Observations Along the Road

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

News Chum Unwrapped: Will It Be Coal or Crystal?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 25, 2015 @ 8:49 am PST

userpic=chanukah-christmasTo all those who celebrate this day in the non-traditional way: The Merriest of Christmases to you. To all those that celebrate in the traditional way: I hope your movie is entertaining and your Chinese food delicious and MSG-free. Why look? What has 🎅 Santa left under the virtual tree? It looks like a collection of boxes of news chum! Let’s unwrap them and see what we’ve got. I wonder if any of them are for me?

  • 🎁 To: Porter Ranch Residents. I live in Northridge, just down the hill from Porter Ranch. The situation up there is a mess: it is bad for the homeowners, it is bad for the businesses in the area, it is bad for our property values, and it will be bad for all the customers of The Gas Company, who will have to foot the bill for this stupidity for years and years to come. For those that live in Porter Ranch, here are two things of interest: the first is a collection of resources from the Mayor’s office, the second is a commitment from SoCalGas that they will relocate residents faster.
  • 🎁 To: Map Collectors. Here’s a collection of 25 of the best Los Angeles maps. It is hard to pick a favorite on the list. I like the map of former streetcar routes, but I think one of the most useful ones compares the size of Los Angeles to other major cities. Most people don’t understand the sheer size of LA, and the distinct difference in density. The change in property values from 2004 to 2014 is also scary: our zip shows a -24%. Mind you, we bought in the top of the market in 2005 😒 . Of course, my favorite map isn’t on the list; my favorite is the one done by my daughter that maps Yiddish books to where they were published in Southern California.
  • 🎁 To: Those From the Midwest. EaterLA recently announced a present for those from the midwest, or those (like me) who have fond memories of visiting the midwest: it appears there is now a full-sized Steak and Shake now open in Burbank. I wonder if this will entice my dear friend Linda in St. Louis to come out for a visit :-). We’ll have to try it next time we’re in the area.
  • 🎁 To: Honda CR-V Owners. Sigh, like us. Honda has extended the air-bag recall to a wider range of CR-Vs. Luckily, we live in a low humidity area, and most of the problems are the result of humidity. That’s perhaps why repairs are so slow out here: I’m still waiting to hear from Toyota on the availability of my repair; the passenger airbag in my wife’s CR-V was repaired in April ’15, and the driver’s airbag in October ’14.
  • 🎁 To: Those Concerned About Government Waste. We’re all aware the government procures supercomputers. We’re probably also aware that those computers get replaced every few years to stay current, maintainable, and at the cutting edge to give our Nation the lead we should have. So what happens to the old computers that were so expensive to procure. The answer will not make you happy. Most are “put out with the trash”; that is, they are disposed. The most efficient, secure and financially feasible way to do it is by using a computer wood chipper, provided by contractors who specialize in IT asset disposition. This is true especially for the supercomputers with high-level security data. Some are repurposed, but the process isn’t easy. The first possibility is to try and trade in the supercomputer on a replacement with the contractor. Trade-ins are sometimes possible, and repurposing is sometimes possible. The third strategy, if the first two aren’t feasible, is to put the old supercomputer through the General Services Administration’s clearinghouse for distributing unused government property. But even though they are cheap, the new owner must come and get it, get it out of where it is, and possibly contract to remove and reinstall.
  • 🎁 To: Those That Like Android. We all know that Windows is trying to have one operating system to rule them all: Windows 10 on the range from the desktop to the phone. What about a phone operating system on the desktop. How well does Android work with a keyboard and mouse? The answer is “Not good, but better than you would think.” The biggest affordance Android makes for a desktop OS is that it supports a keyboard and mouse. Any Android device can pair with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and if you want to go the wired route, just about any phone can plug in a mouse and keyboard via a USB OTG cable and a USB hub. But from there…
  • 🎁 To: Las Vegas Lovers. Here’s an interesting collection of recommended books about Las Vegas. I’ve only heard of one of these. My list of Vegas books is over on the highway pages.
  • 🎁 To: Those Interested in Food Safety. Tumeric has recently been in the news for a number of reasons. In addition to its use in Indian food, and turning everything yellow, it has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties. Tumeric Tea can provide great relief from arthritis problems. Here’s another use: it is being infused into kitchen surfaces to make them safer. Using nanotechnology, the researchers developed a way to bind curcumin (a tumeric compound) to metal and glass; essentially they used tiny bubbles (nanovesicles) to enclose a curcumin compound. The coated surfaces kill microbes—including E. coli—and prevent food from spoiling without imparting turmeric flavor into the food.
  • 🎁 To: Food Waste or Waist Worriers. Being a member of the “clean plate club” (common in my generation) has been a terrible thing for my waistline, especially in these days of gigantic portions. But I also hate the notion of throwing away food. This is why I found this list of 12 things to keep food from going to waist or waste interesting. In addition to liking this being a list without a load of click-through screens, I like the following two tips: “Buying in bulk doesn’t save money if you end up throwing half of it away. When you don’t have a plan for how and when you will use a sale item, it’s more likely to go to waste, erasing any savings.” and “Shop for how you actually cook and eat, not for how you fantasize about eating. Exotic or otherwise aspirational purchases often go to waste.”
  • 🎁 To: Font Lovers. Back when I started using computers, you were lucky to have 5 different fonts (but then again, I only had 2 on the Selectric). Now there are thousands. But that’s less true if you are writing in Chinese. It is extremely difficult to create a Chinese font. This article discusses how hard it is. Just consider this: The default set for English-language fonts contains about 230 glyphs. A font that covers all of the Latin scripts—that’s over 100 languages plus extra symbols—contains 840 glyphs. The simplified version of Chinese, used primarily in mainland China, requires nearly 7,000 glyphs. For traditional Chinese, used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the number of glyphs is 13,053.
  • 🎁 To: Yiddish Lovers. Last week, I kvelled about my daughter being written up in the JWeekly in the Bay Area for her presentation at the Magnes about her Findery Mapping work. She just wrote an article for a Yiddish Journal about her experiences this summer.
  • 🎁 To: Board Gamers (Especially those who visit Las Vegas). One of my favorite places in LA (which, alas, I don’t get to as frequently as I like because they have poor parking) is Game Haus Cafe. This is a coffee shop with a large collection of board games. For those that go to Vegas, here’s some great news: There’s a similar shop in Las Vegas! Meepleville Board Game Cafe (FB) at 4704 W. Sahara Ave. The owner has more than 10,000 games in his collection. Meepleville will charge $5 for all-day play Monday to Thursday and $10 Friday to Sunday. They are open 10am – midnight Monday – Thursday. 10am – 1am Friday and Saturday. 10am to 8pm on Sunday, starting in January 2016. This is a must visit next time I’m in Vegas; it ranks up there with the National Pinball Hall of Fame.
  • 🎁 To: Those With Large Record Collections. Those of us who have large collections of anything have the worry of about how our kids will dispose of it. This is especially true for records. The blog “Easily Mused” captures this well (and luckily, it provides a solution):

    “Even now, as the icy finger of Death gently tap tap taps on your shoulder, you can not help but smile as you gaze lovingly at your vinyl record collection which you have so diligently curated. Each gleaming scratchless platter is as close to perfection as the day it was manufactured, a testament to your love for and dedication to the recorded arts.

    Say, have you stopped to consider what will become of this treasure trove after you have departed this mortal realm? Many people such as yourself have bequeathed their records to a close friend or family member, receiving sincere assurances that said records will be treasured, cared for, and passed down to each succeeding generation. Alas, nothing could be further from the truth.

    The painful reality is, you will scarcely even have begun your eternal slumber before the sweaty and possibly jelly-stained fingers of your son or nephew will begin carelessly rifling through your precious vinyl stockpile. “What’s this crap?” he will exclaim. “Who the fuck is Buddy Rich?”

    Your beneficiary, having failed to discern the inestimable cultural value of your collection, will then proceed to recklessly hoist your record crates into the back of his freakishly oversized pickup truck, drop them off orphan-style at the front door of the nearest thrift store and peel away, bobbing his head zombie-like to the rhythm of the latest gangsta rap hit.

    Soon, your prized possessions will be unceremoniously dumped on the floor underneath three shelves that contain hardcover books no one will buy for even a quarter, like Jimmie Walker’s autobiography, Dyn-O-Mite!  or any Jackie Collins novel after Hollywood Wives. They will swiftly be procured by an eagle-eyed entrepeneur who talks like a sophisticated music aficionado, but is really only interested in the crinkly tones produced by shuffling big stacks of cash.

    Through his Ebay store, he will sell your cherished records for exorbitant prices and then send them, one by one, to every corner of the globe. Your ghost self will watch helplessly as your Basie goes to Boise, and your Miles goes to Milan. You will then spend the rest of eternity wandering about aimless and confused, trying but endlessly failing to remember the tune of one goddamn song.”

    Luckily, they provide a solution.



Going, Going, Gone: Remembrances of Eras Gone Past

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 24, 2015 @ 9:33 am PST

userpic=tombstonesThis is another in my ongoing series of news chum posts about things that are going away. In doing this, I’ve come to realize another connection between the items: they are emblematic of an era that has also passed:

  • The 747. Production of the Boeing 747 — an iconic jetliner of the 1970s and 1980s — is slowing and may soon die. Right now, the fate of continued production is in the hands of a Moscow firm: specifically, a Russian freight company that promises to buy 18 over the next few years. If that pledge falls through, and finding financing won’t be easy, Boeing faces a tough choice: End production and take a financial hit, or try to limp along until a cargo rebound yields more sales. For now, Boeing’s backlog is enough to keep building 747s only through mid-2017. Boeing would really like to keep production limping along at least under Congress orders a new Air Force 1: the current AF1 is a 747-200 that is over 20 years old. What’s killing the 747? On the passenger side, it is size: most routes are not economical for the capacity of the plane. Overall, it is pure economics: a four-engine plane guzzles a lot more expensive jet fuel than a two-engine plane. Both of these work to kill the demand. The death of the 747 is the death of an era: the era when flying was glamorous, of piano bars and lounges in the sky. We’re left with an Air Bus.
  • The Vegas Showgirl. The MGM Grand in Vegas has posted a closing date for Jubilee, the last hotel-produced Vegas-showgirl spectacular. At one time, the Vegas showgirl was in every hotel. Hotels produced their own entertainment, and each show featured long-leggy girls, often topless, in a very Vegas-styled entertainment. Today, most shows are four-walled: the hotel rents the room to the promoter, who handles everything else. This results in very different entertainment than in the 1960s-1980s. Jubilee was a relic from that era, and — like the 747 — was no longer economical or the draw.
  • The Physical Camera Store. Bel Air Camera in Westwood has closed as of yesterday. At one time, camera stores were everywhere. There were at least three that I recall in Westwood, all feeding off the neighboring community and college kids with cameras. Now there are none (just like there are no more record stores in Westwood, when once there were at least 3). This, again, is the passing of two eras. The first is the continued decline of Westwood as a college town for UCLA; it is not what it was when Star Wars first premiered at the AVCO. The second is the passing of the film camera. What was once expensive photographic equipment is almost worthless — I know I have expensive film cameras and lenses from my dad that I’m not sure I could give away. We’ve gone to digital, and thus all the infrastructure devoted to lenses, lens effects, developing, mounting, etc. has all been rendered, if not obsolete, than rarely used.
  • LA Chinatown. A few months back, I wrote about the reopening of Empress Pavillion, a long-time dim-sum palace in Chinatown. While it was closed, the business had to shift to Monterey Park — which is where the Chinese community had moved as well. A move, by the way, similar to the migration of Jews from Boyle Heights to the Westside. This week confirms that shift: that Chinatown is perhaps in name only, and is more of a tourist Chinatown than a true home for that culture. The confirmation: Empress Pavillion has closed again as a restaurant and will only be used for banquets and events. Chinatown — your era has passed.
  • Curvy Women. Some of us are old enough to remember the days of the pin-up calendar. Think LeRoy Neiman, and the nudes he would draw for Playboy. An article this week reminds us of one pin-up heroine that has been forgotten: Hilda. Hilda was the creation of illustrator Duane Bryers. She was one of pin-up art’s best kept secrets: voluptuous in all the right places, a little clumsy but not at all shy about her figure. I actually think she’s a lot sexier than the stick-figures society is obsessed with today.
  • Soviet Era Buildings.  This one is just creepy. Here’s a collection of photos of abandoned Soviet era buildings. They are reflective of an era and of an artistic style that has (thankfully) all but disappeared.


Understanding Diversity

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 24, 2015 @ 8:17 am PST

userpic=twogentlemenPrologue. As I’ve noted before, I listen to a lot of podcasts. Perhaps too many, as it takes a lot of work to keep current; this is partially because there is such a resurgence in the number of really good podcasts. I’m learning about more and more everyday, and there just isn’t time to listen to the podcasts that sound interesting. Now I’m “old-school” on my podcast listening: I actually download them daily to an actual iPod, as opposed to using streaming data to listen to them on a mobile platform. I find that I can only listen to spoken-word podcasts in certain environments (primarily those where I’m not consciously using the “reading” portion of my brain): driving, shopping, working out, walking. Further, I can’t just sit back and listen — if I do that, I’ll fall asleep (which I blame on conditioning from the vanpool). As a result, I’m regularly backed up on podcasts; my typical backlog is on the order of 15 podcasts, not counting Woodsongs.

Boy, I’m starting to feel like Ira Glass opening an episode of This American Life (one of the podcasts I listen to).

So the other day, I’m shopping at Trader Joes and listening to a recent episode of the Startup podcast. Startup was the first podcast from Gimlet Media, and originally told the story of the startup of Gimlet. It has gone on to look at other startups, such as DatingRing, but it occasionally tells Gimlet’s story. Right now, they are doing a half-season on Gimlet, and the latest show tackled the question of Diversity.

I strongly urge you to give it a listen. This episode explores the level of diversity of Gimlet Media. Although they have made an effort for male/female balance, they are working to correct a significant white/people of color balance. The episode explores why that divide exists, how diversity begets more diversity, and why the question of diversity is more than skin deep. That’s meant to be literal: for there are questions of diversity across religion, orientation, political spectrum, etc. Alex Bloomberg of Gimlet rightly points out why diversity is so important: it enables them to tell a better story that exposes all sides of an issue.

This post consists of three acts (no, that’s not right). Well, there are three articles that came across my feeds this week that illustrate this so well.

Act I: Dating Apps. The first was a post by Ferrett Steinmetz over on LJ (you do remember LJ, right). It explores a new dating app: this time it is one developed by women for women. Dating is similar to porn, in that what women want and need in the experience is often drastically different than men, and yet it is mostly a male-centric industry that is producing the product. This results in an inherent bias in the product towards the male point of view. Nowhere is it clearer than this dating app: whereas men want to see the widest variety of women, the women only care about those men who are somewhat local, who are congruent on interests, and who have a mutual interest in them. In fact, it restricts the profiles that you can see to those where there is a mutual match of criteria. This is a clear example of what a different perspective can bring, and why that perspective is so important.

Act II: Wearing the Hijab. The second was an article in the Washington Post, which was subsequently echoed by other outlets such as NPR. The article looked at the recent movement to support Muslim women by wearing head scarves as a show of solidarity. The problem? No one asked Muslim women what they thought about this. Modern Muslim women haven’t adopted the headscarf out of choice or even out of religious reasons; it has been forced upon them by the male-dominated atmosphere of Islam. They would prefer an approach that actually encouraged Islam to liberalize its attitude towards woman, instead of reminding them of their second class citizen status. It is as if society said they wanted to support Jews by dressing in long black frock coats, growing long beards, and wearing tzittzit and kippot. So where did the headscarf notion come from? People who did not understand the Islamic culture, but “meant well.”

Act III: The Theatre. Broadway Bullet, Episode 608, was specifically focused on women’s voices and diversity in the theatre. Again, this is an issue I’ve brought up many a times — as recent as last week, in fact. In order to draw audiences to the theatre, we need to have diversity in the writing of the shows. We need diversity in the casting so that what is on stage reflects what is (or what should be) in the audience. We need diversity in the back and front of house production and creative positions as well. This diversity ensures we hear the voices we need to hear. But far too often, theatre go for what is safe, and that is shows often by white men aimed towards the white mindset.

Post-Logue. These are just three examples, and show why diversity is so important, and is so much more than tokenism. It is a change of attitude, a desire to bring not only diverse people but diverse viewpoints to issues. These articles — and it is emphasized in the Startup Podcast — show how these diverse viewpoints can improve the end product, often by coming at issues from a very different place and experience.

P.S.: You’re probably wondering why I chose the userpic. Two Gentlemen of Verona — at least the  musical version from the New York Shakespeare Festival — was one of the first productions that emphasized diversity and color-blind casting. It wasn’t a bunch of white men spouting Shakespeare.

P.P.S.: So what podcasts do I listen to? Here’s the current subscription list: The Allusionist, BackStory, Broadway Bullet, The Ensemblist, Freakonomics; Gastropod; Invisibilia; Irish and Celtic Music Podcast; LA Observed; Opening the Curtain; The Moth; NPR Technology; Planet Money; The Producers Perspective; Quirks and Quarks; Reply All; Science Friday; The Specialist; Startup; Theater People; This American Life; Wait, Wait, Dont’ Tell Me; The Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour; and 99% Invisible. There are quite a few more I’d love to add to the list, but I just don’t have the time. [ETA: Over the weekend, I added Surprisingly Awesome and Answer Me This.]

In the Spirit of This Time of Year… Something Jewish…

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Dec 22, 2015 @ 8:23 pm PST

userpic=levysIn the spirit of this time of year, here is the present of some News Chum that has been accumulating the last two weeks. In the spirit of religion of the source of the upcoming holiday, it’s also Jewish. What? You thought Jesus was Christian? Nope. The religion was created by his followers. Let’s dig in:

  • Let’s Go Shopping. A little late, but the news brings the report of the death of Lillian Vernon, Catalog Queen. Lillian Vernon (born Lilian Menasche) was the daughter of Jewish Germans who fled to Amsterdam during the rise of the Nazis in 1933, immigrated to New York in 1937. She attended NYU, but left after two years to marry the owner of a dry goods story in Mount Vernon, NY. With $2000 of their wedding money, Vernon, who was also pregnant, decided to start “a mail-order business on her yellow Formica kitchen table,” reported The New York Times. “With the help of her father, who by then was in the leather goods business, she advertised a personalized leather handbag for $2.99 plus tax—and a matching belt for $1.99—in the September issue of Seventeen magazine. The ad generated $32,000 in orders, and the Lillian Vernon brand was born.”
  • Interfaith Cooperation. Thus reporteth NPR: A mosque, a church and a synagogue go up on the site of an old Jewish country club …It sounds like the setup to a joke — but it’s not. It’s actually happening in Omaha, Neb. The Tri-Faith Initiative may be the first place in history where these three monotheistic faiths have built together, on purpose, with the intention of working together.
  • And On The Other Side… The Jewish Journal is reporting: The Jews for Jesus organization has denounced the Vatican for saying the Catholic Church must not try to convert Jews to Christianity. David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, said in a statement that his organization finds the position “… egregious, especially coming from an institution which seeks to represent a significant number of Christians in the world.” Translation: Jews for Jesus is a group whose specific aim is to pull people away from Judaism, so that they can be saved in Christ. Why is it wrong when Islam does it, but right for Christianity?
  • Jewish Fusion Cuisine. Quoth Haaretz: In Los Angeles, we’re seeing dishes like pastrami quesadillas at fast food Mexican spot J&S.  In Seattle, a food truck called Napkin Friends serves “latke press sandwiches” in decidedly non-kosher varieties like a BLT. In New York and San Francisco, you can order Kung Pao Pastrami at Mission Chinese Food. And El Nosh, a Puerto Rican-Jewish food mash-up that started as a food truck in California, threw a pop-up event in New York as recently as October.
  • Resurgent Yiddish. Earlier in the week, I wrote about my daughter and her work with Yiddish. That article mentioned her trip to Eastern Europe last summer with Helix. It is also impacting the stage, notably the new production of Fiddler on the Roof:
    Adam Kantor, the first in the procession of suitors for Tevye’s daughters, said the research he did last summer visiting where his ancestors are from and where the Tevye stories were written (“I, basically, found Anatevka”) empowered him for the moment when Motel the timid tailor becomes a man and asks for the hand of Tzeitel (the wonderful Alexandra Silber). “Feeling the landscape and learning about the culture of the shtetl and learning about my roots strengthened my performance, I believe. I come from a line of Jewish immigrants who had to fight for their lives to make something of themselves. I just drew from them and what they went through.”


Alternate Realities

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 20, 2015 @ 2:16 pm PST

If / Then (Hollywood Pantages)userpic=broadwaylaFirst and foremost, because I am obligated to clear the misconception: If you go to If/Then – The Musical expecting a musicalization of that seminal work, “Go To Statement Considered Harmful” by Edgar Dijkstra, you will be solely disappointed.

Although that would make a cool musical. Especially with Idena Menzel (FB) as Grace Hopper.

So what is If/Then (which we saw last night at the Pantages Theatre (FB) in Hollywood) about, if not programming? Science has a theory that every time anyone makes a decision, the universe splits. Each reality reflects the timeline from the decision point, following what would have happened for each way the decision could have gone. This creates an infinite number of alternate realities, reflecting all possible decisions. Many may be dead and lifeless; many may be almost identical. Each is self contained, with no way to know that the other realities exist.

If/Then shows the path of two of those realities as they apply to the life of Dr. Elizabeth Vaughan, an urban planner recently returned to New York City after the end of her college marriage. Both paths revolve around the interaction of Elizabeth and her friends: Lucas (a college friend and housing activist); Kate (a lesbian kindergarten teacher who lives across the hall from Elizabeth); Stephen (another college friend and an urban planner with the City of New York); and Josh (an Army doctor just returned from a tour of duty, who meets Elizabeth in the park).

In one path (the “Liz” path, so-called because Elizabeth is called “Liz” in this path), Liz follows the advice of Kate: she makes the wild choices. She goes into academia, starts dating the man she just met (Josh), and works to build a family and friends.

In the other path (the “Beth” path), Beth follows the advice of Lucas: she accepts a job doing urban planning for the city, and dedicates her life not to love but to work, moving up the urban planning life, working for Stephen.

In both cases, the “ideal” life goes in an uncertain direction in the second act, concluding with Beth/Liz getting the opportunity to start over. You can find a more detailed summary with the various plot twists over on Wikipedia.

The presentation of the alternate realities keeps intertwining the two timelines: songs often keep going back and forth from one line to the other during the song.  Contrast this with The Last 5 Years, which also has two timelines, but keeps them separate except for one meeting point. How do you keep track of which line you are in?  By what characters are around, their demeanor, and by what Elizabeth is called.

In reading the reviews before the show, I’ve seen critics all over the map regarding the story (an original story by Brian Yorkey) and the music/lyrics (music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey). Some like it; some find it “meh”. I actually enjoyed the story and seeing the multiple lines. If I had one quibble story-wise, it is that the show is far too New York City centric. I understand that to New Yorkers and to those who work on Broadway, New York City is the center of the universe — but it really isn’t. The 33 square miles of Manhattan is just a drop compared to most megalopolises.  The constant dropping of references to New York communities and institutions is confusing to the non-New York audiences, and the New York specific references in the projects provide no meaning or clues to those that know not New York. But the worst part is: none of them are necessary. The story would work just the same in any other major city (with some joke adjustments). This makes the New York attitude come off with a sense of “we’re better and cooler than you” — which will play great on Broadway, but lands with a thud elsewhere, thankyouverymuch.

Modulo the New York aspect, the underlying story I found enjoyable. This is one of those very few musicals that actually had humor that made me laugh. There are great jokes and great lines in this show (none of which I can recall right now, except for a wonderful Yankees / Mets joke), and the leads seemed reasonable, if not perhaps a bit too sitcom-successful. I should also note that I particularly liked the choice to have Elizabeth with a PhD in a technical field — urban planning. This is a wonderful role model for the girls in the audience, and deserves extra applause.

Before I go to the music, an aside about the audience. I’ve commented in the past about a phenomenon I’ll call “audience coloring”: that is, when a show by an African-American author or with African-American theme suddenly changes the complexion of the audience, and the same with other ethnicities. The implication — which I can understand — is that a group previously marginalized in the onstage presentation mix makes a special effort to go to a show that speaks to their experience. But I go to a show to learn about all experiences — and so I would like to see audience diversity for all shows, just as we’re pushing for performer and creative diversity on the stage and in the house. I mention this because there was a “coloring” I hadn’t noticed before at this show: there were significantly more same-sex couples — and visibly out same-sex couples — at this show. When I asked my wife, she felt it was because the show made a conscious effort (if not an over-effort) to portray same-sex and sexually-fluid couples in addition to the main story. I would think so, but it seemed too pushed, too forced. In fact, it is so pushed — and the show is so New York centric — that I wonder how this show will play outside the liberal urban centers (especially in the South and Midwest). I truly look forward to the day that diversity just is there, and the efforts to mirror society diversity aren’t as “in your face” as we’re seeing these days. End the aside. Begin the beguine.

This brings us to the music of the show. Going in, I had heard the album — in fact, I had heard the album with this cast (which is now something rare to get in Los Angeles (ah, for the days when the LACLO usually brought in the Broadway stars)). I had actually liked the music quite a bit — if I look in my iTunes, 60% of the songs are starred as favorites. Some songs are particularly cute — such as “What the Fuck?”; others are very touching. I particularly liked “You Learn to Live Without”, which is a lovely counterpoint to “Who Gave You Permission?” from Ballroom. Both looked at dealing with the aftermath of death: one with acceptance and moving forward, the other with anger. About my only problem with the music was volume — at times, it tended to overpower the voices. I’ll note that the orchestra (credits in a few paragraphs) was conducted by a woman: Carmel Dean [☣] — something you don’t see as much as you should, and kudos to the If/Then team for the selection.
[☣ – Note: Do not go to Dean’s website “carmeldean dot com”– it attempts a drive-by injection of malware. I have contacted the website designers (Roundhouse Designs), and they are working to disinfect the site.]

Music brings us to dance, and dance brings us to cheography. Here, perhaps, is my biggest quibble with the show. Larry Keigwin (FB)’s choreography, assisted by Associate Choreographer Mark Myars (FB), works most of the time. But during many numbers, inexplicably,  there are all these fancy dances going on in the background that seemingly have nothing to do with the story. By doing so, they serve to detract and not enhance the story. I strongly believe that dance in a show must serve the story; it isn’t just there to show of the dancing. Dance can show joy and happiness, love and sorry, in ways that words cannot. But you look in the background in many of the scenes — especially the park scenes early on — and it just makes no sense. Not every musical requires loads of dancing; some are just songs and appropriately rhythmic music. The choreographers here seemed to have forgotten that at points. Marc delaCruz (FB) served as dance captain; it is interesting to note that delaCruz was not the typical swing in the position, but had a significant track (David).

Let’s now turn to the performances. Luckily for many in the West (Denver, Seattle, LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Costa Mesa, Tempe) we get many of the original leads, so I can’t speak to how the new tour leads work. In terms of broad performance, the direction by Michael Greif, assisted by Associate Director David Alpert (FB) and Production Stage Manager Shawn Pennington (FB), worked to keep the distinctions between the multiple timelines clear. I didn’t see an obviously heavy directoral hand, and the movements and emotions seemed to fit the characters well (including, except for the odd dancing, the reactions of the ensemble to the main characters).  I’ll note that Greif has worked with Menzel quite a bit, so the quality of their closeness came out in the seamlessness of the performances.

In terms of individual performances, we begin with Idena Menzel (FB). She clearly brought a younger audience to the show; you should hear the reaction when she came out on stage. She has an energy and a connection to this character that comes across to the audience. I personally feel that she relates to the character and the notion of decisions that can shape one’s life: she’s coming out of a long marriage to Taye Diggs (FB), she’s had her life reshaped by her decisions on Frozen, and she probably is regularly thinking about how her decisions have lead her on this path. She gives a great — indeed, remarkable performance as Elizabeth/ Beth / Liz. Very realistic. Very natural. Some critics have commented on her voice; that didn’t bother me (I like distinctive voices). However, she did suffer from the New York centric focus of the show — the words in the songs often came too fast, making them difficult to follow. This won’t bother the New York audiences at all — New Yawkers talk fast and live fast. But out in the tour world, the story may be a little different. It will be interesting to see how Jackie Burns (FB) modifies the performance once Idena leaves — in particular, will she slightly slow things down to increase understandability.

In the next tier, we have the “best friends”: Kate (LaChanze (FB)) and Lucas (Anthony Rapp (FB)). LaChanze was delight to finally see — I’ve loved her voice since I first heard it on Once on this Island. She, too, brought a realize and naturalness to her character that was great; she clearly enjoyed this role. Similarly with Rapp — he came across as comfortable as Lucas, and had a nice interplay with Menzel. Both had wonderful singing voices.

Also in this tier were the love interests of various forms: James Snyder (FB) as Josh and Daren A. Herbert (FB) as Stephen. We’ve seen Snyder before on the LA stages in Dangerous Beauty. We loved his voice and performance then, and we love it still. He just has a very charming stage presence that makes him instantly likable, which combines with his great voice to give a powerhouse performance. My only complaint is that his album should also have been for sale.  Herbert was new to us, but also gave a good performance as Stephen. You could see him as a New York urban planner.

Rounding out the love interests of the secondary characters were Janine DiVita (FB) as Anne, Kate’s love interest (and U/S Elizabeth); Marc delaCruz (FB) as David, the love interest to Lucas in one track (and dance captain); and Kyra Faith (FB) as Elena.  DiVita gave a spirited performance as Anne — she mostly was in the background in Act I, but shone in Act II. I did enjoy Faith’s performance. She stands out in the ensemble and other numbers due to a unique height and look, and she has a great interaction with Menzel.

Rounding out the cast in smaller and ensemble positions were: English Bernhardt (FB) (Paulette and others); Xavier Cano (FB) (A Soldier and others; u/s David); Corey Greenan (FB) (Deputy Mayor, An Architect, and others; u/s Josh, Stephen); Cliffton Hall (FB) (A Bartender and others; u/s Lucas); Deedee Magno Hall (FB) (Cathy and others; u/s Elizabeth, Kate); Tyler McGee (FB) (A Street Musician and others; u/s Josh); and Alicia Taylor Tomasko (FB) (A Flight Attendant and others). Swings were Charissa Bertels (FB) (Swing; u/s Kate, Anne); Trey Ellett (FB) (Swing; u/s Lucas, David); Joseph Morales (FB) (Swing); and Emily Rogers (FB) (Swing; u/s Anne). This cast has a large number of double-understudies for some reason. Standouts in this group were McGee’s street musician (who I noticed playing his guitar). The group danced well, but note my previous comment on the choreography problems (which isn’t the fault of the performance, who executed the moves beautifully, but perhaps mechanically).

The last performance aspect is music. As noted earlier, the music was by Tom Kitt, who did his usual rockish score. Orchestrations were by Michael Starobin (FB). I found both the music and how it was orchestrated quite good. Rounding out the lead music credits were: Carmel Dean [Music Director]; Annmarie Milazzo [Vocal Arrangements]; Michael Keller [Music Coordinator]; Michael Aarons [Associate Music Coordinator]. The orchestra was conducted by Carmel Dean, assisted by Associate Conductor Kyle Norris (FB), and Assistant Conductor Dan Bailey (FB) [who was also Keyboard 1]. The remainder of the touring musicians were Hidayat Honari (FB) [Guitar] and Jay Mack (FB) [Drums]. These were augmented by LA local musicians Kathleen Robertson (FB) [Violin]; Susan Chatman [Concertmaster]; Jessica Van Velzen (FB) [Viola]; Paula Fehrenbach (FB) [Cello]; Trey Henry [Bass / Electric Bass]; Dick Mitchell [Alto Sax / Flute / Clarinet / Bass Clarinet]; John Yoakum (FB) [Tenor Sax / Clarinet / Oboe / English Horn]; Wayne Bergeron (FB) [Trumpet]; Paul Viapiano (FB) [Guitars]; David Witham (FB) [Keyboard Sub]; Brian Miller [Orchestra Contractor]. I’ll just note — because you don’t get to see the credits — that Bergeron is part of one of the best jazz bands around: Gordon Goodson’s Big Phat Band.

Turning to the creative and production credits. The set design by Mark Wendland worked well: there was a turntable (which obviously sat on top of the Pantages stage so they do not have to build it at each venue) and a number of movable open-frame boxes that served as multiple set pieces, combined with a scaffold. All worked well to establish the sense of place and worked well regarding the multiple timelines. They were augmented by projection design of Peter Nigrini and Dan Scully. The projections kept reinforcing the location as “New York” (dummy) through maps and subway lines, which were meaningless to those who did not know the city (like much of LA). They were, however, effective in conveying the appropriate sense of motion for the subway lines and the air travel. The lighting by Kenneth Posner worked well and provided appropriate emotional support for the scenes; I particularly noted the use of red washes near the end. We sat in the Mezzanine this show, and (unfortunately) discovered that Brian Ronan (FB)’s sound design wasn’t as well tuned for people off the ground floor — the sound was muffled a bit. I’m beginning to think the answer for the Pantages, if you are not mid-to-front on the Orchestra level, is to rent the headphone and let the amplification do its job. You’ll be in better shape than dealing with the sound bouncing off of all the rococo design in the Pantages auditorium. The costumes by Emily Rebholz worked reasonably well, although I was unsure about Menzel’s wedding dress in the Act II opener — it was oddly bulky and the zipper was too prominent (c’mon, I saw it from the balcony). The wig and hair desgin by David Brian Brown (FB) worked well and appeared natural; he must have fun trying to control Tyra Faith’s ‘doo :-). Rounding out the production credits are: Telsey+Company (FB) [Casting]; Jake Bell [Technical Supervision]; 321 Theatrical Management [General Management]; Jen Ash (FB) [Stage Manager]; Heather Englander (FB) [Asst. Stage Manager]. There were too many producers to list them all, so see here instead.

The If/Then tour (FB) continues in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre (FB) through January 3, 2016; it then decamps off to San Diego, Tempe, Costa Mesa. The original cast folks then depart, and the tour cast continues to Dallas and points midwest and east.  Tickets are available through the Pantages Box Office/Ticketmaster; discount tickets are available through Goldstar. I enjoyed the show quite a bit; I think you might as well. Just don’t go expecting to learn anything about program.

P.S.: The programmer in me insists on the following:  ENDIF. Of course, if you’re using Algol 68 or Bash, that should be FI. Then perhaps it should be END IF (Ada), unless it is END-IF (Cobol). Now I see why folks use blocks instead.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. 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: The last weekend of December has “The Bridges of Madison County” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and Nunsense at Crown City Theatre (FB). The new year, 2016, starts with “Louis and Keeley – Live at the Sahara” at The Geffen Playhouse (FB) on January 2nd. This is followed by “Bullets Over Broadway” at the Pantages (FB) on January 9; “Stomp” at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)  on January 24; and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on January 30. There is also a “hold” (i.e., dates blocked, but awaiting ticketing) for for January 16 or January 17 for “That Lovin’ Feelin’” at The Group Rep (FB). There is also the open question of whether there will be Repertory East Playhouse (“the REP”) (FB) 2016 season, and when it will start. This leads to uncertainty about the Group Rep show (I’ll note that if there is no REP season, I’ll likely subscribe at Group Rep — call it the Law of Conservation of REP). There is currently nothing on the schedule for February, except for February 28, when we are seeing The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). March brings “Another Roll of the Dice” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and has two potential dates on hold for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) (pending Hottix). I expect to be filling out February as December goes on.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

OK, I’m Bragging Just a Little…

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Dec 15, 2015 @ 5:29 pm PST


verb Slang. extraordinarily pleased; especially, to be bursting with pride, as over one’s family. 2. Berkeley undergrad maps California Yiddish culture with help from Magnes Collection.

Origin of kvell. 1965-70, Americanism; Yiddish kveln קוועלן be delighted; compare Middle High German, German quellen well up, gush.

An Avenue Q Christmas

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 13, 2015 @ 3:18 pm PST

Who Killed Santa? (Theatre 68)userpic=chanukah-christmasPuppets have an interesting place in the panoply of potential actors. Some puppets are clearly designed to tell stories to children — sappy fairy tales with morals, clear distinctions between good and evil, and nary a hint of sex. Often, the intent is for the audience to see the puppets as only the puppet; the underlying puppeteer is invisible. The use of the puppets in adult stories was very limited, and limited to the Flahooleys in Flahooley, the puppets of Carnival, and, umm, well that’s about it.

Then came Avenue Q. Avenue Q showed that puppets can be used to tell an adult story. In fact, Avenue Q showed that puppets can be used to tell a story that might not be possible with human actors. Puppets can offend and say things that a human would never get away with. Avenue Q also showed that it doesn’t make a difference if you can see the human puppeteer, as long as said puppeteer dressed in all black. In fact, seeing the puppeteer had some advantages in that the expressive human’s face could augment the much more limited expressiveness of the puppet face. Oh, and ventriloquism? Thrown out the window.  If you can see the puppeteer, you know these are puppets and there is no reason to throw your voice. Just go with the suspension of disbelief.

Who Killed Santa?, which we saw last night at the NoHo Arts Center (FB) in a production from Theatre 68 (FB), is clearly a product of the Avenue Q vein of puppetry. The main cast of puppet characters (see in the postcard to the right) all have human manipulators that are clearly visible (and are, of course, wearing black). Most of the puppets are hand and rod puppets (think most Muppets or Princeton from Ave. Q); Frosty is a hand and glove or “live hand” puppet (think Sweetums from the Muppets or Nicky from Ave. Q).

Who Killed Santa? is also, clearly, a Christmas show. We’re Jewish. So why would we go see a Christmas show, especially as we had already seen one Christmas show this season already? The answer is, like the previous show, that the synopsis was so warped as to draw us in:

In this hilarious and irreverent send-up, Santa is hosting his annual holiday party attended by the usual holiday favorites: Frosty, Tiny Tim, The Little Drummer Boy, and Rudolph, who all have a bone to pick with Santa. After the introduction of the sexy new Little Drummer Girl, tempers flare, and Santa ends up with a candy cane through the heart. No one will confess, no one can leave, and Christmas is in jeopardy. As the tension builds, a couple of incompetent detectives enter the scene, and all the dirty secrets of these iconic holiday characters are revealed. Eventually, with the help of the audience, the murderer is convicted and sentenced.

So let’s put this together: We have puppets. We have a Christmas-themed murder mystery. We have adult themes and songs. We have no religious content. We have parodies of well-known Christmas songs. Wouldn’t that draw you in? This was either going to be great, or it was going to be a train wreck.

Who Killed Santa? (Production Stills)I’m pleased to say that the train stayed on the track. I am sad to say that I couldn’t get fully into the moment and the humor, but that wasn’t the fault of the show but the fault of the light migraine that chose to manifest itself 15 minutes into the show (after staying away for the entire ACSAC conference). But even with the headache, I found the show very cute and enjoyable, with great song parodies, wonderful performances, and some really good humor.

Playwright Neil Haven (FB) has created a Santa who is very different than the current image of the jolly fat man (which, truthfully, sets people up for unrealistic expectations). Haven’s Santa is one that overworks his elf employees, denies them holiday parties, drinks to excess, and who is interested in keeping his, well, North Pole polished, if you get my drift. This creates adult backstories / interstitials for all of the iconic characters portrayed by the puppets: Frosty, who Santa abuses and refuses to consider a part of Christmas, relegating him to the lesser “Winter” holidays, and who has an unspoken past with Santa; Tiny Tim, who is a virgin — a source of great mirth to Santa; Steve, the drummer boy, who has suffered abuse at the hands of Santa; Rudolph, who also has a drinking problem as well as potential relationship issues; and the newest icon: Chastity, the drummer girl, who was added to bring more female balance to the team, and to whom Santa is hoping to have a relationship that is inappropriate for an old man and a girl. Tim is also interested in such a relationship, which pisses off Santa who sees Tim as competition. All of this, you see, can lead one to murder.

That, of course, is eventually what happens. Santa is stabbed with a candy cane, and through various expositional means, all of the backstories come out. Any of the characters had both motive and opportunity. This leaves it to the elves to decide who is the guilty party.

This brings us to the elves, who are played by… the audience and the tech crew. At the beginning of the show, the two costumed elves — the keyboardist and the light/sound guy — inform the audience that they are elves, and are being oppressed by Santa. At various points in the show, they are led in protest songs (found in the program) and get to hold up picket signs (the last page of the program). They are also excluded from Santa’s holiday party where the action on stage is happening. As a result, the actors on stage periodically wipe the windows clear and made comments about the elven audience … and then turn to the elven audience to decide on the killer and to, in Edwin Drood style, determine which of the potential endings for the show will be used.

In terms of the story, I’d characterize it as a bunch of caricatures thrown together to create a story. In this sense, it is no different than other mashups, such as the movie Rise of the Guardians. The caricatures, however, seem intentionally drawn to turn these sweet characters into adults. The portrayal emphasizes their randiness and adult nature, including adult proclivities and weaknesses. I personally found it reasonably funny, although others might find it a tad overdone. I would guess that one’s reaction would depend on how one viewed the characters in the first place. As I have little connection or emotional resonance with the iconic characters, I’m willing to go with the flow.

The music in the story is primarily a collection of parodies of existing Christmas and holiday music. The nature of the parodies ranges from the extremely well done to the extremely raunchy. Here’s an example from a few pages of the script that I found online:

Frosty the Snow Thing
Is like them plastic dolls.
The kids forgot his ding-a-ling
But he does have three big balls.

Here’s another, to the tune of Carol of the Bells:

Santa is dead.
Blood has been shed.
Evil at work.
Someone’s a jerk.

No one can leave
Cannot believe
One of you guys
Wrought his demise

You should have the idea by now. I found the songs to be cute takes on the original. Will you like them? That depends on whether you’re willing to go along with the parody and the notions in play.

Where does this leave us, at least in terms of the story? I think if you are a person who hold Christmas near and dear, one who cannot laugh at iconic Christmas characters or accept their straying off the narrow path of purity, then this is not the musical play for you. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to go along with iconic characters (including Santa) as raunchy versions of themselves, and for there to be sexual dalliances between iconic Christmas characters (including children) and adults — and, in fact, if you can laugh at that notion — then you’ll love this play.

The performances are hard to judge; it is hard to be spectacular when one hand is covered in felt and foam, the other is manipulating a rod, and the audience may be looking at the puppet’s face instead of yours. Still, there were memorable aspects. As Frosty the Snowman, Jonathan Berenson (FB) (the bulk of Frosty), and Peter Osterweil (FB) (Frosty’s right arm) projected an air of affibility.  They brought a good energy to the role, although given the nature of Frosty, I hesitate to say they were hot (but I’m sure they did a great cold reading… I’m here all week folks, try the fish sandwich). Seriously, I liked their interpretation of Frosty — a bit addled, but clearly annoyed by Santa’s treatment of him.

Jotapé Lockwood (FB)’s portrayal of Steve, the Little Drummer Boy, was perhaps the biggest surprise in the cast. He did a great job of creating the image of Steve — the little drummer boy who now played with heavy metal bands. Then he opens his mouth for the parody of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”, and this marvelous operatic voice comes out. I’d love to hear this guy do an opera or a concert — he is that good. Reminded me of Rod Gilfry in the quality of his voice.

Marissa Fennell (FB)’s Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer took the red nose to heart. She vocalized the character as if the red nose was due not only to drinking, but to a very bad head cold. There was this odd nasal quality to the vocal interpretation that I found odd until it was explained to me. As an audience member, I can’t tell if it was her choice or the directors, but I think it was a little strong. Other than that, the character came across fine — a randy drunken buck, potentially interested in other bucks. But as Fats Waller says….

Katie Zeiner‘s Tiny Tim was portrayed with a strong British, if not Cockney, voice and attitude. She conveyed the randiness of Tim appropriately, and limped as she moved the puppet, a nice choice.

Rebecca Rose Phillips (FB) was the newest iconic character, Chastity, the Little Drummer Girl. As Chastity, Phillips brought an interesting sexual energy to the role. Nowhere is this clearer than in her introductory number, a parody of Lady Marmalade,  with a refrain of “Faa-la-la-la Pah-rum pum / Faa-la-la-la-la here / Marshmallow Hot Choc-lat Yum Yum / Norske Goddess Mrs. Claus”

This brings us to the lone actor that portrays all the non-puppet characters: Thomas F. Evans (FB), who is Santa Claus, The Detective, The Tooth Fairy, and Mrs. Claus. Evans’ portrayal of each of these is very different from each other. His Santa Claus is clearly a horny alcoholic letch, although the costuming seemingly interferes with the clearly fake beard (although I understand why they do it). His dectective is suitably bumbling, and I truly do not have strong impressions of his latter two characters (the headache kicked in right around then, and all I can recall is enjoying them, but not the specifics).

The cast was rounded out by Ed Cosico (FB) and Jordan Wall (FB) as the elves.Their main performance role was to stir up the workers (audience) into singing protest songs and to hold protest banners. In their day job, they were the Acocmpanist and the Sound / Light Board operator, respectively.

Who Killed Santa? was directed and produced by Ronnie Marmo (FB), who is also the artistic director of Theatre 68. Marmo recognized this play for what it is: a light fluff of a comedy designed to entertain and then get out of the way. He captured the stereotypes well, if not a bit too much, and cast actors that were able to improves when things went wrong (which often happens in intimate theatre). I did appreciate that he had his actors do the little things, like vocalizing the squeaking you hear when you wipe a misty window dry to look out of it. Marmo was assisted by Heidi Rhodes (FB).

Turning to the production side of things: The set was designed by Danny Cistone (FB), who created a simple Christmasy room that established place and supported the story. What more could you ask for? The puppets were by Libby Letlow (FB), based on the original designs of Dan Katula. Letlow also provided the puppetry coaching. Both were executed well — the actors seems to inhabit and portray the puppet characters handily (see what I did there :-)). The puppets themselves seemed to be well suited for the job, and seemed to characterize their characters appropriately. The lighting by Paul McGee/FB did a suitable job of establishing mood and illuminating the scenes.  Props were by Grace DeWolff, and were cute and effective. The costumes, by MJ Scott/FB, were effective (such as they were). The parenthetical was due to the fact that the only character with a real costume was Santa / The Detective / Tooth Fairy / Mrs. Claus. Those worked, and provided sufficient ability to change. My only complaint was that the Santa beard was just a little too fake. Remaining production credits were: Emily Juliani (FB) – Tech Director / Prop Master; Brian Myers/FB – Music Arrangement; Jotapé Lockwood (FB) – Music Direction; Marissa Fennell (FB) – Publicity Stills (which you can see above); Neil Haven (FB) – Sound Design; Jordan Wall (FB) – Light and Sound Operator; Sandra Kuker PR (FB) – Publicity and Marketing; Sandra McHale – Playbill Design; Amanda Schlicher (FB) – Playbill Design. Who Killed Santa? was originally produced and conceived with puppets in Milwaukee WI by Neil Haven (FB), Bo Johnson (FB), and Dan Katula.

Who Killed Santa? continues at the NoHo Arts Center (FB) until January 2nd, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 7pm, except for Christmas Day. Tickets are available at Plays411. It does not appear to be up on Goldstar; however discount tickets are available on LA Stage Tix, while they last. If you’re looking for an adult-oriented silly fluff of a Christmas play, this one should do nicely.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. 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: The third weekend of December brings the touring company of “If/Then” at the Pantages (FB). The last weekend of December has “The Bridges of Madison County” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and Nunsense at Crown City Theatre (FB). The new year, 2016, starts with “Louis and Keeley – Live at the Sahara” at The Geffen Playhouse (FB) on January 2nd. This is followed by “Bullets Over Broadway” at the Pantages (FB) on January 9; “Stomp” at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)  on January 24; and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on January 30. There is also a “hold” (i.e., dates blocked, but awaiting ticketing) for for January 16 or January 17 for “That Lovin’ Feelin’” at The Group Rep (FB). There is also the open question of whether there will be Repertory East Playhouse (“the REP”) (FB) 2016 season, and when it will start. This leads to uncertainty about the Group Rep show (I’ll note that if there is no REP season, I’ll likely subscribe at Group Rep — call it the Law of Conservation of REP). There is currently nothing on the schedule for February, except for February 28, when we are seeing The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). March brings “Another Roll of the Dice” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and has two potential dates on hold for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) (pending Hottix). I expect to be filling out February as December goes on.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Music: “The Gift”, from The Fortress of Solitude (2015 Original Cast), performed by Kristen Sieh, and the Fortress Ensemble

News Chum Forgotten on the Stove

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 12, 2015 @ 3:26 pm PST

Observation StewThe ACSAC conference is over. I come home after a week commuting back and forth to the hotel, and what do I find? I left the news chum simmering on the stove. Let’s hope it didn’t get burnt or go bad…