Entertainment News Chum

A few entertainment related items (mostly theatre) from the lunchtime news reading:

  • Pasadena Playhouse. As you may recall, we’re long time Pasadena Playhouse subscribers, but the bankruptcy combined with a lackluster upcoming season have led us not to renew. So here’s more info on the lackluster season to come… it seems they decided on the musical. No, it isn’t The Nutty Professor or Peggy Sue Got Married as they indicated in their season brochure. The musical will be: Sleepless in Seattle: The Musical. The production will be directed by Joel Zwick and feature songs written by Michelle Citrin, Michael Garin and Josh Nelson. No casting, and it is supposedly faithful to the movie (which I have never seen). Color me underwhelmed.
  • Barney Sings. One of the first shows I ever saw on stage was “The Rothschilds” with Hal Linden. Mr. Linden has a beautiful voice, which one rarely hears. The LA Times recently had a nice article on Hal Linden, including a reference to a new CD he is releasing. Some of us oldsters may remember Mr. Linden from his role on Barney Miller—a role he got from his lead performance in The Rothschilds.
  • Corrupting the Kiddies. Hard to believe, but Avenue Q is coming to a high-school near you. Of course, the high school version is very sanitized. The school edition makes the following changes: (1) The language (both dialogue and lyrics) has been cleaned-up throughout, making the show closer to a PG-13; (2) The song “Internet is For Porn” has been replaced with “Social Life is Online”; (3) The songs “My Girl Friend Who Lives In Canada” and “Loud As The Hell You Want” are cut; (4) The videos throughout the show are all now done live using actors; (5) The scenes with the Bad Idea Bears have been trimmed and amended to now focus less on drinking; and (5) A few character names have been changed – Lucy T. Slut is now just Lucy, and Mrs. T. is now Mrs. Butz. Somehow, it seems too cleaned up for me.
  • Seeing the Light. One problem that is non-existant in live theatre is an inability to see the actors. That’s not true for movies, and Roger Ebert has a nice article on the growing dimness in theaters today. He’s not talking about the scripts or the actors, but the projectionists are not projecting the image at the proper brightness. Those of you who are regular theater-goers should read this, and speak up when you are not getting the image you pay for.

Hershey One Note

Last night, we went to see our penultimate (i.e., next to last) production at the Pasadena Playhouse, George Gershwin: Alone (GGA). “George Gershwin: Alone” is part of a four musical series called “The Composer Sonata”. It consists of three movements and a coda: “Beethoven: As I Knew Him“, “Monsieur Chopin“, “George Gershwin: Alone“, and “Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein“. All of these shows feature a book by Hershey Felder, with music by the indicated artists.

George Gershwin: Alone” purports to be a one-man show that tells the life story of George Gershwin. Although in some sense a jukebox musical, it doesn’t have the typical larger cast, nor does it have reenactments of scenes in the life of the group. If I was to try to come up with a close comparison, it would be the one-woman show on Ethel Merman done by Klea Blackhurst. In other words, the show is structured as a single performer (Hershey Felder, in this case) telling the target’s life story, punctuated with the songs from that story. But unlike Blackhurst’s show, which discusses the life of Merman in detail, Felder’s presentation on Gershwin was superficial, concentrating most heavily on the music, not the man, and on the post-Rhapsody period. About the only mention of the extensive Broadway career of Gershwin was the singular mention of Merman and “I’ve Got Rhythm”—and this seemed to be done primarily to get a joke comparing Merman and Jolson (who introduced Gershwin’s first famous song, “Swanee”). Although the production did cover the highlights of Gershwin’s career (popular songs, Broadway, Rhapsody, the Concerto, Porgy and Bess, and his Hollywood work), it never gave the sense of why the Gershwin’s were one of the most popular composing teams of the 1920s and 1930s, and why they had such an impact on American music. In particular, it never gave mention of Gershwin’s targeted political nature, evidenced in shows such as “Strick Up The Band”, “Of Thee I Sing”, and “Let Them Eat Cake”. It scratched the surface of what Gershwin was and the music he gave the world. On the up-side, Felder does a good job of telling the story he tells, and seems to know Gershwin’s life intimantly. He is a virtuoso at playing Gershwin’s music, especially “Rhapsody in Blue”, which takes up the last 10 minutes of the formal show.

The best part of the show was not the formal show itself, but the aftershow. In the tradition of Gershwin, Felder hosts a party at the theatre immediately after the bows. This includes crowding the audience (virtually) around the piano and singing along (“Embrace me, you sweet embracable you…”). It also includes having the audience suggest songs from the Gershwin catalog to sing (in our case, it included “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, and “Summertime” — he nixed “Strike Up the Band” because he didn’t have the music (only for the UCLA version), and “Lady Be Good” because it was in a register too difficult for the audience to sing. He also sang a humerous song that Gershwin and Berlin wrote. He also used this time to talk about his new show, “An American Story” about the surgeon who treated Lincoln, and how merch (including advance copies of the CD of that show) would be available in the patio, with proceeds going to the Playhouse.

The show did not give the feeling of a Pasadena Playhouse production. It seemed more like “FDR“, a imported show that was brought into the Playhouse to help fill out the season’s slots after the bankruptcy. Hopefully the next show, “Twist“, won’t have that feeling.

George Gershwin: Alone” was directed by Joel Zwick. The scenic design by Yael Pardess was simple: a grand piano, a table stacked with music, a chair and a light, and some pictures of sheet music. The lighting design by Michael T. Gilliam, assisted by Margaret Hartmann, was relatively basic (c’mon, what was being lit was a piano!). Matt Marsden was Production Manager and Technical Director. Gigi Garcia was the Production Stage Manager, assisted by Nate Genung. I should note that much of this production team were not Playhouse regulars, but were staff from Eight-Eight Entertainment (I’d link, but Google thinks the site is compromised), the production company for “George Gershwin: Alone“—this served to highlight the sense of this being an imported production.

The last performance of “George Gershwin: Alone” is tonight, Sunday, May 8, 2011.

The Pasadena Playhouse has announced their next season. Suprisingly, for a theatre coming out of bankruptcy, they didn’t do this heavily during the show. There was no announcement during the show of the program; there was no insert in the program; there was no full-page ad on the season. Instead, there was a heavily textual 1/3rd page column on the last page of the program-specific material. So I’ll be similarly low-key: you can find a full description in this post. It consists of “South Street” (September 2011), “Pastoral” (November 2011″, “Art” (January 2012), “The Heiress” (April 2012), and a summer musical, which will either be “Peggy Sue Got Married” or “The Nutty Professor”. We’re not subscribing; we may go to particular individual shows.

Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: Next weekend sees us at Van Nuys High School for the “Collabor8 Dance Festival”, which is always excellent. The third weekend in May brings us to “Gypsy… Stripped” at West Coast Ensemble (specifically at the Theatre of Arts Arena Stage in Hollywood) The last weekend of May brings Cabaret” at REP East on May 28. June begins with “Year Zero” at the Colony Theatre on June 5, but most of June is lost to the college visit trip (but who knows — we might go see “Always Patsy Cline” at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville). July should hopefully start with “Les Miserables” at the Ahmanson on July 2 (pending hottix), and continue with Jerry Springer: The Opera (July 8, Chance Theatre, pending ticketing); “Twist: A New Musical” (July 16, Pasadena Playhouse, ticketed); “Jewtopia” (July 17, REP East, ticketed); Dolly Parton (July 23, Hollywood Bowl, pending ticketing); “Shrek” (July 23 or 24, Pantages Theatre, pending ticketing); and “The Sound of Music” (July 30, Cabrillo Music Theatre, ticketed). August will bring “Doubt” at REP East on August 13, and “On Golden Pond” at the Colony Theatre on August 20. The remainder of August is currently open.


Pasadena Playhouse 2011-2012 Season

Earlier today, I wrote about how the Ahmanson had announced their 2011-2012 season, and I was interested in four of the five shows (“Bring It On”, “Funny Girl”, “American Idiot”, “Fela!”). I probably won’t subscribe because I can usually get Hottix (“God of Carnage” is an exception).

I come home to discover that the Pasadena Playhouse has announced their 2011-2012 season. Here it is:

  • SOUTH STREET by Craig Carlisle & Richard Addrisi. September 2011. A new musical based off of Philadelphia South Street Jazz, from the fellow who wrote “Never My Love”. Summary from Playbill: On Philadelphia’s legendary South Street, Sammy’s Place has long been the hottest joint around. Now the club’s family and its eclectic regulars gather to celebrate the club’s namesake at the annual Full Moon Festival. Get ready for an evening full of love, laughter and friendship with a score by the legendary songwriter Richard Addrisi [known for] his hit song ‘Never My Love’…
  • PASTORAL by Frank Tangredi. World-premier play starring Angela Bassett. From the Playhouse Hothouse series about a pastor with a dark secret. Summary from Playbill: Pastor Emily has a dark secret, hidden from even her own son. When a terrible crisis ensues, she must set her pain aside and look within to discover the true capacity of her forgiveness.
  • ART by Yasmina Reza. International hit, directed by David Lee. About the dire consequences about adhering to one’s taste in art. Short description: How would you feel about your best friend if she suddenly did something so colossally stupid, it made you doubt the very basis of the friendship? It happens in Yasmina Reza’s monster international hit, Art. When an art lover buys what is in essence a pure white painting for a horse-choking sum, his best friend goes ballistic. Yet a third friend gets squeezed in the middle. Questions about the meaning of strange modern art and strange modern friendships–and how they’re sometimes not all that different–fly thick in the limelight.
  • THE HEIRESS by Ruth & Augustus Goetz. An American classic. Short description: This classic tale of love and betrayal centers around the socially awkward and painfully shy spinster Catherine, who in 1850 stands to inherit a tidy sum. When the handsome but penniless Morris Townsend begins to woo her, Catherine’s suspicious father, bitter over his wife’s death and at Catherine’s inability to live up to her mother’s reputation, cruelly insists that she is not worthy of true love and threatens to disinherit her. Will Catherine choose love? Will love choose her? All is in doubt until the emotionally shattering conclusion.
  • MUSICAL TBA 6/2012, either musicalizations of (a) PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED (American premiere of the revised London success) or (b) THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (Based on the Jerry Lewis film, w/ score by Marvin Hamlish & Rupert Holmes)

The pricing for the season is much more reasonable: weekend evenings is $225 per person, or about half of what it was under the old group. No options for split payments, though.

My opinion on the season? It is the old Pasadena Playhouse mixture. A few plays designed specifically to draw in the African-American audience in Los Angeles (SOUTH STREET and PASTORAL). A hit from Broadway (ART). A classic most haven’t heard of (THE HEIRESS). A new “feel good” summer musical… although the NUTTY PROFESSOR musical has been in development for a while and keeps having trouble (plus is something that shouldn’t be musicalized), so PEGGY SUE is the more likely candidate. However, that dates back to 2001, and was considered to be a “dose of sickly, second-hand nostalgia“. However, some liked it.

Will we subscribe? There’s not that much attracting me back, other than the price. None of the shows are “must see”s, except perhaps “Art”.


Beauty that Beguiles and Charms

A dangerous beauty has arrived at the Pasadena Playhouse, and indeed, both dangerous and beautiful she is. At her heart is a story of freedom and education. I’m referring, of course, to the new musical “Dangerous Beauty” at the Pasadena Playhouse, which started previews on February 1 with an official opening of February 13 (we went last night). It was written by Jeannine Dominy, who wrote the screenplay for the 1998 movie of the same name, based on the book “The Honest Courtesan” by Margaret F. Rosenthal. Music was by Michele Brourman, and the lyrics were by Amanda McBroom.

Dangerous Beauty” tells the story of Veronica Franco, a real-life celebrated courtesan/poet of 16th century Venice. Veronica is an adventurous, intelligent, literate young woman in Venice, in a society filled with church leaders, senators, and of course, a collection of courtesans. While getting ready to solemnize the marriage of her friend, Beatrice Vernier to an elder nobleman, she runs into Beatrice’s brother, Marco Venier. Soon they have fallen in love, to the dismay of Marco’s father, Senator Peitro Venier, who remembers that Veronica’s mother, Paola Franco, was once a courtesan herself. He betrothes Marco to a nobleman’s daughter from Rome, Guilia de Lezze, for the value of the marriage in cementing alliances. This forces Marco to break it off with Veronica. As Veronica’s family is penniless, Veronica turns to her mothers profession as a courtesan—a highly paid, cultured prostitute like her mother and grandmother before her. At first Veronica is repelled by the idea, but once she discovers that courtesans are allowed access to libraries and education, she tentatively embraces the idea. Veronica quickly gains a reputation as a top courtesan, impressing the powerful men of Venice with her beauty, wit, and compassion. Marco finds it difficult to adjust to his new wife, who is a straight-laced church woman and is nothing like Veronica. He becomes jealous as she takes his friends and relatives as lovers. After Marco’s cousin Maffio, a poor bard who was once publicly upstaged by Veronica, attacks her, Marco rushes to her aid. They rekindle their romance and Veronica stops seeing clients. War breaks out between the Muslims in Turkey (Ottoman Empire) and Venice, and the city appeals to France for aid. Veronica is directed by the Senator to seduces the king of France and secures a military alliance. She does this to save the city, and Marco becomes despondent that she has broken her promise of fidelity. Veronica points out that she sacrificed their love for the good of the city, while he only did it to protect his family’s political standing, and Marco leaves for war angry. While the Senators are fighting at sea, a plague hits the city. Religious zealots take the war and plague as punishment for the city’s moral degradation, and the courtesans and rounded up and put on trial. Veronica is summoned to appear before the Inquisition on charges of witchcraft and refuses to name her clients. When it appears that she will be executed, she is urged to confess. But Veronica stands on the truth, and Marco publicly shames the Venetian ministers and senators into standing. The Inquisitor drops the charges of witchcraft, and Marco and Veronica reconcile.

I went into this musical completely unfamiliar with the story. I was expecting a dull, period musical with slow music. I was wrong. Through the course of this musical, I grew to care about these characters and to understand the society. A fair amount of this credit goes to the underlying story and book, but the director, Sheryl Kaller deserves some as well, for taking this complicated story and presenting it in a sensical fashion. Kaller drew from her ensemble some wonderful performances, with incredible layers and nuances (for example, the background movements of the other courtesans). It was just a spectacular to watch. The music has a much more modern and driving beat—you can hear a number of the songs from the show from the Dangerous Beauty website.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that I fell in love with the cast. Let’s start with the first tier. In the lead positions were Jenny Powers as Veronica Franco and James Snyder as Marco Venier. Powers has a smile that could melt the world—it is so beautiful. She brought charm and wit and a playfullness to the role that made her a pure delight to watch on stage. Combine this with a wonderful singing voice (if you’ve heard the cast album of Loving Repeating, she was Alice B Toklas), and I just melted. Her lover in the show, James Snyder, also had a wonderful playful stage presence, and an equally strong singing voice. There’s joy for either gender to watch in this show! These two were having fun, and it showed.

That doesn’t mean the rest of the top tier were slackers. I was particulary smitten by Megan McGinnis as Beatrice Venier—again, the combination of a beautiful face, great acting, and a wonderful singing voice won me over. Equally strong were Michael Rupert as Domenico Venier, Bryce Ryness as Maffio Veniter, and Laila Robins as Paola Franco. All were strong singers and actors, who truly brought their roles to life.

In the second tier are the characters we didn’t get to know as well through the story. This included John Antony as Marco’s father, Senator Pietro Venier and Morgan Weed as Guilia de Lezze, the cold church-devoted new wife of Marco Venier. It also included the various noblemen of Venice: Michael Baker (Bishop Della Torre); Marcus Choi (Minister Andrea Tron); Nigel Columbus (Ramberti), Joe Mandragona (Tintoretto), and Matthew Tyler (Grand Inquisitor).

The collected courtesans were harder to tell apart, but did a beautiful job with their dancing and singing. All were wonderful to watch; I was particularly smitten with Angel Reda (Imperia), Jessica Lee Keller (Elenda), Katherine Malak (Marina), and Jessica Vosk (Olympia). Rounding out the courtesans were Iresol Cardona (Livia), Meg Gillentine (Diana), and Angela Wildflower Polk (Angela).
[All actors are members of æ Actors Equity ]

The musical and movement of this show was also a thing of beauty. As I noted before, the music was by Michele Brourman with lyrics by Amanda McBroom. The orchestrations by Burce Coughlin brought the music to life, aided by the excellent musical direction of Fred Lassen, who conducted the 9 piece orchestra. Additional arrangements were by Ben Butler, with vocal design by Annmarie Milazzo. One minor music comments (perhaps due to the fact we saw a preview): it would be nice to have an energetic reprise during the curtain call (perhaps “Desire”), permitting a playout and providing an opportunity to showcase the orchestra for the audience. Turning to the movement side, Benoit-Swan Pouffer was effective and very ballet-like in style—the movements certainly were not either modern rock or tap. But they were effective and interesting to watch. Fight design was by Brian Danner.

The technical design of the production was excellent, befitting what we’ve come to expect from the Pasadena Playhouse. The set by Tom Buderwitz was excellent (we’ve seen his work before at numerous venues): he built a replica of a 16th century Venice on the Playhouse stage, which fit perfectly with the existing frescos in the facility. The lighting by Russell H. Champa made extensive use of moving lights and gobos, and did a wonderful job of conveying mood and intent. The sound by Jon Weston was clear and crisp. The costumes by Soyon An were a mix of period and pop, and included elegant masks and gowns, as well as fighting gear. Rounding out the technical and production staff were: Angela Sidlow (Company Manager), Gary Wissman (Production Supervisor), Joe Witt (Stage Manager), Mary Michele Miner (Stage Manager), and Joe Langworth (Associate Director). “Dangerous Beauty” was produced by Sara Katz, Susan Dieta, and Tara Smith. Ann E. Wareham was associate producer.

On the drive home from the Playhouse, our thoughts turned to whether we would be renewing our subscription. Part of the problem was that the Pasadena Playhouse had gotten very expensive—on the order of $400 per subscription for 6 shows (contrast this with $180 for the Colony and approx. $120 for REP East). Based on mission, we felt the Playhouse was competing with the Geffen, La Jolla Playhouse, and the Rubicon, presenting a mix of rediscovered older gems and new work (as opposed to the tours of the Ahamanson or Pantages, musical revivals of La Mirada or Cabrillo, or American dramatic fare of Colony or REP East). New work does justify a slightly higher subscription price (ETA: As does a company that uses 100% Equity actors, for that incurs higher costs), but not where the Playhouse was. We might consider resubscribing if the post-bankruptcy economics permits the Playhouse to return to reasonable subscription rates.

Dangerous Beauty continues at The Pasadena Playhouse through March 6, 2011. Tickets may be purchased through the Playhouse; I do believe I’ve seen some weekday productions up on Goldstar.

Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: Next weekend brings two shows: “The Marvelous Wonderettes at Cabrillo Music Theatre on February 12, and “Adding Machine: The Musical at The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble on February 13. The third weekend of February is another with two shows: “Rock of Ages at The Pantages Theatre on February 19, and “33 Variations at the Ahmanson Theatre for February 20. February closes with “Moonlight and Magnolias” at The Colony Theatre on February 26. March is also busy. It begins with a Noel Paul Stookey concert at McCabes on March 4. March 5 is the MRJ Regional Man of the Year dinner at TBH. The first two weekends of March are also the Spring Musical, Evita”, at Van Nuys High School; we’re likely going on Saturday, March 12. Sunday, March 13 is “The Cradle Will Rock” at the Blank Theatre. The weekend of March 19 is currently open, but that probably won’t last for long. Lastly, March 26 brings “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Repertory East. April will bring the Renaissance Faire, “The Producers” at Cabrillo Music Theatre, “The All Night Strut” at the Colony Theatre, and (pending ticketing) Brian Stokes Mitchell at the new Valley Performing Arts Center.


Surprise! Surprise!

We just got tickets for “Dangerous Beauty” from the Pasadena Playhouse! I thought we wouldn’t be seeing tickets from them. Quoting from their letter:

“As a subscriber to the Playhouse, we have been working hard to repay our obligation to you and your patience over the last few months has been greatly appreciated. You were entitled to see six plays and by now have seen three of them: Camelot, FDR, and Uptown/Downtown. True to our word, we plan to fulfill our obligation to you. Dangerous Beauty will be your fourth show, and you will soon hear about our great production plans for the spring and summer.

For those of you who donated back some or all of your plays, we have decided as a way of thanking you for your support that we will offer you as well, the remaining plays in the current season as our guests. Our business plan allows for this and it is imperative that we continue regaining your trust and confidence, as we will need your help soon. This spring we will initiate a renewal subscription campaign for a season that will begin in September of 2011.”

This is quite interesting. Their summer musical sounds interesting. Will we renew? Surprisingly, our subscription plate is getting full, so it will really depend on prices and shows. We will certainly be watching.


A Leader for Troubled Times

I’m about to say something I didn’t think I would say back in February: This afternoon we went to the second show of the Pasadena Playhouse 2010 season: “FDR” starring Ed Asner. Before I start the actual review, a few words about the Playhouse itself.

Those who have been following my journal know about the travails with the Pasadena Playhouse. The organization went backrupt after their first 2010 production, “Camelot”. Although I knew they would be back, I didn’t expect it to be quickly, and we opted to donate the remainder of our subscription. Surprisingly, the Playhouse did come back after six months, and even more surprisingly, they provided tickets to the first two productions even to those that had donated their subscriptions. I think this is a strong good will gesture, and one that is appreciated. Will we renew when the next season is announced? I still don’t know: it depends on (a) what is in the season; (b) the pricing for the season; and (c) the payment options and timing. One problem that the Playhouse had was that their season was getting pricey: on the order of $400 for 6 shows per ticket. The Colony is on the order of $150 for 5 shows per ticket; REP East is $120 for 7 shows. So the jury is still out regarding subscription renewal, although we may opt to do Goldstar/LA Stage Tix instead.

That said, it was weird walking into the Playhouse after so long. The place felt different: we didn’t have our usual greeters, and the auditorium seemed different. My wife and daughter said that some of the extra speakers and lighting that were there had been removed. Perhaps. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it felt different. It wasn’t the P Playhouse of old—there was a perceptable change of vibe. Perhaps this was due to the nature of the product, so let’s turn to the review…

Unlike other productions that have graced the Pasadena Playhouse stage (for the most part), this wasn’t a Pasadena Playhouse production in the sense that it was cast and staged by the Playhouse. “FDR” is a one-man vehicle that Ed Asner is touring around the country at various venues; in fact, “FDR” was originally scheduled for earlier October to play at CSUN, but that production was postponed. This doesn’t make it a bad production, but could contribute to the odd Playhouse vibe.

FDR” is based on the play “Sunrise at Campobello” by Dore Schary. But whereas Campobello had multiple characters and focused on Roosevelt’s battle with polio, FDR uses the polio as a starting point for a one-man show about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s political career. It begins with FDR talking about how he triumphed over the polio and learned to stand, and continues throughout his presidency up until he leaves for his final visit to Warm Springs.

As a one-man show, the play consists solely of dialogue (Roosevelt was not known as a song and dance man, although he does sing one song about Alf Landon in the show). However, there are other characters, all unseen: either addressed offstage, supposedly in the office with FDR, or on the phone. Through this technique, there is dropping of all the famous names of the adminstration, from all the cabinet members, his opponents, military leaders, personalities of the day, etc. You might think this would be boring, but this is where the actor comes in.

Ed Asner is one of the most talented actors around. Best known for his numerous TV portrayals (the best known being the character Lou Grant) and his voiceover of Carl in “Up”. He is also committed to stage work—I saw him most recently as Karl Marx in the “Meeting of Minds” revival. In FDR, Asner becomes FDR. He mesmorizes you with his stage presence and style, just as the original FDR mesmerized the electorate. Watching Asner, you could see why FDR got to be who he was. It was just a great and a timeless performance. Asner’s performance just left you rivited in your seat for the almost two hour (no intermission) show.

Technically, there’s not much to credit. No technical credits were given in the program other than Kyle Ross as Sound Engineer. No director is listed, so presumably Asner self-directed. Ron Nash served as Production Supervisor/Production Stage Manager. “FDR” was producted by the Pasadena Playhouse in association with Campobello Theatre Productions and Gero Productions LLC.

“FDR” continues at the Pasadena Playhouse through November 7th. Tickets are available online or through the Pasadena Playhouse boxoffice. There do appear to be some discount offers: I’ve seen both 20% and the occasional 50%. The next production at the Pasadena Playhouse is “Uptown Downtown”, a one-woman life-story starring Leslie Uggams. February 2011 bring “Dangerous Beauty”, a new musical with book and verse by Jeannine Dominy, lyrics by Amanda McBroom, and music by Michele Brourman.

Upcoming Theatre and Dance. Next week brings Happy Days: The Musical” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on October 30; I’ll note that Cabrillo has dedicated their performances to the recently departed Tom Bosley. November starts with “Varney the Vampire” at Van Nuys High School on November 4, 5, and 6 (contact us for tickets; Erin has a leading role). The following week will see “Bell, Book, and Candle” at The Colony Theatre on November 13; Amadeus” at REP East (ticketed for November 21), and Randy Newman’s Harps and Angels” at the Mark Taper Forum (ticketed for November 27). December will bring Uptown, Downtown” starring Leslie Uggams at the Pasadena Playhouse on December 11, and Next to Normal” at the Ahmanson (November 23–January 2; Hottix on November 2; planned date December 18 or 19). It should also take Erin to West Side Story” at the Pantages Theatre, which is pending ticketing (sigh).

Looking briefly into 2011: January will bring Tom Paxton at McCabes on my birthday, January 21 (pending ticketing), and perhaps the first REP show of the season. February will bring The Marvellous Wonderettes” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on February 12; Rock of Ages” at the Pantages on February 19 or 20 (pending ticketing), and Moonlight and Magnolias at the Colony Theatre on February 26. Of course, I learn of interesting shows all the time, so expect additions to this schedule.

As always: live theatre is a gift and a unique experience, unlike a movie. It is vitally important in these times that you support your local arts institutions. If you can afford to go to the movies, you can afford to go to theatre. If you need help finding ways, just drop me a note and I’ll teach you some tricks. Lastly, I’ll note that nobody paid me anything to write this review, and that I purchase my own tickets to the shows. In fact, I receive no remuneration for any reviews I write.


Doing Something Right

Those of you who actually read the “Upcoming Theatre” section in my theatre reviews may have noticed a reference to the Pasadena Playhouse. Yup, we’re going back there, at least for a few shows. This is because the Playhouse is doing something surprising.

Let me relate the history. As you recall, the Playhouse went into bankruptcy after the January show. After a series of poor communications with subscribers, we eventually donated our tickets. That’s where I expected things to stand—in a quasi-subscriber state until we were asked to subscribe again whenver they announced a new season.

But guess what? When I started to communicate with the Playhouse regarding tickets to their next production, “FDR”, I was told we were getting tickets for free to “FDR as well as “Uptown/Downtown”. I didn’t believe this, because I had received no communication from the Playhouse. However, taking a chance, I changed our dates for FDR and bought two extra tickets, figuring I would believe our subscription tickets when I saw them.

I saw them.

Today, in the mail, I received six tickets: four for FDR, and two for Uptown/Downtown. The accompanying letter stated:

For those of you who donated some or all of your plays back to us to aid in our successful financial reorganization please accept tehse tickest for free as a token of our profound gratitude for your generosity. We will need all of our subscribers help again in the near future as we continue our careful rebuilding. Your future dedication to us as subscribers and donors is essential as we chart a responsible course for our new operations

So, I say to the Playhouse: Well done! This is how you rebuild relations. Depending on the next season, I’ll consider subscribing, especially if you do as the Colony Theatre does and provide an option for splitting the subscription payment into reasonable chunks.


Pasadena Playhouse Update

I haven’t done a Pasadena Playhouse update in a bit, but an item in today’s news caught my eye and made me realize an update is appropriate. For a change, it is all good news.