🎭 🎸 Learning About Legends | Surviving Frank Lloyd Wright @ EST/LA ♦ Ruskin / Book Binder @ Blvd Music

Surviving Frank Lloyd Wright (EST/LA)Saturday was an interesting day. The Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) hasn’t started yet, so my calendar was empty. My wife was out of town and I wasn’t in the midst of highway page updates, so I didn’t have much to do. I thought about the opening night of  Ready Set Yeti Go at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB), but there were no discount tickets. But then I received some emails about the solution to my problem.

The first was from Ensemble Studio Theatre / Los Angeles (FB) about a “Check-In Reading” for a play they had in development from Tom Lazarus (FB). “Check-In Readings” are no-frills readings of plays under development in the Launchpad 2018-19 Long Term Dramaturgical program. The readings “check-in” on the current status of the play, and allow an audience to give their reactions and make suggestions.

At this reading, the play was “Surviving Frank Lloyd Wright: The Creation of Hollyhock House“. It was described in the email thusly:

The true story of political radical and free love advocate Aline Barnsdall hiring the scandal plagued genius Frank Lloyd Wright to architect a creative utopia. They battle over the design and the out of control budget. Wright hires Rudolph Schindler to supervise construction throwing the future of Hollyhock House in doubt as the aesthetic and sexual triangles play themselves out.

Given that as an ancillary interest to my highway hobby I have a keen interest in the history of Los Angeles, this play caught my eye. So yesterday started out with a jaunt to Atwater Village for the reading.

This was my first time attending one of these readings, and I had a blast. The setup was simple: actors reading from the script, with another actor reading the stage directions. Voice performance, no costumes, allowing one to focus on the script in development. The performers were: Ian Patrick Williams (FB) – Frank Lloyd Wright; Lizzie Peet (FB) – Aline Barnsdall; Ethan Rains (FB) –Rudolph Schindler; Ashley Francis Hoffman (FB) – Maud (Maude Noel, Wright’s 2nd wife); Maura Knowles (FB) – Miss Lang; Jon Sperry (FB) – Norman Bel Geddes; and Stevie Stern (FB) – stage directions.

I’m not going to go into the developmental work needed or any criticisms — those were communicated to the playwright during the discussion afterwards (and were the purpose of this reading). Readings are how plays mature into what you see working on stage, and it is rare for a play to emerge fully formed and perfect (no matter what the author may think). The same is true for government documents :-). So this is more my positive thoughts on the show.

Going in, although I had heard of Frank Lloyd Wright and Barnsdall Park, I didn’t know much more than that. This show was focused on the creation of Hollyhock House. It starts with Aline Barnsdall hiring Frank Lloyd Wright to build an artist’s utopia at the top of Olive Hill, which she had purchased with her inheritance.  Her plan was to build a theatre, housing for staff, and a house for herself and her daughter on the hill. Wright was focused on the house, and kept delaying everything else. The focus of this play was the conflict between the two, and which ones would give first, and what the ultimate result would be.

I was initially confused as to location when this play started, probably because I’ve never been to Barnsdall Park or seen Hollyhock House. The way the characters spoke, I thought the hill was much higher than it was — but that was likely due to the growth of the area around the park obscuring the hill. Still, this play introduced me to a side of Los Angeles that I didn’t know, and made me go and research people I had never heard about (in particiular, Aline Barnsdall). That’s a good thing for a historical play. It helped me learn the personalities of these people. The script caught and held my attention, and I had a blast learning both about the story and the play development process.

The performances were strong. The actors, as this was a reading, had no costumes, no particular directions other than those in the script, and no real rehearsal. As such, you got to see the pure actor’s side: taking the lines on the page and bringing them to life just through voice and minimal movement. They did a great job. I particularly enjoyed the Williams, Peet, and Sperry.

I got such a kick out of this that I plan to attend more readings. If you want to learn about these types of efforts, get on the email lists for the theatres you like. To get on EST/LA’s list, click here.


Rick Ruskin and Roy Book Binder (Blvd Music)The second email I received was from Boulevard Music (FB) about a concert from Rick Ruskin and Roy Bookbinder. I was familiar with Rick Ruskin (FB), having been introduced to him by my uncle through some of his earlier albums. I was unfamiliar with Roy Bookbinder (FB) (sometimes written as Roy Book Binder). Both were expert guitar players, students and friends of the Reverend Gary Davis, with both a blues and humorous guitar style.

As I was less familiar with the songs from these artists (I have four albums from Ruskin, none from Bookbinder), I don’t have a play list. The two were both on stage at the same time, alternating songs and sharing stories. Ruskin did a mix of songs from Davis, himself, and a few covers of popular songs. Bookbinder focused more on the blues, doing songs from Davis, himself, and a few others. What was notable about Bookbinder was his stories. Before — and sometimes during — each song, Bookbinder would tell a rambling story of how the song came to be, stories about characters in the songs, and so forth.

There were a few mentions of Peter, Paul and Mary; I hadn’t realized that “If I Had My Way” was a Davis song and earned him substantial earnings. There was also a story about Mississippi John Hurt.

I enjoyed the music quite a bit, and picked up two albums from each artists. Always support artists at shows by buying merch.

Both had interesting observations about their age. This got me thinking about who the new folk artists are; in other words, who are the youngsters perpetuating the folk tradition. I’m not sure the answers, but I’d like to explore getting music from folk artists who aren’t 15 years older than I am.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

Next week, the the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) starts. If you are unfamilar with Fringe, there are around 380 shows taking place over the month of June, mostly in the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd between 1 bl W of La Brea to 1 bl E of Vine, but all generally in Hollywood. On a first pass, there were lots I was interested in, 30 I could fit on a calendar, but even less that I could afford. Here is my current Fringe schedule as of the date of this writeup. [Here’s my post with all shows of interest — which also shows my most current HFF19 schedule. Note: unlike my normal policy, offers of comps or discounts are entertained, but I have to be able to work them into the schedule with the limitations noted in my HFF19 post]:

Key: : Non-Fringe Show/Event; °: Producer/Publicist Arranged Comp or Discount

As for July, it is already filling up. The first weekend of the month is still open. The second weekend brings An Intimate Evening with Kristen Chenowith at,The Hollywood Bowl (FB).  The third weekend of July brings Miss Saigon at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), followed by A Comedy of Errors from Shakespeare by the Sea (FB)/Little Fish Theatre(FB). The last weekend of July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). August ends with Mother Road at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB), and we might do rush tickets for Alice in Wonderland as well. In between those points, August is mostly open.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. 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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🎶 Pop Stars and Folk Musicians | Lea Salonga and Noel Paul Stookey

Lea Salonga (Soraya 2019)This week was a week for concerts. The first was Wednesday night, when we saw Lea Salonga (FB) at the Saroya (FB), which was known as the Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN the last time Ms. Salonga played there in April 2016. If I had to characterize this show, which was the penultimate stop in her The Human Heart tour, it would be: Ballads and Anthems. Unlike back in 2016, where we were treated to a number of upbeat songs, including some songs in her native language, this was primarily slower songs and power songs. The two act show had the following songs:

Act I:

Feeling Good
Go the Distance
Reflection
Fast Car
Drops of Jupiter
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Part of the Human Heart
I Give My Life for You

Act II:

Another 100 People
In a Very Unusual Way
Story of My Life
Take On Me
Blurred Lines
Burn
A Whole New World
Dead Girl Songs: I Dreamed A Dream / On My Own
Encore: You Will Be Found

Accompanying Ms. Salonga was Larry Yurman (FB) – Piano, Music Director; Kevin Axt (FB) – Bass; Paul Viapiano (FB) – Guitar; and Ray Brinker (FBDrums.

Salonga had a great rapport with the audience, telling wonderful stories before most of the songs. Her duet on “A Whole New World” was wonderful. On the whole, it was an enjoyable show, but I did find myself wishing for a few more upbeat numbers. We did support the artist by picking up one CD: The Story of My Life: Live from Manila, with the BYU Chamber Orchestra.


Noel Paul Stookey (McCabes 2019)Our second concert saw us in Santa Monica at McCabes (FB) for a favorite artist of ours: Noel Paul Stookey (FB), who is best known as Paul in Peter Paul and Mary (FB). We last saw Noel Paul in a concert with Peter Yarrow in Thousand Oaks in 2017; our last solo visit with him was 2015 at McCabes. Noel Paul just recently did a concert in Ventura. Paul, and his musical companions, hold a special place in my heart: My first favorite group was PP&M, and folk music was a constant in my life even before there were the tunes from Broadway. McCabes also holds a special place: I remember seeing Shep Cooke (FB) there many many years ago with my uncle, back in the 1980s.

Noel Paul’s repertoire at this two set show was a mix of PP&M tunes and many of Noel Paul’s more recent solo tunes. There were just a few that I had never heard before. Alas, although he teased in the first act that he might do “Impeachable“, he didn’t. But the sentiment was clearly there.

Noel Paul’s sets were (🌟 indicates new songs):

Set 1

Standing on the Shoulders🌟
Not That Kind of Music
Puff the Magic Dragon
Ives🌟
Right Field
The Winner
Imagine (Alternate Version)🌟 / For The Love of It All
Revolution (1 x 1)
Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Love Rules!

Set 2:

Whatshername
Cabin Fever Waltz
Cue The Moon
Love With a Capital “L”🌟
The Wedding Song
One & Many
Jean Claude
America the Beautiful
Blowing in the Wind
In These Times
Encore: If I Had a Hammer

Noel Paul has roots as a comedian, and it shows in how he tells stories before each song. He clearly loves performing at McCabes, which holds a special place with folk musicians. His shows there are extremely enjoyable, and are not to be missed.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

This weekend brings one last show for May: Bronco Billy – The Musical at Skylight Theatre (FB).

June, as always, is reserved for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). If you are unfamilar with Fringe, there are around 380 shows taking place over the month of June, mostly in the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd between 1 bl W of La Brea to 1 bl E of Vine, but all generally in Hollywood. On a first pass, there were lots I was interested in, 30 I could fit on a calendar, but even less that I could afford. Here is my current Fringe schedule as of the date of this writeup. [Here’s my post with all shows of interest — which also shows my most current HFF19 schedule. Note: unlike my normal policy, offers of comps or discounts are entertained, but I have to be able to work them into the schedule with the limitations noted in my HFF19 post]:

In terms of non-Fringe theatre (which, yes, does exist): Currently, the first weekend of June is open, although I’m thinking about Ready Set Yeti Go at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB) [if the publicist contacts me or I see it on Goldstar for Saturday]. Fringe previews start the next week. The end of June also brings Indecent at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on June 28, just before the busy last weekend of Fringe.

As for July, it is already filling up. The first weekend of the month is still open. The second weekend brings An Intimate Evening with Kristen Chenowith at,The Hollywood Bowl (FB).  The third weekend of July brings Miss Saigon at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), followed by A Comedy of Errors from Shakespeare by the Sea (FB)/Little Fish Theatre(FB). The last weekend of July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB).

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

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🎶 My One Band is the One True Band | “Austin Lounge Lizards” @ Boulevard Music

Austin Lounge Lizards (Boulevard Music)My dear departed friend Stuart Schaeffer did two outstanding things for me, musically: he introduced me to the music of Big Daddy, and he introduced me to the Austin Lounge Lizards. The Lizards are a satirical bluegrass band out of Texas, and their music is just great. Although described as “bluegrass”, they run the range from acapella choral singing to rock and roll, from the aforementioned bluegrass to country, and pretty much everything in between. Their lyrics skewer people and topics, and are cleverly written. Whenever we learn they are coming to town, we do our best to see them (but, alas, they often conflict with prescheduled theatre).

Luckily, although there was a conflict, it was with a subscription show, and we were able to change our tickets to Sunday. So last night we got together with some friends and went down to Boulevard Music in Culver City to see the current incarnation of the Lizards do their show. The Lizards are down to two of the three founding members (Tom Pittmann having retired, but Hank Card and Conrad Diesler are  still there), and have been joined by two original Lizards, Kirk WIlliams and Tim Wilson. For two songs, Corey Simone, who was also a former Lizard and now has a band in the area, joined the group.

To make my life easy, I copied their set list before the show. This show was a little different in that there were a number of non-Lizard rock numbers worked in between the traditional Lizards fare. Here is the set  list, with a few comments. I’ve done my best to get the full names of songs (non-Lizard songs in italics):

  1. Highway Cafe of the Damned
  2. Ashokan Farewell / War Between the States / War
  3. We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before
  4. That God Forsaken Hell-Hole I Call Home
  5. Grunge Song
  6. The Dogs, They Really Miss You / Walking the DogIggy
  7. Boudreaux Was a Nutcase
  8. Black Helicopters
  9. Buenos Dios, Budweiser
  10. Gospel Medley: One True God / Three Sinners / Zen Gospel Singing
  11. (Intermission)
  12. Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs
  13. Carazon de Goma (new song)
  14. Creep / Shallow End of the Gene Pool / People are Strange
  15. Another Stupid Texas Song
  16. Strange Noises in the Dark
  17. Have You Ever Seen the RainIrma / Acid Rain Keeps Falling / Beatle
  18. Jesus Loves Me (But He Doesn’t Like You)
  19. The Chester Nimitz Oriental Garden
  20. The Zombie Song Monster’s Holiday
  21. Hillbillies in an Haunted House
  22. (curtain call)
  23. Old Blevens
  24. Stop in the Name of Love Can’t Do / Cornhusker Refugee / My Boyfriend’s Back

I still  think they need to combine “Stupid Texas Song” with “I’m Leaving Texas” from Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public.

Alas, they didn’t do a number of my favorites, but that’s the nature of any show. What’d I miss? Saguaro, The Drugs I Need, Rasputin’s HMO, Go Ahead and Die (a great medley trio there), Industrial Strength Tranquilizers, Bust the High School Students, Big Rio Grande River, Half a Man, and Big Tex’s Girl… for a start.

But still, it was a great show, and you can never get all the songs you want.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

Today brings She Loves Me at Actors Co-op (FB) a visit to Stitches So Cal.  The second weekend of November is very busy: Dear Even Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), as well as A Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) (FB). The third weekend of November brings Beyond Jacobs Ladder from Jewish Woman’s Theatre (FB) at our synagogue on Saturday, and Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving weekend has Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) on Saturday and Remembering Boyle Heights at Casa 0101 (FB) in Boyle Heights on Sunday. December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Then we may travel up to the Bay Area for Tuck Everlasting at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (FB) (although that is starting to look less likely).

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

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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Willkommen… No, A Real Cabaret | January Cabaret @ Chromolume

Chromolume Cabaret - 2017: A Year in Revue

January tends to be a quiet month for live theatre. New shows in small theatres are rare, as they don’t like to rehearse and produce during the holiday season. Of course, there are the tours and concerts at the major venues, but it is hard to find the kind of small shows we like in the first two weeks of the year. We were planning on going to the Jason Graae/Faith Prince concert at the Rubicon Theatre (FB) in Ventura, but the tickets were expensive and they weren’t showing up on Goldstar. But then I started to see announcements of the monthly cabaret at one of the theatres at which we subscribe: Chromolume Theatre (FB). This cabaret, which is “pay what you can” (meaning the show is free, and you make a donation), is a way of showcasing artists they like in an informal setting. As Chromolume started to list their artists — quite a few of whom were were familiar with from past shows of theirs — the show grew more and more interesting (and trudging out to Ventura seemed less and less interesting). So last night we went down to Chromolume, which is basically at the edge of Culver City and the West Adams district of LA, to see our first Chromolume Cabaret. The BLUF (bottom line up front) is that this is something we’ll do again, although likely not every month given our schedule. It helped build the connection to this theatre as family, something that has been missing since Rep East Playhouse (REP) in Newhall went dark. In fact, I’d encourage those folks who were active at REP to consider exploring this cabaret and venue: it has the same family feel of “just good” people.

As an aside: This is why I tell people to subscribe at the small theatres: to build and support these families. We’ve rapidly made the family connection with the people at Chromolume Theatre (FB), and we’re slowly making it with the folks at  Actors Co-op (FB) (they are a larger organization). That’s something you don’t get with the Hollywood Pantages (FB) or  Ahmanson Theatre (FB), where you subscribe just to get good seats at shows. At the small and medium size venues, your subscription can help them survive, and you get to meet really great people. But I digress…

For this show, which was hosted by Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB), each artist got two songs that they used to reflect back on their 2017. There was good, and there was bad, but it was basically just an informal (i.e., the artists sat in the audience, instead of hiding backstage) fun evening with great music. Here are the performers and the songs:

🎶 Claire Buchignani (FB). Claire was first up; she’ll be performing in Chromolume’s first production of 2018, Dessa Rose. It was a delight seeing her excitement about her engagement. Her two songs were:

  • “A Quiet Thing” (from Flora the Red Menace, Fred Kander/John Ebb)
  • “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (from Funny Girl, Jule Styne/Bob Merrill)

“A Quiet Thing” is a harder number given its range, and Claire did a reasonable job with it. She was stronger with her second number, “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. Both songs brought back memories of seeing the shows: Flora was done back in 1990 by the Pasadena Playhouse, and Funny Girl was done in 2016 by a guest company at the Colony in Burbank.

🎶  Jason Bornstein (FB). Jason we’ve seen before at Chomolume when he was the lead in Zanna Don’t. His two songs were:

  • “Michael in the Bathroom” (from Be More Chill, Joe Iconis)
  • “Soliloquy” (from Carousel, Rodgers/Hammerstein)

I really enjoyed both Jason’s singing and performance in “Michael”, and that’s on top of the already enjoyable Joe Iconis song. Be More Chill is a show that really needs to be done in LA; the music is great. “Soliloquy” was an interesting choice — Jason was right that it is not a role he’s likely to be cast in … which is too bad, because he nailed the song and its emotion.

🎶 Tal Fox (FB). We saw Tal earlier in the year in Hello Again, and I recall enjoying her performance then. She didn’t disappoint. Her two songs were:

  • “Women”  (from The Pirate Queen, Boublil/Schönberg)
  • “The Other Side of the Tracks” (from Little Me, Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh)

I had not heard “Women” before, and I truly liked the song for its words and emotion. I need to get that cast album (alas, the cheapest I can find it is around $40 on Amazon, as it is out of print). So Tal wins the first “Stump the Daniel” award by having a show song I don’t recognize. She did a great job with it, as well as with “Other Side of the Tracks” (which also made me realize that Little Me is another show that needs a Los Angeles revival).

🎶 Everjohn Feliciano (FB). Everjohn was also in Zanna Don’t. His songs were a lot less energetic than most:

  • “Beautiful City” (from Godspell, Stephen Schwartz)
  • “Dreamer in Disguise” (from Carrie, Dean Pitchford/Michael Gore)

On “Beautiful City”, the lyrics seemed somehow different, so I wonder if a different version is being licensed from what was in the show (well, at least it didn’t fit my memory of what was in the show soundtrack or cast albums). He did a nice job with it, nevertheless. Although I did see Carrie in the recent immersive La Mirada production, I didn’t recall the “Dreamer” song.

🎶 Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB). We’d seen Bonnie before in Chromolume’s 2017 Fringe Festival Show. (as well as the CSUN production of Hair) Her songs were both from the musical Ordinary Days (Adam Gwon), which we saw a few years ago at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank:

  • “Calm”
  • “I’ll Be There”

The two numbers are very different: one is frenetic and full of energy, which Bonnie captured quite well. The other is more reflective, dealing with moving on after a tragedy. She did great with both of them.

🎶 Marissa Mayer (FB). Marissa was new to us, and so was her first song (which isn’t a surprise, as it is from the current pop world):

  • “I’m Going Down” (Mary K. Blige)
  • “Times are Hard for Dreamers” (from Amalie, Daniel Messé/Nathan Tysen)

As noted, I hadn’t heard the first song before, but that’s not really a surprise as I rarely listen to modern pop music. Interesting song. I enjoyed the second — it is nice to see songs from the recent Amalie getting a new life after the show closed in New York. Amalie was a show that I really enjoyed at the Ahmanson, and I hoped would succeed on Broadway.

🎶 Jaq Galliano (FB) and Gina D’Acciaro (FB). This was a duo that had been doing a bunch of cabarets and performances around town (although we did see Gina in Lucky Stiff at Actor’s Co-Op). They were mostly telling the story of how they met and got engaged in 2017, which was so cute. Both of their songs were from the pop world, and I hadn’t heard either:

  • “Not in That Way” (Sam Smith)
  • “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Meghan Trainor)

Both songs were well performed, and the couple was cute together.

 

Daniel Yokomizo (FB) accompanied the performers on the piano (Jaq and Gina added their friend Isaac on Guitar and Ukulele). Lauren J. Peters (FB) was in the booth.

As noted at the top, Chromolume Theatre (FB) does these Cabarets monthly, so watch their Facebook page and their website for the announcement of the next show. I’m not sure we’ll make February, but do plan on attending some more. I also encourage you to subscribe to Chromolume: for $60 you get their three mainstage shows (Dessa RoseJane Eyre – The Musical, and Stephen Sondheim’s Passion), plus whatever they end up doing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June.

We discovered Chromolume Theatre (FB) when we went to go see Prez, a solo show written by playwright Willard Manus about the Jazz musician Lester Young, who was played in this one-many show by Leslie Jones (FB). The production of Prez is being remounted with Leslie at Write Act Repertory (FB) in celebration of Black History Month as part of a Festival Series at Write Act Rep’s Brickhouse Theatre called THREE BY WILL IN REP.  The Series includes two World Premiere’s along with the return of Prez.  The intimate drama is produced by John Lant II, and will be directed by Daniel E. Keough.  The show is set to open February 4th, 2018.  All performances for Prez will be on Sunday at 2PM, through March 11th, 2018. Additional information is available at http://www.writeactrep.org/index.html.

***

The Greatest Showman (Movie)Christmas Movie: The Greatest Showman. I was remiss in not writing up the movie we saw on Christmas Day:  The Greatest Showman. In short: we truly enjoyed it — both the music and the performances. I had seen some criticism that the story wasn’t true to real life of P. T. Barnum, but then again, neither was Cy Coleman’s Barnum. Barnum himself would have enjoyed the humbug being sold and how it was presented. Unlike the musical, however, The Greatest Showman focused primarily on the American Museum period in Barnum’s life; the musical went beyond this into his ventures into politics, into building utopias, and the eventual creation of the circus and the merger with Bailey. There were also some aspects of the American Museum that were left out — I can understand (perhaps) leaving out Joyce Heth, given the increased sensitivity of the subject and the tone the movie was going for, but to leave out “This Way To The Egress” was a bit more questionable.  The two taken together, however, create an interesting picture; the movie demonstrates that perhaps it is time for a Broadway revival of Barnum. However, there are some odd timeline clashes between the two (particularly in the timing of the creation of the circus as distinct from the museum). Perhaps some of those issues could have been handled through a more detailed epilogue or disclaimer at the end — I’m not sure.

I was particularly taken by the musical numbers and their accompanying cinematography and choreography: they had a movement and a rhythm that one cannot do on the stage, and it was engrossing. The song that was submitted to the Golden Globes — “This Is Me” — I could see being a wonderful empowerment anthem (and it goes very well with Coleman’s “My Body” in The Life). I enjoyed the singing of the leads — I’m more and more impressed with Hugh Jackman the more and more I see of his performances. Just a delightful show, and the Golden Globe won by Pasek and Paul for the music was well deserved.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings our first touring show, Aladdin, at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The next weekend currently has no theatre; instead, there is a So Cal Games Day and a Walking Tour of Jewish Boyle Heights. The last weekend of January brings The Pirates of Penzance at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB).

February is busier. It starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB). The following weekend brings our first Actors Co-op (FB) production of 2018: A Walk in the Woods. Mid-week brings opera: specifically,  Candide at LA Opera (FB). That is followed the next weekend by the first production of the Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season, Dessa Rose. The month concludes with a hold for James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at  the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

March was supposed to start with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner, but that shifted back a week, so we’ll go to it after our first show in March, the LA Premiere of the musical Allegiance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (FB). This is followed by a HOLD for Steel Pier at the UCLA School of Television, Film, and Theatre (FB). The penultimate Friday of March was to bring Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), but that has shifted to June and that weekend is currently open. The last weekend of March is open for theatre, but there will be the Men of TAS Seder.

April looks to be a busy month. It starts with Love Never Dies at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) [as an aside, there was just a great interview with Glen Slater, the lyricist of that show, on Broadway Bullet that is well worth listening to). The second weekend brings A Man for All Seasons” at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)), as well as our annual visit to the Original Renaissance Faire. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB). Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding an  Ahmanson Theatre (FB) subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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Happy and Joyous | “The Klezmatics” @ VPAC/Saroya

The Klezmatics (VPAC/Saroya)Can you think of a better way to celebrate Chanukah Hump Day (the 5th night) than to go to a concert of Chanukah Klezmer music by one of the best Klezmer bands around? I can’t.

So you can guess where we were last night. Why weren’t YOU there?

The Happy Joyous Hanukah concert by The Klezmatics (FB) at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) was VPAC/Saroya’s last concert of 2017; it was also our last currently ticketed live performance event of 2017 (it is looking less likely that we’ll see A Christmas Story at CTG as they aren’t putting tickets up on Goldstar, and the Music Center celebration isn’t a ticketed event). It was the perfect way to send out the year, with toe-tapping klezmer music.

The show consisted of a number of songs from the Klezmatic’s album Happy Joyous Hanukkah, a few songs from their latest album Apikorsim, and a few other songs from other albums. Almost the entire band was there; Frank London wasn’t as he was out recuperating from surgery.

During the show, I was struck by the connection between some of my favorite styles of music: folk, bluegrass, celtic, and klezmer. They really are elements along a continuum, often united by the fiddle or other stringed instruments. The Klezmatics happily channel Woody Guthrie; Celtic musicians play Bluegrass. Of course, there are even broader connections. I know of Jewish Bluegrass musicians (Nefesh Mountain), and of course, we all know that the Talking Blues is the spiritual parent of Hip-Hop (and I’m even familiar with Bluegrass Rap music (Gangstagrass). I think it goes to show that musical “styles” are just labels, and don’t distinguish good from bad. Good music is what you like; bad is what you don’t.

I liked the music last night. Toe-tapping, energetic music. Great to get one out of a funk, if you had wandered into one. Great to bring out the joy of the holiday. If you get the chance to see the Klezmatics, do so.

I only have one question: They mentioned they have a staff Yiddishist. How do I find my daughter a job like that 🙂 ?

By the way: If you don’t know about the venue (the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB)), you really should. This is a gem of a concert hall on the campus of Cal State Northridge, in the center of the West Valley, the square formed by US 101, I-405, CA 118, and CA 27 (Topanga). Take a look at their upcoming schedule on their website, and I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

Note: The show we saw last weekend, Pacific Overtures, has extended for one week, until December 23. Go get tickets now, before they sell out. Tickets are available through the Chromolume Website, discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

There is still the possibility that we’ll squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). More likely is going to the  58th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration, as they are featuring Klezmer Music from 3-6pm on Dec 24, and we can take advantage of Metro to avoid the traffic. Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman. Afterward: The obligatory Chinese Food.

If I can get tickets, January will start out with the Jason Graae/Faith Prince concert at the Rubicon Theatre (FB) in Ventura [tix]. The next weekend brings Aladdin at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The rest of January is currently open, as January tends to be a quiet theatre month. We’ll see what fills up.

February is busier. It starts with the Cantor’s Concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom (FB). The following weekend brings our first Actors Co-op (FB) production of 2018: A Walk in the Woods. Mid-week brings opera: specifically,  Candide at LA Opera (FB). That is followed the next weekend by the first production of the Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season, Dessa Rose. The month concludes with a hold for James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at  the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

March was supposed to start with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner, but I’ll miss that because they pushed back from their advertised date right on top of my non-refundable tickets to the LA Premiere of the musical Allegiance at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (FB). This is followed by a HOLD for Steel Pier at the UCLA School of Television, Film, and Theatre (FB). The penultimate Friday of March brings Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The last weekend of March is open for theatre, but there will be the Men of TAS Seder.  Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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With Just a Stick in her Hands | Anat Cohen Tentet @ VPAC/Saroya

Anat Cohen Tentet (VPAC/Saroya)Sometimes, I’m familiar with the artists that we see. Sometimes not. The latter is often the case when I’m selecting shows from the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB)’s season brochure. In this case, they listed a performance as the “Anat Cohen Tentet”, categorized as Jazz, with the following description:

Israeli clarinet virtuoso Anat Cohen is the charismatic female bandleader who stands out in a predominantly male environment. Cohen’s tapestry of sounds captures the jubilation of many genres, spanning modern and traditional jazz, classical music, klezmer, Brazilian choro, and Argentine tango.

I was trying to pick a program that had a few shows that might appeal to my wife, and this was clearly one of those: my wife loves modern and traditional Jazz and klezmer, and here we have one led by an Israel, and a female bandleader.

I’m pleased to say that this program was enjoyable beyond any expectations; as my wife put it, this women can do things with her clarinet and create sounds we’ve never heard before. This show came on top of two Grammy nominations (one for Outra Coisa, an album of Latin Jazz, and one for Rosa Dos Ventos). The Anat Cohen Tentet (FB) is a new group she has organized together with her music director, Oded Lev-Ari (FB). They have just put out their first album, and this is their first tour. The Tentet consists of the following musicians, in addition to Cohen on Solo Clarinet: Rubin Kodheli (FB) [Cello], Nadje Noordhuis (FB) [Trumpet & Flugelhorn], Nick Finzer (FB) [Trombone], Owen Broder (FB) [Sax & Clarinet], James Shipp (FB) [Vibraphone & Percussion], Vitor Gonçalves (FB) [Piano & Accordion], Sheryl Bailey (FB) [Guitar], Tal Mashiach (FB) [Bass] and Anthony Pinciotti (FB) [Drums].

Going into the show, I didn’t know what to expect. I like Jazz as well, but I’m less varied in my likes than my wife: She’ll go for the modern Jazz of Marsales; I’m more into the rhythmic swing or big band or New Orleans’ Dixieland. I don’t know how to describe the Tenet’s music, but it definitely wasn’t atonal or non-rhythmic. Joyful? Melodic? All I know is that I found myself enjoying it greatly. After the show, we purchased the Tentet’s new album, Happy Song, as well as one of the Grammy-nominated albums, Outra Costa. I’ve given them a listen (playing them into the 5-or-less playlist, currently at just under 400 songs), and they are quite enjoyable.

The performance consisted on one very long set, mostly of songs we learned later were from Happy Song, a brief introduction to the band, followed by a closing number and an encore.   Perhaps my one and only complaint is with the phrase “charismatic female bandleader” (in the program, described as ” infectious charisma”). Although she did exhibit some charisma with the fellow bandmates, she needs to work a bit on her interaction with the audience. As an audience member, I hope to get in a live show something I can’t get listening to an album. Let me learn your story and the Tentet’s story. Tell me about each song, and a bit more about the featured performers. But I think this is a learned skill, and the Tentet is new. This will come with more tours and more performances, I am sure.

Overall, I’m thankful for this performance. It introduced me to yet another new artist, and a new style of Jazz that I like. You often see Jazz groups fronted by trumpeters; I can only think of three (Pete Fountain, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey) led by folks on the stick.  Correction: White men on the stick. As one who champions women in all fields, it was great to see female leadership. It is something we need more of (especially given the men that have screwed things up).

The  Anat Cohen Tentet (FB) had only one performance at  the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), although there are more performances in both their International and Jazz series coming up. The Tentet is on tour, so perhaps you can catch them in your city.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

December started with Levi! (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB). That’s next on the writeup list.

This week continues with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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But Just Don’t Stare | Folk Reunion @ T.O. Kavli Theatre

Folk Reunion (Thousand Oaks Kavli)Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to go the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB) to see what was being sold as a “Kingston Trio” concert, but was really what was called a “Folk Reunion. What this meant was that there were two groups: The first act was John Sebastian (FB) (of the Loving Spoonful, as well as his solo career); the second act was the current incarnation of what is called the “Kingston Trio” (FB) (but which contains none of the original Trio members). Owing to a migraine, I didn’t note any setlists.

John Sebastian opened the show with a one-hour reminiscence, starting with stories of Mississippi John Hurt. I was familiar with John Hurt from Tom Paxton’s shows; I had no idea that Sebastian was also influenced in his guitar stylings from him. Such an influential man. He basically told the story chronologically of how he entered into folk music, and how the Spoonful got started — again, demonstrating the importance of the Greenwich Village NY scene to the folk revival. Along the way, he did representative tunes and a number of his hits, most of which I was familiar with (I wasn’t familiar with his theme song for the Care Bears, and alas he didn’t do “That’s Cat“). But he did do other Spoonful hits, and I found his history lesson quite enjoyable.

After the intermission, the Trio came on. John Sebastian was the real guy — the original who had been there at the birth. The Trio, on the other hand, was just the latest incarnation. If you read the history of the Trio on Wikipedia,  you’ll know that — just like the Limeliters — they went through a number of incarnations over their history, to the point where the group performing has the sound and the shirts, but not the history. The original Trio was  Dave GuardBob Shane, and Nick Reynolds. Disagreements in the group led to Guard leaving and being replaced with John Stewart. That configuration lasted until a hiatus in 1967. A “New Kingston Trio” was later formed by Bob Shane with a number of different artists over the years. In 1976, they were able to drop the “New”, and the KT was Shane, Roger Gambill, and George Grove, and after Gambill died, there were a number of configurations.

The Trio that we saw was the latest version, and consisted of Josh Reynolds, who is the son of Nick Reynolds, a founding member of the band, his cousin Gerald “Mike” Marvin, and  Tim Gorelangton. This configuration, after some legal kerfuffles, started performing in October of this year.

Now to true Folkies like me, the Kingston Trio is … problematic. They are one of the few groups responsible for the growth of folk music in the late 1950s — it was their success that led to folks like Tom Paxton, Peter Paul and Mary, The Brothers Four, the Chad Mitchell Trio and many others. They had a sound and an energy that was infectious. However, they also were not folk purists. They changed lyrics, often for the worse (you should hear what they did to Oleanna). They butchered the story of Tom Dula into Tom Dooley. They claimed royalties on traditional songs. All of this is noted in the Wikipedia entry. But, as they say in Urinetown: the music — it’s so good. They have an energy and a fun that makes you forget all that pesky history and tradition.

The current Trio — Reynolds, Marvin, and Gorelangton — have the musical craft down. They know the old songs and the old routines and the pacing (although a few of the songs seem speeded up a little, in particular, “Scotch and Soda”). They know the hits the audience wants to hear. They still get things wrong — they introduced the Ballad of the Shape of Things as an old English Madrigal, when it is nothing of the sort: It was also written by Sheldon Harnick (for the Littlest Revue), just like the Merry Minuet (which they also did).  They are just fun to watch and have a lot of fun on stage.

But they are not the real Trio. They are an enjoyable facsimile, a generation once removed. When you put them with the real history that is Sebastian, there is no comparison. As Tom Paxton said about nostalgia: It’s OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. With these two groups, you looked back, but you stared for different reasons.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), as well as The Kingston Trio (FB) at the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB). The third weekend will bring Edges at the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) on Friday, the Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on Saturday, and Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB) and  Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

 

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Hit The Road, Nat | “To Ray, With Love” @ Saroya/VPAC

To Ray With Love (VPAC/Saroya)Last night saw us back at  The Soraya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)] for a night of Jazz: Maceo Parker (FB)’s tribute to Ray Charles (FB) [who died in 2004], featuring the Ray Charles Orchestra and the Raelettes (Katrina Harper (FB), Karen Evans (FB), and Elaine Woodard (FB)). Alas, I had no paper and thus didn’t note down a set list. Musically, the orchestra was spectacular with a swinging sound that went well with both Parker’s voice and sax. The Raelettes joined for the latter third of the show and added some wonderful dimension and fun to the voices onstage.

The Ray Charles Orchestra, led by Steve Sigmund (FB) [Music Director], consisted of Harvey Wainapel (FB) – Alto Saxophone; Alford Jackson – Alto Saxophone; Rickey Woodard (FB) – Tenor Saxophone; Louis Van Taylor (FB) – Tenor Saxophone; Adam Schroeder (FB) – Baritone Saxophone; Chuck Parrish (FB) – Lead Trumpet; Ted Murdock (FB) – Trumpet; David Hoffman (FB) – Trumpet; Ken Scharf (FB) – Trumpet; Dan Marcus (FB) – Trombone; Ken Tussing (FB) – Trombone; Steve Baxter (FB) – Trombone; Rich Bullock (FB) – Bass Trombone; Ernest VanTrease – Keyboards; Jeff Pevar (FB) – Guitar; Nils Johnson (FB) – Bass; and Paul Kreibich (FB) – Drums.

That’s not to say the show didn’t have its problems. Here’s what I noted, from most to least annoying:

  • Parker’s manager, Natasha Maddison (FB), was an extreme distraction during the show, especially from where we were sitting in the side chairs in the Partierre Terrace. She was constantly peaking out from the wings (not visible from straight-on, but visible from the side), constantly going out in to the audience up to the sound board and back, coming out at times to talk with the music director, and most annoyingly: taking flash photographs from the wings. That’s the ultimate no-no: You do not distract from your artist’s performance.
  • Next up was all the audience members who thought they could take pictures, take video, or check the score of the Dodgers game (who are going to the World Series – yea!). There are a number of reasons not to use your cell phone during a concert — recording takes the intellectual property of the artists without compensation, for example. But a primary reason is this: Every time your screen lights up in a dark theatre, you distract everyone else in the audience and distract the artists on stage, for in a dark room, light is very visible. So YOU could be that person that ruins someone else’s evening, all to do something selfish.
  • Then there are those audience members wearing too much perfume. There are many people with allergies and sensitivities to odor. When you overuse your perfume, such that your transmit a cloud as you walk down the aisle, you could be triggering allergies and migraines in others. Again: This is not something you need to do to enjoy a concert; it is putting your pleasure over the enjoyment of others. If you must perfume, perfume very lightly.
  • This is not a Dodger game. Wait until the show is completely finished — signaled by the house lights coming on — before rushing to leave. It is discourteous to the artists to walk out early, and disturbs your fellow audience members.
  • Lastly, the program indicated there would be an intermission. There was no intermission.

An artist’s manager should know proper show etiquette.  People attending a concert should know how to behave. I shouldn’t need to be saying any of the bullets above.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

The drought has ended, and the last three months of 2017 are busy busy busy. The third weekend in October brings Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on Saturday; on Sunday, I’m going to see a thriller penned by the fellow through whom we get our Saroya (VPAC) subscriptions, Schaeffer Nelson (FB) — Mice at the Ensemble Studio Theatre LA (FB) in Atwater Village. The weekend before Halloween brings This Land at Company of Angels (FB) in Boyle Heights

Looking into November, we start with the Nottingham Festival (FB) in Simi Valley, followed by The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB). The following weekend brings a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), as well as The Kingston Trio (FB) at the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks (FB). The third weekend will bring Edges at the CSUN Theatre Department (FB) on Friday, the Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on Saturday, and Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) on Sunday. Thanksgiving Weekend will bring Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and hopefully Levi (a new Sherman Brothers musical – join the Indiegogo here) at LA Community College Camino Theatre (FB). November concludes with the Anat Cohen Tentet at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

December starts with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics. We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

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