American Press: Your Best News And Advertising Source - Scene Features American Press: The Only Local Daily Newspaper In Southwest Louisiana. en-US Copyright (c) December, 2016 American Press. All rights reserved <![CDATA[More than cookie sellers, Girl Scouts enter music industry]]> By The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The Girl Scouts of the USA are used to making you smile with sweet cookies, but now they're hoping to soothe your ears with sweet music.

The organization announced Thursday that they've recorded an original song for the first time, featuring backup vocals from actual Girl Scouts.

"Watch Me Shine" was written by Liz Rose, who has won Grammys for her work with Taylor Swift and Little Big Town, and Emily Shackleton, who sings lead on the song.

The track is being used in a Girl Scouts PSA called "I'm Prepared," which praises girls for being leaders, problem solvers and innovators.

It's available on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Music. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Girl Scouts organization.


"Watch Me Shine" song

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:00:30 CST 13475899 at
<![CDATA[Light up the Lake parade and fireworks canceled ]]> Special to American Press

Despite the area's forecasted rainy weather, Light up the Lake activities scheduled for Saturday will continue as scheduled except for the street and lighted boat parades and fireworks, which will not take place.  

Santa’s Workshop will take place from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. with children ages 6-12 in the Civic Center Coliseum and tiny tots in the Exhibition Hall. Kids can enjoy games, prizes, entertainment, train rides and much more.

The annual Community Band Christmas Concert will take place in the second floor Mezzanine from 3 p.m.-4 p.m. The band will be accompanied by Our Lady Queen of Heaven Youth Choir.

The Lighting Ceremony will take place in the Contraband Room (second floor) from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Entertainment will include teen Zydeco artist, Kaleb LeDay, the Barbe High Show Choir, Gumbeaux Gator and The Girl Scouts.  

At 6 p.m. officials will flip the switch to light the front lawn of the Civic Center.

All events are free to the public

For more information, call 337-491-9159 or visit

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:15:35 CST 13473174 at
<![CDATA[New 'Hamilton' CD features songs by Alicia Keys, Sia, Usher]]> By The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The Broadway megahit "Hamilton" has already spawned a best-selling cast album, a PBS documentary and a book about its creation. Now it's spinning off a CD by fans who happen to be some of popular music's biggest stars.

The 23-track "Hamilton Mixtape," set for release Friday, features covers by such artists as Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Nas, Ben Folds, Alicia Keys, Ashanti, John Legend, Sia, Common, Wiz Khalifa, Queen Latifah, The Roots, Jill Scott and Busta Rhymes.

It was unveiled Thursday during a four-song performance at the Broadway home of "Hamilton" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, which was packed with those who had won an online lottery. A live stream also captured the event.

Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter of The Roots served as host, and he helped open the show with his version of "My Shot." There were also performances by Ashanti and Ja Rule ("Helpless"), Andra Day ("Burn") and Regina Spektor ("Dear Theodosia").

The album features songs from the show that have been reworked with new arrangements and new lyrics, as well as demos that never made the show, remixes and new songs like "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)."

Highlights include Legend reimagining "History Has Its Eyes On You" as a gospel anthem, Clarkson turning "It's Quiet Uptown" into a power ballad and TV host Jimmy Fallon channeling his inner-Broadway with "You'll Be Back."

Joell Ortiz, a New York rapper who is featured on the mixtape, said he thinks the new album has more appeal to a non-Broadway audience. "I have friends who have never been to Broadway," he said. "I realized they're just scared of it. The buildings seem big and the elevators seem like places they don't belong."

Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop-flavored biography about the first U.S. treasury secretary has become a hot ticket on Broadway and has birthed a production in Chicago, with plans for others for San Francisco and London.

The mixtape is in many ways a return to the roots of the project, which began as a collection of songs inspired by hip-hop artists. When Miranda was writing "Helpless," he admits he was thinking of Ashanti and Ja Rule singing it.

Ja Rule went to see the show without high expectations, fearful the mix of rap and Broadway wouldn't work. He left "blown away" and a Miranda fan. "This is the beauty of what he did: He took something so left and fused it with something so right and made it so right," he said before hitting the stage.

The mixtape arrives after the cast album has sold more than 2 million copies and won a Grammy for best musical theater album. It debuted at No. 12 on Billboard's album charts — the highest for a cast album debut since 1963. The new mixtape is executive produced by Miranda and Questlove of The Roots.

Producer and DJ !llmind, who produced four tracks on the mixtape, said the biggest challenge of putting together the new album was maintaining the integrity of the original songs while also making them new and fresh.

"Trust me, it was definitely a challenge," he said. "Sometimes it was like 'OK, we're on our 15th revision' and then we end up going back to the original one. That's just the nature of music but it was a hell of a lot of fun doing this."

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:46:35 CST 13472888 at
<![CDATA[Bluefish: A new take on a familiar and memorable favorite ]]> By The Associated Press

I remember Sunday afternoons as a kid fondly.

We’d stumble out of church, sleepy and content. I’d hold my brother’s hand as we walked down the steps and prattle on about what we did in Sunday school that day. And, of course, I’d ask mom, “What are we eating?” about 10 times before we got to the car.

If Grandma was around, the answer was inevitably Hong Kong Buffet.

We would all race to the koi pond once we got there to call dibs on our favorite fish before entering the flurry of people waiting not so patiently for the buffet. I can still remember the steam rising from the fried rice and the clatter of plates being filled and dumped.

I remember standing on my tiptoes to reach the Chinese doughnuts that made up the majority of my meal, and falling asleep on mom’s lap when the sugar rush died down.

Flash forward to Nov. 30, 2016. I pulled up to the old site of Hong Kong Buffet — now Bluefish Chinese Japanese Restaurant — and killed the engine. Sidekick and photographer Devin Dronett met me outside by the koi pond, and we leaned over the rail like old times.

But we didn’t enter a swarm of hungry people or a wall of steam. Instead, we walked into a swanky open area with cushy booths separated by a wall of beads. Classical music streamed in, and low-key blue-lighting lined the ceiling.

It was quite a change from what I remembered, but I found myself quickly falling for the restaurant’s newfound elegance and glamorous feel. Our waiter said it had been open for about eight weeks.

I ordered the first thing I saw on the menu, the Unagi Roll, filled with eel and cucumber. Unable to settle, I tagged on the Art of Maki, which contained shrimp tempura, avocado, snow crab and raw tuna.

Devin ordered the lunch special Orange Chicken, which was only $6.95 and came with miso soup, egg roll and rice. Our entire order totaled $34, and in about 15 minutes our food was ready.

I decided to go for the Art of Maki first. As truly authentic sushi rolls tend to do, the roll fell apart on contact and melted in my mouth like air. The thin layer of tuna mingled with the avocado and the snow crab, and the tempura finished it off with a satisfying crunch. I couldn’t stop gushing about it to Devin in between bites.

A few rolls in, I decided to switch over to the Unagi before things got out of hand. Something about the sweet undertones of the eel and the crispness of the cucumber — I’d never heard of the combination but I was quickly convinced that the two were made for each other.

Out of curiosity — it certainly wasn’t hunger at that point — I took a bite of Devin’s ample pile of Orange Chicken and rice. It was light and delicious, with just the right amount of sauce and that oh-so-satisfying crunch unique to this classic Chinese dish.

Although I’ll always cherish the times I had at Hong Kong, I have no doubt that dining at Bluefish Chinese Japanese Restaurant will prove just as memorable.

And I have sneaking suspicion that Grandma will like this one, too.


Find Emily Fontenot on Twitter and Facebook.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:26:55 CST 13472466 at
<![CDATA[Light up the Lake: Christmas celebration packed with family fun]]> By John Guidroz / American Press

The Light up the Lake Christmas Celebration kicks off Saturday and features a variety of events for all ages, leading up to a lighting ceremony, a lighted boat parade and a fireworks display that kick off the holiday season.

The event begins with a street parade at 11 a.m. that makes its way through downtown Lake Charles. The parade will head south on Ryan Street from Mill Street to Dr. Michael DeBakey Drive. Denise Fasske, the city’s director of arts and cultural events, said this year’s celebration has more entries than years past.

“We are expecting a big parade,” she said.

After the parade, children can visit Santa’s workshop at the Civic Center 1-5 p.m. Fasske said children ages 5 and under will go to the exhibition hall, while children ages 6-12 will go to the coliseum.

Fasske said setting up the workshop takes plenty of hard work. It features games, arts and crafts, storytelling and a train that children can ride throughout the area.

“It’s quite an undertaking,” she said of the effort. “The decoration creates this winter wonderland that transforms the whole Civic Center. The workshop gives children the chance to enjoy an event indoors.”

The Lake Charles Community Band will perform 3-4 p.m. on the Civic Center second floor mezzanine. Fasske said members of the Our Lady Queen of Heaven youth choir will sing along with the band.

The lighting ceremony is 5-6 p.m. and features music from the Barbe Show Choir and Zydeco musician Kaleb LeDay. Gumbo Gator will recite the “Cajun Night Before Christmas.” At 6 p.m. officials will flip the switch to turn on the lighted ornaments in front of the Civic Center.

The lighted boat parade starts at 6:30 p.m. along the Civic Center seawall, followed by a fireworks show at 7:15 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to boats based on several categories, including creativity, decorations and presentation.

Fasske said Lake Charles is fortunate to have the location to host the boat parade and elaborate fireworks show.

“We’re lucky we can shoot fireworks over the lake,” she said. “Most cities don’t have that, and if they do, they can’t shoot the larger cannons because of buffer restrictions.”

Fasske said there will be an assortment of food trucks along the seawall, staring at 5 p.m.

For more information on the holiday celebration, call Fasske at 491-9159.



Follow John Guidroz on Twitter at

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:26:53 CST 13472465 at
<![CDATA[Modern Christmas musical set inside Italian restaurant]]> By Marilyn Monroe / American Press

SULPHUR — Maplewood First Baptist Church in Sulphur will be presenting a modern Christmas musical that touches upon the trials and triumphs of life with an overarching message of love and of extending mercy to others. “Shepherds and Kings Christmas Musical” will be performed in the church’s sanctuary Dec. 16-18.

Monty Jones, minister of music and the play’s director, said that the Christmas musical will “tug at the heartstrings.” He said that many people will be able to relate to the relationships and modern situations in the play.

“It is different from the typical Christmas play,” he said, “It takes place around Christmas and the theme of Christmas is there, but it is not so much about the Christmas story as it is about how God cares for us and we can care for others.”

The musical is set inside an Italian restaurant and focuses mainly on the relationship between a young waitress, Susanna King, and an older woman, Mrs. Shepherd.

“Mrs. Shepherd is mad at the world,” said Jones, “Her husband has died of cancer. Her son is away in the service overseas and she doesn’t know where he is and can’t write to him. She feels alone and abandoned and believes that God has given up on her.

“Susanna, who is dealing with cancer herself, has an upbeat spirit and wants to provide something special for Mrs. Shepherd for Christmas because she knows her birthday is coming around,” continued Jones, “She wants to do something special for her but wants it to be a surprise.”

Jones doesn’t reveal the surprise, saving it instead for the play’s audience. “We don’t want to give that away,” he said.

Cast in the principal roles are Angie Manning as Susanna King; Martina Hanson as Mrs. Shepherd; and Joey McNamara as Mr. Mattiello, owner of the Italian restaurant. They are joined by other characters performed by Dr. Bryan Manning, Mendy Vaughn, Hailey Stanley, Nicolas Louviere and Mark Valentine.

The production also includes a choir and colorful set designs. And, said Jones, the production also features many heartfelt as well as fun songs.

Shepherds and Kings Christmas Musical is the first adult Christmas play produced for the church since Jones came aboard six years ago.

“We have done them for Easter but not for Christmas since I’ve been here,” he said, “They have done them in the past, before I got here. But this is the first adult Christmas play the church has presented in quite some time.”

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16; 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, and 10:15 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 18. The church is located at 4501 Maplewood Drive, Sulphur.

Admission is free.


Follow Marilyn Monroe on Twitter at

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:26:51 CST 13472464 at
<![CDATA[Oakdale, Welsh host holiday events ]]> By Doris Maricle / American Press

Holiday Dazzle

OAKDALE — Holiday Dazzle will be 9 a.m.-6 p.m. today, Dec. 1, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at First United Pentecostal Church, 429 West Sixth Ave.

There will be arts and crafts vendors, food, entertainment and door prizes.

The Elf on the Shelf will be there noon-2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. today and noon-2 p.m. Friday to take pictures with children.

Holiday Market

WELSH — The Holiday Shopping Market will be 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Welsh Community Center, 101 Palmer St.

Admission is $5 with canned goods and nonperishables for the Welsh Christmas Basket Fund.

There will be jewelry, home decor, handicrafts, foods and a cake walk.

Concessions with jambalaya and hamburgers will be available.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:26:50 CST 13472463 at
<![CDATA['Santa Chronicles' variety show set for this weekend]]> By Doris Maricle / American Press

JENNINGS — The Jeff Davis Arts Council Youth Theatre and A Chip off the Old Block will present “Ho Ho Ho: The Santa Chronicles” at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, in the Strand Theater, 432 N. Main St.

Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door.

“This is a Christmas variety show about how Santa and his helpers get ready for the big day,” said director Jessica Stoner. “There’s a big surprise, and Mrs. Claus is missing.”

Members of the elementary and junior high theater group will make appearances in the play and perform Christmas carols. High school students will do classic readings of “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” and “The Cajun Night Before Christmas.”

“This is the first time we have blended the elementary, junior high and high school students together for a performance,” Stoner said. “I am really excited about it and think everyone will love it. It’s something the whole family will enjoy.”

An adult member of the A Block off Broadway group will join the cast as Santa Claus.

Stoner said she read many different plays before selecting “The Santa Chronicles” for this year’s production.

“I was looking for something that had never been staged before that we could do,” she said. “I really liked it because it was cute and we could work a large group into it.”

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:26:48 CST 13472462 at
<![CDATA[Coushatta Country Party to feature tributes to country music stars]]> Special to American Press

KINDER — Coushatta Casino Resort’s Mikko Live will host Coushatta Country Party through Dec. 10.

Performances, featuring tributes to country music stars by Doug Brewin and Derek Spence, will be at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, and at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Seating is first-come, first-served. Front-of-the-room seating tickets are $10 at and at the Coushatta box office. Attendees must be at least 21. The shows are free for Advantage Club members.

Alan Jackson impersonator Doug Brewin is a professional musician and performs in Las Vegas, Branson and other venues. Brewin will also perform as Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn.

Derek Spence has shared the stage with stars like Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood and is the top George Strait tribute artist in America. Spence will also perform as Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn.

For more information, call 800-584-7263 or

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:26:46 CST 13472461 at
<![CDATA['Moana' a Disney hit but portrayal irks some in the Pacific]]> By The Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Disney's animated movie "Moana" debuted to critical acclaim and box office success over the Thanksgiving weekend, but some people in the South Pacific dislike how it depicts their culture.

Of particular concern is the movie's portrayal of the demigod Maui, who is shown as enormous and egotistical, albeit with a good heart. That has been jarring for some in Polynesia, where obesity rates are among the highest in the world and where Maui is a revered hero in oral traditions.

Criticism from the Pacific has likely stung Disney, which went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the movie was culturally appropriate after being accused of racism in previous movies such as "Aladdin" (1992). For "Moana," the filmmakers traveled to the Pacific and met with anthropologists, historians, fisherman and linguists, part of what they came to call the Oceanic Story Trust.

The fictional movie takes place 3,000 years ago in the islands of Polynesia, an area that includes Hawaii, Tonga and Tahiti. The star is 16-year-old Moana, voiced by Hawaiian actress Auli'i Cravalho, who goes on an ocean voyage with Maui, voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

The movie made $82 million over the five-day weekend, placing it behind only "Frozen" (2013) for a Thanksgiving debut.

Disney suffered an early embarrassment when it decided to sell costumes of Maui, which featured brown shirts and long pants with full-body tattoos. Disney put the costumes in stores in time for Halloween, but quickly pulled them after critics compared them to blackface.

Producer Osnat Shurer, speaking by phone from Berlin where she was promoting the movie, said the moviemakers spent five years working closely with people in the Pacific to create what they believe is a beautiful representation.

"The costume fell short of that," she said. "As different things grow around the movie, sometimes they don't hit the same mark."

Shurer said that when it came to figuring out the character of Maui, they found that different islands, villages, and even households, had different impressions of him.

"To some he's a Superman, to others he's a trickster," she said.

In all the stories, she said, Maui was clearly larger than life. At first, however, they envisioned him as a little smaller, and bald. But he just seemed to grow as the movie progressed. She said animators try to find the essence of a character and then exaggerate those features.

"We knew we wanted him to be big and wanted him to be strong," she said. "But he also moves with an incredible lightness."

She said she hopes Pacific Islanders see the movie with an open mind.

"I feel good about the movie we've created and that it can withstand scrutiny," she said. "All I can say is we did it with love and respect."

In New Zealand, the movie does not debut until after Christmas. But Teresia Teaiwa, a senior lecturer in Pacific studies at Victoria University of Wellington, said she was concerned about the portrayal of Maui.

"Before Disney, I've seen a lot of other representations, and Maui is a hero," she said. "I think it's clear from the trailers I've seen that he's a buffoon in Disney. It's a dramatic shift. He was a trickster but not a buffoon."

Teaiwa said if Disney really wanted to be culturally correct they would have paired Maui with a female deity, as he is in most legends, and not with a teenager.

"They wanted to get it right commercially without getting it wrong culturally," Teaiwa said. "But there are some things that they clearly didn't mind getting wrong."

She said there seemed to be a U.S. stereotype of Pacific Island men as huge, perhaps because the main exposure to them seemed to be through activities like NFL football.

Teaiwa said she was appalled by the Maui costume, particularly because some ethnologists from early last century had managed to collect the preserved, tattooed skin of Pacific people who had died.

"I thought it was macabre. I thought it was really creepy," she said of the costume. "It gave me the shudders to see something like that produced so lightly and in such a trivial way."

New Zealand politician Marama Fox, the co-leader of the indigenous Maori Party, said most Disney heroes tended to look far more muscular than Maui.

"I still don't think that's an accurate depiction of what Maui would look like or should look like," she said. "And it's a little bit of cultural misappropriation."

But asked if she planned to see the movie, Fox, a mother of nine, said she had little choice.

"How am I going to keep my kids away from singing Maori people and Polynesians?" she said. "Of course they're going to want to go and see it."

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 15:42:34 CST 13469925 at