🤣 It’s All How You Look At It (PS: The Banks are Closed Today)

[Today is Illegal Immigration Day — the day that we celebrate when the inhabitants of Miami Beach discovered an illegal boat person on their shore, and made the gigantic mistake of offering him and the others on his boat asylum… and look at what happened. In Los Angeles, of course, they just renamed the day Indigenous People Day. Back in the 1950s, however, the day was called Columbus Day, when we celebrated a city in Ohio for reason no one really knows, other than we needed to give bankers a 3-day weekend in October, because we all know they need the respite.]

In 1961, the humorist Stan Freberg issued Volume 1 of The United States of America, a musical telling of the founding of America through the Battle of Yorktown (Volume 2 goes through the end of World War I (“They’ll never be another war…”)). The first scene on Volume 1 relates the story of how the Indians discovered Columbus. Although many things have changed since 1961 when this was recorded — Columbus is no longer held in the same regard, the portrayal of the Native American would likely be very different — there are still points that ring true, especially the exchange:

Columbus: Alright. Hello there. Hello there. We white man. Other side of ocean. My name, Christopher Columbus.
Chief: Oh, you over here on a Fulbright?
Columbus: No, no. I’m over here on an Isabella, as a matter of fact. Which reminds me. I want to take a few of you guys back on the boat to prove I discovered you.
Chief: What you mean discover us? We discover you.
Columbus: You discovered us?
Chief: Certainly, we discover you on beach here. Is all how you look at it.

As today is Columbus Day, let us remember that unfortunate day that the Native Americans discovered a Italian sailor, and the world was never the same. Just look at all he brought us: “real food: starches, spaghetti, cholesterol, … all the better things. That’s called progress.”

I present a transcription of the scene, just as it happened:

Read More …

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🎭 Rumors are like Feather Pillowcases | “Anastasia” @ Hollywood Pantages

Anastasia (Hollywood Pantages)The music from Anastasia (and by this, I mean the 1997 animated movie musical) has a special place in my heart, for it was the first movie to which we took our daughter. I remember when we saw it: I liked the music, but the villain in the story was far too comical, and I always felt guilty watching it because it made you cheer for the Czar and his family, when … well, remember those Jews being kicked out of their home in Fiddler on the Roof? That was happening at the request of the Czar. Anastasia was also the musical that introduced me to the music of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (FB). From there, I found Once on this Island, and Ragtime and Suessical and Lucky Stiff and …

So when I learned they were adapting Anastasia into a musical for the stage, I was intrigued. It opened to mixed reviews, but I was sure it was going to tour. I got the album, and found the songs a bit slower than the animated feature. But still, I wanted to see it. Luckily, it was the first show of the 2019-2020 Hollywood Pantages (FB) Season… and so you know where we were last night.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it is based on the true story of Czar Nicholas II, who was executed in the Russian Revolution of 1918. After the execution, rumors persisted that his daughter, the Grand Duchess Anastasia survived. The entire musical is based on that rumor: after establishing the basis of the story and the Czar (and the execution), the action moves to St. Petersburg (Leningrad), where the rumor is circulating. Two schemes plot to find an Anastasia impersonator and sell her to her grandmother living in Paris. They find this young women, Anya, who has no memory of her past but conveniently seems to have snippets that suggest she might be the real thing. Enough practice, and …. off to Paris they go.

But every scheme needs a foil to create drama, and to put difficulties in the way of our protagonists.

In the animated movie, which featured a screenplay by Susan Gauthier, Bruce Graham, Bob Tzudiker, and Noni White, with story by Eric Tuchman (animation adaptation), based on Anastasia by Arthur Laurents and Anastasia by Marcelle Maurette, that foil was Grigori Rasputin, recreated as comically magic and evil, and his anthropomorphic bat assistant, Bartok. But this isn’t Disney, and silly foils like that don’t work. So when the story was reworked by Terrence McNally, he changed the antagonist to a Bolshevik officer, General Gleb Vaganov: a man who both has a crush on Anya, as well as being the son of the guards that shot the Romanov family. His superiors want all traces of the Russian family gone (yet, for some reason, they don’t go after the Dowager Empress in Paris), and order him after them. So he’s torn between carrying out his father’s destiny, and his affection for the girl.

This being a musical, and being a fairy tale, you can guess what happens. Is Anastasia dead? Not so long as she lives in our hearts, right?

The stage musical also keeps some of the elements related to the two men who help Anya become Anastasia: Dmitry still has a connection as a boy to the younger Anastasia; “Count” Vlad Popov still has a connection and past relationship to Countess Lily (Sophie in the movie), the lady-in-waiting of the Dowager Empress in Paris. In fact, Vlad provides some of the best comic relief in the story, both in his interactions with the main trio of Dmitry and Anya, and especially in his interactions with Lily.

The movie was also very fast paced, with a total of 8 songs. They kept 4-5 of those, and added loads of new songs, although many of them use the same underscoring as the original 4-5. This, along with the pace, makes the show feel a bit slower paced.

This is an expansive story, going back and forth in time constantly, and moving from Russia to Paris. It took a creative director to address that, and director Darko Tresnjak (FB) it in a creative way: he eschewed loads of traditional sets, and working closely with scenic designer Alexander Dodge and Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne, leaned heavily into the projection approach to scenic design. The main background and side pillars were HD projection systems, and these were constantly changing, creating beautiful 3-D scenic locals, moving landscapes, even background expositions. Sometimes they were a bit too cartoonish, and at times were a bit too much in motion. A larger concern I have with the projection approach is the limitations this creates for the long life of the show. Regional theatres might have the needed projection technology, but this limits their creativity in the realization of the show. Smaller theatres and high schools? They won’t have it, and will they be able to create the backdrops for the story? I’m unsure, and this could be a problem for the life of this property. Perhaps one day the musical Anastasia will also be  rumor.

The performances were mostly good. In the lead positions were Lila Coogan (FBAnya / Anastasia and Jake Levy (FB) Dmitry. Both are newish actors, and did wonderfully bringing that youthful joy to the roles. We’ve seen Levy before back in the UCLA production of Steel Pier, and enjoyed him then. Coogan brought loads of spunk and fun to the role; in her pixie haircut at the top of Act II, I could just see her doing a great Kathy Seldon in Singing in the Rain. These two were loads of fun.

Also strong was the comic second bananas: Edward Staudenmayer (FB) Vlad and Tari Kelly (FBCountess Lily. Staudenmayer was strong in all his numbers: funny, and with a great voice, great moves, and wonderful comic timing. Kelly also had that comic touch, especially in “Land of Yesterday” and her duet with Staudenmayer, “The Countess and the Comic Man”. The show is almost worth their performances along.

If there was a weak point in the casting, it was Jason Michael Evans (FB) Gleb. He just didn’t have the strength of voice or project the right gravitas to be villainous. He did OK in his main number, “The Neva Flows” and “Still”, but it wasn’t the powerhouse it needs to be.

Rounding out the major roles was Joy Franz (FBDowager Empress. She had a lovely voice, and captured the conflicting emotions of the Dowager Empress wonderfully.

Rounding out the background in various roles was the extremely talented ensemble and swings: Ronnie S. Bowman, Jr (FB) Ensemble; Ashlee Dupré (FB) Ensemble, Olga Romanov, Odette in Swan Lake; Kylie Victoria Edwards (FB) Ensemble, Maria Romanov, Marfa; Alison Ewing (FB) Ensemble, Countess Gregory; Hannah Florence (FB) Swing; Peter Garza (FB) Ensemble, Russian Doorman; Fred Inkley (FB) / Jeremiah Ginn (FB)¤ Ensemble, Gorlinsky, Count Leopold; Brett-Marco Glauser (FB) Ensemble; Brad Greer (FB) Ensemble, Tzar Nicholas II, Count Ipolitov, Count Gregory; Tamra Hayden (⭐FB, FB) Ensemble; Lucy Horton (FB) Ensemble, Tzarina Alexandra; Kourtney Keitt (FB) / Sareen Tchekmedyian (FB)¤ Ensemble, Tatiana Romanov, Dunya; Mark MacKillop (⭐FB, FB) / Kenneth Michael Murray (⭐FB, FB)¤ Ensemble, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake; Ryan Mac (⭐FB, FB) EnsembleDelilah Rose Pillow / Eloise Vaynshtokº Little Anastasia, Alexei Romanov; Taylor Quick (FB) Ensemble, Young Anastasia, Paulina; Matt Rosell (FB) Ensemble;  and Lyrica Woodruff (FB) Ensemble, Olga Romanov, Odette in Swan Lake. All were strong dancers, and had great facial expressions and movement for their characters.
¤ indicates swing who swung into this role at our performance; ° indicates performs Saturday matinee and Sunday evening.

Dance and movement in the show, which was choreographed by Peggy Hickey (FB), was in general strong, especially in the palace dance numbers and the ballet numbers. Other dance related credits: David Chase Dance Arrangements; Bill Burns (FB) Assoc Choreographer; Jeff Barry Fight DirectorKenneth Michael Murray (⭐FB, FBDance Captainand Rachel E. Winfield (FB) Fight Captain.

As noted earlier, the show featured music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, with orchestrations by Doug Besterman and vocal arrangements by Stephen Flaherty. Tom Murray was the Music Supervisor. Lawrence Goldberg served as music director and conductor of the orchestra, which consisted of (🌴 indicates LA local): Valerie Gebert Asst Conductor, Keyboard 2; Ryan Sigurdson (FB) Keyboard I; 🌴 Jen Choi Fischer (FB) Violin / Concertmistress; 🌴 Grace Oh (FB) Violin/Viola; 🌴 Ira Glansbeek Cello; 🌴 Ian Walker (FB) Bass; 🌴 Jeff Driskill (FB) Flute / Piccolo / Clarinet / Alto Sax; 🌴 Richard Mitchell Clarinet / Flute / Tenor Sax / Oboe / English Horn; 🌴 Aaron Smith (FB) Trumpet / Flugelhorn; 🌴 Laura Brenes (FB) French Horn; 🌴 Charlie Morillas (FB) Tenor Trombone; and 🌴 Bruce Carver PercussionOther music credits: Mary Ekler (🎼FB, FB) Keyboard Sub; 🌴 Eric Heinly (FB) Orchestra Contractor; Michael Aarons (FB) Music Coordinator; Randy Cohen (FB) Keyboard Programmer.  Overall, the orchestra had a very lush sound and sounded great.

Finally, turning to production and creative side. I’ve already talked about the scenic and projection design of scenic designer Alexander Dodge and Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne, and how it was both creative, and may prove to be a hindrance when this gets to the regional and local production level. Peter Hylenski (FB)’s sound design was reasonably clear for the Pantages, although some words in the songs were lost in the cavernous space. Donald Holder‘s lighting design established mood and such well, but at times was in competition with the projections. Linda Cho‘s costume design, Charles G. LaPointe‘s Wig/Hair Designs, and Joe Dulude II‘s makeup designs combined to make the actors into the characters they needed to be. Other production credits: Telsey + Company (FB) Casting; Richard A. Leigh (FBProduction Stage Manager; Rachel E. Winfield (FB) Stage Manager; Ellen Goldberg (FB) Asst Stage Manager; Denny Daniello Company Manager; Aurora Productions Production Management; RCI Theatricals General Manager; Bond Theatrical Group Tour Marketing and Publicity Direction; The Booking Group Tour Booking Agency; and Dmitry Bogachev Commissioned By. That last credit is perhaps the most interesting: Bogachev is CEO of the theatre company “Moscow Broadway LLC”, founder of the Russian division of the international live entertainment company Stage Entertainment, member of The Broadway League, initiator of the Broadway business model in Russian theatre. Could Anastasia be big in the post-Bolshevik Russian market?

Anastasia: The New Broadway Musical continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) through October 27.  Tickets are available through the Pantages website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar and TodayTix. The musical is entertaining, although with the young touring cast a few performances can be a bit stronger. Overall the show was entertaining, although not that intellectually deep or historically accurate. Don’t think about it too much, and you’ll be OK.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. In my real life, I’m a cybersecurity subject matter expert — an engineer. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. But as I just noted, I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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:

The third weekend of October brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second 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 relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The first weekend (before ACSAC) may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for mid-January for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date. January will also bring Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB). I’m already booking well into 2020.

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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🎭 But Is It a Dog? | “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville” @ Canyon Theatre Guild

Baskerville (Canyon Theatre Guild)Last weekend was a weekend of murder mysteries and humor, cross-dressing and loads and loads of characters, played by very few people. Saturday brought The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-Op in Hollywood. Sunday saw us up in Santa Clarita for Ken Ludwig‘s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at Canyon Theatre Guild (FB), which was being directed by the former proprietor of the former REP East Playhouse down the street (now “The Main“), O Michael Owston (FB). The former (Vep) had two actors playing about 10 difference characters; the latter (Baskerville) has five actors playing about 40 different characters. The former was at a professional membership theatre company (which primarily means they can use union actors); the latter is at a community theatre. Both were mysteries whose goal was humor, not fright. Both dealt with hell hounds and mysteries on the moor. Most importantly, both were well executed and fun to watch.

Ken Ludwig‘s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes‘ The Hound of the Baskervilles. Ludwig retains most of the story (read the synopsis from Wikipedia here), only changing Sir Henry to a transplant from Texas. As executed, two of the actors take the lead roles of Holmes and Watson; the remaining three actors take all the other thousand or so roles.

Initially, when the play started, I had concerns that the same “woke” issues that bothered me about Irma Vep would appear: namely, stereotypes and cross-dressing. The cross-dressing is a bit problematical and played for laughs; luckily, it only occurs one one of the early scenes and isn’t constant through the show (and is forgotten quickly). Similarly, the stereotype problem only applies to one character (the Sicilian) who only makes a brief appearance. All of the other characters portrayed to not raise any “woke” hackles.

O had to be a bit creative in staging this production, as the space is shared with a concurrently running production of Peter and the Starcatcher … meaning a shared set. This means that the set is a series of platforms, and the primary scene establishing devices are chairs and props that can be brought on, as opposed to more detailed set pieces to establish the context of Baker Street vs the Baskerville Manor on the Moor, or other specific locations. O takes advantage of this to play up the humor, especially in the early points of the play when the initial exposition is being established.

In the lead positions are Jeremiah Luther True (FBSherlock Holmes and Matthew Thomas Stallings (FBDr. Watson. True, even though his character is in the title, has the smaller role — and as is Holmes’ nature, the stiffer role. He captures Holmes well, but there have been so many Holmes portrayals over the years, it is hard to assess what “well” is given the tropes in our mind. But he comes across as suitably Holmesish. In contrast, Stallings is very strong as Watson. Stallings gets to carry the primary narrative of the story; he’s the one who does most of the interactions with the other characters and the one who does most of the leg work and investigations. He does this very well, and handles the straight-man aspects of it strongly.

The portion of the cast that really shines are the remaining three actors: Eduardo Arteaga (FBActor 1; Kirsten Rast (FBActress 1; and Tanner Burghardt (FBActor 2. Although I was joking earlier about thousands of roles, these three take on around 40 different roles. I was unsure about Arteaga at the start, as he was cross-dressing with a beard. But he was strong as Sir Henry and Inspector Lestrad, and worked quite well with Stallings’ Watson. Even stronger were Rast and Burghardt. They got the bulk of the numerous different roles, and were extremely strong and funny. Rast was wonderful in all her roles, especially as Beryl and one of the irregulars. Burghardt got to the loads of different characterizations; his best were Mortimer and Stapleton, but all were fun to watch (especially as he dealt with beards that didn’t want to cooperate). Looking back at the show a few days later, I remain impressed by the work of Rast and Burghardt.

Turning to the production and creative side: Set Design, Construction, and Dressing was by the director, O Michael Owston (FB),  which isnt’ a surprise given his current artistic endeavor. As I indicated, the primary set was a series of platforms that had to be adaptable to both Baskerville and Peter and the Starcatchers. Augmenting this was dressing that established the sense of place: chairs, tables, and such. Additional properties were by Laurie Morgan (FB). The primary sense of place and characters came from the costumes of Eduardo Arteaga (FB), which did a great job of establishing the individuality of each character, especially when combined with the unique performance characteristics that O brought out of the actors.  Long-time REP regular Steven “Nanook” Burkholder (FB) provided appropriate sound effects; my only quibble is that the mood-establishing music might be turned down a tad as it overpowered the actors at times. Mackenzie Bradford (FB)’s lighting design did a good job of augmenting mood and establishing time. Rounding out the production and support credits: Musetta Caing Hart (FBAssistant Director; Nicholas Woodworth (FB) Stage Manager; Musetta Caing Hart (FB) Program Editor; Timothy Hart (FBAsst Program Editor; Barbara Yeager (FB) House Manager; TimBen Boydston (🗳FB, FB) Executive Artistic Director.

Note that CTG labels their seats different than most theatres: Numbers represent the row, and letters represent the seat (and O and Q appear to be omitted). Thus, our seats were R2 and S2. This seemed to be an endless source of confusion for, shall we say, the “typical” Sunday afternoon matinee audience.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery continues at Canyon Theatre Guild (FB) in Newhall (Santa Clarita) through November 3. It’s a funny show with strong performances, at a well-established community theatre. Tickets are available through the CTG Online Box Office; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. In my real life, I’m a cybersecurity subject matter expert — an engineer. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. But as I just noted, I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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 brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend of October brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second 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 relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The first weekend (before ACSAC) may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for mid-January for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date. January will also bring Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB). I’m already booking well into 2020.

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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🎭 Crying Wolf | “The Mystery of Irma Vep” @ Actors Co-Op

The Mystery of Irma Vep (Actors Co-Op)Invariably, whenever we do multiple shows on a weekend, they theme together in some way. Sometimes the connection is subtle. Sometimes, it is as obvious as fog on a moor. In this case, the weekend’s theme is clear: it is a weekend for fast-paced comedic murder mysteries. Last night, it was Charles Ludlam‘s The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful at  Actors Co-op (FB); this afternoon it is Ken Ludwig‘s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Although I didn’t know this at the time we booked the shows (we booked them because, for one, we’re subscribers; for the other, a friend is directing), both involve a small number of actors playing a large number of characters, both are farces, and both take place out in the moors of Scotland.

In the case of Irma Vep, we have two actors (of the same sex) playing 3-4 characters each. That the actors be of the same sex is apparently stated in the show contract. In 1991, it was the most produced play in the United States. It is claimed to be terrifying, shocking, and hilarious; but, alas, I’m not the type that gets terrified or laughs out loud that easily. There were others in the audience reacting that way, so I’ll take their word for it.

Here’s the synopsis of the show as described by Wikipedia:

Mandacrest Estate is the home of Lord Edgar, an Egyptologist, and Lady Enid. Lady Enid is Lord Edgar’s second wife, though he has yet to recover entirely from the passing of his first wife, Irma Vep. The house staff, a maid named Jane Twisden and a swineherd named Nicodemus Underwood, have their own opinions of Lady Enid.

Enid is attacked by a vampire, and Edgar seeks answers in an Egyptian tomb, briefly resurrecting the mummy of an Egyptian princess. Returning home with the sarcophagus, Edgar prepares to hunt down the werewolf he blames for the death of his son and first wife. Meanwhile, Enid discovers Irma locked away, supposedly to coax out the location of precious jewels from her. Wresting the keys to Irma’s cell from Jane, Enid frees Irma only to discover the prisoner is, in fact, Jane herself, actually a vampire, and the killer of Irma as well as her and Edgar’s son. Nicodemus, now a werewolf, kills Jane, only to be shot dead by Edgar.

In the end, Enid prevents Edgar from writing about his experiences in Egypt, revealing she was the princess herself, the whole thing an elaborate sham by her father to discredit Edgar. The two reconcile.

The Mystery of Irma Vep (Actors Co-Op) - Photo StripLooking at the show with a normal playgoer’s hat on: It is pretty funny (as I said: it’s hard to make me laugh out loud, but the show achieved it a few times). The show skewers many of the murder mystery conventions (both stage, screen, and poetic), is an avenue for some very funny performances. It plays well with the tropes, even going into the melodramatic where that was appropriate. There are a few double-entendres that the astute will catch, and it even gets self-referential. I particularly enjoyed the playing with Edgar Allen Poe near the end. As such, it was quite enjoyable.

But with my “woke” hat on, it bothered me a little — at least enough to get me thinking. In this era of Ru-Paul’s Drag Race, should we be finding men dressing up as women as a source of humor? This bothered me until my wife asked the question: How much of the humor of this show derived from the cross-dressing aspect? A few self-referential jokes, perhaps. That then segued my thinking into the question: How would this show be differently perceived if, instead of two men playing all the roles, we had two women cross-dressing as men at points? I think some of the humor might be toned down a notch, or it might even come across differently. It would certainly be interesting to see (especially alternating with the male cast version).

Another “woke” aspect that bothered me was the traditional portrayal of Egyptian relic hunters, which in many ways was straight out of the Indiana Jones caricature. While I understand why that was done in the context of the play, and how it fits with the period-view in the story, it made me wonder why we still need to depend on such tropes in plays produced today.

Being “woke” is such a pain sometimes. Just look at my reaction to Miss Saigon for another example. But if I react to this, others will. The best answer is to provide some context in the program from a dramaturg: why were these tropes chosen, and why are they integral to the play and the story. This is an increasing concern: look at how the Asian tropes have impinged on the recent musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, and even then those tropes were significantly changed from the movie portrayal.

But back in 1984 when this was first produced, we didn’t think of such things. And, as I noted in the start, with my 1984-glasses on this is a funny play, with strong performances, great comic timing, and an excellent skewering of a genre that oft times deserves it.

Under the direction of Carla Cackowski (FB), the pace remains crisp and the comic performances strong. She has worked with her acting team to bring the most out of the performances, and to emphasize the playfulness of the characters when appropriate, and the seriousness when appropriate.

We meet John Allee (FB)’s character Jane Twisden, the housekeeper first. Allee primarily alternates between Jane and Lord Edgar, and captures the different characterizations of both well. We even get to hear Allee singing at one point.

Playing off Allee is Isaac Wade (⭐FB, FB), who in many ways get to be more of the comic foil as Nicodemus, Lady Enid, Alcazar, and Pev Amri. He gets the more humorous cross-dressing aspects, and in general is the absurdist against the more straight-faced characters of Allee. He does a great job with this. He also has points where he gets to be multiple characters on-stage at the same time.
[†: whose personal website, alas, prompts you to upgrade to the latest version of Flash, even if you already have it. Flash websites are so 2000s, and with my cybersecurity SME hat on, I urge him to move away from using Flash]

Uncredited as performers, but on-stage occasionally and credited in the curtain call, are the two assistant stage managers, Mia Cotton (FB) and Ember Evertt (FB). On-stage, they appear in various masks to appear to be the other characters. Off-stage, they get the additional hard task of helping with all the quick costume changes.

Turning to the production side: The scenic design of Jessa Orr and Greg McGoon (⭐FB, FB) ‘s set design works extremely well. The primary design was an old Scottish manor, with some very realistic set painting, and a portrait on the wall that did things I didn’t think it could do. This was transformed effectively in the second act into an effective Egyptian tomb through some simple devices. Overall, it worked very well. It was supported by the effective sound effects of David B. Marling (FB), which were well timed, appropriate, and significantly helped to establish the mood and tone. Also establishing tone and time was Martha Carter (FB)’s lighting design. Supporting this all (and shown in the photo-strip to the right) were Vicki Conrad (FB)’s effective quick-change costumes, and her hair and makeup designs. Lori Berg (FB)’s properties completed the picture; particularly effective was the wolf-design. Other production credits: Jack Wallace Dialect Coach; Eric M. White (FBStage Manager; Mia Cotton (FB) and Ember Evertt (FBAssistant Stage Managers; Nora Feldman Publicist;  Selah Victor (FB) Production Manager; Carly Lopez (FBProducer.

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through November 10, 2019. Tickets are available through the Actors Co-Op website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. Overall, it is a funny show, well executed with great performances. In the genre of farces where minimal characters play a maximal number of characters, it works quite well but also raises some interesting questions.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. In my real life, I’m a cybersecurity subject matter expert — an engineer. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. But as I just noted, I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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:

Sunday afternoon brings Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second 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 relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The first weekend (before ACSAC) may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for January 4 for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date. I’m already booking well into 2020.

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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🛣 Headlines About California Highways – September 2019

And September comes to an end. For those of us who are Jewish, it is the start of a new year, 5780, and L’Shanah Tovah to all of you.  It is the end of the government fiscal year, meaning that the silly season of trying to close out your FY19 budgets as close to your targets — not over budget or under budget — has ended. We are moving into the fall, with crisper weather. As I write this, we already have our first snowfalls of the season in Lake Tahoe, well before the normal date that highway construction ends. But before we transition, let’s look back a little. September has been a busy month on the highways of our state. Here’s what happened.

[Note: 💲 indicates links that are paywalled (except for the LA Times, 🌴, to which I subscribe). ❌ indicates items overtaken by subsequent events]

  • California’s most scenic routes and highways. Under most circumstances, highway driving for more than an hour is a tedious task. But in California not all drives are a drag, especially when cruising down one of its many scenic routes. Throughout the state, you’ll find a number of highways and roads with picturesque views of beaches, hills and nature. We’ve rounded up some of the most beautiful routes and highways throughout the state and included notable sights you can expect on each one.
  • Public meetings scheduled on Highway 50 closure at Echo Summit. Caltrans is hosting two public meetings to discuss details of a potential full closure of Highway 50 over Echo Summit to accommodate bridge construction. The $14.1 million Highway 50 Echo Summit sidehill viaduct project is replacing the existing bridge, which was built in 1939, with a structure that meets current seismic and safety standards. Construction started in May and will be completed either this fall or next spring.
  • 7 Bay Area bridges to go cashless, eliminating toll takers’ jobs. Big changes are coming to the Bay Area’s toll bridges. A vote Wednesday signaled the end of cash lanes and toll takers will be replaced by the electronic FasTrak system. The Golden Gate Bridge made the switch six years ago. Now the other Bay Area toll bridges are preparing to eliminate cash payments.
  • No more digging for change: Plan to make Bay Area bridge tolls all-electronic approved. The Bay Area Toll Authority just kicked off its plan to convert seven Bay Area bridges to all-electronic tolls. That process includes efforts by Caltrans to find new careers for its roughly 200 toll-takers, who will one day soon be phased out for cameras that snap photos of license plates to forward a bill, and a greater reliance on FasTrak. This plan doesn’t include the Golden Gate Bridge, which is run by an independent district and has already converted to all-electronic tolling. But it does apply to the San Francisco Bay Bridge and its 66 toll-takers, among others.
  • MTC Approves $4M Contract To Transition Bay Area Toward Cashless Tolls. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission unanimously approved a $4 million contract Wednesday for consultation services to help switch the Bay Area to an all electronic toll future. With the move, toll takers and toll plazas will soon be a thing of the past with the vision of “open road toll taking.”

Read More …

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🎭 Speechless | “Blue Man Group” @ Hollywood Pantages

Blue Man Group (Pantages)Last night, we the Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We last saw the Blue Man Group in 2014 at the Monte Carlo is Las Vegas, before the Monte Carlo became Park MGM, and before BMG was purchased by Cirque Du Soleil.

I’m not sure either change was for the better, but we’ll talk about the Monte Carlo later 🙂

In general, the Blue Man Group was, well, the Blue Man Group. Strange. Silly. Wordless. Playful and curious. Childlike and childish. There were sequences that were great (such as the paint marshmallows). Audience participation was fun. But there was something off. The energy and madness was toned down a notch. It wasn’t the craziness I remembered from Vegas.

I can’t quite pinpoint the problem. Was it the significantly larger house? Was it a seeming over reliance on technology, including a massive technological set? Was it the safety for the audience a tour provides? I’m not sure. I just know the show didn’t “wow” me as it did the first time I saw them on stage.

I do not mean to imply they were bad. I thoroughly enjoyed the show. But Blue Man Group brings a certain imprimatur, a certain cachet, a certain expectation. They didn’t quite live up to that expectation; they hit the 85-90% mark.

The cast consisted of Blue Man, Blue Man, and Blue Man, with a Blue Man in reserve. They were played by Meridian, Mike Brown, Steven Wendt, and Adam Zuick. Pick any three of four, because we have no idea who was whom. The show was written by Jonathan Knight, Michael Dahlen, and the Blue Man Group.

They are supported on stage by musicians Corky Gainsford (FB) Drums, Robert Gomez Resident Music Director, Band Captain; and Jerry Kops Musician/Strings, playing music composed by Andrew Schneider and Jeff Turlik.

Turning to the production and creatives: Jason Ardizzone-West Set Designer; Jen Schriever Lighting Designer; Emilio Sosa Costume Designer; Patricia Murphy Blue Man Character Costumes; Crest Factor Sound Design; Lucy Mackinnon Video Designer; Bill Swartz SFX Designer; Johnathan Knight Creative Director; Richard Herrick Production Stage Manager; Byron Estep Music Director; Stacy Myers Company Manager; Anna K. Rains Production Stage Manager; Zachary Feivou Head Carpenter; Gentry & Associates General Management; Bond Theatrical Group Tour booking, Marketing, and Publicity Direction; and Networks Presentations Production Management. The production was directed by Jenny Koons. The original creators of Blue Man Group were Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink.

The Blue Man Group Speechless Tour continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) through October 6. Tickets are available through the Pantages web page, as well as numerous other places.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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:

Saturday night brings Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting really busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  The third weekend is open, but may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB). November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for January 4 for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date.

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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🎭 Humbug, I Say | “Barnum” @ MTG

Barnum (MTG)MTG UserpicThere’s one major problem with seeing shows on Sunday evening: When to do the writeup? That’s made even worse when you are trying to walk 10K steps a day, have a full-time job, have evening meetings, and it is the first week of the new television season. Please accept that as my excuse for why this writeup of the musical Barnum, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Michael Stewart, and book by Mark Bramble, is so late. We saw the show last Sunday night (its only performance); and I haven’t had time to write it up until now.

Barnum is the show that really introduced me to Cy Coleman’s music. When I got the cast album, I also picked up an album of the Cy Coleman trio doing songs from that show, and almost wore it out. I first saw the show in January 1982 at the Pantages Theatre with most of the original cast: Jim Dale, Glenn Close, Catherine Gaines, Ray Roderic, Terri White, Terrence V. Mann, and others. In the recent past, I saw the show back in 2006 at the NoHo Arts Center with James Mellon and Janet Fontaine.

This time, I was seeing Barnum as the first show of our subscription to Musical Theatre Guild (FB), a local company that specializes in doing staged readings of rarely done “gems”. The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) season was a bust in terms of musicals we wanted, and MTG had moved to Sunday night and was doing three shows we hadn’t seen: The Goodbye Girl, It Shoulda Been Youand Kismet — so we subscribed and Barnum was part of the deal. “Staged reading” means you get the entire libretto and book. However, there are no formal sets; the actors (by AEA rules) have their scripts in hand, there is truly limited rehearsal (25 hours); and any ensemble is minimal. It is a great way to “see” a show and imagine what it could be, but not have the expense of a full production. However, as there is only one performance, there are likely to be all sorts of technical problems and rough edges.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it tells the story of P.T. Barnum, from his first “humbug” with Joyce Heth (after he met his wife Charity Barnum) until the creation of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. It has a very Dixie-land score, and features rope tricks, juggling, tightrope walking, marching bands, the world’s smallest man, the world’s oldest woman, the world’s biggest elephant, magic tricks, and more… in this case, with a cast of 9.

So I’ve seen Barnum in the big, and I’ve seen Barnum in the small. How did this production do? The answer is: reasonably well. Overall, the performances were good, and the character performers were extremely creative in presenting Big Top acts on a teeny-tiny budget. Some of the voices were remarkable. The show, however, was marred by sound problems (especially on some of my favorite songs), some of the actors lost their places in the scripts, and the lead just couldn’t keep up with some of the strong patter songs (and I believe dropped some lyrics, and perhaps even cut an entire reprise of the verse).

Credit goes to the director, Alan Bailey (FB), and the choreographer, Cheryl Baxter (FB), for the creative way they brought the show to life with their limited budget and limited rehearsal time. Some of the creative decisions such as how they did the tightrope, the acrobats, the execution of the Tom Thumb and Jumbo sequences, and the implementation of the circus acts were great. Given the limited rehearsal, the movement was in general quite good and conveyed a sense of what the show could be with more time and rehearsal. The incorporation during one sequence of a sign indicating the AEA required them to hold scripts at all times was a hoot.

In the lead position was Kirby Ward (FB) as PT Barnum. Ward had a good voice, and captured the character and the playfulness of Barnum well. Where he had problems was keeping up with the script: there were one or two places where he seemingly lost his place. A greater problem for me was that, in the “Museum Song” (a song I have memorized), he seemed to misplace a line, and skip the fastest reprise. He had some similar problems in “Join the Circus”, IIRC. I understand the limited rehearsal time and being “on book”, but …

Working with him as Charity Barnum was Tracy Lore, who we’ve seen in numerous productions at Cabrillo/5-Star and appears to be an MTG regular. Lore’s Charity had a lovely voice, and she did a great job of bringing the character to life and playing off of Ward’s Barnum. A flawless performance.

As we move to the remainder of the cast (who all handled multiple roles), there are a few I would like to particularly highlight. Regina LeVert (⭐FB, FB) Joyce Heth / Blues Singer / Ensemble had a remarkable voice and gave a great performance, but was hindered by a malfunctioning microphone that hurt her powerful vocals. What made matters worse is that they didn’t fix the problem after the first failure, but let it fail again in her second song in the second act. The stage manager had the presence to hand her a mic near the end of her first song; they could have done that at the first hint of trouble in the second. Another strong singer was Kelley Dorney (FBJenny Lind / Ensemble. For Lind, Dorney has to capture an operatic soprano voice, and she just nailed it with both beauty and grace. The third performance I would like to highlight is Matthew Patrick Davis (FBChester Lyman / Tom Thumb / Wilton / Ensemble.  Davis brought a strong voice to his performance in “Bigger Isn’t Better”, but more importantly brought loads of humor to Tom Thumb, as the tallest ensemble member recruited to play the world’s smallest man. He made it work, and then he reappeared at the end on stilts! Rounding out the ensemble were: Jasmine Ejan (⭐FB, FB) Mrs Stratton / Ensemble; Glenn Shiroma (FB) Ringmaster / James Bailey / Ensemble; Matt Braver (FB) Amos Scudder / Goldschmidt / Morrissey / Ensemble; and Jeffrey Scott Parsons (FB) Sherwood Stratton / Concertmaster / Templeton / Ensemble.

Also “performing” on stage were two ASL Interpreters from Pierce College, Angelina Giudice (FB) and Heaven Ringle (FB). I cannot attest to the quality of their signing, or whether they were able to keep up with the show and the songs, but they were fun to watch and had their own interplay during the show.

Lastly, augmenting the performers during the Act II opening number “Come Follow the Band” was the Verdugo Hills High School Marching Band. They were a hit with the audience; they only way the reaction could have been better had been if they marched down the aisles.

Speaking of music: the on-stage band was under the musical direction of Jan Roper (FB), who was also tickling the ivories (and not the ivories of Jumbo). Rounding out the on-stage musicians were Chris Tedesco (FB) Trumpet; Dave Ryan Trombone; John Yoakum (FBWoodwinds; Steve Wilkinson Bass; and Alan Peck Drums / Percussion.  I did appreciate the red noses at the start.

Finally, turning to the production and creative side. There were no credits for scenic design, although there was a production coordinator (Barbara Carlton Heart), video technical assistance (Ernest McDaniel), and a video board operator (Megan Salisbury). There were no credits for sound or lighting, even though they really needed a sound person on site, given the mic problems. They did, however, have costumes by Jeffrey Schoenberg / AJS Costumes, which served to define the characters and provide a limited sense of who and when.  Rounding out the production team was Leesa Freed Production Stage Manager / Production Manager, Stacey Cortez Asst Stage Manager; and Debra Miller Asst Stage Manager.

Musical Theatre Guild (FB) productions are one performance only. Their next performance is The Goodbye Girl on November 10, 2019.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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:

Saturday night brings Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting really busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  The third weekend is open, but may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB). November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for January 4 for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date.

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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🍏🍯🍎🍯 L’Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year – 5780

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown Sunday night, September 29th. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5780. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of October 8th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.

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