Observations Along the Road

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

Is It Worth It?

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Apr 30, 2014 @ 9:15 pm PST

userpic=theatre_ticketsI’ve been doing some theatre planning for the upcoming months/trips. There are some shows I’m interested in seeing, but I can’t decide the best approach to take, given the cost. Here’s what I’m exploring: opinions are welcome.

  • Stoneface at the Pasadena Playhouse. Tickets are $34 to $39 on Goldstar, but have a service charge of $7.50 each. I’m not sure if the Pasadena Playhouse is worth $42-$45 per ticket (I don’t pay that much for tours at the Pantages). Still, it is French Stewart as Buster Keaton…
  • Evil Dead – The Musical at V Theatre, Las Vegas. Tickets are $29.95 for Saturday at 11:30pm, or $32.95 for Tuesday at 10:00pm, which is reasonable. However, they want to add service charges of $6-$8 per ticket. I’m not sure I want to pay that much for what is a parody show (even if it is funny). I’m wondering if I can get the tickets at one of the discount booths on the strip for a lower service charge.
  • Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo. Here I’ve found a deal for $59 a ticket… which is a good price. But they take you to the Monte Carlo box office (good), which uses Ticketmaster (bad)… meaning there are likely surcharges on the order of $10 per ticket. Again, I’m normally not in that ticket price range. Is it worth it?



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Saturday (ummm) Gruel: Sex, Judaism, Surviving, and Carrie

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 26, 2014 @ 6:18 am PST

Observation StewThis has been an even busier week than usual — I’ve barely had time to keep up with my RSS feeds and skim the LA Times. So I’ve only got a few items for you this week:

  • Not Tonight, Dear, I have a headache. In a scientific survey destined to end up on “Wait Wait”, scientists have shown that headaches impact a woman’s sexual desire much more than they impact the desire of men. Specifically, new research has shown that for female mice, bodily pain puts a serious damper on sexual desire, but pain-reduction can help restore libido squelched by physical discomfort. However, for men, the desire to have sex wasn’t dampened even if you kick them in the nuts. But is this really news?
  • It’s your shul on line 1… Here’s an article that every synagogue (and probably church) board member should read: What if your synagogue called and didn’t ask for money? The answer, not surprisingly, is that people are much more receptive. This goes to what a number of URJ leaders are saying these days: focus on building the relationship, and not getting the donations. When the relationship is strong, the donations will show up. Will temple boards listen, however, and pay this more than lip service?
  • Connections. Every week the Jewish Journal highlights a holocaust survivor (and I’ll note that this weekend is Yom Hashoah). This week, it was Frank Schiller. I’m not sure if I ever met Frank, but I did go to both camp and temple with Frank’s children, Gary and Vicky. Haven’t seen them in years, but I’d love to get back in touch.
  • La Mirada Season. Lastly, the La Mirada Theatre has announced their 2014-2015 season. It consists of “Good People“, “Late Nite Catechism Las Vegas: Sister Rolls the Dice“, “Billy Elliot” (the musical), a musical version of “Pride and Prejudice“, “Mary Poppins” (the musical), two special events (“Dancing with a Twist” and an Amy Grant concert), and the musical “Carrie“. Of these, “Carrie” is unique enough to get me to travel down to La Mirada. Already blocking it off on my calendar.


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Thoughts on a Theatre Season – Ahmanson 2014-2015

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 13, 2014 @ 7:29 pm PST

userpic=ahmansonThe Ahmanson Theatre has announced their 2014-2015 season, and except for one bright spot and one maybe, it’s a big “meh”:

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]

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Thoughts on a Theatre Season – Cabrillo 2014-2015

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jan 23, 2014 @ 7:41 pm PST

Cabrillo UserpicWe’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.””

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Thoughts on a Theatre Season – Pantages 2014-2015

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jan 13, 2014 @ 7:52 pm PST

userpic=broadwaylaThe 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.


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The Colony Theatre Survives to see 2014 (was: Limping Into Another Year)

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:52 am PST

userpic=colonyTheatres 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] [Update: A nice letter was awaiting me when I got home, and there was an email awaiting as well. Well done; head and shoulders above the Pasadena Playhouse]. 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.

We have not yet received new subscription material from the Colony (it was part of the letter awaiting me when I got home), so I have no idea if the 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). The shortened 4-show season is $160 per subscription.

P.S.: Alas, another thing I subscribe to did just die: PC World magazine is no more.

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Assessing the Ahmanson Season

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Mar 14, 2013 @ 12:19 pm PST

userpic=ahmansonOn 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”

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Entertainment News to Chew On: Music Spending, Carrie in Los Angeles, Veronica Mars

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 13, 2013 @ 11:23 am PST

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”

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