Review: The 2017 PAGEANT OF THE MASTERS Takes Audience on The Grand Tour of Europe
For those who have never attended THE PAGEANT OF THE MASTERS live show or its sister event THE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS in Laguna Beach, you are missing a wonderful treasure of not only art but theatrical spectacle during which historical works of arts are brought to life with real people stepping in to portray the characters in each piece of art, be it a painting, sculpture, or promotional advertisement for artistic spectacles taking place all over the world. Each person is costumed to perfectly represent the characters being portrayed, making each presentation a wonder of creativity and awe.
The first Festival of Arts, produced by local artist John H. Hinchman, was held in downtown Laguna Beach from August 13-20, 1932, the same summer the Los Angeles Olympic Games were held from July 30-August 14. Then on August 12, 1933, "Living Pictures" were presented at the 2nd annual Festival of Arts in the "Spirit of the Masters Pageant." But with no permanent location, the Festival was held at various venues, and in 1935, a larger stage, painted backdrops, music and narration was added to the very popular program, now called the Pageant of the Masters. In 1936, the expanded Pageant concluded with "The Last Supper," its traditional finale ever since which continues to generate amazement each time the curtains open to reveal Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece recreated by real people.
In 1941, the Irvine Bowl Recreation Park was dedicated as the permanent home of the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. Record attendance and ticket sales created intense anticipation for the 1942 Festival, which unfortunately was postponed due to WWII from 1942-1945. Resuming its annual event in 1946, it continued to expand, with the Pageant's new stage at the Irvine Bowl built and dedicated on 04/16/53. But the Festival was not without setbacks. On 11/16/1993, a major Laguna Beach Fire and Flood caused $500,000 damage to Irvine Bowl and the Festival grounds. But with great determination, the show still went on in the summer 1994.
Pictured at the top is the new façade designed by Bauer Architects which was dedicated on 11/29/2016, incorporating Laguna's artistic heritage with the Festival's location in the cliffs of Laguna Canyon. And this summer, a brand-new facility (left) containing a new exhibit space, concert stage, workshop area, expanded restrooms and a redesigned gift shop was opened.
Now celebrating its 85th year in Laguna Beach, the 2017 PAGEANT OF THE MASTERS is a breathtaking theatrical journey through the centuries in search of unforgettable art. Inspired by the European tradition of continental travel in the 17th and 18th centuries for upper class, wealthy young men, a ticket to this summer's "The Grand Tour" becomes your passport to experience spectacle, music, stories and grand illusions as masterpieces come to life with each character in every painting portrayed by actors who are dressed to duplicate and appear in each staged setting.
Be prepared to be amazed as the evening begins in England with Joshua Reynolds oil painting Henry Fane, Inigo Jones & Charles Blair on the wall near where a father writes to his son about his upcoming "Grand Tour" of Europe as a way to continue his education. Once his letter is completed, his son Charles Blair surprisingly steps out of the painting, excitedly ready to begin his journey of the continent.
In Act I, he moves through Paris, Versailles, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, Naples, and then arrives in Venice in a gondola which crosses in front of the stage as if floating on the romantic city's waterways. While paintings are on display onstage, many wonderfully beautiful bronze and marble statues, always portrayed by real people, appear in various locations throughout the gardens which surround the stage area. Each appearance is more astounding than the last.
During Act II, more modern displays from the 19th and 20th Centuries take place, starting with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show which toured Europe after entertaining audiences at home. Be prepared to be absolutely amazed as Buffalo Bill rides in on a real horse, chasing after the Indians who appear hooting and hollering while aiming arrows at him from atop the garden area! Works of art relating to this time included posters advertising the shows, a bronze sculpture celebrating the Pony Express, and a shooting match between Johnnie Baker and Miss Annie Oakley who step out from within their posters to compete against each other.
After a selection of paintings celebrating traveling the world by train and sea are revealed, we visit with Duane Hanson's cheeky 1970's American tourists who position themselves within the audience, bearing cameras and mismatched clothing! Then we move on to celebrating the world of New Orleans jazz musicians and entertainers, including incredible sculptures of jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, the moving on to a poster of Josephine Baker, an American dancer who took Paris by storm in the 1930s. Remember, all of these people are portrayed by real people made up to look exactly like them. With each art work, wonderful jazz music performed by an orchestra of 29 musicians who play throughout the Pageant scenes and full stage building videos reflecting their music are on display. In fact, the large, white stage building is used throughout the show to create scenery for the locations being visited.
The Pageant moves on to a visit to Rome's Sisterhood of Sculptors from the 1860s, and ends with its traditional The Last Supper masterpiece. For a complete list of 2017 show scenes, visit https://www.foapom.com/pageant-of-the-masters/pageant-theme/
With the PAGEANT OF THE MASTERS "The Grand Tour" continuing nightly at 8:30pm through August 31, 2017, you can enjoy the Festival of the Arts at the same location during the day. As one of the nation's oldest and most highly acclaimed juried fine art shows, the Festival of Arts features the artwork of 140 award-winning artists. Patrons can enjoy the work of exhibiting artists, demonstrations and art workshops, daily art tours, live music, special events, dine at on-site restaurants, or bring a picnic and enjoy live music before the Pageant. For a full listing of events, visit LagunaFestivalofArts.org.
Advance ticket prices run $15-$230, and may be purchased by phone at 800-487-3378, online at www.pageanttickets.com, or at the ticket window on site daily from 9am-9pm at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach CA 92651. The Irvine Bowl contains 2,600 seats in 40 rows. Bring a sweater for the cooler evenings as all seating is outdoors. For more information, please visit https://www.foapom.com/pageant-of-the-masters/