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The Start of Memorial Day Weekend 2012 in Los Angeles - Railways and Musical Theatre ~ May 26th, 2012

by Elizabeth Guenzler

2012 was the year I turned forty and while my birthday was in February, attending a special theatrical event in Los Angeles in May was the main way I celebrated. This occurred over Memorial Day weekend and plans were made for a trip to the Orange Empire Railway Museum, a place I had wanted to visit for many years, as well as riding the Metro Expo and Gold Lines and re-acquainting myself with Angels Flight Railway.

Bob and I flew to Los Angeles International Airport and upon arrival, took the Flyaway Bus to Union Station. Chris met us at the station then after checking in to our hotel, we returned to the station with our cameras.

Union Pacific UPY 3GS21B 2738 as the protective engine for Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal.

The late Southwest Chief arriving, led by P42DC 66 with three private cars on the rear. Amtrak's President, Joe Boardman, was on board the train, hence the PVs.

Amtrak P42DC 66, one of the locomotives painted in a heritage livery to commemorate Amtrak's 40th anniversary the previous year.

Amtrak sleeper 10021 "Pacific Cape" (ex. "Pacific Patrol", exx. Amtrak 2891, exxx. Amtrak 2604, nee UP 11406).

Amtrak dome-lounge 10031 "Glacier View".

Amtrak office car 10001 "Beech Grove" (ex. Amtrak 84-seat coach 21222).

The rear of "Beech Grove" with the 40th anniversary drumhead.

Amtrak F59PHI 457 in Operation Lifesafer livery.

The sponsors of Amtrak California's Operation Lifesaver - Caltrans, Capitol Corridor, BNSF and UP. The three of us then rode the Red Line to 7th and Metro and transferred to the Expo Line for the journey to La Cienega-Jefferson, which at that time was the eastern end of the line, having opened just a month before.

The Expo Line largely follows the right-of-way of the former Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line. Passenger service ended in 1953; freight-only service ended by March 1988. Every platform has this type of historical photographs and notes on it. We rode it to the existing end of the line then took the Red Line to Pershing Square and walked over to Angels Flight Railway for Bob's and my second ride on this unique and wonderful line.

The complete Angels Flight Railway.

Chris and I at the entrance.

View from our car looking toward the summit.

Looking down at the descending Angels Flight car as we ascend.

Looking down Angels Flight funicular railway as we descend.

Another view.

A view during our second ride on this one-tenth mile railway.

We pass the other car.

A side view of the car in which we rode.

The famous Angels Flight railway on a beautiful spring day.

One of the cars ascending the world's shortest railway.

The two cars pass each other.

Looking up at the cars' progress as they make their way up and down the hill.

Angels Flight operating hours and fares on the wall of the ticket office at the top.

Angels Flight Railway Foundation banner.

There are four plaques at the summit of Bunker Hill, explaining the history and dedicating Angels Flight Railway as a Historic Cultural Monument.

I am quite partial to fountains and was delighted to see fountains at Two California Plaza at the top of Angels Flight.

This is a lovely oasis in the middle of a huge, bustling city.

Flower beds in the pond added to the atmosphere of this area.

More of the fountains.

Water droplets as the fountain cascades down. We took the Red Line back to LAUPT walked upstairs and outside to the Gold Line platform.

Chris and I at Milepost 0.0 at LAUPT.

The Gold Line train arriving. Note the two pigeons on the tracks who waited until the last minute to fly away! We boarded for the trip to Sierra Madre Village.

Views of some private cars on the garden tracks at LAUPT.

Friends of 4449 baggage car "Gordon Zimmerman" at Redondo Yard which had been part of Santa Fe 3751 excursion to the Grand Canyon the week before. This was the end of our train riding today for now it was dinner and theatre time. After returning to the hotel, we had dinner at McCormick and Schmick's before taking a shuttle to the Ahmanson Theatre for Stephen Sondheim's musical "Follies".

"Follies", How It Came To Los Angeles and a Particular Cast Member

The musical is set at a reunion in a crumbling Broadway theatre, scheduled for demolition, of the past performers of the "Weismann's Follies", a musical revue (based on the Ziegfeld Follies), that played in that theatre between the World Wars. It focuses on two couples, Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone, who are attending the reunion. Sally and Phyllis were showgirls in the Follies. Both couples are deeply unhappy with their marriages. Buddy, a travelling salesman, is having an affair with a girl on the road; Sally is still as much in love with Ben as she was years ago; and Ben is so self-absorbed that Phyllis feels emotionally abandoned. Several of the former showgirls perform their old numbers, sometimes accompanied by the ghosts of their former selves. The musical numbers in the show have been interpreted as pastiches of the styles of the leading Broadway composers of the 1920s and 1930s, and sometimes as parodies of specific songs. Musically, Sondheim's vaudeville-style tunes, struck a note with Broadway audiences in 1971. The musical received eleven Tony Award nominations in 1972, winning seven, including Best Score.

There have been a few revivals of the show over the years, but in 2011, the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts staged it and the show moved to Broadway. It was then announced that the show with almost all the same cast, was coming to Los Angeles. A member of the cast was Elaine Paige. She is very well-known in England, having originated the roles of Grizabella in "Cats" and Eva Peron in "Evita" among many other stage and some television shows. She is a singer and actress whom I have followed for decades (my interest in musical theatre started in 1985) and since 2004, has hosted a weekly radio show on BBC Radio 2, of which I have almost every episode on tape.

Considered the First Lady of British Musical Theatre, Elaine has also toured in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, and while she has done a few American concerts, had never made it to the western United States, much less Canada. So imagine my incredulity and complete surprise when I learnt that not only was "Follies" coming to Los Angeles for a limited run, but that she was going to be part of the cast!

I own the cast recording of the original 1971 London production and know all the songs. Seeing "Follies" in person was absolutely fantastic, the scenery and costumes were excellent, as was the cast. Although the cast included many names whom I was familiar with, it was Elaine who was the standout of the show for me. I could not believe I was actually being able to see her in a show, comparatively close to home (rather than in London) and had excellent seats. Afterwards, we found the stage door but unfortunately, Elaine had left through another door. But that did not disappoint me very much as I would have another opportunity the following night.

Myself below the "Follies" banner at Ahmanson Theatre later in the weekend.

"Follies" was everywhere.

The Follies banner and a certain avid musical theatre fan wearing her Follies T-shirt.

It is seldom that I can combine my two hobbies of musical theatre and railways into the same day. But today was one of those days. Being able to see Elaine Paige on stage was a dream come true. Tomorrow, the Orange Empire Railway Museum.