🛣 Updates to the California Highways Web Pages | August – November 2019

As promised, the posting of the November headlines was the lead in to the bigger post: the semi-periodic update to the California Highways web pages.  This took a month to work in: reviewing four months of headlines, loads of posts on AAroads, all the stuff the legislature has done, and the CTC minutes for August, October, and December. I’ve also started adding pictures, where I can, where there are naming resolutions — to put a face with the name. Here’s the summary of the changes. Lots of interesting stuff, if you read through.

It’s been a few months. That means it’s time for another update. But first, some site redesign news … which is still no news. I have written a Javascript routine to handle the redirects once I move the individual route pages to one per page, so that old links don’t break. But other aspects are still pending my learning more about responsive design, and figure out how I want to improve indexing of the original route pages (I want to make it so you can jump directly to a section or subsection). I also still need to figure out exactly how I want the site to look. On the editor front: I’m still using Amaya as the main editor even thought it is no longer updated. I’ve been experimenting with both BlueGriffon and Pinegrow to see which generates the cleanest code and is easiest to use. But each has their quirks in the code that they generate.

I’ve also been hesitant in this update because of the Caltrans rework I mentioned in the last update. Many typical resources and pages are not available and are still pending remediation. My offer still stands to Caltrans: I will be glad to host any unremediated information — or will find someone to do so if the information doesn’t fit in this site — pending remediation and rehosting on the Caltrans website. I am already hosting the Bridge Logs on my my Caltrans Resources page.

Moving on to the updates, starting with headlines, emailed items, and AAroads forum updates: Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Brian Scott Anderson(2), Mike Ballard(3), Concrete Bob on AARoads(4), Mike Boultinghouse(5), DT Composer on AARoads(6), Sahand Cyrusian(7), Tom Fearer(8), Mark Fuqueron(9), Jeffe at AARoads(10), Nick Karels(11), Cameron Kaiser on AARoads(12), Plutonic Panda on AARoads(13), Scott Parker on AARoads(14), Chris Sampang on AARoads(15): Route 1(1,8), Route 2(1), I-5(1,14), US 6(3), Route 7(1), I-10(1), LRN 10(8), Route 11(1), Route 12(1,11), Pre-1963 Route 14(1,14), I-15(12), Route 16(1), Route 18(1,8,14), Route 20(1), Route 21(8), Route 23(1), Route 24(8), Route 25(1), Route 29(1), Route 34(1,8), Route 35(1), Route 37(1), Route 39(1), US 40(8,14), Route 44(1), Route 46(1), US 40(8), US 50(1,8), Route 53(1), Route 58(1,8), Route 60(1), US 60(8), Route 61(1), Route 63(1,8), Route 65(8,4), US 66(5), Route 68(1), Route 70(1), US 70(8), Route 71(1,14), Route 74(1,8), Route 75(1), Route 78(1), Route 79(1,8,14), I-80(1), Route 82(1), Route 83(1,8,14), Route 84(1), Route 88(1), Route 89(1), Route 91(1,8,13), US 91(1,14), Route 92(1), Route 99(1), US 99(2,3,8), US 101(1,8,10), Route 102(8), Route 104(1), Route 107(14), Route 110(1), Route 111(1,8), Route 113(1), Route 118(1,8), Route 119(1), Route 120(8), Route 132(1,8), Route 138 (High Desert Corridor)(1), Route 140(8), Route 141(11), Route 143(8,4), Route 144(8), Route 145(1), LRN 146(1), Route 148(8), Route 150(8), Route 154(8,6), Route 156(8), Route 160(1,8,14,15), Route 162(1,8), Route 163(1), Route 165(1,8), Route 168(8), LRN 175(1), Route 177(1,8), Route 178(8), LRN 178(1), LRN 181(1), Route 183(8), Route 189(8), Route 192(1,8), Route 193(8,14), Route 195(1,8), Route 198(8), I-210(1), Route 214(1), Route 217(8), Route 220(1), Route 221(1,8,14), Route 224(8), Route 225(8), Route 227(1), Route 231(8), Route 232(8), Route 237(1), Route 239(8), Route 241(1,9,13), Route 243(1,8), Route 244(8,4), Route 246(8), Route 257(14), Route 282(1), Route 371(1,8,14), I-380(1), US 395(1), I-405(1), I-580(1,8), I-605(1), I-680(1,8), I-710(1), Route 740(8), County Sign Route B1(1,8), County Sign Route G4(1), County Sign Route J4(8), County Sign Route J14(1,8), County Sign Route J19(1,8,14), County Sign Route J132(8), County Sign Route R1(8), County Sign Route R3(1,8), County Sign Route S32(1), CR 66(7).

Added some more information to the El Camino Real page. Updated information on the numbering of Forest Routes.

Noted the following Caltrans pages are still broken: All the links to the highway exit numbering PDFs from Cal-Nexus.

I have made the decision that, for the naming resolutions, I’ve decided to start putting pictures of the honoree or dedication if I can find them. Our remembrances need to be more than a meaningless name on a highway. Although I believe there are better ways to remember someone than naming a stretch of road after them, if the family is going to go to that effort, I should make the effort to make the backstory on the person available, and to put a face with the name. This will be done piecemeal as I work on pages, but as of the time I have uploaded this, I have completed Route 1 through Route 5.

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the new California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. As many people are unfamilair with how the legislature operates (and why there are so many “non-substantive changes” and “gut and amend” bills), I’ve added the legislative calendar to the end of the Pending Legislation page. I’ll slowly be going back and adding pictures as I have the time. I noted the passage or veto of the following bills and resolutions:

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🛣 Headlines About California Highways – November 2019

It’s that time of the month again: time for sharing the collection of headlines about California highways from November. It’s been an interesting and busy month, especially as I’ve been working on that highway pages. That’s what the little ✔ means — because all month I’ve been going through these headlines for the pages, and the next post on the blog should be the page updates. This, of course, means I’m still working on the updates, so let’s get the headlines out of the way so I can get back to work.

But first: It is Thanksgiving time, and I’d like to express my thanks for those who read and enjoy these posts, who comment on them, and who share information with me for my pages. This is truly a community effort — I’m not doing this to make money. You help make this a resource for the community.

  • ✔ CA-99 Widening Defunded – Where is the Money Going?. Two weeks ago, CBS47 lobbed the following headline: Gov. Newsom redirects gas tax money to fund railway systems, not highways. Unfortunately, the reporting was pretty light on details. Where is the money going? Where did the money even come from? CBS got the following statement from Caltrans: …
  • ✔ Route to Idyllwild Reopens After 8-Month Closure Due to Storm Damage. When heavy rainfall pounded the San Jacinto Mountains back in February, water and debris flooded the scenic mountain highway that leads to Idyllwild. A section of a mountain slope buckled near Lake Fulmor during the storm, leaving behind a gaping hole in the roadway that serves as the main route in and out of the Idyllwild, Mountain Center and Pine Cove mountain communities.
  • ✔ Route 243 Opens. State Route 243 Opening today at 6 p.m. #Caltrans8
  • ✔ Second segment of Los Patrones Parkway opens in Rancho Mission Viejo. The southern segment of Los Patrones Parkway opened to traffic in Rancho Mission Viejo on Thursday, Oct. 17. The completed project extended the parkway about a mile and a half from Chiquita Canyon Drive to Cow Camp Road. “It really begins to open up our community to the broader south county region in terms of access and mobility, so we are really excited about it,” said Mike Balsamo, senior vice president of governmental relations for Rancho Mission Viejo.
  • ✔ 60 Truck Lanes Newsletter (October 2019). Progress! Our crews are continuing to make headway with construction of the State Route 60 Truck Lanes Project, with a focus in  September on excavation, drainage, wildlife crossings, and dust control. On the north side of Route 60, crews are building large slopes to excavate and deposit excess dirt from the hillsides. Our team is moving an average of 15,000 cubic yards of dirt per day to adjacent fill locations. This will prevent dirt from needing to be hauled off-site, saving 14,000 truck trips to and from the project area.

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🎭 A Band of Veterans | “Bandstand” @ ATG/Broadway in Thousand Oaks

Bandstand (American Theatre Guild/Broadway in Thousand Oaks)When you think about Broadway Tours coming to Los Angeles, where do they go first? If you said the Hollywood Pantages (FB) or the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), you would probably be right … and if the tour was a non-Equity tour, the Pantages / Dolby complex would pretty much be the only choice. Depending on the tour, it might hit the Segerstrom in Orange County first, but a non-Equity tour would end up at the Pantages.

Unless, of course, the Pantages’ schedule was full. And the Pantages’ schedule was full in 2019-2020, especially with longer sit-down engagements for Frozen and Hamilton at the Pantages, and having to fit programs around the Dolby’s concert schedule. What’s a touring show to do?

Go to Thousand Oaks.

And so, rarity of rarities, the premiere of the tour of the Broadway musical Bandstand in Southern California found itself part of the Broadway in Thousand Oaks/American Theatre Guild 2019-2020 schedule, together with secondary market tour visits of shows that had been at the Pantages in previous seasons: Finding Neverland, BeautifulJersey BoysAn American in Paris, and Riverdance. An extremely rare sighting. The American Theatre Guild rarely gets the first edition of a tour in the area.

Now, you might not have heard of Bandstand. It didn’t last long on Broadway: 24 previews, 166 performances. The authors and composing team (Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor) were new on Broadway, although they did score with a hot choreographer — Andy Blankenbuehler, known for Hamilton among other shows. The title of the show was misleading, evoking images of Dick Clark and the 1950s, as opposed to WWII and the Big Band era. In its execution, it touched on subjects of current relevance — the treatment of veterans, survivors guilt, PTSD. In fact, the show is 6 Certified, approved by an effort to show veterans in entertainment accurately. Still, the Broadway run was a failure, then why tour? The answer is the show is very good, and the producers obviously felt it would touch a nerve in America’s heartland with its message. I could see that easily in Thousand Oaks, for Ventura County is a strong pro-military county with the Naval Base nearby. There are no fancy projections or stage tricks in this show: it will do much better touring and in regional productions than in the jaded environment that is Broadway and New York. And that’s OK.

Of course, I’m writing this up because I saw the show last night. I learned about the show shortly after the cast album came out in 2017, and I fell in love with the music and the story. So when I learned the tour was coming to Thousand Oaks … after getting over my shock of the first appearance of the tour being in T.O. … I put the date on my calendar and a reminder to get tickets as soon as they went on sale.

Here’s the summary of the show as written up on the ATG website:

1945: As America’s soldiers come home to ticker-tape parades and overjoyed families, Private First Class Donny Novitski, singer and songwriter, returns to rebuild his life with only the shirt on his back and a dream in his heart. When NBC announces a national competition to find the nation’s next great musical superstars, inspiration strikes! Donny joins forces with a motley group of fellow veterans, each an astonishing musician. Together, they form a band unlike any the nation has ever seen. Along the way, they discover the power of music to face the impossible, find their voice and finally feel like they have a place to call home.

Essentially, the through line is this: Donny Novitski comes back from WWII wanting to pick up the life he had — playing piano and accordion. But he can’t find any jobs, and he’s advised to do something before the nightmares from the war starts. Hearing about the NBC contest, he decides to build up a band of veterans. He does, going on recommendations from his buddies. But each, like Donny, are damaged goods in their own way: shell-shocked from the war, dealing with stress through the bottle or retreating from people or … . Part of Donny’s stress comes from an obligation to his war buddy, Michael, to take care of his widow, Julia. The problem: Michael was killed by friendly-fire, and Donny has survivors guilt. But he recruits Julia to be the band’s singer, and the competition starts. What happens then is somewhat predicable: they win contests, there’s a spark between Donny and Julia, they eventually get to New York after some trials and tribulations. But with their gimmick, they get on the show … but Donny inadvertently signs away the rights to their big song (if they perform it). So instead, they change the song they are performing to one that tells the truth of what happens to vets when they return — how the “Welcome Home” isn’t quite what is expected. They lose the battle, but win the war.

I knew the outlines of the story going in from the cast album. But I was touched by how much the story moved me — and clearly, from the reaction, how much it moved the veterans and active duty service in the audience. It is the first accurate portrayal on stage, in a musical, of how war impacts the veterans. This isn’t a South Pacific. This shows war as doing ugly things to good people, and how a handshake and $25 doesn’t make up for it.

But I can also see why the Pantages might have hesitated on the show. This wasn’t a mediocre show built around the jukebox of a name star (SummerBodyguard) that has a built in audience of the fans of that music. It wasn’t a blockbuster that won major awards and is well known, and wasn’t built around a known property. It was a hard show to sell to those unfamiliar with it. It is also unclear how well it might play in the larger LA market, where the playing to active duty might be a lot harder. This show needs to build its word of mouth from the cities near bases first. But for the American Theatre Guild, it was a chance to get the premiere of a show in Southern California.

If you know veterans or active duty folks, or care about our military (even if you don’t necessarily agree with their actions), see this. It presents a great portrayal of how calling these men and women’s “heroes” is a gloss over what they’ve been through. I think the show accurately addresses how those who haven’t been through military service don’t understand the adjustment back to civilian life, and how veterans cope. I think it can spark a wonderful discussion to that affect. I also think its important to encourage new authors and new music and original books for Broadway. One can get tired of “screen-to-stage” musicals or the minimal-book jukebox shows.

As I noted before, this is a non-Equity tour. This means the performers are often much younger. They haven’t been on Broadway yet — this is often getting them the experience they need to make that leap. They may be long established in regional markets, or in other union efforts (e.g., theatrical, variety, or music). We found the cast of this show to be extremely talented.

This show was “based on” the original direction and choreography of Andy Blankenbuehler. Tour direction was by Gina Rattan, with restaging and additional choreography by Marc Heitzman. The movement from the original direction and dance teams was likely due to the short Broadway run and the interval between closing and the set up of the tour. The team did a good job with their young actors, inspiring and leading a very professional production in its execution. The actors were clearly having fun with this show, were inhabiting and believing in their characters (even in the smallest ensemble roles), and did a great job in creating a believable story for the audience.

In the lead positions were Zack Zaromatidis (FBDonny Novitski and Jennifer Elizabeth Smith (⭐FB, FB) Julia Trojan. Zaromatidis did a great job capturing both the enthusiasm and sadness of Novitski, as well as playing mean piano. He had a strong chemistry with Smith’s Julia. Smith had a lovely singing voice and had such a glow about her showing a wonderful inner strength. The two were quite fun to watch. Smith also did a great job of capturing the damage on the other side of the war: how the loss of a loved one, and the lack of knowledge of how it happened, can create trauma as well.

Supporting Zaromatidis’s Novitski as the other members of the band were Rob Clove (⭐FB, FB) Jimmy Campbell – Saxophone; Benjamin Powell (FBDavy Zlatic – Upright Bass; Scott Bell (FBNick Radel – Trumpet; Louis Jannuzzi III (FB) Wayne Wright – Trombone; and Jonmichael Tarleton (FBJohnny Simpson – Drums. All were extremely strong musicians, and they made great music as a group. I particularly appreciated, on the music front, the creativity — such as Tarleton playing percussion off the bridge of Powell’s bass. But these young men were also strong actors, capturing well the nuances of the individual character’s isolations — be it Powell capturing Zlatic’s descent into the bottle; Tarleton capturing the damage from the Jeep rollover to Simpson; Bell capturing the pent up anger in Radel. All were just wonderful.

The last major supporting performer was Roxy York (FBMrs. June Adams. I found her character to be a bit much, but I think that’s how the character was written — and was yet another coping mechanism.

Rounding out the cast were the ensemble members and the swings (and as there was no board, we must assume there were no swings on-stage in our performance). It is important to note the extreme talent in this bunch of people, as all were understudying leads to some extent — meaning that all were capable of playing one or more musical instruments as well as their singing and dancing capabilities. The ensemble is also to be complemented for the characters they created. Particularly in the dance and band numbers, I was watching the ensemble in the background, and they were creating such wonderfully rounded characters and performances. You were seen! The ensemble and swings consisted of Shaunice Alexander (FB) Jean Ann Ryan, Ensemble; Beth Anderson (FBEnsemble; Milena J. Comeau (FBEnsemble; Ryan P. Cyr (FBEnsemble; Michael Hardenberg (FBEnsemble; Andre Malcolm (FBEnsemble; Kaitlyn Mayse (FBEnsemble; Matthew Mucha (⭐FB, FB) Andre, Ensemble; Mallory Nolting (FBEnsemble; Taylor Okey (FBOliver, Ensemble; and Cameron Turner (FBEnsemble. Swings were: Michael Bingham (FBSwing; Sarah Dearstyne (FBSwing; Katie Pohlman (⭐FB, FB) Swing, Dance Captain; and Oz Shoshan (FB) Swing, Dance Captain.

Supporting the on-stage actor/musicans in the pit, under the music direction of Miles Plant, were Miles Plant Keyboard; Brian Victor (FBAssistant Music Director / Keyboard 2 / Guitar / Ukulele; Michael Brinzer (⭐FB, FB) Reeds; Ross Kratter (⭐FB, FB) Bass; and Brian Ganch (FBDrums. Other music credits: Fred Lassen (FB) Music Supervisor; Christopher Gurr (FBAssoc Music Supervisor; Randy Cohen (FB) Keyboard Programmer; Emily Grishman Music Preparation/Alden Terry Music Copying; Greg Anthony Rassen (FB) Music Arranger. The Tony-Award winning orchestrations were by Bill Elliott (🎷FB) & Greg Anthony Rassen (FB) Co-Orchestrators.

Turning to the production and creative side of things: The scenic design for the show was surprisingly simple, especially when compared to the projection-laden and special-effect laden extravaganzas that have shown up at the Pantages and Ahmanson of late. Credit to David Korins (🖼FB) for a simple nightclub set that, when combined with effective props, provided the locations needed, and was easily adaptable to radio studios. It is nice to see a scenic design that will be within the means of a regional or amateur production in the future … this ensures the life of the show. Paloma Young (FB)’s costume design seemed appropriately period, with only a little more stocking instruction needed of the ensemble. Similarly, J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova (FB)’s makeup, hair, and wig design seemed appropriately period. Jeff Croiter (FB)’s lighting design established mood well. Nevin Steinberg (FB)’s original sound design appeared to hold up in the Kavli, but that Kavli (unlike the Pantages) has good sound bones to begin with. Rounding out the production credits: Kate Lumpkin (🎭FB) Casting; David Kreppel Vocal Music Arranger; Alice Renier (⭐FBActing Coach; Elizabeth Allen (FBProduction Stage Manager; Emily Pathman (FBAssistant Stage Manager; Michael Coglan (FB) Company Manager; Mark Stuart (FB) Original Assoc. Choreographer; Jaime Verazin Original Asst. Choreographer; Work Light Productions Producers; Port City Technical Production Management; Allied Touring Tour Marketing & Press; The Road Company Tour Booking.

Unfortunately, one of the bad aspects of Broadway in Thousand Oaks is that it is there for only one weekend, unlike the longer runs at the Pantages. That means that by the time you read this, the final productions of Bandstand at the American Theatre Guild will be over. All I can suggest is that you visit the Bandstand website, and catch the show at its next stops in Colorado Springs on Dec 3-4 (hmmm, I’ll have to tell my COS colleagues) or in Phoenix AZ Dec 6-8. For those California folks, it looks like it will hit Modesto Mar 30-31, 2020 and Sacramento April 7-12, 2020.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

December is getting busy, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The weekend after ACSAC brings an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  We will also be seeing Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild on December 21.

Looking to early 2020: most of the January is currently quiet, but the middle of the month is busy, with What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, and Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the third weekend, and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the last weekend. Things start heating up in February, with The Last Ship (with Sting) at the Ahmanson Theatre the first weekend; A Body of Water at Actors Co-op (FB) and It Shoulda Been You at Musical Theatre Guild (FB) the third weekend; and (whew!)  The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Escape to Margaritaville at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB), and Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the fourth weekend. Yes, that is the Pantages and the Dolby the same day — that’s what I get for not entering season tickets on my calendar before ticketing a bonus show. March comes in like a lamb, with the first two weekends (2/29 and 3/7) being quiet… but goes out like a Lion. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner; the 3rd Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last bringing Spongebob Squarepants at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB) and the MoTAS/TBH Seder. April is similarly busy: the 1st weekend is Mamma Mia at 5 Star Theatricals (FB); the 2nd is during Pesach and is open (but has Count Basie at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the Thursday before); the 3rd is Once on This Island at the Ahmanson Theatre; the last is Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and the first weekend of May is Mean Girls at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB)

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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🎙 A Staring Contest | “Frankie Avalon” @ The Soraya

Frankie Avalon (Soraya)Tom Paxton often says about nostalgia that it is OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare.

Thursday night, when we saw Frankie Avalon at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), it felt like it was a staring contest — there was that much nostalgia. Admittedly, Avalon’s long career — dating from the 1950s to today, can lend one to nostalgia. Admittedly, the age of the audience made that nostalgia successful (we were some of the younger folks there). But the show was dripping in nostalgia none-the-less.

I didn’t scribble down a set list, but just get the latest Everly Avalon (i.e., Edan Everly and Frankie Avalon) album “The Good Old Days”, and you’ll have much of the show. I do have a few observations I want to share, however… I’ll note that overall, the show was enjoyable and a trip down memory lane.

  • This show demonstrated the clear difference between a nightclub act and a concert. Contrast this to Mandy Gonzalez a few weeks ago, or even Big Daddy at McCabes. Those were concerts: full song, with perhaps a bit of lead in for each song. This was a clear nightclub act — something that would be at home in any 1960s lounge in Las Vegas. There was a camaraderie with the audience… a looseness, a comfort. There was a playfulness.  Yet, in actually, it was all scripted (something that become clear when you hear the album — same jokes). Songs were rarely the full song, but more snippets.
  • There was loads of looking back. In 1958 I did this… On American Bandstand I did this… Annette and I did this… These famous rock artists and I did that… There was extended clips of his family (and two were part of the band). As I said: staring.
  • One thing that hit me about the show was the … whiteness of it. There was a joke with his music director discussing the musical Grease how in Mexico is was called “Vaseline”. That landed with a thud. There was a song about nostalgia that seemed to be wanting the days of the 1950s all back again. There were tributes to musical artists — all white, many whom covered black singers, with nary a mention of the black artists. I don’t think this was intentional on Avalon’s part. I think it was reflective of the era in which his talent bloomed. But it did demonstrate that his act and his schtick, so to speak, haven’t been updated with the times. There were jokes in his act older than my grandfather. To woke members of the audience, the suspended animation was clear to see … and painfully dated.

But, as I said, musically the show was a load of fun. It was a very fast 90-110 minutes. But don’t go expecting anything newer than “Beauty School Dropout”.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is getting busy, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The weekend after ACSAC brings an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I also have a hold for December 21 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild.

Looking to early 2020: most of the January is currently quiet, but the middle of the month is busy, with What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, and Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the third weekend, and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the last weekend. Things start heating up in February, with The Last Ship (with Sting) at the Ahmanson Theatre the first weekend; A Body of Water at Actors Co-op (FB) and It Shoulda Been You at Musical Theatre Guild (FB) the third weekend; and (whew!)  The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Escape to Margaritaville at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB), and Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the fourth weekend. Yes, that is the Pantages and the Dolby the same day — that’s what I get for not entering season tickets on my calendar before ticketing a bonus show. March comes in like a lamb, with the first two weekends (2/29 and 3/7) being quiet… but goes out like a Lion. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner; the 3rd Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last bringing Spongebob Squarepants at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB) and the MoTAS/TBH Seder. April is similarly busy: the 1st weekend is Mamma Mia at 5 Star Theatricals (FB); the 2nd is during Pesach and is open (but has Count Basie at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the Thursday before); the 3rd is Once on This Island at the Ahmanson Theatre; the last is Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and the first weekend of May is Mean Girls at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB)

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

 

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🗯️ They Just Don’t Get It

userpic=trumpThey just don’t get it – The First: Quid Pro Quo. The issue isn’t “quid pro quo” (QPQ) per se. QPQ’s happen all the time in statesmanship. We’ll give you foreign aid if you … The real issue is using your office for personal political gain — doing a quid pro quo that explicitly involves investigating your political opponent (personal gain), and using for leverage money explicitly authorized by Congress (abuse of authority). It’s the personal gain that makes this an abuse of power.

They just don’t get it – The Second: Rules of Evidence and Testimony. For all the blathering of Trump about evidence and trials, he’s forgetting one thing: THIS ISN’T A TRIAL. If the House chooses to move forward articles of impeachment, there will be a trial. That will be in the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice, under the rules defined by the Senate. It won’t be a criminal trial … which means that the 6th amendment doesn’t come into play, and the right to confront your accuser. Remember: With impeachment, the most severe penalty is not jail, it is removal from office.

But we’re not at an impeachment trial yet. Right now, what the House is doing is analogous to the police and prosecutors doing the investigation to determine if there is a case to be prosecuted. Grand juries. Investigative legwork. There might be tips from informants, but the informant may never be needed again if the investigation of the tip finds enough evidence. This is all gathering evidence.

If the house investigative team finds sufficient evidence, then it will present their case to the full House. If the full House agrees there is a case, they will vote and pass articles of impeachment. An indictment, so to speak. This doesn’t mean guilt. It means the House feels there is enough evidence for a trial.

At that point — and only that point — the Senate conducts a trial to prove or disprove those articles. If proven, the person is removed from office. The Constitution defines no rules for this trial, other than the Chief Justice presides. So it is for Congress to determine the rules … not traditional jury rules, because this isn’t a criminal trial.

Lastly, remember that the Constitution does not require there to be a crime, in a criminal sense. It is also up to Congress to determine what it believes are sufficient “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Often, it has been abuse of power, in the form of obstruction of justice. Basically, the Congress doesn’t like it when the President tries to go around Congress, not let Congress do its investigatory job, or ignore the will of Congress, who supposedly represent the people.

There’s a great discussion of this latter issue in the TrumpConLaw podcast: https://trumpconlaw.com/35-confrontation-clause

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🎭 Crossed Actors in Love | “The Goodbye Girl” @ MTG

The Goodbye Girl (MTG)MTG UserpicWhen you look at Broadway today, it seems we are in an era of taking any movie and attempting to put it on the stage. Pretty WomenTootsie, and Beetlejuice are just recent examples of a trend that has been going on since at least the 1950s. One such attempt occurred in 1993, when there was an attempt to bring the 1977 Neil Simon comedy The Goodbye Girl to the stage. The resulting musical: The Goodbye GIrl, featured an updated book by Neil Simon, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by David Zippel, and starred Bernadette Peters and Martin Short. You would think that with this pedigree the musical would easily succeed. It didn’t — it only ran for 23 previews and 188 performances — proving that even with pedigrees, it can still be a dog.

But is it really a dog. That’s the question that the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) asks. They present shows with only 25 hours of rehearsal, minimal staging and scenery, in a staged reading format that allows reexamination. The second outing of their season was The Goodbye Girl, which we saw last night.

In the program, the supposition is made that the reason for the failure was the theatre: The Marquis Theatre. At the time of the show, there had been a string of failures there, and Broadway is a superstitious bunch. But subsequent to the show, there have been a few hits at the theatre. So was that the reason.

Before I give you my thoughts on the show, perhaps I should tell you what it was about. After all, 1977 was a long time ago — I was just graduating high school. The musical retained much of the original movie’s plot, making only a few changes. It is difficult to find a synopsis online that isn’t a scene by scene breakdown (such as the one in the Guide to Musical Theatre), so I’ll give it a try:

Paula and her daughter Lucy are looking forward to moving to California to be with her actor-boyfriend Tony. But they discover Tony has left them for a movie role in Spain; further, he has sublet their apartment without their knowledge to an actor friend from Chicago. Paula doesn’t want to share the apartment, but Elliott (the Chicago actor) points out that he owns the lease, so they work out a tenuous arrangement. He has a role in a version of Richard III where the director wants him to play it as a man playing a women playing a man (this was originally a homosexual queen portrayal in the movie). Unsurprisingly, that approach fails. As Elliott recovers from the drunken opening night pain, he sees the tender side of Paula, and no surprisingly, a spark is ignited. Insert the predictable march to the happy ending.

My reaction to the show was hard to characterize. On story and music alone, it was a pleasant evening — but it also wasn’t a spectacular “wow” along the lines of Come From Away or Hamilton. It struck me much more as a Pretty Women or the current show at the Marquis, Tootsie. In other words: yes, it was a fun show to watch, but it also didn’t seem to have the staying power that the powerhouse shows have. This should not be construed as saying it was bad. It was a very very funny show, with some really good performances. It just didn’t have that staying power. Similar to the Donna Summer musical I saw Saturday night, it was a piece of fluff that was tasty while you were eating it, but it left you craving something much more substantial.

So why did The Goodbye Girl fail so spectacularly in its first outing. After all, movie to musical properties often have a reasonable life, even if they aren’t long running hits. I think there are a number of reasons:

  • I’m not sure this was a movie that cried out to be musicalized. Were there emotions or arcs of the characters that could only be told by song? I’m not sure. Without that crying need for music, you end up with something that might be entertaining, but isn’t spectacular. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be profitable, but that profit will not be achieved on Broadway, but in long term licensing and performance.
  • I think the original casting was off. Martin Short was fine, but I think this wasn’t the right role for Bernadette Peters. This show came between Into the Woods and the Annie Get Your Gun revival. Trying to have Peters be believable as an unemployed, out of shape dancer just didn’t work.
  • Although David Zippel’s lyrics were strong, I’m not sure this was Marvin Hamlisch’s best score. Hamlisch had a problem finding scores for the theatre that had long term lasting power after A Chorus Line. None of the songs here had a long term lasting power, although “Elliott Garfield Grant” was an earworm.
  • The transition from the movie to the stage didn’t use the opportunity to fix the problems in the original screenplay. When you read reviews of the movie, Paula was often viewed as unsympathetic in the first half of the movie — someone you don’t particularly like. Audiences didn’t warm up to her until the latter part of the movie. Read reviews of the stage musical, and guess what — same thing. If you can’t get invested in the characters early, it is hard to get the audiences to care about the show.

But this is MTG — and one of the goals of MTG is to give a chance to see properties such as The Goodbye Girl for just this reason. It allows one to see if the underlying good in the material, and to determine what possibly went wrong the first time out. Luckily, the execution of this production was significantly better than Barnum a few months ago.  About the only production problems were one or two instances of feedback, and a few cases where the sound team was behind the actors, and the microphones weren’t enabled when they should be. As directed by Linda Kerns (FB), and with choreography by Michelle Elkin (⭐FB, FB), the production moved briskly and without problems, and the actors did a great job of inhabiting the characters. This was particularly remarkable when you consider the short time they were living with these characters — remember, just 25 hours of rehearsal.

In the lead positions were Wendy Rosoff (⭐FB, FB) Paula and Will Collyer (⭐FB, FB) Elliot. Rosoff captured the neurotic nature of Paula well and had a great chemistry with Collyer’s Elliot. Her songs came off as a little more shrill than perhaps were intended, but I think that’s something that would have been adjusted in a longer run. Collyer was great as Elliot — he had a warmth and charm that made one see how Martin Short could have been so strong in the role.

Also in a lead position was Maya Somers Lucy. This young lady just blew me away with her talent and voice. As she grows as an actress, I look forward to seeing her on the stages of Los Angeles.

Supporting the leads in named roles were Jenelle Lynn Randall (⭐FBMrs. Crosby, and as Lucy’s friends, Bella Stine (⭐FB) Cynthia and Olivia Zenetzis Melanie.  All were very strong. Randall brought some wonderfully sardonic humor and moves to Mrs. Crosby, and nailed her “2 Good 2 Be Bad Number”, and Stine and Zenetzis made a delightful trio with Somers.

Rounding out the cast were: Jennifer Knox (FB) Donna / Ensemble; Chelsea Morgan Stock (FB) Jenna / Ensemble; Jeffrey Scott Parsons (FB) Billy / Ensemble; Anthony Gruppuso (⭐FB, FB) Mark / Ricky / Ensemble; Tal Fox (FB) Ensemble; Gabriel Navarro (FB) Ensemble; and Mark C. Reis (⭐FB) Ensemble.

Dennis Castellano (FB) served as Musical Director and Conductor of the onstage band, which consisted of Castellano (FB) Piano, John Reilly Woodwinds, and Alan Alesi Drums/Percussion.

As this was a minimally staged concert performance, there was no real scenic, lighting, or sound design.  A Jeffrey Schoenberg (FB) provided the costumes, and Todd Gajdusek was Production Coordinator. Stage managers were Leesa Freed (FB) Production Stage Manager / Production Coordinator, Stacey Cortez Asst Stage Manager; and Debra Miller Asst Stage Manager.

This was the only performance of The Goodbye Girl.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend is open due to Stiches SoCal, although I might still book a show. November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is getting busy, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The weekend after ACSAC brings an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I also have a hold for December 21 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild.

Looking to early 2020: most of the January is currently quiet, but the middle of the month is busy, with What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, and Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the third weekend, and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the last weekend. Things start heating up in February, with The Last Ship (with Sting) at the Ahmanson Theatre the first weekend; A Body of Water at Actors Co-op (FB) and It Shoulda Been You at Musical Theatre Guild (FB) the third weekend; and (whew!)  The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Escape to Margaritaville at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB), and Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the fourth weekend. Yes, that is the Pantages and the Dolby the same day — that’s what I get for not entering season tickets on my calendar before ticketing a bonus show. March comes in like a lamb, with the first two weekends (2/29 and 3/7) being quiet… but goes out like a Lion. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner; the 3rd Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last bringing Spongebob Squarepants at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB) and the MoTAS/TBH Seder. April is similarly busy: the 1st weekend is Mamma Mia at 5 Star Theatricals (FB); the 2nd is during Pesach and is open (but has Count Basie at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the Thursday before); the 3rd is Once on This Island at the Ahmanson Theatre; the last is Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and the first weekend of May is Mean Girls at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB)

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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🎭 What Hath Maltby Wrought? | “Summer” @ Hollywood Pantages

Summer - The Donna Summer Musical (Hollywood Pantages)Back in 1978, Richard Maltby Jr. unleashed onto the world a little musical called Ain’t Misbehavin’. This was perhaps the first really successful biographical jukebox musical — a musical that used the catalog of a particular artist to tell the lifestory of that artist. Shortly after that musical hit there were similar shows, from Jelly’s Last Jam to Eubie to … you get the idea. In the modern era, the biographical jukebox has seen a resurgence with successful shows such as Jersey Boys. Almost every pop star out there is seeing their catalog mined for a potential show. Some end up as fictional stories with the pop catalog grafted on, such as the recent Head Over Heels which mined the catalog of the Go-Gos. But the biographical jukebox remains a steady contender. A number of been recently on Broadway, such as The Cher Show or the just opened Tina … and one of the more recent instances has ended up at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) (until November 24) — Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Guess where we were last night?

If you are of my generation, you know Donna Summer well. Her music hit the airwaves in the US in 1975 — when I was in high school. I couldn’t go to a high school dance of that era (not that I went to many) where it didn’t close with “The Last Dance”. It was ubiquitous. So it was clear that mixing her music with a Broadway show would hit clearly at the heart of the current theatregoers: those adults aged 55 to 65. It was a no-brainer. Nostalgia is a strong pull at the box office, and judging by the audience we saw at the Pantages we saw last night it works. Older primarily white women in spandex glitter abounded.

And the mention of no-brainers brings us back to the biographic jukebox, and their greatest problem: the underlying book. For while the music may be popular and the show wonderful when viewed as a nostalgic dance concert, the real question is whether it stands up a musical theatre. That success depends on the book writers — in this case, Colman Domingo, Robert Cary, and Des McAnuff. In this case: it really doesn’t stands up as theatre. It is a mile wide and an inch deep: it doesn’t really give you any deep insight into its main characters, and the other characters in the life of Donna Summer that shaped who she is are only superficially drawn and brought to life.

Part of the problem here is the conceit used to tell the story. As is often done, the main subject is divided into three individual: child, young adult, and adult — or as they are called here, Duckling Donna, DIsco Donna, and Diva Donna. A similar approach, from what I understand, was taken in The Cher Show. The problem is: the adjectives here capture the superficial nature of the division: instead of looking at the whole character, they have amplified aspects of her life for the sake of storytelling. In doing this, and in making the story centered in that way, any character growth that might fuel the story is either lost, or boiled to the top where it is just skimmed away.

“Story” is a key word here. Musicals succeed where there is a story that demands the music in its retelling. The music, which is a key factor in telling the story, bursts out with story. It isn’t incidental or superficially related. But, for the most part, the music used in Summer is only lightly connected with the story on the stage. It rarely comes from the time; it rarely moves the story forward by itself. If you could delete all the jukebox songs (leaving just the spoken book) and the show still makes sense, that music isn’t integral. In this case, the music is rarely integral. In fact, I think the only integral song in the show is “She Works Hard for the Money”.

Ultimately, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, while entertaining, is (in the parlance of [title of show]), very “donuts for dinner” — entertaining in the moment, but the fulfillment is not very long lasting. There’s lots of fluffy sweet carbohydrates, but very little meat.

That doesn’t mean the author’s don’t try to provide that meat. There is a strong emphasis, especially in the middle of the show, on the notion of empowerment of women — in particular the fact that women artists should be paid the same as male artists. There’s also a sharp commentary on the #metoo aspects of Donna Summer’s story: sexual abuse or harassment both at the hands of her childhood pastor and by executives at Casablanca records. But it, like the supporting characters, is superficial. It is mentioned once briefly, and how it shaped Donna Summer into the artist that she was is never explored.

Ruminating on the superficiality a bit more: The show presents Donna Summer’s life as being much like the music that made her famous: a catchy dance tune that was fun in the moment, but doesn’t have long lasting significance. It is popular and light and frothy, but is ultimately cotton candy.

The show is notable in one other aspect: it’s ensemble. More than any other show that I’ve seen, this show has made the effort to emphasize the women. Most of the tertiary male roles (there are no primary male roles) are played by ensemble members, and for the most part, those members are women. I’ve commented before on the problems I have with men dressing as women to play women’s roles for the broad laugh. Here, the women stepped into play the men’s roles, but not for laughs but in an androgynous sense. As a man watching this, this spoke to female empowerment and as the central notion of the story, as well as the fact that for much of her career, Summer’s music spoke to that audience (and the incident that broke that connection is specifically — and rightly — addressed). I’m curious how women watching the show perceived that ensemble emphasis. It was certainly different.

Two additional performance notes: (1) There are points at times where the ensemble is supposedly playing music, and even (at one point) Diva Donna is playing. For the most part, it is clear they are not: they are holding the violins wrong, there is no key movement on the piano although finger gestures appear right, there is no movement on the guitar necks and no connection of electric guitars to the speakers, there is no finger movement on the valves of the saxes. Prop instruments on stage are annoying. It did appear, however, that at point they did have the real keyboardist on stage, as well as the drummer and perhaps the guitar. That was good to see. (2) There is one point where Neil Bogart’s funeral occurs, supposedly at Hillside. They were carrying calla lilies, which is a flower that is not used at Jewish cemeteries due to its Christian symbolism; they also portrayed mourners in white with no cria ribbons. Again, not something one would see at a Jewish cemetery. Given that the writers weren’t Jewish, one can understand the mistake; surely someone on the production or design team would have caught that.

Des McAnuff‘s direction kept the show moving at a brisk pace — one might say with a disco beat. The show moved from incident to incident with little space to catch your breath in between. His direction of the scenic was similar, with view traditional set pieces or props, and heavy use of screens and projections (although in a very different sense than in Anastasia — here they were much more abstracted, as befits the 1970s). He worked with the acting team to bring out strong concert style performance; but with a superficial book, there was very little depth to bring out in the story. The movement, choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, was similarly brisk and had a strong disco feel. As to its accuracy as real disco moves I cannot say. There are some things about my youth that I either never learned or have blocked out. But it was entertaining.

In the lead performance positions were the Donnas: Dan’yelle Williamson (⭐FB, FB) Diva Donna / Mary Gaines, Alex Hairston (FB) Disco Donna; and Olivia Elease Hardy (FB) Duckling Donna / Mimi. All give strong performance and sing beautifully. Perhaps the most notable is Hardy, given her lack of experience. She’s a rising senior at U Michigan, and I couldn’t really find any local or other credits for her. For such a young and new performer to be giving such a strong performance is quite noteworthy.  As for the others, Hairston gets the bulk of the disco moves and handles those well, although her visual resemblance to the other Donnas is slight. Williamson is very strong of voice and dance.

The male roles in this cast are primarily secondary and tertiary. At the secondary level are: John Gardiner (FB) Neil Bogart / Sommelier / Gunther; Erick Pinnick (FB) Andrew Gaines / Doctor; and Steven Grant Douglas (⭐FB, FB) Bruce Sudano. The tertiary men (because they are also in the ensemble) are: Jay Garcia (FB) Brian / Helmuth Sommer / Ensemble and Sir Brock Warren (FB) Pastor / Ensemble. None of these characters are drawn that deeply; unsurprisingly, none of them also have featured vocal tracks.  Thinking back, the ones that left the greatest impressions were Warren due to his unique look and bearing, and Douglas for the way he was able to project some tenderness in what was a lightly written role.

This brings us to the remainder of the ensemble — or should I say female ensemble — as they were all women: Jennifer Byrne (FB) Pete Bellotte / Don Engel / Ensemble, Tamrin Goldberg (FB) Norman Brokaw / Ensemble, Cameron Anika Hill (FB) Young Dara / Amanda / Ensemble, Brooke Lacy (FB) Detective / David Geffen / Bob / Ensemble, Trish Lindström (FB) Joyce Bogart / Ensemble, Dequina Moore (⭐FB, FB) Adult Mary Ellen / Ensemble, Kyli Rae (FB) out at our performance – normally Giorgio Moroder / Ensemble, Crystal Sha’nae (FB) Adult Dara / Ensemble, De’ja Simone (FB) Young Mary Ellen / Brooklyn / Ensemble, Candace J. Washington (FB) Michael / Ensemble, Brittany Nicole Williams Maid / “To Turn the Stone” Soloist / Ensemble. In general, the ensemble provided strong dancing in the background. The actors portraying Donna’s sisters and children were fun to watch and clearly enjoying their roles. I particularly liked Moore and Simone (at least I think that’s who they were — the one in the yellow sweater).

Swings were Mara Lucas (FB), Jo’nathan Michael (FB), and Jennifer Wolfe (FB) Giorgio Moroder, at our performance / Dance Captain.

The large music for this show was provided by a small band — again, mostly female. Leading the band was Amanda Morton Music Director / Conductor / Keyboards. Assisting her were Lisa Le May (FB) Assoc. Conductor / Keyboard; Makeena Lee Brick (FB) Keyboard; Larry Esparza (FB) Guitar; and Jesse-Ray Leich (FB) Drums. Other music credits were: Randy Cohen (FB) Synthesizer Programmer; Anixter Rice Music Services (FB) Music Preparation; John Miller (FBMusic Coordinator; Bill Brendle and Ron Melrose Orchestrations; and Ron Melrose Music Supervision and Arrangements. Songs in the show were written by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Jabara, and the following folks detailed in the back of the program: Joseph Esposito, Edward Hokenson, Bruce Sudano, Pete Bellotte, Keith Diamond, Anthony Smith, Vanessa Robbie Smith, Greg Mathieson, Jim Webb, Bruce Roberts, Harold Faltermeyer, Gregory Allen Kurstin, Danielle A. Brisebois, Evan Kidd Bogart, Jonathan Rotem, Michael Omartian, and from the musical Hair, Galt MacDermot, James Rado, and Gerome Ragni. I am sure that some of the musicians were on stage in a few scenes — in particular, Morton and possibly LeMay or Brick, as well as Leich. I was pleased to see them show pictures of the musicians at the end.

Finally, we turn to the production and creative side. The scenic design of Robert Brill (FB) depended heavily on the Projection Design of Sean Nieuwenhuis, as there were lots of moving screens and projections, and very little in the way of traditional scenery. Perhaps greater scenic aspects were provided by Paul Tazewell (FB)’s costume design and Charles G. LaPointe (FB)’s hair and wig design. There was only real one costuming flaw, which only someone growing up in that era would catch: back in the 1970s, bra straps and undergarments were not intentionally visible — according to my wife, one would go without first. Howell Binkley (FB)’s lighting generally was good, but I felt there was an overuse of strobe lights — be forewarned if you are strobe sensitive. Gareth Owen (FB)’s sound wasn’t overpowering — a fear that I had; however, there were two or three songs where the bass beat shook the cough out of me. Other production credits: Steve Rankin Fight Director; Charley Layton Dialect Coach; David S. Cohen Stage Manager / Fight Captain; Jenifer A. Shenker Asst Stage Manager; Michael Bello Assoc Director; Jennifer Laroche Assoc. Choreographer; Bruce Sudano Story Consultant; NETworks Presentations Production Management; Michael Sanfilippo Company Manager; Ralph Stan Lee (FB) Production Stage Management; Dodger Management Group General Management; Tara Rubin CastingFelicia Rudolph CSA Casting.

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) until November 24. If you are nostalgic for the disco era, and want a fun musical that will help you relive those times, this is the musical for you. If you can’t stand disco, or want a story with a stronger book, consider skipping this one. Go see Miracle on 34th Street up the street instead.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Tonight brings The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  Next weekend is open due to Stiches SoCal, although I might still book a show. November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is getting busy, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The weekend after ACSAC brings an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I also have a hold for December 21 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild.

Looking to early 2020: most of the January is currently quiet, but the middle of the month is busy, with What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, and Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the third weekend, and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the last weekend. Things start heating up in February, with The Last Ship (with Sting) at the Ahmanson Theatre the first weekend; A Body of Water at Actors Co-op (FB) and It Shoulda Been You at Musical Theatre Guild (FB) the third weekend; and (whew!)  The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Escape to Margaritaville at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB), and Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the fourth weekend. Yes, that is the Pantages and the Dolby the same day — that’s what I get for not entering season tickets on my calendar before ticketing a bonus show. March comes in like a lamb, with the first two weekends (2/29 and 3/7) being quiet… but goes out like a Lion. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner; the 3rd Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last bringing Spongebob Squarepants at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB) and the MoTAS/TBH Seder. April is similarly busy: the 1st weekend is Mamma Mia at 5 Star Theatricals (FB); the 2nd is during Pesach and is open (but has Count Basie at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the Thursday before); the 3rd is Once on This Island at the Ahmanson Theatre; the last is Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and the first weekend of May is Mean Girls at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB)

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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🎸 Stuck in Time | “Big Daddy” @ McCabes

Big Daddy @ McCabesI blame Stuart Schaeffer Z”L. It is all his fault. And I miss him every day. He introduced me to them. Well, thinking back, he introduced me to a number of strange things. This was the second of them.

Perhaps I should clarify. I love music of all varieties. Rarely, however, does it fit current pop sensitivities. I particularly like music that is unique. That’s probably why Stuart handed me two albums over 10 years ago. The first was by a satirical bluegrass group called the Austin Lounge Lizards.  I was particularly taken by a parody of the Beach Boys titled “Hey, Little Minivan”. The second was an album that looked suspiciously like “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club band”. But it wasn’t.

Rather, it was a cover of the entire Sgt. Peppers album by a group called Big Daddy. Big Daddy’s “origin story” (as concocted) was:

While on a USO tour of Southeast Asia in 1959, Big Daddy was captured by Communist forces and held captive until the mid-80’s at which time they were rescued by the CIA  and subsequently returned to the United States. While being held at Camp David for debriefing, they were given sheet music of contemporary hit songs so that they could re·build their repertoire and get back to the only work they knew… making music. Of course, not having heard the evolution of Rock music during the quarter century they spent imprisoned in the jungles of Laos, they arranged and performed these songs the only way they knew how … in the classic styles of the 1950’s.

So, imagine Sgt. Peppers as if it was done by top 1950s artists. Or, my favorite example of theirs: “Baby’s Got Back” in the style of Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio.

I really do like unique bands. Perhaps that’s why I like Gangstagrass. Bluegrass hip-hop. But I digress.

Both Big Daddy and the Lizards are groups that I have followed over the years. I participated in Big Daddy’s kickstarter for an album of songs from Broadway and the movies. I see the Lizards whenever they are in town (most recently last November). But Big Daddy’s concerts always seemed to be on nights I have theatre tickets.

But not Sunday night. Sunday night they were at McCabes, in all their glory. And we were able to be at the concert.

To give you an idea of the songs they covered, here are the set lists. Alas, I’m not adept enough to identify all the specific styles, and I’m too old to remember which styles went with which songs:

Set 1

  1. Be Bop Baby
  2. Light My Fire (Johnny Cash Style)
  3. Graceland
  4. BIllie Jean
  5. Music of the Night
  6. Ice Ice Baby
  7. Every Breath You Take
  8. When I’m Sixty-Four
  9. A Day in the Life
  10. Uptown Funk
  11. Jump

Set 2

  1. 1959 (1999)
  2. Still Haven’t Found
  3. Like a Virgin
  4. Hotel California
  5. Once in a Life
  6. Little Green Men
  7. Way You Make Me Feel
  8. Help Me Make It
  9. White Rabbit
  10. Money for Nothing
  11. Always on My Mind
  12. All Night Long (Encore)

The band was having real fun with these songs, with costumes and props and mannerisms. It wasn’t just a concert — it was a full-on show. From Johnny Cash in his 100 gallon hat, to three Elvii on stage, to Jose Feliciano, to … All the songs were entertaining. Two of them were new and written by the band: Be Bop Baby and Little Green Men. Both are from an upcoming radio series “Big Daddy, Band Out of Time”.  Little Green Men reminded me of one of the first songs I ever heard at McCabes: Shep Cooke singing “Concert Tour of Mars”.

For those that haven’t been to McCabes: It is a guitar shop in Santa Monica. In the back room, which seats around 100, they do all sorts of concerts.  I’ve been there for Tom Paxton, Noel Paul Stookey, Maria Muldaur, and many other folk artists. If you can see a show there, go. It is a wonderfully intimate space.

I look forward to Big Daddy’s next show, and hopefully the folks at McCabes will one day book the Lizards there as well.

P.S.: There was one additional bonus to the night: I got to meet Mark Evanier, who does the wonderful blog at Newsfromme. I’ve followed Mark for years as we have many similar interests, ranging from theatre to Los Angeles history and ephemera to animation history and especially all things Stan Freberg. It was Mark who helped organize the wonderful tribute to Stan Freberg 5 years ago (which I will never forget). Sometimes it is amazing the great people in Los Angeles.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

This weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is getting busy, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The weekend after ACSAC brings an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I also have a hold for December 21 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild.

Looking to early 2020: most of the January is currently quiet, but the middle of the month is busy, with What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, and Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the third weekend, and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the last weekend. Things start heating up in February, with The Last Ship (with Sting) at the Ahmanson Theatre the first weekend; A Body of Water at Actors Co-op (FB) and It Shoulda Been You at Musical Theatre Guild (FB) the third weekend; and (whew!)  The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Escape to Margaritaville at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB), and Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the fourth weekend. Yes, that is the Pantages and the Dolby the same day — that’s what I get for not entering season tickets on my calendar before ticketing a bonus show. March comes in like a lamb, with the first two weekends (2/29 and 3/7) being quiet… but goes out like a Lion. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner; the 3rd Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last bringing Spongebob Squarepants at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB) and the MoTAS/TBH Seder. April is similarly busy: the 1st weekend is Mamma Mia at 5 Star Theatricals (FB); the 2nd is during Pesach and is open (but has Count Basie at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the Thursday before); the 3rd is Once on This Island at the Ahmanson Theatre; the last is Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and the first weekend of May is Mean Girls at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB)

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

 

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