A Gem of an opening

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Garden Grove’s historic Gem Theatre re-opened its doors over the weekend to a jubilant crowd of sponsors, theater fans, and supporters of the arts, but no one expressed more excitement than One More Productions Co-owners and Founders Nicole Cassesso and Damien Lorton.

Cassesso said, "We have been working 24/7, and we are tremendously excited to be back … to have the doors open again. Re-opening has been a fantastic project. Today has been wonderful, and Damien and I are so very grateful for people’s continued support.”

Garden Grove’s historic Gem Theatre re-opened its doors over the weekend to a jubilant crowd of sponsors, theater fans, and supporters of the arts, but no one expressed more excitement than One More Productions Co-owners and Founders Nicole Cassesso and Damien Lorton.

Cassesso said, "We have been working 24/7, and we are tremendously excited to be back … to have the doors open again. Re-opening has been a fantastic project. Today has been wonderful, and Damien and I are so very grateful for people’s continued support.”

Lorton added, “We’re just so happy! We’re happy to be back, and we’re so thankful for all of the love and support we have received from everyone!”

Exactly two and a half years ago, a raging electrical fire rapidly engulfed the beloved landmark and threatened to close its doors forever – leaving it frozen in time, but with true grit, determination, and a “never-give-up” attitude, Cassesso and Lorton are reliving their dream of making live theater accessible, producing fully-mounted plays and full

-scale musicals, and bringing quality theater at affordable prices to the Garden Grove community.

The weekend began with a good old-fashioned parking lot “street fair” featuring raffles, hot cider, cold drinks, goodies to eat, arts and crafts, a “snow” tent for kids, and vendors selling their wares.

There were handmade items by local artists such as crocheted scarves and hats by Rainy Day Crochet, Paparazzi Jewelry by Maria Isabel, The Pampered Chef cooking items, and handcrafted wire-wrapped jewelry by Amanda Garner, but once the sunny day gave way to the evening’s “stars,” The Gem Theatre’s striking marquee re-opening pronouncement illuminated the night.

As guests gathered ‘round, the re-opening ceremony was heartfelt, and Mayor Bruce Broadwater talked about the rich, 90-year history of The Gem Theatre. Mayor Broadwater stated  that in 1923, the theater first opened its doors as a single-screen nickelodeon movie theater, and he went on to say, “It wasn’t until the late ‘70s that the future of The Gem Theatre changed forever.”

It was then that it was transformed into a full-fledged performing arts venue, and he continued “… in 2008, the keys were handed over to  One More Productions which has become an integral part of the community, and we look forward to many more years of our community partnership.”

47th District DirectorcGaston Castellanos and Garden Grove City Councilman Kris Beard added positive words for Garden Grove’s live theater re-opening and expressed their well wishes for a future rich with The Gem’s upcoming productions.

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, guests were treated to a catered champagne gala featuring delicious hors d’oeuvres, photo opportunities with a giant snowman, and a grand tour of the beautiful theater.

The evening was capped off by a live performance of The Gem Theatre’s 2013 newest holiday tradition, The Holiday Gem. There was an outpouring of love and support for

Cassesso and Lorton (who were simply known as Nicole and Damien), for the Historic Gem Theatre, and for the small town community with big city dreams.

The experience made one nostalgic for the 1940s-era of  Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, with  movies of yesteryear where the Garland/Rooney duo never gave up on their dreams of puttin’ on  a show, so Nicole and Damien may very well be Garden Grove’s Judy and Mickey who  are back piling on the greasepaint, gathering props, and “hitting the boards.” 

One More Productions' 2014 season will include musical favorites Evita, Assassins, and Gypsy.