🎭 Intense Obsession | “Passion” @ Boston Court

Passion (Boston Court)Back in November 2017, we were subscribers at a small theatre in the West Adams district of Los Angeles called Chromolume. They had just announced their 2018 season: Dessa Rose, Jane Eyre: The Musical, and Stephen Sondheim’s Passion. Alas, only Dessa Rose happened. During the spring the company died; their last show was The Story of My Life during HFF18. But as I do, I had gotten the cast album for Passion, one of the few Sondheim shows I hadn’t seen. Listening to it, it seemed a darkly romantic show — but the story was very hard to imagine from the music alone.  So I was presently surprised when I discovered that Boston Court (FB) in Pasadena was doing the show this month. Finally, a chance to see it.

So last night, as opposed to braving the snows of Madison last week, I braved the fear of COVID19 and went out to Pasadena. Grabbing some hand sanitizer, I steeled myself for Stephen Sondheim’s passion. For a Sondheim show, especially one that won multiple Tony awards (including Best Musical), this is one that has seen little press and few revivals. Why? This win occurred in the face of a small number of performances: 280. It opened in May, closed the following January. How did this short running musical win over Beauty and the Beast?

Passion is a one-act musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. The story was adapted from Ettore Scola‘s film Passione d’Amore, itself adapted from the novel Fosca by Iginio Ugo Tarchetti. The central characters of the story are an 1860-era Italian Army captain, Giorgio Bachetti; his lover Clara in Milan; and the cousin of his superior officer in a provincial Army camp, Fosca.

The story opens with Bachetti in the arms of his lover, Clara. He informs her that he has been transferred to the provincial camp and must leave her, but will write regularly to keep their passion alive. Arriving at the camp, Giorgio meets the other officers and learns about the mysterious cousin of his commanding officer, Colonel Ricci, named Fosca. She’s medically frail, and often has hysterical and emotional screams. She is tended to by the unit’s doctor, Dr. Tambourri, who informs Bachetti that she tends to be alone with her books. Bachetti loans her some of his books. Through the subsequent scenes, we get to meet Fosca and see how she connects with Bachetti. Her friendship turns into obsession (what today we might call stalking), while Bachetti continues to be focused on his lover, Clara. Over time, we see this obsession grow and take over Fosca’s life. We also see it begin to affect Bachetti’s relationship with Clara. By the time the show is over, we see the relationship with Clara broken, Bachetti in love with Fosca, and then Fosca dying.

You can find a much more detailed synopsis on the Wikipedia page.

I had a number of thoughts after seeing this piece, first and foremost of which was: A venue the size of Boston Court is perfect for this piece. This is a distinctly chamber piece that requires one to see the actors up close and feel the emotions up close. It would be lost in a Broadway house, a touring house, or even a mid-size theatre. This is Sondheim sized-right.

My second thought was: This is a slow and sensitive piece — again, chamber music, not musical. The music is slow and lush. There is rarely anything toe-tapping. It is romantic and obsessive, full of feelings. It isn’t your typical “song and dance”; it isn’t even a Sweeny Todd or Into The Woods where there are just fun numbers. This is raw emotion. It is heavy Chix-theatre. I’m glad I saw it, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to see again. Further, this makes clear why this isn’t mounted very often.

Thirdly, there is a sense of dated-ness in the story. There are attitudes towards and about women shown here that are appropriate for the era of the novel, and even appropriate to be voice in the 1990s, that are just a bit iffier today (especially the notions that women are nothing without marriage). This is a problem I’m seeing increasingly in shows.

But, surprisingly, even though I found the story a bit romantic for my tastes, I found myself drawn into it. Part of this was the performances, which were exceptional. However, the story is crafted to draw you in — to make you wonder how this triangle will be involved. In that, it is great theatre that makes you care about the story and turns the people from writing on a page into believable characters. Kudos to director Michael Michetti for realizing the vision and making the show so effective.

But the performance team is also top notch. My personal favorite is Meghan Andrews (FB) as Fosca. She gave a stunning performance, which was much more than what she said or show she said it. From her tremors to her weakness to her hesitency, she embodied the invalid Fosca. She made you believe this was a young women overtaken with frailty and emotions. You could also see — just from her performance — how her passion made her stronger, and the fear of the loss of it weakened her. Combine this with a beautiful singing voice, and this was just a stunning performance.

Also strong was the object of Bachetti’s passion: Bryce Charles (★FB, FB) as Clara. She’s the first actor you see, and she has a face that does a wonderful job of radiating joy. She also has an extremely beautiful singing voice.

The third key player is the man at the center of the story: Richard Bermudez as Georgio Bachetti. His performance has a magnetism that makes it clear why these women were drawn to him; again, he also has a lovely singing voice.

In standout featured supporting roles were Nicholas Hormann (FB) Doctor Tambourri and Mark Doerr (★FB, FB) Colonel Ricci. Hormann was a wonderfully warm presence, expressing concern about both Fosca and Bachetti. We saw a bit less of Doerr, but he was great in both telling the backstory of Fosca and in defending her honor at the end.

Rounding out the performance team were Jacob Sidney (★FB) Lt. Torasso / Fosca’s Father; Rene Ruiz (FB) Sgt. Lombardi; Ted Barton (FB) Lt. Barri, Andrew Rudy Galindo (FB) Maj. Rizzoli; Tyler Joseph Ellis (FB) Ludovic / Pvt. Augenti; Alexandra Melrose (FB) Attendant / Fosca’s Mother; and Julia Aks (★FB) Ludovic’s Mistress / Attendant. Most of the military officers you couldn’t tell apart, even with the program, but I did like the ones playing the cook, and the one who had the horses who made the jokes all the time.

This really wasn’t a dance musical, although there was a lot of military precision marching between scenes and to move stuff on and off the stage. The choreography was by Rhonda Kohl (★FB).

Musical direction (and new orchestrations) were by Darryl Archibald (FB).  Original orchestrations were by Jonathan Tunick. The on-stage but behind-the-scrim orchestra was conducted by Ron Colvard, and consisted of Ron Colvard Keyboard; Catherine Biagini (FB) Cello; Rachel Coosaia (FB) Cello / Music Contractor; Phil Feather (FB) Flute / Clarinet; Ashley Jarmack Flute / Clarinet; Isabella Mija Reyes (FB) Violin; Stefan Smith (FB) Viola; and Corinne Sobolewski (FB) Viola. Given that there wasn’t a trumpet in the bunch, I’m guessing the numerous trumpet bursts were sound effects.

Speaking of sound effects: Those sound effects must have come from the sound design of Martin Carrillo (FB), which in general worked well. Turning to the other members of the production and creative team: The scenic design of Tesshi Nakagawa: Chairs, a multi-purpose table/bed, a multi-level set. It worked well, and showed why this piece is effective in intimate theatre. This design was supported by the lighting design of Jared A. Sayeg (FB) (who is always reliable); I particularly noted the red lighting in the penultimate scene. Period was established more by the costumes of David Kay Mickelsen (FB), which seemed appropriate period for whatever period it was. The supporting properties were designed by Jenny Smith Cohn (FB) and Jesse Soto (FB). Rounding out the production team were: Dyoni Isom (FB) Assistant Director; Nicole Arbusto Casting Director; Trixie Eunhae Hong Production Stage Manager; and Mary Popoff Asst. Stage Manager.

Stephen Sondheim’s Passion continues at Boston Court (FB) in Pasadena through April 19. Tickets are available online. They do not appear to be listed on Goldstar at this time. I found the show quite good as a chamber musical, but expect a slower more, well, passionate musical. Then again, go in with no expectations, for as they say in the show, “if you have no expectations, you can never know disappointment.”

A COVID19 note: I’m getting increasingly worried about theatres cancelling shows due to the COVID19 fears. So please, folks, wash your hands, and don’t attend the theatre if you have symptoms. Call the box office and see if you can exchange your ticket or get a refund. I’m sure they would rather do a refund than risk having to cancel a series of shows because someone was sick. Want to learn more? Listen to this ScienceVs podcast as you drive to your show.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner (and The Wild Party at Morgan Wixson). The 3rd weekend of March brings Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last weekend brings 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). The second weekend of May brings a concert performance of Randy Newman’s Faust at the Soraya/VPAC (FB). The third weekend of May brings A Man of No Importance at Actors Co-op (FB) . The fourth weekend are currently open, but I”m eyeing a production at the Fountain Theatre for our synagogue’s live theatre group during that time. The fifth weekend will bring Ann at the Pasadena Playhouse (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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🎭 And We Ask Ourselves, “Why?” | “Columbinus” @ Edgewood College

Columbinus (Edgewood College)As I indicated in my last writeup, being I’m out of town on vacation doesn’t mean that the live performances stop. Being out of town solo also affords me the ability to see the type of show that my wife would find to be too dark. Last nights show was one of those: Columbinus, written by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli. Columbinus is a docu-drama about the Columbine High School Massacre, where two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher, and injured many many more. As I said: A dark subject.

Columbinus is not a fictional dramatization. Rather, using an ensemble of young people, it follows the events in their lives before, during, and after the shooting. We first meet the cohort of students as they wake up, and we learn the “who” of who they are: the jocks, the science nerds, those off to the sides, etc. This takes up perhaps the first half of the first act. We then start seeing the growing alienation and ostracizing of two of the more angry students, leading up to the first incident of vandalism and “mischief”. The second act sees the attempts at rehabilitation failing, and those two students — now explicitly identified as Dylan and Eric — starting to plan their attack. We then see the attack — both through the 911 tapes and the stories of survivors from the library. Lastly, we see the aftermath on the other students and the parents.

The presentation is strong, with VERY strong language and VERY strong material. This is certainly a show where guidance is required — if you at all sensitive to violence, racial language, hatred, and gun violence, this isn’t for you. So why SHOULD you see this show?

The answer, I think, is in addressing the question of “Why?”. Often, when I see shows, they dovetail with something else I’m doing. In this case, I was listening to the Earwolf podcast Factually!, and Adam Conover’s interview with Celeste Kidd of UC Berkeley regarding how we form our beliefs. One point made is that humans often believe strongest in the first thing that we here, especially if it fits our preconceived notions. If it fits, and we think it covers all the facts, we are no longer curious and no longer accept other answers. That clearly is the case when we look at school shooting violence: the subject is so uncomfortable and scary that we often don’t want to dive deeper into the causes of the problem. So we tend to latch on to the first plausible solution and answer: it is the access to guns; it is anger from videogames; it is mental illness; it is bullying; it is …

One of the things that Columbinus does is show that, perhaps, it isn’t just one factor. As you watch the show, there likely wasn’t a factor that, if absent, would have stopped the shooting or stopped some form of anger in violence. It was a number of factors coming together that created the problem. It also demonstrates that there isn’t just a single factor in the solution set. There are numerous pieces to the risk reduction puzzle, ranging from limiting access to guns to increased mental health care, to reducing the stigma of receiving threatment for mental health, addressing the anger in society. Each of these pieces of the cause and solution puzzle are vital to building the complete picture.

The performance of the ensemble in this production, under the direction of Audrey Lauren Wax, does a skillful job of realistically portraying a wide variety of students. Their performances build through the production allowing the audience to connect with the various types of students at the school. While listening to the conversations during the intermission, I was hearing that impact. I heard patrons referencing the fact that they were the loner in high school, that they identified with the jock or the nerds, that they saw themselves in those kids.

Overall, I found this a compelling production. Was it entertaining? I hesitate to say that, as how can one find a real-life tragedy “entertaining”. Illuminating might be a better term, and that term fits with one of the functions of theatre in society. LIve performance and story telling exists not only to entertain us, but to inform us. From the first performances by early man of the hunt, providing warnings and guidance to other hunters, or philosophical productions that explored the meaning of why we do what we do, theatre has illuminated society and forced us to ask us “Why?”. This is one of those productions, and for that reason, I think it is something that (if you can handle the subject matter) is worth seeing.

The ensemble of this piece does an excellent job. The ensemble consisted of: Joe Bondurant (FB), Noelle Grapentine-Benton (FB), August Hirschboeck (FB), Ryan Jorenby (FB), Alan Lau-Brown (FB), Ariana Manghera (FB), Shawn D. Padley (FB), and Emma Sorenson (FB). Special acknowledgement goes to Joe Bondurant (FB) and Shawn D. Padley (FB), who do a wonderful job of capturing the anger, illness, and backstory of the protagonists of the story. But the entire ensemble is excellent. (Edited to correct the actor who played Dylan)

On the production and creative side, the staging was well done (especially for the college level). There was a simple set of some movable lockers and fencing, with a black board in the background, and what looks like a gym floor (but with chalkboard paint). There are movable tables and chairs, and appropriate props for the story. All of this was designed by Christopher Dunham, supported by the props from the props crew of Noelle Grapentine-Benton (FB) and Margo Skolaski. The costumes, designed by Mary Waldhart (FB), seemed appropriate for the period and the situation. Movement was orchestrated by Kristin Roling Choreographer and Alan Lau-Brown (FB) Fight Captain. About the only quibble was with one aspect of Alice Combs (FB) lighting design: during the Guidance Counselor visits, some of the yellow leikos were going on and off for no reason to support the story. Maddie Budner (FB)’s sound design provided the appropriate sound effects. Rounding out the production credits: Rachel Seizer (FB) Assistant Director, Stage Manager; Lily Pero (FB) Asst. Stage Manager; Cassie Carney (FB) Hair and Makeup Designer; Jade Proctor (FB) Video Designer; Audrey Lauren Wax Box Office Manager; Ariana Manghera (FB) Dramaturg; Patricia Hersch Original Dramaturgy; PJ Paparelli Conception; and loads of students in the various supporting crews and work studies.

If you can handle the subject matter, Columbinus is well worth seeing. Tickets are available at the door or through the Edgewood College Theatre Online Ticketing. Alas, my usual discount ticket outlets don’t work in Madison.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

I have one more show in Madison (although I may not be writing it up):  MST 3000 at the Overture downtown.

March starts with Passion at Boston Court (FB) the first weekend. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner (and The Wild Party at Morgan Wixson). The 3rd brings Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last weekend brings 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). The second weekend of May brings a concert performance of Randy Newman’s Faust at the Soraya/VPAC (FB). The third weekend of May brings A Man of No Importance at Actors Co-op (FB) . The fourth and fifth weekends are currently open, but I”m eyeing a production at the Fountain Theatre for our synagogue’s live theatre group during that time.

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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🎭 Who Tells The Story | “The Revolutionists” @ Mercury Players Theatre/The Bartell

The Revolutionists (Mercury Players Theatre/The Bartell)I’m a firm believer that being on travel shouldn’t stop a habit obsession of attending live theatre. We’ve seen the musical Aida in Portland OR, attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and seen Evita in Maui. So a trip to Madison WI to visit my daughter shouldn’t interrupt going to see a show. And it didn’t. Last night, my daughter picked The Revolutionists, a play by Lauren Gunderson (who everyone loves to note is the most produced playwright in America), which was in its final weekend at The Bartell Theatre in downtown Madison WI. The Bartell is home to six theatre companies, one of which is the Mercury Players Theatre, who produced this show. Although I hadn’t realized it at the time, we’ve seen Gunderson’s work before, back in May 2019: Ada and the Engine, one of her science themed plays, which was presented by  Theatre Unleashed (FB) (studio/stage), topping a weekend where there was a lot of emphasis about women and their agency (it was also the Purim carnival, and we had just seen Matilda The Musical).

Perhaps women and their agency is a running theme of Gunderson in her work. I don’t know for sure, but at least in our small sample of two plays, both have focused on the agency of women, and telling the story of significant women. The Revolutionists is no different. It focuses on the lives (and ultimately, the deaths) of four women: three of whom are real, and one who is a composite. The real women are Olympe de Gouges, Charlotte Corday, and Marie Antoinette; the composite was called Marianne Angell, a composite of the symbol for Republican France and various female Black abolitionists from the French colonies.

The center of the play, at least when it starts, is Mme. de Gouges (Olympe), who is a playwright. One by one the other women come to her, wanting her to help them with some writing assignment or another. Marianne wants pamphlets written to support the cause of abolitionists. Charlotte wants someone to write her last words — the words she will say just before they guillotine her. Marie Antoinette wants a play written about her, one that will make her sympathetic to the Jacobins in charge of the revolution so that they will spare her life.

Beyond this beginning, and the end (which is preordained, because we know what happened historically), the rest is a bit of a confusing jumble that doesn’t start to come together until after the intermission. As I went into this play, I was expecting something on the order of Meeting of Minds, the Steve Allen series that had people of different periods coming together for us to learn about. But as the play started, what I got instead was a women searching for a way around her writer’s block. Jumping from idea to idea to figure out the way to find a story to outlast here. It was at times [title of show], at times Something Rotten, and even a bit of Les Miz.  One might even toss in a bit of the $5 Shakespeare Company. It even delved into some of the areas of What the Constitution Means to Me. But it certainly wasn’t the historical play I was expecting. Working against the historical aspect of the play was the playwright’s choice of language. For a while I thought that might have been a directoral choice, but reading other reviews in other cities made it clear this was Gunderson’s voice. She was having these historical characters using modern idioms and slang, and referencing modern events. She even had Marianne Angell using a dialect of a form of Jive, which I found problematic in a number of ways (it always seems to be a problem when a white author attempts to make characters sound like people of color). The modern phrasing was jarring and just added to the confusion. It also didn’t help that the personalities of the figures were also broadly drawn: Marie Antoinette had a distinctly grating, whining, and overly-privileged personality; Olympe couldn’t make up her mind and was indecisive; Corday was strident and angry. Perhaps the best drawn was the composite, Marianne, who showed both emotion and concern for the others.

But by the second half of the show, the characters began to coalesce and find their voices in a better way. Perhaps they became more comfortable with themselves. Whatever the reason, we began to see their stories more, and their fragility. We began to learn that the point of the play had two key aspects: not only having your story told to future generations, but having control over who tells the story. The conventional story we hear about the three real characters — de Gouges, Corday, and Marie Antoinette — was ultimately told by the white men that had killed them. How different would their stories had been if they had been told from the point of view of women, and they were presented as women trying to do the best women could do in the society they were in. We ultimately see that the center of the play was less de Gouges, and more Angell. It is Angell that ultimately is the one telling this story, as it is Angell who is the one that survived.

So, considering the story aspect, this show is at the 70% level. Ultimately, it redeems itself, but the self-referential aspect, the modern jargon, and the meta aspects of the play ultimately hurt the point that is being tried to be made.

As I noted before, I had been unsure whether the problems with the modern dialog were just an affectation from the director, Sean Langenecker. It turns out they weren’t, but there are some dialogue issues that the director does need to address. Specifically, in the opening scenes, the actors seem to be talking very fast. This seems to slow down slightly as the production goes on, so I think it was just opening scene coldness (a problem common with speakers). That’s something that can be addressed through practice and notes. Otherwise, I think Langenecker did a good job of bringing the different characters to life, although at times there seemed a touch of overdrawing them (although that could have been in the script). Movements and such seemed realistic, although that is not an inkwell. It was much too wide.

Looking at the specific performances: All were strong, especially considering the regional nature of the cast. Stephanie Monday Olympe de Gouges captured the indecisiveness of de Gouges well, and presented a wonderful range of emotions over the show while dealing with all the characters. Jessica Jane Witham (FB) Marie Antoinette did a great job of capturing the annoying aspects of the Queen’s personality, as well as presenting the touching side. Perhaps the smallest portion went to Mikayla Mrocheck Charlotte Corday, who received less stage time, but still did a great job of capturing the anger behind Corday.

That leaves Laura Jo McMillan Marianne Angell. who I’m singling out not only for her strong performance, but for her lovely voice on the one song that she had. I was less enamored with the slight accent and jivish voice she gave to the character, but that might have been directed by the script. It gave the impression of trying to convey race through accent and voice — something I’m finding increasingly problematic — and something that was less than historically accurate.

On the production side: the set was a simple one: a table, a sofa, a platform, and some curtains. It provided just enough context to provide a sense of where and when one was. The costumes provided more of a sense of time for the most part, although the visible tattoos at the end (although understandable in today’s society) were a reminder that these were modern actresses, not historical figures. Given they could have been easily addressed via a simple shift (also historically accurate)… The sound effects were reasonable, although the timing was a bit off at times. Production credits: Kat Thompson Stage Manager; Spike Garrett (FB) Lighting Design; Lizzie Opperman (FB) Asst. Lighting Design; Marie Schulte Costume Design; Laura Yoccum Marie Antoinette Wig; Dawn Marie Svanoe (FB) Marie Antoinette Headpiece; Cassie Carney Hair and Makeup Assistant; Evan Lange and Erin McConnell Sound Design; Sean Langenecker Set Design; Sean Langenecker Properties Design; Jeff Godsey Dramaturg; Sean Langenecker and Megan McGlone Producers.

One additional note: This is one of the few shows I’ve seen that had absolutely no pre-show announcement: no pointing out of the exits, no reminder to unwrap those noisy hard candies (a point that is made during the show itself), and most importantly: no reminder to turn off your cell phones and things that might create light or noise. They need the reminder.

There is one more performance of The Revolutionists at the Bartell Theatre in downtown Madison WI: today at 2pm. Tickets available at the door, or through the Bartell website. I don’t think Goldstar covers Madison WI. If you are closer to my home (in Southern California), and the show sounds of interest, the Santa Paula Theatre Center has just opened a production of it. It runs through March 15, and tickets are available through the SPTC website. For the Santa Paula show, discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

Tonight, the plans are to go see the Lee Blessing play Down The Road from Two Crows Theatre Company, with Sunday being MST 3000 at the Overture downtown. Whew! Alas, I’ll be missing both Nefesh Mountain at Temple Israel of Hollywood and Tom Paxton and the Don Juans at McCabes, who are performing tonight, due to this.

March starts with Passion at Boston Court (FB) the first weekend. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner (and The Wild Party at Morgan Wixson). The 3rd brings Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last weekend brings 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). The second weekend of May brings a concert performance of Randy Newman’s Faust at the Soraya/VPAC (FB). The third weekend of May brings A Man of No Importance at Actors Co-op (FB) . The fourth and fifth weekends are currently open, but I”m eyeing a production at the Fountain Theatre for our synagogue’s live theatre group during that time.

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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🥁 The Beat Lives On | “Step Afrika” @ The Soraya/VPAC

Setp Afrika - Drumfolk (The Soraya)As I’ve indicated before, I don’t always write up the live performances that we see at the Soraya/VPAC (FB). Sometimes, this is because they are concerts (where I don’t have a set list in advance) and I don’t know the names of all the pieces. Other times, they are performance pieces, such as the recent astounding “Hotel” from Cirque Eloize, which had to be seen and just no written description could fit. But sometimes we see a piece that deserves a writeup. Step Afrika!‘s piece “Drumfolk”, which we saw Sunday afternoon, as such a piece. For those unfamiliar with Step Afrika!, is it a professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping — a dance form that uses the body as a percussive instrument. The company promotes stepping as a contemporary dance genre, using that art form to creates programs that expand on stepping’s unique place in history, and often doing a deep exploration of the African-American experience.

The heart of Drumfolk was an exploration of the Stono Rebellion of 1739, a revolt initiated by 20 enslaved Africans in the colony of South Carolina. In response to the rebellion, colonial leadership got the crown to pass the Negro Act of 1740. The act made it illegal for enslaved Africans to move abroad, assemble in groups, raise food, earn money, and learn to write (though reading was not proscribed). Additionally, owners were permitted to kill rebellious slaves if necessary. The Act remained in effect until 1865. It also singled out drumps as an illegal weapon, and took away the right for slaves to own or play the drums. However, as the program for the show noted, “They took the drums away… but they could not stop the beat.”

When I heard that line during the show, I harkened back to another production that explored the place of the beat in the African American experience: Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk. That musical explored a much broader swath of history and experience, but both demonstrated the centrality of the drum and the beat, and of dance and movement, to the African American experience.

The program that we saw (which evidently was recently designed … something like 4 days before our performance) consisted of three pieces:

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable and informative presentation.

The production featured Taylor McFerrin and the members of Step Afrika!: Kofi Agyei,Jeeda Barrington (FB), Jamaal Collier, Dionne Eleby, Matthew Evans, Conrad Kelly, Misha Michel, Vincent Montgomery, Joe Murchison, Ronnique Murray, Dustin Praylow, Anesia Sandifer, Brittny Smith, Jordan Spry, and Nicholas Stewart.

The creative and production team consisted of: C. Brian Williams Founder and Executive Director; Jakari Sherman Director; Mfoniso Akpan (FB) Artistic Director; Simone Baskerville Production Manager & Touring Stage Manager; Kenaan M. Quander Costume Designer; Erik Teague Mask Designer; Mary Rathell Wardrobe Assistant; Marianne Meadows Lighting Designer; Yannick Godts Lighting Supervisor; Steven M. Allen Composer; Kevin Alexander Sound Designer; and Jeremiah L. Davison Sound Engineer.

This was the only performance of Step Afrika! at the Soraya this year.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

As for the last weekend of February, I’ll be in Madison WI visiting my daughter, the the lineup she has scheduled is busy: The Revolutionists from Mercury Players Theatre/Bartell Theatre on the UW Madison campus on Friday (Eileen Evers is an alternative); the Lee Blessing play Down The Road from Two Crows Theatre Company on Saturday (columbinus at Edgewood College is the bad weather backup), and MST 3000 on Sunday. Whew! Alas, I’ll be missing both Nefesh Mountain at Temple Israel of Hollywood and Tom Paxton and the Don Juans at McCabes due to this.

March starts with Passion at Boston Court (FB) the first weekend. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner (and The Wild Party at Morgan Wixson). The 3rd brings Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last weekend brings 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). The second weekend of May brings a concert performance of Randy Newman’s Faust at the Soraya/VPAC (FB). The third weekend of May brings A Man of No Importance at Actors Co-op (FB) . The fourth and fifth weekends are currently open, but I”m eyeing a production at the Fountain Theatre for our synagogue’s live theatre group during that time.

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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🎭 On Island Time | “Escape to Margaritaville” @ Dolby Theatre/Broadway in Hollywood

Escape to Margaritaville (Dolby/Broadway in Hollywood)As I mentioned in my writeup for The Simon & Garfunkel Story, Saturday was a crazy day. Due to my scheduing confusion, we ended up with two shows in Hollywood, moving from S&G at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) to the Dolby Theatre (FB) for Escape to Margaritaville, the first show for Broadway in Hollywood (FB) at the Dolby. Before I go into the details of the show, let’s talk about BinH at the Dolby.

The Dolby is a very different venue than the Pantages. Whereas the Pantages is old and ornate and rococo and filled with history, the Dolby is new and shiny and modern. For those familiar with the old-day in LA theatre, contrast the old Shubert Theatre in Century City with the style of the Dorothy Chandler. The Pantages staff working at the Dolby were warm and welcoming and friendly, guiding people unfamiliar with the facility to where the needed to go. As for the facility itself … good and bad. The bad is that there is no longer the same central lobby there was at the Pantages. One can enter either on the first or second floor; entering on the second bypasses much of audience services and the all important merchandise booth. Refreshments (not that I partake) are more expenses; at the Dolby they are a Wolfgang Puck enterprise, with prices to match. As for the theatre itself, the venue is narrower but taller. This means that what had been side orchestra seating has been relegated to the loge and first mezzanine, often off to the sides. In some ways, it is a better view, but it is also further from the stage. I don’t think they are using the topmost balcony. In any case, if you aren’t on the orchestra floor, bring your binoculars. Sound in the facility was good, and a bit clearer than in the Pantages.

Turning to the show itself: Escape to Margaritaville is a jukebox musical, built around the music of Jimmy Buffett and Buffett’s general theme of Island Rock, also characterized as “Gulf and Western”. This music plays up the notion of relaxing life on a tropical island. We seem to be in a jukebox musical period, where songs from a performer’s songbook are stitched together, given a few nips, tucks, and alterations, and crafted into a serviceable story of varying strength. Sometimes this story is autobiographical (think Beautiful or the upcoming Cher Show), sometimes is a somewhat fictionalized quasi-autobiography (think The Last Ship with its Sting surrogate), and sometimes the story has no connection with the artist at all, but it just works with the catalog (think Mamma Mia or Head Over Heels). Escape fits somewhere between the latter two types: it is quasi-autobiographical in that an Island-rock singer is discovered, but the rest of the story is fictional.

The story of Escape is relatively simple, and you can find the gory details on the Wikipedia page. The book was developed by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, building around the music of Jimmy Buffet (who evidently changed a few songs and lyrics a bit).  The basic notion is this: Margaritaville is a bar on an unnamed tropical island that has a dormant volcano (why do they always have volcanos, right, Spongebob?). The bar is owned by Marley; denizens of the bar include Tully (the singer), Brick (the bartender), J.D. (the crochety old tourguide who has supposedly hidden a treasure somewhere), Jamal, and Jesus (two of the staff). The life is easy: tourists come in for a week, get drunk, have island romances, and then go back to their dank winters in the northeastern US. Two such tourists are Rachel and Tammy, out on a last vacation before Tammy gets married to Chadd, who keeps wanting Tammy to lose weight. Tammy wants to have fun. Rachel is less interesting, but is going to the island to collect soil samples so she can work on her project: an energy-producing potato. Yes, I said potato. This is the opening exposition, and the rest of the first half of the story is building up the love interests: Tammy with Brick, who represents a guy who loves her for who she is, and Tully with Rachel, who gets Rachel to drop her guard and adopt the Island lifestyle. But all good things end, and Tammy and Rachel go back to Ohio and the cold. Then the Volcano blow. Cue: “Now I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m a gonna go, When the volcano blow”

The second half of the show is after. We get to see the island folks evacuating, Tully and Brick chasing J.D. who has gone off in search of his treasure — which he finds as they escape the island just in time. We see the island folks running off to Ohio to follow Tully’s love. Meanwhile, back in Ohio, the rehearsal dinner is proving a problem where Tammy wants to have a cheeseburger (cue the song), but her fiancee Chadd wants her to have vegan pasta, and Rachel is trying to find funding for her potato. In rushes the island folks and … well, this is a musical so you can probably predict the happy ending that ensures.

Before the show hit Broadway (it started out in La Jolla), reaction to it was positive. It did well in New Orleans and Houston and even Chicago. It hits New York and … gets a resounding thud from critics, as do many shows that play well outside the city (Bandstand is another example of that). What was our reaction?

This was in no sense a deep show with some sort of deeper meaning. It wears its ambitions on its sleeve: this is an island musical about slowing down and enjoying life, about not worrying about the drama. If you go in knowing that, you aren’t disappointed. But if you are cosmopolitan and want something with depth and meaning and social significance, this isn’t it. If I had to draw a parallel with respect to the depth of the story, I’d say to compare it with Mamma Mia. This isn’t a story of social import; it is just a fun time (as demonstrated by the beach balls and singing at the end).

But the presentation of this story does a number of things right in my book. First, it celebrates science. Yes, we’re talking about power from a potato, but the lead heroine is not a princess, but an environmental scientist who wants to do science. Inspire those women to do STEM! Second, the woman driving the other story (Tammy) is portrayed as not a stick-thin blond but a blond with a build of a typical American woman. That is: slightly larger than the media portrays it. Her intended, Chadd, wants the media portrayal, but the “one true love” is the one that doesn’t demand change: that sees the beauty in who she is and not what she ways. This body-positive message is echoed through the ensemble casting, which includes not only diversity in color but diversity in size: there are island cuties and tourists that are in the larger size group — and it is beautiful to see on stage. So the messages in this show are a winning combination.

So overall, I’d say this is an enjoyable story, if you aren’t looking for much depth. If Mamma Mia is your speed, and your looking for something light and laughable and fun, this is it. If you are looking for the deep messages of Hamilton or The Prom or even Dear Even Hansen … this isn’t the show for you. But for a light story, told well, with a strong cast of newcomers: this works.

As we turn to the performance, I should note that this is a non-Equity cast. This does not imply any lack of talent from the cast, only that they have not yet made their Broadway debuts. For many, this is their first tour; for a few, this is their professional debut. Director Amy Anders Corcoran (FB), building upon the original Broadway direction of Christopher Ashley (FB), does a great job of realizing the story in a tour environment (which has to fit in a truck or two), as well as molding the younger cast into a wonderfully performing whole. Movement was under the direction of Kelly Devine (FB) Choreographer, assisted by Andrew Turteltaub (FB) Assoc. Choreographer. So let’s look at those performances, couple by couple.

First up: Sarah Hinrichsen (FB) Rachel and Chris Clark (FB) Tully. Hinrichsen did a wonderful job of bringing a nice spunk and playfulness to her character, and she had strong chemistry with Clark. This was demonstrated well in the “falling in love” sequences in the first act, especially in numbers like “Three Chords” or “Son of a Son of a Sailor”. I can’t judge the “hunk” quality of Clark, but he also had a strong chemistry with Hinrichsen. Both sang and moved well.

The next couple was Shelly Lynn Walsh (FB) Tammy and Peter Michael Jordan (FB) Brick. These two were also strong, especially Walsh’s portrayal of Tammy. She brought a wonderful joy to that character, together with a great singing voice in songs such as “Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. Jordan’s role was a bit more secondary, but he still brought a great performance to the role.

The third couple, so to speak, was Rachel Lyn Fobbs (FB) Marley and Patrick Cogan (FB) J. D.. Fobbs is strong from the opening number where she welcomes people to Margaritaville, bringing loads of fun. Cogan’s J.D. is more one spice in the first act (“Salt, Salt”), but comes into his own with a lot of humor in the second act.

Rounding out the performance team in featured and ensemble roles are: Matthew James Sherrod (FB) Jamal; Sophie Braud (FB) Ensemble; Noah Bridgestock (FB) Chadd, Ensemble; DeVon Buchanan (FB) Ted, Ensemble; Anthony Cataldo (★FB, FB) Ensemble; Chantelle Cognevich (FB) Ensemble; Katie Davis (FB) Ensemble; Nico DiPrimio (FB) Ensemble; Fabian-Joubert Gallmeister (FB) Ensemble; Diego Alejandro Gonzalez (FB) Jesus, Ensemble; Bobby Hogan (FB) Ensemble; Aimee Lane (FB) Ensemble, Dance Captain; Michael Matthew Sakelos (★FB, FB) Ensemble; Trent Soyster (FB) Ensemble; Emma Stricker (FB) Ensemble; Jade Turner (FB) Ensemble; and Morgan Unger (FB) Ensemble. Swings were Victoria Price (FB) and Tyler Whitaker (FB).

Music was provided by an on-stage orchestra under the music direction of Andrew David Sotomayor (FB), supplemented by the actor that played Tully. The orchestra consisted of (🌴 indicates local): Andrew David Sotomayor (FB) Keyboard; Claudio Raino (FB) Guitar; Jakob Smith (★FB, FB) Guitar; Joela Oliver (FB) Bass; Russ Henry (FB) Steel Drums; Taurus Lovely (★FB) Drums; Jake Boldman (FB) Trumpet; Emma Reinhart (FB) Trumpet; 🌴 Sean Franz (FB) Tenor Sax / Bari Sax / Clarinet / Bass Clarinet / Flute / Recorder; 🌴 Aaron Smith (FB) Trumpet / Flugelhorn / Recorder; 🌴 Brian LaFontaine (FB) Guitar 1 (Electric / Acoustic / Ukulele / Banjo / Lap Steel), Harmonica; 🌴 Jack Majdecki (★FB) Guitar 2 (Electric / Acoustic / Mandolin / 12 String / Ukulele); 🌴 Lynn Keller (FB) Bass; 🌴 Rayford Griffin (★FB) Drums / Percussion; 🌴 Jared Stein (FB) Keyboards. Other music related credits: Randy Cohen (FB) Keyboard Programmer; Talitha Fehr (FB) Music Coordinator; 🌴 Eric Heinly (FB) Orchestra Contractor; Michael Utley Orchestrations; Gary Adler Dance Music Arrangements; Mac McAnally (★FB) Music Consultant; Christopher Jahnke Music Supervision & Arrangements and Additional Orchestrations.

Finally, turning to the production and creative side. Walt Spangler‘s scenic design consisted of a space for the band that could be covered by a curtain or scrim at the back of the stage, and then scenic elements at the front that primarily represented Margaritaville, with an occasional additional prop for the volcano or Ohio. Some of the scenic elements were outstanding and super-creative, such as the snorkeling scenes or the volcano climbing scenes. This scenic design was supported by Paul Tazewell‘s costumes and Leah J. Loukas (FB)’s wigs, hair, and makeup. Howell Binkley (FB) & Amanda Zieve‘s lighting design established the mood well, and Brian Ronan & Craig Cassidy‘s sound design worked reasonably well in the Dolby space. Other production credits: Binder Casting (FB) Casting; Suzayn Mackenzie-Roy Production Stage Manager; Emma Iacometta (FB) Assistant Stage Manager; Andrew Terlizzi Company Manager; The Booking Group Exclusive Tour Direction; Bond Theatrical Group Marketing and Publicity Direction; Marathon Digital Social Media; Heather Chockley Production Manager; Brian Schrader General Manager; Angela Rowles Executive Producer.

Escape to Margaritaville continues at the Dolby Theatre (FB)/Broadway in Hollywood (FB) through March 8. Should you go see it? If you go in with eyes wide open regarding what it is: a jukebox musical with a story at the level of Mamma Mia, with lots of great Jimmy Buffett music and wonderful body positivity messages, than yes. If you’re looking for something deep, well, perhaps there are some Mormon missionaries coming to your door. Tickets are available through the BiH box office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar or through TodayTix.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

Last Sunday afternoon brought Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) … which was great. I’m unsure if I’m writing it up, but I may.

As for the last weekend of February, I’ll be in Madison WI visiting my daughter, the the lineup she has scheduled is busy: The Revolutionists from Mercury Players Theatre/Bartell Theatre on the UW Madison campus on Friday (Eileen Evers is an alternative); the Lee Blessing play Down The Road from Two Crows Theatre Company on Saturday (columbinus at Edgewood College is the bad weather backup), and MST 3000 on Sunday. Whew! Alas, I’ll be missing both Nefesh Mountain at Temple Israel of Hollywood and Tom Paxton and the Don Juans at McCabes due to this.

March starts with Passion at Boston Court (FB) the first weekend. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner (and The Wild Party at Morgan Wixson). The 3rd brings Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last weekend brings 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-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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🎭🎸 “Feeling Groovy” | The Simon & Garfunkel Story @ Pantages/Bwy in Hollywood

The Simon & Garfunkel Story (Pantages/Broadway in Hollywood)Sunday was our crazy day of theatre in Hollywood, due to my forgetting to enter my 2019-2020 season tickets on my Google Calendar when I renewed my  Hollywood Pantages (FB)/Broadway in Hollywood (FB) subscription. Lesson learned for 2020-2021 — they are already on my calendar. In any case, when the Pantages mailed out an announcement regarding the availability of the bonus show The Simon & Garfunkel Story, I quickly grabbed Saturday matinee tickets. It was only when I went to put the on my calendar that I realized I hadn’t entered my series tickets. So I did … and discovered we had season tickets for Escape to Margaritaville that evening. Boy, was I glad I had done a matinee for S&G! So yesterday was a double Broadway in Hollywood day: S&G at the Pantages, followed by Margaritaville at the Dolby. Whew!

The Simon & Garfunkel Story (FB) is, essentially, a Simon and Garfunkel concerts. There’s little pretense of it being much more. There’s no book writer, no fake story constructed from the songs (such as Margaritaville or All Shook Up). There isn’t acting of a bio story (along the lines of Beautiful or Summer). There isn’t even a director in the traditional theatrical sense. There are actors portraying Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, a backing band, and a snippets of biographical information and story background along the way.

Musically, the show is excellent. The actors (George Clements (★FB) Paul Simon and Andrew Wade (★FB, FB) Art Garfunkel) are great performers, and capture the harmonies well. Individually (and when not singing) they don’t quite have the same voice and personality of the originals, but the personality that does shine through it good. Clements didn’t have quite the same nasal quality as Simon (he was about 90% there), and Wade didn’t have quite the pure tenor of Garfunkel but had the power when he needed it (he was about 90% there). They were close enough that one could enjoy the music, and mostly hear the same thing as the albums (there were a few slight differences). So on the music side, you won’t be disappointed.

I’ll note that the program credits two additional actors for Simon and Garfunkel (Taylor Bloom and Ben Cooley, respectively), although it is unclear when they are actually performing the roles. A “boo” to the Pantages for not having a signboard in the lobby indicating the actors that were in each role.

On the story side, however, there could have been so much more. It is here that the lack of participation by the real Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were apparent. The audience was left wanting for more details on the backstory, for more details on the backstory of each of the songs. The projections would have been so much better with real pictures of the duo from those days, including pictures that had never been seen before. But although there were some bits of information there that might not have been well known, there just could have been so so much more.

The projections had another problem: inaccuracy and incorrectness. From the use of modern images to respresent the past (e.g., that livery for British Airways wasn’t used back then — it might even have been BOAC, or that the postcards during “America” were too modern, or that images were from the wrong era of the story), to the disconnection of the image from the song (e.g., the postcards should have corresponded to the story points in “America”, the voices of old people from Bookends had images of children, and — for whatever reason — the images in Scarborough Faire were anti-war. Folks, if you want to do an anti-war song from that era of S&G, do Silent Night/6 O’Clock News. It is far more moving.

Perhaps those are nits. Certainly, if you were going for the nostalgia and the music, this fit the bill. From a few obscure songs from the Tom and Jerry era, to some (but not all) of the most popular songs, the concert aspect was great. The two leads were aided in this by their backing band: Alec Hamilton (FB) Keyboards and Background Vocals; Bob Sale (FB) Drums and Background Vocals; Marc Encabo (FB) Bass Guitar and Background Vocals; Josh Vasquez (FB) Guitars and Background Vocals; Josh Turner (FB) Guitars and Background Vocals; and Adam Saxe (FB) Keyboards and Background Vocals. Note that neither the program nor the theatre makes clear which guitarist and keyboardist are at a given performance. I know we had Hamilton at our performance, and I think we had Vasquez. The major weak point of the backing music was the lack of some horns. Electronic horns on a keyboard are a weak substitute. Simon and Garfunkel were known — in their later work and at the Concert in Central Park — for their strong horn sections backing the songs. That was missed. On the other hand, the musicians they had were great — in particular, Encabo and Vasquez, who were clearly having great fun up their on stage, rocking away and enjoying the music they were playing. The solos from Sale and Hamilton were also quite strong.

Finally, turning to the production side: There’s not much to talk about here. I’ve already noted the problems with Z Frame‘s projection design in terms of getting the period right, and timing the projections to the subjects in the songs. As for the lighting design of Mike Berger Design, it was mostly innocuous, although at times the light bar in front of the backup band was confusing. Other production credits: Dean Elliott (FB) Show Director, Musical Supervisor; Ralph Schmidtke (FB) General Manager; Brian Richard (FB) Company Manager; Adam Saxe (FB)/Alec Hamilton (FB) Music Director; Steve Beatty (FB) Sound Engineer; Steve Comer Lighting Operator, Lighting Programmer; John Tellem/Andy CoscarelliTellem Grody PR Press; Eric “Kacz” Kaczmarczyk Stage Manager.

The last performance of The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Hollywood Pantages (FB)/Broadway in Hollywood (FB) starts in little over an hour. You might be able to get tickets at the box office. The Simon & Garfunkel Story (FB) is on tour, however, so if you’re in Spokane WA or Canada, it’s coming your way.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

Saturday afternoon brought Escape to Margaritaville at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB), which is next to be written, and we just got back from Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) … which was great, but I’m probably not writing it up.

As for the last weekend of February, I’ll be in Madison WI visiting my daughter, the the lineup she has scheduled is busy: Madison’s Funniest Comic Contest on Wednesday (meaning I’ll miss Survivor), The Revolutionists from Mercury Players Theatre/Bartell Theatre on the UW Madison campus on Friday (Eileen Evers is an alternative); the Lee Blessing play Down The Road from Two Crows Theatre Company on Saturday (columbinus at Edgewood College is the bad weather backup), and MST 3000 on Sunday. Whew! Alas, I’ll be missing both Nefesh Mountain at Temple Israel of Hollywood and Tom Paxton and the Don Juans at McCabes due to this.

March starts with Passion at Boston Court (FB) the first weekend. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner (and The Wild Party at Morgan Wixson). The 3rd brings Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last weekend brings 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-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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🎭 Be World Class in Everything, Center Theatre Group

With the announcement of the Ahmanson Theatre season at the Center Theatre Group (FB) this week, we made the decision to resubscribe at the Ahmanson again. Doing so reminded me yet again of the differences between how the Hollywood Pantages (FB)/Broadway in Hollywood (FB) does the care and feeding of subscribers, vs how CTG does it (especially as we also just resubscribed at the Pantages for their 2020-2021 season). So I thought I would start the morning by writing up this summary — primarily so I could tweet it to @CTGLA and challenge them to match their world-class theatre with a world-class subscriber experience.

I’ve been attending theatre since I was 12 and attended The Rothschilds at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion as part of the LACLO season. My parents were long time LACLO season ticket holders. We’ve subscribed at numerous theatres large and small, from the Pasadena Playhouse for almost 20 years (until their bankruptcy), the Colony, small venues like REP East and Chromolume (both now gone). Currently we subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 season] and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB).

Most theatres make it easy for subscribers: call and change your tickets easily, get the best prices (modulo the Goldstar last-minute tickets), often the ability to pick your seats and your nights well in advance. Some of the venues have their quirks: the Thousand Oaks Plaza (home of 5-Star) insists on a change fee, for example, when rescheduling. But the comparison of the two largest theatres in town: the Pantages and the Ahmanson, is telling. Both book Broadway tours and compete for the same audiences, although the former is for-profit and the latter non-profit. Here’s a comparison:

Characteristic Pantages Ahmanson
When you subscribe, can you pick the day you attend? Yes, online Yes, online
When you subscribe, can you pick the date you attend (i.e., which week of the run)? Yes, online, and you can compare seats across the nights Only over the phone, and there’s no ability to compare the different seats across the nights
When you subscribe, can you pick your seat? Yes, online Yes, online
When you subscribe, can you set up a payment plan? Multiple payment plans are possible, up to 10 payments, all can be set up online, no additional fee You can pay online in a single payment, or set up a 2 or 4 payment plan, but only over the phone, for an additional fee.
When do you learn of your subscription dates and seats, so you can block your calendar? At the time of subscription. Months later when they resolve the seats for subscribers, unless you did a phone subscription and picked the week.
Can you improve your seats after the renewal deadline, when non-renewing subscribers have dropped off? Yes, online, for no additional fee. Not that I recall from the last time we subscribed.
Do you get reminders before each show of the opportunity to purchase additional tickets (or exchange your seats) before anything opens to the public or special pre-sales? Yes, online Not that I recall from the last time we subscribed.
Are exchanges easy? Yes, online, for no additional fee. Often, however, it is hard to find a good exchange seat. Somewhat. They are online, but the system is confusing with respect to the full price vs. the exchange price. Often, however, it is hard to find a good exchange seat, especially at the lower price points.
Are there special subscriber events? Numerous evenings to see the theatre and backstage, for free, often with tastings set up from local restaurants. The occasional speaker or educational events.
Any other thank yous? We’ve occasionally gotten thank you bags … and even chocolate. Not much that I can recall.

Now I understand that goodie bags are probably a perk of being a for-profit theatre, and that might also limit the ability to do the tastings (although that’s marketing for the local restaurants, so it is in their interest). But the online ticketing and subscription system of Center Theatre Group is so antiquated and limited in its abilities. It really calls out for improvement. The Pantages is using an instance of the Ticketmaster system (also used by 5-Star, TO Civic Arts Plaza, and the Soraya), which likely means the increased fees are added silently to the ticket prices. But CTG really needs to look into getting some of these capabilities integrated into their system if they are going to successfully compete in the subscriber market. They’ve improved quite a bit from 10 years ago, when it was actually more expensive to subscribe thanks to per-ticket fees than to buy HotTix for each show. But I challenge them to improve again.

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🎭 A Warped Interfaith Shakespearean Comedy | “It Shoulda Been You” @ MTG

It Shoulda Been You (MTG)MTG UserpicTrust me, you’ll understand the title by the time I’m done explaining things. Just as with Saturday’s show, A Body of Water, there was confusion in the show we saw Sunday night: It Shoulda Been You at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). But this confusion was a good confusion, and the story progressed in a clear manner from Point A to Point B. But the path along the way was, shall we say, a bit warped. Point A starts with an Interfaith Wedding. Point B is the ending every Shakespearean comedy has. Ah, but the journey… the journey…

Warning: This writeup does contain spoilers. Given the age of the show, the availability of the cast album, and the fact that this was a single night performance, I’m not worried. But you’ve been forewarned.

It Shoulda Been You is a musical with book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove, and music and concept by Barbara Anselmi. It opened on Broadway in August 2015, and ran for 31 previews and 135 performances. I still remember the humor in the number they did at the Tony Awards. But it didn’t last, and it never went on tour. Luckily,  the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) brought it back for a one-night, staged reading performance. This means: 25 hours of rehearsals, minimal costumes and scenery, actors have their scripts in their hands per AEA rules, and a focus on the score and the story.

So what’s the story. It starts with an interfaith wedding, being told from the point of view of the oldest daughter, Jenny Steinberg. She’s a little bit zaftig, and her mother, Judy, has been pressuring her with the wedding planning, and guilting her for not being married or even having a relationship — as only a Jewish mother can do. Criticizing everything, butting in everywhere. Luckily, there is an all-knowing, all-seeing wedding planner to save the day. So what about the bride and groom. The bride, Rebecca, is having cold feet about the wedding, but the best man (Greg Madison) and maid of honor (Annie Sheperd) are holding that together. The groom, Brian Howard, is the reason for the culture clash. Coming from a nice WASP upper-class family, his parents, Georgette and George Howard, don’t want this marriage — for obvious WASPish reasons, if you get my drift. This whole mix is complicated when Jenny accidentally calls Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend Marty, who rushes over to stop the wedding.

As I said, crazy comedy, but it gets worse. Insert all the expected Jewish and WASPish jokes. Insert all the jokes about drinking. Insert all the typical self-worth issues any wedding brings out. Insert last minute prenuptial contracts to protect the trust fund, and all that stress.

But, eventually, things get worked out and the wedding happens. But then Jenny walks into the room with the Bride and Groom after the wedding… to find the Bride busily kissing the Maid of Honor, and the Groom kissing the Best Man. You see, it turns out that her sister and her fiancee are both gay. The wedding was a scheme to split the trust fund, so they could be with their real loves. Oh, and the sister is pregnant by her gay groom, thanks to one night with too much drinking. Now comes the next part: how to tell the parents, and will they be cool with it?

Let’s add one more complication: the ex-boyfriend of the bride, Rebecca? He wanted to stop the wedding not because he was in love with Rebecca, but because he knew she was gay. He’s been in love with Jenny since school days, but never told her. Insert proposal.

As I said: A Shakespearean comedy, as everyone ends up married and in love at the end. One might easily draw some parallels to Two Gentlemen of Verona or Twelfth Night.

As for what I thought of the show: I had heard the music before (I have the album), so I knew what was going on going in. In fact, we even used this as an event for the live theatre group at our synagogue. But the show was much much funnier than the cast album made it out to be. Just like with $5 Shakespeare (last Sunday’s show), this one was laugh out loud funny. Many of the jokes were extra funny if you knew the stereotypes or tropes behind them. So I really, really enjoyed this show.

I also liked quite a few of the songs, but they were much more contextual — not songs you would walk out the theatre humming or as an earworm. Nope, this is not a The Last Ship. But some songs, such as “A Little Bit Less Then” or “Jenny’s Blues” are just beautiful, and convey touching messages. Many of the other songs are just extremely funny, going from the opening number to the “That’s Family” number at the end.

So why did this show fail? I think, in some ways, it didn’t find its audience. The liberal Jewish audience would have no problem with a gay wedding, and the more conservative Orthodox audience wouldn’t have the interfaith aspects occurring. Some of the jokes may have fallen flat. But, I think, just as with the recent The Prom, much as we think audiences are ready to look at the humor in a particular subject, sometimes they just surprise us by not being ready. So why does something like The Book of Mormon work? One could say it was the message at the heart of it, but this is a Shakespearean comedy at its heart and that is timeless. Perhaps people were ready to laugh at Mormons? Perhaps this just needs to be rediscovered. I still think this should have toured.

Those who were able to make it out to the Alex Sunday night were treated to a wonderful show with wonderful performances, and only a few sound problems. Unlike Encores in NYC, these shows don’t have the possibility of extending. But if you see a production of It Shoulda Been You pop up near you, give it a try. I think you’ll find it a very fun evening.

One of the things that made this production so good was the performances. As I noted earlier: the cast gets a total of 25 hours to pull this together. They have scripts in hand. They haven’t had the time to polish and shine their musical numbers. So when performances are outstanding, that indicates a particular level of skill.

At the top of the performance chart was Julie Garnyé (★FB, FB) Jenny. She just hit it out of the ballpark with humor and character and fun. Her performances in both “Beautiful” and “Jenny’s Blues” were outstanding. Also strong was the actor playing her younger sister, Ashley Fox Linton (FB) Rebecca.  She also brought a load of humor to the role, and gave a touching performance in her main number, “A Little Bit Less Then”.

This brings us to the actors playing the Steinberg parents: Eileen Barnett (FBJudy and Anthony Gruppuso (FBMurry. Barnett, as in any Jewish family, had the larger role. She got to play some wonderfully humorous numbers, such as “Nice”, but also got the touching number “What They Never Tell You”.  Gruppuso got a smaller role in terms of songs, but handled the humor well as he always does.

Turning to the groom’s side of the equation, there was Zachary Ford (FBBrian Howard.  Ford is quite adept at playing comical characters, and he handled this quite well. His soft shoe with his father, “Back in the Day”, was spectacular.

Playing a larger role were the groom’s parents: Barbara Carlton Heart (FBGeorgette and Bryan Chesters (FBGeorge. Heart did a great job of the humor in Georgette, especially in numbers like “Where Did I Go Wrong” and the closing “That’s Family”. As noted above, Chesters did a great job with Ford in “Back in the Day”.

But if you want the real humor in the story, that credit goes to one of my favorite performers, Jason Graae (★FBAlbert, the wedding planner. He upped the humor an order of magnitude with the performance he brought to the role, and made every scene he was in. Graae is just a delight to watch.

The remaining members of the wedding party were Travis Leland (FBMarty Kaufman, the ex-boyfriend; Helen Jane Planchet (FBAnnie Shepard, the maid of honor; and Adam Lendermon (FBGreg Madison, the best man.  Leland did a spectacular job, especially in numbers like “Whatever”. He also had a delightful chemistry with Garnye’s Jenny. Planchet and Lendermon had more comic supporting roles, but they did wonderfully with them.

Rounding out the cast were Thomas W. Ashworth (FBWalt/Uncle Morty and Pamela Hamill (FBAunt Sheila/Mimsy.

Music was provided by a small on-stage band consisting of  Dan Redfeld (★FBFB) Music Director / Piano; Steve Dress (FBBass; and Albie Berk (FBPercussion.  Although small, they had a wonderful sound.

The production was pulled together in the famous 25 hours by Josh Grisetti (FBDirector and Mackenzie Perpich (FB) Choreographer. Adding to the stress for this duo is that they just got married… to each other… less than 2 weeks ago and cut their honeymoon short to do this show. No pressure there, but it certainly meant that they understood the stress that is involved with planning a wedding and having things go wrong. That experience was demonstrated on the stage as they perfectly choreographed both the humor and the movement, and worked with the talented acting team to bring off the production with few hitches.

Finally, we turn to the production and creative side: Set Design … none. Well, a few tables, a few boxes. Lighting design … minimal, with no credit. Sound design … minimal, which is a bad thing because microphone problems invariably happen in these productions. The one thing they did have were costumes, including two beautiful wedding dresses, that were coordinated by  A Jeffrey Schoenberg / AJS Costumes (FB). Other production credits: Paul Wong (★FBFB) Production Coordinator;  Leesa Freed (FB) Production Stage Manager, Production Manager; Stacey Cortez and Debra Miller (FB) Assistant Stage Managers.

This was a one-time only performance. The next Musical Theatre Guild (FB) performance is May 3, 2020 for the musical Kismet, which actually started here in Los Angeles at the LA Civic Light Opera. Tickets are available through the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) website. MTG announced much of their next season, which includes Mack and Mabel, The Wedding Singer, and Brigadoon, together with a show to be announced.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB),  the Soraya/VPAC (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2020-2021 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

Sunday night brought It Shoulda Been You at Musical Theatre Guild (FB) — that’s next on the writeup stack. Next weekend is crazy, as it brings  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). Yes, that is the Pantages and the Dolby the same day — that’s what I get for not entering season tickets on my calendar before ticketing a bonus show. As for the last weekend of February, I’ll be in Madison WI visiting my daughter, the the lineup she has scheduled is busy: Madison’s Funniest Comic Contest on Wednesday (meaning I’ll miss Survivor), The Revolutionists from Mercury Players Theatre/Bartell Theatre on the UW Madison campus on Friday (Eileen Evers is an alternative); the Lee Blessing play Down The Road from Two Crows Theatre Company on Saturday (columbinus at Edgewood College is the bad weather backup), and MST 3000 on Sunday. Whew! Alas, I’ll be missing both Nefesh Mountain at Temple Israel of Hollywood and Tom Paxton and the Don Juans at McCabes due to this.

March starts with Passion at Boston Court (FB) the first weekend. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner (and The Wild Party at Morgan Wixson). The 3rd brings Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last weekend brings 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-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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