Observations Along the Road

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

The Original Sister Act | “Wonderful Town” @ Dorothy Chandler

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 04, 2016 @ 12:19 pm PST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cleaning the Refrigerator – Pre-ACSAC News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 03, 2016 @ 9:22 am PST

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

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

 

Learning is a Journey | “Into the Woods” @ Nobel Middle School

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 01, 2016 @ 8:07 pm PST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

California Highway Headlines for November 2016

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 01, 2016 @ 11:08 am PST

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

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

(more…)

Here Comes The Sun

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 30, 2016 @ 12:01 pm PST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Counting the Days

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 29, 2016 @ 11:10 am PST

userpic=calendar#BlackFriday

#SmallBusinessSaturday

#CyberMonday

#GivingTuesday

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

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

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

That seems wrong, at least to me.

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

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

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

Do We Rejoice at the Death of an Enemy?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 27, 2016 @ 7:45 am PST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, to the question at hand:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenging Convention | “Little Women” @ Chance Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 26, 2016 @ 12:59 pm PST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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