Observations Along the Road

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

Disturbing Trends

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 25, 2016 @ 10:13 am PST

userpic=headlinesToday’s collection of news chum serve to highlight some disturbing historical and societal trends:

  •  Fake and Satirical News Sites. If this election has demonstrated anything, it is that they will believe a headline as long as a friend shares it on Facebook. The impact of fake news and satirical news has been potentially significant, as is the blurring line between journalism and opinion pieces (I’m looking at you, Borowitz). If it sounds too good to be true — if it confirms your biases — then check it before sharing. Here’s a great start at that: a list of BS, fake, or biased news sites.
  • Manipulating Historical Images. Lehrhaus has a very interesting article on the trend of photoshopping historical photos. The example they use are some historical images of Orthodox girls photoshopped to reflect current modesty norms in the community, but the actual concern is much larger. The manipulation of history — the notion is that history is what I say it is, not what the historical record proves — was, so to speak, yuge, in this election. With photoshop, we can change that historical record. Did you know there were four shooters at JFK’s assassination?
  • I Can Fix That. When I was growing up, if something broke, you would fix it. Ovens, washers, TVs, and all sorts of things — even toasters — were such that when they went bad, you took them to a repair shop where they were fixed for a reasonable cost — certainly, less than buying new. Our oven failed earlier this week, and the bad part along was almost $600 — had it been in stock. That’s half the price of a new oven. Our disposable society wastes resources, and creates waste that often will never degrade. The latest example: The new MacBook Pro. The new MacBook Pro, like its earlier Retina designs, has a glued down battery and has RAM that is soldered into the computer’s logic board. Unless you’re an expert microsolderer, the specs of the computer you buy are the specs you’ll have until the end of its life. Kiss those repair shop jobs goodbye. Here’s what the article says about that: “Apple has little incentive to help them, and arguably has little obligation to build computers that can be repaired and resold on the secondary market. That said, a computer that can be salvaged from the scrap heap and used for several more years is many times more environmentally friendly than one that has to be shredded into a million tiny pieces because it has a bad stick of RAM or because you can’t buy an affordable replacement SSD.”
  • Shopping Shopping Everywhere. An abandoned sanitarium in La Crescenta is becoming commercial space: Gangi Design LED Build will renovate 14 buildings from the 1920s-era institution and convert them to “retail and nonprofit use.”  A friend of mine recently complained about the loss of manufacturing and manufacturing jobs, and here’s why: we’ve shipped those jobs overseas because we didn’t want the polluting factories, or labor was cheaper even after the tariffs, [ETA: or automation has replaced those jobs] and we’re left with more shops trying to sell overpriced imported crap to people who no longer have the jobs to pay for them. I’d say this sounds crazy and those proposing the idea should go into a sanitarium, but we’ve been closing the sanitariums.


Thanksgiving, America, and Antisemitism

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 24, 2016 @ 5:27 pm PST

userpic=schmuckToday is Thanksgiving day — a day when, in America, we share what we are thankful for. One thing I am thankful for in this country is the freedom to practice my religion, as well as the freedom to not have others force their religion on me. I hope that, in years to come, I can continue to be thankful for such things.

However, what has happened in 2016 has given me some reasons to doubt. Today’s news chum brings together a collection of articles I’ve seen related to this doubt. Part of me said, “Don’t post this on Thanksgiving”. Another part of me said that it was important to do so, precisely because being thankful for something doesn’t mean we should be complacent about it. We have numerous freedoms in this country for which we are all thankful. We must fight for these freedoms every day; the forces that want to take them away make it a constant struggle. So let’s fight, so that we can continue to be thankful for what we have (and not be remembering what we have lost).

Let’s start with a post by Mayim Bialik, who wrote a letter to her haters. This was in response to her posting “a very disturbing article reporting that the New York City Memorial of Beastie Boys frontman Adam Yauch had been desecrated. All of the Beastie Boys were Jewish, and Yauch’s memorial had swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti scrawled all over it.” In it, she writes:

I’m going to state this very plainly, America: many people in this country are racists. Many people think that the Nazi party was correct and they are part of organized organizations that seek to continue the pledges of the Nazi party for white supremacy and the elimination of minorities. Is it 50% of this country? Absolutely not. Is it enough that we should be concerned? Absolutely.

She goes on:

Don’t you think it’s time we stop pretending, America? We have problems. If you are not one of the problems, that’s great. And I’m going to keep posting about things like this to as many people as I can. Not because I’m a celebrity. But because I’m a citizen of this country. I’m the granddaughter of immigrants. I am a Jew. And I am offended and disgusted that people are doing things like this while so many of us don’t want to believe it’s really happening.

But that’s just one example. A few days ago, CNN actually reported a debate on the question “Are Jews people?”. Here’s what Boing Boing said:

Here’s us, suggesting that media people stop using the cutesy term “alt right” to describe Sieg Heiling white supremacists. But they’re already moving onto panel discussions on whether Jews are people.

Would you ever think such a discussion would be on CNN? But it’s there, because Trump’s election has emboldened the white supremecists who make up the euphemistically-titled “alt-right” — and Trump has gone so far as to appoint someone they see as a leader, Steve Bannon, to be a chief advisor.

The Forward explored the question in a different way. There, they looked at the reaction that ensued when Mike Pence was addressed by the actors of Hamilton, reading a statement from the producers, writer, and actors. They asked: “What if this had happened at Fiddler on the Roof?”:

Picture this: It’s a lovely evening at the Broadway Theater and “Fiddler on the Roof” is nearing its finale. Soon, the little village of Anatevka — beset by pogroms and the disruption of tradition — will be little more than a memory. Some will try to adhere to the old ways, others will try their luck with America and assimilation.

The lights go down, then come back up. Applause clatters through the theater, then Danny Burstein, the actor playing Tevye, steps forward and tells the audience that Vice President-elect Mike Pence is in the house. Burstein silences the boos, then reads from a prepared statement:

“We, sir, we are the diverse America, who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir,” Burstein says. “But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

What would the reaction have been?

Would the actors had been booed? Would there be demands for an apology? Hamilton was a target because it has “the efftrontery to present unapologetically a vision of a wholly diverse America. It’s an America where founding fathers engage in rap battles, and employ the sort of language that the president uses in the locker room but finds filthy when others use it, particularly those who come from different backgrounds and have different visions of America than he does. “Hamilton” represents what America truly looks and sounds like today”. Trump voters want it back where it was in 1964. The Forward continues:

What if there really was a #BoycottFiddler movement? What if Breitbart News declared the “Fiddler” cast to be “whiny Jews?”

A new sense of fear would right now be coursing specifically through the Jewish community, the same way it is coursing through African-American, immigrant and LGBTQ communities; it would be the same fear that is both chilling and galvanizing artistic communities throughout the country as we see grim portents arising from a president-elect who demands safe spaces for himself and his followers and none for anyone else.

Given the reaction of Trump followers, should we be worried about safe spaces for Jews?

By the way, if you think you can leave the US to be safe, think again. The Jewish Journal is reporting that Francois Fillon, a leading contender in the upcoming French presidential election, suggested Jews do not respect French law. He talked about how the French are fighting Muslim sectarianism, and “We fought against a form of Catholic sectarianism or like we fought the desire of Jews to live in a community that does not respect the laws of the French Republic.” If they come to register and restrict the rights of Muslims, what religion is next?

Let us be vigilant about increased antisemitism — and more importantly, remember that we are in a common battle: that racist attacks on any group for a religious, racial, gender, or sexual characteristic is an attack on us all. An opinion piece in the Washington Post from over a year ago opines:

America is unique in Jewish history because the social construct of power and oppression in this society came to be based more on skin color than on religion or ethnic identity. Because of that, along with the best of American values and our own hard work, we now find ourselves as another privileged white ethnicity. Despite our only good intentions, we are — all of us — full participants and beneficiaries of the American evil known as racism.

The brilliance of being Jewish, though, is that we stubbornly refuse to fit into any social construct of power or oppression. We are simply Ivri’im, people from “somewhere else,” people who struggle with God and justice, who demand that the rest of the world does, too, and see every human life as sacred because we are all in the image of God. And the truth is, we have never belonged to one race alone. The Torah tells us that we left Egypt with the “erev rav,” with a mixed multitude of peoples. Around the world there are Jews of color, Asian Jews, Jews of all kinds. The idea that Jews are white is not only ridiculous, it’s offensive to who we really are! Yes, societies like America come along sometimes and give us privileges and powerful labels like “white.” In America’s racist social construct, Jews are very much white people, but we must never again think of ourselves that way — it’s time for us to opt out of that racist paradigm, because we are Jews.

Imagine what we and our children could be like if we associate our Jewishness with an essential statement against racism and discrimination. Even though we and our children have benefited from the best schools and jobs and housing that whiteness affords, we can be the ones to challenge the system from within. We can be the ones who change business practices, housing codes, policing, correctional facilities, social policies, unequal schools — motivated by our values and our Jewish historical experience. Indeed, so many progressive leaders in this country have been Jews (including some Jewish founders of the NAACP), motivated exactly by this vision. But so many more of us need to own our real power, which is not our whiteness, but our Jewishness, our Torah and our tradition that motivates us to remember the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt; that calls on us to lift up the cause of all those who are oppressed.

We must all work together to ensure that what we are thankful for this year is not taken away in the coming year: the freedom to practice our religion, the freedom from other religions and their values being imposed on us by the government, the freedom to marry who we want, the freedom to control our bodies and our minds, the freedom to speak against power when we see injustice, and the freedom to fight for justice. We need to make it so next year we can be equally thankful.


What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie? (A Thanksgiving Tradition)

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 24, 2016 @ 3:51 pm PST

Today is the day when we are thankful for many thing. Home. Family. Loved ones. Stan Freberg.

Yup. Stan Freberg, who reminded us in his 1962 album “The United States of America” that this is national “Take an Indian to Lunch” week. I wonder if he would have to change the words these days, although the sentiment is equally true…

Take an Indian To Lunch

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Show him we’re a regular bunch this week
Show him we’re as liberal as can be
Let him know he’s almost as good as we

Make a feathered friend feel fed this week
Overlook the fact he’s red this week
Let him share our Quaker Oats
‘Cause he’s useful when he votes
Take an Indian to lunch

Two, four, six, eight, who do we tolerate
Indians, Indians, rah; rah; rah

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Let him sit right down and munch this week
Let’s give in and all do the brotherhood bit
Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it

Take an Indian to dine this week
Show him we don’t draw the line this week
We know everyone can’t be
As American as we
(After all, we came over on the Mayflower)
Take an Indian
(Not a wooden Indian)
But a real, live Indian
To lunch!

Stan Freberg also reminded us about how the first Thanksgiving really went…

The Luncheon Under The Trees

Narrator:Needless to say, the luncheon there under the trees was a great success, and a good time was had by Puritan and Indian alike. Everything came off beautifully with the exception of one minor catastrophe.

Mayor: What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie?
Charlie: Well, I cooked the turkey, that’s all.
Mayor: You put our national bird in the oven. Is that correct?
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: And all of us had our mouths set for roast eagle with all the trimmings.
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: You did a thing like that?
Charlie: Well, the two birds were lying there side by side.
Mayor: The *turkey* was for the centerpiece, Charlie, I mean …
Charlie: Well, they looked so much alike that I, uh …
Mayor: Well, we blew it now. They’re all sitting down at the tables out there.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah.
Mayor: … starting on their little nut cups already. Just have to switch the birds, that’s all.
Charlie: Yeah, well …
Mayor: Serve them turkey instead of eagle. But it’s kinda scrawny-lookin’, isn’t it?
Charlie: Yeah, well I thought I’d stuff some old bread in it and make it look a little fatter.
Mayor: You do that, OK?

May all my friends and readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember the holiday for what it originally was: shopping later that evening at the Mall of Plymouth for those stylish belt buckles. Stay safe!



Good Advice Costs Nothing and is Worth Twice the Price

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 23, 2016 @ 12:12 pm PST

userpic=moneyAfter her graduation from UC Berkeley last May, my daughter did what millions of millenials with student loans have done — she moved back into our house with her boyfriend. I mention this because my accumulating news chum has a collection of useful articles for parents and children in the exact same situation, which I thought I would share:

Hopefully, these links will prove useful to your children (or, if you are a millennial, to you).

Somehow, The House Knows

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 23, 2016 @ 11:23 am PST

userpic=turkey,turkeysSomehow, our house knows when it is almost Thanksgiving. We figure that it thinks we’re going to be having a bunch of guests, and therefore causes something in the house to fail to give us tsuris. Typically, this is when it chooses to have the plumbing back up. But we’ve replaced the sewer lines, so it is forced to be more creative. Here’s how our house has been sabotaging us this November:

The Wall Oven

The previous owners of our house installed a GE Profile dual-oven (one convection) wall oven before we moved in. Even thought we are not hosting a large family dinner, on Monday the upper oven decided to stop working. We called in GE for repair, and the electronic board that controls that part of the oven is no longer available. The lower oven (non-convection) is still working.

This, of course, means that we will be looking for a new oven — an expense we hadn’t anticipated, coming just as we are about to start the paperwork to put in solar and re-roof (purchase, meaning a large loan). This is one where you bite the bullet and do it, because you have to.


When we came home from a Bar Mitzvah in the Bay Area the weekend before last, we came to find our old DirecTivo was no longer working. It would start the boot up just fine, go to “Just a Few Minutes More….”, and then… snow, not even getting to satellite acquisition. Oddly, it still seemed to be recording and dialing out, even though it wasn’t talking to the TV (and, remember, it could talk to the TV during the beginning of the boot process). We were faced with the choice of at least a $150 repair, or just upgrading to a free Genie Whole-House DVR from DirecTV (although the latter would increase our bill by $13/month… the gift that keeps giving). We decided, as it was likely we lost all recorded programs, to bite the bullet and upgrade.

The first installer came out, looked at our three CRT TVs and our old amplifiers, and said that he needed additional parts. The appointment was rescheduled.

The rescheduled installer came out with the right adapters. He got all three TVs working with the new box. This led to a bit of a cascade issue: now that we had HD service to the boxes, we wanted to take advantage of it. One of our smaller TVs had a bad flyback transformer, making it impossible to watch. So we took advantage of a sale at Target (saving almost $100), and got a new 40″ LG HDTV. The 26″ that was displaced went to replace the 13″ squealing TV. I got everything rewired, and our system has been upgraded.


For the longest time, my wife has been using my daughter’s old Windows 7 laptop (the one she spilled pineapple juice on). It’s been mostly right after it was repaired, but occasionally the wireless or power is a bit flakey. She was going to switch to the smaller ASUS laptop that was running Windows 8.1 (upgraded to Windows 10), that my daughter gave up on after her boyfriend spilled water on it. We had gotten the motherboard cleaned, and it seemed to be running fine. Earlier this week, however, it just turned off. Only a flashing green power light, that when you try to power on just flashes faster. I think the power supply must have been damaged and finally gave up the ghost.

So, on top of everything, we’ll be looking for a new computer for my wife at the beginning of a new year.

Theatre Is Never a Safe Space — If It Was, It Wouldn’t Be Doing It’s Job

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Nov 21, 2016 @ 11:07 am PST

userpic=dramamasksThe big news over the last weekend was that the Vice-President-Elect, Mike Pence, attended the musical Hamilton. The news wasn’t that he somehow got seats at the last minute, but that at the end of the show, the actors pleaded with him to protect diversity. This elicited a response from the President-Elect that the comment was wrong, and that theatre should be a “safe space”. The President-Elect has continued his war with the musical, calling for a boycott thereof. Broadway is not backing down. Nor should it.

Mr. President-Elect, study your history. The theatre has never been a safe space. From an active shooter making a commentary on the Presidency in 1865 (the last active shooter in a theatre — what? too soon?), to annual collections for Equity Fights Aids, actors have always been passionate about the ideas in which they believe. Further, theatre has never been a space devoid of “dangerous ideas” — in fact, theatre often provides a space to explore those ideas — especially in times of turmoil in our nation. (Vox also has a nice summary on this point)

Don’t believe me. Perhaps this will refresh your memory.

  • Showboat, in 1927 during the “roaring 20s” was a commentary on the tragedy of race relations and mixed marriages. It was a theme revisited again by Hammerstein in South Pacific, when we learned that racism and hatred had to be carefully taught.
  • Sound of Music may have seemed light, but it was a commentary on the rise of Hitler. Hitler was also explored in Caberet, which also touched on the themes of antisemitism even more explicitly. Another musical exploring antisemitism in society was Fiddler on the Roof.
  • Finians Rainbow was far from a love story — it was a hard hitting commentary on race relations. Similary, Lil Abner was a commentary on nuclear proliferation and the automation of society.
  • Hair, of course, was an anti-war musical — again, a commentary on the politics of this country. Coming out in 1967 as the war was picking up steam, it also commented on the free love era and the impact on race relations there.
  • Chicago, a long running hit, was a commentary as well — a commentary on our media driven celebrity driven society — a commentary on how Razzle Dazzle can distract from what was really going on.
  • Rent, of course, was a commentary on the AIDS epidemic and its impact on society, as well as a commentary on redevelopment.
  • Avenue Q, developed during the Bush administration, was a commentary on how society was hurting economically; how trickle down hadn’t worked, even for gay Republicans.
  • Wicked — you know, that popular musical — isn’t just the Wizard of Oz. Listen to author Greg Maguire — it is a commentary on the rising power of an evil leader (something that becomes clearer in his second book, which was intended as a direct commentary on the Iraq war torture). The dangers of evil meglomanic leaders is a popular topic, from Lion King to Hamlet (which it was based upon).
  • Fun Home explores growing up lesbian in a closeted household, and the dangers of being closeted.
  • The Book of Mormon confronts the issue of what is behind faith.
  • Spring Awakening confronts the issue of teen sexuality and its impacts.
  • Allegiance was a reminder of the wrongs of the Japanese Internment.
  • Hamilton, of course, is a celebration of the impact on America from immigrants and diversity. “Immigrants — We get the job done!”

These are just musicals. Commentary in plays is even more, from Death of a Salesman to Angels in America to The Laramie Project to…. I, of course, could go on and on. Theatre has long reflected the concerns and worries about society, and actors have long spoken their feelings. That is the beauty of America — that such feelings can be expressed without fear of reprisal or jail. That’s often not true in other countries, where actors risk their lives to express opinions from the stage.

So, Mr. President-Elect, please kindly shut up about the theatre insulting you, or TV insulting you. You are a better man than that; free speech cannot hurt you. Do your job — be a president for all America, even the greater-than -half that didn’t vote for you. Make wise selections for your advisors — advisors that are respected by all, not just rewards for those in your inner circle. Simply put: You want to avoid criticism? Then govern in a manner that does not invite it from large segments of the people you govern.

P.S.: I did hear a rumor that Mr. Trump was so upset, he vowed to build a fourth wall in all theatres, and to make the actors pay for it. Like that will ever happen.


Beauty Behind the Humor | “Funny Girl” @ Conundrum @ The Colony

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 19, 2016 @ 3:22 pm PST

Funny Girl (Conundrum at The Colony)userpic=colonySo shows are very frequently revived — both on Broadway, and in Regional and amateur productions. Hairspray, Caberet, Sound of Music, and similar chart toppers — you’ll find them everywhere. Other shows — although hits in their day — are almost never remounted. I’m still waiting for a local remount of my favorite musical — Two Gentlemen of Verona — and The Rothschilds only had its first revisical since the original. The reason for this differs. For some, the material seems dated — TGOV is one of those, yet Hair gets revived. Some had troubled books. For some, it is the difficulty of finding the right lead to fit the shoes of the original. You’ll likely never see Schwartz’s The Magic Show again for that reason — Doug Henning was unique.

A show in this latter category is the Tony award winning Funny Girl , with book by Isobel Lennart, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Bob Merrill. It was produced on Broadway in 1963 by Ray Stark, directed by Garson Kanin, and starred Barbra Streisand (FB) in her second (and last) major Broadway role. Streisand went on to show in the 1967 film version, and was the personification of the lead character, Fanny Brice. After that…. the show disappeared. No revivals, few remounts. There was talk of a Broadway revival starting at the Ahmanson a few years ago, but that petered out. There was a recent West End revisical that was well received; it is unknown if it is coming across the pond.

So when I saw that a local company (Conundrum Theatre Co (FB)) was producing a revival of Funny Girl, I started to want to get tickets to go. I thought it would be multiple dates in October, which was already getting pretty full. It ended up being just one weekend, and I was unable to go. But that wasn’t the end of the show. Arrangements were made, and the show moved to The Colony Theatre (FB) in Burbank. The Colony, where we subscribed, had gone dark earlier in the year, and was looking for visiting productions to fill its space. Barbara Beckley of the Colony sent out email to the subscribers about the show, and this was the impetus for us to redeem our last Colony subscription ticket and squeeze in the show, the last Friday of its new performance run that ends November 20.

Returning to the Colony itself was sad. I’m referring to the physical facility. Gone was the celebration of the long producing history of the company. Gone were the various props and awards that filled the facility. Gone were the awards. Gone were the construction pictures. Gone were the familiar company faces, such as Barbara at the welcome desk. It was clear that the Colony, as it was, will not be back. The curtain has come down. Sad, so sad. This has been a very bad year for theatre companies in Southern California.

Luckily, this has been a good year for productions; and this production more than made up for the sadness at seeing the once great Colony down. The mix of up-and-coming theatre folks and seasoned local professionals (there were no AEA credits in the program) worked well. Conundrum Theatre Co (FB), for whom this was their inaugural fully-staged musical, did a very good job with the show with only a few technical problems, especially given their limited rehearsal time. I’m glad that this show ended up at The Colony; perhaps it is a signal that 2017 may see a return to theatre to the stage of the Colony. I certainly hope to see more Conundrum there.

As the show itself hasn’t been around much since the 1960s, you likely are unaware of its plot other than it starred Barbra Streisand. Funny Girl tells a highly fictionalized version of comedienne Fanny Brice’s romance and marriage to gambler Nicky Arnstein. It does this by presenting Brice on a stage awaiting Arnstein’s release from prison. The bulk of the show is a flashback telling of the story, returning to the present at the end. It begins with Brice’s first appears at the Keeney Theatre. It shows her first meeting with Arnstein, her transfer to the Ziegfield Follies, her subsequent marriage, and then the failure thereof. In some ways, this foreshadows the story Streisand would play again in her movie A Star is Born. She rises in  fame, eclipses him, and his ego and traditional male roles doom everything. You can read a much more detailed synopsis on the Wikipedia page.

However, this is a very fictionalized version of Brice’s story. She wasn’t the innocent when she married him (he was her second marriage); they actually lived together for six years before getting married. He had been to jail before the marriage, and actually sponged off of her for the entire thing. His jail stints were longer, and her performance history was quite differently. But in the theatre, the story becomes the reality; the truth of the story be damned.

In any case, the book is what it is (although Harvey Fierstein — who loves to doctor shows — doctored the West End version). It has its structural problems — the first act is far too long; the second doesn’t have the energy of the first. It was troubled in development, and like Mack and Mabel, does not end happily ever after. It is also a star vehicle, and requires a fairly unique mix of talent to be successful. Most actresses cannot carry it off. It requires a mix of physical comedy, comedic presence, dance, a belting voice, and the correct ethnicity. This is not a Kelli O’Hara show. It was ultimately built for Streisand, and there are few like her.

Luckily, it was in the leads that this show excelled. Moreover, I’m saying that in clear knowledge that we had the understudy as our lead. Victoria Strafuss (FB)’s portrayal of Fanny Brice was spot on. She brought good comedic timing, a talent for voices, faces, and physical comedy, and an excellent and strong singing voice to the stage. One of the hardest things for an actress and trained dancer to do is be bad; yet Strafuss was able to do this in the scenes with the rest of the ensemble, cleverly being just a little off to show how Brice wasn’t the typical chorine. She was able to bring back her grace when it was needed, showing that it was indeed an act. She also had a very strong voice and was more than capable with her numbers in the show. Given that she has some major numbers — “People”, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” — combined with some numbers that required extensive comedy timing — “You Are Woman, I Am Man”, “Sadie, Sadie”, “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” — that’s a high compliment. Coming into the show, I ran into another audience member who was disappointed that we had the “understudy”. I hope he was as impressed by her performance as I was. Ms. Strafuss is someone I hope to see more of on the Southern California stages. (The role is normally portrayed by Jackie Brenneman (FB))

Her object d’amour, Nick Arnstein, was portrayed by Michael Cortez (FB). Although he wasn’t Omar Sharif, he had the requisite style, flair, and voice to pull off the role, and had a good chemistry with Ms. Strafuss. The two worked well together. My wife, when asked about Michael, thought his portrayal was “suitably sleezy”. Given the character, that’s high praise :-).

The main supporting roles — Eddie Ryan and Mrs. (Rose) Brice — were also portrayed quite well. Steven Duncan Sass (FB)’s Eddie Ryan was a very strong dancer and gave off a very affable chemistry, together with a very nice singing voice. Alison Korman (FB)’s Rose Brice had the right air of a mother, and had a good singing voice and stage presence. The two worked well together in their join number “Find Yourself a Man”. In smaller supporting roles were Mark Melo (FB) [Tom Keeney/Renaldi], John Hamilton Scott [Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr], Tina Oakland Scott [Mrs. O’Malley], Meggan Taylor (FB) [Mrs. Strakosh], and Anne Wendell/FB [Mrs. Meeker]. All brought appropriate characterizations to their roles.

Rounding out the ensemble were Ashley Byrd [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble], Bernie Escarga/FB [John / Featured Ensemble]; Catriona Fray (FB) [Dance Swing / Ensemble Dancer]; Alexandria Gates (FB) [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Dahyla Glick (FB) [Emma / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Kathleen MacCutcheon (FB) [Mimsy / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Amy Mendonca (FB) [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Nick Mestakides (FB) [Tenor / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Melissa Padilla/FB [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; Amanda Jane Salmon (FB) [Jenny / Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; April Sheets/FB [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble]; and Jenny Torgerson (FB) [Ziegfeld Dancer / Ensemble / Swing]. It is difficult to identify exactly who is who in the ensemble, but I do want to make a few comments. When I see an ensemble, not only do I want to see steps executed right, but I want to see the joy the actors have on stage being radiated out into the audience. I want to see them becoming who they think their character is, as opposed to an anonymous dancer. With that in mind, I’d like to call out a few ensemble members for particular note. There was a short dark-haired member who I believe was Amy Mendonca (FB) who particularly caught my eye for the joyful smile she had during her numbers; this was more than the painted on smile you sometimes see — this young lady was particularly having the time of her life there on stage, and it was just a joy to see and share. There was also a tall blond member, who I believe was Kathleen MacCutcheon (FB), who did very well with the rifles in the Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat number.  Nick Mestakides (FB) was great as the tenor in the “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” number.

Stamford Hill was the understudy for Florenz Ziegfeld.

The production was directed by Bryan Snodgrass (FB), and as usual I have difficulty determining what was the actor, and what was the director. Still, the director did have the notion of simplifying the production to emphasize the flashback aspects of it; he also handled overall movement well and did a good job of ensuring the proper characterizations resulted. This was augmented by Toni Fuller (FB)’s choreography, which was simplified a bit due to the nature of the Colony stage, the number of actors, and the varying skill level. I found the dance numbers enjoyable, particularly “Coronet Man” and “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat”. Jenny Torgerson (FB) was the dance captain; Mindy Copeland (FB) was the Tap Coordinator, and Angela Tousley (FB) was the Color Guard Consultant.

Music was under the direction of Ryan Luévano (FB), assisted by Michael Griffin (FB). The orchestra was situated on the side balconies of the Colony, which I had never seen in use before. In general, the orchestra could use a little more energy (especially in the overture), and I heard perhaps one or two off notes. No biggie on that, but there was a greater problem with the lights from the Orchestra shining into the eyes of the audience members. Shade the lights on those music stands, folks, so they shine down, not out. The orchestra consisted of: Sage Barton (FB), Sara Jones (FB), Beth Reno, and Yu Ting Wu (FB) on Violins; Thom Fountain, Ki Yeon Kim/FB, and Marylin Winkle on Cello; Michael Griffin (FB) on Piano; Cody Samuel Vaughn/FB and Felipe Guzman Martinez/FB on Drums; Jeff Markgraf on Bass; Katherine Hildebrant/FB on Reed I; Dan Gonda (FB) on Reed II; Carlos Herrera/FB on Reed III; and Harold York on Reed IV.

Turning to the remainder of the production and creative team. The scenic design was by Emily Mae Heller (FB), who also was the Producer. The nature of the Colony stage (slightly thrust, no curtain) combined with what I am sure was a limited production budget meant that the scenic aspect was simple: a dressing table to the side, some tables and such that could be brought on as necessary, and a wooden structure along the back that held all the props, much as a bookshelf would hold the props backstage (and hence, suggested the backstage and flashback nature of the show). Not realistic as one might see on a big-budget Broadway show, but it worked. What had more problems was the execution of Jay Lee‘s Sound Design, and Kevin Vasquez (FB)’s Lighting Design. With respect to the sound, at the beginning the microphones were very muffled, and only sounded right when the additional reverb was added for the “Nicky Armstein”. As for the lighting, there were two factors that tended to distract: first, there was a collection of Lekos above the main stage that were programmed to be flashing on and off in various dance numbers — this served to distract vs. augment. Additionally, there were problems with the follow spot not always following well. The costume design was by Sasha Markgraf/FB, and mostly worked. Most of the issues were with ensemble costumes. There was an early number with the ensemble in black leotards where white undergarments were visible around the legs; there was a later Ziegfeld Follies number where there was an odd camisole that just wouldn’t have worked on a real stage. There were also some chronological inconsistencies, such as camouflage leggings that would not have been used in that time period. However, I’m willing to suspend disbelief, as I understand production budgets. There is no credit for makeup; Ariana Castiglia/FB was the wig designer.  Mandee Mitchell was the stage manger, assisted by Owen Panno (FB).

Given how long it has taken me to write this, there are three more performances of Funny Girl: today at 8pm, and tomorrow at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets are available through Ovation Tix, and discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. I found it enjoyable.

* * *

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

Upcoming Shows:  November concludes with Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. December starts with Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, and staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just a single hold date for Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

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


Belief and Government

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 18, 2016 @ 11:15 am PST

userpic=levysWhile eating my lunch, I was reading the headlines about Trump’s selection for Attorney General. This got me thinking. We should all write to our senators, and insist that any nominee what takes precedence when determining government action or policy: the written law and any legal precedents for that jurisdiction, or their belief system.  If they answer that their belief system takes precedence, they should be denied confirmation. Why? To give a belief system precedent when determining government action is to impose that belief system on others — which is the government essentially establishing a religion and enforcing it on others. But, some will counter, that denies the nominee the freedom to practice their religion. It actually doesn’t. They are free to practice their religion in private times, and even when not performing government actions. But government decisions should not be enforcing one religion or belief on another.

If this makes it difficult for Trump to nominate certain individuals to positions such as Justice or the Supreme Court, that’s how it works. The same Bill of Rights that gives them the right to spew whatever hate speech they want and to practice their religion protects the people of this nation from imposing their religious beliefs or discriminatory practices on the populace. This is a nation ruled by law, and laws that are difficult to change. Sometimes it works to their advantage (such as the Electoral College); sometimes it doesn’t (they can’t discriminate, they can’t register — beyond what would be done for the census — based on religion, they can’t undo gay marriage, they can’t even easily undo Roe vs. Wade). We need to constantly remind them of this. We cannot discriminate in hiring based upon belief. We can, however, insist that they follow the law even when it conflicts with their belief.

[And, by the way, this applies to Steve Bannon as well. He may or may not hold white supremacist views. He cannot, however, act on those views when they are contrary to our laws — that is grounds for requesting his removal from office.]

The key point we must continually make: The President, Congress, and his advisors are not above the law. Their followers are not above the law.