Above, Principal Ed Trimis rehearses with the cast of ‘Real Life: A 25-Year Musical Revival’ at Legacy Visual and Performing Arts High School.

Student Jessica Nava and Principal Ed Trimis record the cast album of ‘Real Life: A 25-Year Musical Revival.’

Drama students at Legacy Visual and Performing Arts High School in South Gate took an emotional trip down memory lane with the recent production of “Real Life: A 25-Year Musical Revival,”  an updated version of a musical that Principal Ed Trimis wrote while he was teaching at Huntington Park High School in 1993.

The original musical that Trimis produced during the early years of his career was based on monologues his students at Huntington Park High wrote about their life experiences. Many of those roles were included in the revival, along with new characters and songs that reflect the challenges and triumphs facing students at VAPA.

“It really is probably the closest to time travel I will ever get,” Trimis said during a recent interview. “Seeing these gifted kids singing songs that were written 25 years ago, I can’t help remember the original cast and that first ‘Real Life’ experience. The stories are really universal – divorce, prejudice, first love, the joy of performance, loss of loved ones. Our VAPA kids are telling their own stories – and stories of the original cast – but, in many cases, they are everyone’s stories.”

A show-within-a-show, “Real Life” depicts students auditioning for an upcoming play in which they have to perform a monologue based on a real-life experience. A cast of seven performers play 21 roles, depicting stories of happiness, heartache, tragedy and enlightenment. Ten songs from the original production and five new numbers complement the stories.

VAPA student Jessica Nava performed “Eighth-grade Graduation by Kuwanda,” recalling a young girl’s happiness as she stood on the brink of adulthood.

Students, from left, Karen Ibarra, Danny Carrillo and Maria Hernandez perform in the revival of ‘Real Life.’

“It was when I graduated from junior high school,” Kuwanda says. “I was wearing this gorgeous, flowered gown and, not meaning to brag, but I was stunning! The dress was pale pink with lightly colored flowers. It was sleeveless – my first sleeveless dress, believe it or not – and it only covered half of my back. It was puffy because of all the chiffon in it. I also wore high heels for the first time and carried a matching gold bag. This was the first time I really felt like I was growing up! My parents looked so proud of me…they even bought me carnations! All of the girls looked beautiful. We no longer felt like ‘plain Janes.’ This day was the best day of all my teenage existence!”

She and the cast then sing Tremis’ song titled “Today,” with lyrics that underscore Kuwanda’s aspirations:

“The day comes around when we must get out,
We’re ready, but unsure.
The day’s really here when we’ll spread our wings,
The day when the future is ours.”

Principal Ed Trimis and his Legacy VAPA cast, back row, Maria Hernandez, Jessica Nava, Danny Carrillo and Sebastian Picazzo; front row, Abi Rodriguez, Oliver Fuentes and Karen Ibarra.

 “Real Life” was a production of the VAPA Musical Theater Workshop, in which students write original works for musical theater.

Maria Hernandez joined the after-school playwriting program as a sophomore and quickly found her niche. As a junior, she and classmate Jessica Nava co-produced “Real Life” with Trimis and also performed in the musical. At the same time, they wrote “Grandma’s Keeper,” which will be produced at VAPA next year.

”Writing monologues about my happiest and or saddest days in my life was fairly easy,” Hernandez said.

Nava portrayed five characters in “Real Life,” including one named Christy, whose parents broke up on her 14th birthday. She was thrilled when, on the night of the production, she got to meet Christina Nandino, who had played Christy in the 1993 musical and came to watch the revival.

“When you said my monologue and sang the song, I started to cry,” Nandino told Nava. “It immediately brought me back to that day, that moment, on my 14th birthday and to the ‘Real Life’ production in 1993.”