California Highway Headlines for July 2017

July. The month for brush fires, roadtrips, and vacations. Also the month for highway work, and highway headlines:

  • Roadshow: Is there hope for the torturous trek over Pacheco Pass?. Q: I know it’s been a few weeks, but I am still recovering. It took me four hours to go from Mountain View to Interstate 5 on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend on highways 101 and 152. I knew it was going to be bad, but four hours? To go about 90 miles? Something must be done. HOV lanes? Yes! Toll roads? Yes! Eminent domain? Yes! We need a four-lane freeway from 101 to I-5. It is absurd to have a two-lane chokepoint like this on Highway 152 for millions of people in the South Bay. Is there any hope?
  • Isolated part of California’s Big Sur opens to public again. A portion of Big Sur which has been cut off since February by a collapsed bridge and a massive landslide is accessible again. Specifically, a public hiking trail that links visitors to popular tourist attractions in south Big Sur opened on Saturday. A daily shuttle takes visitors to the half-mile trail, which was initially built for locals to circumvent the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge after it was badly damaged by winter storms and had to be demolished.
  • More Than $34 Million Awarded to 125 Projects Under Cap-and-Trade Fund. Caltrans today announced that 125 local projects received $34.5 million in funding from the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program. These projects continue California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the sustainability of public transportation systems around the state.

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Very Interesting….

Here’s a collection of articles that I found to be quite interesting (and worthy of comment), and yet ones that are unlikely to fit into a themed post:

  • Garfield is Not Meant To Be Funny. We’re all familiar with the lasgane-eating cat. We read the script, and scratch our heads. Some of us even find Garfield minus Garfield to be funnier.  Turns out there is a reason. Garfield was never meant to be funny; it was specifically designed to be marketable.  That is, Garfield was designed to be able to create plush toys, trite sayings, kitchen magnets, T-shirts, and such — not to be a funny strip.
  • Judaism Isn’t Cheap. The LA Times has an interesting op-ed today on the high cost of Judaism. This isn’t even talking about the cost of living Judaism — kosher food and the like. Rather, it refers to the high cost of Jewish community services, the high cost of synagogue membership. It posits that this is one reason behind declining synagogue membership. I know that at our large synagogue in the ‘burbs, membership dues are high, there are regular additional appeals because dues don’t cover all, and accounting errors lead to additional assessments … plus all the various fundraisers and events that have their fees. If you’re not lucky enough to be middle-class, what do you do. You join with dues assistance, which then makes things even worse for the rest of the congregation. There are some answers, but they take, so to speak, a leap of faith and assumption of a certain amount of risk. They take making synagogues be more than dues for service, rather a relationship you want to support. It’s not an easy question.
  • Dealing with ADHD. We have taken in a cousin who is dealing with ADHD. This is something new to us, and is leading us to be more attentive to the various posts that go around on the subject. Recently, a FB friend brought to light this wonderful ADHD survival guide. I think it has some really good tips that we are going to try.
  • You Are What You Drink. Coke Zero is rebranding itself as Coke Zero Sugar. Why? The new name is intended to make clearer that the drink has no calories, and a new recipe is intended to make the drink taste more like regular Coke. The company isn’t specifying what it’s changing aside from saying it tweaked the “blend of flavors.” It says the drink will use the same artificial sweeteners. Mainly, they are making it look more, and taste more, like Coke. Why? Because “Diet Coke” doesn’t taste like Coke (remember, Diet Coke replaced Tab, which was saccharine based). The push behind Coke Zero comes as people continue moving away from Diet Coke in the United States. Coca-Cola in the past has blamed the declines on concerns over the aspartame used in the drink, though the ingredient is also used in Coke Zero, which has enjoyed growth globally. Note that last bit: aspartame is used in Coke Zero. That’s why I don’t drink it. I either drink water or plain black tea. With respect to that, alas, Starbucks is closing down all Teavana locations. Starbuck has never had a commitment to tea. Note that both Peets and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf have also been reducing their tea selections, likely because there’s no profit in tea as people don’t doctor it as much as coffee to make it drinkable, and thus they can’t charge the extra $$$. Let’s hope David’s Tea stays around.
  • Dealing with Dementia. Unfortunately, many of us are having to deal with the mental decline of our aging parents. We get diagnoses of cognitive impairment, and often leave it at that. But it turns out that the type of dementia is important to know, for it can impact the approach to treatment. So, for me, this article was interesting simply because of all the dementia we’re dealing with these days.

 

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Coming Together, Coming Apart | “The Last 5 Years” @ Actors Co-op Too!

The Last 5 Years (Actors Co-Op)This has been a weekend of love. Friday night we saw a Shakespearean celebration of love through the eyes of Galt MacDermot and John Guare: Two Gentlemen of Verona – The Musical (nee “A Grand New Musical”). Last night (Saturday), we saw a different sort of celebration: The Last 5 Years by Jason Robert Brown (FB) at Actors Co-op (FB) today, part of the Actors Co-Op’s Actors Co-Op Too! summer series — a series of short runs to explore new plays, grow new directors and new actors, and season the acting muscles of existing company members.

If I had the choice of a musical to see, The Last 5 Years would not be it. I’ve seen it three times before: 2016 at ACT San Francisco; 2006 at REP East; and 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse. It is one of those musicals that gets trotted out when you need an inexpensive two-hander; it is a great showcase for two actor-singers. But for an audience member, it is unclear what the different versions bring. So why see it again? Partially because it was offered to subscribers, and I’m all about value and getting my subscription dollar’s worth. Partially because I view it as a salami and eggs show: it is a reference dish that is a good test of a theatre.

The Last Five Years is a simple show in terms of story: there are two actors, and they rarely appear together. The show tells the story of the relationship between Jamie and Cathy. Cathy’s version of the relationship story is told backwards: from the breakup to when they meet. Jamie version is forward: from when they meet to the breakup. They are only together at the middle (the marriage) and the last scene (but that time their songs are separate). The story alternates between the two stories, and from it the audience gets the story.

Given this structure, the storytelling depends on two things: the performance and the music. Jason Robert Brown (FB)’s music has the JRB romantic musical sound (i.e., you’ll find that The Bridges of Madison County has a similar sound): deep, lush, emotive, and at times playful. There are some very beautiful songs in L5Y; there are some very funny songs; and there are some very poignant songs. It is a test of the actor-singer who must convey everything through performance and voice. This is especially true in the small theatre where the lushness of the score is reduced by simplification to a single keyboard.

My reaction to the Actors Co-op production of The Last 5 Years was mixed. I really liked Claire Adams (FB)’s Cathy. I felt she brought a wonderful sense of performance and character to the role, and I enjoyed her singing. This is the third time we’ve seen Adams; we saw her previously in both Lucky Stiff and A Funny Thing…Forum. In this show, her face was a delight to watch and wonderfully expressive; her body language was real; her comedy adept. I enjoyed her singing voice, and didn’t notice any significant problems. A cousin who came with me — who has had some professional vocal training — did notice some. Setting aside her comments on “Broadway voice”, she did note that the singing was done in a way that was more tiring to the vocal cords; looking back, I can see that the voice was more tired near the end. So, as this is a workshop production and thus desirous of constructive comments, my one suggestion for the actress would be to work on that: she has a great voice, and learning how to use it in a way that doesn’t expose it to strain can only be a good thing. But I really enjoyed the performance aspects — it brought some wonderful insights and views of the character that I hadn’t seen before. This was apparent from the “get-go” in the opening number, “Still Hurting”, where you could see the real emotion coming through in the staging. It continued through her numbers — all of which were great.

On the other hand, there was Dorian Keyes (FB)’s Jamie. Sigh. I mean, I was rooting for him, as a fellow software engineer. After all, this is a guy that with other computer science friends started a production company called Nerd Squad. Further, although not shown in the program (but discovered doing this writeup), he’s played the character a few months before this outing. So he should have been much better. The main problem: he just didn’t give off the vibe that made him believable as the character. That is, he didn’t strike me as particularly New York Jewish (which Jamie is clearly), nor was he believable as a writer and author. Nowhere was this problem clearer than in “The Schmuel Song”, which has become a classic Jewish character story-song. His focus was on the cheesy Christmas tree; he didn’t bring Schmuel to life — there was no sense of being in that tailor shop in Clemovich. To me, his voice was a bit generic and lacking the character I like to see come through in a voice (the reason I love folks like Susan Egan or Kate Baldwin). My cousin characterized his voice as mediocre — it needs more training to develop character and strength and depth. I think, overall, I’m not saying that he was bad — because he wasn’t. A better characterization is … non-descript. His performance wasn’t the “Wow! 🎆” that Jamie needs to be. He was average on the edge of good; but when contrasted with the powerhouse portrayal of Cathy from Adams, there was no shine to the star. In terms of workshop constructive criticism: this is actor that needs some more seasoning on the acting and singing side. The bones of a good performer are there, but a greater variety of roles, with directors who can help him find the depth to bring it out, and vocal coaches to help mature and strengthen his voice (as well as discovering how to bring character to that voice) will help in the long run.

This production was directed by Laura Manchester (FB). I’ve always said that I have difficulty telling where what an actor brings stops and what the director brings starts. That’s certainly true here. Manchester produced the background film used as part of the scenic design, as aside from one faux paus I’ll mention in a bit, that was excellent. Manchester’s direction of Adams as Cathy was strong and on-point. But with respect to Keyes, it was weaker — and again, this came across clearly in “The Schmuel Song”, where seemingly the character’s focus was setting up the Christmas Tree (an incongruous thing for a Jewish person to do), and not the charm of the story song. It may have been a casting issue; her FB (discovered while writing this) shows she was having some difficulty casting the role, so this could simply have been the problem of finding the right actor, and that actor having the right connection with both the director and the story. The director also had to contend with the nature of the theatre space used. Every other production I’ve seen of this show has been proscenium based: the actors on a stage surrounded by a proscenium, separated from the audience. This production used the Crossly Theatre space, which is a “theatre in the round” space with the audience on three sides. Manchester used that space well, bringing the actors forward and interacting with the audience on all sides; she also used the entry and exit arches to good effect.

Musical direction was by Taylor Stephenson (FB), who did a fine job on the keyboard, and interacted well with Adams’ Cathy during the audition scenes.

On the production side: The scenic design by Nicholas Acciani (FB) had a number of bookcase boxes and other props in the back, and incorporated multiple small projection screens for which Nicholas Acciani (FB) provided the projection design and Laura Manchester (FB) provided the content. This mostly worked quite well, except in the “I Can Do Better Than That” scene. The problem there? The actors are facing forward, playing the scene as if they were driving in the direction of the front center audience. So, from the audience perspective, they are looking through the front windshield at the actors, and the projections should have been reflecting what is seen in the rear window. But instead, the projections were as if the car was driving in the direction the audience was facing. In other words: The view was as if that actors were driving the car in reverse without even looking over their rear shoulders. This was an unnecessary video disconnect that brought the audience out of the moment (or at least this roadgeek out of moment); it was also something easily avoidable simply by doing a 180° with the camera during the car filming (i.e., point it backwards).

But that was the only production-side flaw. The lighting design of Savannah Harrow (FB) and the sound design by Maddie Felgentreff (FB) both worked well, establishing mood and focusing attention. There was no credit for costume design: presumably this came from either the director or the actor’s closets. Adams’ costumes were great and fit the character well (plus she did some wonderful quick costume changes); Keyes’ costumes were often a bit informal for the type of author this character purported to be. Savannah Harrow (FB)  was the stage manager; the production was produced by Selah Victor (FB) and Laura Manchester (FB).

The Last 5 Years (which this production appears to write out as The Last Five Years, just as they change Kathy to Cathy) continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through August 5th, with remaining performances on July 30 at 2:30pm, August 4 at 8:00pm. August 5 at 2:30pm and 8:00pm. Tickets are a suggested donation starting at $10 and FREE to all 2017-2018 Season Subs. Visit their website www.actorsco-op.org or call the box office at 323-462-8460 to reserve your seat.

***

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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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:

August starts 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 are also squeezing 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) [although a little birdie … OK, Nance from Chromolume whom I saw at The Last Five Years, indicated the dates on that are shifting out to November]. 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). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson 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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Love Has Driven Me Sane | “Two Gentlemen of Verona” @ FPAC

Two Gentlemen of Verona - The Musical (FPAC)If you were to ask me what my absolute favorite musical was — that is, the one musical that was guaranteed to leave me happy and feeling good upon hearing the score — it would be the 1972 Tony-award winning Two Gentlemen of Verona written by William Shakespeare, adapted by John Guare and Mel Shapiro, with lyrics by John Guare and music by Galt MacDermot, originally presented by the New York Shakespeare Festival (now the Public Theatre). I saw it back in 1973 when I was just 13 at the Ahmanson, with Jonelle Allen, Clifton Davis (FB), Stockard Channing, and Larry Kert, and much of the original NY cast (including a young Katey Sagal). I hadn’t seen it since — aside from one production in Central Park in 2005, I can’t recall hearing of it being revived. I certainly can’t recall it being produced in Los Angeles since the original. So when my RSS feed from Goldstar alerted me to the fact that a theatre company I had never heard of — the Foothill Performing Arts Council (FB) — was producing the show and we were in the middle weekend of a three weekend production, the question was not “if”, but whether I could fit it in. After all, next weekend I already had two shows (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and On The Twentieth Century), and I already had a show on Saturday night of this weekend. Luckily, the show was nearby in San Fernando, so I got tickets for last night. Even though I had a slight headache, I’m very glad that I did. It was a delight to see my favorite show again, and as always, it left me very happy and with a smile on my face. I wish more companies would remember this show: it is sheer fun, multicultural, with a diverse cast great for schools, wonderful dance, pretty milkmaids, and a dog. It will live you loving it, and loving love.

If you aren’t familiar with Two Gentlemen of Verona, here’s the quick summary: TGOV is considered to be Shakespeare’s first play, and falls into the comedy category, because everyone falls in love at the end (as opposed to tragedies, where everyone dies). Valentine and Proteus are best friends. Proteus is infatuated with Julia, a local girl in Verona; Valentine scoffs at love and wants adventure in the big city, Milan. Valentine, with his servant Speed, heads off to Milan, while Proteus, helped by his servant Launce, courts Julia (and her servent Lucetta). But soon Proteus’s father sends him off to Milan, leaving Julia behind (and pregnant). She and Lucette dress up as men so they can travel to Milan and tell Proteus. In Milan, however, Valentine has found love in the form of Sylvia, the daughter of the Emperor of Milan. However, the Emperor has send Sylvia’s love, Eglamour, off to war, while arranging a marriage for Sylvia to a rich fool, Thurio. Sylvia detests Thurio, and enlists Valentine to save her. Proteus, who by now has forgotten Julia and is also smitten by Sylvia, learns of the plot and tells the Duke, who promptly sends Valentine off to war. Proteus then enlists two young men, Sebastian (nee Julia) and Cesario (nee Lucetta), to help court Sylvia. Eglamour returns to kidnap Sylvia, and everyone then joins in the hunt for Sylvia. Proteus discovers the lovers in the forest, but so does Valentine, and a sword fight ensues. When the dust has cleared, Proteus has discovered Sebastian’s reality and condition, and ends up marrying her. Eglamour is gone, and Valentine gets Sylvia. Thurio gets Lucetta, and Launce finds that a milkmaid from the field is better than a dog. Cupid is happy.

Two Gentlemen of Verona @ FPAC - CastThe musical version takes this story and just has fun with it. In an era of lily-white shows and lily-white casting, this show (like Hair before it) was gloriously multicultural. In the original cast, Proteus and Julia were Hispanic; Sylvia, Valentine, and the Duke were Black; Speed and Eglamour were Asian, Launce was old-Jewish, and Thurio and Lucetta were white. The casting of this production was similarly multicultural, although the hispanic emphasis of the leads was a bit less (the only place it made a difference was in the pronunciation, and truthfully, only people that had memorized the cast album like me would have noticed).

Under the direction of Timothy Jon Borquez (FB) (who seems to have been similarly enamored of this show), the action  was constant. He seemed to be emphasizing the fun of the production; there were few performers that had “painted on” faces — their happiness with this show was infectious to the audience. The direction brought out the playfulness in the characters — and this show is all about play. It is also worth noting that the material Borquez was working with — that is, his cast — were mostly younger actors (nary a resume on Backstage or Actors Access). They weren’t at the level of “fresh-outs” from high school, but they also weren’t seasoned Broadway professionals. Most are still theatre students. Broadly, there was a need for a bit more power in the voices. The raw talent overall was great and there was excellent vocal quality that shown through (as noted below) — just a bit more reach to the back of the auditorium was needed.

The best friends at the heart of this show were Proteus and Valentine, played by Steven Brogan (FB) and Jared Grimble (FB), respectively. Brogan had fun with Proteus (as the pictures show), really getting into the character. He had a wonderful voice that occasionally could use a little extra strength, but overall was a joy to listen to. He was great in numbers like “Symphony” and “What Does a Lover Pack?”, but needed a bit more anger behind “Calla Lily Lady”. We’ve seen Brogan before, it turns out, in the CSUN production of Bat Boy, The Musical. As Valentine, Grimble was similar: fun with the acting, believable in his character, and a remarkable voice. He was no Clifton Davis (but who is), but brought a wonderful style to numbers like “Love’s Revenge” and “Mansion”.

The object d’amour in Verona was Julia, played by Sarah Borquez (FB), and her servent, Lucetta, played by Hope English/FB. We may have seen Borquez before; her name comes up as being in a production of Into The Woods we saw at Nobel Middle School, but the years don’t fit the credits. In any case, Borquez was a strong performer and had a lovely singing voice. She just needs a bit more anger behind the loveliness in numbers like “I Am Not Interested in Love” and “What a Nice Idea”. English also had a great voice which astounded during “Land of Betrayal”.

Sylvia was portrayed by Beth Redwood/FB). Redwood had a strong voice from the opening number, and continued with that strength throughout the show. She also danced wonderfully, and captured the nature of Sylvia well. Her only weakness was costuming, which could have used a tad more support.

Proteus’ and Valentine’s servants, Launce and Speed, were portrayed by Wayne Remington/FB and Erin Arredondo/FB, respectively. Remington gets the slightly larger role here, getting to mug with the dog Gio (playing Crab), singing “Pearls”, and, at the end, getting to sing “Milkmaid”. Arredondo’s Speed mostly is a foil for Launce, but gets to join him in “Hot Lover”. Both appeared to be having quite a bit of fun with this production, which is always infectious.

The Duke of Milan was played by Dan White (FB). White’s role is mostly bombast, but he portrays that well and with joy. He gets one standout song: “Bring The Boys Back Home” (which is clearly a commentary on Nixon and the Vietnam War), which he handles with aplomb.

On the more comic ends of the spectrum are Cody Williams (FB) as Thurio and Mary Zastrow (FB) as Cupid. Williams captures the foolish and foppish nature of Thurio well, and brings that foolishness to the singing, especially in the song “Thurio’s Samba”. I was afraid they might need to censor the song, given the refrain (Boom-Chicka-Chicka, But-Fucka-Wucka-Wucka Cock-waka-waka Puss-wussy-wussy Wow) and the little ones in the audience, but they just slightly muddied the words and it went right over their heads. Zastrow was having the time of her life as Cupid. This isn’t a large singing role except for a few operatic numbers played for the humor, but as Cupid herself she got to mug away and just play.

Rounding out the named characters was Edgar Cardoso/FB‘s Eglamour. Cardoso played Eglamour more as fashion model/Fabio-ish, which is a little bit different than I remember the portrayl. He handled the number “Eglamour” well.

The ensemble consisted of Audrey Byer (FB), Cynthia Cordon/FB, Kasey Furginson/FB, Corazon Montanio (FB), Shannon Nail/FB, John Redwood/FB, Jackie Sanders/FB, Priscilla Nathalie Soltero/FB, Sienna Wescott/FB, and Van McDuff (FB) (who was omitted from the bios).  All were strong, having fun, and a joy to watch.

Music was provided by an off-stage band under the direction of Alex Borquez/FB. The band consisted of Alex Borquez/FB on Guitar, Bass, Drums, Percussion; Edgar Cardoso/FB on Keyboards (which is why there were no keyboards while he was on stage); Zachary Borquez/FB on Brass; Michael Fandetti/FB on Reeds; Desiree’ Deasy (FB) on Violin I and II (hows that again? four hands, two chins, you say); Rebecca Yeh (FB) on Cello, and Mairin Deasy on Viola.

The choreography was by Lindsey Lorenz (FB), assisted by Bella Briscoe (FB). It was all over the place, which means that it covered the stage well :-). Seriously, the dancing worked reasonably well. Nothing too complicated, but good enough that the ensemble numbers were fun to watch.

Turning to the technical side. No credits were provided for the traditional disciplines: set design, prop design, sound design, lighting design, fight choreography, and such. The presumption is that some came from the master-of-all-hats, the director, Timothy Jon Borquez (FB). In any case: the set was simple: some risers, some flats (behind-which the ensemble resided when off-stage), some vine-al and vinyl decoration. Enough to give a vague sense of place. There were various props, such as a bike, a boat, a trunk. I think here is where the limited budget of this production showed; I remember the stage show having much more in this area. Sound design was good, although a bit muffled and over-mic-ed in the beginning. The bird sounds were nice. Lighting was a different problem. The basic lights were good, but there needs to be better coordination between the actors and the lighting placement, especially the follow-spots and the follow-movers. Often actors were quite literally left in the dark. The fight choreography in Act II was reasonable but could have used with a dash more swash in the buckle. Costumes, designed by Yessica Armenta/FB (Costume Coordinator), presumably, were, well, Ren-Faire-ish which is what you expect as the RenFaire was set in roughly that time. There were a few faux paux: Sylvia’s hose line was visible, there were a few crotch buttons undone, and the more busty could use a bit more support so they didn’t bust out. But these were minor and didn’t distract from the story. Grace Gaither/FB was the stage manager, and Bianca Armenta/FB was the house manager.

Two Gentlemen of Verona – The Musical continues at the Foothill Performing Arts Council (FPAC) (FB) through August 6. A limited number of tickets are available through Goldstar; otherwise, tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets. Performances take place at the ArTES Theatre (FB) at the Cesar E. Chavez Academies (FB), 1001 Arroyo Street, San Fernando, 91340. Although the cast is a young and less seasoned, being primarily local theatre students, they have a large amount of raw talent. This talent, combined with their enthusiasm and good singing voices and the joyous nature of this little produced show, make this a joy to watch.

***

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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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:

The last weekend of July proper brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts 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 are also squeezing 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). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson 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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Travel and Transit Chum

Continuing to clear out some articles, here’s some travel and transit related articles:

 

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Generations and Growing Up

This news chum post has coalesced around the theme of generations, generational changes, and growing up:

  • Dealing With The Stuff. Actually, the title of this article says it all: “Boomer parents: ‘One day, this will all be yours.’ Grown children: ‘Noooo!’“. Basically, dealing with our parent’s stuff. They collect it. It has meaning to them. They leave it to us. We have no idea what to do with it. We keep some, donate the rest, and accumulate stuff with meaning to us. Which we then leave to our children. Which they don’t want.
  • The Casserole. Quite likely, some of that stuff is Pyrex baking casseroles. Compared to modern kitchen items, vintage Pyrex — which is heavy, increasingly expensive and not dishwasher safe — doesn’t seem immediately practical. Yet people remain obsessed with the old Pyrex — not just to look at but to actually use. And they collect it. And this article is about their collecting it.
  • Working Online. For the younger generation, there is the belief that they can be the next “You Tube” star with their video log, or with their written fashion or makeup blogs. Think again. Most fail.
  • Man-Boys. No, I’m not talking about Peter Pan again. Rather, the spoiled white men who never seem to grow up. Here’s an interesting opinion piece on the subject (from the NY Times), exploring why society allows them to get away with it (cough, Trump, cough), and how that ability is denied to non-whites.
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Magic Motown / Scintillating Soul

Muse/ique Soul/Town Motown/MiracleWe don’t always see theatre. Sometimes, we see concerts. Some of our favorites are the ones produced by Muse/ique (FB), a “counter-culture” orchestra out of Pasadena under the artistic direction of Rachael Worby (FB). Each year they pick a theme — in 2014 it was Break/Through about breakthrough performance; in 2015 it was Bernstein; last year it was Gershwin. They then explore the theme from all sorts of angles. This year the theme was Motown/Miracle, and the exploration was of the soul, of soul music (and particularly the Motown / girl group style), of the soul of the artist. The special guest performer was Darlene Love (FB), a significant Los Angeles background presence on many of the soul music hits (not always credited to her). I was actually familiar with Love from the cast album of her 1985 Broadway show, Leader of the Pack. The evening was not just a celebration of the soul music style — as produced from the recording centers in Los Angeles, New York, and the true Motown, Detroit; it was a celebration of the power in the backup singers and artists backing the promoted names. Also supporting Love on a number of songs was Milton Vann (FB), together with the background trio of Melodye Perry (FB), Vee Nelson (FB), and Kenna Ramsey (FB).

The songs performed during the show were as follows (♥ indicates Darlene Love performances; ♦ indicates Milton Vann lead):

  1. Medley: I’ll Be There / My Girl / Heard It On The Grapevine / Love Machine
  2. A Change Is Gonna Come ♦  Tribute to Sam Cooke.
  3. Lean on Me ♥ Written by Bill Withers
  4. Among The Believers ♥ Written by Steve Van Zandt
  5. Night Closing In ♥ Written by Bruce Springsteen
  6. Forbidden Love ♥ Written by Elvis Costello
  7. Wait Till My Bobby Comes Home ♥
  8. Today, I Met The Boy I’m Gonna Marry ♥
  9. He’s a Rebel ♥
  10. Do Do Run Run – Backup singers a-capella
  11. The Boy I Love ♥
  12. Do Do Run Run ♥
  13. Marvelous ♥
  14. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Demonstration of James Jamerson‘s bass stylings by Mike Valerio
  15. You’re All I Need To Get By ♥
  16. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough ♥
  17. His Eye Is On The Sparrow ♥
  18. River Deep, Mountain High ♥

As is common with the shows, by the end, the audience was dancing in the aisles (well, on the side of the lawn). This was one of the best Muse/ique performances that we have seen: great music, a lovely evening.

I do, however, have my usual complaint. There was no program. In particular, we didn’t get a list of the orchestra and backup singers, let alone the production team. I have requested this information from Muse/ique; they updated the show page to provide most of it. In particular, that page lists all the composers and orchestrators (although it does not match them to the pieces performed)

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of VIOLIN I – Ana Landauer (FB), Marisa Sorajja, Radu Pieptea (FB), Kathleen Sloan (FB), Loránd Lokuszta (FB), Marisa Kuney (FB) / VIOLIN II – Maia Jasper (FB), Neel Hammond, Grace Oh (FB), Anna Kostyuchek (FB) / VIOLA – Shawn Mann (FB), Rodney Wirtz (FB), Caroline Buckman (FB) / CELLO – Charlie Tyler (FB), Ginger Murphy (FB), Joo Lee (FB) / BASS – Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE – Angela Weigand (FB), Sal Lozano / OBOE – Michele Forrest (FB) / CLARINET – Stuart Clark (FB), Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON – William May (FB), Adam Havrilla (FB) / HORN – Steve Becknell (FB), Nathan Campbell / TRUMPET – Rob Schaer (FB) / TROMBONE – Steve Suminsky (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TIMPANI – Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION – Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET – Ted Atkatz (FB) / KEYBOARD – Alan Steinberger (FB) / GUITAR – Andrew Synowiec (FB)

There were no production credits provided.

In the 2017 “Summer of Sound”, there is one more production: Glow/Town, on August 26,  featuring Savion Glover (FB) and, from the Hamilton tour, Joshua Henry (FB). Tickets are available from the Muse/ique website; discount tickets may be available from Goldstar. I find the Festival Seating just fine: general admission tables and chairs to see the show, and you bring your own picnic to enjoy. A perfect summer evening. Summer events take on the lawn in front of the Beckmann Auditorium at CalTech in Pasadena.

***

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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (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:

The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB). August starts 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 are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast (you can contribute to the production here). 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). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a hold for Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), and HOLDs for Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson 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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Interesting Histories

Continuing the clearing of some themed groups, here are some interesting histories that I’ve seen come across my feeds of late:

  • LA Theatre. Here’s a complete history of LA Theatre while standing on one foot.  OK, well, it’s not complete (there’s no mention of the LA Civic Light Opera, for example, or the other major large theatres that are no more, like the Huntington Hartford or the Shubert in Century City), but it is a great summary of the current situation with 99 seat theatres and how we got there.
  • Jewish Culinary Tradition. Here’s an article (and a discussion of a cookbook) related to a classic Jewish food tradition: pickling and preservation. A number of the recipes described sound really interesting .
  • Left Turns. If you’re like me, you get … annoyed … at the current crop of drivers that wait behind the limit line to make a left turn, and then do a sweeping arc that almost cuts off the car waiting on the cross street to turn (plus, it means one car per light). If you’re like me, you were taught to pull into the middle of the intersection, and then to do an almost 90 degree turn to go from left lane into left lane. Turns out, left turns have changed over time, and I’m old-school.
  • Old Subway Cars. When your light rail cars die, where do they go? Often, they are dumped in the ocean. Los Angeles did that with some of the Red and Yellow Cars. New York does it with its subway cars. But this isn’t pollution, and here are the pictures to prove it. Rather, it is creating reefs for oceanlife.
  • Tunnels Back In Service. An LADWP tunnel that dates back to 1915 is going back in service.The Los Angeles Daily News reports the tunnel is being refurbished to capture water runoff from the Sierras, which was inundated with snow this winter.The tunnel is part of a larger system, called the Maclay Highline, that runs from “the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in Sylmar to a group of meadows in Pacoima.” Once restored, the tunnel will carry a significant amount of water—130 acre-feet a day—to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water. (One acre-foot can supply two households with water for a year.)

As we’re talking history, here’s another interesting themed historical group, this time focused on air travel:

  • Lockheed L-1011. I remember back in the 1990s flying between LAX and IAD, when I could still occasionally get an L-1011. This was a tri-jet from Lockheed, and was nice and spacious with great overhead space. They have long since disappeared, but one recently took to the skies as part of a ferry to a museum. The refurbished plane will be used as part of a STEM teaching experience.
  • Boeing 747. The Queen of the Skies has been dethroned by someone skinnier and cheaper. The last few 747s for passenger service are coming off the line; airlines are phasing them out of the fleets. There will be a few more for freight service, but like the DC-10, they will be disappearing. The market can not really support such large loads — and the multiple engines and fuel it takes to ferry them. The Airbus A380 is facing similar problems. Airlines want at most two engines, with the planes packed to the gills.
  • Old Airports. Here’s an article on an interesting dilemma: What to do with old municipal airports, such as the one in downtown Detroit? (NYTimes article) Should they be restored for general aviation purposes, and perhaps the occasional commercial craft? Should their land be repurposed for more housing and manufacturing, as was done quite successfully with the old DEN (Denver Stapleton). Repurposing can be temping. Cities such as Detroit will soon run out of wide-open, city-owned spaces that can be offered to companies looking to build manufacturing or other commercial facilities here. A decomissioned airport can provide just the opportunity needed. But others say cities should reinvest in the airports, saying it could be an economic engine as well. (I’ll note similar questions exists for former Air Force bases as well — how is former George AFB working out, San Bernardino?) The article  notes that cities across the nation are reconsidering the value of municipal airports in the era of superjumbo jets and budget cuts. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimated the nation loses 50 public-use airports a year. Almost all are general-aviation airports, ones that cater primarily to owners of private planes, and most have operating deficits that the cities must make up for in their budgets. Detroit, for instance, faces a $1.3 million operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year for Coleman Young, which averages just 30 landings a day. The main airport for the region is Detroit Metropolitan, a Delta Air Lines hub about 20 miles west of the city limits.
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