PalmSprings.com Spotlight: An Interview with Trini Garza of Live It Up Productions and Top Rock

company_triniTrini Garza began his musical career as a teenager, singing and dancing in theme parks, cruise ships and corporate shows. He has directed shows for various theme parks in the US and Japan. Shortly after he was hired as the Production Associate Director for a large Corporate Production Company. He musically directed and choreographed large corporate events and tours for most of the top companies in the world. He was then hired on to co-direct and co-choreograph the New Year’s Eve Gala Event for the MGM Grand, and continued on to musically direct and choreograph a variety of shows and events for the MGM Grand. At the same time he was also the Musical Director for various events at The Venetian. He has worked with celebrities such as Natalie Cole, Queen Latifah, Wynonna Judd, KISS, Kool and the Gang, Wayne Newton and Prince. He is President/Creative Director of Live It Up Productions.

Kate Buckley: Trini, tell me how you went from MGM Grand in Las Vegas to starting your own production company in Palm Springs. That must be quite a story!

Trini Garza: It is! I was directing shows for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas when my mother became ill—we were told she only had a few months left, so I liquidated my properties in Vegas, and moved to Southern California to be near her. I got into the mortgage business, and then after my mom passed, I moved to Palm Springs.

KB: Okay, I don’t really see you as a mortgage broker. 

TG: Exactly—there was about a three year gap where I wasn’t doing anything creative, but then I got the bug. So I called up some friends (many of whom were former students from my days teaching High School Show Choir—basically we were the original GLEE) from Los Angeles to come out for the weekend to have a few drinks and sing around the piano, and by the end of the weekend, we had a show! Which debuted a few months later at Sun City in Palm Desert. And thus, Live it Up Productions was born.

10498472_10203236830976287_3546974371972484697_o KB: And now you’ve built out quite a team, including the illustrious Jim Casey. How did that happen—organically, or more of the traditional corporate raise & recruit route?

TG: A little bit of both. I was doing some mortgage work for Jim Casey, and he needed entertainment for Desert AIDS Project events, and I said, “Oh, I might know a few singers.” So I brought in one of my friends from Broadway, David Burnham. And it was a smash success, and then Jim came on board as a business partner. On another note, one of those original friends around the piano is now my Production Manger, Joshua “Chachi” Evans.

KB: How did you get involved with producing a show for The Hard Rock?

10496247_10203236830576277_4953897700500886098_oTG: Jim is friends with Andy Carpiac, majority owner of the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. Andy called Jim as he knows Jim has his finger on the pulse of the valley, and asked him what kind of show he would suggest—something edgy, youthful, fun, sexy. Which, of curse, is Live It Up. We premiered our first show at the Hard Rock with the Palm Springs Fashion Weekend in September, then we did a big Halloween show in October, then in November we opened up with Top Rock.

KB: And how did Top Rock come to be?

TG: Live It Up conceived Top Rock specifically for the Hard Rock Cafe. We created the show to be iconic entertainment in keeping with the world famous Hard Rock branding. Brandon, the co-creative director of the company, and I sat down and compiled a list of the top iconic rock bands from the 1980s and early 1990s, decided to feature the best of the best. We then curated a list of the most popular songs and set about creating a showcase for them that would knock the socks off our audience!

Arranged in medleys—think the best of Journey, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, Queen, Guns N Roses, Motley Cru—we cover it all! With edgy, elaborate costuming, spectacular light design, “in your face” choreography, unforgettable arrangements and an ensemble of hard-core, exceptionally talented performers, this show embodies the true spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll with hard-hitting highlights from both current and classic rock hits.

KB: Are there any sort of interactive features to the show?

10481555_10203236831296295_3639214798604621533_oTG: Yes, the show not only takes place on the stage, but also within the house. We have four satellite stages in the house, surrounded bytables so that the guests can literally reach out and touch the performers. Two of the satellites have truss towers and the other two have stripper poles! Which of course is a big favorite with the men in the audience.

KB: Which leads me to a question about this elaborate costuming…

TG: We had a meeting with our costuming team and told them we wanted something that would have a rock feel, and we wanted to stay true to the rock ethos, but have a current and edgy feel. They drew up various sketches and color palettes (think black!), and that’s how it came about. I don’t want to give away too much…let’s just say there may be some Madonna-influenced costuming going on!

KB: How did you find your talent?

TG: Based on the show, we had to decide how big the cast would be. We wanted this to be a tribute show with an ensemble cast of twelve—singers and dancers—making the entire cast “rock stars.”

We held auditions in Los Angeles, as we do for the other shows we do as well (The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, corporate events, the SAG awards), and we had 400 – 500 performers come out! From there we selected the 12 cast members. The show is also choreographed and performed with a live five-piece band. In addition to the humongous lead vocals, there are spectacular background vocals.

10497436_10203236830176267_4226407329851107590_oKB: Tell me about this five-piece band. Anyone I would know?

TG: Maybe—our band consists of the some of the most sought-after talent in Los Angeles. In fact, our bass player is also the bass player for Justin Beiber. But all the band members tell us that they love playing our shows because they are so rock theatrical and they never get a chance to do that elsewhere. And because they get to play songs from so many different artists as opposed to songs from just one singer.

KB: What are the top crowd pleasers from TOP ROCK? What have you seen the crowd go wild for?

TG: The Rolling Stones’ medley section: “Satisfaction,” “Missing You,” and “Start Me Up.” And then the Journey section: “Separate Ways,” “Faithfully,” and “Open Arms.” We put these neon glow sticks on the guests’ table so they can wave them in the air. During these sections it’s a sea of glow sticks. It’s a kick!

The show begins at 8:00 pm at “The Edge,” Hard Rock’s Premier Showroom. August & September show dates and tickets available here. The Vinyl Lounge opens at 7pm—come early and get in the Top Rock mood while enjoy a cocktail before the show!

About Kate Buckley

Kate Buckley is a brand strategist, premium domain broker and consultant, interviewer, storyteller, visual artist, and award-winning poet & writer. She’s worked in media and marketing since 1997, holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and is the author of A Wild Region (Moon Tide Press) and Follow Me Down (Tebot Bach). A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her awards include a Gabeheart Prize and the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. She was most recently shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. A ninth-generation Kentuckian, she’s made her home in Southern California since 1998.

Check Also

“Fly Local” — Why Everyone Wins When You Fly Via Palm Springs International Airport

It’s darling. It’s easy. It’s stylish. It’s close. No, I’m not talking about the latest …