multiple times in the show. Music, orchestrations, and arrangements are by Tony Award winner Christopher Nightingale; music direction by Remy Kurs; music supervision by Paul Staroba and music coordination by Howard Joines. Some of the most beloved Christmas carols, including “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” are performed.

When Scrooge encounters the three ghosts of Christmas he is forced to visit his past, the present and move into the future. It’s painful for him to watch as each ghost appears during a spectacular whirlwind from Vanstone’s lighting.

Bradley Whitford and Kate Burton

The ghost of Christmas Past is Kate Burton, and she guides Scrooge on a painful journey of his failures and lost opportunities. Burton is the accomplished daughter of theater royalty – Richard Burton and Sybil Christopher.

The ghost of Christmas Present received applause the minute Alex Newell stepped onstage. I didn’t understand why Newell spoke with a Jamaican accent, and at times he yells out his lines so loud that I couldn’t understand the words he was shouting out. I heard guests during intermission commenting on this too. He is bigger than life in energy, which is exciting to watch, but Newell just needs to slow down his delivery and enunciate more clearly.

Alex Newell and Bradley Whitford

While the Christmas Future scene is with Little Fan (Glory Yepassis-Zembrou), Whitford draws the audience in with his dramatic voice, yet Yepassis- Zembrou yells to much during Scrooge’s awakening and needs to soften her voice in these scenes. 

As Scrooge races though the audience to make amends with those he neglected for so many years, one of the most touching scenes is when he raps on Belle’s (Sarah Hunt) door.

Director Thomas Caruso has the ensemble appear in the audience multiple times and the audience roars in laughter during a banter with Scrooge, his nephew Fred (Brandon Gill) and townspeople collecting food to prepare for a fabulous Christmas meal.

Another touching moment is at the end with Tiny Tim (Cade Robertson the night we saw the show). It is one of those “awe” moments that will fill your heart with love and joy.

During the end of the show, the entertaining choreography has the audience ready to stand for an appreciative ovation. In the spirit of giving during the holidays, Whitford shares how the production chose a non-profit organization to support this holiday season. The Ahmanson works with many organizations to make theatre more accessible to Los Angelenos. They selected The South L.A. Cafe Community Foundation to help combat racial, economic, social, food inequity and food insecurity. Guests wanting to help out could donate a few dollars on their way out of the theatre.

After a bonus lively bell ringing performance, the audience walked outside to tables laden with packaged chocolate chip mint cookies and cups filled with piping hot chocolate as a thank you for attending the evening’s performance.

“A Christmas Carol” runs through Jan. 1. Tickets for “A Christmas Carol” are currently on sale for the premiere engagement at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre and start at $40. They are available through CenterTheatreGroup.org, Audience Services at (213) 972-4400 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012). 

“A Christmas Carol” is produced by Tom Smedes, Heather Shields, Nathan Gehan, Jamison Scott, Catherine Schreiber, Peter Stern, Xin Wen, Cornice Productions, Jack Lane, Instone Productions, Nancy Gibbs/Joseph Longthorne, Mark Lonow & JoAnne Astrow, J. Scott & Sylvia G Bechtel, Walport Productions, Alexandra Weinstein & Tobi Pilavin Weinstein, Propaganda Productions/42nd.Club, Beth Lenke/Wolfstone Productions, Tanninger Entertainment, CHK Productions/Louise H. Beard & Seriff Productions, Mark Lippman, Fiona Howe Rudin/Sammy Lopez, David Lambert/Shawn Arani, Brian Mutert & Derek Perrigo/Gary & Reenie Heath and Terry Schnuck/Joel t Newman, with Associate Producer Chase Thomas.

The Westin LAX Festive Sleigh Ride

Tis the season to be jolly and not have to worry about parking at one of the busiest airports this time of the year. The Westin Los Angeles Airport has launched a festive shuttle throughout the month of December to spread a little cheer to passengers leaving and arriving to LAX.

Guests parking or staying The Westin near the airport, will enjoy the exclusive opportunity to ride in a festively wrapped shuttle that is decked out with thousands of lights. The shuttle will have a Christmas wreath and the drivers will be wearing Santa hats. Passengers are greeted with candy canes, and can sit back and listen to holiday music before arriving at their airport terminal or the hotel.

This special shuttle will run at random in rotation with the hotel’s regular complimentary shuttle service which runs every 20 minutes 24/7.

Right now through December 25, The Westin at LAX is offering a “That’s a Wrap!” package. Guests staying at the hotel will receive festive wrapping paper, bows and anything else one needs to wrap holiday gifts with ease — including a complimentary cocktail! To book, visit www.marriott.com/laxwi and use promo code HO9.

The Ultimate Ritz Carlton “City to Slopes’ Getaway

The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe

For the ultimate couples and family holiday getaway, The Ritz Carlton, San Francisco and The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe are offering a luxurious city and mountain vacation.

This exclusive curated City to Slopes package appeals to those seeking the finer things in life. Starting on November 19, 2021 to March 31, 2022, start the four-days with an extravagant shopping spree for holiday or wish-list items. Afterwards attend a private wine and caviar tasting at JCB Tasting Salon, and visit to the Krigler boutique. There are tickets to an exciting evening show and transportation the next day to the airport to fly on a private jet to Lake Tahoe’s winter wonderland.

The Ritz Carlton, San Francisco

The Ritz Carlton, San Francisco is one of the most luxurious hotels, earning the only AAA Five Diamond in the city. Located just steps from the iconic California Street Cable Car with convenient access to Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Lombard Street and Coit Tower, guests will enjoy seeing the holiday store displays and festive atmosphere.

Joel Costa, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Ritz Carlton, San Francisco was instrumental in creating this one-of-a-kind travel package. “We’re pleased to present our guests with this exclusive winter experience in two iconic Northern California destinations,” said Costa. “After 18-months of pent-up travel demand, this package is the ultimate way to kick-start the winter travel season with VIP experiences from the San Francisco Bay to the Sierra Nevada mountains.”

Guests receive an elegantly appointed Club Level guestroom and all-inclusive dining opportunities including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, cocktails, wine, beer and dessert.

Start one of the days with a private shopping experience for two at Saks Fifth Avenue. Come back to the hotel for a private JCB Salon multi-sensory experience. Learn about the legendary winemaker, while tasting his wines, wearing his fragrance and jewelry, and sipping from his Passion Baccarat crystal collection.

Be sure to step into the elegant Krigler shop next door to receive a limited edition Good Fir 11 Krigler holiday candle. This particular fragrant candle was inspired by founder Albert Krigler when he made his journey to California. 

During the evening, guests will receive two tickets to the entertaining “Dear San Francisco,” a high-flying acrobatics show at Club Fugazi.

The next morning a luxury car awaits to transport guests to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Board one of the private Surf Air jets, the first private air travel club of its kind, for a short flight to the majestic slopes.

The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Upon landing, a luxury car will transport guests from Truckee Tahoe Airport to The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. This contemporary AAA Five Diamond mountain retreat sits among the snow-clad mountains at Northstar California Resort. It’s a stunning winter wonderland and ultimate skiing getaway featuring convenient slope-side, ski-in and ski-out access. An inter-mountain gondola connects the resort to the nearby Village at Northstar.

There are 170 guest rooms and 23 private Ritz-Carlton Residences. Guests have access to the 17,000 square foot spa and fitness center.

According to Laurie Munos, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe, “This winter season, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is thrilled to offer guests an over-the-top package allowing them to experience the many luxuries of Lake Tahoe as well as our neighboring city San Francisco.”

Receive keys to a beautifully decorated Club Level guestroom, and two lift tickets await to be redeemed at Northstar California resort, plus premium ski or snowboard rentals for two. Guests can also participate in private ski or snowboard lessons for two and receive a $500 credit to the True North boutique for ski or snowboard gear.

Later in the evening dress for a private Chef’s Table Experience at Manzanita, the resort’s signature restaurant. Other dining venues include The Backyard Bar & BBQ, The Living Room, Café Blue for luxe après ski culinary delights.

The City to Slopes package at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, and The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe must be reserved 14-days in advance. The all-inclusive rate begins at $25,000 for two. Call (800)241-3333.  

This review was featured in JustLuxe – November 2021.

The Electrifying Audi e-tron


Driving an Audi e-tron infused with the same Audi DNA performance and handling as their fuel cars, is even more thrilling at every turn. The luxury fully-electric Audi e-tron models have a quicker pick up. Just step on the pedal and go from 0 to 60 in less than 5.5 seconds.

Equipped with an e-quattro all-wheel drive system, the intelligent technology and advanced charging capabilities make this one of the most innovative and sustainable electric automobiles in the world.

Engineered for stability, the core of the Audi e-tron is it’s 95 kWh battery with a range of up to 205 miles. That is a greater range than other luxury electric vehicles including the Tesla Model X and Jaguar 1-Pace. This special battery is covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles with a limited warranty. The Audi e-tron can plug into any public charging station with a Combined Charging System (CCS) Charger, including Electrify America’s fast charging network.

Inside the elegant four-door coupe is a sleek panoramic view roof, comfortable soft black leather upholstery with heated and cooling features inside the adjustable front seats. Audi’s cockpit offers not one but two center large screen digital displays. The Select Drive adjusts the drivetrain, steering and suspension to your favorite driving preference. From efficiency to comfort, dynamic to individual, drivers have the option with the touch of a button. Another benefit of the e-tron is Audi drivers will never have to visit a gas station for fuel, get their car smog certified, or maintain the car with oil changes and tune ups.

The integrated system of sensors and cameras are part of the driver assistance capabilities to keep drivers and passengers safer on the road. The quad-zone automatic climate control keeps the temperature idyllic while driving and the keyless entry provides ease and convenience.

This muscle car design offers adaptive air suspension, 20-inch wheels and a hands-free liftgate. The only negative I found was that Audi doesn’t provide one-pedal regenerative driving yet. 

Jill Weinlein 

Since transportation is the number one source of climate pollution in the United States, Audi is committed to offering an American model line that is 30 percent electric by 2025. For a more sustainable future, Audi’s goal is to reduce net CO2 emissions by 30 percent. Also, Audi production facilities around the globe are planned to be certified net carbon-neutral.

The e-tron is Audi’s first all-electric production model. To celebrate, Audi has collaborated with local restaurants and businesses committed to sustainability. The Audi City Guides are a curated list of diverse and dedicated eco-entrepreneurs, restaurants, and designers making an impact in their city through their innovative sustainable practices. The list includes Keys to Los Angeles and Keys to New York.

Jill Weinlein 

An individual who purchases an Audi e-tron may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Additional state and local incentives may also be available. The list price is comparable to other luxury electric automobiles starting under $70,000.

This article is featured in JustLuxe October 2021.

National Rose’ Day

Last weekend was National Rose Day and FIOL Rosé sent me a bottle to celebrate. Its their bold new pink Prosecco. FIOL’s co-founder Gian Luca Passi retails at $18.99 and can easily be shipped right to your doorstep via the brand’s new online store, ShopFiol.com and at select retailers.

Tasting notes:

  • The lively pink prosecco is made using the finest Glera (85%) and Pinot Noir (15%) grapes from Treviso, Italy. 
  • The Charmat method, which is widely associated with the Prosecco region, is used during production, creating the perfect bubbly sensation throughout the mouth-feel. 
  • With an inviting translucent coral color, FIOL Rosé gives off fruity aromas of raspberry and wild strawberry and hints of citrus lemon fruits and white flowers. 
  • On the palate, familiar notes of pear and apple dance around, while the Pinot Noir shines through, resulting in a harmonious palate with a persistent finish. 
  • FIOL Rosé is great from bottle to glass but it also creates a refreshing mixed drink such as a bellini, mimosa or our favorite, FIOL’s Rosato Spritz–recipe is below.

Summer DIY Pedicure

My friends at Naturally London sent me a summer Spa Pedicure Bundle to help me get my feet beach and sandal ready.

I’m going to take care of myself this summer by taking a lot of sandy beach walks and barefoot strolls by the pool, so it’s time to show some love to my feet during the summer. Naturally London’s new Spa Pedicure Bundle – Summer Edition offers the ultimate at-home solution to dry, rough and cracked skin.

The 8oz Exhale Foot Soak or Refuge Foot Soak is an antioxidant-rich foot soak that draws out impurities from the skin. I actually put these salts in my warm bath and soaked in the water to relax and nature my body.

After my good soak, I apply some of their award-winning, salt based Moisturizing Foot Polish to buff away dead skin and moisturize the new skin. Ingredients include healthy avocado, jojoba and Vitamin E oils.

My calluses and dry heals soak in the super-moisturizing 1oz Healing Foot balm. It uses beeswax to gently glide over the skin promoting soft skin

Naturally London just released another new product: Replenishing Daily Antioxidant Serum. It’s a lightweight, antioxidant-rich serum made with five luxurious, organic oils to soften cuticles, hands, and feet.

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