Sharing Gum Drops and Sugar Plum Fairies at the Historic Warner Grand Theater

Every year at this time I try to fit in at least one Christmas-related musical program or holiday-themed activity. One year we went to see the theater production of “Holiday Inn,” complete with Irving Berlin’s wonderful score.

Another time a friend and I went downtown to the Music Center and participated in the Messiah sing-along with the Los Angeles Master’s Chorale.

And then, of course, there’s The Nutcracker.

Over decades I’ve attended many performances of The Nutcracker, a sure staple of the holiday season.

I’ve enjoyed mini-versions with preschoolers dressed as pint-sized sugar-plum fairies and baby mice, professional ballet troupes in classical performances, and even the “Nutcracker on Ice,” with the story told through interpretive ice skating featuring Olympic skaters in the major roles.

This past week, however, I enjoyed a special occasion with my granddaughters at their first opportunity to enjoy The Nutcracker.

San Pedro City Ballet celebrated their 20th Anniversary of The Nutcracker in the historic Warner Grand Theater. The Warner Grand Theatre opened on January 20, 1931, and became the first sound-equipped theater in the South Bay.

Jack Warner, Jr., one of  four famed “Warner Brothers,”  dubbed the theater “The Castle of Your Dreams,” and it still has that same charm. This ornate theater is one of only three remaining Warner theaters from that era, and the only one completely intact, due to a very active community interest and renovation project.

And The Warner Grand, purchased by the City of Los Angeles and placed on the National Register of Historic Places is an excellent representative of the exquisite art deco-movie palace style popular in the 1930s.

Even with very good balcony seats offering a birds-eye view of the beautiful sets and costumes, I was still curious to see if the girls’ attention would hold.

For one thing, the performance didn’t start on time.

Aimee overheard some of the commotion and returned to her seat saying,  “People are saying they should have a seat because their children are performing. I guess they’re claiming they’re related to a Gum Drop.”

That’s now my favorite shorthand for people asserting themselves into situations with assumed entitlement. “They’re related to a Gum Drop.”

Eventually everyone was settled and we were delighted with an excellent, very professionally produced performance. The girls weren’t restless, they didn’t fall asleep, and to our delight they were very enthusiastic. I think we may have a new tradition.

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And I was pleased the girls enjoyed their first ballet in such a beautiful old theater.

Papa didn’t go with us to The Nutcracker, but was awarded a coveted seat to his own holiday performance– at the elementary school.

Seating was limited to two people per ticket, but as is always the case, parents arrived with extra people, making it a very full house. For some, rules don’t apply– perhaps they were also related to a Gum Drop!


Sophia’s hat and winter clothing were her costume in the school’s musical performance. It was probably 70 degrees outside, but Southern California school children have at least one opportunity a year to pretend they live in a “Winter Wonderland.”

Are you enjoying any special traditions this season?

Do you have a favorite holiday musical or theater performance?

Are you related to a Gum Drop?

63 thoughts on “Sharing Gum Drops and Sugar Plum Fairies at the Historic Warner Grand Theater

  1. My dear Debra, i know I’ve missed a lot of posts lately, but I’m so pleased I didn’t miss this one. I love the ‘related to a gumdrop’ and shall use it shamelessly. I’m so pleased the young ones enjoyed the performance and I really enjoyed your photos of the wonderful old theatre. You have such a gift for taking people with you on your ‘expeditions’.

    Loved the photo of Papa and the little one.

    Debra, I hope the holidays are special and filled with love. I suspect they will be. 🙂 I’m so grateful for your presence in my life, albeit a long distance presence. Take care my friend.
    With affection and gratitude
    Tricia xoxo

    1. Thank you so much for your loving words, Tricia. I am sure we will have a lovely Christmas and the holidays have been very full and delightful. You are so very kind to care. You have become very special to me, too, so we must keep up our long-distance friendship into the new year. I know that you aren’t always able to “pop in” and that’s very fine with me. I enjoy chatting when we can. 🙂 It’s interesting how these connections get made in the first place, isn’t it? I will be thinking of you this week and hoping you find this week no more challenging than other weeks, if that is possible. You know what I mean by that. oxo Debra

  2. LOL! No gum drops in our family, but I do love the expression! As a child we always went to a pantomime around Christmas time. Usually a couple of famous people are in the cast, but that’s not so important… the main thing is to join in and have fun, and it involves a lot of shouting and silly lines given as cues from the stage, and at least one song where the audience is invited to sing along! Maybe not art, and certainly not ballet, but a great British tradition!

    1. Cathy, I had really never heard of the Pantomime tradition until reading posts a couple of years ago! I was enthralled with the description and wonder why America didn’t follow suit! It’s not at all a familiar form of entertainment here. I would love to experience such an interactive performance. Thanks for mentioning that here. There may be others like myself who are still learning about other traditions. I hope you have a wonderful weekend as we move towards a big week. ox

  3. I am stumped as to the meaning of “related to a gum drop”!

    But indeed, the theater is living history. It does remind me of they hey-days of Hollywood. The gala affairs, the opulence, the electricity at a premier. Such a beautiful interior! I HAVE driven by the historical site but never knew it as such. I do now! Thank you and Merry Christmas, Debra!

  4. This post brings back 6th grade memories of my being in the Nutcracker school play. I only had one line and I was very nervous when the time was getting closer for me to say my line. 😀 Love the photos! I love architecture, old doors, cobblestone streets and stained windows. Have a Merry Christmas!

  5. Being a solitary traveling man with work that leaps to different places, holiday traditions fade on me. The only time I really really get to enjoy Christmas and New Year the way I wanted it to is if I spend it the way I had when I was a kid. That is, in the Philippines. Every holidays, I’m just happy because I get the time off. 😀
    I always love seeing old theaters. To know that old theaters are still standing and people still go out for the love of music is big on me. Immediacy and technology is killing it. Gone are the days where live performances are very sought-after.

    1. I have friends and family who feel much the way you do, Rommel, about just being glad to have some time off at Christmas and New Years. Many of them work in retail and are exhausted by the time Christmas hits! I also agree with you about finding old theaters and musical venues and performances a way to hold onto some timeless tradition. I do think that technology has invaded our lives in a way that really robs us of some of our ability to use imagination and utilize our full senses. Live performances are also getting more and more expensive which makes it veery hard for young families. That’s where grandparents can sometimes be useful. 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful Christmas Day, Rommel, and fully realize a whole day off. 🙂

  6. dandyknife

    I am not only related to gum drops, I am the Gum Drop Queen Mother. How dare my public (all six of ’em) go about their Christmas preparations without leaving any comments on my last two posts? (Whimper. No, I’m not disappointed. Go away. Sniff.)

    Thanks for the photo Tour of the Warner Grand Theater. I love the Art Deco styling! Saint John’s Imperial Theatre is an older style, built in 1913, and has gone through the phases of vaudeville theatre, cinema, and Pentecostal church, before a grassroots group raised a million dollars, bought the old dear, and lovingly restored her in the early 80s. E.g., her parents, and I have front-row-balcony tickets for both the Symphony and the Imperial Theatre Co plays. On Wednesday we watched New Brunswick’s best choir and the Symphony perform Handel’s entire Messiah (i.e. both the Christmas and the Easter oratorios). Lovely, lovely, lovely!

    The theatrical tradition in our household is to watch one version or another of A Christmas Carol. Alistair Sim is still my favourite Scrooge.

    Question: What is the yellow and red ceramic tiled object with the steel basin?

    1. What a wonderfully powerful position to be the Gum Drop Queen Mother! I think you probably command many more than six since you have such a royal label. I am personally so far behind in reading wonderfully entertaining posts I need to have a catch-up day! Dry your tears. 🙂 I am very impressed that you found a symphony performance of Handel’s entire Messiah. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the entire oratorio performed. I have enjoyed recordings, but that’s hardly the same thing. Saint John’s Imperial Theatre sounds spectacular and I do envy regular season tickets. You must enjoy many wonderful performances! And your Dicken’s tradition is excellent. I think you hit many of the best high points for what the Christmas season has to offer.

      The hello and red ceramic arrangement is simply the tile decorating the fountain. The steel basin is part of the fountain, but it isn’t functioning. I don’t know if it’s part of the original theater or an added feature later in its history. I am glad you took notice!

  7. That is a beautiful theatre, Debra! Your slides remind me the theatre we have in DT. You participated in the Messiah sing along with the LA Master’s Chorale, Wow!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the slideshow, Amy. I took so many photos without a flash and was glad a few were suitable to share. The Messiah Sing-A-Long was very exciting. We amateurs did our best to keep up, but the Master’s Chorale added so much, of course, that made our efforts sound much better than our talents, I’m sure. It was a memorable experience! 🙂

  8. I’m happy that the girls enjoyed the performance at the beautiful theater…it does sound like the start of a tradition. I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas.

  9. I love the way your slides are presented. A beautiful theater and a Christmas tradition in the making for you and your family. She is very cute in her winter dress up. Have a wonder Christmas, Debra.

  10. HA! No gumdrop relations here! What a fabulous tradition to have started. I have no set in stone musical traditions. Other than there MUST be music. And what a lovely, old, theater. I much prefer that to modern theaters.

    1. I’m with you on the music, Colleen. I think more than any other part of the Christmas holidays what I enjoy is the music. The carols and even the more contemporary newer songs and scores stir memories and inspire contemplation or festivity and fun. I get choked up at even a small elementary school festival just hearing the familiar songs. ox

  11. My sister used to take her two daughters to the Nutcracker each year ~ to see the nuts and gumdrops! 😉

    The same two nieces arrive today to stay until Christmas ~ the 5th year for this tradition of games, Christmas movies, food, fun, laughs, etc.

    1. I hope your nieces arrived today with much fanfare! What a wonderful time of year to be together and to enjoy some celebratory activities. You have a perfect agenda! Nothing but food, movies, games, fun and laughs! That’s was being together this time of year should offer. Enjoy!

  12. Glad Papa got to see your little Gum Drop perform at school.

    I went to a Puppet Show this week at the library ~ lots of Gum Drops in the audience. The play, “Where is Santa,” was written by Frank Baum ~ “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

    1. I am not familiar with Baum play, Nancy, and I have read several of his books. I have an interest in his work, so I’ll have to look into that one! A puppet show sounds fascinating. There’s something I doubt the girls have ever done, too. I get in on some really fun activities, stating that they are planned for the enrichment! I think sometimes it’s also so that I can enjoy some enrichment, too! 🙂

  13. What a glorious building, Debra. Seeing anything there would certainly enhance the experience. I’m so glad the girls enjoyed their first Nutcracker. DH and I will be going to the pantomime with DS and his family just after New year. I’m not sure yet which fairy-tale it will be, but I’m already looking forward to it.

    1. It was a wonderful experience for me, Perpetua, to be with the girls at their first introduction to The Nutcracker. I do hope they’ll always remember how special it was. And I do hope you enjoy the pantomime. As you probably know, pantomimes are not a part of American culture at all…which is interesting to me. We seem to enjoy copying other British traditions. 🙂 I wouldn’t know a thing about them if it weren’t for having something about them from the experiences of British bloggers and I’m very intrigued. One day I would really hope to be a part of the interactive experience. If you are able to fit it in, it would be enjoyable to hear about your fairy tale experience. 🙂

  14. Beautiful building, and one of my favourite ballets, Debra. A strange story and a bewitching score from Tchaikovsky. A visit to the ballet is a gift to any child: I grew up on my visits to the Coloseum and the South bank, and was lucky enough to see Nureyev in action as a little girl. Here’s to a long an illustrious tradition of ballet-going for your grandchildren, starting this Christmas 🙂

    1. Oh my, Kate! To have seen Nureyev! That would be a dream. I was thinking of him as well as Baryshnikov after our trip to The Nutcracker. I am not at all well versed in ballet nor do I really know the “stars” of today, but there was a time everyone at least knew the names Nureyev and Baryshnikov. This particular performance was a combination of amateur and professional artists, and I took so much pleasure in knowing Sophia and Karina were getting their first taste of such a timeless classical treasure. I hope they will remember this first time, and that we’ll have many opportunities to enjoy other such performances. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your memories, too, Kate. 🙂

  15. Hi to Jay!

    Thank you for giving us a tour of this old jewel. I adore places like this. And I’m not at all surprised that the girls were enchanted by The Nutcracker. It’s one of the reasons it endures, season after season.

    1. I really like the way you termed the Warner Grand and “old jewel,” Andra. It really is. I am so fortunate to live close enough to Sophia and Karina to be able to participate in special times. I don’t take it at all for granted and one of the best things for me is that in providing cultural enrichment opportunities for them, I also benefit. I hope your eyes are improving, and that you are feeling more like yourself. it sounds like you’ve been sidelined! ox

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, Frank. It’s very important to us to pass along memories that we do hope will reverberate far into the future. I know how important my grandparents were to me, so they do inspire much of our direction. I hope your party was a full success, Frank. What an undertaking! I don’t know how you found the time. It was great fun I will be over to check it out one last time before I sign off for the night. 🙂

      1. Ah ha … cheers to your grandmother’s efforts … and each action you take like this causes her to smile! … Meanwhile … the party still has about 14 hours to go. The entertainment has been wonderful

  16. how lovely to see your grand theatre and imagine taking little girls to see The Nutcracker … what a wonderful tradition to establish! I love your saying about those expecting extra seats .. “related to a Gum Drop” … shall see how that might be used in 2014 … Happy Christmas xx

    1. I hope your Christmas is filled with warmth and love, too, Christine, and a real hope for continued health and enthusiasm in the new year. I have really felt inspired by your wonderful travels and the way you show such an abundance and zest for life. I can’t wait to see what is yet to come! 🙂

      1. oh Debra, you are such an encourager, I do appreciate your energy …. yes there will be at least one trip to Paris next year, already booked … and side trips to Spain and England … I do hope I will share them with all my blogging friends … we are scattered this Xmas, but will see two of our sons and their children on different days … all good!

  17. A wonderful post, Debra! We have just completed the traditional enormous tidy up in preparation for the arrival of Nana and Grandad. Spurs Fan’s parents arrive tonight and will be with us for a week. Nothing beats fun and games with grandparents 🙂
    Much love to you and yours for the holidays x

    1. I’m so delighted to hear that Spurs Fan’s parents have arrived to spend a whole week with the family, Fiona. I know they will be delighted to have the time with you all, and I’m sure the girls will thoroughly enjoy all the attention grandparent’s enjoy giving. 🙂 It sounds like lovely family time, and I do hope that your Christmas is filled with warmth and love. ox

  18. “Related to a gum drop!” I love that phrase. I think I may just adopt that as well. It’s so cute. I’m glad the girls enjoyed the Nutcracker. That would be a wonderful tradition to begin with them. We have many traditions this time of year as well. The kids favorite is putting on our Christmas jammies, grabbing cookies and milk and all hopping in the car to drive around looking at Christmas lights (with Christmas music on the radio of course!). My favorite though is the Christmas Eve dinner for just the four of us. I just love that meal. I hope you have a wonderful holiday Debra! Enjoy every moment. I know I will – planning to exhale for a few weeks in fact. 😉

    1. Your Christmas Eve tradition sounds wonderfully warm and memorable, Kristy. That will undoubtedly pass on to the children as something they will never forget. I do believe creating beautiful memories is what we adults can do as an act of love for our children and grandchildren! We will indeed have a lovely Christmas, and I hope this entire season is full of beautiful memory making, Kristy. ox

  19. Brilliant – a gum drop!
    And you have taken me back to growing up and my mum taking me to the Ballet in Manchester – usually performed by the Royal Northern Ballet School – and always a magical performance. And yes a treat too. Thanks for the memories Debra and I’d like to wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. Claire x

    1. Thank you so much, Claire. I’m sure we will have a very nice Christmas, and I hope the same for you. I think so many of us have early childhood memories of The Nutcracker, and you can’t hear that beautiful score without being transported back in time. It’s a delight to pass it along to another generation. 🙂 So good to hear from you, Claire. I do hope all continues to be well. ox

  20. I do hate it when parents get hysterical over seating just because their child is performing. Not everyone can have a front row seat! We just went to see Alfie in his school musical – couldn’t see a blessed thing. We were right up the back and there was no tiered seating and he was dancing in front of the stage, down on the flat. Every now and then we saw the top of his head but nothing more. Hopeless. I’m glad you enjoyed the ballet. I love the Nutcracker and like you, try to get to something Christmasy every Christmas xx

    1. I’m so sorry that you missed out on seeing Alfie perform, Charlie. One thing we’ve noticed recently is the number of parents who hold up their iPad’s to video the performances. If you’re in the back you can’t see through a wall of iPads! People are so oblivious…or rude. Sometimes both. 🙂 I do hope you have a perfectly lovely Christmas, Charlie. And your delightful family. ox

  21. My sister is a Gum Drop, but, shhh, don’t tell her I said so.
    What a perfect holiday outing, in THE perfect place for you and the girls, Debra. The Nutcracker is such a good ballet to introduce young children to. There is a very nice picture book of The Nutcracker with illustrations by Susan Jeffers; just in case you need one more gift to buy. I even blogged about it, but, I think it was before we became acquainted.
    Although this year is a quiet holiday season for us as Tom recovers from surgery, we have had so many, many wonderful theatrical and musical performances over the years, many with our girls when they were growing up, and many that Tom and I have enjoyed. Last year was a radio performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life” – and it was, wonderful – as was this post.

    1. We all know those Gum Drops, don’t we, Penny! LOL! We love them any way. 🙂 I appreciate the direction towards The Nutrcracker with illustrations by Susan Jeffers. I am a sucker for beautiful Christmas books. I have remembered your mention of the radio performance since you first posted about it, and because that sounded so interesting I looked through the holiday opportunities to see if I could find something similar, but there wasn’t anything remotely like it. It really did appeal to me. I hope your quiet Christmas is warm and full, my friend. I look forward to getting to know you even better in the coming year. ox

    1. How nice, Aussa. “White Christmas” is such a classic, and one I wouldn’t at all mind seeing again. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I do look forward to getting to know you better in this coming year. 🙂

    1. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, CCU. Happy holidays and I am quite certain 2014 will offer many new and wonderful opportunities! Thank you for stopping by, my friend. I am always so pleased to hear from you! ox

  22. Pingback: The Twelfth Day of Christmas Winner Day Twelve | The Accidental Cootchie Mama

  23. Tom McCubbin

    Like others, I haven’t been to a live performance for quite some time either, except when going to Mass with my wife they will have a concert put on by the gumdrops. Merry Christmas!

    1. I hope you had a lovely Christmas, Tom. Some of the best musical performances I’ve ever enjoyed were in church. I think sometimes people forget that not all live music requires a hefty entrance fee. 🙂

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