Observations Along the Road

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

All We Are Waiting For is A Hero

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 22, 2013 @ 9:49 am PDT

Peter and the Starcatcher (Ahmanson)userpic=ahmansonEach year when I watch the Tony Awards, I make mental notes of which shows to see and which to avoid. A few years ago, “Peter and the Starcatcher” was on the show, and Christian Borle’s performance convinced me this was a show I had to see. So when it was announced that the tour would hit the Ahmanson in Los Angeles, plans were made to acquire Hottix. Last night was the culmination, when we went to the Ahmanson to see Peter.

How should I describe this story (which was adapted from the original Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson book by Rick Elice (FB))? I could just point you to the Wikipedia page, which has a full description of the plot.   I could just say this Peter and the Starcatcher is to Peter Pan as Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz: A prequel that explains the origins of the base story’s characters in a clever and interesting way. But this is a story, and all stories must begin with “Once upon a Time.”

Once upon a time there were three orphans in London – Boy, Prentiss, and Ted. They were sold to Fighting Prawn, an island chief on Mollusk Island, and were to be transported to their doom aboard the Never Land. There was also once a British Lord, Lord Aster, and his daughter Molly. They were also on their way to Mollusk Island to transport a trunk from Queen Victoria to the chief of the Island, abort the fastest frigate in the land, the Wasp, captained by Captain Robert Scott. But the Lord secretly wanted to destroy the trunk. There was also the captain of the Never Land, Slank, who wanted the valuable contents of the trunk and so arranged for the trunk to be swapped with an identical trunk filled with sand before they left port. Slank was also transporting Molly and her caretaker, Mrs. Bumbrake, as his was the slower and safe ship. While on the way to the island, a pirate crew, led by the cruel and anachronistic and crazy Black Stache, assisted by his right hand man Smee, take over the Wasp. They discover the sand filled trunk, and turn around to capture the slower Never Land. Meanwhile, Molly has befriended the orphan boys and rescued them.  When Stache arrives, a battle ensuses. Boy is charged to protect the trunk, and floats with it to the island, while the others follow. While floating, some of the contents of the real trunk (star stuff) leaks out.

The second act presents the effect of that star stuff, and we learn how each of their characters became who they were intended to be. Boy becomes Peter Pan, Molly the woman who would be Wendy’s mother, and Stache becomes Hook. Along the way, there are singing mermaids, fights, crocodiles, and all sorts of sillyness. There is also heroism — it is this heroism that transforms both Peter and Stasche into the eternal opponents they are.

This is a silly story, presented with loads of imagination. In some ways similar to staging of the earlier Scottsboro Boys (there’s a comparison I bet you never thought you would see): the sets are not realistic, and through simple props, some ropes, and lots of excellent sound effects, you are transformed in your imagination. For whatever reason, the sillyness of this story combined with the staging approach offended quite a few people: we had two couples sitting near us leave by the second scene, and a number of the older crowd in the Orchestra left at intermission. Their loss.

As for me, I loved it. First, I love backstories (which is why I’ve read all of Gregory Maguire‘s books), and Peter/Starcatcher is an imaginative and clever way of explaining how Pan and the other characters came to be. More importantly, I loved the message and lines such as this nugget: “Things are only worth what you’re willing to give up for them.” Profound insight. The play demonstrated the meaning of heroism through that message: what transforms Peter into a leader is what he gives up; what transforms Molly is what she gives up; and in a sense, what transforms Stache is what he gives up (and let’s all give him a hand). I loved the clever staging; I loved the anachronisms and word play; I loved when the fourth wall was occasionally broken; I loved the fun the actors were clearly having with this piece; and I loved the inventive, clever, and even more amazingly live sound effects. This was, simply, a fun play that carried one message that spoke to children, and a different but equally important message that spoke to the adults — and so was doubly impactful for childish adults like me.

I’ll also note that it was quite interesting seeing this play the same year that I saw Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers” at the Blank. That was a version of Pan that wasn’t the cuteified Disney version nor the musical Broadway version. That was a gritty version. It noted the importance of the mother figure to Peter, and in that play, Hook notes that the mother is Peter’s weakness. Starcatcher shows the relationship between Peter and Molly (Wendy’s mother), and how the transformation of the star stuff led Peter to give up Molly.  Now think again about the line: “Things are only worth what you’re willing to give up for them.” Peter gives up Molly because he is forced to; he’s not willing to give her up, but gives her up to find home. The two productions do interconnect nicely. So in the end, does Peter hate mothers? Peter is a boy — he doesn’t know what true love or hate is — he only knows childish love and hate. Peter hates grownups, doesn’t understand their motivations, and doesn’t think what his actions do. Peter loves his mother / Molly, and doesn’t even realize the hurt he creates — and how his mothers actually love the hurt because they love Peter.

This is one production where one must acknowledge the director’s vision. Roger Rees (FB) and Alex Timbers (FB), the directors, brought a unique creative vision to this production. It is not the typical realistic set that one sees; it is not the typical realistic characters. It is imagination on stage in a way that forces the audience to join in the imagination and the fun. They create, with an obvious wink, a clear impression that these are actors telling a story, but a story that they love. Is it true? Does it matter?

The performances are also top notch, led by John Sanders (FB) as Black Stache. Although I would loved to have seen Borle play this, Sanders was comic perfection. I will never think about the words “Oh My God” the same after the scene where Stache loses his hand. The man was manic, and I couldn’t tell where the script stopped and direction began, where direction ended and improvisation began, and where improvisation ended. He was just fun to watch whenever he was onstage chewing the scenery (such as it was), interacting with his Smee, Pan, and the others. The production is worth seeing for him alone.

Equally strong were Megan Stern (FB) as Molly and Joey DeBettencourt (FB) as Boy/Peter. Stern’s Molly projects spunk and self-confidence — this is one girl who knows who she is, what she is, and what she wants to be — and won’t let any boy stand in the way of that goal. She had strong comic timing, and projected a joy and power that shone through the theatre. DeBettencourt’s Boy transforms during the show. At the beginning he is timid and beaten down, lagging behind his friends Prentiss and Ted. By the end he can stand up and crow about the things that he has done. Theatre is at its best when characters transform and change as a result of what happens on stage, and this is something that clearly happens to DeBettencourt’s Boy/Pan, and this growth (in turn) leads other characters to grow. DeBettencourt portrays this growth well, and clearly projects the fun he is having with the role.

The supporting characters are also quite strong. As Smee, Luke Smith (FB) is the man behind the hook, the almost brains-of-the-bunch. He is delightful to watch as he corrects Black Stache, and his performance as a mermaid is an image you’ll never get out of your brain. Again, this young man seems to just be having fun with this character. Also having fun is Benjamin Schrader (FB) as Mrs. Bumbrake. Following in the English Music Hall tradition of a man playing a woman for comic effect, Schrader’s Bumbrake is hilarious, both as she attempts to protect Molly, as well as when she is being wooed by Alf (Harter Clingman (FB)), one of Slank’s crew.

Rounding out the cast (and clearly having a lot of fun) were the aformentioned Harter Clingman (FB) (Alf), Jimonn Cole (FB) (Capt. Slank), Nathan Hosner (FB) (Lord Aster), Carl Howell (FB) (Prentiss), Ian Michael Stuart (FB) (Capt. Scott), Edward Tournier (FB) (Ted), and Lee Zarrett (FB) (Fighting Prawn). The understudies, who we did not see, were Ben Beckley (FB) (u/s Smee / Slank / Alf / Fighting Prawn / Mrs. Bumbrake), Robert Franklin Neill (FB) (u/s Lord Aster / Slank / Alf / Black Stache / Capt. Scott), Rachel Prather (FB) (u/s Molly / Ted / Prentiss / Mrs. Bumbrake), and Nick Vidal (FB) (u/s Boy / Prentiss / Ted / Fighting Prawn / Capt Scott).

This is an intensely choreographed production, without ever calling it choreography because there is no formal dance. Similarly, although there is music this is not a musical, because the music does not propel the story. Credit for this aspect of the creativity goes to Steven Hoggett (FB) (Movement) and Wayne Barker (FB) (Composer). Supporting these two were Rachel Prather (FB) as the movement captain, and Benjamin Schrader (FB) as the fight captain. Andy Grobengieser (FB) was the musical director, and coordinated the three musicians, who were suspended on boxes on the side of the stage. Additional related credits are: Marco Paguia (FB) (Musical Supervisor), Lillian King (FB) (Associate Director), Patrick McCollum (FB) (Movement Associate), and Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum (FB) (Fight Director).

The creative team for this show won a number of Tony awards, and deservedly so. I’ve already mentioned the creative set design of Donyale Werle (FB). Also notable was the sound design of Darron L. West (FB), who created numerous amazing sound effects, seemingly live. The costumes of Paloma Young (FB) were creative and adaptable, as could be seen in the inventive costumes for Stache, Bumbrake, and the crocodile. Jeff Croiter‘s (FB) lighting design was effective in creating and establishing moods, and was particularly notable during the fight scenes where the lights were rising and falling in the background.  Additional related credits are: Michael Carnahan (Associate Scenic Designer), Katherine Wallace (Production Supervisor), Shawn Pennington (FB) Production Stage Manager), McKenzie Murphy (FB) (Assistant Stage Manager), and Phoenix Entertainment (Production and Technical Supervision).

Peter and the Starcatcher” continues at the Ahmanson Theatre until January 12. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson Box Office, and perhaps through Goldstar.  It is well worth seeing.

I’ll note this is my last theatre writeup of 2013. It’s been an interesting theatre year, with loads of great shows. Los Angeles is a great theatre town, and I’m sure (if you’re not in Los Angeles) you can find great theatre in your city. You can see a movie anytime. Treat yourself to the gift of theatre for 2014!

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  Remaining in 2014 is the traditional movie and Asian Food on Christmas Day — right now, the two movie possibilities are “Saving Mr. Banks” opening December 13 (meaning we can use group discount tickets), or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opening December 25. I’m also interested in “Inside Llewyn Davisfor both its soundtrack and its story (based off the live of Dave Van Ronk). None of the other December releases look worth the money (I’d rather see “August: Osage County” on the stage, thankyouverymuch). Looking into January: Our first ticketed performance is a concert performance of MooNie and Broon (FB) at The Colony Theatre (FB) on January 11. The first scheduled theatre is on January 18: “Mom’s Gift” at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (FB) in North Hollywood. The following weekend, January 25, brings the first show of the REP East (FB) 10th season: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“ (which we last saw at REP in 2006). February 1 may also bring “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike” at the Mark Taper Forum, depending on Hottix availability (alternate dates are 2/2 and 2/9). February 8 will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The following weekend, February 15, is being held for Lysistrata Jones at The Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. The last weekend of February, February 22, is currently being held for Sutton Foster at the Broad Stage (FB) in Santa Monica (if I can find discount tickets). March brings “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on March 8, and “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) on March 29. It may also bring “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on March 22. The end of the month (actually April 5) bring “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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Elementary, My Dear Alice

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 15, 2013 @ 7:07 pm PDT

Sherlock Through The Looking Glass (Porters of Hellgate)userpic=yorickA few weeks ago, I was looking at listings of upcoming theatre in Los Angeles when I saw a mention of a show with an interesting premise: What if you took Sherlock Holmes, whose world is based in logic, and place him in a world where logic doesn’t work? This premise sounded so interesting that I went and book tickets for the show, the Porters of Hellgate (FB) presentation of “Sherlock Through the Looking Glass” by Gus Krieger (FB). The show wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was very good in its own way.

First, let me get my expectations out of the way. What I expected was a mystery that took place in an Alice-In-Wonderland world, where Sherlock Holmes would have to figure out how to use non-logic to solve the crime. Although that was present a little in this story, it wasn’t the whole story… and in that I was disappointed. A full story like that could be quite interesting.

So what was the story we got? Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are bored — their last case was a while ago, and there hasn’t been anything interesting happening. In comes Lillian Childress, who paints a story about an incident that took place at a London marketplace. She was there with her sister, Josephine, looking at the wares. She was looking at books, while her sister was looking at fruit and other wares. After purchasing a copy of the Alice books and showing them to her sister, her sister exhibits signs of madness… and the police take her away to Bedlam. This is the third such case of madness in the last month, and the police suspect Lillian to be culprit. She goes to Holmes to prove her innocence. Tracking down the case leads to the prime suspect, Charles Dogson (better known as  Lewis Carroll, the author of the Alice books). While he goes off to jail, Holmes continues to investigate beliving Dogson to be innocent as well. The continued investigation result in Holmes falling into the madness as well. Can Holmes work his way out of the Alice-In-Wonderland based delusions and find the real culprit? This is the heart of the play.

This play, essentially, mashes the world of Holmes with the world of Alice, with a little of the historical world of Charles Dogson thrown in. I’m not an expert on Holmes, but the characterizations here seemed to fit with the characterizations I’ve seen in other stage and screen portrayal of both Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. There wasn’t an overindulgence on stereotypes, but sufficient logic and deduction to establish the characters quite well. In the second act, there was descent into the madness of Alice’s world, with Holmes roughly in the position of Alice. Again, this worked reasonably well — quoting some of the best known portions of the Carroll books and presenting the best known characters, but not falling into the Disney stereotypes of the characters. Lastly, the other characters surrounding Holmes in London worked reasonably well to establish their characters and purposes.

In short, the story was a fun one, if not a bit wordy at times (making it initially a bit hard to follow). Of course, one expects a little wordiness with Holmes. I liked the story and its resolution, and the way the story work seemed consistent overall with Sherlock Holmes. In truth, given Holmes’ addictions and OCD, he wasn’t that far from madness to begin with.

The performances were very strong. In the lead position was Kevin Stidham (FB) as Sherlock Holmes. Stidham was able to draw from his UK background to get the accent right, and looked a bit like you expect Holmes to look (or perhaps a little young). He did well with the voluminous dialog, only having one or two line hesitations. He worked well with his Dr. Watson, Timothy Portnoy (FB). Portnoy’s Watson handled the supporting role well, and was surprisingly physical in the fight scenes (although the pulling of punches was a bit obvious). The two together were fun to watch. Lastly, as the lead protagonist Lillian Childress (as well as the Red Queen), Jennifer Bronstein (FB) worked well to move the story along, and was believable as the concerned sister.

Most of the other roles were supporting and blended more in. A few specific performances deserve some highlighting. Ulka Mohanty (FB) (Street Singer/Cheshire Cat) had a lovely singing voice in addition to her nice performance skills. Also strong was Hap Lawrence (FB) (Charles Dogson/Humpty Dumpty), who we’ve seen before at the Pasadena Playhouse. Lawrence’s Dogson just seemed right for the character, which is a nice thing to see. Rounding out the ensemble were: Dana DeRuyck (FB) (Josephine Childress / White Queen), Andrew Graves (FB) (Bookseller Bart / Mad Hatter), Amelia Gotham (FB) (Thimblerigger / Dormouse), Sean Faye (FB) (Lestrade / Tweedledee), Michael Hoag (FB) (Gregson / Tweedledum), Michael Bigley (FB) (Wal / Constable Altamont / Red Knight), Dylan Vigus (FB) (Carp / Constable Foley / White Knight), Robert Beddall (FB) (Fruiterer / March Hare), and Kate O’Toole (FB) (Mrs. Morris / Knave of Hearts). All of the actors seemed to be having fun and enjoying their roles.

The play was directed by Gus Krieger (FB), who used a very simple set design for the production (no set designer is credited). The sound design, which disappeared as a good sound design should do, was by Nick Neidorf (FB). The lighting design was by Sterling Hall (FB), and worked reasonably well (although more modern LED lights or movers would have made the color changes during the madness sequences stronger, but budgets are budgets). More impressive was the costume design by Jessica Pasternak (FB), who created effective costumes that evoked the era. Even more impressive were the Alice-themed masks created by Amelia Gotham (FB) that were used during the madness scenes. Choreography was by Louise Gassman (FB), and the fighting sequences were choreographed by Charles Pasternak (FB). Stage management was by Sarah Buto (FB), and Jessica Pasternak (FB) was the house manager. The production was produced by the Porters of Hellgate (FB) and the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB).

This was our first Porters of Hellgate (FB) production. They look to be a company that focuses on the classics, and have as a company goal the production of every one of Shakespeare’s plays. They’ve done 17; they have 18 to go (counting all the parts of the Henry n as a single play). It will be interesting to watch them for the future.

Sherlock Through The Looking Glass” continues at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) through December 22. Tickets are available through the Porters of Hellgate website and Vendini,  and may be available through Goldstar and LA Stage Tix. If you like Sherlock Holmes or Alice in Wonderland, it is worth seeing.

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  December, as currently scheduled for theatre, concludes with “Peter and the Starcatcher” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Of course, there will be the traditional movie and Chinese Food on Christmas Day — right now, the two movie possibilities are “Saving Mr. Banks” opening December 13 (meaning we can use group discount tickets), or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opening December 25. I’m also interested in “Inside Llewyn Davisfor both its soundtrack and its story (based off the live of Dave Van Ronk). None of the other December releases look worth the money (I’d rather see “August: Osage County” on the stage, thankyouverymuch). Looking into January: The first scheduled show is on January 18: “Mom’s Gift” at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (FB) in North Hollywood. The following weekend, January 25, brings the first show of the REP East (FB) 10th season: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“ (which we last saw at REP in 2006). February 8 will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The following weekend, February 15, is being held for Lysistrata Jones at The Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. The last weekend of February, February 22, is currently being held for Sutton Foster at the Broad Stage (FB) in Santa Monica (if I can find discount tickets). March brings “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on March 8, and “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) on March 29. It may also bring “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on March 22. The end of the month (actually April 5) bring “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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Nothing Fishy Going On Here

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 07, 2013 @ 8:04 am PDT

Little Mermaid (Nobel MS)userpic=theatre_musicalsBy now, you’ve figured out we go to a lot of theatre, of all shapes and sizes. Our range runs from intimate shows to Broadway houses, and from middle-school to professional productions. We’ve seen professional groups do amateur jobs, and we’ve seen amateurs do top-notch works. One of the groups we’ve seen grow over time is the Theatre Arts Department at Nobel Charter Middle School (FB) here in Northridge. We were there when they started back up — our daughter was in their inaugural production back in 2006. Back then, they were a group with lots of energy but little resources — sound was three stand up microphones; lights were on a tree on the side with a shared extension cord, and costumes were rummaged from here and there. Eight years later, they have full professional lighting and a lighting board, a full sound board and wireless mics, professional quality sets and costumes (made by parents, not rented), and still lots and lots of energy. This is all paid for by voluntary contributions, not LAUSD. At its heart are the two same great teachers:  Fanny Araña and Jean Martellaro.

All this means is that when Nobel announces a production, we do our best to stop on by and see it. So last night, we were in a standing-room-only middle school auditorium (700+ people were in attendance) watching a large group of kids perform their hearts out doing “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” musical (technically, the Jr. version, best as I can figure out). You know what? They did pretty good.

I could attempt to summarize the story of “The Little Mermaid” to you, but it’s long and complex, and I’m dealing with the TL;DR generation. Suffice it to say that the musical version is slightly different from the animated cartoon, and you can find a good summary of the musical version on Wikipedia. Differences include changes in sequences, addition of a number of new songs by Alan Menkin and Glenn Slater (in addition to the original songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin), and some simplification for the stage. Most of the book by Doug Wright remains. The Jr. version shortens the production a bit more, and cuts a number of songs (both from the original movie, such as “I Want The Good Times Back”, as well as new songs such as “Positoovity”); the song cuts are how I identified this as the Jr. version. I’ll note that I’ve never actually seen the animated movie in its entirety, although I’ve heard the score.  By the time my daughter was the age she was watching Disney animated movies, this had just gone back into the vault. So I’m really only familiar with the property from the stage musical.

With a production this large, it is hard to single out everyone from the cast. Further, understanding this is middle-school production, there are the expected flaws — these are neither trained singers nor actors, just kids putting on a show.  The occasional flats, changing voices, and inaudible lines are more than made up by the enthusiasm and joy on the faces of these children as they learn skills and confidence that will serve them well all their life. But there are a few performances I want to single out in various ways, before I list everyone. Note that I’m not going to try to link to all the kids.

As I just said, there were a few performances deserving special note: Leanne Langston (Ariel) had a remarkably strong voice, and was a spectacular dancer (demonstrated in the “One Step Closer” number, with her equally strong partner, Ryan Wynott, as Prince Eric). Another strong singer and performer was Alishia Maghreiva as Ursula, who did a great job of projecting malevolence. On the comic side, Harry Harutyunyun was strong as Sebastian — although he kept having microphone problems, you could tell this young man could sing and move well. Also strong comically were Jasmine Moore as Scuttle and Andrzej Krassner-Cybulski as Flounder. Also extremely strong as a choral group in the “Daughters of Triton” number were the mersisters: Alana Gardette-Dupre (Aquata), Rebecca Radvinsky (Andrina), Claire Frankland (Arista), Emily Alexander (Atina), Morgan Knight (Adella), and Allana (Lexi Gardner). I was also impressed with Janelle Miller as Chef Louis in the “Les Poissons” number, and the comic antics of Frency Wane as Dim-Sum. Lastly, I want to highlight Rachel Khoury as the seagull Gullible — not as much for her performance on stage, but watching her entertain pre-show and during intermission, staying in character and just having fun with the audience.

Rounding out the large cast were: Grimsby – Brett Jariabek; Ship’s Pilots – Matthew Bacon, Jason Foster; Sailors – Janelle Miller, Nancy Turmell, Rose Meyers, Charlotte Doolittle, Marie Verdin, Leila Musleh, Jacob Lipman, Jennifer Sarkisian, Gigi Mkchyan, Fernanda Lopez; King Triton – Braden Harness; Seahorses – Eli Leyberman (Seabiscuit), Emily Borses (Flicka); Seagulls – Jake Dalton (Awkward), David Gomez (Gulliver), Max Chester (Awkdorable), Rachel Khoury (Gullible), Sammy Wane (Awksome); Eels – Justin Tuell (Flotsam), Aaminah Babatunde-Bey (Jetsam), Anthony Sottile (Gruesome), Michelle Villalobos (Ransom), Frenchy Wane (Dim-Sum); Carlotta – Gigi Mkchyan, Babette – Jennifer Sarkisian; Yvette – Fernanda Lopez; Chefs – Nancy Turmell, Rose Meyers, Charlotte Doolittle, Leila Musleh, Jacob Lipman, Taylor Carlson; Princesses – Claire Frankland, Emily Alexander, Rebecca Radvinsky, Alana Gardette DuPre, Lexi Gardner, Morgan Knight; Lagoon Leads – Matthew Bacon, Jason Foster; Water Wizards – Emilio “Bongo” Godinez, Shawn Wadhwani; Water Faries – Fernanda Lopez, Taylor “Cookie” Carlson, Kennaya Ndu, Talia Ballew; Water Reeds – Willow Islas, Kamryn Siler, Hannah Protiva; Sea Creatures/Lagoon Animals – Jesse Pacheco, Devina Moore, Brendon Harrington, Spencer Goldman, Brandon Moser, Robert Cerda, Emma Casella, Troy Richman, Juliana Barba, Marena Wisa-Wasef, Kennaya Ndu, Marie Verdin, Leila Musleh, Jennifer Sarkisian, Janelle Miller, Nancy Turmell, Gigi Mkchyan, Talia Ballew, and Renee Rubanowitz. Whew! Large cast!

Technically, every NCMS production is a step beyond the last. We’ve seen this program go from few resources to lots, and along the way, these younguns’ are gaining technical training — and they come back and help the program. In particular, the lighting for this program (designed by Noelle Sammour, assisted by Artur Cybulski as lighting consultant) was very good (and the technical team had no missed lighting cues that I saw). The sound, designed by sound consultant Isaijah Johnson (9th grade) had a good design and cues were executed well, but it was sabotaged by the sound-swallowing characteristics of the Nobel Auditorium (alas, not much can be done about that), and the fact that the actors were not used to microphones (causing them to sometimes work, and sometimes have static) (and that takes time and experience to address). The set was remarkable, especially when you consider it was built by students. The set design was by Benjamin Tiber (9th grade), and was constructed under Huan “Papa” Chu and Barry Borses. The costumes, designed by Larissa Kazantsev, were clever and worked well.

Rounding out this team was the tech crew: Stage Manager – Gio Roberto, Set Manager – Dana Rubanowitz, Set Crew – Ranveer Dhillon, Luca Goldenberg, Brandon Huetter, Eunice Kim, Alexandra Kopatsis, Tam Le, Aaron Nguyen, Estrella Palacios, Isabelle Saligumba, Andrienne Santiago, Tal Sisso, and Karla Vasquez; Prop Crew – Justin Borses, Casey Donchez, Kara Glaser, Jacqueline Harris; Costume Crew – Adi Ankori, Tal Ankori, Sarah Khorsandi, Hailey Matthew, David Manolo, Lilly Eaves, Christopher Sarkissian; Sound Crew – Jacob Zonis, Alyssa Crocker, Michael McNabb, Stephen Rabin; Light Crew – Aaron Nguyen, Andrew Petrak, Zarah Shahinian, Skyler Won, Nicolaus Carlson (9th grade); Spot Operator – Neema Zahedi.

Direction was provided by Jean Martellaro, assisted by Harry Harutyunyun (8th grade). Choreography (which was very good for a middle-school production) was developed by Jenna Beth Stockman and Madison Tilner (9th grade). Daniel Bellusci (12th grade) and Iona Della Torre were the music directors, and Dennis Kull was the technical director.

There are two more performances of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” (Jr.), both today: 2pm and 630pm. If you live in the area, go on out and support these kids and this great program. Noble Charter Middle School is at 9950 Tampa Avenue in Northridge, at the intersection of Tampa and Lassen. The auditorium is 1 block N, off Merridy Street.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  Tomorrow I leave for New Orleans and the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). When I return we have an interesting play, “Sherlock Through the Looking Glass“, at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December, as currently scheduled for theatre, concludes with “Peter and the Starcatcher” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Of course, there will be the traditional movie and Chinese Food on Christmas Day — right now, the two movie possibilities are “Saving Mr. Banks” opening December 13 (meaning we can use group discount tickets), or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opening December 25. I’m also interested in “Inside Llewyn Davisfor both its soundtrack and its story (based off the live of Dave Van Ronk). None of the other December releases look worth the money (I’d rather see “August: Osage County” on the stage, thankyouverymuch). Looking into January: The first scheduled show is on January 18: “Mom’s Gift” at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (FB) in North Hollywood. The following weekend, January 25, brings the first show of the REP East (FB) 10th season: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“ (which we last saw at REP in 2006). February 8 will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The following weekend, February 15, is being held for Lysistrata Jones at The Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. The last weekend of February, February 22, is currently being held for Sutton Foster at the Broad Stage (FB) in Santa Monica (if I can find discount tickets). March brings “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on March 8, and “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) on March 29. It may also bring “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on March 22. The end of the month (actually April 5) bring “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

 

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Family Strength in the Face of Autism

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 01, 2013 @ 9:59 am PDT

Falling (Rogue Machine)userpic=theatre2Raising a family is hard, even under the best of circumstances. There’s dealing with the teen years, there’s the interplay between siblings, and there’s the effect that the children have on the relationship between the parents. Now imagine one of the children is severely autistic, and you have the premise of the play we saw last night at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB) in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles: “Falling“, by Deanna Jent (FB, Interview).

Falling” tells the story of the Martin family: parents Tami and Bill, their older son Josh, their teen daughter Lisa, and Bill’s mother, Sue. The complication in this family is that 18 year-old Josh has autism, and he is on the more severe side of the spectrum. He is able to go to school, but does not interact with people well and is increasingly prone to violence. This violence is such that finding aides to work with him in the home is nearly impossible — if Josh doesn’t scare him off, then he won’t interact with them because he doesn’t know them. Thus, it increasingly falls on his parents to manage him every day. This takes a continual toll on the family — both in the dynamics between the parents, the interaction with Josh, and the effect on Josh’s sister, Lisa, who seems to be forgotten in the struggle.

Everything comes to a head when Bill’s mother, Sue, comes for a visit and stays with the family. Sue is someone who believes in the power of prayer, and believes that God will give the family the answer to the pain of autism, if they just pray hard enough. Her visit upsets Josh’s routines, and Josh acts out.

This play explores how having an autistic son affects the family and its dynamics (although the mirror it holds up isn’t limited to autism — it applies to any family dealing with a member with a developmental disability). In particular, it shows how much this situation affects the mother, who has to put on a smile and be “up” to keep Josh calm… but the situation is increasingly stressing her to the point where she is falling apart. She’s torn between seeing what she wanted her son to be, and what she realizes he will really be. She’s torn between trying to manage her son in the arms of the family and the family home, or sending him to a group home (if she can find one) where his care might be uncertain, but will be there. She’s torn by how her focus on Josh has destroyed her relationship with her daughter, and the impact it is having on her marriage.

This show also explores, to a lesser extent, how having an autistic member of the family affects the rest of the family as well. We see how it makes parenting a tag-team exercise to trade off managing the increasing risk of Josh. We see how this pushes the parents apart; how the focus on the son risks destroying the intimacy between the adults. We see how it affects the daughter, who is secondary in the minds of her parents and whose life is forced to revolve around her brother and his outbursts. We also see how this looks to someone from the outside — in this case, Bill’s mother — who had no idea the extent of danger the family faces everyday. We see how living with the unpredictability of autism ratchets up the stress on the family.

I came into this play knowing only that it was a comedy/drama about a family living with autism. I came out seeing people I love in these actors. The family on stage mirrored, to varying extents, relatives of mine. They mirrored children my wife works with in her reading group at Van Nuys High. I gained understanding about what their parents are dealing with — understanding of the strength, determination, and love that such families have, and the day to day struggles they face. This play did just want good theatre is supposed to do — it made me think and reflect, to contemplate about my life and the life of those around me. This wasn’t a brainless tap-dancing extravaganza; it wasn’t an escapist musical or comedy that takes me away from my troubles. This was a mirror of real life, expertly performed, that exposes the drama that goes on around us without us seeing it. Everyone should see this play.

One of the things that makes this play work is the performing ensemble — the five actors that made up this family. Under the directoral hand of Elina de Santos (FB)  (assisted by Julia Doolittle (FB, TW)), this family seemed… real.   I can’t seem to think of a higher complement. As the mother, Tami Martin, Anna Khaja (FB) projected the inner strength required to continually deal with her son — you could see this strength in the humor she projected to keep him up, and you could see it in her fear when he became violent. Khaja also, however, portrayed the vulnerability behind that strength — demonstrated when she broke down after her son acted out, or when she considered what life would be without her son. As the father, Bill Martin, Matthew Elkins portrayed a different sort of inner strength and vulnerability. You could see his strength when dealing with his son and taking over for his wife, but you could also see in his performance how dealing with his son was destroying the relationship with his wife and daughter (in fact, rather telling, there was little father-daughter interaction in the show). These actors just seemed to inhabit their characters — you could see the love they had for each other, you could see the love they had for their children … you could see them as a family.

The children were also realistic. As you left the show, you really believed that Josh was autistic — showing the believability and attention to detail that Matt Little put into his performance. He had the looks, inattention, mannerisms, inappropriate focus, and behavior that just convinced you he was truly dealing with austism. In real life, he was also dealing with pain — according to the director, he had sprained his ankle a few days before and was performing in a boot, without crutches. This makes his performance and his focus even more remarkable (I’m continually amazed by the strength of actors to perform through the pain — something we saw also saw in DOMA’s production of Nine and the Patio Playhouse production of “Young Frankenstein). Also believable was Tara Windley (FB) as the teen daughter, Lisa.  As the father of a teen daughter, I can confirm that she portrayed a realistic teen — focused on herself and the wrongs done to her by her parents. But she also portrayed those moments of maturity that one increasingly sees as their daughter matures into a young woman. Again, believable and realistic.

Rounding out the cast/family was Karen Landry (FB) as Sue Martin, Josh’s grandmother and Bill’s father. She provided the outsider’s point of view — the point of view of someone who hadn’t been living with the autism perturbations on a daily basis. Again, her character seemed real — the concerned outsider who meant well, but in disturbing the routine and missing the signs, actually exacerbated the situation.

As I said — all in all, these were great performances that made you believe this was a real family. You saw the love and concern between the characters, but also saw the stress that having an autistic family member brings. Well, well played.

Supporting these performances was an excellent technical and artistic team. When I walked into the performance space (this was our first time at Rogue Machine), I was impressed by how realistic the set looked, with an intense attention to detail that made the set look like a real home. Credit for this goes to the team of Stephanie Kerley Schwartz (FB), who did the scenic design, and Sharron Shayne (FB), who did the property design.  Also contributing to the realism were the background sounds — the music, the dogs, the ambient noise provided by the sound design of Christopher Moscatiello (FB). The lighting design of Leigh Allen (FB) was subtle but effective in both setting the mood and conveying the passage of time (particularly the background lighting). The costumes by Elizabeth A. Cox again seemed realistic, but also seemed to take a lot of abuse (especially Tami’s costume). Joe Sofranko (FB) was the fight director, and made the acting-out interactions of Josh and Tami so believable that you really thought she was in danger. Rounding out the artistic team was Ramon Valdez (FB) (Stage Manager), Stephanie Kerley Schwartz (FB) (Resident Designer), John Perrin Flynn (FB) (Artistic Director), Elina de Santos (FB) (Co-Artistic Director), Amanda Mauer (FB) (Production Manager), David Mauer (FB) (Technical Director), Laura Hill (Managing Director), and Matthew Elkins (Producing Director).

Falling” continues at the Rogue Machine Theatre (FB) through December 22. Tickets are available through Rogue Machine Theatre; they may also be available through Goldstar Events. Sunday matinees have special wrap-around programs before and after the show dealing with Autism, presented in conjunction with the show’s community partner, The Miracle Project. This was our first time at Rogue Machine Theatre, and we were impressed with the quality of their project and their mission to produce new works. We plan to watch what they do, and we hope to be back.

Dining Notes: Originally, we thought about getting dinner at Versailles Cuban down the street, but we changed our mind and opted to eat instead at The Brownstone Bistro next door to the theatre. We were glad we did: we split a delightful salad and an expertly prepared salmon filet, with loads of fresh veggies. Much healthier than Versailles would have been (or some of the other choices in the area, such as Lucy’s Drive In or Roscoe’s Chicken and Wings). Although we didn’t know it when we ate there, if you stop at the theatre first and pick up your program, you can enjoy a 3-course pre-show prix fixe dinner for $20/person, or get a complementary glass of house wine or dessert with purchase of a full priced entree.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  Next weekend brings a quick local show before ACSAC:  The Little Mermaid” at Nobel Middle School on Friday, December 6. We then leave for New Orleans and the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). When we return we have an interesting play, “Sherlock Through the Looking Glass“, at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December, as currently scheduled for theatre, concludes with “Peter and the Starcatcher” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Of course, there will be the traditional movie and Chinese Food on Christmas Day — right now, the two movie possibilities are “Saving Mr. Banks” opening December 13 (meaning we can use group discount tickets), or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opening December 25. None of the other December releases look worth the money (I’d rather see “August: Osage County” on the stage, thankyouverymuch). Looking into January: The first scheduled show is on January 18: “Mom’s Gift” at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (FB) in North Hollywood. The following weekend, January 25, brings the first show of the REP East (FB) 10th season: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“ (which we last saw at REP in 2006). February 8 will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The following weekend, February 15, is being held for Lysistrata Jones at The Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. The last weekend of February, February 22, is currently being held for Sutton Foster at the Broad Stage (FB) in Santa Monica (if I can find discount tickets). March brings “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on March 8, and “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) on March 29. It may also bring “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on March 22. The end of the month (actually April 5) bring “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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The Impact of a Shrine

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 24, 2013 @ 7:43 pm PDT

Miracle on S Division Street (Colony)userpic=colonyCatholic shrines and iconography. This is something I’ve never understood, being Jewish. The reference given to statues and miracles is just something beyond my ken. Yet such a shrine is at the heart of the last play of this weekend, “Miracle on South Division Street” by Tom Dudzick (FB), which we saw this afternoon at The Colony Theatre (FB) in Burbank.

Tom Dudzick describes his play as follows: “Miracle on South Division Street” is the story of the Nowak family, living amidst the urban rubble of Buffalo, NY’s East Side. Maybe the neighborhood is depressed, but not Clara, the family matriarch. She happily runs her soup kitchen and tends to the family heirloom – a twenty-foot shrine to the Blessed Mother which adjoins the house. This neighborhood beacon of faith commemorates the day in 1942 when the Blessed Virgin Mary materialized in her father’s barber shop! When the play opens, a family meeting is in progress. Daughter Ruth divulges her plan to finally “go public” with the family miracle by creating a one-woman play about the sacred event. But during the course of the meeting, the entire family’s faith is shaken to the very core when a deathbed confession causes the family legend to unravel. The results are heartfelt and hilarious.

Based on a true “shrine” in Buffalo on Senaca Street, the summary above is essentially correct. The main characters are Clara (Ellen Crawford (FB)), the family matriarch, and her three children: Ruth (Karianne Flaathen (FB)), an actress who has written a one-woman play based on the true story of the shrine; Jimmy (Brian Ibsen (FB)), who is about to propose to his girlfriend (whom the family has never met); and Beverly (Meghan Andrews (FB)), who is involved with a near-priest and whose sense of self comes from the shrine. I won’t spoil the secret of the shrine; let’s just say that it was quite unexpected and leads to quite hilarious results.

As always at the Colony, the play was very well performed. All of the cast was exceptionally talented and believable — I especially appreciated the little facial gestures and movements that made it look as if they were inhabiting their characters. Credit, as always, goes to a mix of the acting team and the director, Brian Shnipper (FB).

Technically, the set by Jeff McLaughlin (FB) did a wonderful job of creating a 1940s-era bungalow in Buffalo, down to the linoleum on the floor. This was supported by the appropriate props (including a load of food) from MacAndMe (FB). The costumes by Dianne K. Graebner (FB) worked well to convey the sense of place.  The sound effects by Drew Dalzell (FB) blended in well, and the lighting by Jared A. Sayeg (FB) was simple but effective. Leesa Freed (FB) was the production stage manager.

Miracle on South Division Street” continues at the Colony Theatre through December 15. It is well worth seeing. Tickets are available through the Colony Theatre, as well as through outlets such as Goldstar.

Dining Notes: Well, this really isn’t a dining note — more of a gaming note. Game Haus Cafe (FB), a project we helped Kickstart, has opened its doors in Glendale. Game Haus is a board game cafe — there are hundreds of board games as well as a small menu. For $5 you can game all day. An interesting concept, marred only by slightly difficult parking (which is beyond their control). Still, I intend to go back there, because I can play without having to wait for a scheduled game day. I’m thinking of going the day after Thanksgiving, assuming my head cooperates. Anyone want to join me? There is a summary of the games they have on Boardgamegeek.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  This afternoon brings the rescheduled “Miracle on S. Division Street” at the Colony Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend brings Falling at Rogue Machine on Sat November 30, and may also bring the concert “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” at REP East (FB) on Sunday December 1 [I’m unsure about this — on the one hand, it supports REP East… but on the other hand, it’s Christmas music]. December will start with The Little Mermaid” at Nobel Middle School on Friday, December 6. We then leave for New Orleans and the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). When we return we have an interesting play, “Sherlock Through the Looking Glass“, at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December, as currently scheduled for theatre, concludes with “Peter and the Starcatcher” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Of course, there will be the traditional movie and Chinese Food on Christmas Day — right now, the two movie possibilities are “Saving Mr. Banks” opening December 13 (meaning we can use group discount tickets), or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opening December 25. None of the other December releases look worth the money (I’d rather see “August: Osage County” on the stage, thankyouverymuch). Looking into January: The first scheduled show is on January 18: “Mom’s Gift” at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (FB) in North Hollywood. The following weekend, January 25, is on hold for “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“, which is the first show of the REP East (FB) season. February 8 will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The following weekend, February 15, is being held for Lysistrata Jones at The Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. The last weekend of February, February 22, is currently being held for Sutton Foster at the Broad Stage (FB) in Santa Monica (if I can find discount tickets). March brings “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on March 8, and March 22 is being held for “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB). Lastly, we may go see “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on March 29. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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Relationships in Therapy

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 24, 2013 @ 8:55 am PDT

Play It Again Sam (Rep East)userpic=repeastThis has been a busy live entertainment weekend: a folksinging legend Friday night, the Virgin Mary and a miracle this afternoon, and sandwiched between them: a nebbish New Yorker trying to find a relationship. Specifically, last night we were in Newhall for the final show in Repertory East’s 9th season: “Woody Allen’s ”Play It Again, Sam” “.

Play It Again, Sam“, before it was the 1972 film, was a 1969 Broadway comedy by Woody Allen. The story is basically the same, although it takes place in New York. Allan Felix, a nervous nebbish New Yorker who watches and writes about film for a living, has just been dumped by his wife, Nancy. Linda, the wife of Allan’s best friend Dick, keeps trying to fix Allan up with various friends. Nothing works, because Allan is so scared of women that the persona he adopts overdoes it and scares them away. It doesn’t help that he still hasn’t let go of the memory of his ex-wife (who keeps belittling him in his mind), and imagines romances as if life was Casablanca — to the point of taking relationship advice from an imaginary Bogart. In the process of trying to find the right girl, Allan keeps spending time with Linda. Linda, in turn, becomes charmed with Allan’s real persona; this is helped by the fact that Dick is too focused on business (a running joke is that he is constantly calling his office to leave the number he is at — ah, pre-cell-phone days). Eventually, Linda and Allan fall for each other. Will she have an affair and leave Dick? C’mon, this is Woody Allen, so you likely can guess the answer. At the end of the play, a neighbor comes over, and she and Allan seem to hit it off.

There are some comedy styles that you either love or are just lukewarm towards. Jerry Lewis is one of them. Woody Allen is another. Some love Allen’s nebbish New Yorker persona (very often, New Yorkers themselves). Others don’t see the appeal in the style. Alas, I’m in the latter camp — the only Allen movie I’ve liked at all was Annie Hall, and that was a bit more Los Angeles based. I’m just not into the self-deprecating, down-on-yourself annoying persona that Allen adopts. So the story here did not grab me as others might. This is not a fault of REP, for there are many that love Woody Allen. It also doesn’t help that I’m not a big movie fan — in particular, I’m not a big Bogart fan, and have never seen Casablanca. There were likely numerous movie references to films from that ever that went completely past me. Still, there were humorous points in the play and the acting kept me entertained. More on that in a minute.

One major problem with the play is that it reflects a very warped attitude towards women — one that is uncomfortable today, but was all too prevalent when the play was written. This can be seen in the continual advice from Bogart to slap women around. It can be seen in Allan’s focus on finding a women primarily for the sex. Where it is most troubling is in the scene where Allan and Linda discuss the possibility of rape, and Allen (the author) puts words in Linda’s mouth about potentially wanting rape, if it was with the right man. This is absolutely the wrong message to be sending (and it may be a subconscious reflection of Woody Allen’s attitude towards women, as seen in his subsequent relationships).

When you get past the Woody Allen character, there are a number of things to like about this play. It does send a good message about the façades we put up scaring away people: often, we put on a persona about the people we think we want, and this scares away the people we need. That’s a good message to be sending. It also sends a message about what an over-focus on business and being connected can do to a relationship. We see this in the relationship between Dick and Linda, who are growing apart because of Dick’s over-focus on work and under-focus on his wife. By the end of the play, Dick has been reminded of the importance of Linda in his life, and that his sole attention cannot be work, work, work.

Then there is the “movie message.” Allan Felix is a man who lives and breathes old movies: he writes about them, he watches them, he memorizes them. They are his obsession, and in many ways they drive his perception of what a man should be and how a man should behave. This is seen through the focus on Bogart, through the movie posters, through the melodramatic ways Allan fantasizes that situations will play out. This is ultimately exposed as being unhealthy — what is healthy is to just be yourself and to attract people through you.

Patrick Rogers (FB), as Allan Felix, does a good job of channeling Woody Allen — he captures the neurotic behavior, the voice, and the mannerisms quite well. Performance-wise, he nails it. In fact, he captures it so well that — if you’re like me and not a fan of the Allen persona — you can’t see what women would like about this man. However, if you can get past the Woody Allen schtick, he does have a number of funny lines. Allen (the author) does know how to write good jokes, and you’ll find yourself laughing at them even if the persona annoys you.

Another wonderful performance — perhaps even stronger performance — was given by Jessica Kaye Temple (FB) as Linda Christie.  She was sweet, she was cute, she was playful, she was sexy in a 1960s-repressed way, … she was just a delight to watch.  Your eye was drawn to her whenever she was one the stage. We’ve seen her before on the REP stage, and it is just a joy to see her again. Playing her husband, Dick, was Gregor Manns (FB). Manns gave a good performance as the man more focused on business; however, the attempt at modern casting was a bit jarring in the historical period of the show. It ended up working because of Manns’ skills.

Rounding out the cast were Bonnie He (FB) [Dream Sharon, Barbara], Lara Hughes (FB) [Nancy, Gina], Jason J. Lewis (FB) [Humphrey Bogart], and Kaitie Ty Warren (FB) [Sharon, Vanessa, Go-Go, Intell’l Girl]. A few notes here. Lewis channeled Bogart very well — or to be more accurate — he presented the expected caricature of Bogart, as the actor was probably not always his Casablanca persona. He, although not on stage much, is always fun to watch. I have to wonder if the ending of the play involving her was tacked on — according to Wikipedia it was not in the movie version, and it just felt too conveniently “feel good”. Ah well, it was early Woody Allen.

For the most part, the direction by Marlowe Weisman (FB) (assisted by Janice Crow-Christensen/FB) was good. There were a few pronunciations that weren’t New York (I caught chiropodist, which is not pronounced like chiro-practor, and our friends caught another)… but in general the movement, positioning, and mannerisms worked well.

The technical team was a little bit different this time. Sets were designed by Madison Orgill (FB), with properties by Danielle Honeyman/FB. These worked very well at establishing the place — I appreciated the period magazines, as well as the period Lays potato chip bag. Additional props were by Amy Ganyo. Costumes were designed by Janet McAnany/FB, and (at least to my eye) seemed appropriately period. As always, the lighting design was by Tim Christianson/FB, and the sound design was by Steven “Nanook” Burkholder/FBTaylor Kozlowski/FB was the stage manager, and Marie-Claire Erdynast/FB was the production stage manager. The show was produced by Mikee Schwinn/FB and Ovington Michael Owston/FB.

Woody Allen’s ”Play It Again, Sam” ” continues at Repertory East Playhouse through December 14. Tickets are available through the REP Online Box Office. They are also available through Goldstar Events, as well as other discount venues. REP has also announced their 10th season: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” (January 17-February 15, 2014); “Biloxi Blues” (March 7-April 5, 2014); “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (May 16-June 14, 2014); “Return to the Forbidden Planet (A Jukebox Musical)” (July 11-August 16, 2014); “The Great Gatsby” (September 12-October 18, 2014), and “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club” (November 14-December 13, 2014). Season tickets are also available starting at $120 for all six shows (adult; senior/students $110).

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  This afternoon brings the rescheduled “Miracle on S. Division Street” at the Colony Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend brings Falling at Rogue Machine on Sat November 30, and may also bring the concert “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” at REP East (FB) on Sunday December 1 [I’m unsure about this — on the one hand, it supports REP East… but on the other hand, it’s Christmas music]. December will start with The Little Mermaid” at Nobel Middle School on Friday, December 6. We then leave for New Orleans and the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). When we return we have an interesting play, “Sherlock Through the Looking Glass“, at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December, as currently scheduled for theatre, concludes with “Peter and the Starcatcher” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Of course, there will be the traditional movie and Chinese Food on Christmas Day — right now, the two movie possibilities are “Saving Mr. Banks” opening December 13 (meaning we can use group discount tickets), or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opening December 25. None of the other December releases look worth the money (I’d rather see “August: Osage County” on the stage, thankyouverymuch). Looking into January…. nothing is currently scheduled, but it will likely bring “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“, which is the first show of the REP East (FB) season, running 1/17 through 2/15/2014… and the end of the month will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Of course, we look forward to seeing you at ACSAC for the wonderful training opportunities there. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

 

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Children and Parents

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 17, 2013 @ 8:08 am PDT

Children of Eden (Trollplayers)userpic=theatre_musicalsReligion often portrays God as a loving parent, benevolent, always striving to see the good in his children, infinitely patient with their faults. But being a parent is never easy. Further, if we are created in God’s image, then God is as human as we are, and subject to human faults and foibles… and similar problems with his children. This appears to be the point of the musical we saw last night at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Northridge (FB), where the Theatrical Repertory of Our Lady of Lourdes (TROLL) (FB) presented the musical “Children of Eden” (music and lyrics by Steven Schwartz (FB), book by John Caird, based on a concept by Charles Lisanby, which in turn, although uncredited, was based on a concept by, umm, God (or whomever wrote the book of Genesis)).

TROLL Players is a new production group to us. We learned about this production when Meggan Taylor/FB, who is active in our former synagogue Temple Beth Torah, posted on Facebook about two members of the Temple choir (John and Tina Scott, who are also members of the co-located Episcopal Church choir) being in this production.  “Children of Eden” is a title of interest to me; it is one of those shows I’ve heard but never seen. So I was pleased to learn of this group (even thought it is an amateur group) and secured tickets to the production. I’m glad I did, and will look for future productions of other shows I’ve never seen.

Back to “Children of Eden” (COE). As I noted above, COE is a musical by Stephen Schwartz, composer and lyricist of Godspell, Pippin, and the current juggernaut, Wicked. It has never been produced on or off-Broadway. It was originally written for a high-school theatre camp. Schwartz subsequently adapted it for the Royal Shakespeare Company, but it never transferred to the US. It was revived by Papermill Playhouse in NJ, and has been popular with non-Broadway companies. However, I haven’t seen it produced in Los Angeles before.

COE tells the story of the creation, Adam and Eve, and Noah from the Book of Genesis. In doing so, it falls into the small number of biblical musicals (others being The Apple Tree, Two by TwoJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,  and, umm, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar… surprisingly, I couldn’t think of any Abrahamatic or post-Joseph through pre-Jesus musicals). The first act focuses on Adam and Eve; the second on Noah. I’m not sure a synopsis of that story is really necessary — however, if you want a synopsis of how the show presents the story, I refer you to  either the MTI show page or the Wikipedia page. The basic message of the show focuses on the nature of the relationship between fathers and their children. Specifically, the message appears to be that despite the best efforts of fathers to protect their children, children will discover their own life and eventually separate. They will disobey, and they will learn to pay the consequences.

A problematic aspect of COE is how it portrays the characters (which was especially jarring seeing how the performance venue was the church’s parish hall). God comes off rather badly — he’s a parent who holds grudges, who tars an entire family branch based on the sins of the parent, who doesn’t always have unconditional love for his children, and who has problems communicating with his children. I’m aware this is in the source material as well :-), but the show seems to highlight it as well. It also seems to highlight — at least in the first act — a problematic portrayal of Eve as the reason for the downfall. Again, this is a common liturgical theme (especially in Christianity), but I wonder if these thematic aspects are one reason the show was problematic for critics. Personally, I found these aspects interesting: the show not only refreshed my knowledge of the book of Genesis, but made me think and question about the material and what it says. This is something theatre does very well. It would be interesting to see this show paired with a church-led discussion of this subject and the portrayal — good theatre can stimulate great discussion of themes.

The music of the show is wonderful. The show is mostly sung through, and some songs are particular favorites — “In Pursuit of Excellence” and “Ain’t It Good” being two I particularly like. Although I was familiar with the story and the music, I found it interesting to hear the songs in the context of the book. Many of the songs are choral; this show was designed for a large group. As always, when I hear this show in the future, I’ll think of this production.

Speaking of this production: For an amateur production, this was very good. I don’t expect an amateur production to have perfect singing or execution — the cast and crew just haven’t always had the training. Amateur productions are the first in a series up the ladder to fully professional productions. As such, any comments below should be understood in the context of helping the performers to improve, not to denigrate their hard work.

First and foremost, the performance (i.e., straight acting) in this show was wonderful. Although a few of the younger folks looked a little confused, most of the actors on stage were having fun with this show. I particularly enjoyed watching the faces of the storytellers during the show and how they reacted on the various numbers. Also strong was the expressiveness of the leads in the various segments. I’m never sure how much of this is what the actor brings, and how much of this is what the director brings out; I do believe that in a good production you can’t distinguish between the two as the performance is that natural and organic. In any case, this show had strong performances; in particular, I still remember the performances of Kassandra Lee Scott/FB as Eve/Mama Noah, Joy Walker/FB as Yonah, Greg Walker/FB as “Father” (God), Philippe Martinez/FB as Adam/Noah, Trevor Alkazian/FB as Cain/Japheth, and Roger Ritenour (FB) in numerous small roles. I’m sure some measure of the credit for the performances goes to the director, Deb Owen (FB). One final performance note: an interesting addition to this show was the sign language performance of Darlene Wittman.

Also strong in this production was the dance. This was particularly noticeable during the return of the animals — the movement and the characterizations of the animals made any particular costumes unnecessary (I particularly enjoyed the apes and elephants). In general, the movement and dance throughout the show was great. Credit here goes to the choreographers — the aforementioned Kassandra Lee Scott/FB and Roger Ritenour (FB). Kayley Norman/FB was the dance captain.

What makes a musical, however, is the singing and the music. A few of the performers were very strong and blew me away with the quality of their performances — especially considering that the program identified no vocal training. In this tier I particularly want to note Kassandra Lee Scott/FB as Eve/Mama Noah and Joy Walker/FB as Yonah. Both were just wonderful. Also strong was Roger Ritenour (FB) as the head of the snake, Christy Nevarez/FB as one of the storytellers on “Generations”, and whomever was the second segment of the snake (I’m guessing Emily Sawdey/FB). However, this was an amateur production, and most of the voices were more at the 85%-90% level — still very good, but with the occasional problem. These voices could be outstanding with a little more work. In this tier were the other leads: Greg Walker/FB as “Father” (God), Philippe Martinez/FB as Adam/Noah, Trevor Alkazian/FB as Cain/Japheth. All had moments when you could hear that the quality in the voice was there, and all were strong when combined with their acting performances. I’ll also note that the ensemble as a whole was wonderful in the choral numbers.

Overall, the cast for the show was as follows: Trevor Alkazian/FB (Storyteller, Cain/Japeth), Amy Brophy (Storyteller), Joshua Celaya/FB (Storyteller, Seth/Shem), Jim Cordi (Storyteller), Giovanni Di Nova-Daly (Storyteller), Jo Di Nova-Daly/FB (Storyteller, Snake), Olivia Di Nova-Daly (Storyteller), Jonathan Engstrom/FB (Storyteller, Abel/Ham), Kim Flamma (Dove), Noah Gulbransen (Storyteller, Young Cain), Nicki Heyd/FB (Storyteller), Ferra Kochanek (Storyteller), Matthew Krzewinski (Storyteller), Philippe Martinez/FB (Storyteller, Adam/Noah), Dan Meehan (Storyteller, Snake), Patty Miller (Storyteller), Christy Nevarez/FB (Storyteller), Kayley Norman/FB (Storyteller), Mark Pasano/FB (Storyteller), Roger Ritenour (FB), Shaina Sarmiento (Storyteller, Young Abel), Emily Sawdey/FB (Storyteller, Snake, Aphra), John Scott (Storyteller), Kassandra Lee Scott/FB (Storyteller, Eve/Mama Noah), Tina Scott (Storyteller), Graciela Tiu (Storyteller), Cassie Walker (Storyteller, Snake), Greg Walker/FB (Father), Joy Walker/FB (Storyteller, Yonah), Darlene Wittman (Storyteller, Intercessor), Holly Lynn Wolcott/FB (Storyteller), Kiyoko Ana “Kiki” Zushi (Baby Eve), and Stephanie Alkazian Zushi/FB (Storyteller, Seth’s wife, Aysha).

The small on-site orchestra was under the musical direction of Marcella Carmona (FB), and was generally very good. It consisted of a keyboard, accordion, flute/piccolo, drums/percussion, harp, bass, and clarinet/saxophone/french horn. The only problematic instrument was the accordion, which was either too loud or slightly out of tune … for in a couple of numbers it overpowered.

Turning to the technical side of things: Some things here worked quite well. The scenic design of Hugh Fitch/FB was very simple: some risers, a plain backdrop, a few props. This worked will with the strong performances to establish the mood. I’m curious how this would be staged in a venue with more to spend on sets and such — would an attempt to have more realistic sets overpower the show? The costumes by Mary Engstrom were similarly simple: gowns or tan outfits with the occasional colorful sash or overshirt. They served to identify but not be overly realistic, allowing the performances to create the character. However, the costumes came together in the final scene with the rainbow. As for the more technical aspects: lighting and sound, which were under the design of Stephanie Alkazian Zushi/FB… the lighting worked reasonably well (and I was impressed by the number of lights the parish had). There were some good background projections, and the colors were OK. The follow spots were occasionally a little off. Sound was much more problematic, with the occasional static and more significant muddiness that impacted the quality of the performers voices. Hopefully, they can get a local sound engineer to come in and tune their setup. Stephanie Alkazian Zushi/FB also served as combat choreographer and technical director — a busy young women. Dolores Bator was the house manager, Brittany Cahill was the stage manager, and Katie Soukup/FB was in charge of the box office (and got us our tickets, and my wife a hard candy when she really needed it).

Two last things I noticed about the Parish Hall, which struck me as oddly funny. First, both Jesus and the Virgin Mary are chained to the building (well, their statues are). Are they afraid they are going to leave in the middle of the night? (Actually, they are chained so they don’t fall in an earthquake, but it was just an odd juxtaposition, when you think about it). Secondly, there was a payphone in the hall with a little yellow sticker above it noting some free calls that could be made. The first two made me laugh: Press *3 to receive God’s blessing, press *4 if you need cash now :-).

There is one more performance of “Children of Eden” at Our Lady Of Lourdes: today at 2pm. Tickets are available at the door. Our Lady of Lourdes is located at 18420 Kinzie St, Northridge, 1 block south of Lassen just off Reseda. Tickets are $15 donations.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  This evening is a a release party for a Kickstarted-CD by Big Daddy. Next weekend is very busy with three shows: Tom Paxton (FB) in concert at McCabes Santa Monica (FB) on Friday; “Play It Again Sam” at REP East (FB) on Saturday, and the rescheduled “Miracle on S. Division Street” at the Colony Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving weekend brings Falling at Rogue Machine on Sat November 30, and may also bring the concert “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” at REP East (FB) on Sunday December 1 [I’m unsure about this — on the one hand, it supports REP East… but on the other hand, it’s Christmas music]. December will start with The Little Mermaid” at Nobel Middle School on Friday, December 6. We then leave for New Orleans and the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). When we return we have an interesting play, “Sherlock Through the Looking Glass“, at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December, as currently scheduled, concludes with “Peter and the Starcatcher” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Looking into January…. nothing is currently scheduled, but it will likely bring “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“, which is the first show of the REP East (FB) season, running 1/17 through 2/15/2014… and the end of the month will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Of course, we look forward to seeing you at ACSAC for the wonderful training opportunities there. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

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There’s Something Dirty and Rotten in Simi Valley

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 03, 2013 @ 9:41 am PDT

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (ARTS)userpic=theatre_musicalsThere are a number of shows where I purchase the cast album, and am lukewarm towards the show until I actually see it and can put the songs in context. There are other shows where I fall in love with the music the first time I hear it, and I’m eager to see a production.  One show in this latter category is “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. I bought the cast album back in October of 2005 and fell in love with the music and the extremely clever lyrics (I always thought a particular song in the first act was an allegory for a previous occupant of the White House). Alas, I was unable to see the show when the tour hit the Pantages or when it visited Orange County. I finally caught the show in 2010 when it was performed at the NoHo Arts Center by Interact Theatre Company. That show was good but had some problems. When I learned it was being done by Actors Repertory Theatre of Simi Valley (FB) at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center (FB), I put it on my calendar to get tickets. We saw the show last night. It was a very good production — a few technical problems, but the performances were excellent and it was a delight to watch.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is based on the 1988 movie with Steve Martin and Michael Caine (written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning). Adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Lane, and with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, the story centers on two competing con men living on the French Riviera. At first, the suave and experienced Lawrence Jameson takes the rookie con man, Freddy, under his wing. But soon, Freddy tries to compete directly with Lawrence. The competition comes to a peak when they agree that the first con man to extract $50,000 from the female heiress, Christine Colgate, wins and the other must leave town forever. Going into further details might spoil the story for those who haven’t seen it, so I’ll note there is a more detailed synopsis on Wikipedia.

The original Broadway production had stellar performances by John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz, and Sheri Rene Scott in a full size house with massive scene changes. Smaller theatres have to get more creative with their spaces to pull this off; further, given their funding limitations, their casting presents more of a challenge. Actors Repertory Theatre of Simi Valley (FB) (henceforth, ARTS) has a few more challenges in this area, as they are an all volunteer organization that uses a mix of seasoned actors from the community and local amateurs. I’m pleased to say that ARTS’ casting worked: the combination of stellar leads, a strong ensemble, and good direction from Sean P. Harrington (FB). The strength of the performance overcame the few technical and musical glitches to provide a very strong show that was fun to watch. As I commonly say, I can never tell where the contributions of the director from the contributions of the actor, and so I tend to credit the actor believing the best directoral hand is an invisible one.  So to the extent my good words below belong to the director, consider them allocated.

One of the primary reasons for the success of this production are the leads: Kristopher Kyer (FB) as Lawrence Jamison, Stephen Weston (FB) as Freddy Benson, and Christanna Rowader (blog) (FB) as Christine Colgate. I know Kyer from the Forgotten Musicals group on FB, and we’ve seen him before as the lead in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at ARTS. He was spectacular as Jamison, pulling him off as suave with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. The strong performance combined with strong vocal and movement worked very well. You can tell he was having fun with this role — and I’ve noted before that when the actors are having fun, the audience feeds off of that. Unlike the performance at NoHo Arts, his Jamison did not hold back — you could see pieces of the stick flying when he was whipping the legs of Freddy during “Rüffhausen’ Mit Shüffhausen” . The maniacal energy was great. Also exhibiting maniacal energy was Weston as Benson. This young man (who we haven’t seen before) was spectacular at physical comedy, including some that appeared to be seemingly improvised. This was demonstrated strongly in the “All About Reprecht” number, as well as many others. Again, this comedy talent was combined with strong singing and talent for a great performance that amplified that of the other leads. In the last lead position was Rowader, who we’ve seen before at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and is yet another performer with strong singing and performance abilities. I felt that she could have amped up the physical comedy a pinch more in her introductory number (“Here I Am”) and her bedroom scene with Buzz; the physical clumisness of the schlmiel that is Christine needs to appear more painful for the poor schlemazel. But in the scheme of things (hmmm, and this is a musical about the scheme of things) that’s minor — Rowader is playful and works well with both Kyer and Weston, so much so that you can see them as a realistic team. This is the heart of the show, and this is what makes it work.   [Note: For some reason, Kyer is listed as Kristopher Antekeier in the first cast list in the program.]

In the second tier we have Elizabeth Stockton (FB) as Muriel (of Omaha) and Kevin Ellis/FB (filling in for Jeff Wallach (FB)) as Andre Thibault. Stockton’s Muriel was a very strong singer and performer (although she needs to fix the timing on “I’m Muriel, of Omaha”, although the audience that remembers Marlin Perkins is probably small now), and she seemed to really enjoy the witty lines the scripts give her. We’ve seen Ellis before — most notably, his excellent performance in CSUN’s Hair back in 2006, and he continues to be a strong performer. The combination of strong singing, good timing, and comic expressions from these two just made them fun to watch. Also fun to watch was Sharon Gibson/FB‘s Jolene Oakes. Her singing could have been a little stronger in the “Oklahoma” number, but her comic reactions during “All About Ruprecht” were great.

Rounding out the cast in smaller roles and ensemble positions were: Jamie Whittington Studer (FB) (Lenore), Cynthia Caldwell/FB (Sophia / Ensemble), Tabitha Ellis (FB) (Renée / Ensemble), Julio Arroyo (FB) (Ensemble), David Bañuelos/FB (Ensemble), Chris Carnicelli (FB) (Train Conductor / Tourist / Nikos / Ensemble), Tori Cusack (FB) (Ensemble / Dance Captain), Morgan Difonzo/FB (Ensemble), Kyle Harrington/FB (Ensemble), Ryan Huebner/FB (Ensemble), Allison Lobel (FB) (Ensemble), Andy Mattick (FB) (Ensemble), and Julie Snyder (FB) (Ensemble).

The choreography was by Becky Castells (FB), and it worked reasonably well given the performer mix. What was most important about the choreography was that the performers  appeared to be having fun executing it, as opposed to focusing on getting their feet in the right places. This permitted them to enjoy the show, and pass the enjoyment to the audience. This is a good thing — I’ve seen some shows where you can see the dancers counting, and it isn’t fun.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” featured an onstage orchestra under the Musical Direction of Matthew Park. This volunteer orchestra was sizable (Cello, Reed I + II + III, Trumpet I + II, Horn, Trombone, Violin, Guitar, Bass, Synthesizer I + II, Percussion, and Drums — sometimes with multiple people for a given position) and was, for the most part, good. I say “for the most part”, because one horn (likely one of the Trumpet Is) was both too loud and out of tune, which distorted the sound of the whole. Other than that, the orchestra performed well and my only quibble was the portion of the back wall and lift controls behind the percussionist in the middle.

Turning to the technical side of things: The set was relatively simple (even simpler than the NoHo Arts set), with a stairwell/podium in the center and a number of props that moved on and off stage. This design, by the director Sean P. Harrington (FB) worked reasonably well (although it could have used a touch more elegance). No credit was provided in the program for the sound design, but the sound was clear and reasonable crisp. Lighting was by Alex Choate (FB) and was reasonable good, although at times the follow spot was a bit glaring and should have been blended better. The costumes were designed by Cynthia Caldwell/FB and were (for the most part) good. Some of the ensemble’s gowns could be fitted better, and my wife felt that Muriel’s costume in the second act needed some correction in the pants (whereas I noticed the odd bare midriff). Again, minor problems. Rounding out the production team were Megan Tisler (FB) (Production Stage Manager), Lacey Stewart/FB (Tech Director), Brenda Miller/FB (Prop Mistress), Jamie Whittington Studer (FB) (Asst. Prop Mistress), DeeAnna Caldwell/FB (Asst. Costumer), Hedy Lu Bares/FB (Asst. Costumer), Chris Slack (Set Construction), Corey Slack (Set Construction), Lynn Hubbard (Set Construction), and Jan Glasband (FB) (Flyer and Program). “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was produced by Jan Glasband (FB).

The Actors Repertory Theatre of Simi Valley (FB) production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundels” continues at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center (FB) through December 1, is and well worth seeing if you are looking for a good production of DRS at an affordable price. Tickets are available through ARTS, and discount tickets should be available through Goldstar. ARTS is also behind the upcoming Nottingham Village (FB) on November 16/17, which returns the Renaissance Festival to where it all began — eastern Ventura County! Upcoming ARTS productions at the SVCAC include “Shrek: The Musical” (March 30-April 6, 2014) — a birdie told me George Chavez/FB who we know from REP might be in this; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (June 7-July 13, 2014), and “Godspell” (July 26-August 31, 2014). Other upcoming productions at SVCAC (non-ARTS) include “Plaid Tidings” (December 7-22, 2013) and “bare – A Rock Opera” (January 11-February 15, 2014).

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  Next week is a rare theatre-free weekend, for we are visiting our buddy Thomas the Tank Engine when we volunteer at OERM over Veterans Day.  The following week will be theatre-ish, as we attend ARTS’s Nottingham Village (FB) (a one-weekend ren-faire-ish market — tickets are now on sale), as well as seeing the Trollplayers (FB) production of Steven Schwartz’s Children of Eden” (which runs November 8-17) [Trollplayers is the community theatre group at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Northridge]. That weekend will also bring a release party for a Kickstarted-CD by Big Daddy. The weekend before Thanksgiving is also very busy with three shows: Tom Paxton (FB) in concert at McCabes Santa Monica (FB) on Friday; “Play It Again Sam” at REP East (FB) on Saturday, and the rescheduled “Miracle on S. Division Street” at the Colony Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving weekend is currently open, as is much of December (December is due to the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) in New Orleans, which has me out of two the first two weekends in December… but has me wondering about New Orleans theatre), but should bring “The Little Mermaid” at Nobel Middle School, and “Peter and the Starcatcher” at The Ahmanson Theatre. Looking into January…. nothing is currently scheduled, but it will likely bring “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change“, which is the first show of the REP East (FB) season, running 1/17 through 2/15/2014… and the end of the month will bring “Forever Plaid” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Of course, we look forward to seeing you at ACSAC for the wonderful training opportunities there. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

 

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