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Wonderful Town (LA Opera)userpic=ahmansonIt only took 46½ years.

The first time that the musical Wonderful Town (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolf Green) trod the boards of the Music Center‘s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, it was in July 1975 under the auspices of the Los Angeles City Light Opera, in a production starring Nanette Fabray. This weekend, Wonderful Town returned to the Chandler, this time in a staged concert production as part of LA Opera‘s celebration of the 100th Birthday of Leonard Bernstein. It was truly a delight to see a form of musical theatre return to the Chandler; it had been absent since the LACLO decamped to the Pantages in the early 1980s. Even more so with this particular show, which demonstrated that after 63 years, it could still sparkle with delight and penache.

As for me, the desire to see Wonderful Town was part of my quest to see shows that I had only heard. I had only hear the original cast CD of Wonderful Town; the 2003 revival is on my wish list. The delight of the show does not come through on that cast album; the stories and personalities are a little flat. Last night put the pieces together, and I look forward to hearing the revival with more modern orchestrations.

The story of Wonderful Town is based upon is Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov‘s 1940 play My Sister Eileen, which in turn originated from autobiographical short stories by Ruth McKenney first published in The New Yorker in the late 1930s and later published in book form as My Sister Eileen. It tells the story of Ruth Sherwood and her younger sister Eileen, who come to New York from Ohio to find fame and fortune: Ruth as a writer, and Eileen on the stage. The plot is light and there are a batch of colorful characters — Mr. Appopolous who owns the building from which they rent a room; Speedy Valenti, who owns a nightclub; Robert Baker who works at a local newspaper; Helen and Wreck, a couple in the building. The characterizations are similarly broad: Ruth is an extremely smart and brash writer who turns off men with her intelligence, Eileen is a ingenue who charms all the men around her. It is very easy to see how this became an early sitcom on TV. You can find the full plot synopsis over on the Wikipedia page.

The LA Opera production, unlike the previous LA Civic Light Opera production, was a concert staging. The principals were all on chairs on the stage, on-book,  going to podiums when they were singing or speaking. They were backed by LA Opera chorus, and joined on a few numbers by a set of dancers. The orchestra and conductor was similarly on-stage. There were no sets other than some projections; the primary props were hats to distinguish different characters. Everyone was dressed in black. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to watch — the cast and the singers appeared to be having great fun with the show. The concert performance was adapted by David Lee, who also served as the director. Choreography was by Peggy Hickey.

As I noted above, this was the first time I had heard the music in context. There was definitely that Bernstein feel and flair to the music, and the lyrics by Comden and Green seemed much fresher than one might think after 63 years. As always, songs like “Ohio” were earworms, but other songs made much more sense, such as “One Hundred Easy Ways”, “Conga!”, “Conversation Piece”, and “My Darlin’ Eileen”. On the album, you can’t see how these advance the story; on stage, you can. Note to self: I must get that 2003 revival album.

The leads in this production were spectacular. In the primary positions were Faith Prince (FB) as Rose Sherwood and Nikki M. James (FB) as Eileen Sherwood. Prince brought her wonderful comic timing, singing voice, and flair and love of the material to the role. One could clearly see she was having fun up there in all her numbers, but especially in songs like “Conga!” James was also a delight to watch, capturing the role with perfection and comic fun. She was also having fun with the dancing, both in the “My Darlin’ Eileen number and in the scenes at the Viage Vortex”.

On the male lead side was Roger Bart (FB) in far too many roles to list them all (but particularly as the narrator and almost every other major character), and Marc Kudisch (FB) as Robert Baker, the editor of the Manhattanist. Bart was a comic whirlwind, changing characters, voices, and characterizations at the drop of a hat. Literally. He would change hats constantly, and with each hat taking on a new role, from narrator to Speedy Valenti to Delivery Boy to Chick Clark (Newspaper Man) to Policeman to Shoreman. Incredible. Kudisch only had one role — the older newsman Robert Baker — but he nailed it. He was particularly touching in his number “It’s Love”.

The other principal characters were embodied by Tony Abatemarco (FB) (Mr. Appololous), Brian Michael Moore (FB) (Officer Lonigan),  Ben Crawford (Wreck), Julia Aks (FB) (Helen), Elizabeth Zharoff (FB) (Violet), Jared Gertner (FB) (Frank Lippencott), Carlos Enrique Santelli (FB) (Policeman Sean), Theo Hoffman (FB) (Policeman Daniel); and Josh Wheeker (FB) (Policeman Pat).  Of these, Crawford’s Wreck was particularly noteworthy, especially in his number “Pass the Football” and his interactions with Roger Bart.

The LA Opera chorus consisted of Jamie Chamberlin (FB) (S), Nicole Fernandes (S), Renee Sousa (FB) (S), Rebecca Tomlinson (S), Elizabeth Anderson (FB) (A), Aleta Braxton (FB) (A), Sara Campbell (FB) (A), Jennifer Wallace (FB) (A), Daniel C. Babcock (FB) (T), Omar Crook (FB) (T), Charles Lane (FB) (T), Francis Lucaric (FB) (T), Reid Bruton (FB)( B), Abdiel Gonzalez (FB) (B), Mark Kelly (FB) (B), and James Martin Schaefer (FB) (B) [S – Soprano; A – Alto; T – Tenor; B – Bass]. Of particular note here was the female chorus, who were essentially dancing and playing in their chairs, having a load of fun with this music. I love to see this: when those on stage are having fun, the audience feels that and reflects it back.

The dancers, who joined the cast on stage for a few numbers, including “Conga!”, consisted of Richard Bulda (FB) (Dance Captain), Harlan Bengel, Joseph Corella (FB), Hector Guerrero (FB), David Tai Kim/FB, Glean Lewis, James Tabeek (FB), and John Todd (FB). Michael Starr (FB) was the swing.

The LA Opera Orchestra was under the conducting baton of Grant Gershon (FB), who broke into a wonderful dance during “My Darlin’ Eileen”. As I said, everyone was having fun. The orchestra consisted of Roberto Cani (Stuart Canin Concertmaster, 1st Violin), Armen Anassian (Associate Concertmaster, 1st Violin), Lisa Sutton (Assistant Concertmaster, 1st Violine), Margaret Wooten (1st Violin), Ana Laudauer (Principal, 2nd Violin), Marisa Sorajja (Associate Principal, 2nd Violin), Florence Titmus (2nd Violin), Andrew Picken (Principal, Viola), Karie Prescott (Associate Principal, Viola); Dane Little (Principal, Cello), Helen Z. Altenbach (Associate Principal, Cello), Nathan Farrington (Bass), Damon Zick (Reeds – flute, clarinet, Eb clarinet, alto saxophone), Rusty Higgins (Reeds – clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone), Phil Feather (Reeds – oboe, English horn, clarinet, alto saxophone), Glen Berger (Reeds – piccolo, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone), William May (Reeds – clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bassoon), Ryan Darke (Principal, Trumpet), Rob Schear (Trumpet), Marissa Benedict (Trumpet), Andy Ulyate (Trumpet), William Booth (Principal, Trombone), Alvin Veeh (Trombone), Terry Cravens (Bass Trombone), Alan Steinberger (Piano), Theresa Dimond (Percussion), and Peter Erskine (Drumset). It was great to hear a large orchestra behind a show again.

Finally, turning to the creative credits: the wonderful projections were by Hana S. Kim. They exhibited a depth and playfulness I hadn’t seen before. Lighting design was by Azra King-Abadi. There was no credit for sound design; I got the distinct feeling that the actors were not amplified, and the wonderful sound we were hearing was through the projection of their voices in the hall alone. Take that, Ahmanson acoustics! Additional production credits: Jim Carnahan CSA (Casting Consultant), Trevore Ross (Assistant Director), Lyla Forlani (Stage Manager), Jeremy Frank and Miah Im (Musical Preparation).

I believe there is one more performance of Wonderful Town tonight.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).

Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  Next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. We may get tickets to Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Observation StewLoad-in for the ACSAC conference starts tomorrow, so I should really clear out the accumulated links. I’ve been trying to theme these or come up with some attempt at connecting them, but it’s just not happening. We’ll just throw them all in the pot and see how the concoction tastes…

  • Cybersecurity in the News. This topic was the closest to a theme post, although I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to see. Three articles in the Cyber arena had caught my eye:
    • The first looked at the threat of ransomware in the transportation networks. Most of the advice in the article was actually not specific to transportation, dealing more with educating users to not do stupid things: “The most important thing companies can do is train employees to be suspicious of email, and give them the tools to flag anything that seems strange. In most cases, with close scrutiny of the language, it is possible to tell if an email purporting to be from a colleague is in fact a spoofing email”. Yet is transportation more susceptable? I would tend to think so, because there is more remote monitoring and control, and the increasing computerization of automobiles and transport, most of which don’t have strong use of cybersecurity (authentication, encrypting protocols).
    • The second also related to ransomware, this time talking about free decrypters from Avast. The article made for an interesting read, both with good discussions of how to protect yourself from ransomware, as well as information on how some of the ransomware is working.
    • The last dealt with government cybersecurity — specifically, the upcoming elevation of Cybercommand to a unified combatant command as opposed to being under STRATCOM. There was some interesting discussion of the implications of this, and of how it really doesn’t separate CYBERCOM from the NSA. If you deal with government cybersecurity, this is worth a read.
  • Whole House Wi-Fi . When you have a large house (or a house with concrete walls), getting an effective wi-fi infrastructure is hard. You can use power-line extenders, but they don’t always work. I’ve heard on some of my podcasts about EEro as a solution, and I found this interesting article describing Eero and how it works. It sounds like a good idea, but it is awfully expensive at a starting price of $499. How do I balance the pain of the power-line extenders with the cost of an easy to use system?
  • Masonic Lodge Becomes Museum. Growing up, my father was a Mason and a Shriner. I was never interested, but I do remember constantly driving by the Masonic Temple on Wilshire. The days of the great Lodge 42 are gone, and that building is no longer a Masonic Temple. It is being converted to an art museum, and the good news is that it will be open to the public and free. This is something I’ll need to go to.
  • Folk Music Passage. With all of the recent prominent deaths — Florence Henderson, Ron Glass, Fidel Castro, the American Democratic system — it is easy to have missed the passing of Milt Okun. However, if you’re a folk music lover like me, you’ll know the loss this is. Okun is responsible for many music groups and artists — Peter Paul and Mary, John Denver, and others. He had a major music publishing concern, Cherry Lane Music, and was behind music popular folk (and opera) music.
  • Los Angeles Concerns. Two articles of specific interest to Angelinos like me:
    • Fixing Sidewalks. As you know, the city is transferring responsibility for maintaining sidewalks to property owners. They aren’t fixing them first, but will give you up to $2,000 to do so. The city will launch the program’s website at sidewalks.lacity.org, where residents can report broken sidewalks or find more information about the rebate program. Priority will given to requests from people with disabilities.
    • Pay for Parking. Paid parking is coming to selected Metro stations. If the program is approved, there would be parking fees implemented at the following stations: (•) Expo Line: Expo/Bundy, Expo/Sepulveda, 17th/SMC and La Cienega/Jefferson; (•) Gold Line: APU/Citrus, Irwindale, Atlantic; and (•) Red Line: Universal, North Hollywood. There would be a lower rate for those actually using Metro, although they aren’t doing the smart thing and making parking payments through the TAP card.
  • Help Find Nancy Paulikas. Over 6 weeks ago, the daughter of one of the retired VPs at our company wandered away from LACMA, and has been missing ever since. She’s dealing with Alzheimer’s, and had no ID on her. They are still looking for her, so spread the word.
  • Apartments and Earthquakes. Here’s a good explanation of how many apartment buildings are particularly susceptible to earthquake damage.
  • The BBS Days. By now, you know I’m old. I remember being active in the days of dial-up BBSs, and connecting to all sorts of networks (including the Rain BBS). Here’s a good Slashdot piece on those days, with some links to interesting historical articles.
  • When Life Gives You Lemons. Quite a few months ago, the review aggregator Bitter Lemons imploded, thanks to a misstep by its then editor, Colin Mitchell. The publisher of the site, however, reworked things, picked a new editor, and has started Better Lemons. I’d say things are much improved, however, they still consider me a critic 🙂
  • For That Cat Lady in Your Life. How about a cat menorah? Perhaps we should purchase some and send them to Donald Trump. That way, he can grab them by the… oh…. never mind.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Into the Woods (Nobel Charter Middle School)userpic=nobelLife is a journey, and there are many lessons to be learned along the way. A number of these lessons are captured in Stephen Sondheim‘s 1987 musical Into The Woods, which is currently trodding the auditorium boards at Nobel Charter Middle School (FB) in Northridge. Last night, we went to the Alumni Night performance of the show (essentially, a preview for a receptive audience before opening; our daughter was involved with their charter productions the first two years). I’ll note that this was the first production under new leadership for the Nobel Charter Theatre Arts Department. The founding teachers have moved on to bigger and hopefully better things: Fanny Araña to the position of Magnet Coordinator for Van Nuys High School, and Jean Martellaro to the English Department at Porter Ranch Community School. The Nobel Drama program is now under the direction of Kat Delancy and Artur Cybulski (FB); this production was not only a trial by fire for the students, but a trial by fire for the teachers as well. They certainly didn’t choose something easy for the first show, but that’s the Nobel way — bigger and better, every time.

Into the Woods, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, is not an easy show. Unlike past Nobel shows, Sondheim shows have complex melodies and complicated lyrics. They also tend to have much deeper meanings within. Into the Woods is one such show. Although relatively accessible through its use of common fairy tale tropes (Jack in the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, the Baker and his Wife, and many others), Sondheim and Lapine weave these multiple stories into a morality piece, teaching many life lessons about the distinction between the fairy tale world and the real world. If there was any overriding themes to the piece, they are embodied in the statement that “Children Will Listen”, and “Be Careful What You Wish For”. It is at times a dark and foreboding piece; there are numerous meaningless deaths. It doesn’t hide the horror in the stories, but ends on an uplifting note (unlike, say, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd) — you can teach your children. Whether the middle-schoolers performing this were able to pick apart all the lessons in this show I don’t know. I hope that its development provoked some interesting discussions. I’m of the firm belief that theatre can teach more than drama — it can challenge the mind and the spirit, it can be a space to explore dangerous ideas in a safe way.

I’m not going to try to summarize the plot — you can read it over on the Wikipedia page.

Most schools, when presented with a piece such as Into The Woods, retreat to the safety of the licensed “Junior” version. This brings the running time down from three hours, and is essentially just the first “happy” familiar half. It eschews some of the more questionable themes that one might not want to expose to young minds (never mind the fact that those minds have been long exposed to those themes through the Internet). The Nobel Drama team opted instead to license the full version, and pare down much — but not all — of the second half. In particular, they excised the notion of the princes cheating on their wives and of the affair in the woods. They also changed some words here and there (I particularly remember Jack’s mother’s line, where the word “touched” was changed), and I noted that some songs (in particular, the reprise of “Into the Woods” at the end of Act I) were cut (removing my favorite lines, “The closer to the family, the closer to the wine”, and “Slotted spoons don’t hold much soup.” — always great advice to remember). But those unfamiliar with the show probably wouldn’t catch all of that.

They also made some changes particular to a middle-school large cast: they split the narrator into two, and preserved the movie’s distinction from his being the old man, and they added a choral ensemble that came in on major numbers such as “Into the Woods”. This worked just fine; I particularly liked the effect of the ensemble on the show.

[ Note: Unlike my other writeups, I’m not going to attempt to link all the performers. Few, if any, will have professional pages; it seems odd to be linking to Facebook pages of middle-school students. Plus, there are so many of them 🙂 ]

Before I talk about the performance, I must note that this was a middle school cast, at a public school. There was a wide variety of talent, much of it raw. Some songs and performances were a little bit off, but this was head and shoulders above the typical middle school performance you might expect. This being a school and not professional, I’m not going to cite any particularly weak performances (especially as this was essentially a preview and problems are still being worked out). I will note, broadly, the importance in a Sondheim show of making sure that all the words of the song are clear, and that they are said/sung in a way that the audience can here them. There’s lots of hidden meaning in those words; for impact, they need to be clear.

Within the performances, there were some gems I would like to particularly highlight. First and foremost was the production’s Cinderella, Natalie Chavez. She had a very strong voice and handled the songs wonderfully; she also performed and emoted well. Her performance of “No One is Alone” was just spectacular. She is someone I hope will continue in the field — she just really impressed me.

Also strong in both vocal and performance were James Averill’s Jack and Harmony Nielsen’s Witch.  Averill impressed me from the start in the opening prologue with his strong, clear voice, and he seemed to be having a lot of fun with the role. Nielsen was also having fun with the role, and her “The Last Midnight” was just great.

Also worthy of note were the princes, Joseph Gelardi and Derek Bradford. They had the performance aspect down great, capturing the essence of “we’re charming, not sincere”. Quite fun to watch. Also good performance-wise were Gannon Ripchik’s Baker, Sarah Borquez’s Baker’s Wife, and Nina Krassner-Cybulski’s Red Riding Hood.

Jordan Ellison and Erin Miller did a good job as the narrators.

In the smaller character roles were Kylie Hamuel (Cinderella’s Stepmother), Halle Milewski (Florinda), Niaz Bashi Shahidi (Lucinda), Nikki Eaves (Jack’s Mother), Lauren Shane (Milky White), Anthony Dakarmenjian (Cinderella’s Father), Emma Hogarth (Cinderella’s Mother), Everett Zisch (Steward); Jacob Gilliam (Wolf); Kishi Sugahara Strahl (Granny); Jillian Jergensen (Rapunzel); Anthony Carmona (Mysterious Man); Ashlyn Paulson (Witch Double); and Nina Jackson (Giant). A few notes here. Strahl’s Granny was particularly cute. I wasn’t that crazy with the directorial choice for “Hello Little Girl”, although I can understand why it was done. The song was played more for humor; the original notion of a creepy menacing “dirty old man” probably wouldn’t play well with middle-school parents. However, it made the song a bit odd (not to mention that one of the other Nobel Drama Charter members, Quest Zeidler, will always be the wolf to me).

The ensemble consisted of: Melissa Ascencio, Lila Kutchinsky, Jillian McKie, Kayla Mohammadi, Juliana Moore, Liam Naumann, Ashlyn Paulson, Grayson Ries, Zoe Stone, Samantha Biedes, Zoey Francis, Savannah Garrick, Laila Haney, Jahnie Hoffman, Sam Khader, Liana Mzrakyan, Delaney Palitang, Kira Pospeshil, Manny Sosa, Bobbi K Smith, Faith Alhadeff, Dahlia B. Delgadillo, Maya Frank, Samuel Goldenberg, Caitlyn Halpern, Ashley Kho, Kaven Prosperi, and Sophia Tedasco.

Kat Delancy and Artur Cybulski (FB) served as the directors and producers. The choreography was by Abi Franks, Kamryn Siler, and Daniela Johns.

Turning to the technical side: Long gone are the early days of the program, with no microphones, and lighting that couldn’t be adjusted and was overloading the electrical system. This performance had theatre quality sound and full theatrical lighting, reflecting work by sound engineer Tommy Chavez and Lighting Designer Artur Cybulski (FB). As this was a preview, there were some balance problems between the music and the vocals; those should be adjusted by tonight’s opening performance. The scenic design of Ben Tiber and Artur Cybulski (FB)  was also very strong, with one of the best sets I’ve seen at Nobel in ages. Again, I remember the early days of building the set for Grease; my my how this program has grown. Costumes and props were  on loan from Golden Performing Arts.

The Technical Theatre team consisted of: Tiffany Ly and Iona Pitkin (Stage Managers); Josh Pereira, Jenna Doubt, and Brooklyn Burgess (Assistant Stage Managers); Carol Ann Balkcom, Kaira Muzila, Sara Hameed, Vana Boghsian, Samantha Orozco, Julia Williams, and Yume Johnstone (Costume Crew); Josh Pereira, Adam Parra, Jackson Pfau, and Amrit Saund (Sound Crew); Aiden Martirossian, Amir Abuayash, Krisha Ande, Pamela Galleguillos, Caitlyn Missakian, Jas Singh, and Evelyn Morrissey (Light Crew); Chloe Koda, Ashley Metelski, Starlet Meza, Sydney Redmond, Celest Trejo, Emma Fernandez, Aidin Callas, Alexis Bohn, and Avi Saidiner (Set Crew).

There were numerous other adult production staff, but you are likely tired of all these names by now.

There are three more performances of Into the Woods that you can catch at Nobel: Friday and Saturday at 6:30 PM, and Saturday at 2:00 PM (the Thursday performance is ending as I type this). Tickets are available at the door.

P.S.: If you want to see a professional production, note that Into the Woods will be coming to the Ahmanson Theatre in April. Discount tickets are currently on Goldstar.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).

Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  December theatre continues with a staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. We may get tickets to Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=rough-roadIt’s been a rough month, with a crazy election, loads of talk about infrastructure possibilities, the passage of Measure M here in Southern California. But I’ve still been accumulating headlines, so enjoy. I hope to do a page update during my “shutdown break” between the Jolly Fat Guy holiday and the Jolly Drunk Guys holiday.

  • Highway 99 lane expansion in Stockton. Caltrans may be celebrating a 4-mile expansion on Highway 99 in Stockton, but drivers will be the ones celebrating with less traffic and a faster travel time. “It’s been a difficult project, but great to have it done,” said Caltrans Director Malcom Dougherty. “(Hwy. 99 will) make it less congested and safer for people traveling in and out of Stockton.” The expansion goes from the Crosstown Freeway near Hwy. 4 to Arch Road in Stockton.
  • In-depth: Are I-580 express lanes easing traffic?. It is the topic that everyone in the Bay Area talks about (actually complains about)–traffic. Drivers spend hours on the road, just trying to get from one place to another, even when the destination is not that far away. Caltrans launched several new projects this year to try and get things moving. On Interstate 580, officials said you can get there faster if you pay the price.
  • Crumbling roads in SF, Oakland ranked worst in nation. To experience America’s crumbling infrastructure firsthand, look no farther than San Francisco and Oakland — ranked this week by a transportation research group as being home to the worst roads of any large urban region in the country. The Bay Area cities and their surrounding neighborhoods topped the list for having poor roadways for the second consecutive year, according to a study conducted by the Washington, D.C., group Trip.

Read the rest of this entry »

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=donnaI’m someone who doesn’t like change. Well, I like finding change in my pockets; but in my life, less so. We’ve done minimal changes around our house since we moved here in 2005 — a burst before moving in, and then one bathroom. This month, however. We’re ch-ch-ch-changin’. Going from small to large….

Televisions. When we moved in, we got a standard definition DirecTivo. That finally died (although we’ll see if we can salvage anything off it). This resulted in us changing out the Tivo for a DirecTV Whole House DVR — a Genie. It’s been really neat. It led to us deciding to get rid of the 13″ CRT TV in the Media Room that had a bad flyback transformer, and replacing it with our 27″ RCA CRT TV, which could work with the amplifier better. We then went out and took advantage of a pre-Black Friday sale to get a 40″ Vizio 1080p HDTV. No, we haven’t upgraded to Blu-Ray yet. Not sure when that will happen.

Wall Oven. As I wrote the other day, our wall oven decided to have a board fail just before Thanksgiving, The part is no longer available, so over Black Friday I ordered a new Whirlpool Wall Oven from Lowes. We’ll lose convection, because there are fewer 24″ dual electric options nowadays, but still we’ll have a new oven. I was able to get a good bargain, and 18 months at 0% as well (making it a cash-flow level).

Solar. Three months ago, we had one of the largest DWP bills we’ve ever had: over $1,500 for power, water, and sanitation for the July-August period. Last month, it was over $1,200 for September-October. This got me seriously thinking that it was time to bite the bullet on solar. Why haven’t I done it before?

  • I was worried about anyone working on the roof.
  • I had heard horror stories about leases and the problems that ensure.
  • I had heard horror stories about getting connected to the LA DWP grid.

In the years since the solar industry started, however, process maturation has occurred. The connection to the DWP is now much easier, and there are plans in place for purchasing, rather than leasing, the systems. One of our credit unions does solar loans at somewhat decent rates (2.99% for 144 mos up to $75K, which is where we are at) and one of their approved contractors was a long-time roofing contractor before they got into the solar business.

We had them come in and talk to us. It turns out that we can get some additional credits for reroofing at the same time (which we would likely need to do anyway — the current roof is ~15 years old). We’ll be moving to an energy-efficient reflective roof (with new gutters that don’t leak). We’ll be getting a sufficient large system to cover our usage (50 SolarWorld 285 w panels with Enphase microinverters, with a system size of 14.25 kW, and estimated annual production of  19.2 kW total, for an electric usage offset of 103% (meaning we should be ahead 471 kW/year, given past usage). The cost is large, but we should be getting back about a third of it in rebates or credits.

This is a scary thing for me, but the numbers look like our savings will more than cover what the new payments will be (and we’ll re-amortize once the credits come in). I’ve got a few smaller worries — like relocating/reinstalling the DirecTV dish and the loss of power when they upgrade the panel. I’ve been reassured somewhat that things will be OK, plus I’m doing what I normally do when worried — I’m blogging about it.

Despite the worry, I know this is the right thing to do. With “global warming”, it is only going to be getting hotter during the summers here in the valley. Power usage (and my bills) would keep going up, and this will allow us to get ahead on them. Further, with the new administration there is no guarantee that solar incentives and rebates will continue (the President would have to balance his disbelief in climate change with the jobs and economic activity that the solar rebate programs create). Better to get them now while they still are in place.

 

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userpic=calendar#BlackFriday

#SmallBusinessSaturday

#CyberMonday

#GivingTuesday

Ever since #ThanksgivingThursday, the days this week have been relentlessly programmed to separate people from their hard-earned funds in a rampant display of capitalism or guilt-driven charity. Getting up early to go shopping at the stores on #BlackFriday (you should have seen the crowds when we drove past the Citadel Outlets late Friday night). Encouraging people to support small local businesses instead of global conglomerates on #SmallBusinessSaturday. Cajoling people to spend time at work on #CyberMonday to do their holiday shopping under their employer’s noses. And for those guilty from all that excessive consumerism, you can donate to your favorite charities on #GivingTuesday.

Lord knows what they have planned for tomorrow. Perhaps #WelfareWednesday anyone?

All of this, of course, is part of the global machinery to encourage excessive spending on Christmas, which is where most retailers make their money for the year, combined with the typical year-end exhortations to encourage people to donate so you can deduct in the current tax year.  We have turned holidays that have religious significance — Christmas celebrating the start of Christianity, Chanukkah demonstrating a win in the battle against assimilation, and Kwanzaa celebrating… well, I’m not sure what it celebrates — into events designed to line pocketbooks and purses.

That seems wrong, at least to me.

At our house, we operate on the philosophy that we get goodies for ourselves and our families when we can afford them, and when we need them. We don’t wait until the holidays. We also patronize retailers that offer good prices all year round — not retailers that mark things up over the year for everyone so they can offer deep discounts to a few on #BlackFriday or #CyberMonday. We make a point of always patronizing the small local business first. These are our practices — we don’t need marketed days to remind us.

We also determine the charities and organizations we support at the beginning of the year, and support them year round as best we are able: either through donations or spreading the word about them to others.

We need to start pushing back against this commercialization of the week after Thanksgiving. The holiday season is not about sales and spending. It is about family, and reminding us on what our values should be. It is not wondering if the 3 wise men stopped at a #BlackFriday sale to pick up the frankincense, myrrh, and spices they brought to Baby Jesus, or if the Maccabees took advantage of #CyberMonday to order their oil and menorahs at a bargain price.

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userpic=hugsI was reading Facebook this morning (as I do when I get up), when I saw a post from a politically-conservative roadgeek friend of mine related to the death of Fidel Castro. It showed a picture of President Obama in Cuba, and said:

Why wouldn’t this piece of work send condolences for his departed hero? We already know what he’s about. There’s plenty of room in Hell for every damn one of them.

I stopped and I looked at it. I stared and thought. I wasn’t surprised to see this from this friend — he’s part of a group of very conservative folk who are still filled with hatred — burning hatred — for President Obama, and who have been gleeful at the death of Castro. But what I was thinking — and what triggered this post — was that the stone cold hatred that our partisan political atmosphere has engendered over the past 24 years (since the election of President Clinton), has burned out human compassion.

I’m not Christian, but my understanding from my Christian friends is that Christ taught compassion — he taught us to see the humanity even in those we hate. He preached love and caring, not hatred and war. In Christian theology, who is it that practices a philosophy of hatred, who wants to foment war, who wants to advance Armageddon, to wants to turn men against their neighbors? Who, on the other hand, preaches that we need to treat our neighbors as we would want to be treated? To care about the sick and the hurt and those in pain? When we, as humans, give into all consuming hatred of anyone (and that includes our political opponents), who are we letting win the war?

I do know that in Jewish tradition, compassion is a key part of our tradition. During the Passover ceremony, where we remember our escape from the tyranny of Egypt and from Pharaoh, we read:

Though we descend from those redeemed from brutal Egypt,
and have ourselves rejoiced to see oppressors overcome,
yet our triumph is diminished
by the slaughter of the foe,

We remember the Talmudic teaching: “When the Egyptian armies were drowning in the sea, the Heavenly Hosts broke out in songs of jubilation.  God silenced them and said, “My creatures are perishing, and you sing praises?””

So, to the question at hand:

Why wouldn’t this piece of work send condolences for his departed hero?

Why would you not send condolences when someone dies — even someone you hate. There are commonalities for every human: we rejoice with a family at a safe birth, and we mourn with a family when someone they love has passed way. This is human compassion. Condolence aren’t about the person who died — they are about the family and loved ones left behind. Even if a person was pure evil, they had mothers and fathers who, at least at some point in their life, loved them. They had people that, at some point in their life, cared about them. What does it cost us to show human compassion to those left behind? We might not feel sorry; we might not be able to say, “I feel sorry for your loss.” But we should be able to say, “I understand the pain and sorry you feel at your loss.”

Further, little gestures of compassion can go a long way. Responding to hate with compassion demonstrates the people that we are. It shows that beneath the rhetoric, we see that our foes are people to. They have parents that love them; they love and care about their children. They have close friends who will miss them when they are gone. Even the Grinch and Scrooge, deep inside, had a spark of humanity, and had someone who cared about them. Even for an evil person, showing compassion to their loved ones can rebuild and mend bridges.

In the case of Fidel Castro, it is a great thing for Cuba and the Americas that he is gone. We can share in the joy that one more brutal dictator has passed away. But we must temper that joy with the realization that Castro still had family that loved him, and that there are many people in Cuba in mourning at his passing. What does it hurt us to offer condolences to them? What can’t we have empathy for their loss, even though we are glad that the man is gone?

To my friends who feel this white hot political hatred, whether it is directed at the Democratic leaders (Obama, Clinton) or the Republicans (Trump, Pence) — I say: “remember compassion.”. If Hillary Clinton dropped dead of a heart attack, and all you would think is “Ding dong the bitch is dead” — and not have any compassion for those the loved her and were left behind — then you are the problem. And to those on my side, if the same were to happen to Donald Trump, and if you were to gloat instead of feeling compassion for his wife, children, and friends — you are also the problem.

Fidel Castro’s death is a test for us. Have we given in to the hatred around us and allowed the evil inclination to win, or do we still have our humanity and compassion? Can we see that we all started out as God’s children, and that God mourned even at the death of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh’s first born?

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Little Women (Chance)userpic=theatre_ticketsI have a number of quests in my life. One quest is to add music to my iPod, and often this includes Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I haven’t seen, but are recommended. Another quest is to see musicals I’ve only heard. This weekend was an opportunity to do the latter, informed by the former, when we went to go see the second preview performance of Little Woman: The Broadway Musical at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim (where Route 91 meets Imperial Highway).

Little Women: The Broadway Musical is a 2005 musical written by Allan Knee (FB) [Book], Jason Howland (FB) [Music], and Mindi Dickstein (FB) [Lyrics], based on the 1869 novel by (all together now) Louisa May Alcott. Perhaps surprisingly to some, I have never actually read the novel (although I do recall having a copy of the sequel, Little Men, as a boy, which I also never actually read). So, going in, my only knowledge of the story was from the cast album, which I had really only listened to on shuffle. I knew it was about four sisters, and one was a writer, and that’s about it.

Reading the Wikipedia summary of the book after the show, I came to see that the stage production was a condensation and approximation of the book. It captured, at least based on Wikipedia, the major themes of the books and some of the major incidents. It also played a little loose with the timeline in the book, but not in a way that seemed to affect the themes in the story. Being a condensation, it was only able to draw the characters broadly; I think this is a flaw that would be found in many musicals that are based on condensations of larger novels — the time available makes it difficult to build deep characters and move the story along. For that, you need TV and binge watching.

The focus of the story is the growth of the character Josephine (“Jo”) March from approximately 15 to her early 20s during the time of the Civil War; it is also a semi-autobiographical tale of the original author as represented by Jo. It explores the relationship between Jo and her sisters (Meg, Beth, and Amy); the societal expectations on women in that era; the perceived role of men in relationship to women; and the perceptions of a headstrong, independent, woman to Civil War society. Thinking about that statement as I write it, I’m drawn to a parallel between Jo March and another headstrong literary woman at the end of the Civil War: Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With the Wind. One Northern, one Southern. Hmmmm.

As opposed to attempting to write a detailed synopsis, I’m just going to point you to the Wikipedia page. I’d rather use this space to explore my observations on the story and its presentation.

Much of the first act is spent establishing the characters and their personalities. With so many significant characters (the four March sisters and Laurie), that takes a while and quite a few songs (and is very different than a story with one or two protagonists).  The main character, Jo, is someone who must have been quite a draw when the story was first written: strong, independent, headstrong, eschewing the cultural norms. They must not have known what to make of her. In fact — being unfamiliar with the story — I had the feeling at the end of the first act that she might be either asexual or lesbian. There was just some sense about her. That proved not to be the case (and isn’t a surprise given when the story was written), but one wonders if that was an attraction of the book (or is an artifice of the musical). Thinking about her in contrast to Scarlett O’Hara is interesting. Jo achieves what she does through her wits and essentially independent of any man. Scarlett has the wits but keeps them to herself; she manipulates men through her femininity and her exploitation of cultural mores. Is this a reflection on the North vs. the South of the time? Ultimately, both attract the men they need by being themselves — their mates love them for who they are and less as a societal caricature. Both are also fiercely loyal to family and relationships. There are significant differences: Jo starts out poor and earns her money; Scarlett starts out rich, becomes poor, but acquires money through manipulation of men. It is still an interesting parallel.

The authors establish the characters of the other sisters to a much lesser extent, and mostly through interaction with Jo. The superficial aspects are sufficient for a musical, although some of the comments I read on the original production felt that was a flaw. I didn’t see it that way. Let’s look at the characters through the performers that created them.

In the lead position was Ashley Arlene Nelson (FB) as Jo March. We’d seen Nelson before in Dogfight, and she was equally strong here. The characterizations of Jo March I’ve read online talk about her as beautiful. I’m not sure you get that classic beauty with Nelson, but you get that same strong inner beauty that shone through in Dogfight. In fact, you get a bit more — there are these telling little smiles and expressions that are just delightful to watch; her performance brings forth the inner fire within Jo to succeed. As such, her performance is mesmerizing. One of the best places to see this is in her interactions with Laurie — just watch during “Take a Chance on Me”, or her face on the lovely “Small Umbrella in the Rain”. A truly delightful performance.

Jo’s sisters were less strongly drawn in the script, but still gave remarkable performances. Laura M. Hathaway (FB), as Meg, the oldest sister, seems more traditionally drawn. She shines in her interactions not only with her sisters in the group numbers, but in her one-on-ones with John Boone. Again, watch the face and the little things, especially during her number “More Than I Am”. Another remarkable performer was Emma Nossal (FB)’s Beth. In fact, it was her performance in “Some Things Are Meant To Be” that made me realize remarkable acting. She was flying a kite on stage just through her movements, and I could swear that I could see the string to the kite. That’s a great performance, where through craft alone one can create the image and impression of existence of the non-existent.  She also had a lovely singing voice, which you can see in the delightful “Off to Massachusetts” number. The youngest sister, Amy, was portrayed by two actresses: Olivia Knox was the younger Amy at our performance (she alternates with Alea Jordan); Angela Griswold (FB) was the older Amy. Young Amy is primarily in the first act and mostly has group songs, yet is still fun to watch  in her performance. The older Amy has a remarkable and distinctive smile and voice — watching her interact with Laurie in “The Most Amazing Thing” is a delight to watch.

This brings us to Laurie (Theodore Laurence III), the orphaned grandson of the neighbor across the street, Jo’s best friend, and … well, you’ll find out. He is portrayed by Jimmy Saiz (FB), who brings a remarkable energy, spirit, and bounce to the role. You can rapidly see why he and Nelson’s Jo become best friends. Again, he has a strong singing voice that is demonstrated both  in “Take a Chance on Me” and in his wonderful duet with older Amy, “The Most Amazing Thing”.

This brings us to the second tier of characters, who are drawn with a much lighter pen. Rachael Oliveros Catalano (FB) portrays Marmee, the mother of the March clan. The scenes she has show here as the glue of stability for the family, and she has some lovely numbers in “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty”. Beyond that stability and the tension and pain she is facing as woman running a house while her man is away in the Civil War, we don’t learn much about here. Similarly lightly drawn is Glenn Koppel (FB)’s Mr. Laurence, the wealthy man who lives across the street, and who initially is the caricature of the mean rich man. He has a remarkable transformation in his number with Nossal’s Beth, “Off to Massachusetts”, which is quite fun to watch.

One of the characters we meet in the first scene we don’t see again until the top of the second act. Although also lightly drawn, he is one of my favorite performances — Nicholas Thurkettle (FB) as Professor Bhaer.  Not a super amount of lines, but watch closely his interactions with Jo and his facial expressions — particularly in “How I Am” and “Small Umbrella in the Rain”. That last number in particular I found quite touching — I’m sure many of us know relationships like that.

Laurie’s tutor, and Meg’s eventual husband, John Brooke is portrayed by Stefan Miller (FB). We don’t get to know much about John, but the actor has a great duet with Hathaway’s Meg in “More Than I Am”. Lastly, the authoritarian Aunt March is portrayed by Sherry Domerego (FB). We’ve all known or had an aunt like that (I certainly did). Domerego captures the character to a “T”, and is fun to watch in her number with Jo, “Could You”.

The production was directed by Casey Long (FB); Sarah Figoten Wilson (FB) was the Associate Director. As I’ve written before, as a non-actor I have trouble determining where the actor ends and the director begins, or is that where the direction ends and the acting begins. Perhaps it is the distinction between the individual (which is more acting) and the ensemble (which is management of the group). If so, then this production shows the talent of the direction team in not only bringing out strong individual performances, but it bringing out strong group interactions — be it the interactions of the March sisters in numbers like “Our Finest Dreams” or “Five Forever”, or the small two person interactions I’ve previously mentioned. Supporting the directoral team on this was the choreography of Jessie McLean. The dance numbers in this show weren’t all that fancy, but they worked well and supported the story.

Bill Strongin (FB) was the music director, and presumably the on-stage piano player. It was interesting hearing this with the single piano approach. I was only familiar with the full orchestra approach of the Broadway cast album. The single piano worked just fine.

Turning to the behind the scenes creative and supporting professionals: The scenic and lighting design was by Masako Tobaru (FB). I am always impressed by the creativity of the Chance set designs, and this was no exception. This was a clever mix of large book pages (I am still trying to determine if they printed large sheets, or applied words in a reasonably straight line), a projection along the back, and a raked wooden platform, supplemented by a few movable pieces. It worked remarkably well, and was supported by spectacular lighting that made up quite well for the Chance’s lack of a moving spot. In fact, the lighting and set worked well together to direct the attention to particular areas and lessen the focus on others. The Sound and Projection Design supporting this was by the director, Casey Long (FB). I initially thought I would notice the projections more; as it was, the set and lighting moved my perception of the projections to the background. As a result, they supported, instead of actually defining, the sense of place. Sound was similar, as the actual design was only apparent during the storms. The actors were not miced. This isn’t really necessary in a small space like the Chance, although a few could use a pinch more volume. Costume Design was by Erika C. Miller (FB), assisted by Associate Designer Barbara Phillips. The costumes seemed reasonably period to me, and there was only one minor malfunction (which I attributed to the 2nd preview — a dress didn’t get fully zipped). Original fight choreography was by David McCormick. Teodora Ramos/FB was the stage manager.  You can find a list of the Chance Staff here.

Little Women: The Broadway Musical continues at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim (where Route 91 meets Imperial Highway) until December 23. You can get tickets through the Chance Online Box Office, or by calling 888.455.4212. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. The show is worth seeing.

The Chance Theatre has just announced their 2017 season. In the main series is (1) Claudio Quest, January 27 — February 26 2017, a new musical from the team behind Loch Ness about video games; (2) Middletown, April 21 — May 21; (3) Parade, June 30 — July 30; (4) in a word, September 8 — October 8 ; and (5) Tribes, September 22 — October 22. The TYA Series consists of (1) The Little Prince, February 17 — March 5; and (2) Fancy Nancy, the Musical, May 5 — May 28. The OTR series consists of four shows: (1) How to Conquer America: A Mostly True History of Yogurt on March 1; (2) Ted Malawer’s The Anatomy of Love: OTR LAB Workshop on July 20-23; and (3-4) two TBA shows on May 10 and October 18. The Holiday series consists of The Secret Garden – The Musical, November 24 — December 23 and the return of The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, December 8 — December 23. Of these, only one show currently appears worth the 63 mile drive from Northridge: Claudio Quest. As for the other musicals, I’ve seen them up here (or their time period is completely booked). However, I might make an exception if my niece and nephew want to see Parade. If you live in Orange County, however, this looks like a great set of shows for an affordable price.

Dining Notes: Whenever we go to the Chance, we always eat at the same place: True Seasons Organic Kitchen (FB), a healthy organic hot pot restaurant across the street from the Chance. Healthy vegetables, healthy meat, gluten free options, and home-made flavoring broths.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).

The Chromolume 2017 season looks particularly good: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Note that Chromolume Theatre (FB) is doing a “Black Friday” sale, with 20% off their subscription with the code in the linked email. That’s three musicals for just $16 each (and then donate the 20% back for a tax deduction). You only have until midnight on Monday to take advantage of this special.

Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  December starts with Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, and staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. We may get tickets to Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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userpic=headlinesToday’s collection of news chum serve to highlight some disturbing historical and societal trends:

  •  Fake and Satirical News Sites. If this election has demonstrated anything, it is that they will believe a headline as long as a friend shares it on Facebook. The impact of fake news and satirical news has been potentially significant, as is the blurring line between journalism and opinion pieces (I’m looking at you, Borowitz). If it sounds too good to be true — if it confirms your biases — then check it before sharing. Here’s a great start at that: a list of BS, fake, or biased news sites.
  • Manipulating Historical Images. Lehrhaus has a very interesting article on the trend of photoshopping historical photos. The example they use are some historical images of Orthodox girls photoshopped to reflect current modesty norms in the community, but the actual concern is much larger. The manipulation of history — the notion is that history is what I say it is, not what the historical record proves — was, so to speak, yuge, in this election. With photoshop, we can change that historical record. Did you know there were four shooters at JFK’s assassination?
  • I Can Fix That. When I was growing up, if something broke, you would fix it. Ovens, washers, TVs, and all sorts of things — even toasters — were such that when they went bad, you took them to a repair shop where they were fixed for a reasonable cost — certainly, less than buying new. Our oven failed earlier this week, and the bad part along was almost $600 — had it been in stock. That’s half the price of a new oven. Our disposable society wastes resources, and creates waste that often will never degrade. The latest example: The new MacBook Pro. The new MacBook Pro, like its earlier Retina designs, has a glued down battery and has RAM that is soldered into the computer’s logic board. Unless you’re an expert microsolderer, the specs of the computer you buy are the specs you’ll have until the end of its life. Kiss those repair shop jobs goodbye. Here’s what the article says about that: “Apple has little incentive to help them, and arguably has little obligation to build computers that can be repaired and resold on the secondary market. That said, a computer that can be salvaged from the scrap heap and used for several more years is many times more environmentally friendly than one that has to be shredded into a million tiny pieces because it has a bad stick of RAM or because you can’t buy an affordable replacement SSD.”
  • Shopping Shopping Everywhere. An abandoned sanitarium in La Crescenta is becoming commercial space: Gangi Design LED Build will renovate 14 buildings from the 1920s-era institution and convert them to “retail and nonprofit use.”  A friend of mine recently complained about the loss of manufacturing and manufacturing jobs, and here’s why: we’ve shipped those jobs overseas because we didn’t want the polluting factories, or labor was cheaper even after the tariffs, [ETA: or automation has replaced those jobs] and we’re left with more shops trying to sell overpriced imported crap to people who no longer have the jobs to pay for them. I’d say this sounds crazy and those proposing the idea should go into a sanitarium, but we’ve been closing the sanitariums.

 

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userpic=schmuckToday is Thanksgiving day — a day when, in America, we share what we are thankful for. One thing I am thankful for in this country is the freedom to practice my religion, as well as the freedom to not have others force their religion on me. I hope that, in years to come, I can continue to be thankful for such things.

However, what has happened in 2016 has given me some reasons to doubt. Today’s news chum brings together a collection of articles I’ve seen related to this doubt. Part of me said, “Don’t post this on Thanksgiving”. Another part of me said that it was important to do so, precisely because being thankful for something doesn’t mean we should be complacent about it. We have numerous freedoms in this country for which we are all thankful. We must fight for these freedoms every day; the forces that want to take them away make it a constant struggle. So let’s fight, so that we can continue to be thankful for what we have (and not be remembering what we have lost).

Let’s start with a post by Mayim Bialik, who wrote a letter to her haters. This was in response to her posting “a very disturbing article reporting that the New York City Memorial of Beastie Boys frontman Adam Yauch had been desecrated. All of the Beastie Boys were Jewish, and Yauch’s memorial had swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti scrawled all over it.” In it, she writes:

I’m going to state this very plainly, America: many people in this country are racists. Many people think that the Nazi party was correct and they are part of organized organizations that seek to continue the pledges of the Nazi party for white supremacy and the elimination of minorities. Is it 50% of this country? Absolutely not. Is it enough that we should be concerned? Absolutely.

She goes on:

Don’t you think it’s time we stop pretending, America? We have problems. If you are not one of the problems, that’s great. And I’m going to keep posting about things like this to as many people as I can. Not because I’m a celebrity. But because I’m a citizen of this country. I’m the granddaughter of immigrants. I am a Jew. And I am offended and disgusted that people are doing things like this while so many of us don’t want to believe it’s really happening.

But that’s just one example. A few days ago, CNN actually reported a debate on the question “Are Jews people?”. Here’s what Boing Boing said:

Here’s us, suggesting that media people stop using the cutesy term “alt right” to describe Sieg Heiling white supremacists. But they’re already moving onto panel discussions on whether Jews are people.

Would you ever think such a discussion would be on CNN? But it’s there, because Trump’s election has emboldened the white supremecists who make up the euphemistically-titled “alt-right” — and Trump has gone so far as to appoint someone they see as a leader, Steve Bannon, to be a chief advisor.

The Forward explored the question in a different way. There, they looked at the reaction that ensued when Mike Pence was addressed by the actors of Hamilton, reading a statement from the producers, writer, and actors. They asked: “What if this had happened at Fiddler on the Roof?”:

Picture this: It’s a lovely evening at the Broadway Theater and “Fiddler on the Roof” is nearing its finale. Soon, the little village of Anatevka — beset by pogroms and the disruption of tradition — will be little more than a memory. Some will try to adhere to the old ways, others will try their luck with America and assimilation.

The lights go down, then come back up. Applause clatters through the theater, then Danny Burstein, the actor playing Tevye, steps forward and tells the audience that Vice President-elect Mike Pence is in the house. Burstein silences the boos, then reads from a prepared statement:

“We, sir, we are the diverse America, who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir,” Burstein says. “But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

What would the reaction have been?

Would the actors had been booed? Would there be demands for an apology? Hamilton was a target because it has “the efftrontery to present unapologetically a vision of a wholly diverse America. It’s an America where founding fathers engage in rap battles, and employ the sort of language that the president uses in the locker room but finds filthy when others use it, particularly those who come from different backgrounds and have different visions of America than he does. “Hamilton” represents what America truly looks and sounds like today”. Trump voters want it back where it was in 1964. The Forward continues:

What if there really was a #BoycottFiddler movement? What if Breitbart News declared the “Fiddler” cast to be “whiny Jews?”

A new sense of fear would right now be coursing specifically through the Jewish community, the same way it is coursing through African-American, immigrant and LGBTQ communities; it would be the same fear that is both chilling and galvanizing artistic communities throughout the country as we see grim portents arising from a president-elect who demands safe spaces for himself and his followers and none for anyone else.

Given the reaction of Trump followers, should we be worried about safe spaces for Jews?

By the way, if you think you can leave the US to be safe, think again. The Jewish Journal is reporting that Francois Fillon, a leading contender in the upcoming French presidential election, suggested Jews do not respect French law. He talked about how the French are fighting Muslim sectarianism, and “We fought against a form of Catholic sectarianism or like we fought the desire of Jews to live in a community that does not respect the laws of the French Republic.” If they come to register and restrict the rights of Muslims, what religion is next?

Let us be vigilant about increased antisemitism — and more importantly, remember that we are in a common battle: that racist attacks on any group for a religious, racial, gender, or sexual characteristic is an attack on us all. An opinion piece in the Washington Post from over a year ago opines:

America is unique in Jewish history because the social construct of power and oppression in this society came to be based more on skin color than on religion or ethnic identity. Because of that, along with the best of American values and our own hard work, we now find ourselves as another privileged white ethnicity. Despite our only good intentions, we are — all of us — full participants and beneficiaries of the American evil known as racism.

The brilliance of being Jewish, though, is that we stubbornly refuse to fit into any social construct of power or oppression. We are simply Ivri’im, people from “somewhere else,” people who struggle with God and justice, who demand that the rest of the world does, too, and see every human life as sacred because we are all in the image of God. And the truth is, we have never belonged to one race alone. The Torah tells us that we left Egypt with the “erev rav,” with a mixed multitude of peoples. Around the world there are Jews of color, Asian Jews, Jews of all kinds. The idea that Jews are white is not only ridiculous, it’s offensive to who we really are! Yes, societies like America come along sometimes and give us privileges and powerful labels like “white.” In America’s racist social construct, Jews are very much white people, but we must never again think of ourselves that way — it’s time for us to opt out of that racist paradigm, because we are Jews.

Imagine what we and our children could be like if we associate our Jewishness with an essential statement against racism and discrimination. Even though we and our children have benefited from the best schools and jobs and housing that whiteness affords, we can be the ones to challenge the system from within. We can be the ones who change business practices, housing codes, policing, correctional facilities, social policies, unequal schools — motivated by our values and our Jewish historical experience. Indeed, so many progressive leaders in this country have been Jews (including some Jewish founders of the NAACP), motivated exactly by this vision. But so many more of us need to own our real power, which is not our whiteness, but our Jewishness, our Torah and our tradition that motivates us to remember the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt; that calls on us to lift up the cause of all those who are oppressed.

We must all work together to ensure that what we are thankful for this year is not taken away in the coming year: the freedom to practice our religion, the freedom from other religions and their values being imposed on us by the government, the freedom to marry who we want, the freedom to control our bodies and our minds, the freedom to speak against power when we see injustice, and the freedom to fight for justice. We need to make it so next year we can be equally thankful.

 

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Today is the day when we are thankful for many thing. Home. Family. Loved ones. Stan Freberg.

Yup. Stan Freberg, who reminded us in his 1962 album “The United States of America” that this is national “Take an Indian to Lunch” week. I wonder if he would have to change the words these days, although the sentiment is equally true…

Take an Indian To Lunch

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Show him we’re a regular bunch this week
Show him we’re as liberal as can be
Let him know he’s almost as good as we

Make a feathered friend feel fed this week
Overlook the fact he’s red this week
Let him share our Quaker Oats
‘Cause he’s useful when he votes
Take an Indian to lunch

Two, four, six, eight, who do we tolerate
Indians, Indians, rah; rah; rah

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Let him sit right down and munch this week
Let’s give in and all do the brotherhood bit
Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it

Take an Indian to dine this week
Show him we don’t draw the line this week
We know everyone can’t be
As American as we
(After all, we came over on the Mayflower)
Take an Indian
(Not a wooden Indian)
But a real, live Indian
To lunch!

Stan Freberg also reminded us about how the first Thanksgiving really went…

The Luncheon Under The Trees

Narrator:Needless to say, the luncheon there under the trees was a great success, and a good time was had by Puritan and Indian alike. Everything came off beautifully with the exception of one minor catastrophe.

Mayor: What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie?
Charlie: Well, I cooked the turkey, that’s all.
Mayor: You put our national bird in the oven. Is that correct?
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: And all of us had our mouths set for roast eagle with all the trimmings.
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: You did a thing like that?
Charlie: Well, the two birds were lying there side by side.
Mayor: The *turkey* was for the centerpiece, Charlie, I mean …
Charlie: Well, they looked so much alike that I, uh …
Mayor: Well, we blew it now. They’re all sitting down at the tables out there.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah.
Mayor: … starting on their little nut cups already. Just have to switch the birds, that’s all.
Charlie: Yeah, well …
Mayor: Serve them turkey instead of eagle. But it’s kinda scrawny-lookin’, isn’t it?
Charlie: Yeah, well I thought I’d stuff some old bread in it and make it look a little fatter.
Mayor: You do that, OK?

May all my friends and readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember the holiday for what it originally was: shopping later that evening at the Mall of Plymouth for those stylish belt buckles. Stay safe!

 

 

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userpic=moneyAfter her graduation from UC Berkeley last May, my daughter did what millions of millenials with student loans have done — she moved back into our house with her boyfriend. I mention this because my accumulating news chum has a collection of useful articles for parents and children in the exact same situation, which I thought I would share:

Hopefully, these links will prove useful to your children (or, if you are a millennial, to you).

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userpic=turkey,turkeysSomehow, our house knows when it is almost Thanksgiving. We figure that it thinks we’re going to be having a bunch of guests, and therefore causes something in the house to fail to give us tsuris. Typically, this is when it chooses to have the plumbing back up. But we’ve replaced the sewer lines, so it is forced to be more creative. Here’s how our house has been sabotaging us this November:

The Wall Oven

The previous owners of our house installed a GE Profile dual-oven (one convection) wall oven before we moved in. Even thought we are not hosting a large family dinner, on Monday the upper oven decided to stop working. We called in GE for repair, and the electronic board that controls that part of the oven is no longer available. The lower oven (non-convection) is still working.

This, of course, means that we will be looking for a new oven — an expense we hadn’t anticipated, coming just as we are about to start the paperwork to put in solar and re-roof (purchase, meaning a large loan). This is one where you bite the bullet and do it, because you have to.

Television

When we came home from a Bar Mitzvah in the Bay Area the weekend before last, we came to find our old DirecTivo was no longer working. It would start the boot up just fine, go to “Just a Few Minutes More….”, and then… snow, not even getting to satellite acquisition. Oddly, it still seemed to be recording and dialing out, even though it wasn’t talking to the TV (and, remember, it could talk to the TV during the beginning of the boot process). We were faced with the choice of at least a $150 repair, or just upgrading to a free Genie Whole-House DVR from DirecTV (although the latter would increase our bill by $13/month… the gift that keeps giving). We decided, as it was likely we lost all recorded programs, to bite the bullet and upgrade.

The first installer came out, looked at our three CRT TVs and our old amplifiers, and said that he needed additional parts. The appointment was rescheduled.

The rescheduled installer came out with the right adapters. He got all three TVs working with the new box. This led to a bit of a cascade issue: now that we had HD service to the boxes, we wanted to take advantage of it. One of our smaller TVs had a bad flyback transformer, making it impossible to watch. So we took advantage of a sale at Target (saving almost $100), and got a new 40″ LG HDTV. The 26″ that was displaced went to replace the 13″ squealing TV. I got everything rewired, and our system has been upgraded.

Computers

For the longest time, my wife has been using my daughter’s old Windows 7 laptop (the one she spilled pineapple juice on). It’s been mostly right after it was repaired, but occasionally the wireless or power is a bit flakey. She was going to switch to the smaller ASUS laptop that was running Windows 8.1 (upgraded to Windows 10), that my daughter gave up on after her boyfriend spilled water on it. We had gotten the motherboard cleaned, and it seemed to be running fine. Earlier this week, however, it just turned off. Only a flashing green power light, that when you try to power on just flashes faster. I think the power supply must have been damaged and finally gave up the ghost.

So, on top of everything, we’ll be looking for a new computer for my wife at the beginning of a new year.

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userpic=dramamasksThe big news over the last weekend was that the Vice-President-Elect, Mike Pence, attended the musical Hamilton. The news wasn’t that he somehow got seats at the last minute, but that at the end of the show, the actors pleaded with him to protect diversity. This elicited a response from the President-Elect that the comment was wrong, and that theatre should be a “safe space”. The President-Elect has continued his war with the musical, calling for a boycott thereof. Broadway is not backing down. Nor should it.

Mr. President-Elect, study your history. The theatre has never been a safe space. From an active shooter making a commentary on the Presidency in 1865 (the last active shooter in a theatre — what? too soon?), to annual collections for Equity Fights Aids, actors have always been passionate about the ideas in which they believe. Further, theatre has never been a space devoid of “dangerous ideas” — in fact, theatre often provides a space to explore those ideas — especially in times of turmoil in our nation. (Vox also has a nice summary on this point)

Don’t believe me. Perhaps this will refresh your memory.

  • Showboat, in 1927 during the “roaring 20s” was a commentary on the tragedy of race relations and mixed marriages. It was a theme revisited again by Hammerstein in South Pacific, when we learned that racism and hatred had to be carefully taught.
  • Sound of Music may have seemed light, but it was a commentary on the rise of Hitler. Hitler was also explored in Caberet, which also touched on the themes of antisemitism even more explicitly. Another musical exploring antisemitism in society was Fiddler on the Roof.
  • Finians Rainbow was far from a love story — it was a hard hitting commentary on race relations. Similary, Lil Abner was a commentary on nuclear proliferation and the automation of society.
  • Hair, of course, was an anti-war musical — again, a commentary on the politics of this country. Coming out in 1967 as the war was picking up steam, it also commented on the free love era and the impact on race relations there.
  • Chicago, a long running hit, was a commentary as well — a commentary on our media driven celebrity driven society — a commentary on how Razzle Dazzle can distract from what was really going on.
  • Rent, of course, was a commentary on the AIDS epidemic and its impact on society, as well as a commentary on redevelopment.
  • Avenue Q, developed during the Bush administration, was a commentary on how society was hurting economically; how trickle down hadn’t worked, even for gay Republicans.
  • Wicked — you know, that popular musical — isn’t just the Wizard of Oz. Listen to author Greg Maguire — it is a commentary on the rising power of an evil leader (something that becomes clearer in his second book, which was intended as a direct commentary on the Iraq war torture). The dangers of evil meglomanic leaders is a popular topic, from Lion King to Hamlet (which it was based upon).
  • Fun Home explores growing up lesbian in a closeted household, and the dangers of being closeted.
  • The Book of Mormon confronts the issue of what is behind faith.
  • Spring Awakening confronts the issue of teen sexuality and its impacts.
  • Allegiance was a reminder of the wrongs of the Japanese Internment.
  • Hamilton, of course, is a celebration of the impact on America from immigrants and diversity. “Immigrants — We get the job done!”

These are just musicals. Commentary in plays is even more, from Death of a Salesman to Angels in America to The Laramie Project to…. I, of course, could go on and on. Theatre has long reflected the concerns and worries about society, and actors have long spoken their feelings. That is the beauty of America — that such feelings can be expressed without fear of reprisal or jail. That’s often not true in other countries, where actors risk their lives to express opinions from the stage.

So, Mr. President-Elect, please kindly shut up about the theatre insulting you, or TV insulting you. You are a better man than that; free speech cannot hurt you. Do your job — be a president for all America, even the greater-than -half that didn’t vote for you. Make wise selections for your advisors — advisors that are respected by all, not just rewards for those in your inner circle. Simply put: You want to avoid criticism? Then govern in a manner that does not invite it from large segments of the people you govern.

P.S.: I did hear a rumor that Mr. Trump was so upset, he vowed to build a fourth wall in all theatres, and to make the actors pay for it. Like that will ever happen.

 

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Funny Girl (Conundrum at The Colony)userpic=colonySo shows are very frequently revived — both on Broadway, and in Regional and amateur productions. Hairspray, Caberet, Sound of Music, and similar chart toppers — you’ll find them everywhere. Other shows — although hits in their day — are almost never remounted. I’m still waiting for a local remount of my favorite musical — Two Gentlemen of Verona — and The Rothschilds only had its first revisical since the original. The reason for this differs. For some, the material seems dated — TGOV is one of those, yet Hair gets revived. Some had troubled books. For some, it is the difficulty of finding the right lead to fit the shoes of the original. You’ll likely never see Schwartz’s The Magic Show again for that reason — Doug Henning was unique.

A show in this latter category is the Tony award winning Funny Girl , with book by Isobel Lennart, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Bob Merrill. It was produced on Broadway in 1963 by Ray Stark, directed by Garson Kanin, and starred Barbra Streisand (FB) in her second (and last) major Broadway role. Streisand went on to show in the 1967 film version, and was the personification of the lead character, Fanny Brice. After that…. the show disappeared. No revivals, few remounts. There was talk of a Broadway revival starting at the Ahmanson a few years ago, but that petered out. There was a recent West End revisical that was well received; it is unknown if it is coming across the pond.

So when I saw that a local company (Conundrum Theatre Co (FB)) was producing a revival of Funny Girl, I started to want to get tickets to go. I thought it would be multiple dates in October, which was already getting pretty full. It ended up being just one weekend, and I was unable to go. But that wasn’t the end of the show. Arrangements were made, and the show moved to The Colony Theatre (FB) in Burbank. The Colony, where we subscribed, had gone dark earlier in the year, and was looking for visiting productions to fill its space. Barbara Beckley of the Colony sent out email to the subscribers about the show, and this was the impetus for us to redeem our last Colony subscription ticket and squeeze in the show, the last Friday of its new performance run that ends November 20.

Returning to the Colony itself was sad. I’m referring to the physical facility. Gone was the celebration of the long producing history of the company. Gone were the various props and awards that filled the facility. Gone were the awards. Gone were the construction pictures. Gone were the familiar company faces, such as Barbara at the welcome desk. It was clear that the Colony, as it was, will not be back. The curtain has come down. Sad, so sad. This has been a very bad year for theatre companies in Southern California.

Luckily, this has been a good year for productions; and this production more than made up for the sadness at seeing the once great Colony down. The mix of up-and-coming theatre folks and seasoned local professionals (there were no AEA credits in the program) worked well. Conundrum Theatre Co (FB), for whom this was their inaugural fully-staged musical, did a very good job with the show with only a few technical problems, especially given their limited rehearsal time. I’m glad that this show ended up at The Colony; perhaps it is a signal that 2017 may see a return to theatre to the stage of the Colony. I certainly hope to see more Conundrum there.

As the show itself hasn’t been around much since the 1960s, you likely are unaware of its plot other than it starred Barbra Streisand. Funny Girl tells a highly fictionalized version of comedienne Fanny Brice’s romance and marriage to gambler Nicky Arnstein. It does this by presenting Brice on a stage awaiting Arnstein’s release from prison. The bulk of the show is a flashback telling of the story, returning to the present at the end. It begins with Brice’s first appears at the Keeney Theatre. It shows her first meeting with Arnstein, her transfer to the Ziegfield Follies, her subsequent marriage, and then the failure thereof. In some ways, this foreshadows the story Streisand would play again in her movie A Star is Born. She rises in  fame, eclipses him, and his ego and traditional male roles doom everything. You can read a much more detailed synopsis on the Wikipedia page.

However, this is a very fictionalized version of Brice’s story. She wasn’t the innocent when she married him (he was her second marriage); they actually lived together for six years before getting married. He had been to jail before the marriage, and actually sponged off of her for the entire thing. His jail stints were longer, and her performance history was quite differently. But in the theatre, the story becomes the reality; the truth of the story be damned.

In any case, the book is what it is (although Harvey Fierstein — who loves to doctor shows — doctored the West End version). It has its structural problems — the first act is far too long; the second doesn’t have the energy of the first. It was troubled in development, and like Mack and Mabel, does not end happily ever after. It is also a star vehicle, and requires a fairly unique mix of talent to be successful. Most actresses cannot carry it off. It requires a mix of physical comedy, comedic presence, dance, a belting voice, and the correct ethnicity. This is not a Kelli O’Hara show. It was ultimately built for Streisand, and there are few like her.

Luckily, it was in the leads that this show excelled. Moreover, I’m saying that in clear knowledge that we had the understudy as our lead. Victoria Strafuss (FB)’s portrayal of Fanny Brice was spot on. She brought good comedic timing, a talent for voices, faces, and physical comedy, and an excellent and strong singing voice to the stage. One of the hardest things for an actress and trained dancer to do is be bad; yet Strafuss was able to do this in the scenes with the rest of the ensemble, cleverly being just a little off to show how Brice wasn’t the typical chorine. She was able to bring back her grace when it was needed, showing that it was indeed an act. She also had a very strong voice and was more than capable with her numbers in the show. Given that she has some major numbers — “People”, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” — combined with some numbers that required extensive comedy timing — “You Are Woman, I Am Man”, “Sadie, Sadie”, “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” — that’s a high compliment. Coming into the show, I ran into another audience member who was disappointed that we had the “understudy”. I hope he was as impressed by her performance as I was. Ms. Strafuss is someone I hope to see more of on the Southern California stages. (The role is normally portrayed by Jackie Brenneman (FB))

Her object d’amour, Nick Arnstein, was portrayed by Michael Cortez (FB). Although he wasn’t Omar Sharif, he had the requisite style, flair, and voice to pull off the role, and had a good chemistry with Ms. Strafuss. The two worked well together. My wife, when asked about Michael, thought his portrayal was “suitably sleezy”. Given the character, that’s high praise :-).

The main supporting roles — Eddie Ryan and Mrs. (Rose) Brice — were also portrayed quite well. Steven Duncan Sass (FB)’s Eddie Ryan was a very strong dancer and gave off a very affable chemistry, together with a very nice singing voice. Alison Korman (FB)’s Rose Brice had the right air of a mother, and had a good singing voice and stage presence. The two worked well together in their join number “Find Yourself a Man”. In smaller supporting roles were Mark Melo (FB) [Tom Keeney/Renaldi], John Hamilton Scott [Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr], Tina Oakland Scott [Mrs. O’Malley], Meggan Taylor (FB) [Mrs. Strakosh], and Anne Wendell/FB [Mrs. Meeker]. All brought appropriate characterizations to their roles.

Rounding out the ensemble were Ashley Byrd [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble], Bernie Escarga/FB [John / Featured Ensemble]; Catriona Fray (FB) [Dance Swing / Ensemble Dancer]; Alexandria Gates (FB) [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Dahyla Glick (FB) [Emma / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Kathleen MacCutcheon (FB) [Mimsy / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Amy Mendonca (FB) [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Nick Mestakides (FB) [Tenor / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Melissa Padilla/FB [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Amanda Jane Salmon (FB) [Jenny / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; April Sheets/FB [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; and Jenny Torgerson (FB) [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble / Swing]. It is difficult to identify exactly who is who in the ensemble, but I do want to make a few comments. When I see an ensemble, not only do I want to see steps executed right, but I want to see the joy the actors have on stage being radiated out into the audience. I want to see them becoming who they think their character is, as opposed to an anonymous dancer. With that in mind, I’d like to call out a few ensemble members for particular note. There was a short dark-haired member who I believe was Amy Mendonca (FB) who particularly caught my eye for the joyful smile she had during her numbers; this was more than the painted on smile you sometimes see — this young lady was particularly having the time of her life there on stage, and it was just a joy to see and share. There was also a tall blond member, who I believe was Kathleen MacCutcheon (FB), who did very well with the rifles in the Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat number.  Nick Mestakides (FB) was great as the tenor in the “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” number.

Stamford Hill was the understudy for Florenz Ziegfeld.

The production was directed by Bryan Snodgrass (FB), and as usual I have difficulty determining what was the actor, and what was the director. Still, the director did have the notion of simplifying the production to emphasize the flashback aspects of it; he also handled overall movement well and did a good job of ensuring the proper characterizations resulted. This was augmented by Toni Fuller (FB)’s choreography, which was simplified a bit due to the nature of the Colony stage, the number of actors, and the varying skill level. I found the dance numbers enjoyable, particularly “Coronet Man” and “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat”. Jenny Torgerson (FB) was the dance captain; Mindy Copeland (FB) was the Tap Coordinator, and Angela Tousley (FB) was the Color Guard Consultant.

Music was under the direction of Ryan Luévano (FB), assisted by Michael Griffin (FB). The orchestra was situated on the side balconies of the Colony, which I had never seen in use before. In general, the orchestra could use a little more energy (especially in the overture), and I heard perhaps one or two off notes. No biggie on that, but there was a greater problem with the lights from the Orchestra shining into the eyes of the audience members. Shade the lights on those music stands, folks, so they shine down, not out. The orchestra consisted of: Sage Barton (FB), Sara Jones (FB), Beth Reno, and Yu Ting Wu (FB) on Violins; Thom Fountain, Ki Yeon Kim/FB, and Marylin Winkle on Cello; Michael Griffin (FB) on Piano; Cody Samuel Vaughn/FB and Felipe Guzman Martinez/FB on Drums; Jeff Markgraf on Bass; Katherine Hildebrant/FB on Reed I; Dan Gonda (FB) on Reed II; Carlos Herrera/FB on Reed III; and Harold York on Reed IV.

Turning to the remainder of the production and creative team. The scenic design was by Emily Mae Heller (FB), who also was the Producer. The nature of the Colony stage (slightly thrust, no curtain) combined with what I am sure was a limited production budget meant that the scenic aspect was simple: a dressing table to the side, some tables and such that could be brought on as necessary, and a wooden structure along the back that held all the props, much as a bookshelf would hold the props backstage (and hence, suggested the backstage and flashback nature of the show). Not realistic as one might see on a big-budget Broadway show, but it worked. What had more problems was the execution of Jay Lee‘s Sound Design, and Kevin Vasquez (FB)’s Lighting Design. With respect to the sound, at the beginning the microphones were very muffled, and only sounded right when the additional reverb was added for the “Nicky Armstein”. As for the lighting, there were two factors that tended to distract: first, there was a collection of Lekos above the main stage that were programmed to be flashing on and off in various dance numbers — this served to distract vs. augment. Additionally, there were problems with the follow spot not always following well. The costume design was by Sasha Markgraf/FB, and mostly worked. Most of the issues were with ensemble costumes. There was an early number with the ensemble in black leotards where white undergarments were visible around the legs; there was a later Ziegfeld Follies number where there was an odd camisole that just wouldn’t have worked on a real stage. There were also some chronological inconsistencies, such as camouflage leggings that would not have been used in that time period. However, I’m willing to suspend disbelief, as I understand production budgets. There is no credit for makeup; Ariana Castiglia/FB was the wig designer.  Mandee Mitchell was the stage manger, assisted by Owen Panno (FB).

Given how long it has taken me to write this, there are three more performances of Funny Girl: today at 8pm, and tomorrow at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets are available through Ovation Tix, and discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. I found it enjoyable.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).  The Chromolume 2017 season looks particularly good: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  November concludes with Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. December starts with Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, and staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just a single hold date for Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

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userpic=levysWhile eating my lunch, I was reading the headlines about Trump’s selection for Attorney General. This got me thinking. We should all write to our senators, and insist that any nominee what takes precedence when determining government action or policy: the written law and any legal precedents for that jurisdiction, or their belief system.  If they answer that their belief system takes precedence, they should be denied confirmation. Why? To give a belief system precedent when determining government action is to impose that belief system on others — which is the government essentially establishing a religion and enforcing it on others. But, some will counter, that denies the nominee the freedom to practice their religion. It actually doesn’t. They are free to practice their religion in private times, and even when not performing government actions. But government decisions should not be enforcing one religion or belief on another.

If this makes it difficult for Trump to nominate certain individuals to positions such as Justice or the Supreme Court, that’s how it works. The same Bill of Rights that gives them the right to spew whatever hate speech they want and to practice their religion protects the people of this nation from imposing their religious beliefs or discriminatory practices on the populace. This is a nation ruled by law, and laws that are difficult to change. Sometimes it works to their advantage (such as the Electoral College); sometimes it doesn’t (they can’t discriminate, they can’t register — beyond what would be done for the census — based on religion, they can’t undo gay marriage, they can’t even easily undo Roe vs. Wade). We need to constantly remind them of this. We cannot discriminate in hiring based upon belief. We can, however, insist that they follow the law even when it conflicts with their belief.

[And, by the way, this applies to Steve Bannon as well. He may or may not hold white supremacist views. He cannot, however, act on those views when they are contrary to our laws — that is grounds for requesting his removal from office.]

The key point we must continually make: The President, Congress, and his advisors are not above the law. Their followers are not above the law.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=soapboxGoing into this rant, I want to note that I was not, and am not, a Trump supporter. You know this if you read my election posts: I was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. You should also know that I was on the net in days when we elected Bush 43. I remember the rants on Usenet; I particularly remember the reactions in the 2004 election over on Livejournal. Back then, I used to think it was fun to make fun of President Bush with all of our “village idiot” memes. The good old days, so to speak. Since then, however, I’ve gained a bit more wisdom and perspective.

Then I read Facebook before heading off to work, and got disgusted. So much so, that this rant formed on the drive in and insisted on being written.

I am not saying we should quietly lie on our backs, spread our legs, and get fucked by the new administration (how’s that for graphic). H0wever, I don’t believe that spreading false news stories helps. For example, Trump is only trying to get his son-in-law cleared for briefings, not his entire family. We (that is, progressives like me) complained when the Trump side was spreading false stories and believing anything they read on the net about Hillary. Why are we so quick to do the same about Trump? We need to keep our mantra as “verify, verify, verify”. Many of these stories about Trump are overblown exaggeration, often spread by excessively political media or false news sites. Know which sites are real and which sites are not.

Fellow progressives: spreading false stories on Facebook — or even the funny Biden/Obama memes — does nothing to combat Trump or help those who will be vulnerable when he takes office. Actions speak louder than memes, and we need to be doing, not sharing:

  • Physically write, call, and/or email your Congressional representatives, and let them know that nominating unqualified individuals is unacceptable. If those individuals are subject to Congressional approval, they should be turned down. If not, they should be calling on Republican leadership to stress the harm employment such individuals could bring to the country, and to appropriately encourage the President-elect to select someone else.
  • As for individuals such as Bannon: Much as I would like to say “Don’t hire him because of his views”, would we want a person’s political views or religious views to prevent them from being hired? If the shoe was on the other foot, probably not. For such individuals, we need to press our Congressional representatives to stress to such nominees that one’s personal views must be set aside when they are in Government service, and they must work in the interest of the Nation, in accordance with the constitution and its values of equality, fairness, and justice for all.  If they cannot do that — if they can’t separate the personal/religious from National responsibilities — they must be pressured to decline the position.
  • We need to work to protect those most vulnerable, if we are in a position to do so. We need to let them know we have their backs — and then be there for them. We need to remind anyone harassing or threatening someone that Trump’s election has not changed the laws. Violence against others is not legal, nor is hate-oriented speech (except where constitutionally protected). We need to pressure our public service officials to enforce the law against *any* such speech/actions. We were doing this when we were battling for #BlackLivesMatter, so why should we stop now? Our law enforcement must be neutral in its enforcement: what is wrong is wrong, and having alt-right or equivalent views does not give one a pass, even with Trump’s election.
  • We need to push to ensure the election results are correct. This does not mean pushing to have the electoral college follow the popular vote this election — that won’ t happen, and would create an even greater crisis if it did. However… we can press investigations of vote tampering, vote suppression, miscounts, etc. in those states where the election was closes and whose electoral votes are critical – WI, MN, PA, MI, NH, etc. While we can’t get the electors to follow popular vote, if we can discover sufficient fraud for a state to flip, that can make a difference. But there isn’t much time — this needs to be done before electors meet.
  • We need to set an example. Protest is one thing. Vandalism during protest is something else. We should not let this turn us into thugs.

In short, instead of sharing false news and silly memes, we need to pressure Congress to do its job, and ensure the President-elect selects qualified advisors who are working in the interest of all the country, not their personal agendas. Given the lack of Government experience in our new leader, this is critical if we are all to survive, let alone succeed, in these times.

P.S.: Here’s a good article on how to really make a difference.

 

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userpic=nixonAlmost a week after the election, and many of us are still trying to make sense of the surprising results. Over in a Facebook discussion with a friend, we were talking about Bernie Sanders and whether he could have won, and one of the folk responding had a comment that include the following:

And therein lies the problem …: politicians trying to draw in the African American voters, the Latinos, the LGBQ community, the white working class males, the Millennials, the soccer moms, the business community, and so on. We’re a country of needy, self absorbed children all looking for someone who will do something for us on a personal level, not a national one.

This got me thinking: to what extent is Trump’s victory an example of the Tragedy of the Commons. For those unfamiliar with the term: “The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.

I could give you numerous examples: Central California and the water crisis, where individuals drilling wells can benefit themselves while hurting the community, whereas an agreement with a little hurt for all could benefit everyone down the road. Climate Change is another area where we are running into this: people are putting self interest above the better public good.

To what extent is politics a tragedy of the commons. To what extent is our slicing and dicing of interests — putting our personal financial well being, our personal societal well being and privilege, and such, harming society as a whole. Was Trump appealing to that, especially in the hinterlands. Whereas Clinton was hoping to get some to sacrifice to make things better for all (think: Obamacare; think: taxing the wealthy; think: climate change; think: moving to a new energy policy; etc.), Trump was doing what Trump does — advocating for his own personal self-interest and benefit, and along the way advocating for each individual to be out for themselves. Lower *your* taxes, get a job for *yourself*. Wanting to go back to when America was “great” (i.e., when white privilege was unquestioned) – tragedy of the commons. Wanting to isolate America and be protectionist – tragedy of the commons. Numerous, numerous examples. It’s yuge, it’s bigly 🙂 .

To what extent does this divide split along political liberal/conservative lines? To what extent does it dictate what we do? How do our economic times make us susceptible to the tragedy of the commons.

In any event, last Tuesday wasn’t only the product of the tragedy of the commons, I fear it was a tragedy for the commons.

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userpic=socialmediaEveryone is attempting to adjust to the results of this election differently. Those who have been marginalized for whatever reason — sex, color, orientation, etc. — are reacting in fear for what might happen with Trump (even though he is not yet in power, and won’t be in power until January). Those who have crawled out of the shadows and the gutters, emboldened by the man, have taken to harassing and abusing those marginalized (even though the laws have not changed, and likely will not change, making what they are doing illegal). Some, like me, who have been fortunate enough (dare I say privileged, which I do recognize) have been coping by hoping for rationality — believing (perhaps unrealistically) and hoping that the weight of the Presidency will change the campaign demagogue into a reasoned man concerned with his legacy, suitably constrained by our Constitution, the opposition Democrats, and our system.

We all have been taking to the streets and social media. Social media has done its job: amplifying the small fringe voices and actions so that they feel like a national groundswell; amplifying the resulting fears to make everyone more fearful; echoing those who have the same fear while hiding the reasoned voices on both sides. The reasoned people who supported Trump more to blow up the system rather than to support his behavior see only the riots and vandalism in response to his election, not the fear. Those who support Clinton only see the fear and the hate response. And it magnifies, like a mirror looking into a mirror, reflecting on and on forever deeply, even though we’re really only talking about perhaps a quarter-inch of glass.

And those who operate the social media — the Mark Zuckerbergs, the folks behind Twitter, etc. — where are they in all of this? Silent. They are silently allowing the echo chambers they created – and the algorithms they curated — to spread the fake news, to spread the parodies, to spread the words that amplify and isolate. They are not taking responsibility; they are not helping to heal. When we look back at this election, we’ll see much of the ultimate blame belongs with the Internet and Social Media for building up the hate and fear between both sides. For those us on the Clinton side, ask yourself: where would we be if Trump had been unable to tweet, but could only go through the news media, if we weren’t seeing the fear-mongering fake news on FB, if we weren’t seeing the parodies and believing them real. For the Trump supporters, the same question: how might your picture of Clinton differ without FB spreading the stories, and Wikileaks being enabled to spread overly sensationalized innuendo?

Those of us who were there in the founding days of the Internet: What have we wrought?

Shortly before the election, Vox ran an article about how the Internet is harming our democracy. I saved it planning to post and comment upon it the day after the election. The election occurred, and other reactions came first. But the article remained, and deserves to be heard. The article talks about the impact of fake news on the election; about how Facebook considers itself to be a technology company, not part of the media. Quoting from the article:

But that’s wrong. Facebook makes billions of editorial decisions every day. And often they are bad editorial decisions — steering people to sensational, one-sided, or just plain inaccurate stories. The fact that these decisions are being made by algorithms rather than human editors doesn’t make Facebook any less responsible for the harmful effect on its users and the broader society.

Further on, the article notes:

Facebook hasn’t told the public very much about how its algorithm works. But we know that one of the company’s top priorities for the news feed is “engagement.” The company tries to choose posts that people are likely to read, like, and share with their friends. Which, they hope, will induce people to return to the site over and over again.

This would be a reasonable way to do things if Facebook were just a way of finding your friends’ cutest baby pictures. But it’s more troubling as a way of choosing the news stories people read. Essentially, Facebook is using the same criteria as a supermarket tabloid: giving people the most attention-grabbing headlines without worrying about whether articles are fair, accurate, or important.

Post election, this algorithm is showing us the fear and the attacks because that is what our friends are sharing. It isn’t showing us the reasoned voices. It is isolating us, and not allowing us to confront the hate directly online. We’ve defriended the other side long ago. And so it magnifies. The following excerpt from the article points out why things feel so bad now:

This dynamic helps to explain why the 2016 election has taken on such an apocalyptic tone. Partisans on each side have been fed a steady diet of stories about the outrages perpetrated by the other side’s presidential candidate. Some of these stories are accurate. Others are exaggerated or wholly made up. But less sophisticated readers have no good way to tell the difference, and in the aggregate they’ve provided a distorted view of the election, convincing millions of voters on each side that the other candidate represents an existential threat to the Republic.

And now that that existential threat has been elected, look at the reaction. Facebook built that fear, folks. Facebook elected this man, folks. One in five people — that’s 20% — say that they changed their vote because of social media:

In a recent survey of 4,579 Americans, Pew found that most people who are exposed to political content across their social media feeds react negatively to it. Nearly 40 percent of respondents described themselves as “worn out” by political debates on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and 80 percent of respondents said that when they see political posts they disagree with, they usually choose to ignore them. Meanwhile, 40 percent reported blocking or filtering political content and/or fellow users who posted political content on their feeds; the vast majority said it was because they felt the content was “offensive.”

But that doesn’t mean said political content has no measurable effect on Election Day. In Pew’s study, 20 percent of respondents admitted that they had changed their minds about a political issue or candidate after seeing the issue or candidate discussed on social media.

Think now about all how all those stories about Hillary and her email server, about how Hillary was dishonest, changed minds about Hillary. I heard an NPR story last night about how Democrats were voting in large numbers for Trump because they didn’t trust Hillary. It was social media that built that distrust. It is also social media that permitted the White Power groups and other haters to be heard in much larger numbers than they actually are. Combine this with the fact that even a single percentage point difference in each state — one in one hundred shifting from Trump to Clinton — could have given the election to Clinton instead of Trump:

Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida flip back to Clinton, giving her a total of 307 electoral votes. And she’d have won the popular vote by 3 to 4 percentage points, right where the final national polls had the race and in line with Obama’s margin of victory in 2012.

NPR asks: Did Social Media ruin this election? They note:

This is our present political social life: We don’t just create political strife for ourselves; we seem to revel in it.

When we look back on the role that sites like Twitter, Facebook (and Instagram and Snapchat and all the others) have played in our national political discourse this election season, it would be easy to spend most of our time examining Donald Trump’s effect on these media, particularly Twitter. It’s been well-documented; Trump may very well have the most combative online presence of any candidate for president in modern history.

But underneath that glaring and obvious conclusion, there’s a deeper story about how the very DNA of social media platforms and the way people use them has trickled up through our political discourse and affected all of us, almost forcing us to wallow in the divisive waters of our online conversation. And it all may have helped make Election 2016 one of the most unbearable ever.

We need to realize the impact of social media on this election. We need to realize that the hate voices we are hearing are an overly magnified and emboldened fringe. We need to realize that our fear and loathing of the President-elect — and indeed, much of his behavior and excesses — have been magnified through social media. It will continue to magnify, until we make the decision to stop letting it do so.

We need to take action. We need to speak up for the majority, not amplify the fears and behaviors of the minority. Remember the following:

Get away from the fear. Step away from the keyboard before you share that article about yet another hate attack. Use the amplifying power of Facebook not to share hate, but to share hope. Speak up and say: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

It is not acceptable, because Trump campaigned so as to amplify hate, to take that hate out on others in society.

It is not acceptable, out of your fear of and in protest of Trump’s election, to vandalize and destroy.

It is not acceptable to lose faith in our American system, to believe that its checks and balances and restrictions will not serve to temper the behavior of our Chief Executive. It limited Obama, and it will limit Trump.

We are the best of America. We need to show it. We must remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt — the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=bushbabyTo My Democratic Friends: Take a deep breath and calm down. I’m seeing folks reacting just like the Republicans did when Obama was elected. He’s going to be a dictator! He’s going to take away all our rights! He’s going to undo everything the previous administration did! We thought the Republicans were unrealistic when they said that then, so why are we acting that way now? The same constraints exist on the office. Appointments must be confirmed by 60% of the Senate. The Constitution is still in play, and can only be changed by an amendment or a case that goes through the court system. The President is limited in what they can do. Here’s one good article on that. Congress will limit him further, because they have their jobs to protect. Further, Mr. Trump is going to be hit by the enormity of  the task he has taken on, which is very different than running a business. He’s going to want to win: which means not destroying America, but going down as the Best President Ever™. He’s probably feeling like a dog that has captured the car. I think we’re going to see the office change the man. It has happened to everyone else that has held the office.

To My Republican Friends: Just because Mr. Trump has been elected does not give you the right to act like he has in the past. There are still laws on the books regarding sexual harassment, sexual abuse, hate crimes, discrimination. These laws derive from the constitution, and are not going away even after Mr. Trump becomes President Trump. ACT LIKE ADULTS. Don’t gloat. Don’t be dicks. You’re only making it harder for our government to have a peaceful transition. You’re only making it harder for Mr. Trump to become a better man and this country to be strong. You are exhibiting the worst of America. Further, forget all this gloating about Sarah Palin and other unqualified people becoming cabinet officers. It didn’t happen with Obama, and it won’t happen with Trump, because the Senate cares about this country, and are part of the process to ensure that the right people go into office.

To America In General: Candidates change when they become President. The office changes them. They rarely achieve everything they promise; to do even 25% is remarkable. We all need to calm down, take deep breaths, hug our friends and be there for them. We need to let a peaceful transition occur, because that’s what America is. We need to have confidence in our system of government. It may zig-zag to goals, it may be slow, it may seen byzantine, but it is survived long beyond both good and bad Presidents, beyond honest and corrupt Presidents. Our founding fathers designed it very well, and that is why it has lasted so long.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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