Tom Paxton often says about nostalgia that it is OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare.
Thursday night, when we saw Frankie Avalon at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), it felt like it was a staring contest — there was that much nostalgia. Admittedly, Avalon’s long career — dating from the 1950s to today, can lend one to nostalgia. Admittedly, the age of the audience made that nostalgia successful (we were some of the younger folks there). But the show was dripping in nostalgia none-the-less.
I didn’t scribble down a set list, but just get the latest Everly Avalon (i.e., Edan Everly and Frankie Avalon) album “The Good Old Days”, and you’ll have much of the show. I do have a few observations I want to share, however… I’ll note that overall, the show was enjoyable and a trip down memory lane.
- This show demonstrated the clear difference between a nightclub act and a concert. Contrast this to Mandy Gonzalez a few weeks ago, or even Big Daddy at McCabes. Those were concerts: full song, with perhaps a bit of lead in for each song. This was a clear nightclub act — something that would be at home in any 1960s lounge in Las Vegas. There was a camaraderie with the audience… a looseness, a comfort. There was a playfulness. Yet, in actually, it was all scripted (something that become clear when you hear the album — same jokes). Songs were rarely the full song, but more snippets.
- There was loads of looking back. In 1958 I did this… On American Bandstand I did this… Annette and I did this… These famous rock artists and I did that… There was extended clips of his family (and two were part of the band). As I said: staring.
- One thing that hit me about the show was the … whiteness of it. There was a joke with his music director discussing the musical Grease how in Mexico is was called “Vaseline”. That landed with a thud. There was a song about nostalgia that seemed to be wanting the days of the 1950s all back again. There were tributes to musical artists — all white, many whom covered black singers, with nary a mention of the black artists. I don’t think this was intentional on Avalon’s part. I think it was reflective of the era in which his talent bloomed. But it did demonstrate that his act and his schtick, so to speak, haven’t been updated with the times. There were jokes in his act older than my grandfather. To woke members of the audience, the suspended animation was clear to see … and painfully dated.
But, as I said, musically the show was a load of fun. It was a very fast 90-110 minutes. But don’t go expecting anything newer than “Beauty School Dropout”.
Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.
November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks.
December is getting busy, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The weekend after ACSAC brings an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB). I also have a hold for December 21 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild.
Looking to early 2020: most of the January is currently quiet, but the middle of the month is busy, with What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, and Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the third weekend, and Cirque Éloize at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the last weekend. Things start heating up in February, with The Last Ship (with Sting) at the Ahmanson Theatre the first weekend; A Body of Water at Actors Co-op (FB) and It Shoulda Been You at Musical Theatre Guild (FB) the third weekend; and (whew!) The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Escape to Margaritaville at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB), and Step Afrika at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the fourth weekend. Yes, that is the Pantages and the Dolby the same day — that’s what I get for not entering season tickets on my calendar before ticketing a bonus show. March comes in like a lamb, with the first two weekends (2/29 and 3/7) being quiet… but goes out like a Lion. The 2nd weekend brings the MRJ Man of the Year dinner; the 3rd Morris’ Room at Actors Co-op (FB) ; and the last bringing Spongebob Squarepants at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB) and the MoTAS/TBH Seder. April is similarly busy: the 1st weekend is Mamma Mia at 5 Star Theatricals (FB); the 2nd is during Pesach and is open (but has Count Basie at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) the Thursday before); the 3rd is Once on This Island at the Ahmanson Theatre; the last is Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and the first weekend of May is Mean Girls at the Dolby Theatre/Broadway in LA (FB)
As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!