January tends to be a quiet month for live theatre. New shows in small theatres are rare, as they don’t like to rehearse and produce during the holiday season. Of course, there are the tours and concerts at the major venues, but it is hard to find the kind of small shows we like in the first two weeks of the year. We were planning on going to the Jason Graae/Faith Prince concert at the Rubicon Theatre (FB) in Ventura, but the tickets were expensive and they weren’t showing up on Goldstar. But then I started to see announcements of the monthly cabaret at one of the theatres at which we subscribe: Chromolume Theatre (FB). This cabaret, which is “pay what you can” (meaning the show is free, and you make a donation), is a way of showcasing artists they like in an informal setting. As Chromolume started to list their artists — quite a few of whom were were familiar with from past shows of theirs — the show grew more and more interesting (and trudging out to Ventura seemed less and less interesting). So last night we went down to Chromolume, which is basically at the edge of Culver City and the West Adams district of LA, to see our first Chromolume Cabaret. The BLUF (bottom line up front) is that this is something we’ll do again, although likely not every month given our schedule. It helped build the connection to this theatre as family, something that has been missing since Rep East Playhouse (REP) in Newhall went dark. In fact, I’d encourage those folks who were active at REP to consider exploring this cabaret and venue: it has the same family feel of “just good” people.
As an aside: This is why I tell people to subscribe at the small theatres: to build and support these families. We’ve rapidly made the family connection with the people at Chromolume Theatre (FB), and we’re slowly making it with the folks at Actors Co-op (FB) (they are a larger organization). That’s something you don’t get with the Hollywood Pantages (FB) or Ahmanson Theatre (FB), where you subscribe just to get good seats at shows. At the small and medium size venues, your subscription can help them survive, and you get to meet really great people. But I digress…
For this show, which was hosted by Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB), each artist got two songs that they used to reflect back on their 2017. There was good, and there was bad, but it was basically just an informal (i.e., the artists sat in the audience, instead of hiding backstage) fun evening with great music. Here are the performers and the songs:
🎶 Claire Buchignani (FB). Claire was first up; she’ll be performing in Chromolume’s first production of 2018, Dessa Rose. It was a delight seeing her excitement about her engagement. Her two songs were:
- “A Quiet Thing” (from Flora the Red Menace, Fred Kander/John Ebb)
- “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (from Funny Girl, Jule Styne/Bob Merrill)
“A Quiet Thing” is a harder number given its range, and Claire did a reasonable job with it. She was stronger with her second number, “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. Both songs brought back memories of seeing the shows: Flora was done back in 1990 by the Pasadena Playhouse, and Funny Girl was done in 2016 by a guest company at the Colony in Burbank.
- “Michael in the Bathroom” (from Be More Chill, Joe Iconis)
- “Soliloquy” (from Carousel, Rodgers/Hammerstein)
I really enjoyed both Jason’s singing and performance in “Michael”, and that’s on top of the already enjoyable Joe Iconis song. Be More Chill is a show that really needs to be done in LA; the music is great. “Soliloquy” was an interesting choice — Jason was right that it is not a role he’s likely to be cast in … which is too bad, because he nailed the song and its emotion.
- “Women” (from The Pirate Queen, Boublil/Schönberg)
- “The Other Side of the Tracks” (from Little Me, Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh)
I had not heard “Women” before, and I truly liked the song for its words and emotion. I need to get that cast album (alas, the cheapest I can find it is around $40 on Amazon, as it is out of print). So Tal wins the first “Stump the Daniel” award by having a show song I don’t recognize. She did a great job with it, as well as with “Other Side of the Tracks” (which also made me realize that Little Me is another show that needs a Los Angeles revival).
- “Beautiful City” (from Godspell, Stephen Schwartz)
- “Dreamer in Disguise” (from Carrie, Dean Pitchford/Michael Gore)
On “Beautiful City”, the lyrics seemed somehow different, so I wonder if a different version is being licensed from what was in the show (well, at least it didn’t fit my memory of what was in the show soundtrack or cast albums). He did a nice job with it, nevertheless. Although I did see Carrie in the recent immersive La Mirada production, I didn’t recall the “Dreamer” song.
🎶 Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB). We’d seen Bonnie before in Chromolume’s 2017 Fringe Festival Show. (as well as the CSUN production of Hair) Her songs were both from the musical Ordinary Days (Adam Gwon), which we saw a few years ago at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank:
- “I’ll Be There”
The two numbers are very different: one is frenetic and full of energy, which Bonnie captured quite well. The other is more reflective, dealing with moving on after a tragedy. She did great with both of them.
- “I’m Going Down” (Mary K. Blige)
- “Times are Hard for Dreamers” (from Amalie, Daniel Messé/Nathan Tysen)
As noted, I hadn’t heard the first song before, but that’s not really a surprise as I rarely listen to modern pop music. Interesting song. I enjoyed the second — it is nice to see songs from the recent Amalie getting a new life after the show closed in New York. Amalie was a show that I really enjoyed at the Ahmanson, and I hoped would succeed on Broadway.
🎶 Jaq Galliano (FB) and Gina D’Acciaro (FB). This was a duo that had been doing a bunch of cabarets and performances around town (although we did see Gina in Lucky Stiff at Actor’s Co-Op). They were mostly telling the story of how they met and got engaged in 2017, which was so cute. Both of their songs were from the pop world, and I hadn’t heard either:
- “Not in That Way” (Sam Smith)
- “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Meghan Trainor)
Both songs were well performed, and the couple was cute together.
As noted at the top, Chromolume Theatre (FB) does these Cabarets monthly, so watch their Facebook page and their website for the announcement of the next show. I’m not sure we’ll make February, but do plan on attending some more. I also encourage you to subscribe to Chromolume: for $60 you get their three mainstage shows (Dessa Rose, Jane Eyre – The Musical, and Stephen Sondheim’s Passion), plus whatever they end up doing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June.
We discovered Chromolume Theatre (FB) when we went to go see Prez, a solo show written by playwright Willard Manus about the Jazz musician Lester Young, who was played in this one-many show by Leslie Jones (FB). The production of Prez is being remounted with Leslie at Write Act Repertory (FB) in celebration of Black History Month as part of a Festival Series at Write Act Rep’s Brickhouse Theatre called THREE BY WILL IN REP. The Series includes two World Premiere’s along with the return of Prez. The intimate drama is produced by John Lant II, and will be directed by Daniel E. Keough. The show is set to open February 4th, 2018. All performances for Prez will be on Sunday at 2PM, through March 11th, 2018. Additional information is available at http://www.writeactrep.org/index.html.
Christmas Movie: The Greatest Showman. I was remiss in not writing up the movie we saw on Christmas Day: The Greatest Showman. In short: we truly enjoyed it — both the music and the performances. I had seen some criticism that the story wasn’t true to real life of P. T. Barnum, but then again, neither was Cy Coleman’s Barnum. Barnum himself would have enjoyed the humbug being sold and how it was presented. Unlike the musical, however, The Greatest Showman focused primarily on the American Museum period in Barnum’s life; the musical went beyond this into his ventures into politics, into building utopias, and the eventual creation of the circus and the merger with Bailey. There were also some aspects of the American Museum that were left out — I can understand (perhaps) leaving out Joyce Heth, given the increased sensitivity of the subject and the tone the movie was going for, but to leave out “This Way To The Egress” was a bit more questionable. The two taken together, however, create an interesting picture; the movie demonstrates that perhaps it is time for a Broadway revival of Barnum. However, there are some odd timeline clashes between the two (particularly in the timing of the creation of the circus as distinct from the museum). Perhaps some of those issues could have been handled through a more detailed epilogue or disclaimer at the end — I’m not sure.
I was particularly taken by the musical numbers and their accompanying cinematography and choreography: they had a movement and a rhythm that one cannot do on the stage, and it was engrossing. The song that was submitted to the Golden Globes — “This Is Me” — I could see being a wonderful empowerment anthem (and it goes very well with Coleman’s “My Body” in The Life). I enjoyed the singing of the leads — I’m more and more impressed with Hugh Jackman the more and more I see of his performances. Just a delightful show, and the Golden Globe won by Pasek and Paul for the music was well deserved.
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 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as 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 Saroya [the venue formerly known as 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.
Next weekend brings our first touring show, Aladdin, at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The next weekend currently has no theatre; instead, there is a So Cal Games Day and a Walking Tour of Jewish Boyle Heights. The last weekend of January brings The Pirates of Penzance at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB).
February is busier. It starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB). The following weekend brings our first Actors Co-op (FB) production of 2018: A Walk in the Woods. Mid-week brings opera: specifically, Candide at LA Opera (FB). That is followed the next weekend by the first production of the Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season, Dessa Rose. The month concludes with a hold for James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).
March was supposed to start with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner, but that shifted back a week, so we’ll go to it after our first show in March, the LA Premiere of the musical Allegiance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (FB). This is followed by a HOLD for Steel Pier at the UCLA School of Television, Film, and Theatre (FB). The penultimate Friday of March was to bring Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), but that has shifted to June and that weekend is currently open. The last weekend of March is open for theatre, but there will be the Men of TAS Seder.
April looks to be a busy month. It starts with Love Never Dies at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) [as an aside, there was just a great interview with Glen Slater, the lyricist of that show, on Broadway Bullet that is well worth listening to). The second weekend brings A Man for All Seasons” at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)), as well as our annual visit to the Original Renaissance Faire. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB). Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding an Ahmanson Theatre (FB) subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.
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.