With Just a Stick in her Hands | Anat Cohen Tentet @ VPAC/Saroya

Anat Cohen Tentet (VPAC/Saroya)Sometimes, I’m familiar with the artists that we see. Sometimes not. The latter is often the case when I’m selecting shows from the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB)’s season brochure. In this case, they listed a performance as the “Anat Cohen Tentet”, categorized as Jazz, with the following description:

Israeli clarinet virtuoso Anat Cohen is the charismatic female bandleader who stands out in a predominantly male environment. Cohen’s tapestry of sounds captures the jubilation of many genres, spanning modern and traditional jazz, classical music, klezmer, Brazilian choro, and Argentine tango.

I was trying to pick a program that had a few shows that might appeal to my wife, and this was clearly one of those: my wife loves modern and traditional Jazz and klezmer, and here we have one led by an Israel, and a female bandleader.

I’m pleased to say that this program was enjoyable beyond any expectations; as my wife put it, this women can do things with her clarinet and create sounds we’ve never heard before. This show came on top of two Grammy nominations (one for Outra Coisa, an album of Latin Jazz, and one for Rosa Dos Ventos). The Anat Cohen Tentet (FB) is a new group she has organized together with her music director, Oded Lev-Ari (FB). They have just put out their first album, and this is their first tour. The Tentet consists of the following musicians, in addition to Cohen on Solo Clarinet: Rubin Kodheli (FB) [Cello], Nadje Noordhuis (FB) [Trumpet & Flugelhorn], Nick Finzer (FB) [Trombone], Owen Broder (FB) [Sax & Clarinet], James Shipp (FB) [Vibraphone & Percussion], Vitor Gonçalves (FB) [Piano & Accordion], Sheryl Bailey (FB) [Guitar], Tal Mashiach (FB) [Bass] and Anthony Pinciotti (FB) [Drums].

Going into the show, I didn’t know what to expect. I like Jazz as well, but I’m less varied in my likes than my wife: She’ll go for the modern Jazz of Marsales; I’m more into the rhythmic swing or big band or New Orleans’ Dixieland. I don’t know how to describe the Tenet’s music, but it definitely wasn’t atonal or non-rhythmic. Joyful? Melodic? All I know is that I found myself enjoying it greatly. After the show, we purchased the Tentet’s new album, Happy Song, as well as one of the Grammy-nominated albums, Outra Costa. I’ve given them a listen (playing them into the 5-or-less playlist, currently at just under 400 songs), and they are quite enjoyable.

The performance consisted on one very long set, mostly of songs we learned later were from Happy Song, a brief introduction to the band, followed by a closing number and an encore.   Perhaps my one and only complaint is with the phrase “charismatic female bandleader” (in the program, described as ” infectious charisma”). Although she did exhibit some charisma with the fellow bandmates, she needs to work a bit on her interaction with the audience. As an audience member, I hope to get in a live show something I can’t get listening to an album. Let me learn your story and the Tentet’s story. Tell me about each song, and a bit more about the featured performers. But I think this is a learned skill, and the Tentet is new. This will come with more tours and more performances, I am sure.

Overall, I’m thankful for this performance. It introduced me to yet another new artist, and a new style of Jazz that I like. You often see Jazz groups fronted by trumpeters; I can only think of three (Pete Fountain, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey) led by folks on the stick.  Correction: White men on the stick. As one who champions women in all fields, it was great to see female leadership. It is something we need more of (especially given the men that have screwed things up).

The  Anat Cohen Tentet (FB) had only one performance at  the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), although there are more performances in both their International and Jazz series coming up. The Tentet is on tour, so perhaps you can catch them in your city.

***

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 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as 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 Saroya [the venue formerly known as 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:

December started with Levi! (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB). That’s next on the writeup list.

This week continues with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 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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A Promising Beginning | “Edges” @ Theatre CSUN

Edges (Theatre CSUN)A few months ago, when we went to see the musical  Hello, Again at Chromolume Theatre (FB), they had a series of videos playing before the show started. One of these videos was the song “Be My Friend” from the musical song cycle Edges, which Chromolume had presented during the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Edges turned out to be a song cycle written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (FB) during their undergraduate days in Michigan — their first show, as it was. This duo would later to go on to write shows such as Dogfight, A Christmas Story (which is having a number of productions now, including one at Canyon Theatre Guild with our friend Georgann, and a live TV production) and a little thing called Dear Evan Hansen; and for movies, the songs for La La Land and the upcoming The Greatest Showman.  However, Edges has never been recorded; they only way to get the music is to snarf the audio tracks from the various YouTube performances of the songs.

This, of course, meant that I was jonesing to see a production of the show. When we recently went to see Upright Citizens Brigade at  The Soraya,  the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB), we found a postcard that indicated that the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) was doing Edges as part of their Fall season. By the end of the week, my wife (a CSUN alum) had used her alumni card to get us tickets for the show.

Guess where we were last night?

As noted earlier, Edges is a song-cycle. This means there is no plot; no specific characters. According to Pasek and Paul, it was written with the intention to share the many perspectives of 20-somethings as they come into their own and face the challenges of adulthood. It reflects the time that Pasek and Paul were in college — the early 2000s. There isn’t even a fixed order of songs: the license package includes the songs from the original production in 2005 and the songs from a revised production in 2007, and Pasek and Paul encourage producers to draw from those sets to create a version of the show that speaks to them. This goes to what, perhaps, is the one major flaw of the CSUN production: the printed program. There is no song list in the program to show CSUN’s order (which is a mix of both 2005 and 2007), nor a list of which performers sing which songs. If these shows are intended to be a showcase and spotlight for the performers, the audience needs to know who is singing what.

Edges CastLuckily, for you the reader, my Facebook-foo and internet search abilities are strong, and I was able to find you some pictures of the actors, and I’m familiar with the songs (and hopefully, I remember who sang them). But I do encourage CSUN Theatre to beef up their programs. It is only an additional black and white sheet — perhaps 10¢ a program — and it could make a big difference in the careers of your actors.

Edges was directed by Kari Hayter (FB), whose work we have seen both a CSUN (Urinetown and The Drowsy Chaperone) and at The Chance Theatre (FB). Watching the performers, I was surprised that — for a song cycle — there was so much performance. Hayter brought out in her actors the characters in the songs. If you get a chance to go see the show (and you should, but note that some performances are already sold out), watch the faces and the bodies in addition to listening to the songs. You’ll be blown away by the expressiveness and emotion these young performers bring to the stage.

The cast itself bring a mix of experience. For some, this is one of their first shows. Others have been in a number of productions at CSUN as well as out in the real world with companies such as Canyon Theatre Guide, Simi Arts, MTW, and of course, the Chance. This led to another suggestion I would make to the cast: warm up your singing voice before starting. I was unsure about a few of the voices at the beginning of the show, but by the end I loved them all. This means that the issue wasn’t the quality of the voice, just a missing warm up. As with any muscle, stretching before use gives a better result.

The more seasoned performers stood out from their first notes.  I was blown away by Jisel Ayon (FB), Alissa Finn (FB), and Leonel Ayala (FB) from the start. They nailed their songs and were a delight to watch and listen too. Ayon was particularly strong in all her songs, including the penultimate “Ready to be Loved”. I recall Finn was great in “Caitlyn and Haley” among other numbers, and there was a solo number by Ayala (of which I can’t recall the name — us oldsters need that list) that was just spectacular.

This is not to say the others were significantly less. It was just those three that made the impression first, the next tier of impressions that hit me were Darian Ramirez (FB), Shyheim Parker/Shyhiem Parker (FB), and Jared Price (FB). Ramirez was just spectacular — I thought I heard her in the background on the opening number, and then she had some solo pieces and …. wow. This included her interaction with the audience in “I’ve Gotta Run”. Parker also has a strong voice I thought I heard in the opening, which then came out spectacularly in his solo number (which I can’t recall the name of). Lastly, Price had a solo number (drats, no song list, and this 57-year old mind is blanking) that was really great.

I was initially unsure about Ethan Barker (FB) and Shiku Thuo (FB), but I think the problem was a warm-up one. Both were remarkably expressive in terms of performance, and were strong in their later solo numbers. In the latter half of the show, In particular, Thuo had a number where her face was just a delight to watch.

But this 8-person cast came together in the group numbers. Just watch their expressions — and the audience reactions — in numbers like “Be My Friend (The Facebook Song)”. Just a joy to watch. Watch them in the background in numbers like “Ready to be Loved” or the “Opening”, and you can see that this is more than solo performances glommed together: this is a cast that jelled and was having fun together. As I always like to note: a cast that is having fun with their show telegraphs that to the audience, and the joy is amplified.

Music was provided by two on-stage musicians: Peter Shannon (FB) on Piano and Athanasios Gousios (FB) on Drums. Watch Shannon in particular as he gets ready to rock out on the final number. They were having fun as well.

Turning to the production side: Efren Delgadillo (FB) scenic design was relatively simple: some platforms on both sides of the center stage, augmented with a few chairs and, occasionally, properties designed by Rob Murray. This was augmented by a lighting design by Mark Svastics (FB) that mostly worked well; there were a few times performers were ahead of the lights and in the dark for a second or two. Omnipresent Cricket Myers (FB) did the sound. Alas, there were some opening night problems here ranging from microphone static to occasional muffled sound. Hopefully post-opening adjustments should fix that. Costumes were designed by Elizabeth Cox (FB) and Brynn Mangelsdorf. These mostly worked well — and I particularly liked the outfits that Ayon and Ramirez were wearing. Rounding out the credits, Peter Shannon (FB) was the music director, and Quentin Melikidse (FB) was the stage manager.

Edges by the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) continues at the Experimental Theatre of VPAC through December 3, although some performances are already sold out. Tickets are available through the Associated Students Ticket Office at 818/677-2488 or through Ticketmaster. More information is available on the Event Page. This event is not available on Goldstar.

***

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 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as 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 Saroya [the venue formerly known as 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:

Today sees us at the Tumbleweed Festival (FB); Tomorrow, it’s Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 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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Hit The Road, Nat | “To Ray, With Love” @ Saroya/VPAC

To Ray With Love (VPAC/Saroya)Last night saw us back at  The Soraya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)] for a night of Jazz: Maceo Parker (FB)’s tribute to Ray Charles (FB) [who died in 2004], featuring the Ray Charles Orchestra and the Raelettes (Katrina Harper (FB), Karen Evans (FB), and Elaine Woodard (FB)). Alas, I had no paper and thus didn’t note down a set list. Musically, the orchestra was spectacular with a swinging sound that went well with both Parker’s voice and sax. The Raelettes joined for the latter third of the show and added some wonderful dimension and fun to the voices onstage.

The Ray Charles Orchestra, led by Steve Sigmund (FB) [Music Director], consisted of Harvey Wainapel (FB) – Alto Saxophone; Alford Jackson – Alto Saxophone; Rickey Woodard (FB) – Tenor Saxophone; Louis Van Taylor (FB) – Tenor Saxophone; Adam Schroeder (FB) – Baritone Saxophone; Chuck Parrish (FB) – Lead Trumpet; Ted Murdock (FB) – Trumpet; David Hoffman (FB) – Trumpet; Ken Scharf (FB) – Trumpet; Dan Marcus (FB) – Trombone; Ken Tussing (FB) – Trombone; Steve Baxter (FB) – Trombone; Rich Bullock (FB) – Bass Trombone; Ernest VanTrease – Keyboards; Jeff Pevar (FB) – Guitar; Nils Johnson (FB) – Bass; and Paul Kreibich (FB) – Drums.

That’s not to say the show didn’t have its problems. Here’s what I noted, from most to least annoying:

  • Parker’s manager, Natasha Maddison (FB), was an extreme distraction during the show, especially from where we were sitting in the side chairs in the Partierre Terrace. She was constantly peaking out from the wings (not visible from straight-on, but visible from the side), constantly going out in to the audience up to the sound board and back, coming out at times to talk with the music director, and most annoyingly: taking flash photographs from the wings. That’s the ultimate no-no: You do not distract from your artist’s performance.
  • Next up was all the audience members who thought they could take pictures, take video, or check the score of the Dodgers game (who are going to the World Series – yea!). There are a number of reasons not to use your cell phone during a concert — recording takes the intellectual property of the artists without compensation, for example. But a primary reason is this: Every time your screen lights up in a dark theatre, you distract everyone else in the audience and distract the artists on stage, for in a dark room, light is very visible. So YOU could be that person that ruins someone else’s evening, all to do something selfish.
  • Then there are those audience members wearing too much perfume. There are many people with allergies and sensitivities to odor. When you overuse your perfume, such that your transmit a cloud as you walk down the aisle, you could be triggering allergies and migraines in others. Again: This is not something you need to do to enjoy a concert; it is putting your pleasure over the enjoyment of others. If you must perfume, perfume very lightly.
  • This is not a Dodger game. Wait until the show is completely finished — signaled by the house lights coming on — before rushing to leave. It is discourteous to the artists to walk out early, and disturbs your fellow audience members.
  • Lastly, the program indicated there would be an intermission. There was no intermission.

An artist’s manager should know proper show etiquette.  People attending a concert should know how to behave. I shouldn’t need to be saying any of the bullets above.

***

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 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as 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 Saroya [the venue formerly known as 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:

The drought has ended, and the last three months of 2017 are busy busy busy. The third weekend in October brings Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on Saturday; on Sunday, I’m going to see a thriller penned by the fellow through whom we get our Saroya (VPAC) subscriptions, Schaeffer Nelson (FB) — Mice at the Ensemble Studio Theatre LA (FB) in Atwater Village. The weekend before Halloween brings This Land at Company of Angels (FB) in Boyle Heights

Looking into November, we start with the Nottingham Festival (FB) in Simi Valley, followed by The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB). The following weekend brings a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), as well as The Kingston Trio (FB) at the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB). The third weekend will bring Edges at the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) on Friday, the Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on Saturday, and Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and hopefully Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical – join the Indiegogo here) at LA Community College Camino Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics. We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 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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Making It Up | UCB at the Soraya (VPAC)

Upright Citizens Brigade (VPAC)The live entertainment break that started when we went off on vacation in August is over, and the theatre calendar thought the rest of 2017 is quite busy. The drought-breaker was the first show in our 2017-2018 season at The Soraya,  the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB): an evening of improv comedy from the Upright Citizens Brigade (FB), featuring Sasheer Zamata (FB) and Matt Besser (FB), with  Jessica McKenna (FB), Hillary Anne Matthews (FB), and one other player who was only named from the stage.

Going in, I noticed that this was one of the most poorly attended shows we’ve been to at VPAC. The upppermost balcony was closed, and I’d estimate the crowd was perhaps one third to one half of its normal size (but significantly younger). I’m not sure why, but this wasn’t the expected draw.

As for the show itself, it wasn’t what we expected — although to be true, we didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps an evening of topic sketch comedy, or a series of standups? What we got was five people, five chairs, soliciting stories from the audience. After hearing each embarrassing story, the improv team would riff on various aspects of the story.

There were points of the show that were very funny, but there were often a lot of misses and missed opportunities. That’s how improv goes, I guess. It’s something that would work well on the small stage of UCB over on Franklin in Hollywood, but I’m not sure it works in the large hall like the Saroya (VPAC). [I’ll never get used to that name.]

***

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) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals(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:

The drought has ended, and the last three months of 2017 are busy busy busy. This afternoon brings a supposedly refreshed version of  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at 5 Star Theatricals (the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre) (FB). Thursday sees us back at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) for a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love.  The third weekend in October brings Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on Saturday; on Sunday, I’m going to see a thriller penned by the fellow through whom we get our Saroya (VPAC) subscriptions, Schaeffer Nelson (FB) — Mice at the Ensemble Studio Theatre LA (FB) in Atwater Village. The weekend before Thansgiving brings This Land at Company of Angels (FB) in Boyle Heights

Looking into November, we start with the Nottingham Festival (FB) in Simi Valley, followed by The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB). The following weekend brings a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB). The third weekend will hopefully bring Edges at the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) on Friday, the Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on Saturday, and Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thankgsiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and hopefully Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical – join the Indiegogo here) at LA Community College Camino Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya (VPAC) for the Klezmatics. We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 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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Indescribable | Martha Graham Dance Company @ VPAC

Martha Graham Dance Company (VPAC)Last night saw us at the final performance of the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) 2016-0127 season: Martha Graham Dance and American Music (you can see my thoughts on their 2017-2018 season here).  What did I think of the show? I just don’t have the vocabulary. To put it another way, it was indescribable.

Let me explain. I’ve attended a lot of live theatre. As in as lot of live theatre. As in A LOT OF live theatre. So much so that I understand the vocabulary of live theatre: how a plot is supposed to work, how the ensemble works, what swings do, what stage managers do, and all the things that go into a production.

But dance?

I’ve never attended a true ballet. My exposure to modern dance was Mr. N’s Dance productions at Van Nuys High School. My sole knowledge of Martha Graham was the show we saw earlier this year.  So when I have to describe a dance production, I not only emotionally don’t have the words, but I literally don’t have the words. I do not have the vocabulary to describe what I saw, to put into words the movement and motion. I don’t know the dance tropes that Graham used to tell the story; indeed, I have difficultly following and seeing the story in the movement.

So I fall back on enjoyment. I revel in the beauty of the movement without understanding the story. I watch the feet, the faces, the muscles, the bodies. I look at the power in the legs, the beats of sweat from the effort, the impact of the colors. I see the emotions that come from the dance without seeing how that is driven by the story.

I let the dance wash over me without trying to think, because I don’t have the words to think.

The production consisted of five movements, so to speak:

  • Panorama. Premiered in 1935 in Bennington VT, with music by Norman Lloyd. Performed by CSUN and dancers from local high schools.
  • Dark Meadow Suite. Premiered in 1946 in New York City, NY. Music by Carlos Chavez.
  • Diversion of Angels. Premiered in 1948 in New London CT. Music by Norman Dello Joio.
  • Cave of the Heart. Premiered in 1946 in New York City, NY. Music by Samuel Barber.
  • Maple Leaf Rag. Premiered in 1990 in New York City, NY. Music by Scott Joplin.

All had choreography by Martha Graham. I’ve put images from each dance in the composite image with this post, although they are not from the specific show I saw. I’m not listing all the dancers — there were some substitutions I didn’t get, and the specific names would likely be a meaningless list.  There’s some more information in the press release for the show. VPAC did post a YouTube clip here.

Some more somewhat general observations:

  • I contrasted the dancers here with a typical dance ensemble from a musical. The difference: expressed joy. Modern dancers control the emotion they show: their hearts may be soaring inside, but it doesn’t show on their face. Ensemble dancers radiate the joy they feel performing, and it reverberates from the audience. The only joy I saw from the Martha Graham dancers was in the Joplin number; I just saw the beauty. Ensemble dancers you see the joy, but the beauty of the dance much less so (except, perhaps, An American in Paris).
  • There was very little of what one might think of as traditional ballet movement. There was almost non-ballet movement; an attempt to move in a way that didn’t evoke the traditional forms. That, perhaps, is what distinguishes modern dance?
  • Dance, especially barefoot dance, makes one watch the feet. Not only did these dancers move, but they used their feet as rhythmic devices, accompanying the accompaniment.
  • With the costumes, one might expect more — shall we say — unintended visibility. These costumes were well engineered as well as being beautiful, allowing one to look at the broader human form without unintended distractions. It makes one realize the magical movement bodies are capable of.

As I said, I’m not a dance person. Yet I believe the breadth of live performance needs to encompass not only those with which one is comfortable and familiar, but occasionally those outside the comfort zone. This is especially true for those forms your wife enjoys :-), and she thoroughly enjoyed this show.

I hope to see more dance in the upcoming season at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on the campus of California State University, Northridge. You can read my thoughts on that season here.

 🎩 🎩 🎩

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: Next weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].  and possibly Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB), or perhaps.

As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. Not all is ticketed — we are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open. The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July has a hold for Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What makes sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

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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Thoughts on a Theatre Season: Actors Co-Op / VPAC

As I have received some more season announcements (this time, to theatres to which I subscribe), it’s time for another installment of season reviews.

First up, Actors Co-Op (FB), which has announced their 2017-2018 season, as well as this summer’s Co-op Too! series (which is included with subscriptions). Here is Actor’s Co-Op’s next season:

  • The 39 Steps (Sept 22 – Oct 29, 2017).  Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and film by Alfred Hitchcock. And it is with those words, playwright Patrick Barlow has crafted a crazy, over-the-top spy novel-type mystery that will have you laughing and giggling and aha-ing! in your seat. This six-time Tony Award nominee comes to life with flashes of Hitchcock movies, sprinkles of Monty Python humor, and a good dose of romance to boot. We saw this back when it was on tour after winning the Tony at the Ahmanson. It will be interesting to see a small stage production of it.
  •  The Man Who Came To Dinner. (Nov 3 – Dec 17, 2017). By Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.  Get in the Christmas spirit with this comedy classic of the nightmare holiday guest who never leaves—or so it seems. Ex-convicts in the dining room, penguins in the library, and thousands of cockroaches in the kitchen, are just a few of the fallouts from the visitor who outstayed his welcome. I’ve heard about this show, and heard the musical that was developed from it, but haven’t actually seen this.
  • A Walk In The Woods.  (Feb 9 – Mar 18, 2018).  By Lee Blessing. From beloved playwright Lee Blessing, comes a story of relationship between two arms negotiators and what happens when they step out of the war room and into the woods. A Walk in the Woods, produced in 1988, played on Broadway, and Time magazine called it one of the best dramas to hit the stage that year. I have a recollection of seeing this at the Pasadena Playhouse, but can’t confirm it.
  • A Man for All Seasons. (Apr 13 – May 20, 2018). By Robert Bolt. A man of remarkable integrity, Sir Thomas More placed ethics before power. To stand up to his country’s sovereign authority cost him everything, but today it offers us one of the most inspiring stories ever staged. Although I’ve heard of this play, I haven’t seen it.
  • Violet. (May 11 – June 17, 2018). Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book & Lyrics by Brian Crawley. Beginning in 1964 North Carolina, Violet rides a bus through the segregated South, to a TV evangelist in Oklahoma. She is convinced he can heal her scar, which was the result of a traumatic childhood accident. From American roots to folk to gospel, VIOLET is a powerhouse of music and theatre that will have you tapping your toes, slapping your knees, and wiping your eyes. We saw this as a minimalist Kelrick Productions a couple of years ago at the El Portal; it will be interesting to see how Actor’s Co-Op does it.

A season like this demonstrates why someone subscribes to a theatre: to see shows you might not normally purchase tickets for. Given my druthers, as you probably noticed, I tend to pick musicals. Season subscriptions — back at Rep East, Pasadena Playhouse, or The Colony Theatre in the day, or at Actors Co-Op now, gives the depth to the season to balance my personal breadth. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the season prices are fantastic: $85 for 5 shows for “Early Bird” (in the first three weeks), or $110 for regular subscriptions. Here’s how to subscribe.

Oh, and it turns out the seasons include the Actors Co-op Too! Summer productions… meaning we get three more shows for our subscription dollar. Here are this summer’s shows:

  • The Voysey Inheritance. (June 23 – July 1, 2017). by Harley Granville-Barker, Adapted by David Mamet. Edward Voysey’s highly principled world upturns when he discovers the family business he is inheriting has been defrauding its clients for years. To compound matters, he quickly discovers his, scandal-fearing family knew of the crime but allowed it to continue rather than face the shame of public disclosure. Haven’t seen this; sounds interesting.
  • Ruthie And Me.  (July 14-16, 2017). Book and Lyrics by Karen Westcott, Music by Marylou Dunn. A musical comedy about a love story between a man and a woman, a mother-in-law and daughter-and-law, and a people and their God. Based on the story of Ruth and Naomi. Sounds interesting.
  • The Last Five Years. (July 28 – Aug 5, 2017). Written and Composed by Jason Robert Brown.Jason Robert Brown’s Drama Desk winning musical THE LAST FIVE YEARS ingeniously chronicles the five year-life of a marriage, from meeting to break-up and from break-up to meeting, showing the emotional struggle and deconstruction of a love affair. Seen this far too many times (Pasadena Playhouse, Rep East, ACT San Francisco), but it will be interesting to see yet another take on it.

In many ways, this is like REP’s 81 Series: Short run specialty pies. Should be Good.

***

This brings us to our next season: The Valley Performing Arts Center (FB). They, too, have announced their 2017-2018 season. We typically do a mini-season with them: 5-8 shows out of the entire season. Here is their season, and whether I am likely to ticket:

  • Sat 9/16 | 7PM. AMADEUS LIVE. Richard Kaufman, Conductor. Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Members of the LA Opera Chorus.
  • Thu 10/12 | 8PM. Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble. Korngold – Sextet for Strings in D Major. Shostakovich – Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet. Mendelssohn – Octet for Strings in Eb Major
  • Sat 10/14 | 8PM. Upright Citizens Brigade All-Stars.
  • Thu 10/19 | 8PM. To Ray with Love, Starring Maceo Parker Featuring The Ray Charles Orchestra & The Raelettes
  • Thu 11/2 | 8PM. Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. Pavel Kogan, Conductor. Dmitry Masleev, Piano. Rachmaninov – The Rock. Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1. Scriabin – Symphony No. 2.
  • Sat 11/4 | 8PM. Flamenco Legends by Javier Limón: The Paco de Lucía Project
  • Sat 11/11 | 7PM. DIAVOLO: 25-Year Anniversary Marathon. Signature works from the company’s Past, Present, and Future.
  • Tue 11/14 | 8PM. The Sachal Ensemble. Song of Lahore.
  • Fri 11/17 | 8PM. Bernstein on Stage. John Mauceri, Conductor. New West Symphony .
  • Sat 11/18 | 8PM. iLe. Special Guest Gaby Moreno.
  • Sun 11/19 | 3PM. Imago Theatre. La Belle, Lost in the World of the Automaton
  • Thu 11/30 | 8PM. Anat Cohen Tentet. Musical Director, Oded Lev-Ari
  • Sun 12/3 | 3PM. Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat. Musical by Justin Roberts & Ernie Nolan. Fairy Tale by The Grimm Brothers. Animation Director: Micah Chambers-Goldberg. Directed by Michael Matthews.
  • Wed 12/6 | 8PM. Eliot Fisk. J.S. Bach – Cello Suites
  • Fri 12/8 | 8PM. Michael Feinstein Holiday Celebration.
  • Sat 12/9 | 7PM. Fiesta Mexicana: Feliz Navidad.
  • Sun 12/10 3PM. Colburn Orchestra.
  • Sat 12/16 | 8PM. The Klezmatics. Happy Joyous Hanukkah.
  • Fri 1/19 | 8PM. Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars with Harold López-Nussa Trio
  • Sun 1/21 | 7:30PM. Leilah Broukhim. Dejando Huellas (Traces).
  • Thu 1/25 | 8PM. Cheech Marin Hosts an Evening of Comedy. 3rd Annual CSUN Alumni Performance.
  • Fri 1/26 | 8PM. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London. Charles Dutoit, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. Debussy – Petite Suite. Haydn – Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major. Stravinsky – The Firebird.
  • Sat 2/3 | 8PM. KEIGWIN + COMPANY Celebrates Bernstein.
  • Fri 2/9 | 8PM. Step Afrika! Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence.
  • Sun 2/11 | 3PM. MUMMENSCHANZ: you & me.
  • Fri 2/16 | 8PM / Sat 2/17 | 8PM. Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. Featuring Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.
  • Wed 2/21 | 8PM. Danish String Quartet.
  • Sat 2/24 | 8PM. On the Waterfront, Film with Live Orchestra.
  • Sun 2/25 | 3PM. Dublin Irish Dance. Stepping Out
  • Thu 3/1 | 8PM. Miles Electric Band.
  • Sat 3/3 | 8PM. The Ten Tenors.
  • Sun 3/11 | 3PM. Yamato—The Drummers of Japan. Chousensha – The Challengers.
  • Thu 3/15 | 8PM. Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Joshua Bell, Director & Violin. A New Commission by Edgar Meyer.
  • Sun 3/18 | 3PM. Manual Cinema. The Magic City.
  • Fri 3/23 | 8PM. Billy Porter. The Soul of Richard Rodgers.
  • Thu 3/29 | 8PM. Kathleen Battle. Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey.
  • Thu 4/5 | 8PM. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
  • Sat 4/7 | 8PM. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
  • Fri 4/13 | 8PM , Sat 4/14 | 3 & 8PM, Sun 4/15 | 3PM | Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. McCoy Rigby Entertainment & La Mirada Theatre.
  • Wed 4/18 | 8PM, Thu 4/19 | 8PM. Cécile McLorin Salvant.
  • Sat 4/21 | 8PM. ¡La Nueva Cuba! The Next Generation. Roberto Fonseca. Daymé Arocena. Pedrito Martinez Group.
  • Thu 4/26 | 8PM. Amir ElSar’s Two Rivers Ensemble.
  • Sat 4/28 | 3PM. LA Opera presents Great Opera Choruses.
  • Tue 5/1 | 8PM , Wed 5/2 | 8PM. Terence Blanchard. Breathless featuring The E-Collective.
  • Sat 5/5 | 8PM. Quetzal with Mariachi Flor de Toloache.
  • Sat 5/12 | 8PM. An Evening with David Sedaris.

Note that some of the shows we may opt not to ticket, if the total gets too high, and we might decide to include some of the shows.

 

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A Swinging Good Time | Doc Severinsen at VPAC

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

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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