For some reason, this summer I haven’t had the urge or the drive to write my normal full-up theatre reviews. Quite likely, it is burnout from caregiving; whatever the reason, the urge wasn’t there. But we’re entering into the Fall theatre season, and this weekend starts a series of 8 shows in a row. So I need to get the summer shows out of the way. So here are some quick takes, and I’m probably not going to go through and do the heavy linking thing (unless I go back and do it).
The first show we saw in August was The Prom at the Ahmanson Theatre. Let me start out by saying that The Prom is one of those few shows that I would have no qualms about seeing multiple times — it was that good and I loved the message that much.
The Prom tells the story of a bunch of narcissistic Broadway actors. When their show crashes and burns on opening night and they get ravaged in the press, they decide that to rehabilitate their image they need to do something that looks like they care about someone else. They stumble upon the story of a lesbian teen in Indiana who was denied the ability to go to the Prom. So they get on the bus (with a touring company of Godspell) and go out to save the day.
As they say next, predictable hilarity ensues.
However, what could be a train-wreck sitcom concept actually works out, and the story ends up being a quite touching one about acceptance. One of my favorite songs is “Love Thy Neighbor”, about how so many Christians seem to cherry pick what the Bible says, ignoring other prohibitions that aren’t convenience, and forgetting the most important message — how they turn a message of love into a cudgel of hate.
That’s a message that is so true today. This was a really enjoyable musical, and it left us with a smile on our face.
The touring company cast was strong, especially the performances of the leads: Kaden Kearney (Emma), Kalyn West (Alyssa), Courtney Balan (Dee Dee Allen), Patrick Wetzel (Barry Glickman), Emily Borromeo (Angie Dickenson), and Bud Weber (Trent Oliver).
Rounding out the company was: Sinclair Mitchell (Mr. Hawkins), Ashanti J’aria (Mrs. Greene), Shavey Brown (Sheldon Saperstein), Gabrielle Beckford (Ensemble), Ashley Bruce (Ensemble), Maurice Dawkins (Ensemble), Jordan De Leon (Swing, Ensemble at our performance), James Caleb Grice (Ensemble), Megan Grosso (Ensemble), Marie Gutierrez (Ensemble), Chloe Rae Kehm (Ensemble), Braden Allen King (Ensemble), Brandon J. Large (Ensemble, Aug 9-14), Daniel May (Ensemble, Aug 16-Sep 11), Christopher McCrewell (Ensemble), Alexa Magro (Ensemble), Adriana Negron (Ensemble), Marcus Phillips (Ensemble), Lexie Plath (Swing, Co-Dance Captain), Zoë Brooke Reed (Ensemble), Thad Turner Wilson (Ensemble), and Josh Zacher (Ensemble, Co-Dance Captain).
Music was provided by an orchestra consisting of: Dean Balan (Conductor, Keyboard 1), Randi Ellen Rudolph (Assoc. Conductor, Keyboard 2), Ricky Roshell (Reed 1), Erika Friedman (Reed 2), Rob Slowik (Lead Trumpet), John Replogle (Trumpet), Stephen Flakus (Guitars and Banjo), Crissy Martinez (Acoustic & Electric Bass, Librarian), Derek Stoltenberg (Drums & Percussion), Glen Berger (Woodwind 1), 🌴 Keith Fiddmont (Woodwind 2); 🌴 Dan Fornero (Trumpet 1), 🌴 James Ford (Trumpet 2). The rest of the music department was: Robert Payne (L.A. Contractor); Howard Joines (Music Coordinator); Kay-Houston Music/Anne Kaye, Doug Houston (Music Copying); Jim Abbot (Synthesizer Programming); Chris Petti (Abletron Programming); Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Music Supervisor, Vocal Arrangements), Larry Hochman (Orchestrations); John Clancy (Additional Orchestrations); Glen Kelly (Music Arrangements).
The show was written by Bob Martin (Book), Chad Beguelin (Book & Lyrics), and Matthew Sklar (Music, Vocal Arrangements), based on an original concept by Jack Viertel. It was directed and Casey Nicolaw.
The design department consisted of: Scott Pask (Scenic Design), Ann Roth (Costume Design), Matthew Pachtman (Costume Design), Natasha Katz (Lighting Design), Brian Ronan (Sound Design), Josh Marquette (Hair Design), and Milagros Medina-Cerdeira (Makeup Design).
The production team consisted of: Casey Hushion (Assoc. Director), John Macinnis (Assoc. Choreographer), Kelsey Tippins (Production Stage Manager), Ben Shipley (Stage Manager), Kyle Dannahey (Asst. Stage Manager).
The tour departed the Ahmanson on Sept. 11, 2022 and has gone on to another city. Go see it if you can.
The second show we saw in August was If I Forget at the Fountain Theatre. This show, alas, succumbed to a common trend these days: A single page information sheet with a QR code for the program. Folks: QR codes for programs are ephemeral — they go away when you redesign the website or when the site. After that, what then? You, shall we say, forget. There should always be printed (or printable) full programs for archival purposes and people’s collections. The only thing worse is a bespoke interface that requires logins — which is what the Pasadena Playhouse and CTG does. Luckily, they provide printed programs.
If I Forget wasn’t initially in our plans. But the show featured the son of the former education director at our synagogue in the cast, which brought it onto our RADAR when I received the press release. I asked our Live Theatre group at our synagogue if they were interested in the show — and a large group was. Arrangements were put in place, and we went down as a group to see the show.
The piece itself was pretty interesting. I was afraid — especially from the title — that it would be a dark show about the Holocaust. Although there was a dark scene or two regarding that, it wasn’t the focus of the show. It really was more of a family drama, and about the clash of values from different family members. The family members also held various secrets, all of which came to a head when the question of selling the family business came to the fore.
The resulting show had some very humorous moments, likely due to the influence of the director, Jason Alexander. I found it a pretty enjoyable show.
Performances were strong. I had strong and good memories of the performance of Leo Marks (Michael Fisher) and Samantha Klein (Sharon Fisher). Rounding out the cast were Síle Bermingham (Ellen Manning), Caribay Franke (Abby Fisher), Matt Gottlieb (Lou Fisher), Valerie Perri (Holly Fisher), Jerry Weil (Howard Kilberg), and Jacob Zelonky (Joey Oren). Evidently, the role of Abby Fisher was added by Alexander to tie things together better; I think it worked well.
Rounding out the production team were: Allison Bibicoff (Asst. Director & Dance Composition), Shawna Voragen (Production Stage Manager), Lexie Secrist (Asst. Stage Manager), and Scott Tuomey (Technical Director).
The show was to close in September, but was extended to December 18. It resumes, after a hiatus, on October 28. Tickets are available through the Fountain Theatre.
Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.
For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. Looking ahead for the remainder of 2022:, September brings Jagged Little Pill at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party at the Morgan Wixson Theatre, and Oklahoma at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). October will bring Sanctuary City at the The Pasadena Playhouse (FB), Ghosts at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, The Addams Family at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and To Kill a Mockingbird at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). November brings 2:22 – A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, December will bring Annie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB).
As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, On Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!