Observations Along the Road

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

2014 – A Year of Reviews in Review

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 28, 2014 @ 9:27 am PDT

userpic=theatre_musicalsI just posted my last write-up for 2014, so it is probably worth looking back at my entertainment (theatre, ♦ concerts, ◊ movies, and ⊗ other reviewed stuff) year. Here’s what I saw in 2014:

All told, 2014 saw us at 53 live theatre shows, 6 concerts, 1 comedy show, 2 tribute nights, and 3 movies or TV equivalents.

So out of all of this, what were the most memorable items of the year?

I think the most impactful show was Sex and Education at the Colony. I quote that show regularly: it taught me an important lesson: to convince an audience, don’t write what you think will convince them. Instead, get into their head and write what they think will convince them. It’s an important message — convincing someone by presenting the argument that works for them.

I think the most impactful situation was the bru-ha-ha over REP’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The production itself was excellent. Two shows after we saw it, an audience member either got drunk or acted drunk and made homosexual slurs. An actor went into the audience before calling theatre staff and physically threatened the patron. After the incident, the theatre fired the actor for that behavior and was forced to close the show. The fired actor and his friends put the story on the Internet, and the theatre’s name was dragged through the mud (I was one of the few voices able, for legal reasons, to speak up for them). About a week after the incident a version of the production showed up at another theatre (without proper licensing), with many of the original cast but sans the original director, as a “benefit” (and the actor and that production were cited). The Santa Clarita community and REP regulars rallied around REP with a number of fundraisers, and the theatre came out of it OK. It goes to prove the adage: do something great, or do something awful — in either case, they’ll remember your name.

I think the production that made me think the most was Discord, which reappeared later in the year at the Geffen. An intense theological discussion similar to Meeting of Minds, it made one see the bible and the New Testament — indeed, the impact of Jesus — in a new light. I still remember Jefferson’s comment that if you remove all the miracles from the New Testament, the story is even more miraculous: a simple man who through the power of conviction was able to change the world.

We had a number of science fiction or similarly themed musicals: Zombies from the Beyond, Evil Dead: The Musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet, Roswell. All were great fun and demonstrate that the genre can be a hoot if done right. Bat Boy – The Musical deserves some special mention, as the songs and the story go beyond the normal parody type story to make an even larger statement about society.

There were a number of shows that were extremely moving: The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre was astounding in its characterizations; Big Fish at MTW was just a delight in the scope of its story, and Harmony at the Ahmanson was amazing in its significance and impact.

There were some truly classic shows, in addition (of course) to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Shows like Inherit the Wind at GTC, Harvey at Palo Alto Players, and The Great Gatsby at REP East. There were also some classic musicals, expertly done: Li’l Abner at LA City College, She Loves Me at Chance, and Bye Bye Birdie at Cabrillo.

There were some once-in-a-lifetime shows, notably the tributes to Stan Freberg and Theo Bikel, where we were were sharing the theatre with major industry people. Only in Los Angeles. Our other concerts weren’t slouches either, in particular Noel Paul Stookey‘s concert at McCabes and the long-awaited return of the Austin Lounge Lizards.

I’m not the type that gives meaningless awards. I can’t say who was a best actor, or what was the best show that I saw. Certainly, I can’t judge what was the best show in Los Angeles. I can tell you which performances I enjoyed and stayed with me the most. Weekly, I can share with you the impressions of what I see; I hope that they help you in discovering all the entertainment possible in Southern California.

May you have the happiest of new years, and may 2015 bring you a year of wonderful entertainment, theatre, and concerts. Want to know how to afford going to so much theatre? Look at my post on discount theatre options.

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A Humbug? Bah!

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 28, 2014 @ 7:53 am PDT

A Christmas Carol (Zombie Joe's Underground)userpic=theatre_ticketsGrowing up Jewish, I used to think Christmas was a humbug. I didn’t actively hate it (although I did, and still do, dislike the heavy marketing aspect of it and the way American society pushes it down everyone’s throats), but I also didn’t appreciate many of the Christmas rituals. That’s been changing over time; I’ve been increasingly liking the notion of the holiday as something that spreads goodwill (something that goes back to my favorite Christmas song, Peter Paul and Mary’s Christmas Dinner). As such, I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Christmas episode of “The Librarians”. I’ve also had a growing appreciation for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (especially since discovering the wonderful concert version of the story). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I increasingly found myself drawn to Zombie Joe Underground (FB)’s production of the story; the excellent reviews on Bitter Lemons didn’t hurt either.  So last night, yes, we voluntarily went to see a Christmas-themed theatre production (does this mean Elf: The Musical is in my future? One never knows!)

First, however, a word about A Christmas Carol in general. I realized this morning one reason I’m growing to like the story — it doesn’t emphasize the religious aspects of the holiday, nor does it emphasize the commerical aspects of the holiday. Mind you the religious aspects are fine for those who are Christian; I’m not. As for the commercial Christmas, Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer say it best. But what Dickens’ story emphasizes is the goodwill aspect of the holiday, and the importance of having a changed attitude towards one’s fellows. It emphasizes the importance of not worshiping the gods of business and money, but doing something good with one’s life. That’s a concept that resonates with me.

Next, a word about Zombie Joe Underground (FB) (ZJU), in general. This was my first time at the venue, although I’ve known about it for ages from Livejournal. The venue is truly a black box theatre, lacking even a conventional stage and conventional stage lighting (I think all the lights were parabolic reflectors; not a single Leiko). Yet the theatre performed there was remarkably creative, with an emphasis on the theatricality of the actors, not the sets or props. This is very refreshing to see, and a nice change of pace for our mix of shows. From what I’ve been told, and looking at the mix of past shows on the wall, the venue specializes in the creative and avant guard, not the traditional play or musical that might hit a traditional stage venue. They lean towards the macabre in a way similar to The Visceral Company (FB); but have a different approach towards production and staging. I do plan to keep a closer eye on the venue for future productions of interest.

What happens when you bring a production company like ZJU together with a classic Christmas story? You get something offbeat. Mind you, they don’t change the story (unlike my favorite version, A Mulholland Christmas Carol), although they do imperceptibly condense the story to under an hour. Rather, you get all the essential elements the story presented in an offbeat approach with actors that are truly having fun with it. I guess at this point I should provide a synopsis of the story, but if you don’t know A Christmas Carol — given all the myriad versions out there — then you have truly been living under a rock. So, for those living under rocks, click here.

You get a sense of the energy of this production from the start, when the “Steam Punk Chorus” comes out and starts singing a number of Christmas carols. I put “Steam Punk” in quotes, for the ZJU notion of steampunk is wearing goggles (even swim goggles) and corsets, and none of the Victorian mechanical inventions I would expect. The chorus is more macabre, with white faces, darting eyes, playful grabbing and sexiness (without exposure), and warped attitudes. I still can picture in my mind their reactions and playfulness with the tambourine one of the young ladies was playing. They are also — much to my surprise for a storefront theatre — quite strong singers. The voices of these seven actors are just remarkable — from the young man singing Ave Maria to the blend of all the women’s voices (especially the one with the tambourine). Truly a remarkable opening.

After the opening songs, the story of Scrooge begins in earnest. The retelling itself stuck to the traditional story; I found it difficult to identify much that was abridged. With the exception of the actor portraying Scrooge (Sebastian Muñoz (FB; Page)), everyone (including the director) played multiple roles and were not only switching hats, but costumes, wigs, makeup and styling constantly. This led to a form of theatre that emphasized the creativity and what the acting process brings to create the sense of place and character. You were transported to London in the 1800s through the performances in front of you, not the scenery or the sounds. There was also a ZJU sense of playfulness in the mix — the occasional pale face, the use of total darkness and flashlights, the occasional “steam punk” chorus aspect in the background. It’s hard to put into words, but the total overall effect just made the show really fun and different.

The performances also brought out a sense of joy. As always, I have trouble telling what came from the actors and what came from the director, although in this case the director was one of the actors (Denise Devin (FB)). This team of actors — and it is hard to single anyone of them out given the multitude of roles —  were uniformly great. Those in the chorus were strong singers, and they all brought a form of maniacal energy to their myriad roles that it was just remarkable to watch them. I was going to try to give a bunch of specific mentions, but they would all seem to devolve around the same thing — they were great. A few things that stick in my mind: Scrooge’s energy and passion; the characterizations of young Scrooge (although how Scrooge went from being a young bald man to an older man with hair was astounding :-)), of his sister, of Mrs. Cratchet, the joy of the ghost of Christmas Present, the playfulness of Tiny Tim and Cratchet’s children, the joy of Fred — all were spectacular.

The acting team consisted of the following individuals: Jason Britt (FB) [Ghost of Marley, Bob Cratchit, Topper, Belle’s Husband]; Denise Devin (FB) [Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future]; Courtney Drumm (FB) [Steam Punk Chorus, Tiny Tim, Carol Boy, Turkey Boy, Want, Belle’s daughter, Laundress]; Gloria Galvan (FB) [Mrs. Cratchit, Steam Punk Chorus (she was the one with the tambourine that I liked), Mrs. Fezziwig, Ms. Lacey, Charity Gentleman]; Sara Kessler (FB) [Steam Punk Chorus, Fan, Elizabeth]; Lara Lihiya (FB) [Steam Punk Chorus, Violin, Belle, Belinda, Narrator, Housekeeper]; Sebastian Muñoz (FB; Page) [Scrooge]; Kelly Rhone (FB) [Martha, Steam Punk Chorus, Charity Gentleman, Exchange Man, Guitarist, Narrator, Waiter]; Kevin Pollard Jr. (FB) [Steam Punk Chorus, Younger Scrooge, Undertaker, Narrator, Peter Cratchit]; and AJ Sclafani (FB) [Steam Punk Chorus, Fred, Narrator, Exchange Man, Fezziwig].

Turning to the technical — ummm, what technical? The credit for scenic design is listed as Angelia Weitzman (FB), but there was no scenery to speak off, other than a black box or two; the true scenic design came from her other credit — co-costume designer together with the director, Denise Devin (FB). Also working on costumes — specifically, special costumes — as well as the props was Jeri Batzdorff (FB). The costumes and props combined to give a wonderful scenic design of the imagination — a nice (and interesting) change of pace from the more realistic scenic design of the larger/more traditional theatres. Technical sound and lights assistance was by Steven Alloway/FB: there really was no additional sound, and the lights themselves were rudimentary — no Leikos, but a number of parabolic reflectors either with colored bulbs or gels, without the traditional lighting control bar. Still, Alloway and the other designers used what they had to best effect, and there were a number of times I noticed the use of the lighting to create a mood for the scene. Hence, kudos are in order for the lighting. Production Graphics were by Zombie Joe, who also produced the show. Musical stylings were by the Steam Punk Chorus. The production was directed and adapted from the original by Denise Devin (FB).

I do have one negative to add — not about the show, however. Zombie Joe’s really needs to improve its website. As someone who has an old website, I can recognize a website with an even older look — the blinking and the animation reminds one of the days of MySpace and all the blinking free sites. Zombie Joes would do good to find a volunteer who could revamp their site to provide more information on their shows and the theatre itself, in a style that is much more conducive to the modern web.

There is one more performance of the ZJU version of A Christmas Carol (FB) today at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available through tix.com, or in person at the theatre. Note that the show itself is under an hour.

Dining Notes: For dinner before the show we tried a new restaurant in North Hollywood, Yerevan Steak House. They are a few blocks up Lankershim from the theatre, about 3 blocks N of Burbank, across from Mofongos Puerto Rican (where we’ve eaten before). Yerevan is a simple Armenian kabob house, family run with a very family feel, and excellent food. I think we’ll be back.

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: This was our last show of the year, unless I unexpected add something on New Years Eve. It’s been an interesting theatrical year — I’ll work on recap post next. As for 2015: January is filling up. The first weekend of January there’s no interesting live theatre, so I may go see the new “Into the Woods” movie. The following weekend brings two shows: “Serial Killer Barbie: The Musical” (FB) at the No Ho Arts Center on Friday January 9 and “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11. The next weekend starts the Rep season with “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat Sanuary 17. The following weekend is currently open (but I’m looking). January may conclude with the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. 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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The Power of Mathematics

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 26, 2014 @ 7:58 am PDT

The Imitation Gameuserpic=moviesAs you might have figured out by now, I’m a live theatre person. However, I do occasionally go to the movies, and one of those “movie days” is always Christmas Day. This year, after some back and forth on the particular movie, I settled on “The Imitation Game“, a bio-pic about Alan Turing (my wife vetoed “Into the Woods“, which I may see the first weekend of January; she went to go see “Night at the Museum 3“).

Alan Turing is an interesting, and quite tragic, fellow. Most folks in the computer science world know of Turing: the most prestigious award in the computing field is named after him (the ACM Turing Award), anyone studying computability theory learned of the Turing Machine, and anyone dealing with artificial intelligence knows of the Turing Test. Dayenu – that would have been enough. A smaller number of people may know of Turing’s real contribution: he was one of the people behind the breaking of the German Enigma code machine — an effort that quite probably led to the Allied victory against the Germans in WWII (and, ancillarily, one of the reasons that the Unix crypt utility is insecure, as it is based on the Enigma algorithms).  As an aside, I’ll note that those who really want to study Turing might look at the online Turing archive, a large web collection of digital facsimiles of original documents by Turing and other pioneers of computing.

The general unwashed public, however, knows little of Turing and little of cryptography. There have been plays and movies portraying Turing before: most notably Breaking the Code, a 1986 play by Hugh Whitmore that was later turned into a movie starring Derek Jacobi. Most of the portrayals focus on attempting to reconcile Turing’s cryptographic work with the secret that seemingly led to his death: his homosexuality.

All this Turing talk is because the latest attempt to explore Turing’s life is the movie The Imitation Game, based on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges (who runs a detailed website on Turing and his life), adapted for the stage by Graham Moore. As with any entertainment writeup, we need to look from three areas: the story, the performances, and the technical.

The screenplay for The Imitation Game does a good job of telling a version of the story of Turing’s life. It certainly goes in deeper and provides more details than Breaking the Code did. It uses a framing device of an early 1950s burglary at Turing’s house to have Turing telling his story to the police, who ultimately uncover his homosexuality and prosecute him for it. The film keeps jumping back and forth in time between the 1950s police station, the war years at Bletchly Park, and Turing’s early years in Boarding School.

The problem, of course, is that this isn’t quite the truth. Films rarely are: they simplify facts in some areas, amplify facts in other areas, and create fictional peoples and stories in still other areas. This story does that in spades — while researching this writeup I found a good summary of the historical inaccuracies in the film. There are a number of key ones, with the most glaring being the fact that Turing was never accused of espionage, and never worked with the individual identified as the actual spy in the film. It also over-amplifies the relationship with Joan Clarke, under-emphasizes the other cryptography work that Turing did, and neglects to mention the fact that multiple machines were built. It also tends to under emphasize Turing’s death from cyanide poisoning, although they hint of it at the beginning of the movie. Turing’s life story is interesting enough — read the Wiki page to get a good idea of it — but the screenwriter chose to change it. Ah, Hollywood. Note that I have no idea if Hodges’ original book makes the same errors, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

“But besides that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” — If we set aside the historical inaccuracies (that is, we accept this fictional version as the story to be told), the progression works reasonably well. The jumping back and forth in time is not confusing, and the way the story introduces and builds the characters works well. The play also throws out some good quotes, most notably “it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” This quote is one of those wonderful inspirational lines that may goad people to get involved with science and engineering — this is a good thing.

The story also highlights a major dilemma the folks at Bletchly Park faced: they couldn’t let the Germans know they had broken the code; if they did, the Germans would change the code. Thus, they had to let some people die in order to save others. This was perhaps the most interesting question at the heart of the story. However, it is dispatched relatively quickly and doesn’t demonstrate the likely large moral debate that occurred.

The performances in the film were excellent. I’m not going to list the entire cast as I do with a play; there’s IMDB for that.  I will note that Benedict Cumberbach portrays Turing well, although it is unclear how much of the Aspergers mannerisms and stutter were an invention of the screenwriter. Keira Knightly does a good job with Joan Clarke, a fellow cryptographer and one-time fiancee of Turing. From what I’ve read of Clarke, I don’t think the role was written accurately portrays the character; however, Knightly does a good job with the role as written.

Let’s turn now to the technical side. If this were a stage show, I’d be talking about sound, lighting, and sets. Most of those just blend into the story in film; what film brings to the fore is the cinematic aspects. This film did a very nice job of establishing place and time through a mix of new sequences illustrating wartime England and grainy stock footage of bombings and such. Bletchly Park also seemed to be portrayed well, although I cannot compare it to the real thing. The good thing (to me) is that there were very few points where I became aware of the cinematographer trying to do tricks with the camera to create emphasis or mood.

Overall, I found the film quite enjoyable and worth what I paid for it. Whether it was a story that deserved the “big screen” treatment is less clear — the story would likely have worked on the small screen as well. Alas, there were few truly “need the big screen” movies out that our group could agree were worth seeing. I am disturbed by the historical inaccuracies — not because the screenwriter chose to put them in, but because this will likely be the version of the story that the unschooled will take away as Turing’s story.

Preview Notes: We have the following five movies previewed:

  • A Most Violent Year. A crime drama seemingly about a trucking company and the mob in Jersey. The story just didn’t catch my interest.
  • Black Sea. An adverture hunt to recover the gold from a sunken U-boat, with the spoils being evenly split. Of course, with an even split, you need only to reduce the number of people to increase your share… Not interested.
  • Chappie. A movie about a sentient police robot, and how he learns of his sentience. Appears to be an interesting story  about AI. It was interesting to see this paired with a story about Turing; one wonders if the robot would pass the Turing test. Potentially worth seeing.
  • Paddington. Why, you might ask, would a children’s comedy be placed in this movie. Of course, the answer is that Turing was born in Paddington. The movie itself looks quite well done and cute, and may be worth seeing.
  • Woman In Gold. A movie about a quest to recover artowrk stolen by the Nazis. This looked to be a very interesting story, well acted. Might be worth seeing.

Upcoming Shows: There is one more show in December for me: A Christmas Carol, as interpreted by Zombie Joe’s Underground (FB) on December 28. January is filling up. The first weekend of January there’s no interesting live theatre, so I may go see the new “Into the Woods” movie. The following weekend brings two shows: “Serial Killer Barbie: The Musical” (FB) at the No Ho Arts Center on Friday January 9 and “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11. The next weekend starts the Rep season with “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat Sanuary 17. The following weekend is currently open (but I’m looking). January may conclude with the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. 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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When Restraining Orders Expire

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 21, 2014 @ 12:24 pm PDT

Austin Lounge Lizards (Boulevard Music)userpic=folk-artistsAs I said in my last post, yesterday was a day of running. She Loves Me ended right around 5:45 PM (it started at 3:00 PM), and we had tickets for an 8:00 PM concert in Culver City. So rush off we did, grabbing dinner at Togos and flying the 51 miles between Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim and Boulevard Music (FB) in Culver City. Yes, Boulevard Music — there are now two small folk music venues on the westside of Los Angeles: the venerable McCabes and Boulevard, right near Culver and Sepulveda. We were running to Boulevard Music to see the Austin Lounge Lizards (FB), who were doing their first show in Southern California since 2001 in Encino. As they noted, they were able to come back because the restraining order ended. Note: We made it there in just about an hour, thanks to Google’s alternate routing.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Austin Lounge Lizards — shame on you. They are one of the best satirical bluegrass bands around (although right now, they are down a banjo player — which, depending on your view of the banjo, might be an improvement). If you like Weird Al; if you like the Arrogant Worms; if you like Tom Paxton’s short shelf life songs — you’ll like the Lizards. They combine humor with great musicality to create a very entertaining show.

A word on the venue, as it was new to us. Boulevard Music is much smaller than McCabes — they set up the folding chairs in the main showroom (instead of the room in back) and they can’t handle online ticket sales. But they are super friendly, and seem to be well connected folk-wise, given some of the other folks there for the show. Further, the parking is much much easier. I recommend you check out their concert list and sign up for their mailing list — you might learn about some interesting concerts.

As for the show itself — the show featured two original Lizards (Hank Card, Conrad Diesler) and two newer members (Darcie Deaville, and Bruce Jones). Former lizard Korey Simeone (FB), who was local, joined the group on quite a few songs. The show playlist was as follows (♦=New Song):

Act I

  1. The Highway Café Of The Damned
  2. I Lied
  3. If I Saw You All The Time
  4. Buenos Dias, Budweiser
  5. La Cacahuate
  6. One True God
  7. We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before
  8. Thank You For Touching Me There
  9. The Drugs I Need
  10. Strange Noises In The Dark
  11. The Car Hank Died In
  12. Stupid Texas Song
  13. Xmas Time for VISA
  14. Would You Like To Start A Band

Act II

  1. The Golden Triangle
  2. That Godforsaken Hellhole I Call Home
  3. ♦ I Confess To You
  4. Jesus Loves Me (But He Can’t Stand You)
  5. Paint Me on Velvet
  6. The Dogs, They Really Miss You
  7. My Bonnie Johnson
  8. Old Blevins
  9. Wer Ist Da
  10. Who Needs You
  11. Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs
  12. Pflugerville

In short, the show was a mix of songs from throughout the Lizard’s performing career, with one new songs. A number of songs just can’t be done well without a banjo (how many times do you hear that!), and some really require Tom Pittman to work.

All in all, a good show…. and hopefully it won’t be 13 years before the Lizards are back in Southern California.

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: There is one more show in December for me: A Christmas Carol, as interpreted by Zombie Joe’s Underground (FB) on December 28  (my wife is seeing The Klezmatics at Disney Hall on December 22). January is slowly filling up:  “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11; “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat Sanuary 17; and possibly the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. 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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A Timeless Love Story

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 21, 2014 @ 11:26 am PDT

She Loves Me (Chance Theatre)userpic=dramamasksI’ve written before about how I’m always up to see musicals I’ve only heard, but never seen. So back in January, when we were at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim to see Lysistrata Jones, I noticed that they were planning to do She Loves Me at one of their holiday plays. I’m familiar with She Loves Me — I’ve got two cast album versions, and have always enjoyed the music from the show. From what I had heard, it was Bock/Harnick’s best crafted show, but never achieved the measure of success they later had with Fiddler on the Roof. So it went on my RADAR for future ticketing. Now it is December, and the Chance is performing She Loves Me. So guess what part of our mad dash was yesterday: that’s right: a 61 mile (one-way) jaunt to the Anaheim Hills for She Loves Me (after which we rushed to Culver City for an 8 PM concert, but that’s another writeup).

For those unfamiliar with She Loves Me, you probably know the story but by another name. The story started out as the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo. This was later made into the movie The Shop around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan in 1940. It was then re-made into the movie In The Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson in 1949. Most recently, it was re-made into the movie You’ve Got Mail in 1998 with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. On the stage, however, in 1963 Parfumerie was turned into the musical She Loves Me by Joe Masteroff (book — he later went on to do the book of Caberet), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics — he next went on to Fiddler on the Roof), and Jerry Bock (music — and again Fidder).

The basic bones of the story are simple: Single man has a pen pal with whom he is falling in love. Single gal has a pen pal with whom she is falling in love. Single man and single gal work at the same place and hate each other’s guts, without knowing that each is the other’s pen pal. Now, bring them together with some catalyst, turn the gears, and enjoy the show.

In the case of She Loves Me, the story sticks pretty close to the original source. Georg is a clerk at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest in 1937 (although there are no hints of war — evidently, the real world doesn’t intrude on this story). He works together with the other clerks: Ilona, Sipos, and Kodaly, and the delivery boy Arpad, for Mr. Maraczek. When the competing parfumerie closes, one of their clerks, Amalia, talks her way into a clerk job (which upsets Georg, who starts getting on her case). While all this is happening, Kodaly is busy persuing anything in a skirt — in particular, Ilona. When Mr. Maraczek suspects his wife of cheating, he starts bearing down on Georg, who passes the pressure on to the rest of the staff — making things even testier with Amalia. His only consolation is his pen-pal, who he has never met or seen, but loves anyway. He schedules a rendezvous with her, without knowing she is really Amalia. They day they are to meet, Georg gets fired and send Sipos to tell his unknown date he won’t be there. Sipos sees it is Amalia, and gets Georg to go talk to her. Thinking he is spying on her, they have a gigantic fight. End Act I. In Act II, of course, all things predictably come together in predictable fashion, which I, predictably, won’t spoil :-).

The music in this story is just a delight. From the initial “Good Morning, Good Day” to “Days Gone By” to “Tonight at Eight” to “Try Me” to “Ice Cream” to “She Loves Me” to “A Trip to the Library” — it is just a joy. If you haven’t heard the score, I strongly suggest you pick up one of the cast albums out there. You’ll fall in love with it.

So, we’ve established that we have a classic love story with a winning score. Why isn’t this musical done more? In 1963, there were the big song and dance numbers that people expected, and it was booked into the wrong theatre at the wrong time — and thus lost money. This led to a perception that it was a failed show. Remember , however, that Chicago was a failure when it first hit Broadway. Often great shows aren’t always profitable or recognized as such. You can learn more about the show and the details of the synopsis at Wikipedia.

The execution of the show at the Chance was (as with every Chance show), perfect. The instrumentation was kept simple: a single pianist (Ryan O’Connell (FB)) and an occasional Romani Woman (Tina Nguyen (FB)) on violin. I’m a big fan of simple orchestrations — one of my favorite versions of I Do! I Do! is instrumented with just two pianos. Do it simple, or do it lush. What the Chance Theatre did here worked very very well. Note that the actor playing Kodaly, Taylor Stephenson, also served as musical director.

The performances were equally strong. In the lead positions were Stanton Kane Morales (FB) as Georg Nowack and Laura M. Hathaway (FB) as Amalia Balash (normally Erika C. Miller (FB) performs the role, but she was out this weekend). Both brought a wonderful joy and enthusiasm to the role (clearly evident in Georg’s wonderful numbers “Tonight at Eight” and “She Loves Me”, and Amalia in “Ice Cream”), and both sang and danced beautifully. In the first act, it was totally believable that they didn’t like each other, yet in the second act, they were able to turn that into a playful spark that made them a believable couple. This chemistry was more remarkable when you realize that we were watching the understudy, who hasn’t had the time to build the chemistry. Credit here goes to the actors, as well as the director, Sarah Figoten Wilson (FB).

In the second tier we had the remaining Maraczek employees: Ilona Ritter (Camryn Zelinger (FB)), Ladisov Sipos (Corky Loupe (FB)), Steven Kodaly (Taylor Stephenson), the shop owner Mr. Maraczek (Beach Vickers (FB)), and the delivery boy, Arpad Laszlo (Daniel Jared Hersh (FB)). All were excellent. In particular, Zelinger gave a spot-on performance in her number “A Trip to the Library” (which now I finally understand), and Vickers was wonderful in “Days Gone By”. Hersh had the appropriate youthful enthusiasm in “Try Me”, and both Loupe and Stephenson were great in their solo numbers “Perspective” and “Ilona”.

Rounding out the cast in the ensemble and smaller roles were Matt Takahashi (FB) (Waiter, Ensemble), Eric T. Anderson (FB) (Busboy, Ensemble), Shafik Wahhab (FB) (Keller, Ensemble), Elizabeth Adabale (FB) (Ensemble), Erica Schaeffer (FB) (Ensemble, Dance Captain), and Katelyn Spurgin (FB) (Ensemble). A few things about the ensemble that stick in my mind: A few of the male ensemble members doubled as women customers during Act I; this is not a surprise in an intimate theatre setting, and was actually quite fun to watch. What was even more fun to watch was the shop interaction of all the ensemble members — and particularly Adabale, Schaeffer, and Spurgin — as they tried products and silently worked with the clerks. Schaeffer and Spurgin were also fun to watch as the patrons in the Cafe scene, and Adabale handled her Fats Waller number quite well. Takahashi was quite good in “A Romantic Atmosphere”, and all of the ensemble was just delightful in “Twelve Days to Christmas”. Lastly, and most superficially :-), Adabale has one of the cutest faces I’ve seen in a while :-).

She Loves Me doesn’t have the big splashy production numbers one expects in shows from the 1960s; this was one of its original problems. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have dancing, choreography, and movement. There were scenes that were particularly movement-beautiful — in particular the movement of the opening number (“Good Morning, Good Day”, the simple dancing of “Days Gone By”, all the movement in the Cafe, Ilona’s movement in “A Trip to the Library”, and the overall chaos and movement in “Twelve Days to Christmas”.  She Loves Me was choreographed by Christopher M. Albrecht (FB), and Erica Schaeffer (FB) served as dance captain.

Turning to the technical: Again, the execution of She Loves Me was spot-on. The sound design of Ryan Brodkin (FB) was clear and worked well. When the show started I was a bit concerned that the actors might be over-amplified for the space, but the sound ended up being great. The lighting by Jonathan Daroca (FB) worked well to establish the mood, and didn’t seem to depend on the spotlights so many stage shows of this era seem to depend upon. The scenic and costume design by Bruce Goodrich (FB), together with the prop design of Amy Ramirez (FB), worked reasonably well to establish the mood and setting. I say reasonably, because I did have trouble recognizing it as Budapest; I was thinking more French or English given the barets, the backgrounds, the pricing, and the place names. However, the open and close set for the parfumerie worked particularly well. The clothing otherwise seemed period appropriate. Rounding out the technical credits were Michael Martinez-Hamilton (FB) as Assistant Director/Dramaturg, Chauna Goldberg/FB providing hair and make-up, Michelle Kincaid assisting with costume design, and Jonathan Castanien/FB as stage manager.

She Loves Me” continues at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim until December 28. If you can fit it into your schedule, you’ll enjoy it — it is a thoroughly delightful show. Tickets are available through the Chance Box Office. Goldstar is sold out, and discount tickets are not available through LA Stage Tix. Chance has announced their 2015, which consists of 11(!) shows over two stages (they are currently fundraising for the second stage). The shows are (♦ = main stage; ◊ = second stage): ♦ Loch Ness (a new musical with book and music by Marshall Pailet of Triassic Parq, lyrics & book by A. D. Penedo; January 30 – March 1); ♦ After the Revolution (by Amy Herzog; April 10 – May 10); ◊ Samsara (by Lauren Yee; April 30 – May 31); ♦ Hairspray (Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan, Music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Whitman & Marc Shaiman; July 10 – August 9); ◊ The Dragon Play (by Jenny Connell Davis, July 23 – August 23); ♦ A Bright New Boise (by Sam Hunter; September 25 – October 25); ♦ Anne of Green Gables (Book by Joseph Robinette, Music and Lyrics by Evelyn D. Swensson; Holiday Series: November 27 – December 27); ◊ The Eight: Reindeer Monologues (by Jeff Goode; Holiday Series: December 8 – December 23); ◊ Alice in Wonderland (by Randy Wyatt; Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA): February 28 – March 8); ♦ Fancy Nancy – The Musical (Book and lyrics by Susan DiLallo, Music by Sam Viverito; TYA – May 29 – June 7); and ◊ The Legend(s) of Sleepy Hollow (by Jonathan Josephson, TYA: October 8 – October 18). [As an aside, for the TYA shows, I’m impressed that Chance does a special performance for Autism Spectrum kids.] Of these, I’m interested in Loch Ness and Fancy Nancy.

Dining Notes: Prior to the show, we found a spectacular restaurant that is almost worth the drive on its own: True Shabu (FB). It is basically across the street from the Chance, next to the cinemas. It is an upscale Shabu Shabu restaurant where you cook your food at the table. Meats are organic, vegetables are organic and from local farmer’s markets where possible, the sauces are hand-made, the place is gluten-free friendly. Prices are not outrageous, especially for lunch. You can see the menu here. Note: The chef indicated they may be changing names to help people find it better, but whatever the name: go before or after the show. You’ll love it.

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: Right after this show we ran to Culver City for the  Austin Lounge Lizards concert at Boulevard Music in Culver City (that’s the next writeup). There is one more show in December for me: A Christmas Carol, as interpreted by Zombie Joe’s Underground (FB) on December 28  (my wife is seeing The Klezmatics at Disney Hall on December 22). January is slowly filling up:  “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11; “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat Sanuary 17; and possibly the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. 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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It Won’t Grow Up

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 05, 2014 @ 12:52 pm PDT

Peter Pan Liveuserpic=televisionLast night was the second live musical in a new NBC tradition: live theatre as a Christmas special. Last year, there was “The Sound of Music Live“; this year brought us “Peter Pan Live“. Again, as with last year, the hater and snark community was out there hot and heavy (as could clearly be seen in the responses on the Forbidden Musicals group on Facebook), although the professional reviewers treated the show a little better. The basic opinion, once you threw out the obvious haters and snark, was that this was a better effort than Sound of Music, but it had its odd flaws. That’s basically my opinion as well, but I thought I’d elaborate a bit. After all, this was live theatre (well, pre-recorded for my time zone), and I watched it, meaning some sort of write-up is due. However, this won’t be a full theatre review write-up: I feel no need to summarize the reworked plot, or to list the credits and to link to every actor in the production. You want that, you go to IMDB.

The Story

If you came into this expecting the Disney version of Peter Pan, you were likely disappointed. This was the stage musical version, famously made, umm, famous by the Mary Martin telecast on NBC (although, I’ll note for the record, I’m not a fan of Martin’s Pan — I find her voice too lilting for the role). The stage version of Peter Pan, for the record, originated out of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, and featured music by Mark “Moose” Charlap, with additional music by Jule Styne, and most of the lyrics were written by Carolyn Leigh, with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It first appeared on stage in 1953 in Los Angeles, on Broadway in 1954, on TV in 1955, 1956, and 1960, with numerous stage revivals.

If you’ve seen the musical Pan on stage, you know it is a relatively short show. NBC had time to fill, so they talked to Adolph Green’s daughter Amanda, and worked in some additional music (and story to support that music). They reworked two songs from Do Re Mi: “Ambition” became “Vengeance”, and “I Know About Love” became “Only Pretend”. From Say, Darling they adapted “Something’s Always Happening on the River” into “A World Without Peter”. They brought in a song that was cut during previews in San Francisco: “When I Went Home”, and they added some reprises of existing songs. They also reworked “Ugg-a-wug” into “True Blood Brothers” to address Native American sensitivities, a move that got many upset.

In general, I liked the song additions and changes. Both “Vengeance” and “A World Without Peter” worked well for me; the plot changes to fit things in also worked. There are those purists out there who insist a show never changes; to them I say: “Get Over It!”. Many shows have undergone changes and tinkering — sometimes without the source author’s permission, sometimes with. In this case, Green was involved, so I have no problem. Both Do Re Mi and Say Darling are unlikely to be revived and have dated plots. I’ll note that even Rodgers and Hammerstein songs were reworked and reused: State Fair revised and adapted songs from both Allegro and Me and Juliet. As for the changes to Ugg-a-Wug: Again, I liked them. They added in words that were supposedly drawn from Native American languages, as opposed to nonsense words. They also got rid of clearly offensive lines, like “true noble redskin” (I also noted that in Hook’s song, they changed “massacre Indians”). Such changes will give this musical more life. I hope these changes will be worked into the licensed script as an option.

There were some story changes I didn’t like. I didn’t see the need for the “bomb the island” subplot — I think it was just a silly excuse for the “X marks the spot” and stealing the map as a different way of getting into what would have been the Mysterious Lady scene. It could have been done in a different way.

There was also the handling of the traditional breaking of the fourth wall — the moment where Peter asks the audience to clap to save Tinkerbell. Yes, they did it, although supposedly on the east coast they were asked to tweet to save her (we didn’t see that on the west coast). It seemed odd with no audience sound — perhaps they should have added the crew clapping at that point. The biggest problem was that the extending of the show moved this moment to about 10:20pm — long after the children who were watching were likely in bed.

Lastly, I’ll note that my view of Pan is colored by “Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers“, which I saw at The Blank Theatre a few years ago. Pan is not the good little boy, just as Tinkerbell is not a delightful sprite. Pan is also out for vengeance: in his case, although he wants a mother, he feels no emotion towards her. Think about this: Not only is Pan incapable of loving Wendy, Pan injures every generation by taking away their child for an unspecified time, warping their psyche, and returning them to always look for boys in their men.

The Performances

Last year, although everyone seemed to trash Carrie Underwood as Maria, I had less of a problem with her. Allison Williams (as Pan) fared much better in the reviews, and I tend to agree: she gave a very good performance and sang well. She (well, all of the actors) adopted a British accent for the show. That wasn’t required and likely offended the purists who could see only Martin, but it didn’t bother me. She could have used a little more childish enthusiasm; however, overall, I thought she did well and I’d like to see her do more musicals.

Then there was Christopher Walken. Sigh. Yes, the man could dance. But Hook is not a dancer. The real problem was he couldn’t act or sing. His singing reminded me of Rex Harrison, who basically spoke the songs in My Fair Lady. His acting was — IMHO — wooden and stiff, and he didn’t bring the maniacal energy and character that Hook requires. The problem is — who could have done better? You need an actor who can dance, act, and sing; who is well known to the TV audience (not necessarily the stage audience); and who is available for all the rehearsals. Roger Rees? Nathan Lane? I’m not sure who else could have done this and have been the draw.

Stealing the show, as always, was Christian Borle as both the father and Smee. I think something was lost in not having Walken dual as the father, but I can understand the costuming changes (plus I’m not sure Walken could have provided the warmth Mr. Darling requires). Borle was an absolute smash in both roles and stole the scenes whenever he was in them. I also agree with the line I read on the Forbidden Musicals group: I never knew Borle had such guns!

Let’s look at the generations of Wendy together: Kelli O’Hara as Mrs. Darling, Taylor Louderman as Wendy, and Minnie Driver as the narrator and adult Wendy. Louderman was wonderful as Wendy with a good characterization and a great singing voice (we also saw her in Bring It On in Los Angeles). O’Hara also gave a good performance as Mrs. Darling, and her duet with Wendy was delightful. Lastly, Driver did a fine narration job and was quite touching in the closing scene (especially when you realize what Peter was doing to her).

As Tiger Lily, Alanna Saunders (Gypsy) did good in her few songs, although her character came off as a bit wimpish in the final fighting scene. The claim was made that changes were made to the character to address Native American sensitivities (including Saunders’ casting, as she is part native american). She did very good on the reworked Ugg-a-Wug (True Blood Brothers), but the costuming of her tribe still seemed a bit stereotypical to me.

As for the remaining characters, they are mostly indistinguishable. I will note that the Lost Boys seemed to be too old to be Lost Boys, but that’s how theatre casting goes if you want strong dancers. Some of the supporting pirate crew had some few cute moments. According to Playbill, here are the remaining major credits: The Lost Boys are played by Ryan Steele (Curly), Jason Gotay (Tootles), Jacob Guzman (Twin 1), David Guzman (Twin 2), Chris McCarrell (Nibs), F. Michael Haynie (Slightly), Dyllon Burnside (Prickles), Daniel Quadrino (Bunting), Garett Hawe (Patches) and Michael Hartung (Sniffler). The Pirates are played by Bryce Ryness (Starkey), T. Oliver Reid (Oliver Shreeks/Islander), Michael Park (Cecco), Chris Sullivan (Noodler), Alan H. Green (Cookson), Austin Lesch (Bill Jukes), Gary Milner (The Vicar/Islander), Matt Wall (Skylights/Islander), Ryan Andes (Admiral Chrichton) and John Arthur Greene (Robert Mullins/Islander). Assuming multiple roles are Dominique Kelley, Marty Lawson, Charlie Williams, Michael Munday, CJ Tyson, Alex Wong, Andrew Pirozzi, James Brown III and Keenan Washington.

I also note that they made Nana a real dog. She/he/it worked and made her marks — I was particularly amused to see the dog trained to turn down the bed.

The Technology

Many of the reviews I read complained about the visibility of the wires. This didn’t bother me at all. Consider: When you are seeing a stage production, most people are typically far from the stage, making the wires less visible. With TV — and especially with HDTV and Ultra-HDTV — you’re up-close with the actors. Of course you’re going to see the wires. Suspend your disbelief, folks.

CGI was used in a number of places, and (to me) it didn’t work too well. The animation for Peter’s Shadow was problematic, especially when you could see it against Peter’s real Shadow. More importantly, the opening scene where he was dancing with the Shadow was marred by overuse of transition effects (the Shadow breaking apart into butterflies, for example). Tinkerbell worked better and was similar to laser effects (which I’ve also seen used), although again there were some transition problems. More problematic was the fact that the CGI overlay seemed to create odd screen problems, such as white squares at times. The electronic fairy dust worked OK.

Doing the production across sound stages, as opposed to a single proscenium stage, allowed for fancier sets. There were still problems. The Darling’s nursery was far too expansive, and I wasn’t crazy about the map effect on the floor in Neverland. The weird spatial relationship between the pirate ship and Neverland was made worse by all the different sets there — this actually hindered suspension of disbelief. Lastly, I noticed all the Christmas set dressing — trees, wreaths, etc. This is not specifically a Christmas story, other than Michael flying when he says “Christmas!”. So why they chose that dressing is beyond me.

TV likes to emphasize the risk of doing things live, forgetting that real theatre people do it live 8 times a week. As expected, it looks like a few props didn’t work, and there were times the actors were visibly out of breath in the scenes after a major dance.

The Music and Movement

I loved the new orchestrations and intend to pick up a copy of the soundtrack. I could not tell if the music was live and piped in or pre-recorded. I hope the former — it makes it more of a challenge.

The dancing was good, and it was clear they extended a number of scenes to add extended dance. The Pirates, in particular, danced much more than usual.

Overall Impression

Overall, I liked it. Walken’s performance was perhaps the weakest part of the show for me. Is this a keeper to watch again? Unclear. We don’t see NBC repeating last year’s Sound of Music; we don’t see ABC repeating their musical versions of Cinderella, Annie, or Music Man. I think people want to see their performances live. However, I do want to pick up the soundtrack, if only to have a copy of the added and changed songs.

The Usual Disclaimers

[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.]

There’s no theatre on the books this weekend; I’m heading off to the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) in New Orleans. When I return, it will be “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim in the afternoon, followed by an Austin Lounge Lizards concert at Boulevard Music in Culver City on 12/20. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente; additionally we’ll likely have the first show of the REP East (FB) season: “Avenue Q“.  Ticketed productions pick up in February, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on the weekend of March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach. 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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Go, Go, Go, Go

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Dec 03, 2014 @ 6:46 pm PDT

Joseph and His ... (Nobel MS)userpic=nobelWay back ago, in the dark ages of 2007, a theatre arts program was revived at my daughter’s then middle school. Two English teachers, Fanny Araña and Jean Martellaro, brought back a theatre arts program, and with nothing more than enthusiastic students and parents (of which we were two), these teachers energized students and created a spark of learning through theatre. That program had borrowed lights on overloaded extension cords, no sound to speak of, and a hastily assembled set. Jump ahead seven years. This program now has professional quality lighting and sound, professional quality sets, and a large cadre of students coming back as Alumni to teach and help run the program. That qualifies as a success in my book.

Needless to say, we’ve been attending and supporting these programs since Day Zero. So it wasn’t a surprise that, even thought our daughter is safely back at UC Berkeley after Thanksgiving, we were invited to the first Tuesday Alumni Night performance of their latest show, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat“. As I’m likely dealing with the TL;DR generation, here’s the bottom line: Especially considering this is a middle-school production, go see this. You’ll be blown away by the production values, which rival any high school or community theatre production. Although the book has its weaknesses, the enthusiasm makes up for it; although the kids are not professionals, they do an excellent job that far exceeds middle-school production expectations. But then again, you would expect no less from the Nobel Middle School Theatre Arts program.

If the production has one major weakness, it is an unavoidable one: the selected show. “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a late 1960’s pop cantata, 35 minutes long— it was the first published work by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber. After the success of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, it was rewritten and lengthened with some novelty musical numbers — but at its heart, it is a simple pop cantata, essentially sung through. It tells the Biblical story of Joseph from the incident with the coat of many colors through the brothers return to Egypt through pastiches of musical styles, and is — to put it succinctly — cute. It requires some strong lead vocals, and has loads and loads of choral parts. This is why it is a great middle school show. I have the original pop cantata album, and I saw the 1982 tour (with Laurie Beechman  and Bill Hutton) when it was at the newly remodeled Pantages theatre  — in fact, I think it was one of the first shows after the remodeling. Since then, it has been lengthened a little each time it hits Broadway again. This adds material, not depth. But none of this is anything to those who license it can change (but who would deny me the fun of railing against Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber). Further, for most people (and, truthfully, even for me), this is a fun little show.

So, you ask, how did Nobel do with the show. First, please note my observations are based on an Alumni performance — essentially, a preview night. They asked for notes from the audience, which we gave. So I expect that the performances this weekend will be even stronger and better than what I saw. As a result, I will withhold some of the comments on things I expect to be easily resolved by Thursday night. You should also be aware that these kids are not professional actors, singers, or dancers. They are middle school students who have had some training. Their voices are good with glimmers of great and occasions of not-so-great. There are some wonderful dancers (I recall some particularly spectacular ballet moves); and there are some who are a little less so. There are some who give great performances to accompany what they are saying, and there are the occasional few who overemphasize or underplay. But considering these are kids — and we’re talking the 12-14 age group here — they are doing remarkably well. I will say their performances soars over some high school performances I have seen.

Traditionally, in Joseph, the powerhouse player is the narrator. This requires a strong belting voice — something you rarely find in a public middle school. The directors (Fanny Araña, Carolyn Doherty, and Daniel Bellucci) wisely decided to change the single narrator to a quartet. The result worked quite well. The four narrators — Alana DuPre, Amanda Magaña Kamryn Siler, and Rebecca Radvinsky — worked very well together. They sang with good strength and quality, and added strong acting and emoting to their performance (making them quite fun to watch).

At the heart of this show, however, is Joseph (Jake Dalton). Joseph not only is the center of the action, but has quite a few key songs (including some of my favorites, “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do”). As Joseph, Dalton played the role well, and his singing was reasonably good. I kept hearing an odd slightly British accent, which I didn’t know was the student or the coaching. I commented on that, so it might be corrected. There were also some odd phrasings to my ear, but that could just be due to over-familiarity with the original cantata and the 1982 OBC (Original Broadway Cast). Other than being plagued by microphone problems, there were no major issues and Dalton did very good for a student.

Joseph’s brothers (Reuben (Shane “Squishy” Smith); Simeon (Colby Haney); Levi (Arno Nizamian), Judah (Kasha Bansal), Dan (Anthony Tedesco), Naphtali (Jesse “The Rock” Pacheco), Gad (Troy Richman), Asher (Nicholas Aguilar), Issachar (Brandon Moser), Zebulun (Robert Cerda), and Benjamin (Max Chester)) all played their roles well. As they were unamplified, they could use a bit more oomph in the choral numbers (but, again, that may be addressed by opening night — it could also be addressed by increasing the pickup on the drop microphones). A few of the brothers got leads in the songs; I was particularly taken with Smith’s performance in the French Bistro number (“Those Canaan Days”).

The wives (Talia Ballew, Taylor “Cookie” Carlson, Willow Islas, Hannah Protiva, Marena Wisa Wasef, Kennaya Ndu, Ellie Zahedi, Elizabeth Ramos, Daniela Johns, Rachel Khoury, Amanda Macias, Ariana DeLeon) and the chorus (Abigail Beck, Amanda Pipolo, Charlotte Doolittle, Inaya Durfied, Joann Gilliam, Jordyn Lowe, Julia Denny, Rena Rodriguez) were less distinguishable as characters — they are not called out by the story by name, and provide mostly background voices. I did like the chorus in the black leotards, although when they came out carrying the jail cell it looked like a scene from Chicago: The Musical. There were some particularly good dancers in this crew — especially the ones adding ballet moves. Alas, I couldn’t identify the good dancers by name. As with the brothers, a bit more oomph in the choral numbers would be good; drop microphone pickup can be adjusted to compensate. There were also some good performances by the three ensemble members acting as waiters in the French Bistro scene.

Rounding out the cast were the other minor characters: Pharoah (Justin Tuell), Potiphar (Jacob Lipman), Mrs. Potiphar (Brooke Kier), the Baker (David Gomez), the Butler (Spencer Goldman), Jacob (Samuel Katz), and the guards (Kevin Foster, Kyle Kaplan). A few comments here. Tuell was good, but could amp up the Elvis impersonation (one wonders how much this generation even knows about Elvis, sigh….). The character is intended to be overplayed, but less as “the King” and more as “Elvis, the King” (thankyouverymuch). This may be addressed by opening. Kier did some lovely dancing as Mrs. Potiphar; I found it interesting the (necessary) middle school script change of “come and lie with me, love” to “come and be with me, love”. I had forgotten that Jacob was more of a be seen than heard role — he has a snippet of a song in the opening and is thence quiet (although he performed quite well).

Musical direction was by Daniel Bellucci, a Nobel alumni. This was less of a “musical” direction (as in orchestrations) and more in the form of vocal direction. Bellucci had a lot of work to do — a large cast of kids who likely had little to no vocal training, doing a sung-through show. I think he did remarkable. Although there were some odd phrasings at times, and a few kids who had voices that were occasionally off, the result was spectacular for less than a semester’s worth of work and untrained talent. I don’t think you can compare vocal quality here to Equity and trained actors; for what these kids are, they did extremely well (and you’ll be very surprised). The one musical problem was more on the other side: this was intended as a sung-through show, not a typical musical where there is space after each song for applause and scene changes. As a result, the musical transitions were very abrupt and jarring, especially the spaces between songs. Some of this was unavoidable — at a school production, you have to plan for applause after each song (parents and students being proud of their offspring and friends); some might be addressed through some soundtrack editing.

Dance in this show was very good. The choreography, by parent Carolyn Doherty and Alumni students Madison Tilner, Ryan Wynott, and Michael Lertzman (MRM) worked very well. They were able to take advantage of those students with dance training, and even those without formal training moved well.

The remaining aspects of the show were primarily technical. The sets were spectacular, reflecting the transition over the 7 years. They were well constructed, realistic looking, worked well, and established place very very well. Credit goes to long time Set Consultant Dennis Kull, as well as Alumni set designer Ben Tiber assisted by parents and alumni on construction. Props (coordinated by Kamille Flack) also worked well. Costumes worked well — I particularly liked the white outfits worn by the narrators, the black leotards previously mentioned, the Elvis outfit, Jacob’s outfit, and the general desert clothing of that era. No credit is given for costume and makeup design, but the costume lead was Tam Le.

Sound and lights reflect the tremendous growth of this program — even more remarkable when you realize there is no funding support from LA Unified. This is all from parent contributions and grants. The lighting, which in the early days were some side lighting trees on overloaded extension cords and no ability to program lights (or even get to overhead lights) has grown to professional lights, on professional fixtures, with professional software. This worked effectively to build and convey the mood. Credit goes to Lighting Coordinator Terry Meadows, Lighting Designer Artur Cybulski, and Alumni Lighting Consultant Nicholas Carlson. Zarah Shahinian was the crew lead for lighting, and David Manalo and Isabelle Saligumba were the crew leads for spots. Sound is also markedly better than the early days, where there were about three stand-up mikes. Today, there are about 8 wireless microphones, two hanging microphones, and a full sound board. In general, the sound worked well, although there was a balance problem between the music and the voices at times. That may be corrected by opening night. There was also a lot of wireless microphone static, especially on Joseph’s microphone and Pharoah’s microphone. This could be placement or interference; again, I expect it to be corrected by opening. Credit here goes to Sound Consultant (and Alumni) Michael McNabb, assisted by Stephen Rabin (crew lead). There were numerous additional supporting technical credits, which I’m not going to list. I will note that Tam Le also served as stage manager, and David Manalo as house manager.

This was the first show that Fanny produced on her own; well, not really on her own, as she the help of a lot of Alumni, plus her co-directors. She did a great job, but we still miss Jean (Ms. M) (who is off in Vermont on a leave of absence). A birdie says she will be back in town for the weekend performances — we might not stay for the performance, but might just drop by to say “hi”. Fanny deserves kudos for her work on this — pulling middle-school children into a coherent team for a production such as this is worse than herding cats. However, the teams and the relationships that this intense activity builds in the kids changes their lives forever; it also changes the teacher. You could see Fanny last night just soaking up the love that 7 years of students have for her. Financial rewards for teachers are nice and necessary to sustain the family, but my belief is that the best teachers get the sustenance for their heart and spirit from the success and love of their students.

One last thank you to be acknowledged: the Nobel Administration. When this program started, the Nobel administration was at best neutral towards it. This attitude has changed as the program has proved itself. The Tuesday Alumni Night was an experiment that should be continued… for a number of reasons. First, it cements a love of students for their middle school. This is no little thing — our society encourages high school support, but middle school alumni are forgotten (take that, Paul Revere JHS — Pali contacts me, but you… never). Second, it provides the emotional sustenance for those that bring this program to life. Third, it bonds student to student. Fourth, and most importantly — from an administration point of view — it provides the school (which is now a charter school) with an alumni base to provide financial support. Think about the fact that the first cohort of students from this program are just about to graduate with their Bachelors Degrees (my daughter, who was a 7th grader the first year, is a junior). If they love this program, they love the school, and will be there to respond to fundraising appeals. This is no little thing at the middle school level, in a cash-strapped district that cannot afford the extras for the students.

There are four performances of “Joseph“: Thursday, December 4 through Saturday, December 6 at 6:30PM, and Saturday at 2pm. Tickets are $5, available through the Nobel Student Store or at the door. Additional contributions are welcome. Nobel Middle School is located at 9950 Tampa Avenue in Northridge, CA 91324 (Cross-streets are Tampa, Merridy, Vanalden, and Lassen). Enter off of Merridy.

[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.]

There’s no theatre on the books this weekend; I’m heading off to the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) in New Orleans. When I return, it will be “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim in the afternoon, followed by an Austin Lounge Lizards concert at Boulevard Music in Culver City on 12/20. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente; additionally we’ll likely have the first show of the REP East (FB) season: “Avenue Q“.  Ticketed productions pick up in February, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on the weekend of March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach. 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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It’s All About Sex

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 30, 2014 @ 9:29 am PDT

Kinky Boots (Pantages)userpic=broadwaylaThere’s something I’ve never understood about women — namely, their attraction to shoes. To most men, shoes are utilitarian things, bought not for style but for comfort. We have perhaps three or four pair, categories not by style but by function: work, gym, hiking, beach. But women have a very different relationship. Here’s an example: Yesterday afternoon I saw a show at the Pantages. They post tweets about the show on their front page, and here’s one that caught my eye: “What could be better but to see a musical about SHOES?” As a guy, I could think of many things better. So what explains my interest in the musical “Kinky Boots“, which I just saw at the Pantages (FB)? Two things: Cyndi Lauper and the message.

Let’s start with Cyndi Lauper (FB). If you look at the theatre in the 1940s and 1950s and I ask you to name the composers, who likely rolls off the tongue? Rodgers and Hammerstein. Rodgers and Hart. Irving Berlin. Cole Porter. Comden and Green. Go to the 1960s through 1990s and you get new teams: Bock and Harnick. Kander and Ebb. Sondheim. This was an era when Broadway music became the popular music. Nowadays the composers are different: Jeannie Tesori, Andrew Lippa, Michael DeLaChusa, Jason Robert Brown, Ahrens and Flaherty. But what we’re also seeing is movement of major pop musicians into the theatre field. We’ve had major shows with music and lyrics by folks such as Elton John, Sting, U2, Green Day, and others. Kinky Boots represents the first forey by Cyndi Lauper on the stage, and for her effort she added a Tony award to her previous Grammy and Emmy awards. For us to have the next generation — and to have a theatre that speaks to the younger audience — this is a must. Of course, I had previously heard the music to Kinky Boots; however, I just had to see how it worked into the story.

Next, let’s look at the message of Kinky Boots. It is a simple and clear one: accept people for who they are. This is a message increasingly important these days, and it transcends the surface subject matter of drag queens and transvestites. To elaborate: when I came home from Kinky Boots, I was watching the 50th Anniversary special on Peter Paul and Mary. It pointed out their emphasis on human rights, and how our society has moved on from civil rights. It concluded with talking about Peter’s work with Operation Respect — an effort to get rid of bullying. When Kinky Boots hit Broadway, we were in the midst of the gay marriage debate. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was on tour, as was Billy Elliott, and La Cage had recently returned. Drag was in, and we were focusing on acceptance of gays. Look at today, and our focus is back on race — but the issue is again acceptance for who people are, and removing the notion of privilege based on stereotypes. Kinky Boots sends a strong message — do not bully and stereotype people based on their appearance, but see them for who they really are. It is a message that will continue to resonate — and one that must be repeated and heard — until it becomes part of our being.

Kinky Boots, which has a book by Harvey Fierstein (FB) and is based on the motion picture of the same name written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, tells the true story of the WJ Brooks shoe factory (Price and Sons in the movie and on stage) and how the factory was rescued by a forey into drag queen footwear. The true story was abstracted someone (in what some claim is formulaic sitcom fashion) into the movie, and then slightly rearranged and reworked for the stage. The basic story, as presented, is one about two boys. One, Charlie, is on track to inherit his father’s shoe factory in Northhampton UK, even though he doesn’t like shoes and wants to move to London to be with his fiancee. The other, Simon, is a flamboyant boy who loves wearing high heels (note that he is neither gay nor transvestite, as the story makes clear). The two boys grow up as expected, with Simon adopting the stage name of Lola and becoming a drag queen, and Charlie inheriting the shoe factory (after he had moved to London with his finacee, Nicola). Charlie discovers the factory is failing, and through a chance encounter with Lola, identifies that ladies heels and pumps are not suited to the male frame. A co-worker, Lauren, convinces Charlie that a niche market is needed for the factory to survive, and sexy shoes for men becomes that market.  The story, from this point, becomes somewhat predictable and along the lines of Billy Elliot: Lola comes into the factory to design the shoes. Lola is not accepted by the small town. Lola convinces the most bigoted man (Don) the value of acceptance. Don becomes the key factor in saving the factory. Charlie dumps Nikola for Lauren. The shoe factory is saved.

Many reviews I have read have complained about the sitcom and predictable nature of this story. But that didn’t bother me. Many Broadway shows have predictable storylines, going back to Oklahoma (was there any doubt Laurey would end up with Curly) and Sound of Music. That doesn’t make them bad, as long as the journey along the way is entertaining, doesn’t require too much suspension of disbelief, and has music that works. Further, one can’t blame Fierstein for the nature of the story; reading the Wiki summary of the movie, he only did some slight rearrangement. As for the music, Cyndi Lauper did a pretty good job for a first time outing. It wasn’t perfect — there were a few numbers that didn’t quite serve to advance the story or illuminate the characters, or that went on too long. But for the most part, the music was exciting and energetic, advanced the story, and worked well. What is interesting is how the combination ended up stronger than the pieces: this was a musical that was a shot of energy to Broadway and has continued to perform strong. [What is unclear is the long term life of the piece — will this musical pop-up everywhere once it is released for regional productions? That’s happened to Mary Poppins, In The Heights, Avenue Q, Addams Family and Memphis. I haven’t seen it happen to Billy Elliot or Priscilla.]

One other common complaint I have seen in the reviews relates to the heavy accents in the story. This was a major problem in the tour of Billy Elliot, where the accents made the story hard to hear and follow. I don’t think the problem was as bad here, although you did need to take a little effort to listen carefully, and there were a few points where I could not make out the words.

As usual, for the touring production, we didn’t get the names that were on Broadway. Gone are the days of the LA Civic Light Opera, already forgotten by the LA Times, where LA got the Broadway starts. Luckily, the touring cast (under the direction of Jerry Mitchell (FB), with D. B. Bonds as the Associate Director and Tour Direction by The Road Company) does an excellent job. In the lead positions are Steven Booth (FB, TW) as Charlie Price and Kyle Taylor Parker (FB, TW) as Lola. Booth has a nice boyish charm about him, and handles the acting, singing and dancing quite well. Parker is a powerhouse knockout as Lola, taking over the stage with his personality. Both are quite fun to watch.

In the secondary positions (at least in terms of stage time and the story) are Lindsay Nicole Chambers (FB, TW) as Lauren and Joe Coots (FB) as Don. Chambers was a delight as Lauren. I was sitting near the back, and kept bringing out my binoculars to watch her. She had an extremely expressive face, and just seemed to be having a lot of fun with the role and the character — which to me, adds and extra something to the performance. She also sang and danced quite well. Coots was convincing as Don, which made his conversion to a new attitude in the story work well. It was also nice to see a different side of Coots at the end — we always seem to catch the Equity Fights AIDS performances, and Coots did the appeal from the stage. He gave off the vibe that this was a company that had fun working together — and perhaps this is why this production gives off the energy that it does.

Much of the rest of the cast consisted of ensemble, dance, and smaller named roles. This makes it hard for characters to stand out and be noticed, but there are a few I’d like to highlight. First and foremost is Bonnie Milligan (FB). The underlying message in this story — acceptance for who you are and what you are — goes beyond skin color, gender, or how you like to dress. It also goes to size acceptance, one of the few areas where our society today still openly judges. This is where Milligan comes it. It was an absolute delight to see an actress of size (i.e., not the normal twig-sized actress) having fun on stage, moving, playing, singing well, emoting well, and just exuding joy. She was a true, true delight to watch, especially in the “What a Woman Wants” number. Also notable were the kids in the cast — Anthony Picarello as Young Charlie and (at our performance) Troi Gaines as Young Lola. They were cute during their two scenes, but their real personality came out during the closing number, when they were onstage dancing and having fun to “Raise You Up/Just Be”. Just fun to watch. Completing the cast were Grace Stockdale (FB) (Nicola), Craig Waletzko (FB) (George), Damien Brett/FB (Ensemble), Stephen Carrasco (FB) (Dance Captain/Swing), Lauren Nicole Chapman (FB) (Ensemble), Amelia Cormack (FB) (Trish / Ensemble), J. Harrison Ghee (FB) (Swing), Blair Goldberg (FB) (Ensemble), Andrew Theo Johnson (Young Theo Primary) Darius Harper/FB (TW) (Angel / Ensemble), Crystal Kellogg (FB, TW) (Swing), Jeffrey Kishinevskiy (Young Charlie Standby), Jeff Kuhr (FB) (Swing), Ross Lekites (FB) (Richard Bailey / Ensemble), Patty Lohr (FB) (Swing), Mike Longo (FB) (Harry / Ensemble), Tommy Martinez (FB, TW) (Angel / Ensemble), David McDonald (FB) (Mr. Price / Ensemble), Nick McGough (FB) (Angel / Ensemble), Horace V. Rogers (Simon Sr. / Ensemble), Ricky Schroeder (FB, TW) (Angel / Ensemble), Anne Tolpegin (FB) (Milan Stage Manager / Ensemble), Juan Torres-Falcon (FB, TW) (Angel / Ensemble), Hernando Umana (FB, TW) (Angel/ Ensemble), and Sam Zeller (FB) (Ensemble).

Turning to music and movement. The production was choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (FB), assisted by Associate Choreographer Rusty Mowery (FB) and Dance Captain Stephen Carrasco (FB). Overall, the movement worked well — it was energetic and fun to watch. In terms of music, Stephen Oremus (FB) was the Music Supervisor and Arranger and Michael Keller was the Music Coordinator. Adam Souza was Music Direcotr and Conductor, as well as playing Keyboard in the touring orchestra. Additional members of the touring orchestra were Ryan Fielding Garrett (Associate Conductor / Keyboard 2), Josh Weinstein and Oscar Bautista (Guitars), Sherisse Rogers (Bass), Adam Fischel (Drums). They were supplemented locally by Kathleen Robertson (Violin), Paula Fehrenbach (Cello), Dick Mitchell (Flute / Clarinet / Alto Saz / Tenor Sax), John Fumo (Trumpet), Alan Kaplan (Trombone), Paul Viapiano (Guitar 2), David Witham (Keyboard Sub). The sound produced by these musicians was good, clean, and at time, loud.

Lastly, there’s the technical side of things. The scenic design of David Rockwell worked quite well; I particularly liked the roller tables of the “Everybody Say Yeah” number (which was seen on the Tonys). The sound design of John Shivers was reasonably good, although any sound design requires tuning to be heard in the massive and auditorily-bouncy monstrosity that is the Pantages. The lighting design of Kenneth Posner was dark at points, but otherwise worked well. The costumes (Gregg Barnes), hair (Josh Marquette), and make-up (Randy Houston Mercer) were spectacular. Rounding out the technical and other credits: Kathy Fabian (Props), Amy Jo Jackson (Dialect Coach), Telsey + Company (Casting), Smitty/Theatersmith Associates (Technical Supervision), Peter Van Dyke (Production Stage Manager), Jack McLeod (Stage Manager), Kate McDoniel (Assistant Stage Manager), Foresight Theatrical (General Manager), and loads and loads and loads of producers.

Today is the last performance of “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages. I’m sure you can catch it at future tour stops; next up is San Francisco.

[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.]

Theatre continues Tuesday with the Alumni Performance of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Nobel Middle School (normal performances are Thursday through Saturday). Following that is the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) in New Orleans. When I return, it will be “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim in the afternoon, followed by an Austin Lounge Lizards concert at Boulevard Music in Culver City on 12/20. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente; additionally we’ll likely have the first show of the REP East (FB) season: “Avenue Q“.  Ticketed productions pick up in February, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on the weekend of March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach. 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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