🗳️ June 2022 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (V): Summary

Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. For months, one of the wealthiest candidates has been blanketing the airwaves, together with ads from the Native-American Casino Lobby, fighting against a ballot initiative that isn’t even on this ballot. Now that both the sample ballots and the real ballots* have been mailed, the political advertising has increased by an order of magnitude. That’s where I come in. Every election, I do a detailed ballot analysis of my sample ballot. This is where I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.
————————————————-
* California gives all registered voters the option to vote by mail and to vote early.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. National Offices** (including US Congress)
  2. Local Offices*** (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. California Statewide Offices*** (including State Assembly)
  5. Summary

** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, however, I’m including our Congressional Representative in this section.
*** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, I’m including state legislative officers with the Statewide officers. In my case, that is my Assemblycritter, as we have no State Senator running for office this election.

This part provides a summary of my ballot analysis results. Please read the full explanation of why I chose who I chose in the links above.

(I) National Offices (including US Congress)

US Senator – Full Term (Jan 2023 through Jan 2029) Alex Padilla (D) Inc
US Senator – Short Term (ending Jan 2023) Alex Padilla (D) Inc
US House of Representatives, 32nd District Brad Sherman (D) Inc

(II) County and Local Offices

City of Los Angeles  
Mayor Karen Ruth Bass
City Attorney Faisal M. Gill
Controller Kenneth Mejia
Measure BB ⚫ Yes on BB
County of Los Angeles  
Supervisor 3rd District Lindsey Horvath
Sheriff Robert Luna
Assessor Jeffrey Prang Inc

(III) Judicial Offices

Office № 3 ⚫ Tim Reuben
Office № 60 ⚫ Sharon Ransom
Office № 67 Fernanda Maria Barreto
Office № 70 Holly L. Hancock
Office № 90  Melissa Lyons
Office № 116  David B. Gelfound Inc
Office № 118  Klint McKay
Office № 151 Patrick Hare
Office № 156 Carol Elswick Inc

(IV) California Statewide Offices (including State Assembly)

California Legislature
Member of the State Assembly, 40th District Annie E. Cho (D)
California Executive Branch  
Governor Gavin Newsom (D) Inc
Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis (D) Inc
Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber (D) Appointed Inc
Controller Ron Galperin (D)
Treasurer
Fiona Ma (D) Inc
Attorney General
Rob Bonta (D) Appointed Inc
Insurance Commissioner Marc Levine (D)
State Board of Equalization, 3rd District Tony Vazquez (D) Inc
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony K. Thurmond Inc
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🗳️ June 2022 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (IV): State-wide Officers

Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. For months, one of the wealthiest candidates has been blanketing the airwaves, together with ads from the Native-American Casino Lobby, fighting against a ballot initiative that isn’t even on this ballot. Now that both the sample ballots and the real ballots* have been mailed, the political advertising has increased by an order of magnitude. That’s where I come in. Every election, I do a detailed ballot analysis of my sample ballot. This is where I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.
————————————————-
* California gives all registered voters the option to vote by mail and to vote early.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks (note: links may not be available until all segments are posted):

  1. National Offices** (including US Congress)
  2. Local Offices*** (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. California Statewide Offices*** (including State Assembly)
  5. Summary

** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, however, I’m including our Congressional Representative in this section.
*** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, I’m including state legislative officers with the Statewide officers. In my case, that is my Assemblycritter, as we have no State Senator running for office this election.

This part covers the California State offices:

  • Local: Member of the State Assembly, 40th District
  • Statewide: Governor ❦ Lt. Governor ❦ Secretary of State ❦ Controller ❦ Treasurer ❦ Attorney General ❦ Insurance Commissioner ❦ Board of Equalization, 3rd District ❦ Supt. of Public Instruction

Read More …

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🗳️ June 2022 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (III): Judges

Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. For months, one of the wealthiest candidates has been blanketing the airwaves, together with ads from the Native-American Casino Lobby, fighting against a ballot initiative that isn’t even on this ballot. Now that both the sample ballots and the real ballots* have been mailed, the political advertising has increased by an order of magnitude. That’s where I come in. Every election, I do a detailed ballot analysis of my sample ballot. This is where I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.
————————————————-
* California gives all registered voters the option to vote by mail and to vote early.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks (note: links may not be available until all segments are posted):

  1. National Offices** (including US Congress)
  2. Local Offices*** (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. California Statewide Offices*** (including State Assembly)
  5. Summary

** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, however, I’m including our Congressional Representative in this section.
*** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, I’m including state legislative officers with the Statewide officers. In my case, that is my Assemblycritter, as we have no State Senator running for office this election.

This part covers the Judgeships:

  • Judge of the Superior Court: Office № 3 ❦ № 60 ❦  № 67 ❦  № 70 ❦  № 90 ❦  № 116 ❦ № 118 ❦ № 151 ❦  № 156

Read More …

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🗳️ June 2022 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (II): City and County

Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. For months, one of the wealthiest candidates has been blanketing the airwaves, together with ads from the Native-American Casino Lobby, fighting against a ballot initiative that isn’t even on this ballot. Now that both the sample ballots and the real ballots* have been mailed, the political advertising has increased by an order of magnitude. That’s where I come in. Every election, I do a detailed ballot analysis of my sample ballot. This is where I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.
————————————————-
* California gives all registered voters the option to vote by mail and to vote early.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks (note: links may not be available until all segments are posted):

  1. National Offices** (including US Congress)
  2. Local Offices*** (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. California Statewide Offices*** (including State Assembly)
  5. Summary

** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, however, I’m including our Congressional Representative in this section.
*** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, I’m including state legislative officers with the Statewide officers. In my case, that is my Assemblycritter, as we have no State Senator running for office this election.

This part covers the Local Offices (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)

  • City of Los Angeles: Mayor ❦ City Attorney ❦ Controller ❦ Measure BB
  • County of Los Angeles: Supervisor 3rd District ❦ Sheriff ❦ Assessor

Read More …

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🗳️ June 2022 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (I): Introduction & Federal

Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. For months, one of the wealthiest candidates has been blanketing the airwaves, together with ads from the Native-American Casino Lobby, fighting against a ballot initiative that isn’t even on this ballot. Now that both the sample ballots and the real ballots* have been mailed, the political advertising has increased by an order of magnitude. That’s where I come in. Every election, I do a detailed ballot analysis of my sample ballot. This is where I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.
————————————————-
* California gives all registered voters the option to vote by mail and to vote early.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks (note: links may not be available until all segments are posted):

  1. National Offices** (including US Congress)
  2. Local Offices*** (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. California Statewide Offices*** (including State Assembly)
  5. Summary

** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, however, I’m including our Congressional Representative in this section.
*** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, I’m including state legislative officers with the Statewide officers. In my case, that is my Assemblycritter, as we have no State Senator running for office this election.

This part covers the National Offices (i.e., the US Legislative Branch):

  • Federal: US Senate (two elections) ❦ US Representative, 32nd District

Read More …

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🎭 The Road to Hell is Quite Entertaining | “Hadestown” @ Ahmanson

Hadestown (CTG / Ahmanson Theatre)There has been a trend in the theatre of late to — shall we say — play it safe. Revive that remarkably successful old chestnut with a bit name star (never mind the problematic undertone)*. Take that very successful movie property and bring it to the stage and hope that people come out of nostalgia**. Although these often make money (especially on tour, playing to the crowds in Podunk USA), they often aren’t the best musicals. The best productions are often original stories or stories adapted from unexpected sources. Their originality wins the audience over: they get to see something they’ve never seen before, instead of the same old same old.
*: e.g., Music Man. **: e.g., Tootsie, Pretty Woman, Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire, …

Hadestown, which we saw last Sunday at  the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), is one of those original shows. It is based on the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, which is connected to the story of Hades and Persephone. It featured music, lyrics, and book by a non-theatre artist: Anaïs Mitchell; after a few staged performances, she released the music as a song concept album in 2010, and it was workshopped and grew from there.  The music style is not your typical Broadway musical: it is bluesy and jazzy and has that hit of New Orleans to it. It is a seedy bar joint, at times joyous and at times dark. It is light and dark. It is, well, Persephone and Hades.

The basic myth is this: Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the Goddess of nature. She is the bringer of spring and summer, the bringer of the bounty of the Earth.  Hades is King of the Underworld. Hades fell in love with Persephone and kidnapped her (although this isn’t in the play). They fall in love and marry, and agree that for six months out of the year she will live with him in the Underworld. During that time we have fall and winter. She returns for six months, bringing Spring and Summer. But Hades is a jealous and possessive man, and doesn’t want her away from him. He starts keeping her longer and longer, with predictable effect  in the world above.

Orpheus was the son of Apollo and the muse Calliope. He had a gift of song and writing. He is guided by Hermes, who has the responsibility of conducting souls to the Underground. Hermes takes Orpheus under his wing. Orpheus is writing a song; a song so powerful it will bring Persephone back to the upper world, and bring back spring. Enter Eurydice, a woman of grace, who is tired of the endless winter. Orpheus falls in love with Eurydice, and she falls in love with his melodies. This is especially true when Persephone returns. But she always must return, and when she does, Eurydice despairs (especially as Orpheus ignores her as he writes his song). She is enticed by Hades to go to the Underworld (and pay the price those who take the trip must take). When Orpheus learns of this, he travels to the Underworld to rescue her.

That’s the basic story (sans the ending). As staged, there are layers upon layers of metaphor. The most obvious one is the intimation of climate change: we have been destroying the world by driving away Spring, and we must take action to bring it back. I also detected allegories of anti-immigrant phobia, concerns about poverty making the world ugly, and even intimations of Trump and his wall, although this long predates Trump. What would you think when you hear lines like: Why do we build the wall? We build the wall to keep us free, we build the wall to keep out the enemy, the enemy is poverty. There are the workers, who toil and toil and never get anywhere — until they decide to hear each other and come together. There are deep messages in this show, folks.

As I noted earlier, the music is different than most shows. There are truly joyous songs. There are haunting songs. There are dark and scary songs. There are earworms (“Way down, Hadestown, Way down under the ground”) or “Now That the Chips Are Down”. I’ve picked up three versions of the music to this show: the concept album, the off-Broadway version, and the Broadway version. All are excellent and slightly different.

The direction of the show is also atypical. The show was developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin. Chavkin is best known for Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, which is another very different musical. This is a different theatre sensibility, and is unlike the typical fare one sees on the stage. I can imagine the impact of the show would be much greater in a smaller venue, but touring theatres are not small venues (and don’t work well on the thrust stage, eliminating the Taper from consideration).

The performances were also strong. Let’s start with the glue that holds the show together, provides the exposition, and moves the story along: Hermes (Levi Kreis). Let’s start off by saying that Kreis is not Andre de Shields, who won a Tony for this role. de Shields is one of a kind, and you can’t duplicate that. But Kreis works well and brings a different take to the role. More soul, and less Wiz. I enjoyed his voice and his interactions, and he was fun to watch off on the side in the small moments.

The protagonist couple, who are the center of the story, is Orpheus (Nicholas Barasch) and Eurydice (normally Morgan Siobhan Green, but…).  I say “but….” because we had a substitution at our show (which started late, so I’m guessing there was a last minute substitution). We had Sydney Parra as Eurydice, who swung up from her normal role as a worker. Barasch had a beautiful lilting high tenor (at least I think that’s the right term), and expressed a lovely naivete and lightness of character. As for Parra, you would never have known she was an understudy. She deftly handled the role. She captured a lovely tenuousness and had a great voice; it was also interesting to see her come to life in the underworld. I also applaud her for not bowing to convention on stage — she was distinctly herself, and it was great to see her self confidence. Those who saw her performance will know what I’m referencing.

Our other couple were Persephone (Kimberly Marable) and Hades (Kevyn Morrow).  Again, don’t expect the Broadway actors to be cloned — no one can clone Patrick Page. But Morrow does have the baratone, but not quite the malevolence. Marable is clearly a jazz singer by trade, and she brings that joy and light to her performance. Again, these actors  embody the archetypes of their Greek counterparts: Morrow is dark, Marable is light and joy.

Directing the action somewhat and guiding things along are the three Fates: Belen Moyano, Bex Odorisio, and Shea Renne. They sang beautifully, and even brought some instruments to the stage (accordion, fiddle).

Rounding out the production was the worker’s chorus. As we had some swings, I’m indicating the performers we saw by putting the names in bold, normal swings are indicated with §: Lindsey Hailes, Chibueze Ihuoma, Will Mann, Sydney Parra, Jamari Johnson Williams, Tyla Collier§, Ian Coulter-Buford§, Alex Lugo§, Eddie Noel Rodriguez§, J. Antonio Rodriguez§.  In other words: Out of the normal five workers, three were swings. You would have never known from the performances we saw, which were all strong. I particularly noticed the chorus in the scenes Underground: Why We Build the Wall, or the various chants.

Also on stage — essentially as part of the performers — were the musicians: Nathan Koci Conductor/Piano; Jacob Yates Cello / Asst. Conductor; Maria Im Violin; Michiko Egger Guitar; Audrey Ochoa Trombone / Glockenspiel; Calvin Jones Double Bass; and Anthony Ty Johnson Drums / Percussion. Of these folks, I’d like to single out Ochoa on Trombone. She was playful on stage and brought some wonderful jazz licks to the piece. But this entire ensemble was just great.

Before we turn to the scenic and other production aspects, let’s finish off the music and the movement. The production was choreographed by David Neumann, with help from Katie Rose McLaughlin Associate Director / Choreographer.  The movement was very jazz oriented and fit the piece well; this wasn’t your typical chorus line. Rounding out the music team was Liam Robinson Music Supervisor and Vocal Arrangements; Michael Chorney Arrangements and Orchestrations; Todd Sickafoose Arrangements and Orchestrations; Nathan Koci Music Director.  Note that none of the music team are your typical Broadway music types. Assisting in the direction was Chika V. Ike Associate Director.

The scenic design was interesting. A New Orleans type blues pub was at the center (with a small turntable); on the sides were the musicians and high-boy tables. On a balcony in the back was space for Hades and Persephone to watch. There was a circular staircase, and the back opened to be a train. This tour design was by Rachel Hauck Scenic Design. It was supported by the other design aspects: Michael Krass Costume Design; Bradley King Lighting Design; Nevin Steinberg Sound Design; Jessica Paz Sound Design; and Jennifer Mullins Hair Design. All these pieces combine to establish the mood and the characters well.  Rounding out the production team were: Ken Cerniglia Dramaturg; Stewart/Whitley Casting; Joel Rosen Production Stage Manager; Annelise Castleberry Stage Manager; Zachry J. Bailey Assistant Stage Manager; Denny Daniello Company Manager; Aurora Productions Production Management.

Hadestown is well worth seeing; we thoroughly enjoyed it.  It continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through May 29, 2022. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson box office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar or through TodayTix.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). 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 Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. Looking further into 2022: We’re done with our May shows. June will see Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Pretty Woman at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), as well as Tom Paxon at McCabes plus as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as we have the energy for. July brings Moulin Rouge at Broadway in Hollywood (FB) [Pantages], Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), Newsies at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and Freestyle Love Supreme back at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). August is quieter, with just The Prom at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly (for this look ahead), September brings Oklahoma the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Jagged Little Pill at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), although they are on the same day so I’ll be shifting one show. September may also bring Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party at the Morgan Wixson Theatre. This was a show I had been planning to see before the COVID shutdown, so I’m putting it in the “part of our subscriptions” list. There may also be some Hollywood Bowl stuff, depending on how my wife is doing.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 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 (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). 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 (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

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🎭 And Succeed It Does | “How To Succeed in Business …” @ Musical Theatre Guild

MTG UserpicTootsie wasn’t the only show we saw last weekend, and it’s not the only review I owe you. We also saw the one-night-only performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying from  Musical Theatre Guild (FB). MSG has an interesting conceit: They do rarely produced musical under a special contract with Actors Equity: it is treated as a staged concert, with minimal set pieces / costumes, only 25 hours of rehearsal, and actors performing with scripts in hand. That’s right: Tootsie was non-union, and How To Succeed was an Equity production.

Going in, I was expecting to do a compare and contrast of this musical with Tootsie. After all, both deal with the work place, and especially women’s roles in the workplace. There’s at least a 20 year difference between How to Succeed and the film Tootsie (1962 vs 1982), and 40 years from screen to stage for Tootsie (1982 vs 2022).

Expectations get dashed. I was expecting How To Succeed (book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser) to be a period piece. In how it portrayed the American office — it was. Offices have changed greatly since the 1960s: there are no open bullpens, there aren’t the ubiquitous secretaries or a secretarial pool. We have office professionals now. But where I was expecting a completely sexist image with loads of sexual harassment … there was precious little. As the song emphases, “A Secretary is Not a Toy”. The show makes clear that the sexual harassment part is off the table. Office romances aren’t, but those still happen today. Would an office professional of today have as their goal marrying the boss? I can’t answer that. More likely, with the harassment policies in place, they would marry someone else’s boss.

So the story isn’t as creaky as one might expect — and certainly it wasn’t problematic like Tootsie was. It was, however, very funny. I’ll admit it was hard to not see the recently departed Robert Morse in the role (and in my mind’s eye, I did see him). But this cast brought the funny to the show, and the director Yvette Lawrence brought it out of them. I’m of the belief that in a staged concert like this, a lot of the character comes from what the actor brings; the director is bringing the individual actors into an ensemble. Both worked well: great individual performances combined with a strong ensemble. The dancing (choreography was by Cheryl Baxter) was relatively simple, but the nature of this performance dictated that: with 25 hours the goal is to get the acting and singing right first; complicated dance pieces are a lower priority. But what was there was good.

In the lead positions were Travis Leland J. Pierpont Finch and Chelsea Morgan Stock Rosemary Pilkington.  Leland brought a wonderful voice and playfulness to Finch; he beats Morse out in the handsome department. He was a lot of fun to watch. Stock was strong was Rosemary, even with some microphone problems at the top of the second act. Cute and delightful to watch, with a strong singing voice.

The secondary characters in this story require strong comic abilities. Luckily, Katie DeShan Smitty and Joshua Finkel Bud Frump were up to the task. Strong in singing, and strong in comic ability — they were fun to watch. They both seemed to be having a lot of fun with the roles.

In more supporting roles were Thomas Ashworth J. B. Biggley; Melissa Fahn Hedy LaRue; and Kim Yarbrough Miss Jones.  Ashworth brought the right gravitas to Biggley, whom we’ve all run into if we’ve been in the corporate world. He was strong in “Groundhog”. I was a big less impressed with Fahn. She got the voice and characterization right, but less so the look (although she tried). Yarbrough’s character is mostly a rarely seen office professional; she’s notable for the standout performance she gets in “Brotherhood of Man”. She did great there, which was where she was supposed be great.

Rounding out the cast were: James Gleason Mr. Twimble / Mr. Wally Womper; Bryan Chesters Mr. Bert Bratt; Todd Gajdusek Mr. Miilton Gatch / Executive Toynbee; Jennifer Bennett Miss Krumholtz / Scrubwoman; Nancy Lam Miss Matthews / Scrubwoman / Wickette; Sharon Logan Miss Johnson / Scrubwoman / Wickette; Kevin Matsumoto Mr. Davis / Wicket Dancer; Mark C. Reis Mr. Ovington / Wicket Dancer / Company Policeman; Brent Schindele Mr. Jenkins / TV Announcer; Paul Wong Mr. Tackaberry; and Susan Edwards Martin Voice of the Book. I’ll note that we saw Bennett in a Cantors Concert recently at our synagogue.

Music was provided by an onstage band consisting of Dan Redfeld Piano / Conductor; Justin Smith Guitar, Shane Harry Bass, Joe Martone Percussion, and one more on trumpet who was named at the time of performance.

Rounding out the production team was: Susan Edwards Martin Production Coordinator; Leesa Freed Production Stage Manager / Production Manager; Stacey Cortez Assistant Stage Manager; Abbey Perez Assistant Stage Manager; and Shon LeBlanc Costume Designer.

This was the only performance of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). 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 Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. Looking further into 2022: May brings Hadestown at at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). June will see Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Pretty Woman at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), as well as Tom Paxon at McCabes plus as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as we have the energy for. July brings Moulin Rouge at Broadway in Hollywood (FB) [Pantages], Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), Newsies at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and Freestyle Love Supreme back at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). August is quieter, with just The Prom at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly (for this look ahead), September brings Oklahoma the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Jagged Little Pill at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), although they are on the same day so I’ll be shifting one show. September may also bring Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party at the Morgan Wixson Theatre. This was a show I had been planning to see before the COVID shutdown, so I’m putting it in the “part of our subscriptions” list. There may also be some Hollywood Bowl stuff, depending on how my wife is doing.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 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 (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). 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 (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

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🎭 I Shouldn’t Be Laughing | “Tootsie” @ Broadway in Hollywood

Tootsie (Broadway in Hollywood)Whew! It’s been a week, hasn’t it. I feel more exhausted than an actor trying to juggle pretending to be someone whom I’m not who is then trying to be someone who they are not while not letting out a secret… well, more on that in a minute. But I have been really busy, so please excuse the lateness of these writeups. They took a back seat to some other projects this week — working up updates to my highway pages,  and continued new work on getting a new podcast about highways off the ground. Combine that with a full time job, caretaking for my wife who is still down after her accident, and an ear infection, and … whew!

In any case, let’s talk about Tootsie, which is the current production of  Broadway in Hollywood (FB) at the Dolby Theatre. We saw it last Saturday, and I’m really conflicted in my reaction.  On the one hand, it was extremely funny with great comic timing. On the other hand, it is an attempt to bring 1980’s attitudes about men and women to a context 40 years later, and that just doesn’t work. Add to that the fact that this is a non-Equity tour (with the labor issues related thereto): yes, it gives talented actors their start, but it also treats them like second class citizens. Hmm, like women in a professional field. As I said, conflicted.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Tootsie is based on a 1982 comedy starring Dustin Hoffman, with a screenplay adapted by Larry Gelbart, Barry Levinson, Elaine May and Murray Schisgal from a story by Gelbart and Don McGuire. The basic premise is: perfectionist male actor, who is so annoying he has been blackballed by most directors, pretends to be a woman in order to get an acting job. In doing so, he takes a job away from his actress best-friend, and turns what is a crappy soap-opera into a smash success with his suggestions for improvement. He falls in love with the leading lady of the soap-opera (who is having an affair with the director), and has a male leading man fall in love with him. When the secret comes out, then (as they say) hijinks ensue.

This was really funny stuff in the 1980s folks. I mean that this was the second most profitable film of 1982, and was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture. In 1998, the Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. You can just imagine a producer thinking, 20 years later: This would be great on Broadway!

But the times, as Bob Dylan sang, are a changin’. The whole schtick of man dressing as women for humor isn’t as funny as it once was. Show real trans folk. That’s fine. Show real stories of drag queens, as serious drag queens (cough, Kinky Boots, cough, Everyone’s Talking About Jamie), OK. But dress as a woman for humor (as we saw in My Fair Lady or as is likely in the upcoming new version of Some Like It Hot), and it doesn’t work. I’ll note there are similar problems with playing on old and tired gay stereotypes — how well would a La Cage revival work these days. Perhaps this is why we’re hearing so little about Mrs. Doubtfire, currently on Broadway. It plays up the man dressed as woman for humor, and that just doesn’t fly. (Hmmm, he wondered, why there are so few shows that find humor in a woman dressing as a man? I can only think of two — both Shakespeare — and the humor is situational. Victor Victoria, perhaps? But I digress).

Now, add to this the problems related to #MeToo, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the growing concern about men not listening to the voices of women (as well as a man taking a woman’s job). You have to keep saying to yourself: What were these producers thinking smoking?

Yet with all these problems, Tootsie came to Broadway and found some measure of success. It was nominated for a slew of Tony awards and won two (including Best Book of a Musical). It beat out Beetlejuice, which was better and far less problematic. Yet problems remain.

To their credit, the new book by Robert Horn makes some significant changes. It moves the milieu from New York and the soap opera scene to Broadway. Now the actor (Michael Dorsey) is finding failure with Broadway directors, and so becomes an actress (Dorothy Michaels) in a successful new Broadway production. This makes it more accessible, and adds to the in-jokes that only those in the Broadway profession would get. But it works better on stage. Horn also explicitly acknowledges the problems with what Michael is doing: there is gnashing and wailing about how this is wrong, followed by jokes about how he’ll get paid less. There are scenes calling out Michael for mansplaining, while there are no remarks about the hidden-in-full-view Michael as Dorothy mansplaining away, and getting heard while women staffers are ignored.

So there are loads and loads of problems remaining in the book. And yet … I laughed. Especially in the second act, where Michael’s subterfuge is uncovered, and there are some wonderful comic timing scenes taking place. This thing is laugh out loud funny, while you’re thinking at the same time that it is so wrong. Just like Jackass. This is likely why it won best book: if the book can make you laugh at something that is patently so wrong these days.

While we’re talking book, we mustn’t forget this is a musical. In this case, the music and lyrics are by David Yazbek, The songs are very funny, but what kept bothering me is how much they sounded like Yazbek’s other work. I kept hearing hints of The Band’s Visit  or Women on the Verge and even The Full Monty. There are some particular riffs and styles that Yazbek likes, and they seem to have recycled themselves here. It was distracting, and Yazbek needs to work better on getting his musicals to not sound so much … like Yazbek-stereotypes.

The production was directed by Dave Solomon; Scott Ellis was the original Broadway director. Broadway choreography was by Denis Jones. Buried in the small print were the key local folks: Augustine Ubannwa Asst. Director and Chip Abbott Associate Choreographer. All are members of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. I always have trouble telling direction from performance (which is how it should be), but the comic aspects of the direction were strong. Dancing was a bit weaker: there wasn’t anything that particular stands out in my mind a week after the performance.

Let’s turn to the performances, but before we do: When this production was originally booked for Broadway in Hollywood (back in the pre-pandemic days), it was to be an Equity tour, with Equity actors, and Equity pay scales, and Equity health insurance and such. But, on the verge of going out, it was recast and went out as a non-Equity tour. So note: Union directors and choreographers, union scenic artists, union back and front of house, but non-union actors. This is not meant as a disparagement of the actors, who do a remarkable job (as I’ll describe below). But it is a ding to the producers, who are getting away with paying them less and providing fewer benefits (pay breakdown) and worse working conditions. This has led to increased efforts from Equity to go after the non-Union tours. In particular, they are going after the touring companies that often have union and non-union versions, feeding back into the same pockets. If you ever want a key difference between Broadway in Hollywood and Center Theatre Group: CTG only does Equity productions on the main stages (and CTG does show production, not just booking). BIH books both Equity and non-Equity productions. Rant over, and I will say that I do still love Broadway in Hollywood — their subscriber support folks are the greatest (more on that later). I just wish the talent got treated as well, and part of that is encouraging the industry to do Equity tours.

Despite being young, the cast was excellent — drawing heavily from other non-Equity tours and the strong regional theatre markets. In the lead position was Drew Becker Michael Dorsey / Dorothy Michaels . Becker was remarkable in the role, with great comic timing and performing chops. He captured both the masculine and the feminine sides well, and had a strong singing voice. But as I noted, what really impressed me was his comedy. There were times where he said everything with a simple facial expression, a pause, or a simple reaction. To this untrained eye, that goes beyond the direction to bringing the actor’s chops to the role. I hope others see it.

The other key people in Michael’s direct sphere of influence were Payton Reilly Sandy Lester and Jared David Michael Grant Jeff Slater. Reilly’s role is really written more as comic relief, and we don’t see as much of her as we would like. She has a recurring song motif that is extremely funny and self-deprecating (even if it sounds like it could be plopped down in Women on the Verge). Reilly handles this well with great comic timing. Grant gets to play the lovable schlub friend — and you wouldn’t expect such a strong performance for that character. But Grant excels at the comedy — again, he’s a master of the timing and the look and the reaction. The scenes with him, Reilly, and Becker are just masterpieces. Watching their performances, you wouldn’t realize that these are relatively new actors — they are that strong in their roles.

Next we have the key people in Dorothy Michael’s stage life: Ashley Alexander Julie Nichols and Lukas James Miller Max Van Horn.  Alexander (who also appears to go by Ashley Seldon) has a remarkably strong voice and come across as a credible actor in her role. She gets less opportunity to play the role for the comic side. Miller, on the other hand, is heavily comedy — especially in the second act. The scene where he comes and hits on Dorothy is priceless, but his introductory scenes are strong as well.

In supporting roles we have Kathy Halenda Rita Marshall; Steve Brustien Stan Fields and Adam du Plessis Ron Carlisle.  All are written and played with appropriate stereotypes in mind. Halenda is the aging woman producer who wants to champion other women; Brustien is the typical agent; and du Plessis is the over-egoed director. The actors play them well.

Rounding out the cast in the ensemble and smaller named parts as noted are: Leyla Ali Gone Female Trio, Connor Allston Stuart, Darius Aushay, Michael Bingham, Kyra Christopher, Delaney Gold Gone Female Trio, Maverick Hu, Dominique Kempf Suzie, Gone Female Trio, Marquez Linder, Lucy Panush, Alec Ruiz Carl, and Stefanie Renee Salyers. Swings are Lexi Baldachino Dance Captain, and Ashton Lambert Asst. Dance Captain. The ensemble was strong, performing with spirit and energy, and seeming to enjoy what they were doing.

Music was provided by an orchestra under Andrea Grody Supervising Music Director and Andrew David Sotomayor Music Director The orchestra consisted of: Richard Mitchell Alto Sax, Flute, Piccolo, Recorder; Sean Franz Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Soprano Sax; Aaron Smith and Javier Gonzalez Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Charlie Morillas Trombone; Chris Thigpen Bass (Acoustic/Electric); Brian LaFontaine Guitar (Electric / Acoustic / Mandolin); Carl Thomson Drums / Percussion; Adam McDonald Keyboard 1; and Mary Ekler Keyboard 2. Other music credits: Dean Sharenow Music Supervisor; Talitha Fehr Music Coordinator; Eric Heinly Music Contractor; Billy Jay Stein and Iro Iida (for Strange Cranium Productions Inc) Electronic Music Design; David Chase Dance Arrangements; and Simon Hale Orchestrations.

Lastly, we turn to the production team, starting with the lead designers. Overall, the scenic design was suitable, although there were sound problems that left the distinct impression that some speakers were not working (because the music sounded off to one side). The set was relatively compact, with elements that opened up to create Michael Dorsey’s apartment, and that when closed became a generic New York skyline. My biggest complaint with the set design was more of a tour set design issue: there was a large frame around the set that would create site line problems for anyone sitting off to the far side. That’s bad design: even for a tour, sets should be designed to be clear and visible to all. The scenic design team consisted of: David Rockwell Original Scenic Design; Christine Peters Tour Scenic Design; William Ivey Long Costume Design; Christopher Vergara Costume Coordinator; Donald Holder Lighting Design; Brian Ronan Sound Design; Paul Huntley Hair & Wig Design; and Angelina Avallone Make-Up Design.  One costume/make-up note: The quick changes for Drew Becker (Michael Dorsey) were impressive, including changing the nail polish!

Rounding out the production team were: Binder Casting Casting; Andrew Terlizzi Company Manager; Suzayn Mackenzie-Roy Production Stage Manager; Brianna Thompson Asst Stage Manager; Brian Schrader General Manager; Heather Chockley Production Management. The tour manager was Troika Entertainment.

I mentioned earlier about the superb customer service from the Broadway in Hollywood subscription team. My wife currently is in a wheelchair, which requires handicapped seating. When I booked the show we were not in accessible seats; I had changed the tickets, but hadn’t realized they weren’t accessible either. Day of the show, the subscription folks in the box office got us changed to wheelchair accessible seats (in the orchestra, no less) without any muss. They may book non-union tours, but I still think Broadway in Hollywood is great!

Tootsie continues at the Dolby Theatre for Broadway in Hollywood (FB) until May 15. Tickets are available through the BIH box office (they have specials for $39). Discount tickets may be available through GoldstarTootsie goes next to the Segerstrom in Orange County.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). 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 Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. Looking further into 2022: May brings Hadestown at at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). June will see Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Pretty Woman at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), as well as Tom Paxon at McCabes plus as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as we have the energy for. July brings Moulin Rouge at Broadway in Hollywood (FB) [Pantages], Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), Newsies at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and Freestyle Love Supreme back at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). August is quieter, with just The Prom at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly (for this look ahead), September brings Oklahoma the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Jagged Little Pill at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), although they are on the same day so I’ll be shifting one show. September may also bring Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party at the Morgan Wixson Theatre. This was a show I had been planning to see before the COVID shutdown, so I’m putting it in the “part of our subscriptions” list. There may also be some Hollywood Bowl stuff, depending on how my wife is doing.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 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 (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). 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 (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

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