Observations Along the Road

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

A Swinging Good Time | Doc Severinsen at VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 15, 2017 @ 7:31 am PDT

Doc Severinsen and his Big Band (VPAC)If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like music and live performance. As I’ve gotten older, I find a read less, but treasure music and performance more. As for what type of music, the answer is simple: all. I can find performers in almost every musical genre that I love (yes, even rap). I go to theatre seasons and plays and musicals to fulfill my need as an audience member to see stories on stage. I go to venues such as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB),  McCabes (FB),  and the Hollywood Bowl to satisfy my musical live performance needs.

Thursday night saw us at VPAC for the penultimate show of our mini subscription: A celebration of Doc Severinsen and his Big Band on the occasion of his upcoming 90th birthday. For the youngsters out there, Doc Severinson was the long time band leader on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, from 1962 until the show ended in 1992. No, not the version with Jimmy Fallon. Not the version before that with Conan O’Brian. Not the version before that with Jay Leno. The long running version that actually had a big band.

Doc actually opened VPAC in… well, whenever it opened. It was Doc that did the first show and helped them tune the hall.

Thursday nights show was pure big band and swing. Doc was joined on a few songs by his vocalist, Vanessa Thomas. He was also joined, at times, by a violinist who was not listed in the program. His band consisted of:

I’ll note that a number of these musicians are also involved with Gordin Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (Goodwin is also a graduate of CSUN’s jazz program).

The program was straightforward big band jazz:

  • The Johnny Carson Theme
  • I Want To Be Happy
  • September Song
  • Singing in the Rain
  • When You’re Smiling
  • Georgia on My Mind
  • Isn’t She Lovely?
  • Jumping at the Woodside

(Intermission)

  • [Song I didn’t recognize]
  • Things Aren’t The Way They Used To Be
  • Happy Birthday Papa Doc
  • Mood Indigo
  • Secret Love
  • Every Day I Have the Blues
  • 1 O’Clock Jump

I’ll note this is very similar to their 2016 program on the website. This means the song I didn’t recognize was likely Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia.”

This was truly an enjoyable program. It is also remarkable to see Severinsen still doing this — touring and blasting away with his trumpet — at age 90.

 🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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: Tonight brings Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB). That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The last weekend of April brings the Renaissance Pleasure Faire on Saturday, and the new musical The Theory of Relativity at Harter Hall/Charles Stuart Howard Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB), and hopefully Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB).  As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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Life in Harmony | Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 10, 2017 @ 11:35 am PDT

The Summet - Take 6 and the Manhattan Transfer (VPAC)One of the advantages of concert reviews is that they are much easier to write. There’s no plot; no story. Nothing to analyze or compare and contrast. No incredibly large ensemble to write up (usually). There’s not even a requirement to write up a set list, especially if I am less familiar with the group’s repertoire to know the names of every song. I can just sit back and enjoy the music.

That’s what I did last night at “The Summit: Take 6 and the Manhattan Transfer” at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) at CSUN. Sit back and listen to the rhythms and the harmonies. It was a delight.

I’ve known about The Manhattan Transfer (FB) for years, going back to when I was a subscriber at KCRW and Tim Hauser was programing one of their “becomes Eclectic” shows (I want to say “Morning Becomes Eclectic”). Hauser founded the group, and I think I became aware of them in their post-1970s version with Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Laurel Massé (later replaced with Cheryl Bentyne). After Hauser’s death, Trist Curless replaced him. The Paul / Siegel / Bentyne / Curless configuration was the configuration we saw last night.

On the other hand, I was unfamiliar with Take 6 (FB). Take 6 is an  a cappella gospel music sextet formed in 1980. It consists of Claude V. McKnight III, Mark Kibble, David Thomas, Joey Kibble, Khristian Dentley, Alvin Chea. They had some remarkable vocal qualities, including Chea’s ability to become the best bass you’ve ever heard.

In most shows with two artists, you often have one act with one artist, a second act with the other artist, and the two coming together for perhaps one or two songs. That wasn’t the case here. These two groups were obviously comfortable with each other, and kept switching it up: doing songs together, swapping members (for example, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” was sung by the two ladies of MT and two of the men of T6). There were a few sequences done with each group alone, and there was one sequence where each group playfully sang some of the other groups songs. In short, they were having fun out there being playful with each other, and this fun was reflected into the audience.

I did not keep track of the songs to make a playlist. I know that MT did a number of there most popular songs — I remember them doing Tuxedo Junction, Route 66, Candy, Operator, Trickle Trickle, and Birdland. Being less familiar with T6’s songs, I can’t quite recall which ones they did. Both did a number of songs with audience participation. Again, playful and fun.

This is the type of jazz that I like: harmonies, melodies, swinging. There was also quite an element of traditional jazz in the scat and playing with the music and the melody. They packed quite a lot of fun into a single ~100 minute, one act show. If you like this style of music, I’d recommend this show strongly.

Their performance at VPAC was just for the one night, but they are playing tonight at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, Saturday 2/11 at the Cerritos CenterSunday 2/12 in Wickenberg AZ, and Tuesday 2/14 in Tucson AZ. After that, according to their website, they are off to Florida, the Carolinas, and Virginia.  As for us, our next concert is Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) a week from tonight (February 17), and our next jazz is Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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: Theatre continues this weekend with 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend of February brings Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) on Friday, February 17, with seeing Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade on Sun 2/19. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. We may go see Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) on March 18 — we’re still planning that. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April bringsDoc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

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Skeletons On The Stage | “Vote or Die Laughing” @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 02, 2016 @ 6:48 pm PDT

Vote or Die Laughing (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunIt wasn’t what I expected. In some ways, I was a pez fuera del agua.

Perhaps I should explain. When I booked our Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)’s mini-season, there was a show a week before election day called Vote or Die Laughing by a group called Culture Clash. I thought it was another group like The Capitol Steps, and we would have an evening of politically themed comedy.

I was wrong. I was right. I’m so confused. I should have looked at the subtitle. We really did have a “post-modern political vaudeville”.

The comedy group Culture Clash, consisting of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Sigüenza, were the glue for the evening, which was part political commentary, part a celebration of Dia de los Muertos, and part a celebration of Latino culture and arts. In between various comedy pieces — both live and taped — from Culture Clash, there was standup comedy, dance, music, and celebration, all with a distinctly power to la raza political vibes, although they were officially bi-partisan. Not.

As a result, the unexpected surprise was a delightful evening, even though I only understood about 90% of it.

The acts in the political vaudeville were as follows:

Culture Clash. This was a comedy group that arose out of San Francisco that had both pointed and dated political comedy. I think the most timely piece was a “Election Jeopardy” pitting Trump against Clinton against Tarzan, whose only answers were Cheech and Chong. This played on the stereotypes of Trump and Clinton, with Clinton knowing loads of facts on Latino history, and Trump knowing precious little. Other comedy segments included a taped version of “American Border Gladiators”, and a Paleta Man number which touched upon references that I (a white Jew) did not pick up on. There was also a touching piece by Ric Salinas on when he got shot, and a recorded piece from their TV show when Lalo Guerrero sang about there being no Hispanics on TV. Alas, that’s still true.

Stand Up Comedy. There were two stand up comedienne’s, one in each act. In the first act was Marga Gomez, who was a founding member of Culture Clash. The second act was Cristela Alonzo. Both were very funny.

Dance. The first act included two dance performances from Pacifico Dance Company: one number titled Calacas Clandestinas and the other Popurri de Chilenas. It was a delight to watch.

Music. The main music for the show was provided by the group Buyepongo, who performed in both acts. It is hard to describe Buyepongo, other than engergetic eclectic latin music. We really enjoyed them, and picked up their latest album.

Also performing, at the top of Act II, was La Santa Cecilia, who did three or four numbers. They were spectacular, especially when their lead vocalist, La Marisoul, did one song without amplification — demonstrating both the power of her voice and the power of the acoustics at VPAC.

There was also a number from Richard Montoya with Michael Roth and the Atzlan Underground that focused on #BlackLivesMatter. Very moving words and images, although not my style of music.

As you can see, it really was an eclectic mix of an evening, and not what I expected. I enjoyed the dance and music, got about 80% of the jokes, and truly felt that the evening wasn’t aimed at me. That’s fine. I enjoyed seeing and learning about another culture. that is so important here in the southland.

Plus, I used to live a stone’s throw from Pacoima, so perhaps by osmosis….

Here’s the review from The LA Times. They remembered a bit more than I did, including these fantastic puppets of Trump and Hillary that accompanied the dancers.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).  The Chromolume 2017 season looks particularly good: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  This weekend brings Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Nottingham Festival (FB). We then lose a weekend as we travel to Palo Alto for a Bar Mitzvah. The third weekend of November brings Funny Girl, a Conundrum Theatre Company (FB) guest production at  The Colony Theatre (FB) and a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]. November concludes with a HOLD date for Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. December starts with Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, and staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

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

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

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Songbird and Jazzmen | Kelli O’Hara / Wynton Marsalis @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Oct 15, 2016 @ 10:44 am PDT

An Evening with Kelli O'Hara (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunLast night, we continued our CSUN Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (fb) concert going with An Evening with Kelli O’Hara. If you aren’t familiar with Ms. O’Hara (fb), she’s a Broadway star who has starred in such revivals as the recent of The King and I, the recent South Pacific, the Harry Connick Jr. version of The Pajama Game, as well as originating lead roles in shows such as Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Bridges of Madison County, and The Light in the Piazza. She’s also got an upcoming role in Masters of Sex, and was in the live Peter Pan.

This being a concert, I really don’t have a detailed synopsis to share, nor did I keep a detailed set list. She opened with two Rogers & Hammerstein numbers — “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I and “A Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific, and then moved into “To Build a Home” from Bridges of Madison County.  Over the evening she did numbers from a number of other shows she was in: “The Light in the Piazza” from The Light in the Piazza, one song from Sweet Smell of Success (I’m guessing “I Cannot Hear the City”), and “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George. She also did a song about New York from some Sondheim show that I didn’t recognize, two songs that she wrote, one song that her husband, Greg Naughton, wrote, and one song that her music director, Dan Lipton (fb), wrote. She also sang some Frank Sinatra standards, and the Comden/Green tune “Make Someone Happy” from Do Re Mi. Her encore was “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady.

If you’re familiar with the songs, she had a distinct preference for the slower romantic ballads; there were only a handful of upbeat numbers (including a great number (the one from Lipton) that was about a Country Western singer doing Opera). In between the songs, she shared her experience and career on Broadway, told a little about her family, and discussed her upcoming show at Carnegie Hall.

The songs in her perhaps 100 minute, one-act show were performed beautifully (although I wished she had interspersed more upbeat numbers). In fact, interspersion of such numbers might allow her to expand the show to the two acts the audience was expecting, and would have improved the variety quite a bit. Her dialogue was very fast, and gave the impression that she was likely a bit more nervous than she was. Although she was clearly comfortable on stage, she didn’t have that easy concert comfort we’ve seen from performers like Lea Salonga or Brian Stokes Mitchell, who we’ve also seen on the VPAC stage. If I had to give her one piece of advice to improve her show, it would be: relax. The audience is there to see you, and have fun with you. Although you love singing the ballads and love songs, have some fun. Throw in some upbeat numbers (perhaps even something Jazzy from Cy Coleman, or something humorous from Marcy and Zina). As you were in Nice Work, throw in a little Gershwin for good measure. The mix could work quite well.

Kelli O’Hara was accompanied by her music director, Dan Lipton (fb), on piano; Peter Donovan (fb) on Bass, and Gene Lewin (fb) on Drums.

***

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (VPAC)Last week I was so caught up in my political posts I neglected to write up our other recent VPAC show. Last Saturday night we were at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. This was an evening that I originally booked because my wife likes jazz; I was expecting Bradford Marsalis style music — you know, the long riff, improvisational, non-melodic wandering jazz. I was very pleased with this evening — it was a great show. Alas, I didn’t write down a playlist (but luckily I found a review that did)

The evening opened with the CSUN Jazz “A” ensemble. Most people are unaware that CSUN has one of the top jazz programs in the nation. If you’ve heard Gordan Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (fb), you’re hearing a product of CSUN Jazz. Goodwin was part of CSUN Jazz back in the mid-1970s. If you’ve heard Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (fb), you’re looking at yet again a product of CSUN Jazz, as most of the members of CSUN Jazz graduates. The current Jazz “A” Group (who, as it happens, will be the entertainment at the ACSAC Conference Dinner),  consist of 20 students led by Matt Harris (fb), the band director. Their program (which was the first act) consisted of “Just in Time”, “Hello and Goodbye” by Bob Brookmeyer, and “Neil” by Rich DeRosa.  They were excellent, and just blew us away.

Per the program, the CSUN “A” Band consisted of Ben McPeek (fb) and Zakaria Solotoff (fb) on Alto Sax; Jordan Leicht (fb) and Lucas Reeder (fb) on Tenor Sax; Jeff Brown (fb) on Bari Sax; Michael Gutierrez (fb) on Lead Trumpet; Garek Najita (fb), Jesse Seibold (fb), Cesar Hernandez (fb), and Marco Lopez (fb) on Trumpet; A. J. Asano (fb) on Lead Trombone; Chris Middleton (fb), Carl Engstrom (fb), and Ryan Ruder (fb) on Trombone; Adam Hersh (fb) on Piano; Miles McIntosh (fb) and Keelan Walters (fb) on Guitar; Daniel Massey (fb) on Bass; and Kirk Portuguez (fb) on Drums.

The second act was the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (fb) with Wynton Marsalis (fb), who sat in the back row and was very unpreposing. Their program consisted of a lot of Jazz standards — in particular, a lot of Duke Ellington, and was much more of the style of jazz that I quite like (i.e., with a melodic or rhythmic undertone). The review I found noted such songs as Ellington’s “Portrait of Louis Armstrong” as well as Ellington’s “Chinoserie”. There was a wonderful piece from alto saxophonist Ted Nash’s recent album Presidential Suite titled “The Time For Healing of Wounds Has Come.” from Nelson Mandela. Nash’s 92 year old father, Dick Nash, then joined the group for Ellington’s “Take The ‘A’ Train” and a few other numbers, demonstrating the multigenerational nature of modern jazz. There was also Thelionius Monk‘s “Rhythm A Ning”.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (fb) consisted of Wynton Marsalis (fb) [Music Director, Trumpet]; Ryan Kisor [Trumpet], Kenny Rampton (fb) [Trumpet]; Marcus Printup (fb) [Trumpet]; Vincent Gardner (fb) [Trombone]; Chris Crenshaw (fb) [Trombone]; Elliot Mason (fb) [Trombone]; Sherman Irby (fb) [Alto and Soprano Sox, Flute, Clarinet], Ted Nash (fb) [Alto and Soprano Sax, Flute, Clarinet]; Victor Goines (fb) [Tenor and Soprano Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet]; Walter Blanding (fb) [Tenor and Soprano Sax, Clarinet]; Paul Nedzela (fb) [Baritone and Soprano Sax; Bass Clarinet]; Dan Nimmer (fb) [Piano]; Carlos Henriquez (fb) [Bass]; and Ali Jackson (fb) [Drums].

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).  The Chromolume 2017 season looks particularly good: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  This evening sees us in Thousand Oaks for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

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One Person Can Change The World | “Dear World” @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Oct 01, 2016 @ 10:56 am PDT

Dear World (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunThe first Jerry Herman musical that I ever saw was a failed Jerry Herman musical. the LACLO production of Mack and Mabel back in 1974. Since then, I’ve seen some other failed Jerry Herman musicals, most notably The Grand Tour at The Colony Theatre in 2005. Last night, I added another peacock feather to my obscure Jerry Herman musical hat: a concert performance of Dear World (FB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). That just leaves Milk and Honey, and the never performed Miss Spectacular.

When Dear World debuted in 1969, to put it bluntly, it flopped. It came on the heels of Hello Dolly! and Mame, but ran only 177 performances. Based on Jean Giraudoux‘s play The Madwoman of Chaillot as adapted by Maurice Valency, it starred Angela Lansbury as the Countess Aurelia. Although Lansbury won a Tony Award for her performance, there were many problems. Most critics blame the fact that this was a chamber-piece blown up for a large Broadway house. Others cited problems with the books, and some articles I’ve read cited the banality of some of the lyrics. There have been attempts to update the show — most notably at Goodspeed in the early 2000s — but they haven’t gone anywhere. Last night’s performance was not a formal production of the show — there were no sets or costumes, no choreography. It was a concert performance: actors on-book at music stands performing, with a narrator to set the scene. By doing so, it allowed the audience to focus on the score and the story. The version presented appeared to be the revised Goodspeed version, which started from the original book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, with subsequent adaptations by David Thompson. This version reordered the songs slightly, and added two songs that were not on the original cast recording from 1969.

The basic structure on Dear World is one common to musicals from the 1960s: there is a basic main story, and a background love story (because there always needs to be a love story). The basic main story, as modified slightly from the original, concerns a bunch of greedy rich corporate presidents discovering oil under a cafe in Paris, and the Countess and her mad friends hatching a plot to prevent them from destroying Paris to get the oil. The love plot concerns the relationship between a waitress at the cafe and the son of one of the corporate presidents. At bit fanciful and farfetched, one could imagine it falling with a thud in 1969 because of the lack of the concern at that time about either the supply of oil or corporate greed. We hadn’t even had the first Earth Day yet. There was no connection with the plot at all.

Today, on the other hand, the basic plot is much more relevant. We have seen what men will go through to get their oil and gas — especially just up the hill in Porter Ranch, for example. We have seen how corporate greed can destroy. Speaking of corporate greed, in fact, we have a candidate for President who is the poster child for corporate greed and unbridled wealth. One of the songs added to the second act, “Have a Little Pity on the Rich” (performed excellently by Steven Weber (TW)), could easily be sung by Donald Trump, as a man who isn’t attracted to wealth — wealth is attracted to him:

If I throw a diamond in the Seine
It comes up in the trout I had for dinner.
If I bet a bundle on a mare with rickets
Well, the mare becomes a winner.
If I throw a franc away
Or give a bank away
Or drop my assets in a ditch
The more that its money to burn for me
The faster profits return to me
So have a little pity on the rich.
(“Have a Little Pity on the Rich“, M/L: Jerry Herman)

His opposition is a determined woman, a woman who many think of as crazy, but might be the most sane out there. Her core belief is captured in the simple song “One Person”:

If one person can beat a drum
And one person can blow a horn
If one person can hold a torch
Then one person can change the world.

C’mon, in this era of Bernie Sanders, who can’t hear that as a battle cry.

Thus, in Dear World, we have a musical that has the potential to have a reverberating legacy that wasn’t there in 1969 when it was first produced, or even in the early 2000s when the revised version comes out. We have a musical that has the potential to make a statement about the power of one (as any mathematician knows) over corporate greed, about the power of a determined woman over greedy white men.

We have the potential, yes. However, I don’t think the Goodspeed revisions quite get one there. The characters are a little too comic, a little too caricatured.  The underlying love story feels grafted on, an afterthought, something not integral to the story. The madness of the Countess and her friends seems out of place today. It is as if the book writers never were quite sure what they wanted the story to be: allegorical farce or a pointed message piece. Could this piece succeed? Yes, given the right attention, the right reworked book, and some reworking / restructuring of some of the songs.

Yes, some of the great Herman songs need reworking, simply because of their banality. The title song is a great example:

Please take your medicine, dear world,
Please keep your pressure down, dear world.
Promise to thrive on each word your doctor speaks,
He’ll bring the roses back to your cheeks.
For you’ve been a pallid and blah world,
Stick out your tongue and say “Ahh,” world.
We’ll give you plasma and tonic, by the spoon,
So be a dear world,
Take your medicine, dear world,
Keep your pressure down, dear world,
And get well soon!

There is the potential for a great musical here. It is no longer critical. But it still needs some medicine.

Luckily, in a concert version you can set all of that aside and listen to the music. It’s one night, so you don’t need to worry about whether the book works long term. You can assemble a team of great performers, a wonderful orchestra, and sit back and enjoy. This is what VPAC did.

Stepping into the shoes of Angela Lansbury (who was perhaps too young for the part back in 1969) was Tyne Daly (FB) — who fit the part great. She brought a unique characterization to a performance that minimally required her to sing, and in doing so brought the Countess to life. She handled her numbers well, in particularly her main numbers of “I Don’t Want To Know”, and “One Person” quite well.

Supporting Lansbury as the other countesses were Vicki Lewis (FB) as Madame Constance and Bets Malone (FB) as Madame Gabrielle. They played off each other well, and were great in the tri-parte “The Tea Party”.

The evil side of the equation was represented by the three corporate presidents — E.E. Bell (FB) [President One], Michael Shepperd (FB) [President Two], and James Leo Ryan (FB) [President Three] — and the Prospector who discovered the oil, Damon Kirsche (FB). This group was strong — especially Bell and Kirsche. Shepperd needed to be closer to the microphone; his voice (which was good) was not always picked up and amplified equally to the others. They did appear to be having great fun with the roles.

The love interests were represented by Nina (Brandi Burkhardt (FB)), a waitress at the Cafe, and Julian (Zachary Ford (FB)), the son of one of the corporate presidents. Both had wonderful singing voices and made a cute couple, and as their characters worked well in the story. The love part of the story for them, however, just felt grafted on and didn’t fit well — seemingly just there so some ballads could be sung. They were sung beautifully, but still….

Standing out in a spectacular fasion was Steven Weber (TW)’s Sewer Man. Weber does evil and eccentric so well. He sang strongly, actually danced, and was just a delight to watch.

Rounding out the cast were Jane Leeves (FB) as the Narrator, and Sean Smith (FB) as the Sergeant. The main performers were supported by the Acasola (FB) ensemble from CSUN — CSUN’s first A-cappella Group.

Also supporting the production was the Dear World orchestra, under the direction of conductor and music director Darryl Archibald (FB). The orchestra consisted of Roberto Cani (Concertmaster); Kathleen Robertson (Violin); Tamara Hatwan (Violin); Kirstin Fife (Violin); Adriana Zoppo (Violin/Viola); Stephanie Fife (Cello); John Krovoza (Cello); Sal Lozano (Woodwind 1); Greg Huckins (Woodwind 2); Glen Berger (Woodwind 3); Joe Stone (Woodwind 4); John Mitchell (Woodwind 5); Danielle Ondarza (French Horn); Dan Fornero (Trumpet 1); John Fumo (Trumpet 2); Dan Savant (Trumpet 3); Dave Ryan (Trombone 1); Stephen Huges (Bass Trombone); Andrew Synowiec (Acoustic Guitar / Mandolin); Jeff Rizzo (Keyboard); Amy Wilkins (Harp); Mark Converse (Percussion); Bruce Carver (Percussion); and Tim Christensen (Bass / Contractor). There was no triangle, which was uncharacteristic of a Jerry Herman musical :-).

On the creative and production side, Zack Leuchars (FB) did the lighting design, and Nick Oldham did the sound design. Both were good, although there were a few sound problems. Orchestrations were the original orchestrations by Phillip J. Lang, except for a few songs orchestrated by Darryl Archibald (FB). Casting was by Amy Lieberman. The production was directed by David Lee (FB), and produced by Suzi Dietz (who we remember from her Pasadena Playhouse days).

This was a one-time only performance at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). It was part of the Scenes and Sounds series at VPAC, to which you can still subscribe.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).  The Chromolume 2017 season looks particularly good: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  Today brings an open-house at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), followed by Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB) this evening… and then it is the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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Jazzin’ It Up, Turtle Style 🎻 Turtle Island Quartet @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Apr 07, 2016 @ 7:17 pm PDT

Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunLast night was one of those rare mid-week concerts. We normally don’t schedule mid-week, but the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) is almost walking distance, which makes it possible. This concert was advertised as a string quartet that was doing a program based on Jelly Roll Morton, Theloneous Monk, and Ragtime. This is the type of jazz I like (Morton), and the type of jazz my wife likes (Monk), so it was a no brainer. It ended up being a thoroughly delightful evening.

This production was part of the “on-stage” series, meaning that the audience is limited to 250 people, and we sit on-stage with the performers, looking out at the empty hall. This brought a wonderful intimacy to the show; one could watch closely how the performers were fingering, as well as their expressions as they got into the music.

The Turtle Island Quartet (FB) plays what is called Jazz Violin, meaning they can go anywhere from normal string quartet fare with a jazz flair, to bluegrass-tinged jazz, to full-on jazz. I kept thinking they would be great for the Woodsongs stage, with their odd range and high quality. Although they did a few solo numbers, for most of their numbers they were joined with Cyrus Chestnut on piano. I didn’t keep a complete list of the numbers, but there were a few Jelly Roll Morton numbers, a large numbers of Theloneous Monk numbers, some Scott Joplin, some Jazz Debussey, and a number by Bud Powell. There was also a jazzy version of Tea for Two.

Shows such as this demonstrate why one goes to live performance: much of the program was improvised: what we saw will never be seen or heard again. It was a shared experience of 255 people, plus ushers. We come home the better for it.

We also came home with one of their CDs. Live performance: you come home with music and memories.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I had been subscribing at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and REP East (FB): but all have gone or are going dark (update: Cabrillo is coming back!), I just added a subscription to the  Hollywood Pantages (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: This weekend brings the penultimate show of this Cabrillo season: “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 10. The following weekend’s theatre is on Thursday, because the weekend brings our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). The Thursday show is Stella’s Last J-Date at the Whitefire Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend in April is is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets. The last weekend of April will be the Four Clowns (FB) production of Lunatics and Actors at the LA Shakespeare Center on April 30. May starts with Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). We then run off to the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain — if they start the same day, they are simultaneous premieres and both have equal bragging rights). May 21 has a hold for Los Angeles: Then and Now, a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has holds for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB). As for June? It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve started to hold dates for the following shows: All Aboard the Marriage HearseAll The Best Killers are LibrariansQaddafi’s Cook — Living in Hell, Cooking for the DevilSqueeze My CansTell Me On A Sunday   Toxic Avenger: The Musical  ✨  Vintage BoxEinstein Titus Andronicus Jr.The Old Woman Sweet Love AdieuMy Big Fat Blond MusicalAlien vs. MusicalHamlet (Las Vegas Style) ✨. But that’s just a small percentage; there are over 200 shows listed now.  We thought about Love The Body Positive, but then again… no. Can’t be scaring people.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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Beauty in All Aspects 🎤 Lea Salonga at VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 02, 2016 @ 12:49 pm PDT

Lea Salonga (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunLast night we saw our penultimate show for this season at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) — the beautiful Lea Salonga (FB) in concert. Although I had heard Ms. Salonga before in various shows (Miss Saigon, Flower Drum Song, Allegiance), I had never heard her just as a vocalist, in concert.

Before I go on, let’s ask: what is a vocalist? It’s a valid question, in this era of singer / songwriters. Vocalists are artists who primarily make a living singing songs that someone else has written. Example: Neil Diamond is a singer / songwriter — most of the songs he has sung he wrote. Frank Sinatra, on the other hand, is a vocalist. He never penned a song, but he interpreted and presented songs that others have written. It is the vocalists who were responsible for moving the Broadway catalog from the stage to the current fonts of popular music. They are the people who find new things in music, new styles, new directions. Amongst the younger generation or those not familiar with Broadway, they are a dying breed. Most younger pop musicians these days are singer / songwriters.

Salonga, who got her start on Broadway, is a vocalist. She has a far ranging catalog, from Broadway to Jazz, from Pop to traditional Filipino pop music. All of this was on exhibit in her show last night.

I did not make a set list of her songs, and one hasn’t been posted yet. Hence, this list is not in order, and is from memory and definitely incomplete. The first act of her program consisted of a number of jazz numbers that I don’t  recall, a cover of The Story of My Life by One Direction, a medley of two songs from Les Mis, and Back to Before from Ragtime. I want to say that Still Hurting from Last 5 Years was in the first half, but it might have been in the second half. The second half included On The Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady, He Touched Me from Drat! The Cat!, the Filipino song Nais Ko (which hasn’t been recorded by her yet, but is available on YouTube), A Whole New World from Aladdin (which a duet with an audience member that was spectacular… and is already up on YouTube), Higher from Allegiance, and as an encore, Imagine.

All in all, it was just a beautiful show. Salonga was relaxed and seemed to be extremely happy to be back on the concert stage, although sad that the run of her last show wasn’t longer. VPAC was sold out, and the crowd was friendly, loving, and appreciative. It was just a great combination.

Salonga was backed by some excellent musicians: Larry Yurman on Piano, Kevin Axt (FB) on Bass, Paul Viapiano on Guitar, and Ray Brinker  on drums. Yurman also served as Musical Director. They were all great. Viapiano was particularly strong on some jazzier numbers that I can’t remember the name of. It was also a lot of fun to watch Brinker on the drums — he was particularly notable in one of the act one numbers where he drummed on a magazine.

Salonga’s next performance is tonight at the Segerstrom in Orange County. If you’re in the area and you can get a ticket, you’ll enjoy the show. Then again, if you’re in the valley, you can some see Elaine Boosler at TAS.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I had been subscribing at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and REP East (FB): but all have gone or are going dark., I just added a subscription to the  Hollywood Pantages (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: Tonight the concerts continue with an Elayne Boosler concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom on April 2 (this concert is open to the community; get your tickets here). We have a mid-week concert of the Turtle Quintet at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 7, followed by “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 10. The next weekend’s theatre is on Thursday, because the weekend brings our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). The Thursday show is Stella’s Last J-Date at the Whitefire Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend in April is is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets. The last weekend of April will probably be the Four Clowns (FB) production of Lunatics and Actors at the LA Shakespeare Center on April 30. May starts with a hold date for Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). We then run off to the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain). May 21 has a hold for Los Angeles: Then and Now, a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has holds for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB). As for June? It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve started to hold dates for the following shows: All Aboard the Marriage HearseAll The Best Killers are LibrariansQaddafi’s Cook — Living in Hell, Cooking for the DevilSqueeze My CansTell Me On A Sunday   Toxic Avenger: The Musical  ✨  Vintage BoxEinstein Titus Andronicus Jr.The Old Woman Sweet Love AdieuMy Big Fat Blond MusicalAlien vs. MusicalHamlet (Las Vegas Style) ✨. But that’s just a small percentage; there are over 200 shows listed now.  We thought about Love The Body Positive, but then again… no. Can’t be scaring people.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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Snakes, Scotland, and Pipes

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 02, 2016 @ 9:36 pm PDT

Royal Marines and Scots Guards (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunI know it is a few days late, but I did want to do a quick writeup of the show we saw Sunday afternoon at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB): The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards.

This is a hard show to write up — there were no real production credits; you don’t get the names of the performers — all you get is the history. That’s on the page I linked above.

The program (from the program we were handed out) included:

  • Famous Songs of the British Isles: Donald Maclean of Lewis; Bravua, UK National Anthem; US National Anthem; A Fanfare of Daffodils
  • Standard of St George; Over the Hills and Far Away; Ceremonial Drum Display
  • Royal Salute; Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1; Heart of Oak
  • When the Pipers Play; Devil in the Kitchen; SIlver Spear; Mason’s Apron; Drum Salute
  • Highland Fling
  • St Patric Day; Gary Owen; Erin Shore; Irish Washer Woman
  • Tripping Up the Stairs; Scare O Tatties
  • Ice & Fire; Lord of the Dance; Killaloe
  • Castell Coch; All Through the Night; Welsh Clog Dance; Men of Harlech
  • Cullen Bay; Merrily Danced the Quakers Wife
  • Queen of the Rushes; La Baum; Stepping Up; Itchy Fingers; Clumsy Lover; Skye Boat Song; Alba; The Gael
  • Single Swords
  • Armed Forces Medly
  • Abide with Me; Sunset
  • Scotland the Brave; W’re No Awa Tae Bide Awa; A Life on the Ocean Wave

The performance itself was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed the vocalist during “Over the Hills and Far Away”, and the individual performances. Other than that, it was hard to separate performance — I just sat back and enjoyed the music.

Two observations:

  • The bagpipe is the only instrument I know with its own carrier wave.
  • Close order marching on the VPAC stage was like a game of snake: I kept expecting them to add band members from the wings to make it more of a challenge.

Short summary: much much better than our previous VPAC outing.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and I just added the  Hollywood Pantages (FB). In 2015, my intimate theatre subscription was at REP East (FB), although they are reorganizing and (per the birdies) will not start 2016 shows until August. Additionally, the Colony just announced that the remainder of their season has been cancelled, so the status of that subscription is up in the air. 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: March starts with “Man Covets Bird” at the 24th Street Theatre (FB) on March 6 (the day after the MRJ Man of the Year dinner). The second weekend of March recently opened up, due to the cancellation of “Another Roll of the Dice” at The Colony Theatre (FB). We’ve replaced “Dice” with another musical: “All Shook Up” at the Morgan-Wixson (FB) in Santa Monica.  [This also permits me to get more music for my iPod Classic (now at 512GB) by visiting Record Surplus)] The third weekend of March takes us back to the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on March 19 to see Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina, followed by Bach at Leipzig at The Group Rep (FB) on March 20.  The last weekend of March brings “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB).  April will start with Lea Salonga at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 1 and an Elaine Boosler concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom on April 2 (this concert is open to the community; get your tickets here). April will also bring the Turtle Quintet at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB), “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) , and our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). April may also bring A Shred of Evidence at Theatre 40 (FB). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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