🗯️ Finesse, or Lack Thereof

userpic=trumpLet’s start off with the basics: Soleimani was not a good man. The world is a better place without him. But this is NOT how you do it.

Here’s the key point: Although he directed terrorist groups, he was not a “terrorist leader” unaffiliated with a government. He was a top General in the Iranian military — a country that Congress has not declared war against.

Just imagine if China or some other country with whom we have testy relations launched a drone strike against one of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and killed him while he was in another country. How would we react? Would we treat that as an act of war?

This is why Trump’s attempt to “wag the dog” — to distract attention from his impeachment and draw attention to himself is so bad. His failure to think ahead, to think about the potential consequences of the action, has put the entire nation in danger.

There are many ways that this nation could have taken out Soleimani without it appearing to be a military operation approved by the President. That’s called finesse, and it is how you prevent war. But this President thinks only about himself and his popularity with his base, and how to look good in the news. He doesn’t know finesse.

The Iranian leadership has put a high bounty on Trump’s head. Just imagine the repercussions if someone takes them up on that offer.

They say they will only hit military targets. But again, imagine the repercussions if they do and American soldiers are killed. We, of course, will escalate … with a country that will not hesitate to do a small demonstration of their nuclear capability.

So suppose they make this personal, and go after a Trump property. Imagine how Mr. Ego will respond. Again, not good.

So suppose they take to the cyber-realm, and work against Trump in the election. Even that is fraught with peril, for it then provides the argument for him to invalidate the election results. After all, it’s OK if Russia meddles on his behalf, but for a country to work against him…

Although Soleimani’s death is a good thing, I can’t see how in the long run, anything good comes from this.

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🛣 Headlines About California Highways – December 2019

Ah, the end of the teens. The 21st century is moving into the 20s. What a decade it has been.

As befits the winter months, things have been a bit quieter. But still there are headlines. I’ve also been working on the highway pages (although not all uploaded yet) to add pictures to all the naming resolutions, with the goal of putting faces with the names. If we’re going to go to the trouble of naming a highway after someone, we should know who that person is or was, and be able to look at their face and seem them as more than just a name we pass by at 60mph. These were people that contributed to society and were important to their family. Remembering is important.

In any case, here are the headlines about California Highways for December. Ready, set, discuss.

[💰 Paywalls and 🚫 other annoying restrictions: $LAT/LA Times; SJMN/Mercury News; OCR/Orange County Register; VSG/Visalia Sun Gazette; RDI/Ridgecrest Daily Independent; PE/Press Enterprise; TDT/Tahoe Daily Tribune]

  • 💰 LAT / Toll lanes in the Sepulveda Pass? The 405 Freeway is moving in that direction. Los Angeles County spent 4¬Ĺ years and more than $1.6 billion to widen the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass.¬†Now, the carpool lane born from that mega-project is facing a major change of its own: tolls.¬†The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in the early stages of planning to allow solo drivers in the 405‚Äôs carpool lanes, for a price. Similar programs on portions of the 110 and 10 freeways charge drivers a per-mile toll that changes based on traffic conditions.
  • A Line, making transit a habit, 405 ExpressLanes: Metro News Now, Dec. 2. I‚Äôm sure some of you reading this enjoyed some quality time sitting parked on the 405 freeway at some point in the last week. Thus you may be interested to know that the Metro Board on Thursday will consider a $27.5-million contract with WP USA to do the environmental document and other studies for the Sepulveda Pass ExpressLanes project,¬†reports the LAT.
  • Metro eyes toll road on 105 in Downey. One of the best things about living in Downey is our freeway proximity. And that includes hopping on the 105 Freeway and a straight shot to LAX.¬†That drive could get more complicated, however.¬†The LA Times published a story today about Metro‚Äôs plans to add a toll lane to the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass. At the end of the article is this revelation …
  • Metro Driving Toward Sepulveda Pass Toll Lanes On 405 Freeway. Toll lanes are being explored for one of the busiest freeways in the nation ‚Äď the 405 Freeway in West Los Angeles.¬†Metro is in the early stages of a plan to create 405 Freeway ‚Äúfast lanes‚ÄĚ that would give drivers willing to pay up a lane of their own.
  • Upgrade in Eureka. Times they are a-changin‚Äô! We‚Äôre aiming for another helpful upgrade in Eureka by the end of the year. Those that regularly use the Henderson Street intersection along U.S. Highway 101 know that traffic can back up there. …
  • Caltrans: Part of Henderson Street in Eureka to be made a one-way to reduce congestion. By the end of 2019, the California Dept. of Transportation plans to turn part of Henderson Street into a one-way route to alleviate traffic delays in the area.¬†Caltrans said the area of Henderson Street between Highway 101 and Fairfield will be turned into three lanes, all going toward the highway.

Read More …

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🎭 But He Won’t Fit on the Shelf | “Elf” @ Canyon Theatre Guild

Elf (Canyon Theatre Guild)I’m not a big fan of Christmas media: movies, music, plays, musicals. On the surface, that’s not a big surprise as I’m Jewish and Christmas is not my holiday. From the day after Holloween nowadays, we’re saturated with the commercial and sentimental message of the holiday, with its underlying message of buy, buy, buy. Perhaps Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer had it right after all … but I digress.

Still, there are a few properties in each media category that I like. I’m enamored of Peter Paul and Mary’s Christmas Dinner, because I think that’s the message of the day. I love¬†A Mulholland Christmas Carol and wish it would be done again. But much of what is out there is sentimental claptrap or remountings of classics (such as the recent production of Miracle on 34th Street at Actors Co-Op). Recently, two musicals have emerged as Christmas perennials. One we saw in 2017:¬†A Christmas Story. The other is Elf: The Musical, with book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, Music by Matthew Sklar, and Lyrics by Chad Beguelin, based on the 2003 movie¬†written by David Berenbaum. I could easily see¬†Elf¬†becoming one of those holiday musicals I actually like, as it is a whole lot of fun, has great music, and a wonderful non-religious and non-commercial message.

Elf¬†basically tells the story of Buddy the Elf. As an infant, after his single mother died, he crawled into Santa’s bag and was taken by mistake to the North Pole. He was raised by the elves to be one of them, even after he grew to be six feet tall. One day, he learns he is human and journeys to New York City to meet his dad, who has no Christmas spirit. He does, and as they say, hijinks ensure. He gets a job as an elf at Macy*s, and falls in love with a cynical “elf” Jovie. He destroys his dad’s office. But this is all done with childish joy and innocence, as Buddy has never really grown up and is the embodiment of a child’s Christmas spirit and belief. When Santa gets stranded in NYC due to the lack of Christmas spirit, of course it is Buddy to the rescue. Cue the closures of the story lines and the happy ending that is required.

Although there are numerous productions of Elf in Southern California this time of year, we saw the production at Canyon Theatre Guild in Santa Clarita/Newhall. To understand CTG, you need to understand the tiers of theatres in So Cal. There are the big boys that have the tours and are typically all Equity (although the Pantages does some non-Equity tours). There are the mid-size houses that are all Equity. There are the intimate theatres, some of whom use Equity contracts and some Equity actors (as REP was, down the street from CTG, when it was in existance); there are others that eschew Equity’s BS and use only non-Equity actors (who are typically rising actors, or actors from film/TV (SAG/AFTRA)). Community theatre is a step below that: theatre performed by a mix of community members who just love to act, and in SoCal, actors from the cadre of non-Equity and film/TV actors who like to exercise their craft on stage. As a result, the quality of the performances at CTG can be mixed: you have some performers who are seasoned vets who bring their “A” game to the show, and you have the teacher, printer, or student that may flub a line, miss a step, or be focused too much on getting the moves right to inhabit or create a background character. But you know, going in, these folks are up on the stage because they love it, and they are giving all their heart.

With this mix, the directing team (in this case, Barry Agin (FB) and Timben Boydston (FB)) had their hands full. They had to come up with the overall design of the production. They had to work with the actors to bring out and shape the characters — and with community theatre actors that can be a bit more work. They had to ensure the evenness of the performances and ensure that the characters created were true to what was on the written page. Lastly, they had to do this while ensuring that everyone was having fun, because you’re not in community theatre to make the tens and tens of dollars that those big-time actors in LA’s intimate theatres make. I’m pleased to say that Barry and Timben achieved these goals: this was a fun production with easily overlooked imperfections, with actors that generally did a great job.

But there is one primary reason for the success of this show — and that reason is the same reason we chose this production out of all the productions of¬†Elf¬†in Southern California that we could see: George Chavez (FB). We’ve seen George in numerous productions throughout the years at REP, when it existed up the street; in Simi Valley; and at other theatres in LA. He brings a wonderful enthusiasm and manic energy to his roles; a tender craziness. George wasn’t just playing Buddy the Elf — George¬†was¬†Buddy the Elf. He brought a child’s wonder and sense of playfulness to the role, he brought the manic energy of an elf, as well as the innocence. He made you believe in the Christmas spirit through that energy. If you know George in real life, you know that he is also a teacher — and his performance here made it clear why his students must love love him, and why he finds joy in that other aspect of his life. This enthusiasm for whatever he does — whatever role or profession he is in — can’t be faked. He is successful as a teacher because he loves that. He is successful as an actor because he loves that. And, as this performance demonstrated, he was successful as Buddy the Elf because he brings the love for anything Christmas that is inside Buddy to the stage, beams it out to the audience, and literally becomes that character while on stage. His enthusiasm and joy was such that it raised up all the other actors, and smoothed over the rough edges that community theatre might have. I’m sure this joy was also broadcast backstage and set the tone for the entire company.

But George’s Buddy wasn’t the only impressive talent on the CTG stage. I was also impressed with Christina Afetian (FB)¬†Jovie. Afetian brought some wonderful character to the role, had a winning smile, and most importantly: a winning voice. She did a spectacular job on “A Christmas Song”, and was just a joy to watch.

Buddy’s human family was also very strong, in particular Ally Loprete (FB) Emily Hobbs and Jack Anderson Michael Hobbs. Loprete brought a great personality and a very strong voice to her role; Anderson was strong as the brother and handled the character well. Jeff Vincent (FB) Walter Hobbs was strong performance-wise as the father, bringing just the right sense of Christmas indifference to the role. However, at our performance, his voice was a bit tired by the end of the evening — if I had to guess, he had an ill-timed cold. Happens to all of us, and I wish we could have seen him in stronger form.

In terms of the other characters, Anna Rast (FB) Deb had a strong voice and brought a unique personality to the character. Also bringing a strong voice and some standout personality was Noemi Vaca (FB) Charlotte in her various ensemble roles.

Rounding out the cast were: Eduardo Arteaga (FB)¬†Santa Claus, Jackson Caruso (FB)¬†Matthews / Ensemble; Peyton Copley Ensemble; Erin Davis (FB)¬†Sara / Ensemble; Kaitlyn Davis Ensemble; Molly Davis Ensemble; Greyson Foster (⭐FB)¬†Charlie / Ensemble; Ellen Guinn Ensemble; Calvin Hayward Ensemble; Doug Holiday (FB)¬†Vinny the Policeman / Ensemble; Harmony Jefferson Ensemble; La’a Jefferson (FB)¬†Ensemble; Haileigh Johnson Ensemble; Kelly Johnson Mrs. Claus / Ensemble; Jefferson Lanz (FB)¬†Sam / Ensemble; Hannah May LEPoidevin (FB)¬†Ensemble; Sam Kort (FB)¬†Ensemble; Jeff Lucas (FB)¬†Bad Santa / Ensemble; John Morris (FB)¬†Ensemble; Grace Morrison Ensemble; Katrina Negrete (FB)¬†Ensemble; Christopher Passalacqua (FB)¬†Chadwick / Ensemble; Cora Pengelly Ensemble; Eva Pengelly Ensemble; Christopher Robbin Mr. Greenway; Emma Shean Ensemble; Owen Shean Ensemble; Griffin Siroky (FB)¬†Ensemble; Katelyn Taylor Tiara / Ensemble; and Jeremiah True (FB) Manager.

The music, alas, was recorded.

Choreography was by Melanie Lee (FB), who did a great job considering the range of dance talent she had to work with.

Turning to the production and creative side: The set design by Doug Holiday (FB) and John Alexopoulos (FB) wasn’t fancy, but worked well for the CTG stage (especially considering the limited budget CTG has to work with). Long-time REP regular¬†Steven ‚ÄúNanook‚ÄĚ Burkholder¬†(FB) provided sound design and appropriate sound effects. Mike Davis (FB) and Michael T. Smith (FB)’s lighting design did a satisfactory job of establishing place and time. The costume design by Jean Paletz (FB) and Jill McGlynn (FB) was appropriately Christmas-y; the elf costumes were cute. Rounding out the credits: Margo Caruso (FB)¬†Asst. Director; Carla Bellefeuille (FB)¬†Vocal Director; Michael T. Smith (FB) Props / Set Dresser; Keri Pierson (FB)¬†Stage Manager; Nicole Arteaga (FB)¬†Props / Set Dresser. Timben Boydston (FB) is the Executive and Artistic Director of CTG.

Alas, Monday was the last performance of Elf at CTG. Perhaps George will do it at a future venue.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I‚Äôve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I‚Äôve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I‚Äôm 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‚Äôll 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‚Äôs production, I focus on the positive ‚ÄĒ 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:

We have no more live theatre scheduled in 2019. We will be seeing a movie on Christmas Day.

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

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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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🎭 History and Parallels in Numbers | “Eight Nights” @ Antaeus

Eight Nights (Antaeus Theatre)One thing I’ve noticed about the congregation of which I’m a member (Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge) is that there is a love of live performance. At almost every theatre event I attend, or most concerts, I’ll run into a member of the congregation. I think, perhaps, it relates to the value of storytelling in our culture, the value of shared experiences, and the joy that comes from being in a room with other people. Theatre creates community, and so does our congregation.

I mention all of this because our congregation recently started a number of small aligned interest groups on various subjects — all ways to build community. I suggested a group centered around live theatre; as I get so many press releases and announcements of theatre, I offered to facilitate it. My goal is to build a group that will go to theatre with Jewish themes, to provide a forum for discussion, exploration, and education. The themes may not always be overtly Jewish, but they will relate to Jewish values, Jewish thought, Jewish questions, and the Jewish experience.

Our little group had its first outing last Sunday: to see the production of Eight Nights at the Antaeus Theatre Company (FB) in Glendale. The reason becomes clear when you read the press release I received from the publicist:

A German Jewish refugee is haunted by her past, but resiliently moves toward the future. Antaeus Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Eight Nights, a story developed in the Antaeus Playwrights Lab that honors the global refugee experience. Written by Jennifer Maisel (FB) and directed by Emily Chase (FB), Eight Nights opens at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center in Glendale on Nov. 8, where performances continue through Dec. 16. Low-priced previews begin Oct. 31.

Set during eight different nights of Chanukah over the course of eight decades, Eight Nights tells the story of Holocaust survivor Rebecca Blum, who arrives in America at age 19 to forge a new life. As Rebecca moves through time, the play explores the lives that come and go in her New York apartment, where ghosts of the past both haunt and guide her. Maisel lyrically weaves together heart-aching moments with life-affirming humor to call out the trauma experienced not only by concentration camp survivors, but by African American descendants of slavery, by interned Japanese Americans, and by current victims of war in Africa and the Middle East.

‚ÄúIt was essential to me ‚ÄĒ seeing the parallels between the Syrian refugee crisis in 2017, when I started writing the play, and the Jewish refugee crisis of the 1930s ‚ÄĒ that this piece be an exploration of the universality of that experience and its overlap with other communities,‚ÄĚ explains Maisel. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs about people finding a way to live after surviving loss and trauma, and witnessing how that brings joy to the future.‚ÄĚ

This play seemed appropriate because it was more than your traditional Holocaust play. If I had wanted to do that (and I could fit it into my schedule), I would have taken the group to see¬†The Diary of Anne Frank which was being produced up in Newhall. But this took a different approach: it didn’t look¬†at¬†the Holocaust; it looked at the impact of the Holocaust on the survivors. How it shaped their lives and attitudes afterwards. How their experience had parallels in the experiences of other cultures.¬† How today’s refugee situation often requires us to put out that hand that wasn’t often put out for the Jews back during WWII. It was a true echo of the line we say on Passover, remembering that we were slaves, we had that experience, and that memory shapes our ethics.

As noted in the press summary, the play focuses on Rebecca Blue, who comes over to the US in 1949 at age 19, to live with her father. He is the only surviving family member: Rebecca’s mother and two sisters perished in the camps, although they remain as ghosts to her. We then see her in scenes that progress approximately 10 years per jump, always to the next night of Chanukkah. We see how she gets married, how she starts a business with the wife of the man who saved her from the camps, how she has to face telling her daughter about her story, how her daughter comes home with a non-Jewish man — half Japanese, half-Irish — who is researching the parallels between the internment and the holocaust. How that relationship progresses into the generation of Rebecca’s granddaughter and her unconventional relationship. It closes with Rebecca in her 90s, as they invite a Syrian refugee family into their apartment.

Throughout the show, there are interesting parallels drawn to other cultures. The first are some of the parallels to the black experience in America, followed by the internment of the Japanese. There’s an undercurrent of resilience: of letting the past shape you but not define you. We see the stress these experiences bring, and how the survivors often didn’t want to talk about them until it was almost too late. Eventually, they came to learn that by sharing the experiences, others could grow.

There were a number of “gasp” moments: I vividly remember when Rebecca was telling her story to an interviewer — she brought back what the camps must have felt like for the survivors. There was the audience reaction when the granddaughter displayed a tattoo that she¬† thought would honor the experience, only to learn that it was more of an insult. There was the business partner sharing the story of having to have “the talk” with her son.

All in all it was a very touching piece. Our little group went out afterwards for coffee/tea, and the consensus was similar: a very moving and appropriate piece for our first outing.

Director Emily Chase (FB) did a wonderful job of creating the apartment that serves as the “home” for the story, and for working with the actors to bring it to life. She did a particularly good job of handling the multiple characters that each actor played: multiple actors portray Rebecca at various ages; the same actors play her daughter and granddaughter. Each brought a unique characterization to the character. The actors also silently portrayed ghosts of their characters who through movement and expression alone commented on the story Discussing the show with one of our group members after the show, he provided a great summary of what the director brings: the director builds the cup, and the actors help to fill it. As I understand that phrase, the means the director established the structure for the story, taking the words from the page of the author and creating the realization in the world while staying true to the story’s intent; it is the actors that then create the characters, with the director helping to fine tune the creation.

So let’s turn to those creations. Two actors create the main character, Rebecca Blum: Zoe Yale (FB) Younger Rebecca / Amy / Nina and Tessa Auberjonois (⭐FB) Anna / Older Rebecca. We meet Yale’s Rebecca first, with Auberjonois’ Anna as the ghost as she is a nervous 19 year-old meeting her father after he seemingly abandoned them, she had a harrowing travel on the MS St. Louis.,¬† returned to Germany to be separated from her mother and sister, and then be rescued by a US solder at Dachau. Yale also handles the scene where Rebecca is newly married with a child on the way, meeting that soldier and his wife. Yale handles these scenes very believably and with a nice tenderness. She then switches places with Auberjonois, who takes over as Rebecca whilst Yale becomes first Rebecca’s daughter Amy, and then her granddaughter, Nina. Yale does a great job of creating different personas and characterizations for the younger women. Auberjonois seamlessly handles the older Rebecca well, doing particularly well with her aging in the final scenes. I was particular impressed with what Auberjonois brought to the stage¬†this¬†weekend, having lost her father earlier in the week. It can’t be easy, and if she reads this by chance: condolences to her family on their loss.

The primary men in Rebecca’s life are played by Arye Gross (FB) Erich / Joram and Josh Zuckerman (FB) Aaron. We meet Gross’s Erich first: a seemingly genial fellow, who doesn’t seem to have been affected that much by Germany, or the loss of his wife and other daughters. Perhaps he had moved past that already. He is around for the first few scenes, and then hovers as a ghost for a while, reappearing in the end as the father of the immigrant family. Zukerman was stronger as Aaron, Rebecca’s husband. He provides an unspoken strength behind her and supporting her, and captures the character well.

The other two primary actors we meet are Christopher Watson¬†Benjamin / Matt¬†and Karen Malina White (⭐FB, FB) Arlene / Lacey. Watson captures the character well of the soldier (Benjamin) that rescued Rebecca, but has equal PTSD from what he has seen. He has a smaller role in a later scene where Rebecca is interviewed and recorded as the camera operator. I really likes White’s portrayal of Arlene, Benjamin’s wife and Rebecca’s future silent business partner. She brought a wonderful exuberance to the role; she brought a similar energy to Lacey, Nina’s partner.

Rounding out the cast was Devin Kawaoka (FB) Steve / Inge, as Amy’s Irish/Japanese husband. He had a nice playfulness and good chemistry with Yale’s Amy.

Lastly, turning to the production and creative side: Edward E. Haynes Jr.‘s Scenic Design created a believable apartment that adapted well over the subsequent decades; this was aided by Alex Jaeger (FB)’s Costume Design for the period appropriate costumes and David Saewart‘s Prop Design. Adam R. Macias‘ Projections told the audience the specific date and time. Jeff Gardner (FB)’s Sound Design provided appropriate sound effects, and Karyn D. Lawrence‘s lighting worked to establish the mood and draw attention where appropriate.¬† Other production credits: Lauren Lovett¬†Dialect Coach; Paula Cizmar¬†New Play Dramaturg; Bo Foxworth¬†Fight Choreographer; Ryan Mcree¬†Dramaturg; Heather Gonzalez (FB) Production Stage Manager; Connie Ayala¬†Asst. Stage Manager; Adam Meyer¬†Technical Director; Lucy Pollock¬†Publicity; Bill Brochtrup¬†Artistic Director; Kitty Swink¬†Artistic Director and Ana Rose O’Halloran¬†Executive Director.

Unfortunately for you, Eight Nights closed last night (Monday, 12/16). But perhaps another theatre will choose to mount it. For information on other Antaeus productions, visit https://antaeus.org/.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I‚Äôve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I‚Äôve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I‚Äôm 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‚Äôll 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‚Äôs production, I focus on the positive ‚ÄĒ 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:

Our last show in December, other than the movie on Christmas Day will be Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild on December 21.

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

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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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🛣 Updates to the California Highways Web Pages | August – November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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🛣 Headlines About California Highways – November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go to Thousand Oaks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I‚Äôve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I‚Äôve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I‚Äôm 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‚Äôll 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‚Äôs production, I focus on the positive ‚ÄĒ one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

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

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

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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

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

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

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

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

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

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I‚Äôve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I‚Äôve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I‚Äôm 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‚Äôll 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‚Äôs production, I focus on the positive ‚ÄĒ one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks. 

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

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

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 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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