Observations Along the Road

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

Musings on the 2017-2018 Touring Season

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 23, 2016 @ 7:46 am PST

In my most recent theatre review, I wrote:

We recently received a note from the Pantages that said: “You know you are going to renew, why not make it easy and let us do the work for you? Sign up now for our annual, hassle-free season ticket auto-renew program by paying $100 DOWN TODAY and never worry about renewal deadlines again! Signing up to auto-renew automatically put you FIRST in line for Season Seat Upgrades.” The problem with this is that they haven’t announced the 2017-2018 season yet. So what might it be?

I’ve continued to think about this. I did some Googling around for tour announcements, and looked at some booking office websites (Broadway Booking Office, Troika, The Booking Group). Here are my thoughts/predictions of potential touring shows that might hit Los Angeles that we haven’t seen before or might be interested in, together with where they might end up. I’m not bothering to list the stuff that constantly shows up (i.e., Wicked):
[ETA: 🎫 = Tour Confirmed, and I’ve seen at least one Broadway-tour venue book the show.]

  • Aladdin – The Musical. 🎫 A national tour has been announced. I expect this will be at the Pantages, and may be one of the longer-run shows.
  • Allegiance. This closed on Broadway, and there are mixed reports on a tour: the FAQ on the website says “no”; the trades say “yes”. If a tour materializes, this will be at the Ahmanson.
  • Anastasia. This rework of the animated musical by the original team hasn’t yet opened on Broadway. It opens in April 2017, and there is no tour announcement. I expect it to eventually tour, and it is a tossup whether it ends up at the Ahmanson or the Pantages.
  • A Bronx Tale – The Musical. The musical just opened on Broadway in December 2016. I haven’t seen an announcement of a National Tour.
  • Bright Star. M/L: Steve Martin, Edie Brickell. A tour was announced in December 2016, starting in Salt Lake City in 2018. This is a show I’d like to see. This one is likely for the Pantages, but could be Ahmanson-fodder.
  • The Color Purple.  🎫 The revival has closed on Broadway, with a National Tour set for Fall 2017. The original was at the Ahmanson, and the revival will likely be at the Pantages. I’d go to see it.
  • Come From Away – The Musical. This musical opens on Broadway in February of 2017. I see no tour announcement.
  • Dear Even Hansen. This just opened on Broadway; it has gotten good reviews. No tour announcement, although I’d expect one. Likely 2018, and this would be an Ahmanson show if it materializes.
  • Escape to Margaritaville. 🎫 This appears to be on tour on its way to Broadway. If it hits LA, likely Pantages.
  • Falsettos. William Finn. This revival recently opened on Broadway. No tour announcement yet. My guess would be 2019, if it happens.
  • Fiddler on the Roof. The Danny Burstein revival is currently on Broadway, closing 12/31/16.  I haven’t seen an announcement that this version will go on tour. [ETA: The tour has now been announced for 2018]
  • Groundhog Day – The Musical. This London transfer is supposedly opening on Broadway in 2017. No tour announcement that I see. Not that interesting to me at this point.
  • The Humans. This is one of those rare plays that is having a national tour. This will be at the Ahmanson; they like to book the occasional play.
  • Les Miserables. 🎫 The 25th Anniversary Production closed in September 2016, and a tour has been announced for 2017. If it happens, this will show up at the Pantages, for it a clear draw for that audience. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again, but I wouldn’t give away the tickets if it was part a subscription.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Musical.  Sigh. Yes, this is a real thing. No, I haven’t heard the music. I don’t believe it has played Broadway; it is an import from the West End (like The Bodyguard). The show ended in London in 2008, and a “World Tour” was announced for 2015. Although it is on the booker’s website, there have been no further announcements. Not well reviewed, over 3 hours. I’m not sure this will hit Los Angeles if the tour materializes; if it does, it will materialize at the Pantages. Likely a “meh” for subscriptions.
  • Love Never Dies. 🎫 The Andrew Lloyd Webber sequel to Phantom. A 2017 tour of North America has been announced. This is something the Pantages would book, given their success with Phantom.
  • MatildaI saw this with the first National tour at the Ahmanson. A 2017 National Tour has been announced. This repeat could appear at the Pantages.
  • Miss Saigon. This will be coming back to Broadway in 2017. A National Tour starts in Providence RI in Fall 2018. This has the feel of a Pantages show, although I could see this at the Ahmanson in a 2018 or 2019 season.
  • On Your Feet. The Gloria Estefan musical. Currently on Broadway. No tour announcement that I see, although I could easily see this on tour and being successful in Los Angeles. Has the feel of a Pantages show.
  • Phantom of the Opera. 🎫 A perennial on the tour market. There is a US Tour, booked into 2017. I could see this reappear at the Pantages, although I’m not that interested in it.
  • School of Rock. ALW”s new musical has announced a national tour. I’d like to see this one. My gut says 75% chance of the Pantages; 25% Ahmanson.
  • Something Rotten. Closes on Broadway, and tour dates have been announced. Furthest west so far is Austin. I expect this to hit LA. Gut says 75% Ahmanson, 25% Pantages.
  • Deaf West’s Spring Awakening. A national tour has been announced, and CTG has expressed interest. Given the relationship between CTG and Deaf West, this will be an Ahmanson show.
  • Tuck Everlasting. Oh, I wish. Closed on Broadway after a very short run. No announcement of a tour, but licensed and available. I’d expect a production to show up at MTI or something like that.
  • Waitress. 🎫 A national tour was announced in April. I expect this in LA, and I’m going to predict the Ahmanson.
  • The Who’s Tommy. The show is available for booking, although I don’t really see signs of a current major or forthcoming tour.

There are numerous other shows currently coming to Broadway that I expect to tour, but I think they would be 2018-2019 at best. So how do I predict the seasons to work out? Here are my predictions:

  • Ahmanson 2017-2018 Season: Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, The Humans, Something Rotten, Waitress, and possibly the Fiddler revival, Allegiance, or a pre-Broadway musical.
  • Pantages 2017-2018 Season: Disney’s Aladdin, School of Rock, Love Never Dies, Bright Star, Matilda, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Color Purple, and possibly On Your Feet.

There may also be some pointless retreads in there, such as Phantom, Lion King, or Momma Mia.

Finders, Keepers

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Dec 20, 2016 @ 7:35 pm PST

Today’s news chum post is all about people finding things (or finding lost things):

 

How To Be Smarter Than a Democrat?

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Dec 19, 2016 @ 6:14 pm PST

Well, sorry to say (from my point of view), but it looks like Donald Trump has won the electoral college vote. We won’t know for sure until the votes are counted by the House in January, but I’m sure that election won’t be hacked.

Yup, sure.

Unlike, say, how the election that got us Trump was hacked. We may never know whether what the Russians did was sufficient to change votes, but we know how they did it, and some of the ways the influence occured. So, let’s see if you can be smarter than a Democrat. Note that I’m not saying “Democrats” in general, but some specific Democrats in Hillary’s organization.

How did they basically do it? Social engineering. Read the New York Times account of the hack. Podesta was phished, and the starting place was a purported message from Google indicating an account had been hacked, and a password needed to be changed.  That, combined with a warning message that mistyped “illegitimate” as “legitimate”, and the damage was done.

See, what people forget is that the weakest link in the security chain is the human link. It is incredibly easy to do a social engineering attack. Our nature is such that we want to be helpful, and we fall for it. Here’s an example: During our recent security conference, one of the banquet staff found a USB drive that someone left behind, and he asked us to return it to its owner. We promptly tossed it. What would you do? Many people would put it in their computer to find the owner — and potentially be hacked. Or they would just announce it and hand it to the owner, letting them be hacked. One never knows what changes were made to that drive when it was out of your sight (this, by the way, is a good reason to use encrypted USB drives).

What about other attacks? Those ads you see on webpages? They can insert malware into your router without you knowing it. They could bring in ransomware? My malware dectector has frequently intercepted malicious ads on non-malicious sites. Sites you go to every day. These sites often don’t have control of their ad networks.

By the way, you do have regular backups, right? Not always connected to your computer? Not in the cloud? Could you survive the sudden loss of your data?

As they say, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and…. well, we’ve just seen the fool get elected. Let’s not be fooled again.

P.S.: And what should you do about the fool? The answer is not to use your computer to sign a petition or send an email. The answer is to take time and write your congresscritters and senators, and as many other congressional people as you can, a hand-written letter. Legibly. This shows that the issue is important for you to take the time. Send it to their local office, or call. Insist that Congress hold Trump to the exact same standards of ethics, no conflicts of interest, and highest quality of minimally-partisan appointments to which they held Obama. Different Presidents should not have different standards. And, just like with Obama and Bill Clinton, they should investigate the littlest impropriety or questionable action by the President or any member of his administration. All Presidents and his staff should be held to the same standards.

PS: And if you don’t hold with that position, then please explain why Trump should not be held to the same standard. Party shouldn’t make a difference in how we expect the President to behave, so you must have some other reason. Our President should be the role model for the country, someone that our children can look up to see how a leader behaves.

Is a Puzzlement | “The King and I” (National Tour) @ Pantages

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 18, 2016 @ 12:15 pm PST

The King and I (Pantages)I guess the first question is: “Why?”.

After all, I’m on record as saying that The King and I is not my favorite Rogers and Hammerstein show. I’d also seen a production somewhat recently: in 2008 at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). So why see The King and I again.

Well, first and foremost, I wanted to see Hamilton, and to ensure that happened, I got a Pantages subscription. But I didn’t even consider passing on the tickets (as I did for The Book of Morman), so, again, why? The answer is that I had seen the snippets of this Lincoln Center Theatre (FB) revival, and I wanted to see if the changes were sufficient to make me like the musical again.

We saw the show last night, and I have both good news and bad news to report. The production and the performance made this an extremely enjoyable King and I. However, the book itself is becoming increasingly problematic as my consciousness has been raised about cultural sensitivity. Can performance outweigh dated books? Should revivals tamper with successful originals to address book problems that weren’t there when the authors did the original?  What should we do about musicals and plays with books that reflects attitudes counter to what is acceptable today?

As I wrote back in 2008, I’m sure we are all familiar with “The King and I”. It was the 5th Rogers and Hammerstein musical, coming out in 1951,  two years after the successful “South Pacific”. It was based on a 1994 book. After “The King and I”, R&H would have a string of unsuccessful or less successful musicals (“Me and Juliet, “Pipe Dream”, “Flower Drum Song”) until their final paydirt, “The Sound of Music”.

As for the show’s plot. Many should know it from the beloved movie version. The R&H Theatricals site describes it thusly: “It is 1862 in Siam when an English widow, Anna Leonowens, and her young son arrive at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, having been summoned by the King to serve as tutor to his many children and wives. The King is largely considered to be a barbarian by those in the West, and he seeks Anna’s assistance in changing his image, if not his ways. With both keeping a firm grip on their respective traditions and values, Anna and the King grow to understand and, eventually, respect one another, in a truly unique love story. Along with the dazzling score, the incomparable Jerome Robbins ballet, “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” is one of the all-time marvels of the musical stage.”

Lincoln Center did what they could. A big problem with The King and I has often been one of casting. For a musical about Siam (now Thailand), it has often been cast with predominately Caucasian actors. In particular, Yul Brynner, the model of the King for most people, was a Russian-born Swiss-American actor. But today’s hallmark is diversity and authenticity, and as this production’s King, Jose Llana (FB), noted in Episode 84 of the Theater People podcast, it is vital to cast Asian roles with Asian actors. This production, for the most part, did that. I think I noted one non-Asian ensemble member — otherwise, all the Asian leads and ensemble members were Asian.  However, as my wife noted, previous few of them were actually Thai.  I had made an similar comment back in 2015 when writing up the Pasadena Playhouse’s Waterfall, where I wrote: “This leads to the next casting complaint: Casting directors that seem to think that all Asians look alike. For those who know, there are distinct differences between the various Asian ethnicities, and the Asian casting here was a mix of Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and probably some I couldn’t distinguish. I find this demonstrates a commentary on the acting pool: it indicates there are insufficient actors of a particular group to properly staff the show. This is something the theatre community needs to combat: we need to encourage more diversity in the acting pool (and diverse stories to employ them). ” We’re moving in the right direction, but we’ll be better when a show such as this can have its Siamese characters cast by predominately Thai actors. That will only happen when diversity is a hallmark in all shows; when there are sufficient roles to make acting a profession for a wide variety of ethnic actors. Reading the credits, we’re not there yet.

Another plus that Lincoln Center did was to increase the effort to make the dancing and movement more authentically Thai, as opposed to a more stereotypical portrayal. At least the movement seemed more Thai to this non-Thai audience member. It could probably have been stronger with a Thai choreographer, which Christopher Gattelli (FB) is clearly not (and which Jerome Robbins, born Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz, was clearly not). No knocks on Gattelli or Robbins for their work, which was beautiful Thai-like dancing for a very dance heavy show. But was the research and dramaturgy done to ensure it was an authentic form? That I can’t answer, only that it looked like that Thai-like dance I had seen in Waterfall.

But where this all fell down is the datedness of the Oscar Hammerstein II‘s book (based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon). Hammerstein’s writing reflected the 1950’s attitude towards Asians, with pidgin English and mispronunciations (just think of the character Bloody Mary in South Pacific or many of the characters in Flower Drum Song), and an implicit attitude that the Western way is superior. Although there is some commentary to that effect in the show (think of the song “Western People Funny”), the notion is still that the Western way is best. That wasn’t a problem in the 1950s and 1960s, but it is increasingly jarring today. Alas, there’s not much that can be done about it: The King and I is such a beloved show that the R&H Organization would never permit adjusting those attitudes; it will remain — just like the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside — a show whose dated notions ruffles the feathers of the sensitive today (although it may have sounded perfectly right in the context of its original time). This is an increasing problem for many musicals of the 1960s and early: attitudes and portrayals acceptable then are less acceptable now.

Setting that all aside, and looking at the show as the comfortable memory that it is, this production team did a reasonably good job — and the cast and director did an excellent job. The actors certainly brought a sparkle and vitality to the portrayals that made this production eminently watchable; there was a clear chemistry and playfulness there that was transmitted to the audience. Director Bartlett Sher (FB) is to be commended for the little things he either brought out or encouraged — this was just a fun production.

Nowhere was this seen better than in the leads: Laura Michelle Kelly (FB) and Jose Llana (FB). I’ve seen so many stiff Annas, but Kelly brought a sense of joy and delight to the role, and a look that captured the vulnerability beneath the facade as well. Llana’s King was similarly personified. Not just a stiff authoritarian figure, he was able to bring a humanity and personality to the role that was transmitted throughout the auditorium, a sense that can be seen in the bottommost image I found for the show graphic. Both sang wonderfully — strong, clear, and yet with fun in their voice. Delights for the ears and eyes.

The palace leads, Joan Almedilla (FB) as Lady Thiang and Brian Rivera (FB) as the Kralahome, were less playful (as befits their role in the story), but still fun to watch. Almedilla, in particular, had a lovely singing voice.

The “young lovers” required for the secondary subplot, Manna Nichols (FB) as Tuptim and Kavin Panmeechao (FB) as Lun Tha, were a lovely couple. Panmeechao’s role is not written to provide much character, let alone character development, but he gave it his all and had a great singing voice. Nichols’ role had much more character, and she too brought a playfulness to that character that she expressed whenver she good. Yet another lovely voice (this is one show where the women’s songs — particularly those for more traditional vocal ranges — shine) who was a joy to watch.

The last named pair of interest were the eldest children in each family: Graham Montgomery (FB) as Louis Leonowens and Anthony Chan (FB) as Prince Chulalongkorn. These are much smaller roles, but the two had a great interaction in the reprise of “A Puzzlement”, and Chan was particularly strong in the final scene.

Baylen Thomas (FB) portrayed the small role of Captain Orton / Sir Edward Ramsey.

Turning to the ensemble. The Ensemblist podcast (FB) this year (i.e., “season two”) has traced the evolving role of the ensemble from the early days of Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing to this year’s Hamilton. That evolution can be clearly seen here — unlike last week where the ensemble was a collection of smaller individually named roles and characters, this was was clearly in the 1950s with the ensemble of unnamed interchangeable actors who were predominately in unnamed individuated roles. As such, although the ensemble at times brought some clear fun to the roles (I was thinking in particular of the various children, and the playfulness of some of the wives during the school scene), the power of the ensemble was more in the group singing and dance movements. The adult male ensemble, who portrayed unnamed Guards, Monks, and townspeople, consisted of Andrew Cheng (FB) [Ballet – Guard], Daniel J. Edwards (FB) [Ballet – Propman] , Darren Lee (FB) [Phra Alack, Ballet – Propman], Michael Lomeka (FB) [Ballet – Guard], Nobutaka Mochimaru (FB) [Ballet – Angel/George], Rommel Pierre O’Choa (FB) [Ballet – Simon of Legree], Sam Simahk (FB) [Ballet – Propman], and Jeoffrey Watson (FB) [Ballet – Guard, Royal Court Dancer]. The adult female ensemble,  who portrayed unnamed Royal Wives and Townspeople, consisted of Amaya Braganza [Ballet – Uncle Thomas], Lamae Caparas (FB) [Ballet – Eliza], Michelle Liu Coughlin (FB) [Ballet – Royal Singer], Nicole Ferguson (FB) [Ballet – Royal Singer], Marie Gutierrez (FB) [Ballet – Dog], Mindy Lai (FB) [Fan Dancer, Ballet – Dog], Q Lim (FB) [Ballet – Royal Singer], Stephanie Lo (FB) [Royal Court Dancer, Ballet – Dog], Yuki Ozeki (FB) [Fan Dancer, Ballet – Topsy], and Michiko Takemasa (FB) [Ballet – Little Eva]. The ensemble of Royal Children consisted of Jaden D. Amistad, Kayla Paige Amistad, Adriana Braganza, Amaya Braganza, Rylie Sickles [Princess Ying Yaowalak], Noah Toledo, and CJ Uy. Heather Botts (FB), Tony Marin (FB), Marcus Shane (FB), Rhyees Stump and Kelli Youngman (FB) were the swings. I’m not listing whom was understudying whom — that’s a long list.

As noted earlier, choreography was by Christopher Gattelli (FB), based on the original cheorgraphy by Jerome Robbins. Greg Zane (FB) was the associate choreographer. Yuki Ozeki (FB) was the Dance Captain, assisted by Kelli Youngman (FB). Andrew Cheng (FB) was the Fight Captain.

The music (written by Richard Rodgers, and orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett) was under the music supervision of Ted Sperling (FB). David Lai (FB) was the Music Coordinator, and Gerald Steichen (FB) was the conductor. The orchestra consisted of Tim Laciano/FB [Associate Conductor / Synchesizer], Chiho Saegusa [Acoustic Bass]; Mark O’Kain (FB) [Drums / Percussion]; Kathleen Robertson (FB) [Violin], Grace Oh (FB) [Concertmaster], Jody Rubin (FB) [Viola], Paula Fehrenbach (FB) [Cello]; Steve Kujala (FB) [Flute / Piccolo]; John Yoakum (FB) [Oboe / English Horn]; Dick Mitchell [Clarinet]; Bill Wood (FB) [Bassoon]; Steve Becknell (FB) [French Horn]; Danielle Ondarza (FB) [French Horn]; Wayne Bergeron (FB) [Trumpet]; Andy Martin (FB) [Trombone]; Julie Berghofer (FB) [Harp]; David Witham (FB) [Keyboard Sub]; Brian Miller [Orchestra Contractor]. Dance and Incidental Music Arrangements by Trude Rittmann.

Finally, turning to the production and creative side: The set design by Michael Yeargan was generally good, but had one glaring tour problem: the moving on-stage pillars often obscured the view of the actors for those sitting on the side of the theater. It is as if the design was for a much narrower auditorium, and wasn’t taking tour auditoriums into account. There was also an archaic aspect: a curtain going back and forth to permit scene changes behind it. The costumes by Catherine Zuber worked well, although I cannot gauge their accuracy. Wig and hair design was by Tom Watson. The sound by Scott Lehrer was clear and clean, and the lighting by Donald Holder worked well to establish mood and focus attention. Other production credits: Sari Ketter (Associate Director), Kathy Fabian/Propstar (Props Supervisor), Telsey + Company (Casting), Paige Grant (Production Stage Manager), Colyn W. Fiendel (Stage Manager), Katie Stevens (Assistant Stage Manager), Steve Varon (Company Manager).

The King and I continues at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) until January 21, 2017. Tickets are available through the Pantages website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

Pantages Customer Service Warning: Note: The Pantages theatre not only believes that theatre belongs on the stage, it belongs at the front door. They practice security theatre upon entering the theatre, where they do a bag check to make sure that, among other things, you are not bringing dinner leftovers into the theatre because — heaven forfend — I don’t know what. I do know that the Pantages has none of their own parking, and they encourage patrons (especially subscribers) to take Metro — making it impossible to return to one’s car to put away the leftovers. In contrast, theatres such as the Music Center have a more civilized bag check, wherein you can check your bags and coats for storage. If the Pantages insists on Security Theatre bag check, they should provide lockers for non-explosive items so that patrons can check problematic items upon entry and retrieve them as they exit. That is the civilized way to do it — and theatre should be civilized, not the lowest common denominator (and I’ll note that none of the other theatres we attend does bag examination the way the Pantages does it, including movie theatres).

Pantages Season Ponderings: We recently received a note from the Pantages that said: “You know you are going to renew, why not make it easy and let us do the work for you? Sign up now for our annual, hassle-free season ticket auto-renew program by paying $100 DOWN TODAY and never worry about renewal deadlines again! Signing up to auto-renew automatically put you FIRST in line for Season Seat Upgrades.” The problem with this is that they haven’t announced the 2017-2018 season yet. So what might it be? Some tours are no-brainers, such as Something Rotten and Aladdin: The Musical (although some of these may go to the Ahmanson). But what else? It is unknown if Tuck Everlasting will tour, or if the latest Fiddler on the Roof revival will tour. It may be too soon for Natasha and the Great Pyramid or Evan Hansen to tour. There is a Honeymoon in Vegas tour; unclear if it will come to LA. The revival of Gigi will  be touring. On The Town will be touring. Other than that… I’m not sure.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).

Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  This was likely our last live theatre for 2017. December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January starts with a Southern California Games Day, followed by Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. We may get tickets to Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: 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.

 

Facebook Annoyances

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 15, 2016 @ 7:28 pm PST

This is a rant that has been brewing for a couple of weeks, about some real annoyances, in the political realm, that I’ve been seeing on Facebook. And — before you go there — this isn’t necessarily about specific people.

Annoyance The First: Petitions

How often do you see posts shared along the lines of “Prosecute Trump for Some Egregious Activity — Sign the Petition”? I see them all the time. Well, I have news for people: Petitions — especially online petitions — are meaningless. Although many believe we have a democracy, we don’t. If we did, Hillary would be President, as just like Al Gore before her. We have a representative government. Further, at the Federal level, there are no initiatives, no petitions, nothing that can force the government to do anything. So stop it with the petitions already. They are a waste of effort, and not worth the paper they aren’t printed on.

Do you want to use your voice to effect change with the incoming government. Write a letter. Make a phone call. In particular, if you have a Republican representative, write (you know, with that thing called a pen) or call and let them know they need to push back against the more egregious behavior of the incoming President. There’s no problem with Republican appointments, but they should be the best and brightest Republicans, not Republicans loaded with conflicts of interest working against the interests of the majority of the people. Remind them of the upcoming elections in two years, and let them know that if Trump damages America, they will be blamed for not doing the constitutional job of Congress.

Annoyance the Second: “Bet They Didn’t Expect This”

I’m tired of seeing news articles citing some exaggerated story, and then going “bet they didn’t expect this.” Guess what. They don’t care. They are going to do whatever they think they need to do to get ahead, and the thing they didn’t expect — well, it probably won’t happen.

Don’t waste your time spreading sensationalized news and getting your hopes up. Things are not going to be suddenly overturned, electors are not going to meet and elect Hillary. This mess — which we created through flawed candidates, flawed campaigning, and false hope — isn’t going to be fixed easily. We’re going to be in for a very bumpy ride.

So what do you do about it? See what I said above. Write letters and call your congress and senate critters to insist they hold Trump to the same standards they insisted for Obama and Clinton. No conflicts of interest. No illegal activities. No skirting the law. No appointing unqualified people or shills for a particular position. Our standards should not change because we have a reality TV star as President. Insist that Congress do their job: ensuring the President governs for all the people and not himself, and that he is a shining example of how to do things right, not how to get away with wrong. Do this by sitting down with pen and paper, and especially write to Republican leadership. Emails and online petitions are meaningless.

 

Calculus and Magic – “Amélie” @ Ahmanson Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 11, 2016 @ 8:57 pm PST

Amélie - A New Musical (Ahmanson)It is rare to find a musical that has, at its heart, calculus and mathematics. Yet the magical new musical Amélie, currently in previews and officially opening at the end of the week at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), does. Amélie is a musical that charmed and enthralled me, and had me smiling from beginning to end — so much so that I am considering seeing it a second time (a rarely) so that I could catch some of the magic that I missed.

Amélie is based on the French 2001 Romantic Comedy starring Audrey Tautou, about a shy imaginative girl who changes the lives of those around her for the better. The film, which I saw ages ago, had a magical quality that almost made it slightly surrealistic (you’ll see the same surrealism in the TV show Pushing Daisies, which used Amélie as a model). In the film, Amélie rarely speaks but we see her inner thoughts, and inner thoughts are just the thing to musicalize.

But first, the calculus. As the musical relates, when Amélie is young, her parents mistakenly believe she has a heart condition and choose to home-school her. Her mother teaches her Zeno’s Paradox, which is the notion that one can never go from point A to point B, because of the infinite sequence of going half-way there means you never make it all the way. As a result of this, Amélie uses the paradox as an excuse to never get close to people, because she believes she can never actually be close.

The story told in the musical is roughly the story told in the movie, with some slight reworkings. You can get a better idea of the story by looking at the Wikipedia page for the musical, but note that the synopsis there is of the Berkeley Rep (FB) version. This is a production on the way to Broadway, and there have been reworkings since Berkeley Rep. In particular, a number of story elements from the movie have been restored, and Amélie has been given more songs to highlight her inner thinking and motivation.

Where as the movie used special effects to achieve its magic, the theatrical production uses a mixture of traditional theatrical stagecraft and projections to recreate magic on the stage. This includes an integrative approach to the ensemble, use of puppets, use of set tricks and lighting tricks, combined with effective projections. The net effect is a delight for the eyes, and astonishment for the heart. The clever direction of Pam MacKinnon (FB) and choreography of Sam Pinkelton (FB) combine with the theatrical stagecraft of the production team and the talent of the performers to create something that had me spellbound. I’ll note that this starts even before the show does, look at the opening projection very carefully, and wait….

The version we saw was a one-act, and the songs and scenes were not listed in the program. This is appropriate for a production that may be subject to change before Broadway (but it is hell on a reviewer, especially one like me that might not get publicity material). I found that the productions pace was good, with a particular drive that kept my attention. My wife felt that it was a little long, and could use an intermission. There was one point that I felt would be a good intermission point — right after Amélie runs away after first finding Nemo (heh, heh, Finding Nemo). I wonder if the producers felt that interrupted the drive, or that it left too little material in Act I or Act II. I’d suggest that the audience is enthralled with the character by that point, and will return to see what happens — plus there are a few remaining themes from the movie that could be integrated.

The performance of the lead, Phillipa Soo, supported by Savvy Crawford (FB) as the younger Amélie, was spectacular. She captured the playfullness as well as the enigmatic nature of Audrey Tautou‘s Amélie, which combined with her wonderful singing voice to provide a truly captivating performance. This was a role made for these two young ladies.

As for the rest of the performers, I’m lumping them together as the emsemble, although in the program some are listed as only one character. This is because, at points, they all do various background stuff. Recently, I’ve been listening to the Ensemblist podcast as it has been going through the changing role of the ensemble in the arc of Pulitzer Prize winning plays. This show is clearly in the mold of the Rent and Hamilton ensembles: the actors play specific characters, but they also fill in to give a fullness to the piece, complementing each other in anonymous or small characters in addition to their named roles. This tier of performers were: Adam Chanler-Berat (FB) [Nino], Tony Sheldon [Collignon / Dufayel], Alison Cimmet (FB) [Philomene / Amandine]; Heath Calvert (FB) [Lucien / Lug / Mysterious Man], Alyse Alan Louis (FB) [Georgette / Sylvie], Paul Whitty (FB) [Joseph / Fluffy], Manoel Felciano (FB) [Bretodeaux / Raphael], Harriett D. Foy (FB) [Suzanne], Maria-Christina Oliveras (FB) [Gina], David Andino (FB) [Blind Beggar / Garden Gnome], and Randy Blair (FB) [Hipolito]. Emily Afton (FB) (Dance Captain) and Jacob Keith Watson (FB) were the swings.

Overall, it is hard to highlight individual performance with the lack of a songlist. Suffice it to say that all work together to create an indescribable, beautiful whole. This is truly a holistic show, where the actors just come together magically to tell a story.

As noted earlier, movement design is by Sam Pinkelton (FB), assisted by Associate Choreographer Katie Spelman (FB) and Dance Captain Emily Afton (FB). It is hard to say there is formal dance in this production; certainly, there  is not the traditional theatrical dancing chorus. There is, however, beautiful movement from the opening piece that tells the story of of Amélie’s birth, and the overall movement contributes to the magical whole.

So far, although this is a musical, I haven’t mentioned the writing credits. Amélie features a book by Craig Lucas, with music by Daniel Messé (FB) and lyrics by Nathan Tysen (FB) and Daniel Messé (FB). I found the music to be strong and driving — music that had a good driving energy and was fun to listen to. Lacking the list of songs and having only heard the pieces once, it is hard to identify something specific. I will say that there were precious few slow ballads, and nothing that had me looking at my watch. Orchestrations were by Bruce Coughlin (FB), and musical direction was by Kimberly Grigsby. The orchestra consisted of Kimberly Grigsby (Conductor / Keyboard), Jeff Driskill (FB) (Woodwinds), Adriana Zoppo (FB) (Violin/Viola), Amy Wilkins (Harp), Paul Viapiano (FB) (Guitar), Ed Smith (FB) (Percussion), Ken Wild (FB) (Bass), Robert Payne (Trombone / Contractor). Alby Potts (FB) was the Associate Conductor.  The orchestra provided good sound, but I missed the real full orchestra of last week’s Wonderful Town at the Chandler.

Turning to the production and creative side of the equation. The imaginative scenic and costume design was by David Zinn (FB), which combined all sorts of stuff to create the magical world Amélie inhabited. This was augmented by the lighting design of Jane Cox and Mark Barton and the projection design of Peter Nigrini, which completed the magic. The puppet design of Amanda Villalobos was great, in particular Fluffy the fish. Wig Design was by Charles G. LaPointe (FB), and were suitably imaginative. Sound design was by Kai Harada (FB); it blended into the background as it should. Vocal arrangements were by  Kimberly Grigsby and Daniel Messé (FB). Rounding out the production credits: James Harker (Production Stage Manager), Jim Carnahan CSA and Stephen Kopel CSA (Casting), Cherie B. Tay (Stage Manager), Lora K. Powell (Assistant Stage Manager).

Amélie continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through January 15. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. You’ll be enchanted.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).

Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  Next week brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January starts with a Southern California Games Day, followed by Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. We may get tickets to Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: 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.

 

The Original Sister Act | “Wonderful Town” @ Dorothy Chandler

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 04, 2016 @ 12:19 pm PST

Wonderful Town (LA Opera)userpic=ahmansonIt only took 46½ years.

The first time that the musical Wonderful Town (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolf Green) trod the boards of the Music Center‘s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, it was in July 1975 under the auspices of the Los Angeles City Light Opera, in a production starring Nanette Fabray. This weekend, Wonderful Town returned to the Chandler, this time in a staged concert production as part of LA Opera‘s celebration of the 100th Birthday of Leonard Bernstein. It was truly a delight to see a form of musical theatre return to the Chandler; it had been absent since the LACLO decamped to the Pantages in the early 1980s. Even more so with this particular show, which demonstrated that after 63 years, it could still sparkle with delight and penache.

As for me, the desire to see Wonderful Town was part of my quest to see shows that I had only heard. I had only hear the original cast CD of Wonderful Town; the 2003 revival is on my wish list. The delight of the show does not come through on that cast album; the stories and personalities are a little flat. Last night put the pieces together, and I look forward to hearing the revival with more modern orchestrations.

The story of Wonderful Town is based upon is Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov‘s 1940 play My Sister Eileen, which in turn originated from autobiographical short stories by Ruth McKenney first published in The New Yorker in the late 1930s and later published in book form as My Sister Eileen. It tells the story of Ruth Sherwood and her younger sister Eileen, who come to New York from Ohio to find fame and fortune: Ruth as a writer, and Eileen on the stage. The plot is light and there are a batch of colorful characters — Mr. Appopolous who owns the building from which they rent a room; Speedy Valenti, who owns a nightclub; Robert Baker who works at a local newspaper; Helen and Wreck, a couple in the building. The characterizations are similarly broad: Ruth is an extremely smart and brash writer who turns off men with her intelligence, Eileen is a ingenue who charms all the men around her. It is very easy to see how this became an early sitcom on TV. You can find the full plot synopsis over on the Wikipedia page.

The LA Opera production, unlike the previous LA Civic Light Opera production, was a concert staging. The principals were all on chairs on the stage, on-book,  going to podiums when they were singing or speaking. They were backed by LA Opera chorus, and joined on a few numbers by a set of dancers. The orchestra and conductor was similarly on-stage. There were no sets other than some projections; the primary props were hats to distinguish different characters. Everyone was dressed in black. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to watch — the cast and the singers appeared to be having great fun with the show. The concert performance was adapted by David Lee, who also served as the director. Choreography was by Peggy Hickey.

As I noted above, this was the first time I had heard the music in context. There was definitely that Bernstein feel and flair to the music, and the lyrics by Comden and Green seemed much fresher than one might think after 63 years. As always, songs like “Ohio” were earworms, but other songs made much more sense, such as “One Hundred Easy Ways”, “Conga!”, “Conversation Piece”, and “My Darlin’ Eileen”. On the album, you can’t see how these advance the story; on stage, you can. Note to self: I must get that 2003 revival album.

The leads in this production were spectacular. In the primary positions were Faith Prince (FB) as Rose Sherwood and Nikki M. James (FB) as Eileen Sherwood. Prince brought her wonderful comic timing, singing voice, and flair and love of the material to the role. One could clearly see she was having fun up there in all her numbers, but especially in songs like “Conga!” James was also a delight to watch, capturing the role with perfection and comic fun. She was also having fun with the dancing, both in the “My Darlin’ Eileen number and in the scenes at the Viage Vortex”.

On the male lead side was Roger Bart (FB) in far too many roles to list them all (but particularly as the narrator and almost every other major character), and Marc Kudisch (FB) as Robert Baker, the editor of the Manhattanist. Bart was a comic whirlwind, changing characters, voices, and characterizations at the drop of a hat. Literally. He would change hats constantly, and with each hat taking on a new role, from narrator to Speedy Valenti to Delivery Boy to Chick Clark (Newspaper Man) to Policeman to Shoreman. Incredible. Kudisch only had one role — the older newsman Robert Baker — but he nailed it. He was particularly touching in his number “It’s Love”.

The other principal characters were embodied by Tony Abatemarco (FB) (Mr. Appololous), Brian Michael Moore (FB) (Officer Lonigan),  Ben Crawford (Wreck), Julia Aks (FB) (Helen), Elizabeth Zharoff (FB) (Violet), Jared Gertner (FB) (Frank Lippencott), Carlos Enrique Santelli (FB) (Policeman Sean), Theo Hoffman (FB) (Policeman Daniel); and Josh Wheeker (FB) (Policeman Pat).  Of these, Crawford’s Wreck was particularly noteworthy, especially in his number “Pass the Football” and his interactions with Roger Bart.

The LA Opera chorus consisted of Jamie Chamberlin (FB) (S), Nicole Fernandes (S), Renee Sousa (FB) (S), Rebecca Tomlinson (S), Elizabeth Anderson (FB) (A), Aleta Braxton (FB) (A), Sara Campbell (FB) (A), Jennifer Wallace (FB) (A), Daniel C. Babcock (FB) (T), Omar Crook (FB) (T), Charles Lane (FB) (T), Francis Lucaric (FB) (T), Reid Bruton (FB)( B), Abdiel Gonzalez (FB) (B), Mark Kelly (FB) (B), and James Martin Schaefer (FB) (B) [S – Soprano; A – Alto; T – Tenor; B – Bass]. Of particular note here was the female chorus, who were essentially dancing and playing in their chairs, having a load of fun with this music. I love to see this: when those on stage are having fun, the audience feels that and reflects it back.

The dancers, who joined the cast on stage for a few numbers, including “Conga!”, consisted of Richard Bulda (FB) (Dance Captain), Harlan Bengel, Joseph Corella (FB), Hector Guerrero (FB), David Tai Kim/FB, Glean Lewis, James Tabeek (FB), and John Todd (FB). Michael Starr (FB) was the swing.

The LA Opera Orchestra was under the conducting baton of Grant Gershon (FB), who broke into a wonderful dance during “My Darlin’ Eileen”. As I said, everyone was having fun. The orchestra consisted of Roberto Cani (Stuart Canin Concertmaster, 1st Violin), Armen Anassian (Associate Concertmaster, 1st Violin), Lisa Sutton (Assistant Concertmaster, 1st Violine), Margaret Wooten (1st Violin), Ana Laudauer (Principal, 2nd Violin), Marisa Sorajja (Associate Principal, 2nd Violin), Florence Titmus (2nd Violin), Andrew Picken (Principal, Viola), Karie Prescott (Associate Principal, Viola); Dane Little (Principal, Cello), Helen Z. Altenbach (Associate Principal, Cello), Nathan Farrington (Bass), Damon Zick (Reeds – flute, clarinet, Eb clarinet, alto saxophone), Rusty Higgins (Reeds – clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone), Phil Feather (Reeds – oboe, English horn, clarinet, alto saxophone), Glen Berger (Reeds – piccolo, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone), William May (Reeds – clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bassoon), Ryan Darke (Principal, Trumpet), Rob Schear (Trumpet), Marissa Benedict (Trumpet), Andy Ulyate (Trumpet), William Booth (Principal, Trombone), Alvin Veeh (Trombone), Terry Cravens (Bass Trombone), Alan Steinberger (Piano), Theresa Dimond (Percussion), and Peter Erskine (Drumset). It was great to hear a large orchestra behind a show again.

Finally, turning to the creative credits: the wonderful projections were by Hana S. Kim. They exhibited a depth and playfulness I hadn’t seen before. Lighting design was by Azra King-Abadi. There was no credit for sound design; I got the distinct feeling that the actors were not amplified, and the wonderful sound we were hearing was through the projection of their voices in the hall alone. Take that, Ahmanson acoustics! Additional production credits: Jim Carnahan CSA (Casting Consultant), Trevore Ross (Assistant Director), Lyla Forlani (Stage Manager), Jeremy Frank and Miah Im (Musical Preparation).

I believe there is one more performance of Wonderful Town tonight.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).

Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  Next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. We may get tickets to Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: 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.

 

Cleaning the Refrigerator – Pre-ACSAC News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 03, 2016 @ 9:22 am PST

Observation StewLoad-in for the ACSAC conference starts tomorrow, so I should really clear out the accumulated links. I’ve been trying to theme these or come up with some attempt at connecting them, but it’s just not happening. We’ll just throw them all in the pot and see how the concoction tastes…

  • Cybersecurity in the News. This topic was the closest to a theme post, although I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to see. Three articles in the Cyber arena had caught my eye:
    • The first looked at the threat of ransomware in the transportation networks. Most of the advice in the article was actually not specific to transportation, dealing more with educating users to not do stupid things: “The most important thing companies can do is train employees to be suspicious of email, and give them the tools to flag anything that seems strange. In most cases, with close scrutiny of the language, it is possible to tell if an email purporting to be from a colleague is in fact a spoofing email”. Yet is transportation more susceptable? I would tend to think so, because there is more remote monitoring and control, and the increasing computerization of automobiles and transport, most of which don’t have strong use of cybersecurity (authentication, encrypting protocols).
    • The second also related to ransomware, this time talking about free decrypters from Avast. The article made for an interesting read, both with good discussions of how to protect yourself from ransomware, as well as information on how some of the ransomware is working.
    • The last dealt with government cybersecurity — specifically, the upcoming elevation of Cybercommand to a unified combatant command as opposed to being under STRATCOM. There was some interesting discussion of the implications of this, and of how it really doesn’t separate CYBERCOM from the NSA. If you deal with government cybersecurity, this is worth a read.
  • Whole House Wi-Fi . When you have a large house (or a house with concrete walls), getting an effective wi-fi infrastructure is hard. You can use power-line extenders, but they don’t always work. I’ve heard on some of my podcasts about EEro as a solution, and I found this interesting article describing Eero and how it works. It sounds like a good idea, but it is awfully expensive at a starting price of $499. How do I balance the pain of the power-line extenders with the cost of an easy to use system?
  • Masonic Lodge Becomes Museum. Growing up, my father was a Mason and a Shriner. I was never interested, but I do remember constantly driving by the Masonic Temple on Wilshire. The days of the great Lodge 42 are gone, and that building is no longer a Masonic Temple. It is being converted to an art museum, and the good news is that it will be open to the public and free. This is something I’ll need to go to.
  • Folk Music Passage. With all of the recent prominent deaths — Florence Henderson, Ron Glass, Fidel Castro, the American Democratic system — it is easy to have missed the passing of Milt Okun. However, if you’re a folk music lover like me, you’ll know the loss this is. Okun is responsible for many music groups and artists — Peter Paul and Mary, John Denver, and others. He had a major music publishing concern, Cherry Lane Music, and was behind music popular folk (and opera) music.
  • Los Angeles Concerns. Two articles of specific interest to Angelinos like me:
    • Fixing Sidewalks. As you know, the city is transferring responsibility for maintaining sidewalks to property owners. They aren’t fixing them first, but will give you up to $2,000 to do so. The city will launch the program’s website at sidewalks.lacity.org, where residents can report broken sidewalks or find more information about the rebate program. Priority will given to requests from people with disabilities.
    • Pay for Parking. Paid parking is coming to selected Metro stations. If the program is approved, there would be parking fees implemented at the following stations: (•) Expo Line: Expo/Bundy, Expo/Sepulveda, 17th/SMC and La Cienega/Jefferson; (•) Gold Line: APU/Citrus, Irwindale, Atlantic; and (•) Red Line: Universal, North Hollywood. There would be a lower rate for those actually using Metro, although they aren’t doing the smart thing and making parking payments through the TAP card.
  • Help Find Nancy Paulikas. Over 6 weeks ago, the daughter of one of the retired VPs at our company wandered away from LACMA, and has been missing ever since. She’s dealing with Alzheimer’s, and had no ID on her. They are still looking for her, so spread the word.
  • Apartments and Earthquakes. Here’s a good explanation of how many apartment buildings are particularly susceptible to earthquake damage.
  • The BBS Days. By now, you know I’m old. I remember being active in the days of dial-up BBSs, and connecting to all sorts of networks (including the Rain BBS). Here’s a good Slashdot piece on those days, with some links to interesting historical articles.
  • When Life Gives You Lemons. Quite a few months ago, the review aggregator Bitter Lemons imploded, thanks to a misstep by its then editor, Colin Mitchell. The publisher of the site, however, reworked things, picked a new editor, and has started Better Lemons. I’d say things are much improved, however, they still consider me a critic 🙂
  • For That Cat Lady in Your Life. How about a cat menorah? Perhaps we should purchase some and send them to Donald Trump. That way, he can grab them by the… oh…. never mind.