Observations Along the Road

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

Saturday Stew: 10, 512, H20, 2, 0, and 0219

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 06, 2015 @ 10:48 pm PDT

Observation StewWell, it’s late Saturday night, and I’m home from my first Fringe show. That writeup will be tomorrow morning — tonight, it’s time to clear out the links so we can make some news chum stew. Are you hungry yet?

  • Windows 10 is Coming. Quick, get a Dixie Cup. OK, so it’s an old joke and in bad taste. But we’re talking Windows here. Seriously, if you have a Windows 7 or Windows 8 system, you might see a new little icon so you can sign up to get the latest and greatest Windows when it is released on July 29. You’ll have a year to upgrade for free. So I’ve got a collection of articles that I found of interest on the upgrade. First and foremost, there are a number of features that will not work or will be removed when (if) you upgrade. Second, here’s an article on what to expect when the upgrade happens. Supposedly, you’ll need to do a clean install. What I haven’t seen yet is how well the upgrade process works for an in-place system, or seen a good list of what other older software will not work. My advice: You’ll have until July 2016 to request the upgrade. I’d suggest waiting a good two months and letting everyone else be the guinea pig.
  • Apple, are you listening? Having talked about Microsoft, let’s now talk about Apple. This week brought the news that Microdia will be selling a 512GB micro-SD card for around $1000 (and you can expect the price to go down as others start manufacturing, plus there are reminders that the extra-capacity SDXC format allows for up to 2TB cards. OK, Apple, here’s your challenge. Do you want to win back all the people that loved the iPod Classic for their music? Do you want to prevent these folks from migrating to any of the other large capacity players? Here’s a simple answer: sell an iPod Touch that can take a micro-SD card up to 2TB. Not only can folks store their music, they have room for loads of apps, and loads of photos (they will be grabbed by photographers). Think of all the money you can make backing that up to the cloud.
  • Water Water Everywhere. Here are three articles related to water. The first explores how to find the control room for the Bellagio fountains. There are loads of facts in the article; my favorite was the following: “The water they use for the fountains is a self-sustained source that used to be used for the old Dunes golf course before they took it down.”  I had read in another book on Vegas that Wynn bought the land for the Bellagio because it had its own springs. Speaking of piping water, when you hear Budweiser, what do you think of? I know, watered-down beer. Did you know in emergencies that AB doesn’t add the beer (of course, how would you know?). Seriously, those of us in LA know that AB canned water during the big earthquake. Well, with the recent damage in Texas, they switched to canning water as well. Lastly, I found a real good collection of stories at the Times on drought gardening.
  • A-One. A-Two. If you are security aware, you turn on two-factor authentication whereever you can. But how do you do it? Here’s an article with information on turning on two-factor authentication on over 100 sites. In particular, it links to a step-by-step guide to turning on two-factor authentication.
  • Illusions in the Air. Here’s an interesting (well, to me) discussion of Avatar Airlines, an airline that is too good to be true. Just like the recently panned (and rightfully so) Bitter Lemons Imperative (plus one, two, three), here’s an idea that might have sounded good on a surface read, but when you dig deeper, it is fraught with problems. This really goes to show why you need to think an idea out thoroughly before you put it on the net. [I didn’t earlier today, and learned my lesson]
  • A Burnin’ Issue. OK, Grammar Geeks. Here’s one for you (h/t Andrew D): Which unicode character should represent the apostrophe? The answer is easy to get wrong, as the Unicode committee did. They chose ’ (U+2019), which is RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK (as opposed to ‘ (single quote)), as opposed to ʼ (U+02BC), which is MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE. Why is this significant? The former creates a word boundary; the latter does not. Now you know why your capitalization routine changes it’s to It’S.

 

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The Week’s News, in a Tasty Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 23, 2015 @ 3:12 pm PDT

userpic=lougrantAnother week has come and gone, which means I have another week’s worth of links to share. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest. Let’s do this one old-style:

 

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Saturday Chum Stew: Water, Vegas, Revolts, and Death. A Typical Week.

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 16, 2015 @ 12:29 pm PDT

userpic=observationsSaturday, and time to clear out the news links before a busy weekend. Hopefully, you’ll find something of interest in these:

 

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We Have a Winner!

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Apr 26, 2015 @ 9:24 pm PDT

userpic=las-vegasNo, I’m not referring to gambling while I’m in Vegas, although I did win 50¢ on a 5¢ bet at the El Cortez. Rather, I’m referring to my feet.

For the longest time, I’ve had a problem with my feet when I walked too far. Invariably I would start, and by the end of the day I’d have blisters on my littlest toes. Different sneakers, multiple socks, bandaids, moleskin — nothing worked. Until now.

Today, I walked from the Tropicana to Spring Hill Road (basically, Fashion Square/Treasure Island) and back. That’s about 5 miles. I did slightly less on Friday — from Tropicana to Caesars. Not a single blister. What did it? Two simple things: Injinji Toe Socks and Vibram Five Fingers shoes. The only thing sore are my heels, and that’s because the Vibrams have little padding. I’ll wear sneakers with toe socks tomorrow to give them a day of rest.

This confirms the test from ACSAC, where I wore the Vibrams and didn’t have a single blister.

We have a winner. I think I’m going to go out and get a third pair of Vibrams when I’m back in LA.

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Astounded and Amazed

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Apr 26, 2015 @ 8:28 am PDT

Penn & Teller at the Riouserpic=las-vegasLast night we saw what is likely to be our last show for this trip: Penn & Teller (FB) at the Rio Hotel and Casino. This is a show we’ve been wanting to see for years; luckily, there were Goldstar tickets available for the period of this trip. I’ve since learned that discounted tickets are often available for Penn & Teller, and often those discounts can land you in the orchestra section, not the mezzanine where we were. Perhaps next time.

Penn & Teller have one of the longest running headliner shows in Vegas – 14 years at the Rio, 29 in Vegas. They debuted in Las Vegas in 1993 and have been performing at the Rio since 2001. The reason for their success is that they are entertaining. But they are not for everyone. If you hate atheists or libertarians, then don’t go to the show. Penn is well known for not being quiet about his beliefs (Teller is known for being quiet about everything). In this show, he is very “in your face” about his beliefs. Reading the Yelp reviews, this offended quite a few attendees; heaven forfend if your beliefs are challenged. Penn also does a lot of talking and introduction to the various tricks. Again, this offended a lot of attendees (looking at the Yelp reviews): if you want a magic act that is all flash and music, as opposed to being somewhat intellectual and preachy, then go somewhere else. Penn & Teller is intellectual magic — they consciously want you to think about their tricks, and then they pull them off leaving you even more astonished at how they did it. Further, they admit upfront that much of this is verbal misdirection… and with this, you still can’t see how they did it. Astonishing.

Penn & Teller is also a show that loves its audience. Although the show is at 9:00PM, they recommend that you arrive around 8:00 PM. This is because they open the doors about 8:20 PM, and the audience is entertained by the Mike Jones Trio Duo (FB) (and, if you look closely, you’ll see it is Penn Jillette (FB) playing Bass). The show itself includes loads of audience participation, from before the show when you can sign an envelope and inspect a box, to all of the tricks that involve audience members. Lastly, after the show, both Penn and Teller are available outside the theatre for pictures and “meet and greet”.

The show itself is claimed to include a rotating collection of tricks from the Penn & Teller repertoire. In reality, that is likely yet another trick because they have to have the necessary supporting props and equipment, not to mention the lighting and music cues, ready. They do not provide a list of tricks or a program (well, you can purchase a program for $10). The following are the tricks I recall — I’m not going to describe them in detail to preserve the surprise (they were not presented in this order, but the first and last tricks are what were first and last):

  • Cell-Fish
  • Pulling a Rabbit out of the Hat
  • The Security Card
  • The Physics Card Trick
  • Psychics and Jokes
  • Teller and his Ball
  • One-Minute Egg
  • Teller and the Gold Coins
  • The Shadow Flower
  • Close-Up Magic
  • Nail Gun Memorization
  • Sawing a Woman in Half
  • The Teapot Routine
  • Elsie the Disappearing Spotted Pygmy Elephant
  • Catching a Bullet

The illusions themselves were spotless, and I found the dialogue entertaining. On every illusion, you’ll find yourself wondering how they diverted and deceived you to pull it off.

I’ll note that I read through a lot of the Yelp reviews to bring this write-up together (I didn’t write down the illusions during the show and they don’t provide a list, so I needed to jog my memory. Lots of people did not like this show because it didn’t meet their expectations or match their politics or beliefs, or they found something else to offend them. So, in the spirit of being upfront:

Advisory NoticeAdvisory Notice:  The Penn & Teller show contains significant spouting by Penn Jillette of his political opinions. If you cannot stand Libertarian political positions, or having your political beliefs questioned or made fun of… don’t go. Penn also debunks psychics and belief in God. If that offends you, don’t go. Penn also makes fun of other magicians and those that believe in magic. If that offends you, don’t go. If you paid full price for your tickets, you obviously have more $$ than you need. Remember to visit the Merch store (and buy Mike Jones CD — Merch always supports the artist). If you want splash and flash and lots of pretty magician’s assistants, don’t go. This is a wordy show. If you don’t like Jazz music, arrive just before the show starts. If you want to see things close up, buy VIP seating. There is no video enhancement. This show is at the Rio Hotel and Casino, which is west of the strip (i.e., off-strip) on Flamingo, near the Gold Coast and Palms casinos. There are two shuttles from sibling Caesar’s properties: Ballys/Paris and Harrahs. If you want a show on the strip, don’t go.

We sat in the Mezzanine. This made it difficult to see many of the close-up tricks. Penn & Teller could have used video to enhance the process, but as they point out in the show, there is no guarantee that the video you see is what is happening onstage. Video can easily be manipulated. Most people do not realize that. My suggestion: Bring binoculars. We’ll do that next time.

Penn Gillette announces and introduces the staff and crew at the end of the show. This includes not only the assistant, but the crew that moves stuff on stage, the sound and light people, and the stage manager. However, there does not appear to be a list online; Penn tweeted me that it is in the souvenir program (which costs $10). Alas, I bought the Bill of Rights instead. I’m still looking for the information. [ETA: Information from Penn’s tweet]

Penn & Teller (FB) continue at the Rio Hotel and Casino.until… well, until they don’t. They have an extended contract, and both live in Las Vegas, so expect to see them here for a long time. Their show is well worth seeing (but you should be prepared for what you are getting, and if you don’t want the “preach”, then go somewhere else — there are plenty of “magic” shows in town designed for you). You can purchase full price tickets through the Rio website. You can get discount tickets almost everywhere. We got ours through Goldstar, but they are regularly at Tix4Tonight as well as numerous other sites.   Get their early if you like good Jazz.

Dining Notes: We ate at the All American Bar and Grille at the Rio. The food was tasty, but be forewarned: although they serve a black bean and quinoa burger on a gluten-free bun, the burger itself is not gluten-free. However, you can substitute the GF bun onto their other burgers. Their fries are also not cooked in a dedicated fryer, so substitute something for the fries. You can substitute roasted vegetables, but be forewarned they are overly salted (so ask them to be light on the salt). I’ll also note that the Rio is one of a few casinos that still has Keno runners and a Keno board at the restaurants. I love this — and not only to play with the crayons. I always try to figure out the odds on Keno. It is one of the worst casino games you can play, but figuring out the odds is a good mental exercise.

Small World Note: Walking through the Rio, I happened to run into a work colleague who had just driven up for the weekend. What are the odds. We should have played the slots afterwards.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I 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: Depending on whether discount tickets are available, we might go to either Don Rickles at the Orleans or Jeff Dunham at Planet Hollywood…. or we might not.  Los Angeles theatre resumes next weekend with “Loopholes: The Musical” at the Hudson Main Stage (FB) on May 2. This is followed by “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9 (and quite likely a visit to Alice – The Musical at Nobel Middle School).  The weekend of May 16 brings “Dinner with Friends” at REP East (FB), and may also bring “Violet: The Musical” at the Monroe Forum Theatre (FB) (I’m just waiting for them to show up on Goldstar). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (note that all Fringe dates are holds; ticketing doesn’t open until 5/1). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! 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.

 

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An Institution Cast in Bronze, Butt….

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Apr 24, 2015 @ 10:35 am PDT

Crazy Girls (Riviera)userpic=las-vegasIf you haven’t figured it out by now, one of my interests is the history of Las Vegas — in particular, the history of the strip and major casinos in the pre-Mirage era. My folks had their honeymoon at the Desert Inn in 1956, and I remember staying at both the Sahara and the Aladdin in the 1970s. There aren’t many of the old hotels left — practically nothing on the strip from the founding era with the exception of some two-story rooms at the Tropicana, and the hotel at the heart of the Riviera. That list gets even smaller on Star Wars Day, May the 4th, when the Riviera Hotel and Casino closes at noon (followed by a liquidation sale two weeks after), to be replaced by more convention center space. As we’re in vacation two weeks before the Riv closes, that meant that a “must see” was a show at the Riviera. The show we chose is at the heart of the Riv’s identity– a show that just celebrated its 28th anniversary. It is a show that is honored with a special bronze casting (FB) at the front of the hotel. That show is Crazy Girls (FB), a 75-minute topless dance/burlesque show.

Writing up this show is somewhat difficult. The show has a rotating cast (no pun intended), and there is no cast list or credit list provided to the audience or posted on the Crazy Girls website. There is also no scene list. External reviews (such as on Yelp) are across the board, and seem overly subjective: complaints about lip-synching (which is common in such shows), complaints about lack of breasts, complaints about what isn’t shown, complaints about the lighting. I’ll do my best to eliminate such subjectivity and to ferret out what information I can.

Crazy Girls should be looked upon as a dance/burlesque show. The girls are hired for their looks, for their dance ability, and for their performance skills (and probably in that order). Most of the dancing is to recorded tracks, and the girls lip-synch to those tracks. A few numbers (the ones where the girls have a microphone) feature actual singing.  Although 7-8 girls appear to be on-stage (I think the number is 7, but most of the ads show 8), the actual dancing cast is larger and provides the ability for girls to rotate in and out on any given day. As each girl has a tailored solo, that means some dance numbers rotate in and out as well. There is also a magician who shows up at a few points, both to entertain the audience and to provide the girls time to do more involved costume transformations.

I’m an avid theatre nut, and have been to a few pure dance shows. This was my first topless show (or second, depending on how you view Zumanity). To me — an older, jaded, 30-year married, Los Angeles guy — I didn’t find it all that sexy or outrageous. But I believe my judgement was skewed, and the show doesn’t seem tuned to my sensibilities. I was watching it focusing on the dancing and the performance, and enjoying watching the movement of the musculature, the artistry of the bodies, the glory of the dance. Many of the rest of the audience seemed to be more of the “mid-west” sensibility where this was something out of the ordinary and titillating — they were screaming and hooting at appropriate points, and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The version we saw is supposedly a “new” version. Evidently, the show declined for a period in the early 2000s along with the Riv, and was revitalized and reinvigorated for the 25th anniversary. It worked, in my opinion. I found the show quite enjoyable. There were some aspects I was less-than-crazy about, but I also understand they are burlesque conventions (so I went along with it). Those aspects: the clearly non-realistic wigs and the lip-synching. I think that’s more because I truly want to see the real performer — the girl, the dancer, the singer, the actor, the talent. Any girl can strip, put on a wig, and lip-synch.  I want the performance to make clear what these girls have that is special, and that is something other than physical endowments and beauty.

Luckily, this shows does provide those glimpses. It highlights the very strong dance and movement skills of the girls — and those are a delight to watch. There are some routines where the girls seem to be working without any wigs (i.e., when they show up with normal brunette hair), and those seem to provide extra enhancements to the beauty. If you watch the mirror to see the girls from the back as they perform, you can see the muscles they have developed, and can gain a greater appreciation of the work that goes into performance these dance numbers. Many numbers are quite acrobatic. Thinking about it, the athleticism makes this a much less expensive version of Zumanity — strong lightly-erotic dance and performance.

Piecing together the various articles on the show provides some good descriptions of the scenes and numbers, although not in order. The show opens with a number actually sung by Michelle (last names are not used, I’ve been told, for security reasons).  Other scenes include Lisa miming Eartha Kitt’s “How Could You Believe Me?”, and a kinky S&M number to Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” There are also stripper-pole dances to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” and a girl-meets-girl scene. Another number cited that I remember is “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets”. There is also Danielle dancing to Led Zeppelin’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and a group of four who started on a revolving wheel to Oscar Benton’s “Bensonhurst Blues.” All the girls perform a cowgirl number to Sheba Potts Wright’s “I Need A Cowboy to Ride My Pony”. Another number in the show is Peggy Lee’s “Why Don’t You Do Right?”. Rachel also pays homage to burlesque with her rendition of “Nasty Naughty Boy.” I checked with the show, and the girls at our performance were Danielle (dance captain) Sarah, Janell, Missy, Lisa, Melissa, Rachel, and Michelle (singer).  According to one article I found, for many of the girls, this is a second job: The hours (come in to work at 8:30 PM, leave at 11) provides the ability for day work or school. [Edited to indicate the girls at our show, based on information from the Crazy Girls staff]

[One other observation that struck me about the girls: they were all tall and white (perhaps one Asian). This could be an homage to Crazy Horse, where all the girls look the same. However, the advertising shows one black dancer. It could be that (as the show is winding down at the Riv) the cast has shrunk. Still, it bothered me. I believe that if we are going to have a show that celebrates the beauty of women (as these shows do), they should celebrate all colors and ethnicities. This might also broaden the potential audience of the show. I’d love to also see the show broaden beyond all colors and ethnicities to all shapes and sizes as well, as I feel that all women are beautiful and can show that beauty through dance… but I also know that’s not likely to happen given the Vegas crowds.]

Intermingled with the girls dances are some simple magic acts and jokes by Tony Douglas (FB) cabaret-magic standards in 15 minutes. The most novel is a straitjacket escape to stop a borrowed ring from falling into a whirring blender. These tricks were simple and cute, including interactions with a groom-to-be in a humorous magic routine, and another interaction with a bride-to-be in a different routine. What I liked best was probably the simplest routine: the drawing that came to life. There were some adult jokes that fell a little flat, but again, that’s burlesque tradition.

There are no technical credits provided; the show indicated that the Choreographer and Producer were responsible for the technical aspects. The sound, thankfully, did not overpower. The lighting was effective in providing both distraction and camouflage, which probably annoyed the hornier audience members. They need to get over it — a show like this is about the tease, not full disclosure. If you want that, there are plenty of places on Industrial or west of the freeway. There were some flares out to the audience that were a little annoying, particularly in the “Fuck You” number.  But in general, the lighting worked well to augment the dance. Scenery was simple: dancing in front of a mirror with appropriate props to support the dance. Costumes were by Jean Corporon and Holly McKinnis  (a credit I found from a story profiling them), and were appropriate revealing… while being not revealing. In other words, they were sexy, allowed for quick display of what the girls wanted to be displayed, but had sufficient design to hide what needed to remain hidden. Crazy Girls was choreographed (and managed) by Jennifer Stowe (FB), who is married to the show’s producer, Norbert Aleman (FB).

At the production we saw, the show was about 30% sold — and that’s with aggressive marketing. Whether that is due to impending demise of the Riviera,the lack of advertising from the Riv, the weakness of the North end of the Strip (there’s not much left there with the hulk of the Fountainblu, the closure and demolishment of the Frontier and Stardust — really only SLS, Circus Circus, and Westgate are left). Crazy Girls performs its last Riv show on May 1st. There are statements that the show will move to another venue, but nothing specific has been announced. Yet. [ETA 4/29: They have announced a new venue: The Sin City Theatre at Planet Hollywood…. and they get to keep the bronze butts]

If you move fast, you can get tickets (and discount tickets) for Crazy Girls before they close. Check with the Riv, check with Tix4Tonight, or check with most discounters.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I 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: We have one more show booked in Vegas: Penn & Teller at the Rio. Other shows that are possibilities are either Don Rickles at the Orleans or Jeff Dunham at Planet Hollywood.  Los Angeles theatre resumes in May with “Loopholes: The Musical” at the Hudson Main Stage (FB) on May 2. This is followed by “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9 (and quite likely a visit to Alice – The Musical at Nobel Middle School).  The weekend of May 16 brings “Dinner with Friends” at REP East (FB), and may also bring “Violet: The Musical” at the Monroe Forum Theatre (FB) (I’m just waiting for them to show up on Goldstar). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (note that all Fringe dates are holds; ticketing doesn’t open until 5/1). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! 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.

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Here’s a Hot Flash About A Show….

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Apr 22, 2015 @ 11:17 pm PDT

Menopause the Musical - Harrahsuserpic=las-vegasJust because I’m on vacation doesn’t mean that the live entertainment stops. Heaven forfend! We’re in Vegas doing an interval exchange, and that means finding some shows to see. The first show during this visit is the longest running scripted show in Vegas — it started at the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate) in 2006, moved to the Luxor, and then moved to Harrahs earlier in 2015. It is also one of the few shows on the strip that is an AEA-contract show — most are not (although given what AEA did yesterday, AEA is not on my “nice” list — they have been “naughty”). The show I’m talking about is “Menopause: The Musical” (FB), a show that truly demonstrates the age-old adage: Know Your Audience.

Perhaps I should explain. For most shows, it is vital to know who your anticipated audience will be, and ensure they will come to the show. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, this was the “Theatre Club” audience that came to New York shows. Nowadays, it is often something heavily demograph-shopped — be it a family show, a show aimed towards a particular ethnicity, a show aimed towards youth, etc. No where is this truer than in Las Vegas. You know who will be seeing “Defending the Caveman“. You know who will be seeing “Evil Dead: The Musical“. You know who will be seeing Brittney Spears or Elton John. You can guess who Menopause: The Musical was squarely aimed at. And you would be right. I would guess that all the men in the audience were there due to their wives: they either bought the show because they thought their wife would like it, or the wife bought the tickets and dragged the husband along. This led to a very appreciative audience of the humor for the show. Of course, the stiff drinks they were pouring didn’t hurt. As for the men in the audience, they were happy because their wives were happy.

So what is Menopause: The Musical. It isn’t a parody show per se (certainly not in the sense of Evil Dead: The Musical) — it isn’t making fun of any previously published property. It doesn’t have original music; it repurposes popular songs from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s with new subject specific near-beer lyrics (book and lyrics were by Jeanie Linders). It’s a book musical, but not with a traditional style book. By that I mean that it doesn’t have any real antagonists or through story, characters don’t really change and grow, there is no story being told. If I had to try to categorize the book, I’d call it observational. It brings together four women going through “the change” to Bloomingdales (which serves no purpose other than to provide scene locations); this conjunction serves primarily to allow the women to commiserate about the impacts of menopause. At the same time, this allows the audience to identify with the women on stage, as 98% of the women have “been there, done that, got the T-shirt in the gift shop, and it is already dripping wet due to my latest hot flash”.

So, let’s dismiss the book. It’s fictional framework; the structural necessity that allows the songs. This façade of a book is the reason why the show is a success in Vegas — a city built on a fictional framework that attracts an audience of the right age to appreciate that framework. The ladies enjoy it — it is a safe night out with music they know, PG-rated to satisfy the visitors from the midwest, talking about  a universal human experience. You can’t really diss it (plus, if you did, you would have a hoard of hormonally-fluctuating women dealing with mood swings coming after you. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life writing in Europe.”)

That said, I’ll admit that I enjoyed the show. Being married to a women “of the appropriate age”, I identified with what the show was saying. The songs were cute, well performed, and entertaining. Watching the audience, the women present were having a ball. It was certainly worth Goldstar prices.

One thing that made the show work were the performances (all cast credits). Two of the actors were extremely strong “knock your socks off” singers and performance; the remaining two were just merely strong, and made up for it by strong comedy timing. Let’s start with the strong singers. As the “Professional Woman”, Lisa Mack (FB) was a knockout. She had an extremely strong singing voice that handled all the songs well, and she handled the movement and humor with great aplomb. I’ll note that it looks like Lisa has been doing this role for a long time — this comes across in her comfort in the role. She was just great to watch. Also strong in the singing camp was Jacquelyn Holland-Wright (FB) as the “Soap Star”. She started off a bit colder for me, but rapidly won me over (I had a similar thing with the similar lead in “Inside Out“). Again, she gave a strong performance and sang very well.

The remaining women impressed me more with their comedic flair and timing, although they were also strong singers. As “Earth Mother”, Vita Corimbi handled the role easily — which isn’t a surprise as she is one of the original actresses from 2006. Giggly and silly and funny and eccentric, you could just see she was having fun with the role onstage. Also having fun was Laura Lee O’Connell (FB) as the “Iowa Housewife”, who has been doing the role even longer — since 2005 in Seattle, plus the entire Vegas run. Laura was also having great fun with the role — in particular, her scene with the lingerie was just hilarious (without even speaking a word). Both were strong singers, but their comfort with the role made their comedy just stand out.

Rounding out the cast (not onstage at our performance) were the understudies: Lori Legacy (who also serves as dance captain) and Monica Heuser (FB).

Turning to the technical and artistic side. The production was directed by Seth Greenleaf (FB), who did a reasonable job for the venue. At time, I thought the actors were overplaying it a little, but this is the type of show that demands a little overplay. Choreography was by Daria Lynne Melendez, and it worked well on the small Improv stage at Harrah’s. I’ll note that both appear to be the original direction and choreography, so credit must go to the Production Stage Manager for preserving it. The original score and arrangements were by Alan J. Plado; however, the show used recorded music recorded by Michael Dubay on keyboards, Don Meoli on drums, and Jonathan Rem on bass. Linda Germany is the company manager; Phillip James Randall is the Production Stage Manager; and Elizabeth Herbert is the Assistant Stage Manager (and shill for show merch).

On the technical side, the scenic design of Sean Fanning was very simple: a backdrop with four doors, and various props. This simplicity was required because the venue transforms back and forth into the Improv Comedy Club. The lighting design by Ryan Partridge was reasonably simple and worked well — there were a few dark spots but that was more the fault of the spot operator. There is no credit for sound designer; this is too bad, because the sound requires a little adjustment as the performers are slightly over-amplified. Lastly, costume design was by Sue Hill and appear to go back to the original designs.  I thought they worked well; my wife thought all the costumes were nicely tailored to the body types and extremely flattering.

Menopause: The Musical continues with an open run at Harrah’s Las Vegas. Discount tickets are also available through most of the discount locations for Vegas tickets, including Tix4Tonight. They are also available on Goldstar.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I 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: We have one more show booked in Vegas: Penn & Teller at the Rio. Other shows that are possibilities are either Don Rickles at the Orleans or Jeff Dunham at Planet Hollywood, and Crazy Girls at the Riviera (before the Riveria goes away on May 4th) — the particular show depends on what shows up at Tix4Tonight.  Los Angeles theatre resumes in May with “Loopholes: The Musical” at the Hudson Main Stage (FB) on May 2. This is followed by “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9 (and quite likely a visit to Alice – The Musical at Nobel Middle School).  The weekend of May 16 brings “Dinner with Friends” at REP East (FB), and may also bring “Violet: The Musical” at the Monroe Forum Theatre (FB) (I’m just waiting for them to show up on Goldstar). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (note that all Fringe dates are holds; ticketing doesn’t open until 5/1). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! 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.

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Saturday News Chum: Deaths, Mergers, Departures, Health, and Foreign Aid

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 14, 2015 @ 10:14 am PDT

userpic=lougrantFinally, it’s Saturday. This has been a busy week — I’ve been accumulating articles, but haven’t had time during the week to post them. Before we jump into the stew, Happy Valentine’s Day to those that observe. What are we doing? We’re going to a wonderful organic Shabu Shabu restaurant we’ve discovered, and then seeing a musical story about the Loch Ness monster. And you?

  • Deaths in the News. A few major deaths have happened in the last couple of days that are quite noteworthy — primarily because these are people about which no one says anything bad. Really good people are rare to come by, and we’ve lost three. The first is Stan Chambers, long-time newscaster at KTLA — and by long, I mean 63 years! This is someone beloved in the news industry, a fixture in Los Angeles, who just reported the story and the facts. Forget your Brian Williams and Dan Rathers — this was the real deal, a reporter to look up to. The second is Gary Owens, a long-time radio and TV personality in Los Angeles. Again, this is someone who everyone looked up to, who helped loads of people with their careers, and of whom no one said anything bad. The third is Florence Sackheim, a long time member at Temple Beth Torah — again, this is someone who was there for everyone else, and whom no one had anything bad to say about.
  • Corporate Mergers. There are a number of corporate mergers of interest. Two weeks ago. Staples made an offer to buy Office Depot Office Max. This is a major consolidation in the office supply industry, and I think it is a bad thing. Loads of stores will close, loads of employees will lose jobs, and prices will rise without two equivalent competitors. Where are the regulators. In a similar consolidation, this week Expedia made an offer to by Orbitz. Expedia already owns Travelocity, so this is a major consolidation in the online travel booking industry. Again, I think this is a bad idea, although there’s a little less of a problem here in that the two services were about the same on price.
  • Going Away. Last week, the news was focused on Radio Shack going away. This week brings news of some other going-aways. First, Costco is celebrating Valentine’s Day by breaking up with American Express.  Well, the breakup will happen in 2016. AmEx has already been hammered as this brings them a lot of business; I know it is the only reason we have a non-corporate Amex card. Costco is reportedly near a deal with a new issuer; it is unclear whether accounts will be transferred, or reapplication will be necessary. In another going-away, the rumors are increasing that the Riviera Hotel may soon be closed and demolished. This makes me sad — there’s not much of 1950’s Vegas left on the strip — some two-story wings at the Tropicana and the original 9-story 1955 Riviera are about it. When the Riviera goes, so goes the history. However, the plan makes sense: the place has become a dump and cannot compete with the newer hotels; it is on the slow end of the strip next to a dead partially completed hotel, across the street from Circus-Circus and… not much else, as Echelon/Genting World is still under construction as well. Supposedly, the Riv is being bought by the Las Vegas Convention Bureau, who want to extend the Convention Center’s reach up from Paradise Blvd to LV Blvd, between Convention Center and Riveria Blvd. Not much is there — the parking lot that was the Landmark, a Dennys, a Walgreens, the Riv, and a 3-story apartment complex and some small businesses. I think we can kiss the Riv — and it’s history — goodbye.
  • Nose and Throat. A week or so ago, on This American Life, I heard a segment on a annoying condition (for some) called Vocal Fry. I’d never heard of it, or could even notice it — so luckily, Mental Floss had a nice article on Vocal Fry.  Now that I know what it is… I still don’t get why people are annoyed. People’s voices are their voices. Get over it. In another interesting article, Vox had a nice exploration of mucus. I actually found this interesting, as I have continual sinus trouble (and I’m also one of those addicted to Afrin).
  • You Know How Foolishly Generous Those Americans Are. So said Stan Freberg in United States of America, and many people believe America gives too much Foreign Aid. However, those beliefs don’t correspond with the facts — and American really doesn’t give that much foreign aid. In fact, less than 1 percent of the $4 trillion federal budget goes to foreign aid. The largest portion of the money goes to health: a third of the U.S. foreign aid budget in 2014, or more than $5.3 billion. The next two biggest portions go toward economic development and humanitarian assistance. Small sums of aid support democratic elections in other countries. A tiny portion goes to protect forests in countries where logging is destroying natural habitats. Some aid funds programs that train local law enforcement to combat drug trafficking. (But no foreign aid goes directly toward another country’s military.) Proof again that most people wouldn’t know the facts if they bit them in the …
  • Dealing with Death. One problem when you die is that you can’t update your Facebook anymore. Fear not. Facebook will soon let you appoint a digital heir.  This is actually a good thing, as  there are more and more memorial Facebook pages, and it would be nice to know they are memorials (so you don’t keep wishing them a happy birthday).
  • Used Bookstores in LA. LAist attempted to do a list of the 10 best used bookstores in LA. Used bookstores are great, and we have lost some significant ones in the last year — both Cliffs and Brand Bookstore are gone. But LAist missed some great ones — in particular, Bargain Books in Van Nuys, and Books 5150 in Chatsworth. But this is no surprise — all those Los Angeles lists are done by westsiders who forget that the valley exists.
  • Women and Work. Last week’s Backstory was on women and work.  As part of this, they did a special segment on women in computing.  Well worth listening to, and something we should encourage. The segment gives me the opportunity to pimp for a project of ACSA: the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security.

 

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