Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'theatre'

Going to the Dogs | “Lucky Stiff” @ Actors Co-Op

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 21, 2017 @ 6:06 pm PDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🎩 🎩 🎩

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

Upcoming Shows: May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].

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

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

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

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

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Indescribable | Martha Graham Dance Company @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 14, 2017 @ 11:03 am PDT

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

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

But dance?

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

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

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

The production consisted of five movements, so to speak:

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

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

Some more somewhat general observations:

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

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

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

 🎩 🎩 🎩

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

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].  and possibly Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB), or perhaps.

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

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

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

 

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HFF17 – Current Schedule Plans

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 12, 2017 @ 11:16 am PDT

userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) schedule is starting to gel. I’ve done some further planning over lunch, and here is how June stands. We are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges.

Saturday, June 3:

⇒ Unavailable to Fringe

Sunday, June 4:

⇒ Until 4p – Annual Gluten Free Expo | [K/R]
⇒ 6p – Hey Hollywood! My Hustle has ADHD | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 8p – Robot Monster the Musical | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 930p – Buffy Kills Edward: The Musical | [D/K/R¹]

Saturday, June 10:

⇒ 3p – The Heart Change – Ink Theatre | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – 86’d | [D/K]
⇒ 7p – Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story | [D²/K²]

Sunday, June 11:

⇒ 3p – Five Guys Named Moe @ Ebony Rep | [D]

Saturday, June 17:

⇒ 1p – Pretty, Witty Nell | [D²/K²] (Poss. Canc.)
⇒ 3:30p – Zombie Clown Trump | [D/K]
⇒ 5:30p – Conversations ‘Bout The Girls | [D/K]
⇒ 7:30p – Inversion | [D/K]

Sunday, June 18

Fathers Day – Open

Saturday, June 24:

⇒ 11:30a – Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman [D²/K²/R²]  (Maybe)
⇒ 3p – Slightly Off Broadway (Chromolume) | [D²/K²/R²]
⇒ 5:30p – Trump in Space | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 7p – The ABCs | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 9p – Reasons to be Pretty / Maxwelton | [D/K/R²]

Sunday, June 25:

⇒ 2p – Transition | [D/K]
⇒ 4p – Khant Hotel | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – Bachelorette by Leslye Headland | [D²/K²]

Note:

  • To see the full Fringe guide, click here.
  • There are those out there that I’ve bamboozled into thinking I’m a reviewer‡, and who want me to see their shows. In order to do so, (a) it would have to fit in the schedule above (including transit times between theatres), and (b) be agreeable to the boss (K), and if applicable, the pseudo-daughter (R). Ethics rules from work are ingrained in me: I do not take free tickets, but will gladly do half price or some other discount.

‡: I’m just a cybersecurity specialist who loves attending live performance, being an audience member, and telling my friends and others who read my blog about what I see, so they might see it as well.

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Hollywood Fringe Festival – Downselect Help Needed

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 09, 2017 @ 8:01 am PDT

userpic=fringe

I need your help in planning my Fringe schedule. The following was in my most recent theatre writeup about my plans for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). I’m working on the schedule now. The shows of interest are as follows — however, the total for tickets is over $700, which is way too high. I need help paring down this list. Not all of these are currently in our schedule (¤ unscheduled as of now). If you know of any discounts for these shows, or have recommendations / disrecommendations, please let us know. Note that I’m generally restricted to Fringing on the weekends (living in the valley and working full-time).

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The Price We Pay | “The Bodyguard” @ Pantages

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 07, 2017 @ 7:38 pm PDT

The Bodyguard (Pantages)Oh, the prices we pay to get tickets to Hamilton. For some, it is overpriced tickets and waiting in long lines, physically or virtually. For Hollywood Pantages (FB) Season Subscribers, it was The Bodyguard, which we saw last night.

The Bodyguard is ostensibly a transfer to the legit musical stage of the movie The Bodyguard from 1992, a movie that received a rating of 6.2/10 on Yelp, and which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston (or, as I view it in my worldview, the 1992 movie was a premake of the stage show, because the stage show always comes first). It also featured a number of Whitney Houston songs. You can just imagine the movie executives going, “Gee, we could make a great Whitney Houston tribute musical out of this.” However, the starting point was a movie with very mixed reception — 32% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and 64% from the audience — and that doesn’t make a good basis for a musical.  Especially one that doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.

So what makes a good musical? If we go back to the formula established by Rodgers and Hammerstein, you have musical movements that propel and move the story forward. When one looks that movies that have moved from screen to stage, rarely does the original soundtrack music make the transfer. Look at Sister Act or High Fidelity or most you can think of. The popular music soundtrack is replaced by something similar that serves the story better, with perhaps the exception of one or two best-known songs (The Wedding Singer is a good example of that).

So, perhaps this is a jukebox musical — a musical designed to showcase the music of a particular artist. After all, we need a good Whitney Houston musical. Jukebox musicals take three forms: pure retrospective concerts (think Smokey Joe’s Cafe); new stories crafted around an existing catalog where the catalog songs move the story forward (think All Shook Up or Mamma Mia); or books crafted to tell the history of the artist, using the catalog songs as representative samples along the line of the bio story (think Jersey Boys or Ain’t Misbehavin’).

The major fundamental problem with The Bodyguard — the problem that doomed it to be a West-End Tour, and will kill it if it makes it to Broadway — is that it is neither fish nor fowl (although, the story smells a bit fishy and may be foul). By that I mean that this clearly isn’t a musical where the music propels the story forward at all. There are no real book related songs; there are numerous pure concert moments. But it isn’t a good jukebox musical either — it isn’t a pure concert, it isn’t a fake story crafted to use the songs of the catalog right, nor does it tell the story of the artist. It is an attempt to move a movie to the stage stuffing it full of the catalog of one pop star’s songs, with an ill-fitting book that barely provides the excuse to move from song to song. It could have been a very successful (OK, moderately successful) concert and dance show, but the producers didn’t let it go there.

So, besides that Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?

Setting aside the problems of this musical as a musical, the book remained weak. Admittedly, there were some very cute scenes in the book. The karaoke scene in Act I was a hoot, well performed and funny. A few other scenes had funny moments here and there. But you never really got to know the characters and their relationships. The bad guy? His character was “The Stalker”. The male love interest had not a single song telling you his feelings.  You had no idea about the motivations of the stalker other than what the police told you.  You didn’t feel invested in these characters; the book seemed to be there solely so they could tie it to the movie, and move from song to song.

Now, admittedly, that’s what we had with An American in Paris, with a very light storyline, used as an excuse for dance and song. So why did that work, and this doesn’t. Well, part of the problem is that it didn’t work with An American in Paris — it really was a dance show clothed in a weak book, and it didn’t have a long Broadway run even though it toured. But the movie it was based on was the same way, and there was an attempt to work the songs into the story. Further, the characters were less caricatures than they were here. So, essentially, both were flawed.

Um, so Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the performance?

Sheer performance, that’s where this cast excelled — at least the singers and dancers. In the lead position as Rachel Marron was Deborah Cox (FB). Not being a Whitney Houston expert, I can’t really assess whether she successfully channed Ms. Houston. I do know that she sang and danced well, and seemed reasonable in her scenes with the other players (in particular, the cabin scene). Playing off her as her bodyguard was Judson Mills (FB) as Frank Farmer. It is telling that his Playbill bio is his IMDB bio, with no real musical credits. His role involves neither singing (he didn’t really have one sole solo song) or dancing in a heavily singing and dancing musical (even in the final dance montage, he doesn’t sing or dance). Essentially, his performance, like the character he was playing, was relatively wooden — only showing sparks of life not when interacting with his love interest, but when interacting with the young kid in the cast.

Rounding out the Merron family was Jasmin Richardson (FB) as Nikki Marron and Douglas Baldeo (FB) as Fletcher (alternating with Kevelin B. Jones III (FB)). Both were powerhouse performers — great singers, great dancers, and as good a performance as this show allows. Baldeo was particularly remarkable in the closing montage.

The other main named characters — at least those who weren’t part of the ensemble as well — were eminently forgettable. There characters were lightly drawn and tended to disappear in the background. Notable here was “The Stalker” (Jorge Paniagua (FB)) , whose sole role was to look menacing in blackouts, and had perhaps 4 lines. Others in similar small roles were: Charles Gray (FB) [Bill Devaney], Alex Corrado (FB) [Tony Scibelli]; Jonathan Hadley (FB) [Sy Spector]; and Jarid Faubel [Ray Court].

What did shine? The ensemble: Brendon Chan (FB), Megan Elyse Fulmer (FB) [+College Girl], Alejandra Matos (FB), DeQuina Moore (FB) [+Backup Vocalist, +College Girl, u/s Nicki / Rachel Marron], Bradford Rahmlow (FB) [+Assassin, +Rory, u/s Tony Scibelli, u/s Ray Court], Benjamin Rivera (FB) [+Dance Captain, u/s Stalker],  Matthew Schmidt (FB) [+Klingman, +Douglas, +DJ, +Jimmy, +Stage Manager, +Oscar Host, u/s Bill Devaney, u/s The Stalker, U/s Sy Spector, u/s Ray Court], Jaquez André Sims (FB) [u/s Bill Devaney, u/s Tony Scibelli], Nicole Spencer (FB), and Naomi C. Walley (FB) [+College Girl, u/s Rachel / Nicki Marron]. [Swings were Willie Dee (FB), Sean Rozanski (FB) [+Fight Captain], Maria Cristina Slye (FB), and Lauren Tanner (FB)]. The ensemble shone in the background in the few book scenes, silently playing characters. They shone during the main dance numbers and especially during the dance reminx finale. They provided wonderful facial expressions and reaction shots. They were just great.

The production was directed, somewhat mechanically, by Thea Sharrock, using a book by Alexander Dinelaris (FB) that adapted the Warner Brothers (FB) film that had a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. Frank Thompson (FB) was the associate director.  You want music and lyrics credit — they were all songs made famous by Whitney Houston (FB), although she didn’t write them. To me, the two most notable songs were also notable covers: “I Will Always Love You“, originally written and performed by Dolly Parton (FB) in 1974; and “The Greatest Love Of All“, written by composers Michael Masser (music) and Linda Creed (lyrics) (no, not the Marron sisters as portrayed in the Musical), originally written and recorded by George Benson (FB) to be the main theme of the 1977 film The Greatest, a biopic of the boxer Muhammad Ali (which I actually have on LP).

Although the direction was weak and didn’t improve the weak book, the dance was strong. Credit here goes to choreographer Karen Bruce (FB) and Assistant Choreographer Amy Thornton (FB), assisted by Dance Captain Benjamin Rivera (FB). I had a cousin with me who is more into the vernacular of modern concerts and such, and she indicated the dance was extremely strong. Perhaps “lit” was the term she used.

By the way, for those attempting to look up credits (as I have), note that much of the creative team has a UK / West End pedigree, not Broadway. This musical is not a Broadway musical — yet. It started in London’s West End, toured the UK, and is now touring the US hoping for Broadway. Telling is the fact that tour has not been authorized by the estate of Whitney Houston. For good reason? Perhaps.

The orchestra for the show was strong, under the direction of Matthew Smedal (FB), who we’ve seen a number of times on stages ranging from Cabrillo to national tours. He led an orchestra consisting of: Wendell Vaughn/FB [Associate Music Director / Keys], Owen Broder (FB) [Woodwinds], David D. Torres (FB) [Trumpet], Michael Karcher (FB) [Guitar], Ralph Agresta (FB) [Guitar], John Toney (FB) [Bass], Joe McCarthy (FB) [Drums], plus local orchestra members John Yoakum (FB) [Clarinet, Flute, Tenor Sax, EWI], Wayne Bergeron (FB) [Trumpet / Flugelhorn], Paul Viapiano (FB) [Guitar 2 / Acoustic Guitar / Electric Guitar], and William Malpede (FB) [Keyboard Sub]. Other orchestra credits: Talitha Fehr (FB) / TL Music International [Music Coordinator]; Brian Miller [Orchestra Contractor], Mike Dixon [Production Music Supervisor, Vocal Arrangements], Chris Egan (FB) [Orchestrations, Additional Music], and Richard Beadle [Music Supervisor]. The Orchestra was also hidden not in the orchestra pit, but under the stage, to make space for the hydraulic lift used for one scene. This is notable solely for the fact that the screens showing the conductor to the actors was a bit bright, distracting the audience.

Finally, the remaining production and creative credits. The scenic design by Tim Hatley made use of these odd framing devices with integrated lighting that shrunk or expanded the visual stage. They worked, but were also quite distracting at times. The set design worked better during the concert numbers, where it combined with Mark Henderson‘s lighting design to create a real concert atmosphere. Note: for those with problems with strobes or lights shining in your face, this isn’t the concert for you. There is heavy use of movers and LEDs aimed at the audience. This also isn’t a good show for the faint of heart: the sound design of Richard Brooker has a number of startling moments with gunshots and the like. Other than that, the sound was generally crisp and clear — unusual for the Pantages. Tim Hatley also designed the costumes (Leon Dobkowski (FB) was the associate costume designer for the US tour), working with hair, wigs, and makeup of Campbell Young Associates. They seemed era-appropriate for me; I noticed no glaring problems and they were suitably sparkly. The video designs of Duncan McLean worked well, although at times they seemed more movie-like than a stage production. Rounding out the production credits: Paul Hardt (FB) [Casting Director]; Jim Lanahan / Troika Entertainment (FB) [General Manager]; Melissa Chacón [Production Stage Manager]; Richard A. Leigh [Stage Manager]; Stacy N. Taylor [Assistant Stage Manager].

The Bodyguard – The Musical continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) until May 21. Tickets are available through the Pantages website. Discount tickets are available through Goldstar.

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

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend takes us to a dance performance that proudly admits it is a dance show (unlike our past two Pantages musicals): Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend of May 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), and possibly Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB), or perhaps the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB), as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing.

As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). I’m working on the schedule for that now. The shows of interest are as follows — however, the total for tickets is over $700, which is way too high. Expect this list to be pared down. Not all of these are currently in our schedule (¤ unscheduled as of now). If you know of any discounts for these shows, or have recommendations / disrecommendations, please let us know.

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

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

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Theatrical Planning News

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 06, 2017 @ 5:13 pm PDT

My last post dealt with some season announcements I was mailed. Here is some other theatrical news I’ve seen of late:

  • Allegiance. The George Takei musical Allegiance is coming to Los Angeles. I say George Takei, but he really didn’t write it: The show music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Kuo, Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione. It was inspired, however by Takei.  It is coming to the East West Theatre: “Allegiance” is scheduled to run from Feb. 21 to April 1, 2018, at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.
  • Spamilton. Perhaps you couldn’t get — or couldn’t afford — tickets to Hamilton. Don’t worry. You can go to Spamilton instead. Spamilton is starting its National Tour at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Nov. 5 through Dec. 31. Tickets will be $25 to $75, subject to change. Single tickets are not on sale yet.
  • A Noise Within. Pasadena’s A Noise Within has announced their 2017-2018 season. A lot of classics and good shows, but nothing that is strongly enticing to me. But it might interest you. The season is: A Tail of Two Cities; The Madwoman of Chaillot; Mrs. Warren’s Profession; A Christmas Carol; Henry V; A Raisin in the Sun; and Noises Off.
  • The Tour List. Two shows that got shut out of major — or any — Tony glory have announced tours: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Anastasia. These are both shows that would expect to show up in the Pantages 2018-2019 season.
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Thoughts on a Theatre Season: Actors Co-Op / VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 06, 2017 @ 4:19 pm PDT

As I have received some more season announcements (this time, to theatres to which I subscribe), it’s time for another installment of season reviews.

First up, Actors Co-Op (FB), which has announced their 2017-2018 season, as well as this summer’s Co-op Too! series (which is included with subscriptions). Here is Actor’s Co-Op’s next season:

  • The 39 Steps (Sept 22 – Oct 29, 2017).  Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and film by Alfred Hitchcock. And it is with those words, playwright Patrick Barlow has crafted a crazy, over-the-top spy novel-type mystery that will have you laughing and giggling and aha-ing! in your seat. This six-time Tony Award nominee comes to life with flashes of Hitchcock movies, sprinkles of Monty Python humor, and a good dose of romance to boot. We saw this back when it was on tour after winning the Tony at the Ahmanson. It will be interesting to see a small stage production of it.
  •  The Man Who Came To Dinner. (Nov 3 – Dec 17, 2017). By Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.  Get in the Christmas spirit with this comedy classic of the nightmare holiday guest who never leaves—or so it seems. Ex-convicts in the dining room, penguins in the library, and thousands of cockroaches in the kitchen, are just a few of the fallouts from the visitor who outstayed his welcome. I’ve heard about this show, and heard the musical that was developed from it, but haven’t actually seen this.
  • A Walk In The Woods.  (Feb 9 – Mar 18, 2018).  By Lee Blessing. From beloved playwright Lee Blessing, comes a story of relationship between two arms negotiators and what happens when they step out of the war room and into the woods. A Walk in the Woods, produced in 1988, played on Broadway, and Time magazine called it one of the best dramas to hit the stage that year. I have a recollection of seeing this at the Pasadena Playhouse, but can’t confirm it.
  • A Man for All Seasons. (Apr 13 – May 20, 2018). By Robert Bolt. A man of remarkable integrity, Sir Thomas More placed ethics before power. To stand up to his country’s sovereign authority cost him everything, but today it offers us one of the most inspiring stories ever staged. Although I’ve heard of this play, I haven’t seen it.
  • Violet. (May 11 – June 17, 2018). Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book & Lyrics by Brian Crawley. Beginning in 1964 North Carolina, Violet rides a bus through the segregated South, to a TV evangelist in Oklahoma. She is convinced he can heal her scar, which was the result of a traumatic childhood accident. From American roots to folk to gospel, VIOLET is a powerhouse of music and theatre that will have you tapping your toes, slapping your knees, and wiping your eyes. We saw this as a minimalist Kelrick Productions a couple of years ago at the El Portal; it will be interesting to see how Actor’s Co-Op does it.

A season like this demonstrates why someone subscribes to a theatre: to see shows you might not normally purchase tickets for. Given my druthers, as you probably noticed, I tend to pick musicals. Season subscriptions — back at Rep East, Pasadena Playhouse, or The Colony Theatre in the day, or at Actors Co-Op now, gives the depth to the season to balance my personal breadth. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the season prices are fantastic: $85 for 5 shows for “Early Bird” (in the first three weeks), or $110 for regular subscriptions. Here’s how to subscribe.

Oh, and it turns out the seasons include the Actors Co-op Too! Summer productions… meaning we get three more shows for our subscription dollar. Here are this summer’s shows:

  • The Voysey Inheritance. (June 23 – July 1, 2017). by Harley Granville-Barker, Adapted by David Mamet. Edward Voysey’s highly principled world upturns when he discovers the family business he is inheriting has been defrauding its clients for years. To compound matters, he quickly discovers his, scandal-fearing family knew of the crime but allowed it to continue rather than face the shame of public disclosure. Haven’t seen this; sounds interesting.
  • Ruthie And Me.  (July 14-16, 2017). Book and Lyrics by Karen Westcott, Music by Marylou Dunn. A musical comedy about a love story between a man and a woman, a mother-in-law and daughter-and-law, and a people and their God. Based on the story of Ruth and Naomi. Sounds interesting.
  • The Last Five Years. (July 28 – Aug 5, 2017). Written and Composed by Jason Robert Brown.Jason Robert Brown’s Drama Desk winning musical THE LAST FIVE YEARS ingeniously chronicles the five year-life of a marriage, from meeting to break-up and from break-up to meeting, showing the emotional struggle and deconstruction of a love affair. Seen this far too many times (Pasadena Playhouse, Rep East, ACT San Francisco), but it will be interesting to see yet another take on it.

In many ways, this is like REP’s 81 Series: Short run specialty pies. Should be Good.

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This brings us to our next season: The Valley Performing Arts Center (FB). They, too, have announced their 2017-2018 season. We typically do a mini-season with them: 5-8 shows out of the entire season. Here is their season, and whether I am likely to ticket:

  • Sat 9/16 | 7PM. AMADEUS LIVE. Richard Kaufman, Conductor. Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Members of the LA Opera Chorus.
  • Thu 10/12 | 8PM. Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble. Korngold – Sextet for Strings in D Major. Shostakovich – Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet. Mendelssohn – Octet for Strings in Eb Major
  • Sat 10/14 | 8PM. Upright Citizens Brigade All-Stars.
  • Thu 10/19 | 8PM. To Ray with Love, Starring Maceo Parker Featuring The Ray Charles Orchestra & The Raelettes
  • Thu 11/2 | 8PM. Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. Pavel Kogan, Conductor. Dmitry Masleev, Piano. Rachmaninov – The Rock. Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1. Scriabin – Symphony No. 2.
  • Sat 11/4 | 8PM. Flamenco Legends by Javier Limón: The Paco de Lucía Project
  • Sat 11/11 | 7PM. DIAVOLO: 25-Year Anniversary Marathon. Signature works from the company’s Past, Present, and Future.
  • Tue 11/14 | 8PM. The Sachal Ensemble. Song of Lahore.
  • Fri 11/17 | 8PM. Bernstein on Stage. John Mauceri, Conductor. New West Symphony .
  • Sat 11/18 | 8PM. iLe. Special Guest Gaby Moreno.
  • Sun 11/19 | 3PM. Imago Theatre. La Belle, Lost in the World of the Automaton
  • Thu 11/30 | 8PM. Anat Cohen Tentet. Musical Director, Oded Lev-Ari
  • Sun 12/3 | 3PM. Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat. Musical by Justin Roberts & Ernie Nolan. Fairy Tale by The Grimm Brothers. Animation Director: Micah Chambers-Goldberg. Directed by Michael Matthews.
  • Wed 12/6 | 8PM. Eliot Fisk. J.S. Bach – Cello Suites
  • Fri 12/8 | 8PM. Michael Feinstein Holiday Celebration.
  • Sat 12/9 | 7PM. Fiesta Mexicana: Feliz Navidad.
  • Sun 12/10 3PM. Colburn Orchestra.
  • Sat 12/16 | 8PM. The Klezmatics. Happy Joyous Hanukkah.
  • Fri 1/19 | 8PM. Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars with Harold López-Nussa Trio
  • Sun 1/21 | 7:30PM. Leilah Broukhim. Dejando Huellas (Traces).
  • Thu 1/25 | 8PM. Cheech Marin Hosts an Evening of Comedy. 3rd Annual CSUN Alumni Performance.
  • Fri 1/26 | 8PM. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London. Charles Dutoit, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. Debussy – Petite Suite. Haydn – Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major. Stravinsky – The Firebird.
  • Sat 2/3 | 8PM. KEIGWIN + COMPANY Celebrates Bernstein.
  • Fri 2/9 | 8PM. Step Afrika! Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence.
  • Sun 2/11 | 3PM. MUMMENSCHANZ: you & me.
  • Fri 2/16 | 8PM / Sat 2/17 | 8PM. Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. Featuring Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.
  • Wed 2/21 | 8PM. Danish String Quartet.
  • Sat 2/24 | 8PM. On the Waterfront, Film with Live Orchestra.
  • Sun 2/25 | 3PM. Dublin Irish Dance. Stepping Out
  • Thu 3/1 | 8PM. Miles Electric Band.
  • Sat 3/3 | 8PM. The Ten Tenors.
  • Sun 3/11 | 3PM. Yamato—The Drummers of Japan. Chousensha – The Challengers.
  • Thu 3/15 | 8PM. Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Joshua Bell, Director & Violin. A New Commission by Edgar Meyer.
  • Sun 3/18 | 3PM. Manual Cinema. The Magic City.
  • Fri 3/23 | 8PM. Billy Porter. The Soul of Richard Rodgers.
  • Thu 3/29 | 8PM. Kathleen Battle. Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey.
  • Thu 4/5 | 8PM. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
  • Sat 4/7 | 8PM. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
  • Fri 4/13 | 8PM , Sat 4/14 | 3 & 8PM, Sun 4/15 | 3PM | Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. McCoy Rigby Entertainment & La Mirada Theatre.
  • Wed 4/18 | 8PM, Thu 4/19 | 8PM. Cécile McLorin Salvant.
  • Sat 4/21 | 8PM. ¡La Nueva Cuba! The Next Generation. Roberto Fonseca. Daymé Arocena. Pedrito Martinez Group.
  • Thu 4/26 | 8PM. Amir ElSar’s Two Rivers Ensemble.
  • Sat 4/28 | 3PM. LA Opera presents Great Opera Choruses.
  • Tue 5/1 | 8PM , Wed 5/2 | 8PM. Terence Blanchard. Breathless featuring The E-Collective.
  • Sat 5/5 | 8PM. Quetzal with Mariachi Flor de Toloache.
  • Sat 5/12 | 8PM. An Evening with David Sedaris.

Note that some of the shows we may opt not to ticket, if the total gets too high, and we might decide to include some of the shows.

 

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Relationships and Science | “The Theory of Relativity” @ CSHP/Harter Hall

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed May 03, 2017 @ 7:31 pm PDT

The Theory of Relativity (Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse)Many years ago, there was this beautiful musical on Broadway that failed in an absurdly small number of shows: The Story of My Life. The failure, in my opinion, was not due to the book or the music, but because it wasn’t a Broadway show: it was a tender small musical that got lost in a gigantic house. I saw the show a few years ago at the Lillian Theatre (now Sacred Fools) in Hollywood, and it fit perfectly. I urge you to get the cast album for the show — you’ll find some of the best crafted and most touching story songs you have ever heard. In 2014 the authors of that musical — book writer Brian Hill (FB), composer and lyricist Neil Bartram — developed another musical focused on the experience of college-age students, designed to be performed by college students. In a recent music purchasing binge, Amazon recommended this musical to me — The Theory of Relativity. I ordered it… and fell in love with another show. The music was extremely well crafted, the stories told by the songs were great, and a number of songs were just instant favorites. I thought nothing of it until I was reading the program during our recent visit to The Sirens of Titan. There was an ad for The Theory of Relativity being done at a small playhouse in Woodland Hills that we knew nothing about: The Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB) on the grounds of Woodland Hills Community Church (at Canoga and Dumetz) in Harter Hall. I’m sure you can guess what I did when I got home.

We went out to see the show last Sunday (excuse the delay in the writeup — a crazy week), and it was just a delight. Very simply staged — no scenery, just chairs — with 12 performers, it was essentially a song cycle about relationships. Most of the show was song, there were a few dialogue only pieces that added some additional characters or serving to tie everything together. Underlying them all together was the notion — and the question — of relativity: What makes a relationship? Is it the relationship as seen by the participants in the relative frame of motion? Is it the observations from the outside? Are relationships mathematical and precise, or messy and going against all logic? In going against logic, are relationships sometimes predictable? This was all wrapped up in some delicate and well-performed music, especially considering that this was at the level of community theatre (i.e., this was not an Equity-member cast; rather, there were some that had worked in a number of shows, and others for whom performing is more a passion than a career). I found the show to be extremely enjoyable.

The Theory of Relativity (Cast)Let me talk about some of my favorite numbers (and the performers as well). They have a teaser video set up on YouTube, and the photo montage to the right was snarfed from the theatre’s Facebook page:

  • One of my favorite numbers in the show is “Me and Ricky”, a story about a woman whose first love was bad news. This was performed quite well by Caitlyn Rose Massey (FB). She could have used just a pinch more belt in the voice, but it was truly enjoyable.
  • Another favorite number is “Promise Me This”, about Mira, the miracle baby and the relationship between a parent and their child. This was performed by Laila Abdo (FB), who just knocked it out with a strong clear voice and wonderful facial expressions. An aside about that: it was remarkable just to watch the faces of these performers, both when they were “on”, and even more so when they were “off” (that is, in the background just listening to another performer).
  • “The End of the Line” is another fun number performed wonderfully by Paulina Logan (FB) and Tiffany Bailey (FB). Here, the cute lyrics dovetailed with simple but great performances by the actors to make something special.
  • One of the most touching numbers was “Footprint”, about what makes a place a home. This was sung very well by Larry Collica (FB), who also served as Musical Director for the show.
  • “Apples and Oranges” is a number that comes across very different on the album from on stage; the stage performance brings across a different meaning to the terms used. Chris Clonts (FB) and Daniel Koh (FB) handled the number extremely well, and I think their touching performance gave the number the something special that was needed. I’ll note that Koh had an extremely strong and beautiful voice.
  • The multiple parts of “Pi”, performed by Kyle Sundman (FB), were cute, but they didn’t get their additional meaning until the spoke “Manicure” number featuring Katie Lynn Mapel (FB). PS: I loved Sundman’s Lego tie.
  • Another set of paired scenes were the second number, “I’m Allergic to Cats” (performed by Justin Huff (FB)) and “Julie’s Song” (performed by Kristine Gilreath (FB)).  “Cats” was really cute for its wording, but Huff’s performance of it was touching to those of similar nature (like me); when paired with Gilreath’s song and her wonderful look, it was magical.
  • Mackayla Hill (FB) primarily only had a series of scenes about a cake (which were cute); but I actually noticed her voice more in the ensemble numbers, where there was quite a bit of power in that package.
  • Kaiya Cheyenne Wynn (FB) was featured in a number of numbers, notably in the opening and the closing. A very nice strong voice, again, which I noticed even more in the ensemble numbers.

One thing notable about this show was the variety of the cast. Often, your stage productions have casts with a similar look to them. This cast was extremely diverse in color, size, style … and it worked to make an important statement of its own about the diversity we see in relationships. Another cast point that I mentioned above was the facial expressions. Especially in a small musical like this where you can be up close with the performers: watch the facial expressions. Here, they were spectacular as the messages of the songs clearly resonated with the performed, and thus were amplified by the ensemble and carried out to the audience.

Turning to the creative side of the production: Stage Direction and Choreography by Marshelle Giggles-Mills (FB). I’ve noted the set was simply a bunch of chairs moved around and a small platform up front; there was no other real scenery. Dance was simply and more movement, but it worked. There was no credit for costumes or hair design — presumably, these were picked by the actors from their personal wardrobes, demonstrating yet again the diversity in this team. Musical Direction was by Larry Collica (FB) on the piano. The production design was by Jessica Worland (FB), who also served as stage manager. The Theory of Relativity was produced by Suzanne Ryan (FB).

The Theory of Relativity has one more performance weekend — May 6 and 7. Tickets are available through the CSHP’s Brown Paper Tickets website; use the code “einstein” for a discount. Discount tickets may also be available through Goldstar. I enjoyed the show very much, and recommend it.

 🎩 🎩 🎩

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

Upcoming Shows: May 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), and hopefully Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB).  As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). I’m working on the schedule for that now. Look for the theatre plans for the third quarter of the year (July through September) in my next writeup.

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

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