The Best of the Best
Music, Dance, and live theater shine at
these famous, world-class venues
By Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller
From iconic music venues to world-renowned dance studios, the Greater San Fernando Valley is home to a plethora of arts and entertainment options. Here’s a closer look at a few of the notable establishments.
The Baked Potato
At 52-years-old, The Baked Potato is the oldest jazz club in Los Angeles. Opened in 1970 by Grammy-nominated artist and member of the famed Wrecking Crew, Don Randi, the club continues to serve as a home away from home for a multitude of musicians.
Operated by Randi’s son, Justin, the club offers a variety of live music from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., every day. The kitchen continuously churns out the club’s signature dish — large baked potatoes stuffed with a variety of toppings.
Through riots, earthquakes, and even the COVID-19 pandemic, The Baked Potato has survived, providing music for jazz lovers in many forms.
Innovation, thanks to the pandemic, means Justin now has a library full of digital recordings — enough to launch his own subscription-based streaming concert channel later this year. Patrons can sit inside for concerts or view the stage from the patio thanks to the live-streaming system.
Tickets can now be purchased online, and concerts take place at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. each night.
While some things have changed, Justin said much remains as it did when The Baked Potato opened its doors in 1970.
Considered a “date place,” the 100-person capacity club provides an intimate setting to hear musicians play their craft. The club’s walls are lined with pictures and posters highlighting some of the many musicians who have played on its stage throughout the years.
“There’s nothing like it anywhere else,” Justin said. “People who can play at much bigger places, still play here.”
Many musicians, like Stephen Lee Bruner aka Thundercat, got their start playing at The Baked Potato. Others like Danny Carey, drummer with Tool, play at the club in order to expand their musical horizons.
“It’s an awe-striking experience to be here,” Justin said. “People tend to leave floating out of here. We throw a party here every day.”
Looking ahead to 2023, Justin plans to keep doing what The Baked Potato does best — provide a variety of jazz music every night for his patrons.
For more information, visit www.thebakedpotato.com or call 818-980-1615. Additional information may be found on Facebook @thebakedpotato; Instagram @bakedpotatojazzclub; and Twitter @BakedPotatoJazz.
The Baked Potato Fun Facts
The Baked Potato is considered a “musicians club” according to Justin Randi. Musicians like his father, Don, would find their way to the club’s stage in order to play their own music. The club became the “place to play” for musicians of all ages. A recent month’s line-up featured musicians with a collective 28 Grammys.
Some famous faces who’ve performed at The Baked Potato include:
• Joe Bonamassa — who began his career by opening for BB King at the age of 12.
• Mike Stern — who played with legend Miles Davis.
• Larry Carlton — with Steely Dan.
• Saul Hudson, better known as Slash — guitarist with Guns N’ Roses.
The Millennium Dance Complex
From Justin Timberlake to Britney Spears; Janet Jackson to P. Diddy; Usher to Jennifer Lopez; and Christina Aguilera to Beyoncé, a multitude of stars have called The Millennium Dance Complex home.
Known throughout the world as a premiere studio for the commercial dance industry, MDC’s A-list clientele and faculty are some of the most sought-after dancers and choreographers in the world.
The studio began 31 years ago when AnnMarie Hudson began her venture under the Moro Landis name. In 2000, she added the name Millennium, and the rest, shall we say, was history.
With a 10,000-square-foot facility and two additional buildings with just as much space, Hudson is able to house a variety of dance forms, establishing an “extremely creative environment” where artists of all styles can interact together on a daily basis.
“I love that it is a worldwide student body,” Hudson said. “From the Los Angeles professional dancers to dancers who want to become professionals worldwide. We are a dance destination for those who visit or relocate here to train with our instructors, who are among the foremost choreographers in the world.”
Hudson journeyed to Studio City from New York City, where she pursued dance and was a manager at a couple of prominent dance centers in Manhattan.
“I found that I preferred the business of running a dance center and facilitating the exposure to A-1 level dance to the students,” she said. “I created a system where the choreographers were able to come in and out of teaching as their tour and professional careers permitted. Thus, allowing the students to benefit and be ensured from these choreographers who otherwise are unable to commit to teaching in one place every week. Top choreographers, in general, love to pass other knowledge and inspire the next generation … after all, it was once them.”
With a motto of “Love all, Serve all, Dance More,” the atmosphere at Millennium Dance Complex is designed to give artists a place where all cultures are embraced.
Millennium is the oldest venue of its kind on the West Coast. Most classes are on the fast side, and they are more of a “big city polishing school to a good dance” rather than a traditional school with children’s classes.
“You get a glimpse into what it’s like to contour and work professionally,” Hudson said. “It’s exciting no matter who you are. Many adults like the creative buzz and come to the handful of entry-level classes we have.”
Ultimately, Hudson said, the complex is designed to ensure and support its legacy as a place where dance creators can share their art and expertise.
“We are honored to be that stable place they can always call home,” she said.
For more information, visit www.millenniumdancecomplex.com or call 818-753-5081. Additional information may be found on Facebook @millenniumdancecomplex; Instagram @mdcdance; and Twitter @dancemillennium.
The Millennium Dance Complex
• While Millennium hosts a variety of competitive classes, hip-hop is the studio’s “bread and butter.”
• Some of the hip-hop artists who promote AnnMarie Hudson’s “good people, good vibe and pure talent — even if they’re a nobody off a bus” criteria include then 12-year-old Wade Robson, w
At the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley sits the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts.
Known as the Soraya, this mecca of music and culture is found on the campus of California State University.
For more than 10 years, The Soraya’s management has strived to continue a “vigorous commitment to innovating, exceling, and amplifying access by offering a wide variety of performances that reflect LA’s many distinctive communities” as well as feature new and original work from regional and international artists.
The theatre opened in 2011 and has 1,700 seats. Kara Hill served as the lead design architect with HGA Architects. The venue, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, is “a growing hub for live music, dance, drama, and other cultural events.”
The 2022-23 season features nearly 50 classical and popular music, dance, theater, family, and international events — all designed to establish The Soraya as one of the top arts companies in Southern California that uplifts and inspires its audiences.
“Since its opening, The Soraya has embraced its identity as a force for innovation and creativity. It continues to shape the future of the performing arts — not only here in the San Fernando Valley, but across the country and around the globe through its virtual capabilities that unite audiences beyond the confines of time and place,” explained Dr. Erika D. Beck, president of California State University Northridge. “I am so very proud to be a part of an academic community that is committed to the advancement of the arts as an essential part of inclusive excellence.
“The Soraya reinforces the power of our diverse programming to build new audiences and engage communities in the most inclusive sense of the word, and as we commemorate The Soraya’s first decade, we can be sure that the next will be just as magical.”
For more information, or to purchase tickets, those interested may visit www.thesoraya.org or call 818-677-3000. Additional information may be found on Facebook TheSorayaStage, Instagram @TheSorayaStage, and Twitter @TheSorayaStage.
The Soraya Fun Facts
• Some of the artists who have graced The Soraya’s stage include Megan Hilty, Broadway actress; Jason Moran, artistic director for Jazz at Lincoln Center; Joshua Hill, award-winning violinist; Taylor McFerrin, musician, producer, and DJ; and Rosanne Cash, Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and author. Read more about life at The Soraya at
• Vincent “Vin” Edward Scully, the great American sportscaster who spent 67 seasons calling games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, recorded the pre-show welcome note for The Soraya.
The Starlight Bowl
Since its dedication on June 17, 1951, The Starlight Bowl continues to provide a variety of musical entertainment in an outdoor amphitheater tucked in the Verdugo Mountains overlooking the city of Burbank.
Originally built to seat 2,500 people, the expanded capacity now reaches crowds of 3,800, all while retaining the intimate concert experience for every seat in the house. In fact, many concert-goers often remark on how the venue is the perfect size to house a good-sized crowd, while not feeling overcrowded or too far away from the stage.
The location is one of Southern California’s premier outdoor concert venues. While construction began on the bowl in July 1950, a story in the Los Angeles Times noted that the previous unimproved space served as a “natural amphitheater with good acoustics created by curving mountain slopes.”
In the 1930s, the area often hosted Easter sunrise services. In the 1940s, the Burbank Symphony Orchestra hosted a concert series there.
Designed by architect E. Dean Crowley, an executive of the Burbank Symphony Orchestra Association, the amphitheater known as the Burbank Starlight Theatre cost a reported $175,000.
Each summer, kicking off with the annual Fourth of July concert and fireworks display, officials with the City of Burbank host a Summer Concert series featuring six concerts. The 2022 season included The Company Men, The Fab Four, and Yachtley Crew .
City officials work with private promoters to offer special engagements in addition to City concerts. The Starlight Bowl welcomed Ramon Ayala, Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán, Thomas Anders, and Common this past season to name a few.
“We would love for our patrons to leave a concert having enjoyed an entertaining show under the stars with their whole family,” explained Bryce Burton, recreation coordinator. “With Starlight Bowl being a family-friendly venue, we encourage visitors of all ages to come and enjoy a live concert.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit starlightbowl.com or itsmyseat.com. Season tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis with a priority renewal process for current season ticket holders. Tickets for special engagements are sold separately. Additional information may be found by calling 818-238-5397 or by visiting Facebook @starlightbowl, Instagram @starlightbowlburbankl, and Twitter @starlightbowl.
The Starlight Bowl Fun Facts
• Throughout the amphitheater’s 70-plus-year history, acts such as Berlin, Smash Mouth, Blue Oyster Cult, Pat Benatar, Kenny Loggins, Rick Springfield, The Commodores, Ozomatli, The Gin Blossoms, Common, and more have graced its stage.
• There’s no better place to enjoy fireworks every Fourth of July than the Starlight Bowl. Fireworks are set off in a lot right below the venue, creating a unique and up-close experience.