Observations Along the Road

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

HFF17 Batch 3: Zombie Clown Trump, Conversations/Girls, and Inversion

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 18, 2017 @ 8:16 pm PDT

Zombie Clown Trump (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) offers over 350 shows during a single month; as you might guess, these shows cover a wide-variety of presentations and maturity. They range from one-on-one shows that take under 10 minutes to full-on 2 hour musicals; from everyone being naked to all clothed; from improv to rehearsed; from silly to serious. Yesterday’s sampling of the Fringe Festival was a strong demonstration of that: we saw shows that ranged from silly political commentaries (Zombie Clown Trump) to a one-woman show (Conversations ‘Bout The Girls) to a fully-realized, in-depth play (Inversion). What they all had in common was the fact that they all were excellent.

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Zombie Clown Trump (Non-HFF Website) is one of those shows that I would classify as a real Fringe show, or as the show put it at the end: “You only paid $7 for this, what did you expect?”. This, of course, was after we all sang, “We are the world, we are the Fringe Fest”, and waiving our flags, and wearing the red noses that they gave us.

Yes, this was one of those shows.

Zombie Clown Trump purports to be a show about Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020 against Dwaine “The Rock” Johnson, after bombing much of the rest of the world and excreting on the nation all sorts of noxious bodily fluids and substances. Through all of this, Kellyanne Cuntway is trying to suck up to trump, and Press Secretary Sean Sphincter and VP Mike Peenass are blowing it out their … Trump’s wife Barbania Trump has fallen in love with the Rock, and Becky has kidnapped Trump’s daughter SriLanka Trump, which has Trump upset because his homegrown hot piece of ass is gone, and …

It is a bizarre and surreal show, but is it any more surreal than real life, where as I write this I am reading the following: “A representative from President Donald Trump’s legal team said Trump is not under investigation, despite the President tweeting “I am being investigated” this week.”?

In any case, the show is a hot comedic mess, with parody songs and profanity and general sillyness and sluttiness. But it is also fun, and a form of political commentary that you’ll find at a Fringe Festival. It’s not high art, folks.

The performances were similarly across the map at times. I think the real standout was Maegan Mandarino (BS, FB)’s Barbania Trump / Becky. Mandarino had a really strong singing voice, good dance moves, and was quite a lot of fun to watch. A close second with Dani Savka (FB)’s Kellyanne / SriLanka — again, she was having fun with the songs and the comedy moves.

Trump was portrayed by the creator of the show, Rick Cipes (FB). Cipes was a clown and was having fun with the persona, exaggerating what was already an exaggeration (it is, after all, quite small), and keeping the show quite topical, with mentions of the latest Julius Caesar mess incorporated. Rounding out the cast was Craig Aldrich/FB as VP Mike Peenass and with his hand up Sean Sphincter’s ass (Sphincter was a puppet). Aldrich was the crass one would expect in such a position.

No further credits (i.e., director, stage manager, etc.) were provided.

Visit the show’s website for more information on this absurdity, and to see an interesting mouseover. There are two more performances of this show, June 23 @ 10:30pm, and June 24 @ 8:30pm. Performances take place at the OMR Theatre at The Complex. Tickets are available through the show’s fringe page.

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Conversations 'Bout The Girls (HFF17)The second show we saw yesterday, Conversations ‘Bout The Girls, is a great example of a one-person show / project common at the Fringe.  In the show, the author and performer, Sonia Jackson (IMDB, FB), takes on the persona of the proprietor of a lingerie / brassiere shop inducting a new hire. The permit her to take on the persona of a large number of shop patrons and characters, and to relate all sorts of stories about women’s relationships with their breasts.

These stories relate from the experience of their sudden appearance, the reaction of men to them, the reaction of parents to them, the experiences of breast examination and mastectomies (and potential reconstruction thereafter).

Now, I’m a guy and I didn’t personally relate to a lot of the stories (except as a satisifed examiner 🙂 ), but I did find it interesting to watch the audience, and especially my wife, as they reacted to the stories being told. This reflected their personal experience (something I confirmed afterwards with my wife), and in many ways was truly their story.

She did relate one item that was enlightening. She imagined if men had to go in to be fitted for a jockstrap, and the store clerk making statements like, “Don’t worry, it may be small now, but I’m sure it will grow.”, or yelling out to the story, “Do we have any of the petite left in stock?” Including this story did make this production much more understandable to the men in the audience.

Overall, I’d say this is a fun show for women or man, and a great example of what a one-person show can be: A personal exploration and exposition of a particular subject, based on personal experience.

According to the program, this isn’t a new show. It has been in development for 12 years, has been adapted into a full length play, and has been subsequently adapted into a screenplay.

Conversations ‘Bout The Girls was directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson (FB). Props appear to have been provided by Sara’s Lingerie. (FB).

Given how late I’m writing this, there is one more performance of Conversations ‘Bout The Girls on June 24 @ 1pm at the Dorie Theatre at the Complex. Tickets available through the show’s Fringe website.

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Inversion by Aditya Putcha (HFF17)The final show of the day, Inversion, was at the other end of the spectrum. While Zombie Clown Trump was a surrealistic hot mess, but funny, Inversion was a serious well-written play about a realistic subject. It was an exposition of something that many people feel — especially folks in my field of work — when dealing with the opposite sex. Author and lead Aditya Putcha (FB) has created a story that speaks to personal experience. It is remarkably well crafted for a first play. I think it reflects another aspect of Fringe: the launching pad for new plays — a place to get them out there, and start shaping them for a full-fledged professional production. I think with a bit more shaping and expansion, this could be a production worthy of most intimate theatres in Los Angeles, a potential off-Broadway production, and possibly an even longer life.

The description of the show is as follows: Adam (Aditya Putcha (FB)), a socially awkward mathematician, especially with women, laments his inability to find the hot woman of his dreams before his mom (Lena Zhanik) declines too far into the world of Alzheimer’s. His best friend, Brendan (Adam Daniel (FB)), who seems to get any woman he wants, tries to support his endeavor, with disastrous results. Thus beings the spiral into dating and love and relationships as Brendan encourages Adam to date a low self esteemed slightly older (and, as portrayed, larger) woman, Rhonda (Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB)), in order to help Adam learn how to date. In meeting up with Rhonda, Adam finds his hot woman: Natalia (Gaia Passaler (FB)), Rhonda’s roommate. Thinking he’s finally met the woman of his dreams, Adam forges ahead with Natalia thinking maybe he can also ease his mother’s concerns about his well being as she declines. Romantic entanglements explored in this touching, all too real look at how men and women relate to not only the opposite sex as friends and lovers, but how friendships are tested by the dating world.

Now most reviewers of this show are likely trained critics, with experience in the humanities — or they are actors who are working as reviewers. On the other hand, I’m actually like the lead — I was a math major at UCLA; I’ve been doing cybersecurity for 30 years. My wife, similarly, is an engineer. We know characters like the lead character; we’ve seen the same mistakes he has made happen time and again. In an over-zealous lust for the “hot chick”, imagining that every small positive gesture conveys full blown love, and over-reacting. Meanwhile, the potentially right girl gets ignored and insulted. However, unlike what you would expect from this story (everyone ends up happy; the schlub of a guy ends up with the lovable schlub of a girl), this story ends up with a bit more empowerment: the schlub of a girl realizes she doesn’t have to settle, but can be there for herself. The hot chick ends up with a guy that she loves, not that is just hot for her. The guy who dates around realizes what true love is, and finds both a job and the right girl. And the lead is left… perhaps more confused than ever.

As the lead, I was unsure of what to make of Aditya Putcha (FB). He comes from a background of real stuttering. He has an awkward performance where he seemingly gets stuck on lines at points, but it is unclear whether this is reality or performance. In real life, such a character would be stuck on those same lines, and would exhibit the same problems talking to women. So his performance, while awkward, is remarkably realistic.

I just loved Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB), but perhaps this is just because she’s the type of girl I’ve always enjoyed watching. Playful and happy and confusing and such. She gives a performance that is fun to watch, and again, something that is very realistic because I’ve known girls just like that. As her roommate, Gaia Passaler (FB) also gives a strong performance, believably Russian. Beautiful, and also fun to watch, the two young ladies work very well together, playing off each other and off the character of Adam.

The remaining two performers only interact with the lead. As the best friend, Adam Daniel (FB) gives a suitably bro performance, and handles the transformation from ‘bro to adult quite realistically. Lastly, Lena Zhanik handles the mom with Alzheimer’s quite well, portraying a wonderful level of confusion. Dealing with a similar situation with my M-I-L, it is a confusion that is all too real and all too sad.

The production was directed by Elise Marie Hodge (FB) of EMH Productions (FB). Veniese Razo was the stage manager.

Overall, this was a very realistic show, well-performed with a good story. It demonstrated the professional end of Fringe as a place for new playwrights to get a great start.

Alas, the last performance of Inversion was (a) today, and (b) was sold out. Supposedly, a DVD of the performance is available for a short time from their Indegogo page.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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Louis Jordan in Paris | “Five Guys Named Moe” @ Ebony Rep

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 12, 2017 @ 8:00 pm PDT

Five Guys Name Moe (Ebony Rep)If I was to say the phrase “Five Guys” to most of you, you would probably say that you prefer In-N-Out. When I think of “Five Guys”, however, I don’t think burgers. I think An American In Paris. Let me explain why.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw the closing performance of the Clarke Peters (FB)’s 1992 Tony-nominated musical Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB). It was a delightful performance, high energy, great music, wonderful singing, dancing, and I left on a high. But I also left thinking about An American in Paris.

When I saw An American In Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) recently, I wrote “We went expecting to see a musical. What we saw was a spectacular dance show wrapped in the trappings of a musical about love in Paris after WWII. ” That didn’t make it bad, mind you. It was a wonderful dance show with wonderful music. I just had an inconsequential plot.

Five Guys Named Moe is a musical that celebrates the music of bandleader Louis Jordan. As they write in his entry at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “In the Forties, bandleader Louis Jordan pioneered a wild – and wildly popular – amalgam of jazz and blues. The swinging shuffle rhythms played by singer/saxophonist Jordan and his Tympany Five got called “jump blues” or “jumpin’ jive,” and it served as a forerunner of rhythm & blues and rock and roll.” Five Guys Named Moe delights in this music. It showcases songs Jordan wrote. It exaults in songs that he made famous. From “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That” to “Pusk Ka Pi Shie Pie” to “Saturday Night Fish Fry” to “Choo, Choo, Ch’bookie” to the classic “Caldonia” (“What!”) — the show is just a rollicking dance and music festival with that leaves you happy.

However, the plot — well — the plot itself is meaningless. A down on his luck alcoholic, Nomax (Obba Babatundé (FB)), has forgotten the birthday of the woman he loves.  The Five Moes — No Moe (Jacques C. Smith (FB)), Big Moe (Octavius Womack (FB★; FB)), Little Moe (Trevon Davis (FB★; FB), Four-Eyed Moe (Rogelio Douglas, Jr. (FB★; FB)), and Eat Moe (Eric B. Anthony (FB)) — pop out of the radio to teach him the error of his ways. Through song and dance. [And even that inconsequential plot is abandoned for most of the second act when they do their “gig”].

And you know what? You don’t care about the plot. The music is great. The singing is great. The dance is great. The band* was smokin’. The audience was dancing (especially two really cute twin little girls up in front). You walk out with a big smile because the execution is perfection. The production team cast well, and the talent shows.

By the way, it wasn’t just the actors. When I said the band was smokin’, I meant it. They got a chance to jam at the enter-acte, and after the curtain they let loose with a closing number that highlighted each member and just swung. The six on the band platform — Abdul Hamid Royal (FB) [Musical Director, Piano]; Louis Van Taylor (FB) [Saxophone / Clarinet]; Christopher Gray [Trumpet]; Chris Johnson (FB) [Trombone]; Land Richards (FB) [Drums]; and Ian Seck/FB [Bass] — complemented the six actors perfectly.

On the other side of the production, things were pretty simple. Edward E. Haynes Jr. scenic design was simple: a scrim, a few props, some benches. Similarly, the costumes by Naila Sanders (FB) were pretty simple: suits, tuxes, and matching plaid jackets for the Moes. The sound design by John Feinstein/FB was as it should be: mostly unnoticeable, although for a bit during the first act  it sounded …. less than full range. I’m guessing that was a speaker problem. Most impressive on the design team was the lighting design of Dan Weingarten. Weingarten made wonderful use of the movers and gobos above the stage to create some wonderful visual effects that were just a delight to watch.

The production was directed and choreographed by Keith Young (FB). Dominique Kelley (FB) was the associate choreographer.  Other relevant credits: Ed de Shae (FB) — Production Stage Manager; Ross Jackson (FB) — Assistant Stage Manager.

Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB) is under the artistic direction of Wren T. Brown (FB), whose 53rd birthday was yesterday. At the conclusion of the show, the cast and crew celebrated by leading the audience in the traditional Happy Birthday song (alas, not the Birthday Cake Polka, although that would have been cool). Mr. Brown introduced his family, and you could hear the gospel training in his voice — it was wonderful to hear. I do hope to be back at his theatre.

Alas, I caught the final performance of Five Guys Named Moe. But I’ll note that if you like the music of Louis Jordan, the new Big Bad Voodoo Daddy album Louie, Louie, Louie celebrates the music of Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, and Louis Prima.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned remaining schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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HFF17 Batch 2: The Heart Change | 86’d | Insuppressible/Leah Rimini

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 11, 2017 @ 1:28 pm PDT

userpic=fringeYesterday, we saw our second batch of Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) shows: Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change, 86’d , and Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story. Unlike our first Fringing day, there was nary a clunker in the bunch. We found parking for the first two easy, and were able to pick up our Fringe pins at Fringe Central without difficulty. The only sour spots for the day were our continuing headaches, and the parking ticket I got in West Hollywood for not being precisely within the parking space markings. Cost of doing business, I guess — I haven’t had one in over 20 years. On to our first show….

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The Heart Change - INK Theater (Hollywood Fringe)We selected Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change because the description sounded so interesting: here was a show not only with kids as actors, but the kids wrote it, designed it, choreographed it, designed it — it was basically a creative project for a bunch of kids ages 7-12. The subject was also interesting: “When a group of kids have to face a crabby Hollywood director and realize just how powerful they are. ” Shows done by kids are usually fun at Fringe – witness last year’s Titus Andronicus Jr. – so this had good potential.

I’m pleased to say that I sat through this entire show smiling. No, by adult standards, it was far from perfect. Some jokes were sophomoric, the story was a bit simplistic and stereotyped, and there was a bit of caricature/overacting in the performance. But these kids aged 7-12. For their ages and what they did it was remarkable.

Last week I saw adults in a show that was painful because of the potential squandered. This week, I saw kids in a show that was imperfect, and all I could see is the potential-to-be.

The basic story the kids developed is this — insert the appropriate suspension of belief. Hollywood director is forced by his studio to make a movie with kids. He hates kids, and needs the money. The kids audition and get the movie, but problems arise immediately between the kid’s personality/sense of entitlement and the director’s desire to control. It doesn’t end well, and the kids quit the production. But the cameraman relates the story of one of the kids, and as the director and the kids learn more about what is driving them and what their behavior was making, they have a change of heart and learn to work together.

This is a story written by kids under 12. Pretty remarkable isn’t it. It also contained three songs, performed by the kids on-stage, and a dance.

There were also some great performances. You’ll have to excuse my imprecision here: there were no photos in the program, and these kids don’t have an internet presence yet (being under 13), so I can’t necessarily put names with the performances I liked. There was a little black kid who kept spouting scientific stuff about nutrition and eating tomatoes who was just hilarious. I also liked the two girls who sung — such a great effort (I think they were Bela Salazar and Caytlin McKinney). One girl kept reminding me of my niece with her vocal style and behavior (this is in a good way), and the two kids who played the baboons were just hilarious. This was just a delight to watch.

The cast consisted of: Olivia Brumit – Alexandria; Stephen Ramsey – Bob; Sienna Sullivan – Charlotte, Waiter; Emma Patti – Eliza Jane; Malachi Turnbull – Jacob; Gael Bary – John Pierre; Ruby Miller – Luna; Bela Salazar – Mercedes; Nadia Gray – Ms. George; Zoe Gray – Nelly; Terydan Green – Roberto; Caytlin McKinney – Sunshine; and Tegan Linehan – Toby.

Credited adult supervision was Rachel Kiser (FB) – Director; Sarah Cook (FB) – Producer / Choreography Coach; and Erin Hall (FB) – Acting Coach / Stage Manager.

There is one more performance of The Heart Change, today at 7:00pm. If you enjoy watching kids with potential — hell, if you enjoy just watching incredibly cute kids on stage — go see this.

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86'd (Hollywood Fringe)The second show that we saw was, 86’d, a one-woman show about life in the service industry — something every actors supposedly knows because being a waitron is supposedly one of the best subsistence jobs. I went into this show expecting it to be a one-woman monologue of vignettes. Instead, Co-writer and performer Courtney Arnett (FB) presented a series of scenes from what was ostensibly her life as a server at a restaurant called “Sweats”.

These vignettes begin when she has been working a double shift, and gets assigned a clueless newbie to train. They continue through the life of the restaurant, its decline, its rebirth as a new venue with the same chef and staff, until that venue’s eventual decline and closing. It ends, fittingly, with her being the newbie at a new restaurant.

During the saga, we get to see how a life such as this doesn’t permit her life to go on. She may meet bartenders and busboys and chefs, but her reason for moving to Los Angeles is never achieved, and she never achieves her goals of family either.

However, that is the character in the story. My hopes for this actress, however, are much more. In this production, she demonstrated a remarkable singing voice, great comic timing, wonderful expressions, and an easy-going way of relating to the audience. We found the show very enjoyable, providing a different view of those servers we see every day.

The title, “86’d”, refers to a term used in the restaurant industry for running out of a food or service items (e.g., “We’re 86’d on the haddock today.”). Early in the show, the running joke is that everything on the menu is 86’d except for the hamburger, fries, and Miller Lite.

86’d was cowritten by Julia Meltzer (FB), who also directed the piece. Courtney Arnett (FB) created the piece. It was produced by Terri Arnett, Rachel Germaine (FB★; FB) [who was checking us in at the door], and Matt Robinson. Music was by Kait Hickey and Ariana Lenarsky (FB). Tech by Colin Johnson (FB).

86’d has 3 more performances: Wednesday June 14th @ 700pm; Monday, June 19th @ 830pm, and Friday, June 23rd @ 1130pm. It plays at Studio C as the Asylum, which is right next to “The Complex” group of theatres near Fringe Central.

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Insuppressible - The Absolutely Unauthorized Leah Remini Story (Hollywood Fringe)The last show we saw yesterday was Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story at The Actors Company facility in West Hollywood. Yes, this is where I received the love note from the West Hollywood Traffic Force for not being exactly between the lines. Not worth contesting, but something others should note when visiting this venue. Perhaps they were agents of David Miscavige, mad about my seeing this show.

Going in, my only knowledge of Scientology was what I picked up by listening to A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. I had heard roughly about the disappearance of David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, but hadn’t followed the Leah Remini (FB) series. My wife, however, had.

[ETA: I completely forgot, until the tweet with this writeup was re-tweeted, that we saw Squeeze My Cans at last year’s HFF. That show was one woman’s story of how she got drawn into the tar-baby that is Scientology, how she worked her way into the upper tiers of the religions, and how she eventually escaped its grasp. Not only did this effort take more than a decade, it decimated her finances. Quite interesting to think about, when paired with this musical.]

Insuppressible started late due to the previous show running late (this is Fringe, folks); I’m sure the show after us was late due to the same shift, plus the confetti left by this show. I’m glad to say, however, the show was worth the wait.

I went into the show, for some reason, thinking that his would be  a one-woman musical. Far from it. This was a large cast (8) musical, executed well, with strong song and dance, and great effects. This was the exact opposite of Robot Monster: The Musical. This is a good thing.

Insuppressible tells, in five scenes, the story of Leah Remini’s path through Scientology. It opens with her making friends with Shelly, and Shelly to encourage her to persue her dream of acting. It then moves to her professional pinnacle in King of Queens, and her being a Scientology Celebrity up there with Tom Cruise. It then moves to the wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, where all the resentment that Remini has with Scientology starts to bubble up, leading to her split with the group. It ends with her getting the courage to leave Scientology and go onto a life of success or something close thereto.

This was a fringe show. Jeffrey McCrann (FB)’s book and Robert Hill (FB)’s music were relatively entertaining, although it is unclear if they could extend the piece into a fully-sustained two-act musical with a deeper book and connection of the songs to the inner turmoils of the characters as opposed to being more scene oriented. Still, it might be worth a try. I certainly didn’t sense the show dragging, although I would have liked to find out more what happened afterwards, and to see some more fleshing out of the beliefs of the group and how strange they are. But then I’m always for exposing strange rituals.

The performances were excellent. In the lead position was Leslie Rubino (FB) as Leah. We saw her a few weeks ago in Freeway Dreams, and again we were blown away by her talent, voice and sense of comic timing.  It is worth seeing this show alone just for her performance.

The remaining seven cast members all are strong. Jaimie Day/FB‘s Katie Holmes was mostly a caricature, but she was spectacular in her solo number “Katie and Tom”. A great LA theatre debut. There was just something about Tiffani Ann Mills (FB)’s Shelly Miscavige that was a delight to watch. Perhaps it was her believable friendship with Leah; perhaps it was her look; perhaps it was her singing in the opening number — in any case, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Libby Baker (FB)’s Mother was strong in the opening number, but then the writing moved her to more of a background role, although she was strong in “The Gaslighting Song”. Nicole Clemetson/FB‘s J-Lo was a hoot — I have no idea whether J-Lo acts like that in real life, but that’s how I want her to act.  Clemetson was also a strong singer. Lastly, of the female cast, Sohm Kapila (FB) was Nicole Kidman. She only had one scene as Nicole in the end and was good in that. Note that all of the actresses other than the lead were also in the ensemble in various scenes.

There were two male members of the cast: David Wilkins/FB as Tom Cruise and Milo Shearer/FB as David.  Both were strong performers and strong singers — they were particularly strong in “Matter, Energy, Space, and Time”.

Music was a mix of prerecorded music and on-stage music from Robert Hill (FB).

No credits were provided for choreography, set design, costumes, sound, lighting etc. With respect to those creative areas, a few observations. First, someone went crazy with the glitter glue. Second, I’m sure the production following this wanted to shoot this production for the on-stage confetti gun that left confetti everywhere. Third, there was some sort of sound problem that sounded like constant rain, which was annoying. Other than that, however, the costumes and props were clever, and the show fit in and out of the Fring requirements great.

The production was directed by Jeffrey McCrann (FB).

Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story continues at the Let Live Space at the Actors Company with four more performances: Sunday June 11 2017, 5:30 PM; Thursday June 15 2017, 8:30 PM; Friday June 23 2017, 11:30 PM; and Saturday June 24 2017, 4:00 PM. We found this to be a very enjoyable production, and predict you will as well. If not, well, there are always soup cans.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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HFF17 Batch 1: My Hustle Has ADHD | Robot Monster (Musical) | B Kills E

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 05, 2017 @ 9:27 pm PDT

Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has started, and we’re going to be seeing multiple shows each weekend. So I’m going to batch my writeups… and this is batch one. We saw all these shows Sunday night.

***

As Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD started, the author and sole performer, Rasika Mathur (FB), was clearly unprepared.  It was as if she had put off writing and blocking and staging this show until the last minute.  As if her attention had been focused somewhere else, and she just didn’t sit down and get the damn show done. I mean, at times she was even having to go back and review the script to see where she was. I know this was a preview, but … Then again (and possibly more likely), that was the point of this exercise — to make you realize the impact of ADHD on a person’s life. Not knowing whether it was an act or real was part of the charm, just like knowing how hard it is for a trained singer to intentionally sing bad.

Hustle is structured as a one-woman show, but it really isn’t. Mathur brings up audience members to represent key people in her life — her parents, casting agents, Nick Cannon, her manager and agent. She then plays off these people to tell her story, and how her condition affected her life until she decided to take charge of it.

I found the show fascinating, especially as we had brought a teen relative who may have ADHD with us to the show. The bell rang and the lights went of. It was also interesting to see the levels of ADHD within ourselves, and seeing something like this is the first step on dealing with it. So the show was enlightening and entertaining and a great start to the Fringe Festival. I just wish there was a show from the other side: Hey Hollywood, I’ve Got To Deal With An Actor with ADHD!

Hustle was directed and developed by Deana Barone (FB), who worked on last Fringe’s 30JJ or Bust.

There are three more performances of Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD: June 11 @ 6PM, June 15 @ 10PM, and June 24 @ 10PM. It plays in the Lounge 2 Theatre, 1 block E of Vine on Santa Monica.

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Robot Monster - The Musical (HFF17)I always operate on the conceit that the stage production came first, and then they made a movie of it. If that was true, then they improved Robot Monster when they made the movie version of the story, based on the musical Robot Monster – The Musical (FB), which was our second Fringe show. And since Robot Monster (the movie) has 1.9 stars on IMDB, and a 31% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, that should scare you more than any Ro-Man could ever do.

So why did we go? Well, the description made it sound better than it was:

Hailed as one of the greatest bad movies in the annals of film history, the 1953 cult sci-fi classic, “Robot Monster” is a beloved fan favorite for its complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and – most of all – for its famously tortured space gorilla.

But more than just an infamously “bad movie,” the film has a charming and unpretentious sincerity that’s so appealing in our frenetic age

With 16 original songs, the musical includes everything current and new fans demand from a show about a space gorilla sent to earth to destroy the human race. Will he succeed?

I will say that the musical had all of what was claimed: complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and a tortured space gorilla. But often — almost usually — stage musical versions of bad musicals figure how to turn the camp into a redeeming feature. Look at shows like Johnny Guitar, Zombies from the Beyond, or even Evil Dead – The Musical. They make it work. Partially, it is because a campy plot can be improved by good songs and performances.

Not here.

For the most part, the performances were weak (again, that may have been intentional given the camp and the history) — but they were at the verge of painful. Yes, this was a preview performance, but when the best part of the performance is the line missteps…. But I do say, “for the most part”. Dana Deruyck (FB) was perhaps the sole redeeming player in this show. Her “Johnny” was a hoot with hilarious facial expressions, strong singing, and just, well, she was fun to watch. Her sister, Stephanie Thomas/FB, was also fun to watch.

Now, I will admit that perhaps I was expecting to much from this. After all, the show’s FB page indicated that other audience members really enjoyed this and found it a hoot. So perhaps you need to be a Robot Monster fan to truly appreciate what was done here. In other words, YMMV. But for someone who had never seen the movie, and was going based on experience with other campy SF movies turned into good small musicals, I was expecting much much more.

Cast: Stephanie Thomas/FB – Carla; Dana Deruyck (FB) – Johnny; Don Margolin – The Professor; Andrew Villarreal (FB) – Roy; Val Peterson/FB – Martha; Jamie Miller (FB) – Alice; Marcus Chavez/FB – Ro-Man XJ2; Derek Long (FB) – Voice of Ro-Man XJ2; Rich Silverman (FB) – Great Guidance.

The musicians would not admit they were in this show.

Production Team: Brandon Baruch (FB) – Lighting Design; Madeleine Dahm – Select Choreography; Corwin Evans (FB) – Video Design; Paul Frederick (FB) – Arrangements and Music Production; Derek Long (FB) – Director; Pamela J. Paulson (FB) – Assistant Director; Rich Silverman (FB) – Producer, creator, composer, lyricist, etc.

Robot Monster – The Musical (FB) has four more performances at the Sacred Fools Mainstage: June 10 @ 8PM; June 15 @ 5PM; June 18 @ 1:30 PM; and June 23 @ 11PM. If you are familiar with the original movie and know what you’re getting, you’ll likely enjoy this. Anyone else — your mileage may vary drastically.

***

Buffy Kills Edward - A Musical Romp (HFF17)If this had been a normal Fringe night and venue, you would have likely seen a glowing review of Buffy Kills Edward – A Musical Romp. After all, a wonderful actress we’ve seen before, Kim Dalton (FB), was in it.

But we didn’t see the show — through no fault of the producer.

You see, the Fringe venue for the show, The Three Clubs, is a bar.  This means they cannot admit anyone under 21. Anyone. No exceptions.

Even if you have a ticket.

Even if you have a ticket from the Fringe Festival itself, because the information on the show did not indicate the venue was age restricted (it does now, after I complained). The Fringe ticketing system didn’t inform us of the fact.

So the one show we really wanted to see Sunday night … we were turned away from the door by the big burly (but very nice and understanding) bouncer.

I have written to Fringe, and they are supposedly processing a refund.

But be forewarned: If you are planning to see this show, or anything else at the Three Clubs, you must be 21 and have ID with you.

But I’m sure the show is great, and I encourage you (if you are old enough) to go see it. Visit their Fringe page for ticket information.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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A Cycle of Relationships | “Hello, Again” @ Chromolume

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 28, 2017 @ 10:21 am PDT

Hello Again (Chromolume)Some theatre is pure entertaining fluff. It isn’t there to make a point; sometimes, it isn’t even there to tell a story. It’s goal — pure and simple — is to have you walking out of the theatre with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Think a jukebox musical, such as Mamma Mia, An American in Paris, or 70, Girls, 70, and you get my drift.

Some theatre is there to make a clear point and statement. You are entertained, but walk out with a specific message intended by the authors. Think of Hamilton or Scottsboro Boys.

Some theatre leaves you scratching your head. It doesn’t fall into the “bad theatre” bin (i.e., poorly written story, poor acting, etc.), but its intent isn’t otherwise clear. It entertained you, but wasn’t entertaining. It had a message, but it was something to be teased out as opposed to being a brickbat to the head.

Last night’s show, Hello, Again at Chromolume Theatre (FB), with book, music, and lyrics by Michael John LaChuisa (FB), based on the 1897 play La Ronde by Arnold Schnitzler, was such a show. The music was dark and operatic at times. The story seemed to be trying to make a point, but the ultimate meaning and goal of that point was elusive. The basic subject matter — a series of sexual relationships — was uncomfortable at the minimum, and potentially triggery at the maximum (my wife said the show needed a trigger warning for the nature of the sex). In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised me. I’m familiar with some of LaChuisa’s music — I have the albums to First Lady Suite, Little Fish, See What I Wanna See, Giant, Queen of the Mist, and The Wild Party, and I’ve looked into the albums of Bernarda Alba and Marie Christie, but haven’t gotten them because the music is dark. LaChiusa has the occasional lighter song, but in general his music is deep and dark, melodic but not rhythmic – something unique. That doesn’t make his shows bad, but they are definitely not the typical Broadway fluff.

The structure of Hello, Again is a musical round. Not in the sense of multiple voices singing different songs coming together (although, looking back, it may have done that unintentionally). Rather, the show forms a circle of scenes told through a quasi-operatic, almost sung-through, score. The whore and the soldier in the 1900s, the soldier and the nurse in the 1940s, the nurse and the college boy in the 1960s, the college boy and the young wife in the 1930s, the young wife and the husband in the 1950s, the husband and the young thing in the 1910s, the young thing and the writer in the 1970s, the writer and the actress in the 1920s, the actress and the senator in the 1980s, circling back to the senator and the whore in the 1990s. These are essentially the same characters as in La Ronde, except that La Ronde was in a single timeframe, and LaChuisa changed La Ronde‘s “young miss” to “young thing” to introduce a gay relationship into the mix. La Ronde‘s point was to show the similarity of relationships across all strata of society, from the whore at the bottom, to the elite at the top.

As an aside, I’m not sure whether LaChiusa’s jumping around in the timestream helps the show. It served to confuse me, and to draw my attention to the program to see when we were. This is especially true when the implication seems to be that the character in one scene is seemingly the same character in the next. That works for adjacent-in-the-normal-direction decades; it is confusing when you go back in time.

So I walked out and the end of Hello, Again at the Chromolume conflicted. There were outstanding performances and the vocals were spot on, but I didn’t warm to the show. It left me uncomfortable, unsure. On the way home, my wife and I discussed the show. Our conclusion was that the show highlighted a continual pattern of relationships whose focus was the quick and hard sex (“wham, bam, thank you ma’am”), sometimes not fully consensual. None of the relationships in the round had any depth or love in them. They were couplings of convenience, almost all of them (for their era) being couplings of unequal power. They were consensual — so perhaps they weren’t rape in the conventional sense — but they were also not expressions of love. They were expressions of something darker: one side of a relationship using the other side for a particular purpose. They were portrayed in an ultimately negative light — moral bankruptcy, meaningless.

But through all of this, what was LaChiusa, or ultimately Schnitzler, trying to say? Our existence is a series of meaningless relationships where love is replaced by using other people? That nothing ever changes in how people treat and use people? That meaningless relationships exist across all strata and all ages?

Not cheery stuff. Not the typical stuff of musicals, which are more idealized romantic love as opposed to meaningless unbalanced power dynamic sex.

I think my wife was right: this stuff needs a trigger warning. The combination of the power dynamics and meaningless sex makes this borderline sexual abuse, and those with sensitivities may find the material disturbing.

Hello, Again (Chromolume / Cast Photos)But despite the nature of this musical and its ultimately cynical message, I don’t believe it is a bad musical. There are many for whom its message about men, women, and society will resonate. There are many for whom this represents their relationship arcs: sex and power dynamics, first; endearing or enduring love a distant second. It is certainly something emphasized by many “Hollywood” relationships.  I tend to have a more positive and upbeat outlook regarding relationships, and I’m not sure this is something I’d see again. But as they say, YMMV.

Setting aside the story, the performances (under the direction of Richard Van Slyke (FB) — a REP East alumni!) were uniformly excellent. So much so, in fact, that it is difficult to single out one performer above another. So let me introduce the primary cast, and we’ll continue the analysis on the other side: Michelle Holmes (FB) – The Whore; Cesar Cipriano (FB) – The Soldier; Allison Lind (Actor FB; FB) – The Nurse; Bretten M. Popiel (FB) – The College Boy; Sarah Randall Hunt (FB) – The Young Wife; Corey Rieger (FB) – The Husband; Kevin Corsini (FB) – The Young Thing; Joe Hernandez-Kolski (FB) – The Writer; Tal Fox (FB) – The Actress; and Michael Corbett (Actor FB; FB) – The Senator. Understudies were Nadia Ahern (Actor FB; FB) – Whore/Actress; David Callander (FB) – Husband/Senator; Kim Dalton (FB) – Nurse/Young Wife; Bradley Alan Turner (FB) – Writer/Soldier; and Judd Yort (FB) – College Boy/Young Thing.

Looking back this morning, which performances stick in my head? The first is Tal Fox. Not only when she was onstage in her role as The Actress, but in other smaller background parts, she had a look that was unique and caught your eye — which was drawn to her wonderful facial expressions. In whatever character she was, her face was reacting in a fantastic way that was a delight to watch.

Allison Lind’s Nurse was also fun to watch for the spunk and character she brought to the role. She also had one of the stronger dance routines in the show. Both were delightful to see. [Although I must admit I missed seeing the understudy for this role, as we have seen Kim in a number of shows and always enjoy her performances]

Bretten Popiel’s College Boy was another actor that was just fun to watch — he brought a great sense of playfulness to the role and that fun was transmitted to the audience.

All of the actors gave strong performances with this vocally difficult score. La Chiusa’s music doesn’t have your typical rhythms, and exhibits (at least to my ear) very odd ranges. This cast handled it all with seeming aplomb.

Music for the production was provided by the onstage music director, Brenda Varda (FB), behind the piano. Most of it was great; the only nit was that the actors mispronounced the Yiddish זײַ געזונט , which was particularly noticable in the second verse when they sang “tuh zei guzing” as if it was the Hebrew צ as opposed to ז. Choreography was by Bretten M. Popiel (FB), and seemed period appropriate. I particularly enjoyed the nurse’s dances.

Turning to the production and creative sides: Scenic design was by Chromolume regular Lauren J. Peters (FB) and was a creative use of the limited black-box space the theatre provides: abstract backdrops, with the sense of place primarily provided through the props and scenery pieces. The lighting design by Richard Fong (FB) worked reasonably well, as did James Esposito (FB)’s sound design (except for one nit: during the end of the second scene, the rain effects were confusing at first, with the bass thunder seemingly coming from something external to the building). Michael Mullen (FB)’s costume design seemed somewhat period, and was sexy without being too revealing. However, my wife had some quibbles with the nurses’ uniform not being as precise as it should have been (she noted that nurses would not have gone out with those wrinkles, worn open toed shoes, or had anything like long hair). As for me, I just wondered whether they got the ranks and forms correct on the military uniforms, and where the hell they found those leisure suits and polyester shirts for the ’70s (which brought back bad memories — I had shirts like that in those years). Other behind the scenes support included: Mara Aguilar (FB) – Stage Manager; Armen Janazyan (FB) – Assistant Stage Manager; Ken Werther Publicity (FB) – Publicity.

The last performance of Hello, Again at Chromolume Theatre (FB) is tonight (5/28) at 7:00 PM. Call (323) 510-2688 to make a reservation. Chromolume will have a production at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB): Slightly Off Broadway. I’m kicking myself for not seeing their past productions at Fringe, especially Pasek and Paul’s Edges: A Song Cycle, which they did in 2016 and does not have a cast recording. I discovered this after the fact from their YouTube channel, where I also discovered another musical I didn’t know (and they had done): Next Thing You Know, with the great song “Hungover“.

One additional note: I love subscribing at the smaller and regional theatres! The Pantages and Ahmanson never know your name. But little theatres like Chromolume, Actors Co-op, and in the past, the Colony and REP East get to know you, and the people there are like family. You don’t need to present anything when you check in; they know you and see you coming in the door, and have everything ready. These theatres need your support, and treasure every subscriber. Find a local theatre you like and subscribe. You might not like everything you see. But you will find a home.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Today, my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages. As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

 

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How Appropos | “Freeway Dreams” @ WriteAct Rep

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 27, 2017 @ 10:39 am PDT

Freeway Dreams (Write Act Rep)I recently received a press release from a publicist¹ about a “world premiere” musical at Write Act Repertory (FB)² at the Brickhouse Theatre (FB) called Freeway Dreams. How appropos, I thought. After all, my hobby is California Highways; I developed and maintained the California Highways page³. I commute every day on the LA freeways, driving a vanpool between Northridge and El Segundo (35 miles, one way) across the 405. I attend live theatre almost every week, and write up every show I go to. If there was anyone who should be writing up a musical about freeways, it is me. So I made my usual arrangement with the publicist4, figured out a spot in my increasingly full schedule, which resulted in our seeing the show last night in North Hollywood, after a 109 minute freeway commute home.

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¹: There are those who believe I am a theatre critic. I tell them I’m a cybersecurity specialist who just loves going to live performances (especially theatre), and then sharing that experience as an audience member via write ups on my blog. Still, I’ve learned a lot over the years.

²: You’ll notice no web site links. Write Act: Get your website act together. You have a link on your postcard: It gives a Wix error that the site isn’t set up yet. You have another link on your Facebook page: it gives a 403 Forbidden (although some subpages do work). You don’t have a direct link to your Brown Paper Tickets site on your postcard, nor is it on your current FB page. You need a proper website to promote your work.
³: Everything you want to know about numbered highways in California but were afraid to ask.
4: Most critics accept free tickets. I don’t. My real life job has strong ethics rules about what we can accept from suppliers, and I apply them to life. Free tickets could be seen as influence to a critic. I arrange for ½ price tickets, what I would have paid on Goldstar.
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Freeway Dreams, with book, music, and lyrics by Wayne Moore (FB) (one song co-authored by Jason Blume), started out as a cabaret show back in 1992 at The Gardenia Club in West Hollywood. There was a cycle of songs (eventually recorded as a “cast” album) with introductions and rough characters, but it wasn’t a fleshed out musical. After numerous requests for the script, Moore decided to flesh the song cycle out into a musical — better defining characters, snipping a song here and there. The result was this one-hour, no intermission musical.

The story framework is much like the cabaret show: A tourist bus of Japanese tourists has overturned on the Hollywood Freeway (US 101) turning the freeway into a parking lot. Four commuters — an aspiring actor, a young woman of unspecified employment, a casting director, and a pizza delivery guy — are stuck on the road and start to daydream. The bulk of those songs are those dreams.

As a song cycle, the show is very enjoyable. The songs are great, they are performed well, and fun to listen to. I’m sure that many of the songs on the cast album will get rated ★★★★★ on my iPod.

As a musical, the show is… a good start. I think — if the show is to have a longer life — more work is required. One review I saw commented on the dated references in the show (they suggested replacing pizza delivery with Uber, for example), and the overuse of the radio motif for news. I disagree to an extent — we still get our traffic reports on the radio, for example — but I do feel there needs to be nods to modern technology such as streaming music or podcasts. My observation is a bit deeper: I think that we need to learn more about these characters and their life, and see a greater arc than just “stuck on a freeway”. There also needs to be more of a connection to Los Angeles than just Hollywood and the opening song. There are precious few LA musicals (Billy Barnes LA, Bruce Kimmel’s LA: Then and Now), and this needs to go beyond the stereotypical Hollywood schtick. Where are the harried parents stuck on the freeway, the business executives that work downtown, the people commuting to aerospace and technology jobs. There is potential to make this something deeper — a commentary on the Los Angeles mindset to balance out the stereotypical New York condescension of the city that so much theatre has. The show needs more book, something that moves it beyond the fun song cycle at bit more. There are also songs that seem throwaway — no real connection to character or story (“The Bette Davis Chorus” is one such song — cute and enjoyable, but shoehorned in). The potential — the seed — is there; it just needs to drive past a few more exits to reach its ultimate destination, avoiding the temptation (to abuse a metaphor) of jumping off onto the surface streets now. Surface streets always seem like a good idea at the time….

As a commuter, there are realism problems. The show portrays drivers holding phones while driving, smoking pot on the freeway, and getting out of their cars on a stuck freeway to talk to other drivers. Those are either problematic behaviors or illegal behaviors, and should be rethought so as not to encourage other drivers (although there could be a great song in there about some of the stupid things drivers do while commuting). There is lots of potential in a musical about commuters and the freeway. But it needs to be done right.

So, story-wise, the summary is thus: A great song cycle (performed well), but it needs a bit more fleshing out to be a stronger book musical.

Turning to the “performed well” part: Under the direction and choreography of Jim Blanchette (FB), the actors effectively convey the story through songs, movement, and facial expressions (especially when they are in the background of songs). The theatre is a pure black box space — no fly, no follow-spot or moving mirrors. There is no set other than a projection screen. The sense of place and story and setting must come must come from the performers and props, and Blanchette has brought that out well.

The strongest performance — and a real positive surprise — was Leslie Rubino (FB)’s Deborah. From the opening number I was really impressed with her voice and her expression, and she had the time of her life with “Doncha Wanna Know”. She was just a delight to watch. Note: Based on her FB page, I believe we’ll be seeing her again soon in the HFF show, Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story.

Also strong was Stephanie B. Andersen (FB; FB-Fan) as Brenda, the casting agent. We’ve seen this actress before — we enjoyed her quite a bit in the 2013 bare revival — and (for the most part) she was great in both performance and singing in numbers such as “I Have This Friend.”. I particular enjoyed watching her expressions during the show. Alas, at our performance, she was having a bad night with one number (I fear she had a bad distracting headache), but knowing her strengths I’m willing to view it as a one-off, and wish her better. I’m sure every other night she knocks that number out of the park!

I enjoyed (and my wife indicated she really enjoyed) Jonathan Brett (FB)’s performance as Lee, the pizza delivery guy. He demonstrated some wonderful comic timing in his interactions and expressions, and had a strong singing voice in numbers such as “and a pizza to go”.

Rounding out the cast was Darren Mangler (FB)’s Andrew.  Mangler brought good expression and timing to his characters, but was just a tad weaker on the singing side (but that is when compared to the rest of the ensemble, meaning he was still pretty good).

Alternatives were Ashley Douglas (FB) [Brenda Alternative] and Aubrie Alexander (FB) [Deborah Alternative]. I’ll just note that we’ve seen Alexander before in Bat Boy, and I’m pretty sure that was her sitting behind us at last night’s show :-).

Lastly on the performance side: the director, Jim Blanchette (FB), had an uncredited performance as the “offscreen voices” — sitting in the audience, he provided all the unintelligible voices on the other side of the cell phone conversations. A bit odd, perhaps, but this is small intimate theatre. At least the credit gives me the chance to note that Blanchette has worked with an alum of the late great REP theatre in Santa Clarita, the also late, great Kyle Kulish.

Turning to the production side: As noted, this was a simple black box theatre. The basic scenery was solely the projections designed by Ken Cosby (FB). These worked well, although a few had me puzzling — as a freeway commuter in LA — exactly where they were taken. The lighting design was by Mark Baker (FB), who has one of the best bio’s I’ve read of late. The lighting worked well, except for the lighting during “My Superman” where odd shadows were created due to the positioning of the lights. I fear that was less Baker’s problem and more a fault of the facility, which didn’t have proper spots nor good placement locations for moving mirror lights. There were no credits for the properties, but the cardboard cars were cute. Other production credits: Wayne Moore (FB) – Musical Direction; Tamra Pica (FB) – Producer / Casting; Jonathan Harrison  – Stage Manager / Associate Producer; and John Lant  – Producing Artistic Director.

Write Act Repertory (FB)’s production of Freeway Dreams continues at the Brickhouse Theatre (FB) until Sunday, June 11. It is an enjoyable song cycle. Tickets are $15 and are available through Brown Paper Tickets. The show does not appear to be listed on either Goldstar or LA Stage Tix.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) tonight [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].

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

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

 

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Going to the Dogs | “Lucky Stiff” @ Actors Co-Op

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 21, 2017 @ 6:06 pm PDT

Lucky Stiff (Actors Co-Op)Actors often keep track of their Broadway Debuts — the first time they were on a Broadway stage. But how much does an actor’s first show represent where they will be going in their career. The answer is: often not much. Unless they get that starring role from the get-go, there are often years of hard ensemble, swing, and understudy roles before the true talent shines through. For every Bebe Neuwirth at the top in Chicago, there’s the same actress in a background role in Sweet Charity.

What about composing teams? How much does their first show say about where they will be going? One can’t say for Rodgers and Hammerstein — they each worked with other composers before their first show, Oklahoma. For Kander and Ebb, did Flora: The Red Menace indicate where they would eventually go? Did Godspell fortell Wicked for Stephen Schwartz? How representative was Saturday Night for Sondheim? Parade for Jerry Herman?

When we look at the key new composing teams from the 1980s, one of the best is Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. They’ve given us such great shows as RagtimeOnce on this IslandSeussical, and Anastasia. Their first produced show was a farcical murder mystery, Lucky Stiff (a production of which recently opened at  Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood), based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” written by Michael Butterworth. The plot is, well, a farce. A hapless shoe salesman (Harry Witherspoon) in England inherits $6 million from his gambler uncle (Tony Hendon) in New Jersey, who he has never met. There’s one condition: he take the corpse on one last vacation to Monte Carlo. If he doesn’t do this, the $6 million will go to the Universal Dog Home in Brooklyn (and Harry hates dogs).  Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, Tony’s lover Rita LaPorta, who shot Tony because she thought he was cheating on him, convinces her dentist brother, Vincent DiRuzzo to go to Monte Carlo with him to get back the $6 million, which she and Tony embezzled from Rita’s gambler husband, to whom she confessed that it was her brother that stole the money and then lost it gambling (and thus, the husband has a contract out on Vinnie). Lastly, the Universal Dog House is watching everything though a field representative, Annabel Glick, because if Tony doesn’t fulfill the terms of the letter, the money goes to them.

That, mind you, is the set up. This is a farce so there is plenty of mistaken identities, doors slamming, distractions, but there’s not a single sardines. There is, however, the requisite character who is blind but for her glasses, which she refuses to wear, a drunken maid, nuns, and Arab sheiks.

However, the focus of this opening treatise is whether this silly fluff of a show was predictive of the team that would give us Ragtime and Once on this Island, Seussical and Man of No Importance, My Favorite Year and Anastasia. I think the answer is … yes. Although a number of songs are silly, there are glimpses of the greatness to come. Especially in numbers like “Times Like This” and “Nice”, the team’s ability to tell tender ballads is fortold. The opening number “Something Funny’s Going On” as well as “Him, Them, It, Her” shows the ability to construct humorous multipart choral numbers. So although the story is a silly farce, it does show the genius yet to come.

Now, as farces go, this is not a tightly crafted as, say, Noises Off. It calls for overacting at times, it creates absurd situations, and has some truly bad lines reflective of the times (“she don’t just can-can, she will-will”). It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. But it is also very funny, and I think most people will find laugh-out-loud humor in the story. If not, well they will at least appreciate some of the songs.

Lucky Stiff Prodction PhotosIn many ways, the success of a farce depends on the execution of the story. Split second timing, a willingness to go overboard when appropriate, and the ability to play for the joke is critical. For a musical farce, you need to be able to handle the music and choreography as well, which is also tightly timed. Director Stephen Van Dorn (FB) and Choreographer Julie Hall (FB) lead the cast reasonably well in this regard. The movement coordination during the second act chase (“Him, Them, It, Her”) works very well, and the players handle the farcical aspects pretty well (although, at times, they overplay it too much).

In the lead couple positions were Brandon Parrish (FB) as Harry Witherspoon, and Claire Adams (FB) as Annabel Glick. Parrish, who has to be the straight man to much of the humor and craziness going around him, handles the situations with aplomb. He also sings quite well (a side we didn’t see in 33 Variations). Adams, who we last saw as Hero’s target of adoration in Cabrillo’s Forum, handled the humor here as well. She also did a great job with one of my favorite songs in this show, “Times Like These”.

The protagonist … make that catalyst … for this story, Anthony Hendon, is played by Vito Viscuso (FB). I must say that his performance was a bit stiff. (pause for effect) Now that we are past that joke, seriously, Viscuso handled the part of a corpse very well, really only standing and dancing in one number. This is not an indictment of his acting, however, as we saw him in the previous production at Actors Co-Op, Cats Paw, where he was spectacular.

Our comedic second couple, Tony’s lover Rita LaPorta and her brother, Dr. Vincent DiRuzzio, were portrayed by Rory Patterson (FB) and Brian Habicht (FB), respectively. Patterson threw herself in the role wholecloth, playing it broadly for the humor and handling her comic numbers quite well (looking back, almost all of her numbers are comic numbers). Habicht also handled the humor quite well, especially in “The Phone Call” (his call back to his wife) and the closing scenes.

The remaining sole actor named role was David Atkinson (FB)’s Luigi Gaudi, who is a person Harry first meets on the train, and then keeps running into. He plays this well for the comedy.

Rounding out the cast are an ensemble of four, who handle multiple characters each (and are thus credited as Woman 1 and 2, and Man 1 and 2). These versatile players are: Gina D’Acciaro (FB) [Woman 1: Landlady, Miss Thorsby, Nurse, Southern Lady #1, Dancing Portrait, Drunken Maid], Alastair James Murden (FB) [Man 1: Surly Lorry Driver, Solicitor, Prosperous Man on Train, Clothing Salesman, French Emcee, Croupier, Nun, Old Texan]; Selah Victor (FB) [Woman 2: Dominique du Monaco, Spinster, Southern Lady #2, Dancing Roulette Wheel]; and Jose Villarreal (FB) [Man 2: Offstage Telegram Deliverer, Vicious Punk, Mr Loomis the Eye Patient, French Waiter on Train, Stationmaster’s Voice, Bellhop, French Waiter in Club, Dapper Gambler, Leper]. Note that one of our two programs had a slip that the Woman 2’s roles were being split between choreographer Julie Hall (FB) [Spinster, Southern Lady] and producer Catherine Gray (FB) [Dominique], but I don’t know if that applied to our performance. D’Acciaro did a wonderfully over-the-top performance as the requisite drunken maid, and Murden stood out as the emcee. I’m not sure who was playing Dominique (who gets the number “Speaking French”), but whoever did it at our performance handled it quite well, including the intentional overplay on the acting.

Music was under the direction of Taylor Stephenson who was also playing the keyboards behind the scenery (and who we have heard and seen at numerous Chance shows). Joining him were Malila Hollow (FB), also on keyboards and synthesizer, Nic Gonzales/FB on bass, and Jorge Zuniga (FB) on drums.

Finally, turning to the creative and production side: The scenic design by Lex Gernon (FB) worked reasonably well, although there was no good explanation about why the door to #5 was upside down (which was oddly distracting). However, the parachute made up for it. The scenic design was supported by Nicholas Acciani (FB)’s properties, which for the most part worked well. The lighting design by Lisa D. Katz (FB) served to define the mood appropriately and direct attention. On the other hand,  Warren Davis (FB)’s — or the execution thereof — had some problems at our performance, with mics cutting in and out and odd static at times. Vicki Conrad (FB)’s costume design worked well, although some (going with the theme) were a bit on the stereotypical side.  Hair and makeup was by Krys Fehervari (FB). Remining production credits: E. K. Dagenfield (FB) – Dialect Coach; Leticia Gonzalez (FB) – Stage Manager;  James Ledesma (FB) and Derek Copenhaver (FB) – Assistant Stage Managers; Heather Chesley (FB) – Artistic Chairperson, David Elzer/Demand PR (FB) – Publicity; Selah Victor (FB) – Production Manager, and Catherine Gray (FB) – Producer.

Lucky Stiff continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through June 18. Tickets are available through Actors Co-Op; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. Actor’s Co-Op has announced their summer Actors Co-Op Too! season as well as their 2017-2018 season. I’ve written up my thoughts on their season here; in short – subscribe!

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: May concludes with a production from Write Act Rep (FB) at their new home in North Hollywood, Freeway Dreams, followed by Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) [plus my wife is off to the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Festival (FB) on Sunday, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is playing, while I work on the highway pages].

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

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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Indescribable | Martha Graham Dance Company @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 14, 2017 @ 11:03 am PDT

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

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

But dance?

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

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

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

The production consisted of five movements, so to speak:

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

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

Some more somewhat general observations:

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

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

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

 🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

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

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

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

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

 

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