🛣️ Headlines About California’s Highways – November 2018

We’re coming up on the end of 2018 — just one more month left. November saw a significant election result for California’s highways — the defeat of Proposition 6. As a result, SB1 will continue to funnel funds to improve highways, transportation, and transit throughout the state. November also saw me finish the second traditional update of the year. Most of these headlines are in that update; headlines being held for the first traditional update in 2019 will be indicated with ¤. With that, here are your headlines for November:

  • Important Events in Caltrans History. A timeline of Caltrans.
  • Overwhelming support of South Shore Community Revitalization Project at TRPA meeting. A standing room only crowd was in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) board room on October 25, 2018 for an updated presentation, and plans for the next steps, of the U.S. 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project, commonly known as the Loop Road. It reroutes Highway 50 from its current location in front of Heavenly Village and the casinos to behind Raley’s, the Village Center and Harrahs Tahoe.
  • After warning Modesto about risks, Caltrans goes down another roadModesto’s auditor advised city officials in a July memo not to use Meyers Nave — the law firm Modesto hired in 2014 to serve as its city attorney — for the legal work on a roughly $100 million project to realign and upgrade a stretch of Highway 132. Monica Houston wrote that doing so could expose the city to the risk of fraud, waste and abuse. But it turns out Caltrans was not so steadfast, and it appears it may have been a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing at the transportation agency. Houston’s memo is one of the reasons that her work is under scrutiny..
  • Rural groups: Rethink proposalMembers of the Association of Rural Town Councils hope the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will delay the public hearing for the proposed Centennial mas­ter-planned community to allow time for a more com­plete traffic study. The L.A. County Region­al Planning Commission voted Aug. 29 to recommend the project for approval to the board of supervisors. The board is expected to con­sider the project in De­cember, although a date has not yet been set. Proposed on about 12,300 acres along Highway 138 west of 300th Street West, Cen­tennial calls for 19,333 homes on the 150-year-old Tejon Ranch at the far reach­es of the northwestern Antelope Valley.

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🎭 The Third Time You Die | “Remembering Boyle Heights” @ Casa 0101

Remembering Boyle Heights (Casa 0101)Whenever I have a two-show weekend, the shows seem to synchronize and theme. When we saw the Austin Lounge Lizards and She Loves Me, the theme was synchronicity, for the last time we saw the Lizards is when we saw She Loves Me. When we saw Dear Evan Hansen and A Bronx Tale, the theme was “the choices that we make”. For The Accidental Activist and Finks, the theme was “accidental activism”. Last weekend, when we saw Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) and Remembering Boyle Heights at Casa 0101 (FB), the theme was “fighting death”.

During Remembering Boyle Heights, they said something quite profound: The first time you die is, well, when you physically die. The second time you die is when you are buried, and your physical body is gone. The third time you die is when you are forgotten. Steambath was about someone fighting the first time you die. Remembering Boyle Heights was about fighting the third time you die: it was a play dedicated to the mission of remembering what the community of Boyle Heights was, fighting the changes that are working to destroy the community, and starting the project of preserving Boyle Heights and its unique history.

For those unfamilar with the community, Boyle Heights is a community just E of downtown Los Angeles, on the east side of the LA River, between downtown and City Terrace and East LA (which is actually county land). To the north is Lincoln Heights; to the south is the city of Vernon. It’s intersected by the 101, 5, 10, and 60 freeways. First the home of the indiginous Tongva, and then the Spanish and Mexicans, it eventually became home to Andrew Boyle. After that, it became the working class community that everyone who couldn’t live elsewhere due to red-lining or restrictive covenants lived: the Jews, the Japanese, the Mexicans, the Blacks, the Russians …. . It was a working class, a bit socialistic. It is where the bagel machine was invented, where Cantors Deli got its start, and where the first hispanic city councilman got his start. It was home to the Breed Street Shul,  one of the first major synagogues in Los Angeles.

For me, when my dad first moved to California, he moved to City Terrace. For the longest time he kept ties with the community, keeping bookkeeping clients on the “eastside” (I’d even help him pick up and sort the paid bills). I remember visiting the Villanueva’s at Mi Tienda, and the folks at the La Victoria Candy Company (both appear to be gone now). I can’t remember the others.

Boyle Heights is also a community fighting gentrification. Art studios are moving in due to the low rents, and landlords are following, raising rents and kicking out the working class families, and changing the multicultural nature of the community. That, in fact, is how this immersive theatre production starts. The theme is set with some opening numbers: the songs “Mal Hombre” and “Mi Tierra”, a monologue about artists being kicked out due to gentrification, and another monologue about Mariachi Plaza and how the gentrification is hurting that community,

Then the show begins. It is organized as a tour with seven stops. The first is a Gentrification Town meeting (that invites audience participation), wherein the actors portray all the sides in an argument about the benefits and detriments of gentrification. The second stop introduces us to what Boyle Heights is and a bit of its history. The third stop explores the various foods, culture, and music of Boyle Heights, with ample attention to the Jewish, Japanese, and Hispanic nature of the community and how they blended and worked together. The fourth top looked at the social, faith, and political aspects of the community, including all the political and labor actions. The fifth stop explored Roosevelt High School and the culture of the school in the 1920s and 1930s. Then came WWII; the sixth stop explored the impact of the Japanese removal on the community. The last stop explored (briefly) post-WWII and the rise to power of Edward Roybal to the LA City Council. After the show we had a panel discussion on the food and fashion of the community and the show, with special panelists Shmuel Gonzales (FB) and someone who does fashion whose name I can’t remember.

As you can see from the above, this wasn’t your typical show with a plot, characters, and a through story line. It was more of a history and culture lesson about the community. In fact, it is planned as the first of many such shows; they want to continue the story as the community evolved from the 1950s — the exodus of the Jewish families to West LA and the Valley, the interplay of the Hispanic and black communities; the growth of other Central American cultures, and the gentrification and preservation battles.

In many ways, this show evoked memories of This Land, which we saw at Company of Angels at the end of 2017. That show told the story of a plot of land in Watts, a community in South LA, and how it had been passed from the Togva to the Mexicans to the Whites to the Blacks to the Hispanics … and was being gentrified again. It demonstrated how our cultures could learn from one another and cooperate. The history of Boyle Heights is the same: different people from different backgrounds finding the common ground and becoming friends, not dividing apart and segregating.

So while, when viewed as purely theatre, there were some minor structural and performance problems, those faded into insignificance when compared to the message and the story that was being told. Los Angeles does have a racist history that must not be forgotten, but it also has a rich and diverse multicultural story to tell — a story of different cultures coming together in communities like Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, Watts, Inglewood, Pacoima, Arleta — working class communities where it was hard work that mattered. As an (amateur) LA historian, this show was a pure delight. As someone with a connection to Boyle Heights, … well, it was even better.

The performance side was truly an ensemble piece, with everyone working together. The cast consisted of: Michael Berckart (FB), Joe Luis Cedillo (FB), Jose Alejandro Hernandez Jr. (FB), Yvette Karla Herrera (FB), Ángel Michel Juárez (FB), Megumi Kabe (FB), Marcel Licera (FB), Jackie Marriott (FB), Roberta H. Martínez (FB), Allyson Taylor (FB), and Raymond Watanga (FB). All were great. I particularly liked the per-tour performances of Juárez, Herrera, and Cedillo; the general tourguide and Jewish father of Berckart (who we saw in Paradise); … oh, they all were great, come to think about it. Each had their own special moments.

Turning to the production side: the set design by César Retana-Holguín (FB) was simple — benches and chairs and some artwork on the side, augmented by the projection design of Masha Tatarintseva (FB) as well as live video shot throughout the show. Establishing place and time even more were the costumes of Abel Alvarado (FB) — they were reasonably period and culturally appropriate (Ashley Montoya (FB) was the wardrobe supervisor). The sound design of Xavi Casanova (FB) and Vincent Sanchez (FB) provided the appropriate sound effects and music, and Kevin Eduardo Vasquez (FB)’s lighting design established the mood.

The production was written by Corky Dominguez (FB) and Josefina López (FB), and directed by CD. Andrew Ortega (FB) was the Asst. to the Director. Our friend Shmuel Gonzales (FB), the “Barrio Boychik” who gives tours of Boyle Heights, was the Production Consultant. Xavi Casanova (FB) was the Production Stage Manager, and Georgina “Gina” Rios Escobar (FB) was the Asst. Stage Manager. Josefina López (FB) is the Founding Artistic Director of Casa 0101; Emmanuel Deleage (FB) is the Executive Director of Casa 0101.

Remembering Boyle Heights continues at Casa 0101 (FB) until December 16th.  Tickets are available through the Casa 0101 website; discount tickets (in combination with dinner) may be available on Goldstar. If you are a lover of Los Angeles, and especially if you love Los Angeles history, this is the show for you.

***

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), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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 starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). It will  also bring Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Other than that, December is open while we recover (other than the obligatory movie on Christmas Day — our one day a year for filmed entertainment).

January is much more open, especially after the postponement of Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Right now, all there is is a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Judea and a hold for the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB) but the rest of the month is currently open (as few shows run in January due to complicated rehearsals over the holidays). We’ll keep our eyes open. February starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB), Hello Dolly at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and Anna Karenena at Actors Co-op (FB).  There’s also a HOLD for 1776 at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and Lizzie at the Chance Theatre, but much of February is also open.

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. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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🎭 The First Time You Die | “Steambath” @ Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Steambath (Odyssey Theatre Ensemble)Back when I was 13, there was a production on TV that I remember to this day (although I can’t remember if I saw the original airing or a repeat): the play Steambath, written by Bruce Jay Friedman, was broadcast on our local PBS station (it might even have still been NET) station, KCET. Why was this broadcast notable?  Well, it could have been the subject: death and limbo and God as a Puerto-Rican steambath attendant. It could have been the talent: Bill Bixby, Valerie Perrine, Herb Edelman, Jose Perez, Stephen Elliott, Kenneth Mars. But for most 13 year old boys, it was the fact that KCET showed it uncensored, and you got to see Valerie Perrine’s tits (and, yes, that’s how they are referred to in the play — she doesn’t like the term “knockers”).  It is available on DVD, but I did find one scene on YouTube — and that scene demonstrates how stereotypical it was, and how reflective it was of its times. There are jokes that today would be insensitive — it is in many ways a period piece.

I mention all of this because Saturday night, we saw Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). Yes, it had its dated aspects. But it was also laugh out loud funny.

Steambath is a comedy, but it is also a philosophical, perhaps even theological piece. When the play opens, we’re in a steambath. An older man, Tandy, has just arrived. He starts talking (as one does in a steambath) with the oldtimer there, who is constantly complaining about a man sitting on an upper bench in the steambath, being … well, gross. Spitting, clipping his toenails, etc. We also meet the other men in the bath: two gay men (or, as they are referenced in the play, the “fags”, as the term “gay” wasn’t common then), and a stockbroker. A woman comes in, takes off her towel, showers, and leaves. This gets the discussion going. Eventually, the woman returns; her name is Merideth. There’s lots of discussion back and forth while we get to know the characters, and for some, we start to get the notion this isn’t what it seems. Eventually, they figure that out as well. Specifically, they come to realize that they are dead. Tandy asks who is in charge, and he is pointed to the Puerto Rican steambath attendant. The attandant comes in, goes to a console, and starts doing god-like stuff: directing cars to crash, people to get shot, etc. Eventually, Tandy confronts him and gets him to prove that he is God. This proof takes up the remainder of the first act, and is very very funny. Pick a card type funny.

The second act gets a bit more serious, as our characters tell their stories, and one by one leave the steambath to go…. on. Tandy refuses to do so — he doesn’t accept his death. He’s trying to argue to God that he has turned his life around, and he deserves to go on. But God eventually shows him that he hasn’t changed as much as he thought, and he, too, eventually goes through the door.

At the play we saw the next night, they said something very profound: The first time you die is, well, when you physically die. The second time you die is when you are buried, and your physical body is gone. The third time you die is when you are forgotten. This play was about the first time you die.

Even with the what are now politically incorrect jokes, the play was very very funny. Under the direction of Ron Sossi (FB) and the choreography of Dagney Kerr (FB), the characters came to life and action was well paced. It didn’t help that God was extremely talented and funny, which is no surprise given that God was portrayed by Paul Rodriguez (FB) (who alternates in the role with Peter Pasco). Rodriguez inserted his own brand of funny, including adding some jokes that he admitted were from the future, and the characters probably wouldn’t understand. There was one particularly crude one about Monica Lewinsky, for example.

In the other lead positions were Jeff Lebeau (FB) as Tandy and Shelby Lauren Barry (FB) as Meredith (who had a well-secured towel). Both were excellent. Lebeau brought a nice warmth to Tandy creating a likable character who you didn’t want to see leave — he really did give the sense of a man who had turned his life around. Barry was also likable as the young woman into clothes, shopping, and the 1970s lifestyle; she proved a good sounding board for Lebeau’s Tandy.

In the next tier were John Moskal (FB) as the Oldtimer, and Robert Lesser (FB) as Bieberman, the other old man whose habits irritated the Oldtimer so.  Both captured their characters well. Moskal was great as the man who had been everywhere and seen everything, and thought that he knew everything. Lesser’s Bieberman captured the annoying quite well in the first act, and had an interesting story in the second.

Rounding out the steambath “residents” were Brian Graves (FB) as the Broker, and DJ Kemp (FB) and Devan Scheolen (FB) as the “Young Men” (i.e., “fags”).  Graves main role is to be athletic and concerned about business and he pulls that off quite well. Kemp and Scheolen get to have a more musical turn (you’ll get an idea if you watched the YouTube clip from the TV version). They portray the characters well and as written, but that characterization is a very early 70s view of homosexuals played for the humor. Just understand that’s what you’ll be getting, and you’ll enjoy their performance.

Rounding out the cast were Yusuf Yildiz (FB) as Gottlieb, the attendant for God; Anthony Rutowicz (FB) as the Longshoreman / Detective, and Shay Denison (FB) as the Young Girl. The latter two are smaller roles in the second act; Yildiz’s role is larger and is primarily a straight-man to Rodriguez’s comic God. He does that well.

Lastly, turning to the production and creative side: Gary Guidinger (FB)’s scenic design is simple and, well, a steambath — with copious “steam”. It is supported by Josh La Cour (FB)’s props — which are particularly good, especially the ice cream sodas. Mylette Nora‘s costumes are primarily towels, but they are very well secured. Christopher Moscatiello (FB) sound design provides great sound effects, and Chu-Hsuan Chang‘s lighting design effectively creates the mood. Other production credits: Margaret Starbuck (FB) and Alex Weber (FB) were assistant directors; Izaura Avitia was the stage manager.

Steambath continues at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) through December 16. Tickets are available through the Odyssey Website, discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. Although the show is dated and politically incorrect, it is also very very funny and well worth seeing.

***

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), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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:

Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend brought Remembering Boyle Heights at Casa 0101 (FB) in Boyle Heights, which I’ll write up tomorrow. December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). It will  also bring Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Other than that, December is open while we recover (other than the obligatory movie on Christmas Day — our one day a year for filmed entertainment).

January is much more open, especially after the postponement of Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Right now, all there is is a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Judea and a hold for the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB) but the rest of the month is currently open (as few shows run in January due to complicated rehearsals over the holidays). We’ll keep our eyes open. February starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB), Hello Dolly at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and Anna Karenena at Actors Co-op (FB).  There’s also a HOLD for 1776 at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and Lizzie at the Chance Theatre, but much of February is also open.

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. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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🛣️ Changes to the California Highways Website – October/November 2018

What did you do over the Thanksgiving weekend? Me? I didn’t eat turkey; instead, I finished updating the California Highways web pages with all the changes accumulated since the end of June.

You can thank me later. For now, read on, McDuff.

After two updates that added maps to every route page, it’s time to do a regular update. As I’ve written before, I’m do some remodeling around here. Over the past year, the site has been moved to HTTPS: all the time, and (as noted) maps will be added. I’ve gotten a book on Responsive Design, and after I read it, I’ll be moving the site to a responsive design, together with some basic graphic changes of the headers and menus. I have no plans to change the content or my method of content generation. As always, I’m on the lookout for a good WSYWYG with “Tags Mode” HTML editor that I like (both of the ones I use, HoTMetaL Pro and Amaya are abandonware). You can see my thoughts on what I would like from the redesign here; it also explains how the site is generated.

Moving on to the 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 Tom Fearer​ (​Max Rockatansky)(2), Andy Field(3), Mark F/AARoads(4), Gonelookin/AARoads(5), Alex Nitzman(6), Joe Rouse(7), Chris Sampang(8), Sparker/AARoads(9), Jim Umbach(10), Joel Windmiller(11): Route 1(1,2), Route 2(1), Route 4(1,2), I-5(1,2), US 6(2), Route 8(1,2), Route 9(1,8), Route 11(1), Route 12(1,2), Route 14(1), I-15(1,9,6,10), Route 16(11,8,9), Route 20(2), LRN 23(2), Route 24(11,8,9), Route 25(1), Route 26(2), Route 28(2), Route 29(1), Route 30(8), Route 31(9), Route 32(1), Route 33(2,9), LRN 34(2), Route 36(1), Route 37(1), Route 41(1), Route 42(1), Route 44(8), Route 49(1,2), US 50(1,2,5), Route 51(2,9,7), Route 52(1), Route 57(1), Route 58(1,2,8), Route 60(1), Route 61(1), Route 65(1,2), Route 74 (including the Mid-County Parkway)(1), Route 76(1), Route 79(1), I-80(1,2,9,7), Route 82(1,8), Route 84(1), Route 85(1), Route 88(2), Route 89(1,2), Route 92(8), US 97(2), Route 99(1,2,11,9), US 101(1,9), Route 108(1,2), Route 110(1),Route 111(1), Route 118(1,9), Route 122(9), Route 128(1), LRN 129(1,2), Route 132(1,2,9), LRN 136(1,2), Route 138(1), Route 141(6), Route 155(1,2), Route 156(1), Route 161(2), Route 163(1), Route 166(1), Route 174(2), Route 188(2), Route 190(1,2), Route 196(9), Route 198(1), Route 201(1), Route 202(2), I-210(1), I-215(1), Route 211(1,2), I-215(1), Route 216(1), Route 221(1), Route 229(2), Route 237(1), Route 238(1,9), Route 241(1,4), Route 249(9), Route 263(1), Route 267(2), Route 275(1), Route 276(1,2), Route 283(1), Route 299(1,2), US 395(1), Route 371(1), I-380(1), I-405(1), US 466(2), I-580(1), I-680(1), I-710(1), I-780(6), County Sign Route E2 – Capitol Southeast Connector(3,8), County Sign Route E15(2), County Sign Route E18(2), County Sign Route G1(2), County Sign Route J16(2), County Sign Route J22(2), County Sign Route J28(2), County Sign Route J29(2), County Sign Route J37(2), County Sign Route J41(2), County Sign Route N2(1), County Sign Route N3(1).

Noted the useful responses to an AAroad query for when I move to the “one highway per page” as part of Phase 3 of the site refresh.

Updated the Chronology based on the Caltrans chronology.

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🎭 An Accidental Activist, Take 2 | “Finks” @ Rogue Machine Theatre

Finks (Rogue Machine Theatre)The theme for this weekend appears to be accidental activism. Saturday’s show, from the Jewish Women’s Theatre (FB), was a collection of stories about people who became activists by having it thrust upon them. Last night’s show,  Finks, at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB), had a very similar theme.

All Mickey Dobbs wanted to do was entertain and be funny. He might make the occasional political joke in his nightclub act at Cafe Society, but his only political party was a party of one: the Mickey Dobbs party. Self-interest at its finest. After all, this was early 1950s, when the House Un-American Activities Committee was active, and anyone remotely connected with Hollywood or entertainment was being called up to testify. Having a political stance was dangerous — it could get one listed in the blacklist that wasn’t a blacklist, and there went your career. So apolitical he was; no public interest in politics.

That was, however, until someone became interested in him. That someone was Natalie Meltzer, one of the co-founders of the Actors Faction within Actors Equity. She expressed her interest, however, by hiring him for Faction gigs, and as he got to know her — and other members of the faction such as Fred Lang and the homosexual co-founder, Bobby Gerard — he started to fall in love. He was never into the politics, but love makes strange bedfellows.

In parallel, however, the committee continued to investigate. There were those who refused to testify, who were held in contempt of congress and imprisoned. There were those who were combative, and who lost their careers. And there were those, focused on saving their careers, who named names. And named names, And named names. Each person named was added to the suspicion list, and called in turn — and coerced to give more names.

Eventually, the HUAC’s attention turned to the faction. Who would fight back? Who would name names? And when the spotlight hit Mickey, would he be that accidental activist, or would he save his career?

That, in essence, is the plotline of Finks, written by Joe Gilford, son of the actor Jack Gilford, one of the actors blacklisted during this period. If you read Jack Gilford’s story, it isn’t hard to see that Mickey Dobbs isn’t that far from Jack Gilford. Worked at Cafe Society. Married a woman he met at progressive political meetings and events during the late 1940s, and entertained at many of these events, some of them produced by his wife. She was married at the time and divorced her first husband soon after meeting Gilford.  In 1953 Gilford and his wife were called to testify before the HUAC regarding their alleged Communist sympathies, after being specifically named by choreographer Jerome Robbins (the character Bobby Gerard in the play) in his own testimony to the committee.

I should note that this play is running in repertory with Oppenheimer,  which tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer, too, had his run-ins with the HUAC hysteria for his tangential connection to the Communist party early in his career.

So why Finks? Why now? In fact, why is the notion of accidental activism so resonant these days? For the answer, you need to look no further than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (and I don’t mean the failed musical) and the current occupant’s habit of using heresay and innuendo to attempt to ruin careers of people that he doesn’t like. You need to look no further at a society that used to be overly concerned about “the Red Menace” (Russia) taking over our society becoming one that is now turning a blind eye to Russia interfering in our elections. One wonders what the folks of the HUAC would make of Trump. The pendulum swings, but perhaps it has swung way too far. But more importantly, there is the accidental activism that has been the result, as demonstrated this November. We have candidates of color and gender that are toppling the entrenched white male leadership — activism that was catalyzed in response to the election of Trump.

Plays like Finks demonstrate the power of theatre to remind us of what is important. They show us that the best way to fight back against a government that has taken a wrong turn — in either direction — is to become that activist. They show us the power of standing up for what is right, even at a great personal costs. That’s true for the actors of the Hollywood Blacklist, most of whom were not Communists in the Russian sense, but working for peace and better conditions for workers in all industries. That’s equally true for the Democrats of today, who are working to make the country better for all. This play sends the message of the importance of standing up (or of kneeling, when appropriate) to authority that isn’t upholding the values of America.

Under the direction of Michael Pressman, this cast is supurb, lead by the real life husband and wife team of French Stewart and Vanessa Stewart.  These two are familiar with activism, both being very active in the I Love 99 movement here in Los Angeles, working for the rights of actors to volunteer their time in the intimate theatres of Los Angeles. Watching them on the RMF stage, one gets the feeling of this passion within them (and their real passion for each other, which comes through in the comfortable interaction of their characters). Both are strong, strong actors and just a delight to watch as they really become their characters.

In supporting roles on the Actors Faction side are Adam Lebowitz-Lockard as Bobby Gerard and Bruce Nozick as Fred Lang. Both have strong characterizations of their characters. I particularly liked Lebowitz-Lockard in the first scenes where we meet him and his later testimony; Nozick is really strong in his testimony and his prison scene. Lockshening away on the piano was Richard Levinson as Dickie Lewis, the Piano Man. Levinson is always a delight to hear on the piano.

On the HUAC side of the equation was Matt Gottlieb as Rep. Walter; Stephen Tyler Howell as the Sgt. at Arms (as well as the Bartender, Announcer, and Leading Man); Daniel Dorr as Victor Lynch, Stanley, and Elia Kazan; and Thomas Fiscella as Martin Berkeley, Carl Brody, Budd Schulberg, Lee J. Cobb, and Phil Larsen. All were strong. I particularly liked the exasperation of Gottlieb’s congresscritter, and the adaptability of Fiscella and Dorr’s characterizations.

The scenic design was by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, who had to make do with the basic set structure from Oppenheimer (which was presented in the same space just a few hours earlier). As such, the space was defined mostly by props and set pieces: a piano, bar tables, a couch, a hearing table with microphones. There were some cameras and radios hanging in the back that seemed to serve no purpose. Also establishing the sense of place was Nicholas E. Santiago‘s projections — especially for the scenes as Cafe Society. Halei Parker‘s costume design was excellent. Other than a few failing sleeve hems, the costumes were appropriately period (including the high waisted look and the maternity outfits) and the actors carried them off well. Christopher Moscatiello‘s sound design and Matt Richter‘s lighting design did what good designs of that ilk do: they faded into the background establishing time and environment without intruding. Rounding out the technical and production credits: Cecilia Fairchild [Asst. Director]; Ramón Valdez [Stage Manager]; Victoria Hoffman [Casting Director]; Amanda Bierbauer [Production Manager]; David Mauer [Technical Director]; Elina de Santos [Co-Artistic Director]; John Perrin Flynn [Producer, Artistic Director].

Finks continues at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB) through December 30. Tickets are available online through the RMT website. It is a production well worth seeing in this day and age, reminding us of the value of standing up for what you believe in.

***

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), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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:

Thanksgiving weekend brings Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) on Saturday and Remembering Boyle Heights at Casa 0101 (FB) in Boyle Heights on Sunday. December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). It will  also bring Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Other than that, December is open while we recover (other than the obligatory movie on Christmas Day — our one day a year for filmed entertainment).

January is much more open, especially after the postponement of Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Right now, all there is is a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Judea and a hold for the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB) but the rest of the month is currently open (as few shows run in January due to complicated rehearsals over the holidays). We’ll keep our eyes open. February starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB), Hello Dolly at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and Anna Karenena at Actors Co-op (FB).  There’s also a HOLD for 1776 at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and Lizzie at the Chance Theatre, but much of February is also open.

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. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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✡️🏕️ And The Processing Continues … But #KramerNeverStops and #HilltopNeverStops

It has now been a week (but it seems much longer) since we learned that Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp were essentially destroyed in the Woolsey Fire (together with a number of other camps, including Camp JCA Shalom, Camp Bloomfield, the Salvation Army Camps, and I’m sure many others, including former BSA, GSA, and other camp facilities). At CHK, all that I know remains are one or two cabins that were cinder-block, the Arts and Crafts area, the new dining hall (although it sustained some damage), the conference center/infirmary/office complex, and of course, Inspiration Point. At Hilltop, all that remains are some cinder-block cabins, the Arts & Crafts center / Pool / Roth Room, and of course, the menorah at the top of the hill.

We know, of course, that camp will rebuild. The facilities were insured, the congregation has both means and motivation, and the alumni are an active group. The camping may be away from Malibu this summer while construction occurs; there is no formal announcement of the 2019 location yet, but camp will happen for the kids. My hope, for 2019, is that the kids can return to the Pioneer spirit: returning to the grounds to recover artifacts and material, and creating new art out of the old memories to ensure that what was camp is remembered in what camp becomes.

For those of us who are alumni of the camps — from the old-timers who were there in the very beginning going back to the Presbyterian Conference Ground days to the first days in Malibu, to the folks there when only CHK existed in the 1960s, to the pioneers and kids of the 1970s (my generation), to the generations since in the 1980s and beyond — for all of us this has been an interesting week. Memories that were in the background are resurfacing. Facebook groups are providing an avenue of reconnection within camp generations, and establishing new connections between the generations. We’re sharing pictures, stories, artifacts. Most importantly, there’s a sense that we’re here, camp lives within us, and we will be there with boots on (and walkers, as necessary 🙂 ) to rebuild however and whenever we can. Camp was a safe spot for many, a formative spot for all, and it made us who we are today. From a group that was created last Sunday morning, we are now over 1,500 strong. Unified and voice in spirit. We’re ready to take the values of Al Slosha D’varim and use them to bring camp back through Torah values, our hard work (avodah), and donating funds (g’melut chasadim).

For me, the destruction has reopened the good memories of the period from 1969 to 1979, the good people, the good times. It reminded me why I go to Malibu whenever I can afford to (either in terms of time or funds). Camp is where I had great joy, but it is also where I had sadness. It was at camp that I learned that my brother had died, cutting the session I went to in 1970 short (and I will always be grateful for the caring from my counselors — Sandy Strauss, Scott Shershow, and Joel Saltzman). But it was also at camp  that I acquired self confidence  and grew into who I am today. The place and the beauty will return; the scars will heal. Out of the ashes something stronger will form; there will be a new generation of pioneers rebuilding camp.

And it will be good. Very very good.

My first year at camp – 1969

P.S.: If you want to donate to the camps, visit here.

P.P.S.: If you want to see what happened, here are some good news reports from ABC 7 and NBC 4; an exploration right after the fire; an article from the LA Times; and an article from the Huffington Post.

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🎭 Speaking Up, Making Change | “The Accidental Activist” @ JWT/TAS

The Accidental Activist (Jewish Womens Theatre / TAS Sisterhood)It is interesting how the theatre we have scheduled dovetails. For the longest time, we had planned to see Finks, at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB) in Venice: a story about artists having to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. But then my wife got involved with sisterhood at our congregation, and they scheduled a theatre night on top of Finks. So I arranged to move our Finks tickets Sunday night, and we arranged to go to the Sisterhood show. By now, I’m sure you’re asking: What show was it?

I’ll wait.

Funny that you should ask. The show was called The Accidental Activist, and it was a presentation of the Jewish Women’s Theatre (FB). The show, which was much like an evening at The Moth, was less a fully-staged theatrical production (with sets and costumes and the whole gevalt) and more a staged reading. The show consisted of 11 short stories — all true to my knowledge — built around the theme of being thrust into activism. These stories were:

I won’t attempt to summarize the stories here. I can say that all were interesting, many were very touching, and all fit with the theme. I did find quite a few of them inspiring — especially after a week of thinking about the impact of Jewish Summer camp on my life and seeing how it has instilled activism in people. They were certainly worth hearing.

I’m sure you’re curious about which ones are sticking with me the most. I think the ones that struck a nerve with me were My Blessed JourneyThe Chairs, and Worthy of Love. Why did they stick? That’s harder to say. What I think I can reliably say is that that at least one or two of the stories will resonate with you, and that this production (if it comes near you) is worth seeing.

The stories were performed by four actors: Arva RoseVicki Juditz (FB), Emma Berdie Donson, and Robert Keller. All were strong. I urge you to pay special attention to their faces during the performances, for they do a great job of becoming different characters, as opposed to just reading the story.

The production was adapted, curated, and produced by Ronda Spinak (FB), with additional production by Suzanna Kaplan. Susie Yure and Rose Ziff were Associate Producers. The production was directed by Susan Morgenstern. Barbara Koletsky was the Asst. Producer and Stage Manager. Daphna Shull was the Artistic Associate.

I don’t know when JWT will be doing this production again, but they do have a show, Not That Jewish, coming up in early December and three shows schedules so far for 2019. Information is available at the Jewish Women’s Theatre (FB) website.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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:

Sunday brings our second show of the weekend: Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend has Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) on Saturday and Remembering Boyle Heights at Casa 0101 (FB) in Boyle Heights on Sunday. December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB).

January is much more open, especially after the postponement of Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Right now, all there is is a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Judea and a hold for the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB) but the rest of the month is currently open (as few shows run in January due to complicated rehearsals over the holidays). We’ll keep our eyes open. February starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB), Hello Dolly at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and Anna Karenena at Actors Co-op (FB).  There’s also a HOLD for 1776 at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and Lizzie at the Chance Theatre, but much of February is also open.

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. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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🎭 Where We Come From | “A Bronx Tale” @ Pantages

A Bronx Tale (Pantages)This has been a hard week, and the circumstances of why the week was so hard have contributed to why this write-up is so late. They also thematically dovetail nicely with the show that we saw last Saturday at the Hollywood Pantages (FB): A Bronx Tale (FB).

Why has the week been so hard? The camps that I grew up at as a child — Camp Hess Kramer and GIndling Hilltop Camp — were essentially destroyed by the Woolsey Fire. Camp will rebuild of course (and they were insured, although you can contribute and help as well), but it has been a week filled with memories of how my 10 years at camp — 1969 through 1978 — shaped me into what I became today. Events and places that occur in a child’s formative years can have profound impacts on what they become. This is especially true when what shapes that path is love.

The notion of how our past can shape our present is at the heart of A Bronx Tale. When he was 9 (the same age that I started camp), Calogero Lorenzo (“Chazz”) Palminteri witnessed a murder in front of his house in the Bronx, where he lived on Belmont Avenue with his parents Lorenzo and Rose. What happened next drew him into the orbit of the local mob, and shaped his life when he had to ultimately make the decision about whether he was going to live a life where he achieved his goals through fear, or he followed the path of love. He chose the latter, and after a number of struggles, wrote up his childhood experiences as a one man play. He premiered this play (where he played 31 roles) through one of Los Angeles’ intimate theatre companies, West Coast Ensemble (FB) [a company that, alas, has gone dark, although we saw their last production] at Theatre West (FB), and the play was a success. The play was polished, moved to an Off-Broadway house, and won a number of awards. Robert DeNiro saw it, and offered to buy the film rights. After some back and forth, that happened, with Palminteri both writing the story and having a part in the movie. The movie premiered and was a reasonable success. This led to Palminteri bringing back the one-man show, this time as a play on Broadway itself, which later went on a national tour. That then led to a musical adaptation, directed by Jerry Zaks (who directed the stage play) and Robert De Niro (who directed the movie), written by Palminteri, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater (FB) [who was recently represented on the Pantages stage with both 👎 Love Never Dies and 👍 School of Rock). That opened on Broadway in December 2016, ran through August 2018, and then moved to a national tour.

Although the show is marketed as “Jersey Boys meets West Side Story”, that’s really just marketing. If it were me, I’d use the line: “Those who influence our youth influence their future.”. For just like my adulthood was not only influenced by my parents, but by what happened to me at camp, Palminteri’s adulthood was influenced by the dual values of what his parents taught him as well as the lessons he learned at the camp of hard knocks, under the mob leader Little Johnny (renamed in later versions of the story).

Perhaps now is the time to summarize the story (this was adapted from the Wikipedia summary of the movie, which has been the plot of all the different versions):

In 1960, Lorenzo lives in Belmont, an Italian-American neighborhood in The Bronx, with his wife Rosina and his 9-year-old son Calogero, who is fascinated by the local mobsters led by Sonny. One day, Calogero witnesses a murder committed by Sonny in defense of an assaulted friend in his neighborhood. When Calogero chooses to keep quiet when questioned by the NYPD, Sonny takes a liking to him. The two start working together, and Sonny gives him the nickname “C”. Calogero starts working at Sonny’s bar, throwing dice and getting paid. When his bus driver father finds out, he admonishes the boy and words him about the life.  Eight years later, Calogero has grown into a young man who has been visiting Sonny regularly without his father’s knowledge. Calogero is also part of a gang of local Italian-American boys At school, Calogero meets a black girl, Jane, and is smitten. Despite the high level of racial tension and dislike between Italian Americans and African Americans, Calogero arranges a date with Jane. He asks for advice from both his father and Sonny, with the latter lending Calogero his car so he can make a good impression. Before the date happens, however, the neighborhood gang beat up some blacks who cut through their neighborhood, including Jane’s brother. There is some confusion, an argument with Jane, and a fight with Sonny (who thinks Calogero put a bomb in Sonny’s car). The tensions continue to rise, and the Italian gang makes plans to bomb the blacks, but end up bombing themselves instead. Luckily, Calogero is alive because Sonny kept him from going with that gang (and thus, Sonny saved his life). Calogero rushes back to his neighborhood and makes his way through the crowded bar to thank Sonny and inform him of what happened, but an unnamed assailant shoots Sonny in the back of the head before Calogero can warn him. Calogero later learns that the assailant was the son of the man Sonny killed in front of Calogero’s house eight years earlier. At Sonny’s funeral, countless people come to pay their respects. When the crowd disperses, a lone man, Carmine, visits the funeral, claiming that Sonny once saved his life as well. Carmine tells Calogero that he will be taking care of the neighborhood for the time being, and promises Calogero help should he ever need anything. Carmine leaves just as Calogero’s father unexpectedly arrives to pay his respects to Sonny, thanking him for saving his son’s life and admitting that he had never hated Sonny, but merely resented him for making Calogero grow up so quickly.

Our reactions to the show? I thought it was a good show. Not great, not game changing, but good. It was clearly in the mold of existing musicals. The music was quite enjoyable, and a number of the songs easily stuck in your head. The individual performances were strong. But overall, as a piece, it was … good. Part of that the interracial plot line, which could have been good had it gone somewhere (for a while, I was thinking of the musical Memphis), but it just fizzed away. In terms of long term impact, I felt that Friday night’s show, Dear Evan Hansen, had much more staying power and a much stronger overall message. I liked the message of A Bronx Tale, especially the tag line of “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.” But I think in terms of today’s generation, the former message of “No one deserves to be forgotten, no one deserves to fade away.” has more resonance.  So, in my eyes, A Bronx Tale (The Musical) was good and enjoyable, but didn’t rise to the level of great.

On the other hand, my wife enjoyed A Bronx Tale immensely. She liked the music, she liked the story, she liked the performances. She had been troubled by the fact that Dear Evan Hansen, ultimately, was built around a lie, and when those walls came crashing down, a lot of people were hurt by the lie. She found that A Bronx Tale had a better message for her: a message about making the right choices, about choosing to do the right thing and growing and benefiting from it.

Thinking about it, both shows on the main stages of LA have to do with choices: Evan makes a choice out of anxiety, and chooses to lie, making up a story to get people to like him. In doing so, he hurts a lot of people, but imparts a good message along the way. “C” also makes a choice: after seeing the damage that can occur by building a life of making people fear someone, he chooses instead to build a life around love: doing what he loves, living life in a way that make people love him. He matures, but with his integrity intact.

Who made the better choice? Evan or “C”?

My wife might have it right after all. I should always listen to her (at least in terms of the messages of the show).

So why did Dear Evan Hansen get all the fame and glory? There are a few reasons, I think. First, I think, was the fact that DEH was a new story for the stage, whereas ABT was first a play, than a movie, than a musical — and the stage of late has been littered with movies-to-musicals. Second was the music: DEH was in the modern sound idiom, and appeals to youth; ABT was more a traditional older-rock sound. Third was the performances: Whereas some of the performances in ABT were strong, all of the performances in DEH were outstanding, particularly Evan and Heidi. Fourth was technology: ABT was a conventional story with conventional staging; DEH utilized technology in a new way in its staging. Last was message: ABT was more of an old fashioned mob story with a good message, but DEH touched upon topical issues: people feeling alienated because they are forgotten, the mental illness of teens, and the broader impact of anxiety and teen suicide.

Both, however, are worth seeing and worth contrasting.

Writing this up almost a week after seeing the show, there are a few performances that still stick in my head. First and foremost are the Calogeros — both the young and the old. The “young” was either Frankie Leoni (FB) or Shane Pry (at some performances); I think we had Frankie, but I’m not sure, The “old” was Joey Barreiro (FB). Frankie/Shane (whomever it was on Sat night) gave a remarkable performance: strong singing, strong dancing, strong voice, strong characterization. He was also a lot of fun to watch. Barreiro’s older Caolgero was also strong — good movement, good singing, good performance.

Brianna-Marie Bell (FB)’s Jane demonstrated a knockout voice and a strong characterization in a character, alas, that is only a catalyst and does not bring the meaningful relationship her character should bring.

Joe Barbara (FB)’s Sonny had the right old Sicilian feel about him, and had good mobster moves and a nice voice, although his stage fighting could use a bit more work to come across as realistic.

In the last of the named memorable roles, Richard H. Blake (FB)’s Lorenzo had a nice mix of paternalism and strength, with a good singing voice.

The remaining performances, alas, faded together into the cloud of memory: good dancing, good singing, but no particularly standout characterizations. I think this is more the fault of the script and the story than that actors themselves. The remaining performance team was: Michelle Aravena (FB) [Rosina]; Antonio Beverly (FB) [Tyrone]; Mike Backes [Ensemble, Eddie Mush]; Michael Barra (FB) [Ensemble, Joseph the Whale]; Sean Bell (FB) [Ensemble, Sally Slick]; Joshua Michael Burrage (FB) [Ensemble]; Joey Calveri (FB) [Ensemble, Carmine]; Giovanni DiGabriele (FB) [Ensemble, Handsome Nick]; John Gardiner (FB) [Ensemble, Rudy the Voice]; Haley Hannah (FB) [Ensemble, Asst. Dance Captain]; Kirk Lydell (FB) [Ensemble]; Ashley McManus (FB) [Ensemble, Dancer]; Robert Pieranunzi (FB) [Ensemble, Frankie Coffeecake]; Brandi Porter (FB) [Ensemble, Frieda]; Kyli Rae (FB) [Ensemble]; Paul Salvatoriello (FB) [Ensemble, Tony Ten-to-Two]; Joseph Sammour [Ensemble, Crazy Mario]; and Jason Williams (FB) [Ensemble, Jesse]. Swings were: Peter Gregus (FB), Christopher Messina (FB) [Dance Captain]; and Brittany Williams. I’m not noting who was understudying whom.

Music was provided by a mix of travelling and local musicians, conducted by Brian P. Kennedy (FB), who was also on the keyboards. Working with him were: Noah Landis (FB) [Assoc. Conductor, Keyboards]; Lisa LeMay (FB) [Asst. Conductor, Keyboards]; Theodore Hogarth (FB) and Jordan Standlee (FB) [Woodwinds]; Jeff Ostroski (FB) [Trumpet / Flugel]; Craig Watson (FB) [Trombone]; Brian LaFontaine (FB) [Guitar]; Paul Davis (FB) [Drums]; Frank Canino (FB) [Acoustic and Electric Bass]; Richard Mitchell [Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax]; John Fumo (FB) [Trumpet / Flugel]; Charlie Morillas (FB) [Trombone]; Alby Potts (FB) [Keyboard 3]; Jennifer Oikawa [Keyboard 2 Sub]; Eric Heinly [Orchestra Contractor]. Other music credits: Randy Cohen (FB) [Keyboard Programmer];  John Miller (FB) [Music Coordinator]; Doug Besterman [Orchestrations]; Johnny Gale [Period Music Consultant]; Ron Melrose [Music Supervision and Arrangements].

Choreography was by Sergio Trujillo (FB), Marc Kimelman (FB) was the Assoc. Choreographer. The movement seemed sufficiently period, but none of the dance sequences stick in my head a week afterward.

Lastly, we turn to the production credits. Beowulf Boritt (FB)’s Scenic Design was relatively traditional, with a nice Bronx backdrop that served for most of the story. It integrated well with the other scenic aspects: William Ivey Long‘s costume design, Paul Huntley‘s hair and wigs, and Anne Ford-Coates‘s makeup. Howell Binkley‘s lighting and Gareth Owen‘s sound sufficed. Other production credits: Robert Westley [Fight Coordinator]; Hudson Theatrical Associates [Technical Supervision]; Stephen Edlund [Assoc. Director]; Jeff Mensch [Company Manager — bet he gets a lot of jokes]; Kelsey Tippins [Production Stage Manager]; Networks Presentations / Walker White [Production Manager]; Tara Rubin Casting / Merri Sugarman CSA [Casting].

A Bronx Tale continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) until November 25, 2018. Tickets are available through the Pantages box office. Discount tickets may be available on Goldstar.

Note: As always, we seem to hit at least one Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS performance every year. Saturday was our night with the actors and their red buckets. So, we’ll hit you up as well. Donate to BC/EFA here.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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:

The upcoming weekend brings Beyond Jacobs Ladder from Jewish Woman’s Theatre (FB) at our synagogue on Saturday, and Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving weekend has Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) on Saturday and Remembering Boyle Heights at Casa 0101 (FB) in Boyle Heights on Sunday. December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB).

January is much more open, especially after the postponement of Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Right now, all there is is a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Judea and a hold for the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB) but the rest of the month is currently open (as few shows run in January due to complicated rehearsals over the holidays). We’ll keep our eyes open. February starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB), Hello Dolly at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and Anna Karenena at Actors Co-op (FB).  There’s also a HOLD for 1776 at the Saroya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and Lizzie at the Chance Theatre, but much of February is also open.

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. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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