The Ahmanson Theatre has announced their 2014-2015 season, and except for one bright spot and one maybe, it’s a big “meh”:
- A Trip To Bountiful (starring Cicely Tyson). Sept 17, 2014 – Nov 2, 2014. This one is a maybe, if only to see Cycely Tyson on stage.
- Heartbeat of Home. Dec. 9, 2014 – Jan. 18, 2015. A dance extravaganza by the producers and director of “Riverdance,” featuring tributes to dance from various nations. A big “meh”.
- Dame Edna and Barry Humphries: The Final Farewell Tour. Jan. 24, 2015 – March 15, 2015. Dame Edna and another farewell tour. Again, meh.
- Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. March 17, 2015 – April 26, 2015. I just can’t get too excited over this — I know the music; I’ve seen it on TV (for which it was originally staged). I’d rather see “State Fair“.
- Matilda: The Musical. May 29 through July 12, 2015. This one is the big “yes”.
What is it with musicals this year. The Pantages is mostly “meh”, the Ahmanson is “meh”, and Cabrillo doesn’t have anything I’ve already seen. C’mon folks. Let’s see some exciting stuff that hasn’t been in LA in a while. Hell, I”d settle for a good production of “Hello Dolly” or “Sweet Charity”. That reminds me… I wonder what Doma is doing? [Answer: Nothing of interest, as least according to their webpage]
We’ve been subscribing at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) in Thousand Oaks since forever, if the value of forever is 2001. Our first show at Cabrillo was “Anything Goes” in 2001, and since then they have been a reliable source of well-produced musicals, often ones not commonly done in the area, with great regional talent and the occasional name performer, at a reasonable price. You can see all their past seasons here. We now bring our senior mother-in-law with us, and she seems to enjoy the shows there as well.
We just got our renewal notice for the 2014-2015 season. Here are the shows in the season:
- Memphis (November 14-23, 2014). We saw the first National tour of this when it was at the Pantages. We had reasonably good seats, so we could hear well, and the plot of the show wasn’t that spectacular. At least it wasn’t a jukebox show.
- Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical. (April 17-26, 2015). We saw the first National tour of this when it was at the Ahmanson. Great production, but we were off on the side (which really didn’t hurt that much).
- Oklahoma (July 17-26, 2015). We’ve seen this before — ages ago — when it was at the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera. Not sure how much I want to see it again. It was last at Cabrillo in 1996.
- [Bonus Production] Company (January 23-February 8, 2015). We just saw an intimate scale production of this at Crown City Theatre back in March 2013. Not sure anything can top that.
In short, this is a season where I’ve seen all the shows at some point, and most I’m lukewarm about seeing again. The season ticket prices, where we’re sitting, is $108 for 3 shows, or $138 for 3 shows plus the bonus. I’m truly undecided — that money could equally well go for more shows at a smaller company (such as The Group Rep (FB)), but we would get less musicals. I could explore a different musical company, such as Musical Theatre West, which has more interesting shows, but they do a lot of shows I’ve seen anyway, plus they are down in Long Beach (an even worse schlepp from the Valley than Thousand Oaks). Their staged reading series is more interesting, but that’s only a single night (making scheduling difficult)… plus it is still in Long Beach. Actors Rep of Simi or Canyon Theatre Guild are also possibilities, but they are much more at the regional/amateur theatre level.
P.S.: Wonderful quote in the review of “Discord”: “They quickly get on one another’s nerves: Imagine the dramaturgical love-child of “Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit.””
The Pantages (Broadway LA) has announced their 2014-2015 season, and so I thought I would share my thoughts on it:
- Jersey Boys (October 1-19, 2014). I saw it at the Ahmanson. I have no strong desire to see it again. Why do they keep cycling through this stuff that has been through so recently. Pass.
- Pippin (October 21-November 9, 2014). I’ve seen this twice – once at East West, and once (if I recall correctly) at Reprise. I’ve heard the music from this version, and I’m not happy how they changed things. Still, I’m curious how the circus theme has been worked in, so I want to see this. Will Ticket.
- Kinky Boots (November 11-30, 2014). Heard the music. Liked it. This is one I want to see. Will Ticket.
- Wicked (December 10, 2014-February 1, 2015). I’ve seen this, and I have no strong desire to see it again. Pass.
- Disney’s Newsies The Musical (March 24-April 19, 2015). I like the music to this. Will Ticket.
- Motown The Musical (April 28-June 7, 2015). A jukebox tuner, with good music. This is a maybe. May Ticket.
- Phantom of the Opera (June 10-26, 2015). Saw this ages ago, and I have no desire to see it again. Ponderous in my book. Hell no.
As for what is left in the current season:
- The Book of Mormon (January 21-May 11, 2014). Saw it. No strong desire to see it again. Pass.
- American Idiot (May 13-May 18, 2014). Saw it at the Ahmanson. No strong desire to see it again. Pass.
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (June 2-22, 2014). It was the first show I ever saw at the Pantages in the 1980s, and I’ve seen it a few times since. Pass.
- Ghost The Musical (June 27-July 13, 2014). Heard the music. Sound interesting. Will Ticket.
- Once The Musical (July 15-August 10, 2014). This sounds interesting, although I’m afraid that it will get lost in the Pantages. This needs to be in a much smaller theatre. Still… Will Ticket.
Theatres in financial trouble often have a problem with communication. Instead of cultivating their subscribers and donors by providing financial information transparently, they keep the financial information under wraps, serving only to create uncertainty. When information does come out, often it shows up in the newspapers before subscribers know. We saw this happen time and again with the Pasadena Playhouse, its bankruptcy and rebirth… and it left a bad taste in our mouths. The situation with The Colony Theatre in Burbank has been a little better: they’ve had their financial panic (in the fall, the 38-year-old Colony was on the brink of shutting down and was looking to raise $500,000 by the end of 2012), but were able to eke out finishing the season, and have been reasonably good about getting out emails (although the financial updates have been few and far between).
Uncertainty, at least for the Colony, has been made worse by their delaying of the announcement of the 2013-2014 season. Normally this happens around January-February. There was still no announcement when the final show of last season closed in late June, and the usual response has been “we’re waiting.”
Thus, I was pleased (and not surprised) to find the answer show up in today’s LA Times
[note that there is nothing about this on the Colony Website, nor have they sent email to subscribers yet] . What’s happening?
- The Colony will limp on into another year, thanks to a donation from a long-time unnamed subscriber. According to the Artistic Director, Barbara Beckley, “We are stabilized but you never know what the future holds.” The company hopes to raise a total of $1 million for the new season with the help of subscription renewals.
- The Colony has announced their new season: Daniel Beaty’s “Breath and Imagination” (Sept. 14 to Oct. 13); Tom Dudzick’s “Miracle on South Division Street” (Nov. 9 to Dec. 15); Lissa Levin’s “Sex and Education” (Feb. 15 to March 16) [which was last produced in Burbank at the VTC in 2011]; and a revival of James Goldman’s “The Lion in Winter” (April 19 to May 7). This is four shows, down from six in 2012-2013 and 2011-2012, and five in previous seasons. It was prefaced in the LA Times article with “includes”, so there might be an additional show. Although not noted by the Times, “Breath and Imagination” is a musical that explores the life of an American pioneer through words, movement, spirituals and classical music; this is its West Coast premiere.
not yet received new subscription material from the Colony , so I have no idea if the 4-show season will be less expensive than the 5- or 6- show seasons were. Past seasons were around $200 per subscription (much more affordable than the Pasadena Playhouse ever was).
P.S.: Alas, another thing I subscribe to did just die: PC World magazine is no more.
On Wednesday, the Ahmanson Theatre announced their 2013-2014 season. As I do with other major theatres, I thought I would share with you, over lunch, my plans regarding the announced shows:
- “The Sunshine Boys“ (Oct. 2 to Nov. 3). The Savoy Theatre production of the Neil Simon comedy, with Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths. Maybe.
- “Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty“ (Nov. 21 to Dec. 1). Bonus show – the theatrical presentation of the ballet being presented at the Music Center. Perhaps, although I’m not a big ballet fan.
- “Peter and the Starcatcher“ (Dec. 4 to Jan. 12). The national tour of the Broadway play with music. Casting not yet announced. Yes.
- “Harmony” (March 12, 2014 to April 13, 2014). A new musical written by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. The show is inspired by the real-life story of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of young singers who rose to fame in Germany before World War II. (ETA: LA Stage Blog noted “a half-Jewish singing group in German during the Third Reich”, so this could be interesting). It has been in development for over 15 years, with prior productions in La Jolla (1997) and Atlanta (earlier in 2013). Maybe.
- The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess“ (April 23, 2014 to June 1, 2014). I last saw Porgy and Bess in the 1970s when the Houston Grand Opera brought it to Los Angeles. This production got some mixed reviews for how it restaged things, so I’m not chomping at the bit for it. Maybe.
- “The Last Confession“ (June 11, 2014 to July 6, 2014). Bonus show – part of the Taper season but presented at the Ahmanson. A Vatican drama. Uninterested.
- “We Will Rock You“ (July 16, 2014 to Aug. 24). The long-running London musical created by Ben Elton that uses the music of the rock group Queen. Uninterested.
So, where do you think I’m going wrong. Are any of these “must sees” that I misjudged?
Music: The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire): “Plume De Radis”
Staring at the collected links today while eating my salad over lunch identified two distinct themes. The first brings together a number of entertainment items of interest:
- Money for Music. Some interesting numbers out of SXSW 2013 provide a picture of entertainment spending: Serious music fans spend over $442/year on music. Specifically, Neilsen has identified three core consumer categories. The “aficionado” is willing to spend more than $422 per year on music, concerts and artist merch, and does so via sites such as iTunes, Amazon and indie outlets. The “digital fan” was determined to spend about $363 per year and views a smartphone or tablet as the entertainment hub. Finally, the “big box” fan shops at mass retailers, is partial to pop and country and spends, on average, $196 per year on music. Those who can be classified as music fans account for nearly 75% of all music spending in the U.S. The bad news? The most avid of fans in Nielsen’s sampling of 4,000 consumers downloaded the most tracks for free, approximately 30 in a year. What’s more, those classified as “music fans” account for just 40% of the music-buying public in America. Based on these numbers, I’m in the aficionado group — about 3-4 times per year, I’ll do a $100+ music buy — usually a mix of used CDs, new CDs, LPs, and digital music. I go to lots of concerts and musicals during the year, but don’t buy that much merch. I also listen to my music — I’ll note my Music playlist on the iPod is at 30,888 tracks, and nearly two-thirds of those tracks have been listened to at least 8 times.
- Blood on the Stage. This is some exciting news. Playbill has announced that the Transfer Theatre Company will be mounting a production of the musical “Carrie” this fall. Transfer Theatre Company is what used to be known as the Neighborhood Theatre of Palos Verdes. In that guise, we saw truly excellent productions of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Parade” (the latter even better than what the Mark Taper Forum did). So I’m really excited about TTC’s production of Carrie. The original production was a notorious flop; the revival redeemed the musical’s reputation, and I can’t wait to see what TTC will do with it.
- Veronica Mars Lives. Now I’m not into TV that much, except for a few guilty pleasures (cough, Dallas, cough, Survivor, cough, Smash). But I have been having fun with Kickstarter lately, so an article in EW about the brief UPN/CW series “Veronica Mars” being revived for a movie was interesting. Why? Because the only way it will happen is if a $2 million, 30-day Kickstarter succeeds. I’ve seen Kickstarter used for lots of things — cast albums, theatre productions, and some specialized movie projects, but this is the first time I’ve seen it for a major-market product with a major studio. It is also a gigantic amount they need to raise. It will be interesting to see if they can do it. [Note: In less than a day, they've raised over $800,000; if this pace continues, reaching $2,000,000 is clearly possible.] [ETA: In less than 8 hours, they are up to 1.84 million. I expect them to reach their goal in under 24 hours. Amazing!] [ETAA: They made it, in less than a day. Expect to see funding efforts for movies like this again.]
Music: The Wedding Singer (Original Broadway Cast): “If I Told You”
While reading the news over lunch, I noticed that the Pantages Theatre (Broadway LA) has just announced their 2013-2014 season, so I thought I would post my assessment of it, and which shows I plan to see:
- The Wizard of Oz (Sep 17 – Oct 6, 2013). This is the Andrew Lloyd Weber reworking, with a number of additional songs. I have the album of the new version, and the lead (at least in the London cast) has a number of weird and interesting vocal inflections. I know this story by heart… and have seen it many many many times (as well as many many many ancillary productions) … but also have a soft spot for it. Maybe.
[As a P.S. on Oz, there was a interesting article earlier this week in the LVRJ about L. Frank Baum's great-grandson, who is still writing Oz books.]
- War Horse (Oct 8 – 13, 2013). The show whose main draw on stage is a gigantic horse puppet. That wasn’t enough to draw me in when it was at the Ahmanson for $20 tickets. It certainly is not enough of a draw to get me to the Pantages with worse sight lines and higher ticket prices. Uninterested.
- Evita (Oct 23 – Nov 10, 2013). I saw Evita when it was out in its original incarnation at the Shubert Theatre in Century City in the 1980s. I saw it again recently at a surprisingly good production at Van Nuys High School. I have no urge to see it again. Uninterested.
- The Lion King (Nov 20, 2013 – Jan 12, 2014). I saw The Lion King during its first run at the Pantages many many years ago. It’s been back numerous times since then. I’m not aware of anything in this production that makes me want to see this retread. Uninterested.
- The Book of Mormon (Jan 21 – Feb 9, 2014). Hello. My name is Elder I-Just-Saw-This-A-Year-Ago. Why would I want to go and see this show again? Uninterested.
- Green Day’s American Idiot (May 13 – 18, 2014). This is another show that was just recently in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson. As with Lion King, I’m not sure that there was enough different in this run to make it worth a second visit. Uninterested.
- The Music of Andrew Lloyd Weber (Jun 3 – 22, 2014). A jukebox show of Sir Andrew’s music, including some from Love Never Dies. Weber is like Wildhorn — you either love or hate his work. Although I like some of his early shows, his later stuff has been mostly ponderous, and I have no strong urge to see a jukebox show of his stuff. Uninterested.
- Ghost: The Musical (Jun 27 – Jul 13, 2014). This is a new musical that did so-so on Broadway. I’ve got the album, and actually find it enjoyable, but have never seen the original movie. Probably.
- Once: The Musical (Jul 15 – Aug 10, 2014). This is the musical that has surprised everyone. An intimate musical with a folk-ish score, it has been winning Tony awards and Grammy awards left and right. But it is also being done at the Pantages, which doesn’t quite fit with the notion of intimate musical. I’ll likely go see this, and then hope for an intimate, more regional production. Probably.
That’s it. The Broadway LA 2013-2014 season. Mostly, ehhh, with a few possibilities.
P.S.: And an ancillary note regarding the Oscars, which are relevant because the Pantages hosted the Oscars in the 1950s, including the first televised ceremony. It appears that this year, the leggy busty models will be not used to present the statuettes. Rather, that honor is going to six aspiring filmmakers who won a contest. What happened is this. One of the co-producers of the Oscars, Neil Meron, believed “This tradition of the buxom babe that comes out and brings the trophy to the presenter to give to the winner seemed to be very antiquated and kind of sexist, too. They’re just there to be objectified. Why can’t we have people who actually care about film and are the future of film be the trophy presenters?” So he and co-producer Craig Zadan developed a contest directed at college students that asked: How will you contribute to the future of film? More than 1,100 students submitted essays and videos, and six were chosen to appear on the Oscar telecast. All six winning students will walk on the Oscar stage during Sunday’s ceremony. They’re each getting a makeover and formal tuxedo or gown for the event as well.
P.P.S.: As it is still lunch hour, a few thoughts on tours and revivals. There’s a meme going around on Facebook about supporting local and independent artists, and that’s one thing I like to do with live theatre. For the small and mid-size venues, it is all about the local institutions and local performers and local technicians. But what about the big institutions and tours. Many of these (such as the recent Backbeat at the Ahmanson) had no local performers or staff; this is also often the case at the Pantages/BroadwayLA productions. These productions, while supporting a small number of local artists, primarily line the pockets of the commercial producing organization, with a small about to the local producing organization. That’s OK, as it encourages said producers to keep producing work, but it’s not the reason I choose to go. My primary reason for going is whether I’m interested in the particular show. For such productions, my priorities are (a) new shows that I think may move to Broadway or other significance (e.g., Backbeat, Les Jazz) ; (b) revivals that aren’t simply retreads, but are reimagine-ings of existing properties (e.g., Sweeny Todd); and (c) shows that I haven’t seen before but want to see. So when the Pantages presents a season of shows I’ve seen, with the only difference being a new tour cast, I have no urge to see them again.
Just received the announcement of the Cabillo Music Theatre 2013-2014 season. Here are the shows and my thoughts thereupon:
- Kiss Me Kate, October 18-27, 2013. It’s been ages since I’ve seen this, and it has wonderful music. It will be nice to see it again. Based on the advertising, this appears to be based on currently licensed 1999 version.
- Forever Plaid, January 31-February 9, 2014. I’ve seen this numerous times, from the original production at The Pasadena Playhouse in 1991 to the most recent Cabrillo production in 2006 (and that’s not counting the holiday variations such as Plaid Tidings in 2001). I’m not that excited about seeing it again, but that’s probably just me. It’s a great show and a crowd pleaser, and should do well for the Cabrillo audience in the Winter “jukebox” slot. The licensed version says one act, but I recall an intermission.
- In The Heights, March 28-April 6, 2014. We last saw this in 2010 at the Pantages, and the Pantages ruined the show. We were in the balcony, and the sound was so muddled we really couldn’t follow the story. Thus I’m looking forward to this production where I can actually see the show. It will be really interesting to see how Cabrillo handles this in what is likely one of the first regional (non-tour) productions.
- Bye, Bye, Birdie, July 18-27, 2014.I haven’t seen this on stage in ages, or at least long enough that I don’t remember it. It’s a good and fun show, and I’m surprised that the latest incarnation wasn’t a long runner on Broadway. This is the sort of show that Cabrillo can do well. Unclear what version they are doing, or if they are adding any songs.
In summary, a reasonable season. Three shows it will be good to see again, and one “eh” but tolerable. No shows that are new to me, but that’s getting harder to do. I’m sure we’ll renew, and we’ll likely move from the balcony to the mezzanine (the balcony is getting too steep for my wife and her mom to handle). Right now, we’re the penultimate performance the last Saturday at 8pm. We might change that to the first Sunday matinee or the 2nd Saturday matinee if the wife and M-I-L prefer. We moved to Saturday night to accommodate our daughter, but going back to the Saturday matinee could impact the occasional So Cal Games Day, or impact seeing a Saturday night show.