🛣 Headlines About California Highways – September 2022

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted. The end of September has been busy. Combine the end of the government fiscal year (meaning work is busy), with a large number of theatre reviews to write up, with working to get Episode 1.04 of the California Highways – Route by Route podcast (Anchor.FM Home, with links to most major podcatching services) edited, with having ear surgery to remove a cholesteotoma that had developed, with working on the updates to the highway pages …. and, whew! So the headlines are a few days late. My apologies.

As I noted, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the podcast. One of the hardest parts is scaring up interviews. For the upcoming episodes, I’m looking for someone who is willing to talk for 30 minutes or so on the following:

  • For 1.05: The Pat Brown era of highway construction in California, and the rationale behind, and impact of, the 1964 “Great Renumbering” on the traveling public.
  • For 1.06: The impact of CEQA on road construction in California — including the process both before and after CEQA — as well as the impact of the growing importance of regional transportation agencies on the State Highway System.

If you or someone you know would be interested in helping this project, please contact me. Thanks to Jonathan Gifford of George Mason University for being our interviewee for Episode 1.04. Episode 1.04 should be posted around October 15.

With respect to the main highway pages: I’ve started work on incorporating the August headlines. That will be interrupted for the November 2022 ballot analysis, which should take 5 posts to complete (national/state officers, local officers, judges, measures, and a summary) as well as weekly theatre). Once I’m past the election post, I’ll finish up August and start the September headlines. The goal will be to have those updates done by November. Podcast scripts are written through 1.10; all that remains is the naming and transportation organizations episode.

Enough of this shameless self-promotion. Here are the headlines that I found about California’s highways for September:

Key

[Ħ Historical information |  Paywalls, $$ really obnoxious paywalls, and  other annoying restrictions. I’m no longer going to list the paper names, as I’m including them in the headlines now. Note: For paywalls, sometimes the only way is incognito mode, grabbing the text before the paywall shows, and pasting into an editor.]

California Highways: Route by Route Podcast

  • California Highways: Route by Route logoCARxR Ep. 1.03: Building a State Highway System: The 1930s. In this episode, we’re continuing to explore the history of the State Highway System, focusing on the 1930s and the early 1940s. This is part of our first season of California Highways: Route by Route, where we are exploring the background needed for our route by route journal. In this episode, we’ll see the establishment of the legislative route system, the creation of state sign routes and the signage by the auto club, a major expansion of the state highway system, and continuing growth on the Federal side, laying the groundwork for the eventual interstates. This episode also features an interview with Morgan Yates, Archivist of the Auto Club of Southern California. During his interview, Morgan shared a picture of alternative state routing signs proposed by the ACSC (included here thanks to the auto club). You can write to Morgan at: Corporate Archivist; Automobile Club of Southern California; 2601 S. Figueroa St., MS H-118; Los Angeles, CA 90007.

Back episodes are available at the Podcast’s forever home, as well as on its anchor.fm home. The anchor.fm also has links to the podcast’s page on most major podcasting services.

Highway Headlines

  • California Senate Passes Safe Roads Bill, Putting Statewide Wildlife Connectivity Within Reach (Center for Biological Diversity). The California Senate passed the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act on Monday in a 35-0 vote, paving the way for more wildlife crossings across the state’s roadway system. Assembly Bill 2344 now awaits approval from the governor after a concurrence vote in the Assembly, which it passed in May. “California lawmakers agree that it’s unacceptable for animals to be slaughtered on highways due to a lack of wildlife crossings,” said J.P. Rose, policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildlands program. “Wildlife crossings work, and mountain lions, desert tortoises and kit foxes deserve safe passage over the barriers we’ve created.” A.B. 2344 would require Caltrans to identify barriers to wildlife movement and prioritize crossings when designing new roads or making road improvements. The proposed legislation prioritizes crossing projects, which can be overpasses, underpasses, culverts and other infrastructure improvements, to prevent deadly wildlife-vehicle collisions.
  • Rio Vista Bridge back open after malfunction leaves it stuck in up position (CBS Sacramento). Highway 12 was blocked in both directions over the Sacramento River in Rio Vista after the bridge malfunctioned on Tuesday. According to Caltrans District 10, the bridge became stuck in the up position. The Rio Visa Fire Department tweeted that the bridge suffered a mechanical issue and that drivers would need to seek an alternative route. A ship had to anchor just north of the bridge because it too couldn’t get by. Operators say it costs owners $20,000 for every day that a vessel sits idle.
  • Metro’s 60 Freeway Ramps Expansion Project in Hacienda Heights Is on Hold (Streetsblog Los Angeles). An on-/off-ramp project in Hacienda Heights meant to preface future widening of the 60 and 605 Freeways has been postponed by Metro since the early pandemic. Metro deemed the Hacienda Heights SR-60/7th Avenue project beneficial to drivers and not overly adversely impacting adjacent residents, but if and when the project and the freeway widening are set in motion again, construction could come very close to homes. So what’s holding it back?
  • Metro FY23 Budget: Those Freeways Metro Plans to Widen (Streetsblog Los Angeles). Metro is spending more and more money widening freeways. Last year, Metro increased its annual freeway expansion budget by a whopping eighty percent. This year, the agency has proposed another 33.5 percent increase, on top of last year’s. At a time when equity, housing, and climate crises are bearing down on Angelenos, Metro is planning to worsen these crises by doubling down on freeway widening – growing its annual Highway Program budget from $264 million (in FY21) to a proposed $634 million in the year ahead (FY23).
  • Cosumnes bridge project along SR-99 wraps up two years early (ABC 10). The Cosumnes bridge replacement project on State Route 99 is complete. It started in fall 2019 and construction finished two years ahead of schedule, despite supply chain  issues. The $208.3 million project received nearly $106 million from Senate Bill 1, and more than $102 million came from the State Highway and Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP). State and local governments worked together to replace the Cosumnes River bridge and Overflow bridge with two new ones. They also replaced the McConnell overhead and made improvements to the Dillard Road overcrossing.

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🎭 When Do We Feel Safe | “Sanctuary City

Sanctuary City (Pasadena Playhouse)What does the word “sanctuary” mean to you?

Perhaps you come at the word from the religious sense: it is a place with holy relics where you worship. If so, you might think the play Sanctuary City, which we saw last night at the Pasadena Playhouse, is about a city filled with churches, mosques, and synagogues. You would be wrong.

Another meaning of the term refers to a safe space — a space were you are protected and safe from those who might do you harm. Recall from The Hunchback of Notre Dame that Quasimodo seeks sanctuary in the Sanctuary, as a church is viewed as hallowed ground where the clergy will protect you. We often see religious institutions treated in this manner: those who reside there are protected by a higher power.

More recently — and especially during the Trump administration — the notion of a “Sanctuary City” arose. This was a city where undocumented immigrants were safe. If the police encountered them, they wouldn’t be asked immigration status or reported to ICE. They were safe — for varying values of safe.

People find sanctuary — safe space — in many places. As noted above, some find it in church. Some find it in laws — and law enforcement that officially might not see things. Some find it in relationships: your house is a sanctuary where you are loved and feel safe.

Sanctuary City, by Martyna Majok, directed by Zi Alikhan, explores the notion of sanctuary in many ways (although never in the way the title of the play might lead you to believe). This is a one act play that has two distinct acts (and, in some ways, it really could use that intermission). I should also note that this takes place in 2006, after 9/11, and long before DACA or the other changes that came about during the Obama administration.

During the first half — which takes place in an abstract metal structure that could be the bones of a house, we meet a boy (B) and a girl (G). These two have been friends since they were toddlers, ever since their families brought them across the border in various fashions for a better life in America. G’s mother is now with an abusive guy, and so G finds sanctuary with B — constantly coming over and crashing with him.  B’s mother plans to return to Mexico before they catch her, and B can come along or not. She’s fine leaving him in American — and he wants to stay because that’s where his life is. The first act is told in a distinctly non-linear fashion, with flashes between timelines that fill in the details of the story. We do learn, by the end of the first half, that G’s mother has been secretly studying to be naturalized, and has gotten her naturalization papers — and before G turned 18, meaning G was a citizen as well. G comes up with a plan to save B by marrying him, and they prepare for the eventual ICE questioning. G also gets accepted to a university in Boston.

The second half is three years later, and abandons that abstract house for a realistic apartment. Three years in, B and G’s plans are on the rocks, called off by … well, let’s just say there is a reason that B never truly “slept with” G during those earlier years. There is now a love triangle, wherein we meet B’s lover, Henry (a pre-law American). It is within the tensions created by this triangle that the other aspects of sanctuary — safety — come into play. G has come to realize that if she marries B, she isn’t safe if they are ever found out, but there is Henry in the equation. B has to decide between the safety with respect to ICE, vs safety with respect to love. And Henry — who can’t marry B at this time because of the law — is stuck in the middle. How this all resolves is the focus of the second half.

This is a story that drew me in. Initially, it was the question of who these people were, and what was their story. The non-linear flash device used is a novel story telling approach, and you quickly saw the strong friendship and figured out the backstory. You wanted them to become more, yet they never quite did. The second half was fascinating, raising all sort of ethical and legal questions. Some of the situations portrayed in this play are no longer a concern (but then again, may be a concern again, given the current Supreme Court). Some, such as the question about undocumented immigrants and what to do about children who were raised as American (but who aren’t Americans), still remain. It was a really interesting, entertaining, and still relevant play. It makes you think, as you leave the theatre, what makes you truly feel safe — and what are you willing to do and give up to get that safety?

The performances were strong. Ana Nicolle Chavez (G) was believable as the teen dealing with an abusive step parent, seeking sanctuary in the home of her friend. Miles Fower (B) was believable as her friend. The two had strong chemistry together, and you could see them capturing well the tension in the relationship. The third point in the triangle was Kanoa Goo (Henry). He was believable as someone who loved B, and there was a strong tension shown with G who was on the verge of taking B away from him.

Chika Shimizu (Scenic Designer) created an interesting scenic design. The first half was a very abstract metal structure, which combined with Solomon Weisbard (Lighting Designer)‘s lighting allowed the non-linear story telling to occur. The second half was a more conventional design of an interior of an apartment. John Nobori (Sound Design) established the mood and place through appropriate ambient sounds; the actors amplification was sufficient for my currently degraded ears. Jojo Siu (Costume Designer) rounded out the design team.

The remainder of the production team consisted of Amanda Rose Villarreal (Intimacy Coordinator), Brad Enlow (Playhouse Technical Director/Production Supervisor), Brandon Hong Cheng (Stage Manager), and Lydia Runge (Asst. Stage Manager). Casting was by The Telsey Office.

Sanctuary City continues at the Pasadena Playhouse through October 9. Tickets are available through the Pasadena Playhouse box office, and they even have a free ticket initiative for those who cannot afford it. Discount tickets are available through Goldstar, and it also appears there is a GroupOn.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. Looking ahead for the remainder of 2022:, the rest of October will bring Ghosts at the Odyssey Theatre EnsembleThe Addams Family at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and To Kill a Mockingbird at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). November brings 2:22 – A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, December will bring Annie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB).

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

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🎭 Taking Off the Rose Colored Glasses | “Oklahoma” @ Ahmanson

Oklahoma (Ahmanson)Memory can be funny thing. When we look back on memories of things we often see just the good. If I was to mention Rogers and Hammerstein to you, and ask you what you remember from their shows, what would it be? The sunniness and light of Oklahoma!? The children singing in Sound of Music? The love story in The King and I or South Pacific? The happy joyous songs?

But guess what: That’s a memory that was engineered by a series of 1950s and 1960s musicals, which had to be cheery and light to sell tickets and get past the approval boards. But what precisely made Rogers and Hammerstein so revolutionary (and, indeed, what Hammerstein started even earlier with Show Boat) was the underlying commentary in their librettos. Sexual violence in Carousel. Racism in South Pacific. The spectre of the Nazis in The Sound of Music. Slavery and oppression of people in The King and I. Rogers and Hammerstein were successful because of their political commentary, and how that commentary was such a change from the brain-dead, saccharine sweet musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.

But our memories have been whitewashed, with an emphasis on the “white”, by the movie musicals and the endless cute revivals of these shows. We go in with an expectation of what the show is — and when that expectation is not met, we are disappointed, angry, and we write off the production as something we don’t like. We are so constrained by our expectations we fail to see the real, underlying text and commentary.

This is clearly playing out in the reaction to the Bard Summerscape production of Oklahoma!, directed by Daniel Fish, currently at the Ahmanson Theatre. The reaction that I’ve seen is that people either love it or hate it. But what they forget is that not a single word has been changed from the original text; not a single song is omitted. All of Richard Rodgers‘ music is there. The book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II is still there. It is still drawn from “Green Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs. It just is a production that emphasizes the darker nature that has been in the story rather than the expected cheeriness and light. For many, this is not the Oklahoma! they grew up with and knew. It’s not that warm apple pie on the porch; it isn’t Shirley Jones and Gordon McRae, or Florence Henderson, or any of the numerous bubbly blondes that have done the role. But guess what folks? Read the synopsis of the movie musical. It is the same story.

Furthermore, when you look at the story, the same hatreds are there today. The fear of the lower class workers. The justification for self-defense killing when the defendant is well-respected (the only thing that would have made this stronger was if Judd was cast strongly with a minority actor). Just think about the line, made famous by the Monkees’ in “Zilch”, “Nevermind the furthermore, the plea is self-defense” — from the end of Oklahoma!, referring to a self-defense excuse for innocence, ignoring the other facts. That wouldn’t happen to day … would it?

There were also other modern themes. The fear of sexual violence especially when men do not take “no” for an answer. The castigation of women when they want their own sexual agency.  The tendency in some cultures to overprotect women or to sell them to the highest bidder — independent of what the woman might want. Gun violence.

This is all in Oklahoma! folks. It’s there in the movie.

So what does this production do that offends folks so? It strips the veneer from the story to expose this scaffolding. The stage doesn’t open on a cornfield; there is no surrey or farmhouse. There is no action in the fields. This takes place in a modern gymnasium, with bright lights and gopro cameras. There are crockpots of chili, and folks dressed modern. There is a mix of races, gender identities, sizes. This isn’t a whitewashed farm in lily-white Oklahoma. Just setting aside that traditional staging bothers people enough that they shut down.

Then there is the staging. This isn’t realistic, transporting you back to the farm. You have to imagine that based on the story and the performances. There are also times they play with your perception: the smokehouse scene is done in the dark, with just the actors on microphones. There is stark video at times. The dream ballet isn’t this nice gentle ballet, but an acid-rock tinged interpretation of the music with a single dancer abstractly expressing their fears. There are gunshots, and at the end, there is bloodshed. Oh, and the first few rows are a literal splash zone. This isn’t as bad as The Lieutenant of Inishmore, but be prepared.

Lastly, there is the music. One expects Oklahoma! to have this lush full orchestral score. This is a stripped down western ensemble: banjo, guitar, bass, fiddle, cello, accordion, etc. No brass section. No woodwinds. Not what one expects from a show like this.

Think about it this way, folks. Rogers and Hammerstein came upon the scene in 1943. That’s almost 70 years ago. We’ve been taking Shakespeare’s words and using them unchanged in different settings to highlight meaning. That’s all this production is doing. If you can go into this production setting aside your pre-conceived notions of what this show is, and accept the conceit of how the director is trying to emphasize the story and not the schmaltz, you’ll enjoy this. If you can’t set aside your expectations, skip this production and go see a regional production that does it in a traditional manner.

From the above, you may believe this is saying that I liked everything about the show. I didn’t.

First, I wasn’t that enamored of the dream ballet. I understand that was the approach taken in shows in the 1940s and it was convention. But I don’t think the intent comes across well, and especially in the new staging, it was difficult to tease out the meaning. The dance was beautiful, but the symbolism was not conveyed well. The program credits Agnes De Mille‘s original choreography, but I think that’s more contractual because little of that remains. This production features choreography by John Heginbotham. Generally what that was worked well (this wasn’t a heavy dance show, unlike other productions of this title), but the dream ballet just failed me.

Second, echoing last week even more, I hate hate hate digital programs. Both The Pasadena Playhouse and CTG are using the new Performances platform. But this requires an account separate for each theatre (you would think a combined account would work), and you can’t read the program until you create the account (meaning you can’t do things easily during an intermission). Further, the program app is filled with notifications and settings and preferences that just bog things down even worse than a static website. Theatres: The cost of the paper is minuscule compared to the goodwill and memory a printed program provides. Make them shorter if you will, but provide a printed program and make your digital programs easy to navigate.

Lastly, the casting. I thought the mixed race, etc. casting was good, but it could have been better. First, although Sis was wonderful, I would have loved to see the tour continue to push the movement that Ally Stroker started to have more disabled actors on stage. That sends a vital message — especially on tours — both to the folks in the audience and the folks running the theatre. Secondly, the casting of Judd should have been more explicitly minority. Hired hands in that era weren’t white. Making that explicit serves to highlight the racism that underlies the tension in the story of Judd Fry. Was Judd really as threatening as he was made out to be, or was this an expectation or perception built out of prejudice. What we had was good; it could have been great.

The cast was uniformly strong. Hunter Hoffman, filling in for Sean Grandillo (Curley McLain) had a lovely voice and a good rapport with Sasha Hutchings (Laurey Williams). Hutchings was also strong, bringing a great internal fire and independence to Laurey (especially in Act II). Sis (Ado Annie) brought a unique take to the role — again, a load of energy and fire and spunk that played well off of both Hennessy Winkler (Will Parker) and Benj Mirman (Ali Hakim). Christopher Bannow (Judd Fry) was suitably menacing and had a good singing voice, but I’m not sure he conveyed the depth of fear that justified the end. Barbara Walsh (Aunt Eller) was a modern Ma Kettle midwestern non-nonsense broad, but brought some interesting sexual tension to the role I hadn’t noticed before. I also also smitten with Hannah Solow (Gertie Cummings): a character I had never noticed much in the story before, but she brought some unique characterizations and playfulness to the role.

Rounding out the main cast were: Ugo Chukwu (Cord Elam), Mitch Tebo (Andrew Carnes), Mauricio Lozano (Mike), and Jordan Wynn (Lead Dancer). Understudies in various roles were: Gillian Hassert (u/s Aunt Eller, Gertie Cummings), Cameron Anika Hill (u/s Laurey Williams, Lead Dancer, Cord, Mike), Minga Prather (Alternate Lead Dancer, Asst. Stage Manager), Scott Redmond (u/s Ali Hakim, Curly McLain, Cord Elam, Mike, Will Parker), and Gwynne Wood (u/s Laurey Williams, Ado Annie).

Music was provided by an on-stage orchestra led by Andy Collopy (Conductor, Accordion, Drums), and consisting of Dominic Lamorte (Assoc. Conductor, Upright Bass), Rick Snell (Mandolin, Electric Guitar), Josh Kaler (Pedal Steel, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar), Justin Hiltner (Banjo), 🌴 Olivia Breidenthal (Violin), Caleb Vaughn-Jones (Cello), and occasionally, the fellow playing Curley (Hunter Hoffman, at our performance) on Guitar. Other members of the music department were: Daniel Kluger (Arrangements and Orchestrations), Nathan Koci (Music Supervision and Additional Vocal Arrangements), John Miller (Music Coordinator), Anixter Rice Music Services (Music Preparation), Robert Payne (🌴 Los Angeles Contractor). I did appreciate the fact that the orchestra joined the cast in the bows at the end of the show.

The design team consisted of: Laura Jellinek (Set Design), Terese Wadden (Costume Designer), Scott Zielinski (Lighting Designer), Drew Levy (Sound Designer), Joshua Thorson (Projection Designer), and Jeremy Chernick (Special Effects Design). I mentioned the set design before: very stark gym vibe, wooden floor, no fly scrims or anything like that. Lighting was equally harsh: either all on, green, or red. I couldn’t judge sound too well, as I’m healing from ear surgery that muffled things (my wife said it was clear). I do want to note the show’s attitude on guns, which were all around the stage. They made clear from the onset that these were prop guns, could not fire live ammo, and there was indeed no live ammo in the theatre at all. Further, they partnered with Gun Neutral, an initiative that takes donations for each visible gun on stage to fight gun violence and fund STEM grants.

Rounding out the production team were Taylor Williams CSA (Casting), Eszter Zádor (Stage Manager), Mikhaela Mahony (Assoc. Director), Jordan Fein (Assoc. Director), Daniel Kells (Production Stage Manager), Minga Prather (Asst. Stage Manager), and SB Production Services (Technical Supervisor).

Oklahoma! continues at the Ahmanson Theatre through October 16. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson box office. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar, as well as through TodayTix. If you can set aside your expectations for a traditional, sickly-sweet production of Oklahoma!, this is well worth seeing.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. Looking ahead for the remainder of 2022:, October will bring Sanctuary City at the The Pasadena Playhouse  (FB), Ghosts at the Odyssey Theatre EnsembleThe Addams Family at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and To Kill a Mockingbird at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). November brings 2:22 – A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, December will bring Annie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB).

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

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🍏🍯🍎🍯 L’Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year – 5783

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown Sunday night, September 25th. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:
(* Yes, it is an old picture. I still find it funny.)

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5783. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

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

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

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Tuesday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of October 4th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

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

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

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

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🎭 A Party So Wild There Were Two | “The Wild Party” (Lippa) at Morgan-Wixson

The Wild Party (Lippa) (Morgan-Wixson)Boy, this is the weekend for musicals with strong sexual themes, isn’t it.

Back in 1926,  Joseph Moncure March wrote a poem called “The Wild Party”; it was rediscovered by Art Spiegelman in 1994 and subsequently came to the attention of two composers who turned it into a musical. You can see the full poem here; it starts:

Queenie was a blonde and her age stood still
And she danced twice a day in vaudeville.
Grey eyes. Lips like coals aglow.
Her face was a tinted mask of snow.
What hips! What shoulders! What a back she had!
Her legs were built to drive men mad.
And she did. She would skid.
But sooner or later they bored her
Sixteen a year was her order.

The poem was about Queenie, a low life vaudeville blonde and her boyfriend Burrs, a violent, small minded and jealous hoodlum and professional clown who together decide to throw a party. They do and it is a wild one.

As I said, two different composers decided to turn this poem into a musical. The musicals were both titled “The Wild Party”: one was written by Andrew Lippa and premiered in 2000 Off-Broadway; the other was written by Michael John LaChiusa and premiered in 2000 on Broadway. I’ve long had the CDs for both versions. Back in 2010, I was able to see the LaChiusa version at the Malibu Stage Company. Sometime back in 2019 I learned that Morgan-Wixson was planning to do the Lippa version (probably from Daniel Koh, who was the music director of the show). I put it on my calendar. And then COVID happened.

But luckily, Morgan Wixson didn’t let the production work go to waste, and just opened that production of The Wild Party, which I saw this afternoon.

It is interesting how two different artists interpret the same source material. We see this often with Shakespeare, where producers come up with wildly different ways of interpreting or presenting the same words. We see that here as well. Here’s how I described LaChiusa’s version back in 2010:

From there we learn about Queenie, a fading vaudeville chorine, and her misogynist and borderline racist lover Burrs, a vaudeville comic who performs in blackface. They decide to throw a wild party, complete with bathtub gin, debauchery, and everything that makes life worth living. During this party, we meet Queenie and Burrs’ collection of friends: Kate, Queenie’s conniving rival—a dagger-tongued, former chorine and would-be star; Jackie, a cocaine-sniffing bisexual playboy; Eddie, a washed-up boxer; Eddie’s wife, Mae, a ditzy former chorine; Nadine, Mae’s excitable 14 year old niece (who claims to be 16) who wants to break into vaudeville; Phil and Oscar D’Armano, a black brother act; Dolores Montoya, a diva of indeterminate age and infinite life experience; Miss Madeline True, a lesbian actress and nearly famous stripper; Sally, Madeline’s comatose girlfriend; Gold and Goldberg, two vaudeville producers with Broadway ambitions; and Black, Kate’s date and a bargain basement moocher. As the party escalates, we learn the story of each of these characters, and see the debauchery that was the 1920s. We’re treated to adultery, bisexuality, cocaine, drinking, incest, rape. It is a circus on stage, with action taking place on every corner. As the jazz and the gin flow, the orgy starts, and by the end of the evening, the midnight debauchery leads to destroyed lives. Ultimately, in the light of morning, comes the reminder that those who fly high land with a thud, especially when the mask and artificial face we put out to the world is removed.

When we compare this with how Andrew Lippa (Book and Music) approached the material, certain elements have been toned down or changed. There’s no blackface. The racist elements are gone. There’s not quite as much backstory. There’s not the connection between Nadine and Mae, and although she is a minor, her age isn’t made clear. The black brother act is gone, and some of the other characters are less named. Now, admittedly, this could be a decision from the production team. But it is something I noticed comparing the shows.

There’s also the music. Looking at both shows in my iTunes Library, I liked songs from both shows, but seemed to like Lippa’s a little more. Perhaps that’s because they stick in my head. Lippa’s songs seem to be more of a mix of character and scene introduction songs (especially in the first act), and less memorable story songs. But I like the songs, and quite a few from the Lippa version are among my favorites (“An Old Fashioned Love Story”, “The Life of the Party”, “Raise the Roof”).

Another interesting “compare and contrast” is with last night’s show, Jagged Little Pill. Both, after all, were based upon popular poetry of the time. Here, The Wild Party really shows the problematic mores of the time: heavy drug use, heavy alcohol use, violence against women, and racism. No apologies. Jagged Little Pill reflects more modern mores: we see the consequence of actions. But in both shows: wild parties have consequences.

One more thing before I launch into the specifics of this production. Morgan-Wixson, alas, does one thing in this production I don’t like: a digital ONLY program, accessed via a QR code. This is horrible for program collectors, it requires use of phone and data, it is harder to read (especially for older patrons), and it provides no archival record. Provide a digital program if you must, but make some small number of printed copies available. They don’t have to be fancy: a simple printed booklet is fine.

Now as they say: on to the show.

The Lippa version of the musical follows the basic trajectory of the poem: Queenie and Burrs are stagnating, and decide to throw a party to bring some excitement back, or to create tension (as Queenie is turned on by violent men). A number of different folks attend the party, but notable is Kate (who wants Burrs for her). Kate brings along Mr. Black and aims him at Queenie. This sets up the tension, which leads to the eventual conclusion. Also notable is Mae and Eddie, for Mae looks a lot like Queenie and Eddie is a washed-up boxer. Guess what happens when Burrs mistakes Mae for Queenie. Yup. Other characters are more ancillary but present — notably Madeline True and Nadine. As the party goes on, the drugs and booze flow. Predictable results. Tempers flare. Guns (and probably other things) go off. Life is left in disarray. Unlike in Jagged Little Pill, it is questionable whether anyone learns anything.

Under the direction of Kristen Towers-Rowles, the production moves pretty well (there was one lag point about 2/3rd through the first act). The story holds your interest. The performers and their characterizations are good, although sometimes that is not always clear to the audience. A few performers, at times, seemed to be staring into the sunset. That could be the actor, or it could be a drugged or stone characterization. Somehow, that needs to be clearer. I found the sound balance a bit off. Some performers (notably Queenie) needed a bit more power in the voice (the performance was good, and the singing was good — it just needed a bit more power). If you see the show, contrast the power of Queenie vs. Kate. This is not to say the performance was bad — in fact, the performance was quite good. WIth a bit more power behind it, it could have been great. The choreography by Michael Marchak (who was also the asst director) was in general good, although there was a bit of going through the motions. This is something I expect will improve further in the run as folks get reacquainted with the movement. I was also particularly taken by the background characters and how they made the party realistic.

The performances were strong. I was particularly struck with Serenity Ariel Robb (Queenie), Mirai (Mae), and Kelsey Weinstein (Nadine). I may have thought Robb’s volume could be a bit stronger, but her performance of the role was outstanding and I enjoyed her singing (it just needed that oomph on some songs). Especially strong — and a knockout at the start of Act II — was Kaitlin Doughty (Kate), and as I love the “Old Fashioned Love Story” number, I enjoyed Emilia Sotelo (Madeline True).  On the male side, Hamilton Davis (Burrs) and Deonte Allen (Mr. Black) were particularly good. Rounding out the cast were:  Iah Bearden-Vrai (U/S Burrs), Katelyn Coon (Ensemble), Krystal Combs (Jackie, U/S Queenie, Dance Captain), Eric Eberle (Max, Fight Captain), Eadric Einbinder (Swing), Javon Ford (U/S Black), Sam Gianfala (Phil), Spencer Johnson (Eddie), Gianna Pira (Swing), Jonathan Saia (Oscar), Roland Vasquez (Ensemble), Holly Weber (Dolores), and Steve Weber (Sam).

Daniel Koh was the music director. The program had no credit for musicians; it was unclear if the music was recorded or the musicians were in the wings. I didn’t see any musicians coming in, but they could have been there before me.

The design department consisted of: Yelena Babinskaya (Scenic Design), Ryan Rowles (Sound Design), Derek Jones (Lighting Design), Michael Mullen (Costume Design), Jon Sparks (Wig Crew), Mia Staraci (Props Master), and numerous support folks.

The production team consisted of: Emily Ellis (Production Stage Manager), Ethan Kuwata (Asst. Stage Manager), Emilia Ray (Intimacy Director), Amanda Noriko Newman (Fight Choreographer), and various artists, builders, and back of house folks who are listed in the program.

The Wild Party continues at the Morgan-Wixson in Santa Monica through October 9. I think this is well worth seeing — it is entertaining, it is a good exploration of a similar time in history, and it shows how mores have changed. Tickets are available through the MW Box Office, and discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

Lastly, note I posted this without the usual heavy linking. That might come later.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. Looking ahead for the remainder of 2022:, the remaining September show is Daniel Fish’s interpretation of Oklahoma at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). October will bring Sanctuary City at the The Pasadena Playhouse  (FB), Ghosts at the Odyssey Theatre EnsembleThe Addams Family at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and To Kill a Mockingbird at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). November brings 2:22 – A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, December will bring Annie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB).

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

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🎭 You Attend, You Learn | “Jagged Little Pill” @ Broadway in Hollywood

Jagged Little Pill (Pantages/Broadway in Hollywood)Expectations are funny things. Sometimes, someone else expectation can screw up your life. You may be expected to be the perfect mother, the perfect student, the perfect sibling, the perfect minority. The pressure of those expectations can sometimes be overwhelming, and can push you into paths you never expect.

Expectations can often color what you expect as well. When I first learned about the Alanis Morissette jukebox musical, I expected this heavy rock musical, especially with the name “Jagged Little Pill”. I’m an older fart (in my 60s) — my taste in music runs a broad gamut, from Broadway cast albums to folk to classic rock to bluegrass to celtic to dixieland to big band to … well, as you can see, a wide variety. But I had never knowingly listened to Morissette. Her classic album was not part of my vernacular. And although, thanks to the Tony nomination, I had listened to this cast album ahead of time, it hadn’t overpowered the expectation regarding this show. Going in, I was expecting this really hard rock, extremely dark and pulsating show … emphasizing the “jagged” nature of the title. Little did I know that the emphasis was more on the “pill”, as in “Mother’s Little Helper”. Little did I know that the title really referenced a pre-chorus (“Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill) / It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)”) to a key point in this show: “You live, you learn / You love, you learn / You cry, you learn / You lose, you learn / You bleed, you learn / You scream, you learn”.

Jagged Little Pill is a show that both didn’t meet my expectations, and yet exceeded my expectations.

One more digression before I describe the show … or perhaps it is more of a question: Why do we go to theatre (especially with what it costs these days)? Is it for mindless entertainment? We certainly get that with spectacles like Moulin Rouge, which at the heart of it is all flash and pizazz but no real substance or story. We certainly get that with the movies-to-stage pipeline, which bring familiarity and songs but not much new. But the really successful shows are those that make you think — that touch a raw nerve. That could be the struggles of our nation’s birth, as in Hamilton, or it can issue like sexuality as in the recent The Prom or Spring Awakening. Do we go for the comfortable, or do we go because the purpose of theatre is just to make us uncomfortable, to hold up that mirror, to make us think. (and we’ll revisit this again next week when we see Daniel Fish‘s interpretation of Oklahoma at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) next week).

This brings us back to Jagged Little Pill. First and foremost: Discard your expectations. This is not hard rock like American Idiot or Hedwig. This is more angsty ballads. As for the show itself: yes, it is dark. I’d characterize it best as a blender mix of Spring Awakening and Next To Normal. The subject matter touches on a number of triggery areas: drug abuse, rape and sexual assault, how we react to such assault, expectations on children, teen sex, gender issues. If these are triggers to you, be prepared. But the show handles them in a somewhat SFW combined with in-your-face manner. I didn’t find it too strong, but others might.

The show tells the story of the Healy family: super-mom Mary Jane, workaholic dad Steve, overachiever child Nick, and adopted minority child Frankie. Just from that description, what could go wrong. We learn over the course of the show the jagged little pill that this facade covers. This is told through the use of the Alanis Morissette‘s catalog, primarily her album Jagged Little Pill (Glen Ballard also worked on the music, the book was by Diablo Cody, and additional music was by Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth).  I don’t want to give too much away of the plot, but given the warnings and the description of the family, you should be able to figure out the eventual arc.

This brings us to the first assessment: story and music. I should note that this assessment is tempered a bit by poor sound, which I’m going to blame on the touring company as I know that BIH can get it right. Especially during the musical numbers, the lyrics were muddied (perhaps folks were mic-ed bad, or perhaps speakers were misaimed or mistuned). I could hear dialogue just fine. Now, if you’re younger and you’ve memorized these songs, that probably didn’t matter. But if you’re an old fart, it made the lyrics inaccessible with just snippet here and there. You get the sense but not the specifics. My advice: Try getting the headsets for the hard of hearing. You’ll probably get better sound.

That said: I found the story engrossing and relatable. There were things in this story that hit home for me, and I’m sure others as well. No family is perfect, and this showed how our experiences shape us. Not just the successes, but especially the failures. Where we fail. Where others fail. The Jewish High Holy days are coming up, and this is something I’ll be thinking about: how can I learn from my failures. This show raises those questions. That’s a good thing.

The show also touches on a number of hot topics today: sexuality and gender; sexual assault, consent, and who you believe; the current opioid epidemic; and what pressure does to us. That it raises these questions and provokes discussion places this head over heels a spectacular like Moulin Rouge. For story and subject along, this is a must see.

Now we have the next assessment: vision and execution. Diane Paulus‘s original direction, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui‘s original movement and choreography do a good job of bringing out the emotion. Place and mood is does through either projections or screens as opposed to traditional fly-scrims. This works well to immerse you in the story.

The last assessment is performance. Here I’d like to note a number of standouts. Heidi Blickenstaff (Mary Jane Healy) amazes me with her voice and her emotion. She conveys a wide range here, with a voice that handles both rock and soft well. Those who have been following her career know this well, from her first foreys with [Title of Show] to her performance in Freaky Friday. Her performance is remarkable. Also strong is Lauren Chanel (Frankie Healy), who really brings that character to life. Jade McLeod (Jo) is remarkable in “You Oughta Know”, and Allison Sheppard (Bella) does a wonderful job of leading the company in “No” (which should be a watchphrase for today: What part of “no” do you not understand). For the guys, I was really taken by Chris Hoch (Steve Healy), who reminded me a lot of the dad in Next to Normal. Dillon Klena (Nick Healy) was also strong.

Rounding out the performance credits with ensemble and smaller parts: Lee H. Alexander (Doctor, Ensemble), Delaney Brown (Denise, Ensemble), Maya J. Christian (Swing), Jada Simone Clark (Barista, Ensemble), Lani Corson (Jill, Teacher, Ensemble), Claire Crause (Swing, Dance Captain), Sean Doherty (Swing), Rishi Golani (Phoenix, Ensemble), Jason Goldston (Andrew, Ensemble), Zach Hess (Ensemble), Cydney Kutcipal (Ensemble), Jordan Leigh McCaskill (Pharmacist, Therapist, Ensemble), Alana Pollard (Ensemble), Daniel Thimm (Drug Dealer, Ensemble), Kei Tsuruharatani (Ensemble), Jena VanElslander (Courtney, Ensemble), and Charles P. Way (Swing/Asst. Dance Captain).

Music was provided by an onstage orchestra led by (🌴 indicates local) Matt Doebler (Conductor, Keyboard) and consisting of the following additional folk: Christopher Hanford II (Guitar 1), David Manning (Guitar 2), Jennifer Giammanco (Bass), Lucy Ritter (Percussion), 🌴 Nicole Garcia (Violin (Concertmaster)), 🌴 Rhea Hosanny (Viola), 🌴 Michelle Elliot Rearick (Cello), and 🌴 Brian LaFontaine (Guitar Sub). Rounding out the music department was: David Manning (Asst. Conductor), Michael Aarons (Music Coordinator), Emily Grishman (Music Preparation), Randy Cohen (Keyboard Programming), and 🌴 Eric Heinly (Music Contractor). Tom Kitt provided music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations.

The design team consisted of: Riccardo Hernández (Scenic Design), Emily Rebholz (Costume Design), Justin Townsend (Lighting Design), Jonathan Deans (Sound Design), Lucy Mackinnon (Video Design), and J. Jared Janas (Wig, Hair, and Makeup Design).

Rounding out the production team with tour and other support were: Pascale Florestal (Assoc. Director), Marc Kimelman (Assoc. Choreographer), Yeman Brown (Asst. Choreographer), Ira Mont (Production Supervising Stage Manager), Justin Myhre (Production Stage Manager), Jenn Gallo (Stage Manager), and Ashani Smith (Asst. Stage Manager). It is interesting that an Intimacy Coordinator was not listed.

I’ll note: For this writeup, I have not done my usual hyperlinking of artists. I may go back and fill that in. Not doing it saves a lot of time.

Jagged Little Pill continues at Broadway in Hollywood through October 2. Tickets are available through the BIH 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 (modulo the COVID break). I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. Looking ahead for the remainder of 2022:, the remaining September shows are Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party at the Morgan Wixson Theatre, and Oklahoma at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). October will bring Sanctuary City at the The Pasadena Playhouse (FB), Ghosts at the Odyssey Theatre EnsembleThe Addams Family at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and To Kill a Mockingbird at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). November brings 2:22 – A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, December will bring Annie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB).

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

 

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🎭 Summer Short Takes: “The Prom” / “If I Forget”

For some reason, this summer I haven’t had the urge or the drive to write my normal full-up theatre reviews. Quite likely, it is burnout from caregiving; whatever the reason, the urge wasn’t there. But we’re entering into the Fall theatre season, and this weekend starts a series of 8 shows in a row. So I need to get the summer shows out of the way. So here are some quick takes, and I’m probably not going to go through and do the heavy linking thing (unless I go back and do it).


The first show we saw in August was The Prom at the Ahmanson Theatre. Let me start out by saying that The Prom is one of those few shows that I would have no qualms about seeing multiple times — it was that good and I loved the message that much.

The Prom tells the story of a bunch of narcissistic Broadway actors. When their show crashes and burns on opening night and they get ravaged in the press, they decide that to rehabilitate their image they need to do something that looks like they care about someone else. They stumble upon the story of a lesbian teen in Indiana who was denied the ability to go to the Prom. So they get on the bus (with a touring company of Godspell) and go out to save the day.

As they say next, predictable hilarity ensues.

However, what could be a train-wreck sitcom concept actually works out, and the story ends up being a quite touching one about acceptance. One of my favorite songs is “Love Thy Neighbor”, about how so many Christians seem to cherry pick what the Bible says, ignoring other prohibitions that aren’t convenience, and forgetting the most important message — how they turn a message of love into a cudgel of hate.

That’s a message that is so true today. This was a really enjoyable musical, and it left us with a smile on our face.

The touring company cast was strong, especially the performances of the leads: Kaden Kearney (Emma), Kalyn West (Alyssa), Courtney Balan (Dee Dee Allen), Patrick Wetzel (Barry Glickman), Emily Borromeo (Angie Dickenson), and Bud Weber (Trent Oliver).

Rounding out the company was: Sinclair Mitchell (Mr. Hawkins), Ashanti J’aria (Mrs. Greene), Shavey Brown (Sheldon Saperstein), Gabrielle Beckford (Ensemble), Ashley Bruce (Ensemble), Maurice Dawkins (Ensemble), Jordan De Leon (Swing, Ensemble at our performance), James Caleb Grice (Ensemble), Megan Grosso (Ensemble), Marie Gutierrez (Ensemble), Chloe Rae Kehm (Ensemble), Braden Allen King (Ensemble), Brandon J. Large (Ensemble, Aug 9-14), Daniel May (Ensemble, Aug 16-Sep 11), Christopher McCrewell (Ensemble), Alexa Magro (Ensemble), Adriana Negron (Ensemble), Marcus Phillips (Ensemble), Lexie Plath (Swing, Co-Dance Captain), Zoë Brooke Reed (Ensemble), Thad Turner Wilson (Ensemble), and Josh Zacher (Ensemble, Co-Dance Captain).

Music was provided by an orchestra consisting of: Dean Balan (Conductor, Keyboard 1), Randi Ellen Rudolph (Assoc. Conductor, Keyboard 2), Ricky Roshell (Reed 1), Erika Friedman (Reed 2), Rob Slowik (Lead Trumpet), John Replogle (Trumpet), Stephen Flakus (Guitars and Banjo), Crissy Martinez (Acoustic & Electric Bass, Librarian), Derek Stoltenberg (Drums & Percussion), Glen Berger (Woodwind 1), 🌴 Keith Fiddmont (Woodwind 2); 🌴 Dan Fornero (Trumpet 1), 🌴 James Ford (Trumpet 2). The rest of the music department was: Robert Payne (L.A. Contractor); Howard Joines (Music Coordinator); Kay-Houston Music/Anne Kaye, Doug Houston (Music Copying); Jim Abbot (Synthesizer Programming); Chris Petti (Abletron Programming); Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Music Supervisor, Vocal Arrangements), Larry Hochman (Orchestrations); John Clancy (Additional Orchestrations); Glen Kelly (Music Arrangements).

The show was written by Bob Martin (Book), Chad Beguelin (Book & Lyrics), and Matthew Sklar (Music, Vocal Arrangements), based on an original concept by Jack Viertel. It was directed and Casey Nicolaw.

The design department consisted of: Scott Pask (Scenic Design), Ann Roth (Costume Design), Matthew Pachtman (Costume Design), Natasha Katz (Lighting Design), Brian Ronan (Sound Design), Josh Marquette (Hair Design), and Milagros Medina-Cerdeira (Makeup Design).

The production team consisted of: Casey Hushion (Assoc. Director), John Macinnis (Assoc. Choreographer), Kelsey Tippins (Production Stage Manager), Ben Shipley (Stage Manager), Kyle Dannahey (Asst. Stage Manager).

The tour departed the Ahmanson on Sept. 11, 2022 and has gone on to another city. Go see it if you can.


The second show we saw in August was If I Forget at the Fountain Theatre. This show, alas, succumbed to a common trend these days: A single page information sheet with a QR code for the program. Folks: QR codes for programs are ephemeral — they go away when you redesign the website or when the site. After that, what then? You, shall we say, forget. There should always be printed (or printable) full programs for archival purposes and people’s collections. The only thing worse is a bespoke interface that requires logins — which is what the Pasadena Playhouse and CTG does. Luckily, they provide printed programs.

If I Forget wasn’t initially in our plans. But the show featured the son of the former education director at our synagogue in the cast, which brought it onto our RADAR when I received the press release. I asked our Live Theatre group at our synagogue if they were interested in the show — and a large group was. Arrangements were put in place, and we went down as a group to see the show.

The piece itself was pretty interesting. I was afraid — especially from the title — that it would be a dark show about the Holocaust. Although there was a dark scene or two regarding that, it wasn’t the focus of the show. It really was more of a family drama, and about the clash of values from different family members. The family members also held various secrets, all of which came to a head when the question of selling the family business came to the fore.

The resulting show had some very humorous moments, likely due to the influence of the director, Jason Alexander. I found it a pretty enjoyable show.

Performances were strong. I had strong and good memories of the performance of Leo Marks (Michael Fisher)  and Samantha Klein (Sharon Fisher). Rounding out the cast were Síle Bermingham (Ellen Manning), Caribay Franke (Abby Fisher), Matt Gottlieb (Lou Fisher), Valerie Perri (Holly Fisher), Jerry Weil (Howard Kilberg), and Jacob Zelonky (Joey Oren). Evidently, the role of Abby Fisher was added by Alexander to tie things together better; I think it worked well.

The production was written by Steven Levenson, and directed by Jason Alexander.

The scenic team was Sarah Krainin (Scenic Design), Donny Jackson (Lighting Design), Cricket S. Myers (Sound Design), A. Jeffrey Schoenberg (Costume Design), Katelyn M. Lopez (Prop Design).

Rounding out the production team were: Allison Bibicoff (Asst. Director & Dance Composition), Shawna Voragen (Production Stage Manager), Lexie Secrist (Asst. Stage Manager), and Scott Tuomey (Technical Director).

The show was to close in September, but was extended to December 18. It resumes, after a hiatus, on October 28. Tickets are available through the Fountain Theatre.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. Looking ahead for the remainder of 2022:, September brings Jagged Little Pill at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party at the Morgan Wixson Theatre, and Oklahoma at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). October will bring Sanctuary City at the The Pasadena Playhouse (FB), Ghosts at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, The Addams Family at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and To Kill a Mockingbird at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). November brings 2:22 – A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, December will bring Annie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB).

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

 

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🛣 Headlines About California Highways – August 2022

As I write this, we’re in the middle of a heat wave in Southern California. The heat, summer weather, and monsoon season has caused all sorts of problems in the southern part of the state, including significant road washouts in Death Valley, along I-15, and along I-10. But through it all… I’ve been collecting headlines.

I’ve also been working on the California Highways Route by Route podcast. Episodes 1.01 and 1.02 are up. Ep 1.01 covers the state highway system before 1920, and features an interview with Adam Prince. Ep 1.02 discussed the highway system in the 1920s, and features an interview with Joel Windmiller of the Lincoln Highway Association. Both are available through the podcast’s home page, our page on anchor.fm, or through your favorite podcaster. Please spread the word on the podcast, write a review, and like it in your favorite podcaster. I’d like to see the listenership grow: as I write this, we have (through anchor.fm) 57 listens to the sample episode, 58 listens to ep 1.01, but only 32 to episode 1.02. So keep spreading the word. I’ve got 1.03, which features a long interview with the archivist of the Auto Club of Southern California, edited. I’ll upload it in mid-September.

I’m still looking for folks to interview for upcoming episodes. If you can help us find people to talk to, that would be great. Just let me know (comment here, or email daniel -at caroutebyroute -dot org. Here’s the list for the rest of the first season in terms of what I’m wanting in regard to interviews: 🎙 1.04: Someone to talk on the 1956 Interstate Highway Bill 🎙 1.05: Someone to talk on the impact of Pat Brown on highway construction in California and/or the impact of the great renumbering 🎙 1.06: Someone to talk on the impact of the California EQA act on highway construction 🎙 1.07: Someone to talk on how the state numbers state highways — in particular, anything official on numbering patterns, or the rules for signing things 🎙 1.08: Here I’d like someone to talk on the role of AASHTO on numbering US highways 🎙 1.09: This is Interstate numbering, so again an expert on Interstates — either numbering, the federal aid highway acts, or the chargeable/non-chargeable distinction 🎙 1.10: This is numbering of county highways, so anyone from a county public works department on the signed route system 🎙 1.11: A state legislator on highway naming resolutions 🎙 1.12: Someone from the California Transportation Commission on the role of the commission.  We’re also looking for a better theme song, so if you know of someone willing to write some short pieces for the show that we can use for free, that would be great.

With respect to the main highway pages: I should start work on the August / September / October updates shortly after the headlines are up. I’ll feel better about starting those updates once I have some of the podcast interviews lined up (podcast scripts are written through 1.09).

Enough of this shameless self-promotion. Here are the headlines that I found about California’s highways for August:

Key

[Ħ Historical information |  Paywalls, $$ really obnoxious paywalls, and  other annoying restrictions. I’m no longer going to list the paper names, as I’m including them in the headlines now. Note: For paywalls, sometimes the only way is incognito mode, grabbing the text before the paywall shows, and pasting into an editor.]

Highway Headlines

  • Caltrans looking for feedback on Highway 46 widening project (KSBY NBC 6). Caltrans is continuing work to widen Highway 46, and they’re asking for the public’s input. The agency wants to hear from drivers, businesses, and people who live in Shandon and surrounding areas. The feedback will be used in the next phase of widening work. “Currently, we’re in the final phases of design for the Antelope Grade segment and what we’re trying to do is compile information from travelers and people in the area,” said Alexa Bertola, public information officer for Caltrans District 5.
  • Multiple Closures, Including Last U.S. Exit, on Eastbound SR-905 to Close Monday Night (Caltrans District 11). Caltrans crews will close Britannia Blvd off-ramp on Monday, August 8, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. In addition, connectors from southbound SR-125 to eastbound SR-11 and eastbound SR-905 to eastbound SR-11 will close from August 9-11 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. In addition, southbound SR-125 to eastbound SR-11 and eastbound SR-905 to eastbound SR-11 will close from August 9-11 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The project includes asphalt and pavement micro-surfacing, new thermoplastic striping, and upgraded wrong-way driver striping enhancements, at all ramps along SR-905 from San Ysidro to Otay Mesa, and will continue thru late September
  • Caltrans begins southbound expansion of Highway 99 (Turlock Journal). Caltrans District 10 has officially began the process of widening State Route 99 (SR-99) going southbound between Turlock and Livingston, adding a third lane for a nine-mile stretch. The southbound expansion is the second phase of a greater project that saw a similar highway widening going northbound from Livingston to Turlock, which took place from November 2019 to April 2021. The southbound widening will be completed within a similar timeframe, beginning this week with an expected finish in January 2024. Funds for the southbound project construction were designated in the 2018 State Transportation Improvement Program.
  • Upcoming construction work on SR-1 between Ledroit St. and Cajon St. (Orange County Breeze). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is scheduled to resume work on Coast Highway (SR-1) between Ledroit St. and Cajon St. in the City of Laguna Beach. Construction is expected to begin Wednesday, August 10, 2022, through Thursday, September 1, 2022. The work will take place Monday through Friday nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Changeable Message Signs will be in place to notify motorists and residents of the upcoming work. Please note that noise from construction equipment during concrete pours or asphalt paving should be expected. This work, which started last Fall, is part of the Coast Highway ADA Sidewalk Improvement Project that will make the pedestrian routes along Coast Highway within the project limits ADA compliant. Construction will continue in the City of Laguna Beach at various locations between Ledroit St. and Ruby St.
  • Officials celebrate new freeway sound walls on 170 for NoHo and nearby neighborhoods (Metro – The Source). Metro today joined the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and other local and state officials to announce the completion of 5.4 miles of new sound walls along State Route 170 and Interstate 405 in the North Hollywood area of Los Angeles. The new $103-million sound wall project will bring freeway noise relief to the residents of North Hollywood, Valley Glen and Valley Village. Sound walls were completed specifically along State Route 170, from US 101 to Sherman Way, and along Interstate 405 from Saticoy Avenue to Roscoe Boulevard. The project also included the widening of eight bridges to support the sound walls without widening the lanes.

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