God, I Hate Shakespeare … and WordPress | “Something Rotten” @ Ahmanson

Something Rotten (Ahmanson)Sometimes, second tries are better. Hopefully, that will be true for this writeup, because after four hours, when I went to post the first version of this writeup, WordPress not only ate it with an unknown error, but conveniently hadn’t been saving a backup. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m writing this with a headache I didn’t have the first time. [Update: I discovered Monday morning that the original review did post, only with a date of November 21, 2016 — because it also crossposted to DW! I’ve fixed the date, so now there are two copies of the review. Are they different? You’ll have to read them to find out.]

However, sometimes first attempts are great. Witness the show now at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). It is from two new writers for Broadway, Karey Kirkpatrick (FB) and John O’Farrell (although both have extensive writing experience). It is from a first-time Broadway song-writing team, brothers Wayne Kirkpatrick (FB) and the aforementioned Karey Kirkpatrick (FB) — although both have extensive experience on the pop music side. Lastly, it is based on a new (i.e., first-time) idea from those brothers.

This could have had the makings of a total disaster. After all, two brothers, writing a show for a medium they’ve never worked in, with a totally new idea. What could go wrong? Hold that idea for the synopsis.

So what was their idea? After all, some shows have very simple ideas at their heart. Gang warfare. A matchmaker. Stealing a loaf of bread. A litterbox. A breakfast food. At the heart of this show — it’s genesis — is the idea: “What if Shakespeare had been the rock star of his age, with all the ego that comes therewith?”

And that, friends, it the plot of Something Rotten. Can I go home now? I feel like I’ve done this before.

OK, so that’s not all their is to Something Rotten. There is also a lot of satire of shows that have been previously on Broadway. This creates an interesting coincidence. Last week, we saw another show that poked fun at Broadway shows, Spamilton. Two consecutive shows that have a common thematic element. That also happened the last time we were at the Ahmanson: Both Bright Star and Mice! share a common thematic elements. The third time, however, won’t be the charm. I’m at a loss to think of a single common thematic element between Soft Power and either School of Rock or Violet. But who knows….

So what is the story of Something Rotten? Imagine it is the Renaissance — you know, what you see at your local RenFaire. Shakespeare is at the top of his game and is the equivalent of a rock star. The rest of the writers in town? Well, they’re just a renfaire show compared to him. But two brothers continue to try to best him: Nick and Nigel Bottom. Shakespeare once was a part of their troupe, until they fired him for having no talent as an actor — they told him to try writing. A big mistake. Since then, he’s been rising and they are having trouble paying the bills (as his wife Bea, who will do anything to help him, continues to remind him). Nick is the outward face and the main writer; Nigel is a poet at heart. Knowing they must find the next big thing to beat Shakespeare, Nick visits a soothsayer. The prediction: Musicals. At this point, Nick decides to write a musical, using Nigel’s lyric sonnets as lyrics. They start with a first attempt, but their topic just doesn’t sell — a musical about the Black Plague. Nick decides he just needs to know what Shakespeare’s next big hit will be? He visits the soothsayer again, and the answer is:  Well, it looks like something called Omlette. There are also visions of Ham and Danish, along with snippets of plots and loads of other musical ideas. So off Nick goes to write a musical about breakfast foods. He even allows the Jewish financier, Shylock, to invest.

You can see where this is going, right?

Complicating the plot are the Puritans. They really know how to destroy the mood.  In this case, the daughter of Brother Jeremiah, Portia, has fallen in love with Nigel’s poems — and thus with Nigel. But Nigel is a man of the theatre, where men dressed as women kiss other men, and they are bringing in song and dance. He forbids the relationship, and we all know what happens with forbidden relationships in Elizabethan times.

I think you can take it from there.

The humor in this show is very broad, and there are loads of sexual jokes and double entendres. If you’ve ever been at a renfaire, you know that fits right in. There are loads of references to other Broadway shows, either by word or sight gag. If those are your tastes in humor, you will love this. They are, and I did. I found this an extremely funny show — perhaps not as funny as Spamilton, but very very close. I also enjoyed the music quite a bit. Ever since the Tony Awards showcased “A Musical”,  I’ve loved that song, and other songs such as “Right Hand Man”,  “Welcome to the Renaissance”, and “Make an Omlette” are equal earworms. So this show had broad humor and great music. It’s not very deep, but when you go to see a musical, who wants to see something dark and dreary. Well, except for Les Miserables.

Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw understands broad humor, given his background with Drowsy ChaperoneBook of Mormon, and Spamalot. He works with the performance team to bring the humor out to the audience, playing it broad and including the timing for the laughs. He fills the dances with energy as if they were something new, and cleverly plays with and on the conventions being parodied. It works well and is quite enjoyable.

So should you see this for the story? Yes, you’ll have lots of fun, and find it well worth the price (which will be substantially less than you’ll pay for that show on Hollywood Boulevard — and that’s no joke). But the story isn’t all — there are great performances in addition.

In the top positions are Rob McClure (FB) as Nick Bottom and Josh Grisetti (FB) as Nigel Bottom.  McClure’s Nick is in many senses a classic straight man — he isn’t in on the joke of what is going on around him, and in that, he’s hilarous. He plays that aspects quite well, which combined with strong singing and dancing make him a joy to watch. I’ve heard him before but never quite connected the voice to the performance (in both Honeymoon in Vegas and Chaplin), and I’ve likely seen him in the Avenue Q tour, but his performance here makes me want to follow his career a bit more. Just watch him in numbers like “God, I Hate Shakespeare”, “A Musical”, “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top” or “Make an Omlette”. He also has great chemistry with his on-stage wife, Bea (Maggie Lakis (FB)), which comes across wonderfully during their shared “Right Hand Man”. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as his on-stage wife is his off-stage wife of 12 years — they met in the cast of Grease. That certainly must make touring easier.

I haven’t forgotten about Nick’s on-stage brother, Nigel. Of the two, Nigel is more the poet of the two, and has less of the physical and dance humor. He does get a cute girl, tho…. Grisetti handles NIgel’s character well, capturing the poetic side of him and the adultation of Shakespeare (which his brother hates). He also has a very nice singing voice which is shown in his numbers with his love interest, Portia, played by Autumn Hurlbert (FB): “I Love the Way” and “We See the Light”. He also demonstrates it in his number “To Thine Own Self”.

Of course, how can we forget the rock star bard, Will Shakespeare, played by Adam Pascal (FB). Pascal captures the character well, perhaps from his actual rock star experience, both from his lead roles in both Rent and Aida, as well as his rock credentials. It is clear he is having fun with this role and is conveying that to the audience. Watch him in “Will Power” and “Hard to Be The Bard” and you’ll see what I mean.

Moving to the remainder of the named characters, the next two main ones are Nostradamus, played by Blake Hammond (FB), and Shylock, played by Jeff Brooks (FB). Hammond’s Nostradamus is a hoot, from the first time we see him just before “A Musical”. He sings well, dances well, and most importantly, plays the humor well while having a load of fun. Just a joy to watch. I also enjoyed Brooks’ Shylock. A much smaller role, but I have to love a MOT in a role that highlights what it was like for Jews during those times (something conveniently omitted from your local RenFaire). He does great in “To Thine Own Self”.

The remaining named role is Scott Cote (FB)’s Brother Jeremiah, head of the Puritans and father of the aforementioned Portia. Cote gets some of the best double entendre lines in the show, and he says them with a great straight face and the occasional double-take. He is also great in the “We See The Light” number.

This then brings us to the ensemble and the smaller named roles. Two things I would like to highlight about the ensemble: (1) Nick Rashad Burroughs (FB) [Minstrel, Snug, Chef Trio] was wonderful as the MInstrel who opens each acts; (2) the ensemble seemed to be having loads of fun with this show. I watch a show both with and without binoculars, and it was fun just watching the faces of the ensemble as they were performing and just having fun. That fun is infectious and carries to the audience. The ensemble, in addition to Burroughs,  consisted of (additional named roles and understudy (u/s) noted): Lucy Anders (FB) [Portiau/s]; Kyle Nicholas Anderson (FB) [Tom Snout, Chef TrioNigel Bottomu/s]; Daniel Beeman (FB) [Yorick, Shakespeare’s Valet, Will Power Backup BoyShakespeareu/s]; Mandie Black (FB) [Asst. Dance Captain]; Pierce Cassedy (FB) [RobinNigel Bottomu/s]; Drew Franklin [Will Power Backup Boy]; Ralph Meitzler (FB) [Will Power Backup BoyShakespeareu/s]; Patrick John Moran (FB) [Francis Flute, Master of the JusticeNostradamusu/s, Brother Jeremiahu/s, Shylocku/s]; Joel Newsome (FB) [Lord Clapham, Eyepatch ManNostradamusu/s, Brother Jeremiahu/s, Shylocku/s]; Con O’Shea-Creal (FB) [Peter QuinceWill Power Backup BoyChef TrioNick Bottomu/s]; Kaylin Seckel (FB) [Beau/s]; Sarah Quinn Taylor (FB); Tonya Thompson (FB); and Emily Trumble (FB) [Beau/s].

The following folks were in the cast as backup swings: Kate Bailey (FB) [Portiau/s]; Brandon Bieber (FB[Dance Captain]; Ian Campayno (FB); and Cameron Hobbs (FB). I’ll note there’s a clear reason Bieber is the dance captain — he’s got loads of asst. choreographer credits under his belt.

Turning to the music, without which the songs and the dances would …. look funny. Brian P. Kennedy (FB)  was the Music Director and Conductor, with Music Supervision and Vocal Arrangements by Phil Reno, music arrangements by Glen Kelley, orchestrations by Larry Hochman (FB), and music coordination by John Miller (FB). The orchestra consisted of: Brian P. Kennedy (FB) [Conductor / Keyboard1]; William Shaffer [Assoc. Conductor / Keyboard2]; Cameron Rasmussen (FB) [Guitar1]; Brad Flickinger [Drums / Percussion], Sal Lozano  [Reed1]; Rob Schaer [Trumpet];  Robert Payne [Trombone / Contractor]; Jen Choi Fischer (FB) [Violin]; Justin Lees-Smith (FB) [Guitar2];  Alby Potts (FB) [Keyboard3]; Ken Wild (FB) [Bass]; John Sawolski (FB) [Keyboard2 Sub]. Music Copying was by  Emily Grishman, who was joined by Katharine Edmonds  for Music Preparation.

Finally, turning to the production and creative team. The scenic design was by Scott Pask, who creates a reasonably flexable approach using backdrops and lighting; it looked flexible enough to allow this to be easily adapted for the high-school and regional crowd — ensuring a long life. The sound and lighting design was by Peter Hylenski (FB) [Sound] and Jeff Croiter (FB) [Lighting]. Costume Design was by Gregg Barnes (FB), who created a look that was a bit fancier than RenFaire, but probably fit what people were expecting. Josh Marquette (FB)’s Hair Design was great at the design level, but there was an execution problem — with the binoculars, the hair-net of the wig was a clearly visible line on the forehead, and that’s not great for suspension of disbelief. Rounding out the production credits were: Jeff Norman [Production Stage Manager]; Matt Schreiber [Stage Manager]; Brae Singleton (FB) [Asst. Stage Manager]; Steve Bebout (FB) [Assoc. Director]; Eric Giancola (FB) [Assoc. Choreographer]; Telsey + Company (FB) [Casting]; Jim Harrison [Company Manager]Port City Technical (FB) [Production Management].

Something Rotten continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through December 31. Tickets are available through the CTG Website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. The show has broad humor, great singing, great dancing, and loads of references to other shows. Who could ask for anything more … oh, right, never mind that line. Still, it is a wonderful show and you’ll have a great time.

But don’t leave just yet. Twice a year Broadway turns to us, its captive audience, to demand ransom (uh) request our support for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS (FB), an organization that — all joking aside — does some remarkable work. We go to enough theatre that we always seem to catch the BCEFA appeal, and we always give something. You should too, by clicking here. Alas, no one donated enough at our performance so that this happened.

While this season is troubled for the Ahmanson with the postponement of the next show, the next season is looking great. In addition to the previously announced 👍 Dear Evan Hansen, CTG has announced three more shows: 👍 Falsettos, 👍 Come From Away, and 👍 The Play That Goes Wrong.  Depending on what the last two shows are, this might entice me to subscribe.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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God, I Hate Shakespeare | “Something Rotten” @ Ahmanson

Something Rotten (Ahmanson)[This is the post that I thought was lost. Instead, it crossposted to Dreamwidth, but with a date in 2016! I corrected the date, so now there are two copies of the review. Are they different? You’ll need to read them to find out.]

Most musicals start with a simple premise, idea, or property. I’m sure your familiar with this. A musical swinder. A gang fight, A matchmaker. Breakfast foods. You get the idea. The show we saw last night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), Something Rotten, was such a show. The premise? What if Shakespeare had been the stuck-up rock star of his generation?

The rest of the theme then follows quickly: What about the other “rock stars” of that era — the other writers? How did they get visibility when outshone by Shakespeare’s sun? How would they achieve the level of fame and fortune? Add in a bit of referential humor, and you basically have the plot of Something Rotten.

That referential humor, by the way, creates quite a interesting coincidence. When we were last at the Ahmanson back in October, we saw the musical Bright Star. The next day I saw a play that had echoes of the same thing – Mice. Last week, we saw Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas. It was a musical that was chock full of references to other musicals in addition to their main target of parody. Last night’s Something Rotten? Same thing. Most of the sequences involving the soothsayer were filled with references to other musicals, starting with “A Musical” (which you might remember from the Tony Broadcast) and exploding in the “Make an Omlette” scene. So, both recent visits to the Ahmanson have been sequential with related shows. That trend probably won’t last: Soft Power is sandwiched between School of Rock and Violet.

As I alluded too earlier, the plot of Something Rotten revolves around Shakespeare. Specifically, it is the story of the Bottom Brothers, Nick and Nigel, who are competing playwrights to Shakespeare. He used to be part of their acting troupe, but was fired because he was a bad actor (and he was told to become a writer). Shakespeare’s star keeps rising, and the Bottom Brothers keep failing. In an attempt to find the next big thing, Nick Bottom consults a soothsayer who says it will be … Musicals. Nick is eventually convinced and starts writing, using his brother’s poetry as lyrics. But the subjects just don’t work out, and so he visits the soothsayer again to learn what Shakespeare’s next big hit will be? The answer? Omlette, and perhaps something to do with Ham and Danish. Nick starts running and won’t be deterred, even when his brother falls in love with a Puritan’s daughter, and writes perhaps the best play he’s ever written. You can guess a bit as to what happens then: Shakespeare steals the good play and Omlette fails … and we deal with the aftermath. What? You didn’t want that spoiler? Well, Romeo and Julia both die as well.

Along the way, we meet some various other characters: Bea, Nick Bottom’s long suffering wife that just wants to help him succeed in any way she can; Portia, the aforementioned Puritan’s daughter who falls in love with Nigel’s words; Shylock, the Jewish financier who just wants to be a producer (answering the question of why you see so few Jewish folks at RenFaire); and the Puritans headed by Brother Jeremiah, who believe that theatre is a sin — especially those men dressed as women kissing men — and that music in theatre is just heresy and an abomination. Puritans really know how to screw up anything that’s fun. Give them an inch, and next thing you know, they’ll screw up the ideals of that new world we just discovered.

In general, the show is a delightful silly romp — made even more fun by all the interpolated show references. First time theatre writers Karey Kirkpatrick (FB) and John O’Farrell have crafted a hilarious story that allows you to forget the cares and troubles of the outside world for two and a half hours, and that’s sorely needed now. Kirkpatrick (FB) and his brother Wayne (FB, ★FB) — first time Broadway musical writers — also crafted some fun music for the show with some songs that have rapidly become favorites — in particular, “A Musical”, “Right Hand Man”, and the opener “Welcome to the Renaissance”. Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw then infused the stage expression with energy and the right level of self-referential camp to make it all work.

That’s two stellar CTG shows in a row.

It also helps that the performances are great as well. In the top position — sorry, Will — are Rob McClure (FB) as Nick Bottom and Josh Grisetti (FB) as Nigel Bottom. Rob McClure is someone I never realized I liked as much as I do. Perhaps I should explain. I’m actually a fan of the music of Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas,  which flopped on Broadway but starred McClure. I also enjoyed listening to McClure’s work in Chaplin. But I had never seen him in person. Not only did he sing well, but he handled the humor and dance well, making this an enjoyable production. He also has great chemistry with his on-stage wife Bea, played by his wife-in-real-life, Maggie Lakis (FB). This real-life chemistry adds to the stage chemistry in songs such as “Right Hand Man”, which they both nail. But even in other numbers, such as my fav “A Musical” or “I Hat Shakespeare” or “Make an Omelette”, he is just spectacular. Turning back to Grisetti’s Nigel Bottom: This is the less comic, more romantic character who is the poet, who handles the humor, singing, dancing, and performance very well.  He is also quite strong, especially in his scenes with his love interest, Portia, played by his not-wife-in-real-life Autumn Hurlbert (FB). The duet with the two in “I Love the Way” and “We See The Light” is just great, but Grisetti does well by himself in “To Thine Own Self” (and the scene surrounding it).

Then there’s Shakespeare. What more be said. But seriously, Adam Pascal (★FB)’s portrayal of the bard has the right rock-star edge in it because Pascal has experience playing rock-star like characters from both Rent and Aida. He has experience with the rock style of music, and handles both the music and the swagger well. P.S.: This was a BCEFA weekend, and evidently two nights ago someone donated $1K, resulting in this.

I’ve already touched upon the two major second tier characters — the love interests Bea and Portia. Both gave wonderful performances, and I’ve already mentioned their singing. Alas, this show was not written with large roles for women that would showcase them even more. Also standing out on this tier were Blake Hammond (FB)’s Nostradamus and Jeff Brooks (FB)’s Shylock. We first see Hammond in the showstopper “A Musical” where he leads the action, and then he reappears in songs like “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top” and “To Thine Own Self”. He handles not only the singing and the dancing, but the comedy side of the performance as well, as is just fun to watch. Brooks’ Shylock has a smaller role, but the nature of the character and the point that he is making appeals to me.

The last significant named character is Scott Cote (FB)’s Brother Jeremiah, who plays Portia’s Puritan father. A fun performance, especially in his comic interactions (not sung, but — for example — at the end of the Black Death scene) and in “We See the Light”.

Rounding out the on-stage cast were the members of the ensemble. It is harder to single out performances here, as the audience does not have an easy way of putting names with faces. I would, however, like to highlight Nick Rashad Burroughs (FB), who opens the show and Act II as the Minstrel, and who has a remarkable singing voice. In general, the ensemble does a fantastic job. I enjoy occasionally pulling out the binoculars and watching the faces of the ensemble, and these folks were clearly having a lot of fun, and that comes across to the audience. The ensemble consisted of the following folks (additional roles beyond the ensemble are noted): Lucy Anders (FB) [u/s Portia]; Kyle Nicholas Anderson (FB) [u/s Nigel Bottom]; Daniel Beeman (FB) [u/s Shakespeare]; Mandie Black (FB) [Asst. Dance Captain]; Pierce Cassedy (FB) [u/s Nigel Bottom]; Drew Franklin; Ralph Meitzler (FB) [u/s Shakespeare]; Patrick John Moran (FB) [u/s Nostradamus]; Joel Newsome (FB) [Lord Clapham; U/s Nostradamus, Brother Jeremiah, Shylock]; Con O’Shea-Creal (FB) [u/s Nick Bottom]; Kaylin Seckel (FB) [u/s Bea]; Sarah Quinn Taylor (FB); Tonya Thompson (FB) and Emily Trumble (FB) [u/s Bea].

The Off-stage cast (i.e., swings) were: Kate Bailey (FB) [u/s Portia]; Brandon Bieber (FB) [Dance Captain]; Ian Campayno (FB); and Cameron Hobbs (FB). Looking up the websites for this writeup, I can see why Bieber was Dance Captain — he has a hella lot of Assistant Choreographer experiences.

My periodic note to actors regarding my searching for their websites: I encourage you to get yourself websites — this provides a good stable place to put your credits and contact information. If you have such a site, remember to pay the domain name fees and keep it current. If you don’t have a site, the next best are sites like www.abouttheartists.com, Backstage, and other of those ilk with your resume. My last link of choice is Broadway World, Broadway.Com, or Playbill, because those only list Broadway credits, not the regional stuff you’ve been in.

Turning to the music side of things: Larry Hochman (FB) did the Orchestrations, with Music Arrangement by Glen Kelly (FB).  John Miller (FB) was the Music Coordinator. The orchestra was conducted by Brian P. Kennedy (FB), who also was first Keyboard. Others in the orchestra were: William Shaffer (FB) [Associate Conductor; 2nd Keyboard]; Cameron Rasmussen (FB) [Guitar]; Brad Flickinger  [Drums/Percussion]; Sal Lozano [1st Reed]; Rob Schear [Trumpet]; Robert Payne [Trombone, Contractor]; Jen Choi Fischer [Violin]; Justin Lees-Smith (FB) [2nd Guitar]; Alby Potts (FB) [3rd Keyboard]; Ken Wild (FB) [Bass]; John Sawolski (FB) [2nd Keyboard Sub]. Emily Grishman did the music copying, and was joined by Katharine Edmonds in doing the music preparation. Phil Reno was the music supervisor and did the vocal arrangements.

Finally, we come to the remaining production and creative credits. The scenic design was by Scott Pask, and worked reasonably well. In particular, I noted that it is something that might be doable by high schools, so this show might have a good long life. The sound design was by Peter Hylenski (FB), with Jeff Croiter (FB) doing the lighting design.  Both did what they were suppose to do: create the mood clearly, while otherwise being unobtrusive. Gregg Barnes (FB) did the Costume Design, and Josh Marquette (FB) did the hair design. The costumes worked well, although they seemed a bit more stereotypical than the costumes I see at the RenFaire, so someone’s got their history wrong. The hair — specifically the wigs — were more problematic. Note the quality of the hair itself, but watching the show with binoculars I was clearly able to see the net wig lines on foreheads — and that hurt the illusion. The fact that it is a wig must be invisible. Other production credits: Jeff Norman (FB) – Production Stage Manager, Matt Schreiber (FB) – Stage Manager, Brae Singleton (FB) – Assistant Stage Manager; Steve Bebout (FB) – Associate Director; Eric Giancola (FB) – Associate Choreographer; Telsey + Company (FB) – Casting; Jim Harrison (FB) – Company Manager; Port City Technical (FB) – Production Management.

Twice a year, the Broadway community raises funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. We always seem to catch one of these fund raising performances, and this weekend was no exception. We donated. Now it’s your turn.

Something Rotten continues at the Ahmanson through December 31. You can get tickets through the Ahmanson Website. Discount tickets may be available on Goldstar. This is a very funny and entertaining show; go see it.

The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) has announcement more of its 2018-2019 Season. In addition to the previously announced 👍 Dear Even Hansen, the Ahmanson has announced three more shows👍 Come From Away; 👍 Falsettos; and 👍 The Play That Goes Wrong. This is shaping up as a season worthy of subscription — I just need to learn what the remaining two shows are. Knowing the Ahmanson, one will likely be a pre-Broadway musical.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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But What Do We Do With The Leftovers?

Observation StewTwo days after Thanksgiving. You’ve made your stock from the turkey carcass, and have just about finished the meat in the frig, but you’re still working on all the sides that were leftover. All. The. Sides. So many sides. Here on this blog, we face a similar problem: What to do with all the links accumulated that just stubbornly refuse to theme? The answer, of course, is to make stew:

Inequality and Battles

  • The Internet and Inequality. One of my major complaints is the assumption that everyone has fast internet (an assumption that will be even more challenged if we lose net neutrality). For example, we move the best quality TV to subscription channels and pay-pay internet, and we forget what the leaves the rest of the country with — the large portion that still doesn’t have internet or only has dialup or phone services. Wired has an interesting article on how the slow internet is fueling inequality. Now think about how this inequality will be further fueled when the telecom companies are the ones controlling the pipes, who can see what, and who can’t see what.  Control of the message can be for good (filter out the stupid) or for bad (filter out those who disagree).
  • Fonts and Culture Wars. Here’s another battle of interest: Fonts. Fonts can have a subtle but significant effect on culture and culture wars, according to Wired. For example, think how you perceive documents written in Blackletter or Comic Sans, or the fact that certain languages, by the nature of the writing, make it hard to text. Truly an interesting article on the impact of design.
  • Weaponizing Taxes. When people complain about taxes, they often talk about its use to support the defense establishment. But the tax code can be used as a weapon itself, and that is what this administration is doing. The “reform” bill shows that the right understands how the rules of the economic game are shifting — toward capital and away from labor (even away from the labor of the wealthy). Thus, they are adjusting it even further to reward business and investing, and to care even less about income earned from wages. They are adjusting the code to work against progressive measures like education and middle class wages, they are working against progressive states that used state tax codes to help their people.

Los Angeles

Honoring the Past

  • Getting Rid of Stuff. Here’s an interesting dilemma: How do you honor the past when cleaning out stuff? Specifically, how do you honor your parents when cleaning out their house? This is a growing question as the Millenials and Gen Y adopt the less is more attitude, and have to deal with the debris of the “accumulate” generation.  As the article notes: If we do it right, we preserve and transmit their memories and values to the next generation. If we do it wrong, we may open lasting wounds within our families and ourselves.
  • Reusing Sacred Spaces. During Thanksgiving, a popular song is Alice’s Restaurant, about a couple that bought a church and converted it to a house. The issue is a serious one: What do you do with sacred spaces when the community goes away? In Maine, the answer is to convert an old synagogue into high-end apartments.  The 15 members of the Auburn ME Beth Abraham Synagogue sold the building last week to a developer. On Sunday, the community will take a final tour of the building and then ceremonially move a Torah scroll to the nearby 100-family Temple Shalom Synagogue Center, an independent and egalitarian congregation (formerly Conservative) that Beth Abraham members will join. The building, after removing a few more liturgical pieces, will then become 10 apartments.
  • Repatriating Bones. One of the forgotten Native American tragedies has been the treatment of Southern California tribes and their relics. So it was quite a pleasant surprise to read about the repatriation of a large collection of Tongva/Gabrielano remains from Catalina Island. This is happening for many reasons, including increased awareness and casino proceeds.

Sexism

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Thanksgiving and Black Friday News Chum

Ah, Thanksgiving is over. People can start putting up their holiday decorations, and oh the shopping at those Black Friday sales. Have we got a bargain for you here on this blog: A sale on some slightly used news chum, cleaning out the inventory with a Thanksgiving and Black Friday theme. Shall we start?

Thanksgiving Music

Reading the social networks yesterday, the music of choice is that classic about T-Day Turkeys: Alice’s Restaurant. Here’s an interesting article on the Jewish connections of the song,  including the connections between Alice’s Restaurant, Meir Kahane, and Donald Trump.

The Stuffing

Stuffing is typically made from bread, so here are two interesting articles related to the Gluten-Free lifestyle. The first talks about the increasing growth in people going gluten free, when in reality the problem might not be gluten — it might be fructans instead. The second looks at some recent genetic engineering that aims at developing a gluten-free from of wheat.  I’d be too worried about cross-contamination in that case.

The Dessert

Ah, the dessert. A sugar high from all those pies. But we now know that the real culprits in our diets might not be the fat, but all that sugar. Further, we’re just learning that the sugar industry took lessons from big tobacco, and tried to hide the truth from us.

Cleaning Up Afterwards

Three articles related to cleaning up after that big dinner:

Going Shopping

Going shopping afterwards? Here is some useful information:

 

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Planning for the Future – An Exploration of Long Term Care Insurance

Our daughter frequently reminds us of one significant fact we should never, never, forget. When we get old and cannot take care of ourselves, it is she who will pick the home we will go into. The odds that we will need long term care are good. Forbes did a report on the costs and incidents regarding long term care, and noted that a 2005 report that provided forward-looking estimates for long-term care needs for the cohort of individuals turning 65 in 2005 estimated that 58% of men and 79% of women aged 65 and older would need long-term care at some point, and that average lengths for care were 2.2 years for men and 3.7 years for women. They also estimated that 38% of men and 63% of women will require care for one year or longer, while 11% of men and 28% of women will need care for at least 5 years.

In my family, we’re currently dealing with long term care issues. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with it for my father, who died of injuries sustained in a car accident after being hospitialized for a month, or my wife’s dad, who died on the way to the hospital after complaining he wasn’t feeling well. However, my wife’s mom is in a long term care situation, dealing with deteriorating memory and capabilities. She’s lucky that she had long term care insurance.

I understand the concept of insurance well. I’m a cybersecurity guy, and dealing with and assessing risk is my game. Insurance is just a form of dealing with risk: you transfer the cost of the risk from you to the insurance company, who accepts the risk… for a price. In that price, and the conditions, are the game.  Insurance is a bet with the insurance company. If you get really sick, you win, because they pay you out more than you paid in (and thus, you get money from other people). If you are healthy, you lose. Same thing with life insurance: if you die, you win (so to speak, because your family gets money). Art Buchwald has a great piece about this issue, and how the insurance company felt when he finally won and wanted to collect his money. You should read it.

I had dragged my feet on getting Long Term Care insurance. It is expensive, and that can slow me down. But I arranged for one of my insurance agents to speak to our Temple men’s group on the subject a few months ago. He pointed out a significant fact: When insurance companies went into the long term care market place, they misjudged it and had policies that were too generous — but were stuck because they can’t cancel a policy if the premiums are paid. So over the years they have been understanding the risk better, pricing the policies more in line with the risk, and adjusting the policies to reduce their exposure. For us consumers that means: if you wait to buy your policy, you will likely be buying a weaker policy. This got me off my duff, and I began our investigation.

This blog post summarizes what I have found. I’ll present my findings, and my conclusions. I want you to shoot holes in it — find things I didn’t think of or that I missed. By that way, I’ll get a better product, and you might even learn something that helps you. I’ll note that I didn’t just blindly take what my agent, Robert, sent me. My training in DOD acquisitions led me to try to get additional bids. I posted a call for recommendations on Facebook, which lead me to the fact that both the UCLA and CSUN Alumni association work with a company called Mercer for a long term care benefit for their members. Mercer, it turns out, is just a broker. I was on the verge of investigating that when a former camp counselor of mine, who does employee insurance plans, connected me with his insurance agent, Stan. Stan reps a different company from Robert, and got me an additional bid. Lastly, in reponse to my FB post, another fellow — Scott — chimed in. Scott is a co-owner at LTCShop.Com, a broker in Washington, who helped me look at the proposals I got and provided some additional information.  It is also very useful to read the AHIP Guide to Long Term Care. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has also published A Shopper’s Guide to Long Term Care Insurance, which is also well worth reading for background.

My investigation focused on products from two primary companies: Mass Mutual (MM) and Mutual of Omaha (MO). The number of insurers providing long-term care is steadily shrinking, and these were the two companies that got the highest ratings when I did a web search. There are other companies out there, however. If you think yours is better, let me know. However, giving the shrinking pool of providers, you want a company that will remain in the business, and that will have the needed stability. This gives our first comparison. In terms of ratings, Mass Mutual looks stronger:

Rating Agency Mass Mutual Mutual of Omaha
A. M. Best Company (Best’s Rating, 15 ratings) A++ (1) A+ (2)
Standard and Poor’s (Financial Strength, 20 ratings) AA+ (2) AA- (4)
Moody’s (Financial Strength, 21 ratings) Aa2 (3) A1 (5)
Fitch Ratings (Financial Strength, 21 ratings) AA+ (2)
Weiss (Safety Rating, 16 ratings) A- (3) B+ (4)
Comdex Ranking (Percentile in Rated Companies) 98 93

 

In my comparison, I attempted to compare apples to apples. I’m 57 (turn 58 in January); my wife is 60 (she turned in July). We looked at policies with comparable benefit amounts ($328,500 for MM; $325,000 for MO), with comparable benefit periods (6 years) and  comparable elimination periods (90 days) for reimbursement. Both were quoted with an inflation protection benefit (3% compound inflation protection), and waiver of premium for covered partner (meaning thus: when you are collecting, you don’t need to pay premiums, and the waiver means that you don’t have to pay premiums for your spouse as well).  Both covered home care as well.  So, for the apples to apples comparison, the “quoted” premium for both my wife and I was, after discounts, $6,272.19 for the first year from MM, and $6,604.71 for the first year from MO. For some reason, I thought there was a fixed premium period, but Robert clarified that premiums are payable for the life of the policy or until one spouse needs care. Note that premiums can be adjusted during that time. I don’t think either carrier has increased premiums in California, but MO has in other states.

I put “quoted” in quotes because of an interesting tidbit about that quote I discovered when I passed them by Scott. Both were quoted at “Preferred” rates — so you would think they are the same. They aren’t.  Each company has different underwriting classes.  Mutual of Omaha has four: (1) Preferred (15% less premium than ‘Select’); (2) Select (which is what most people get); (3) Class 1 (25% more than ‘Select’); (4) Class 2 (50% more than ‘Select’). This means that Preferred is the best, least expensive rate. Mass Mutual has three rate classes: (1) Ultra Preferred (10% less than ‘Select Preferred’); (2) Select Preferred (which is what most people get); (3) Preferred (25% more than ‘Select Preferred’). For MM, Preferred is the most expensive rate. You’ll get whatever rate class the underwriter chooses based upon your medical records regardless of what the agent quotes you.  This means that the quote from MM was the worst case, and the quotes from MO was the best case. Given that the MM amount was better than the MO amount, that makes MM look even better.

What about policy characteristics? I asked both my agents about what was unique about their policies. Most policies are very very similar, but there are a few distinguishing things.

Stan pointed out that, for MO, a Shared Care rider is available, and there is a buy up option for their inflation protection. The shared care rider allows you to draw from your spouse’s maximum care benefit when yours is exhausted, and if your spouse dies, their unused benefit is added to yours (and vice-versa). The buy-up option automatically increases the monthly benefit a set amount for inflation (but it looks like MM has something similar). Stan noted, regarding the buy-up option, that because the cost of care services will likely increase the client may elect to increase the inflation protection percentage which increase the monthly benefit and coverage maximum.

Robert pointed out that, for MM, they have unisex rates where women are not rated differently from men (although Stan counter-pointed that most LTCI carriers have gone to gender specific rates because women live longer than men and are more than likely to use their polices — and so it all depends on whom the unisex rates are based). This may effect future price increases on the MM policies.). He also pointed out that the MM policy has a home care monthly benefit rider, which changes the benefit from a daily amount to a 31-day monthly amount (every month is considered to have 31 days under this rider).  This gives you greater flexibility in arranging and paying for care.  The second is the joint spouse waiver of premium, which says that if either spouse is receiving benefits the premiums for both spouses are waived (although it looks like MO has that as well).

Stan also provided me with a comparison table of the two policies. Here are some of the relevant details. One thing you’ll see in the table is a strong distinction between monthly and daily rates. Stan pointed out that, in his opinion, monthly benefits are substantially better than daily benefits especially when receiving home care, as there may be days where the cost of care exceeds the benefit. If so, with a daily benefit, that amount will be out of pocket. Example; The clients purchases $200 per day vs. $6,000 per month. If billed for $250, on a daily benefit, $50 is out of pocket. MM, looking at the table, is primarily monthly, so the daily rider might be required, and would cost something extra:

Comparison Parameter MM Signature Care 500 MM-500-P MO MutualCare Custom Solution LTC13
Plan Description Tax Qualified Reimbursement Indemnity with Rider Tax Qualified Reimbursement with Cash Benefit Option
Daily/Monthly Maximums Daily Benefit of $50 – $400. A rider is available to change this to monthly. Monthly Benefit of $1,500 – $10,000 in $50 increments.
Elimination Period (one in a lifetime — may be accumulated over several claims) Service Days Calendar Days. Stan pointed out that this means that if service isn’t needed on a day during the period, it doesn’t count.
Inflation Protection 5% and 3% Compound available Inflation percentage: 1%-5% compound in 0.25% increments. Duration: 10, 15, 20, or Lifetime. Inflation protection option: Inflation applied to policy benefits (not to exceed 5%) on or before each anniversary date. Increase is effective on the policy anniversary following the election, with benefit increases occurring the following anniversary. Only available prior to the lesser of 20 years or age 75.
Nursing Facility Up to 100% of daily maximum. A rider is available to change this to monthly. Up to 100% of monthly maximum
Home and Community Care Up to 100% of daily maximum. A rider is available to change this to monthly. Up to 50%, 75% or 100% of monthly maximum
Assisted Living Facility Up to 100% of daily maximum.  A rider is available to change this to monthly. Up to 50%, 75% or 100% of monthly maximum
Shared Option Available Yes. Available with optional rider  on policies with a two or three year benefit period. Rider offers a third pool of money equal to the maximum benefit amount. If a covered partner dies, the shared total benefit amount will remain available. Shared pool not available with lifetime benefit. Dual waiver of premium is available under a separate rider. Upon death of one spouse, the survivor must continue to pay the rider to retain the benefit. The way it works with MassMutual is — let’s say you have a two year benefit period for each spouse — the policy will have an additional two year benefit period that can be used by either spouse. Yes. Available with optional rider. Shared Rider allows partner to access partners lifetime maximum if benefits are depleted. Coverage must be identical and applied for at the same time in order to purchase rider. There is a residual benefit until a minimum of 12 times the current maximum benefit remains. Not available with Security Benefit, Return of Premium at Death, Return of Premium at Death – Three Times Initial Maximum Monthly Benefit, and Partner Premium Allowance.
Hospice Care Up to 100% of the daily maximum.  A rider is available to change this to monthly. Up to 100% of the monthly maximum, no elimination period applies.
Home Assistance Benefit Equipment may be considered under the Alternate Plan of Care; Caregiver training is covered up to 5x the daily maximum (lifetime maximum) Equipment, Home Modification, Medical Alert System and Caregiver Training are payable under the Stay at Home Benefit which pays 2x maximum monthly benefit.
Unlicensed/Uncertified Providers Outside of California, No. All caregivers must be certified or licensed.  However, that provision is not applicable in California, because California law says that you can use anyone who is not an immediate family member. Payable under Cash Benefit provision
Homemaker Services Incidental? No, Homemaker services do not have to be received in conjunction with personal care services. No, Homemaker services do not have to be received in conjunction with personal care services.
Care Coordination Unlimited care coordination services; does not reduce lifetime benefit amount. Optional. Not required; however, some policy benefits are only available when care coordinator is used.
Waiver of Premium Begins with receiving benefits after satisfying EP Begins when benefits begin. For HC, must receive care at least 8 days per month in any continuous 30 day period.
Respite care Up to 30 days per year. Up to one month per calendar year.
Bed Reservation Up to 60 days per year, for any reason. This means that if you are in a facility and need to be hospitalized, MassMutual will pay the facility up to 60 days to hold your bed.  That can be important if you have an extended hospital stay, because otherwise the facility — which you probably researched and chose because of its quality, location, etc — will sell your bed to the next person who comes along who needs it and you will therefore have to move to a different facility upon being released from the hospital. Up to 30 days per year, for any reason.
Cash Benefit Options Optional Indemnity Benefit Rider 40% of home health care benefit up to initial maximum of $2,400 per month.
Other Features and Options Indemnity Rider: Pays daily maximum regardless of expenses incurred.

HCSB Waiver of Elimination Rider: Permits days used for HCSB to apply towards elimination period for other benefits under the policy.

HCSB Monthly Benefit Rider: Changes HCSB from daily to monthly

Enhanced Elimination Rider: 1 day of service per week = 7 days

Share Care Rider: Limited to 2 year and 3 year benefit only.

Covered Partner Waiver of Premium rider

Survivorship Rider: 10 years; claims restriction.

Restoration of Benefit rider.

Nonforfeiture rider.

Waiver of Elimination Period for Home Health Care

Nonforfeiture – Shortened Benefit period

Return of Premium – Three Times Initial Maximum Monthly Benefit

Return of Premium (less claims paid)

Return of Premium – If death occurs before age 65

Joint waiver of premium

Survivorship Benefit

Shared Care Rider.

 

Based on all the above: strength, premium, and policy features, I’m inclined to go with the MM policy.  The costs still causes hesitation: that’s about 1.3x of a single property tax payment. Ouch! But I guess the cost will be a lot more if we need the care, and the likelihood of that is good, given society today. Each policy appears to have some slight strengths and weaknesses over the other. It all depends on what resonates with you, where you anticipate your care being and who will be giving it. Remember, it’s all legalized gambling, and sometimes you win the bet.

One additional notes: Both of the agents I worked with were very professional, and I recommend them depending on which policy you need — you might have needed different than mine and get different quotes based on your age. The agents were Robert Smith (who reps MM, among others) and Stan Israel (who reps MO, among others). Scott Olsen of LTCshop.com also provided information.

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Too Many Words | “Spamilton” at Kirk Douglas

Spamilton (Kirk Douglas)First and foremost, my apologies in the delay in posting this. I’ve just been slammed this week in the evenings, combined with a migraine cycle.

Shortly after the Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced that it was bringing in the Hamilton juggernaut, the Center Theatre Group (FB) was faced with a dillemma: how to counterprogram? Their answer was to jump on the bandwagon with Spamilton.

Spamilton is a parody musical that sprung from the creative mind of Gerard Alessandrini (FB), creator of the long running spoof series, Forbidden Broadway. The Forbidden series has been long known to skewer current and past Broadway shows, and Spamilton could well have been titled Forbidden Hamilton — for that’s what it is: taking all of the hot air out of the musical theatre over-inflated Hamilton while simultaneously showing its love for the show. Along the way, it skewers other present and past Broadway shows.

Miraculously, I had not had the opportunity to obtain the Spamilton cast album before the show, and I hadn’t heard the songs. I recommend you do this as well so that the humor is fresh. Overall, I found the show hilarious — one of the funniest I’d seen in a while. But then again, I got about 98% of the jokes because I’m familiar with the shows and conventions skewered. If you’re less familiar with theatre and Hamilton, you might not get it all.

The reference to “Too Many Words” refers to the target of this parody: not Hamilton but it’s author, Lin-Manuel Miranda (FB). They comment on how many words Lin crams into a song and a lyric, his forced rhyming styles, his comparison to heroes like Sondheim and past shows. They highlight rap and hip-hop from previous Broadway shows (which wasn’t called hip-hop them, but was still highly patterned rhythmic rhyming). Over the bulk of the 90-so minutes, what one comes away with a sense of is their love of what Lin created. After all, you don’t see them making fun of High Fidelity, do you (and I happen to like that show).

With respect to Lin himself, Alessandrini gets it mostly right. He identifies Lin’s major works, of course: In The Heights and Hamilton, as well as his work with Disney. But he misses the opportunity the other recent show that Lin had a hand in — and that started here in Los Angeles: Bring It On The Musical. As least to me (perhaps because I recently listened to the Broadway Backstory on the show), it was a big omission.

Along with poking fun at Lin, Spamilton pokes fun at what Hamilton has become: a steamroller with overpriced seats, for which all are clamoring for tickets, and how the song and story entered the cultural vernacular (how often have you seen “in the room where it happens” or “tell your story”?) It also examines, albeit briefly, other recent Broadway shows of varying depth and quality, together with a number of past shows. For example, there is a reference to The Unsinkable Molly Brown, but I’m not sure who other than theatre nerds will get the joke. Molly Brown hasn’t had a revival since the early sixties when it opened. There also was the required reference to Barbra Streisand, although thankfully there is none of the usual references to Mary Martin or Carol Channing (although there is a Dolly reference).

Unfortunately, the delay between writing this up and seeing the show (we saw it Sunday evening — the start of the headache cycle) means that some of the best jokes have faded from memory. This is why I now plan to get the cast album. What hasn’t changed is the memory that this is one of the few shows that had me really laughing during the show; my wife noted that she hadn’t wanted to see a show that night, but she really enjoyed it. That said something about how the humor of this parody hit the two of us — probably a representative sample of those who see too much theatre. It was able to cut through the trite and find the body, and then to parody and skewer that body in a truly hilarious way.

I do recall that the production was jam-packed and non-stop, moving from parody to parody with nary a moment to catch your breath. Uhh, just like that other show over on Hollywood Blvd.

Gerard Alessandrini (FB) directed his ensemble well, enabling them to move from characterization to characterization smoothly and to have fun with the material and the audience. The ensemble itself — Dedrick A. Bonner (FB), John Devereaux (FB), WIlkie Ferguson III (FB), William Cooper Howell (FB), and Zakiya Young (FB) keeps switching roles, but primarily play the actors behind the characters in Hamilton. But they have loads of non-Hamilton characters as well, and if there is anything that can be said about the ensemble, it is that they pull this off with talent, aplomb, and a lot of pluck. Given the constantly switching characters, it is hard to single anyone out — they are all that good.

Added to the Ensemble for a specialty number or two are Glenn Bassett (FB) and Susanne Blakeslee (FB). Bassett primarily comes on as King George, but Blakeslee is  more broadly credited as “Diva”, taking on a number of, well, white actresses: Glen Close, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, and so forth.

The understudies for the show are Becca Brown (FB) and Elijah Reyes (FB).

Working up this writeup on the cast (and thus searching for their bios), what strikes me is how “LA” this cast is, unlike most CTG / Ahmanson shows. This production is really an LA-incarnation of Spamilton with actors grounded in or originating from LA, unlike the New York visitors we often get. That’s a refreshing and good thing to see, CTG.

The show was choreographed by Gerry McIntyre (FB), who made the movement seamless while still remaining very Hamilton-like.

Music for the show it provided by an on-stage piano, which is not explicitly credited in the program, but which I’m assuming was being tickled by Music Director James Lent (FB). Music supervision and arrangements were by Fred Barton (FB), with additional arrangements by Richard Danley (FB). Gerard Alessandrini (FB) presumably wrote the lyrics as he is credited as the writer of the show, and there is no separate “music and lyrics” credit; he also likely adapted the songs as necessary.

Production-wise, things are … simple. There’s no credit for scenic design because there really is none — there is just a poster of Spamilton that the actors can disappear behind. Everything else is done with props, which is why Glenn Bassett (FB) is also credited with being set and prop consultant. Much more important to setting the scene in this show is the costume design work of Dustin Cross (FB). I can’t vouch for accuracy with the shows they parody, but the costumes evoke enough similarity to identify the shows and that is what matters. They are also flexible enough to accommodate the large variety of characters portrayed by each actor. They were also all made by the CTG costume shop; these are not tour costumes. All of this is supported by the lighting design of Karyn D. Lawrence (FB) and the sound design of Adam Phalen (FB) [although, alas, the latter was marred in execution by a large amount of microphone static at our performance]. Other production credits: Andrew Lynford, CSA – Casting; Lindsay Allbaugh (FB) – Associate Producer; Brooke Baldwin (FB) – Production Stage Manager; and Maggie Swing (FB) – Stage Manager.

Note that, although this is a local production, it is also the start of a tour.

Although Spamilton in New York is closingSpamilton in Los Angeles has extended to January 7, so disregard what is on my graphic. Tickets are available through the CTG websiteSpamilton is on Goldstar, but is sold out. TIckets don’t appear to be available on TodayTix. So, although they are less expensive, Spamilton tickets are harder to get. It is well worth seeing.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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

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… [Luckily, today, Native Americans have moved past this stereotype and taken control of things.]

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!

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Forty Years Later, and Across the Ocean

2nd Annual Tumbleweed TownshipToday, while a bunch of my friends were visiting Victorian England at the Dickens Fair (FB), I was visiting a different historical reenactment: Tumbleweed Township (FB). When asked to describe what Tumbleweed is, the best explanation is: Take a RenFaire and move it to Western America in the 1880s. In many ways, that was what was literally done: Tumbleweed is produced by the same team that produces the new Nottingham Festival (FB), in the same location, with many of the same vendors, the week after the two week Nottingham Festival.

The first year, Tumbleweed was a bit unsure of itself. It was damp and cold, and the layout was odd. But it survived to a second year, which is a good thing.

The layout this year was similar to Nottingham two weeks previous — no big surprise there. There seemed to be slightly more artisans, although a number that were there the first year (notably, the folks where I got my hat and my Yucca walking stick) were not back, and a number did not say from Nottingham (again, not a complete surprise, as some vendors wouldn’t work as well in the Old West setting). There was a reasonably good variety — some food (although more is really needed, especially for those gluten free), a number of knives and metal work, boots, costumes, jewelry, perfume, and such.  There were no stave or pottery vendors. I hope the vendors did well enough to justify their return next year, and that more vendors join them.

I watched a bit of a few shows. They had the same problem that Nottingham did: they needed more musical acts. There were a few, and a number of storytellers and historical reenactments. There was a shootout and a land grab, and loads of games for the kids (including horseshoes).

I tend to like Tumbleweed a bit more, perhaps because the time period is a lot more accessible and accepting. By that, I mean that many of the historical attitudes towards minorities and other religions that were present in Elizabethan and even Victorian England are less present than in the Old West. There are still problematic attitudes towards Native Americans and Women, but that will exist in almost any historical reenactment because, well, you know, history. But the costuming is also more accessible — jeans, suspenders, a flannel shirt and a western hat work well, and there are much fewer anachronisms in costuming (except for the steampunks, but even they fit in a bit better because Jules Verne is about the same time).

Still, I would really like Tumbleweed to succeed a bit more. They may need to embrace the time of year a bit more: we’re talking mid-to-late November, so incorporating some Winter holidays could work. Bring in “A Mulholland  Christmas Carol” — not only is it roughly time and theme appropriate, it is area appropriate given the Township is in Simi Valley.

Of course, you can spread the word as well, and even come on Sunday. Tickets are available at the gate or online (where they are cheaper). More information is on their website (and note that unlike that Big Festival at the Dam Site, parking is easy and free).

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Tomorrow, it’s Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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