Observations Along the Road

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

Independence Weekend News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 05, 2015 @ 6:51 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s been stewing on the stove for two weeks because I’ve been so busy. Let’s hope it is still tasty and flavor-right. Here’s your news chum stew for the last two weeks:

 

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Sometimes You Have To Be A Little Bit Naughty

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 05, 2015 @ 1:12 pm PDT

Matilda the Musical (Ahmanson)userpic=ahmansonSupposed I told you that I had just seen a musical about a girl who had been bullied all her life, and who had decided to get revenge — in particular, psycho-kinetic revenge — upon those who had bullied her? You probably would have thought I had just been to see Carrie: The Musical. Well, I have seen Carrie, but  it currently isn’t open in LA, and won’t be returning until October 1st. Rather, I was talking about Matilda: The Musical (Tour) (FB), the musical we saw last evening at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). It was a wonderful performance and I recommend the show highly to everyone, not just because it is a fun and well-performed show, but because of the conversation that is changing because of shows like Matilda and Carrie.

There is one major message in Matilda, and it is a message that the musical (with a book by Dennis Kelly and Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin (FB) based on the novel by Roald Dahl (FB)) relentlessly beats into your head:

If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Won’t change a thing.
Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
You might as well be saying you think that it’s OK.
And that’s not right.
And if it’s not right, you have to put it right.

But nobody else is gonna put it right for me.
Nobody but me is gonna change my story.
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.

The message is a strong anti-bullying message: a message that you can’t let people bully you, and that it is up to you to change your story — that is it up to you to put it right. It is in this message that there is a parallel to the story of Carrie White; it is in this message that (I believe) is the reason that Matilda has stuck such a chord in the hearts of adults and children alike. The message is a simple but strong one: stand up to bullies — you have the strength and obligation to do so. It is a message that is very important these days, as we’re seeing those who have been bullied exact all sorts of revenge on those who bullied them (it seems a common theme in school shootings). If we can stop bullying as it begins, our children will be much better off.  Matilda puts it in a much more palatable fashion than Carrie. In Matilda, nobody dies and the bullies just give in and go away, vs Carrie where almost everyone dies. Matilda succeeds because it is the happy ending that we want; Carrie is the ending that we get far too often.

It is unclear how much of the audience consciously connected with this message and this parallel. To most of them, this was an entertaining story about a little girl with bad parents and a mean headmistress who beats the adults and ends up happy. Who doesn’t love happy endings? Who doesn’t enjoy being a little bit naughty? But children love Roald Dahl’s stories because of the deeper message — for example, what Charlie and the Chocolate Factory teaches about the various vices and virtues. This story, through humor, also teaches a valuable message about the value of self, and the value and importance of standing up for one’s self. It teaches that you need to write your own story, and not let others dictate it.

I just realized I’ve been blathering on about the story without providing you a short synopsis. After all, you might never have read the novel; you might not have seen the wonderful 1996 movie with Danny DeVito, Rhea Pearlman, and Mara Wilson. As opposed to trying to detail it all here, I’ll point you to the Wikipedia page. The “TL;DR” version is: Matilda is a precocious and intelligent little girl born to parents who didn’t want her, and who value stupidity and the messages that TV teaches over reason. Unable to control her (Matilda loves to play pranks on her parents), then enroll her in a school run by an evil headmistress who delights in torturing children. One teacher sees Matilda’s value, and working together they fight the headmistress, and return the school to a place of love and learning. Oh, and Matilda gets a happy ending as well.

In adapting this story to the stage, the authors imbued it with an additional message that was not the novel or the movie — a message that is a commentary on parents today. In the opening scenes, there is a birthday party where every parent is talking about how their child is a precious little miracle and something special. This, of course, creates a contrast with Matilda’s parents who see her not as a miracle and as something not special. The point that is being made is that if everyone is special, then no one is. Special becomes the norm, and the truly special become invisible. The reality must be that we, as parents, must not predefine our children with labels, but must encourage them to grow up and be whatever they are destined to be (and be the best at that).

As you have probably guessed by now, I liked the story of Matilda and its message. I think it is a strong one that needs to be learned. The related question is: how well did the playwright and composer adapt this message for the stage, and integrate it into the musical form. The answer is: reasonably well. I’ll go into performance, creatives, and technical in a minute, but story-wise I have a few quibbles. The first is the Act I ending, which I found too abrupt. You want Act I to end with a rousing number to get you talking during intermission and wanting to come back. Instead, you get Matilda alone on stage going “But That’s Not Right”. Other than that, I found the structuring of the story fun and well-paced, and I thought that the songs were more than just entertaining patter. In particular, the songs did a great job of illustrating the wants and motives of the characters; they illustrated and illuminated personalities and drives. This is what the songs in musicals should do.

Before I turn to the performers, I want to turn to the audience for a second. We saw the show on July 4th — an early evening show. There were lots of kids in the audience, as the show was heavily discounted (as it was on a holiday). There were kids that were enthralled by the show, and I can easily see how shows like this could turn kids into theatre lovers. My favorite point, however, was one point where two characters kissed somewhere near the end. At that precise moment, from the audience, comes a loud “Yuk!” from a little kid. Priceless.

The performances in Matilda were top rate. In a manner similar to Billy Elliott, the demands on the child in the lead role are so great that three are cast (in the case of Matilda, Gabby Gutierrez, Mia Sinclair Jenness (FB), and Mabel Tyler (FB)), and they alternate. At our performance, Mabel Tyler (FB) was Matilda, and she did a wonderful job with the role. For a child that small she had a great singing voice; she moved and danced well and brought a lot of energy to the stage. It was clear that she was just having the time of her life in the role, and that is something that always is telegraphed in a performance.

Her parents were performed by Quinn Mattfeld [Mr. Wormwood] and Cassie Silva (FB) [Mrs. Wormwood]. We’ve seen Ms. Silva before at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) [42nd Street and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers], and she was equally strong here. She was having fun with her role, and did a wonderful job on “Loud” and in her opening scene. Mattfeld was great as Mr. Wormwood, playing the role with loads of humor. This came across best in his second act opener, “Telly”.

Next there is the staff of Crunchem Hall, Matilda’s school: Miss Jenny Honey and Miss Abigail Trunchbull. Trunchbull was played to scenery-chewing perfection by Bryce Ryness (FB).  Ryness didn’t attempt to hide the fact he was a man playing a woman; he knows what and who is character is and how to work it. This is apparent from the first time you see him on stage with Miss Honey, and it continues in every appearance. He just delights in the character, and it comes across. Jennifer Blood (FB)’s Miss Honey, on the other hand, is meek sweetness and light, a gentle soul forced to find inner strength by a little girl who understands her story better than she does. She gives a great performance and has a wonderful singing voice that she uses on numbers such as “Pathetic”, “This Little Girl”, and “Quiet”.

In terms of the other named characters and the ensemble members, there are a few I would like to highlight. As Bruce Boxtrotter, Evan Gray seemed to be having great fun in both his signature cake-eating scene as well as his post Chokey scenes. Equally precocious was Kaci Walfall (FB) as Lavender in her opening bit after “Telly” at the top of Act II. Of the adults, I particularly enjoyed Ora Jones as Mrs. Phelps, the librarian. She brought a wonderful excitement to the role as Matilda was telling the story of the Acrobat and the Escape Artist. Lastly, I want to note Danny Tieger (FB) as Michael Wormwood:  his role was small, but I particularly enjoyed his well timed outbursts during “Telly”. Rounding out the cast in various smaller roles and as part of the ensemble (👦👧 indicates children) were: Jaquez Andre Sims (FB) [Party Entertainer, Rudolpho]; Ian Michael Stuart (FB) [Doctor, Sergei]; Justin Packard (FB) [The Escape Artist], Wesley Faucher (FB) [The Acrobat]; 👦 Cal Alexander [Nigel]; 👧 Kayla Amistad [Amanda]; 👦 Aristotle Rock [Eric]; 👧 Cassidy Hagel [Alice]; 👧 Megan McGuff [Hortensia]; 👦 Meliki Hurd (FB) [Tommy]; and the ensemble: Michael Fatica (FB), John Michael Fiumara (FB), Shonica Gooden (FB), Stephanie Martignetti (FB), and Darius Wright (FB). Swings were Cameron Burke (FB), 👧 Brittany ConigattiCamden Gonzalez (FB), Michael D. Jablonski (FB), 👦 Luke Kolbe Mannikus (FB), 👧 Serena Quadrata, and Natalie Wisdom (FB). One note on the ensemble: At times, the ensemble appears to play older kids. Given that the school only goes to 11 year olds, the apparent age of the old kids is a little off-putting. I can understand the demands of the characters, though, so I’ll suspend my disbelief.

Bringing this team together creatively was Matthew Warchus [Director], Thomas Caruso [Associate Director], Ryan Emmons [Resident Director], Peter Darling [Choreographer], Ellen Kane [Associate Choreographer – Worldwide], Kate Dunn [Associate Choreographer – U.S.], Andrew Wade [Voice Director], and Victoria Navarro [Production Stage Manager]. Michael D. Jablonski (FB) was the dance captain; Camden Gonzalez (FB) was the assistant dance captain and children’s dance captain; and Michael Fatica (FB) was the assistant dance/gym captain. I’ve noted before that I often have trouble telling where the director stops and the actor begins. That is certainly true here for the adults (and especially true for Ryness’ Trunchbull), but the director did a great job of bringing out the characters in each of the children. Dance and choreography was excellent, especially the movement up and down the set and the acrobatics.

Matilda was under the music direction of Matthew Smedal (FB), who also served as the conductor (and keyboard 2) of the Matilda orchestra. Chris Nightingale was the music supervisor and orchestrator; David Holcenberg was the associate music supervisor. Musicians included Bill Congdon (FB) [Keyboard 1, Children’s Music Director; Assistant Conductor], Joshua Priest [Percussion], Anna Stadlman (FB) [Bass], Sal Lozano [Woodwind 1], Jeff Driskill [Woodwind 2], Daniel Fornero (FB) [Trumpet 1], Rob Schaer [Trumpet 2], Robert Payne [Trombone / Contractor], Thom Rotella [Guitar], and David Mergen [Cello]. Other musical credits were: Phij Adams [Music Technology], Laurie Perkins [London Music Preparation], Emily Grishman [New York Music Copyist, Music Preparation], Katharine Edmonds [Music Preparation], Howard Joines [Music Coordinator]; and David Witham [Keyboard Sub]. In general, the music sounded good but didn’t have the oomph that a good show orchestra should have. There were also portions where it sounded like the children’s ensemble was pre-recorded, which was a bit off-putting.

Lastly, there is the technical side of things. Rob Howell‘s set and costume design imagined the stage as these colossal piles of blocks. I didn’t really like it when I saw it on the Tony Awards, but it worked really well on stage — especially during “School Song” where blocks were inserted into the walls providing the ability to climb. The costumes and wigs also worked well, particular those for Mrs. Wormwood, Mr. Wormwood, and Miss Trunchbull.  The illusions by Paul Kieve worked very well — particularly the chalk writing by itself on the blackboard. The sound design by Simon Baker worked reasonably well and wasn’t overpowering; the primary problem was distinguishing what the children were singing over the accents. This could be a problem with amplification on the kids, or it could be that the children’s ensemble was pre-recorded and muffled. There was also a point during “Quiet” where there was this odd echo from the orchestra area — I couldn’t tell whether it was intentional, or whether someone’s assisted listening device was malfunctioning and shouting to the world. The lighting design of Hugh Vanstone was particularly effective — there was one scene in the second act where the lighting suddenly changed to red and thunder was heard — sending a chill through me. Well played. The remaining production credits were:  Casting – Jim Carnahan C.S.A and Nora Brennan C.S.A (children); Production Management – Aurora Productions; Company Manager – R. Doug Rodgers; General Management – Dodger Management Group.

Matilda: The Musical (Tour) (FB) continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) until July 12. Tickets are available online through the Ahmanson; midweek discounts are available through Goldstar. The tour is next in San Francisco — so my Bay Area peeps should look into tickets there at the Orpheum (it looks like Goldstar tickets have expired). It is a fun show well worth seeing.

Los Angeles’ 4th of July Block Party. As we transited to and from the theatre (we used LA Metro), we had a chance to visit the big 4th of July Block Party at Grand Park (FB). Security was tight, including searches and pat downs, but I can understand the city wanting to make things safe. We had to argue with a security guard as he thought my wife’s walking staff was a weapon; luckily, we got that overridden. We didn’t get to the food trucks — they didn’t have the greatest of layouts. We did, however, get to demonstrate being friendly natives — we directed a number of people regarding visiting our city. In general, it seemed to be a reasonably well run and organized event.

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

Upcoming Shows: July is a month of double-headers. Next weekend, our double-header July continues: On Friday night, July 10th, we’re seeing Colin Mitchell‘s show Madness, Murder Mayhem: Three Classic Grand Guignol Plays Reimagined at Zombie Joes Underground Theatre (FB); Saturday July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is another double header: “The History Boys” at the Stella Adler Theatre (FB) on Saturday (Goldstar), and “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) on Sunday.  The last weekend of July brings our last double: “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB) on July 25th, with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August start calming down, with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) the first weekend of August, our summer Mus-ique show the second weekend of August, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) the third weekend of August. After that we’ll need a vacation … but then again we might squeeze in Evita at the Maui Cultural Center (FB) the last weekend of August. September right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October will bring another Fringe Festival: the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB). October also has the following as ticketed or hold-the-dates: Kelrik Production (FB)’s Urinetown at the Monroe Forum Theatre (Hold for Sat 10/3);  “Mrs. A. Lincoln” at The Colony Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/10); and  “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/17). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

A Perfectly Lovely / Perfectly Awful / Awfully Perfect Surprise

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 04, 2015 @ 9:54 am PDT

Murder for Two (Geffen)userpic=theatre_aclassactLast August, when we saw Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Old Globe, I picked up a copy of the cast album of the new musical Murder for Two. I had heard good things about the musical, although it had never been in Los Angeles (it had, however, been in San Diego). I took a listen, and it sounded like a hoot. Thus, when I learned that it was coming to the Geffen Playhouse (FB), I put a hold date on the calendar and started to watch for tickets. When they came out (this was before the show extended and everything went up on Goldstar), I got two tickets for the day with the best seats: Friday, July 3rd. Thus began the first double-header theatre weekend for July.

Last night saw us wandering Westwood Village, which was a pitiful sight (made the worse by an unexpected migraine (as if they are ever “expected”)). Westwood is a shadow of what it was when I went to UCLA: greed, rising rents, and the wrong mix of stores have left empty storefronts, empty streets, and a lack of character. But there is one thing that stays the same in Westwood — the Westwood Playhouse. Oh, right, it’s now the Geffen Playhouse (FB), and they added a second theatre, the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre. Well, at least the building and the quality are the same. We don’t go to the Geffen often — they don’t always discount shows until the last minute, and their standard prices are typically out of my comfort zone. A suitably unique show — such as Murder for Two — can overcome that threshhold.

Here’s why I’m mentioning all this: Last night I’m sitting in seats I paid much more than usual for, at a show I really wanted to see, dealing with a stubborn migraine headache that didn’t want to go away, … and … this show was funny enough to make me forget about my headache for 80-85 minutes (it was a 95 minute show, no intermission). That’s a compliment. Although it started a little show, it rapidly ramped up and kept going so fast that I was able to ignore the pain in my head.

The basic story for Murder for Two is nothing new or unusual — especially if you watch CBS crime procedurals. A murder occurs in the first few minutes. A green officer is sent to secure the scene for the detectives, and while waiting, he decides to investigate. After questioning everyone, he eventually figures out the murderer. The plot of how many murder mysteries? What’s special about Murder for Two is the execution. That didn’t come out right. Perhaps I should explain.

The cast of Murder for Two consists of… two. Brett Ryback (FB) plays Marcus, the police officer investigating the murder. Jeff Blumenkrantz (FB) plays every other role: including the dozens of suspects and other officers. He is constantly switching personas with nothing more than a simple prop, mannerism, or voice. While doing all of this, the two actors are also accompanying themselves on the piano. This results in a roller coaster ride where Blumenkratz keeps changing the direction of the coaster until you are never quite sure who he is, and the audience (and Rybeck) has to keep up. Now, add to this the fact that the two actors seem to be having fun with the roles, and seemingly delight in trying to crack each other up as well.

The story for Murder For Two (book by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair (FB); music by Joe Kinosian (FB); lyrics by Kellen Blair (FB)), as noted earlier, is an homage to so many locked-room murder mysteries. You have a bunch of suspects in the room. You know one of them did it. You start questioning them one by one. The good thing in Murder for Two is that they didn’t (at least to my discernment — but then again, my head hurt) didn’t telegraph the murderer. You do, of course, know the case will be solved by the good guy, but that’s a given in any story like this. The accompanying music was energetic and funny, and a number of songs were easily earworm material (particularly “A Perfectly Lovely Surprise” and “Protocol Says”); however, none of the songs reached standard level (meaning they can come out of the show and be standards on their own). The primary reason for this was that the music did exactly what it was supposed to do: be integral to the story and be closely tied to the characters.

Let’s look at the pieces we have so far: a very funny book, very entertaining music, and strong comic performances. However, we still can’t render a verdict yet. What are we missing? After all, my wife was much more lukewarm about the show than I — she thought the first fifteen minutes or so dragged; the humor wasn’t quite her thing.

Let’s look at the musical performance, which brings us back to Brett Ryback (FB) and Jeff Blumenkrantz (FB). Both are excellent piano players, and have a style reminiscent of Chico Marx in their ability to exploit the piano for comic effects. This is seen both in the opening of the show (where they fight over the piano) and in the closing bows, where they do a wonderfully comic piano encore.

But the last piece of the puzzle is a technical piece. This show depends on the very clever scenic design of Beowulf Boritt (FB), the sound design of Jill BC Du Boff (FB), the lighting design of Jason Lyons (FB), and the costume design of Andrea Lauer (FB). You get an idea of the cleverness of the scenic design in the opening scenes where the stage is set (so to speak) with the lighting projection from the junk of the stage, but the real cleverness of the scenic design reveals itself in the end. The cleverness of the sound design reveals itself throughout in the excellent and well timed sound effects (that they time so perfectly at all is a testament to the sound design and the board operators). Lighting is similar — it is used in clever ways to illuminate the mood and how it changes in a split second. The last clever design aspects were the costumes: the ability to use small costume aspects or props to change the nature of characters was astounding.

Bringing this all together was the talents of the director, Scott Schwartz (FB); the music director, David Caldwell; the choreographer, Wendy Seyb (FB); and the production stage manager, Cate Cundiff (FB). They got the thankless job of corralling all this craziness, of getting the split second timing required for this farce down, of ensuring that everything was precisely where and when it needed to be. Remaining show credits are: Casting – Calleri Casting (FB); Production Supervisor – Production Core (FB); Understudies – Matthew Wrather (FB) [for Marcus]; John Wascavage (FB) [for the Suspects]; Zach Spound (FB) [for the Suspects].

We’ve followed protocol: we’ve looked at the story, the music, the performances, the technical, and the direction. We’ve considered all the players. The verdict: if you like well-timed and well-performed farcical comedy with silly performances, you’ll like Murder for Two (FB) at the Geffen Playhouse (FB). Luckily, the show — which had been scheduled to close on July 12 — has been extended to August 2. The bad news is that Jeff Blumenkrantz (FB) will be on leave from the show from 7/10-23.   Tickets are available through the Geffen Box Office; discount tickets may be available on Goldstar.

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

Upcoming Shows: July is a month of double-headers. Today, our double-header continues with “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), where we get to brave the big 4th of July Block Party at Grand Park (FB). Next weekend is another double: On Friday night, July 10th, we’re seeing Colin Mitchell‘s show Madness, Murder Mayhem: Three Classic Grand Guignol Plays Reimagined at Zombie Joes Underground Theatre (FB); Saturday July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is another double header: “The History Boys” at the Stella Adler Theatre (FB) on Saturday (Goldstar), and “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) on Sunday.  The last weekend of July brings our last double: “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB) on July 25th, with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August start calming down, with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) the first weekend of August, our summer Mus-ique show the second weekend of August, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) the third weekend of August. After that we’ll need a vacation … but then again we might squeeze in Evita at the Maui Cultural Center (FB) the last weekend of August. September right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October will bring another Fringe Festival: the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB). October also has the following as ticketed or hold-the-dates: Kelrik Production (FB)’s Urinetown at the Monroe Forum Theatre (Hold for Sat 10/3);  “Mrs. A. Lincoln” at The Colony Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/10); and  “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/17). 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.

Better Get Them To Sign It In The Next Coupla Days…

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 04, 2015 @ 7:02 am PDT

Every year I post this on the 4th of July — this year is even more poignant because we’ve lost the author, historian, and humorist, Stan Freberg. For all that certain groups purport to know what this country’s founders wanted, I think it is best expressed in the sentiment “life, liberty, and the purſuit of happineſſ”. We still have that, for all the complaints. At times we may not like our leadership, and at times we may be frustrated at how our government is working (or not), but it is still the best system out there. Lastly, as much as I get annoyed at what those on the other side of the political spectrum say, I am still pleased to live somewhere where they have the right to say it. Happy Independence Day!

Narrator: The trouble continued to brew. It was a time for action, a time for words. On a hot July night in 1776, Benjamin Franklin was aroused from his work by the call of destiny.

(door knocks)
Jefferson (J) (faintly): Hey, you in there Ben?
Franklin (F) (grouchily) Who’s that, Sylvia?
Sylvia (S): It’s the call of destiny.
F: C’mon, take a look through the curtains.
S: It’s Tom Jefferson
F: What? Again?
J: Pounds on door harder
F: Well, it’s no good, I’ll have to let him in. (walking to door) I’m coming, I’m coming.

(door opens)
J: Hi, Ben.
F: Tom.
(door closes)
J: You got a minute?
F: To tell you the truth, we were just going out of town for the weekend.
J: But it’s only Wednesday.
F: (signs) Well, you know. A penny saved is a penny earned.
J: (pauses) What does that got to do with anything, Franklin?
F: I don’t know. (chuckles) It’s the first thing that came into my head. I was just making conversation. An idle brain is the devil’s playground, you know.
J: Say, you’re pretty good at that, aren’t you?
F: They’re some new “wise sayings” I just made up.
J: Wise sayings?
F: Yeah, I call ’em “Wise Sayings”.

F: What can I do for you?
J: I’ve got this petition I’ve been circulating around the neighborhood. I kinda’ thought you would like to sign it or something. It’s called a Declaration of Independence.
F: Yeah, I heard about that. Sounds a little suspect if you ask me.
J: What do you mean “suspect”?
F: You’re advocating overthrow of the British government by force and violence, aren’t you?
J: Well, yeah, yeah, but we’ve had it with that royal jazz.
F: Who’s “we”?
J: All the guys.
F: Who’s “all the guys”?
J: George, Jim Madison, Alex Hamilton, Johnny Adams… you know, “all the guys”.
F: Heh, the lunatic fringe.
J: Oh they are not.
F: Bunch of wild-eyed radicals. Professional liberals. Don’t you kid me?
J: You call George Washington a wild-eyed radical?
F: Washington? I don’t see his name on there?
J: Yeah, but he promised to sign it.
F: (laughs) That’s George for you. Talks up a storm with those wooden teeth of his. Can’t shut him off. But when it comes time to put the name on the parchment-o-roonie, try to find him.
J: What are you so surley about today?
F: Surly to bed and surly to rise makes a man…

J: Alright, Alright. Let’s knock off the one-line jokes and sign the petition. What do you say, huh, fellow?
F: Well, let me skim down it here. “When in the course of human events…” so-so-and-so. hmm-hmmm-and-hmmm. “… and that among these are life, liberty, and the purſuit of happineſſ?”
J: That’s “pursuit of happiness”
F: Well all your “S”s look like “F”s
J: It’s stylish. It’s in, it’s very in.
F: Well, if it’s in. (clears throat and continues) “…we therefore, representatives of the United States of America…” so-so-and-so. hmm-mmm-and-hmmm. “…solemnly publish and declare…” hmmm-hmmm-and-hmmm. “…and there absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown.” And so on.

F: A little overboard, isn’t it?
J: Well, uh?
F: You write this?
J: Yeah, I knocked it out. It’s just a first draft.
F: Why don’t you leave it with me, and I’ll mail it in?
J: C’mon.
F: I’ll tell you Tom, I’m with you in spirit. I’m sure you understand that, but I got to play it conservative. I’m a businessman. I got the printing business going pretty good. Almanac made book of the month. I’ve got the inventions. I’ve got pretty good distribution on the stove. And, of course, every Saturday evening, I bring out the “mag”.
J: The what?
F: “magazine”
J: Oh. That reminds me. That artist I sent by, did you look at his stuff?
F: The Rockwell boy? Skinny kid with the pipe?
J: Yeah, that’s the kid.
F: I glanced at it. Too far out for me.
J: Yeah, I know you gotta play it safe. But getting back to the signing of the petition, how about it, huh?
F: Well, uh.
J: It’s a harmless paper.
F: Oh sure, harmless. I know how these things happen. You go to a couple of harmless parties, sign a harmless petition, and forget all about it. Ten years later, you get hauled up before a committee. No, thank you, I’m not going to spend the rest of my life writing in Europe.
J: Ah, c’mon.
F: C’mon what?

(bell note)
J: C’mon and put your name on the dotted line.
F: I got to be particular what I sign.
J: It’s just a piece of paper.
F: Just a piece of paper, that’s what you say.

J: C’mon and put your signature on the list.
F: It looks to have a very subversive twist.
J: How silly to assume it
J: Won’t you nom de plume it,
J: today?

J: You’re so skittish? Who possibly could care if you do?
F: The Un-British Activities Committee, that’s who?

J: Let’s have a little drink-o and fill the quill.
F: It sounds a little pinko to me, but still…
J: Knock off the timid manner
J: If you want a banner, to raise.
F: (banner to raise)

J: You must take (F: I must take)
J: A stand (F: a stand)
J: For this brave (F: for this brave)
J: New land (F: new land)
J: For who wants (F: who wants)
J: To live (F: to live)
J: So conser- (F: so conser-)
J: vative? (F: vative)

F: I don’t dis- (J: he don’t dis)
F: agree, (J: agree)
J and F: but a man can’t be too careful what he signs these days.

(musical flourish, and the song ends)

F: Well, if I sign it, will you renew your subscription?
J: If you promise not to keep throwing it on the roof. If it isn’t on the roof, it’s in the rosebushes or in the mud.
F: My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, you know. Besides, it’s hard to hit the porch from a horse.
J: C’mon, all we want to do is hold a few truths to be self-evident.
F: You’re sure it’s not going to start a revolution or anything?
J: Trust me.
F: OK, give it to me. You got a quill on you?
J: Here you go.
F: Look at this showoff “Hancock”. Pretty flamboyant signature for an insurance man. (signs it)
J: You did a good thing, Ben. You won’t be sorry. Now if I can just get another three or four guys, we’ll be all set.
F: I’ll tell you one thing…
J: What’s that?
F: You better get them to sign it in the next couple of days, before they all take off for the Fourth of July weekend.

Tea Time 2015

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jul 03, 2015 @ 9:54 am PDT

userpic=teaMy last tea order was in November 2013, and I’m getting down to the point at work where I have just a few varieties left. Last time, I ordered from Upton Tea Importers in Holliston MA, and I was pretty satisfied with their quality and price. I discovered I didn’t like the teas with really small particles; they were a pain to clean out of the French Press. Here’s what I’m ordering this time (teas shown with 🍵 are new this year; ☕ indicates repeats):

  1. TDA4: Risheehat TGBOP Musc. Organic. 🍵 This BOP single-estate Darjeeling selection has both a dark-colored leaf as well as a dark-colored liquor. The well-balanced cup has good strength and a pronounced muscatel character. We find this selection to be particularly versatile in that it is excellent both hot and iced. $9.40/125g.
  2. TD50: No.1 Tippy Orthodox GFOP Darjeeling. ☕ An exceptional golden tip Darjeeling blend. We first introduced this tea in 1990 and it continues to be our most popular Darjeeling. $8.80/125g.
  3. TA30: Tippy Orthodox GBOP Assam.☕ A classic, fine broken-leaf Assam with smooth, malty notes and a rich, mellow finish. Takes milk very well. $7.40/125g.
  4. TN05: Korakundah Estate BOP Organic.🍵 This BOP Nilgiri District black tea selection has a dark amber/light brown infusion that exhibits notes of carob/cocoa in both the aroma and liquor. The cup is smooth and rounded with a clean finish. For a lighter cup, infuse for 3 minutes, infuse longer for a stronger cup. This selection also makes great iced tea. $6.40/125g.
  5. TE21: Monk’s Blend. ☕ × 2. A Ceylon-based Earl Grey is blended with a fine China green tea and accented with natural Bourbon vanilla. The fruity taste of bergamot complements the hearty green tea, while the hint of vanilla adds a mellow complexity. A delightful tea that can be enjoyed hot or cold. $6.40/125g.
  6. TP12: Premium China Keemun. ☕ Often called the burgundy of China teas, this North China Congou is rich, flavorful and appropriate for any time of day. We offer this as our basic Keemun, although it is in the middle range of the standard series. $5.80/125g.
  7. TB49: Darjeeling-Ceylon Iced Tea Blend. ☕ Half whole-leaf Darjeeling and half OP Ceylon. A great hot tea as well! The brewing information provided is for making an iced tea concentrate. $6.20/125g.
  8. ZG20: First Grade Gunpowder Green. ☕ Superior grade of green tea in the style of gunpowder teas (tightly rolled tea leaves resembling gunpowder pellets). $5.20/125g.
  9. TT11: Oolong Standard Grade. 🍵  A classic restaurant grade tea, with a smooth character, and classic Formosa Oolong flavors. Priced for everyday use, this selection is an excellent choice for its value and quality. $6.60/125g.
  10. TC12: St. James Pekoe. 🍵  This offering from the Uva district has an interesting leaf style, with a rolled/rounded look. The infusion is dark, with a full mouth feel. Light hints of rose and cedar have been noted in the liquor. This tea is very appropriate as a self drinker, but can easily accommodate a dash of milk. $8.00/125g.
  11. TB15: Java Blend. ☕ A rich breakfast blend especially suited for those who enjoy a powerful cup in the morning. This also is a great choice for iced tea. Java teas are never expensive, so you get the best produced for a few cents a cup. $5.20/125g.
  12. TB02: Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend. 🍵 A tribute to the famous London tea auctions, our Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend is a blend of two classic British teas: a brisk Ceylon and a thick, malty Assam. The result is a flavorful mixture which lends itself to the addition of milk. $5.80/125g.
  13. TB05: Mincing Lane Breakfast Blend. ☕ For this blend, we paired a hearty Assam with a smooth and flavorful Yunnan, for a cup that is highly enjoyable. The invigorating liquor has a full mouth feel, subtle spicy notes, and a lingering aftertaste. While milk is recommended, it is enjoyable plain. $7.80/125g.
  14. TB14: Scottish Breakfast Blend. ☕ Blended to appeal to those who favor an eye-opening experience in the morning, this tea yields a cup with a round, full flavor, malty notes, and brisk character. A perfect choice to start the day. $5.60/125g.
  15. TB75: Baker Street Afternoon Blend. ☕ A bit of Lapsang Souchong is blended with Keemun and Darjeeling, yielding a mildly smoky tea. Perfect for an afternoon uplift. Another special (whole-leaf) blend from our London source of fine teas. $7.40/125g.
  16. TE86: Creme Caramel.☕ Black tea from Sri Lanka with a mild, creamy caramel aroma. Pieces of caramel are added to complement this flavorful blend. Enjoyable on cold days, and throughout the seasons. Back in stock! $7.20/125g.
  17. TE45: Black/Green “Midsummer Dream”.☕ China Black tea harmonizes with green Sencha. Blended with sunflower petals, cactus flowers and flavored with rhubarb. A refreshing tea for any time of day. $5.20/125g.
  18. TB86: Richmond Park Blend.🍵 A mellow, whole-leaf blend of Keemun, Ceylon, and Darjeeling. An exceptional tea which is smooth enough for drinking plain, and sturdy enough to take milk or lemon. From our London blender. $8.80/125g.
  19. TE26: Black Tea Wild Berry. ☕ China black tea with natural blueberry and strawberry flavoring. This tea was produced without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. $5.25/100g.
  20. TF90: Vanilla Tea.🍵 A vanilla-flavored, whole-leaf black tea base, with pieces of genuine Bourbon vanilla. $6.80/100g.
  21. ZG14: Young Hyson Imperial Organic.🍵 This organic tea has the bold flavor of a high-fired tea, yet it has a pleasing smoothness with delicate sweetness. The thin, well-twisted leaves produce a liquor with a pale green color. This is a very popular style of China green tea with a bolder leaf. $5.40/100g.
  22. ZS80: Lapsang Souchong Imperial.🍵 The best China Lapsang Souchong we have found. To our knowledge we are the only importer of this grade of China Lapsang Souchong. Superior in flavor. Very smoky, yet quite mellow. $7.20/100g.

As for home, we’re pretty well stocked — we’ve been hitting the Russian and Middle-Eastern markets, and getting quite a variety. Still, there are some we want for home:

  1. TE35: Hearthside Chai Tea. ☕ A classic chai tea, blended with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, licorice, and cacao pieces. A creamy taste lends a smoothness and elegance to this selection. $9.80/125g.
  2. TE94: Mélange de Chamonix. ☕ Fine India tea is blended with cocoa, cardamom, and a hint of cinnamon to produce a balanced and warming cup. A delicate treat for any chocolate or tea lover. $9.60/125g.

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Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jul 02, 2015 @ 6:29 pm PDT

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California Highway Headlines for June 2015

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 30, 2015 @ 5:58 pm PDT

userpic=roadgeekingIn contrast to previous months, June has been a busy busy month for articles. Here are the ones that I caught related to California Highways:
(more…)

The Size and Scope Would Leave Broadway in Awe

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 29, 2015 @ 7:23 pm PDT

Western Corps Connection userpic=drumcorpsMost people know that I’m into Live Theatre, and love to write about it. Truth be told, I love live performance of any variety. Last night, instead of being at the closing of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), we were out in Riverside in 90+°F and humidity watching a form of theatricality that, especially considering its size, stamina, and scope, would likely leave any Broadway performer in awe. Where were we? We were at the Western Corps Connection (FB) in Riverside, watching a drum corps competition.

Drum Corps (you’re probably saying to yourself)? That’s just a fancy half-time show. There you would be wrong. Here’s why Drum Corps would put Broadway in awe (and has, if you remember Blast on Broadway (FB)). Let’s take a single World Class corps. It consists of roughly 150 young adult performers (16-21) plus additional staff. These performers are roughly divided into four groups: Marching Brass (valve-based horns), Marching Percussion (various types of drums), Guard members (dancers who manipulate a variety of props including rifles and sabres), and a small number of pit personnel (xylophones, large drums, and now it seems, keyboards) and drum majors (conductors). They must give a 15 minute performance to music of their own choice; the performance must be sufficient to cover an entire football field. They will be judged on this performance based on the quality of their music, their precision, their visual effects, and the general reaction of the audience. Music has ranged from Broadway standards (including Sondheim) to Jazz to Orchestral to … you name it. Now, imagine that they also must load all their equipment onto the field and connect it up before each show, and remove it afterwards. Now put them in competition over the summer, marching and dancing almost every day under the summer sun, with 25 to 40 other such similar groups (our show had 7), and have them judged as to who is the best.

That’s drum corps. That’s why I said size, stamina, and scope is much greater than any single Broadway show, and might even be greater than a Broadway season (given the compressed timeframe). Broadway performers also get to go home; they don’t sleep in buses or in school gymnasiums. These performers have a grueling job. If you are in the Live Theatre industry, and see someone with Drum Corps experience on their resume, know you are getting a tested musician or a tested dancer, one who knows and loves hard work and precise results.

Drum Corps, like Broadway and the rest of the theatre world, has gotten more and more… well… more and more over the years. My wife, when young, marched in a youth band that thought it was a corps. She tells me of the days when the colors (US and state flags) had to be on the field at all times, when there were strict requirements on instruments, flags, and performances. Today things have changed greatly: there is amplification of the pit, keyboards, electronic sound effects, the occasional non-valve horn, and sound mixer boards. We even had an electric guitar and an electric bass from an Open Class corps! Some things haven’t: the best corps are not just loud, they are LOUD, if not LOUD! Corps have triggered noise complaints from residents.

Don’t take my word. Here’s a link to a performance of this year’s top Open Class corps from the 2014 show that will show you:

You can find more videos on YouTube. Drum Corps International (DCI) (FB) has a number of free videos posted on their site.

Last night’s show featured 6 “Open Class” corps and 7 “World Class” corps. World Class corps have made the DCI top 25; they march with a full complement of performers. Open Class corps are smaller. They may be feeders to larger corps (both Blue Devils (FB) and the Santa Clara Vanguard (FB) have cadet corps to train the young, although they weren’t at our show); they may be corps that are rebuilding after a bad year or a large age-out (you have to leave when you are older than 21); or they may be corps that do not have sufficient membership (we saw some former World Class corps in Open Class with less than 10 in the guard). June and early July shows may not yet be complete — the finals are in early August.

Here is my assessment of the corps we saw last night, in the order of performance:

Open Class Corps

Golden Empire (FB) – Bakersfield. This is the second year they have fielded a corps, and they are amazing for a new group. Their show this year, “The Color of Crime”, seemed to be about a jewel heist. It consisted of 5 scenes: (1) “Breaking In” (The Area is Secure / Pinch of a Finger, by Christophe Beck”; (2) “Heist & Escape” (Perfect Day for a Murder by Christophe Beck; (3) “Scot-Free Shopping Spree” (Feeling Good, by Anthony Newley); (4) “Pink Cloud Paradise” (Dreamsville, by Henry Mancini); and (5) “Clues to Confrontation” (The Damburger Incident, Dragalong Dreyfus, Chasing Yuri, and Pink Panther Theme by Christophe Beck, Henry Mancini). I felt the story was good, but they needed to work on their precision. They had a keyboard and used amplification. They had a nice sound, but they needed to be much louder to provide the “oopmh” that was required. They were unable to fill the entire field.

Incognito (FB) – Garden Grove. This corps started in 2005, expanded in 2007, and fielded a corps for the first time in 2008, and then took a number of years off, returning last year. So they are rebuilding. Their program, “Planet Incognito”, had 3 movements: World of Incognitians by their director, Tony T Nguyen; The Planets: Mars by Gustav Holst, and The Planets: Jupiter by Gustav Holst. This was a small corps, only marching 8 in the guard and about 6 horns. Their music was slow, and it was clear their show was incomplete. They did not use amplification. They were notable for marching a trombone, which you never see.

Impulse (FB) – Buena Park. Impulse was formed in 1999, and seemed to be the inheritor of the mantle of the Velvet Knights (FB), one of the most crowd pleasing corps ever, at least in terms of fun. This year’s show was called “Interpolation”, and they didn’t give more details. The corps was a shadow of what it used to be, with a very small 5 member guard. They were OK on volume, but not as much “in your face” as I remembered them. They tried to fill the field.

Watchmen (FB) – Riverside. Watchmen formed in 2013, and marched an Open Class corps for the first time in 2014. Their repertoire, “Influenced”, was original music from staff members Richie Sabastian, Alex Mendoza, and Harry Hutchins. This was another small corps, with only 7 in the guard. They used amplification and had two keyboards, plus vocal sound effects. Their guard needed to up their precision. They also needed more volume, but they were missing their low end horns.

Gold (FB) – San Diego.  Gold started in 2005, and competed outside of California first in 2011, and has been an open class finalist every year since 2012. They are the corps in the video I embedded above. Their repertoire this year, called “Pop Star”, consisted of the music Toxic by Cathy Dennis, Bloodshy, and Avant. Their field setup was unique — they put the pit on the field about 70% back, with a raised drum set, and electric guitar, and an electric base. They then had a big pink tarp the covered the wiring and provided good visual effect. They marched a full complement of horns, and had very sexy guard outfits. They had nice music and filled the field well. They got organized chaos right. All in all, a very good show.

Open Class Conclusions

🎺🎶🎺🎶 ⇒ Overall, I liked the programs of Gold and Golden Empire the best. They had accessible music, great sound, and great visual effect.  The other corps were clearly marching at a disadvantage with incomplete complements.

World Class Corps

These corps all marched full complements.

Mandarins (FB) – Sacramento. Mandarins used to be an all Asian corps, and go back to 1963. Their repertoire, “Resurrection”, featured four movements: The AwakeningWarriorDynasty of the Emperor, and Forever in Stone, all by Key Poulan (music director), Sean Womack (percussion arranger), and Mark Hunter (percussion arranger). This is what a corps should sound and look like: they had an entertaining and energetic show. They were notable because at one point, most of the guard started playing horns — you don’t see that too often. They had great general effect, and when they took the field, they took the field. I also noticed that their faces were particularly fierce — acting with the music, instead of the constant smile.

Pacific Crest (FB) – Diamond Bar. Pacific Crest is a newer local corps, having stared in 1993. They are the only world class corps left in Southern Californnia. Their repertoire, called “The Catalyst”, consisted of four movements: Scythian Suite Op 20 (Sergei Prokofiev); Liberi Fatali from Final Fantasy VIII (Nobuo Uematsu); Enjoy the Silence (Martin Gore), and Angels in the Architecture (Frank Ticheli). Their music was not that accessible and their show was unfinished, at least based on this weird open metal structure they rolled on the field and kept moving, but did nothing with. They had odd sound effects, but good percussion. Not that crazy about this show.

The Academy (FB) – Tempe AZ. Academy stared in 2001, becoming a corps in 2004, joining World Class in 2007. They had a very accessible show, “Step In Time”, that used music from Mary Poppins (stage): (I) Introduction (Chim Chim Cher-ee; A Shooting Star); (II) Practically Perfect (A Spoonful of Sugar; Practically Perfect; Galop (from Masquerade Suite)); (III) Step in Time; (IV) Feed the Birds; and (V) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The guard uniforms were beautiful, and they had very nice props. They provided good field coverage and wonderful effects. They were notable for having the pit use tap shoes on hands tapping on a board to provide tap percussion. They also used drum brushes to provide a great auditory effect on Feed the Birds. They had the right sound, and were the first corps to get a standing ovation.

Blue Knights (FB) – Denver CO. A musical group founded in 1958 by former vaudeville comedians and musicians Faye and Fred Taylor, they hit the corps scene in 1991. Their repertorie “Because…” featured 5 movments: Because (Lennon, McCartney); Rush (Jay Bocook, Kevin Shah, Mike Jackson — all BK staff); Apres Moi (Regina Spektor); I’m Alive (Adam Watts), and Fly to Paradise (Eric Whitacre). Their uniforms were beautiful: white and light blue for the musicians, orange and light blue for the guard. They had some wonderful dance moves, but the music was not accessible. They also had this odd ghostly echo effect that was more distracting than anything else.

Phantom Regiment (FB) – Rockford IL. Founded in 1956, they have been finalists every year since 1974. Kudos to them for being the only corps east of the Mississippi to come to California. They had a very accessible repertoire “City of Light”: I Love Paris (Porter), Horoscope (Constant Lambert), Clair de Lune(Dubussy), An American in Paris (Gershwin), and Symphony No. 3 (Camille Saint-Saens). They filled the field and had a nice loud sound, but their precision was a bit off and their show just didn’t grab me.

Santa Clara Vanguard (FB) – Santa Clara. Founded in 1967, this is one of the top corps in DCI. Their program, “The Spark of Invention”, featured Invention in A Minor (Bach), Virus Attack (Amin Bhatia), Pure Imagination (Bricusse, Newley), and Piano Concerto (Corigliano). They were LOUD, but Vanguard is always loud. They had multiple costume changes on the field, and had these odd Van DeGraff generator type props. They also had an odd echo effect created by sound board delays — likely intentional, but I didn’t like it.

Blue Devils (FB) – Concord. The other major California corps, they were founded in 1970. They have won nationals 16 times, most recently in 2015 (yes, that’s what the program says — Blue Devils is that cocky and sure of themselves). They have never been lower than 4th in the last 20 years. Their program, “Ink”, dealt with fairy tales: Dark Forest (Dave Glyde), Sweeney Todd (Sondheim); The Giant Attack (Sondheim); The Mad Hatters Tea Party (Gordon Goodwin); I Like You (GOT7); Children Will Listen (Sondheim); Last Midnight (Sondheim). This was Blue Devils doing it right — a very accessible program, wonderful dance, wonderful story, wonderful and LOUD music. My only quibble is with the use of The Ballad of Sweeney Todd to accompany fairy tales — Snow White, in particular. They had the precision, and they knew it.

World Class Conclusions

🎺🎶🎺🎶 ⇒ Overall, my favorites were Blue Devils, The Academy, and the Mandarins, in that order. For me, as a theatre person and not a musician, their shows touched me the best. I was surprised at Blue Devils — often they do an inaccessible Jazz show. They did it right this time.

Scores/Conclusions

Position Corps Score
Open Class Division
1 Gold 50.600
2 Golden Empire 50.150
3 Watchmen 44.550
4 Impulse 43.450
5 Incognito 36.100
World Class Division
1 Blue Devils 79.850
2 Santa Clara Vanguard 78.650
3 Phantom Regiment 72.900
4 Blue Knights 72.400
5 The Academy 65.950
6 Pacific Crest 64.900
7 Mandarins 63.050

The scores for last night’s performance are shown to the right. Scoring is on a 100 point scale, with 40 for General Effect (20 each from two judges, one a visual expert, one a music expert); 30 for Visual (20 points each for Visual Analysis, Visual Proficiency, and Color Guard, summed and divided by two), and 30 for Music (20 points each for Music Analysis, Music Brass, and Music Percussion, summed and divided by two). Here are my thoughts on the scores.

In the Open Class, I think they got it right. Gold had the best show, and Golden Empires was far above the incomplete shows of the others.

In World Class, I really think that Mandarins should have been higher; ditto for Academy. They must have lost points with the judges on precision somewhere that I missed. Blue Devils did deserve to win.

A few technical notes: The RCC Band (FB) and Riverside Community College (FB) need to provide more food trucks and more drink options, especially on hot days. People were not able to cycle through the food lines in the 40 minute intermission. That indicates you need more servers and more options. It would also be useful for RCC or DCI to make clear what can and cannot be brought into the stadium. Lastly, next time I must bring stadium chairs; sitting for four hours without a seat back is hard.

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

Upcoming Shows: July is a month of double-headers, begining with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on July 4th. The next weekend is another double: On Friday night, July 10th, we’re seeing Colin Mitchell‘s show Madness, Murder Mayhem: Three Classic Grand Guignol Plays Reimagined at Zombie Joes Underground Theatre (FB); Saturday July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is another double header: “The History Boys” at the Stella Adler Theatre (FB) on Saturday (Goldstar), and “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) on Sunday.  The last weekend of July brings our last double: “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB) on July 25th, with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August start calming down, with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) the first weekend of August, our summer Mus-ique show the second weekend of August, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) the third weekend of August. After that we’ll need a vacation … but then again we might squeeze in Evita at the Maui Cultural Center (FB) the last weekend of August. September right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October will bring another Fringe Festival: the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB). October also has the following as ticketed or hold-the-dates: Kelrik Production (FB)’s Urinetown at the Monroe Forum Theatre (Hold for Sat 10/3);  “Mrs. A. Lincoln” at The Colony Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/10); and  “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/17). 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.