Tasha Taylor and Christina Bjorn were on episode 4 of Netflix's "Sugar Rush Christmas."
Photo: Christina Bjorn (left) and Tasha Taylor. CREDIT: RASHAADWILLIAMS
Photo: Christina Bjorn (left) and Tasha Taylor. CREDIT: RASHAADWILLIAMS

Briefs: Atlantans on ‘Sugar Rush Christmas,’ Kate Flannery & DWTS at Fox Theatre, ‘American Soul’ season 2 guests, 

Originally posted Sunday, December 1, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas shows are coming at us like a fast-approaching sleigh.

Netflix last Friday released a Christmas-themed anthology TV series starring Dennis Quaid called “Merry Christmas Whatever” along with a Christmas film “Holiday Rush” starring Romany Malco. And it created a Christmas-themed set of episodes for its hit cooking competition show “Sugar Rush.”

Two Atlanta confectionary buddies Tasha Taylor and Christina Bjorn, both 37, pocketed $10,000 during episode four against three other teams of two. The theme? “The Nutcracker.”

The first challenge - cupcakes - focused literally on a nut-themed cupcake. Their PB&J cupcakes impressed the judges, who said it was their favorite. “I think it was honestly a perfect cupcake,” said guest judge Jeanine Mason, an actress and dancer.

Photo: Christina and Tanya's PB&J cupcakes

Round two: plum confections. They created a plum galette (a flaky, open-face pastry) with whipped cream topping and a white chocolate sugar plum ballerina. 

Judges were again complimentary. “From top to bottom, you captured ‘The Nutcracker’ and that makes me very happy,” said judge Candace Nelson

What kept them from winning the round? “Too many elements,” Jeanine said. 

But they survived and made it into the final round featuring a Mouse King theme. The cake also had to incorporate cheese. The two Atlanta friends created a white velvet cake with mascarpone and goat cheese. A Mouse King on top will be shooting out cheese. “Mass cheese destruction” is how Christina described it. 

They are home-grown chefs who run their own bakery operations for weddings, birthday parties and the like. Their final competitors Melissa and Emma were more classically trained. But Tasha and Christina were not nervous.

Ultimately, Tasha ana Christina’s cake looked more visually whimsical and fun than their rivals, if less pretty per se. The judges were wowed by the taste balance of the three cheeses they used. 

Melissa and Emma’s Nutcracker face was adorable but they ran out of time to create one for the Mouse King. Their almond cake also lacked texture. 

Christina and Tasha won over all three judges with superior taste. 

“It brought me to another level, pushed me past my limits of what I thought I was capable of,” said Christina in an interview, thrilled she has been able to do something she has loved since she was a child. Her bakery name is Not Your Nana’s Bakery. 

“There’s always this stigma on home-based chefs, that those with store fronts and restaurants are better,” Tasha said. “This show gave us an opportunity to prove otherwise.” Her bakery business: Sugar Hi Sweet Eats & Treats.

With the money, Tasha plans to open a sweets boutique and Christina will expand her custom cake and dessert catering.

***

“The Office” actress Kate Flannery, who finished in seventh place on “Dancing on the Stars” this season, will be joining the Atlanta leg of the live tour in 2020.

She and the pro dancers will perform February 27 at the Fox Theatre. Tickets range from $59.50 to $125 with VIP packages running significantly higher. (Tickets available here.)

This will be the longest tour in the show’s history. The tour begins in Richmond, Va. January 9 and runs through March.

Other cities will get mirror-ball champion Hannah Brown from “The Bachelorette,” pop star Ally Brooke, country artist Lauren Alaina, comedian and actor Kel Mitchell and/or model Sailor Brinkley-Cook.

Among the pro dancers who will show up include Val Chmerkovskiy, Jenna Johnson, Lindsay Arnold, Alan Bersten, Witney Carson, Sasha Farber, Emma Slater, Gleb Savchenko, Brandon Armstrong, Pasha Pashkov and Daniella Karagach.

Earlier in the fall, I tried to predict the winner this season based on the first night of dances. I chose James Van Der Beek, who was eliminated in the semi-finals. His departure at that juncture was a surprise given his fame and his skills. But he was suffering from his wife’s miscarriage and that impacted his dancing that week. 

Of the four I placed as potential finalists, I named two correct: eventual winner Hannah Brown and runner-up Kel Mitchell. I placed Karamo Brown in fourth but he came in a surprising eighth. I placed Lauren Alaina fifth and she came in fourth so I was close there.

I made some poor predictions.  Ally Brooke, I thought, would finish in 10th place. She ended up in third.

I also expected Mary Wilson and Ray Lewis to last much longer than they did. And I vastly under-estimated the power of Sean Spicer’s fan base, which kept him around until the top six. 

Dancing with the Stars: LIVE! 2020 tour dates
Jan 9 - Richmond, VA - Altria Theater
Jan. 10 - Atlantic City, NJ - Borgata
Jan. 11 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun
Jan. 12 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun
Jan. 14 - Rochester, NY - Auditorium Theatre
Jan. 15 - Albany, NY - Palace Theatre
Jan. 16 - Boston, MA - Wang Theatre
Jan. 17 - Boston, MA - Wang Theatre
Jan 18. - Bethlehem, PA - Sands Event Center (matinee)
Jan. 18 - Bethlehem, PA - Sands Event Center (evening)
Jan. 19 - New Brunswick, NJ - State Theatre (Tickets)
Jan. 21 - Lancaster, PA - American Music Theatre
Jan. 22 - Lancaster, PA - American Music Theatre
Jan. 23 - Lancaster, PA - American Music Theatre
Jan. 24 - Washington, DC - MGM National Harbor
Jan. 25 - Verona, NY - Turning Stone
Jan. 26 - Philadelphia, PA - The Met
Jan. 28 - New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall (Tickets)
Jan. 29 - Pittsburgh, PA - Benedum
Feb. 4 - Akron, OH - Akron Civic Theatre
Feb. 5 - Columbus, OH - The Palace
Feb 6. - Indianapolis, IN - The Murat
Feb. 7 - Cincinnati, OH - Taft Theatre
Feb. 8 - Rosemont, IL - Rosemont Theatre
Feb. 9 - Appleton, WI - Fox Cities
Feb. 11 - Prior Lake, MN - Mystic Lake Casino
Feb. 12 - Ames, IA - Stephens Auditorium
Feb. 13 - Peoria, IL - Civic Auditorium
Feb. 14 - St. Louis, MO - Stifel Theatre
Feb. 15 - Louisville, KY - Palace Theatre
Feb. 16 - Nashville, TN - Grand Ole Opry
Feb. 18 - Greenville, SC - Bon Scours
Feb. 19 - Durham, NC - Durham Performing Arts Center
Feb. 20 - N. Charleston, SC - N. Charleston PAC
Feb. 21 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
Feb. 22 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
Feb. 23 - Orlando, FL - Walt Disney Theater (matinee) (Tickets)
Feb. 23 - Orlando, FL - Walt Disney Theater (evening) (Tickets)
Feb. 25 - Hollywood, FL - Seminole Hard Rock
Feb. 26 - Jacksonville, FL - Moran Theater (Tickets)
Feb. 27 - Atlanta, GA - The Fox
Feb. 28 - Columbia, SC - Township Auditorium
Feb. 29 - Charlotte, NC - Ovens Auditorium
March 1 - Knoxville, TN Civic Auditorium
March 3 - Huntsville, TN - Mark C. Smith Concert Hall
March 4 - Birmingham, AL - BJCC Concert Hall
March 5 - New Orleans, LA - Saenger Theatre
March 6 - Shreveport, LA - Municipal Auditorium
March 7 - Sugar Land, TX - Smart Financial Center
March 8 - Grand Prairie, TX - Verizon Theatre (Tickets)
March 10 - Kansas City, MO - Arvest Bank Theatre (Tickets)
March 11 - Omaha, NE - Ralston Arena
March 12 - Davenport, IA - Adler Theater
March 13 - Rockford, IL - Coronado Auditorium
March 14 - Milwaukee, IL - Riverside Theatre
March 15 - Sioux City, IA - Orpheum
March 17 - Colorado Springs, CO - Pikes Peak (Tickets)
March 18 - Denver, CO - Paramount Theatre (Tickets)
March 19 - Salt Lake City, UT - Eccles Theater
March 20 - Boise, ID - Morrison Center
March 21 - Reno, NV - Grand Sierra Casino
March 22 - Stockton, CA - Stockton Arena
March 24 - Riverside, CA - Fox Theater
March 25 - Costa Mesa, CA - Segerstrom Hall
March 26 - San Diego, CA - Sycaun 
March 26 - Phoenix, AZ - Comerica
March 28 - Indio, CA - Fantasy Springs
March 29 - Los Angeles, CA - Microsoft Theater
March 31 - Bakersfield, CA - The Fox
April 1 - Fresno, CA - Saroyan Theatre
April 2 - Redding, CA - Redding Civic
April 3 - Oakland, CA - Paramount Theatre
April 5 - Seattle, WA - WaMu Theater
April 6 - Spokane, WA - First Interstate Center For The Arts
April 7 - Portland, OR - Keller Auditorium

***

Photo: Still of Darius McCrary as James Brown from BET's "American Soul" episode 205. (Photo: Nathan Bolster/BET)

The BET series “American Soul,”  shot in Atlanta and based loosely on the life of Don Cornelius, has tapped some Atlantans to play famous stars from the 1970s for its second season, set to debut next year.

Demetria McKinney will play June Pointer of the Pointer SistersD.C. Young Fly will portray Sly Stone. Big Boi will be George Clinton. Yung Joc will play Gary Shider, part of Parliament-Funkadelic

Others on board: Alex Ball (NCIS) as Dick ClarkHudson Thames (Mad Men) as Elton JohnTone Bell (Fam) as Richard PryorLondon Brown (Ballers) as Bootsy Collins,  Ledisi (Selma) as Patti LaBelle and Melanie Fiona (The Bronze) as Chaka Khan

The press release provides plot lines for each big star. Among them: 

Thames’ Elton John is a young British rock star in Los Angeles at the infamous Chateau Marmont eager to meet Don. When Don gets to the hotel, Elton begs to be on Soul Train and asks for an audition.

Ball’s Dick Clark is the host of American Bandstand. He and Don are basically in the same business – only Dick has already been in the game for 15 years. He makes nice when he runs into Don on the Soul Train lot, but he’s ready to lash out and let Don know who the top dog in the conversation is.

McKinney’s June Pointer is the hot-headed, trouble making member of the legendary Pointer Sisters.

Brown’s Bootsy Collins is a vibrantly attired, colorful character who is a famous member of George Clinton’s band, Parliament-Funkadelic. He used to work with James Brown and cracks jokes at his expense when Brown shows up at Clinton’s rehearsal in a huff.

Bell’s Richard Pryor, smart, quick, outrageous and crude, is a brilliant comedian who’s famous for his irreverent acts that are peppered with extremely bad words. Richard is a guest host of Soul Train where he knows he has to watch his language and behavior. Behind the scenes, however, he doesn’t.

D.C. Young Fly’s Sly Stone is the very eclectic, but often troubled front man of Sly and the Family Stone. He strolls into Soul Train to meet Don with his band, which includes a black llama. He also has a reputation of leaving before he does his show.

Giovanni’s Ruby Daniels is a beautiful femme fatale with ties to the mob. She’s a deadly acquaintance of Gerald Aims and has come to town to fill the void left by another mobster’s death. Though Don comes to know Ruby as a savior to his beloved Soul Train, Gerald knows her true intentions and fears she will surely thwart his efforts in becoming a legit businessman.

Big Boi is George Clinton, who, wearing a fur vest and star-shaped shades, appears in a purple haze at a recording studio to rehearse with Parliament-Funkadelic and two of James Brown’s band members.

Ledisi’s Patti and LaBelle perform on “Soul Train,” but the band performs to a music track while Patti sings live. Patti gets into a little riff with Tessa over her drummer’s attitude.

Fiona’s Chaka Khan is the talented, charismatic lead singer of the funk band Rufus and appears with them on “Soul Train” singing “Once You Get Started.”

Yung Joc’s Gary Shider is a guitarist with Parliament-Funkadelic who is famous for wearing an “adult diaper” in his performances. When he offers to give the furious James Brown a shiatsu massage to calm down, Brown almost explodes.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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