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Revealing Reunion

Disciples of James Dean take the stage at Grove Theatre

La Rue Novick
Staff Writer

Friday, June 18, 2004 – Small towns are funny. People in small towns like to hide things.

In “Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” a group of women from McCarthy, Texas — a small town near the place where James Dean’s flick “Giant” was filmed — reunite the Disciples of James Dean fan club 20 years after the icon’s untimely death. The meeting is, to say the least, revealing.

Skeletons long hidden in each woman’s closet come forth in this dramatic yet funny tale. There can be no more pretenses that small towns usually afford. All is laid bare.

“Basically, everybody’s living a lie,” said Rebecca Holden, who actually grew up in a small town in Texas and plays Joanne in the Grove Theatre’s production of “Come Back to the 5 & Dime.” “Through the course of the reunion, it all spills out.”

Without giving too much away, some of these women have some pretty nasty secrets. There’s only one who was and always remains truthful: Edna Louise, played by Amberly Chamberlain of Burbank. And Stella doesn’t like her.

Stella, played by Holly Jeanne of Orange, is a rich woman who has more money than she knows what to do with, but has no children, Jeanne said. And Edna Louise is pregnant with her seventh, a fact Stella bashes her for.

“Stella is a very vicious person,” Jeanne said. “She’s got everything but what she really wants.”

But all that will be revealed as the play unfolds.

The prevalent theme of the play is that truth will be revealed, but some of the characters resist it more than others. Mona is a perfect example.

“Mona, oh, poor Mona,” said Jean Carol, who has returned to the Grove Theatre to play the role. “She is a woman really living in denial. The truth comes out, but she’s fighting it tooth and nail.”

Mona organized this little re union of the James Dean fan club. She had been an extra in the movie “Giant” and on the day Dean died in a car accident, she tells her friends that she’s pregnant with his child. (The play intermittently flashes back to that September day in 1955).

One thing this play is guaranteed to do is make the audience reflect on their own lives, Carol said.

“You see the characters as youth and as adults. As a result you see the consequences of the decisions they made in their youth,” said Holden, who has starred in “Knight Rider,” “General Hospital” and the “Love Boat.”

“Consequences are a result of your choices.”

Appearing at the Grove for the first time, Alana Stewart of Los Angeles takes on the role of Sissy, which she loves, Stewart said.

“She’s just a good ol’ girl, care free and fun,” Stewart, who is also a native Texan, said. “She’s a little bit of a slut. But she has a real change that’s revealed in the end of the play. It’s very unexpected.”

Seems to be a lot of that going on in this production.

“It’s a really, really interesting play,” said Stewart, who recently returned from filming a movie in Mexico. “The cast is so good. There’s not a weak link anywhere.”

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Grove’s ‘5 & Dime’ worth a visit

Don Maslowski

Friday, June 25, 2004 – Weighted with working film and television actors, director Richard Hochberg makes full use of their talents in a finely textured interpretation of Ed Graczyk’s “Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” at the Grove Theatre in Upland.

Dean, an anomaly who achieved surreal legendary status with a scant three films spanning his entire Hollywood career of just 16 months, was killed on a lonely stretch of winding California highway just days after wrapping up the filming of ‘‘Giant.” This story tells about a fictional group of diehard Dean fans who have gathered for a reunion on Sept. 30, 1975, exactly 20 years after the tragic death of their hero.

The more we get to know these people congregating in little McCarthy, Texas, the more we care about them. We care about them because we like them, not because of their faults, but in spite of them. We like them as we do the person we see each morning in the mirror, not perfect, not faultless, but determined to put on our best face and present the world with what we have come to believe it wants of us. Perception is everything. Honesty is the price we pay.

For Juanita (Linde Hood), that means remembering her deceased husband as she chooses for him to have been. For Mona (Jean Carol), the only one of the old gang who stayed around, it’s all about her son, Jimmy Dean. Story has it that when James Dean was working on location for his final film just outside of Midland, the two of them got together for one night of bliss.

Sissy (Alana Stewart) arrives, loud and brash as ever, remembered mostly for her anatomical endowments that entered a room before she did.

The gregariously condescending Stella (Holly Jeanne) and Edna (Amberly Chamberlain), known for having more babies than smarts, are the only other ones to show up for the festivities.

Well, that’s not quite true. Joanne (Rebecca Holden) arrives as well, and though she remembers everyone, no one can quite place her.

All, then, is in place for a day of remembering, of recollecting things, places, events and people. Funny, isn’t it, how time fades the harsh colors of reality into lovely, rose-tinted hues? If only it could be so.

But, of course, it can’t. Truth, inevitably, must come out, frauds exposed, feelings hurt, old friendships forever altered and new ones forged. This is life, as you and I and they live it.

The story is told in flashback sequences. Here we see Mona and Sissy in 1955, full of life and hope and promise, enamored of their idol. We see Joe (Joel Veach) too, who loved Mona, perhaps in spite of his personal demons, perhaps because of them.

This duality of characters can be a tricky thing to get just right on stage. We see the then and now of these people we’ve gotten to know, sometimes separately, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes each subliminally acknowledging the other, resulting in theater that’s actually theatrical.

With impressive performances all around, the play belongs to Carol and, later, to Holden. Carol imbues Mona with a palpably disturbing yet innocent Blanche Dubois persona. Holden impeccably gives the play its necessary antagonistic catalyst as cool-as-a-cucumber Joanne, through whom truths must inevitably be acknowledged.

Noteworthy too is Agatha Nowicki’s and Erin Ross’ ability to capture the essence of Carol’s and Stewart’s Mona and Sissy, or perhaps, vice versa. Either way, it’s on the money. For her part, Stewart captures that part that lives within each of us that yearns to be a little bit raunchy, but just can’t — or won’t — come out to play.  Representing the mores of the Southern bible belt, Hood is picture perfect as Juanita, the dutiful constant in a changing world. Jeanne and Chamberlain, too, offer up completely full characters we know well. Veach’s portrayal of a young man hurting from the inside out is more filled with anger than pathos, making the payoff a bit less than it could have been, but nonetheless moving.

A great set (Fank Dickson), perceptive directing and acting and a profound script all come together to make possible our return to our own personal McCarthy, Texas, a meaningful one in ways we might never have imagined. It’s a nice place to visit as long as we don’t choose to live there.

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When commitment plays key role, audiences notice

By Kevin Nance

Staff Writer

Amid an otherwise so-so theater production of this musical adaptation of Dickens, Rebecca Holden, who you might remember from her appearances on several TV series from the 1980s, delivers the most supercharged rendition of As Long as He Needs Me imaginable.


Seemingly out of nowhere, she steps onstage and turns Nancy’s declaration of helpless love for the brutish Bill Sikes into a masterpiece with something like the emotional reach of Callas’ recordings of the arias of Mimi and Tosca.

Talk about pathos. In this era of heightened awareness of the phenomenon of women who can’t bring themselves to part from their male batterers, we might be tempted to think of this character’s dilemma as pathological rather than heroic.But as Holden sings, turning herself inside out, judging Nancy is the last thing on our minds. She is not helpless. She is determined and tragic, and the air in the theater seems to pulsate with the force of her passion.

At the end of the song, I turned to my friend, who whispered: “I’m stunned.”


Commitment. It’s the great stepping up to the dramatic plate, the full-bodied swing at texts and music, that allows amazing things to happen on the stage. It comes out of confidence and preparation, but also out of what can only be called courage, the steely fortitude that makes possible the actor’s public swan-dive into the pool of his own deepest feelings.

When it happens, and you’re lucky enough to be there, you’ll know. The hairs on the back of your neck will tell you.

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Rebecca Holden (8)




Rebecca Holden (9)