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Hamilton (Pantages)Singing and dancing founding fathers. They’ve trod the Great White Way slightly more times than professional sports have. Some — like 1776 — have been spectacularly successful. Others — like Mr. President, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and Ben Franklin in Paris — have been less so. All have portrayed our leaders as ultimately human, as flawed men that have worked towards a more perfect union.

Two years ago, another musical in this genre burst upon the scene. In doing so, it did what few musicals have done since the Golden Age of Musicals. It entered the vernacular. It spoke a musical language that moved from the stage to the airwaves, with an album that has gone triple platinum. It spoke and moved the hearts not just of the greyhairs that typically attend musicals, but of the everyday people. It spoke to the people of today — the immigrants that works as hard as they can and give more than 100% to make this nation great, to the women who have worked equally hard and been equally smart but have often blended into the background. It demonstrated that the storybook history is fantasy, that the real sausage-making is only seen by those in the room where it happened, and that those who tell the story are just as important in coloring it — or removing the color — as those who were there. This musical, like West Side Story, Hair, and Rent, spoke to the people and conflicts of today while couching it in the language of the stage. This musical demonstrated to a generation the power of the stage, the ability of live performance to move hearts, tell a story, and change the world.

I am speaking, of course, of Hamiliton (FB), the Broadway blockbuster with book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (FB) (based on the book by Ron Chernow (FB)) that just arrived in Los Angeles, officially opening on Wednesday, August 16, with previews starting August 11. We were at the second preview last night at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), thankful for our season tickets that enabled us to see the show for a mere $46, when people are paying multiple hundreds and thousands of dollars for a seat (although the people sitting next to us paid only $10 thanks to the Hamilton Lottery). There is a reason to buy season tickets sometimes. There is a reason that one has to sit through The Bodyguard sometimes.

So does Hamilton live up to the hype? Is it the musical of this generation? We have to agree with Charles McNulty of the LA Times: Yes. Although there are some flaws, it speaks to an audience the way no other musical has since perhaps Rent. It energizes people not only about America but about the theatre. It is, at its heart, theatrical. It is something that hopefully will live on in its execution and its message. It will hopefully energize a younger generation on that unique American form that is the “Broadway Musical”, and it has already sparked / continued a move of popular composers back to the theatrical stage — and both popular and “Broadway” music will be the better for it. It already is.

I’m not sure I need to tell you the actual story of Hamilton. By now, you’ve likely listened to the album. You know it is the story of an immigrant that created the modern financial system. It is the story of a man that rose from nothing to be a Founding Father, but one whose imperfections ultimately brought him down. It is a demonstration that our founding wasn’t easy. It is the story of founders such as Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. It is not the story of John Adams or Benjamin Franklin — they already have their own musicals. It is the story of Alexander Hamilton. You still want the synopsis. Read Wikipedia.

The musical presents incredible performance. It has incredible choreography. It has an incredible ensemble (it is worth seeing a second time if only to focus on watching the ensemble as opposed to the principals). McNulty opines that it has a flawed book: “I have quibbles with the book, which suffers a few minor dips in its retreading of Alexander Hamilton’s revolutionary life story. And I’ve questioned the relative gentleness of Miranda’s take on Hamilton’s complicated economic legacy and the founding fathers’ personal relationship to slavery. “Hamilton” could probably have done more to connect the framers’ partisan squabbles with our own.” I, on the other hand, see the flaws of Hamilton in a more technical fashion. For a show to become a show of the ages, it must be reproducible for the masses. We know of West Side Story and Hair and Rent because they have been performed on stages from the amateur to the professional. On the other hand, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark? Yeah, a tour is promised, but we’re not going to see it in high schools? Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which we saw last week, may not do well on the intimate or regional stage just because of the technical demands. I’m unsure if whether the double-turntable staging of Hamilton will be possible on the high school, intimate, or regional stage. Will Hamilton move from the Broadway and Touring stage to the stages of the heartland of America? I’m not sure we know that yet. Some past blockbusters — Producers, Spamalot, and Rent have. Others haven’t. Et tu, Wicked?

But that just makes it more imperative that you go see Hamilton while you can. If you miss it this go around — either due to schedule, cost, or bad luck in the lottery — I can guarantee you that it will be back. This will be another Wicked, reappearing every few years to empty pocketbooks and win hearts — and everyone should see it at least once. Director Thomas Kail and Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler  have crafted an remarkable “whole”: a harmonization of the leads and the ensemble that tell a story in a way that hasn’t really been done on the stage before, except, perhaps, In The Heights (which was from the same team). This is worth seeing, and seeing again.

Describing the performance — in a review sense — is difficult. Gone are the days LA Civic Light Opera days where Los Angeles got the original Broadway cast. We have a cast trained on Broadway, but we don’t have Lin-Manuel Miranda (FB) or Phillipa Soo. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. All of the leads are spectacular, demonstrating that this not a star dependent show. Just like some of the greatest television shows, the strength of this show is its its entire cast, the synthesis of talent and performance and energy that makes all it difficult to separate performances, for all are great — from Hamilton, Burr, and the other leads to the nameless background dancer.

Our top protagonists are Michael Luwoye (FB) as Alexander Hamilton and Joshua Henry (FB) as Aaron Burr. Luwoye brings a different intensity and style to Hamilton (at least audibly, as I only know Miranda’s performance from the album), but it is one that works well. Henry is just spectacular in his intensity as Burr. The two men — perhaps one of the most famous frenemies duos — have a great chemistry together on stage, and work well in the roles.

The Schuyler Sisters are the most prominent female roles in the story — Emmy Raver-Lampman (FB) as Angelica, Solea Pfeiffer (FB) as Eliza, and Amber Iman (FB★, FB) as both Peggy and Hamilton’s later lover, Maria Reynolds. They have perhaps some of the most complicated vocal harmonies and blendings in the score, and they handle them well. Each brings a unique look and style to the role, and provide both a touching softness and strength to the leads. They are a joy to watch.

The revolutionary team of compadres that form around Hamilton — Jordan Donica (FB) as Marquis de Lafayette, Mathenee Treco (FB) as Hercules Mulligan, and Rubén J. Carbajal (FB) as John Laurens — capture the headstrong nature of youth well. They reappear in the second act — Donica as Jefferson, Treco as Madison, and Carbajal as Hamilton’s son, Phillip. It is here where Donica shines as the effusive dandy Jefferson, primping and preening as he contrasts and battles with Hamilton. Treco’s Madison is a lot quieter, behind the scenes as Jefferson’s right-hand man. Carbajal — a local boy, having done In The Heights at the Chance Theatre (FB) — has some wonderful scenes as Phillip — especially in his duel.

Rory O’Malley (FB★, FB)’s King George is a spectacular dandy — someone whose “da da da da” refrain will stick in your head. He tends to appear on-stage by himself, in a world of his own — capturing the separation of King George from his subjects well. As a side note: When O’Malley as the King sang of John Adams, I noted that Adams does not appear at all in this show. Why? Because he’s the center of his own show and story, someone else tells his story. Similarly, Ben Franklin has no voice at all in this show (referenced in just one song); again, he’s not only in Adams’ show, but has his own show as well. Hamilton focuses on the founding fathers whose stories haven’t been told.

The other main founding father presented in the show is George Washington, portrayed by Isaiah Johnson (FB). Looking nothing like the be-wigged father on the postage stamps, he does a great job of leadership and mentorship in his portrayl.

Rounding out the cast in the ensemble are (other named characters as noted): Raymond Baynard (FB) [also George Eacker], Dan Belnavis (FB), Daniel Ching (FB) [also Charles Lee], Jeffery Duffy (FB), Jennifer Geller (FB), Afra Hines (FB★, FB), Sabrina Imamura (FB), Lauren Kias (FB), Raven Thomas (FB), Ryan Vasquez (FB) [also Philip Schuyler, James Reynolds, and Doctor], and Andrew Wojtal (FB) [also Samuel Seabury] . This ensemble is spectacular: in constant motion, as wonderful background characters, as strong dancers, and people floating in and out. As you can, focus your attention and watch them closely, and you’ll be richly rewarded.

I’m not going to detail who understudies who, but there are a fair number of standbys [SB], swings [SW], and universal swings [USW]: Ryan Alvarado (FB) [SB], Julia K. Harriman (FB★, FB) [SB], Josh Andrés Rivera (FB) [SB], Amanda Braun (FB) [SW], Karli Dinardo (FB) [SW, Dance Captain], Jacob Guzman (FB) [SW, Dance Captain], Alex Larson (FB) [SW], Yvette Lu (FB) [SW], Desmond Newson (FB) [SW], Desmond Nunn (FB) [SW], Keenan D. Washington (FB) [SW], Hope Endrenyi (FB) [USW], Eliza Ohman (FB★, FB) [USW], Antuan Magic Raimone (FB) [USW], and Willie Smith III [USW].

The music in the show was sharp and clear, with the Hamilton Orchestra conducted by Julian Reeve (FB) [also Keyboard 1] and Andre Cerullo (FB) [also Keyboard 2]. The other orchestra members were: John Mader (FB) [Drums]; Kathleen Robertson (FB) [Violin]; Adriana Zoppo (FB) [Concertmaster]; Jody Rubin (FB) [Viola / Violin]; Paula Fehrenbach (FB) [Cello]; Trey Henry (FB) [Bass / Electric Bass / Key Bass]; Paul Viapiano (FB) [Electric Guitar / Acoustic Guitar / Banjo];, and Wade Culbreath [Percussion / Keyboards]. Other music related credits: Brian Miller [Orchestra Contractor]; Randy Cohen (FB) [Synthesizer and Drum Programmer]; Matt Gallagher [Universal Music Associate]. Larger creative music credits: Alex Lacamoire (FB) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (FB) [Arrangements]; Michael Keller (FB) and Michael Aarons (FB) [Music Coordinators]; Julian Reeve (FB) [Music Director]; Alex Lacamoire (FB) [Music Supervision and Orchestrations].

Finally, turning to the creative and production credits. The scenic design by David Korins (FB) was spectacular: a large brick background with scaffolding that some how transports well, including a deck with a double turntable. This was augmented by Howell Binkley (FB)’s lighting design, which not only impacted the actors but the back of the scenic designed, and used a type of LED mover I hadn’t seen before. Nevin Steinberg (FB)‘s sound design, as noted before, was quite clear; I noted they added additional speakers to improve the sound in the mezzanine and balcony of the Pantages. The costume design of Paul Tazewell and the hair and wig design of the very busy Charles G. LaPointe worked well for the movement and dance, and to establish the nature of the characters. Rounding out the production credits: J. Philip Bassett [Production Supervisor]; Hudson Theatrical Associates [Technical Supervision]; Kimberly Fisk (FB) [Production Stage Manager]; Telsey & Company (FB) and Bethany Knox CSA (FB) [Casting]; Roeya Banuazizi [Company Manager]; Patrick Vassel (FB) [Associate and Supervising Director]; Stephanie Klemons (FB★, FB) [Associate and Supervising Choreographer]; Derek Mitchell (FB) [Resident Choreographer].

Hamiliton (FB) continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) through December 30th. Tickets might be available through the Pantages website, but they might be expensive. Orchestra tickets start at $650, and resale prices vary widely. There is a $10 ticket lottery: either through the Hamilton App, or through the Hamilton Lottery Website. If you like the voice of Aaron Burr, Joshua Henry (FB), you might also look into the final production of the Muse/ique (FB) 2017 “Summer of Sound”: Glow/Town, on August 26,  featuring Savion Glover (FB) and, from the Hamilton tour, Joshua Henry (FB). Tickets are available from the Muse/ique website; discount tickets may be available from Goldstar. I find the Festival Seating just fine: general admission tables and chairs to see the show, and you bring your own picnic to enjoy. A perfect summer evening. Summer events take on the lawn in front of the Beckmann Auditorium at CalTech in Pasadena.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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). 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:

For the remainder of August, we’ve got a little theatre vacation. I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have only The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). December brings ACSAC 2017 in San Juan PR, the Colburn Orchestra and the Klezmatics at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB),   Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB), and our Christmas Day movie. More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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On the Twentieth (20th) Century (Proof Doubt Closer)Did you know I’ve written a play? It is about life as a professional audience member.

I call it, “Life as a Professional Audience Member”. I put it down, just as it happened.

Oh, you’d prefer to read it as a blog instead? (walks away dejected)

But to be serious: I do consider myself of lover a theatre, ever since I saw my first Bock-Harnick show, The Rothschilds. As I’ve gotten older, I began to look at the composing team, and exploring all the works from that team. One of the best composers during the post-Rodgers and Hammerstein phase was Cy Coleman. He tended to team with other lyricists, but you could always guarantee a jazzy score. Just consider his string of hits (not in order): Little Me, Wildcat, Sweet Charity, I Love My Wife, Seesaw, The Life, City of Angels, Will Rogers Follies, and On the Twentieth Century. He also made a number of albums with his jazz trio, including one with the songs from Barnum, which is one of my favorites.

But I don’t just collect albums from composers; I try to see all of their shows. Here it is a bit harder, as many of the Coleman shows are rarely produced. I was lucky enough to see Barnum and City of Angels — as well as Coleman’s last show, Like Jazz — when they were first performed in LA; other companies in LA have done productions of  The Life and Will Rogers Follies, and I was lucky enough to catch those. For a while, it looked like DOMA was going to do Sweet Charity, but that fell through. Back in 2012, I heard that the Sierra Madre Playhouse (FB) was doing On The Twentieth Century and booked tickets, but alas, it was was the original play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, adapted by Ken Ludwig. A great production, but not what I was looking for.

So when an actor I met through Repertory East Playhouse informed me that she was going to be in a production of the musical version, on the calendar it went. I learned about the Kickstarter for the show and supported it, for this was a new production company (Proof Doubt Closer (FB)), dedicated to doing lesser known works. Our “reward” for donating was tickets, and so we found ourselves squeezing in a second show for the weekend: Cy Coleman’s On the Twentieth Century, with Book and Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, based on plays by by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and Charles Bruce Millholland (not Bruce Mullholland, as in the program), and additional music by David Krane (FB) and Seth Rudetsky (FB), at the Pan Andreas Theatre (FB) in Hollywood.

I should note that, going in, the Kickstarter only raised about 40% of the funds that were required for the show. This impacted the production budget, which could be seen in the set (and to some extent, the costumes), which were more suggestive of the location and period than capturing the actual elegance of the namesake train or how passengers of this caliber would have dressed for the travel. One might also think it was reflected in the air conditioning budget — at least the day of our show, the poor unit was broken or unable to keep up. Hint: Sit in the back rows, under the ceiling fans, and you’ll do much better.

Here’s what I wrote in 2012 about the play:

The play itself is quite significant: produced in 1932, it was later remade as a 1934 movie with John Barrymore and Carole Lombard that ushered in the era of 1930s screwball comedies.

The story of “20th Century” is set in March 1933 on the Twentieth Century Limited, a train from Chicago to New York City. The story is centered around Oscar Jaffe, an egomaniacal Broadway director, and Lily Garland, the chorus girl he transformed into a leading lady. With three failed productions in a row, bankrupt, and about to lose his theatre after the failure of his latest, “Joan of Arc”, Oscar boards the Twentieth Century Limited. He knows that his former protege and star, Lily Garland, will also be on the train; Lily is now a temperamental movie star (with a “golden statue”). He’ll do anything to get her back under contract and back in his bed, but his former protege will have nothing to do with him.  Assisting Jaffe in this exercise are his staff, Ida Webb and Owne O’Malley. Also on the train are Dr. Grover Lockwood and his mistress, Anita Highland; the doctor has written a play he wants Jaffe to product (about “Joan of Arc”). Also on the train is Myrtle Clark, a religious fanatic and heiress of a laxative fortune (and also escaped from an asylum). After Lily Garland boards the train at the second stop with her agent and boytoy, George Smith, the craziness begins. Now add to this mixture a second producer who also wants to cast Garland in his production, and the touring company of the  Oberammergau Passion Play. The role of the century! A potential investor! All of this to be resolved on a single train trip from Chicago to New York.

The musical is every similar, although some names have changed and characters split. You can see the detailed updated synopsis on the Wikipedia page. The main characters, Jaffee and Garland, remain, although Jaffee’s assistances become Oliver Webb and Owen O’Malley. The doctor and Lockwood split: Lockwood becomes a Congressman, who has written a play about life on the Hogworking Committee, and the Dr. becomes a gastroenterologist who, it just so happens, has written a play about life in a Metropolitan Hospital. The religious fanatic was renamed as Letitia Primrose, and Garland’s boyfriend became Bruce Granit. But the other plot aspects remain the same; and the farcical nature remains the same. As Coleman, Comden, and Green adapted the show, it also becomes a parody of melodramas and operettas in the musical and lyrical styling. I should note that, in the Broadway version that won five Tony awards, John Cullum played Oscar Jaffee, Madeline Kahn and later Judy Kaye as Lily Garland, Imogene Coca as Mrs. Primrose, and newcomer Kevin Kline as Bruce Granit. All stellar actors with the split second farcical timing required for a show such as this. Note also that the reworking into the musical played up the campiness, and permitted some level of overacting by the leads due to the nature of the play as a farce.

One other note about the reworking: in his approach to the musical, Coleman intentionally parodied the operetta style that was common at the time of the story, especially as that was what the leads would have been using on the stage (think shows like The Desert Song by Sig Romberg). Thus, there is a lot of use of the operatic style voice (although, being a layperson, I have no idea what to call that).

Now that the bones of the show are known, and are known to be good, how did Proof Doubt Closer do with the show, recognizing they had about 40% of the needed budget and the typical limited rehearsal time one sees in intimate theatre in Los Angeles, especially where actors often have real day jobs (as opposed to the stereotypical New York waiter)? (I”ll note we actually did see Proof Doubt Closer’s first show, although I don’t think they were called that then)

The answer is: reasonably, given what they had to work with. This wasn’t at the level of what I’m sure the tour was like when it hit the Civic Light Opera or the Ahmanson (I forget which produced it in 1979, when I’m sure it toured). The earnestness and the desire to be funny was there. But I think there was too much earnestness, so to speak. The success of a farce comes very much from the direction, and I just got the feeling that the director, Trace Oakley (FB) tried a little too hard. There was too much camp, there was too much overacting (especially by Jaffee and his assistants). There was the lack of unison, the lack of a well-oiled machine needed for farce. (I’ll note that this also showed in Averi Yorek (FB)’s choreography, which needed a bit more precision and everyone doing the same thing at the same time). There is the possibility that this is something that could have been ironed out in a longer and more intense rehearsal period, but that’s not possible in the LA intimate theatre scene where current rules from Actors Equity force either use of non-Equity actors (meaning they may not have training in that precision), or limited rehearsal time, and the nature of LA acting work means the performance is a labor of love, not the full time job. So the net result was tolerable unity, which lead to the aforementioned reasonable production. It wasn’t painfully bad by any extent, but it wasn’t at the level of a well-oiled production from companies like Sacred Fools, DOMA, or Good People Theatre.  It should also be noted that the director had a wide range of experience in his cast, from new-ish actors to folks who have been in the LA intimate theatre scene for a while. Lastly, I’ll note it was warm in our production, so I have no idea how much the heat was affecting the acting team.

In the lead acting positions were Wade Kelley (FB) as Oscar Jaffee and Alena Bernardi (FB) as Lily Garland. Kelley’s Jaffee struck me as off — and I’m unsure how much was direction, and how much was the actor. For Jaffee, I expect a certain level of gravitas in the role. After all, this is a man filled with self-importance, who has been producing theatre for years. Kelley didn’t convey that too much. There was a bit “too much” at times. It was a good performance, but not quite great. Bernardi’s Garland was stronger, and was plagued a bit less by the “too much” problem, although I got a sense the direction was trying to bring that in. Bernardi got many of the songs and handled them well, although the shift from what I would call the musical theatre singing voice and the “opera” singing voice was pronounced (I specifically noted it in one of the numbers — I thought the opening, but looking back, I’m not sure she was in it, so it must have been in a different number). In Bernardi’s case, both were strong, although some songs might have worked better in more of the musical theatre style (although, this was more of a personal perference; the first priority is to do numbers as written in the score). [Note: In writing this up, I see from Bernardi’s FB that she’s on vocal rest today — that could explain the pronounced shift in her voice — it was tired. That happens, and given that I liked her voice when I last saw her, I hope it recovers quickly.]

Supporting Oscar Jaffee were his two associates, Oliver Webb and Owen O’Malley, played by Rafael Orduña (FB★, FB) and Nate Beals (FB), respectively. As characters, the two were interchangeable — think Peter Falk to Jack Lemmon’s character in The Great Race. Both sang very well and very strong, but both tended to overplay the farcical side of their roles. I think particularly of their faces during “The Legacy” as an example of that. But they were fun to watch. In a similar supporting role was Nathan Jenisch (FB) as Bruce Granit, Garland’s boyfriend and agent. His role is more slapstick, and he handled it quite well.

Georgan George (FB★, FB) played Mrs. Letitia Primrose, and she captured the crazy of the character well. She had wonderful facial expressions and glee as she stickered away (again, this was great during the latter half of Act II). It was our first time seeing her in a singing role: she was strong on the musical theatre side of the voice, but could use a drop more strength on the operatic side (which she tends to use less in the roles she has done). But that was a minor concern; overall, she was fun in the role.

Portraying the train staff were Philip McBride (FB) as the Conductor, and Nicole Sevey (FB), Talya Sindel (FB), and Rowan Treadway (FB) as porters. Performance-wise, these were background roles to the craziness on the train with little separate identity. Music-wise, however, they provided some of the key transitory numbers (and all the tap dance). I enjoyed watching them, although they need a bit more precision in the movement and tap to be in complete unison. All were strong singers, but I was particularly taken by Sindel, a UCB astrophysics student transitioned to the stage. She just had a lovely voice that stood out, combined with great looks and great dance. Her compatriots, Severy and Treadway, were also very good.

Rounding out the cast were the remaining members of the ensemble, who also had various small supporting roles: Anagabriela Corrdero (FB) [Agnes, Ensemble]; Tatiana Gomez (FB) [Stranded Actor, Ensemble]; Stephen Juhl (FB) [Congressman Lockwood, Max Jacobs]; and Chelsea Pope (FB) [Imelda, Doctor Johnson]. There were a few here I’d like to single out. On first sight, I fell in love with Corrdero’s face — it is quite adorable. But more importantly, that girl can sing: she had a remarkable voice that stood out in the ensemble numbers. I hope to hear more of her (“see more of her” just sounds wrong) in other productions around the city. Pope had an interesting and expressive face that was quite fun to watch in her various roles; it was harder to assess the singing voice, which she had to intentionally make bad as Imelda, but I think sounded good as the doctor.

Musical direction was by Alena Bernardi (FB), assisted by Cynthia Cook-Heath (FB), who also led the on-stage orchestra on the piano. Also providing music were Mike Dubin (FB) on drums, Millie Martin (FB) on bass, and Christian Robinson on trumpet. The music was strong and I especially appreciated the brass (which this show needs), although there was one number at the beginning of Act II where the trumpet sounded just a little off. Philip McBride (FB) / Pikakee Music did the musical arrangements.

Turning to the production side: I feel sorry for the overworked Rebekah Atwell (FB), who did the set design, lighting design, and also served as the stage manager. I think she bore the brunt of the limited budget, and did the best that she could with the budget that she had. I always find it interesting how stage companies interpret trains, as a member of a train museum who knows the trains well. There was no credit for sound design. Rachel Harmon (FB) did the costume design, although she had no credit in the bio section. The costumes were reasonable, given the budget, although I’m not sure about the netting on the porter’s skirts. Zahra Husein (FB) is listed as propsmaster and assistant costume designer.

The Proof Doubt Closer (FB) production of On the Twentieth Century (or is that On the 20th Century) runs at the Pan Andreas Theatre (FB) on Melrose until August 27th. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets, discount tickets may be available through Goldstar or through a Groupon. The production isn’t perfect, but it is a valiant attempt to present a rarely done musical — and in that area, it succeeds quite well. However, be prepared for a warm theatre.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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). 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:

We have one more show scheduled in August, and then we’ve got a little theatre vacation. The show, however, is worth it:  Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have only The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). December brings ACSAC 2017 in San Juan PR, the Colburn Orchestra and the Klezmatics at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB),   Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB), and our Christmas Day movie. More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Ahmanson)A little over 10 years ago, I picked up a fascinating book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (FB). The book told the story of a murder mystery — a dog that had been found in a neighbor’s front yard, killed by a pitchfork. What was the fascinating conceit of the book was that the story was told from the point of view of the next-door neightbor, a 15 year old teen somewhere on the Asperger/Autism scale, who found the dead dog. With the help of his teacher, Siobahn, the boy writes the story of his investigation — including all his personality quirks, such as chapters numbered as primes and so forth. Along the way to solving the investigation, he discovers hidden truths about his family, and hidden strength within himself.

The book was a truly odd presentation of a story, and really gave insight to readers about what it might be like living as an Aspie-boy, and what parenting one involved. The odd nature of the story — with digressions, tantrums, and quirks was almost non-linear at times, but it drew you in and held you rapt.

For me, it truly made me appreciate Haddon as an author (as I had Gregory Maguire of Wicked before him), and I went out and devoured Haddon’s other books as soon as they hit trade paperbacks.

When I heard that Simon Stephens and the National Theatre (FB) were developing a play based on the novel, I found it difficult to conceive of how such as odd book could be transformed for the stage in a manner that preserved its uniqueness. How does one put the mind of an Aspie on stage? Yet somehow they did, and the production came to Broadway, and then went on to win 5 Tony Awards, including Best Play.

Last night, we saw the play at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and all I can say is (paraphrasing Steve Stanley, as I believe he has the phrase trademarked): Wow!. They did it. They captures the confusion and the noise and the order and the chaos and the methodicity and the emotional lack of emotion of the Aspie mind. This was done by the interplay of having the teacher, Siobahn, of the boy, Christopher, serve as the narrator. This was done by the use of a black box stage and animations, through the use of color, and through the use of the ensemble as interchangeable people that moved throughout Christopher’s life. This was just not economy of hiring actors; it captured the fact that Aspies often find it different to identify differences in people. It was done through the performances of the actors, the choreography of movement throughout the piece, the dissonant sounds.

I recently heard a discussion about the role of a director in a stage production, which intrigued me as I’ve always had difficulty distinguishing between what the director brings and what the actor brings. The discussion pointed out that the actor brings the individual portrayal, based on their experience and research, to the character; the director brings the whole together. The overall conception, the synthesis of creatives, and the interaction of the actors with one another and with the environment created by the production creative team (set, props, lights, sound). If that is indeed the case, then Curious Incident is indeed a director’s play, with vision of the director, Marianne Elliott, providing unified environment around Christopher’s behavior, demonstrating and illustrating the larger picture that surrounds his mind, and giving reality to the truth that he speaks.

That’s not to diminish the work of the actors. As Christopher, Adam Langdon (FB)†, captures the Aspie behavior well (although I should note  that the play never states a particular diagnosis). This includes all the quirks from the behavior when touched to the focus on something else while having a discussion, to the lack of emotion in speech and action, to the fear and panic. It is a tour de force,  a powerful performance and portrayal.
† [Benjamin Wheelwright (FB) at weekend matinee performances]

All of the other actors serve as members of the ensemble as well as their principle roles. Three, however, have only one other role besides the ensemble: Maria Elena Ramirez (FB) as Siobhan — Christopher’s teacher, Gene Gillette (FB) as Ed — Christopher’s father, and Felicity Jones Latta (FB) as Judy — Christopher’s mother.  Ramirez captured well the gentle guiding force that was Siobahn — a teacher, a confidant, a source of strength. She also served as narrator, describing things that Christopher couldn’t and effectively bringing the book to the stage. Gillette’s Ed was initially gruff and inscrutable, but as the play progressed you got to see the deep depth of affection and care and concern he had for Christopher. Lastly, Latta’s Judy came into the story length and was, for much of the story, an enigma. By the end, you could see that she initially didn’t know how to handle and deal with a child like Christopher, and this led to her — shall we say “predicament” — that drove the story. By the end, however, you could see that she was getting more comfortable with her role as mother.

The remaining actors — at least from the distance we sat — formed an ensemble that went in and out of character as necessary, all providing multiple characters and props as needed, and doing well. The remaining ensemble members, and their additional roles, were: Kathy McCafferty (FB) (Mrs. Shears, Mrs. Gascoyne, Woman on Train, Shopkeeper, Voice One); Brian Robert Burns (FB★, FB) (Mr. Thompson, Policeman One, Drunk Two, Man with Socks, London Policeman, Voice Three); John Hemphill (FB) (Roger Shears, Duty Sergeant, Mr. Wise, Man Behind the Counter, Drunk One, Voice Two); Geoffrey Wade (FB) (Reverend Peters, Uncle Terry, Station Policeman, Station Guard, Voice Four); Francesca Choy-Kee (FB) (No. 37, Lady in Street, Information, Punk Girl, Voice Five), Amelia White (FB) (Mrs. Alexander, Posh Woman, Voice Six); Robyn Kerr, J. Paul Nicholas (FB).

Understudies were Josephine Hall (FB), Robyn Kerr, Tim McKiernan (FB), J. Paul Nicholas (FB), and Tim Wright (FB★, FB) (who also served as dance and fight captain).

Turning to the creative and production team: Bunny Christie‘s scenic and costume design was ingenious (well, the scenic design was — costumes were closer to everyday clothes). She created a black box with a graph-paper grid with LEDs at the nexii, and a series of white boxes. Everything came through doors in the box. This combined with Finn Ross‘s video design to create both the outside world and the world of Christopher’s mind. Added to that was the lighting design of Paule Constable that took the projections out into the audience to heighten emotion and set move, and the choreography of Scott Graham (FB) and Steven Hoggett (FB) to create the frantic movement that also served to establish both mood and emotion. Lastly, all this worked with the sound design of Ian Dickinson for Autograph and Adrian Sutton (FB)’s music to move the audience from order to cacaphony as appropriate. Other technical and production credits: David Brian Brown (FB) [Wig and Hair Design]; Ben Furey (FB) [Voice and Dialect Coach]; Daniel Swee and Cindy Tolan (FB) [Casting]; Benjamin Endsley Klein (FB) [Associate Director]; Taylor Haven Holt (FB) [Assistant Director]; Yasmine Lee (FB) and Jess Williams [Associate Choreographers]; C. Randall White [Production Stage Manager]; Lynn R. Camilo (FB) and Kristin Newhouse (FB) [Stage Managers]; Elizabeth M. Talmadge [Company Manager]; Bond Theatrical Group [Marketing and Publicity Direction]; Aurora Productions [Production Management]; The Booking Group (FB) [Tour Booking]; Bespoke Theatricals [General Manager].

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through September 10. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson Box Office; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. If you want an interesting show — either from the Aspie/Autism angle or just the mystery angle — this is well worth seeing.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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). 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:

August theatre starts with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have only The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). December brings ACSAC 2017 in San Juan PR, the Colburn Orchestra and the Klezmatics at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB),   Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB), and our Christmas Day movie. More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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The Last 5 Years (Actors Co-Op)This has been a weekend of love. Friday night we saw a Shakespearean celebration of love through the eyes of Galt MacDermot and John Guare: Two Gentlemen of Verona – The Musical (nee “A Grand New Musical”). Last night (Saturday), we saw a different sort of celebration: The Last 5 Years by Jason Robert Brown (FB) at Actors Co-op (FB) today, part of the Actors Co-Op’s Actors Co-Op Too! summer series — a series of short runs to explore new plays, grow new directors and new actors, and season the acting muscles of existing company members.

If I had the choice of a musical to see, The Last 5 Years would not be it. I’ve seen it three times before: 2016 at ACT San Francisco; 2006 at REP East; and 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse. It is one of those musicals that gets trotted out when you need an inexpensive two-hander; it is a great showcase for two actor-singers. But for an audience member, it is unclear what the different versions bring. So why see it again? Partially because it was offered to subscribers, and I’m all about value and getting my subscription dollar’s worth. Partially because I view it as a salami and eggs show: it is a reference dish that is a good test of a theatre.

The Last Five Years is a simple show in terms of story: there are two actors, and they rarely appear together. The show tells the story of the relationship between Jamie and Cathy. Cathy’s version of the relationship story is told backwards: from the breakup to when they meet. Jamie version is forward: from when they meet to the breakup. They are only together at the middle (the marriage) and the last scene (but that time their songs are separate). The story alternates between the two stories, and from it the audience gets the story.

Given this structure, the storytelling depends on two things: the performance and the music. Jason Robert Brown (FB)’s music has the JRB romantic musical sound (i.e., you’ll find that The Bridges of Madison County has a similar sound): deep, lush, emotive, and at times playful. There are some very beautiful songs in L5Y; there are some very funny songs; and there are some very poignant songs. It is a test of the actor-singer who must convey everything through performance and voice. This is especially true in the small theatre where the lushness of the score is reduced by simplification to a single keyboard.

My reaction to the Actors Co-op production of The Last 5 Years was mixed. I really liked Claire Adams (FB)’s Cathy. I felt she brought a wonderful sense of performance and character to the role, and I enjoyed her singing. This is the third time we’ve seen Adams; we saw her previously in both Lucky Stiff and A Funny Thing…Forum. In this show, her face was a delight to watch and wonderfully expressive; her body language was real; her comedy adept. I enjoyed her singing voice, and didn’t notice any significant problems. A cousin who came with me — who has had some professional vocal training — did notice some. Setting aside her comments on “Broadway voice”, she did note that the singing was done in a way that was more tiring to the vocal cords; looking back, I can see that the voice was more tired near the end. So, as this is a workshop production and thus desirous of constructive comments, my one suggestion for the actress would be to work on that: she has a great voice, and learning how to use it in a way that doesn’t expose it to strain can only be a good thing. But I really enjoyed the performance aspects — it brought some wonderful insights and views of the character that I hadn’t seen before. This was apparent from the “get-go” in the opening number, “Still Hurting”, where you could see the real emotion coming through in the staging. It continued through her numbers — all of which were great.

On the other hand, there was Dorian Keyes (FB)’s Jamie. Sigh. I mean, I was rooting for him, as a fellow software engineer. After all, this is a guy that with other computer science friends started a production company called Nerd Squad. Further, although not shown in the program (but discovered doing this writeup), he’s played the character a few months before this outing. So he should have been much better. The main problem: he just didn’t give off the vibe that made him believable as the character. That is, he didn’t strike me as particularly New York Jewish (which Jamie is clearly), nor was he believable as a writer and author. Nowhere was this problem clearer than in “The Schmuel Song”, which has become a classic Jewish character story-song. His focus was on the cheesy Christmas tree; he didn’t bring Schmuel to life — there was no sense of being in that tailor shop in Clemovich. To me, his voice was a bit generic and lacking the character I like to see come through in a voice (the reason I love folks like Susan Egan or Kate Baldwin). My cousin characterized his voice as mediocre — it needs more training to develop character and strength and depth. I think, overall, I’m not saying that he was bad — because he wasn’t. A better characterization is … non-descript. His performance wasn’t the “Wow! 🎆” that Jamie needs to be. He was average on the edge of good; but when contrasted with the powerhouse portrayal of Cathy from Adams, there was no shine to the star. In terms of workshop constructive criticism: this is actor that needs some more seasoning on the acting and singing side. The bones of a good performer are there, but a greater variety of roles, with directors who can help him find the depth to bring it out, and vocal coaches to help mature and strengthen his voice (as well as discovering how to bring character to that voice) will help in the long run.

This production was directed by Laura Manchester (FB). I’ve always said that I have difficulty telling where what an actor brings stops and what the director brings starts. That’s certainly true here. Manchester produced the background film used as part of the scenic design, as aside from one faux paus I’ll mention in a bit, that was excellent. Manchester’s direction of Adams as Cathy was strong and on-point. But with respect to Keyes, it was weaker — and again, this came across clearly in “The Schmuel Song”, where seemingly the character’s focus was setting up the Christmas Tree (an incongruous thing for a Jewish person to do), and not the charm of the story song. It may have been a casting issue; her FB (discovered while writing this) shows she was having some difficulty casting the role, so this could simply have been the problem of finding the right actor, and that actor having the right connection with both the director and the story. The director also had to contend with the nature of the theatre space used. Every other production I’ve seen of this show has been proscenium based: the actors on a stage surrounded by a proscenium, separated from the audience. This production used the Crossly Theatre space, which is a “theatre in the round” space with the audience on three sides. Manchester used that space well, bringing the actors forward and interacting with the audience on all sides; she also used the entry and exit arches to good effect.

Musical direction was by Taylor Stephenson (FB), who did a fine job on the keyboard, and interacted well with Adams’ Cathy during the audition scenes.

On the production side: The scenic design by Nicholas Acciani (FB) had a number of bookcase boxes and other props in the back, and incorporated multiple small projection screens for which Nicholas Acciani (FB) provided the projection design and Laura Manchester (FB) provided the content. This mostly worked quite well, except in the “I Can Do Better Than That” scene. The problem there? The actors are facing forward, playing the scene as if they were driving in the direction of the front center audience. So, from the audience perspective, they are looking through the front windshield at the actors, and the projections should have been reflecting what is seen in the rear window. But instead, the projections were as if the car was driving in the direction the audience was facing. In other words: The view was as if that actors were driving the car in reverse without even looking over their rear shoulders. This was an unnecessary video disconnect that brought the audience out of the moment (or at least this roadgeek out of moment); it was also something easily avoidable simply by doing a 180° with the camera during the car filming (i.e., point it backwards).

But that was the only production-side flaw. The lighting design of Savannah Harrow (FB) and the sound design by Maddie Felgentreff (FB) both worked well, establishing mood and focusing attention. There was no credit for costume design: presumably this came from either the director or the actor’s closets. Adams’ costumes were great and fit the character well (plus she did some wonderful quick costume changes); Keyes’ costumes were often a bit informal for the type of author this character purported to be. Savannah Harrow (FB)  was the stage manager; the production was produced by Selah Victor (FB) and Laura Manchester (FB).

The Last 5 Years (which this production appears to write out as The Last Five Years, just as they change Kathy to Cathy) continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through August 5th, with remaining performances on July 30 at 2:30pm, August 4 at 8:00pm. August 5 at 2:30pm and 8:00pm. Tickets are a suggested donation starting at $10 and FREE to all 2017-2018 Season Subs. Visit their website www.actorsco-op.org or call the box office at 323-462-8460 to reserve your seat.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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). 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:

August starts with Brian Setzer at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) [although a little birdie … OK, Nance from Chromolume whom I saw at The Last Five Years, indicated the dates on that are shifting out to November]. There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Two Gentlemen of Verona - The Musical (FPAC)If you were to ask me what my absolute favorite musical was — that is, the one musical that was guaranteed to leave me happy and feeling good upon hearing the score — it would be the 1972 Tony-award winning Two Gentlemen of Verona written by William Shakespeare, adapted by John Guare and Mel Shapiro, with lyrics by John Guare and music by Galt MacDermot, originally presented by the New York Shakespeare Festival (now the Public Theatre). I saw it back in 1973 when I was just 13 at the Ahmanson, with Jonelle Allen, Clifton Davis (FB), Stockard Channing, and Larry Kert, and much of the original NY cast (including a young Katey Sagal). I hadn’t seen it since — aside from one production in Central Park in 2005, I can’t recall hearing of it being revived. I certainly can’t recall it being produced in Los Angeles since the original. So when my RSS feed from Goldstar alerted me to the fact that a theatre company I had never heard of — the Foothill Performing Arts Council (FB) — was producing the show and we were in the middle weekend of a three weekend production, the question was not “if”, but whether I could fit it in. After all, next weekend I already had two shows (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and On The Twentieth Century), and I already had a show on Saturday night of this weekend. Luckily, the show was nearby in San Fernando, so I got tickets for last night. Even though I had a slight headache, I’m very glad that I did. It was a delight to see my favorite show again, and as always, it left me very happy and with a smile on my face. I wish more companies would remember this show: it is sheer fun, multicultural, with a diverse cast great for schools, wonderful dance, pretty milkmaids, and a dog. It will live you loving it, and loving love.

If you aren’t familiar with Two Gentlemen of Verona, here’s the quick summary: TGOV is considered to be Shakespeare’s first play, and falls into the comedy category, because everyone falls in love at the end (as opposed to tragedies, where everyone dies). Valentine and Proteus are best friends. Proteus is infatuated with Julia, a local girl in Verona; Valentine scoffs at love and wants adventure in the big city, Milan. Valentine, with his servant Speed, heads off to Milan, while Proteus, helped by his servant Launce, courts Julia (and her servent Lucetta). But soon Proteus’s father sends him off to Milan, leaving Julia behind (and pregnant). She and Lucette dress up as men so they can travel to Milan and tell Proteus. In Milan, however, Valentine has found love in the form of Sylvia, the daughter of the Emperor of Milan. However, the Emperor has send Sylvia’s love, Eglamour, off to war, while arranging a marriage for Sylvia to a rich fool, Thurio. Sylvia detests Thurio, and enlists Valentine to save her. Proteus, who by now has forgotten Julia and is also smitten by Sylvia, learns of the plot and tells the Duke, who promptly sends Valentine off to war. Proteus then enlists two young men, Sebastian (nee Julia) and Cesario (nee Lucetta), to help court Sylvia. Eglamour returns to kidnap Sylvia, and everyone then joins in the hunt for Sylvia. Proteus discovers the lovers in the forest, but so does Valentine, and a sword fight ensues. When the dust has cleared, Proteus has discovered Sebastian’s reality and condition, and ends up marrying her. Eglamour is gone, and Valentine gets Sylvia. Thurio gets Lucetta, and Launce finds that a milkmaid from the field is better than a dog. Cupid is happy.

Two Gentlemen of Verona @ FPAC - CastThe musical version takes this story and just has fun with it. In an era of lily-white shows and lily-white casting, this show (like Hair before it) was gloriously multicultural. In the original cast, Proteus and Julia were Hispanic; Sylvia, Valentine, and the Duke were Black; Speed and Eglamour were Asian, Launce was old-Jewish, and Thurio and Lucetta were white. The casting of this production was similarly multicultural, although the hispanic emphasis of the leads was a bit less (the only place it made a difference was in the pronunciation, and truthfully, only people that had memorized the cast album like me would have noticed).

Under the direction of Timothy Jon Borquez (FB) (who seems to have been similarly enamored of this show), the action  was constant. He seemed to be emphasizing the fun of the production; there were few performers that had “painted on” faces — their happiness with this show was infectious to the audience. The direction brought out the playfulness in the characters — and this show is all about play. It is also worth noting that the material Borquez was working with — that is, his cast — were mostly younger actors (nary a resume on Backstage or Actors Access). They weren’t at the level of “fresh-outs” from high school, but they also weren’t seasoned Broadway professionals. Most are still theatre students. Broadly, there was a need for a bit more power in the voices. The raw talent overall was great and there was excellent vocal quality that shown through (as noted below) — just a bit more reach to the back of the auditorium was needed.

The best friends at the heart of this show were Proteus and Valentine, played by Steven Brogan (FB) and Jared Grimble (FB), respectively. Brogan had fun with Proteus (as the pictures show), really getting into the character. He had a wonderful voice that occasionally could use a little extra strength, but overall was a joy to listen to. He was great in numbers like “Symphony” and “What Does a Lover Pack?”, but needed a bit more anger behind “Calla Lily Lady”. We’ve seen Brogan before, it turns out, in the CSUN production of Bat Boy, The Musical. As Valentine, Grimble was similar: fun with the acting, believable in his character, and a remarkable voice. He was no Clifton Davis (but who is), but brought a wonderful style to numbers like “Love’s Revenge” and “Mansion”.

The object d’amour in Verona was Julia, played by Sarah Borquez (FB), and her servent, Lucetta, played by Hope English/FB. We may have seen Borquez before; her name comes up as being in a production of Into The Woods we saw at Nobel Middle School, but the years don’t fit the credits. In any case, Borquez was a strong performer and had a lovely singing voice. She just needs a bit more anger behind the loveliness in numbers like “I Am Not Interested in Love” and “What a Nice Idea”. English also had a great voice which astounded during “Land of Betrayal”.

Sylvia was portrayed by Beth Redwood/FB). Redwood had a strong voice from the opening number, and continued with that strength throughout the show. She also danced wonderfully, and captured the nature of Sylvia well. Her only weakness was costuming, which could have used a tad more support.

Proteus’ and Valentine’s servants, Launce and Speed, were portrayed by Wayne Remington/FB and Erin Arredondo/FB, respectively. Remington gets the slightly larger role here, getting to mug with the dog Gio (playing Crab), singing “Pearls”, and, at the end, getting to sing “Milkmaid”. Arredondo’s Speed mostly is a foil for Launce, but gets to join him in “Hot Lover”. Both appeared to be having quite a bit of fun with this production, which is always infectious.

The Duke of Milan was played by Dan White (FB). White’s role is mostly bombast, but he portrays that well and with joy. He gets one standout song: “Bring The Boys Back Home” (which is clearly a commentary on Nixon and the Vietnam War), which he handles with aplomb.

On the more comic ends of the spectrum are Cody Williams (FB) as Thurio and Mary Zastrow (FB) as Cupid. Williams captures the foolish and foppish nature of Thurio well, and brings that foolishness to the singing, especially in the song “Thurio’s Samba”. I was afraid they might need to censor the song, given the refrain (Boom-Chicka-Chicka, But-Fucka-Wucka-Wucka Cock-waka-waka Puss-wussy-wussy Wow) and the little ones in the audience, but they just slightly muddied the words and it went right over their heads. Zastrow was having the time of her life as Cupid. This isn’t a large singing role except for a few operatic numbers played for the humor, but as Cupid herself she got to mug away and just play.

Rounding out the named characters was Edgar Cardoso/FB‘s Eglamour. Cardoso played Eglamour more as fashion model/Fabio-ish, which is a little bit different than I remember the portrayl. He handled the number “Eglamour” well.

The ensemble consisted of Audrey Byer (FB), Cynthia Cordon/FB, Kasey Furginson/FB, Corazon Montanio (FB), Shannon Nail/FB, John Redwood/FB, Jackie Sanders/FB, Priscilla Nathalie Soltero/FB, Sienna Wescott/FB, and Van McDuff (FB) (who was omitted from the bios).  All were strong, having fun, and a joy to watch.

Music was provided by an off-stage band under the direction of Alex Borquez/FB. The band consisted of Alex Borquez/FB on Guitar, Bass, Drums, Percussion; Edgar Cardoso/FB on Keyboards (which is why there were no keyboards while he was on stage); Zachary Borquez/FB on Brass; Michael Fandetti/FB on Reeds; Desiree’ Deasy (FB) on Violin I and II (hows that again? four hands, two chins, you say); Rebecca Yeh (FB) on Cello, and Mairin Deasy on Viola.

The choreography was by Lindsey Lorenz (FB), assisted by Bella Briscoe (FB). It was all over the place, which means that it covered the stage well :-). Seriously, the dancing worked reasonably well. Nothing too complicated, but good enough that the ensemble numbers were fun to watch.

Turning to the technical side. No credits were provided for the traditional disciplines: set design, prop design, sound design, lighting design, fight choreography, and such. The presumption is that some came from the master-of-all-hats, the director, Timothy Jon Borquez (FB). In any case: the set was simple: some risers, some flats (behind-which the ensemble resided when off-stage), some vine-al and vinyl decoration. Enough to give a vague sense of place. There were various props, such as a bike, a boat, a trunk. I think here is where the limited budget of this production showed; I remember the stage show having much more in this area. Sound design was good, although a bit muffled and over-mic-ed in the beginning. The bird sounds were nice. Lighting was a different problem. The basic lights were good, but there needs to be better coordination between the actors and the lighting placement, especially the follow-spots and the follow-movers. Often actors were quite literally left in the dark. The fight choreography in Act II was reasonable but could have used with a dash more swash in the buckle. Costumes, designed by Yessica Armenta/FB (Costume Coordinator), presumably, were, well, Ren-Faire-ish which is what you expect as the RenFaire was set in roughly that time. There were a few faux paux: Sylvia’s hose line was visible, there were a few crotch buttons undone, and the more busty could use a bit more support so they didn’t bust out. But these were minor and didn’t distract from the story. Grace Gaither/FB was the stage manager, and Bianca Armenta/FB was the house manager.

Two Gentlemen of Verona – The Musical continues at the Foothill Performing Arts Council (FPAC) (FB) through August 6. A limited number of tickets are available through Goldstar; otherwise, tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets. Performances take place at the ArTES Theatre (FB) at the Cesar E. Chavez Academies (FB), 1001 Arroyo Street, San Fernando, 91340. Although the cast is a young and less seasoned, being primarily local theatre students, they have a large amount of raw talent. This talent, combined with their enthusiasm and good singing voices and the joyous nature of this little produced show, make this a joy to watch.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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). 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:

The last weekend of July proper brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts with Brian Setzer at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Continuing the clearing of some themed groups, here are some interesting histories that I’ve seen come across my feeds of late:

  • LA Theatre. Here’s a complete history of LA Theatre while standing on one foot.  OK, well, it’s not complete (there’s no mention of the LA Civic Light Opera, for example, or the other major large theatres that are no more, like the Huntington Hartford or the Shubert in Century City), but it is a great summary of the current situation with 99 seat theatres and how we got there.
  • Jewish Culinary Tradition. Here’s an article (and a discussion of a cookbook) related to a classic Jewish food tradition: pickling and preservation. A number of the recipes described sound really interesting .
  • Left Turns. If you’re like me, you get … annoyed … at the current crop of drivers that wait behind the limit line to make a left turn, and then do a sweeping arc that almost cuts off the car waiting on the cross street to turn (plus, it means one car per light). If you’re like me, you were taught to pull into the middle of the intersection, and then to do an almost 90 degree turn to go from left lane into left lane. Turns out, left turns have changed over time, and I’m old-school.
  • Old Subway Cars. When your light rail cars die, where do they go? Often, they are dumped in the ocean. Los Angeles did that with some of the Red and Yellow Cars. New York does it with its subway cars. But this isn’t pollution, and here are the pictures to prove it. Rather, it is creating reefs for oceanlife.
  • Tunnels Back In Service. An LADWP tunnel that dates back to 1915 is going back in service.The Los Angeles Daily News reports the tunnel is being refurbished to capture water runoff from the Sierras, which was inundated with snow this winter.The tunnel is part of a larger system, called the Maclay Highline, that runs from “the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in Sylmar to a group of meadows in Pacoima.” Once restored, the tunnel will carry a significant amount of water—130 acre-feet a day—to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water. (One acre-foot can supply two households with water for a year.)

As we’re talking history, here’s another interesting themed historical group, this time focused on air travel:

  • Lockheed L-1011. I remember back in the 1990s flying between LAX and IAD, when I could still occasionally get an L-1011. This was a tri-jet from Lockheed, and was nice and spacious with great overhead space. They have long since disappeared, but one recently took to the skies as part of a ferry to a museum. The refurbished plane will be used as part of a STEM teaching experience.
  • Boeing 747. The Queen of the Skies has been dethroned by someone skinnier and cheaper. The last few 747s for passenger service are coming off the line; airlines are phasing them out of the fleets. There will be a few more for freight service, but like the DC-10, they will be disappearing. The market can not really support such large loads — and the multiple engines and fuel it takes to ferry them. The Airbus A380 is facing similar problems. Airlines want at most two engines, with the planes packed to the gills.
  • Old Airports. Here’s an article on an interesting dilemma: What to do with old municipal airports, such as the one in downtown Detroit? (NYTimes article) Should they be restored for general aviation purposes, and perhaps the occasional commercial craft? Should their land be repurposed for more housing and manufacturing, as was done quite successfully with the old DEN (Denver Stapleton). Repurposing can be temping. Cities such as Detroit will soon run out of wide-open, city-owned spaces that can be offered to companies looking to build manufacturing or other commercial facilities here. A decomissioned airport can provide just the opportunity needed. But others say cities should reinvest in the airports, saying it could be an economic engine as well. (I’ll note similar questions exists for former Air Force bases as well — how is former George AFB working out, San Bernardino?) The article  notes that cities across the nation are reconsidering the value of municipal airports in the era of superjumbo jets and budget cuts. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimated the nation loses 50 public-use airports a year. Almost all are general-aviation airports, ones that cater primarily to owners of private planes, and most have operating deficits that the cities must make up for in their budgets. Detroit, for instance, faces a $1.3 million operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year for Coleman Young, which averages just 30 landings a day. The main airport for the region is Detroit Metropolitan, a Delta Air Lines hub about 20 miles west of the city limits.

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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Peter Pan (Cabrillo Music Theatre)Cabrillo UserpicHatred of Women. As I start writing this, news of the new Dr. Who has been released, and mysogyny is rampant in the comment sections on the Internet. I mean, Hillary Clinton was one thing, but a female Time Lord.

Get over it. Grow up!

The reason I bring the subject up at all, however, is because I saw a show last night that made me think about a deep seated hatred of women — mothers in particular — from another boy that refused to grow up. I am, of course, talking about Peter Pan (and I don’t mean the peanut butter). Peter’s hatred of mothers — his deep seated mistrust of them and desire to inflict regular pain on them by stealing their children — has been brought to mind regarding this story every since I saw the Blank Theatre production of Peter Pan – The Boy That Hated Mothers. That made me look at the boy quite differently. Gone were the days of innocence brought upon by the famous Mary Martin TV production of the musical.

However, until last night, I actually can’t recall having seen the actual stage musical … on stage. I’d seen the origin story of the story, of course, as well as the origin story of the author. I’d see both the 1960 original TV version and the recent politically-corrected and lengthened remake. But the actual stage version…. I hadn’t seen it. When Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) announced their season I was intrigued — and I wondered if in face I would see the original, or whether the updated TV version was now the only version licensed.

The answer: It was the original version being licensed with only one PC change (the word “redskins” was dropped in favor of “warriors”), meaning the problematic portrayals (i.e., stereotypical “Indians” vs. respectful “Native Americans”) were in the hands of the director.

And my verdict? What did I think of it?

The production itself was spectacular. The performances. The singing. The dancing. The theatricality. The fun. The spectacle. The magic. It was all there. There were scenes and songs I didn’t remember; it was different from yet similar to the 1960 broadcast. It erased the problematic memories of the recent Live! version.

But… But…

The story flaws remain. The presentation still hearkens to a level of stereotypical Indians — braves, savages, and war-paint. The presentation still is based around a child that has some deep psychological issues. In addition to, you guessed it, Peter Pan syndrome, there is that resentment towards mothers and adults. But you know, I see those things only when I have my “adult” hat on. Taking it off; being a child again — this remains a magical fun musical. Alas, the world forces us to grow up. But we can be children, and sometimes set aside our problems, when we go to a large building, often in a central part of a city, and sit together in the dark with lots of other people, all of whom have paid a great deal of money to be there, and just… imagine.

Oh, and for those that can’t get over the fact that Peter Pan, a boy, is played by a girl: GET OVER IT. Just think of Peter Pan as the ultimate Time Lord.

At this point, I would normally give you a synopsis of the story. But, c’mon, who doesn’t know the story of Peter Pan? A boy who refuses to grow up, who together with a fairy who loves the boy in a way that fairies  shouldn’t love boys, kidnaps the children of a family. He takes them, after performing some mindwashing, to an island where they get to play with poison and swords and fight pirates, keeping them out of communication with their parents. He fights a local Native American tribe, and after saving their leader, makes friends with the tribe. He then refuses to listen to a voice of sanity, lets a fairy get poisoned to the point of near death (only to be saved by breaking the fourth wall), and lets innocent children be captured and threatened with death. He then fights the pirates, wins, throws the captain overboard, and then burdens a family in their moment of relief at getting their children back with a significant number of additional mouths to feed. Oh, he then comes back years later and takes away the daughter of the woman he once called “mother”.

You thought the story was something different? Perhaps this?

Seriously, though, to give credit where credit is due: Peter Pan is the 1954 musical version based on the play by Sir J. M Barrie, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and music by Moose Charlap, with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and additional music by Jule Styne, and original choreography by Jerome Robbins, with proceeds from the licensing still going to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.  With those credits, it isn’t a bad show at all. I just pull your leg — perhaps overly so, which is in the spirit of the show.

Peter Pan Cast (Cabrillo)The Cabrillo production of Peter Pan is simply outstanding. Under the direction of Yvette Lawrence (FB) and with choreography by Cheryl Baxter (FB), magic is created by the cast and crew. These production leads knew how to bring out the best in their cast, how to keep and make the playfulness in the story come out on stage, and how, simply to have fun.

In the lead position as Peter Pan, Carly Bracco (FB) has fun with the role. To my eyes, she was quite a boyish, impish, and strong Peter. I never cared for the lilt of Mary Martin, and have only a vague recollection of Sandy Duncan. Allison Williams was far too reserved in her portrayal. Bracco captures the right amount of boy — perhaps tomboy — in the character. Playful, petulant, flighty. All captured well, combined with a very strong singing voice and great dance moves.

Playing against her as Mr. Darling / Captain Hook was Gregory North (FB). As Mr. Darling, the role calls for a modicum of measured bluff and bravado. But as Hook, ah, as Hook, that is where North shines. This is a role that calls for measured and controlled over-acting, of chewing scenery and the pirate crew around you, of, in essence, playing as strong at the stereotype of a pirate as one can. North nails that person perfectly, and combines it with marvelous singing and performance. He is a delight to watch.

The Darling children are portrayed by Sarah Miller-Crews (FB) as Wendy, Micah Meyers as John, and Luke Pryor as Michael. All are spectacular. I’d like to particularly call out Miller-Crews lovely voice on “Distant Melody,” and Pryor’s remarkable dancing in Ugg-a-Wugg.

I noted earlier that, unlike the 1954 version, the character Liza does not come to Neverland. Perhaps that is because, similar to Mr. Darling, they cast the actor in a different role in Neverland. In this case, Brittany Bentley (FB), who portrays Liza, also portrays Tiger Lily. As with Hook, it is in Neverland that Bentley shines.  This time, it isn’t by overacting — it is by dance. From the moment of her Cirque de Soleil entrance as Tiger Lily thought her amazing dances throughout, she is just a joy to watch.

Turning now to some of the various named ensemble types, starting with the pirates. These are great comic roles, and the team just excels at them — particularly Justin Michael Wilcox (FB)’s Smee. From the Mezzanine, where I was sitting, it was hard to tell them apart, but there was loads of play, athleticism, gymnastics, and just great dance and fun.

Turning to the Lost Boys: As a group they were spectacular. Strong singing, strong dancing, strong gymnastics, and most importantly, strong play.

Lastly, Angela Baumgardner (FB) played Mrs. Darling/Adult Wendy (and presumably the narrator).

What distinguished a Cabrillo production from any other production is the large and outstanding ensembles they assemble, especially in the quality of their dance. This show was no exception. The ensemble consisted of: Claudia Baffo (FB) [Indian]; Mackinnley Balleweg [Lost Boy]; John Paul Batista (FB) [Indian]; Brigid Benson (FB) [Indian]; Aaron Camitses (FB) [Twin #1]; Ethan Daniel Corbett (FB★; FB) [Starkey]; Luca de la Peña [Lost Boy]; Natalie Esposito (FB) [Indian]; Shannon Gerrity (FB) [Twin #2]; Kevin Gilmond (FB) [Cecco]; Veronica Gutierrez (FB) [Indian, Dance Captain]; Diane Huber (FB) [Mermaid]; Evin Johnson (FB)  [Indian]; Ty Koeller (FB) [Indian]; Joey Langford (FB) [Tootles]; Sharon Logan (FB) [Indian]; Calista Loter (FB) [Indian]; Natalie MacDonald (FB) [Lost Boy]; Missy Marion (FB) [Nana, Crocodile]; Nathaniel Mark (FB) [Lost Boy]; Andrew Metzger (FB) [Noodler, Scottish Pirate]; Alyssa Noto (FB) [Lost Boy]; Charles Platt (FB) [Turkish Pirate]; Tanner Redman (FB) [Bill Jukes]; Shanta’ Marie Robinson (FB) [Nibs]; Brandon Root (FB) [Algerian Pirate]; Jessie Sherman (FB) [Curly]; Anthony Sorrells (FB) [Indian]; Landen Starkman (FB) [Pirate]; Gabriel Taibi (FB) [Slightly]; Ashley Kiele Thomas (FB) [Indian]; Taylor Lynda Thomas (FB) [Los Boy]; Abigail May Thompson [Jane]; Riley Way [Lost Boy];  and Jater Webb (FB).

No credit was provided for Tinkerbell. I preferred the days when they had to be imaginative with her, instead of playing confuse-a-cat with a laser pointer.

Understudies: Brittany Bentley (FB) – Peter Pan; Ethan Daniel Corbett (FB★; FB)  – Mr. Darling/Captain Hook;  Natalie MacDonald (FB) – Wendy Darling; Nathaniel Mark – John Darling; Taylor Lynda Thomas (FB) – Michael Darling; Diane Huber (FB) – Mrs. Darling.

Music was provided by the Cabrillo Music Theatre Orchestra, under the musical direction of Dan Redfield/FB, who served as conductor. The orchestra consisted of Gary Rautenberg (FB) [Flute, Piccolo, Bariton Sax]; Ian Dahlberg (FB) [Oboe; English Horn; Flute 2]; Darryl Tanikawa (FB) [Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Sax]; Bill Barrett [Trumpet I, Piccolo Trumpet]; Mike Davis [Trumpet II]; Michael Fortunato (FB) [Trumpet III]; Jennifer Bliman (FB) [Horn]; June Satton (FB) [Trombone]; Sharon Cooper [Violin]; Rachel Coosaia (FB) [Cello]; Chris Kimbler (FB) [Keyboard I]; Tom Griffin (FB) [Keyboard II]; Lloyd Cooper (FB) [Keyboard III]; Elaine Litster [Harp]; Shane Harry/FB [Double String Bass]; and Alan Peck [Set Drums, Percussion]. The orchestra was produced by Tanikawa Artists Management LLC.

Turning to the production side of the show: The scenery was designed by John Iacovelli (FB), and was provided by McCoy Rigby Entertainment (FB) (together with the costumes (designed by Shigeru Yaji), and any props that weren’t designed by Alex Choate (FB).  Add to this the hair and wig design of Jim Belcher. The total package worked quite well, especially in the costuming for the lost boys and the pirates, and the hiding of the flying harnesses. As for the costumes of the Indians, well, lets just say they fit the stereotype well, but in this area this show is not known for cultural sensitivity. Lighting and sound design were by CMT regulars Christina L. Munich (FB) [lighting] and Jonathan Burke (FB) [sound]. Flying effects were by Zfx, Inc (FB), who also win the award for best bio. After all, “They don’t wake up and put their pans on one leg at a time like the other guys. They wrap themselves in kilts and stride boldly out into the world.” Other production credits: Jack Allaway, Technical Director; Talia Krispel (FB), Production Stage Manager; Richard Storrs (FB), Marketing Director; David Elzer/Demand PR, Press Representative; and Will North (FB), Managing Director.

There is one more weekend to see Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) [and one more week to see it as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), see below]. Tickets are available at the Cabrillo Box Office Online; or you can call the Kavli box office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

To explain the last parenthetical: At the beginning of last night’s show, Managing Director Will North announced that Cabrillo Music Theatre was no more. It wasn’t going away, no shows were changing; the upcoming season was unchanged. However, they were changing their name to 5 Star Theatricals. The reason for this was unclear. Was it to disassociate themselves from the horrid Theatre League productions, or the financial problems of the past? Probably not. The thinking seems to be more that it is to broaden their producing horizons to plays and other events, and to possibly increase their geographic reach (touring 5-Star productions on a regional circuit, perhaps). Whatever the reason, I think the timing is bad, especially after they printed up all the specialty material with the Cabrillo logo. The name has loads of goodwill; just go to Cabrillo Theatricals and be done with it. That’s my 2c. Alas, they don’t have a website up for the new name.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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). 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 weekend brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts with Brian Setzer at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast (you can contribute to the production here). The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a hold for Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), and HOLDs for Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Ruthie and Me (Actors Co-Op)Everything has a beginning. In the case of musicals, long gestation periods often begat workshops, which begat more workshops as a musical is honed into the eventual stage production that one sees. One of the companies to which we subscribe, Actors Co-op (FB), does this through their summer series Actors Co-Op Too!: a series of short runs to explore new plays, grow new directors and new actors, and season the acting muscles of existing company members.

Yesterday, we saw the second production of this year’s Too! series: Ruthie and Me. Ruthie and Me was written 20 years ago by book writer and lyricist Karen Wescott (FB), with music by Marylou Dunn (FB), but it had never seen a full production (although it appears there was a staged reading at some point at the Pasadena Playhouse, and possibly a church variant of the show). Director Natalie Hope MacMillan (FB★, FB) worked with the authors to develop a streamlined revision, with the result being this first staged workshop production. (Note: This doesn’t appear to be the first time the author and director have worked together; I found this while attempting to find the author’s bio online)

Ruthie and Me tells the story of the biblical character Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth.  Coming from the Jewish tradition, I was aware of the importance of the story: Ruth is the first recorded instance of a convert to Judaism and provides the model for Jewish conversion; she is also traditionally in the lineage of King David. However, I recalled from my Jewish Studies courses at UCLA that Ruth had some additional implications within Christianity (see here and here or here, for example). Essentially, the Jewish interpretation focuses on the conversion and lineage, and the Christian interpretation focuses on redemption and the parallels between Ruth’s son and Jesus. My fear was that, given the mission of the company, the Christalogical aspects would be too heavy-handed (i.e., sufficient to make this non-Christian audience member uncomfortable). I’m pleased to say that nothing along this aspect struck me during the show, although there was a little bit more emphasis on the redemption aspect than the conversion aspect.

As this was, essentially, a workshop production, there is the written understanding that this is a work in progress — not a finished “Broadway ready” piece. I would essentially agree with that: I think the piece is a good beginning, but needs some work along the path. In the spirit of that, I hope that the following comments will help it along the way. In terms of the story itself, limiting to the specific Biblical concept and age is understandable given the nature of the author, but rarely have such stories succeeded. If a way could be found to transport the bones of the story to a different setting (as is often done with Shakespeare), it could provide some additional insights on the acceptance of a convert in a closed and insular society, and the redemptive power of an open heart. Conversion is a powerful metaphor these days: whether it is conversion and suspicion of the foreigner in a larger society (witness what we have seen with refugees and foreign immigrants), or conversion and acceptance in terms of gender. There could be some very interesting parallels to explore there.

In terms of the writing itself: there were some language concerns. Specifically, there was use of both Yiddish and Hebrew and moving back and forth between the two (with the typical differences in pronunciation). But a larger concern was why the Yiddish was used. It wasn’t used as part of the context of the time, or to create the feeling of Yiddishkeit community, but rather for the humor of the words in the Jewish context of the play (perhaps we only know a character is Jewish if they spout Yiddish?).  If that is the intent, there needs to be a deeper way of conveying that message without dropping to the stereotypical. As the musical is shaped further, ask yourself: Why are they speaking Yiddish. As I write that, the phrase and role that comes to mind is dramaturg. Enlisting such a person to help in the shaping might resolve those issues.

Musically, the show comes off as … a church play or cantata. It is predominately sung through, and a chorus is often used to provide exposition along the way as opposed to the dramatic scenes illustrating the story. The music from song to song tends to have a similar tonality and feel; the only song that truly stands out is “Life After a Certain Age”. So unless the intent is to take this along the lines of Andrew Lloyd Webber or a Lin Manuel Miranda, an effort needs to be made to craft this more along traditional musical lines. The music can use a bit more variety in tempo and style as well. There were also points where I got the feeling that the rhyming dictionary was handy during the process. In other words, the rhymes felt like they were there because the lyricist though this rhyme is good — let’s add a few more, as opposed to letting the lyrics serve the story and advancing it forward.

If you are interpreting the comments above as my thinking this was a bad show, think again. I thought it was a good show and a great musical telling of the Story of Ruth. But as it currently stands, it might only have a life on the liturgical stage. If it wants something more than that, then further seasoning and adjustment is required.

The performances (under the direction of Natalie Hope MacMillan (FB★, FB)), for the most part, were reasonably good. In the lead positions were Lori Berg (FB) as Naomi and Christina Gardner (FB) as Ruth. Berg gave a strong performance as Naomi — conveying humor, singing well, capturing the Jewish nature of the character, and in general, being very enjoyable to watch. Gardner needs some more seasoning (as is understandable for a Too! performance): I liked her acting and dancing quite a bit, but she does need to work a bit more on the singing. Specifically, she needs a bit more power behind the voice to be able to compete and compare with other actors on stage, and there were a number of notes where I got the impression she was reaching a bit out of her range or was slightly off. These are all correctable with a little training, and I think the underlying basics and talent are there — so I view this like the larger show: this is a strong start, and I hope to see her again, improved, in a future production.

In what I would characterize as the second tier of importance were Darrell Philip (FB)’s Boaz and Tracey Bunka‘s Sapphira. I really liked Philip’s Boaz: he exuded a strong warm personality, and one could easily see why Ruth was attracted to him even given the difference is ages. He also sang very nicely. Bunka’s strength was in singing in movement — she had a very strong voice that stood out and defined the songs she was in, and was a joy to listen to.

Rounding out the cast in other smaller named roles and ensemble positions were: Tamarah Ashton (FB) [Ensemble]; David Buckland (FB) [Ensemble, Baruch]; Hannah Dimas (FB) [Ensemble, Orpah]; Wayne Keller III (FB) [Ensemble]; Perry Hart [Ensemble, Nathan]; Carly Lopez (FB) [Woman 2]; Lisa Rodriguez (TW) [Woman 1]; Karlee Squires (FB) [Ensemble]; and Priscilla Taylor (FB) [Ensemble]. All were strong and performed and sang well. About the only weakness was one of the male ensemble members — there were two times where he had line trouble. I’m writing that off to this being a workshop and having only three performances (and thus, likely an equivalently light rehearsal period).

Music was provided by side-stage accompanist Jeff Gibson (who it turns out is connected to a family we’re good friends with). We hadn’t seen Jeff in ages, so it was a treat to see him (plus his dinner recommendation worked out great).

Actors Co-Op Too! productions have minimal budgets and sets. There was no credit for scenic design or anything like that. Lighting design was by Dan Corrigan (FB). Choreography was by Jorie Janeway (FB).  Derek Copenhaver (FB) was the stage manager. Ruthie and Me was produced by Carly Lopez (FB).

Alas, Ruthie and Me had only three performances: one on Friday, July 14, and two on Saturday, July 15, so you missed your chance to see it. However, there is one more Actors Co-Op Too! production, The Last 5 Years, in two weeks, and Actors Co-Op (FB) has a great 2017-2018 season. Visit their website for more information.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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:

After this show, we ran to Thousand Oaks for Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts with Brian Setzer at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast (you can contribute to the production here). The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a hold for Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), and HOLDs for Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Th Voysey Inheritance (Actors Co-Op)What would you do if you discovered that your local bank was cheating people? Oh, it was paying interest and making loans and such, but if all the depositors came and wanted their money, they would discover it was all a house of cards, and no one could be made whole. If it was 2008, you’ld likely be OK — after all, that’s why we have deposit insurance. Close the bank, pay the depositors, and sell any remaining assets to another bank.

But suppose this was in the time before deposit insurance? The turn of the 20th Century, in fact — 1904. Suppose it was the family bank — the one keeping your lifestyle afloat? Would you just take the hit and liquidate then — paying people pennies on the dollar, and making some destitute? Or would you keep the sham going on the hope that you could recover and pay everyone back?

That’s the question at the heart of The Voysey Inheritance, a play by Harley Granville-Barker adapted by David Mamet, which is finishing up its run at Actors Co-op (FB) today, part of the Actors Co-Op’s Actors Co-Op Too! summer series — a series of short runs to explore new plays, grow new directors and new actors, and season the acting muscles of existing company members.

The Voysey Inheritence explores a financial dilemma encountered by the Voysey Family in Edwardian England.  Mr. Voysey is the head of a financial institution in London, inherited from his father. His son and partner, Edward, discovers that his father has been pilfering money from client accounts, paying them any interest and payments, but otherwise speculating with their capital, skimming any profits. He has been continuing the scheme with the hopes of making thing right, but this offends the son’s sensibilities. Further, the father has been using the funds to support other family member’s financial needs: son Hugh’s art, son Booth’s position, daughter Ethel’s dowrey, and so forth. When the father dies and the son inherits the institution, what is to be done? Especially, what is to be done after he discovers that most of the family knew of the sham, and kept it going to preserve his position? Does he liquidate, does he try and make the smaller accounts whole, does he try to make everyone whole? And what will he do when it all comes crashing down — as it eventually must.

As this show started, I didn’t know what to make of this? An odd Edwardian parlor drama? But as the story unfolded, I got caught up in it. It is surprisingly timely, especially given the aforereferenced situation we faced in 2008, as well as many of the financial charades undertaken or encouraged by many of today’s leaders.

Of course, it helped that there were top flight performances under the direction of veteran stage director David Atkinson (FB). That’s pretty amazing if you harken back to what the Actors Co-Op Too! series is and what that likely means: minimal rehearsal, newer actors, no budget — acting for the love of the craft. Atkinson and his team worked together to craft an excellent performance. Yes, there was the occasional minor line pause that became noise, but on whole it was excellent in character personification and intensity

In what I would characterize as the lead position was Thomas Chavira (FB) as Edward Voysey, who had perhaps the shortest bio in the program. Based on that and his resume, a new-ish actor who gave a very strong performance in this role. He brought the right level of hesitancy, honesty and passion to this role. Also strong was McKensie Garber (FB) as Alice Maitland, his cousin / fiancee (yes, I found that a bit odd as well). McKensie is another new actor, recently moved to LA after a stint as Miss Missouri. My eye was first drawn to her face, but her performance won me over quickly with a great sense of fun underneath the surface — a sense that made the ending of the play additionally sweet. It turns out we also had fun talking with her mom before the show, but I didn’t make the connection between the actor on stage and actual person until I looked at the program at intermission.

The patriarch of the family, Mr. Voisey, was played by Townsend Coleman (FB). He only appears is the first half of the production, but gave a strong performance in his interactions with Chavira’s Edward.

The other members of the Voysey family were played by Nancy Atkinson as Mrs. Voysey, E. K. Dagenfield (FB) as Peacey / Trenchard Voysey, Christian Edsall (FB) as Major Booth Voysey, Matthew Grondin as Hugh Voysey, Jorie Janeway (FB) as Honor Voysey, and Michelle Parrish (FB) as Ethel Voysey. Ms. Atkinson played the matriarch well; a small role where the primary characteristic was being hard of hearing. I SAID, BEING HARD OF HEARING. Dagenfield, who is a regular dialect coach at Co-Op, handled the one small scene as Trenchard in the 2nd scene well, but shone as Peacey in the 3rd scene in his interaction with Edward over a request for money. Edsall was strong as Maj. Booth in the bulk of the play after a weak introduction in the first scene (how the character is written, not the actor). Grondin’s Hugh was also stronger in the second act, especially in his interactions with Edward and the rest of the family. His character, Hugh, gets some of the most insightful lines about the corrupting power of money. Also, for whatever reason, Grondin’s photo was seemingly left out of the actor montage photo that Co-Op tweeted and I incorporated into the image for this post. Parrish’s Ethel is written very shallowly, but what characterization is there is captured well by Parrish. That leaves Janeway’s Honor (a name you never see these days). She has a very interesting characterization — initially capturing a stiffish-enigma, but bringing out some interesting depth as the play progresses — the one character to whom, perhaps, money never meant anything in particular with family being more important. A small role, but one that is very telling about the position of women in Edwardian society.

Rounding out ensemble was Bruce Ladd (FB) as George Booth and Tim Hodgin (FB) as Reverend Evan Colpus. Ladd gave a particularly strong performance during the second act, bringing out a lot of fire and emotion.

Being an Actors Co-Op Too! production, the production team was small: Director David Atkinson (FB) doing double and triple duty as the sound and lighting designer, actor Thomas Chavira (FB) doing double-duty as the producer, and Thien/Tintin Nguyen/FB as the stage manager. Kudos to whomever did the props on the budget for the excellent choice and taste in fountain pens: I could see a Montblanc, a Cross, and a Retro. I just happen to be a fountain pen aficionado, and it’s a nice choice (and one that no one else in the audience would likely notice, even if I do prefer Shaeffers).

The last performance of The Voisey Inheritence is today at 2:30pm. The performance is free, although a $10 or more donation is requested from non-subscribers. Information on the location may be found at the Actors Co-op (FB) website.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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:

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). Next weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) if the tickets go up on Goldstar; otherwise, we may do Measure for Measure as part of free Shakespeare from the Independent Shakespeare Company (FB) in Griffith Park.. The third weekend brings  Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB) followed by Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast (you can contribute to the production here). The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB).

I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a hold for Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), and HOLDs for Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Transition (HFF17)userpic=fringeOur last day of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) was also musical free. The day brought us a sandwich: two excellent shows (Transition and Bachelorette by Leslye Headland) with something barely palatable (Khant Hotel) in the middle.

***

Unlike our two previous Trump-related outings (Zombie Clown Trump and Trump in Space), Transition (non-HFF website), written by Ray Richmond (FB), is a somewhat serious voice of protest. It was written by a journalist fed up with the results of the November election. He sensed that there was both dramatic and comedic potential that explored the first closed door meeting between President Obama and President-Elect Trump after the election, especially given the personal history between the two men. The result was a semi-serious two-person show that actually opened well before the Fringe (back in March 2017), and that reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows that was resurrected as a staged reading series, Meeting of Minds, or an excellent theological exploration called Discord: The Gospel According to Jefferson, Darwin, and Tolstoy (JDT Project). There was, however, one yuuuge difference between Meeting of Minds and the JDT Project and Transition: in the first two, there was more than one intellectual in the room. In Transition, there is one intellectual and a narcissistic businessman.

The discussion in Transition is wide ranging, and attempts to cover many of the serious topics that a President-Elect would need to deal with, from the Middle East to Healthcare to the role of a President to proper national security to …. you get the idea. President Obama diligently wants to brief Trump on all these issues so he will be prepared. Trump, however, wishes there was more gold in the White House. He wants to rearrange the walls to make the rooms larger, more like Mar-A-Lago. He is more interested in trotting out campaign rhetoric and right-wing talking lines. The only way President Obama can get him to listen at all is to play into his game and to his ego, until the President has enough. It is really a great telling example of the different in temperament between the two men. Although I too am dismayed that such a man was taking over the office of President, I found this fascinating in a “What have we done?” kind of way.

The two lead actors — Joshua Wolf Coleman (FB) as President Obama and Harry S. Murphy (FB) as President-Elect Trump — may not look 100% like the persons they are portraying. But they are close enough, and they have the mannerisms and the voice down sufficiently to be believable as them. As the play goes on, your disbelief is suspended and they become the two men. It is a remarkable portrayal. Trevor Alkazian (FB) provides a supporting role as Randall, the White House intern/assistant.

This is a play that I strongly recommend that people see — whether in the Fringe incarnation or subsequent public or private productions. The message it conveys about the man this country elected in 2017 is chilling in an absurdist way, because, indeed, absurdity is in the Oval Office. For anyone that loves Meeting of Minds, for anyone that loved JDT, for anyone that loves great political dialogue — this is the play for you.

At the conclusion of the play, the rapper Dylan presents an original rap song, “The Divide”, that summarizes where this country is today — divided.

Transition was directed by Lee Costello (FB), who kept the pace quick and the characters believable. This was supported by Kate Bergh (FB)’s costumes and Fritz Davis‘s videos. Shelia Dorn designed Mr. Trump’s wig. Other production credits: David B. Marling (FB) – Sound Design; Kiff Scholl (FB) – Graphic Design; Erica Lawrence (FB) – Stage Manager; Danny Crisp (FB) – Running Crew. Transition was originally produced by Racquel Lehrman (FB) and Theatre Planners.

The Fringe production of Transition has concluded its run. I’m sure there will be future productions, so visit the play’s website for more information.

***

Khant Hotel (HFF17)Our second play, Khant Hotel, had such potential. The description of the show had a lot of promise: “Taking a vacation and staying at a hotel should be a luxury experience. Trying to maximize profit, Ka Hotels have taken a page from the airlines’ customer service handbook. This is the story of Livia’s stay at a Ka hotel. The poor treatment she receives leads her to seek the hotel’s owner, Mary. Persuaded to change the way the hotel operates, Mary breaks away from Ka Hotels. Mary’s new Khant Hotel treats Livia better. Her stay is more enjoyable, until it’s over.”

The promise of this show was dashed, however, from the beginning where there was a scene about a meek female engineer who must pass the “Pro E” exam in 24 hours, with no preparation, or lose her job. Unfortunately for the author (who was also the writer, director, and lead actress), Lindsey Blackman, both my wife and I are engineers, we know about the process of becoming a Professional Engineer, and we know numerous female engineers — none of whom are as meek and as milquetoast as the character portrayed on stage. Further, we are both of the belief that female engineers must be portrayed as a noble calling™, something that encourages other women to come into the field. This portrayal did none of that. The most galling aspect, however, is that the author, seemingly has an engineering degree and should have known better. In fact, her day job was once as an engineer and she should have known what PEs are like. Hint: Try talking to some of the wonderful folks at the Society of Women Engineers. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the folks behind the sponsoring organization for the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security)

But that wasn’t the only problem with this show. The premise itself was simplistic and problematical. The notion was that hotels would start charging like airlines for every little service: fee for a key, fee for the elevator, fee for the stairs, three in a cramped room, unexpected bumping for higher priority passengers. A reasonable extrapolation, but the execution was poor. Furthermore, the production was poor. There was far too much on the stage, far too much rearrangement — so much so, that actors were bumping into props all the time. Sight lines were blocked by props and stage pieces. This production really needs a lot of work.

The actors did the best with the material they had. In addition to Lindsey Blackman in the lead, the acting team consisted of Jill Czarnowski (FB), Jennifer Wilson, John Siscel (FB), Jessica Dowdeswell (FB★, FB), Thang, Alex Dorcean (FB), Robin Stepanek (FB) and Cody Shampine. I’d give you character names, but the only form of “program” was a postcard with a picture of the actors. Hint: If one of the purposes of Fringe is to get seen and get exposure, than it is critical to respect your actors by providing their information to audience members.

The production was directed by Lindsey Blackman. The Fringe page gives no other credits, such as stage manager.

Sunday’s production was the last performance of Khant Hotel. About the only thing good that I can say about the piece is that it wasn’t at the level of Robot Monster – The Musical. There was at least a reasonable idea in Khant Hotel, however poorly executed. In the right hands, that seed of an idea could have been turned into something much more humorous and realistic. Alas, poor Robot Monster didn’t even have that.

***

Bachlorette by Leslye Headland (HFF17)Our final Fringe production was Bachelorette, written by Leslye Headland. This was another show where we were drawn in by the Fringe description: “Ten years out of high school, Regan, Gena and Katie convene in the luxurious bridal suite of their old friend, Becky, the night before her wedding in New York City. Fueled by jealousy and resentment, the girls embark on a night of debauchery that goes from playfully wasted to devastatingly destructive. Their old fears, unfulfilled desires and deep bonds with each other transform a prenuptial bender into a night they’ll never forget. A wicked black comedy about female friendship and growing up in an age of excess.”

As the production started, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. There were a bunch of beautiful (at least in looks) women, downing liquor, trashing personal property of a friend, snorting coke, smoking pot, popping pills…. while at the same time insulting their “fat” friend who was about to get married to a very rich man. In fact, much of the play was setting up the conflict between these women, and demonstrating how pointless and meaningless their lives had become. There was really nothing important between them; even their friendships were discarded when it wasn’t convenient.

Yet, when I was just about to write the play off  and just enjoy the eye candy, it suddenly acquired a remarkable meaning and depth — in fact, a depth that made this one of the best things I saw during Fringe. At the end, the true friendships were discovered, inner strengths were found, and destructive personalities were exposed for what they are. The characters who were made fun of for the bulk of the play or dismissed turned out to be the real people, and the popular folks from high school days — well, they got their comeuppance.

This play formed an interesting trilogy with the other plays with similar themes — The ABCs and Reasons to be Pretty — demonstrating what true beauty is, what true strength is. It isn’t always what society views as conventional; it isn’t always the popular image of what is beautiful. It is the inner strength, the inner confidence, the whole person. It is a beauty that the lead in Khant Hotel should have possessed, but didn’t.

The performances in this were top-notch. Our popular drug-using girls were played by Skyler Patton (FB) as Gena, Julia Coulter (FB) as Regan, and Amy Huckabay (FB) as Katie. Their dates were Steven Cohen/FB as Joe and Jalil Houssain (FB) as Jeff. The bride-to-be, Becky, was played by Amie Hobson (FB). I especially enjoyed the performances of Coulter, Huckabay, and Cohen; they were just remarkable.

The production was directed by Matt Chupack (FB), with co direction by Skyler Patton (FB). Costumes were by Mallory Evelyn (FB). Lighting and sound design was by Stacey Abrams, who was also likely the stage manager. Bachelorette was produced by Skyler Patton (FB) and Julia Coulter (FB).

Unlike most Fringe shows, you haven’t missed this show. It was chosen to be part of the Fringe Encore series, and will have two more performances in July. Information should be available on the show’s ticketing page.

***

And that’s it — that’s Fringe 2017. We saw a total of 17 shows over the month of June. What was the best? I think it was a toss up between the last plays: Bachelorette, The ABCs, Reasons to be Pretty, and Transition. Also strong were the two reviews, Slightly Off Broadway and Hello Again. My wife’s favorite was Conversations ’bout the Girls. All in all, a good Fringe.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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:

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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The ABCs (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe evening of our penultimate day of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) changed our focus from musicals to dramas / dramadies / comedies. We started in the early evening with  The ABCs (FB) at the Dorie Theatre at the Complex, and continued the theme with Reasons to be Pretty.

***

The description of The ABCs (FB) in the Fringe catalog is what caught my eye: “The ABCs explores fantasy and the imagination in the lives of teenage girls. Navigating the realm between childhood and adult hood, teenage girls are forced to give up the trappings of the young, like imaginary friends. They are thrust in a new, technologically unimaginable adult world filled with fantastical idols like the Kardashians. How can we ask teenagers to give up one fantasy for another? What happens when fantasy, imagination, and social media blend? How do teenagers navigate the world today when their “stories” can only be ten-seconds and will literally disappear on apps like Snapchat? The ABCs follows one girl, Dakota, on her quest for achievable perfection and fantasy fulfilled in a world that tells her that this is possible.”

The subject matter discussed here — the impact on teens of social media — was very timely. A Gen Z teen has recently joined our household — one who is obsessed with her phone, obsessed with Snapchat, and who is obsessed with looks and makeup. Hence, the subject here was appropos, and would provide an opportunity for all of us to learn, and to do what theatre does best: stimulate discussion.

The center of this story is a group of girls called “The ABCs” who are just about to graduate from high school. These girls — Adriana, Bella, and Caity — are obsessed with fashion and the fashion icons of the Internet. Their goal is to be perfect, and each has gone so far as to ensure they have the right clothes, the right makeup, and most importantly, the right body, for that perfection. They want to be “10”s, and if that means having breast augmentation, butt augmentation, or lip augmentation — well, that’s the price of perfection and who wouldn’t want to be perfect as the media wants you to be. Into this group comes Dakota as a provisional member. The ABCs like her: she has a great Instagram, she posts the right stuff online, follows the right fashion idols. However, she’s a new transfer student with an unknown past, and more importantly, she’s an “8”. For her to be admitted to full membership, she needs a better bust. Dakota’s best friend, Margot, agrees. She ultimately convinces Dakota that she must get the surgery and be perfect. There’s only one problem: money. Whereas the other girls had found various, umm, ways to get their enhancements funded, Dakota’s father refuses. But Dakota is convinced she must have the surgery to be beautiful, and she sees her salvation in the story of the Bling Ring. If she can just convince her friends in The ABCs to help her break into a rich friends house while the family is away, steal a few items that can be sold, she can have the money to get the surgery. Will the The ABCs value perfection over principles? That’s the central conflict in the story, and its resolution teaches lessons not only to the members of The ABCs, but to Dakota as well.

That’s about what I knew about the show going in. Most reviewers haven’t spilled the beans on the ending. I won’t as well, but for one thing: by the end of the play, the circumstances teach Dakota that she must stand up for herself, that she must learn to embrace her own beauty and not chase the imaginary perfection that the Internet creates. That is a vital message — and it is a message that will be echoed in a different way in our last Saturday show, as well as our last Sunday show.

In The ABCs, playwright Monica Trausch (FB) has crafted a  story that speaks to today’s teens and sends a vitally important message: that the perfection that society pushes is false and ultimately dangerous, and that the best thing is to love yourself for you. That’s an underlying belief of mine. A friend once said that perfection is when you cannot make mistakes and nothing changes. That only happens when you are dead. Life is being the best we can be an embracing our imperfections. So I truly think this is a wonderful play; perhaps one of the best I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.

The ensemble presenting the story was very strong: Diane McNulty (FB) as Dakota, Lani Engstrom (FB) as Margot, Josette Canilao (FB) as Adriana, Lauren Henning (FB) as Bella, and Ashley Nichol (FB) as Caity. Engstrom as Margot was out even before the show started, in character, interacting with the audience. The others had the teen mannerisms down pat; one might believe they had recently been teens :-).  I’d like to particularl highly both McNulty and Nichol’s performances which were spot-on.

The production was directed by Sarah Cho, with fight direction by Chris Sanders. The ABCs was produced by Benno Rosenwald, Mooki Entertainment, and Elisabeth Rogge (FB).

As Fringe is over, what I saw Saturday was the final production of the show. As The ABCs did not get an encore award, it is unlikely to get an extension even thought it sold to sold-out shows.

***

Reasons to be Pretty (HFF17)Another timely play, given the addition to our household, is Neil LaBute (FB)’s play Reasons to be Pretty, as it deals with what we consider to be beauty in society, and how different types of men and women perceive beauty. This year at Fringe I lucked out: there were two companies producing Reasons to be Pretty. One version had a multiethnic cast as was taking place in the heart of Fringe: at the Dorie Theatre of the Complex (where we saw The ABCs). This version was getting rave reviews both on the Fringe site and at Better Lemons, and they had postcards and everything. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fit that version in our schedule. What we were able to fit was the Maxwellton Productions version, it had no postcards anywhere. There wasn’t even an image online, and the event page they created had nothing on it. The sole image on the Fringe project page was of the cover of the printed play. This version was being held at the Asylum/Underground space over on Wilton (where we saw Wombat Man many years ago), and its final production was about an hour after The ABCs ended.

The good news is: even without the publicity, this production was sold out and was excellent. So what if I had to craft them an image for this writeup — the show was worth it (however, next time, Maxwellton, at least create some publicity). Trying to figure out the lack of publicity, I think it was because all of the actors trained at Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio (FB), and this was a showcase for their students under the auspices of Fringe. The lead actress is involved with Maxwellton, so that organization helped to mount this. They didn’t need the publicity because most attendees either knew the cast, or were invited through the school. There were just a hapless few of us unwashed masses that actually read the description in the Fringe catalog and were enticed in. In any case, however we got here, we got a treat.

Reasons to be Pretty tells the story of two couples: Greg and Steph, who have been dating for a while, and Kent and Carly, who are married. Greg and works with Kent in a warehouse; Carly is a security guard there. Carly and Steph (who is a hairdresser) are best friends. The catalyst for the show is a seemingly small incident: In a discussion between Greg and Kent, Kent is talking about a new hire at the warehouse, how beautiful she is, and how he would like to get in her pants. He asks Greg what he thinks. Greg indicates the new hire looks fine, but he prefers Steph, who looks regular. Carly overhears this and reports the discussion, and World War III has been started. The little word “regular” has been perceived as an insult by Steph, who considers her face to be her most beautiful feature. The bulk of the play is the disintegration of the relationship, and the while the audience gains understanding about what it is that Greg really loves about Steph. In parallel to this is the story of Kent and Carly. Unlike “regular” Steph, Carly is beautiful, and Kent loves her for her physical appearance: her legs, her ass, her breasts, and her face. But he also chases beauty in other women… and you can guess what happens.

Reasons to be Pretty is really a study of different type of men, and their attitude towards women: One, Greg, loves women not for just the physical but for the person inside. However, he makes one slipup, then keeps tripping over his tongue by not realizing it. Ultimately, he loses the one he loves over his mistake, but never loses the love for her. The other, Kent, goes for the physical. This lust is what does him in. Will he ultimately be happy, or will he go from conquest to conquest, leaving broken relationships in his wake. As for the women, there is one who is secure in her beauty, but knows it is the only reason her man is with her. She has to keep up that beauty at all costs, and when it invariably fades from the perfection she desires (as it always does), the relationship disintegrates because it was built on the superficial. The other is insecure in her beauty, and believes she must have that beauty acknowledged or she can’t have confidence in herself. Not getting that reassurance, she implodes the relationship to find a man who will give it to her. Where will she find her happiness? The play is a brilliant expose of people and how beauty — or the perception thereof — impacts lives.

The performances here were top notch. The cast consisted of Matt Klemenz (FB) as Greg, Erika Rose (FB) as Steph, Andrew Gonzalez (FB) as Kent, and Railynne Danzot (FB) as Carly. All brought a lot of fire and heart to their performances, especially Erika in the opening scene with Matt. Their performances just grabbed you for the roller coaster ride of this story, and you were just drawn into it.

Reasons to be Pretty was directed by Emma Shalaway (FB) and Janice Park (FB), assisted by Ansley Rowe (FB). It was produced by Erika Rose (FB) (who served as executive producer), Janice Park (FB), and Emma Shalaway (FB). There are no credits for stage management. Note that this information comes from the show’s Fringe page — it was not in the handout provided to attendees nor were there bios associated with the production team on the Fringe page. The school may teach these folks how to act and direct; it does not, however, teach them how to properly publicize and promote their show, and how to recognize their production team. Those logistical elements are equally important to the success of a show, and it is the one place where this production of RtbP could learn from the other production of RtbP.

Not surprisingly, although this production was excellent, we saw the final production and it did not win a Fringe encore award. Your only hope is to contact a producer, if you can track them down. Hopefully, my sleuthing will benefit you.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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:

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman (HFF17)userpic=fringeOur penultimate day at the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) started with our last three musicals, ranging from parodies of old (Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman) to parodies of new (Slightly Off Broadway) to  a walking talking parody elected to office (Trump in Space). All in all, it was a great start to the day.

***

Our first Fringe show of the day was Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. This is a show we’ve seen — nay, produced — before. We had the lead, Linden Waddell (FB), perform her one woman show as a fundraiser for our synagogue auxiliaries back in October. It was a great show then, and she brought it back for the Fringe (where it won a Fringe Encore award tonight!).

The Fringe version of the show was a cut-down version of our synagogue’s show (see, you should have come), given the limitations of Fringe. Still, a large number of songs were covered: There is Nothing Like a Lox; Green Stamps; Academy Award Medly: Call Me / Secret Code / Chopped Liver / Overweight People; Shticks Medly; Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal; Your Mother’s Here to Stay; Skin; One Hippopotami; Night and Day (with punctuation marks included); Harvey and Sheila; Smog Gets In Your Eyes; All of My Laughter (from The Fig Leaves are Falling); Shake Hands with your Uncle Max; and Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.

Listening to the crowd, there was a mix of young and old, and you could tell who was where by who laughed at what. What this meant was that for many, the show was an introduction to an artist they had never heard before (sigh – this is what happens when Dr. D goes off the public airwaves — oh, mighty MET, where have you gone). The laughter was raucous, and the show was well received.  This is a show that young and old will enjoy, although you might have to explain some of the references to the younger folk.

Linden was accompanied during the show by accompanist Marjorie Poe, who joins in on a few songs.  The show was directed by Janet Miller (FB). Stacey Abrams was the stage manager. PS: Linden is booked by Jeannine Frank / Frank Entertainment.

As the show won a Fringe Encore Award, there will be more performances in July and possibly August. Check the show’s Fringe Page for more information. You can also check out Linden’s page for the show, which gives upcoming appearances.

***

Slightly Off Broadway (HFF17/Chromolume)The second Fringe musical of the day was from a theatre company we know and are growing to love — and, full disclosure, a company where we are subscribers: Chromolume Theatre (FB). Their Fringe entry this year was Slightly Off Broadway, a collection of 20 parady songs with music drawn from the catalog of Broadway and Movie musicals, and lyrics written by Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB), who also served as director.

As I was having too much fun during the show to scribble down all the parody songs, I’ll lift the list from another review: «“On My Phone” (to the music from Les Miserables) to “A Whole New Girl” (Aladdin) about dating on Tinder to “Something That’s Mean” (Little Shop of Horrors) about FaceBook revenge (to a) ticking biological clock “Maybe” (Annie), the high cost of visiting Disneyland “The Fast Pass Line” (The Lion King), obsessions with Lin Manuel Miranda “So Stoked” (Mary Poppins) and TV’s Law and Order SVU “Officer Benson” (West Side Story)…. Even the Fringe Festival itself gets “What I Did for Fringe” (A Chorus Line).»

The quote should give you an idea of the range of parody in the show. There was even a great Trump parody song, based on a song from Shrek. Seems appropriate, but who could ever fall in love with an Ogre?

Overall, I found the songs very cute and entertaining, and fun to listen to. The time of the show flew by far too fast. For someone — like me — who knows cast albums well — it was a joy. It was also the level of entertainment we’ve come to expect from Chromolume.

The songs were performed by Kelvin Ralph Chou (FB), Rita Outtrim (FB★, FB), Ken Maurice Purnell (FB) [who we saw in Zanna Don’t], Eleen Hsu-Wendlandt (FB), and the author, Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB). All were great to listen to and had wonderful voices, and seemed to create characters as necessary to fit the songs. Paul Cady (FB) was the musical director and accompanist. Rebecca Schoenberg was the stage manager.

Alas, we saw the last performance of Slightly Off Broadway, as it didn’t win an Encore award. You can, however, catch Chromolume Theatre (FB)’s next production: Pacific Overtures.

***

Trump in Space (HFF17)Our final musical of Fringe was another commentary show on the election of Trump: Trump in Space. The basic premise of the show is simple: It is 400 years in the future. The policies of the Trump administration resulted in the Earth blowing itself to smithereens, and humanity is now on starships searching for a new home: Polaris IV. The captain of one of these ships, the USC (United States of Commerce, “Opportunity at all costs!”) Arizona is Capt. Natasha Trump, the great great great … great granddaughter of the Donald. She has been sent to capture and destroy the captain of the USS California (a ship of the resistance) — Capt. Gary Hart. Trump’s crew consists of Cmdr. Sessions, Lt. Cmdr Palin, and Lt. Josh Christie. Hart’s crew includes Carter and BoyGirl Clinton. I should note that the Trump side is lead by a shadowy Executive, of whom all you can see is orange hair.

The premise itself was clever: a mashup of political commentary and Star Trek, down to the style of the uniforms. The character names and mannerisms were a bit heavy handed, but this was an improv team at work so that wasn’t a surprise. The execution was funny, with a number of repeated bits (such as the elevator) that were hilarious. There was a strong improv element to the show. At our show, for example, it looked like two songs were just tossed in a very hilarious fashion. All of the acting team were trained improv specialists, so this worked well. In short, it was enjoyable and funny; however, it wasn’t “high art” and doesn’t have the potential — at least in its current form — of becoming a broader longer-lasting political commentary musical such as Bush is Bad or Clinton the Musical. For that to happen, I think a little greater focus and direction is required.

For the most part, the acting team was strong: Gillian Bellinger (FB) was an extremely cute and strong Captain Trump, and Scott Palmason (FB)’s Gary Hart worked well in his interactions with her. Supporting Bellinger was the Trump team: Jim Shipley (FB) as Palin, Kevin Richards [Gardner] (FB) as Sessions, and Landon Kirksey (FB) as Lt. Josh. They fit their characters well, played to the fun, and as such, were fun to watch. Supporting Palmason’s Hart was the crew of the California: Nikki Bittogrino (FB) as Carter and Muriel Montgomery (FB) as BoyGirl Clinton. Watch these two during the jail scenes — they are just a hoot. All of these folks sang reasonable well, and were just great at the improv.

Rounding out the performers were either Carrie Long (FB) or Rachel Boller (FB) as the Executive (I’m not sure which one was at our show, but the one that was had a lot of vocal trouble on her last song), and Don Schlossman (FB) as the voice of the Executive.

The show featured book and lyrics by Gillian Bellinger (FB) and Landon Kirksey (FB), and music by Tony Gonzalez (FB) and Sam Johnides (FB). Gonzalez served as music director and provided the on-stage music. I’d like to say that the songs were memorable, but none stuck in my memory. That could just be Fringe overload.

The production was directed by Matt Zettell, assisted by C.J. Leavens (FB). Annabeth Rickley (FB) was the choreographer. Sarah Emily Rish (FB) was the stage manager.

Alas, Fringe is over, and so I would normally say that you missed your chance to see this show. However, the show was the recipient of an Encore award, and so will live again during July and August. Check the show’s Fringe page for information on dates and tickets.

***

Fringe Batch 5 will address the remaining Saturday shows, and Batch 6 will address Sunday’s shows.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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:

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Zombie Clown Trump (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) offers over 350 shows during a single month; as you might guess, these shows cover a wide-variety of presentations and maturity. They range from one-on-one shows that take under 10 minutes to full-on 2 hour musicals; from everyone being naked to all clothed; from improv to rehearsed; from silly to serious. Yesterday’s sampling of the Fringe Festival was a strong demonstration of that: we saw shows that ranged from silly political commentaries (Zombie Clown Trump) to a one-woman show (Conversations ‘Bout The Girls) to a fully-realized, in-depth play (Inversion). What they all had in common was the fact that they all were excellent.

***

Zombie Clown Trump (Non-HFF Website) is one of those shows that I would classify as a real Fringe show, or as the show put it at the end: “You only paid $7 for this, what did you expect?”. This, of course, was after we all sang, “We are the world, we are the Fringe Fest”, and waiving our flags, and wearing the red noses that they gave us.

Yes, this was one of those shows.

Zombie Clown Trump purports to be a show about Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020 against Dwaine “The Rock” Johnson, after bombing much of the rest of the world and excreting on the nation all sorts of noxious bodily fluids and substances. Through all of this, Kellyanne Cuntway is trying to suck up to trump, and Press Secretary Sean Sphincter and VP Mike Peenass are blowing it out their … Trump’s wife Barbania Trump has fallen in love with the Rock, and Becky has kidnapped Trump’s daughter SriLanka Trump, which has Trump upset because his homegrown hot piece of ass is gone, and …

It is a bizarre and surreal show, but is it any more surreal than real life, where as I write this I am reading the following: “A representative from President Donald Trump’s legal team said Trump is not under investigation, despite the President tweeting “I am being investigated” this week.”?

In any case, the show is a hot comedic mess, with parody songs and profanity and general sillyness and sluttiness. But it is also fun, and a form of political commentary that you’ll find at a Fringe Festival. It’s not high art, folks.

The performances were similarly across the map at times. I think the real standout was Maegan Mandarino (BS, FB)’s Barbania Trump / Becky. Mandarino had a really strong singing voice, good dance moves, and was quite a lot of fun to watch. A close second with Dani Savka (FB)’s Kellyanne / SriLanka — again, she was having fun with the songs and the comedy moves.

Trump was portrayed by the creator of the show, Rick Cipes (FB). Cipes was a clown and was having fun with the persona, exaggerating what was already an exaggeration (it is, after all, quite small), and keeping the show quite topical, with mentions of the latest Julius Caesar mess incorporated. Rounding out the cast was Craig Aldrich/FB as VP Mike Peenass and with his hand up Sean Sphincter’s ass (Sphincter was a puppet). Aldrich was the crass one would expect in such a position.

No further credits (i.e., director, stage manager, etc.) were provided.

Visit the show’s website for more information on this absurdity, and to see an interesting mouseover. There are two more performances of this show, June 23 @ 10:30pm, and June 24 @ 8:30pm. Performances take place at the OMR Theatre at The Complex. Tickets are available through the show’s fringe page.

***

Conversations 'Bout The Girls (HFF17)The second show we saw yesterday, Conversations ‘Bout The Girls, is a great example of a one-person show / project common at the Fringe.  In the show, the author and performer, Sonia Jackson (IMDB, FB), takes on the persona of the proprietor of a lingerie / brassiere shop inducting a new hire. The permit her to take on the persona of a large number of shop patrons and characters, and to relate all sorts of stories about women’s relationships with their breasts.

These stories relate from the experience of their sudden appearance, the reaction of men to them, the reaction of parents to them, the experiences of breast examination and mastectomies (and potential reconstruction thereafter).

Now, I’m a guy and I didn’t personally relate to a lot of the stories (except as a satisifed examiner 🙂 ), but I did find it interesting to watch the audience, and especially my wife, as they reacted to the stories being told. This reflected their personal experience (something I confirmed afterwards with my wife), and in many ways was truly their story.

She did relate one item that was enlightening. She imagined if men had to go in to be fitted for a jockstrap, and the store clerk making statements like, “Don’t worry, it may be small now, but I’m sure it will grow.”, or yelling out to the story, “Do we have any of the petite left in stock?” Including this story did make this production much more understandable to the men in the audience.

Overall, I’d say this is a fun show for women or man, and a great example of what a one-person show can be: A personal exploration and exposition of a particular subject, based on personal experience.

According to the program, this isn’t a new show. It has been in development for 12 years, has been adapted into a full length play, and has been subsequently adapted into a screenplay.

Conversations ‘Bout The Girls was directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson (FB). Props appear to have been provided by Sara’s Lingerie. (FB).

Given how late I’m writing this, there is one more performance of Conversations ‘Bout The Girls on June 24 @ 1pm at the Dorie Theatre at the Complex. Tickets available through the show’s Fringe website.

***

Inversion by Aditya Putcha (HFF17)The final show of the day, Inversion, was at the other end of the spectrum. While Zombie Clown Trump was a surrealistic hot mess, but funny, Inversion was a serious well-written play about a realistic subject. It was an exposition of something that many people feel — especially folks in my field of work — when dealing with the opposite sex. Author and lead Aditya Putcha (FB) has created a story that speaks to personal experience. It is remarkably well crafted for a first play. I think it reflects another aspect of Fringe: the launching pad for new plays — a place to get them out there, and start shaping them for a full-fledged professional production. I think with a bit more shaping and expansion, this could be a production worthy of most intimate theatres in Los Angeles, a potential off-Broadway production, and possibly an even longer life.

The description of the show is as follows: Adam (Aditya Putcha (FB)), a socially awkward mathematician, especially with women, laments his inability to find the hot woman of his dreams before his mom (Lena Zhanik) declines too far into the world of Alzheimer’s. His best friend, Brendan (Adam Daniel (FB)), who seems to get any woman he wants, tries to support his endeavor, with disastrous results. Thus beings the spiral into dating and love and relationships as Brendan encourages Adam to date a low self esteemed slightly older (and, as portrayed, larger) woman, Rhonda (Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB)), in order to help Adam learn how to date. In meeting up with Rhonda, Adam finds his hot woman: Natalia (Gaia Passaler (FB)), Rhonda’s roommate. Thinking he’s finally met the woman of his dreams, Adam forges ahead with Natalia thinking maybe he can also ease his mother’s concerns about his well being as she declines. Romantic entanglements explored in this touching, all too real look at how men and women relate to not only the opposite sex as friends and lovers, but how friendships are tested by the dating world.

Now most reviewers of this show are likely trained critics, with experience in the humanities — or they are actors who are working as reviewers. On the other hand, I’m actually like the lead — I was a math major at UCLA; I’ve been doing cybersecurity for 30 years. My wife, similarly, is an engineer. We know characters like the lead character; we’ve seen the same mistakes he has made happen time and again. In an over-zealous lust for the “hot chick”, imagining that every small positive gesture conveys full blown love, and over-reacting. Meanwhile, the potentially right girl gets ignored and insulted. However, unlike what you would expect from this story (everyone ends up happy; the schlub of a guy ends up with the lovable schlub of a girl), this story ends up with a bit more empowerment: the schlub of a girl realizes she doesn’t have to settle, but can be there for herself. The hot chick ends up with a guy that she loves, not that is just hot for her. The guy who dates around realizes what true love is, and finds both a job and the right girl. And the lead is left… perhaps more confused than ever.

As the lead, I was unsure of what to make of Aditya Putcha (FB). He comes from a background of real stuttering. He has an awkward performance where he seemingly gets stuck on lines at points, but it is unclear whether this is reality or performance. In real life, such a character would be stuck on those same lines, and would exhibit the same problems talking to women. So his performance, while awkward, is remarkably realistic.

I just loved Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB), but perhaps this is just because she’s the type of girl I’ve always enjoyed watching. Playful and happy and confusing and such. She gives a performance that is fun to watch, and again, something that is very realistic because I’ve known girls just like that. As her roommate, Gaia Passaler (FB) also gives a strong performance, believably Russian. Beautiful, and also fun to watch, the two young ladies work very well together, playing off each other and off the character of Adam.

The remaining two performers only interact with the lead. As the best friend, Adam Daniel (FB) gives a suitably bro performance, and handles the transformation from ‘bro to adult quite realistically. Lastly, Lena Zhanik handles the mom with Alzheimer’s quite well, portraying a wonderful level of confusion. Dealing with a similar situation with my M-I-L, it is a confusion that is all too real and all too sad.

The production was directed by Elise Marie Hodge (FB) of EMH Productions (FB). Veniese Razo was the stage manager.

Overall, this was a very realistic show, well-performed with a good story. It demonstrated the professional end of Fringe as a place for new playwrights to get a great start.

Alas, the last performance of Inversion was (a) today, and (b) was sold out. Supposedly, a DVD of the performance is available for a short time from their Indegogo page.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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As I continue to clear out the news chum: My RSS feeds and emails have brought me a number of theatre season announcements, so it’s time for another episode in: Thoughts on a Theatre Season.

***

The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) is a great musical theatre venue at the southern edge of LA County. They have recently announced their 2017/2018 season:

  • AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’. September 15 – October 8, 2017 (Press Opening September 16). Music by Thomas “Fats” Waller. Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz. Choreography by Jeffrey Polk. Directed by Broadway’s Original Cast Member Ken Page. With Frencie Davis. One of the first, and arguably, one of the best, jukebox musicals. It might be fun to see this again.
  • END OF THE RAINBOW. October 27 – November 12, 2017 (Press Opening October 28). Written by Peter Quilter. Directed by Michael Matthews. I saw this at the Ahmanson; no strong desire to see it again.
  • CABARET. January 19 – February 11, 2018 (Press Opening January 20). Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. I’ve seen this a few times; I don’t think it is worth the drive for what is likely to be a good production.
  • TO BE ANNOUNCED! A Rodgers & Hammerstein CLASSIC! April 20 – May 13, 2018 (Press Opening April 21) Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. As they wrote: “This will be an evening our audiences and subscribers will surely be enchanted by!”, this is South Pacific. Further, given that VPAC is doing South Pacific, this is likely the VPAC show moving to La Mirada. I’ll see it in Northridge, thank you.
  • NEWSIES. June 1- June 24, 2018 (Press Opening June 2). Book by Harvey Fierstein. Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Jack Feldman. Another great show. However, having seen it recently at the Pantages, I don’t have a strong desire to make the drive to see it again.

***

The Antaeus Theatre Company (FB) is a classic theatre company, formerly of North Hollywood, in new digs in Glendale. Their season has also just been announced:

  • Les Liaisons Dangereuses, adapted by Christopher Hampton from the novel by Choderlos de Laclos, directed by Robin Larsen. (Previews Oct. 19 through Oct. 25, runs Oct. 26 through Dec. 10, 2017). This story of seduction and intrigue set in the decadence of pre-revolutionary France isn’t just a battle between the sexes — it’s war. A classic of potential interest.
  • The Hothouse by Harold Pinter. A wild, impudent and blisteringly funny look at a government-run mental institution in which the wardens may be madder than the inmates. (Previews Jan. 18 through Jan. 24, runs Jan. 25 through March 11, 2018). Again, potentially of interest — it also has dates that are normally are empty because no one schedules in January.
  • Native Son, adapted by Nambi E. Kelley from the novel by Richard Wright and directed by Andi Chapman. Richard Wright’s iconic novel about oppression, freedom, and justice (Previews April 12 through April 18, runs April 19 through June 3, 2018). Doesn’t sound that interesting to me.
  • Three Days in the Country by Patrick Marber, a version of Turgenev‘s A Month in the Country directed by Andrew Paul. In this passionate and comedic update of Turgenev’s classic, a handsome new tutor brings reckless, romantic desire to an eccentric household. (Previews July 5 through July 11, runs July 12 through Aug. 26, 2018) Another “ehhh”.

***

Theatricum Botanticum (FB) in Topanga has at least one show of interest this summer:

  • Starting June 3: William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, directed by Ellen Geer. Not one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I’ll pass.
  • Starting June 4: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Director Melora Marshall. A regular production at Theatricum. I’ll pass — June is already pretty full.
  • Starting June 17, Sir Peter Hall’s stage adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, featuring music by Richard Peaslee and lyrics by Adrian Mitchell. Very timely, and not often done. Color me interested.
  • Starting July 8: Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities. We saw this recently at the Mark Taper Forum. Given the crowded summer, we’ll pass
  • Starting July 29: Alice Childress’ Trouble In MindNot really interested; besides, given our summer schedule, there is no room.

***

Many years ago, we used to subscribe at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB). They have a new artistic director, and have announced their new season:

  • Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, a joint production with Deaf West (FB), starring Jane Kaczmarek. September 26–October 22, 2017. Potentially interesting, if we hadn’t just seen it in Actor’s Co-op last season.
  • Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III, which played a hit run on Broadway in 2015. The play imagines the future of the British royal family after the Queen’s passing. November 7–December 3, 2017. This one is potentially interesting for the subject matter alone.
  • Chicago company The Hypocrites’ immersive adaptation of Pirates of Penzance, directed by Sean Graney (January 23 – February 18, 2018), which is also set to play Off-Broadway. Not that interesting.
  • Culture Clash’s Bordertown Now, a reimagined and revisited take on the group’s 1997 show Bordertown (May 29–June 24, 2018). Potentially interesting for Culture Clash and the likely reference to Los Angeles, but I seem to recall that time is already pretty booked.
  • An additional play will be announced at a later date. Not a great surprise for the Playhouse.

***

Lastly, , the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) has announced their one unspecified show: Five-time Tony Award® winner Susan Stroman (Show Boat, Contact, The Producers) returns to direct and choreograph an all-new production of the acclaimed musical comedy that launched her Broadway career — Crazy for YouThis is potentially interesting, and always a fun show. However, it doesn’t make it worth a season pass, as I can get $25 tickets once they go on sale, and the cheapest season seats are $33.

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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Five Guys Name Moe (Ebony Rep)If I was to say the phrase “Five Guys” to most of you, you would probably say that you prefer In-N-Out. When I think of “Five Guys”, however, I don’t think burgers. I think An American In Paris. Let me explain why.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw the closing performance of the Clarke Peters (FB)’s 1992 Tony-nominated musical Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB). It was a delightful performance, high energy, great music, wonderful singing, dancing, and I left on a high. But I also left thinking about An American in Paris.

When I saw An American In Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) recently, I wrote “We went expecting to see a musical. What we saw was a spectacular dance show wrapped in the trappings of a musical about love in Paris after WWII. ” That didn’t make it bad, mind you. It was a wonderful dance show with wonderful music. I just had an inconsequential plot.

Five Guys Named Moe is a musical that celebrates the music of bandleader Louis Jordan. As they write in his entry at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “In the Forties, bandleader Louis Jordan pioneered a wild – and wildly popular – amalgam of jazz and blues. The swinging shuffle rhythms played by singer/saxophonist Jordan and his Tympany Five got called “jump blues” or “jumpin’ jive,” and it served as a forerunner of rhythm & blues and rock and roll.” Five Guys Named Moe delights in this music. It showcases songs Jordan wrote. It exaults in songs that he made famous. From “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That” to “Pusk Ka Pi Shie Pie” to “Saturday Night Fish Fry” to “Choo, Choo, Ch’bookie” to the classic “Caldonia” (“What!”) — the show is just a rollicking dance and music festival with that leaves you happy.

However, the plot — well — the plot itself is meaningless. A down on his luck alcoholic, Nomax (Obba Babatundé (FB)), has forgotten the birthday of the woman he loves.  The Five Moes — No Moe (Jacques C. Smith (FB)), Big Moe (Octavius Womack (FB★; FB)), Little Moe (Trevon Davis (FB★; FB), Four-Eyed Moe (Rogelio Douglas, Jr. (FB★; FB)), and Eat Moe (Eric B. Anthony (FB)) — pop out of the radio to teach him the error of his ways. Through song and dance. [And even that inconsequential plot is abandoned for most of the second act when they do their “gig”].

And you know what? You don’t care about the plot. The music is great. The singing is great. The dance is great. The band* was smokin’. The audience was dancing (especially two really cute twin little girls up in front). You walk out with a big smile because the execution is perfection. The production team cast well, and the talent shows.

By the way, it wasn’t just the actors. When I said the band was smokin’, I meant it. They got a chance to jam at the enter-acte, and after the curtain they let loose with a closing number that highlighted each member and just swung. The six on the band platform — Abdul Hamid Royal (FB) [Musical Director, Piano]; Louis Van Taylor (FB) [Saxophone / Clarinet]; Christopher Gray [Trumpet]; Chris Johnson (FB) [Trombone]; Land Richards (FB) [Drums]; and Ian Seck/FB [Bass] — complemented the six actors perfectly.

On the other side of the production, things were pretty simple. Edward E. Haynes Jr. scenic design was simple: a scrim, a few props, some benches. Similarly, the costumes by Naila Sanders (FB) were pretty simple: suits, tuxes, and matching plaid jackets for the Moes. The sound design by John Feinstein/FB was as it should be: mostly unnoticeable, although for a bit during the first act  it sounded …. less than full range. I’m guessing that was a speaker problem. Most impressive on the design team was the lighting design of Dan Weingarten. Weingarten made wonderful use of the movers and gobos above the stage to create some wonderful visual effects that were just a delight to watch.

The production was directed and choreographed by Keith Young (FB). Dominique Kelley (FB) was the associate choreographer.  Other relevant credits: Ed de Shae (FB) — Production Stage Manager; Ross Jackson (FB) — Assistant Stage Manager.

Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB) is under the artistic direction of Wren T. Brown (FB), whose 53rd birthday was yesterday. At the conclusion of the show, the cast and crew celebrated by leading the audience in the traditional Happy Birthday song (alas, not the Birthday Cake Polka, although that would have been cool). Mr. Brown introduced his family, and you could hear the gospel training in his voice — it was wonderful to hear. I do hope to be back at his theatre.

Alas, I caught the final performance of Five Guys Named Moe. But I’ll note that if you like the music of Louis Jordan, the new Big Bad Voodoo Daddy album Louie, Louie, Louie celebrates the music of Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, and Louis Prima.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned remaining schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has started, and we’re going to be seeing multiple shows each weekend. So I’m going to batch my writeups… and this is batch one. We saw all these shows Sunday night.

***

As Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD started, the author and sole performer, Rasika Mathur (FB), was clearly unprepared.  It was as if she had put off writing and blocking and staging this show until the last minute.  As if her attention had been focused somewhere else, and she just didn’t sit down and get the damn show done. I mean, at times she was even having to go back and review the script to see where she was. I know this was a preview, but … Then again (and possibly more likely), that was the point of this exercise — to make you realize the impact of ADHD on a person’s life. Not knowing whether it was an act or real was part of the charm, just like knowing how hard it is for a trained singer to intentionally sing bad.

Hustle is structured as a one-woman show, but it really isn’t. Mathur brings up audience members to represent key people in her life — her parents, casting agents, Nick Cannon, her manager and agent. She then plays off these people to tell her story, and how her condition affected her life until she decided to take charge of it.

I found the show fascinating, especially as we had brought a teen relative who may have ADHD with us to the show. The bell rang and the lights went of. It was also interesting to see the levels of ADHD within ourselves, and seeing something like this is the first step on dealing with it. So the show was enlightening and entertaining and a great start to the Fringe Festival. I just wish there was a show from the other side: Hey Hollywood, I’ve Got To Deal With An Actor with ADHD!

Hustle was directed and developed by Deana Barone (FB), who worked on last Fringe’s 30JJ or Bust.

There are three more performances of Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD: June 11 @ 6PM, June 15 @ 10PM, and June 24 @ 10PM. It plays in the Lounge 2 Theatre, 1 block E of Vine on Santa Monica.

***

Robot Monster - The Musical (HFF17)I always operate on the conceit that the stage production came first, and then they made a movie of it. If that was true, then they improved Robot Monster when they made the movie version of the story, based on the musical Robot Monster – The Musical (FB), which was our second Fringe show. And since Robot Monster (the movie) has 1.9 stars on IMDB, and a 31% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, that should scare you more than any Ro-Man could ever do.

So why did we go? Well, the description made it sound better than it was:

Hailed as one of the greatest bad movies in the annals of film history, the 1953 cult sci-fi classic, “Robot Monster” is a beloved fan favorite for its complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and – most of all – for its famously tortured space gorilla.

But more than just an infamously “bad movie,” the film has a charming and unpretentious sincerity that’s so appealing in our frenetic age

With 16 original songs, the musical includes everything current and new fans demand from a show about a space gorilla sent to earth to destroy the human race. Will he succeed?

I will say that the musical had all of what was claimed: complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and a tortured space gorilla. But often — almost usually — stage musical versions of bad musicals figure how to turn the camp into a redeeming feature. Look at shows like Johnny Guitar, Zombies from the Beyond, or even Evil Dead – The Musical. They make it work. Partially, it is because a campy plot can be improved by good songs and performances.

Not here.

For the most part, the performances were weak (again, that may have been intentional given the camp and the history) — but they were at the verge of painful. Yes, this was a preview performance, but when the best part of the performance is the line missteps…. But I do say, “for the most part”. Dana Deruyck (FB) was perhaps the sole redeeming player in this show. Her “Johnny” was a hoot with hilarious facial expressions, strong singing, and just, well, she was fun to watch. Her sister, Stephanie Thomas/FB, was also fun to watch.

Now, I will admit that perhaps I was expecting to much from this. After all, the show’s FB page indicated that other audience members really enjoyed this and found it a hoot. So perhaps you need to be a Robot Monster fan to truly appreciate what was done here. In other words, YMMV. But for someone who had never seen the movie, and was going based on experience with other campy SF movies turned into good small musicals, I was expecting much much more.

Cast: Stephanie Thomas/FB – Carla; Dana Deruyck (FB) – Johnny; Don Margolin – The Professor; Andrew Villarreal (FB) – Roy; Val Peterson/FB – Martha; Jamie Miller (FB) – Alice; Marcus Chavez/FB – Ro-Man XJ2; Derek Long (FB) – Voice of Ro-Man XJ2; Rich Silverman (FB) – Great Guidance.

The musicians would not admit they were in this show.

Production Team: Brandon Baruch (FB) – Lighting Design; Madeleine Dahm – Select Choreography; Corwin Evans (FB) – Video Design; Paul Frederick (FB) – Arrangements and Music Production; Derek Long (FB) – Director; Pamela J. Paulson (FB) – Assistant Director; Rich Silverman (FB) – Producer, creator, composer, lyricist, etc.

Robot Monster – The Musical (FB) has four more performances at the Sacred Fools Mainstage: June 10 @ 8PM; June 15 @ 5PM; June 18 @ 1:30 PM; and June 23 @ 11PM. If you are familiar with the original movie and know what you’re getting, you’ll likely enjoy this. Anyone else — your mileage may vary drastically.

***

Buffy Kills Edward - A Musical Romp (HFF17)If this had been a normal Fringe night and venue, you would have likely seen a glowing review of Buffy Kills Edward – A Musical Romp. After all, a wonderful actress we’ve seen before, Kim Dalton (FB), was in it.

But we didn’t see the show — through no fault of the producer.

You see, the Fringe venue for the show, The Three Clubs, is a bar.  This means they cannot admit anyone under 21. Anyone. No exceptions.

Even if you have a ticket.

Even if you have a ticket from the Fringe Festival itself, because the information on the show did not indicate the venue was age restricted (it does now, after I complained). The Fringe ticketing system didn’t inform us of the fact.

So the one show we really wanted to see Sunday night … we were turned away from the door by the big burly (but very nice and understanding) bouncer.

I have written to Fringe, and they are supposedly processing a refund.

But be forewarned: If you are planning to see this show, or anything else at the Three Clubs, you must be 21 and have ID with you.

But I’m sure the show is great, and I encourage you (if you are old enough) to go see it. Visit their Fringe page for ticket information.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Hello Again (Chromolume)Some theatre is pure entertaining fluff. It isn’t there to make a point; sometimes, it isn’t even there to tell a story. It’s goal — pure and simple — is to have you walking out of the theatre with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Think a jukebox musical, such as Mamma Mia, An American in Paris, or 70, Girls, 70, and you get my drift.

Some theatre is there to make a clear point and statement. You are entertained, but walk out with a specific message intended by the authors. Think of Hamilton or Scottsboro Boys.

Some theatre leaves you scratching your head. It doesn’t fall into the “bad theatre” bin (i.e., poorly written story, poor acting, etc.), but its intent isn’t otherwise clear. It entertained you, but wasn’t entertaining. It had a message, but it was something to be teased out as opposed to being a brickbat to the head.

Last night’s show, Hello, Again at Chromolume Theatre (FB), with book, music, and lyrics by Michael John LaChuisa (FB), based on the 1897 play La Ronde by Arnold Schnitzler, was such a show. The music was dark and operatic at times. The story seemed to be trying to make a point, but the ultimate meaning and goal of that point was elusive. The basic subject matter — a series of sexual relationships — was uncomfortable at the minimum, and potentially triggery at the maximum (my wife said the show needed a trigger warning for the nature of the sex). In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised me. I’m familiar with some of LaChuisa’s music — I have the albums to First Lady Suite, Little Fish, See What I Wanna See, Giant, Queen of the Mist, and The Wild Party, and I’ve looked into the albums of Bernarda Alba and Marie Christie, but haven’t gotten them because the music is dark. LaChiusa has the occasional lighter song, but in general his music is deep and dark, melodic but not rhythmic – something unique. That doesn’t make his shows bad, but they are definitely not the typical Broadway fluff.

The structure of Hello, Again is a musical round. Not in the sense of multiple voices singing different songs coming together (although, looking back, it may have done that unintentionally). Rather, the show forms a circle of scenes told through a quasi-operatic, almost sung-through, score. The whore and the soldier in the 1900s, the soldier and the nurse in the 1940s, the nurse and the college boy in the 1960s, the college boy and the young wife in the 1930s, the young wife and the husband in the 1950s, the husband and the young thing in the 1910s, the young thing and the writer in the 1970s, the writer and the actress in the 1920s, the actress and the senator in the 1980s, circling back to the senator and the whore in the 1990s. These are essentially the same characters as in La Ronde, except that La Ronde was in a single timeframe, and LaChuisa changed La Ronde‘s “young miss” to “young thing” to introduce a gay relationship into the mix. La Ronde‘s point was to show the similarity of relationships across all strata of society, from the whore at the bottom, to the elite at the top.

As an aside, I’m not sure whether LaChiusa’s jumping around in the timestream helps the show. It served to confuse me, and to draw my attention to the program to see when we were. This is especially true when the implication seems to be that the character in one scene is seemingly the same character in the next. That works for adjacent-in-the-normal-direction decades; it is confusing when you go back in time.

So I walked out and the end of Hello, Again at the Chromolume conflicted. There were outstanding performances and the vocals were spot on, but I didn’t warm to the show. It left me uncomfortable, unsure. On the way home, my wife and I discussed the show. Our conclusion was that the show highlighted a continual pattern of relationships whose focus was the quick and hard sex (“wham, bam, thank you ma’am”), sometimes not fully consensual. None of the relationships in the round had any depth or love in them. They were couplings of convenience, almost all of them (for their era) being couplings of unequal power. They were consensual — so perhaps they weren’t rape in the conventional sense — but they were also not expressions of love. They were expressions of something darker: one side of a relationship using the other side for a particular purpose. They were portrayed in an ultimately negative light — moral bankruptcy, meaningless.

But through all of this, what was LaChiusa, or ultimately Schnitzler, trying to say? Our existence is a series of meaningless relationships where love is replaced by using other people? That nothing ever changes in how people treat and use people? That meaningless relationships exist across all strata and all ages?

Not cheery stuff. Not the typical stuff of musicals, which are more idealized romantic love as opposed to meaningless unbalanced power dynamic sex.

I think my wife was right: this stuff needs a trigger warning. The combination of the power dynamics and meaningless sex makes this borderline sexual abuse, and those with sensitivities may find the material disturbing.

Hello, Again (Chromolume / Cast Photos)But despite the nature of this musical and its ultimately cynical message, I don’t believe it is a bad musical. There are many for whom its message about men, women, and society will resonate. There are many for whom this represents their relationship arcs: sex and power dynamics, first; endearing or enduring love a distant second. It is certainly something emphasized by many “Hollywood” relationships.  I tend to have a more positive and upbeat outlook regarding relationships, and I’m not sure this is something I’d see again. But as they say, YMMV.

Setting aside the story, the performances (under the direction of Richard Van Slyke (FB) — a REP East alumni!) were uniformly excellent. So much so, in fact, that it is difficult to single out one performer above another. So let me introduce the primary cast, and we’ll continue the analysis on the other side: Michelle Holmes (FB) – The Whore; Cesar Cipriano (FB) – The Soldier; Allison Lind (Actor FB; FB) – The Nurse; Bretten M. Popiel (FB) – The College Boy; Sarah Randall Hunt (FB) – The Young Wife; Corey Rieger (FB) – The Husband; Kevin Corsini (FB) – The Young Thing; Joe Hernandez-Kolski (FB) – The Writer; Tal Fox (FB) – The Actress; and Michael Corbett (Actor FB; FB) – The Senator. Understudies were Nadia Ahern (Actor FB; FB) – Whore/Actress; David Callander (FB) – Husband/Senator; Kim Dalton (FB) – Nurse/Young Wife; Bradley Alan Turner (FB) – Writer/Soldier; and Judd Yort (FB) – College Boy/Young Thing.

Looking back this morning, which performances stick in my head? The first is Tal Fox. Not only when she was onstage in her role as The Actress, but in other smaller background parts, she had a look that was unique and caught your eye — which was drawn to her wonderful facial expressions. In whatever character she was, her face was reacting in a fantastic way that was a delight to watch.

Allison Lind’s Nurse was also fun to watch for the spunk and character she brought to the role. She also had one of the stronger dance routines in the show. Both were delightful to see. [Although I must admit I missed seeing the understudy for this role, as we have seen Kim in a number of shows and always enjoy her performances]

Bretten Popiel’s College Boy was another actor that was just fun to watch — he brought a great sense of playfulness to the role and that fun was transmitted to the audience.

All of the actors gave strong performances with this vocally difficult score. La Chiusa’s music doesn’t have your typical rhythms, and exhibits (at least to my ear) very odd ranges. This cast handled it all with seeming aplomb.

Music for the production was provided by the onstage music director, Brenda Varda (FB), behind the piano. Most of it was great; the only nit was that the actors mispronounced the Yiddish זײַ געזונט , which was particularly noticable in the second verse when they sang “tuh zei guzing” as if it was the Hebrew צ as opposed to ז. Choreography was by Bretten M. Popiel (FB), and seemed period appropriate. I particularly enjoyed the nurse’s dances.

Turning to the production and creative sides: Scenic design was by Chromolume regular Lauren J. Peters (FB) and was a creative use of the limited black-box space the theatre provides: abstract backdrops, with the sense of place primarily provided through the props and scenery pieces. The lighting design by Richard Fong (FB) worked reasonably well, as did James Esposito (FB)’s sound design (except for one nit: during the end of the second scene, the rain effects were confusing at first, with the bass thunder seemingly coming from something external to the building). Michael Mullen (FB)’s costume design seemed somewhat period, and was sexy without being too revealing. However, my wife had some quibbles with the nurses’ uniform not being as precise as it should have been (she noted that nurses would not have gone out with those wrinkles, worn open toed shoes, or had anything like long hair). As for me, I just wondered whether they got the ranks and forms correct on the military uniforms, and where the hell they found those leisure suits and polyester shirts for the ’70s (which brought back bad memories — I had shirts like that in those years). Other behind the scenes support included: Mara Aguilar (FB) – Stage Manager; Armen Janazyan (FB) – Assistant Stage Manager; Ken Werther Publicity (FB) – Publicity.

The last performance of Hello, Again at Chromolume Theatre (FB) is tonight (5/28) at 7:00 PM. Call (323) 510-2688 to make a reservation. Chromolume will have a production at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB): Slightly Off Broadway. I’m kicking myself for not seeing their past productions at Fringe, especially Pasek and Paul’s Edges: A Song Cycle, which they did in 2016 and does not have a cast recording. I discovered this after the fact from their YouTube channel, where I also discovered another musical I didn’t know (and they had done): Next Thing You Know, with the great song “Hungover“.

One additional note: I love subscribing at the smaller and regional theatres! The Pantages and Ahmanson never know your name. But little theatres like Chromolume, Actors Co-op, and in the past, the Colony and REP East get to know you, and the people there are like family. You don’t need to present anything when you check in; they know you and see you coming in the door, and have everything ready. These theatres need your support, and treasure every subscriber. Find a local theatre you like and subscribe. You might not like everything you see. But you will find a home.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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: Today, my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages. As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Freeway Dreams (Write Act Rep)I recently received a press release from a publicist¹ about a “world premiere” musical at Write Act Repertory (FB)² at the Brickhouse Theatre (FB) called Freeway Dreams. How appropos, I thought. After all, my hobby is California Highways; I developed and maintained the California Highways page³. I commute every day on the LA freeways, driving a vanpool between Northridge and El Segundo (35 miles, one way) across the 405. I attend live theatre almost every week, and write up every show I go to. If there was anyone who should be writing up a musical about freeways, it is me. So I made my usual arrangement with the publicist4, figured out a spot in my increasingly full schedule, which resulted in our seeing the show last night in North Hollywood, after a 109 minute freeway commute home.

————————-
¹: There are those who believe I am a theatre critic. I tell them I’m a cybersecurity specialist who just loves going to live performances (especially theatre), and then sharing that experience as an audience member via write ups on my blog. Still, I’ve learned a lot over the years.

²: You’ll notice no web site links. Write Act: Get your website act together. You have a link on your postcard: It gives a Wix error that the site isn’t set up yet. You have another link on your Facebook page: it gives a 403 Forbidden (although some subpages do work). You don’t have a direct link to your Brown Paper Tickets site on your postcard, nor is it on your current FB page. You need a proper website to promote your work.
³: Everything you want to know about numbered highways in California but were afraid to ask.
4: Most critics accept free tickets. I don’t. My real life job has strong ethics rules about what we can accept from suppliers, and I apply them to life. Free tickets could be seen as influence to a critic. I arrange for ½ price tickets, what I would have paid on Goldstar.
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Freeway Dreams, with book, music, and lyrics by Wayne Moore (FB) (one song co-authored by Jason Blume), started out as a cabaret show back in 1992 at The Gardenia Club in West Hollywood. There was a cycle of songs (eventually recorded as a “cast” album) with introductions and rough characters, but it wasn’t a fleshed out musical. After numerous requests for the script, Moore decided to flesh the song cycle out into a musical — better defining characters, snipping a song here and there. The result was this one-hour, no intermission musical.

The story framework is much like the cabaret show: A tourist bus of Japanese tourists has overturned on the Hollywood Freeway (US 101) turning the freeway into a parking lot. Four commuters — an aspiring actor, a young woman of unspecified employment, a casting director, and a pizza delivery guy — are stuck on the road and start to daydream. The bulk of those songs are those dreams.

As a song cycle, the show is very enjoyable. The songs are great, they are performed well, and fun to listen to. I’m sure that many of the songs on the cast album will get rated ★★★★★ on my iPod.

As a musical, the show is… a good start. I think — if the show is to have a longer life — more work is required. One review I saw commented on the dated references in the show (they suggested replacing pizza delivery with Uber, for example), and the overuse of the radio motif for news. I disagree to an extent — we still get our traffic reports on the radio, for example — but I do feel there needs to be nods to modern technology such as streaming music or podcasts. My observation is a bit deeper: I think that we need to learn more about these characters and their life, and see a greater arc than just “stuck on a freeway”. There also needs to be more of a connection to Los Angeles than just Hollywood and the opening song. There are precious few LA musicals (Billy Barnes LA, Bruce Kimmel’s LA: Then and Now), and this needs to go beyond the stereotypical Hollywood schtick. Where are the harried parents stuck on the freeway, the business executives that work downtown, the people commuting to aerospace and technology jobs. There is potential to make this something deeper — a commentary on the Los Angeles mindset to balance out the stereotypical New York condescension of the city that so much theatre has. The show needs more book, something that moves it beyond the fun song cycle at bit more. There are also songs that seem throwaway — no real connection to character or story (“The Bette Davis Chorus” is one such song — cute and enjoyable, but shoehorned in). The potential — the seed — is there; it just needs to drive past a few more exits to reach its ultimate destination, avoiding the temptation (to abuse a metaphor) of jumping off onto the surface streets now. Surface streets always seem like a good idea at the time….

As a commuter, there are realism problems. The show portrays drivers holding phones while driving, smoking pot on the freeway, and getting out of their cars on a stuck freeway to talk to other drivers. Those are either problematic behaviors or illegal behaviors, and should be rethought so as not to encourage other drivers (although there could be a great song in there about some of the stupid things drivers do while commuting). There is lots of potential in a musical about commuters and the freeway. But it needs to be done right.

So, story-wise, the summary is thus: A great song cycle (performed well), but it needs a bit more fleshing out to be a stronger book musical.

Turning to the “performed well” part: Under the direction and choreography of Jim Blanchette (FB), the actors effectively convey the story through songs, movement, and facial expressions (especially when they are in the background of songs). The theatre is a pure black box space — no fly, no follow-spot or moving mirrors. There is no set other than a projection screen. The sense of place and story and setting must come must come from the performers and props, and Blanchette has brought that out well.

The strongest performance — and a real positive surprise — was Leslie Rubino (FB)’s Deborah. From the opening number I was really impressed with her voice and her expression, and she had the time of her life with “Doncha Wanna Know”. She was just a delight to watch. Note: Based on her FB page, I believe we’ll be seeing her again soon in the HFF show, Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story.

Also strong was Stephanie B. Andersen (FB; FB-Fan) as Brenda, the casting agent. We’ve seen this actress before — we enjoyed her quite a bit in the 2013 bare revival — and (for the most part) she was great in both performance and singing in numbers such as “I Have This Friend.”. I particular enjoyed watching her expressions during the show. Alas, at our performance, she was having a bad night with one number (I fear she had a bad distracting headache), but knowing her strengths I’m willing to view it as a one-off, and wish her better. I’m sure every other night she knocks that number out of the park!

I enjoyed (and my wife indicated she really enjoyed) Jonathan Brett (FB)’s performance as Lee, the pizza delivery guy. He demonstrated some wonderful comic timing in his interactions and expressions, and had a strong singing voice in numbers such as “and a pizza to go”.

Rounding out the cast was Darren Mangler (FB)’s Andrew.  Mangler brought good expression and timing to his characters, but was just a tad weaker on the singing side (but that is when compared to the rest of the ensemble, meaning he was still pretty good).

Alternatives were Ashley Douglas (FB) [Brenda Alternative] and Aubrie Alexander (FB) [Deborah Alternative]. I’ll just note that we’ve seen Alexander before in Bat Boy, and I’m pretty sure that was her sitting behind us at last night’s show :-).

Lastly on the performance side: the director, Jim Blanchette (FB), had an uncredited performance as the “offscreen voices” — sitting in the audience, he provided all the unintelligible voices on the other side of the cell phone conversations. A bit odd, perhaps, but this is small intimate theatre. At least the credit gives me the chance to note that Blanchette has worked with an alum of the late great REP theatre in Santa Clarita, the also late, great Kyle Kulish.

Turning to the production side: As noted, this was a simple black box theatre. The basic scenery was solely the projections designed by Ken Cosby (FB). These worked well, although a few had me puzzling — as a freeway commuter in LA — exactly where they were taken. The lighting design was by Mark Baker (FB), who has one of the best bio’s I’ve read of late. The lighting worked well, except for the lighting during “My Superman” where odd shadows were created due to the positioning of the lights. I fear that was less Baker’s problem and more a fault of the facility, which didn’t have proper spots nor good placement locations for moving mirror lights. There were no credits for the properties, but the cardboard cars were cute. Other production credits: Wayne Moore (FB) – Musical Direction; Tamra Pica (FB) – Producer / Casting; Jonathan Harrison  – Stage Manager / Associate Producer; and John Lant  – Producing Artistic Director.

Write Act Repertory (FB)’s production of Freeway Dreams continues at the Brickhouse Theatre (FB) until Sunday, June 11. It is an enjoyable song cycle. Tickets are $15 and are available through Brown Paper Tickets. The show does not appear to be listed on either Goldstar or LA Stage Tix.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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: May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) tonight [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].

As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. Not all is ticketed — we are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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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Lucky Stiff (Actors Co-Op)Actors often keep track of their Broadway Debuts — the first time they were on a Broadway stage. But how much does an actor’s first show represent where they will be going in their career. The answer is: often not much. Unless they get that starring role from the get-go, there are often years of hard ensemble, swing, and understudy roles before the true talent shines through. For every Bebe Neuwirth at the top in Chicago, there’s the same actress in a background role in Sweet Charity.

What about composing teams? How much does their first show say about where they will be going? One can’t say for Rodgers and Hammerstein — they each worked with other composers before their first show, Oklahoma. For Kander and Ebb, did Flora: The Red Menace indicate where they would eventually go? Did Godspell fortell Wicked for Stephen Schwartz? How representative was Saturday Night for Sondheim? Parade for Jerry Herman?

When we look at the key new composing teams from the 1980s, one of the best is Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. They’ve given us such great shows as RagtimeOnce on this IslandSeussical, and Anastasia. Their first produced show was a farcical murder mystery, Lucky Stiff (a production of which recently opened at  Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood), based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” written by Michael Butterworth. The plot is, well, a farce. A hapless shoe salesman (Harry Witherspoon) in England inherits $6 million from his gambler uncle (Tony Hendon) in New Jersey, who he has never met. There’s one condition: he take the corpse on one last vacation to Monte Carlo. If he doesn’t do this, the $6 million will go to the Universal Dog Home in Brooklyn (and Harry hates dogs).  Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, Tony’s lover Rita LaPorta, who shot Tony because she thought he was cheating on him, convinces her dentist brother, Vincent DiRuzzo to go to Monte Carlo with him to get back the $6 million, which she and Tony embezzled from Rita’s gambler husband, to whom she confessed that it was her brother that stole the money and then lost it gambling (and thus, the husband has a contract out on Vinnie). Lastly, the Universal Dog House is watching everything though a field representative, Annabel Glick, because if Tony doesn’t fulfill the terms of the letter, the money goes to them.

That, mind you, is the set up. This is a farce so there is plenty of mistaken identities, doors slamming, distractions, but there’s not a single sardines. There is, however, the requisite character who is blind but for her glasses, which she refuses to wear, a drunken maid, nuns, and Arab sheiks.

However, the focus of this opening treatise is whether this silly fluff of a show was predictive of the team that would give us Ragtime and Once on this Island, Seussical and Man of No Importance, My Favorite Year and Anastasia. I think the answer is … yes. Although a number of songs are silly, there are glimpses of the greatness to come. Especially in numbers like “Times Like This” and “Nice”, the team’s ability to tell tender ballads is fortold. The opening number “Something Funny’s Going On” as well as “Him, Them, It, Her” shows the ability to construct humorous multipart choral numbers. So although the story is a silly farce, it does show the genius yet to come.

Now, as farces go, this is not a tightly crafted as, say, Noises Off. It calls for overacting at times, it creates absurd situations, and has some truly bad lines reflective of the times (“she don’t just can-can, she will-will”). It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. But it is also very funny, and I think most people will find laugh-out-loud humor in the story. If not, well they will at least appreciate some of the songs.

Lucky Stiff Prodction PhotosIn many ways, the success of a farce depends on the execution of the story. Split second timing, a willingness to go overboard when appropriate, and the ability to play for the joke is critical. For a musical farce, you need to be able to handle the music and choreography as well, which is also tightly timed. Director Stephen Van Dorn (FB) and Choreographer Julie Hall (FB) lead the cast reasonably well in this regard. The movement coordination during the second act chase (“Him, Them, It, Her”) works very well, and the players handle the farcical aspects pretty well (although, at times, they overplay it too much).

In the lead couple positions were Brandon Parrish (FB) as Harry Witherspoon, and Claire Adams (FB) as Annabel Glick. Parrish, who has to be the straight man to much of the humor and craziness going around him, handles the situations with aplomb. He also sings quite well (a side we didn’t see in 33 Variations). Adams, who we last saw as Hero’s target of adoration in Cabrillo’s Forum, handled the humor here as well. She also did a great job with one of my favorite songs in this show, “Times Like These”.

The protagonist … make that catalyst … for this story, Anthony Hendon, is played by Vito Viscuso (FB). I must say that his performance was a bit stiff. (pause for effect) Now that we are past that joke, seriously, Viscuso handled the part of a corpse very well, really only standing and dancing in one number. This is not an indictment of his acting, however, as we saw him in the previous production at Actors Co-Op, Cats Paw, where he was spectacular.

Our comedic second couple, Tony’s lover Rita LaPorta and her brother, Dr. Vincent DiRuzzio, were portrayed by Rory Patterson (FB) and Brian Habicht (FB), respectively. Patterson threw herself in the role wholecloth, playing it broadly for the humor and handling her comic numbers quite well (looking back, almost all of her numbers are comic numbers). Habicht also handled the humor quite well, especially in “The Phone Call” (his call back to his wife) and the closing scenes.

The remaining sole actor named role was David Atkinson (FB)’s Luigi Gaudi, who is a person Harry first meets on the train, and then keeps running into. He plays this well for the comedy.

Rounding out the cast are an ensemble of four, who handle multiple characters each (and are thus credited as Woman 1 and 2, and Man 1 and 2). These versatile players are: Gina D’Acciaro (FB) [Woman 1: Landlady, Miss Thorsby, Nurse, Southern Lady #1, Dancing Portrait, Drunken Maid], Alastair James Murden (FB) [Man 1: Surly Lorry Driver, Solicitor, Prosperous Man on Train, Clothing Salesman, French Emcee, Croupier, Nun, Old Texan]; Selah Victor (FB) [Woman 2: Dominique du Monaco, Spinster, Southern Lady #2, Dancing Roulette Wheel]; and Jose Villarreal (FB) [Man 2: Offstage Telegram Deliverer, Vicious Punk, Mr Loomis the Eye Patient, French Waiter on Train, Stationmaster’s Voice, Bellhop, French Waiter in Club, Dapper Gambler, Leper]. Note that one of our two programs had a slip that the Woman 2’s roles were being split between choreographer Julie Hall (FB) [Spinster, Southern Lady] and producer Catherine Gray (FB) [Dominique], but I don’t know if that applied to our performance. D’Acciaro did a wonderfully over-the-top performance as the requisite drunken maid, and Murden stood out as the emcee. I’m not sure who was playing Dominique (who gets the number “Speaking French”), but whoever did it at our performance handled it quite well, including the intentional overplay on the acting.

Music was under the direction of Taylor Stephenson who was also playing the keyboards behind the scenery (and who we have heard and seen at numerous Chance shows). Joining him were Malila Hollow (FB), also on keyboards and synthesizer, Nic Gonzales/FB on bass, and Jorge Zuniga (FB) on drums.

Finally, turning to the creative and production side: The scenic design by Lex Gernon (FB) worked reasonably well, although there was no good explanation about why the door to #5 was upside down (which was oddly distracting). However, the parachute made up for it. The scenic design was supported by Nicholas Acciani (FB)’s properties, which for the most part worked well. The lighting design by Lisa D. Katz (FB) served to define the mood appropriately and direct attention. On the other hand,  Warren Davis (FB)’s — or the execution thereof — had some problems at our performance, with mics cutting in and out and odd static at times. Vicki Conrad (FB)’s costume design worked well, although some (going with the theme) were a bit on the stereotypical side.  Hair and makeup was by Krys Fehervari (FB). Remining production credits: E. K. Dagenfield (FB) – Dialect Coach; Leticia Gonzalez (FB) – Stage Manager;  James Ledesma (FB) and Derek Copenhaver (FB) – Assistant Stage Managers; Heather Chesley (FB) – Artistic Chairperson, David Elzer/Demand PR (FB) – Publicity; Selah Victor (FB) – Production Manager, and Catherine Gray (FB) – Producer.

Lucky Stiff continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through June 18. Tickets are available through Actors Co-Op; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. Actor’s Co-Op has announced their summer Actors Co-Op Too! season as well as their 2017-2018 season. I’ve written up my thoughts on their season here; in short – subscribe!

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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: May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].

As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. Not all is ticketed — we are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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.

===> Click Here To Comment <==
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Martha Graham Dance Company (VPAC)Last night saw us at the final performance of the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) 2016-0127 season: Martha Graham Dance and American Music (you can see my thoughts on their 2017-2018 season here).  What did I think of the show? I just don’t have the vocabulary. To put it another way, it was indescribable.

Let me explain. I’ve attended a lot of live theatre. As in as lot of live theatre. As in A LOT OF live theatre. So much so that I understand the vocabulary of live theatre: how a plot is supposed to work, how the ensemble works, what swings do, what stage managers do, and all the things that go into a production.

But dance?

I’ve never attended a true ballet. My exposure to modern dance was Mr. N’s Dance productions at Van Nuys High School. My sole knowledge of Martha Graham was the show we saw earlier this year.  So when I have to describe a dance production, I not only emotionally don’t have the words, but I literally don’t have the words. I do not have the vocabulary to describe what I saw, to put into words the movement and motion. I don’t know the dance tropes that Graham used to tell the story; indeed, I have difficultly following and seeing the story in the movement.

So I fall back on enjoyment. I revel in the beauty of the movement without understanding the story. I watch the feet, the faces, the muscles, the bodies. I look at the power in the legs, the beats of sweat from the effort, the impact of the colors. I see the emotions that come from the dance without seeing how that is driven by the story.

I let the dance wash over me without trying to think, because I don’t have the words to think.

The production consisted of five movements, so to speak:

  • Panorama. Premiered in 1935 in Bennington VT, with music by Norman Lloyd. Performed by CSUN and dancers from local high schools.
  • Dark Meadow Suite. Premiered in 1946 in New York City, NY. Music by Carlos Chavez.
  • Diversion of Angels. Premiered in 1948 in New London CT. Music by Norman Dello Joio.
  • Cave of the Heart. Premiered in 1946 in New York City, NY. Music by Samuel Barber.
  • Maple Leaf Rag. Premiered in 1990 in New York City, NY. Music by Scott Joplin.

All had choreography by Martha Graham. I’ve put images from each dance in the composite image with this post, although they are not from the specific show I saw. I’m not listing all the dancers — there were some substitutions I didn’t get, and the specific names would likely be a meaningless list.  There’s some more information in the press release for the show. VPAC did post a YouTube clip here.

Some more somewhat general observations:

  • I contrasted the dancers here with a typical dance ensemble from a musical. The difference: expressed joy. Modern dancers control the emotion they show: their hearts may be soaring inside, but it doesn’t show on their face. Ensemble dancers radiate the joy they feel performing, and it reverberates from the audience. The only joy I saw from the Martha Graham dancers was in the Joplin number; I just saw the beauty. Ensemble dancers you see the joy, but the beauty of the dance much less so (except, perhaps, An American in Paris).
  • There was very little of what one might think of as traditional ballet movement. There was almost non-ballet movement; an attempt to move in a way that didn’t evoke the traditional forms. That, perhaps, is what distinguishes modern dance?
  • Dance, especially barefoot dance, makes one watch the feet. Not only did these dancers move, but they used their feet as rhythmic devices, accompanying the accompaniment.
  • With the costumes, one might expect more — shall we say — unintended visibility. These costumes were well engineered as well as being beautiful, allowing one to look at the broader human form without unintended distractions. It makes one realize the magical movement bodies are capable of.

As I said, I’m not a dance person. Yet I believe the breadth of live performance needs to encompass not only those with which one is comfortable and familiar, but occasionally those outside the comfort zone. This is especially true for those forms your wife enjoys :-), and she thoroughly enjoyed this show.

I hope to see more dance in the upcoming season at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on the campus of California State University, Northridge. You can read my thoughts on that season here.

 🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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 weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].  and possibly Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB), or perhaps.

As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. Not all is ticketed — we are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open. The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What makes sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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.

===> Click Here To Comment <==
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