Observations Along the Road

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

Saturday Chum Stew: Water, Vegas, Revolts, and Death. A Typical Week.

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 16, 2015 @ 12:29 pm PDT

userpic=observationsSaturday, and time to clear out the news links before a busy weekend. Hopefully, you’ll find something of interest in these:

 

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Sunday Stew: Women, Stains, Sex, Jazz, Food, Hotness and Bedrooms (A Mother’s Day Mix)

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 10, 2015 @ 1:00 pm PDT

Observation StewSave your mom from the drudgery: here’s some tasty news chum stew to chew on while visiting mom:

 

The Better Half

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 10, 2015 @ 10:54 am PDT

Words by Ira Gershwin (Colony)userpic=colonyWhenever I enter a song into iTunes, it asks me for the composer. The software designer cared more about who wrote the music than who wrote the lyrics. Yet it is often the lyrics that stay with us; the lyrics that tell the story and convey the meaning. The issue isn’t just with iTunes. Often when we think of musical teams, we think about the music and the composition, and not the lyrics and the poetry. The musical we saw last night at The Colony Theatre (FB) — correction, musical play — highlighted that missing half. The production, Words by Ira Gershwin, focused on the lesser known half of the Gershwins: Ira Gershwin. It was a wonderful production that not only had great music, but taught me a lot about someone I had only viewed in juxtaposition to his brother. It is well worth seeing.

The structure of Words by Ira Gershwin is very simple. The author, Joseph Vass, uses the simple approach of having Ira Gershwin (Jake Broder (FB)) tell his story, with the songs being illustrated by a talented crooner (Elijah Rock (FB)) and chanteuse (Angela Teek (FB)). This structure (at least in my memory) reminded me a lot of the wonderful Ain’t Misbehavin’ — a simple structure that illustrated the songs and told the story, without trying to construct an artificial scaffold or being a random jukebox.

The order of presentation was sometimes chronological, and sometimes not. This was perhaps my only quibble with the show. At the end, when Ira related the death of his brother, I was left waiting for the rest of the story. It wasn’t made clear that many of the collaborations discussed in the show — such as those with Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlin, occured after George‘s death. The brief mention (in passing) of other contributors to the Great American Songbook — in particular, Irving Berlin, George Cohan, and Cole Porter — made me wonder whether there was any interaction between them. It is hard to believe their circles never crossed.

Still, the information presented about Gershwin was often new to me. I enjoyed the observations about lyrics and poetry, and the difficulty of fitting lyrics to established music. I found the observation about how music conveys mood and lyrics convey meaning, and the importance of the two together, to be quite astute. I had never really looked at Ira Gershwin in isolation from his brother, and this production prompted me to go out and pick up some of Gershwin’s collaborations with other composers.

This is one of those productions that I believe could have life beyond the mid-size Los Angeles stage. Given the similar structure to Ain’t Misbehavin’, the past success of musicals exploring other popular composer and lyricist catalogs, and the familiarity of Gershwin’s music… this one might be doable on a larger (read “Broadway”) stage.

The performances in this show were spectacular — both the actors and the musicians. Acting first :-). Broder’s portrayal of Gershwin created the character. He had the look of Ira Gershwin down perfectly. His singing voice was not perfection, but the imperfections made his portrayal of the lyricist even more realistic (you know this to be true if you’ve ever listened to performances of Cy Coleman, Sheldon Harnick, Fred Ebb, and even Irving Berlin. With the exception of Adolph Green, there’s a reason they weren’t on the stage.) You quickly accepted that this bespecticled accented man was a simple lyricist, content to write poetry, fit words to music, and be in the shadow of his more famous younger brother.

Supporting Broder’s Gershwin were Rock and Teek as the crooner and chanteuse, respectively. Neither were particular characters with backstories and such. They were there to sing. But they brought something extra through little interactions with Broder’s Gershwin, each other, and the members of the band that gave them appealing personalities. It was these little touches — which I’ll credit to the director, David Ellenstein, who originated the show at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach — that brought needed warmth to the production. Both Rock and Teek had wonderful voices; Rock’s was recently spotlighted in a concert performance at the Colony (and we saw Teek when she was in Ray Charles Live at the Pasadena Playhouse).

Another “performer” was the onstage band, consisting of Kevin Toney (FB) (Piano/Conductor), Terry Wollman (FB) (Electric and Acoustic Guitar); John B. Williams (Bass), and Greg Webster (Drums). They were spectacular music-wise, and the production provided each of them with a chance for a short solo spot. They also had interactions with the performers, and you clearly got the sense that there was fun on this stage — they liked each other, and they loved the music and the songs. This joyfulness came across to the audience and served to amplify the entire production. Well done.

Rounding out the performance and performance support side: Kevin Toney (FB) also served as music director; with the author, Joseph Vass, as musical arranger (and source for recorded piano performances). There was no specific credit for choreography, so presumably the movement was designed by the director, David Ellenstein. Whoever designed it, it worked well — in particular, Rock’s wonderful and unexpected tap number. Rebecca Eisenberg was the Production Stage Manager.

Turning to technical side: The scenic design by David Potts was very simple: a comfy chair, a light and table, a step-up area for the band, and a backdrop for projections. Simple, but it worked. The sound design by Drew Dalzell (FB) did what it was supposed to do: convey the sound well, although the directionality of the recorded piano had you turning your head to figure out why it was behind you. Similarly, the lighting by Jared A. Sayeg (FB) conveyed the mood well, although the color transitions of the scrollers were clearly noticeable and slightly distracting. The costume design by Dianne K. Graebner (FB) worked reasonably well, although my wife found some of Teek’s costumes to be overly clingy when they would have looked better looser. Properties and set dressing were by John McElveney (FB). Scenic art was by Orlando de la Paz. Amy Lieberman was the casting director. The Colony is under the artistic direction of Barbara Beckley.

Words by Ira Gershwin” has been extended for one week; it now ends on May 24. You can purchase tickets through the Colony Website, or by calling the theatre at (818) 558-7000. Discount tickets through Goldstar are currently sold out;  only full price tickets are available through LA Stage Tix. The show is well worth seeing.

I Support 99 Seat Theatre in Los Angeles I Love 99 Notes. The Colony Theatre is one of those success stories: A 99 seat theatre that was able to grow into a contract house that pays AEA rates to AEA actors. It took a strong subscriber base and support from the City of Burbank to do this. Before the show, I spoke to Barbara Beckley about the current battle. We both agreed that Los Angeles audiences, trained by discounters such as Goldstar, will not pay for intimate theatre at rates that would permit the wages AEA wants. We also discussed the importance of bringing in all stakeholders (including audiences) and how do we draw younger audiences to the theatre and turn them into subscribers. Los Angeles needs a solution that works for Los Angeles. Los Angeles needs a solution that actually builds an audience that will financially support AEA contracts, and a solution that builds shows that are able to move on from the intimate theatre incubators to contract shows. We need to work together to find the solution, not impose one from above that doesn’t fit.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre 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 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: Later today, we’re off to see a movie: It’s Mother’s Day, and my wife wants to see the Jim Parson’s animated movie “Home”. Next weekend brings “Dinner with Friends” at REP East (FB), and may also bring “Violet: The Musical” at the Monroe Forum Theatre (FB) (I’m just waiting for them to show up on Goldstar). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

Figuring the Factors

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 10, 2015 @ 8:18 am PDT

userpic=theatre_ticketsThis morning, as I was getting ready to write up last night’s show at the Colony, my mind was swirling about mathematics and theatre. I was thinking about tiers and when shows could go to contract; about discussions I had had with Barbera Beckley before the show about audiences and what they could and would pay. I was thinking about the whole AEA kerfuffle, and I’ve realized that we may have it wrong — and a lot of this is because we keep trying to build things on dependent factors without data. Before I could tackle my writeup, I had to get this out of my head.

I’ve seen a number of proposals for tiering, and most are based on show budget. I think — to some degree — that’s wrong. You can’t determine whether you can pay the actors from budget alone. The budget of a three-actor show is very different than a show like Candide with a large ensemble. This got me thinking about what are the independent factors that might go into whether a show had the potential to earn sufficient funds to cover the rent and pay the actors. If you can look at shows and work out the factors from the existing data, you can come up — mathematically — with a good algorithm that might permit adequate tiering. I’ll note that by “pay the actors”, I mean all actors. If you treat any actor as an employee, you need to treat all of them as an employee. Pay rates might differ based on various factors, but some can’t be volunteer and some employees.

So let’s think a bit about common factors and whether they are independent. Here are some that come to my head:

  • Theatre Rental. Independent and Fixed. Your rental cost is based on time, location, and quality of the facility.  Cheap facilities make it easier to pay actors; shows in expensive locations make it harder.
  • Number of Actors. The number of actors in a show has a direct bearing on operating costs. This should capture the total costs that vary based on actors — not only what you pay them, but their costumes, sound, makeup, wigs — things that vary based on more or less actors.
  • Musical or Play? This is the play vs. musical distinction. Musicals have increased operating costs due to musicians; they also tend to have a better draws as audiences tend to go to musicals.
  • New or Old? This is another significant factor in a show. New and unique shows may draw better for audiences looking for something new; on the other hand, they may be more difficult to promote because the show is not as well known.
  • Star Power. I don’t just mean actor-power here. Having a “well-known” somewhere in the credits — be it the director, an actor, the playwright — may draw the audiences in. For example, I can feel confident if I go to a local musical Nick directs that it will be well worth seeing.
  • Creative Cost. This is the fixed creative cost — the budget for the fixed aspects of the show such as set, lighting, and publicity.  This would include both the costs of the creative team (people) as well as the cost of materials (set) and equipment rental (lights). This might be where budget based tiering could come into play.
  • Number of Seats. I was thinking about average ticket price as a factor — but it is dependent. Number of seats is a different factor. It is independent of the show, yet a key determinate of how much you make.

There are two additional factors that come into play: Length of Run and Ticket Price. I’m not yet sure about these and the impact on paying the actors. The length of run is clearly a factor under control of the producer. They help cover the fixed one-time costs, they help a little on fixed recurring costs (such as rental), and they have no effect on salaries (number of performances per week is a better factor on that). Ticket price should be set on cost in order that you can pay the actors appropriately. The problem is that sometime that needed ticket price is more than the audience can bear. This isn’t Broadway where you can name any price. The other factors must be such that the audience will be willing to pay it. We can’t quantify “willingness to pay”, but we can know that anticipated average per-patron income, taking into account comp, discount, promotional, and full price sales based on data, and we can determine that by company and community. We can then determine, based on that number and the factors above, the amount that actors can be paid.

It is important to note the factors that do not appear in the above. Membership companies? Makes no difference. Self-produced? Not a factor in and of itself. Both go to the creative costs, if anything. Budgets also don’t quite come into play fully because they are a product of the factors above. Note that I said “fully” into play. The budget can increase costs — fancier sets, more publicity — but doesn’t always translate into income.

As for what to pay the actors — that’s a can of worm I’m not going to tackle. I do believe that if you treat one actor as an employee you should treat them all — AEA or not — as employees. You can’t mix volunteers and employees in the same job; that’s the law. There’s also a distinction between exempt and non-exempt employees. The discussion to date has been simplistic, thinking actors are non-exempt employees. Non-exempt employees are typically hourly; there are requirements for breaks and lunch hours and overtime and such. Exempt employees — think white-collar professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and yes, computer scientists — have a fixed salary. They have different rules for overtime and breaks and such. I would tend to think actors would be non-exempt, meaning you could have a fixed salary for a fixed task. It is something that should be explored. I do believe there are factors that should go into actor pay once you are beyond the employee / volunteer distinction — that’s where union status, experience, “draw”, and other performance based factors can come into play.

As I’ve written before — I’m just an audience member (and a computer scientist and a mathematician). I can help identify what might be the factors that come into play, but I can’t plug in the numbers. What is clear, however, is that budget is not the sole simplistic factor. Being able to pay the actors at one budget level for a particular play doesn’t mean that for a different play, with different draw and number of actors, that budget will permit the same pay.

One of my favorite podcasts is Freakonomics. They emphasize that decisions must be made on hard data. The Los Angeles needs to determine the true independent factors for its productions — at any size theatre. What needs to be determined next is what values of those factors would permit appropriate levels of actor pay? This is what should go into the tiering discussion.

But… but…

The above is a pure mathematical approach. It is what we should pay the actors if we assume we are doing this based solely on profit and income and such. That’s the bean counter in me. But, as I’ve learned from this discussion, many LA actors don’t do this for the money. They do this for the challenge and the experience and the need to feed the soul. These are intangible forms of payment that offset dollars for many (not all; I’m sure there are mercenaries out there). The payment via intangibles is also independent of membership companies — but it does say that a given production has — as an additional factor — some intangible factor that comes into play that captures this. It would relate to the meatiness of the roles, the value of working with a particular creative or actor or company, the “payment to the soul”.

I don’t know how to address this; I don’t believe that I — a 30 year cybersecurity professional — could solve this nut. But I did want to share my musings on all the factors in the hope that someone might be able to piece them together algorithmically, and figure out a way to have that algorithm balance the “soul payment” vs. the “wallet payment” aspects as well.

Thoughts? What do you see as the key independent factors that we are forgetting to discuss?

 

What If You Gave an Election, and Nobody Came?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 09, 2015 @ 4:10 pm PDT

userpic=voteA week from Tuesday we may see one of the lowest turnouts in San Fernando Valley history. We have a general municipal election in our portion of the valley, and there is one, that’s right – one, issue on the ballot: A school board election. Further, this is a school board election in a time where the school board isn’t big news. The big school board scandal was the whole kerfuffle about the iPod purchase by Deasy, and Deasy is long gone. Additionally, this is school board … so everyone (like us) who doesn’t have kids in school will think they don’t have a big need to vote. Cut out all the younger kids who haven’t started families yet, and all the older adults whose kids are off in college (and who don’t yet have grandkids).

As I said, low turnout.

But it’s an election, and I do an election post, even though I don’t have kids in school. You can thank me later.

The battle is between Scott Mark Schmerelson and Tamar Galatzan. Let’s get rid of the elephant in the room first. Both are Democrats. [ETA: Got that wrong. Schmerelson is Republican, plus his campaigners are annoying (7 calls over the weekend).] Seriously, Schmerelson is hammering Galatzan on the iPad debacle. Sorry, I don’t blame her. Deasy was pushing them, and none of the school board are technology experts. The notion of providing a tool to students that works the way students work today seems reasonable on the surface. We’re dealing with a generation that is more used to looking things up online, to using ebooks. The problem wasn’t the idea; it was the implementation. Galatzan was just one voice of many, and the situation is in the past.

The battle is between a 12 year board member (Galatzan) and a Spanish teacher turned school administrator (VP at Cleveland High). Teachers Union is behind Schmerelson, likely because he is less supportive of charters and has been a member of the union. I don’t consider Teachers Union support as a factor when I look at this stuff.

Let’s pick a few critical issues: (1) improving arts (theatre) in the schools; (2) increased emphasis on STEAM (and women in STEAM); and (3) college preparedness.

Galatzan’s web page talks about emphasizing the A-G curriculum (UC preparedness) and providing technology in the classroom. She did sponsor resolutions in favor of voluntary funding to restore the arts and to restore funding for honors music programs. She has encouraged robotics.  Couldn’t find much in the way of STEAM. Ballotpedia doesn’t have an issue ranking, but shows loads of endorsements including both major papers. I did find a summary of where they stand on the arts.

Schmerelson has nothing on his website on the subject. In issue ranking, he puts arts as #3 and college readiness as #6. Couldn’t find anything on STEAM.

From what I can see, the two are very similar. Both want reduced class sizes. Both want technology, although they disagree on the source of funding. Both want college prep, although Galatzan makes it a priority. Both support the arts. Both support charters.

I think I’m going to go with the bulk of endorsements, simply because the incumbent should understand the budget issues better.

Conclusion: Galatzan.

OK, convince me otherwise.

Inspired Madness

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed May 06, 2015 @ 5:26 pm PDT

Alice in Wonderland (Nobel MS)userpic=nobelWe’ve always said the Drama Department at Nobel Middle School (FB) is mad. This proves it. But mad really isn’t the right word. Perhaps, “inspired”. Let me start at the beginning.

As you know, I attend a lot of theatre. It runs the full range of experience and size, from shows in 20 seat theatres to shows in 4,000 seat theatres; from middle-school productions to community theatre to fully-professional “Broadway” experiences. I’ve learned that there is no correlation of “good” to any of these: you can have good theatre in middle-school venues, and you can have crap on the stage in Broadway-level venues. When you find a venue that does consistently good work, you keep coming back. The Drama Department at Nobel Middle School is such a venue. We got involved when our daughter was in 7th grade at Nobel and they were restarting the drama program (she’s in her 3rd year at Berkeley now, which makes it 9 years ago). Back then, the NMS program was on a shoestring with no administration support. But they were creative, the kids had fun, and with “An Evening With Shel Silverstein”… they were off. It is now 9 years later. This program has grown — solely on donations and ticket sales — to having a full sound board, microphones, and theatrical lighting. There are greater costumes and technical effects. They still (of course) have the enthusiasm of the kids. Most importantly, however, they have the leadership and the strong devotion to quality… and this comes across in their productions. They also reach out to the community for attendance. [Contrast this with Van Nuys HS, where our daughter went and where she was involved with their performing arts magnet. We haven’t been to a show since she graduated, and they haven’t reached out once.]

Now, this is a middle school. If you think back your days in Junior High (for that is what middle schools were for many), the school productions were… ehhh. That’s not the case here. But this also isn’t theatre fully at the intimate theatre scale or larger. After all, these are students and their interest and experience cover a wide range. I’d venture that most of the cast does not intend to take the theatre up as a career — they are just having fun on the stage and learning how to be comfortable in front of groups and the discipline required to perform (both of which are vital skills whatever their career). Others have strong talent — and are showcased in the lead positions. All, however have enthusiasm — and in many cases, that can make up for the inexperience.

One more thing on Nobel before I turn to the show itself. Most of us, when we left middle school/junior high, didn’t look back. This program is inspiring both parents and students to hang around and keep coming back. Many of the key artistic “off-stage” roles are done by either returning alumni students or parents of alumni. Examples in this case include the assistant director, choreographers, music director, set designer, costumers, and production assistants. That says a lot.

As I implied by the title of this post, this version of “Alice In Wonderland” is inspired madness. When I got the show program, I looked (in vain) for a writing credit or music credits. There are none. Based on the songs and some of the story aspects, the starting point was clearly the Disney Alice in Wonderland Jr. script (Wikipedia says of that version, “The stage version is solely meant for middle and high school productions and includes the majority of the film’s songs and others including Song of the South’s “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, two new reprises of “I’m Late!”, and three new numbers entitled “Ocean of Tears”, “Simon Says”, and “Who Are You?” respectively.”) The stock MTI version, however, was (a) too short, and (b) didn’t involve enough kids. At that point the creativity came out. Some scenes were seemingly changed to involve more kids or be achievable on the Nobel stage. Songs and dances were interpolated from other Disney movies and edited into the story (such as “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat”). Other wild ideas where also interpolated — such as turning the end of Alice’s tears into an excerpt from the movie Titanic (and thus replacing “Ocean of Tears” with “My Heart Will Go On”) or adapting the Mad Hatter into a version of Frank N Furter, and the Mad Hatter’s party into a scene from Rocky Horror, leading into the Time Warp. There are numerous call-outs to past Nobel shows, and you have to be quick to catch them all. The adaptation is crazy and fun, and it will be unlike any other Alice you have seen.

Normally, I get annoyed when a script is tinkered with — especially if the book is treasured. I remember the first time that Nobel did “Wizard of Oz”, and not being that happy with some of the changes (when it resurfaced as “Not Yo Mama’s Wizard of Oz”, it was a bit better). But the tinkering on Alice worked for me. Perhaps it is because I have absolutely no memories of the animated Alice in Wonderland (and I haven’t read the books in a while). Perhaps because Alice is traditionally a mish-mash of scenes from the two Alice books anyway. Perhaps because Alice is supposed to be controlled craziness anyway. This version works, and works well. Still, I wish credit had been provide to the book’s original authors, the book tinkerers, and the composer/lyricist for each song.

Story is theory. Performance is execution. I should n0te that the performance we saw was officially the “Alumni Performance” — and in particular, it was a technically a “Final Tech Dress Rehearsal”. There were a number of technical and minor performance problems that were provided as notes to the cast via a talk-back at the end of the show or in later notes. For the sake of this discussion, we’re assuming that all of those problems will be fixed by Thursday’s opening. The one uncorrectable problem is the abrupt ending of Act I; this is likely because the one-act story was extended, and this made the chop for an intermission awkward whereever they put it.

As this is a large cast, I’m not going to talk about all the performers; rather, I’m going to highlight some performances and scenes that stood out. Partially, this is because with such a large cast finding something to say about each individual can be difficult; additionally, with such a wide range of performance experience and talent, not every performance stood out (this is especially true in the larger ensembles). So here’s what’s noteworthy:

  • From the opening scene, it is clear that the vocal quality of the “normal sized” Alice (Amanda Magaña) and her sister, Mathilda (Rebecca Radvinsky) is some of the best ever to grace the Nobel stage. These two young ladies had wonderful voices that were amplified clearly. You’ll enjoy their numbers
  • Another performer with both good voice and exemplary movement was the White Rabbit (Max Chester). In some ways, I enjoyed his movement more — in particular, his flip off the stage to land smoothly on the ground in front of the stage. An ambitious move for a middle school student, and well executed.
  • The “Titantic” scene was wonderful, both in the performance in the front and in the back, and in the vocal quality of the Dodo Bird (Shane Smith).
  • The dance and singing of the Caterpiller during Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah was great, especially from the Caterpiller’s head (Dani Johns). The remainder of the Caterpiller moved well (Hannah Protiva, Brooke Kier, Rachel Khoury, Taylor Carlson).
  • The adaptation of the Mad Hatter into Frank N Furter, and the guests into various Rocky Horror characters (Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia) was inspired, although I wonder how well middle-school kids got the joke (especially the line about Steve Reeves). A special “well done” to the Mad Hatter (Justin Tuell) for his Frank and his vocal execution of the songs at the top of Act II.
  • I enjoyed the visual effects in “Every’body Wants to Be a Cat”.
  • Once I realized how they were treating the Cheshire Cat, I thought the interpretation was quite clever. The cat worked well as a narrator to move the story along.
  • The Queen of Hearts (Kamryn Siler) had the right sense of anger to her, and she did well on her songs.
  • Tall Alice was portrayed by a boy in costume; Brandon Moser deserves credit for taking the role and running with it (especially considering this is middle school).
  • There were a number of flowers in tights (who aren’t explicitly credited in the program) who were wonderful in their dances.

The performance cast consisted of: Alice (Amanda Magaña); Small Alice (Amanda Pipolo); Tall Alice (Brandon Moser); Cheshire Cat (Alana Dupre, Inaya Durfield, Jesse Pacheco); White Rabbit (Max Chester); Mad Hatter (Justin Tuell); Queen of Hearts (Kamryn Siler); King of Hearts (Robert Cerda); Tweedle Dee (Sam Katz); Tweedle Dum (Akshat Bansal); March Hare (Nick Aguilar); Dodo Bird (Shane Smith); Doorknow (Troy Richman); Mathilda (Rebecca Radvinsky); Caterpiller Head (Dani Johns); Caterpillar (Hannah Protiva, Brooke Kier, Rachel Khoury, Taylor Carlson); Golden Girls in Bloom (Charlotte Doolittle, Mandi Macias, Rena Rodriguez, Willow Islas, Jordyn Lowe); Jaberwocky Voices (Abigail Beck, Ellie Zahedi, Marena Wisa Wasef, Talia Ballew); Jaberwocky Silhouettes and Stray Cats (Dani Johns, Hannah Protiva, Brooke Kier, Rachel Khoury, Taylor Carlson); Rock Lobsters (Ariana De León, Julia Denny, Kevin Foster, Colby Haney, Kennaya Ndu, Elizabeth Ramos, Robert Cerda, Joann Gilliam, Jacob Lipman); Riff Raff (Anthony Tedesco); Magenta (Joann Gilliam); Columbia (Abigail Beck); Unbirthday Partiers (Ellie Zahedi, Talia Ballew, Jake Dalton, Spencer Goldman, Kyle Kaplan, Arno Nizamian, Colby Haney, Ellie Zahedi, Elizabeth Ramos, Jake Dalton, Joann Gilliam, Julia Denny, Kennaya Ndu, Kevin Foster, Kyle Kaplan, Marena Wisa Wasef, Spencer Goldman, Talia Bellow); Joker (Jacob Lipman); Guitarists (Jordan Russo, Zareh Shahinian).

The production was directed by Fanny Araña and Carolyn Doherty♦, assisted by Ryan Wynott♣. Remember, we’re dealing with middle school students — 7th and 8th graders — here. The directors did a great job of teaching these kids to act on a stage. Choreography was by Carolyn Doherty♦ and MRM (Madison Tilner♣, Ryan Wynott♣, Michael Lertzman♣). The movement and dance deserves some highlighting — much of it was quite good, and was well exectued by the students. Daniel Bellusci♣ was the music director; the pre-recorded music integrated well. House managers were David Manalo and Isabelle Saligumba; Stage managers were Tam Le and Hunter Hewitt.
[♦ … alumni parent; ♣ … alumni; ♥ … current parent; ♠ … other non-student; = teacher/alumni parent]

This production was a bit more technical than most, utilizing a few projections, strobes, and black lights. Technical direction was by Fanny Araña and the lighting design was by Artur Cybulski. No credit is provided specifically for sound design, but the sound crew lead was Stephen Rabin. I remember the days when the best amplification was a stand-up microphone on the stage, so we’ve come orders-of-magnitude far in sound. The final tech rehearsal had some great sound, but there are also some areas still needing correction by opening. That is to be expected, especially when working with people not used to microphones. The set design was by Ben Tiber♣, in consultation with Dennis Kull♠. The set was extremely creative, using odd angles and such to create the sense of “off”-ness. Costumes were by Larissa Kastansev♦, Sally Protiva♥, Megan Zahedi♥, Thea Carlson♥, and Debbie Sornborger♠ and were creative and worked well. Poster/program design by Sake Nizamian♥ and Kathy Tedesco♥. There are numerous other staff and crew credits that I’ll leave to the program.

Performances of Alice In Wonderland are Thursday 5/7, Friday 5/8, and Saturday 5/9 at 6:30PM, and Saturday 5/9 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $5. The show is appropriate for all ages. Nobel Middle School is located at Tampa and Lassen in Northridge; the official address is 9950 Tampa Ave, Northridge, CA 91324. Enter off of Merridy.

One additional note that I included in my last Nobel writeup, and that I’ll include again: Thank you to the Nobel Administration. When this program started, the Nobel administration was at best neutral towards it. This attitude has changed as the program has proved itself. The Tuesday Alumni Night was an experiment that should be continued… for a number of reasons. First, it cements a love of students for their middle school. This is no little thing — our society encourages high school support, but middle school alumni are forgotten (take that, Paul Revere JHS — Pali contacts me, but you… never). Second, it provides the emotional sustenance for those that bring this program to life. Third, it bonds student to student. Fourth, and most importantly — from an administration point of view — it provides the school (which is now a charter school) with an alumni base to provide financial support. Think about the fact that the first cohort of students from this program are just about to graduate with their Bachelors Degrees (my daughter, who was a 7th grader the first year, is a junior). If they love this program, they love the school, and will be there to respond to fundraising appeals. This is no little thing at the middle school level, in a cash-strapped district that cannot afford the extras for the students.

I Support 99 Seat Theatre in Los AngelesOne of the arguments from AEA is that actors in a show that charges for tickets and has a budget must be paid. Alice in Wonderland is a clear example of the fallacy of that argument. People pay for tickets for this show. However, the only person who is paid is the producer, and she’s paid as being the teacher of the class, not the producer. Yet these are actors in a show with tickets — under the law, what is the difference between actors here, and AEA actors in a 99 seat theatre, or even non-AEA actors in a 99 seat theatre? None. But they are underage you cry. Children appear on stage all the time (look at Matilda, coming soon to the Ahmanson), and they are paid for it. AEA’s cry of “Labor Laws” is yet again proven false. Let’s work together to fight this “divide and conquer” approach, and develop an approach that works for all stakeholders.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre 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 believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: This weekend brings “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9.  I’ve heard good things about the show. The weekend of May 16 brings “Dinner with Friends” at REP East (FB), and may also bring “Violet: The Musical” at the Monroe Forum Theatre (FB) (I’m just waiting for them to show up on Goldstar). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

A Day Late and a Dollar… Saturday Stew on Sunday

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 03, 2015 @ 4:15 pm PDT

Observation StewThe smell of stew cooking in the crockpot reminded me I need to post a stew of my own; with vacation and such, it’s been a few weeks. So let’s clear out those links…

  • Burger Continental is Gone. We discovered this as we returned home from the Ren Faire a few weeks ago: BC has closed their doors. No more can Adrian, their long-time waiter (and one of the owners, from what I’ve heard) flirt with my wife. They were a reliable dinner when we were going to the Pasadena Playhouse. I’ll miss them.
  • Airline Safety, Take 1: Fitting In The Butts. As we all know, airlines are squeezing passengers closer and closer together, both through thinner seats and decreased pitch. The big problem: That may not be safe. A consumer advisory group has asked DOT to look into the matter.
  • Airline Safety, Take 2: Reading the Signs. An interesting airline risk has just come to light — significant if you are flying Boeing 787s. It appears there is a software glitch that could cause power units (APUs) to go into failsafe mode after running continuously for more than 8 months. Specifically, if all four APUs were started at the same time, and run for 248.55 hours… they shut down. 248.55 just happens to be the point where a signed 32-bit integer holding time in hundreths of a second overflows and goes negative. No problem: That age old advice still works: “Have you tried turning it off, and back on again?”
  • Cleaning Out the Stash. One of the problem when your parents die is cleaning out what they left at the house. That problem turns weird when you discover their adult stash — i.e., their porn collection. Yes, your parents think about sex — who do you think made you the horndog you are? Yes, I’m looking at you. Luckily, there is an adult bookstore in London that will take that porn off of your, umm, hands.
  • Ah, Catherine the Great. As you probably remember, I loved Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds. Therefore, it is with sad news that I report the passing of Mrs. Steve Allen, better known as Jayne Meadows, who started in numerous episodes. She made it to 95 and had a good life. I thank her for her contributions.
  • Security and Maturity. Here’s an interesting metric: Brian Krebs on measuring a company’s security maturity level.
  • Damn. Yesterday was National Naked Gardening Day. Here’s an interesting article on a garden rework in Beverlywood that not only saves water, but grows vegetables. For future reference…
  • Where to Go For Dinner. Another “for future reference”: Here’s a listing of 20 recommended places to eat in the Valley. We’ve actually been to about 2/3s of these.
  • But What Will I Watch in Hawaii. I don’t know what you did when you visited Hawaii in your college years, but I…. programmed. I have fond memories of listening to the Jerry Lewis Telethon (back in the late 1970s, mind you) and programming for the UCLA Computer Club. Today’s children will have to find something else to do: MDA has cancelled the Labor Day Telethon. I’ll note that it had really gone downhill without Jerry Lewis and the folks he drew in, and MDA parted ways with him a few years ago.

That’s your stew for this Sunday. Now go work out….

«Form»ing an Opinion

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 03, 2015 @ 7:59 am PDT

Loopholes - The Musical (Hudson/Theatre Planners)userpic=theatre2A few months ago, I heard about a new musical coming to Los Angeles (I don’t recall the source). The musical was called “Loopholes“, and it was a musical about taxes and the IRS. Now, I’m the son of two accountants (my dad was one of the last PAs in California; my mom one of the first woman CPAs), and I’m married to the daughter of a CPA. Naturally, I had to go see this show, and blocked off a date in my calendar. A month or so later ticketing for the show opens, and I quickly grab tickets for when we return from vacation. By now, you’ve probably figured out where I was last night :-) : I was at the Hudson Mainstage (FB) in Hollywood seeing “Loopholes“, a musical parody.

Loopholes“, which features book and lyrics by Stan Rich (FB), and music and lyrics by Ronnie Jayne (FB), is ostensibly based on a true story of what happened to Rich in the 1980s and 1990s. The IRS had disallowed losses the author incurred from a tax shelter, but allowed only the gains. Despite numerous attempts to close the case, the IRS kept delaying and adding interest on the penalty. Eventually they IRS calculated a revised amount, which was 10% of the original demand. However, they still insisted on the full penalty. The battle went on for 15 years, until the IRS hit a block and could no longer go against the taxpayer. After resolving the situation, the taxpayer wanted to create a win-win situation… and so wrote a musical spoof of the situation. This was presented as “Taxpayer Taxpayer” until shortly after 9/11. It was then set aside for a decade, then reworked, updated, and adapted… resulting in this production.

The basic story above forms the plot of the musical, which was directed and dramaturged by Kiff Scholl (FB). Names, of course, were changed to protect… well, I’m guessing names were changed to avoid legal issues. The names chosen will give you quite an idea of the show. Our lead protagonist is Izzy Rich; his accountant is Harry Grim; the IRS agents are Eileen Holmes, Sheila Peel, and Howie Catchem; the therapist is Marsha Mellow.  Yes, all of these names result in puns, which include the resultant beat for laughter (of which there was a lot in the audience).

These names reflect both the strength and the weakness of this show, which is hard to put into words. In many ways, the show reflects the author well. By this I mean that those who use (and sometimes abuse) tax shelters often try too hard; the attempt to get everything right and cross every “T” often raises flags that might not otherwise be raised. I’m guessing it is something like that which first caught the eyes of the IRS. Similarly, this show — which is funny and cute and entertaining — tries just a little bit too hard. There are points where it self-consciously pushes the humor, becomes self-referential, recognizes it is a show on a stage, highlights the fact that you just heard a joke, or goes for the obvious pun. These points become a little grating. Mind you, they aren’t enough to make this a bad show or destroy the entertainment value; rather, they just leave you with the “trying too hard” taste.

I don’t blame the author for this — this is his first show and his first musical, and it was written first as a musical comedy spoof for groups and to attempt to laugh and derive something positive from a bad experience. As a musical comedy spoof it does well. If it wants to transition into a musical with longer life — and perhaps a deeper message and commentary on the power of the IRS — it could likely do with a bit more reshaping. The director, Scholl, is also listed as the Dramaturge, and in this capacity I believe a little more could have been done to take off a bit of the earnestness edge. I think there is a great message and a great story here that could move this from a musical spoof to something much more, but that more work is required to turn this into something with greater gravitas and longevity.

But I’ll note that my opinion may be a little jaded due to my upbringing. You spend your life in a CPA office, surrounded with bad tax jokes, and they no longer become quite as funny. The audience sitting around me was truly enjoying this show (including the guy behind me who was singing along, even though he didn’t know the lyrics, sigh). There was lots of laughter, and even I found myself laughing out loud at a few of the jokes and scenes. I truly believe that I’m the oddity here — I think that this is a show that, despite its excessive earnestness, will make audiences laugh and will serve to entertain.

Another example of the “trying too hard” is found in the music: this is a 90 minute show, with no intermission. The program lists 35 songs — and this isn’t a sung-through opera. Many of these are only song snippets, and I’d estimate that perhaps 85-90% of them are parodies of other well-known songs. That doesn’t destroy the humor (after all, who can’t love “Sittin’ in the Schvitz” as a parody of “Putting On The Ritz”), but it’s odd for a musical that makes it appear as if it was a original musical. The few songs that I didn’t recognize as parodies were quite good (“Think Like a Winner”); again I found myself wishing the show had amped up the originality instead of going for the easy joke. Perhaps that’s part of the problem — scenes, characters, names were often there for the easy, funny joke, whereas I (trained after all these years for musicals with deeper meaning) was looking for something with a bit more depth. A uniform 5′ deep pool is still refreshing on a hot day, but it is safe; sometimes you want to jump off that diving board into the 10′ deep end.

If I was to summarize the book and music aspects of Loopholes, it would be that this show is funny and entertaining for what it is, but it left me wishing it was a bit more. I truly believe that there is a story here that can be musicalized, but to do so the author needs to decide what is the story he truly wants to tell — is the focus poking fun at the IRS, or is the story about “Izzy”‘s growth from a cold-business man to someone who finds a new attitude and a new relationship. The latter, if you look at this from high above, is the real story; the IRS is not the villain but the player who helps shape our leads journey. Telling that story — with truly new and original lyrics — could move this from the musical spoof/parody that it is into something much greater: a story of individual growth and attitude, with some humorous pointed commentary songs along the way. The verdict? Funny and entertaining and great, with some seeds that — if nurtured properly — can turn this into much more.

Part of what makes the presentation entertaining is the cast, who are fun and  entertaining and a joy to watch — plus they all sing well. If the cast has a problem, overall, it is more in the direction — again, it tries a little too hard. The cast seems someone conscious that they are on a stage and are trying to make the audience laugh. Relax, and have fun kids. Luckily, the problem appears a bit less in the lead positions: Bruce Nozick (FB) as Izzy Rich and Caryn Richman (FB) as Dr. Marsha Mellow. Nozick brings a gentle humor to Izzy (as well as a lovely voice). He permits you to see both the businessman and the exasperation. As for Richman: She was wonderful to see on stage (full disclosure: I’ve enjoyed her acting since I first saw her on New Gidget; I’m amazed at how she has seemingly not aged since then (whereas I’ve … well, let’s say I was much younger then)). She sang well, emoted well, and related to the other characters well — and was just fun to watch.

In supporting roles (on the Izzy side) were Perry Lambert (FB) as Harry Grim and Julia Cardia (FB) as Brenda, Izzy’s secretary.  Lambert was great as the accountant and quite funny in his role. His scenes as the Rabbi and in the steamroom were great. He also sang and moved well. I’m sure I’ve seen him in a past show, but I can’t put my finger on it. Cardia as Brenda was surprising. I think her best moments were when Harry brought in the backup singers, and she would watch them and slowing move in, joining in on the actions. Subtly funny, which is the humor I tend to like.

The primary IRS agents (although they played other roles as well) were Brad Griffith (FB) as Howie Catchem (also: the Wolf, Willie Nelson); Camille Licate (FB) as Eileen Holmes (also Nicole Kidme); and Taji Coleman (FB) as Sheila Peel (also Mrs. Lamaz). Griffith was fun to watch — he had a wonderful warmth with an undertone of evil — just what you need for an IRS agent :-) . Licate seemed to be enjoying herself as Eileen — the newbie IRS agent. She projected an aura of fun and naivete, singing strongly and clearly enjoying being on stage. Coleman performed well in her roles but there was a little something missing last night that I couldn’t pinpoint — she didn’t have the same energy and enthusiasm as the rest of the cast. My wife thought it was just her characters; my guess is that she was just having a slightly off night — and that happens sometimes. Irrespective of that, all three worked well together in their main IRS roles and were a fun team.

Rounding out the cast in multiple ensemble roles were Ryan Brady (FB) as Sam Flushing / IRS Supervisor / Pig #3 / Pete Rose / Bailiff and Nora King (FB) as Jude Gleo Grief / Pig #1 / Lois / IRS Receptionist. Brady had a nice warmth to him, and was hilarious as the plumber in “Flush It Down”. Please pass me the brain bleach for that rear dancing shot :-). King caught my eye the minute I saw her on stage — she just radiated enthusiasm and fun and happiness to be her characters — and that’s what I love to see. She was just wonderful in all her roles, and especially how she rocked the towel in the steambath scenes and rocked the gavel in her courtroom scenes.

Music was provided by the co-lyricist, Ronnie Jayne (FB), who served as musical director and on-stage accompanist. Lindsay Martin (FB)’s choreography worked reasonably well. There were a few points where it came off as a little forced, but I think that goes to the whole “trying too hard” vibe I picked up and discussed earlier. Overall, the movement worked well and fit the book and plotline. Rita Cofield (FB) was the stage manager, assisted by Ashley D. Clark/FB.

Turning to the technical: The set design was by Charles G. Sleichter and worked well in its simplicity. There was a backdrop that supported some projections, and two side panels that identified location or hid major props. Add a desk, and that was essentially it… but it worked. The lighting design by Donny Jackson (FB) worked well to establish the mood, and was otherwise non-obtrusive. The sound design by David B. Marling (FB) provided good sound effects. Murray Burn‘s costumes worked well and established the characters well; I particularly liked the little touches such as the green in all the IRS costumes. Casting was by Raul Clayton Staggs (FB). Publicity was by Kuker & Lee. Loopholes was produced by Theatre Planners (Racquel Lehrman and Victoria Watson); Bobbe Rothbart/FB was the co-executive producer.

Loopholes continues at the Hudson Theatre through Sunday, May 17. Even though it tries too hard, it is genuinely funny and entertaining and well worth seeing. Tickets are available through Plays411; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar and other sources.

I Support 99 Seat Theatre in Los Angeles[ETA: This show is a great example of the intimate theatre battle in Los Angeles. No, I don’t mean to paint AEA as the evil IRS, and the pro99-ers as trying to find loopholes. Rather, this is a production in an intimate theatre by a non-membership company, a theatre with more than 50 seats, by a non-profit. It features a mix of AEA and non-AEA actors (and AEA actors on both sides of the pro99 debate). It is precisely the type of production that would be hurt by the new rules, because they would have to pay minimum wage to the 7 AEA actors in the show. Given labor laws, the remaining 3 actors would also have to be paid minimum wage, because you cannot have “volunteers” doing the same job as employees (and from what I saw, they were certainly professional). Add in the creative designers, factor in theatre rental and the fact that many tickets are not full price but discounted via Goldstar, Plays411, LA Stage Tix, or other sources… and this would be a money loser. Yet it is shows like these that need to get off the ground; shows like these that need the dramaturgy and audience feedback to move forward. I Love 99 (FB) is a community of people that love LA’s intimate theatre and want to save it: AEA actors, non-AEA actors, creatives, technical people, stage managers, producers, critics, and audience members working together. LA has built a unique community thanks to the 99 seat plan: let’s figure out how to move the community forward in a plan that benefits all stakeholders. Follow us on Facebook, and learn about what you can do from our web page.]

Dining Notes: A wonderful find if you are seeing shows at the Hudson, the Blank, or the Complex (hint: remember this for Fringe Festival) is Eat This Cafe (FB), which is on the corner and is part of the Hudson complex of theatres. Although not on their online menu, gluten-free bread is available. They have wonderful salads and sandwiches. Note also that the Hudson’s cafe often has gluten-free muffins.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre 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 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: Our next theatre is Tuesday night, when we’re going to the alumni performance of Alice – The Musical at Nobel Middle School. This is followed by “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9.  The weekend of May 16 brings “Dinner with Friends” at REP East (FB), and may also bring “Violet: The Musical” at the Monroe Forum Theatre (FB) (I’m just waiting for them to show up on Goldstar). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.