Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'concerts'

Singing Truth to Power | Peter Yarrow & Noel Paul Stookey @ TOCAP

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 18, 2017 @ 7:44 am PDT

Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey (TO Civic Arts Plaza)If you haven’t figured it out by now, we don’t only go to theatre. We go to concerts — folk, jazz, classical, eclectic. But my first musical taste — the first artists that I truly said were my favorite — were Peter, Paul, and Mary (FB). I still have fond memories of going to see them at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1980s and the Universal Amphetheatre in the 1990s. We last saw them in Los Angeles shortly before Mary got sick, in the early 2000s. After Mary’s passing, we saw them mostly as solos: a solo concert by Peter at UJ (AJU) back in 2009, and Noel Paul’s regular appearances at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (first in 2011, and most recently in 2015). Our understanding of the folk community has broadened to all the artists from the era that begat PP&M, and we’ve seen and grown to understand the traditions and the music better. But at the heart of it all — the seed that started it — was Peter, Paul, and Mary.

So when I saw that this year’s appearance of Noel Paul Stookey (FB) in Southern California was a much larger concert that he typically does, and it was together with Peter Yarrow (FB), I naturally had to get tickets — without even waiting for Goldstar. It is for a group such as this and artists such as this that we braved the storm that some groups named “Lucifer” to get out to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) [where we normally go for Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)] for the first concert in a tour of Peter and Paul. I was looking forward to seeing Noel Paul again, possibly seeing if Peter had actually released a new album, and getting some good commentary on the election.

I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed. The show, on the whole, was wonderful. The music was something that wrapped you in a warm embrace; the PP&M audience is a family that loves each other through shared music and shared values. There were just a few off notes, but on the whole it was worth braving the storm.

Before I go further, here’s the all important song list. Unless indicated by links, all songs are either from PP&M albums or Paul’s solo albums; I have links for some new ones.

Act I:

  1. Weave Me The Sunshine
  2. Inch by Inch (The Garden Song)
  3. Puff the Magic Dragon
  4. Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)
  5. Medley:  This Little Light of Mine ⫽ Down By The Riverside ⫽ I Woke Up This Mornin’ With My Mind Set On Freedom ⫽ Oh, Freedom
  6. Don’t Laugh at Me
  7. Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
  8. Have You Been to Jail for Justice?
  9. Light One Candle

Act II:

  1. America the Beautiful (Noel Paul)
  2. Impeachable (Noel Paul)
  3. One and Many (Noel Paul)
  4. The Children Are Listening (Peter)
  5. Lift Us Up (Peter)
  6. The Kid
  7. Leaving on a Jet Plane
  8. If I Had a Hammer
  9. Blowin’ in the Wind
  10. This Land is Your Land
  11. Goodnight Irene

Now, some impressions of the show:

  • It pains me to say it, but I think Peter is starting to lose it at little. The passion is still there 120%. The heart and soul and spirit are strong. The voice is just slightly diminished. However, the recall is a bit worse than when we last saw him in 2009. There were points where he had trouble with lyrics, and there was much more verbal hesitation in his patter. It is an unfortunately common situation as we get older; still, it is a bit of sadness to see.
  • Tom Paxton likes to say that it is OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. There were times during this concert that the nostalgic aspects overwhelmed. Perhaps I’ve gotten used to Tom’s concerts and Noel Paul’s concerts where there is always new material. All the joint material was older material; one got the feeling that they were playing for the nostalgia (and the audience was there for that). This got better in the solo songs in the second act that touched on more topical material.
  • As both noted from the stage, Mary’s voice was there even though the body wasn’t. For me, it was loudest during “Have You Been to Jail for Justice?”, but I’m sure others heard them in her head at various points. It is a voice that is missed, especially with our current administration. You know Mary would be out there being in 45’s face.
  • One could easily see how each artist came to their political stridency from different places. Peter is clearly from the Jewish Wobbly tradition. Noel Paul comes from the true Christian side: love for one’s fellow man, doing right for those who are unable to speak for themselves. I’m not Christian, but Noel’s Christian passion is “walking the walk”, and is what I view as admirable Christianity. The important message is that we can all come with our passion to improve the world from different places — the important thing is to have and nurture that passion, and to do something based on that passion, even if it is just sitting and singing to power.
  • The most powerful portion of the show was the top of Act II: the solo sections. It made the clear impression that our children are learning from what is going on in Washington that bullying and other forms of idiocy are acceptable. We need to combine together as multiple candles creating a large flame to speak to power — to say that this is not OK, that this is not America. It is our responsibility to speak up, to fight unjust leaders and those that abuse power. This is why folk music is still relevant today.
  • Of course, it was great to hear Noel Paul do his extra verses of America The Beautiful. It was even nicer to hear the rarely done 4th verse of This Land is Your Land.
  • The PP&M audience is definitely getting older. Getting in and out of the parking lot was dealing with a bunch of moss-backed old-farts. We normally don’t have that traffic backup at the Kavli when we go to Cabrillo shows.

All in all, however, it was a great show. I look forward to the next time Noel Paul is in town, and to Tom Paxton’s upcoming show at McCabes.

 🎸 🎸 🎸

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

Upcoming Shows: Sunday brings the in-theatre broadcast of the Broadway musical Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade. 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, Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) in the middle, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

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

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

 

--- *** ---

Thoughts on a Theatre/Concert Season: Hollywood Bowl, Segerstrom Center, Theatreworks

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 14, 2017 @ 7:09 pm PDT

Today was a day for a number of season announcements. I thought I would share my thoughts on them with you.

The Hollywood Bowl

I’m not going to go through the entire list of the Bowl season. But I am going to mention the shows of possible interest to me:

Segerstrom Center, Costa Mesa

This theatre is a bit far for us to travel to and subscribe, but for those in Orange County, it looks like a great season:

Broadway Series

  • Something Rotten!” Nov. 7-19, 2017. Set in the late 1500s, two brother playwrights are trying to write a hit play but their rival, the rock star writer Shakespeare, keeps getting all the attention. Thus, the concept of a musical was born.
    🎩 This hasn’t been in LA yet; given the Pantages has announced their season, I expect this at the Ahmanson.
  • Rodgers and Hammerstein’sThe King and I,” Feb. 27-March 11, 2018: The Tony Award-winning musical presents some of Broadway’s greatest numbers, including “Getting to Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” and “Something Wonderful.”
    🎩 This played the Pantages in December 2016
  • Love Never Dies,” April 24 – May 5, 2018: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to the iconic “The Phantom of the Opera” tells the story of the Phantom and his new life in New York City.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages’ 2017-2018 Season, playing April 3-22, 2018
  • Hamilton,” May 8 – 27, 2018: Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the musical provides insight into the life of the West Indies immigrant who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. The hip-hop, jazz, and R&B score gives the musical a modern twist.
    🎩  This plays the Pantages from August 11 – December 30, 2017
  • School of Rock,” July 24 – Aug. 5, 2018: Featuring 14 songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the rock-and-roll musical tells the story of a wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher and creates a band of his own with the music prodigies in his class.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing May 3 – 27, 2018
  • On Your Feet,” Aug. 21 – Sept. 2, 2018: From Cuba to America, Gloria and Emilio Estefan broke through barriers in the pop music world with hits songs like “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now.” The musical tells the story of the groundbreaking couple’s musical sensation journey.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing July 6 – 29, 2018

Curtain Call Series

  • Motown,” Dec. 19 – 24, 2017: The true American story about Motown founder Berry Gordy and his journey in the music world as he launched the careers of music sensations Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and more. The pop musical features hits like “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Dancing in the Street.”
    🎩 This played the Pantages January 31 – February 12, 2017
  • Kinky Boots,” Feb. 6 – 11, 2018: The multi-Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Charlie Price, the owner of a small shoe factory, who meets Lola, an extraordinary performer who introduces him to new, creative ideas in the world of fashion and shoes.
    🎩 This played the Pantages April 13 – 24, 2016
  • The Color Purple,” June 19 – 24, 2018: The Tony Award-winning musical presents a soul, jazz, ragtime and blues score to the story of a young woman’s journey in love and triumph in the American South.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing May 29 – June 17, 2018

Bonus events

  • Jersey Boys,” Jan. 19-21, 2018: The Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning musical about rock and roll hall of famers The Four Seasons and their rise in pop music history. The show presents hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
    🎩 This plays the Ahmanson May 16 – June 24, 2017
  • The Book of Mormon,” March 20-25, 2018: South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy tells the story about two mismatched missionaries sent across the seas to share their scriptures with a Ugandan village.
    🎩 This plays the Pantages May 30 – July 9, 2017

All in all, a very good season. More information is on the Segerstrom website.

Palo Alto/Mountain View TheatreWorks

For those up in the Bay Area, I just received the TheatreWorks Season Announcement:

  • The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga. Jul 12–Aug 6, 2017, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. Book, Music, & Lyrics by Min Kahng. Based on Manga Yonin Shosei by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama. Translated as The Four Immigrants by Frederik L. Schodt. Directed by Leslie Martinson. WORLD PREMIERE. From a tumultuous earthquake to an exhilarating world’s fair, this broadly comic new musical chronicles the adventures of four endearing Japanese immigrants in a world of possibility and prejudice: turn-of-the-twentieth-century San Francisco. Driven by an infectious vaudeville and ragtime score, the quartet pursues their American Dream despite limited options in the land of opportunity. Don’t miss this runaway hit of our 2016 New Works Festival.
    🎩 This sounds potentially interesting — if I was up there, I’d go see it.
  • Constellations. Aug 23–Sept 17, 2017, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. By Nick Payne. Directed by Robert Kelley. London Evening Standard Award Best Play 2012. REGIONAL PREMIERE. A time-bending romantic drama spun out of string theory, this unconventional Broadway and West End sensation explores the infinite possibilities of “boy meets girl” with intelligence, heart, and humor. A charming beekeeper and a Cambridge cosmologist are nerds in love, for better and for worse, their relationship an ever-changing mystery of “what ifs.” Who knew that honey and higher physics could be so touching—or so sexy?
    🎩 C’mon, string theory in a play. Sounds good.
  • The Prince of Egypt. Oct 6–Nov 5, 2017, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Philip LaZebnik. Directed by Scott Schwartz. WORLD PREMIERE in collaboration with Fredericia Teater, Denmark. A soaring celebration of the human spirit, The Prince of Egypt features a dazzling, multi-ethnic cast in one of the greatest stories ever told: the saga of Moses and Ramses, his Pharaoh brother, and the indomitable people who changed them both forever. Inspired by the beloved DreamWorks Animation film and featuring a score that includes the Academy Award-winning “When You Believe” by the composer and lyricist of Wicked, this breathtaking journey of faith and family is the must-see event of the season.
    🎩 A new Stephen Schwartz musical — could be good, although I’d be curious how he expanded the score.
  • Around the World in 80 Days. Nov 29–Dec 23, 2017, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. Adapted by Mark Brown. From the novel by Jules Verne. Directed by Robert Kelley. Stampeding elephants! Raging typhoons! Runaway trains! Join fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg and his faithful valet in the original “Great Race,” circling the globe in an 1870s alive with danger, romance, and comic surprises at every turn. In the hilariously theatrical style of The 39 Steps, five actors portray dozens of characters in a thrilling race against time and treachery. Grab your family, and your passport, for an ingenious, imaginative expedition around the world!
    🎩 This is an oldie, but should be good.
  • Our Great Tchaikovsky. Jan 10–Feb 4, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Written and Performed by Hershey Felder. Directed by Trevor Hay. REGIONAL PREMIERE. Brilliant composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky springs to life through the hands and insight of piano virtuoso Hershey Felder, whose time-bending tale of culture and repression explores the mystery surrounding some of the greatest music ever written. From the unforgettable ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, to the outrageous 1812 Overture and the brilliant symphonic works, this powerful musical tribute travels to Czarist times to ponder the inevitable enigma of genius. From the creator and performer of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin and Beethoven.
    🎩 Others might like this; I haven’t gotten into all the Hershey Felder shows.
  • Skeleton Crew. Mar 7–Apr 1, 2018, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. By Dominique Morisseau. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. A Coproduction with Marin Theatre Company. CALIFORNIA PREMIERE. A makeshift family of autoworkers navigates the recession in this funny, tough, and tender American drama. Will their Detroit plant survive? Ambitious dreams and corporate deception interweave, pushing friendships to the limit. When the line between blue collar and white begins to blur, how far over the lines is each of them willing to step?
    🎩 Sounds somewhat interesting.
  • The Bridges of Madison County. Apr 4–29, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Book by Marsha Norman. Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Directed by Robert Kelley. 2014 Tony Award Best Score. REGIONAL PREMIERE. This sweeping musical romance about the roads we travel and the bridges we dare to cross recalls the unexpected affair of a devoted Italian-born housewife and a roving National Geographic photographer—four sensual, heart-stirring days that would never be forgotten. Set amidst the cornfields of Iowa in 1965, it is an intimate remembrance of love both lost and found, brilliantly adapted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Tony Award-winning composer from one of America’s favorite novels.
    🎩 I saw the tour of this when it was at the Ahmanson, and I was very surprised at how much I liked it. TheatreWorks should do a good job with it.
  • FINKS. Jun 6–Jul 1, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. By Joe Gilford. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. Drama Desk Award Best Play Nominee. CALIFORNIA PREMIERE. With the 1950s Red Scare in full swing, the House Un-American Activities Committee attacks “subversion” in the arts. When a romance blossoms between a rising comic and a firebrand actress, they face being blacklisted along with their friends and fellow artists. Will they lose their careers or betray each other and be branded forever as “finks”? Based on the true story of comedian/actor Jack Gilford, this stunning comic drama is written by his son.
    🎩 The story of Jack Gilford — should be interesting.

The season sounds interesting enough that if I was in the area, I might subscribe. Subscription information is on the TheatreWorks website.

--- *** ---

Life in Harmony | Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 10, 2017 @ 11:35 am PDT

The Summet - Take 6 and the Manhattan Transfer (VPAC)One of the advantages of concert reviews is that they are much easier to write. There’s no plot; no story. Nothing to analyze or compare and contrast. No incredibly large ensemble to write up (usually). There’s not even a requirement to write up a set list, especially if I am less familiar with the group’s repertoire to know the names of every song. I can just sit back and enjoy the music.

That’s what I did last night at “The Summit: Take 6 and the Manhattan Transfer” at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) at CSUN. Sit back and listen to the rhythms and the harmonies. It was a delight.

I’ve known about The Manhattan Transfer (FB) for years, going back to when I was a subscriber at KCRW and Tim Hauser was programing one of their “becomes Eclectic” shows (I want to say “Morning Becomes Eclectic”). Hauser founded the group, and I think I became aware of them in their post-1970s version with Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Laurel Massé (later replaced with Cheryl Bentyne). After Hauser’s death, Trist Curless replaced him. The Paul / Siegel / Bentyne / Curless configuration was the configuration we saw last night.

On the other hand, I was unfamiliar with Take 6 (FB). Take 6 is an  a cappella gospel music sextet formed in 1980. It consists of Claude V. McKnight III, Mark Kibble, David Thomas, Joey Kibble, Khristian Dentley, Alvin Chea. They had some remarkable vocal qualities, including Chea’s ability to become the best bass you’ve ever heard.

In most shows with two artists, you often have one act with one artist, a second act with the other artist, and the two coming together for perhaps one or two songs. That wasn’t the case here. These two groups were obviously comfortable with each other, and kept switching it up: doing songs together, swapping members (for example, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” was sung by the two ladies of MT and two of the men of T6). There were a few sequences done with each group alone, and there was one sequence where each group playfully sang some of the other groups songs. In short, they were having fun out there being playful with each other, and this fun was reflected into the audience.

I did not keep track of the songs to make a playlist. I know that MT did a number of there most popular songs — I remember them doing Tuxedo Junction, Route 66, Candy, Operator, Trickle Trickle, and Birdland. Being less familiar with T6’s songs, I can’t quite recall which ones they did. Both did a number of songs with audience participation. Again, playful and fun.

This is the type of jazz that I like: harmonies, melodies, swinging. There was also quite an element of traditional jazz in the scat and playing with the music and the melody. They packed quite a lot of fun into a single ~100 minute, one act show. If you like this style of music, I’d recommend this show strongly.

Their performance at VPAC was just for the one night, but they are playing tonight at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, Saturday 2/11 at the Cerritos CenterSunday 2/12 in Wickenberg AZ, and Tuesday 2/14 in Tucson AZ. After that, according to their website, they are off to Florida, the Carolinas, and Virginia.  As for us, our next concert is Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) a week from tonight (February 17), and our next jazz is Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13.

🎩 🎩 🎩

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

Upcoming Shows: Theatre continues this weekend with 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend of February brings Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) on Friday, February 17, with seeing Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade on Sun 2/19. 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. We may go see Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) on March 18 — we’re still planning that. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April bringsDoc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

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

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

--- *** ---

Skeletons On The Stage | “Vote or Die Laughing” @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 02, 2016 @ 6:48 pm PDT

Vote or Die Laughing (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunIt wasn’t what I expected. In some ways, I was a pez fuera del agua.

Perhaps I should explain. When I booked our Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)’s mini-season, there was a show a week before election day called Vote or Die Laughing by a group called Culture Clash. I thought it was another group like The Capitol Steps, and we would have an evening of politically themed comedy.

I was wrong. I was right. I’m so confused. I should have looked at the subtitle. We really did have a “post-modern political vaudeville”.

The comedy group Culture Clash, consisting of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Sigüenza, were the glue for the evening, which was part political commentary, part a celebration of Dia de los Muertos, and part a celebration of Latino culture and arts. In between various comedy pieces — both live and taped — from Culture Clash, there was standup comedy, dance, music, and celebration, all with a distinctly power to la raza political vibes, although they were officially bi-partisan. Not.

As a result, the unexpected surprise was a delightful evening, even though I only understood about 90% of it.

The acts in the political vaudeville were as follows:

Culture Clash. This was a comedy group that arose out of San Francisco that had both pointed and dated political comedy. I think the most timely piece was a “Election Jeopardy” pitting Trump against Clinton against Tarzan, whose only answers were Cheech and Chong. This played on the stereotypes of Trump and Clinton, with Clinton knowing loads of facts on Latino history, and Trump knowing precious little. Other comedy segments included a taped version of “American Border Gladiators”, and a Paleta Man number which touched upon references that I (a white Jew) did not pick up on. There was also a touching piece by Ric Salinas on when he got shot, and a recorded piece from their TV show when Lalo Guerrero sang about there being no Hispanics on TV. Alas, that’s still true.

Stand Up Comedy. There were two stand up comedienne’s, one in each act. In the first act was Marga Gomez, who was a founding member of Culture Clash. The second act was Cristela Alonzo. Both were very funny.

Dance. The first act included two dance performances from Pacifico Dance Company: one number titled Calacas Clandestinas and the other Popurri de Chilenas. It was a delight to watch.

Music. The main music for the show was provided by the group Buyepongo, who performed in both acts. It is hard to describe Buyepongo, other than engergetic eclectic latin music. We really enjoyed them, and picked up their latest album.

Also performing, at the top of Act II, was La Santa Cecilia, who did three or four numbers. They were spectacular, especially when their lead vocalist, La Marisoul, did one song without amplification — demonstrating both the power of her voice and the power of the acoustics at VPAC.

There was also a number from Richard Montoya with Michael Roth and the Atzlan Underground that focused on #BlackLivesMatter. Very moving words and images, although not my style of music.

As you can see, it really was an eclectic mix of an evening, and not what I expected. I enjoyed the dance and music, got about 80% of the jokes, and truly felt that the evening wasn’t aimed at me. That’s fine. I enjoyed seeing and learning about another culture. that is so important here in the southland.

Plus, I used to live a stone’s throw from Pacoima, so perhaps by osmosis….

Here’s the review from The LA Times. They remembered a bit more than I did, including these fantastic puppets of Trump and Hillary that accompanied the dancers.

* * *

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

Upcoming Shows:  This weekend brings Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Nottingham Festival (FB). We then lose a weekend as we travel to Palo Alto for a Bar Mitzvah. The third weekend of November brings Funny Girl, a Conundrum Theatre Company (FB) guest production at  The Colony Theatre (FB) and a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]. November concludes with a HOLD date for Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. December starts with Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, and staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just a single hold date for Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). February 2017 gets back to being busy: with a hold for 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 Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

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

 

--- *** ---

Oh, Boy! | “Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Sherman” @ TAS Northridge

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Oct 30, 2016 @ 1:56 pm PDT

Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Shermanuserpic=theatre_ticketsIt started with Bruce Kimmel (FB). I had participated in the Kickstarter for Bruce’s revue “Los Angeles: Then and Now” at LACC. It was there I met  Linden Waddell (FB) and learned about her one-woman show, Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Sherman. I thought it would be a good fit for our congregation, Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB) in Northridge. After some back and forth, we ended up booking the show as a fundraiser for the Men of TAS (FB) and the TAS Sisterhood (FB). Thus began my second stint wearing the hat of a producer :-), similar to my ACSAC Experience.

Last night was the show, and now I can return to my traditional hat — one that fits better — that of a professional audience.  I’ll note that although I had booked Linden’s show based on the strength of her personality and my love of Allan Sherman‘s catalogue. I had actually not watched her You-Tube clip, so the show itself was a complete surprise … and a delight.

It wasn’t just me that loved the show. As the show was going on, I was watching the rest of the congregation audience. Universal smiles. People singing along quietly. After the show, talking to the attendees, there was universal acclaim.  Although many of the younger generation have forgotten Allan Sherman, with their only exposure to parody being Weird Al, the generation in attendance grew up with these parodies, and it was a delight to hear them again. The live aspect added a lot to it — if you know about Allan Sherman, you know these songs were meant to be performed live — they started out as party parodies. It added something.

Linden’s show was not just a simple performance of songs. She brought characterizations and accents and stories to add to the songs, and provided history and context to the songs. It went over very well, and the audience interaction was a delight.

Linden adjusts the songs for the audiences; at our show, the playlist was as follows:

  1. Parody Tonight (an introductory adaptation of Sondheim’s Comedy Tonight to set the context of the show)
  2. There is Nothing Like a Lox
  3. Green Stamps
  4. Academy Award Medly: Call Me / Secret Code / Chopped Liver / Overweight People
  5. Taking Lessons
  6. Crazy Downtown
  7. Shticks Medly
  8. You’re the Top
  9. Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal
  10. Your Mother’s Here to Stay
  11. The Ballad of Harry Lewis
  12. Skin
  13. How Deep is the Ocean/Birdbath
  14. One Hippopotami
  15. Night and Day (with punctuation marks included)
  16. When I’m In The Mood for Love
  17. Harvey and Sheila
  18. Smog Gets In Your Eyes
  19. All of My Laughter (from The Fig Leaves are Falling)
  20. Shake Hands with your Uncle Max
  21. Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

What’s nice is that there was  a mix of the familiar and unknown (and that unknown was Amazon’s gain, as I filled in the 6 albums I was missing). Songs that I hadn’t known — such as “Secret Code” or “All of My Laughter”, and it was amazing how many of these songs — from 60 years ago — were still relevant today. You can really see how artists like Weird Al owe there existence to artists like Allan Sherman.

About the only regret I have with the show is that the audience was not bigger. We tried our best to spread the word via social media and promotion, but it obviously didn’t reach the right demographic. This wasn’t the fault of the show — it was our learning curve on this aspect (and one I think many groups need to learn — from my conference experience, publicity is one of the hardest jobs there is and one that often gets left to those without the connections to do it right). A number of attendees expressed interest after the show in booking it for groups they know — I think that is a wonderful testament to the universality combined with nostalgia of this music. Still, I’d estimate we had nearly 100 at the show, which is pretty good attendance.

Linden was accompanied during the show by accompanist Marjorie Poe, who join in on a few songs.

Production credits: The show was directed by Janet Miller (FB), who alas was not in attendance (I enjoy seeing Janet). Linden is booked by Jeannine Frank / Frank Entertainment. On the Temple side, credit goes to the members of the Sherman Show committee: Jackie Zev, Jennifer Kassoy, Larry Hoffman, Roger Lowe, and lil ole me. Our sound was run by Andrew Petrak and Jacob Zonis, alumni of the Nobel Middle School Drama program. A special shout out to Aaron Solomon, the TAS Executive Director, who came over in the late afternoon to help us figure out how to get the connections right and the sound working perfectly. Thank you also to the spouses who helped (Karen Davis (my lovely wife) and Dorothy Hoffman), and all the kids and volunteers who helped usher and set up. A special thank you to our sponsors: Larry and Dorothy Hoffman, and Bernard and Tamara Singer.

If you remember Allan Sherman — and even if you only know Weird Al — I’d recommend you see this show. Alas, for us, it was a one-time event. Luckily, for you, you can check Linden’s website and find future showings.

* * *

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

Upcoming Shows:  November starts with another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB): Culture Clash’s Vote or Die Laughing. The following weekend brings Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Nottingham Festival (FB). We then lose a weekend as we travel to Palo Alto for a Bar Mitzvah. The third weekend of November brings Funny Girl, a Conundrum Theatre Company (FB) guest production at  The Colony Theatre (FB) and a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]. November concludes with a HOLD date for Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. The last month of the year will include Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just a single hold date for Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). February 2017 gets back to being busy: with a hold for 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 Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

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

--- *** ---

Songbird and Jazzmen | Kelli O’Hara / Wynton Marsalis @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Oct 15, 2016 @ 10:44 am PDT

An Evening with Kelli O'Hara (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunLast night, we continued our CSUN Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (fb) concert going with An Evening with Kelli O’Hara. If you aren’t familiar with Ms. O’Hara (fb), she’s a Broadway star who has starred in such revivals as the recent of The King and I, the recent South Pacific, the Harry Connick Jr. version of The Pajama Game, as well as originating lead roles in shows such as Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Bridges of Madison County, and The Light in the Piazza. She’s also got an upcoming role in Masters of Sex, and was in the live Peter Pan.

This being a concert, I really don’t have a detailed synopsis to share, nor did I keep a detailed set list. She opened with two Rogers & Hammerstein numbers — “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I and “A Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific, and then moved into “To Build a Home” from Bridges of Madison County.  Over the evening she did numbers from a number of other shows she was in: “The Light in the Piazza” from The Light in the Piazza, one song from Sweet Smell of Success (I’m guessing “I Cannot Hear the City”), and “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George. She also did a song about New York from some Sondheim show that I didn’t recognize, two songs that she wrote, one song that her husband, Greg Naughton, wrote, and one song that her music director, Dan Lipton (fb), wrote. She also sang some Frank Sinatra standards, and the Comden/Green tune “Make Someone Happy” from Do Re Mi. Her encore was “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady.

If you’re familiar with the songs, she had a distinct preference for the slower romantic ballads; there were only a handful of upbeat numbers (including a great number (the one from Lipton) that was about a Country Western singer doing Opera). In between the songs, she shared her experience and career on Broadway, told a little about her family, and discussed her upcoming show at Carnegie Hall.

The songs in her perhaps 100 minute, one-act show were performed beautifully (although I wished she had interspersed more upbeat numbers). In fact, interspersion of such numbers might allow her to expand the show to the two acts the audience was expecting, and would have improved the variety quite a bit. Her dialogue was very fast, and gave the impression that she was likely a bit more nervous than she was. Although she was clearly comfortable on stage, she didn’t have that easy concert comfort we’ve seen from performers like Lea Salonga or Brian Stokes Mitchell, who we’ve also seen on the VPAC stage. If I had to give her one piece of advice to improve her show, it would be: relax. The audience is there to see you, and have fun with you. Although you love singing the ballads and love songs, have some fun. Throw in some upbeat numbers (perhaps even something Jazzy from Cy Coleman, or something humorous from Marcy and Zina). As you were in Nice Work, throw in a little Gershwin for good measure. The mix could work quite well.

Kelli O’Hara was accompanied by her music director, Dan Lipton (fb), on piano; Peter Donovan (fb) on Bass, and Gene Lewin (fb) on Drums.

***

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (VPAC)Last week I was so caught up in my political posts I neglected to write up our other recent VPAC show. Last Saturday night we were at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. This was an evening that I originally booked because my wife likes jazz; I was expecting Bradford Marsalis style music — you know, the long riff, improvisational, non-melodic wandering jazz. I was very pleased with this evening — it was a great show. Alas, I didn’t write down a playlist (but luckily I found a review that did)

The evening opened with the CSUN Jazz “A” ensemble. Most people are unaware that CSUN has one of the top jazz programs in the nation. If you’ve heard Gordan Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (fb), you’re hearing a product of CSUN Jazz. Goodwin was part of CSUN Jazz back in the mid-1970s. If you’ve heard Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (fb), you’re looking at yet again a product of CSUN Jazz, as most of the members of CSUN Jazz graduates. The current Jazz “A” Group (who, as it happens, will be the entertainment at the ACSAC Conference Dinner),  consist of 20 students led by Matt Harris (fb), the band director. Their program (which was the first act) consisted of “Just in Time”, “Hello and Goodbye” by Bob Brookmeyer, and “Neil” by Rich DeRosa.  They were excellent, and just blew us away.

Per the program, the CSUN “A” Band consisted of Ben McPeek (fb) and Zakaria Solotoff (fb) on Alto Sax; Jordan Leicht (fb) and Lucas Reeder (fb) on Tenor Sax; Jeff Brown (fb) on Bari Sax; Michael Gutierrez (fb) on Lead Trumpet; Garek Najita (fb), Jesse Seibold (fb), Cesar Hernandez (fb), and Marco Lopez (fb) on Trumpet; A. J. Asano (fb) on Lead Trombone; Chris Middleton (fb), Carl Engstrom (fb), and Ryan Ruder (fb) on Trombone; Adam Hersh (fb) on Piano; Miles McIntosh (fb) and Keelan Walters (fb) on Guitar; Daniel Massey (fb) on Bass; and Kirk Portuguez (fb) on Drums.

The second act was the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (fb) with Wynton Marsalis (fb), who sat in the back row and was very unpreposing. Their program consisted of a lot of Jazz standards — in particular, a lot of Duke Ellington, and was much more of the style of jazz that I quite like (i.e., with a melodic or rhythmic undertone). The review I found noted such songs as Ellington’s “Portrait of Louis Armstrong” as well as Ellington’s “Chinoserie”. There was a wonderful piece from alto saxophonist Ted Nash’s recent album Presidential Suite titled “The Time For Healing of Wounds Has Come.” from Nelson Mandela. Nash’s 92 year old father, Dick Nash, then joined the group for Ellington’s “Take The ‘A’ Train” and a few other numbers, demonstrating the multigenerational nature of modern jazz. There was also Thelionius Monk‘s “Rhythm A Ning”.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (fb) consisted of Wynton Marsalis (fb) [Music Director, Trumpet]; Ryan Kisor [Trumpet], Kenny Rampton (fb) [Trumpet]; Marcus Printup (fb) [Trumpet]; Vincent Gardner (fb) [Trombone]; Chris Crenshaw (fb) [Trombone]; Elliot Mason (fb) [Trombone]; Sherman Irby (fb) [Alto and Soprano Sox, Flute, Clarinet], Ted Nash (fb) [Alto and Soprano Sax, Flute, Clarinet]; Victor Goines (fb) [Tenor and Soprano Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet]; Walter Blanding (fb) [Tenor and Soprano Sax, Clarinet]; Paul Nedzela (fb) [Baritone and Soprano Sax; Bass Clarinet]; Dan Nimmer (fb) [Piano]; Carlos Henriquez (fb) [Bass]; and Ali Jackson (fb) [Drums].

* * *

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

Upcoming Shows:  This evening sees us in Thousand Oaks 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).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring 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. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. 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.

 

--- *** ---

Representing America

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Sep 11, 2016 @ 3:55 pm PDT

Muse/ique Summer/Timeuserpic=theatre_ticketsLast night, we saw the third installment of Muse/ique (FB) on the Beckman Lawn at Caltech.  For those unfamiliar, Muse/ique bills itself as a counter-culture orchestra. I’d say it is more an orchestra with an electic bent on the creative spectrum. It takes a particular subject and makes all sorts of connections to illustrate it well. This summer, the theme for Muse/ique is George Gershwin, hence “Gershwin/Nation” (they like their slashes at Muse/ique). The second installment (which we saw in August), American/Rhapsody, looked at how George Gershwin built bridges between musical styles — in particular, between jazz and classical, with his Rhapsody in Blue and other efforts. Last night’s show was focused on Porgy/Bess, umm, make that Porgy and Bess, and was titled Summer/Time, after the first song in Porgy and Bess.

As usual, the show started with the national anthem (as do most outdoor shows). But after the anthem, the Maestra and Artistic Director of Muse/ique  Rachael Worby (FB) opened the program by noting how the nature of America and the themes of the anthem (in a content, not musical sense) were something that ran through Gershwin’s work. She then talked about how this was reflected in “Porgy and Bess” — an uniquely American story of hardship and triumph that reflected Gershwin’s ability to bring together operatic forms with jazz, gospel, ballads, and other musical forms across the spectrum of American music (and she posited that Gershwin would have used Motown had it existed then). She then introduced the main players for the show, the “Porgy/Sings” — Ellis Hall (FB), the “Porgy/Dances” — Charles “Lil Buck” Riley (FB), Bess — Vanessa Becerra (FB), “The/Temptation” — Kenton Chen (FB), and “The/Voices” — The Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles and Byron J. Smith.

Ms. Worby then intimated that we were going to see Porgy and Bess, but not as we have ever seen it before. Not only were they going to incorporate portions of the Gershwin score (to be precise, George and Ira Gershwin, with a book by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward), but they were going to interpret similar musical strains that Gershwin did or would have drawn from. This included source artists such as traditional spirituals, George Frideric Handel, Laura Nyro, Camille Saint-Saëns, Ashford and Simpson, Thiele and Weiss, and Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. You probably now expect me to give you a precise playlist from the show. I can’t. Muse/ique does not provide one — not at the show (there’s only the above list of creators), not as you walk out, nor on their website. You are forced to go from memory, which doesn’t help if you don’t know the piece.  So I shall endeavor to do just that.

The journey through the artists listed above was divided into three parts: Alone. Together. A third part that I don’t remember but I think had a “/” in it. It started out not with the traditional “Summertime”, but with some church choral music, which I’m guessing was the Handel. We were then introduced to the characters: Bess (Becerra) with “My Man’s Gone Now”, Sportin’ Life (ummm, excuse me) The/Temptation (Chen) with “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, and Porgy (Hall/Riley) with “I Got Plenty of Nothin'”.

Let’s stop for a moment for a quick aside, for even in those numbers some interesting counter cultural questions are raised. First, is there a requirement to do a show in the book order and with the right characters doing their song. Nominally, it is Serena, not Bess, that sings “My Man’s Gone”, as she’s singing about Robbins. Nominally, we start with “Summertime”, have “Nothin'” later in the first act, and don’t have “Necessarily” until the 2nd act. Those familiar with the Porgy and Bess score would find the rearrangement jarring — I certainly did — until I decided to view this as a concert as opposed to a telling of the story.

Second, there is the question of what “color-blind casting” means. Traditionally, you hear the term when a director casts a show that was traditionally designed for caucasian actors with actors of color. In most cases, it is applauded as a step towards diversity. But what about a show that is traditionally black, with the only white roles being the people of authority — the police and coroner. Here, Bess was white or hispanic; the Temptation was Asian. Was that acceptable to do to this work, or wrong? Is it acceptable in the spirit of a concert, but not acceptable as an instance of the real show? I don’t have the answer, other than to state that while the performances were good, the change was jarring and off, and resulted — especially for the Temptation — in the loss of the South Carolina dialect that Gershwin carefully cultivated. The refrain is “It ain’t necessa, ain’t necessa”, not “It ain’t necessarily, ain’t necessarily”, and — heaven forfend — it is “mammy”, not “mommy” in Summertime.

Back to the music. There was then the traditional spiritual “Motherless Child”, followed by “I Cain’t Sit Down”. The order of the remaining songs in the evening I can’t completely recall, only to note that it included (of course) “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”, “Oh, Lawd I’m On My Way”, and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, Ashf0rd and Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Nyro’s “Stoned Soul Picnic”,  Thiele and Weiss’ “What a Wonderful World”, and the entire piece ended with Jackson/Ritchie’s “We Are The World” (which, I’m sorry but I must say, has both the sappiest, stupidest, and most self-centered lyrics — “We’re saving our lives” — really now? Not other lives?).

Setting aside the story issue and the casting issues, the performances (modulo dialect issues) were strong. Individual voices had a good character; choral pieces were strong. The dance was stunning, and as always, the Muse/ique orchestra was great. The ultimate point Worby was making — that Porgy and Bess is an American amalgam — was made, and when combined with the prior pieces of summer, cement Gerswhin’s place as a uniquely American artist oft unappreciated for his nuance and variety. In that way, this was a success.

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of (I’m using the style of Muse/ique here): VIOLIN 1 / Roger Wilke, Anna Landauer (FB), Tamara Hatwan (FB), Agnes Gottschewski (FB), Loránd Lokuszta (FB), Marisa Kuney (FB) / VIOLIN 2 / Maia Jasper (FB), Neel Hammond, Lilliana Filipovic, Anna Kostyuchek (FB) / VIOLA / Shawn Mann (FB), Adam Neeley / CELLO / Charlie Tyler (FB), Ginger Murphy (FB), Joo Lee (FB) / BASSES / Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE / Sarah Weisz, Angela Weigand (FB) / OBOE / Leslie Reed (FB), Michele Forrest (FB) / CLARINET / Stuart Clark (FB),  Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON / William May (FB), Anthony Parnther (FB) / HORN /  Steve Becknell (FB), Amy Sanchez (FB) / TRUMPET / Dan Rosenboom (FB), Adam Bhatia (FB) / TROMBONE / Steve Suminsky (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TUBA / Doug Tornquist (FB)  / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET / Ted Atkatz (FB) / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger (FB). Featured players were Roger Wilke, Alan Steinberger, Charlie Tyler, Mike Valerio, and Ted Atkatz. I was good, and fought the urge to use slashes that time.

One observation about the orchestra: Writing this up, I expected the orchestra would be the same group as in August. After all, this is the “Muse/ique Orchestra”; wouldn’t they be the same across all events for a consistent sound? But I’d guess that perhaps 20-30% were the same; the rest were drawn from orchestras across the city. Is this common in orchestras?

Addressing the elements that could be controlled were Jon Boogz (FB) and Charles “Lil Buck” Riley (FB). Matthew McCray (FB) was the Stage Director. It is unclear if Matthew’s job was on the order of stage management (i.e., logistical) or more directoral (in terms of the cinematography for the screens). There was no credit for video, lighting, or sound — all of which were great. The lighting in particular was quite effective for this show.

Addressing the elements that couldn’t be controlled were — sigh, and they were annoying. We were in the back in Festival seating, and there were some kids in the far back making a lot of noise. It’s fine to bring your kids to these things, but you need to remind them to keep quite during performances. Even more annoying were the police helicopters circling overhead with lights. They were quite disturbing; luckily they went away, and whomever they were searching for wasn’t in the crowd.

As always, I recommend Muse/ique to people. They take quite a novel approach to music, jumping from here to there — and as a result, you never quite know what will happen, making it a treat. They are civilized in terms of food and amenities, and their greatest lack is a program for the evening. There next event is an Uncorked event in October, but it isn’t up on their website yet. I suggest subscribing to their website to learn more; there’s an option to do that at the bottom of the page.

* * *

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). We’re thinking of adding yet one more subscription: the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district. Their 2017 season looks great: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  After a bit of a hiatus, we are back to theatre. Next weekend sees us in Burbank for I Love You Because at the Grove Theatre. The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). 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).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring 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. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. 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.

--- *** ---

Building a Bridge

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Aug 21, 2016 @ 11:54 am PDT

Muse/ique American/Rhapsodyuserpic=theatre_ticketsWith all my political posts of late, you probably thought I had abandoned the real theatre for the political theatre that is Decision 2016. You would be wrong. We suffered a bit of burnout with the Hollywood Fringe Festival and July’s shows, so we decided not to book any additional shows during August. Rest assured, theatre readers, that live performances will start up again after Labor Day.

That said, last night saw us at one of our traditional summer shows: Muse/ique (FB) on the Beckman Lawn at Caltech.  For those unfamiliar, Muse/ique bills itself as a counter-culture orchestra. I’d say it is more an orchestra with an electic bent on the creative spectrum. It takes a particular subject and makes all sorts of connections to illustrate it well. At a program we saw in February called String/Awakening, the program ran from a focus on stringed instruments with bridges, to percussive sound, to knitting, to dancers hanging by strings, to a short talk on string theory.

This summer, the theme for Muse/ique is George Gershwin, hence “Gershwin/Nation” (they like their slashes at Muse/ique). We missed the first summer show; last nights show was titled “American/Rhapsody”. As expected one of the first numbers was Rhapsody in Blue, performed by HyeJin Kim on keyboard with the Muse/ique Orchestra. But then the uniqueness that is Muse/ique took hold. Maestra Rachael Worby talked about the opening riff of Rhapsody, and how it could have gone many directions, from blues to jazz to european classical, and how Gershwin specifically designed his music to bridge between the blues and the classical. We then started on a wild ride, that explored other artists that created similar bridges, from Duke Ellington to Paul Simon to Harold Arlen to Kurt Weill, to Carole King to Jerome Kern to Leonard Bernstein. So, for a Gershwin concert, there were only about four true Gershwin numbers — and those numbers often exhibited interesting takes, such as Fazil Say’s interpretation of Porgy and Bess’ Summertime.

This also just wasn’t music being played. Two of the numbers were performed acapella with the Street Corner Renaissance group — they did “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon (first recipient of the Gershwin Prize) and “Up on the Roof” by Carole King (fifth recipient of the Gershwin Prize). There was dance by the group Bodytraffic, who performed to the orchestrated versions of Gershwin’s Three Preludes and Kurt Weil’s (arrangement by the Oscar Peterson Trio + 1) classic Mack the Knife. There was a neat film by Dan Goods, Visual Strategist of JPL, on bridges.

Unfortunately, I’m having to do the program from memory. Although something is handed out that identifies the composers, arrangers, choreographers, and artists, there is no formal program of the music performed. This is a continuing problem with Muse/ique — one that I wish they would fix.

Modulo that quibble, this was one of the best Muse/ique shows we’ve seen. We’ll be back at Caltech in September for Summer/Time, a tribute to Porgy and Bess.

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of (I’m using the style of Muse/ique here): VIOLIN 1 / Marisa Sorajja, Hana Won Kim, Radu Pieptea, Rafi Rishik (FB), Joel Pargman (FB), Carrie Kennedy (FB) / VIOLIN 2 / Maia Jasper, Neel Hammond, Shelly Shi / VIOLA / Erik Rynearson, Rodney Wirtz, Adam Neeley / CELLO / Charlie Tyler, Ginger Murphy, Joo Lee (FB) / BASSES / Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE / Sarah Weisz, Angela Weigand (FB) / OBOE / Michele Forrest, Catherine Del Russo / CLARINET / Don Foster, Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON / William May, Bill Wood / HORN /  Steve Becknell (FB), Nathan Campbell / TRUMPET / Ryan Darke, Rob Schaer / TROMBONE / Nick Daley (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TUBA / Scott Sutherland / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET / Ted Atkatz / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger (FB).

* * *

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:  September returns to conventional theatre. The second weekend sees us back at Muse/ique (FB) for Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend brings I Love You Because at the Grove Theatre in Burbank. 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.

--- *** ---