Jun. 11th, 2017

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userpic=fringeYesterday, we saw our second batch of Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) shows: Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change, 86’d , and Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story. Unlike our first Fringing day, there was nary a clunker in the bunch. We found parking for the first two easy, and were able to pick up our Fringe pins at Fringe Central without difficulty. The only sour spots for the day were our continuing headaches, and the parking ticket I got in West Hollywood for not being precisely within the parking space markings. Cost of doing business, I guess — I haven’t had one in over 20 years. On to our first show….

***

The Heart Change - INK Theater (Hollywood Fringe)We selected Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change because the description sounded so interesting: here was a show not only with kids as actors, but the kids wrote it, designed it, choreographed it, designed it — it was basically a creative project for a bunch of kids ages 7-12. The subject was also interesting: “When a group of kids have to face a crabby Hollywood director and realize just how powerful they are. ” Shows done by kids are usually fun at Fringe – witness last year’s Titus Andronicus Jr. – so this had good potential.

I’m pleased to say that I sat through this entire show smiling. No, by adult standards, it was far from perfect. Some jokes were sophomoric, the story was a bit simplistic and stereotyped, and there was a bit of caricature/overacting in the performance. But these kids aged 7-12. For their ages and what they did it was remarkable.

Last week I saw adults in a show that was painful because of the potential squandered. This week, I saw kids in a show that was imperfect, and all I could see is the potential-to-be.

The basic story the kids developed is this — insert the appropriate suspension of belief. Hollywood director is forced by his studio to make a movie with kids. He hates kids, and needs the money. The kids audition and get the movie, but problems arise immediately between the kid’s personality/sense of entitlement and the director’s desire to control. It doesn’t end well, and the kids quit the production. But the cameraman relates the story of one of the kids, and as the director and the kids learn more about what is driving them and what their behavior was making, they have a change of heart and learn to work together.

This is a story written by kids under 12. Pretty remarkable isn’t it. It also contained three songs, performed by the kids on-stage, and a dance.

There were also some great performances. You’ll have to excuse my imprecision here: there were no photos in the program, and these kids don’t have an internet presence yet (being under 13), so I can’t necessarily put names with the performances I liked. There was a little black kid who kept spouting scientific stuff about nutrition and eating tomatoes who was just hilarious. I also liked the two girls who sung — such a great effort (I think they were Bela Salazar and Caytlin McKinney). One girl kept reminding me of my niece with her vocal style and behavior (this is in a good way), and the two kids who played the baboons were just hilarious. This was just a delight to watch.

The cast consisted of: Olivia Brumit – Alexandria; Stephen Ramsey – Bob; Sienna Sullivan – Charlotte, Waiter; Emma Patti – Eliza Jane; Malachi Turnbull – Jacob; Gael Bary – John Pierre; Ruby Miller – Luna; Bela Salazar – Mercedes; Nadia Gray – Ms. George; Zoe Gray – Nelly; Terydan Green – Roberto; Caytlin McKinney – Sunshine; and Tegan Linehan – Toby.

Credited adult supervision was Rachel Kiser (FB) – Director; Sarah Cook (FB) – Producer / Choreography Coach; and Erin Hall (FB) – Acting Coach / Stage Manager.

There is one more performance of The Heart Change, today at 7:00pm. If you enjoy watching kids with potential — hell, if you enjoy just watching incredibly cute kids on stage — go see this.

***

86'd (Hollywood Fringe)The second show that we saw was, 86’d, a one-woman show about life in the service industry — something every actors supposedly knows because being a waitron is supposedly one of the best subsistence jobs. I went into this show expecting it to be a one-woman monologue of vignettes. Instead, Co-writer and performer Courtney Arnett (FB) presented a series of scenes from what was ostensibly her life as a server at a restaurant called “Sweats”.

These vignettes begin when she has been working a double shift, and gets assigned a clueless newbie to train. They continue through the life of the restaurant, its decline, its rebirth as a new venue with the same chef and staff, until that venue’s eventual decline and closing. It ends, fittingly, with her being the newbie at a new restaurant.

During the saga, we get to see how a life such as this doesn’t permit her life to go on. She may meet bartenders and busboys and chefs, but her reason for moving to Los Angeles is never achieved, and she never achieves her goals of family either.

However, that is the character in the story. My hopes for this actress, however, are much more. In this production, she demonstrated a remarkable singing voice, great comic timing, wonderful expressions, and an easy-going way of relating to the audience. We found the show very enjoyable, providing a different view of those servers we see every day.

The title, “86’d”, refers to a term used in the restaurant industry for running out of a food or service items (e.g., “We’re 86’d on the haddock today.”). Early in the show, the running joke is that everything on the menu is 86’d except for the hamburger, fries, and Miller Lite.

86’d was cowritten by Julia Meltzer (FB), who also directed the piece. Courtney Arnett (FB) created the piece. It was produced by Terri Arnett, Rachel Germaine (FB★; FB) [who was checking us in at the door], and Matt Robinson. Music was by Kait Hickey and Ariana Lenarsky (FB). Tech by Colin Johnson (FB).

86’d has 3 more performances: Wednesday June 14th @ 700pm; Monday, June 19th @ 830pm, and Friday, June 23rd @ 1130pm. It plays at Studio C as the Asylum, which is right next to “The Complex” group of theatres near Fringe Central.

***

Insuppressible - The Absolutely Unauthorized Leah Remini Story (Hollywood Fringe)The last show we saw yesterday was Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story at The Actors Company facility in West Hollywood. Yes, this is where I received the love note from the West Hollywood Traffic Force for not being exactly between the lines. Not worth contesting, but something others should note when visiting this venue. Perhaps they were agents of David Miscavige, mad about my seeing this show.

Going in, my only knowledge of Scientology was what I picked up by listening to A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. I had heard roughly about the disappearance of David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, but hadn’t followed the Leah Remini (FB) series. My wife, however, had.

[ETA: I completely forgot, until the tweet with this writeup was re-tweeted, that we saw Squeeze My Cans at last year’s HFF. That show was one woman’s story of how she got drawn into the tar-baby that is Scientology, how she worked her way into the upper tiers of the religions, and how she eventually escaped its grasp. Not only did this effort take more than a decade, it decimated her finances. Quite interesting to think about, when paired with this musical.]

Insuppressible started late due to the previous show running late (this is Fringe, folks); I’m sure the show after us was late due to the same shift, plus the confetti left by this show. I’m glad to say, however, the show was worth the wait.

I went into the show, for some reason, thinking that his would be  a one-woman musical. Far from it. This was a large cast (8) musical, executed well, with strong song and dance, and great effects. This was the exact opposite of Robot Monster: The Musical. This is a good thing.

Insuppressible tells, in five scenes, the story of Leah Remini’s path through Scientology. It opens with her making friends with Shelly, and Shelly to encourage her to persue her dream of acting. It then moves to her professional pinnacle in King of Queens, and her being a Scientology Celebrity up there with Tom Cruise. It then moves to the wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, where all the resentment that Remini has with Scientology starts to bubble up, leading to her split with the group. It ends with her getting the courage to leave Scientology and go onto a life of success or something close thereto.

This was a fringe show. Jeffrey McCrann (FB)’s book and Robert Hill (FB)’s music were relatively entertaining, although it is unclear if they could extend the piece into a fully-sustained two-act musical with a deeper book and connection of the songs to the inner turmoils of the characters as opposed to being more scene oriented. Still, it might be worth a try. I certainly didn’t sense the show dragging, although I would have liked to find out more what happened afterwards, and to see some more fleshing out of the beliefs of the group and how strange they are. But then I’m always for exposing strange rituals.

The performances were excellent. In the lead position was Leslie Rubino (FB) as Leah. We saw her a few weeks ago in Freeway Dreams, and again we were blown away by her talent, voice and sense of comic timing.  It is worth seeing this show alone just for her performance.

The remaining seven cast members all are strong. Jaimie Day/FB‘s Katie Holmes was mostly a caricature, but she was spectacular in her solo number “Katie and Tom”. A great LA theatre debut. There was just something about Tiffani Ann Mills (FB)’s Shelly Miscavige that was a delight to watch. Perhaps it was her believable friendship with Leah; perhaps it was her look; perhaps it was her singing in the opening number — in any case, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Libby Baker (FB)’s Mother was strong in the opening number, but then the writing moved her to more of a background role, although she was strong in “The Gaslighting Song”. Nicole Clemetson/FB‘s J-Lo was a hoot — I have no idea whether J-Lo acts like that in real life, but that’s how I want her to act.  Clemetson was also a strong singer. Lastly, of the female cast, Sohm Kapila (FB) was Nicole Kidman. She only had one scene as Nicole in the end and was good in that. Note that all of the actresses other than the lead were also in the ensemble in various scenes.

There were two male members of the cast: David Wilkins/FB as Tom Cruise and Milo Shearer/FB as David.  Both were strong performers and strong singers — they were particularly strong in “Matter, Energy, Space, and Time”.

Music was a mix of prerecorded music and on-stage music from Robert Hill (FB).

No credits were provided for choreography, set design, costumes, sound, lighting etc. With respect to those creative areas, a few observations. First, someone went crazy with the glitter glue. Second, I’m sure the production following this wanted to shoot this production for the on-stage confetti gun that left confetti everywhere. Third, there was some sort of sound problem that sounded like constant rain, which was annoying. Other than that, however, the costumes and props were clever, and the show fit in and out of the Fring requirements great.

The production was directed by Jeffrey McCrann (FB).

Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story continues at the Let Live Space at the Actors Company with four more performances: Sunday June 11 2017, 5:30 PM; Thursday June 15 2017, 8:30 PM; Friday June 23 2017, 11:30 PM; and Saturday June 24 2017, 4:00 PM. We found this to be a very enjoyable production, and predict you will as well. If not, well, there are always soup cans.

***

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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