He’s Mean and Green | “The Toxic Avenger Musical” @ HFF16

The Toxic Avenger Musical (Good People Theatre/HFF16)userpic=fringeOK, I have this thing for off-beat, quirky, what might be called “Off Broadway” musicals. Be it Brain from Planet X, Evil Dead: The MusicalIt Came From BeyondZombies from the Beyond, Zanna Don’t, or even The Rocky Horror Show (yes, it was a stage musical — and Off-Broadway at that, before the movie) — these little musicals are just a hell of a lot of fun. I also like to find musicals for which I’ve heard the music but never seen them on stage. Good People Theatre (FB)’s The Toxic Avenger Musical at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) is a two-fer: a wonderful quirky musical that I’ve never seen before.  It is a spectacular production that you are sure to enjoy.

The Toxic Avenger Musical is based on Lloyd Kaufman (FB)’s The Toxic Avenger. It was adapted for the stage by Joe DiPietro (Book and Lyrics) and David Bryan (Music and Lyrics) — the same team that did Memphis – The Musical. I guess I should say, following my conceit, that Kaufman did a wonderful job of adapting the stage show.

In any case, The Toxic Avenger Musical tells the story of a nerd, Melvin Ferd the Third, who secretly loves the town’s blind librarian, Sarah. Melvin also hates how his town of New Jersey has become a toxic waste pit. He investigates with a lead from Sarah, and discovers that the Mayor is behind the dumping of the toxic waste. He threatens to destroy her, and she sends her goons to take care of him. They dump him in a vat of toxic waste, and he emerges mean and green… and out to return New Jersey to the garden spot it is meant to be. After rescuing Sarah from attackers, she falls in love with him, believing him to be French (explaining the stench). So does the now christened Toxie save Tromaville, or does the Mayor win?

Yes, a comic story. Yes, a silly story. But one surprisingly relevant, based on concerns about toxic waste and global warming. The songs are infectious and upbeat, and I challenge you not to come out of this musical smiling. It is just great green toxic fun.

Of course, it is helped by spot on performances, under the direction of GPT’s Janet Miller (FB). Every time we’ve seen something Janet has done or directed, we have walked out impressed. Be it Fringe shows like Marry Me a Little or A Man of No Importance, or CSUN shows like Bat Boy, her direction guarantees a quality show. I’m not saying that to be nice. There are a few musical directors in Los Angeles who consistently do quality work in small theatres, folks like Richard Israel (FB) or Roger Bean (FB). Janet is part of that small group. If you see her name, go see her show.

Back to the performances, the cast in this was outstanding. Before I get to the mean green man himself, I want to highlight my favorite: Kim Dalton (FB). We saw Kim earlier this year in Chance’s Dogfight, and we were impressed. This time, we were blown away. Kristen Chenowith better watch out: this tiny package has a set of pipes on her that are astounding. I’m still thinking about “My Big French Boyfriend” , “Hot Toxic Love”, or “Choose Me, Oprah”. Further, her acting was great. In this show, she is playing a blind librarian. This could have degenerated quickly into caricature or farce, but she did it realistically, reminding me of a blind friend of mine. She was touching, funny, sexy, and just remarkable. I look forward to seeing her in more Southern California productions.

Toxic Avenger Publicity PhotosAs for our mean green man, Melvin Ferd the Third, who become The Toxic Avenger, he was played by Jared Reed (FB). Reed projected a wonderful mix of meekness and strength — a combination that made him accessible and friendly and distinctly not a monster. Except when you cross him. Here’s a hint: You don’t want to cross big green men. Just ask Bruce Banner. Reed also had a lovely singing voice, which he ably demonstrated in sochs such as “You Tore My Heart Out”, “Kick Your Ass”, and “Hot Toxic Love” (a lovely duet with Dalton).

All of the other actors in the show play multiple characters. A particular standout is Shirley Anne Hatton (FB), who we first saw in GPT’s A Man of No Importance. Hatton plays the Mayer, Ma Ferd, and a nun, and just nails all three performances. From her solos in the opening number, “Who Will Save New Jersey?”, her performance with the girls in “All Men are Freaks”, to her over the top duet, “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore” — she is just spectacular.

This leaves us with the men and women of all trades: Danny Fetter (FB) and Wesley Tunison (FB). Fetter, the generically titled “Black Dude”, plays Sluggo, Professor Ken, Sinequa, Fred, Lamas, and a number of other unnamed roles. Tunison, the generically titled “White Dude”, plays Bozo, Sal the Cop, Diane, the Folk Singer, Lorenzo, and other roles. This is one of the amazing things about this show: that these two guys play so many characters and constantly switch between them. They work really well together in “Big French Boyfriend”, and Fetter does a wonderful song on “The Legend of the Toxic Avenger”.

The music was under the direction of Corey Hirsch (FB), who also played keyboard on stage. He was joined by Mike Lindsey on drums, Brenton Kossak (FB) on bass, Jeff Askew on guitar, and Dave Thomasson on reed. Orchestrations and arrangements were by David Bryan and Christopher Jahnke.

Turning to the remaining production and creative credits. The scenic design was by Zorro J. Susel (FB), who came up with a very clever design given the limitations of Fringe (load in and out in 10 minutes or so). The scenic design was supplemented by Emma Hatton‘s props. The clever costume design was by Mary Reilly, who did an outstanding job on Toxie’s creative costume, as well as those worn by other characters, which supported rapid quick changes. This was supported by  Zorro J. Susel (FB)’s makeup. Wigs are uncredited. The lighting design was by Katherine Barrett (FB) and the sound design was by Robert Schroeder (FB). We were at a preview performance, and both had problems — which wasn’t surprising — this was their first time being exercised. Both showed the potential of being excellent, so under the fringe-preview-benefit-of-the-doubt, I’m expecting the other performances to be excellent. Katherine Barrett (FB) was also the stage manager, who I’m guessing got the double-duty of holding up the signs and interacting with the characters and generally having a huff when they just expected props to magically go off-stage.Then again, it might have been Rebecca Schroeder (FB), the assistant stage manager. [ETA: GPT clarified on Facebook: “Our sign girl is, indeed, our lovely Assistant Stage Manager, Rebecca Schroeder. Her mother, our illustrious Stage Manager, Kate Barrett, is in the booth!“] Remaining production credits: Logan Allison/FB [Assistant Director], Emma Hatton [Production Assistant];  Kimberly Fox [Marketing Director]; Michael P. Wallot (FB) [Casting Director]; and Oliver Lan [Graphic Designer].

This is a must see at the Fringe. Really. Visit the show’s Fringe Page to book tickets. Remaining performances are: Friday June 10 2016, 9:00 PM; Saturday June 11 2016, 6:00 PM; Monday June 13 2016, 11:00 PM; Wednesday June 15 2016, 11:00 PM; Thursday June 16 2016, 7:00 PM; Saturday June 18 2016, 6:00 PM; Wednesday June 22 2016, 10:00 PM; Friday June 24 2016, 8:00 PM; Saturday June 25 2016, 5:00 PM; and  Sunday June 26 2016, 1:00 PM. Performances are at the Sacred Fools Theater (Main Stage) at  1076 Lillian Way.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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 Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.


Thoughts on a Theatre Season (Pasadena Playhouse) 🎭 Other Theatre News

userpic=theatre2Some weeks the news chum doesn’t theme, and you get stew at the end of the week. Other weeks, you get a multicourse tasty meal. This week is the latter. For our first course, some theatre news:

🎭 Pasadena Playhouse 2016-2017 Season 🎭

The Pasadena Playhouse (FB) has just announced their 2016-2017 season, and it looks quite interesting. In fact, with The Colony Theatre (FB) going dark, we might just switch back to the Playhouse (if they can do a decent payment plan). Let’s look it over together, shall we?

  • Thumbs Up The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, directed by Seema Sueko. Sept. 6, 2016 to Oct. 2, 2016. I’ve seen two productions of The Fantasticks: a great Theatre West (FB) production and an even better Good People Theatre (FB) production. This is a very touching show which I’m growing to love. It should be interesting to see what the Playhouse can do with it.
  • Thumbs Up M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, directed by Bart DeLorenzo. Oct. 25, 2016 to Nov. 20, 2016. Winner of multiple Tony Awards including “Best Play” in 1988 and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, “M. Butterfly” is David Henry Hwang’s fictionalized account of an actual French diplomat who carried on an affair with a Peking opera star for twenty years, only to discover she was actually a man. I remember when this won the Tony and missed seeing it when it was at the Ahmanson.
  • Thumbs Up Shout, Sister, Shout! conceived and directed by Randy Johnson, book by Cheryl West. Jan. 31, 2017 to Feb. 26, 2017. A World Premiere musical conceived and directed by Randy Johnson, the creator of A Night With Janis Joplin. The musical depicts the life and music of legendary gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose hits include “Down by the Riverside,” “This Train,” and “Strange Things Happening Every Day.” Given the style of music, this could be very interesting.
  • Thumbs Up Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. March 28, 2017 to April 23, 2017. No director stated. The press release states “a great way to return to the tradition of the Bard on our stage as The Pasadena Playhouse enters its 100th year.” One of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, “Twelfth Night” features mistaken identities, gender confusion and separated twins, all obstacles to be overcome on the quest for true love. If they don’t muck with it, this could be good.
  • thumbs-side ARTISTIC DIRECTOR’S CHOICE. May 30, 2017– June 25, 2017. Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse, is on the hunt for the show he will direct for the last production of his final season as Artistic Director. Could be good, could be …

I’m not bothering to list the Pantos — I don’t care about those. I’ll explore subscribing when we’re there later in March.

🎭 New Jersey at the Fringe 🎭

The good folks at Good People Theatre (FB) have announced their Fringe musical:

We have exciting news! GPTCo is teaming up with Producer Alejandro Patino to bring you The Toxic Avenger Musical this June at Fringe! We will be at The Sacred Fools Space on Lillian Way. More info to come!

Posted by Good People Theater Company on Thursday, March 3, 2016

I’ve heard the music from this, and it is great. Should be a hoot, and I’m looking forward to it.

🎭 Yiddish Theatre in LA 🎭

Inside LA Stage History has a wonderful article up on the history of Yiddish Theatre and cabaret in LA. This includes the fact that the New Beverly theatre on Beverly Blvd (now owned by Quentin Tarentino) used to be a Yiddish Theatre, and is credited with the LA debut of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, as well as Phil Silvers, who worked there as an emcee.


A Lovely Duet on a Sunday Afternoon

Marry Me a Little (Good People Theatre)userpic=fringeWhat’s better on a Sunday afternoon that a little Sondheim?

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. A common trick for a producer wanting to create a small cast musical is to take a collection of a composers songs, ideally those unfamiliar to an audience (such as songs cut from other musicals and not easily available), arrange them together into a show, and hope it works. Sometimes, if that producer is lucky, they can create a through theme and perhaps a modicum of a story. If a producer is really good, and the songs are really good, they can come together and form something with a distinct identity that can succeed on its own. That’s what happened with Marry Me a Little, created as an off-off-Broadway review back in 1981. Now, if you combine that with great direction and performance, you can get what I saw this afternoon: an instantiation of such a musical that can make you forget the sources of the previously little-known songs (that are now well known thanks to easy publishing and deep archives), and see the collection as a touching whole piece. That is what you get at Good People Theatre (FB)’s production of Marry Me a Little at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB).

Marry Me a Little started as an off-off-Broadway piece in 1980, conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene, drawing together music from Sondheim‘s then-unpublished Saturday Night, as well as songs cut from Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Funny Thing…Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, and some even rarer shows. They were connected in a cycle that created a story of two singles in apartments in New York that were adjacent vertically. The story showed them both longing for love and imagining love with each other. Since the piece was published a number of the songs have become better known: Saturday Night has been recorded and released, Side by Side by Sondheim and a number of tribute albums have captured songs like Foxtrot, and the incessant explorations of Company have captured the many songs cut from that show. Still, Marry Me a Little remains a small easy to do show (and thus perfect for Fringe festivals :-)), with minimal requirements and lots of audience oomph.

Good People Theatre, under the direction of Janet Miller (FB), was the perfect choice to bring this to the Fringe, having done a great job on other musicals. What particularly struck me watching this was that it didnt’ seem like a Fringe show. In other words, most of the other Fringe shows have that edgy feel to them — actors with minimal props using their imagination to do lots of different things, often frantically (because I like comedies). But this was… elegant. About the only way to improve it would be to import the grant piano from Closer Than Ever. It felt like the set was right and not improvised; it felt like the music was right and not rushed. This is the same feel that came from 2014’s Fantastik‘s and 2013’s Man of No Importance. This is why I particularly look forward to GPT’s productions at the Fringe (or anywhere else for that matter).

Marry Me a Little - Jessie Withers and David Laffey, Credit: Rich Clark PhotographyThe performances were great, both individually and together. Some general comments before I touch upon the individual actors (who are illustrated in the production still to the right). I particularly enjoyed that GPT did not cast the typical image of a Hollywood actor — thin and chisled and shaped. The actors in this show looked like real people, and that little, subtle touch made the show relatable and believable. This wasn’t an unobtainable couple, this was an everyperson couple. That was great. The two actors had remarkable chemistry together, which was clearly visible in songs like “So Many People” (from Saturday Night), “A Moment With You” (also from Saturday Night), and “Pour Le Sport” (from the unproduced The Last Resorts).

The woman was played by Jessie Withers, who had a lovely operatic soprano voice. If you understand the difference between an operatic and a pop music voice, you’ll realize that I’m saying she had both wonderful controlled power and a purity of tone that was a joy to listen to. One of my favorite performances of hers was in “Can That Boy Foxtrot” (from Follies), where in addition to the voice she combined some wonderful little facial expressions and movements to bring the acting side to the fore. She was also particularly good on “Marry Me a Little” (from Company).

The man was played by David Laffey (FB), who had a lovely what I would guess to be a tenor voice. It didn’t quite have the operatic power of Withers, but blended well with hers and was nice to listen to in his solo moments. Laffey was particularly good on “Uptown, Downtown”  (from Follies), with some lovely dance moves.

Music was provided by wonderful Corey Hirsch (FB) on an electronic keyboard; he had some great interactions with the characters that made him much more than just an onstage accompanist.

As noted earlier, the scenic design by Robert Schroeder (FB) was simple and worked very well, making one forget this was a Fringe production. This was aided and abetted with the props from  Good People Theatre (FB). The lighting by Katherine Barrett (FB) and appeared to be a combination of movers and programmable LED lights. These worked great for the Fringe (which often leaves productions stuck in terms of lights), and allowed the lights to enhance the mood. The costumes by Kathy Gillespie (FB) worked well on the characters. Other technical credits:  Kimberly Fox, Marketing Director; Michael P. Wallot (FB), Marketing/Media Manager; Oliver Lan, Graphic Designer; Rebecca Schroeder (FB), Stage Manager.

Marry Me a Little” has 7 more performances at the Fringe, and it is well worth seeing. Tickets are available through the Fringe website, and may be available through Goldstar (some are already sold out).

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre 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 subscribe at three theatres:  REP East (FB), The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music 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 sees the craziness continue with the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and (on Sunday) The Count of Monte Cristo – The Musical  (FB) (HFF) at  the Lounge Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, and  Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) in the evening. The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on July 4th. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend brings “The History Boys” at the Stella Adler Theatre (FB) on Saturday (Goldstar), and “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) on Sunday.  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August starts with “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), and is followed by the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.


Opening Doors to Intimate Transcendency

Closer Than Ever (Good People Theatre)userpic=theatre_ticketsIf I was to tell you that I attended a wonderful live music performance yesterday at a venue tucked away inside a music store… you probably would be thinking I attended yet another folk music concert at McCabes or Boulevard Music.  But there was nary a guitar or banjo in sight; in fact, I doubt the instruments in this room could be hung on the walls, or easily grabbed and taken out with you as you exited in an emergency. That’s because this was a special show being held in a special place — the Good People Theatre Co (FB)’s production of Maltby/Shire’s Closer Than Ever at Hollywood Piano in Burbank (produced in partnership with Hollywood Piano (FB). This new location of Hollywood Piano has a recital room, and this room was hosting the show… and providing a wonderful 9½ foot Mason & Hamlin grand piano for accompaniment. More on that in a minute.

Closer Than Ever” is an interesting show. It is not a musical in the traditional sense — there is no story, there are no particular characters. It is really a revue of gorgeous songs written by Richard Maltby Jr. (lyrics) and David Shire (music) (FB) — many written for relationship shows and then cut. We last saw the musical back in 1992 — long before I started doing these writeups — at the Pasadena Playhouse. I have vague memories of that show: four performers on a stage in the distance, and some set of musicians on stage.

This performance had two key differences. The first is a double difference: resonance. When I saw the show for the first time, back in 1992, I was 32 with no children. In 2015, I’m 55 with a daughter in college. The songs — which sing of relationships and middle age problems and marriage and divorce and love and loss — resonate quite differently with me. Back in 1992, my favorite song was Miss Byrd, about the hidden sexual nature of the people around you. That’s a 32 year old talking — sex on the brain. In 2015 my favorite songs are different. The resonance hits more with songs like “The March of Time”, and lines that talk about being parent to your parents. The second resonance difference is a real resonance. C’mon, have you ever heard a 9½ foot Mason & Hamlin (FB) grand piano? That thing is beautiful and deep and … oh, indescribably trasnscendent. I had never thought before about how the size and shape of a piano affects the sound (or looked closely at the stringing — can you  tell I’m an engineer yet?). This was a performance instrument — a concert grand. When you look at the size of the soundboard, you realize there is a richness in the notes and in the sound that you just cannot get with your typical electronic keyboard or upright piano. Sitting up front, as we were, it was a delight.

The second difference is the difference between a venue like the Pasadena Playhouse and an intimate theatre. This was a small venue, and we were right up there with the performers. We could watch their faces, we could scrutinize their movement and even their breathing. We could watch their eyes, their expressions, their nuances. These weren’t distant actors on a stage; they were real people telling us their stories. Of course, it didn’t hurt that these were good actors, believably reacting to these songs, enjoying these songs, living and breathing these songs. This ability to be “up close” is one thing that makes intimate theatre special. As I noted with Avenue Q at REP earlier in the year, the closeness provides that different focus that makes the experience of the story extremely different than what you would get from seeing the exact same show, with the exact same performers, in a larger venue such as the Playhouse, the Pantages, or the Ahmanson. Intimate theatre — especially intimate theatre as we have it here in Los Angeles — is too special to lose. More on that later.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I think this production — which was produced, directed, had musical staging by Janet Miller (FB) — was spectacular. It was amazing to watch the actors up close; it was amazing to watch the musicians up close; it was amazing to watch the interaction between all the parties…. and that piano. As I’ve noted before, I had trouble telling how much of this was direction from Miller, and how much of it was from the actors and musicians — but you know what? It doesn’t make a difference. It was seamless, reflecting the fact that this production was a collaboration between the artists. That love of the material from all parties comes across unspeakably to the audience and adds to the magic.

This version of Closer Than You used four singers in addition to the musicians. Some versions use six singers (3 men, 3 women), which makes songs like “Three Friends” a little less odd. The cast here did remarkably — kudos and applause to the singers (Gabriel Kalomas (FB), Sara J. Stuckey (FB), Jessie Withers (FB) and David Zack (FB)) and the musicians (Corey Hirsch (FB) at the piano and Brenton Kossak (FB) on bass). We’ve seen Kalomas before in both Big Fish and in Side Man at the REP, and he was great in songs such as “I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning” or “Fandango”. There were a few points where he had this odd earnest look on his face, but just a great person to watch. We’ve also seen Stuckey before — in Big, in an intimate production of Gypsy, and in the NoHo arts production of Dirty Rotten Scoundels. She was great then, and she was great now. She just soared in “Miss Byrd” and “You Wanna Be My Friend” — just spectacular in all numbers. The two other singers were new to us, but were just great. I particularly enjoyed watching the face and movement of Withers, who nailed songs like “The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster, and the Mole” and “Patterns”. This brings us to David Zack, who had the unfortunate 🙂 chore of being the third girl in “Three Friends”, and was just great. One could empathize with him in “One of the Good Guys”, and his performance in “What Am I Doin'” was just great.

As I hinted above, the musicians were performers as well (in addition to how well they handled their instruments). Corey Hirsch (FB) did a wonderful and touching (singing) solo on “If I Sing”; and although he didn’t utter a word, Brenton Kossak (FB) just blew everyone away in “Back on Base” — both in how he worked the strings and how he reacted (or didn’t) to Withers’ performance.

Technically, the show was very simple. A piano. A bass. A velvet curtain backdrop. Some stools. A few props. No complicated lighting. The program doesn’t even credit specific individuals for lighting, set, or prop design. The costumes — which were simple and elegant — were designed by  Kathy Gillespie (FB) and Barbara Weisel (FB). I particularly liked Withers’ shawl — it was just beautiful. Music direction was by  Corey Hirsch (FB). Other technical credits:  Kimberly Fox, Marketing Director; Oliver Lan, Graphic Designer; Rebecca Schroeder (FB), Stage Manager.

Closer Than Ever continues at Hollywood Piano until March 15. Simply put: Go see it. Tickets are available through Good People Theatre; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar and LA Stage Tix. Note: During the production, Janet let skip what GPT’s production for the Fringe Festival is going to be: Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little. We’re in :-).

I Love 99 Seat Theatre. Pro99 - Vote No NowGPT is an example of one of Los Angeles’s many intimate (99 seat and under) theatres. It is also an example of a theatre that might be drastically hurt or changed if a proposal from Actors Equity to establish a new contractual approach for 99 seat theatre in LA comes to pass. This production had to negotiate with Equity regarding the performance space (as it was a new space), and three of the four actors are Equity. Given the ticket sales (it looks like many tickets are half price), I doubt the show could break even if it had to pay minimum wage for 3 hours for each Equity performer per performance (that’s $108 per performance) plus rehearsal costs. There’s massive agreement that the current 99 seat approach with minimal stipends is inadequate, and there’s a strong push for a tiered system based on the budgets of the show and theatre. But to move there, AEA’s proposal must be voted down. As was said in this show, “there is no ‘there’ there” — it won’t take us to a productive place. If you are an Equity member, I urge you to study the issue at the iLove 99 website (FB) and hopefully vote “no”. If you are a non-Equity actor, producer, or other creative, I urge you to let your Equity friends know about this, and to educate your professional groups about the issue — and to take a stand. For us audience members, you need to be aware that the 99-seat theatre you love (and can afford) is threatened. Spread the words, and let the actors know you support their working in 99 seat theatre. Let them know you will follow good acting and good performance at whatever venue it is made. #Pro99 #LAThtr #ILove99

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre 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 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 has no theatre, due to other commitments (the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, and a Purim Carnival at TAS the next day). Theatre in March starts the next weekend with  “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. The following weekend will see us back at a music store listening to a performance: this time, it is Noel Paul Stookey at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB). After that we’re in Vegas for a week — I haven’t yet determined the shows yet, but Menopause the Musical looks quite likely. We may also work in “After the Revolution” at the Chance Theatre (FB). May begins with “Loopholes: The Musical” at the Hudson Main Stage (FB) on May 2. This is followed by “Words By Ira Gershwin – A Musical Play” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on May 9 (and quite likely a visit to Alice – The Musical at Nobel Middle School).  The weekend of May 16 brings “Beer for Breakfast” at REP East (FB). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, and also has a hold for “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May currently has a hold for “Fancy Nancy” at the Chance Theatre (FB) and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB).  June is equally crazy, as we’ve got the Hollywood Fringe Festival amongst other things. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.


A Simple But Timeless Story

The Fantastiks (Good People Theatre)userpic=theatre_ticketsIf you’re old, like me, you remember the days when music from the theatre moved onto the pop charts. One song that was very popular in the 1960s was “Try to Remember”. You might recall the song: “Try to remember the kind of September / When life was slow and oh, so mellow. / Try to remember the kind of September / When grass was green and grain was yellow. / Try to remember the kind of September / When you were a tender and callow fellow. / Try to remember, and if you remember, / Then follow…”

Many years later, I learned that this song was from one of the longest running off-Broadway musicals, “The Fantastiks“, with book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt.  It opened shortly after I was born in 1960, ran for 42 years, closed in 2002, was revived off-Broadway in 2006, and is currently on Broadway. Sheeese! It’s as old as I am! I first saw the show in Los Angeles in 2012 at Theatre West, and fell in love with its simplicity and its message. There is a reason this show lasts. This year, while perusing the schedule for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, I discovered that Good People Theatre Co, who had done such a great job last year on “A Man of No Importance“, was doing “The Fantastiks. Naturally, I figured out how to squeeze it into my schedule — which is why I was in Hollywood this afternoon. [I’ll note that the Marketing person, Kimberly Fox, did provide me with a press kit, for which I’m honored and surprise, as I’m not really a press person]

I took a look at my 2012 synopsis of the show, and I liked what I wrote. Here it is again (the show didn’t change 🙂 ). It started by noting the show is framed by the aforementioned “Time to Remember”.

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

These two verses set you up for the story, which is a timeless story of love supposedly being told by a traveling group of actors. The story concerns two families: Bellomy and his 16 year old daughter Luisa, and Hucklebee and his 20 year old son, Matt. The fathers would like their children to fall in love and marry, but children never do what their parents tell them to do. So they concoct a feud between the families, and build a wall between their houses to drive the children together. To seal the deal, they hire a gallant young actor, El Gallo, to abduct the daughter (in the original version, this was referred to in the traditional sense as “rape”, but that word is no longer P/C) and permit the son to rescue her. This he does in the light of the moon, with the help of two actors, Henry and Mortimer. By the end of Act I, the lovers are together, and the fathers are happy. A perfect picture.

But what seems perfect in the moonlight often looks different in the bright sun. Act II brings the sun. El Gallo presents his bill, and the children learn of the deception. They decide they no longer are in love, and each goes their separate ways. Matt goes out into the world, where he learns the realities. Luisa has a fantasy romance with El Gallo, where they preview a series of romantic adventures through a mask of unreality, while in the background Matt is being abused and beaten by Henry and Mortimer portraying a series of unpleasant employers. Meanwhile, the parents bemoan that children are unlike gardens: with gardens, you “plant a radish, get a radish”, but with children, you never know what you are going to get. Matt eventually returns, and falls back in love with Luisa, this time for real.

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
The fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December, our hearts should remember
And follow.

The last verse of “Try to Remember” makes the point of the story: “without a hurt, the heart is hollow”. The pure love of children is unrealistic and does not last. It is our experiences and hurts that deepen the love and affection. It is perhaps this point the clarifies why The Fantasticks is such a timeless musical.

The traditional staging ofThe Fantasticks is very simple. Actors trunks from which all props emerge. Simple stages. A mute who oversees everything and comments on the proceedings with her eyes and movements, nothing more. A piano and drum for music. It is an easy show for a theatre to stage — its success depends on the believability of the performances.

OK, back to present day.

This is truly a fringe show. A platform, some boxes of props, paper, and simple curtains. You can move it in and out in 15 minutes (which is good, because that’s about what the Fringe folks give you). Small cast. Simple music. To do more to the story would destroy it; perhaps that’s why the film was so problematic.

As I said, the story didn’t change. So how did Good People bring its spin to the show? First, director Janet Miller (FB) started with the view of the show as the original fringe musical… of 1959. She brought back the original instrumentation: one keyboard under the musical direction of Corey Hirsch (FB), and one harpist (Jillian Risigari-Gai (FB)). For the most part, it worked. Certainly, the stretches that were only keyboard, or only harp, worked well. When both were playing, the result was more mixed (especially when the harp overpowered the keyboard). Sometimes it was beautiful keyboard with harp supporting, relaxing and melodic. Other times the notes seemed to clash.  Overall, though I think it was a good experiment and might be improved by a little more balance between the two. I’ll also note, music-wise, that Ms. Miller did not present the 1959 musical: the word “rape” was mostly elided in deference to the more PC “ravishment” or “rage”. I guess, although this is the fringe, we can’t be too much on the edge :-). [Edited to Add (ETA): The director noted in a Facebook comment, “As an FYI, we would have liked nothing better than to use the Rape Song (as it is often referred to) but they do not license it anymore, and Musical Theatre International will send a Cease & Desist Notice if you try to sneak it in. So although we wanted to, we thought better of it “]

Fantasticks (Good People) | El Gallo Hangs the MoonPerformance-wise, this was wonderful. Let’s start with their El Gallo, a role that was originally played by Jerry Orbach. Alas, they can’t dig up and clone Orbach. One problem with the Theatre West production was that their Gallo, Lukas Bailey (FB), had the acting down but was weak on the singing. Good People’s Gallo, Christopher Karbo (FB), was spot on. He had the handsome good looks, he had the manner and the swagger, he had the playfulness, and most importantly, he had a lovely voice.  He was a very strong Gallo, and a joy to watch when he was narrating, singing, and fighting.

Fantastiks (Good People) | Matt and LuisaAs Luisa, Audrey Curd (FB) was wonderfully expressive. Her face and her movements perfectly captured the emotions of a 16-year-old, and were a delightful. Her singing, for the most part, was also quite good (there were one or two slightly-off notes, but not enough to hinder my enjoyment of her work). I particularly enjoyed her during the “Round and Round” number, her expressions in “This Plum is Too Ripe”, and her joy and enthusiasm in “Much More”. Matt, portrayed by Matt Franta (FB), was just a little weaker. He captured the 20-year old boy well, and again had strong facial expressions. At the show I was at, he had a few more off-notes on the songs — nothing wince-worthy, mind you, but just slightly off to my ear. Overall, though, the performance worked well.

Fantastiks (Good People) | Hucklebee and BellomyMy favorite characters in this piece are the fathers. Perhaps this is because they get my favorite songs, and perhaps because I’m a father myself. They’ve got some of the best comic relief and characters, and their observations on children are spot on. The two performers lucky to fill these shoes were Matt Stevens (FB) as Hucklebee and Michael P. Wallot (FB) as Bellomy. Both were in “Man of No Importance“, and both were great. Not surprisingly, I loved them in “Never Say No” and “Plant a Radish”, but they were also exceptional in “This Plum is Too Ripe”. They just seemed to enjoy each other’s company; you could see them as realistic neighbors.

Rounding out the cast were  Joey D’Auria (FB) as Henry, the Old Actor; Corky Loupé (FB) as Mortimer, the man who dies; and Alix Rikki Ogawa (FB) as the Mute. When we saw the Theatre West production, the mute was played by  Lee Meriwether, who gave a much older, more stern and traditional mute-ish portrayal. Ogawa’s mute was delightful. Young, playful, silent, there when you need her, and providing a humorous expression that just provided commentary without words. D’Autia captured the old actor well, perhaps because of his experience (although not in this program, the Ionescopade program noted he is a former Bozo the clown from Chicago). As for Loupe, well, he died well :-).

Turning to the technical: The set for this production, as noted above, is simple. Some boxes, a raised platform, some poles, a bench, a chair. The rest is all created. Robert Schroeder (FB) handled the task well.  Lighting was handled by Katherine Barrett (FB), who also took care of stage management. There were more problems here (that is, with the lighting, not the stage management) — most of which I attribute to the Fringe, the nature of quick move out, and the sharing of theatres. In particular, at some points characters were in shade and difficult to see.  Kathy Gillespie (FB) did the costumes, and these worked quite well — especially during the opening scene where they suddenly appear dressed. Rounding out the credits, Michael P. Wallot did the casting, the aforementioned Kimberly Fox did marketing,  Rebecca Schroeder (FB) was the assistant stage manager, Oliver Lan did the graphic design, Kevin Gardner did the program design, and Zach Payne did social media. “The Fantastiks” was produced by Good People Theatre (FB).

The Fantastiks” runs through June 29; performances are at the Lillian Theatre, 1 block W of Vine on Santa Monica. You can purchase tickets from the Fringe Web Site.

I Support the REPAll this week, I have been writing and obsessing about the situation with Repertory East Playhouse. You can find the background on the story and information from those who were there in this post. I encourage you to read it and draw your own opinions. I’ve been a subscriber at REP for many years, and have seen many shows there. In this time of unjustified Internet outrage, the REP needs your support to survive. Donations are always encouraged, and the REP has a one-week booster campaign going to make up for funds lost due to the unexpected cancelling of Cat. Additionally, encourage those complaining about the REP to actually come and visit the theatre for a future show, and see what this theatre really is. The remainder of the REP season is:  “Return to the Forbidden Planet (A Jukebox Musical retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”)” (July 11-August 16, 2014); “The Great Gatsby” (September 12-October 18, 2014), and “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club” (November 14-December 13, 2014). Tickets are available through the REP online box office. Most importantly — and the reason I’m mentioning it in this post — REP will be hosting a town hall style meeting to discuss issues of discrimination in the LGBTQ community on Sunday June 22 at 6pm at the REP (Pending Reschedule). There will be a panel discussion, a moderator and audience feedback and questions for local community leaders, REP alum etc. They will be discussing the role’s that bullying take and the way that as a community we can best respond. It must be clear: the REP does not stand for bullying in any way, shape, or form — and that includes bullying of members of the LGBTQ community (which is why this whole kerfluffle is odd — had management been informed, they would have had the heckler out of the auditorium and on his way in a Brooklyn Minute. They don’t put up with that nonsense.) #IStandWithTheRep.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre 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 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 Theatre and Concerts:  We lose next weekend to a Bat Mitzvah — but I’m still squeezing in a concert at the Saban Theatre on Monday, June 16: “To Theo, L’Chaim to Life!” with Tom Paxton, Peter Yarrow, Arlo Guthrie, and more. The remainder of the month brings “Stoneface: The Rise and Fall of Buster Keaton” at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on June 22, and “I’m Not Just a Comic Genius” at Secret Rose (FB) on June 27. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. August then remains quiet as we work around vacations and such (but I’m eyeing a number of productions in Escondido, including Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Old Globe, and Pageant” at the Cygnet in Old Town. What they have at the Welk (“Oklahoma“), Patio Theatre (“Fiddler on the Roof“), and Moonlight Stage (“My Fair Lady“) are all retreads. Things start to get busy again in September and October, with “The Great Gatsby” at REP, “What I Learned in Paris” at the Colony, and “Pippin” at the Pantages. More on that later. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.


You Just Have to Love Who (or What) You Love

Man of No Importance (Good People at Lillian)userpic=theatre2I tend to be a completist. For theatre, this means I tend to acquire all cast albums of a particular composing team. In practice, this means that I often jump at the chance to see a show I’ve only heard. So when I discovered that the Good People Theatre Company was doing a production of Ahrens/Flaherty‘s A Man of No Importance as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, I immediately went out an bought tickets. Well, I bought them for the wrong date, but I quickly got that fixed :-).

A Man of No Importance is one of A/F’s less frequently produced pieces, perhaps because it doesn’t work well in the gigantic Broadway houses. With a book by Terrance McNally, and based on the 1994 movie with Albert Finney, it tells the story of Alfie Byrne in 1964 Dublin. Alfie is a conductor on a Dublin bus line; his only joy in life is producing and directing amateur theatre  in the basement of St. Imelda’s church. His favorite playwright is Oscar Wilde, and he has just finished producing yet-another mounting of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.  When a beautiful young woman joins his bus route’s regulars, he instantly decides on the troup’s next show: Wilde’s Salome. Alfie’s sister, Lily, is excited about this news, for she believe it means Alfie is finally interested in a girl and might get married (meaning she can marry the butcher, Lazer Wolf William Carney). But Alfie is interested in the girl, Adele Rice, only as his Salome; his unspoken affection is for his bus driver, Robbie Fay. Alfie is hesitant to act on his attraction, knowing what happened to Wilde (although Wilde, in his mind, keeps urging him on, noting that the only way to deal with temptation is to give in). So Alfie focuses on producing the play, with the support of most of his actors. However, his main male actor, Carney, feels the subject of the play is too immoral for the church to produce. He goes to the leader of the church, Father Kenny, and gets the production shut down. This drives Alfie out in the world where he acts on his impulses… with predictable results.  This brings his secret out (“the love that may not be spoken”) to the world. However, instead of rejection and bigotry from his friends and family, Alfie discovers… acceptance (from all but a few).

If the musical has a heart — and a heart I hadn’t realized before I had seen the production — it is the closing number of Act I: “Love Who You Love”. This number occurs when Alfie walks Adele home one night, and she tells him of the man she left behind in her home town. It goes as follows:

I’m not one to lecture
How could I dare
Someone like me who’s been mainly nowhere
But in my experience be as it may
You just have to love who you love
You just have to love who you love

Your common sense tells ya best not begin
But your fool heart cannot help plungin in
And nothing and no one can stand in your way
You just have to love who you love
You just have to love who you love

People can be hard sometimes
And their words can cut so deep
Choose the one you choose, love
and don’t lose a moment’s sleep
Who can tell you who to want
Who can tell you what you were destined to be
Take it from me

There’s no fault in lovin
No call for shame
Everyone’s heart does exactly the same
And once ya believe that, you’ll learn how to say
I love who I love who I love
So just go and love who ya love

Such a beautiful song.

As for this production, under the directoral hand of Janet Miller (FB)… well it was just remarkable. I always find it wonderful when a production that wasn’t really right for the “big Broadway stage” works in a small venue. I’ve seen this in a number of shows: Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Story of My Life, The Wedding Singer, and many others. A Man of No Importance is one of those shows. Miller’s direction, a fine acting ensemble, and the correct under-99-seat venue combine to produce a gem of a show — one that touches and moves you (even in the wilting heat of a Southern California summer). Miller utilizes the limitations of the venue to great effect — there are no major set pieces — she establishes the scene through a collection of chairs, a bookcase, a table, and a few props. The performances she draws out are enough to mesmorize and transport you to 1964 Dublin without major fly-ins or backdrops. Just wonderful. As for the acting ensemble…

In the lead position, playing Alfie Byrne, is Dominic McChesney (FB). McChesney is perfect in the role: mild, expressive, and yet… powerful. He has a delightful singing voice, and does something I love to see in actors: he inhabits the role. By that I mean that when you watch the performance, you forget you are watching an actor — you believe you are seeing the character portrayed. When this happens, it is just great.

Supporting McChesney is a wonderful team of actors that seem to be having so much fun with their characters, it is infectuous. I’ll name some of my favorites first, and then list the rest. Playing both Carney and Oscar Wilde is David Gilchrist (FB). We’ve seen Gilchrist in a number of productions at Actors Rep of Simi and at Cabrillo, but he gave one of his best performances here. He was so expressive, and so much in character, that it was just a joy to watch him. I also enjoyed watching Marci Richmond Herrera (FB) as Miss Crowe. I don’t know what it was, but there was just something that drew my eye to her whenever she was on stage. As Adele Rice, Audrey Curd (FB) (G+) brought an inner beauty and strength to her performance that served her well when the reason was revealed at the end. Also particularly notable were the performances of Shirley Anne Hatton (FB) as Lily Byrne, Matt Stevens (FB) as Baldy O’Shea, and Keith Barletta (FB) as Robby Fay. Hatton’s Lily was wonderful in her duet “Books” with Gilchrist’s Carney, and Stevens was equally strong in his number “The Cuddles Mary Gave”. Barletta was just strong overall. Rounding out the excellent ensemble were Mary Chesterman (FB) (Mrs. Grace/Kitty Farrelly); Gail Matthius (Mrs. Curtin); Corky Loupé (FB) (Rasher Flynn/Carson); Michael P. Wallot (FB) (Ernie Lally); Melina Kalomas (Mrs. Patrick); Bret Shefter (G+) (Sully O’Hara); Matt Franta (FB) (Peter/Breton Beret); and Terrence Evans (Father Kenny).

The music in this production was excellent. Under the musical direction of Corey Hirsch (FB), the musicians from the Los Angeles Musicians Collective provided a great Irish band,  with a fiddle, flute, keyboard, guitar, and what looked like a mandolin, plus various boxes for percussion. They were just a delight to listen to. The Pantages should hire these folks when Once comes to town!

Turning to the technical and “behind the scenes” folk: The set and properties design by Kevin Williams was simple but effective, as I noted above. This befitted the fringe nature of the production, but also worked well to entice the audience to use their imagination to set the scene — something that movies cannot do. This was supported by the costume designs of Kathy Gillespie (FB) and her sister, Barbara Weisel (FB), (both formerly with the Costume House in Irvine) , whose wonderful costumes transported the audience to 1964 Dublin. Also effective was Katherine Barrett (FB)’s lighting design — both in the spots, but particularly in the backwash along the brick wall. The sound design by Chris A. Flores was what a sound design should be — unobtrusive and invisible, and you could hear the actors clearly. Dialect coaching was by Jill Massie and (to my ear) was quite good — it sounded convincingly Irish without being so heavy as to obscure the dialogue (which was, for example, a problem with both Billy Elliott and Priscilla at the Pantages). Katherine Barrett (FB) was the stage manager, assisted by Rebecca Schroeder (FB). I’m not listing all the publicity folks.

The last performance of A Man of No Importance is, alas, today at 2pm. As that’s less than two hours away as I write this, that means you can only get tickets at the door of the Lilian Theatre at 1076 Santa Monica Blvd (unless they are sold out). I’m looking forward to future productions from Good People Theatre (FB), especially if they are doing musicals not commonly done.

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  July starts with a musical we had originally planned for Fathers Day weekend: Ionescapade” at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. That will be followed by “9 to 5 – The Musical” at REP East on July 14, and “Legally Blonde – The Musical” at Cabrillo at the end of the month. July will also (hopefully) see us as OperaWorks at CSUN. August is currently completely open due to vacation planning, although we may see a show at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido at the end of the month (depending on price), or at another venue in San Diego.

Continuing the look ahead: September may bring Sarah Ruhl’s In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play at the Production Company/Secret Rose and “Blue Man Group” at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as “God of Carnage” at REP East. October is open, but should the Cabrillo production of “Kiss Me Kate” somewhere, as well as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at Actors Rep of Simi. November will bring “Play It Again Sam” at REP East as well as ARTS’s Nottingham Village (a one-weekend ren-faire-ish market). The fall should also bring a production of “Carrie – The Musical” by Transfer Theatre. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open as the various theatres start making their 2013/2014 season announcements. Lastly, what few dates we do have open may be filled by productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411, or discussed in the various LA Stage Blogs I read (I particularly recommend Musicals in LA and LA Stage Times).