🎭 Lizards and Lovers | “She Loves Me” @ Actors Co-Op

She Loves Me (Actors Co-Op)What is the odd connection between the Austin Lounge Lizards and the musical She Loves Me? The last time we saw She Loves Me, back in 2014 at the Chance Theatre, we saw an afternoon matinee, and then rushed to Culver City to see the Lizards at Boulevard Music. Last weekend, we actually moved our tickets for She Loves Me  at Actors Co-op (FB) to Sunday so we could see the Austin Lounge Lizards at Boulevard Music on Saturday night. We still rushed on Sunday: this time from Stitches So Cal in Pasadena to Hollywood for She Loves Me.

Oh well, at least it allows me to repeat my description of the show itself.

For those unfamiliar with She Loves Me, you probably know the story but by another name. The story started out as the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo. This was later made into the movie The Shop around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan in 1940. It was then re-made into the movie In The Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson in 1949. Most recently, it was re-made into the movie You’ve Got Mail in 1998 with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. On the stage, however, in 1963 Parfumerie was turned into the musical She Loves Me by Joe Masteroff (book — he later went on to do the book of Caberet), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics — he next went on to Fiddler on the Roof), and Jerry Bock (music — and again Fidder).

The basic bones of the story are simple: Single man has a pen pal with whom he is falling in love. Single gal has a pen pal with whom she is falling in love. Single man and single gal work at the same place and hate each other’s guts, without knowing that each is the other’s pen pal. Now, bring them together with some catalyst, turn the gears, and enjoy the show.

In the case of She Loves Me, the story sticks pretty close to the original source. Georg is a clerk at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest in 1937 (although there are no hints of war — evidently, the real world doesn’t intrude on this story). He works together with the other clerks: Ilona, Sipos, and Kodaly, and the delivery boy Arpad, for Mr. Maraczek. When the competing parfumerie closes, one of their clerks, Amalia, talks her way into a clerk job (which upsets Georg, who starts getting on her case). While all this is happening, Kodaly is busy persuing anything in a skirt — in particular, Ilona. When Mr. Maraczek suspects his wife of cheating, he starts bearing down on Georg, who passes the pressure on to the rest of the staff — making things even testier with Amalia. His only consolation is his pen-pal, who he has never met or seen, but loves anyway. He schedules a rendezvous with her, without knowing she is really Amalia. They day they are to meet, Georg gets fired and send Sipos to tell his unknown date he won’t be there. Sipos sees it is Amalia, and gets Georg to go talk to her. Thinking he is spying on her, they have a gigantic fight. End Act I. In Act II, of course, all things predictably come together in predictable fashion, which I, predictably, won’t spoil :-).

The music in this story is just a delight. From the initial “Good Morning, Good Day” to “Days Gone By” to “Tonight at Eight” to “Try Me” to “Ice Cream” to “She Loves Me” to “A Trip to the Library” — it is just a joy. If you haven’t heard the score, I strongly suggest you pick up one of the cast albums out there. You’ll fall in love with it.

So, we’ve established that we have a classic love story with a winning score. Why isn’t this musical done more? In 1963, there were the big song and dance numbers that people expected, and it was booked into the wrong theatre at the wrong time — and thus lost money. This led to a perception that it was a failed show. Remember , however, that Chicago was a failure when it first hit Broadway. Often great shows aren’t always profitable or recognized as such. You can learn more about the show and the details of the synopsis at Wikipedia.

So how did Actors Co-Op do, when compared to Chance? Under the direction and choreography of Cate Caplin (FB), the actors were clearly having fun with the piece, and that fun was projected to the audience. The overall company was quite fun to watch, and there was lots of joy in the production.

In the lead positions were Claire Adams as Amalia Balash and  Kevin Shewey (FB) as Georg Nowack. We had seen both before in the Actors Co-Op production of Violet back in May: they were strong then, and they gave strong performances now. They have great singing voices, wonderful personalities that come through in their performances, and a nice chemistry between the two of them (demonstrated exceptionally well in the second act).

In the second tier, we had the other clerks at Maraczek’s: Darren Bluestone as Steven Kodaly, Beau Brians (FB) as Arpad Laszlo, Avrielle Corti (FB) as Ilona Ritter, and Tim Hodgin (FB) as Ladislav Sipos. I was really taken by the performances of Corti and Hodin. Both had these wonderful twinkles and characterizations that made them a delight to watch; both also sang well.  Brians brought a great boyish charm to Arpad, and was strong in his numbers. I was a bit less taken by Bluestone: he had fun with the Gaston-ish primping, but otherwise, I got no real sense of his character or what he was bringing to the role.

In a slightly smaller role was Greg Martin (FB)’s Mr. Maraczek. He brought the right amount of gruffness and tenderness to the role, and was fun to watch.

Rounding out the cast in small named roles and ensemble positions were Carolyn Carothers (FB) [Parfumerie Customer, Cafe Patron]; Cy Creamer (FB) [Keller]; Phil Crowley [Headwaiter]; Tyler Joseph Ellis (FB) [Busboy, Arpadu/s]; Rachel Geis [Parfumerie Customer, Cafe Patron]; and Carly Lopez (FB) [Parfumerie Customer, Cafe Patron]. All were fun to watch, especially the mix in the 12 Days to Christmas sequence. The customers, in particular, brought some interesting and different characterizations to their tracks each time they appeared.

Understudies were Lea Madda (FB) [Ilona Ritteru/s]; and Susanna Vaughan (FB) [Amalia Balashu/s].

The biggest difference from the Chance production was the orchestra. Whereas Chance had a single piano and gypsy violin, Actors Co-Op had 6 pieces: Keyboards (Anthony Lucca, who also served as conductor); Violin (Miyuki Miyagi); Cello (Cyrus Elia); Reeds (Austin Chanu); Trumpet (Nathan Serot); and Percussion (Ian Hubbell). The orchestra had good sound, although a few notes sounded a bit off.

Turning to the technical and production: Stephen Gifford (FB)’s set design was, as usual, elegant and worked well within the confines of the Schall Theatre space. It was supported by Lori Berg (FB)’s property design. Michael Mullen (FB)’s costume design also worked well in conjunction with Klint Flowers wig, hair, and makeup. Sound design was by Adam R. Macias, with lighting by Luke Moyer (FB).  Derek R. Copenhaver (FB) was the stage manager, assisted by  James Ledesma (FB). Other credits:  Heather Chesley (FB) [Artistic Chairwoman];  Selah Victor (FB) [Production Manager]; Nora Feldman [Publicity].

She Loves Me continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through December 16, 2018. It’s a cute show; you’ll enjoy it. Tickets are available through the Actors Co-Op Website; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

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

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

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

 

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🎭 Pride Cometh Before the Fall | “Rope” @ Actors Co-Op

Rope (Actors Co-Op)Why do we see the shows that we see? After all, given my druthers, I tend to pick musicals over plays, comedies over dramas. But this is where the importance of a season subscription at a theatre that does good work comes in. In additional to getting the biggies that bring in the Broadway stuff or do only musicals (Pantages, Ahmanson, 5-Star Theatricals), we always include in our subscription mix small to mid-size theatres that do a mix of dramas and musicals, new and old. This brings in the work I might not normally pick, and broadens our horizons.

That is one of the many reasons we subscribe to Actors Co-op (FB). I don’t necessarily align with their mission (ministry), but their shows are top notch, their selections always interesting, and the acting excellent. The dramas that they pick challenge our thinking, and that is a good thing. That is work worth supporting.

Last night’s show was no exception. I’m not one for dark shows, and I’m not into thrillers or murder mysteries (other than TV procedurals). I’ve never seen the 1948 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rope. The closest I’ve come to seeing live theatre revolving around the perfect crime is listening to the cast album of the musical Thrill Me, which is the story of Leopold and Loeb who also thought they had committed the perfect crime, and who thought they were intellectually superior (hmmm, some interesting parallels there). This was not a show I would have picked to go see. But it was part of the season, and so we went.

I’m glad we did. It was a very interesting show, from the suddenness of the opening, to the arrogance of the crime and the dinner party, to the method of resolution. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and my mind was involved with the story. Would they get away with it? You know the answer going in: murderers never get away with it because our story conventions dictate that is not an acceptable resolution. So the real question was: How would they be discovered? For that, Patrick Hamilton‘s story worked quite well. It kept the discovery right on the edge until the eventual climax of the story.

The rough outline of the story is this: Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo devise a scheme to murder a classmate of theirs, the sun of Sir Johnstone Kentley. They do this, and put his body in a locked chest in their house. They then host a dinner party where they invite the young man’s father (the aforementioned Sir Johnstone Kentley), the father’s sister Mrs. Debenham, and three of their friends: Kenneth Raglan, Leila Arden, and Rupert Cadell. They latter they thought might have been smart enough to join them in the murder, but decided not to invite him because he wouldn’t have the gumption to go through with it. They felt they would get pleasure during the party because the guest would be unaware there was a body in the chest. But then one of the guest jokes that there could be a locked body in there, and …. well, I’ll spare you the details but there is the steady march to discovery.

One of the relevant notions of this play is the idea that arrogance is a personal characteristic that often leads to a downfall. We see that in the murder here, where the perpetrators are so confident that they have pulled it off that their behavior gives them away. It is something that is seen in Leopold and Loeb. It is something we’re seeing in politics today, where arrogance of the party in charge that thinks it is smarter than everyone else, and therefore can do anything they want — moral or immoral — may be coming back to bite them. One wonders if this is subtle ministry from the company, for it is the Bible that notes “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Clearly, it is the pride of Brandon and Granillo that lead to their fall.

Under the direction of Ken Sawyer (FB), the performances are tight. There is an enthusiasm and a belief and personification of their characters that the actors capture spot-on, from bubbly to panicked, from nervous to intrigued. Leading the charge are our two murders: Burt Grinstead (★FB, FB) as Wyndham Brandon and David Huynh (FB) as Charles Granillo. Both capture the arrogance and fear of the characters well, especially Grinstead for the former, and Huynh for the latter. They were fun to watch.

In the next group, I put the three younger characters invited to the dinner party: Kyle Anderson (★FB, FB) [Kenneth Raglan]; Heidi Palomino (FB) [Leila Arden]; and Donnie Smith (FB) [Rupert Cadell]. Of these, my favorite was Smith. He kept reminding me of someone, and I figured it out after the show — he was a mix of Tim Curry and Christian Borle, which a wry smile and a playfulness that was delightful to watch. He truly gave the impression of a cat that was just wondering when he was going to pounce and get it over with, with never a doubt. Anderson and Smith were more supporting: Anderson as the good natured chum who was up for anything, and Palomino as the over-eager young thing, easily excitable. The script set the two up as an eventual couple, and there was clear chemistry between the two. This was not a surprise — writing this up I discovered that they are married in real life. There affection and like for each other came across well in these roles.

In the older category were Carl Johnson (FB) as Sir Johnstone Kently and Elizabeth Herron (FB) as Mrs. Debenham. Johnson’s role called for him being the upstanding father, which he handled well. Herron’s role was more interesting, as her character spoke very little. She seemed to handle it very well, especially the bit with the rope.

Rounding out the cast was Actors Co-op regular Deborah Marlowe (FB) as the maid, Sabot. She brought her usual humor to the role, and was fun to watch as always.

Understudies were Julia Aks (★FB, FB) and Isaac W. Jay.

Hellen Harwell (FB)’s scenic design used lots of red and black to establish the mood — from the floors to the furnishing. I’m always amazed by the skills of the scenic designer to create flooring effects and how they finish furniture to create a mood, and this show was no exception. It all worked quite well. Also strong was Adam R. Macias‘s sound design, which used sound to great effect to startle and distract. Supporting all of this was Matthew Richter (FB)’s lighting design, especially the very dark blackouts. Paula Higgins (FB)’s costumes worked well, although my wife noted that the seam on Palomino’s stockings should have been a little straighter. Other production credits: David Scales [Production Manager]; Lydia Soto [Stage Manager];  Nora Feldman (FB) [Publicist];  Kevin Shewey(FB[Producer]; and  Heather Chesley (FB[Artistic Chairwoman].

Rope continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through October 28, 2018. Tickets are available through the Actors Co-Op Website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

The last weekend brings Bark: The Musical at Theatre Palisades (FB). October is also getting quite full. It starts with Oppenheimer at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). The following weekend brings Moon River -The Music of Henry Mancini at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). The third weekend of October brings Shrek at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October will close with the Contemporary Crafts Show in Pasadena.

Continuing the lookahead: November starts with She Loves Me at Actors Co-op (FB) and Stitches So Cal. The second weekend of November is very busy: Dear Even Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and A Bronx Tale at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), as well as A Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) (FB). The third weekend of November brings Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend has Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Then we may travel up to the Bay Area for Tuck Everlasting at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (FB). Lastly, January will start with Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB).

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

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🎭 Cross-Dressing, Strange Attractions, and Love in Hollywood | “Twelfth Night” @ Actors Co-Op

Twelfth Night (or What You Will) (Actors Co-Op)What is summer without Shakespeare.  Shakespeare in the park. Shakespeare in the woods. Shakespeare as summer festivals. Last year, our Shakespeare fix came in the form of one of my favorite musicals, Two Gentlemen of Verona at FPAC (and as a PS, they’re about to do The Theory of Relativity, which we saw last year at CSHP, but you should definitely go see as it is a great song cycle), and a new musical that was Shakespeare-adjacent, Something Rotten. This year, our first Shakespeare production comes from Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood, as part of the Actors Co-Op Too! Summer Series.  Actors Co-Op Too! is a series of short run productions used to explore new plays, grow new directors and new actors, and season the acting muscles of existing company members.  Their selection: Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

I don’t recall seeing this particular play before, but I have seen two of the musical adaptations: The Sheldon Epps / Duke Ellington jukebox-er version, Play On!, at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) back in 1999, and the Joe DiPietro / Elvis jukebox-er All Shook Up! at the Morgan-Wixson in 2016. Going in, I was a bit unsure: The iambic-pentameter always takes me a while to get into, and sometimes I find myself missing much of the story because of it.

I’m pleased to say that this was a delightful adaptation of the show. Although I did find the iambic pentameter a bit unsettling at the start, I got into it relatively quickly and was caught up in the story. For as much as you might think Shakespeare was stodgy, this was playful, at times raunchy in Elizabethan language, and just fun to watch as the actors had great fun with their roles. This was one of Shakespeare’s comedies, which means that everyone falls in love by the end of the show (as opposed to being dead, a hallmark of his tragedies). I just had a great time.

For those unfamiliar with Twelfth Night, here’s a slightly edited summation of the story from Wikipedia:

As the play starts, Viola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and she comes ashore with the help of a Captain. She has lost contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, who she believes to be drowned. With the aid of the Captain, she disguises herself as a young man under the name Cesario, and enters the service of Duke Orsino. Duke Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with Olivia, who is mourning the recent deaths of her father and brother. She refuses to see entertainments, be in the company of men, or accept love or marriage proposals from anyone, the Duke included, until seven years have passed. Duke Orsino then uses ‘Cesario’ as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia. Olivia, however, falls in love with ‘Cesario’, setting her at odds with her professed duty. In the meantime, Viola has fallen in love with the Duke Orsino, creating a love triangle among Duke Orsino, Olivia and Viola: Viola loves Duke Orsino, Duke Orsino loves Olivia, and Olivia loves Viola disguised as Cesario.

In the comic subplot, several characters conspire to make Olivia’s pompous steward, Malvolio, believe that Olivia has fallen for him. This involves Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch; a silly squire and would-be suitor named Sir Andrew Aguecheek; her servants Maria and Fabian; and her melancholy fool, Feste. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew engage themselves in drinking and revelry, thus disturbing the peace of Olivia’s household until late into the night, prompting Malvolio to chastise them. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria plan revenge on Malvolio. They convince Malvolio that Olivia is secretly in love with him by planting a love letter, written by Maria in Olivia’s handwriting. It asks Malvolio to wear yellow stockings cross-gartered, to be rude to the rest of the servants, and to smile constantly in the presence of Olivia. Malvolio finds the letter and reacts in surprised delight. He starts acting out the contents of the letter to show Olivia his positive response. Olivia is shocked by the changes in Malvolio and agreeing that he seems mad, leaves him to be cared for by his tormentors. Pretending that Malvolio is insane, they lock him up in a dark chamber. Feste visits him to mock his insanity, both disguised as a priest and as himself.

Meanwhile, Viola’s twin, Sebastian, has been rescued by Antonio, a sea captain who previously fought against Orsino, yet who accompanies Sebastian to Illyria, despite the danger, because of his affection for Sebastian. Taking Sebastian for ‘Cesario’, Olivia asks him to marry her, and they are secretly married in a church. Finally, when ‘Cesario’ and Sebastian appear in the presence of both Olivia and Orsino, the fact that they are twins creates more issues. At this point, Viola reveals her identity and is reunited with her twin brother. The play ends in a declaration of marriage between Duke Orsino and Viola, and it is learned that Sir Toby has married Maria. Malvolio swears revenge on his tormentors and stalks off, but Orsino sends Fabian to placate him.

Convoluted and contrived plot, but this is Shakespeare from the turn of the 17th century. You were expecting August Wilson or Tennessee Williams? Styles of plots have changed.

Under the direction of Jesse Corti (FB), and the production efforts of Avrielle Corti (FB) and Kimi Walker (FB) (both in the cast), this was a  fun show. The actors handled the language well, and the direction made the characters seem as realistic as any Shakespearean characters might be.  More importantly, the actors didn’t let the language get in the way. They were clearly having fun with their characters; when actors do that, that fun is broadcast to the audience. The resulting feedback loop just amplifies the joy in the production.

In the lead position was Avrielle Corti (FB) as Viola/Cesario. She brought a cuteness and spunk and playfulness to the character that just made her a delight to watch; there was joy when she was on-stage. Her expressions and emotions, especially in the second act during the fight scenes with Sir Andrew and the final scenes, were just so fun.

Rounding out the love triangle was Jade Patteri (★FB, FB) as Olivia and Roman Guastaferro (FB) as Orsino. I truly enjoyed Patteri’s performance. Although she started out a little stiff, her delight when she was around Corti’s Cesario was just so expressive. Her squeals and joy in the second act with Sebastian were wonderful. We saw a bit less of Guastaferro’s Orsino, and as a Shakespearean male, he was a bit more restrained. Still, he conveyed well his obsession with Olivia.

Adding to the fog of humor around this was the comic subplot, primarily featuring Michael Beattie (FB) as Sir Toby Belch, Renato Biribin Jr as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Julietta Corti (FB) as Maria, Deborah Marlowe (FB) (filling in for Zachary Poole (FB)) as the fool Feste, David Crowley (FB) as Fabian, and Dan Hazel (FB) as Malvolio. Beattie was having the time of his life playing the drunk at Belch — and he did it well — and I particularly enjoyed his joy with the humor around Belch passing gass. Biribin was also having fun with his portrayal of Aguecheeck as the traditional whitefaced milquetoast (I’m not sure of the right word, but it was a character common in Shakespeare — I’m recalling Thurio in TGOV). Perhaps he overplayed him a little, but this was a Shakespeare comedy and that’s how those characters were done. Corti’s Maria was similarly playful and plotting, and seemed to be having great fun once the comic subplot hit full steam. Marlowe is someone we’ve seen many times at Co-op, most recently on the same set in A Man for All Seasons. She excels at roles like this — the fool commenting on society. Crowley’s Fabian was a bit more in the background. I don’t recall him in the first act at all; in the second, he was more of a playful co-conspirator than a distinctly unique character. Lastly, there was Hazel’s Malvolio. Again, he was having fun with his role — playing him intentionally overbearing at first, and loosening up as the love subplot came to the fore.

Rounding out the cast were Shane Weikel (FB) as Sebastian, Kyle Morr (FB) as the Captain / First Officer, Andrew Nowak (FB) as Antonio, Mikie Beatty (FB) as Curio / 2nd Officer, Maurice McGraw as the Priest, and Christopher Gilstrap (FB) and Kimi Walker (FB) as attendants and servants. All were strong. My only quibble here isn’t performance but casting: if Sebastian and Viola were supposed to be twins, it would have helped had they been a bit closer in facial features. There was a bit of suspension of disbelief required to make the twin argument work in this production.

Turning to the production side. Set design was credited to Karen Hodgin, athough she was building on Rich Rose‘s Scenic Design from A Man for All Seasons. What little additional design there was came from added props and such. Costume design was by Elisabeth Van Stralen (FB) and seemed suitable; Krys Fehervari (FB) did the hair and makeup. The Finale Jig choreography was by Julietta Corti (FB) and was fun to watch; Jesse David Corti (FB) composed the music for “Come Away Death” and the Finale Jig. Other production credits: Christopher Keene [Swords and Props]; Diane Venora [Text Coach]; Charles Gray [Special Effects]; Warren Davis [Sound Design]; Zachary Poole (FB) [Poster and Playbill]; Elizabeth Eichler [Stage Manager]. There was no credit for lighting design.

There is one more weekend for Twelfth Night. Reservations may be made through Actors Co-Op. This is essentially pay-what-you-can, as there is no charge for the performance, but donations may be made at the door.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings Merrily We Roll Along, a guest production at the Colony Theatre (FB). The last weekend of August will bring more Shakespeare — this time Macbeth at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (FB).

Looking forward to September: The first weekend of September is currently open, but I’m looking for shows in the Sacramento area. The second has a hold date for I Dig Rock and Roll Music at the Rubicon in Ventura — whether we go depends on ticket prices. The third weekend has Ain’t Too Proud at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on Friday, followed by Paradise – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy at the Ruskin Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The fourth weekend has Rope at Actors Co-op (FB), and the fifth brings Bark: The Musical at Theatre Palisades (FB). October is also getting quite full. It starts with Oppenheimer at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). The following weekend has a HOLD for Moon River -The Music of Henry Mancini at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB) — I’m just waiting for tickets to come up on Goldstar. The third weekend of October brings Shrek at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October will close with the Contemporary Crafts Show in Pasadena.

Continuing the lookahead: November starts with She Loves Me at Actors Co-op (FB) and Stitches So Cal. The second weekend of November is very busy: Dear Even Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and A Bronx Tail at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), as well as A Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) (FB). The third weekend of November brings Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend has a hold for Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Then we may travel up to the Bay Area for Tuck Everlasting at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (FB). Lastly, January will start with Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB).

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

 

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🎭 A Harmonious Production | “Always Andrews” @ Actors Co-Op

Always Andrews (Actors Co-Op)Our second show of the weekend was a much simpler production (in fact, I was thinking it could have been mounted at the Fringe Festival — it was that simple): Always Andrews, part of the Actors Co-Op Too! Summer Series at  Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood.  Actors Co-Op Too! is a series of short run productions used to explore new plays, grow new directors and new actors, and season the acting muscles of existing company members. In this case, company member Jorie Janeway (FB) brought in a production she had been developing with two friends, Carlyn Connolly (FB) and Katharine Quinn (FB) that was essentially a showcase of the music and history of The Andrews Sisters, a sibling group (Patty, Laverne, Maxine) that was popular during World War II. They were known for their tight harmonies, their humor, and there unique musical stylings and approaches to songs.

Janeway, Connolly, and Quinn had developed the notion for this show while working together on a different show in Virginia; they had been honing it over the years. Quinn was unavailable for this run, so Adrian Mustain (FB) jumped in with only a week or two of preparation.  The performers did two sets of Andrews Sisters songs:

 

Set 1 Set 2
Sing, Sing, Sing! Hold Tight
Well, All Right! European Medley
Gimme Some Skin Love Medley
In The Mood Straighten Up and Fly Right
Shoo-Shoo Baby Bounce Me, Brother, With a Solid Four
Accentuaate the Positive Rhumboogie
I’ve Got a Guy in Kalamazoo Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Chattanooga Choo-Choo
Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar
Tropics Medley
Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree

 

I thought the selection of songs was good, although they should look to included one of the Andrews Sisters’ “injected patter” songs — listen to something like their version of “Sonny Boy” for an example. I also thought a bit more history would be good: they didn’t mention the sisters by name. One person during the talkback noted they should indicated how they got their start. I think it would also be worth noting what happened after the war: they continued during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Sherman Brothers of Disney-fame developed a Broadway show around them.

Each performer did not assume the role of a particular sister, although Jorie did most of the humorous bits. I thought that both Jorie and Carlyn had strong singing voices. Adrian’s was a bit weaker, but she noted during the talkback that it was stronger the week before, so it could have just been a touch of strain. I thought they had the movement down well, and had a good interaction with each other.

If they are still in town when next June rolls around, I suggest that they do this at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. They could easily do it within the confines of the festival — 15 minutes in, 15 minutes out — as they have no particular set and no costume changes, and it could give them some very strong exposure.

Music was provided by Chadwick Harmon on Piano and Kyle Dombroski (FB) on Drums.

We caught the last performance of this show. Next week we catch the last Actors Co-Op Too! show, Twelfth Night.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend of August will be Merrily We Roll Along, a guest production at the Colony Theatre (FB).

Looking forward to September: The first weekend of September is currently open. The second has a hold date for I Dig Rock and Roll Music at the Rubicon in Ventura. The third weekend has Ain’t Too Proud at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on Friday, followed by Paradise – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy at the Ruskin Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The fourth weekend has Rope at Actors Co-op (FB), and the fifth brings Bark: The Musical at Theatre Palisades (FB). October is still open, with only two weekends currently booked, and one with a hold date.

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

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Seeing Beneath the Surface | “Violet” @ Actors Co-Op

Violet (Actors Co-Op)A few weeks ago, I wrote about the stark difference between two shows by the same composer (in that case, the team of Andrew Lloyd Webber (FB) and Glenn Slater (FB)): School of Rock was fantastic, whereas Love Never Dies really should have. Last night brought a similar comparison. Last week, I wrote about how Soft Power at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), with a score by Jeanine Tesori, landed with a thud. Last night, we saw an earlier show by Jeanine Tesori, Violet, at Actors Co-op (FB) and it was glorious and soaring and delightful. It even was a temporary cure for a migraine, it was that good.

I’ve seen Violet before — I saw the West Coast Premier almost three years ago to the day at the El Portal in NoHo, produced by Kelrik Productions. Last nights production was a bit larger and had a bit — just a bit — more props, but was equal if not stronger performance-wise. Before I go into those performances, let me describe the first, stealing from my description of three years ago:

Violet (Music by the aforementioned Jeanine Tesori, lyrics and book by Brian Crawley, based on “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts) tells the story of Violet Karl of Spruce Pine, NC in 1964. When Violet was 12, an accident with her father and an axe left her with a large facial scar, from cheek to nose. Ever since, she has been teased and grown to accept her ugliness. Keeping her going was a faith healer in Tulsa OK. Now 25, Violet has raised enough money to take Greyhound to Tulsa to be healed. Going through Tennessee, she meets two Army soliders: a black sergeant named Grady “Flick” Fliggins, and a young white corporal named Monty. Both take an interest in Violet. While overnighting in Memphis in a hotel that accommodates blacks, they go out to party and Monty ends up sleeping with Violet (although Violet told Flick she had left the door unlatched).  When they arrive at Fort Smith AR, the Monty indicates he will come back Saturday to meet her bus after she’s done in Tulsa. She continues on to Tulsa where she meets the healer… and you can likely predict what happens there. I won’t spoil the details of the end of the story, but you can read them on the Wiki page for the musical. Throughout the show, there are regular flashbacks to young Violet and her father showing their relationship and how she reacted to the scar and the absence of her mother. PS: I also found a wonderful scene breakdown.

Violet (Production Photostrip)This is a show with a strong message — and it isn’t about the charade of faith healers (although there is a strong message of the power of belief). At one point, the phrase Act ugly, do ugly, be ugly.” is used. In many ways, this is the underlying metaphor for the show. What you believe about yourself, how you behave, is what makes you ugly or beautiful. At the beginning of the show, Violet sees herself, due to the scar, as ugly. Later on in the show, after she believes she has been healed, you can see the change in her — she now believes she is beautiful and through the stint of that belief, transforms. But it isn’t just Violet. We see the soldiers transform from acting ugly to becoming caring people. We see, in the reactions of others, ugliness reflects. What becomes important is not “Act ugly, do ugly, be ugly” but its counterpoint: “Act beautiful, do beautiful, be beautiful.” It is our beliefs and behaviors that dictate how society sees us. Further, given this is the south in 1964, it is how society behaves — beautiful or ugly — that determines what society is.

This production of Violet, directed by Richard Israel (FB) with choreography by  Julie Hall (FB), was a delight. The performances were remarkable, with great facial expressions and believable reactions, wonderful movement, and soaring voices.

In the lead position was Claire Adams as Violet. I had so much fun watching her perform this role. She had a strong singing voice, but what got me more was the attitude she displayed and her facial expressions, She displayed a wonderful range of attitudes, and truly made the show special. Effectively paired with her was the younger version of Violet, played by Lily Zager (FB). She captured a similar range of attitude well and had a great singing voice. Even better was when the two of them sang together; their voices merged together delightfully. Just watch the two of them in the opening number or “Luck of the Draw”. [PS: Claire also designs webpages, a fact not in her bio but one of the ads]

Primarily playing off the adult Violet were the two soldiers she met on the bus ride:  Morgan West (FB) as Monty and Jahmaul Bakare (FB) as Flick. West gave a very tender portrayal of Monty, capturing not only bravado of a man entering the special forces, but the tenderness of a man who connected with a girl inside the damaged shell.  We’ve seen Jahmaul Bakare before — he was in the previous production we saw, where I wrote Bakare had a voice that would just make you melt; it was particularly notable in numbers such as “Let It Sing” and “Hard To Say Goodbye”.  He hasn’t changed, and is wonderful to listen to.

Primarily playing off the younger Violet was John Allsopp as Violet’s father. We saw Allsopp ages ago in Pest Control, so long ago he doesn’t list it on his resume! He gave an intense performance, ranging from the playful in “Luck of the Draw” to the emotional in the “That’s What I Could Do” number. His intensity in that number was just remarkable.

The remaining actors played multiple roles as bus passengers, as well as members of the ensemble. There are a few performances that are worth singling out. First and foremost is Kevin Shewey (FB) as the Televangelist Preacher (also Bus Driver, Gospel Choir).  He played the preacher with such intensity and spirit that I almost got up. Alas, my Judaism won out :-). He was also a strong singer in “Raise Me Up”. As we’re talking about church, I’d also like to single out Benai Boyd (FB) who portrayed Lulu Buffington, the lead Gospel singer (also: Almeta (Landlady) and a bus passenger). She had a wonderful voice during the gospel number. The next performer worthy of note was Lauren Thompson (FB), who for the longest time was our box office contact for this company. She played the Music Hall Singer, as well as a member of the Gospel choir and a bus passenger. I never realized that she had such a lovely voice. Lastly, I’d like to mention Co-Op regular Lori Berg (FB), who was wonderful as old lady on the bus (also: hotel hooker, gospel choir). Rounding out the ensemble as various bus passengers and choir members were: Patrick Cheek (FB) [Virgil, Leroy Evans]; Matthew Podeyn (FB) [Billy Dean, Waiter, Radio Singer]; and Emuna Rojkumar (FB).

Music was provided by a 5 piece band, conducted by Taylor Stephenson. The band consisted of Ellie Bunker [Violin]; Thomas Lovasz [Cello]; Dominic White [Guitar 1]; Manuel Mendoza (FB) [Bass]; and Jorge Zuniga (FB) [Drums]. The band had a wonderful sound.

Finally, turning to the production side. This performance was held in the Crossley Theatre, which is essentially a thrust staging with audience on three sides of the main action. The sides were made up to look like bus windows, and there were 1950’s style (mimicing PCC busses) movable benches and seats that became the various problems. Credit for the scenic design goes to Nicholas Acciani (FB), and it worked very well, Supporting this design was  Wendell C. Carmichael‘s costumes, which seamed reasonably appropriate for the era (I have a few quibbles on the Army uniforms — they conveyed the message but were lacking the normal uniform accouterments).  Cameron Combe (FB)’s sound provided the appropriate sound effects. Martha Carter‘s lighting design worked well, modulo a misbehaving LED above the band that wasn’t her fault. Remaining credits: Klint Flowers [Hair and Makeup]; Samantha Ramirez [Properties]; Derek R. Copenhaver (FB) [Stage Manager]; Jamie Mills [Asst. Stage Manager]Heather Chesley (FB) [Artistic Chairwoman];  Selah Victor (FB) [Production Manager]; Nora Feldman [Publicity]Thomas Chavira (FB) [Producer].

Violet continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through June 15. Go see it; it is a wonderful production with great music. Tickets are available through Actors Co-Op; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

Actors Co-Op has announced their 2018-2019 season, which consists of: Rope (Sept 21-Oct 28); She Loves Me (Nov 2 – Dec 16); Anna Karenina (Feb 8-Mar 17); Steel Magnolias (Mar 22-May 5); and The Christians (May 10-Jun 16). They’ve also announced their Co-Op Too! summer series: Stories of Madness from the Mindful Nut (July 20-22, 27-29); Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters (Aug 2-5); and Twelfth Night, or What You Will (Aug 10-12, 17-19). We’ve subscribed. So should you.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Ramat Zion on Shabbat; the weekend itself is currently open.

June — ah, June. That, my friends, is reserved for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), including The Story of My Life from Chromolume Theatre (FB). You can find a detailed discussion of the Fringe schedule here. Right now, it looks like the following:

July will get busier again. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The next weekend brings Jane Eyre The Musical at Chromolume Theatre (FB) at the Hudson [yeah! Chromolume found a new location]. The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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

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What Price, Silence? | “A Man for All Seasons” at Actors Co-Op

A Man for All Seasons (Actors Co-Op)What is your responsibility to your internal moral compass, and how does that responsibility change when your compass points a different direction than your national leadership? This is a question that many of us face today: We have compass that teach us compassion for others, to be reasonable stewards of the world, to strive for equity and equality and even tempers. We have respect for the rule of law, and withhold judgement until we have the facts. We respect others, be they different sexes, genders, colors, abilities. But we are faced with an administration that seems to abandon those values — in fact, it thumbs its nose at what many of us respect, taking actions that appear to serve only the self interest of the ruling family and the oligarchs. Our elected officials? They seem to have no moral compass, worrying only about their own political lives and careers, and seeming to do or say only that which keeps them in office and in favor of the current administration.

But this is nothing new. Back in the era of the Showtime show The Tudors, there was a similar situation with King Henry VIII. He had tired of his wife, and wanted another woman. The only thing standing in his way was the Catholic Church, church canon, and church law. So he pressured his Bishops to find a way for him to divorce his wife, and when he couldn’t, he fired them and brought in new leadership. He bullied his administration to create a new church where he would be the supreme leader, and demanded an oath of sovereignty from all accepting that his way was the right and divine way. If you wouldn’t agree, it was the towers, torture, and beheading in your future.

But one man thought he had figured out a way to beat the system. He disagreed with the King — his moral and religious principals told him that the King did not have this authority. But he was a lawyer, and so he didn’t speak his beliefs. He stayed silent and attempted to work tightly within the law. Even when the Oath was being enforced, he stayed silent on what he thought was wrong — because silence signaled neither assent or dissent. But when the King wants an answer, silence is taken as resistance. As he would not speak up for the King, he must be against the King. And so, in the end, his head rolled like many others. He was a martyr for his silence.

He was Sir Thomas More, and he was the subject of the play just finishing its run at the  Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood, A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt (which we saw last night). It was a story with which I had been familiar, being addicted to The Tudors when it was on (plus going to Ren Faire). More was a man with strong and unwavering moral conditions, but who did not speak up or act (other than to resign) . The situation of More had lots of parallels with the situation this nation is facing with Donald Trump.

The production was also an interesting juxtaposition of play and the mission of Actors Co-Op. Being Jewish, I’m always a bit troubled by the religious aspect of this theatre group, whose mission states they are a company of Christian actors driven by passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m always worried a bit about proselytizing or particular themes in productions. However, the quality of the productions wins me over. I felt their mission a bit more with this show — in particular, I felt them not being silent through it. For as much as the evangelicals back Trump, the President’s actions and behavior are decidedly non-Christian. They show none of the compassion shown by Jesus towards the poor and the stranger; they have none of the social justice component of Christ’s ministry (and none of the social justice of the Old Testament and Jewish beliefs). This belief is social justice is shown in the ministry of Actor’s Co-Op sponsoring organization, the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. I believe that, through this show, Actors Co-Op wasn’t being silent: they were saying that Trump’s values are not Christian values, and that people attempting to claim they are do so to preserve their power and position, not to make the world a better place.

I applaud Actors Co-Op for this reminder. Sir Thomas More went to the gallows for being silent and not speaking up. Had a person of More’s moral conviction and standing spoken up sooner, might things have changed. Challenging authority with the truth is dangerous, but vital if change is to occur and the world is to become a better place. This production made you think about the need to speak up and the need to stand for what is right, even in the face of personal danger. If you can, speak; if you can’t, let your silence be a thorn in the side of authority. Don’t let misguided authorities go easy into the good night.

Director Thom Babbes brought out strong performances from his acting ensemble, drawing you in and keeping your focus on the story. This is a dark story with an ending that isn’t happy, but he found a way to bring in just enough humor and bathos to not let the darkness overwhelm. The actors were believable when necessary, but there was enough in the staging to remind you that this was a play, and that what you were seeing wasn’t real life. This, in turn, made our real life situation even scarier, as the parallels became clearer.

In the lead position was Bruce Ladd as Sir Thomas More. Ladd gave an outstanding performance: strong and yet personable, forceful and believable, yet with warmth underneath. It was just riveting. Also strong was Co-Op regular Deborah Marlowe, who portrayed “The Common Man”. This was a role the brought together all the minor characters from stewards to boatmen to innkeepers to jurors to jailors, and also served as the narrator and framing device for the story. As such, Marlowe got to portray numerous different characters and personalities, and she did so with aplomb and skill, and was just a joy to watch.

More’s family was portrayed by Treva Tegtmeier as his wife, Lady Alice More; Elsa Gay as his daughter, Lady Margaret More, and Issac Jay as his eventual son-in-law, William Roper. All gave great performances, I particularly liked the flashes of character from Gay.

In the circle of acquaintances and friends of More — at least initially — were Sean McHugh as The Duke of Norfolk and Michell Lam Hau as Master Richard Rich. McHugh’s Duke came off as a gregarious sort who was truly friends with More, and did what he could to save him from his fate — but ultimately, failed. Hau’s Rich was more of an opportunist: he was there to get the better job and the better pay, and didn’t let philosophies trouble him. This explains why this character came off as the Toady he was, especially with respect to Cromwell.

The mention of Cromwell brings us to what I would call the King’s circle: John Allee as Thomas Cromwell; Greg Martin as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer; Vito Viscuso as Signor Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador; and Ian Michaels as King Henry VIII.  Allee gave a chilling portrayal of a determined Cromwell, and Viscuso was a warm and welcoming Chapuys. Viscuso and Michaels really only had a few scenes, but were good in them.

Turning to the production side of things: Rich Rose‘s Scenic Design was simple but effective: a space with a generic square background; some boxes on stage from which props could be extracted, some stairs, and tables. But with the imagination, it worked well. This was augmented by Shon Leblanc‘s costumes, which seemed appropriately period for the caste and time. Lisa D. Katz‘s lights served to augment the mood, and Juan Sanson‘s sound design provided the appropriate sound effects. Other production credits: Eric White – Stage Manager; Thomas Zabilski – Asst Stage Manager; Selah Victor – Production Manager; and Carly Lopez – Producer.

Due to a change in the schedule, our “early bird” tickets for A Man for All Seasons turned into tickets for the penultimate performance; the final performance is occurring as I write this. The next production at  Actors Co-op (FB) is Violet, running May 11-June 17, 2018.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

The third weekend of April brings Bad Jews at The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) on Friday, followed by The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)) on Saturday. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB).

Continuing into May and June: The first weekend in May will bring School of Rock at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), with the following weekend bringing Soft Power  at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The middle of May brings Violet at Actors Co-op (FB).  The last weekend will hopefully bring a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Ramat Zion; the weekend itself is currently open. June — ah, June. That, my friends, is reserved for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), including The Story of My Life from Chromolume Theatre (FB). Additionally in June we’re seeing the postponed Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), The Color Purple at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and possibly Do Re Mi at MTW. The latter, however, is on a Sunday night in Long Beach, and so Fringing may win out. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

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

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Appearances are Everything | “A Walk in the Woods” @ Actors Co-Op

A Walk in the Woods (Actors Co-Op)How do we achieve actual progress towards solving problems that, if left unsolved, have the potential to destroy the world? That’s the question that is at the heart of Lee Blessing‘s A Walk in the Woods, which just opened at Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood. The story, on the surface, revolves around two arms negotiators, Andrey Botvinnik and Joan Honeyman, meeting over perhaps two years (the time period isn’t 100% clear) in Switzerland. Their job: find an agreement whereby the two countries can make the world safer by reducing the number of arms each other has. But is this ever possible? Will either country let the other gain an advantage, or will they just agree to reduce one obsolete set of arms, while building new equally lethal technology not covered by agreements? Will the reductions be significant enough to ever reduce the situation to a non-lethal state? Or … perhaps .. is what is more important the appearance of negotiating on the issue, never actually accepting something?

This play was written during the Obama administration, and discusses a time period seemingly during the Reagan administration, when the nuclear arsenals of the US and the Soviet Union were of concern, and when our leaders knew how to be diplomats. One question I had was the relevance of this play today, when our nation’s leadership doesn’t seemingly care about the world stage. We have an isolationist, jingoist, and militarianist “America First” (yet another problematic slogan) we haven’t seen since the days before WWI. Does our country even care about reducing armaments today? Are there negotiations going on to do so? There are recent proposals by the President to increase and modernize our nuclear forces, to increase and continue the “mine is bigger and better than yours” mentality that makes the world less safe. So in the era of Trump, is this play just saying the negotiations are pointless anyway?

Yet there are other issues — domestic and international — where we keep talking, but not making progress. Immigration. Climate Change. We talk and talk, propose agreements, only to see them scuttled by one side or the other for seemingly meaningless reasons. Could it be that the talks are just a delay and distraction tactic, creating the appearance of progress when there was never an intent of actually finding a solution — for in finding a solution, one side must be the victor and the other the loser.

So perhaps there is a point to this play — in the Trump era — after all. It is to show us that the talking may be a form of progress. The talking may delay something worse. The talking may be keeping hope alive — hope that future administrations may finally move beyond the talk to an actual solution, and the perception and appearance of progress might be replaced by actual progress.

Under the direction of Ken Sawyer (FB), the production is kept simple. Two actors, talking, with a roughly representative set that is sufficiently evocative but not realistic, drawing the focus to the words and the action. The performances themselves were good, but still in evolution (this was the second performance of the show, and there were points where the actors had micro-momental line recall issues that were quickly recovered). Phil Crowley‘s Andrey was the friendly Russian uncle; Nan McNamara (FB)’s Joan was the no-nonsense negotiator trying to prove herself. Both performers seemed reasonably realistic, and there was a good unspoken chemistry between the two. Combined with the story, the two kept and held your attention, and the two hours (including short intermission) passed without seeming to drag.

Also seen on stage were the two assistant stage managers, Katie Chen and Carla Vigueras both dressed identically in all white. They gave the opening welcome to the show (in unison!), and also operated in unison to change the set between scenes. Although not part of the formal play, they provided a little extra levity in what was a very serious production.

In keeping with the focus on the words and the story, the other production elements were kept simple. I’ve already mentioned Ellen Lenbergs‘s simple set design of abstract winter trees, projected headlines, a dock, and a bench. This was augmented by Adam R. Macias (FB)’s sound design, which created the soundscape of the woods, and was eerily stereophonic during the rabbit discussion. Mood and season was established well by Nicholas Acciani (FB) and Matt Ritcher (FB)’s lighting design. Wendell C. Carmichael‘s costumes were sufficient — there’s not much one can say about business attire, other than the Russian’s seemed vaguely Russian. E. K. Dagenfield (FB) was the coach for the Russian dialogue. Other creative and production credits: Christian Eckels (FB) [Stage Manager];  Lauren Thompson (FB), [Producer]; Selah Victor (FB) [Production Manger].

A Walk in the Woods continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through March 18th. I found it an enjoyable drama. Tickets are available at the Actors Co-Op Website, Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

Season Announcements: I’ve received some season announcements in the mail recently:

  • 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)] has announced their 2018-2019 season (renewals are going out to subscribers, like us, shortly). The season consists of Shrek – The MusicalMatilda, and West Side Story. We’ll probably renew. Although there have been a number of local productions of Shrek, we haven’t seen it since 2011 when it was at the Pantages. Someone should let George Chavez know :-). This should be the first regional production of Matilda (wouldn’t it be interesting if they got Cabrillo Alum Lesli Margherita to return for the show). West Side Story is a classic; always fun to see.
  • The Tabard Theatre Company (FB) in San Jose has an interesting season coming up: Another Roll of the Dice / Sep 14 – Oct 7, 2018; The Explorer’s Club / Oct 26 – Nov 18, 2018; Uptown Holiday Swing / Nov 30 – Dec 16, 2018; Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook (featuring songs from the Stephen Schwartz catalog)/ Jan 11 – Feb 3, 2019; Beau Jest / Feb 15 – Mar 10, 2019; and Queen of the Mist / Apr 5-28, 2019.  If they weren’t 300 miles away, we’d consider subscribing; still, we may drive up for Queen of the Mist. If you’re in the southern Bay Area, you should consider subscribing in our stead.
  • Hollywood Pantages (FB). The Hollywood Pantage just made their season announcement; I addressed it in detail in this post. In short, it looks good, and we’ve already renewed.

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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. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

The middle of this week brings opera: specifically,  Candide at LA Opera (FB). That is followed the next weekend by the first production of the Chromolume Theatre (FB) 2018 season, Dessa Rose. The month concludes with  James and the Giant Peach at the Chance Theatre (FB) in the Anaheim Hills, and tickets for Dublin Irish Dance Stepping Out at  the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB).

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

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

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

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Houseguest. Rhymes With P… | “The Man Who Came To Dinner” @ Actors Co-Op

The Man Who Came To Dinner (Actors Co-Op)Have you ever had an invited guest in your house who overstayed their welcome? A person whose visit you looked forward to initially, but who threw your home into disarray and your life into shambles? Someone with such an inflated sense of self that they believe the world revolves around them, and they never see the damage that their meddling can create in the lives of others? Someone who is a master manipulator of people and can convince them to do whatever they want them to do, no matter who gets trampled in the process?

That’s not something that would never happen in real life. No, never. Right?

No, I’m not vaguebooking again. Rather, I’m describing the key underlying premise of the classic Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman comedy that we saw last night at the Actors Co-op (FB): The Man Who Came To Dinner. Originally written in the mid-1930s by two renowned playwrights for their friend, Alexander Woollcott, a famous theatre critic and star of a popular radio show, the comedy describes an exaggerated situation that without the exaggeration happens far too often in households across the world.

The Man Who Came To Dinner takes place in 1936 in Mesalia OH, right after famed radio broadcaster and critic Sheridan Whiteside has come to visit the home of the Stanleys, but slipped on a patch of ice on the front step while entering. He is thus a prisoner of his medical condition, in a house in a town where he doesn’t want to be, with his executive secretary Maggie, for some unspecified period of time. Whiteside is a person who likes his life as he is used to it, when he is used to it, with whom he is used to it. Wherever he is, the world and the environment must bend to his will, for only if he is happy are those around him happy. Needless to say, this has drastically impacted the life of the Stanleys — Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, their children June and Richard, Stanley’s sister Harriet, and their staff — cook Sarah and butler John. Not helping the matter is an old-fashioned over-attentive nurse Miss Preen and the befuddled town doctor (who has written a play) Dr. Bradley.

Now, add a plot complication in the form of local newspaperman Bert Jefferson, who comes to interview Whiteside but ends up getting involved with Whiteside’s secretary Maggie, who falls in love — and lets Whiteside know she is leaving. Of course, this would throw Whiteside’s world into further chaos, so he involves friend and actress Lorraine Sheldon to interfere. Let’s just say the results are predictable, given this was written by a man who wrote many Marx Brothers comedies.

That last point means you have many additional characters show up who were essentially caricatures of personalities of the day, such as Banjo, Dr. Metz, Beverly Carlton. You also have wild absurdity, ranging from a cockroach farm, a delivery of penguins, an association with a home for paroled prisoners, and numerous telegraphs and name dropping with celebrities of the day. It is a classic convoluted comedy plot, with an incredibly large cast (19 people in more named roles than that) that you don’t often see in theatres these days (simply due to the cost of the actors alone, unless you are exempted by some sort of agreement with Equity).

You can read a more detailed description of the plot on the Wikipedia page.

How does one assess a story like this, especially in the present day? In its day, this was a classic situation comedy: extended silly situation, overdrawn characters (i.e., exaggerated characteristics), classic tropes. It certainly was the basis of many a sitcom: acerbic wit stuck in a place they didn’t want to be, meddling to get what they want. It certainly is funny today for the same reason.

But at the same time, there are troubling intimations of its time that might not fly today.  Whiteside constantly makes jokes about the sexual behavior of his nurse. Banjo pulls her onto his lap, despite protestations. In the context of the time of the play, they are funny; but in today’s Harvey Weinstein / Kevin Spacey world, our enlightened modern mindset keeps us asking: “Should I be laughing at that?”. Looking back with today’s vision, we know the type of man that Sheridan Whiteside is, and how much he respects the will and wishes of others.

This is the dilemma of classic theatre: it is a product of when it was written, and makes a statement of that time. The Man Who Came To Dinner, while still very funny on its surface, is also a statement. It is a statement about what can happen when bad behavior is allowed to continue unchecked. It is a statement of how men perceived to be powerful treat the people around them. The story of Sheriden Whiteside might be very different had it taken place today.

Is a story like The Man Who Came To Dinner worth seeing today? I still think so. It is still an excellent comedy with great lines; asking if one should skip it because of today’s sensibilities is like asking if one should no longer watch The Marx Brothers do their comedy. Enjoy it. Laugh. You certainly will with this production. But be aware with today’s mind as well, so that men like Sheridan Whiteside can’t behave like that today.

[As an aside, that’s the funny things about these writeups: Sometimes, I never know the direction they will go until I start writing them, and then the writing muse often uncovers something I hadn’t thought of in the moment of the show]

Director Linda Kerns (FB) has worked with her acting team to capture the broad caricatures of these characters in the cast, including the clear references to the Hollywood and Broadway and Radio personalities that inspired them. I’m sure this required some education of the younger generation who (alas) are likely less familiar with the greats of the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  She also got the movement and the blocking down well, which isn’t easy in this large cast on a small stage with clear limitations.

The Man Who Came To Dinner (Cast Photo Strip)In the lead position was Greg Martin (FB) as Sheridan Whiteside. Martin captured the character quite well, with all the requisite bluster and wit required. In his bio, it is noted that in his day job he’s a Deputy DA, so I wonder if he built his characterization on some of the people he has seen in court.

Playing off of Whiteside in the Girl Friday role of Maggie Cutler was Natalie Hope MacMillan (FB★, FB). MacMillan created the proper sense of both competence and girlishness required, and was a believable couple with Connor Sullivan (FB)’s Bert Jefferson.

The Sullivan family, who were hosting the Whiteside entourage, consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley (Lawrence Novikoff (FB) and Deborah Marlowe (FB)), Mr. Stanley’s sister Harriet Stanley (Brenda Ballard (FB)), and their children June (Lila Hood (FB)) and Richard (Kyle Frattini (FB)). Each captured their unique characteristics well: Novikoff capturing the exasperation,  Marlowe the adulation, Ballard the kookiness, and Hod and Frattini the youthful naivete.

Also drawn and performed as the appropriate broad caricatures were Jean Kauffman (FB)’s Miss Preen (the nurse) and Irwin Moskowitz (FB)’s Dr. Bradley.  Each knew how to work the characters for the laughs they were designed to get.

Most of the other actors had multiple characters, often with one primary. Most notable among these was Catherine Urbanek (FB), who in addition to playing the one-scene character Mrs. Dexter in the first act, gets to be the standout actress Lorraine Sheldon. In the latter role, what is most notable about Urbanek’s performance is how she has two characters — the real Kansas City actress and the phony Lorraine character, and uses a clearly different voice for the two personas, which is interesting to watch. Also doubling as acting friends of Whiteside are Wenzel Jones (FB) as Beverly Carlton (also Convict Michaelson, Plain clothes man, and a choir person).  As Carlton, he only really has one scene but handles it with quite a bit of humor. Lastly, as Banjo (a clear Marx Bros. parody), John Allee (FB), captures the Marx Bros. zaniness well; he also portrays “Radioman” and “Baker”.

Most of the other characters don’t have strong individual characterizations, but are captured well by their actors: Kevin Michael Moran (FB) [Metz, John the Butler]; Karen Furno (FB) [Sarah the Cook]; Goreti da Silva (FB) [Mrs. McCutcheon, Wescott]; Hunter Lowdon (FB) [Convict 2, Expressman, Choir Person, Deputy]; and Chris Savell (FB) [Sandy, Convict Henderson, Choir Person, Deputy].  Catriona Fray (FB★) was the Lorraine U/S.

Turning to the production side:  Nicholas Acciani (FB), who just received an Ovation nomination for his design of 33 Variations, designed the set, which was a reasonable portrayal of an upper-class Ohio household in 1936. The arrangement of rooms and props worked well to eliminate excessive crossovers and permit hiding of some of the outrageous deliveries. It was supported by the props of Ernest McDaniel (FB), Property Master. I particularly noticed the Egyptian sarcophagus in the final act, and I wonder if it was purchased from the Colony Theatre as they cleaned out their lobby. Shon LeBlanc (FB) did the costume design, and Amanda Walter (FB★) did the hair and makeup, most of which worked well (there were a few cases where the wigs looked a little wiggy). Sound and light were done by Warren Davis (FB) and  Andrew Schmedake (FB), respectively, and both did a great job of establishing place and mood. Rounding out the production team were: Rita Cannon (FB) [Stage Manager]; Thien/Tintin Nguyen/FB [Assistant Stage Manager]; Nora Feldman [Publicist]; and Thomas Chavira (FB) [Producer].

[As another aside: While writing this up, I’ve been listening to the attempt to turn this show into a musical, Sherry!. I can now see why it didn’t work — it wasn’t the music, but the fact that this is a book that really didn’t need musicalization.]

The Man Who Came To Dinner continues at the Actors Co-op (FB) through December 17, 2017. Tickets are available online; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. This is a very funny show that, while perhaps a bit dated in tone and attitude, will still have you laughing in your seats.

***

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

Upcoming Shows:

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

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

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

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

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