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A local connection for ‘La La Land’

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The story and themes in the musical romance “La La Land” may be straight out of Los Angeles, but the dancing is pure Colorado Western Slope. Or at least, choreographer Mandy Moore is. 
Moore grew up in Summit County and her parents are familiar faces on and off the stage in the Roaring Fork Valley. Wendy served as principal of Roaring Fork High School from 1998 to 2005 and will direct the Sopris Theatre Company’s production of “Sixteen Wounded” later this month. Bob played the titular role in the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue production of “Sweeney Todd” last fall and has had a couple of commercial appearances as well. The theatrical family is rounded out with a second sister, Missy, a Denver actress who took home a Henry Award from the Colorado Theatre Guild last year.
At the moment, though, Mandy is the one most in the spotlight as “La La Land” shines critically and continues to pick up awards, including seven Golden Globes. 
“It’s a little bit ‘pinch me’ still,” Mandy said in a recent interview with The Sun. “This is one of the first projects I’ve been involved in that I really did feel so much a part of a team and received a lot of recognition.”
She sees it as part of a larger resurgence of music and dance in television and film. 
“When I moved to LA in ’94, we were coming right out of the age of ’80s dance movies, and nothing really happened for a good 10 years,” she observed. “The start of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ brought it more into mainstream culture.”

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From the start

Mandy was right there in the heart of that resurgence, following a passion that began almost at birth. 
“I can’t think of a time she wasn’t dancing,” Wendy recalled. “When she was a baby and I had music on, she’d bounce to the beat. I realize little ones do that, but when I’d change the music she’d change her bounce.”
“She inherited every dance gene I might have given her,” Bob agreed. “I don’t have any left.” 
Both of the daughters come by their stage savvy honestly. The Moores operated a showboat in St. Louis before moving to Colorado, where they ran the Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge. 
Not that they weren’t open to whatever their kids wanted to pursue. Mandy earned letters in three sports for four years in high school. 
“We fought any kind of coach telling her she had to specialize,” Wendy said. “That’s not what school is about.”
By that time, she had also moved beyond the local dance opportunities and was attending class in Denver several nights a week. When she graduated high school she applied to a college, but ended up getting a scholarship to a studio in Los Angeles. 
“I knew that I loved to dance, and that you could do that on television and in film,” Mandy explained. 
In the years since, she’s held a slew of jobs, from teaching senior citizens to touring to choreographing halftime shows. She had a small appearance in “A Time of Dancing” and arranged a pivotal dance scene in “Silver Linings Playbook.” 
“Everyone thinks it’s been overnight, but she’s been working on it for 20 years,” Bob observed. “Her career is so multifaceted, and except for a few months at a Victoria’s Secret store job, every she’s she’s had has been dance related. It seems like it was always a step followed by another step, meeting someone and then doing a good job.”
She was also involved with “American Idol,” and went to register her name the day after the singer/actress Mandy Moore registered hers. Her Twitter handle, @nopenother, pays homage to her counterpart. 

A new level

The unprecedented success of “La La Land,” may prove the thing that puts choreography in general and Mandy in particular on the map. 
“I remember telling her ‘this one’s going to be big,’” Wendy said. “She’s had a great time and met such wonderful people.”
While Mandy attended the big premieres, the rest of the family got their first viewing when it opened at the Denver Filmfest. The evening included a pre-party with director Damien Chazelle and actress Emma Stone, a car with a driver provided by Lionsgate, and a scramble to get from DIA to the red carpet in time. 
“It was amazing to see it after watching the outtakes and hearing about it for a year,” Wendy said. “That opening number just takes my breath away because we know those kids. It’s all of her friends who went out there at the same time she did.”
Since then, Wendy’s seen it at least eight times, while Bob is a few viewings behind that. Meanwhile, the film has grossed $223.5 million worldwide and is up for a record tying 14 Oscar nominations. Even months after its release, it continues to attract steady crowds at local theaters.
“It’s so cool that this film has touched people even in small town Colorado,” Mandy said. “The support that my family feels from the community is incredible. If I could live in Carbondale or Glenwood Springs and do what I do, I would.”
“It’s not a perfectly saccharine musical where everything’s wrapped up gorgeously on the end, but at the root of it, it’s about dreamers and romance and beauty,” she added. “It walks the line between fantasy and reality in this technicolor world where people just fall in and out of song and dance.”
As for what’s next … “Hopefully it’s got dance involved, because that’s always been the root of it all for me.”

“La La Land” runs through Feb. 9 at the Crystal Theatre (427 Main in Carbondale), with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. except Feb. 5, when it shows at 1 p.m. It’s also showing at Movieland in El Jebel, The Isis in Aspen and Brenden 7 in Rifle.

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Published in The Sopris Sun on Feb. 2, 2017.