Observations Along the Road

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

But Officer, I’m a MOT | “Code 197: Driving While Blewish” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 05, 2016 @ 4:27 pm PDT

Code 197: Driving While Blewish (HFF)userpic=fringeAs soon as we finished watching the Aliens go after the Musical Stars to eliminate the competition, we quickly walked down the two blocks to Studio C, near the Complex, to catch our next show, Code: 197 – Driving While Blewish. As Aliens vs. Musical had let out late (at 4:07pm), we arrived at DWB about 4:15pm. Luckily, the show hadn’t started yet: just like we two hapless audience members, the actor was running on JST.

Perhaps I should describe what this show was, and that will explain the JST reference. Here’s the description from the Fringe guide:

Ben-El David, a.k.a Benny Weinberg, or is it Benny Lee Harris Weinberg-Lumpkins Jr., whatever it is, is blewish, a.k.a. black and jewish. Oy Vey! or Sababa!? Either way, the struggle is real. Benny has heard it all from “How are you Jewish?”, to “You’re not really Jewish, are you?”

Born in the home of the world’s first Jewish Crime Family, The Purple Gang, Benny’s early Jewish influences were all around him. As a young kid in the mean streets of Detroit, the Jewish curiosities began with a high school english teacher, Mr. Daniel Sheehy. Why was he never at work? What was that funny thing he wore on his head all the time? What’s a shmuck?

As an adolescent, and the final flight of Detroit Jews from the inner city to the suburbs was complete, Benny had lost touch with his Jewish friends, and their sense of community and ideologies. Fast forward to an era of new enlightenment for Benny and a hunger to regain his early Jewish inspirations, Benny began his adulthood journey into Judaism.

Would Benny have to forget his former life in order to find the answers he was looking for in Judaism? “Why Judaism?” Is their really a God? What’s this Jesus thing all about?

Combine the above with the original description, which ended with “These questions are answered and more at the only Oneg at hff16”, and you had me intrigued.

Now, we were at a preview performance: We had no choir. We had no Diversidad. We had no Oneg. But we still loved this show. Here’s why.

The show, starring Benny Lumpkins Jr (FB) a/k/a Benny Weinberg, is part scripted, and part improvised. The scripted portion provides the background of Benny’s conversion; the improvised portion includes Benny having audience members select particular topics from his life to discuss. From these topics, you learn what drove Benny to his conversion.

What I found most interesting, however, was his comments about the Jewish attitude towards Jews of Color. There is this inherent suspicion that they are not full Jews, that they are converts. Benny related how many of the Africans that were brought over for slavery were Jewish — there is a belief that many African communities were some of the lost tribes. They were forced into Christianity which was not their religion. As such, when they return to Judaism, why are they viewed as outcasts. Often, this comes from the very same Eastern European Jews who converts to Judaism in the 12th and 11th century for commerce reasons. The hypocrisy is fascinating, and belies the requirement that the convert be treated exactly the same as the Jew by birth.

Benny pointed out that this is a form of implicit or unspoken racism: How often Jews of European background simply expect a certain look for Jews — although this is unstated — and then suspect those who don’t look that way to be ersatz or “not real” Jews. This, of course, goes against Jewish teaching and against the inclusiveness that modern Judaism emphasizes. Having had a best friend who was a Jew of color, and knowing many other Jews of color, I have seen this in action. I, of course, think it is wrong — and thus, Benny’s show raises the awareness of this behavior — allowing us to correct it. Thought provoking, right? Exactly what theatre is supposed to do, right? [ETA: I edited this paragraph in because I wrote the first version very quickly, and later remembered that I wanted to make this point.]

So we really enjoyed this, and talked to Benny afterwards. In fact, he does take the show on the road, and I thought I could be thought provoking MoTAS meeting topic.

Benny noted that the show will be different each time. We won’t be able to fit it into our schedule, but you might…

There are four more performances of Driving While Blewish: Friday June 10 2016, 8:30 PM; Thursday June 16 2016, 5:30 PM; Sunday June 19 2016, 6:00 PM; and Friday June 24 2016, 10:30 PM. The show lasts 1hr, and is at Asylum @ Studio C (Mainstage), 6448 Santa Monica Blvd. According to the Fringe website, tickets are free. Such a bargain. Get tickets at the Fringe Website.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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What’s Your Motivation | “Alien vs. Musical” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 05, 2016 @ 7:34 am PDT

Alien vs. Musical (HFF16)userpic=fringeWell, it has begin. The Hollywood Fringe Festival (HFF) (FB). Over 275 live performance shows spread over 30 or so venues over the month of June.

We have also begun to Fringe (which, yes, is a verb). 15 Fringe shows (plus one regular show and two reunions) during the month of June. Possibly more, depending on if we had to the schedule. We may be sane, but that doesn’t mean we’re not crazy.

Our first Fringe show, Alien vs. Musical (FB),  was nominated for 10 HFF awards in 2015, winning Best World Premiere Production, Outstanding Songwriting, and The Encore! Producers Award. I had wanted to fit it in last year, but just couldn’t rejigger the schedule. Luckily, the show’s producers brought it back this year in a longer version.

How to describe the show? Let’s do it as a theatrical trailer….

In a world where musical theatre characters are real.

In a world where these characters share the same context and are friends.

In a world used to happy endings and tap-dancing dreams.

In such a world, an innocent gift of a pod found at a crash site sets into play a chain of events that reeks bloody havoc on the carefully coiffed character, but introduces a performer the likes of which hasn’t been seen on stage since Little Shop of Horrors.

Yup, that just about says it. The basic conceit of this show is that a bunch of musical theatre characters — Effie (from Dreamgirls), Danny (from Grease), Annie (from Annie), Harold (from The Music Man), Elder (from Book of Mormon), Tracy (from Hairspray), Valjean (from Les Miserables), Elphaba (from Wicked), Maria (from The Sound of Music), and Mark (from Rent) are having a birthday party for Effie. Annie finds a pod at a crash site, but before she can give it to Effie, it attacks Elder. From there the show is off: the Alien (from the titular movie of the same name) is off and bringing chaos to musical theatre land. If you know parody musical, I think you can take it from there.

The show, with book by Erik Przytulski (FB) and Steve Troop (FB), and music and lyrics by Erik Przytulski (FB), falls clearly into the parody musical genre. It cleanly skewers the style, songs, and characterizations of Broadway musicals such as those associated with the characters above, in addition to others such as Hamilton and West Side Story. It provides an opportunity for the audience to see well known theatrical protagonists get skewered — sometimes literally — in front of the audience. It also, in a sense, skewers shows such as Little Shop, with singing and dancing aliens with motivations very different from what a typical human might expect. But then again, we’re not talking normal humans. We’re talking actors and Broadway.

Under the direction of Matthew Tyler (FB), Alien vs. Musical (FB) clearly goes for the fun and the playfulness in the characters. It is clear that he loves these characters, and is having fun bring out there archetypes in the performances. The performances themselves are pretty good for Fringe: there are some strong players, and some that perform well be need stronger voice. There is loads of enthusiasm, channeled into a package that is clearly audience pleasing. The producer (Erik Przytulski (FB)) built upon last year’s successful 60 minute show to create a full 90 minutes that skewers even more musicals.

Lengthing the show permitted inclusion of new material, such as  wonderful rap battle between Harold Hill of The Music Man, and Alexander Hamilton of Hamilton.

The performances from the acting team are good. Some arise from good to the very good to the excellent, others can use a little work. We saw the first performance during preview week, so understand that any problems we may have seen will likely be corrected in subsquent performance.

The acting team consisted of: Levanna Atkinson-Williams (FB) [Effie], Christopher Bunyi (FB) [Danny]; Allie Costa (FB) [Annie], Nick Emmet McGee (FB) [Harold], Taylor Minckley (FB) [Elder], Ally Mulholland [Tracy], Matthew Noah (FB) [Valjean], Suszanna Petrela [Elphaba], Brianne Sanborn (FB) [Maria], and Brad Simanski (FB) [Mark].  Performance-wise, all captured their characters well, believably bringing forward the mannerisms of whomever’s persona they were assuming. Singing-wise, they were a bit more across the board. Some, such as Sanborn’s Maria or Noah’s Valjean, had a good acting voice but really needed stronger projection.  Others were belting their way through their songs from the get-go, such as Atkinson-Williams’s Effie or Costa’s Annie. Others were squarely in the middle, such as McGee’s Harold or Simanski’s Mark. Given this show is performed without amplification, the actors need to belt and project in order for the audience to hear them over the orchestra. One thing is clear, however — these actors are having fun with these roles, and that fun comes across to the audience.

The program does not credit the additional characters the actors portrayed. Most importantly, it does not credit the actors that portray the alien — in particular, the one that does the final performance of the alien. So, Ms. uncredited actor (I have a feeling it was Petrela), I just want to say you gave a stunning performance at the end, a performance that rivals that poser Audry2. Now there’s an epic battle: Audry 2 vs. Alien.

Music, under the music direction and music arrangements of  Emily Cohn (FB), is provided by an on-stage band consisting of Emily Cohn (FB) [Keyboards], Brenton Kossack (FB) [Bass], Taylor Murphy/FB [Drums], and Kyle Scherrer/FB [Guitar]. The musicians seemed to have fun playing along with the actors when required, particular Cohn.

The choreography by Regina Laughlin/FB worked well.

On the technical side: given this is a Fringe production, there isn’t much required in terms of set. After all, you have to be able to load in within 15 minutes, and out just as quickly. What the show does depend upon is the marvelous creature design of Steve Troop (FB), combined with the costume design of Taylor Moten (FB) and the make-up design of Rachel Tyler/FB. The alien puppets were simply great, and for the humans, the costumes mostly conveyed who they were intended to be. Perhaps the weakest was Valjean, who required the 24601 — perhaps because the costumes in that show are less iconic. Remaining creative and production credits: Steve Troop (FB) – Production Design; Beth Wallan (FB) – Stage Manager; Itzel Mendoza-Nava/FB – Assistant Stage Manager; Adam Earle – Technical Supervisor.

Alien vs. Musical (FB, HFF) has four more Fringe performances: Thursday, June 9th @ 7:00pm, Friday, June 17th @ 11:30pm, Thursday, June 23rd @ 8:30pm, and Sunday, June 26th @ 6:00pm. Alien vs. Musical performs at the former Elephant Stages Lillian space, which is now the Sacred Fools (FB) Main Stage at 1076 Lillian. Tickets are available through the Fringe website; buy a Fringe button and save a buck. For the NYC Folks: It looks like the show will be at FringeNYC in August.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Fringe Preview Week News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 04, 2016 @ 7:17 am PDT

Observation StewThis is a busy weekend, with the start of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (we’re seeing 5 shows this preview weekend), a Bat Mitzvah this morning, a MoTAS meeting with Erin speaking tomorrow, and picking up the new car tomorrow afternoon. So its probably best to clear out the accumulated links before all the posts related to the above begin:

  • Op-Ed: History isn’t a ‘useless’ major. It teaches critical thinking, something America needs plenty more of “. Although perhaps grammatically challenged (ending a sentence with a preposition), a good point is being made: History teaches loads of skills, including the ability to think critically. It also teaches its students to see that simple solutions are often not the right answer; life, like history, is often complicated by a myriad of factors. As the article notes: “A historian, however, would know that it is essential to look beyond such simplistic logic.  […]  The utility of disciplines that prepare critical thinkers escapes personnel offices, pundits and politicians (some of whom perhaps would prefer that colleges graduate more followers and fewer leaders). But it shouldn’t. Labor markets in the United States and other countries are unstable and unpredictable. In this environment — especially given the expectation of career changes — the most useful degrees are those that can open multiple doors, and those that prepare one to learn rather than do some specific thing.” An op-ed piece well worth reading. PS: If you want to exercise the critical thinking skills of a history major, especially one that knows Yiddish, Jewish Studies, and Native American studies, I know of one looking for work.
  • Op-Ed: Why I hate Waze“. I agree with this article quite a bit. The point is not that Waze is useless, but our growing dependence on it and similar aps is leading people to lose their connections with where they live. Waze reduces navigation to points on a map. It is not a substitute for knowing your city, how it is laid out, the neighborhoods, the character. As the author writes: “Navigation, to me, is what the city is all about, and not just navigating the streets but the people. It’s one of the secret thrills of urban living, knowing how to get along, how to carve a passage amid the millions with whom we share the territory. […] This is why I avoid the apps; they strip us of authority, adaptability. They replace the subtleties of memory, of hard-won knowledge, with a device whose skills are generic — even, at times, incorrect.”
  • Date of First Riviera Tower Implosion Confirmed: June 14“. And more Vegas history goes down into a pile of rubble. The Riviera is one of the last hotels still standing from 1950s Vegas. All that will be left on the strip will be the two-story wings of the Tropicana. Next is Caesars and Circus-Circus, dating to the 1960s. I’m not arguing to save the Riv — that ship has sailed. Rather, this is a recognition that Las Vegas is a town where the past is bulldozed, tilled under, and reborn. Vegas does not create memories that can be revisited; it creates experiences that are lived in the moment.
  • There’s an Art Deco Airport Lying Ruined in Brooklyn“. Name your New York airports. You probably think JFK, La Guardia, and Newark. How about Floyd Bennett Field, New York’s first airport in Brooklyn. This article is a fascinating exploration of that field, which is still standing. “Long before JFK and LaGuardia, there was Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport. Designed in stunning Art Deco style, it was once the most modern airport in the world, a glittering gateway into America’s principal metropolis. Many of the leading aviators of their day started daring adventures here during the golden age of aviation—pilots like Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and Roscoe Turner, the latter of whom flew with a lion cub as his co-pilot. […] But today many of the old hangars lie empty and abandoned. The deserted control tower looks over runways covered in weeds.” Fascinating read; c’mon 99% Invisible, how about a story?
  • How The FAA Shot Down ‘Uber For Planes’“. The sharing economy. We’ve seen apps for sharing unused space in cars, unused space in houses, and unused spaces at the dinner table. What about that unused seat on a private aircraft? The links in this discussion explore a startup that tried to address that space… and that got shot down when the FAA said it was a common carrier and would need to follow all of the rules of the big boys. Yet another example of the laws not catching up with our technology.
  • ((( How Twitter Is Teaming Up to Mess With the Nazis )))“. You may have seen the articles going around at the end of the week about a Chrome App that was being used by White Supremacists to identify “Jewish names” on the Internet so they could attack them. This app surrounds Jewish names with ((())) [the app has now been pulled by Google]. This article, which might be OBE, explores how a group of Twitter users decided to combat the antisemites in a different way: by everyone — Jewish or not — putting (((around))) their names. As the article noted: “It’s worth noting that the internet’s anti-Semites hate when their culture is appropriated by their opponents.”. How they must have felt when “It turned out a lot of people—not just Jews—liked the idea. Some anonymous accounts even outed themselves as Jews to show solidarity. Muslims, Christians, and Hindus changed their names to show their support. As of now, hundreds of accounts have appropriated the Nazi symbols as their own.”
  • Audio fandom: exploring the ambient noises of stfnal spaceships“. Have you ever watched Star Trek, and thought about the background noise? The Enterprise had a distinct hum (at least in TNG), which was very different than the background noise on DS:9. Those noises come from somewhere, and this article is an explanation of that “where”. It discusses how the sound and art designers come together to create an almost subliminal image statement about the ships.
  • How a Lost Marx Brothers Musical Found Its Way Back Onstage“. I know, you think I’m talking about the Marx’s interpretation of Chekov’s The Bear, as seen in “A Day in Hollywood, a Night in the Ukraine“. I’m not. There’s another Marx musical — one that has been unseen since the 1920s, when it was the Marx’s first show. This article explores how “I’ll Say She Is” — the first Marx Bros. musical (before Cocoanuts), which has been reconstructed and is about to reopen off-Broadway.
  • The Long Quest to Find Ashkenaz, the Birthplace of Yiddish“. As I type this, I’m digitizing some Yiddish cassettes for my daughter. Have you ever wondered where Yiddish might have come from? Where the “Ashkenaz” in Ashkenazi comes from? “The place name Ashkenaz occurs three times in the Bible, but by the Middle Ages the exact origin of Ashkenaz was forgotten. Because of the migration of the Ashkenazic Jews it later became associated with Germany. This led to all German Jews being considered “Ashkenazic”, a term which was then applied to central and eastern European Jews who follow Ashkenazic religious customs and who speak Yiddish.” This article attempts to explore that question, and is a very interesting read.
  • How to Listen to and Delete Everything You’ve Ever Said to Google“. You might not have realized it, but Google records and keeps everything you say: “Every time you do a voice search, Google records it. And if you’re an Android user, every time you say “Ok Google,” the company records that, too. Don’t freak out, though, because Google lets you hear (and delete) these recordings.” This article explains how to do that.
  • City Museum: A 10-Story Former Shoe Factory Transformed into the Ultimate Urban Playground“. If you are ever in St. Louis, this is a fascinating place to explore … and isn’t just for kids. “Housed in the former home of the 10-story International Shoe Company, the sprawling 600,000 square-foot City Museum in St. Louis is quite possibly the ultimate urban playground ever constructed.  […] So what can you find at the City Museum? How about a sky-high jungle gym making use of two repurposed airplanes, two towering 10-story slides and numerous multi-floor slides, a rooftop Ferris wheel and a cantilevered school bus that juts out from the roof, subterranean caves, a pipe organ, hundreds of feet of tunnels that traverse from floor to floor, an aquarium, ball pits, a shoe lace factory, a circus arts facility, restaurants, and even a bar… because why not? All the materials used to build the museum including salvaged bridges, old chimneys, construction cranes, and miles of tile are sourced locally, making the entire endeavor a massive recycling project.”

California Highway Headlines for May 2016

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 01, 2016 @ 11:06 am PDT

userpic=roadgeekingThis post provides links to articles I’ve seen over the past month related to California Highways. As I am finally working on an update to the California Highways pages (Memorial Day weekend), those items that have not yet been processed into the pages are shown with ♦. [Update: Didn’t finish Memorial Day weekend. I have a few more AAroads articles to go through, plus the legislature actions and the CTC minutes. It’ll be done sometime in June]

  • Why a historic highway that united California’s two halves may never reopen to cars. Harrison Scott discovered the Ridge Route in 1955. Then 18, he was out freewheeling in a brand new Ford he’d bought with a loan from his parents. The sinuous route, an engineering marvel that tamed the San Gabriel Mountains through the highway corridor that is now known as the Grapevine, was already a relic. Opened in 1915, and credited by historians with uniting the economies of Northern and Southern California, the notoriously slow and dangerous roadway had been superseded in 1933 by Highway 99, itself to be replaced in 1970 by the 5 Freeway. Scott liked the abandoned motorway, but did not return to the route until exploring it again in 1991, this time on a road trip with his son. Spurred by the boy’s interest, and retired from a long career with Pacific Telephone, Scott became an amateur historian and began collecting photos and stories of the highway.
  • It’s a mess along O.C.’s part of PCH, traffic study says. Traffic congestion and safety conflicts among vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians continue to plague traveling conditions along Orange County’s portion of Pacific Coast Highway, according to a newly published transportation study. The nearly $400,000 report, released last month and conducted by the Orange County Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation, examined the iconic but aging 37-mile highway from Seal Beach to San Clemente.
  • Highway 121 repairs could cost $5.5 million. Highway 121 is at least several months and $5.5 million away from once again having both lanes open north of Wooden Valley Road between Napa and Lake Berryessa. A section of the northbound lane on the narrow, two-lane road slipped a half-dozen feet during early March storms. The road reopened on March 25 with temporary signals in place to alternate traffic in the southbound lane.

(more…)

Transposing the Matrix: Update 2 – Downselect Harder

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 30, 2016 @ 6:14 pm PDT

userpic=matrixPreviously, on Transposing the Matrix: If you recall, Tuesday I had an auto accident resulting in my 2006 Toyota Matrix being totaled. Friday, we began the search for a new car. That post detailed some of the requirements for any replacement vehicle: cargo capacity, not too big, being able to work with my iPod Transpod, convenient Aux jack, backup camera, decent gas mileage. In the last episode (Update 1), we had narrowed the field to three contenders: : the 2016 Scion iM [brochure], the 2016 Honda Fit, and the the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door.

Today we visited the dealers again to reexamine the cars, to test drive the Fit, and to re-test drive the Impreza without a migraine and with my iPod Classic. This was extremely useful: the Fit knocked itself out of the running. Why? The seats were extremely uncomfortable, the cup holders would not fit our typical drink cups due to a bad bad design, and the TransPod blocked one of the drink holders. The engine also seemed to be noisier.

On the other hand, the Impreza Imprezzed. Through some re-adjustment, I was able to get the TransPod to work, although I may still go with a vent mount cell phone holder. I was able to drive the car, and was impressed by both its handling and the fact the cabin is quieter. In fact, the only major drawback with the Impreza is that my wife likes it as well, and so she’ll keep wanting to borrow it… at least until we pay it off and can get her an Outback. Further, the Impreza is the only one that can come with a non-black interior — important in the San Fernando Valley.

This pushes the Scion iM into second place, which is fine. Both are excellent cars, and we really couldn’t go wrong with either. The prices are similiar: the MSRP on the Scion is 19,995; we’ve dealers verbally offer below that if we sign on the dotted line. MSRP on the Impreza is $20,768, with an estimated dealer invoice of $19,758 — meaning we can talk them down to the Scion’s range. Right now, we think we’ll try for the Impreza first, with the Costco pricing or better. If not, we know we can safely walk across the street to the Toyota dealer.

The one remaining question to investigate is: Which has the lower cost of insurance? We’re guessing the Subaru, as a less popular theft car.

What’s next? Tomorrow I’ll go over to the body shop and clean out the Matrix (I’ll probably grab the cargo netting; it should work in the Subaru). I’ll pull off the personalized license plates for use on the new car. Then it is just waiting to hear from the adjuster with their valuation of the Matrix, which we’ll probably argue with a bit. Charlie Kline provided a pointer to an article with some good tips on how to get max value. I certainly want them to pay for the full tank of gas I had just put in. I’m also going to contact the credit union and get the pre-approved loan updated to a new car loan and for the correct estimated amount.

Once we get the check from AAA, we’ll talk to the dealer. If they can best the credit union rate, we’ll go with them. We’ll sign over the down, and then do the paperwork game.

 

Musical History | “I Only Have Eyes for You” @ The Montalban

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 30, 2016 @ 11:23 am PDT

I Only Have Eyes for You (Montalban)userpic=theatre_ticketsMany years ago, a friend of mine noted that the phrase “I Only Have Eyes for You” could accommodate putting the word “only” between (or before or after) any word in the phrase, creating subtle differences in meaning.

I’ll wait while you try it out. After all, I have only eyes for you.

An exercise like this shows the importance of where you put the emphasis when you write something. “I have only eyes for you” is very different from “Only I have eyes for you”, which is different from “I have eyes for only you.” Place the emphasis wrong, and your intent is trashed.

I mention this because yesterday afternoon we were at The Montalban Theatre (FB) (nee the Doolittle, nee the Huntington Hartford) to see the musical “I Only Have Eyes for You: The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin“, with book by Jerry Leichtling (FB) and Arlene Sarner (FB), music mostly by Harry Warren, and lyrics by Al Dubin. The musical was well executed, presented loads of talent, and marvelous singing and dancing. However the story was…. creaky. It is clear that the emphasis was placed on the music and the singing and dancing, not on the story and its presentation. Those familiar with musicals will tell you that great music and great dancing can get you far, but what makes a musical succeed in the long term is telling a good story, and leaving the audience with some form of feeling.

In between all the songs from the wonderful Al Dubin song catalog (yes, this was a jukebox musical), the production attempts to tell the life story of the songwriter, Al Dubin. Arguably, the choice of doing that particular story creates the risk of the Mack and Mabel curse: how do you tell a story when the ending is a downer? Mack and Mabel had that problem because the two people you wanted to see together end up apart, with Mabel Normand dying of health problems at the age of 37. Try and feel good after that. In this story, nor matter how you cut it, you end up with Al Dubin entering a spiral down of drugs and alcohol, and dying on the street after having taken a large quantity of doctor-prescribed barbiturates.

Take the downer of a story, and add to it the creakiness of a traditional 1930s musical that tries to be upbeat over everything, and you have…. 42nd Street (which will open at the Pantages down the street tomorrow). More importantly, however, you have a musical that is out of date with the times. In contrast to old musicals that were designed to keep smiling through the pain, to keep dancing, to stay upbeat, new musicals are designed to tell real stories and relate to real life. The pains and foibles remain in the story. The tone and superficiality date the book of I Only Have Eyes for You. That, more than anything, is why I characterized the story as creaky.

I should also note that it is unclear the extent to which the story presented it truthful. Specifically, the book posits a World War I experience as driving Dubin’s spiral down. Yet a web search shows no such incident in Dubin’s life; in fact, the timing of some of the elements of the story as presented do not agree with the real story. Taking artistic license with the facts does happen, but usually it is acknowledged as such.

Lastly, this is a jukebox musical. That means you have to take songs not intended to tell a story, and somehow shoehorn them into to a story context. Sometimes it works; usually it doesn’t. For this show, that means that the songs that are performed as part of the historical context work well; the ones that attempt to propel the story often fall a little flat, primarily because Dubin tended not to be autobiographical in his tunes. Tin Pan Alley tunesmiths rarely were.

This doesn’t mean the show is bad. The performances and the music outshine the weak book. This is a show that might play well on the road, especially to the older theatre audience familiar with the music. The creaky book would limit the life of the show on Broadway; but with a two-week run, this could be spectacular.

The cast for this show, under the direction and choreography of Kay Cole, was uniformly excellent. In the lead positions were Jared Gertner (FB)  as Al Dubin and Nikki Bohne (FB) as Helen McClay Dubin.  Gertner exuded an easy-going charm as Dubin — you could see how his playfulness and creativity were there to take him far. The problem was that his personality was perhaps too bright and bubbly; his darker side and demons didn’t come across as dark as they needed to be to take him in the direction that he went. This might have been sanitization for the sake of story; it might have been direction that wanted to keep things up. Whichever it was, although Gertner clearly tried, the downside was more of a Foster Brooks downside than a deep depression. Gertner’s singing and dancing were uniformly excellent and just a delight to watch. I liked his rendition of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”; for some reason, I thought that was a Jacques Brel song. Bohne’s Helen played off of Gertner’s Al quite well. She was perky, bubbly, and playful. You could easily see that Ms. Bohne was enjoying this role tremendously. She had a truly wonderful singing voice, demonstrated in…. well, everyone of her songs.  She was also a strong dancer.

In the second tier of characters, we have Kayla Parker (FB)’s Ruby Keeler and Constantine Rousouli (FB)’s Harry Warren. Parker’s Keeler was great — a singing and dancing powerhouse. Just a delight to watch in numbers like “A Cup of Coffee” or “You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me”. Rousouli’s Warren was a bit stiffer, but still strong. He had a voice that was surprisingly deep, as shown in “Don’t Give Up The Ship”.

The remaining cast tended to play multiple characters or rotate through the ensemble: Valerie Perri (FB) (Minna Dubin / Monica / Ensemble); Renee Marino (FB) (Carmen Miranda / Ensemble); Jeffrey Scott Parsons (FB) (Patrick / Ensemble); Robert Pieranunzi (FB) (Busby Berkeley / Goldberg / Ensemble); Dominic Pierson (FB) (William / Ensemble); Elijah Rock (FB) (Cab Calloway / Bandleader / Ensemble); Justin Michael Wilcox (FB) (Simon / Al Jolson / Ensemble); Julian DeGuzman (FB) (Syd / Ensemble); Kim Taylor (FB) (Ensemble); Katherine Tokarz (FB) (Ensemble); and Karl Warden (FB) (Ensemble). Daniel May (FB) and Penny Wildman (FB) were the Swings. Notable in this crew were Rock’s Cab Calloway, Marino’s Miranda, Perri’s Minna. They each had essentially solos, and each was just great. Also strong were the male dancers: DeGuzman, Warden, Wilcox, and Pierson, although for some the costumes were a bit, well, ummm, let’s say “out there”. All of the ensemble were called upon to do tap dancing, and they did an excellent job of it. You don’t see tap dancing as much these days; I miss it.

Musically, the production was under the musical direction of Gerald Sternbach (FB), who also led the 10 piece band on piano. Working with him were Jack Lipson/FB (Asst. Music Director / Piano); Darrel Gardner (FB) (Trumpet); Ron Barrows (Trumpet); Ken Kugler (Trombone); Phil Feather (FB) (Woodwinds); Greg Huckins (FB) (Woodwinds); John Krovoza (FB) (Cell0); Adrian Rosen/FB (Bass); and Albie Berk/FB (Drums / Contractor).  These musicians produced a wonderful sound that did not overpower the singers. Orchestrations were by Doug Walter and Steven Scott Smalley.

Lastly, let’s look at the remaining production and creatives. I noted earlier that not only did Kay Cole direct, but she choreographed as well. Cole’s dancing seemed very much in the period, with loads of tap and lots and lots of style. It was very fun to watch. Jeffrey Scott Parsons (FB) was the dance captain. Hector Guerrero was the Assistant Choreographer.

John Iacovelli (FB)’s scenic design was somewhat traditional: lots of pieces that flew down or were stagehanded in. They did a great job in establishing the requisite sense of place; I particularly liked the drop for LA Union Station, which was very accurate. The sets were supported by Brandon Baruch (FB)’s lighting design, which served to focus the view, establish the sense of time, while ensuring what should be seen should be seen. Also supporting the sense of time and place were Debra McGuire‘s costumes, Marissa Bergman (FB)’s properties, and Judi Lewin (FB)’s hair, wig, and makeup design. My wife and I had a few quibbles with McGuire’s costumes: there were there aforementioned stretch pants/leotards that the male ensemble members wore, and which left little to the imagination; the odd blue top that the character of Ruby wore in the second acts that seemed more in the 80s; Carmen Miranda’s costume, which likely wouldn’t have shown her belly button in that era; and some blue costumes that got lost against a blue background. Other than that, the costumes were good. The props were effective, although I noticed at times they were a bit flat (such as the musician’s instruments). Hair, wigs, and makeup all seemed reasonable. The sound was by the ever reliable Cricket S. Myers (FB) — one really doesn’t need to say anything — her presence ensures a good sounding show. Rounding out the production credits in positions significant to the actors, but not obvious to the audience members: Michael Donovan C.S.A. (FB) [Casting]; Davidson & Choy Publicity (FB) and Chasen & Company [Publicity]; Allied Integrated Marketing & 87AM (FB) [Marketing]; Matthew Herrmann (FB) [General Manager]; Brad Enlow [Technical Supervisor]; Art Brickman (FB) [Production Stage Manager]; Tara Sitser (FB) [Stage Manager]’ Phil Gold [Assistant Stage Manager]; A Chandler Warren Esq [Legal]; and Corky Hale [Producer].

I Only Have Eyes for You” continues at The Montalban Theatre (FB) through June 12. Tickets are available online. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows:

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Memorial Day Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 30, 2016 @ 5:55 am PDT

Observation StewThis has been a busy weekend, what with theater, working on the highway pages, cleaning the house, and hunting for a replacement car after my accident. But I do accumulate links, and they need to be cleared out periodically. Before we do, please take a moment and remember those who have given their lives so that we may have the freedoms we have in this country. Despite our flawed political candidates, the flawed presidential selection process, and the divisions created by entrenched political parties, we still have more freedoms in this country than many elsewhere in the world; many have given their lives to protect those freedoms, and to ensure others are free as well.

(pauses for a moment)

Here are the news chum links I’ve accumulated since my last news chum post:

Lastly, (a) remember to read and comment on my potential replacement cars (remember the car is for me and how I live, not how you think I should live); (b) remember that the Hollywood Fringe Festival starts Tuesday, and you should pick your shows now; (c) that tickets are now on save for November’s new Faire: Nottingham Festival (no word on Tumbleweed Township tickets yet); and (d) you have the ability to help Spring Awakening be on the Tony Awards.

Transposing the Matrix: Update 1

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 29, 2016 @ 9:11 pm PDT

userpic=matrixYesterday, I wrote about how a recent auto accident resulting in my 2006 Toyota Matrix being totaled,  and about beginning the search for a new car. That post detailed some of the requirements for any replacement vehicle: cargo capacity, not too big, being able to work with my iPod Transpod, convenient Aux jack, backup camera, decent gas milage. We have already visited Northridge Toyota:  that visit eliminated the 2013 Toyota Prius V and 2013 Toyota Prius from competition, confirmed limited availability of any used 2013 Toyota Matrix, and added the 2012 Toyota Venza and added the 2016 Scion iM [brochure] to the list.  Our goal is to keep the price below $24K before we subtract what we get from AAA for the Matrix.

Today, in and around our scheduled theatre, we hit three more dealerships to look at cars and/or test drive: Galpin Mazda, Robertson Honda, and Sherman Oaks Subaru. We had been planning looking at the 2013 Honda Fit, 2013 Subaru Impreza Hatchback,  and the 2014 Mazda5 Grand Touring and the 2014 Mazda3 5 Door Grand Touring. Things took a slightly different turn due to the availability of the used product, and we focused instead on new products: the 2016 Mazda3 5-Door, the 2016 Mazda5 5-Door, the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door, and the 2016 Honda Fit. These visits did one clear thing: they eliminated the Mazda from contention. For the Mazda3, we simply didn’t like the storage in the vehicle or the layout of the power outlets and such. It wasn’t comfortable. We took a drive in the Mazda5: we liked the engine, but it had the same layout problems, and the Mazda5 was  at the upper end of our price range.

At this point, we have three top contenders: the 2016 Scion iM [brochure], the 2016 Honda Fit, and the the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. This is essentially the same choice we had when we replaced the 1999 Honda Civic. Yes, the universe is pushing us towards a new car. Here are some comparison statistics to help us decide:

  Scion iM Honda Fit Subaru Impreza
MSRP (Approx) $19,995 MSRP
$19,046 Dealer Cost
$17,525 MSRP
$17,246 Dealer Cost
$20,756 MSRP
$19,758 Dealer Cost
Image  2016 Scion iM  2016 Fit  2016 Impreza
Console Layout
Scion Console Honda Console Subaru Console
Trim Level LX 2.0i 5-Door
MPG 28/37 33/41 28/37
Engine Type DOHC 4-Cyl DOHC 4-Cyl DOHC 4-Cyl
Engine Size 1.8l 1.5l 2.0l
Horsepower 137@6100 130@6600 148@6200
Torque 126@4000 114@4600 145@4200
Weight 3031 2544 3076
Turning Circle 17.7 ft 17.55 ft 17.4 ft
Dimensions 170.5″ L x 69.3″ W x 55.3″ H 160″ L x 67″ W x 60″ H 174″ L x 69″ W x 58″ H
Cargo Space 20.8 ft³, 42.37 est ft³ with seat area 16.6 ft³, 52.7 ft³ with seat area 22.5 ft³, 52.4 ft³ with seat area
Fuel Capacity 14g 10.6g 14.5g
Passenger Space 90.4 ft³ 93.8 ft³ 97.5 ft³
Wheelbase 102.4″ 99.6″ 104.1″
Suspension F: MacPherson Strut
R: Double Wishbone
F: MacPherson Strut
R: Torsion-Beam
F: Strut w/lower L arm, stabilizer bar
R: double wishbone
Coefficient of Drag 0.3 0.28 0.32
Brakes Ventilated Disc / Solid Disc Ventilated Front Disc / Rear Drum Ventilated Disc / Solid Disc
Aux Jack Yes EX: No Aux Jack Yes
Special Offers 0.0% APR for 60 MOS. None 1.49% APR Financing on all new 2016 Impreza Models
Exterior Colors Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Barcelona Red Metallic, Electric Storm Blue and Spring Green Metallic. Aegean Blue Metallic. Alabaster Silver Metallic. Crystal Black Pearl. Milano Red. Modern Steel Metallic. Mystic Yellow Pearl. Passion Berry Pearl. White Orchid Pearl. Crystal Black Silica. Crystal White Pearl. Dark Blue Metallic. Dark Gray Metallic. Ice Silver Metallic. Jasmine Green Metallic. Quartz Blue Pearl. Venetian Red Pearl.
Interior Colors Black Black Black Tricot, Ivory Tricot, Black Striped Cloth, Ivory Striped Cloth
Interior Cabin Noise
64.0 dB @ 55mph
“noise is still a constant presence, if not always loud” – The Car Connection
66.1 dB @ 55mph
“Road Noise is Significant” – Edmonds
63.6 dB @ 55mph

In terms of decisions, I think that right now I need to analyze the stats.  My wife likes the Impreza. I like the Scion iM, but I want to test drive the Fit and compare it again to the Scion. I don’t like how the Transpod fits into the Impreza.

ETA: Looking at the stats a bit more, I’m growing to like the Impreza. I want to test drive all three again, and see better how the Transpod might fit and how they sound at the trim level we are considering.