Flashback to 2013. Michael Pettenato was serving his thousandth Cupcake on a busy Saturday in the Food Court of Lenox Mall in downtown Atlanta. He had finally had enough. The previous few years had been tumultuously spent creating Cloud 9, a chain of 3 Atlanta-area cupcake and frozen yogurt stores.
The trendy venture landed him on CNN, ABC, and Food Network's popular Cupcake Wars program. Google chose Cloud 9 to win one of five "Exceptional Small Business" awards, with over $150,000 in prizes and a trip to their famous campus in Palo Alto. More than that, he loved putting smiles on people's faces as they tried his recipes, which received more than a thousand customer reviews as "the best cupcake I've ever had."
Now it was time to move on. He'd done everything he wanted to do in the world of professional baking, a world that was completely foreign to him just a few years prior. In fact, it felt like he was acting the part of a baker...and maybe that's why it worked out so well.
Mike is a ham. At USC, he had been heavily active in Theater, garnering the nickname "Showtunes." He had spent 4 years in New York City as a young actor and stand-up comic before hanging up the microphone for the apron.
Then, out of the blue, word spread of a small theater on Hollywood Boulevard that had been sitting vacant for a few years. Could he build a life producing shows instead of confections? Mike moved back to Los Angeles and christened the space, The Cupcake Theater, both because it was a beautiful, bite-sized theater and also because it was born from actual cupcakes.
Nothing he knew about flour and ovens could prepare him to build a theater from the ground up. There was nobody to help and there was nowhere to turn. Through blood, sweat, and lots of Lysol, he started producing improv and stand-up shows to anyone who needed a space. Low and behold, there were dozens of people who needed a space to perform...it was Hollywood and there are actors there...lots of them, and not always good.
The shows started off terrible, really terrible. Somehow, and gradually, the level of talent in our shows started rising, along with the budgets. We had lights! We had microphones! Cupcake Theater got a name among actors as an edgy and exciting theater that developed local talent.
By 2016, our shows were playing to packed houses and getting standing ovations. Members of the "Theatrical Community," which tend to be the harshest critics and the worst audience members, started noticing that we had the highest reviewed and most attended shows in town.
In a whirlwind three years of working around-the-clock, we had clawed our way out of the trenches! We had outgrown our tiny Hollywood Boulevard space, but where could we go? We spent nine months hunting all over town for a space that could meed our needs. There were none! It turns out that Los Angeles has the Pantages and the Ahmanson and plenty of holes-in-the-wall. Very little in-between.
Size does matter, and we prefer small. There is no better theatrical experience than at a small venue, if the talent is great. Think about it, would you prefer to see U2 in a 3,000 seat auditorium or in a private show for you and your friends in your living room? We know our answer.
In May 2016, after almost a year of looking, a space known as the the NoHoPAC became available. It had everything we could have asked for...a stage that could support a cast of 20 or more, an enormous lobby (the lobby alone was bigger than our entire previous space), and to top it all off, there was a newly renovated dance space, complete with mirrored walls and a sprung floor. Somehow, the space still felt cozy and personal. Everyone who saw it immediately knew that this was the perfect new home.
We also saw immediately that we could do much more at this location than the old Cupcake. We had visions of a multi-use complex that would house an Acting and Voice Studio in the lobby, a Dance and Fitness Studio in the dance room, and Theatrical Production Studio in the main room. We named it CUPCAKE STUDIOS!
Which confused exactly everyone. "Do you sell cupcakes?" Not right now. "Do you produce movies?" Not yet. "Do you sell small 1-person apartments?" No. No. No...the owner was on Cupcake Wars...nevermind.
Unfortunately, the gentrification of the NoHo Arts District convinced us after 3 years that we would not renew our lease, but instead scour the Hollywood Area for yet another new home.
Finally, after six LONG months of seeing space after space, we found the PERFECT fit for our new home: The Hollywood Majestic! Located in East Hollywood right off of Melrose, the Hollywood Majestic is a small, 99-seat space that has a cozy feeling but will also amaze you with dramatic high ceilings and the same size stage as our last venue- meaning we can continue to do our BIG musical productions but keep our intimate crowds!
So...here we are, in 2022...and the quality of the shows has never been higher. Six years of experience has led us to attract some of the best performers in the country, and we have a world-class house band. Audiences have been blown away by the feeling you get with our amazing performers in a small space. In fact, this year we have just been Nominated for a Record 14 Valley Theatre Awards (and won ____ of them)!
We are grateful for all the amazing accolades and reviews, but more than that, we are grateful for the crazy reactions of our audience members. The adrenaline after a show keeps us up til 3am. There's nothing like a Cupcake show!
It has been a long journey getting here and there's so much more to do. Thank you for taking the time to learn our story! We hope you'll come out and see a show or take a class. There's always room for one more passionate audience member!
Make sure to say hello when you get here. You're a part of the fam now.
Founder of the Cupcake Theater