Observations Along the Road

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

Saturday News Chum Stew: Diversity, AirBNB, UFOs, and Volunteering

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 30, 2015 @ 3:22 pm PDT

userpic=observationsHere’s the rest of the week’s assorted news chum:

 

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Coming and Going, Going and Coming (And Always Too Soon)

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 30, 2015 @ 2:48 pm PDT

userpic=old-shieldFor a change, a chunk of this week’s news chum formed a theme: they all relate to things that are going away, or coming back:

 

January – May Changes to California Highways

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed May 27, 2015 @ 8:09 pm PDT

userpic=roadgeekingRemind me not to let 5 months go by between changes.  Let’s take a deep breath, and dive in…

This has been a busy busy year, with most weekends taken up by theatre and theatre reviews (if you didn’t know, I see lots of theatre and review every show I see; you can find all the reviews in the “reviews” category on my blog). But Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to catch up on things. So put something on to slow-cook on the barbeque, and let’s dig in:

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum, but as usual it contained no additional information beyond what I gleaned on my own. I’ve given up on misc.transport.road. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(⋇), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Ronald Hall(2), Ray Mullins(1), and Joel Windmiller(3)]: Route 1(⋇), Route 12(⋇), Route 16(2), Route 33(1), Route I-80(⋇), Route 84(⋇), Route 85(⋇), Route 92(⋇), US I-280(⋇), Route 282(⋇), I-405(⋇), I-680(⋇), I-710(⋇), Santa Clara County Route G2(⋇), Santa Clara County Route G4(⋇).

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the new California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. No items had passed yet.

I checked the CTC Liaison page for the results of the CTC meetings from January through May 26, 2015. I lucked out — the May meeting was May 28, so I only had January and March to deal with. The following items were of interest (note: ° indicates items that were below the level of detail for updating the specific route pages) :

2.1b. STIP Program/Project Amendments/Approvals for Notice

*** (Mar) (1) The Department proposes to amend the 2014 STIP to revise the project funding plans for two projects on the Route 138 Corridor in Los Angeles County: Route 138 Widening, Segment 6 (PPNO 4356); and Route 138 Widening, Segment 13 (PPNO 4357). [Information only.]

*** (Mar) (2) The Contra Costa Transportation Authority proposes to amend the 2014 STIP to delay $36,610,000 in RIP construction funds from FY 2015-16 to FY 2016-17 for the I-680/Route 4 Interchange Phase 3 project (PPNO 0298E) in Contra Costa County. [Information only.]

2.2a. Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments

*** (Jan) Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments: 04-Son-1, PM 15.1/15.8, Gleason Beach Route 1 Realignment Project. Construct roadway improvements including realigning a portion of Route 1 in Sonoma County [Approved.]

*** (Mar) (1) Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments: 03-ED-50, PM 67.3. Echo Summit Bridge Project: Rehabilitate or replace the Echo Summit Sidehill Viaduct on US 50 in El Dorado County (NOP) [Approved.]

*** (Mar) (2) Submittal of Notice of Preparation for Comments: 07-LA-710, PM Various. Route 710 Surplus Property Sales. Sale of surplus property along Route 710 in Los Angeles County (all north of I-10) (NOP) [Approved.]

2.2b. Submittal of Notice of Documents Available for Comment (DEIRs)

*** (Jan) Submittal of Notice for One Document Available for Comments: (DEIR): 04-SCl-680, PM 6.5/9.9, 04-ALA-680, 0.0/12.4. I-680 Northbound HOV/Express Lane Project: Construct a HOV/Express Lane on a portion of I-680 in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties. (DEIR) [Approved.]

2.2c. Approval of Projects for New Public Road Connection / Future Consideration of Funding

*** (Jan) (1) Approval of Projects for Future Consideration of Funding: [Approved.]

  1. 01-Hum-101, PM 111.4/111.6: Big Lagoon Slipout Repair Project. Construct roadway improvements on a portion of US 101 in Humboldt County. (MND)
  2. 06-Fre-41, PM 33.3/33.4, 06-MAD-41, PM 0.0/0.2. San Joaquin River Bridge Scour and Seismic Retrofit Project. Construct seismic retrofitting to an existing bridge on Route 41 in Fresno and Madera Counties. (MND)

*** (1) (Mar) Approval of Projects for Future Consideration of Funding: [Approved.]

  1. 02-Plu-70, PM 14.9. Yellow Creek Bridge Replacement Project. Replace existing bridge on Route 70 in Plumas County. (ND)
  2. 04-Ala-13, PM 4.8/5.0. Route 13 Storm Damage Restoration Project. Construct a 14-foot high, 186-foot long retaining wall and repair storm damage on Route 13 in Alameda County. (MND)
  3. 04-SM-280, PM 9.4. I-280 Repair Pipe System and Backfill Sinkhole Project. Construct replace failed corrugated metal pipe with reinforced concrete pipe on a portion of I-280 in San Mateo County. (ND)
  4. 06-Fre-168, PM T29.0/T29.4. Prather Curve Correction Project. Construct roadway improvements including realigning a portion of Route 168 in Fresno County. (MND)
  5. 08-SBd-395, PM 4.2/19.3. Widening of Existing US 395 Project. Construct roadway improvements including widening a portion of US 395 in San Bernardino County. (MND) .

2.3a. Route Adoptions

*** (Mar) One Route Adoption: A Route Adoption as a freeway at 04-SF-80-PM 4.7/8.9, 04-Ala-80-PM 0.0/0.1: On Route 80 from 0.1 mile east of 5th Street to the Alameda County line, in the city and county of San Francisco and from the Alameda County line to 1.7 miles west of W. Grand Avenue in Alameda County. [This is interesting — it appears Caltrans discovered they had never formally adopted the routing for Route 80 in San Francisco.] [Approved.]

2.3c. Relinquishments

*** (Jan) One Relinquishment Resolution: 04-Sol-80-PM 20.9: Right of way along Route 80 on Manuel Campos Parkway, in the city of Fairfield. [Approved.]

*** (Mar) Four Relinquishment Resolutions: [Approved.]

  1. 04-Mrn-101-PM 10.3/10.7, Right of way along Route 101 on Francisco Boulevard East, Francisco Boulevard West, Grand Avenue and Rice Drive, in the city of San Rafael.
  2. 04-Mrn-101-PM 10.0/10.6, Right of way along Route 101 on Francisco Boulevard West, in the city of San Rafael.
  3. 08-Riv-10-PM 43.0, Right of way along Route 10 on Bob Hope Drive, in the county of Riverside.
  4. 08-Riv-10-PM 43.0, Right of way along Route 10 on Bob Hope Drive, Varner Road, and Rio del Sol Road, in the city of Rancho Mirage.

2.3d. Vacation Resolutions

None

2.5b. Financial Allocations for SHOPP Projects / Federal Discretionary Grant Funds

*** (Jan) (1) Financial Allocation: $112,561,000 for 17 SHOPP projects, as follows: (a) $67,859,000 for 12 SHOPP projects; (b) $44,702,000 for five projects amended into the SHOPP by Departmental action. Most of the projects were of the minor variety — landscape, pavement rehabilitation, slope rehabilitation, and other forms of maintenance that do not affect routing. Specific projects/allocations of interest are noted below: [Approved, as modified.]

  • $20,755,000: San Luis Obispo. 05-SLO-1 PM 64.0/R66.9. Near San Simeon, from north of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Road to Arroyo De La Cruz Bridge. Outcome/Output: Realign approximately 2.8 highway miles of Route 1 to a new location 475 feet inland away from eroding shore line and construct three bridges to maintain roadway structural integrity and improve highway safety and operation at this location.

*** (Mar) (1) Financial Allocation: $128,229,000 for 50 SHOPP projects, as follows: (a) $77,757,000 for 23 SHOPP projects; (b) $50,472,000 for 27 projects amended into the SHOPP by Departmental action. Most of the projects were of the minor variety — landscape, pavement rehabilitation, slope rehabilitation, guard rail installation, painting, sealing decks, upgrading irrigation, replacing signs and lighting, and other forms of maintenance that do not affect routing. Specific projects/allocations of interest are noted below: [Approved.]

  • $2,394,000: Kern County near Tehachapi (06-Ker-58, R99.2/R99.8), at the Sand Canyon Road Undercrossing (Bridge No. 50-0345R): Replace eastbound bridge and resurface ramps to restore bridge load capacity.

2.5c Financial Allocations for STIP Projects

*** (Mar) (1) Financial Allocation: $59,569,000 for four State administered STIP projects, on the State Highway System. Contributions from other sources: $11,181,000. Projects not mentioned related to landscaping. Specific projects/allocations of interest are noted below: [Approved.]

  • Route 84 Expressway Widening – Segment 2: In the City of Livermore on Route 84. Widen from 2 lanes to 4 lanes from Ruby Hill Drive to north of Concannon Boulevard. The specific changes in funding were: $4,900,000 $7,550,000 for CON ENGR, $42,130,000 $39,480,000 for CONST. (Contributions from other sources: $8,975,000: Support [$3,105,000 $455,000] and Capital [$5,870,000 $8,520,000]).
  • Madera 41 Passing Lane. Near Coarsegold, from 0.3 mile north of Road 208 to 2.2 miles north of Road 208. Construct passing lane. CON ENG: $0 $2,577,000 CONST $11,047,000 $8,470,000.

*** (Mar) (2) Financial Allocation: $5,500,000 for the locally administered US 395 Widening (PPNO 0260J) STIP project, in San Bernardino County, on the State Highway System. Contributions from other sources: $5,019,000. [Approved.]

2.5e. Financial Allocations for Supplemental Funds

*** (Jan) (1) Financial Allocation: $5,526,000 in supplemental STIP funds for construction engineering for the Route 101 Marin Sonoma Narrows – Petaluma Boulevard South Interchange and Petaluma River Bridge project (PPNO 0360H), in Sonoma County. The current construction engineering budget is $12,190,000. This request for $5,526,000 results in an increase of 45.3 percent over the current budget for construction engineering. [Approved, as distributed in the Yellow Meeting Handout at the meeting.]

2.5g. Financial Allocation for Multi-Funded Proposition 1B TCIF/Border Infrastructure Program (BIP) Projects

*** (Jan) (5b) Financial Allocation: $22,657,000 for State administered multi-funded Proposition 1B TCIF/BIP Project 104 (Route 905/Route 125 Northbound Connectors [PPNO 1101]), in San Diego County. [Approved.]

California Highway Headlines for most of May 2015

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 25, 2015 @ 4:02 pm PDT

userpic=roadgeekingI’m finally getting around to working on the highway pages, and that means incorporation of headlines and articles. This post captures those headlines from May that are going in the update; subsequent headlines will be included with the June batch.

  • Cosumnes River Blvd Extension and Interchange at Interstate 5. Project pages for a project that will construct a new interchange at Cosumnes River Boulevard at I-5 located 1 mile south of Meadowview Road and construct a new 4 to 6 lane road extension of Cosumnes River Boulevard from Franklin Boulevard west to Freeport Boulevard.
  • OCTA Takes Lead on I-405 Project. At its meeting on April 27, the OCTA Board of Directors voted to take the lead on the Interstate 405 (I-405) Improvement Project. The $1.7 billion project will improve the San Diego (I-405) Freeway between Costa Mesa and the Los Angeles county line, an area traveled by more than 370,000 vehicles a day, making it the busiest stretch of highway in the nation. Set to begin construction in 2018, the project will deliver express lanes between State Route 73 (SR-73) and Interstate 605 (I-605) in addition to one, regular general-purpose lane in each direction from Euclid Street to I-605.
  • Highway 68 plan receives grant from Caltrans. Caltrans has awarded $9.8 million in Sustainable Transportation Planning Grants to support cities, counties, agencies and transit operators including to the Transportation Agency for Monterey County. TAMC received the funds for its State Route 68 Corridor Plan.
  • I-280 near Mission Bay would be razed in Caltrain tunnel plan. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is quietly shopping plans to tear down Interstate 280 at Mission Bay and build an underground rail tunnel through the area — complete with a station between the proposed Warriors arena and AT&T Park. It’s all part of a revised effort to bring Caltrain — and, one day, high-speed rail — into downtown and the new Transbay Terminal while opening up a whole new area of the city for development.
  • MID COUNTY PARKWAY: Lawsuit aims to stop freeway construction. Environmental groups have gone to court to fight a proposed $1.7 billion freeway they say would cut through low-income neighborhoods, threaten wildlife areas and worsen air pollution. A lawsuit filed last week seeks to block construction of the Mid County Parkway, a 16-mile, six-lane freeway from the 215 in Perris east to the 79 in San Jacinto.
  • Doyle Drive to finally reopen, construction closure planned . The saga of Doyle Drive is nearing its end. After a closure scheduled for the end of this month, the rebuilt road will finally reopen safer and greener for motorists. The section of Doyle Drive between the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marina will close to traffic 10 p.m. May 28, as construction crews place finishing touches on the roadway and tunnels. The closure will end 5 a.m. June 1. Following the construction, all of the roadways connecting Park Presidio-19th Avenue to the Marina, and the Marina to the Golden Gate Bridge, will reopen for the first time in years.
  • Lindero overpass complete, open to bikes and cars . With two added traffic lanes, a protected bike and pedestrian path and decorative motifs showcasing the Westlake Village lifestyle, the new Lindero Canyon bridge is a model gateway for Los Angeles County, Mayor Ned Davis said during a ribboncutting ceremony Tuesday. About three dozen city and county transportation officials and other stakeholders gathered on the bridge to mark the end of a reconstruction project that began in October 2013.
  • Roadshow: Why isn’t Los Gatos complaining about Highway 85 widening?. The Highway 85 suit is on the Town Council agenda for Tuesday. Don’t be surprised if Los Gatos joins the fray over widening the freeway from Highway 87 to Interstate 280, using the median for double carpool lanes. The plan is to convert the diamond lane on the entire length of 85 into an express lane that solo drivers can jump into for a toll.
  • Roadshow: Razing of I-280 in San Francisco has drivers concerned. What is San Francisco thinking? The plan to tear down Interstate 280 is plain insanity. Highway 101 already backs up deep, and even on Saturday nights, one can sit in that traffic for nearly a half-hour to get from Cesar Chavez Street to downtown. Take 280 away, and going up to San Francisco for any social nights is pretty much no longer something that I would consider. If San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and the rest of San Francisco are not careful, they’ll drive the city right back to the isolated, suburb-abandoned crime alley that plagued downtown throughout the 1980s, making it unwelcoming to the rest of the Bay Area. Then again, maybe this is the best plan possible to help revitalize Oakland.
  • Caltrans replaces deadly I-680 off-ramp in Martinez. An infamous East Bay off-ramp that was the scene of a horrible accident 39 years ago is now gone. Caltrans is replacing the Marina Vista exit on southbound Interstate 680 in Contra Costa County to make it seismically safe. But for those who remember the crash that killed 29 people, one of the worst bus accidents in U.S. history, it has come not a moment too soon.
  • 215 FREEWAY: Two-county carpool lane project to open this week. Caltrans is preparing to open a carpool lane on Interstate 215 between Riverside and San Bernardino that will complete a missing link along a busy commuter route that’s more than 70 miles long. After about three years of construction, motorists soon will have access to a 7.5-mile carpool lane between the 60/91/215 interchange in Riverside and Orange Show Road in San Bernardino.

The Art of Love

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 24, 2015 @ 9:31 pm PDT

Love Again (Group Rep)userpic=theatre_ticketsBack in February, we saw the Southern California return of a Doug Haverty (FB) and Adryan Russ (FB) musical that started at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB): Inside Out.  At that time, I noted that the same team had a new musical premiering at the Group Rep in late May/June: Love Again. I made a note to get tickets when they came across one of the discount sites (I did win a gift certificate to Group Rep in a silent auction; I’m using that for their next show, Lombardi). Well, it is now the end of May, so guess where I was this afternoon :-).

I titled this writeup “The Art of Love“, which is the name of a new song that Neil Diamond sang last night. It is also a good summation of this show, which consists of three one-act stories about love. They all make a point about love and the decisions we make, and that we might come back to revisit. I think the stories will resonate with different people differently, but they were all reasonably enjoyable.

As usual, let’s look at this production through the three different lenses: story, performance, and technical.  Love Again features a book by Doug Haverty (FB), Music by Adryan Russ (FB), and lyrics by both Doug Haverty (FB) and Adryan Russ (FB). The three stories are connected solely by a theme of love — there are no common characters or other story elements. Connection was provided solely by elements of the opening song that resurfaced at the act interstitials.

The first story, “In a Different Light” (which, admittedly, was harder for me to follow as I was drowsy from migraine meds) dealt with two couples in Paris: Maxwell and Jane, out to have a second honeymoon, and Craig and Bonnie, out there for a business presentation with Craig’s boss, Fiona. When Craig bumps into Jane and rekindles a college relationship, the question arises of what will happen. I found the story itself reasonably interesting and particularly enjoyed one of the actresses; however, I found the ending a bit abrupt. I was in the last song, got a pinch drowsy, and — boom — it was over. I initially thought I actually drowsed out, but I didn’t. It actually had an abrupt ending that didn’t resolve the story. I think if anything in the writing needs improvement, it is the ending of this first act; hopefully, this can be resolved and clarified a little in the next production.

The second story, “Two Lives”, dealt with two best friends (Fanny and Loretta) who have an auto accident. The scene takes place in their hospital room, where both are brain dead and on live support. Doctors are encouraging the relatives to “pull the plug”, but they are reluctant. They each bring scents that their loved one would remember: Hal brings a sachet for his mom, Fanny; Gary brings roses for his wife, Loretta. This awakens the women, but not in a way that registers on the brain wave monitor — for they can only smell and hear. Fanny is able to encourage her son to start a relationship with the nurse, LeWanda. The question raised here is what one does for a loved one in this situation.

The last story, “Forget Me Not”, is perhaps the most fleshed out; it is certainly the best story. A family (Steward and Penny, and son Derrick) is dealing with two aging parents (Harold and Kathryn) with significant memory loss. The situation is getting more than the family can handle, until the son comes up with a novel solution: Perhaps if they have forgotten the present, they can forget the fact that they divorced and live together again. As someone who is dealing with an elder in a similar situation, this vingnette touched a nerve. The portrayal of the elders was realistic, and the use of mirror younger versions of the characters was very touching and moving. Kudos to the director, Kay Cole, for the emotion brought out here.

Through all three stories, there were a number of songs by Haverty and Russ. These expressed the emotions of the characters well and were lovely and melodic. Unfortunately, they all came across (at least in my memory) as somewhat similar. A bit more variety and energy are needed to make the music more memorable and distinct. Music direction was provided by Richard Berent (FB), assisted by Paul Cady/FB. The show featured an onstage piano (behind scenery) combined with recorded tracks.

Turning to the performances: the group of eleven actors swapped in and out between the acts and interstitials. Let’s start with the women.  Amy Gillette (FB) (Bonnie, Katie) not only gave very touching performances in the first and third stories, she had an absolutely wonderful and spot-on voice. Also notable was Kathleen Chen (FB) as LeWanda in the second story — again, a very nice performance and a lovely voice. Also particularly strong was Debi Tinsley (FB) as Loretta — again, a touching performance and great vocals. Michele Bernath (FB) was great as Fanny in the second story and Kathryn in the third story; I saw her in Awake and Sing, she was great there as well. Lastly, I particularly liked Janet Wood as Jane in the first story and Penny in the last story. In smaller roles were Renee Gorsey (FB) as Fiona, a suitably annoying boss in the first story; and Lauren Peterson as Dr. Hiller in the second story.

On the male side, I was particularly impressed by Paul Cady/FB as Craig in the first story and Steward in the third story — nice performance and nice vocals. Lloyd Pedersen, as Maxwell in the first story, Gary in the second story, and Harold in the third story, gave a gentle and touching performance. As Hal in the second story and the young Harry in the third story, Andrew Curtis Stark/FB had a nice voice with a moving performance. Lastly, as Derrick in the third story, Elijah Tomlinson (FB) added something extra to his role through very expressive facial expressions.

It is perhaps in the technical that this production fell down. Chris Winfield‘s Set Design (under the inspiration of the director) was a sponge-painted amalgam that covered every wall, floor, and 98% of the other surfaces of the tables and chairs and blocks. From the talk-back, we learned the intent was to focus on the actors, but it just didn’t work. The bright colors just served to distract, and the set would have been much better as a simpler black and white box, if there was no desire for realism. The lighting by J. Kent Inasy worked well to establish mood. While we’re on Mr. Inasy, I must note that his IMDB bio shows he worked on Herman’s Head; I’m sorry, Pixar’s Inside Out, but you’re just a pretender to the original version of the story, Herman’s Head.  The sound design by Steve Shaw worked well — particularly the sound effects in the second story. Lastly, the costumes by Angela M. Eads worked well to establish the characters. No credit was provided for stage manager.

Love Again continues at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB) through June 28, 2015. Tickets are available by calling 818-763-5990 or visiting the online ticket site. Discount tickets are available through Goldstar and LA Stage Tix. This is a pleasant and enjoyable show; it is particularly worth seeing if the stories appeal to you or you are a fan of the Russ/Haverty team.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

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

A Diamond Is, Um, Uh, Forever

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 24, 2015 @ 11:03 am PDT

Neil Diamond - Hollywood Bowl 2015userpic=folk-guitarNeil Diamond (FB) is one of those key performers in music history — one of the major songwriters who moved from writing his own music that was covered by others to being a major singer-songwriter in his own right (Carole King is another writer in that vein). Neil Diamond in concert is well known to be something special. From the original Hot August Night in 1972 to return visits to the Greek Theatre or the Bowl — his concerts are great. When I started getting announcements about his tour to the Bowl this year I was… disinterested. I thought they would sell out too fast; I was unsure about the quality of the concert given his age (74). More importantly, it was also the evening of Confirmation at Temple and I was encouraged to be there a Board member. But then I got a call from my daughter asking me to try to get tickets so she could surprise her mom after she got home from school. My daughter takes precedence. Luckily, there were tickets on Goldstar; so last night saw us at the Hollywood Bowl. I’m guessing Diamond doesn’t sell out as he used to, although the 18,000 seat Bowl appeared full. I’ll note that the show was also live-streamed on Periscope.

Before I go into the show itself, one comment about getting to the bowl. Normally, we take the Park and Ride to the Bowl from Chatsworth. The Park and Ride prices had gone up, so this time we experimented with Metro to the Hollywood and Highland Red Line station, and then taking the shuttle to the bowl. Metro worked wonderfully to get us to Hollywood. What we encountered in Hollywood was unexpected. There was a Paramore concert at the Dolby Theatre, and both the Hollywood and Highland facility, as well as traffic in the area, was FUBAR thank to Para-natics. This meant that the shuttle that was supposed to show at 7:00 PM couldn’t make it to the pickup point, and then couldn’t guarantee making it to the Bowl on time (although the Bowl is less than 10 minutes away). This forced us to hoof it to the Bowl — which luckily wasn’t that bad. Still, it is something to think about next time.

As for the concert itself: Musically, it was wonderful. The music was everything you would expect from Neil. The set list is below. Where something was slightly lacking was in Neil’s dialogue with the audience; at least in the beginning. He started out low energy, he seemed confused and perhaps befuddled. During “Red Red Wine” he walked out the walkway to the audience, and then wondered how he got out there and how to get back. Although it was funny, it was also a reminder that the artists of our youth are aging; they are senior citizens and may not be around for much longer.† Tom Paxton, himself up there in age now, was prophetic when he mused whether Mick Jagger (who recently did a concert down the street) read of self-rising chairs over his breakfast of yogurt and bran. He warmed up as the show went on, and luckily he primarily stuck to the music.

[†ETA: On Twitter, someone responded to this comment that it might have been Diamond joking. Perhaps, although it didn’t strike me that way given how it was said and the energy behind it. There were also numerous other times where he seemed to forget things: the name of special group that was there that night (Jennifer Diamond), or the name of his new album (Melody Road). A fact of life is that our music icons age — although the music is timeless, the people are human like us. I recall a Peter Yarrow solo concert at UJ where Peter was just rambing and didn’t realize it. I’ll note it also could be due to some medication taken before the show having an unexpected reaction. It could also have just been a bad night. In any case, for those Diamond fans out there, it was merely an observation, and it didn’t take anything away from the timeless music.]

One last note related to Diamond’s aging: The song “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” acquires a creepy overtone when sung by a 74 year old. As he sang it, I was thinking it might be Josh Duggar’s anthem. [Too soon?]

Another factor that struck me was that most of these songs were written before 1985; only two were newer. That says something about how Diamond’s output has changed; that said something about what his fans expected. Of course, they loved the classic hits — they were on their feet, phones out recording the show even though they shouldn’t.  The show ran about two hours, with no intermission.

The songs in the show were:

  1. I’m A Believer (1966)
  2. Love on the Rocks (1980)
  3. Hello Again (1980)
  4. Pretty Amazing Grace (2008)
  5. Kentucky Woman (1967)
  6. You Got To Me (1967)
  7. Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon (1967)
  8. Play Me (1972)
  9. Red Red Wine (1967)
  10. Beautiful Noise (1976)
  11. If You Know What I Mean (1976)
  12. Brooklyn Roads (1967)
  13. Shilo (1967)
  14. The Art of Love (2014)
  15. Forever in Blue Jeans (1979)
  16. Cherry Cherry (1967)
  17. Crunchy Granola Suite (1971)
  18. Morningside (1972)
  19. Holly Holy (1969)
  20. I Am, I Said (1971)
  21. Cracklin’ Rose (1970)
  22. Sweet Caroline (1969)
  23. Coming to America (1980)
  24. Heartlight (1982)

Diamond’s set include a large diamond-shaped video screen, which was used to good effect to project a home movie montage of Neil’s youth during “Brooklyn Roads”, and for wonderful visuals during “Coming to America”. He had a very strong backing band and backing singers. He was courteous enough not only to introduce them, but to give each their own solos during “Cherry Cherry”.

One additional observation about the audience that night. As we walked out, we joked that when Diamond originally played the Greek, the audience was probably on drugs. The current audience is probably still on drugs, only different ones (blood thinners, anti-depressants, blood pressure meds, etc.)

This was a lease event at the Bowl, and crowd control was not up to usual bowl standards. In particular, the security and ticket taking was a confused mess that created a bottleneck  at the bowl entrance and added to the crowding and gridlock. There was a similar mess at the end; we just opted to walk down the hill back to Hollywood and Highland than to mess with the shuttle bus in that crowd.

As we walked down the hill, we mused about the following question, which I leave you with: What musical artist of the Millenial or later generation — that is, an artist who rose to prominence since 2000 — with be the equivalent of Diamond when they turn 74? That is, who of today’s modern pop artists will still be performing in their 70s, still filling double-digit-thousand seat arenas with fans in their 40s, 50s, and 60s? Lady Gaga? Madonna? Missy Elliot? Any Hip-Hop or Rap artists? Not listening to pop music, I don’t have the answer, but it is an interesting question.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

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

The Week’s News, in a Tasty Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 23, 2015 @ 3:12 pm PDT

userpic=lougrantAnother week has come and gone, which means I have another week’s worth of links to share. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest. Let’s do this one old-style:

 

One Man’s Trash

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 22, 2015 @ 11:25 am PDT

userpic=televisionIt has been a while since lunchtime reading of the news has prompted me to set down my salad and pick up my keyboard. It happened today when I read an article about David Letterman. Now, I’ve mostly been ignoring Letterman — I never quite got into him or his humor, being more of the Carson / Leno / Fallon mold. But this time the problem isn’t specifically Letterman — more, it is his production company or CBS. Why? Well, with the exception of one or two pieces, the rest of David Letterman’s set has gone to the dumpster.

What a waste.

Letterman should have taken a lesson from Survivor, which for years has put props from the season just closed up for auction, with proceeds going to charity. I think that’s a wonderful thing, but most shows don’t bother to do it. Letterman certainly should have — he could have really helped charities, and cleaned out a bunch of stuff that wasn’t wanted. Hell, even Stephen Colbert (who is replacing Dave) auctioned off his desk for charity. For me, it just centers my impression of Letterman as self-centered.

It also highlights one of the few problems I have with the entertainment industry as a whole: they are incredibly wasteful. For example, think of all those car crashes and car stunts in a movie. What do you think happens to the cars? They fill up junkyards. Loads of industrial effort… that is just trashed for entertainment. Think about all the water scenes filmed and the water wasted. Think of all the fictional house and office sets for TVs and movies. Most are used once and trashed. Waste of wood. Waste of plastic. I’ll note its not just movies and TVs — the same is true for ballet, opera, and stage, although often there sets are warehoused and leased out for use to future productions.

Then there is intimate theatre, which often does reuse props and sets. However, that’s more due to the fact they need to save money than any ecological desire. In fact, in smaller theatres, that sofa you are sitting on today was probably in a previous production (and before that, rescued from a thrift store). Don’t believe me? Ask the REP where the piano in the Hydeaway Lounge came from, or the Colony where the Egyptian Coffin came from.

That’s better. Rant is out and lunch is done.