Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Something Different to Chew On

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 30, 2016 @ 6:25 pm PDT

userpic=levysI know my last few posts have been political — it is just that my concerns over the Republican nominee have incited a passion in me that makes me want to ensure his defeat. So a last political note, and then we’ll move on to something different to chew: some news chum about food, medicine, and science.

But first

… to those of you who cannot bring yourself to vote for Hillary because of her character and the character flaws you think you see, please read this article. You’ll learn how you’ve been fed a diet of genetically modified truth, something empty of nutrition and value, and that has spoiled your appetite for something that is actually healthy. Then read this article, and learn why the Clinton that you see in the news is very different than the Clinton those that work with her see, and why those who do work with her are fiercely loyal to her.

… to those who are Republican who still can’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton after seeing the truth — those who deny the truth about Clinton just as you deny climate science and the value of vaccines — then read this post. Learn how, as the DNC and Trump’s behavior has shown, he spits in the face of traditional Republican values, and has in fact ceded the Republican values of patriotism, love of country, belief in the people of this country, belief in the quality of the American military and support for Veterans to the Democratic party. The man is clearly not a Democrat, and does not reflect Republican values, and is not deserving of your support. If you can’t vote for Clinton, then vote for Gary Johnson or abstain for voting for President. Don’t vote for a man that clearly does not deserve to be the leader of your Republican party. (I note I say this as a Democrat, but a Democrat who believes we need a sane and valid Republican party, because it is the diversity of sane political views that leads to the compromises that makes this country strong).

And now, on to something different to chew upon:

Hmmm, I guess I do have politics on my mind after all.

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To My Republican Friends, and my Bernie-or-Busters: A Lunchtime Request

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 27, 2016 @ 11:35 am PDT

userpic=nixonTo My Republican Friends: Yesterday, in a post regarding the upcoming presidential election, I wrote:

This is no longer about personality. It is about positions.

I also implied that if your beliefs and positions were congruent with the Republican Platform and the statements of your nominee, you should vote for your nominee.

I humbly admit that I was wrong. The statements above do not apply when your candidate is batshit crazy.

Perhaps I should clarify this a bit with what I mean by “batshit crazy”. After all, it is a technical term.

Your candidate is batshit crazy if:

  • They invite a foreign power to interfere in our Presidential election. This is true for any foreign power. Just as other countries are rightly upset if America tries to interfere in their elections, other than monitoring that they are fair, it is wrong for a foreign power to interfere in an election in a way that may change the outcome. However, that is just what the Republican Nominee, Donald Trump, has done when he said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
  • They establish a fund to influence an election against a candidate simply because they refused to endorse them. Donald Trump confirmed his plans during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” broadcast on Sunday, saying “I’ll probably do a super-PAC, you know, when they run – against Kasich for $10 million, to $20 million against Ted Cruz.”
  • They encourage violating the constitutional separation between church and state by indicating they want to permit selected churches to influence government policy. At the RNC, Trump said, “At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical community because, I will tell you what, the support they have given me — and I’m not sure I totally deserve it — has been so amazing. And has been such a big reason I’m here tonight. They have much to contribute to our policies.” (emphasis added)

As I said, I was wrong. There are some candidate actions that cross the line, and the above actions have. I am not going to ask you to vote for the Democratic Candidate, Hillary Clinton. I know that, independent of whether you trust her, you just cannot support the Democratic Platform. I get that.

Here’s what I would like you to do: Abstain from voting for the office of President.  Vote for down office candidates (i.e., Senate, Congress, State and Local) who agree with your positions, but DO NOT vote for the Trump/Pence ticket. Let the world see, by the vote total differential, that you do not approve of this choice of your party, and that you feel the party has lost its reason. Feel free to investigate the third party candidates such as Gary Johnson, and vote for them if there is sufficient congruence (note that Stein, however, is also batshit crazy).  But, Republican friends, please — if you believe that America should be the country that determines its destiny — do not vote for a man that encourages foreign countries to interfere in our elections.

P.S.: Think about this: There is already evidence that the DNC emails that were released had their contents altered. How can you trust the integrity of any email discovered by the Russians, when it is in their interest to skew the election in the direction of a candidate that will have a soft foreign policy towards them.

P2.S.: Of course, I would love it if you voted for Clinton, but I understand.

ETA P3.S.: From the pot calling the kettle department: PC World notes: IT security consultant Kevin Mitnick tweeted: “Donald Trump invites Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. Isn’t that aiding and abetting” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? [I’ll note that I actually went to camp with Kevin’s brother, Steve, who set loads of swimming records]

***

To my friends that are Bernie or Busters: I know you really wanted your candidate to be the Democratic Nominee. I know you believe the system was rigged, and the DNC emails prove it. I know you think that Clinton demonstrated that by giving Wasserman Schultz a cushy campaign job. You need to be aware of these facts:

Here’s what I would like you to do: If you can, follow the advice of your candidate, Bernie Sanders, and support Hillary Clinton. She is your best chance of getting progressives on the Supreme Court, which will ensure your agenda will be met. Vote and organize for progressive down ticket candidates, because they are where you can have the most influence. Legislation starts in Congress, not with the President. Congress will push your agenda.

If you absolutely cannot vote for Hillary, I understand. Do not vote for Trump as an alternative — he’s batshit crazy. Abstain for voting for the office of President, and to vote for down-ballot candidates that reflect your views.  However, you need to be aware that in our system of winner-take-all in most states for electoral votes, your abstention (or voting for Jill Stein, who is unlikely to get a majority and is also batshit crazy) — while sending a message — may throw the election to the bat-shit crazy Trump, and doom the possibility of a progressive leaning Supreme Court for decades. If you want that on your conscience, feel free to abstain. After all, it is better to be idologically pure and not vote for an imperfect candidate than to make progress towards a progressive future.

Standing on a Platform, Waiting for the Train

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jul 26, 2016 @ 11:21 am PDT

userpic=political-signsLast night, I watched the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I was very impressed with the prime time speakers: Cory Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. About the only weak point was Paul Simon; his voice has deteriorated greatly. After the speech, I did a post on Facebook, where I was asked the question: If Hillary Clinton was convicted of a crime, would I still vote for her. After my first response, where I indicated that, were that to happen, I was sure she would resign as a candidate and the party would pick someone else, I thought about it some more. Here’s the realization I came to:

This is no longer about personality. It is about positions.

Personality was significant when we were in the primaries, and we had multiple personalities with mostly congruent positions in each party. By the end of this week, each party will have a formal nominee, whether we think that person is perfect or not.

Here’s the second realization I came to:

I am congruent with the positions of the Democratic Party. I will support whatever candidate supports those positions. I disagree with the stated positions of the Republican party. I will not vote for a candidate that holds those positions. I have no agreement with the third party candidates, nor do I believe that under the current electoral system that they have candidacies that have a chance of winning a majority of electoral votes.

Irrespective of who the Republican candidate is, I cannot support the positions of the party as embodied in their platform planks. I disagree with their outlook regarding where this country is now. I disagree with their statements regarding social issues. I disagree with their plans regarding the economy and social and economic justice. I particularly disagree with the policy positions that their nominee has espoused. I do not feel they are the right direction for the country, and I could not vote for them whether it is Donald Trump saying them, or John McCain, or Marco Rubio, or even the Governor of Ohio whose name I can never spell.

I agree with the positions of the Democratic Party as embodied in their platform planks, and as supported by their nominee.  I would support any Democratic nominee that supported those positions, be they Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or even Eric Garcetti or Antonio Villaraigosa. The identified “problems” regarding the nominee will not dissuade me in this position, for the Democratic nominee is the only candidate for President that will advance the Democratic platform. This is the same way that Republicans are overlooking their nominee’s equivalently problematic issues, because they feel strongly for their platform.

Third party candidates? I’ve supported them in the past: in my first Presidential primary, I supported John Anderson. But now? I disagree with both the Libertarian and Green positions, and cannot support their candidates. In either case, however, neither have a snowball’s chance in Northridge in the summer — to win, they need a majority vote in a large number of states to win the electoral college, and their support just isn’t that strong. Want to get a viable third-party? Read the second link below on how to do it right.

If you want some more specific arguments, I suggest you read Ferrett’s posts on the subject: Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: A Gentle Talk With My Republican, Democrat, And Undecided Friends and Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: Why Your Presidential Protest Vote Is A Wretched Idea.

A parting thought. Cory Booker’s speech last night quoted Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address:  “With malice toward none, with charity for all…”. What would Lincoln say today? His statement reflects Democratic ideals now: With malice toward none, with charity for all. The Republicans? They are the opposite: With malice toward all, with charity for none. Who is the true party of Lincoln today? Where do you stand: on the side of “With malice toward none, with charity for all”, or on the side of “With malice toward all, with charity toward none.”

My ethics and values align me with the former, with Abraham Lincoln’s statement, and with the values, planks, and positions of the Democratic party. I am standing with their candidates at all levels of elected office.

Note: This post is a lunchtime distillation of some Facebook status updates.

Just Imagine: A Safer World under Trumppence?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jul 22, 2016 @ 11:40 am PDT

userpic=nixonWhile eating lunch, and thinking about Trump’s speech emphasizing the law and order he will bring to the US if elected (you’ll notice he only mentioned “freedom” once, and “liberty” not at all), I took a look at the news. The news got me thinking about what could be, if he and his supporters gain control.

First, think about how our legislature will change. Today, right after Trump’s speech, a new candidate announced for a senate seat in Louisiana. This candidate, who is affiliated with the Republican party, said: ““I believe in equal rights for all and respect for all Americans. However, what makes me different is I also demand respect for the rights and heritage of European Americans.” He also said, “I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years. My slogan remains America first.”

Then, I read about the Munich shooting, and thought about how Donald Trump might fulfill his promises of making America safe from terrorist attacks. Note that many of these attacks have been carried out by legal citizens who have been inspired by ISIS, but are not affiliated with ISIS. Thus, none of Trumps immigration controls will make us safer from these attacks. So how might he make us safe. Just imagine (music swells). Armed guards inspecting everyone, at every mall, at every event, and randomly on street corners. The government inspecting which websites you visit to make sure you don’t get radicalized. Guards patrolling the streets and inspecting bags as you go to the movies, go shopping, go to the theatre. Almost every citizen encouraged to carry loaded weapons as part of the protection strategy, except, of course, if you look suspicious. We all know the types that look suspicious and we don’t trust. You know. Them.

This, friends, is the only way to get the safety, law, and order that Donald Trump promises, in the time frame he promises. Is that that America you want to live in?

I can’t speak for you, but I’d rather have a little risk in my life to retain my liberty and freedom. Donald Trump, in his speech last night, pivoted the Republican party to one of fear. He pivoted the Republicans to a party of isolationism and protection at a level not seen since Robert Taft battled Eisenhower for the GOP. He pivoted the Republicans to a party of law and order, a fear of the “them”, and a party of big government for the military and law enforcement elements.

Now, yes, I am a Democrat (since Hubert Humphrey). But I want a viable Republican party — a party with a candidate who if they win, wouldn’t destroy America as I know it. I didn’t like Bush, but I also didn’t fear he would totally change the nature of the country. I fear that with Trump.

If you are thinking about Trump, please think about how he might realistically achieve the goals he spoke about at the closing of the RNC. Think about how that would change the country. Then think about — and I’m surprised that I (a life-long Democrat, except for a flirtation with John Anderson in 1980) am saying it — think about what Ted Cruz said. Trump shouldn’t be the future of the Republican Party, and I don’t see how those with Republican values can vote for him.

I, as a Democrat, know who I’m supporting. I know who I believe can make this country safe and strong the right way. To the non-Democrats, I’ll echo Cruz: Vote your Conscience. I think Hillary is the best path forward of what we’ve got, but if you want to support Johnson (L)† or Stein (G), go for it. Just don’t vote for Trump. The present he sees is not representative of reality, and the future he’ll bring is just too scary.

†: But if you are really thinking Johnson, read this.

Rediscovering the Magic | “The Little Mermaid” @ Cabrillo Music Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 17, 2016 @ 8:22 pm PDT

Disney's The Little Mermaid (Cabrillo Music Theatre)Cabrillo UserpicThis season at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) has been a great one. All four of the season’s show have been “firsts” for me — in that the Cabrillo production has been the first time I have seen the adult version of the show done by a professional company. Their first show, Damn Yankees, I’d only seen Van Nuys HS do. Their second show, A Funny Thing Happened … Forum I had only seen the movie version. Their third show, Children of Eden, I’d only seen a church group do. Last night’s show, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, I’d only seen the Jr. version from Nobel Middle School.

In lacking the ability to see a professional version of these shows, I wasn’t alone. Damn Yankees is rarely done on the large stage, and Funny Thing is so complex you don’t often see it (although it had a recent 99-seat revival at Crown City). Children of Eden has never been on the big stage in LA.  All three of those are older musicals, so perhaps that’s not a surprise.

But The Little Mermaid? After it closed on Broadway in 2009 after a mixed run on 685 performances and tepid reviews, a tour was announced but never materialized. Unlike other Disney musicals — Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Newsies have played the Hollywood Pantages (FB) multiple times; Aida has been at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) — The Little Mermaid has never been on a main Los Angeles stage. Even the recent Hollywood Bowl production was actors singing along to the animated film, not the musical. The only place to see it has been school productions… until this year.

After the tepid reception of the show on Broadway, professional productions were limited… until Glenn Casale came along. Glenn reworked and redesigned the production from the problematic Broadway version for a 2012 Dutch production. He then reworked it again for Sacramento in the round later that year. It hit the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2013, and then the Pittsburgh CLO (remember those names, you’ll see them later). This year, a mini-tour of the revised version materialized, hitting cities such as Houston’s Theatre under the Stars, Sacramento, Dallas, and La Mirada. That would have been an interesting version to see, as it had both Tracy Lore (of CMT’s Once Upon a Mattress) and Devon Hadsell (FB) (of Chance’s Lysistrata Jones) in it. But that wasn’t Cabrillo’s version.

Cabrillo Music Theatre is Broadway in Your Backyard, and they pride themselves in not booking tours. They cast using a mix of local and new-to-local top talent. They pride themselves on finding newcomers (such as Katharine McPhee (FB), who was in CMT’s Annie Get Your Gun) who excel. They do this all in an environment of community outreach and giving back. They had an existential scare earlier this year, but they survived and are going strong into next year.

This is a long way of saying that last night we were at CMT’s second performance of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and it was our first time seeing the show in a fully professional version. It was our first time seeing the reworked Glenn Casale envisioning, reworked and reimagined just a little bit more by director Larry Raben (FB) and choreographer Heather Castillo (FB). I should note that I also came into the show with no preconceived notions from the original animated movie as — and you’re probably shocked — I’ve never watched the entire animated version. I’m also pleased to say (BLUF as it were), that we were blown away by the imagination and inventiveness of the CMT version, and it continued their standard of theatrical excellence for which they are known.

You, on the other hand… you have likely seen the 1989 animated film, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, and produced by Howard Ashman and John Musker, written and directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, with music and lyrics by Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman. You may have even heard (as had I) the score of the stage version, which had added songs by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater and book by Doug Wright. So you probably know the story well.

So…. I’m not going to detail it for you. However, I will note that there have been significant changes from the animated movie, especially in Ariel’s motivation, and significant changes from the 2009 Original Broadway version, especially in the nature of the relationship between Triton and Ariel, and even more pointedly between Triton and Ursula. They are detailed somewhat in the Wikipedia synopsis of the stage version, and even more so in the summary of how Glenn Casale reworked the stage version in 2012.  However, do be warned: this is, at its heart, a children’s fairy tale. Don’t expect depth, angst, bathos, or truly adult themes. This isn’t The Lion King, and it’s not based on Hamlet. It is based on a Disney animated movie. It improves on it some, but can only go so far.

Cabrillo’s version of the show brought the undersea world to life in a creative and imaginative way.  This is not to say that feet were never visible on the fish — during some of the dance numbers they were wearing colorful sneakers. But rather, for the main mer-folk, their costumes covered the feet; this was combined with flying affects to allow them to swim across the stage as if they had fins. Other characters glided across the stage on hoverboards or skate-shoes. There were giant puppets of jellyfish. There was undulating seaweed. There was loads of black lighting and iridescence. This contrasted with the human world, which was sunlit in a normal spectrum, with normal costumes.

The performances, as with all Cabrillo productions, were excellent. In the lead position was Alison Bagli (FB) as Ariel. Bagli brought a wonderful youthful enthusiasm and a lovely voice to what could be a saccharine role. In particular, she made the role seem, well, as realistic as a mermaid could be — both in capturing the late teenage rebellion against the strictures of a parent refusing to see the child as an adult, and in capturing the joy of discovering something new…. like feet. But she was somehow more… adult. She didn’t play the role as the typical 14-year old; she was 19 with glimpses of 15. She did a spectacular job with signature numbers such as “The World Above” and “Part of Your World”.

In the featured role as the crab mentor, crab advisor, and composer was Lawrence Cummingsæ (FB) as Sebastian. Cummings was an accomplished singer and dancer, doing wonderful in Sebastian’s key songs of “Kiss the Girl” and the ear-worm “Under the Sea”. He was able to capture the exasperated nature of the character well, and provided wonderful comic relief.  [æ denotes members of Actors Equity]

Featured actors with a more understandable relationship to Ariel were Conor Guzmánæ (FB) as Ariel’s love interest, Prince Eric, and David Engelæ (FB) as Ariel’s father, King Triton. Guzman’s Eric was the typical Disney prince, whom the story imbued with a problem similar to Ariel’s: having a nature different from what their parent wanted them to be. He captured that aspect well, and had a wonderful singing voice to boot. He also exhibited a great chemistry with Bagli’s Ariel, especially  in numbers like “One Step Closer”.  Engel’s Triton was suitably parental, although his kingly presence was a bit light until supported by sound effects and bass vibrations. He had a wonderful number in “If Only”, especially in the second act’s quartet, but was lightly used by the story.

In featured roles as Ariel’s friends were Pablo Rossil (FB) as Scuttle, the seagull, and Michael C. Kennedy (FB) as Flounder, the tropical fish. Kennedy’s Flounder, who we meet first, does a great job of capturing a boy with teen affection for Ariel, who never seems to quite notice him. He’s one of the three actors who use hoverboards heavily in the show, and he handles it quite well. He brought a great youthful enthusiasm to the role.  Rossil’s Scuttle is much more comic relief, although he does get a great number in “Positoovity”. He does a reasonable job of making the character his own, as opposed to channeling the animated version’s Buddy Hackett.  As one would expect, he does a lot of flying in the role, which he handles quite well.

The requisite evil side of the story was represented by Triton’s sister, the octopus Ursula (Debbie Prutsman) in the main position, and electric-eels Flotsam and Jetsam (Eric Stanton Betts (FB) and Alex Levy/FB, respectively) as the supporting minions.  Prutsman was strong as Ursula, capturing the evil nature of the character well, especially in songs like “Daddy’s Little Angel” and her signature number, “Poor Unfortunate Soul”. Flotsam and Jetsam were more supporting eels, although they did get a little bit of a number in “Sweet Child”, and handled their hoverboards well.

Rounding out the named characters were David Gilchrist (FB) as Grimsby, Tyler Stouffer (FB) as Chef Louis, and the gaggle of girls that made up Ariel’s sisters: Gillian Bozajian (FB) (Atina), Lyrissa Leininger (FB) (Adella), Janaya Mahealani Jones/FB (Arista), Missy Marion (FB) (Andrina), Jamie Mills (Aquata), and Annie Sherman (FB) (Allana). Gilchrist was great as always in a comic supporting role; we’ve seen him in a number of productions over the years. Stouffer really only gets one number –“Les Poissons” — which really has little to do with the plot other than comic relief. He handled the number well, although it was difficult at times to make out his words (which could have been a sound problem). Ariel’s sisters had fun with their few numbers — “Daughters of Triton” and particularly “She’s in Love” — but were otherwise not deeply characterized in the story. It was nice to see a bit of diverse casting there.

Rounding out the production was one of the few luxuries that CMT has: a large ensemble and a large kids ensemble, which they used to great effect (especially the kids in quite a few numbers). The ensemble consisted of: Jeni Baker (FB), John Paul Batista (FB), Alex Choate (FB), Rodd Farhadi (FB), Kevin Gilmond (FB), Scott Hendrickson (FB), Jenny Hoffman (FB), Kurt Kemper (FB), Julia Kreinces (FB), Joey Langford (FB), Janelle Loren (FB), Kenneth Mosley (FB), Brittney Nevison (FB), Jordan Schneider/FB, and Ryan Schultze/FB. The kids ensemble consisted of Baylee Fogelmanis, Calista Loter, Mia Nelson, Drew Rosen, Marcello Silva/FB, Taylor Lynda Thomas/FB, and Hattie Ugoretz/FB. Kenneth Mosley (FB) was also the understudy for Sebastian.

As is pointed out at every CMT show: Live musical theatre needs live music. The CMT Orchestra, under the music direction of Colin Freeman (FB), was excellent. The orchestra consisted of: Colin Freeman (FB) (Conductor), Gary Rautenberg (FB) (Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet); Kimaree Gilad (Oboe, English Horn); Darryl Tanikawa (FB) (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax); Bill Barrett (Trumpet, Flugelhorn); Melissa Hendrickson (FB) (Horn); Sharon Cooper (Violin I – Concertmaster); Sally Berman (Violin 2); Rachel Coosaia (FB) (Cello); Cassie Nickols (FB) (Keyboard I); Lloyd Cooper (FB) (Keyboard II); Tom Griffin (Keyboard III); Colin Freeman (FB) (Keyboard IV); Shane Harry/FB (Electric and Double String Bass); Alan Peck (Set Drums); and Tyler Smith/FB (Percussion). Darryl Tanikawa (FB) was the Orchestra Contractor. The orchestra was produced by Tanikawa Artists Management LLC.

Turning to the remaining creative and production credits. The scenery design was by Kenneth Foy, with the scenery, props, and costumes having been created by a partnership with the aforementioned Paper Mill Playhouse (FB), Pittsburgh CLO (FB), Kansas City Starlight Theatre (FB), Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, and Dallas Summer Musicals (FB). Costume Design was by Amy Clark and Mark Koss. Christine Gibson (FB) was the costume supervisor. Stephanie Fenner/FB and Cassie Russek (FB) did the hair and makeup design, and Alex Choate (FB) designed additional props. I mention these all in virtually one breath because they all combined to create magic: an undersea delight, and believable and identifiable characters.  The magic was additionally created by the flying effects of ZFX, Inc.; the sound design of Jonathan Burke (FB), and the lighting design of Christina L. Munich (FB). I’ll note there were a few times where the spots were a little off; this was the second performance, so presumably that will be corrected. Rounding out the production credits: John W. Calder III (FB) (Stage Manager); David Elzer/Demand PR (Press Representative); C. Raul Espinoza (FB) (Marketing Consultant); Jack Allaway (Technical Director). Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) is under the artistic direction of Lewis Wilkenfeld (FB).

There is one more weekend for you to catch this excellent production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid,  with shows from July 20 – 24, 2016. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

* * *

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

Upcoming Shows:  The end of July gets busy, with Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on July 23, Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN on July 24, and a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland on July 28, and … currently nothing for the weekend. August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a Bar Mitzvah.  The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

A Frank Midrash | “Thirteen’s Spring” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 16, 2016 @ 10:51 am PDT

Thirteen's Spring (HFF16)userpic=fringeIn Jewish literature, the term Midrash refers to a method of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings; specifically, Midrash fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at. Much fiction, and a lot of good theatre, is essentially midrash. Look at the hit musical Wicked. This is a midrash about what happened to the witches in the Oz story before the events in the book. Look at the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which explores what happens when the two courtier characters are off-stage.

Last night, I saw a theatrical midrash based on The Diary of Anne Frank. For those unfamiliar with the book, Anne Frank was a Dutch Jewish girl who went into hiding in an attic in Amsterdam when the Nazi’s invaded. Anne didn’t survive the war; after the war her father found the diary and published it, whereupon it became a classic of Holocaust literature, and the basis for plays and movies. There is more summary of the book on the Wiki page.

As I was saying, however, last night we saw a theatrical midrash based on The Diary of Anne Frank: Thirteen’s Spring from The Moving Art Collective (FB), an encore presentation from June’s Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Thirteen’s Spring explores the period just before the Frank family went into hiding. Wikipedia described this period as follows:

During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Anne Frank received a blank diary as one of her presents on June 12, 1942, her 13th birthday. According to The Anne Frank House, the red, checkered autograph book which Anne used as her diary was actually not a surprise, since she had chosen it the day before with her father when browsing a bookstore near her home. She began to write in it on June 14, 1942, two days later. On July 5, 1942, Anne′s older sister Margot received an official summons to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany, and on July 6, Margot and Anne went into hiding with their father Otto and mother Edith.

Thirteen’s Spring explores those few days, although it plays with the timeline a bit, compressing the period from June 12 to July 6 seemingly into a single day (in the play, Anne gets the diary on the morning of her birthday, and seemingly goes into hiding that evening). The play, written by Amanda Jane Shank (FB) and directed by Fernando Belo (FB), principally focuses on two things: Anne’s budding relationship with “Hello” (Helmut “Hello” Silberberg), and the preparation of Anne’s parents for the escape into hiding, and its effect on Anne. It captures well Anne’s enthusiasm for life and her uncertainty of her budding romance. It also captures well what must have been Anne’s confusion at her parents’ preparations (selling family possessions; moving others into the attic ahead of time). Lastly, it portrays well Anne’s surprise when it was time to go, without warning.

Thirteen's Spring (Production Photos)This was a Fringe production, and in their program they note that they “hope to use this opportunity at the Hollywood Fringe Festival to expand our audiences and develop the piece further”. I spent some time this morning, as I researched and wrote this, thinking about that question. The question that keeps coming to mind is: Is the Anne we meet when the play opens the same Anne as at the end of the play, and how do we make that clear. The Anne of the original book resonated with people because of the combination of youthful naiveté, wisdom, and optimism. Did these few days shape that, or did they create or change something about Anne? Figuring out the way to address dramatic visualization of that transformation would appear to be the “development” that would be appropriate. The other characters in the piece are the catalysts for Anne’s growth — and like catalysts, enable the reaction while staying unchanged or minimally changed.

Even without the further development, I think this piece is strong and a potential facilitator of good discussion. In addition to the story exploration, the strength comes from excellent performances. In the lead position was Nora King (FB) as Anne. King’s Anne was playful, girlish, innocent, and seemingly open to the world in front of her, not wanting to give it up. When you realize that this was being portrayed by an adult actress (I hesitate to use the word “older”), it is all the more impressive. Playing off her as her potential first boyfriend was Joseph Tanner Paul (FB) as “Hello”. Paul captured equally well the uncertainty that boys go through at the same time: wanting to take the lead, to initiate something (but they don’t know what), while being scared to do so at the same time. Again, well captured and well performed.

Anne’s parents were portrayed by Michael Bates/FB [Otto Frank] and Elena Sanz (FB) [Edith Frank]. The two captured well the concern the parents must have had — concern not only with the upcoming disruption in their lives, but how that would play out for their daughter at this time in her life.

In terms of remaining technical and creative credits, there are only two in the program: Jesse Fryery (FB) as lighting designer, and Stephanie Petagno as Costume Designer. Presumably, the scenic design came from the director, Fernando Belo (FB). This design was relatively simple: suitcases, boxes, a table and chairs, and some lamps to represent the Frank home, and…. well, nothing really to represent the world outside the home. Fryery’s lighting design worked well to support the desired mood and to focus attention to the action… and the opening in the dark was spectacular. Petagno’s costumes seemed appropriately period, but I’m not an expert on period costume. If I had one comment on the design aspects, it was that nothing indicated that this was a Jewish family at all. That may have been intentional: I think Anne Frank’s diary resonated with so many precisely because Anne wasn’t one of those scary, different, Orthodox Jews with their odd dress and customs, but a secular Jew. She looked and behaved like everyone else, amplifying the sense that this was a typical family and the terror they faced could be faced by anyone. Thirteen’s Spring was produced by Emily Mae Heller (FB), Nora King (FB), and Fernando Belo (FB); it was presented by The Moving Art Collective (FB).

There is one more encore performance of Thirteen’s Spring: tonight at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available through the HFF site, or at the door.  I think it is well worth seeing.

* * *

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

Upcoming Shows:  Tonight sees us out in Thousand Oaks for The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The end of July gets busy, with Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on July 23, Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN on July 24, and a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland on July 28, and … currently nothing for the weekend. August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a Bar Mitzvah.  The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Changes in Ahmanson Ticketing – No More Hottix/Rush Tickets

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jul 11, 2016 @ 7:07 pm PDT

userpic=ahmansonAs I noted in my last post, when we were at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) Saturday night a very interesting piece of news was reveled. We were walking by the subscription table when the subscription-pushing-volunteer asked if we were interested in subscribing. I indicated that we were already full-up on subscriptions, and we tended to use Hottix to get our Ahmanson tickets. For those unfamiliar with it, Hottix was a program that made the limited view seats on the sides of the  theatre available for $25 plus a 10% service charge. This was a remarkable deal. It was then that he dropped the bombshell: Center Theatre Group (FB) was discontinuing the Hottix program as of the 2016-2017 season.

Heaven forfend! I quickly took out my cell phone and looked for confirmation, but couldn’t find any corroborating material online.

When I got home and was writing up the show Sunday morning, I did more research. I also dropped a note to Customer Service at the Ahmanson, where my fears were confirmed: “I am sorry that at this time there has not been an announcement as to the ending of HotTix.   There will be soon.” I also asked about Day-Of Rush HotTix, and those are disappearing as well: “From what we have been told, there will be no “Day Of” rush.” I also asked about the Ahmanson continuing to put tickets up on Goldstar (which we never used because HotTix were a better deal), and learned: “There will still be some Goldstar offers – but they will be for pre-sale to get patrons to purchase earlier rather than later and they will not be as discounted as the Subscriber tickets.”

That’s the bad news. Basically, the Ahmanson is adopting the same approach that we currently see at the Pantages: better scaling of the pricing of seats in the orchestra (they won’t be all the same price), and demand pricing for popular shows (i.e., if there is lots of demand, ticket prices go up). Thank you, New York.

2016-2017 Ahmanson Pricing ModelTo the right is the new Ahmanson pricing model (snarfed from their website). As you can see, pricing has been divided into roughly 6 levels: the premium orchestra seats, four price levels spanning the orchestra and mezzanine (and presumably founder’s circle) areas, and the remainder of the mezzanine and balconies. The old HotTix areas are the “D” seats.

For general admission sales, a limited number of $25 tickets will be available. As my customer service rep wrote: “I will also mention that we will still have 25 dollar seats that go on sale with the general public.  We are trying to have patrons buy early and be rewarded for that.  With hit shows waiting until the last minute will result in higher prices and surely all the 25 dollar tickets will be gone.” General sales will also be available in the Balcony and Mezzanine.

Current subscribers in the balcony and mezzanine have been moved to equivalent price points (I’ll get to that in a minute) in the A-D levels. This will likely mean that the D and possibly C seats may be full; and for those getting D, they may not be very happy moving from good view balcony to limited view orchestra. There are also no subscription options for the Premium seats — presumably those are full up from past Orchestra subscribers, and new subscribers will get the option to “upgrade” after they see who doesn’t renew.

That brings us to subscription options and pricing. For this discussion, I’m going to use Saturday Night seating as my benchmark.  Here’s the pricing table that I was provided from customer service; it agrees (on the full ticket prices) from what I got from the Ahmanson subscription pages:

Old
Price Zone
NEW
Price Level
Equivalent
2015-16
Weekend
Full 5-Show
Season
2016-17
Weekend
Full 6-Show
Season
2016-17
Discount
Price
Per Show
Starting
Single Ticket
Price
Premium
Orchestra /
Mezzanine
Premium $675 $732* 11% $112 $125
Preferred
Orchestra
A $535 $600* 5% $90 $95
Preferred
Mezzanine
/ Mid-Orch
B $335 $450* 7% $65 $70
Orchestra
X-ZZ
C $199 $288* 15% $38 $45
Front and
Rear
Balcony
D $199 $198* 8% $23 $25
Includes
$60
handling fee

 

Note the “$60 handling fee”. That is a $10/per ticket fee for subscribers, and it applies for both full subscriptions and the “build your own” subscriptions (which are less than 6 shows). This means that, in some cases, the per-ticket price for subscribers may be higher than the full price ticket. Note that this belies their claim of “enjoy the absolute very best seats at every Center Theatre Group performance at the best price—up to 30% off single tickets.” Right now, it also does not appear to include parking (which might make it a better bargain, but then again, if you take Metro to the theatre, it doesn’t). All this gives you is the ability to change your dates easier, and the ability to buy more tickets at your price if demand pricing raises the price of tickets. I’ll note that the “build your own season” (“Pick four or more shows at all three of our theatres and get access to our best seats, prices, and benefits.”) appears to have the same pricing as the full season.

ETA 2016-07-16: For comparison purposes: If you buy full price tickets at the box office online, the handling charge is 10%. If you buy at the physical box office, according to customer service, there is no handling charge. This means, when you add in handling charges, unless you are going for premium seats, the cheapest seats (until demand pricing kicks in) will always be at the physical box office, with full price online coming less than the subscription price. That’s not how to design a subscription program, boys and girls. You are assuming your audience is too stupid to do the math.

There is a third option: the Passport. For that, you pay $125 “and save up to 50% off at all three of our theatres.” Basically, the Passport gives you the ability to “purchase up to two tickets at the discounted Passport price to each production at the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatre produced or presented by Center Theatre Group.” This would be in a special purchase period before the show opens, and the price of the passport is not based on where you buy the tickets. That’s significant, for buying 2 discounted tickets for six shows in the lower-priced tiers will not offset the cost of the passport.

At this point, I’m not sure what I will do. I’ve been going to the Music Center for theatre since 1972. My parents were LA Civic Light Opera subscribers. At one point I had an Ahmanson subscription, but dropped it ages ago and have used HotTix for better seats for lower prices.  I broke down and subscribed at the Pantages this year to ensure Hamilton tickets, but they (a) don’t add the outrageous $10 per ticket fee, and (b) allow you to break your subscription into 10 payments (CTG only supports 2).  This year we’re only interested in three shows: Amalie, Fun Home, and Curious Incident. Do I do a Build-Your-Own Subscription? a Passport? Goldstar? Take my chances on open sales? Right now, I’m thinking open sales or Goldstar.

A final conspiracy-theory thought: Could this be connected to the Pro99 battle? After all, if the 99 seat theatres are killed off, there will be less theatre in town, and more demand for the Ahmanson, and they can charge more. That would never happen now, would it?

I’m open to your thoughts.

Dysfunctional Relationships | “Grey Gardens” @ Ahmanson

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 10, 2016 @ 1:52 pm PDT

Grey Gardens (Ahmanson)userpic=ahmansonSometimes, you see a show and wonder what was going through the instigator’s mind. What prompted Stephen Sondheim to see a musical in the story of Sweeney Todd? What led Kander and Ebb to see a musical in the story of the Scottsboro Boys? Why did Merrill and Styne see a musical in the story of Prettybelle? Why, oh why, was there a notion to musicalize “The Madwoman of Chaillot” as Dear World? Musicalize Carrie? What are you smoking?

Then, surprisingly, the ideas sometimes work out. Sweeney Todd is a masterpiece. History is showing that there was more to Carrie – The Musical than originally seen. Scottsboro Boys may eventually find its place as well.

There’s no hope, however, for Dear World or Prettybelle.

Then there is last night’s show at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB): Grey Gardens, the Musical. One wonders what possessed book writer Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel, and lyricist Michael Korie, to see a musical in the documentary film “Grey Gardens” by David  and Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, and Susan Froemke, is beyond me. The result — which tells of the dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beal (“Little Evie”) — may have great performances, but the story leaves you shaking your head and asking “Why?”

Let me elaborate. The title, Grey Gardens, refers to an estate in East Hampton, NY, that was purchased in the mid-1920s by the Phelan Beale. Beale was a Wall Street banker, and his with, Edith, was socialite and singer, whose primary claim to fame was as the aunt of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Jackie, and her sister Lee, used to spend their summers with their aunt during the 1940s at Grey Gardens. Edith and Phelan’s daughter, also named Edith, was another aspiring actress. Any chance she had for marriage with thwarted by her mother, and eventually both Ediths ended up living in squalor in Grey Gardens with a collection of over 50 cats and feral raccoons. The situation was so bad they were threatened by the East Hampton health department. A documentary film was made of their story, and it became a cult classic.

The musical, Grey Gardens, attempts to tell the story in the documentary. The first half occurs in the 1940s, and centers on the engagement party for Little Edie and Joseph Kennedy Jr. (Jack Kennedy’s older brother). Big Edie sabotages the engagement to bring attention to herself, and Little Edie storms off to New York. This act takes some liberties with the story: there is no confirmation of the Kennedy-Beale engagement or this party; the actual party was a coming out party for Edie’s brother and took place earlier, with the divorce telegram actually arriving in 1946. The second half occurs in the early 1970s, and is essentially the documentary brought to life. It shows what Big and Little Evie’s life had degenerated into, their self-delusions, their dysfunctional relationship.

Ultimately, however, the show is a picture of a dysfunctional mother, and how she screwed up her daughter. Why we would want to see this — when there is no ultimate redemption — is beyond me. So you’re probably asking why I bought tickets? That’s easier to answer: I had seen the performance on the Tonys (they did the opening number from Act II), and had heard the music, and wanted to see how they handled the story. My conclusion was that there were some very good numbers, some excellent performances, but the story was one of those train wrecks that make you wonder afterwords why you found it so interesting.

My wife identified the problem well: both she and I grew up with mothers who were easily like this. We escaped. So why would we want to see a story that shows what could have been? It didn’t leave us with a great feeling.

That’s not to say there were not redeeming aspects. This wasn’t a complete train wreck like I Caligula, The Musical. A number of the songs are very entertaining, such as “The Five-Fifteen” (a dangerous ear worm), “Marry Well”, “The Revolutionary Costume for Today” (the number I saw on the Tonys) and “The House We Live In”. But I think the most poignant number is the penultimate one, “Another Winter in a Summer Town”, which could easily be a sad standard. It captures well the sadness of Little Evie’s life, what happens in the Winter for a Summer Town girl.

The performances were much stronger than the story itself. The trick conceit of this show is that the actress playing “Big Evie” in the first act becomes the Little Evie of the second act. This Edith was portrayed by Rachel York, who gave a remarkable performance. According to two of the orchestra members we spoke to after the show at the Metro station, her performance perfectly captured the Little Edie of the documentary. I haven’t seen the documentary, but it was a strong performance both in characterization and vocalization. She was just mesmerizing on stage.

Playing against York’s Little Edie in the second act, as Big Edie, was Betty Buckley (FB). Again, this was a great performance of a controlling woman, who achieved the control in various passive aggressive ways. Another example of strong characterization and vocalization. The two played well against each other — you could believe they were mother and daughter fighting.

At this point, I’ll interject to credit the director, Michael Wilson. I can never tell what comes from the director and what comes from the actor, but Wilson clearly worked with this cast to make the portrayals realistic, and it worked.

Playing against York’s Big Edie in the first act was Sarah Hunt (FB). I quite enjoyed Hunt’s performance — I thought she captured the spunk and the scheming of Little Edie quite well, and was extremely cute in “Two Peas in a Pod”.

Before I go to the other adult characters, I want to mention two who stole the show whenever they were onstage: Katie Silverman (FB) as Jacqueline Bouvier and Payton Ella (FB) as Lee Bouvier. These two little girls were cute as proverbial buttons, strong singers and dancers, and just fun to watch. Did I mention they were cute as buttons?

Turning to the main male characters. Simon Jones was very strong as J. V. “Major” Bouvier and Norman Vincent Peale — I particularly enjoyed him in “Marry Well”. The book doesn’t quite capture what he did in real life, but the performance was a hoot none-the-less. Josh Young (FB) demonstrated his strong singing and performance skills as both Joseph P. Kennedy Jr and Jerry, especially in “Going Places”.

Rounding out the male performers in named roles were Bryan Batt (FB) as George “Gould” Strong and Davon Williams (FB) as Brooks Sr. and Brooks Jr.  Both were very strong; Batt was wonderful in his facial expressions and playfulness.  I also noticed he was actually playing the piano.

Rounding out the cast as the ensemble players — choir members in some scenes, the camera and sound operators, asst. townspeople — were…. well, the ensemble isn’t explicitly credited as ensemble. Understudies are credited, so I’ll presume that the ensemble consisted of some subset of the understudies. The “understudies” were: Olivia Curry (u/s Jackie Bouvier, u/s Lee Bouvier), Rogelio Douglas Jr (FB) (u/s Brooks Jr, u/s Brooks Sr.), Steven Good (FB) (u/s George “Gould” Strong, u/s Kennedy Jr/Jerry, u/s Major Bouvier), Melina Kalomas (FB) (u/s Little Evie), Michelle London (FB) (u/s Young “Little” Evie, Dance Captain), and Rebecca Spencer (FB) (u/s Edith Bouvier Beale).

This was not your typical show, with large dance numbers with long-legged chorines. There was some dance, and there was definitely movement, and it was under the choreography of Hope Clarke. Still, some numbers exhibited great movement — in particular, “Marry Well”, “Two Peas in a Pod”, and “The House We Live In”.  Charles Swan (FB) served as Associate Director/Choreographer.

The music was under the music direction of Kevin Stites, who served as the conductor and lead keyboard for the hidden orchestra. The other orchestra members were: Gerald Sternbach (FB) (Associate Conductor, Keyboard); Sal Lozano (Reed 1); Jeff Driskill (Reed 2); Laura Brenes (French Horn); John Fumo (FB) (Trumpet); Jen Choi Fischer (Violin); David Mergin (Cello); Ken Wild (Bass); and Cliff Hulling (Percussion). Robert Payne was the Music Contractor.

Turning to the other creative aspects: The scenic design was by Jeff Cowie; the lighting design was by Howell Binkley; and the projection design was by Jason H. Thompson (FB). I mention these three in one breath because they all integrated together. The scenic design was a combination of a decayed shingle house (which reflected the pictures I’ve seen of the real Grey Gardens), but built upon projections to establish the time of day and to provide background for various songs. More significantly, the projections included documentary style film output that was seemingly real-time, yet I couldn’t always find the camera. All three integrated with the lighting to focus attention and provide mood impacts. The sound design of Jon Weston was clear and didn’t overpower, although at times you could tell you were listening to the speaker instead of the person speaking. The costume design of Ilona Somogyi combined with Paul Huntly‘s wig design to bring the characters to life.  I particularly noted how the costuming reflected the real quirky sensibilities of the real Little Evie, as well as the style of the clothes that the little girls wore.  Rounding out the production credits: Original Casting – Stewart/Whitley (FB); L.A. Casting – Beth Lipari, CSA (FB); Production Stage Management – Robert Bennett; Assistant Stage Manager – Denise Yaney. This production was “inspired” by the Bay Street Theatre production with the same leads and the same director (and, not surprisingly, many of the same costumes).

Grey Gardens continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through August 14th. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson Box Office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar, and $25 HotTix may be available by calling the Ahmanson at 213.628.2772. Should you go see it? If you liked the documentary, or want to see an odd musical about a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship, go. If that’s not your bag, or you want a traditional musical, skip it.

Regarding the HotTix comment. As we walked into the show, the subscription sales pushing critter stated that HotTix will not be available next season. I haven’t been able to confirm that online; I have a question into to CTG Customer Service. Looking at their subscription packages raises a number of question, especially as they have gone to a seating plan that divides up the orchestra (which could be the rationale for eliminating HotTix). This is a plan similar to the Pantages, and it is what drove us to subscriptions. However, their pricing makes no sense: (a) they do not offer subscription seats in either the Premium or the back Mezzanine or Balcony (which both contradicts their claim of subscriptions getting the best seats, as well as providing affordable subscriptions in the back as they used to do); (b) their pricing for the full subscriptions (6 shows) tends to have higher prices than the design-your-package with a minimum of 4 shows (the “design your package”, for Saturday Night, has $23 for D, $38 for C, $65 for B, and $90 for D, whereas the full subscription is $33, $48, $75, and no option for A; and (c) the “Passport” has only a single price, making its use for the lower price tickets non-sensical (they should offer a tier of Passports that tie to the seating areas, with discounts in other areas). Again, I have a query into CTG Customer Service.

* * *

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

Upcoming Shows:  July brings us back to conventional theatre and performance. Next weekend brings a Fringe encore performance of Thirteen’s Spring, as well as The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The end of July gets busy, with Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on July 23, Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN on July 24 (pending ticketing), and a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland on July 28, and … currently nothing for the weekend. August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a hold for a Bar Mitzvah.  The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is yet another HOLD; this time, for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: October is a bit more booked. The first weekend has a HOLD for Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) HOLD: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC HOLD for An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.