Observations Along the Road

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

“What would happen if we spoke the truth?” | Fun Home @ Ahmanson

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 12, 2017 @ 6:31 pm PDT

Fun Home (Ahmanson)There’s a quote that occurs in one of the first songs of the musical Fun Home, currently playing at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through April 1, 2017, that struck a nerve: “chaos never happens if it’s never seen”. That describes many families: there is utter chaos behind a carefully manicured facade. Perhaps that commonality is one reason why Fun Home won so many Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2015. Perhaps it is the fact that it is one of the few musicals that focuses on the experience of a Lesbian finding herself (think about it: most stories that you see on stage dealing with LBGTQ focus on the G — male homosexuality. Perhaps it is the female strength of the creative team: based on a graphic novel by a woman (Alison Bechdel (FB), who is also famous for the Bechdel Test), with music by a woman (Jeanine Tesori), and stage book and lyrics by another woman (Lisa Kron). Whatever the reason, Fun Home caught my attention when it was in its Off-Broadway run at the Public (which is when I picked up the cast album). I enjoyed the music, and was pleased when it made it to Broadway, and then announced the tour. By now, you should have figured out that’s where we were last night, instead of hearing a Purim Schpiel. After all, if I want to hear about a evil madman with a plot to destroy a people, and the clueless leader that he works for and is able to manipulate, I’ll read the news.

Fun Home tells the true story of Alison Bechdel, which she captured in her non-linear graphic novel of the same name. It addresses how Alison realized that she was a lesbian, while dealing with her father who was a closeted gay man who never admitted it to himself. Shortly after Alison came out to him, he committed suicide by standing in front of an oncoming truck. It addresses the chaos behind her life: the dangerous behaviors, the domestic violence, the neglect.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this has adult themes.

It also speaks to a certain audience. I’ve noted before about how when we go to a theatrical piece about the black experience, the hue of the audience changes. For Fun Home, it wasn’t hue but orientation. There were distinctly and clearly more gay couples at this musical than I have seen at many other shows. So many so, in fact, that I was much more conscious about the ring of keys on my belt. (See the show. You’ll understand.) I think this is because this is a musical that speaks to the gay and lesbian experience in a way that hasn’t been addressed in a musical before.  Other musicals play the gay aspect for either fun (think The Producers, think La Cage Aux Folles, think Victor Victoria), or the tragedy is the focus. This musical really focuses on Bechdel’s statement from one of her comics: “What would happen if we spoke the truth?”. This is a family that goes from denial and chaos to the truth in a way that is both tragic and comic. For some, the truth brings growth and freedom. For others, it brings a realization about the life squandered, the mistakes made, the lost communication and chances.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this musical will make some people uncomfortable.

Reading the critical reviews of this, it is universally loved. Talking to some others more used to the conventional musical, the appreciation is different. They like the music, but are less turned on by the story. As someone squarely in the baby-boom generation, I can see how this would make some uncomfortable. It may bring up things they didn’t want to face; it may make them realize problems they hadn’t known were surfacing. It could also just be an unrelatable demographic.

As for me, I found the story and the way it was told fascinating. The approach taken was to tell the story from the point of view of Alison at three different points in her life: Small Alison [about 10-12] (Alessandra Baldacchino (FB) at our performance, alternating with Carly Gold (FB)), Medium Alison [about 19-20] (Caroline Murrah (FB), the understudy, at our performance, normally Abby Corrigan), and Adult Alison [about 30] (Kate Shindle (FB)). Except for near the end, it is small and medium Alison that are interacting with her parents Bruce (Robert Petkoff (FB)) and Helen (Susan Moniz (FB)), her siblings Christian (Pierson Salvador (FB)) and John (Lennon Nate Hammond (FB)), and her partner Gail (Karen Eilbacher). Adult Alison observes it all as a memory, commenting and drawing and providing context and, of course, captions. Note that all of the other characters (Roy / Mark / Pete / Bobby Jeremy) — primarily the boyfriends of Bruce — are played by Robert Hager (FB).

As directed by Sam Gold (FB), the production unfolds quite smoothly. The actors seem to be having quite a bit of fun with their roles. I particularly noted this for a number of numbers with Small Alison such as “Come to the Fun Home” and (of course) “Ring of Keys”, and with Medium Alison in “Changing My Major to Joan”. Adult Alison got her chance in “Telephone Wire”. All sang and performed quiet well. Note that this isn’t your typical show with chorines and choreography for large dance numbers, except perhaps for “Raincoat of Love”. Danny Mefford (FB) designed what choreography there was.

Rounding out the swing and understudies were Michael Winther (FB) (u/s Bruce), Amanda Naughton (FB) (u/s Helen, Alison), Sofia Trimarchi (u/s Small Alison, Christian, John), Caroline Murrah (FB) (u/s Medium Alison, Joan), and Anthony Fortino (FB) (u/s Roy / Mark / Pete / Bobby Jeremy). Fortino also served as Dance Captain.

The music was under the direction of Micah Young (FB), who also played keyboard in the onstage band. Others in the band were Jakob Reinhardt (FB) (Guitars); Alan Stevens Hewitt (FB) (Basses); Philip Varricchio (FB) (Reeds); John Doing (FB) (Drums/Percussion); David Mergen (FB) (Cello); Jen Choi Fischer (FB) (Violin/Viola). Other music credits: Alex Harrington (FB) – Associate Music Director; Antoine Silverman – Music Coordinator; Billy Jay Stein (FB)/Strange Cranium (FB) – Electronic Music Programming; Kaye-Houston Music [Annie Kaye, Doug Houston (FB)] – Music Copying; Chris Fenwick (FB) – Music Supervision; John Clancy (FB) – Orchestrations.

Turning to the creating and production design: David Zinn (FB)’s scenic and costume design started as an attic of memory. At times it turned into a dorm room, and then a wall in New York, and then most interestingly, that wall rotated up to create a ceiling for Alison’s house in Pennsylvania. Tres neat! In general, the design worked quite well. It was augmented by the lighting design of Ben Stanton, which was very rainbowish (appropriately, for an LBTGQ show) and occasionally shone into the audience. One thing I didn’t realize until I saw the page on Stanton’s lighting design was that the original production was designed for a thrust stage or a stage surrounded by audience, not the proscenium of the Ahmanson or most tour houses. Thus the interesting design was a tour-specific adaptation that worked quite well given the limitations. Zinn’s costumes worked well with Rick Caroto‘s hair and wig design. I can’t speak to how appropriately period they were or how appropriately lesbian they were (but then again — here’s the scary part — lesbians and gays look like everyone else — heaven forfend! (said tongue-in-cheek) — and here’s the scary part — lesbians and gays do tongue-in-cheek as well — oh, how do I get out of this hole I’ve dug for myself 🙂 ). The sound design by Kai Harada was good, but there were a few late microphone pickups that were likely the fault of the local sound board. Rounding out the production credits: Jim Carnahan CSA and Jillian Cimini CSA (Casting); Michael Camp – Company Manager; Shawn Pennington – Production Stage Manager.

Fun Home continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) until April 1. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

As it somehow happens every year, we caught another Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (FB) performance. Supporting this organization is even more important given the recessive administration currently in office. I gave at the show; you can give by clicking here.

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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.

Upcoming Shows: Next week brings  Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB). The end of the month brings An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

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

P.S.: The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) announcement was at the end of February, and here’s what I thought of it.

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Thoughts on a Theatre Season: The Ahmanson Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 23, 2017 @ 8:04 am PDT

Just before Christmas 2016, I attempted to predict what shows would be presented in the next Pantages and Ahmanson seasons. At the beginning of February, the Pantages made their announcement about their 2017-2018 season (or at least what is left of it after Hamilton presents), and I gave my thoughts on it and assessed my predictions. Today, the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) gave a rough announcement of their season (with more details in the Playbill version), so let’s see what I think and how I did.

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Back in December, I summarized the shows that I thought were going on tour based on the announcements that I had seen, and I predicted the following:

There are numerous other shows currently coming to Broadway that I expect to tour, but I think they would be 2018-2019 at best. So how do I predict the seasons to work out? Here are my predictions:

  • Ahmanson 2017-2018 Season: Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, The Humans, Something Rotten, Waitress, and possibly the Fiddler revival, Allegiance, or a pre-Broadway musical.
  • Pantages 2017-2018 Season: Disney’s Aladdin, School of Rock, Love Never Dies, Bright Star, Matilda, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Color Purple, and possibly On Your Feet.

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So how did I do? The Pantages announced a six show season. Five of the six were on my Pantages list, one was on my Ahmanson list: Aladdin, School of Rock, Love Never Dies, The Color Purple, On Your Feet, and Waitress. So lets see how I did for the Ahmanson, based on what the Times has as their announcement:

  • Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. September 15 – October 1, 2017.  An American premiere. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale that was adapted into the 1948 film and best picture Oscar nominee of the same name, “The Red Shoes” will be Bourne’s ninth project to come to the Ahmanson. Not on my list at all. I’m not a big ballet fan, nor a fan of Matthew Bourne.
  • Bright Star. October 11–November 19, 2017.  The folksy Steve Martin and Edie Brickell musical. I predicted this for the Pantages, but it balances Waitress which I predicted for the Ahmanson. This is something I want to see.
  • Something Rotten! November 21–December 31, 2017. The witty, giddy backstage crowd-pleaser set in Shakespeare’s time earned 10 Tony nominations in 2015, including best musical. Predicted for the Ahmanson. This is something I want to see.
  • Soft Power. May 3–June 10, 2018. A world premiere David Henry Hwang that work takes the form of a Chinese musical about present-day America. Originally commissioned for the Mark Taper Forum. Jeanine Tesori will join the creative team for this production, which starts as a contemporary play and time-shifts into a musical 100 years in the future.  I predicted a pre-Broadway musical. This may be it. Unsure based on the subject, but Tesori’s involvement makes it interesting.
  • The Humans. June 19–July 29, 2018. Stephen Karam’s one-act that won four Tony Awards last year including best play. I correctly predicted this for the Ahmanson. Not sure yet if I want to see it.

One production will be announced later (obviously, in the January 1, 2018 through April 30, 2018 time period, although that period could easily support two shows — so why it is dark for so long is unknown and uncharacteristic of the Ahmanson. I am disappointed that the Ahmanson is not mounting Allegiance, but perhaps they are in negotiation for the TBA slot. Spring Awakening is less likely for that slot, given it was at the Wallis Annenberg just before Broadway.

 

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Fearing Who Are Different | “Zoot Suit” at Mark Taper Forum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 05, 2017 @ 6:20 pm PDT

Zoot Suit (Mark Taper Forum)Where were you from mid-August to the beginning of October, 1978? Me? I was in my second year as a Junior Counselor up at Gindling Hilltop Camp (FB), followed by starting my Sophmore year at UCLA. I wasn’t the avid theatre-goer back then, although I do remember seeing another Center Theatre Group (FB) show at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), They’re Playing Our Song with Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz (FB). I recall that I knew about a new show called Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB), but I certainly hadn’t been to the Mark Taper Forum, nor was I going to go up to the Mutual Ticketing Window at the Student Union to get full price tickets for it (for there was no notion of discount tickets back then). I even didn’t get tickets after it moved to the Aquarius Theatre. However, I do remember the El Pachuco ads all around the city. I later learned of the significance of the production — for its message, for its impact on Chicano theatre, and for its impact on the œuvre of the Los Angeles centered play. I am still sorry I missed the original production.

So when I learned that Center Theatre Group (FB) was celebrating its 50th anniversary by remounting Zoot Suit, I had to get tickets. We were able to fit one of the preview performances into our schedule, and so last night saw us at the Mark Taper, bookmarked and interspersed with a series of what can be best called “adventures”.

Zoot Suit is a dramatized retelling of the incidents surrounding the Sleepy Lagoon Murder and the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles in the 1940s. Names were changed, and some events altered slightly, but what strikes me in reading the linked Wikipedia pages is how much of the truth of what happened made it into the show. Note: If you are curious where the Sleepy Lagoon was, wonder no longer — this website has the answer.

A good summary is from the ABC-CLIO website on the show:

A work of historical fiction, Zoot Suit follows two significant stories of racial injustice in Los Angeles from the 1940s. Set in the streets of East Los Angeles, Zoot Suit recounts events of the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon case and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots. These incidents became symbolic of the racial injustice against Mexican Americans in Los Angeles and across the country during this time period. The play follows Henry Reyna and members of the predominantly Mexican American 38th Street Gang, who were wrongly accused and convicted of murder. The play also treats incidents from the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, where racial tensions escalated into violent confrontations between zoot suit–wearing pachucos, U.S. servicemen, and Los Angeles law enforcement. The play is set against actual testimony from the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial and press headlines from the 1940s, recounting these historical events through the eyes of a group of Mexican American youth. At the center of Zoot Suit is the character El Pachuco, an idealized zoot suiter played memorably by Olmos during the play’s (original) Los Angeles run.

I think the saddest thing about Zoot Suit is that it is again relevant. The unjustified racial animosity against Mexicans, Filipinos, Blacks, and other non-whites during the 1940s has sadly seen a resurgence today, and the techniques and biases and riots that were seen then, built out of a fear of xenophobia, has infested our society today. Back then, it was the zoot suit that tarred many hard-working men unjustifiably as dangerous; today, it is the hijab, the beard, and the hoodie. Almost 75 years later, and white society is still fearful of the stranger that is coming to attack their privilege. Back then, they registered Japanese and Hispanics; today, it is Muslims. Reading the history, leaders like Ceser Chavez and Malcom X were zoot suiters. Will we ever learn from history? Our leaders today want extreme vetting and bans to keep out muslims, and they want a wall to keep out, yes, the Mexicans.

Back in December, Donald Trump complained that theatre should not make one uncomfortable. He is wrong. Although there are times theatre is an escape, theatre at its heart makes one uncomfortable. It speaks truth to power, it dramatizes messages that must be heard, and be heard, and be heard again until they sink into our thick skulls. What makes our country great is not the top 1% with all the money. What makes our country great are the immigrants, the workers, and those who struggle everyday; they are the ones who work the hardest to make a better life. They don’t want to keep people out to protect the life they have.

So, do I think you should see Zoot Suit? Hell yes. See it. Talk about it. Learn from it.

One other thought related to the overall show. Two weeks ago, we saw another Hispanic production, the Dual Language version of Disney’s Aladdin at Casa 0101 in East LA.  Very different, but very similar. Both tell a story of Love. Both tell a story of class and non-acceptance. Both have elements of intolerance. Both mesmerize, but in different ways. Zoot Suit was the start of Chicano theatre in Los Angeles; looking back at intolerance of Pachuco culture in our city. Aladdin is where Chicano theatre is today, building upon dual language while still demonstrating how lack of understanding between cultural groups can divide. A cartoon going around Facebook this week showed Jasmine and Aladdin on the carpet, noting that “I can show you the world… well, except the United States.” Speaking truth to power, have we come that far and grown. Alas, perhaps not.

The realization of the show by author and director Luis Valdez (FB) had a very newspaper-ish esthetic: stacks of newspapers served as chairs, tables, and beds; there was lots of emphasis on the headlines of the day and newspaper reporters; there was projection on to Venetian blinds. Looking back at some original production photos, however, and it appears this was much like the original conception. It still worked.  Valdez also gave the show a very authentic Chicano and Pachuco feel; one got the impression that the feel of the show was the feel of the original. I’ll note here that the show was co-produced with El Teatro Campesino (FB), Valdez’s theatre company. ETC was also the birthplace of Culture Clash, who we saw at VPAC back in November — in many ways unknowingly preparing us for Zoot Suit and introducing us to the music of Lalo Guerrero, who composed much of Zoot Suit‘s original music. Alas, there is no CD of Zoot Suit, and the movie soundtrack is only available on vinyl. Pity.

Leading us through the Zoot Suit dramatization was El Pachuco, played originally by Edward James Olmos (FB), and here by Demian Bichir (FB). El Pachuco is perhaps the alter-ego of the lead character and “leader” of the gang, Henry Reyna. He eggs Henry on, pushes him in various directions, spreads the Pachuco way, and provides a little clarity to the audience.  Bichir channels the character well, embodying the style and attitude that is so important in the Pachuco culture.

Playing the lead character, Henry Reyna, and his girlfriend Della Barrios were Daniel Valdez (FB) and Rose Portillo (FB), respectively. Wait, strike that. Those were who played those roles in the original 1978 production. In this production, Valdez and Portillo provided interesting continuity with the past by playing the parents of Henry Renya, Enrique Reyna and Dolores Reyna. It was an interesting nod to the original and a passing of the torch; I’m sure it was astoundingly meaningful to the acting ensemble.

Let’s try this again, in this production, playing the lead character, Henry Reyna, and his girlfriend Della Barrios were Matias Ponce (FB) and Jeanine Mason (FB), respectively. Ponce is on-stage for almost the entire show and he has the presence to carry it off. His portrayal captures well the opposing natures of Henry: leadership and violence, family and love, the tormented conflict of one under constant attack by “the man”. Mason’s role is smaller, yet she is still quite fun to watch and shines in her scenes at the conclusion of the story.

The remainder of the Sleepy Lagoon defendants and the key gang members we see are Ismael “Smiley’ Torres (Raul Cardona (FB), also: u/s El Pachuco), Joey Castro (Oscar Camacho), and Tommy Roberts (Caleb Foote (FB)). They embodied their characters well, bringing distinct personalities to what could have been cookie-cutter portrayals. Their individual moments during the jail sequences were great.

Rounding out the Reyes family were Stephani Candelaria (FB) as Lupe Reyna and Andres Ortiz (FB) as Rudy Reyna. Candelaria’s Lupe was fun to watch, especially in her initial scenes with the family before the first dance. Ortiz’s Rudy showed the power of drink to change a personality, with the actor handily capturing the transformation from kid wannabe to dangerously hot-tempered drinker.

Rounding out the lead characters were Brian Abraham (FB) as Henry’s attorney, George Shearer, and Tiffany Dupont (FB) as Alice Bloomfield, head of the committee that was arranging for the legal defense of the Sleepy Lagoon defendants.  Abraham’s Shearer was a typical grizzled attorney who cared about his clients deeply, and came across well. Dupont’s Bloomfield captured the style of the era well and had great chemistry and humor with all four of the Sleepy Lagoon defendants, but especially with Ponce’s Henry.

Rounding out the cast in various roles were: Mariela Arteaga [La Pachuca Hoba, u/s Bertha Villareal]; Melinna Bobadilla (FB) [Bertha Villareal, u/s Dolores Reyna]; Fiona Cheung (FB) [La Pachuca Manchuka]; Holly Hyman (FB) [La Pachuca Lil Blue]; Kimberlee Kidd [Dance Captain, Guera, u/s Alice Bloomfield]; Rocío López (FB) [Elena Tores, u/s Della Barios / Lupe Reyna]; Tom G. McMahon [Press]; Michael Naydoe Pinedo (FB) [Ragman / Cub Reporter / Sailor , u/s Rafas / Marine , u/s Joey Castro , u/s Sergeant Smith / Baliff / Bosun’s Mate]; Gilbert Saldivar (FB) [Rafas / Marine, u/s Enrique Reyna / Ismael ‘Smiley’ Torres]; Richard Steinmetz (FB) [Lt. Edwards / Judge F.W. Charles / Prison Guard]; Evan Strand (FB) [Swabbie, u/s Tommy Roberts / Cub Reporter]; Bradford Tatum (FB) [Sergeant Smith / Boson’s Mate / Baliff, u/s George Shearer / Press / Lt. Edwards / Judge F.W. Charles / Prison Guard]; and Raphael Thomas (FB) [Dance Captain / Newsboy, u/s Swabbie]. All were strong dancers and performers. I want to highlight Bobadilla’s Bertha Villareal, who was a standout in her scenes.

Turning to the music and movement side: Daniel Valdez (FB) was the music director, with choreography by Maria Torres (FB). The movement and dance was strong, with what seemed to be (at least to me) period appropriate dance. Hand in hand with the movement was the fight direction of Steve Rankin (FB). With respect to music, it appears to have been pre-recorded, as there are no credits for musicians.

The scenic design, which I mentioned previously and worked quite well, was by Christopher Acebo. It was complemented by the projection design of David Murakami (FB) and the lighting design of Pablo Santiago. I particularly appreciated the latter’s use of red lighting in a few scenes to create a very ominous tone. Murakami’s projections provided the news backdrop, especially when projected against the Venetian blinds. The sound design was by Philip G. Allen. At the preview performance there were numerous sound problems, including some very bad computer-created static in Act I and some very low microphones — all of which I presume will be ironed out by opening, as will some overly loud sound effects. <rant> What won’t be ironed out was the static caused by cellphones!!! People — please — put your phones in airplane mode or turn them off during a show. You can focus your attention for something live for three hours instead of your silly screens! </rant> The costume design of Ann Closs-Farley and the wig design of Jessica Mills (FB) worked together to recreate the 1940s — the costumers were just fantastic for both the ladies and the gents (credit also goes to El Pachuco Zoot Suits in Fullerton for the wonderful suits). Rounding out the credits were David S. Franklin – Production Stage Manager; Neel Keller – Associate Artistic Director; and Phillip Esparza — Executive Producer / El Teatro Campesino. Michelle Blair and Susie Walsh were the stage managers.

Zoot Suit continues at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) through March 19. Tickets are available through the CTG website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. Don’t miss this show this time.

: Such as, you ask: We had a relatively bad dinner at Black Bottom Southern Cuisine at Vineland and Cabrillo in NoHo: it may have been takeout hipster, but it wasn’t great Q (the BarBeQue Bar up the street is much better) or good Southern, and they used too much MSG. My wife left her purse on the Metro when we got off at Civic Center; luckily Metro security nabbed it and had it at Union Station for pickup, but we had to go back in and ride one stop to Union Station and back to pick it up before the show (this left my wife’s knee in pain); the preview audience was poor — arriving late (stand up to let them in) both for the show and after intermission (ouch! that was my toe!), leaving early, and using their cell phones; coming back the Metro accelerated harder than usual throwing us across the train because we hadn’t sat down yet; and then driving back we drove through a cloud of burning rubber on the freeway. Good show around a bad evening.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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: February 2017 continues with the Manhattan Transfer at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on February 9th, followed by 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB) over the weekend. The third weekend brings Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) on Friday, February 17, with seeing Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade on Sun 2/19. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day, or the Sunday matinee the weekend before). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB). That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

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

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announces February 7th.

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Musings on the 2017-2018 Touring Season

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 23, 2016 @ 7:46 am PDT

In my most recent theatre review, I wrote:

We recently received a note from the Pantages that said: “You know you are going to renew, why not make it easy and let us do the work for you? Sign up now for our annual, hassle-free season ticket auto-renew program by paying $100 DOWN TODAY and never worry about renewal deadlines again! Signing up to auto-renew automatically put you FIRST in line for Season Seat Upgrades.” The problem with this is that they haven’t announced the 2017-2018 season yet. So what might it be?

I’ve continued to think about this. I did some Googling around for tour announcements, and looked at some booking office websites (Broadway Booking Office, Troika, The Booking Group). Here are my thoughts/predictions of potential touring shows that might hit Los Angeles that we haven’t seen before or might be interested in, together with where they might end up. I’m not bothering to list the stuff that constantly shows up (i.e., Wicked):
[ETA: 🎫 = Tour Confirmed, and I’ve seen at least one Broadway-tour venue book the show; ✔ is playing in Los Angeles in 2017 or 2018]

  • ✔ Aladdin – The Musical. 🎫 A national tour has been announced. I expect this will be at the Pantages, and may be one of the longer-run shows.
  • Allegiance. This closed on Broadway, and there are mixed reports on a tour: the FAQ on the website says “no”; the trades say “yes”. If a tour materializes, this will be at the Ahmanson.
  • Anastasia. This rework of the animated musical by the original team hasn’t yet opened on Broadway. It opens in April 2017, and there is no tour announcement. I expect it to eventually tour, and it is a tossup whether it ends up at the Ahmanson or the Pantages.
  • A Bronx Tale – The Musical. The musical just opened on Broadway in December 2016. I haven’t seen an announcement of a National Tour.
  • ✔ Bright Star. 🎫 M/L: Steve Martin, Edie Brickell. A tour was announced in December 2016, starting in Salt Lake City in 2018. This is a show I’d like to see. This one is likely for the Pantages, but could be Ahmanson-fodder. [ETA: A tour of this was announced 1/23/2017 for launch in 2017-2018]
  • ✔ The Color Purple.  🎫 The revival has closed on Broadway, with a National Tour set for Fall 2017. The original was at the Ahmanson, and the revival will likely be at the Pantages. I’d go to see it.
  • Come From Away – The Musical. This musical opens on Broadway in February of 2017. I see no tour announcement.
  • Dear Even Hansen. This just opened on Broadway; it has gotten good reviews. No tour announcement, although I’d expect one. Likely 2018, and this would be an Ahmanson show if it materializes.
  • Escape to Margaritaville. 🎫 This appears to be on tour on its way to Broadway. If it hits LA, likely Pantages.
  • Falsettos. William Finn. This revival recently opened on Broadway. No tour announcement yet. My guess would be 2019, if it happens.
  • Fiddler on the Roof. 🎫 The Danny Burstein revival is currently on Broadway, closing 12/31/16.  I haven’t seen an announcement that this version will go on tour. [ETA: The tour has now been announced for 2018]
  • Groundhog Day – The Musical. This London transfer is supposedly opening on Broadway in 2017. No tour announcement that I see. Not that interesting to me at this point.
  • ✔ The Humans. 🎫 This is one of those rare plays that is having a national tour. This will be at the Ahmanson; they like to book the occasional play.
  • Les Miserables. 🎫 The 25th Anniversary Production closed in September 2016, and a tour has been announced for 2017. If it happens, this will show up at the Pantages, for it a clear draw for that audience. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again, but I wouldn’t give away the tickets if it was part a subscription.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Musical.  Sigh. Yes, this is a real thing. No, I haven’t heard the music. I don’t believe it has played Broadway; it is an import from the West End (like The Bodyguard). The show ended in London in 2008, and a “World Tour” was announced for 2015. Although it is on the booker’s website, there have been no further announcements. Not well reviewed, over 3 hours. I’m not sure this will hit Los Angeles if the tour materializes; if it does, it will materialize at the Pantages. Likely a “meh” for subscriptions.
  • ✔ Love Never Dies. 🎫 The Andrew Lloyd Webber sequel to Phantom. A 2017 tour of North America has been announced. This is something the Pantages would book, given their success with Phantom.
  • Matilda. 🎫 I saw this with the first National tour at the Ahmanson. A 2017 National Tour has been announced. This repeat could appear at the Pantages.
  • Miss Saigon. 🎫 This will be coming back to Broadway in 2017. A National Tour starts in Providence RI in Fall 2018. This has the feel of a Pantages show, although I could see this at the Ahmanson in a 2018 or 2019 season.
  • ✔ On Your Feet. 🎫 The Gloria Estefan musical. Currently on Broadway. No tour announcement that I see, although I could easily see this on tour and being successful in Los Angeles. Has the feel of a Pantages show.
  • Phantom of the Opera. 🎫 A perennial on the tour market. There is a US Tour, booked into 2017. I could see this reappear at the Pantages, although I’m not that interested in it.
  • ✔ School of Rock. 🎫 ALW”s new musical has announced a national tour. I’d like to see this one. My gut says 75% chance of the Pantages; 25% Ahmanson.
  • ✔ Something Rotten. 🎫 Closes on Broadway, and tour dates have been announced. Furthest west so far is Austin. I expect this to hit LA. Gut says 75% Ahmanson, 25% Pantages.
  • Deaf West’s Spring Awakening. 🎫 A national tour has been announced, and CTG has expressed interest. Given the relationship between CTG and Deaf West, this will be an Ahmanson show.
  • Tuck Everlasting. Oh, I wish. Closed on Broadway after a very short run. No announcement of a tour, but licensed and available. I’d expect a production to show up at MTI or something like that.
  • ✔ Waitress. 🎫 A national tour was announced in April. I expect this in LA, and I’m going to predict the Ahmanson.
  • The Who’s Tommy. The show is available for booking, although I don’t really see signs of a current major or forthcoming tour.

There are numerous other shows currently coming to Broadway that I expect to tour, but I think they would be 2018-2019 at best. So how do I predict the seasons to work out? Here are my predictions:

  • Ahmanson 2017-2018 Season: ❎ Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, ☑ The Humans, ☑ Something Rotten,  ✅ Waitress (went to the Pantages), and possibly the ❎ Fiddler revival, ❎ Allegiance, or a ☑ pre-Broadway musical.
  • Pantages 2017-2018 Season: ☑ Disney’s Aladdin, ☑ School of Rock, ☑Love Never Dies, ✅ Bright Star (went to the Ahmanson), ❎ Matilda, ❎ Miss Saigon, ❎ Les Miserables, ☑ Color Purple, and possibly ☑ On Your Feet.

There may also be some pointless retreads in there, such as Phantom, Lion King, or Momma Mia.

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Calculus and Magic – “Amélie” @ Ahmanson Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 11, 2016 @ 8:57 pm PDT

Amélie - A New Musical (Ahmanson)It is rare to find a musical that has, at its heart, calculus and mathematics. Yet the magical new musical Amélie, currently in previews and officially opening at the end of the week at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), does. Amélie is a musical that charmed and enthralled me, and had me smiling from beginning to end — so much so that I am considering seeing it a second time (a rarely) so that I could catch some of the magic that I missed.

Amélie is based on the French 2001 Romantic Comedy starring Audrey Tautou, about a shy imaginative girl who changes the lives of those around her for the better. The film, which I saw ages ago, had a magical quality that almost made it slightly surrealistic (you’ll see the same surrealism in the TV show Pushing Daisies, which used Amélie as a model). In the film, Amélie rarely speaks but we see her inner thoughts, and inner thoughts are just the thing to musicalize.

But first, the calculus. As the musical relates, when Amélie is young, her parents mistakenly believe she has a heart condition and choose to home-school her. Her mother teaches her Zeno’s Paradox, which is the notion that one can never go from point A to point B, because of the infinite sequence of going half-way there means you never make it all the way. As a result of this, Amélie uses the paradox as an excuse to never get close to people, because she believes she can never actually be close.

The story told in the musical is roughly the story told in the movie, with some slight reworkings. You can get a better idea of the story by looking at the Wikipedia page for the musical, but note that the synopsis there is of the Berkeley Rep (FB) version. This is a production on the way to Broadway, and there have been reworkings since Berkeley Rep. In particular, a number of story elements from the movie have been restored, and Amélie has been given more songs to highlight her inner thinking and motivation.

Where as the movie used special effects to achieve its magic, the theatrical production uses a mixture of traditional theatrical stagecraft and projections to recreate magic on the stage. This includes an integrative approach to the ensemble, use of puppets, use of set tricks and lighting tricks, combined with effective projections. The net effect is a delight for the eyes, and astonishment for the heart. The clever direction of Pam MacKinnon (FB) and choreography of Sam Pinkelton (FB) combine with the theatrical stagecraft of the production team and the talent of the performers to create something that had me spellbound. I’ll note that this starts even before the show does, look at the opening projection very carefully, and wait….

The version we saw was a one-act, and the songs and scenes were not listed in the program. This is appropriate for a production that may be subject to change before Broadway (but it is hell on a reviewer, especially one like me that might not get publicity material). I found that the productions pace was good, with a particular drive that kept my attention. My wife felt that it was a little long, and could use an intermission. There was one point that I felt would be a good intermission point — right after Amélie runs away after first finding Nemo (heh, heh, Finding Nemo). I wonder if the producers felt that interrupted the drive, or that it left too little material in Act I or Act II. I’d suggest that the audience is enthralled with the character by that point, and will return to see what happens — plus there are a few remaining themes from the movie that could be integrated.

The performance of the lead, Phillipa Soo, supported by Savvy Crawford (FB) as the younger Amélie, was spectacular. She captured the playfullness as well as the enigmatic nature of Audrey Tautou‘s Amélie, which combined with her wonderful singing voice to provide a truly captivating performance. This was a role made for these two young ladies.

As for the rest of the performers, I’m lumping them together as the emsemble, although in the program some are listed as only one character. This is because, at points, they all do various background stuff. Recently, I’ve been listening to the Ensemblist podcast as it has been going through the changing role of the ensemble in the arc of Pulitzer Prize winning plays. This show is clearly in the mold of the Rent and Hamilton ensembles: the actors play specific characters, but they also fill in to give a fullness to the piece, complementing each other in anonymous or small characters in addition to their named roles. This tier of performers were: Adam Chanler-Berat (FB) [Nino], Tony Sheldon [Collignon / Dufayel], Alison Cimmet (FB) [Philomene / Amandine]; Heath Calvert (FB) [Lucien / Lug / Mysterious Man], Alyse Alan Louis (FB) [Georgette / Sylvie], Paul Whitty (FB) [Joseph / Fluffy], Manoel Felciano (FB) [Bretodeaux / Raphael], Harriett D. Foy (FB) [Suzanne], Maria-Christina Oliveras (FB) [Gina], David Andino (FB) [Blind Beggar / Garden Gnome], and Randy Blair (FB) [Hipolito]. Emily Afton (FB) (Dance Captain) and Jacob Keith Watson (FB) were the swings.

Overall, it is hard to highlight individual performance with the lack of a songlist. Suffice it to say that all work together to create an indescribable, beautiful whole. This is truly a holistic show, where the actors just come together magically to tell a story.

As noted earlier, movement design is by Sam Pinkelton (FB), assisted by Associate Choreographer Katie Spelman (FB) and Dance Captain Emily Afton (FB). It is hard to say there is formal dance in this production; certainly, there  is not the traditional theatrical dancing chorus. There is, however, beautiful movement from the opening piece that tells the story of of Amélie’s birth, and the overall movement contributes to the magical whole.

So far, although this is a musical, I haven’t mentioned the writing credits. Amélie features a book by Craig Lucas, with music by Daniel Messé (FB) and lyrics by Nathan Tysen (FB) and Daniel Messé (FB). I found the music to be strong and driving — music that had a good driving energy and was fun to listen to. Lacking the list of songs and having only heard the pieces once, it is hard to identify something specific. I will say that there were precious few slow ballads, and nothing that had me looking at my watch. Orchestrations were by Bruce Coughlin (FB), and musical direction was by Kimberly Grigsby. The orchestra consisted of Kimberly Grigsby (Conductor / Keyboard), Jeff Driskill (FB) (Woodwinds), Adriana Zoppo (FB) (Violin/Viola), Amy Wilkins (Harp), Paul Viapiano (FB) (Guitar), Ed Smith (FB) (Percussion), Ken Wild (FB) (Bass), Robert Payne (Trombone / Contractor). Alby Potts (FB) was the Associate Conductor.  The orchestra provided good sound, but I missed the real full orchestra of last week’s Wonderful Town at the Chandler.

Turning to the production and creative side of the equation. The imaginative scenic and costume design was by David Zinn (FB), which combined all sorts of stuff to create the magical world Amélie inhabited. This was augmented by the lighting design of Jane Cox and Mark Barton and the projection design of Peter Nigrini, which completed the magic. The puppet design of Amanda Villalobos was great, in particular Fluffy the fish. Wig Design was by Charles G. LaPointe (FB), and were suitably imaginative. Sound design was by Kai Harada (FB); it blended into the background as it should. Vocal arrangements were by  Kimberly Grigsby and Daniel Messé (FB). Rounding out the production credits: James Harker (Production Stage Manager), Jim Carnahan CSA and Stephen Kopel CSA (Casting), Cherie B. Tay (Stage Manager), Lora K. Powell (Assistant Stage Manager).

Amélie continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through January 15. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. You’ll be enchanted.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).

Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  Next week brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January starts with a Southern California Games Day, followed by Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB) on January 16. We may get tickets to Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: 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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Changes in Ahmanson Ticketing – No More Hottix/Rush Tickets

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jul 11, 2016 @ 7:07 pm PDT

userpic=ahmansonAs I noted in my last post, when we were at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) Saturday night a very interesting piece of news was reveled. We were walking by the subscription table when the subscription-pushing-volunteer asked if we were interested in subscribing. I indicated that we were already full-up on subscriptions, and we tended to use Hottix to get our Ahmanson tickets. For those unfamiliar with it, Hottix was a program that made the limited view seats on the sides of the  theatre available for $25 plus a 10% service charge. This was a remarkable deal. It was then that he dropped the bombshell: Center Theatre Group (FB) was discontinuing the Hottix program as of the 2016-2017 season.

Heaven forfend! I quickly took out my cell phone and looked for confirmation, but couldn’t find any corroborating material online.

When I got home and was writing up the show Sunday morning, I did more research. I also dropped a note to Customer Service at the Ahmanson, where my fears were confirmed: “I am sorry that at this time there has not been an announcement as to the ending of HotTix.   There will be soon.” I also asked about Day-Of Rush HotTix, and those are disappearing as well: “From what we have been told, there will be no “Day Of” rush.” I also asked about the Ahmanson continuing to put tickets up on Goldstar (which we never used because HotTix were a better deal), and learned: “There will still be some Goldstar offers – but they will be for pre-sale to get patrons to purchase earlier rather than later and they will not be as discounted as the Subscriber tickets.”

That’s the bad news. Basically, the Ahmanson is adopting the same approach that we currently see at the Pantages: better scaling of the pricing of seats in the orchestra (they won’t be all the same price), and demand pricing for popular shows (i.e., if there is lots of demand, ticket prices go up). Thank you, New York.

2016-2017 Ahmanson Pricing ModelTo the right is the new Ahmanson pricing model (snarfed from their website). As you can see, pricing has been divided into roughly 6 levels: the premium orchestra seats, four price levels spanning the orchestra and mezzanine (and presumably founder’s circle) areas, and the remainder of the mezzanine and balconies. The old HotTix areas are the “D” seats.

For general admission sales, a limited number of $25 tickets will be available. As my customer service rep wrote: “I will also mention that we will still have 25 dollar seats that go on sale with the general public.  We are trying to have patrons buy early and be rewarded for that.  With hit shows waiting until the last minute will result in higher prices and surely all the 25 dollar tickets will be gone.” General sales will also be available in the Balcony and Mezzanine.

Current subscribers in the balcony and mezzanine have been moved to equivalent price points (I’ll get to that in a minute) in the A-D levels. This will likely mean that the D and possibly C seats may be full; and for those getting D, they may not be very happy moving from good view balcony to limited view orchestra. There are also no subscription options for the Premium seats — presumably those are full up from past Orchestra subscribers, and new subscribers will get the option to “upgrade” after they see who doesn’t renew.

That brings us to subscription options and pricing. For this discussion, I’m going to use Saturday Night seating as my benchmark.  Here’s the pricing table that I was provided from customer service; it agrees (on the full ticket prices) from what I got from the Ahmanson subscription pages:

Old
Price Zone
NEW
Price Level
Equivalent
2015-16
Weekend
Full 5-Show
Season
2016-17
Weekend
Full 6-Show
Season
2016-17
Discount
Price
Per Show
Starting
Single Ticket
Price
Premium
Orchestra /
Mezzanine
Premium $675 $732* 11% $112 $125
Preferred
Orchestra
A $535 $600* 5% $90 $95
Preferred
Mezzanine
/ Mid-Orch
B $335 $450* 7% $65 $70
Orchestra
X-ZZ
C $199 $288* 15% $38 $45
Front and
Rear
Balcony
D $199 $198* 8% $23 $25
Includes
$60
handling fee

 

Note the “$60 handling fee”. That is a $10/per ticket fee for subscribers, and it applies for both full subscriptions and the “build your own” subscriptions (which are less than 6 shows). This means that, in some cases, the per-ticket price for subscribers may be higher than the full price ticket. Note that this belies their claim of “enjoy the absolute very best seats at every Center Theatre Group performance at the best price—up to 30% off single tickets.” Right now, it also does not appear to include parking (which might make it a better bargain, but then again, if you take Metro to the theatre, it doesn’t). All this gives you is the ability to change your dates easier, and the ability to buy more tickets at your price if demand pricing raises the price of tickets. I’ll note that the “build your own season” (“Pick four or more shows at all three of our theatres and get access to our best seats, prices, and benefits.”) appears to have the same pricing as the full season.

ETA 2016-07-16: For comparison purposes: If you buy full price tickets at the box office online, the handling charge is 10%. If you buy at the physical box office, according to customer service, there is no handling charge. This means, when you add in handling charges, unless you are going for premium seats, the cheapest seats (until demand pricing kicks in) will always be at the physical box office, with full price online coming less than the subscription price. That’s not how to design a subscription program, boys and girls. You are assuming your audience is too stupid to do the math.

There is a third option: the Passport. For that, you pay $125 “and save up to 50% off at all three of our theatres.” Basically, the Passport gives you the ability to “purchase up to two tickets at the discounted Passport price to each production at the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatre produced or presented by Center Theatre Group.” This would be in a special purchase period before the show opens, and the price of the passport is not based on where you buy the tickets. That’s significant, for buying 2 discounted tickets for six shows in the lower-priced tiers will not offset the cost of the passport.

At this point, I’m not sure what I will do. I’ve been going to the Music Center for theatre since 1972. My parents were LA Civic Light Opera subscribers. At one point I had an Ahmanson subscription, but dropped it ages ago and have used HotTix for better seats for lower prices.  I broke down and subscribed at the Pantages this year to ensure Hamilton tickets, but they (a) don’t add the outrageous $10 per ticket fee, and (b) allow you to break your subscription into 10 payments (CTG only supports 2).  This year we’re only interested in three shows: Amalie, Fun Home, and Curious Incident. Do I do a Build-Your-Own Subscription? a Passport? Goldstar? Take my chances on open sales? Right now, I’m thinking open sales or Goldstar.

A final conspiracy-theory thought: Could this be connected to the Pro99 battle? After all, if the 99 seat theatres are killed off, there will be less theatre in town, and more demand for the Ahmanson, and they can charge more. That would never happen now, would it?

I’m open to your thoughts.

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Dysfunctional Relationships | “Grey Gardens” @ Ahmanson

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 10, 2016 @ 1:52 pm PDT

Grey Gardens (Ahmanson)userpic=ahmansonSometimes, you see a show and wonder what was going through the instigator’s mind. What prompted Stephen Sondheim to see a musical in the story of Sweeney Todd? What led Kander and Ebb to see a musical in the story of the Scottsboro Boys? Why did Merrill and Styne see a musical in the story of Prettybelle? Why, oh why, was there a notion to musicalize “The Madwoman of Chaillot” as Dear World? Musicalize Carrie? What are you smoking?

Then, surprisingly, the ideas sometimes work out. Sweeney Todd is a masterpiece. History is showing that there was more to Carrie – The Musical than originally seen. Scottsboro Boys may eventually find its place as well.

There’s no hope, however, for Dear World or Prettybelle.

Then there is last night’s show at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB): Grey Gardens, the Musical. One wonders what possessed book writer Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel, and lyricist Michael Korie, to see a musical in the documentary film “Grey Gardens” by David  and Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, and Susan Froemke, is beyond me. The result — which tells of the dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beal (“Little Evie”) — may have great performances, but the story leaves you shaking your head and asking “Why?”

Let me elaborate. The title, Grey Gardens, refers to an estate in East Hampton, NY, that was purchased in the mid-1920s by the Phelan Beale. Beale was a Wall Street banker, and his with, Edith, was socialite and singer, whose primary claim to fame was as the aunt of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Jackie, and her sister Lee, used to spend their summers with their aunt during the 1940s at Grey Gardens. Edith and Phelan’s daughter, also named Edith, was another aspiring actress. Any chance she had for marriage with thwarted by her mother, and eventually both Ediths ended up living in squalor in Grey Gardens with a collection of over 50 cats and feral raccoons. The situation was so bad they were threatened by the East Hampton health department. A documentary film was made of their story, and it became a cult classic.

The musical, Grey Gardens, attempts to tell the story in the documentary. The first half occurs in the 1940s, and centers on the engagement party for Little Edie and Joseph Kennedy Jr. (Jack Kennedy’s older brother). Big Edie sabotages the engagement to bring attention to herself, and Little Edie storms off to New York. This act takes some liberties with the story: there is no confirmation of the Kennedy-Beale engagement or this party; the actual party was a coming out party for Edie’s brother and took place earlier, with the divorce telegram actually arriving in 1946. The second half occurs in the early 1970s, and is essentially the documentary brought to life. It shows what Big and Little Evie’s life had degenerated into, their self-delusions, their dysfunctional relationship.

Ultimately, however, the show is a picture of a dysfunctional mother, and how she screwed up her daughter. Why we would want to see this — when there is no ultimate redemption — is beyond me. So you’re probably asking why I bought tickets? That’s easier to answer: I had seen the performance on the Tonys (they did the opening number from Act II), and had heard the music, and wanted to see how they handled the story. My conclusion was that there were some very good numbers, some excellent performances, but the story was one of those train wrecks that make you wonder afterwords why you found it so interesting.

My wife identified the problem well: both she and I grew up with mothers who were easily like this. We escaped. So why would we want to see a story that shows what could have been? It didn’t leave us with a great feeling.

That’s not to say there were not redeeming aspects. This wasn’t a complete train wreck like I Caligula, The Musical. A number of the songs are very entertaining, such as “The Five-Fifteen” (a dangerous ear worm), “Marry Well”, “The Revolutionary Costume for Today” (the number I saw on the Tonys) and “The House We Live In”. But I think the most poignant number is the penultimate one, “Another Winter in a Summer Town”, which could easily be a sad standard. It captures well the sadness of Little Evie’s life, what happens in the Winter for a Summer Town girl.

The performances were much stronger than the story itself. The trick conceit of this show is that the actress playing “Big Evie” in the first act becomes the Little Evie of the second act. This Edith was portrayed by Rachel York, who gave a remarkable performance. According to two of the orchestra members we spoke to after the show at the Metro station, her performance perfectly captured the Little Edie of the documentary. I haven’t seen the documentary, but it was a strong performance both in characterization and vocalization. She was just mesmerizing on stage.

Playing against York’s Little Edie in the second act, as Big Edie, was Betty Buckley (FB). Again, this was a great performance of a controlling woman, who achieved the control in various passive aggressive ways. Another example of strong characterization and vocalization. The two played well against each other — you could believe they were mother and daughter fighting.

At this point, I’ll interject to credit the director, Michael Wilson. I can never tell what comes from the director and what comes from the actor, but Wilson clearly worked with this cast to make the portrayals realistic, and it worked.

Playing against York’s Big Edie in the first act was Sarah Hunt (FB). I quite enjoyed Hunt’s performance — I thought she captured the spunk and the scheming of Little Edie quite well, and was extremely cute in “Two Peas in a Pod”.

Before I go to the other adult characters, I want to mention two who stole the show whenever they were onstage: Katie Silverman (FB) as Jacqueline Bouvier and Payton Ella (FB) as Lee Bouvier. These two little girls were cute as proverbial buttons, strong singers and dancers, and just fun to watch. Did I mention they were cute as buttons?

Turning to the main male characters. Simon Jones was very strong as J. V. “Major” Bouvier and Norman Vincent Peale — I particularly enjoyed him in “Marry Well”. The book doesn’t quite capture what he did in real life, but the performance was a hoot none-the-less. Josh Young (FB) demonstrated his strong singing and performance skills as both Joseph P. Kennedy Jr and Jerry, especially in “Going Places”.

Rounding out the male performers in named roles were Bryan Batt (FB) as George “Gould” Strong and Davon Williams (FB) as Brooks Sr. and Brooks Jr.  Both were very strong; Batt was wonderful in his facial expressions and playfulness.  I also noticed he was actually playing the piano.

Rounding out the cast as the ensemble players — choir members in some scenes, the camera and sound operators, asst. townspeople — were…. well, the ensemble isn’t explicitly credited as ensemble. Understudies are credited, so I’ll presume that the ensemble consisted of some subset of the understudies. The “understudies” were: Olivia Curry (u/s Jackie Bouvier, u/s Lee Bouvier), Rogelio Douglas Jr (FB) (u/s Brooks Jr, u/s Brooks Sr.), Steven Good (FB) (u/s George “Gould” Strong, u/s Kennedy Jr/Jerry, u/s Major Bouvier), Melina Kalomas (FB) (u/s Little Evie), Michelle London (FB) (u/s Young “Little” Evie, Dance Captain), and Rebecca Spencer (FB) (u/s Edith Bouvier Beale).

This was not your typical show, with large dance numbers with long-legged chorines. There was some dance, and there was definitely movement, and it was under the choreography of Hope Clarke. Still, some numbers exhibited great movement — in particular, “Marry Well”, “Two Peas in a Pod”, and “The House We Live In”.  Charles Swan (FB) served as Associate Director/Choreographer.

The music was under the music direction of Kevin Stites, who served as the conductor and lead keyboard for the hidden orchestra. The other orchestra members were: Gerald Sternbach (FB) (Associate Conductor, Keyboard); Sal Lozano (Reed 1); Jeff Driskill (Reed 2); Laura Brenes (French Horn); John Fumo (FB) (Trumpet); Jen Choi Fischer (Violin); David Mergin (Cello); Ken Wild (Bass); and Cliff Hulling (Percussion). Robert Payne was the Music Contractor.

Turning to the other creative aspects: The scenic design was by Jeff Cowie; the lighting design was by Howell Binkley; and the projection design was by Jason H. Thompson (FB). I mention these three in one breath because they all integrated together. The scenic design was a combination of a decayed shingle house (which reflected the pictures I’ve seen of the real Grey Gardens), but built upon projections to establish the time of day and to provide background for various songs. More significantly, the projections included documentary style film output that was seemingly real-time, yet I couldn’t always find the camera. All three integrated with the lighting to focus attention and provide mood impacts. The sound design of Jon Weston was clear and didn’t overpower, although at times you could tell you were listening to the speaker instead of the person speaking. The costume design of Ilona Somogyi combined with Paul Huntly‘s wig design to bring the characters to life.  I particularly noted how the costuming reflected the real quirky sensibilities of the real Little Evie, as well as the style of the clothes that the little girls wore.  Rounding out the production credits: Original Casting – Stewart/Whitley (FB); L.A. Casting – Beth Lipari, CSA (FB); Production Stage Management – Robert Bennett; Assistant Stage Manager – Denise Yaney. This production was “inspired” by the Bay Street Theatre production with the same leads and the same director (and, not surprisingly, many of the same costumes).

Grey Gardens continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through August 14th. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson Box Office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar, and $25 HotTix may be available by calling the Ahmanson at 213.628.2772. Should you go see it? If you liked the documentary, or want to see an odd musical about a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship, go. If that’s not your bag, or you want a traditional musical, skip it.

Regarding the HotTix comment. As we walked into the show, the subscription sales pushing critter stated that HotTix will not be available next season. I haven’t been able to confirm that online; I have a question into to CTG Customer Service. Looking at their subscription packages raises a number of question, especially as they have gone to a seating plan that divides up the orchestra (which could be the rationale for eliminating HotTix). This is a plan similar to the Pantages, and it is what drove us to subscriptions. However, their pricing makes no sense: (a) they do not offer subscription seats in either the Premium or the back Mezzanine or Balcony (which both contradicts their claim of subscriptions getting the best seats, as well as providing affordable subscriptions in the back as they used to do); (b) their pricing for the full subscriptions (6 shows) tends to have higher prices than the design-your-package with a minimum of 4 shows (the “design your package”, for Saturday Night, has $23 for D, $38 for C, $65 for B, and $90 for D, whereas the full subscription is $33, $48, $75, and no option for A; and (c) the “Passport” has only a single price, making its use for the lower price tickets non-sensical (they should offer a tier of Passports that tie to the seating areas, with discounts in other areas). Again, I have a query into CTG Customer Service.

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

Upcoming Shows:  July brings us back to conventional theatre and performance. Next weekend brings a Fringe encore performance of Thirteen’s Spring, as well as The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The end of July gets busy, with Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on July 23, Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN on July 24 (pending ticketing), and a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland on July 28, and … currently nothing for the weekend. August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a hold for a Bar Mitzvah.  The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is yet another HOLD; this time, for The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: October is a bit more booked. The first weekend has a HOLD for Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) HOLD: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC HOLD for An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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What We Call Making an Exit 👴 “Endgame” @ CTG + “Carney Magic”

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 08, 2016 @ 6:45 pm PDT

Endgame (Kirk Douglas)userpic=ahmansonIf you attend musicals, there are classic composers and lyricists that you should see. Similarly, if you attend plays, there are seminal playwrights (in addition to Shakespeare). One of these is Samuel Beckett, a 20th century author of a number of absurdist comedies. Currently, the  Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) is doing one of these plays (Endgame, 1957); it has the added benefit of being directed by one of the few actor/directors left that actually worked with Beckett when he was alive, Alan Mandell (FB). When we discovered that Endgame was on the Kirk Douglas schedule while seeing a show at the Ahmanson, we decided we should take advantage of Hottix and catch it. We were able to get seats, and so after a lovely dinner at Picnic LA (FB), we entered the absurd world of Samuel Becket.

Endgame is hard to describe. It is a four character play. The lead is Hamm (Alan Mandell (FB)), an old man confined to a wheelchair, who is unable to walk and unable to see. Taking care of him is Clov (Barry McGovern), who may be his son (it is unclear). Clov is unable to sit down. Near him, in two ashbins, are Hamm’s elderly parents, Nagg (James Greene) and Nell (Charlotte Rae, at our performance, alternating with Anne Gee Byrd (FB)). They do not have legs. The setting, which Beckett is very particular about (i.e., no interpretations allows) is a small empty space. Left and right back, high up, are two small windows, curtains drawn. At the front right is a door. Hanging near door, its face to wall, a picture. There are the two ashbins, front left, touching each other. Hamm is in the center, in an armchair on castors, initially covered with an old sheet.

The play consists of Clov taking care of Hamm, and Hamm directing Clov to do various things. At points Clov tries to go away, but he rarely succeeds for long, being constantly called back to take care of Hamm. Nagg and Nell interact with each other for a bit, but Nell passes away at some point. Nagg also interacts with Hamm, being requested to listen to a story the Hamm wants to tell after Clov refuses to listen to it. At the end of the play, Clov finally indicates that his leaving. He then stands there, dressed to go, while Hamm continues on believing he has been abandoned.

You can find a more detailed plot summary at SparkNotes. You can actually find the text of the play at the Samuel Beckett website.

One of the questions I had watching this play is: What led Beckett to write this? After all, it is such a strange play, it is difficult to see how the situation and dialog could come to a playwright. But I guess that’s why I’m not a playwright. Beckett wrote this play during an era when Theatre of the Absurd was popular. It was a post WWII-style. According to Wikipedia, Theatre of the Absurd focused largely on the idea of existentialism and expressed what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down, in fact alerting their audiences to pursue the opposite. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence. It is up to the audience to decide the meaning of the piece.

Endgame Publicity PhotosAs I’m a Professional Audience™ PEND , here are my thoughts on meaning.

The primary thought that kept going through my head while watching the performance was the relationship of my wife to her mother. Her mother is in assisted living right now, dealing with mental deterioration. The resulting relationships of parent to child, caregiver to caregivee, is a lot like the relationship between Clov and Hamm. Hamm is elderly and utterly dependent on Clov to feed him, clothe him, give him medicine, and fulfill his every need. Hamm is also non-sensical, often living in the past, at times petulant and vindictive, not caring about those around him, gruff and bitter, and at other times resigned. If you have ever seen a parent dealing with cognitive impairment or Alzheimers, that is exactly the behavior. Clov, on the other hand, is like any adult child taking care of such a parent. He keeps wanting to leave, wanting to have his own life, but is trapped in the endgame of taking care of his parent because he’s the only one who is able to do so. This game has worn him down so that any love that has been there has been replaced by forced duty, forced obligation. Whatever relationship there once was has been eroded away. At the end of the play, Clov finally decides to be his own man and walk away and take care of himself for one — but never quite makes it out.

So what about Nagg and Nell. I think they were the memories of the parents in the mind of Hamm. Often, for such patients, they are living in a quasi-world where both the past and the present exist in their mind. Clov was required to play along with the artiface, as caregivers often do.

There are some wonderful lines in the production that seem to support my interepretation:

  • Sometimes I wonder if I’m in my right mind. Then it passes over and I’m as lucid as before.
  • Sometimes I wonder if I’m in my right senses. Then it passes off and I’m as intelligent as ever.

I’ve certainly felt that way.

That’s the primary interpretation that was in my head. The secondary interpretation was more of a joke, but as I thought about it… it made quite a bit of sense: Endgame is a political argument on Facebook. Hamm represents the person posting the initial article and defending it with all sorts of convoluted argument. The argument draws people into a discussion they can never quite leave, and into which they get trapped — until they just decide to walk away. Nell and Nogg, in this case, are side digressions that support the story but go in unexpected directions. The fact that everyone in the discussion is crippled in one way or another is a representation of the fact that nobody on Facebook is playing with a full deck.

But Beckett couldn’t have been talking about Facebook. After all, it didn’t exist in era when the play was written.

In general, the story focuses on the larger issue of dependency, and the dispair that dependency can bring to us. Hamm is dependent on Clov. Clov on Hamm (he has the keys to the larder). Nagg on Hamm. And so far. As we are dependent for longer, we become handicapped by our dependency, and it traps us. The term “Endgame” refers to the chess position where the final set of moves are dictated and cannot be changed. Our dependency traps us into an endgame. How do we escape? Nell makes that clear: she escapes by dying, after she refuses to be dependent on Nagg. At the end, has Clov refused enough to escape? We never find out.

The discussion above is the demonstration of one important take-away about this performance: it was good enough to make people think about a variety of subjects. It provided the ability for the elderly cast (I don’t think there has been a cast this elderly on stage since the last production of 70 Girls 70) to demonstrate their expertise with Beckett — this was a rare chance to see some of the foremost Beckett performers on one stage. It was at points humorous, sad, befuddling,  touching, relevant and irreverent. It was outstanding.

Normally, at this point, I would turn to a discussion about the performances. All were spectacular, and it was difficult to single anyone out. Central to the story were the spot on performances of Alan Mandell (FB) and Barry McGovern. These are foremost interpreters of Beckett; they know how to convey every nuance of the story. Our Nagg (James Greene) and Nell (Charlotte Rae, at our performance, alternating with Anne Gee Byrd (FB)) worked well together; I hesitate to say chemistry, for that implies there is a reaction between the two. I think the overall ensemble was just interesting to watch.  Note that Ned Schmidtke was the understudy for the male roles.

Turning to the production and creative side: The overall production was directed by Alan Mandell (FB), whose experience with Beckett was demonstrated in the overall ensemble and portrayal. John Iacovelli (FB)’s scenic design captured well the bleakness that Beckett intended from the text: a cold-grey stone castle, with two inset grey windows, grey dustbins, dirty dropcloths, grey clothing. A world of despair, with nothing to live for except the life from the characters. Maggie Morgan (FB)’s costume designs were equally bleak: grey, black, and dark-brown bed clothes and suits, adding to the atmosphere. Jared A. Sayeg (FB)’s lighting design was strong, as usual: mostly white lights, often kept dimmer, adding to bleakness. A lack of color. Cricket S. Myers (FB)’s sound design was what a good sound design should be: unnoticeable. The few sound effects that were present worked well. Rounding out the production credits: Susie Walsh (FB) [Production Stage Manager]; John Sloan (FB) (Assistant Director); Brooke Baldwin (FB) [Stage Manager]. Michael Ritchie is the Artistic Director for Center Theatre Group.

One last note: After the performance, there was an audience discussion on the meaning of Endgame. This discussion was led by Isabella Petrini (FB), and was excellent. Isabella also curated the Endgame game in the foyer, and we had the pleasure of talking to her before the show. Isabella’s company, Bae Theatre (FB), has a show at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB): Matt and Ben. It sounds interesting, and is written by Mindy Kaling. Alas, I have already booked my schedule, and do not have room to fit it in, but figured I would mention it.

Endgame continues through May 22 at the  Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). Tickets are available through the Center Theatre Group online. Hottix may be available. All offers for Endgame on Goldstar have expired, but tickets are available to the next show at the Kirk Douglas.

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Carney Magic (Colony)userpic=colonyAt the last minute, an opportunity arose for live performance today as well. As you recall, The Colony Theatre (FB) had gone dark due to financial problems, although there was the option for subscribers to potentially attend lease events. One such event was this weekend: Carney Magic, an encore performance of a previous successful lease. Carney Magic is what is purports to be: 90 minutes of sleight of hand magic by magician John Carney (FB).

So, how was the magic? Entertaining. I couldn’t see how it was done, but it was also a relatively straightforward slight of hand show. There was audience participation. There was humor.

I think the larger question for me was: This fellow is entertaining and does corporate shows. Is this a possibility for ACSAC in December? That I haven’t decided yet. I want to see Einstein at the Fringe Festival first.

I will note there was one thing that was sad about the show: seeing the lobby and waiting area at the Colony. Evidently, it is a full-on lease house now, and all the photos of past productions are down. All of the furniture and old props are out, replaced by simple uncomfortable seats. The art gallery is empty of art. The character is gone. I felt like I was identifying a corpse in a hospital, and that was sad. The patient may not be dead yet, but she’s definitely moved out to either Board and Care or Assisted Living, and it was sad. We may, alas, be in the Endgame period for the Colony. And that’s sad.

Production credits for Carney Magic: Written and manipulated by John Carney (FB). Produced by John Carney (FB) and PFC Entertainment. Additional material by Jim Steinmeyer. Technical coordination by Genetra Tull.

We saw the last performance of this incarnation of Carney Magic.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next week sees us in the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain at the Celebration Theatre (FB) — if they start the same day, they are simultaneous premieres and both have equal bragging rights). We will also be seeing The Last 5 Years at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) (FB).  May 21 brings Los Angeles: Now and Then (FB), a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has HOLDs for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and for I Only Have Eyes for You at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre (FB).

That brings us to June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe schedule is as follows:

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and a HOLD for Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB) the last weekend.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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