🎭 Rumors are like Feather Pillowcases | “Anastasia” @ Hollywood Pantages

Anastasia (Hollywood Pantages)The music from Anastasia (and by this, I mean the 1997 animated movie musical) has a special place in my heart, for it was the first movie to which we took our daughter. I remember when we saw it: I liked the music, but the villain in the story was far too comical, and I always felt guilty watching it because it made you cheer for the Czar and his family, when … well, remember those Jews being kicked out of their home in Fiddler on the Roof? That was happening at the request of the Czar. Anastasia was also the musical that introduced me to the music of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (FB). From there, I found Once on this Island, and Ragtime and Suessical and Lucky Stiff and …

So when I learned they were adapting Anastasia into a musical for the stage, I was intrigued. It opened to mixed reviews, but I was sure it was going to tour. I got the album, and found the songs a bit slower than the animated feature. But still, I wanted to see it. Luckily, it was the first show of the 2019-2020 Hollywood Pantages (FB) Season… and so you know where we were last night.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it is based on the true story of Czar Nicholas II, who was executed in the Russian Revolution of 1918. After the execution, rumors persisted that his daughter, the Grand Duchess Anastasia survived. The entire musical is based on that rumor: after establishing the basis of the story and the Czar (and the execution), the action moves to St. Petersburg (Leningrad), where the rumor is circulating. Two schemes plot to find an Anastasia impersonator and sell her to her grandmother living in Paris. They find this young women, Anya, who has no memory of her past but conveniently seems to have snippets that suggest she might be the real thing. Enough practice, and …. off to Paris they go.

But every scheme needs a foil to create drama, and to put difficulties in the way of our protagonists.

In the animated movie, which featured a screenplay by Susan Gauthier, Bruce Graham, Bob Tzudiker, and Noni White, with story by Eric Tuchman (animation adaptation), based on Anastasia by Arthur Laurents and Anastasia by Marcelle Maurette, that foil was Grigori Rasputin, recreated as comically magic and evil, and his anthropomorphic bat assistant, Bartok. But this isn’t Disney, and silly foils like that don’t work. So when the story was reworked by Terrence McNally, he changed the antagonist to a Bolshevik officer, General Gleb Vaganov: a man who both has a crush on Anya, as well as being the son of the guards that shot the Romanov family. His superiors want all traces of the Russian family gone (yet, for some reason, they don’t go after the Dowager Empress in Paris), and order him after them. So he’s torn between carrying out his father’s destiny, and his affection for the girl.

This being a musical, and being a fairy tale, you can guess what happens. Is Anastasia dead? Not so long as she lives in our hearts, right?

The stage musical also keeps some of the elements related to the two men who help Anya become Anastasia: Dmitry still has a connection as a boy to the younger Anastasia; “Count” Vlad Popov still has a connection and past relationship to Countess Lily (Sophie in the movie), the lady-in-waiting of the Dowager Empress in Paris. In fact, Vlad provides some of the best comic relief in the story, both in his interactions with the main trio of Dmitry and Anya, and especially in his interactions with Lily.

The movie was also very fast paced, with a total of 8 songs. They kept 4-5 of those, and added loads of new songs, although many of them use the same underscoring as the original 4-5. This, along with the pace, makes the show feel a bit slower paced.

This is an expansive story, going back and forth in time constantly, and moving from Russia to Paris. It took a creative director to address that, and director Darko Tresnjak (FB) it in a creative way: he eschewed loads of traditional sets, and working closely with scenic designer Alexander Dodge and Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne, leaned heavily into the projection approach to scenic design. The main background and side pillars were HD projection systems, and these were constantly changing, creating beautiful 3-D scenic locals, moving landscapes, even background expositions. Sometimes they were a bit too cartoonish, and at times were a bit too much in motion. A larger concern I have with the projection approach is the limitations this creates for the long life of the show. Regional theatres might have the needed projection technology, but this limits their creativity in the realization of the show. Smaller theatres and high schools? They won’t have it, and will they be able to create the backdrops for the story? I’m unsure, and this could be a problem for the life of this property. Perhaps one day the musical Anastasia will also be  rumor.

The performances were mostly good. In the lead positions were Lila Coogan (FBAnya / Anastasia and Jake Levy (FB) Dmitry. Both are newish actors, and did wonderfully bringing that youthful joy to the roles. We’ve seen Levy before back in the UCLA production of Steel Pier, and enjoyed him then. Coogan brought loads of spunk and fun to the role; in her pixie haircut at the top of Act II, I could just see her doing a great Kathy Seldon in Singing in the Rain. These two were loads of fun.

Also strong was the comic second bananas: Edward Staudenmayer (FB) Vlad and Tari Kelly (FBCountess Lily. Staudenmayer was strong in all his numbers: funny, and with a great voice, great moves, and wonderful comic timing. Kelly also had that comic touch, especially in “Land of Yesterday” and her duet with Staudenmayer, “The Countess and the Comic Man”. The show is almost worth their performances along.

If there was a weak point in the casting, it was Jason Michael Evans (FB) Gleb. He just didn’t have the strength of voice or project the right gravitas to be villainous. He did OK in his main number, “The Neva Flows” and “Still”, but it wasn’t the powerhouse it needs to be.

Rounding out the major roles was Joy Franz (FBDowager Empress. She had a lovely voice, and captured the conflicting emotions of the Dowager Empress wonderfully.

Rounding out the background in various roles was the extremely talented ensemble and swings: Ronnie S. Bowman, Jr (FB) Ensemble; Ashlee Dupré (FB) Ensemble, Olga Romanov, Odette in Swan Lake; Kylie Victoria Edwards (FB) Ensemble, Maria Romanov, Marfa; Alison Ewing (FB) Ensemble, Countess Gregory; Hannah Florence (FB) Swing; Peter Garza (FB) Ensemble, Russian Doorman; Fred Inkley (FB) / Jeremiah Ginn (FB)¤ Ensemble, Gorlinsky, Count Leopold; Brett-Marco Glauser (FB) Ensemble; Brad Greer (FB) Ensemble, Tzar Nicholas II, Count Ipolitov, Count Gregory; Tamra Hayden (⭐FB, FB) Ensemble; Lucy Horton (FB) Ensemble, Tzarina Alexandra; Kourtney Keitt (FB) / Sareen Tchekmedyian (FB)¤ Ensemble, Tatiana Romanov, Dunya; Mark MacKillop (⭐FB, FB) / Kenneth Michael Murray (⭐FB, FB)¤ Ensemble, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake; Ryan Mac (⭐FB, FB) EnsembleDelilah Rose Pillow / Eloise Vaynshtokº Little Anastasia, Alexei Romanov; Taylor Quick (FB) Ensemble, Young Anastasia, Paulina; Matt Rosell (FB) Ensemble;  and Lyrica Woodruff (FB) Ensemble, Olga Romanov, Odette in Swan Lake. All were strong dancers, and had great facial expressions and movement for their characters.
¤ indicates swing who swung into this role at our performance; ° indicates performs Saturday matinee and Sunday evening.

Dance and movement in the show, which was choreographed by Peggy Hickey (FB), was in general strong, especially in the palace dance numbers and the ballet numbers. Other dance related credits: David Chase Dance Arrangements; Bill Burns (FB) Assoc Choreographer; Jeff Barry Fight DirectorKenneth Michael Murray (⭐FB, FBDance Captainand Rachel E. Winfield (FB) Fight Captain.

As noted earlier, the show featured music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, with orchestrations by Doug Besterman and vocal arrangements by Stephen Flaherty. Tom Murray was the Music Supervisor. Lawrence Goldberg served as music director and conductor of the orchestra, which consisted of (🌴 indicates LA local): Valerie Gebert Asst Conductor, Keyboard 2; Ryan Sigurdson (FB) Keyboard I; 🌴 Jen Choi Fischer (FB) Violin / Concertmistress; 🌴 Grace Oh (FB) Violin/Viola; 🌴 Ira Glansbeek Cello; 🌴 Ian Walker (FB) Bass; 🌴 Jeff Driskill (FB) Flute / Piccolo / Clarinet / Alto Sax; 🌴 Richard Mitchell Clarinet / Flute / Tenor Sax / Oboe / English Horn; 🌴 Aaron Smith (FB) Trumpet / Flugelhorn; 🌴 Laura Brenes (FB) French Horn; 🌴 Charlie Morillas (FB) Tenor Trombone; and 🌴 Bruce Carver PercussionOther music credits: Mary Ekler (🎼FB, FB) Keyboard Sub; 🌴 Eric Heinly (FB) Orchestra Contractor; Michael Aarons (FB) Music Coordinator; Randy Cohen (FB) Keyboard Programmer.  Overall, the orchestra had a very lush sound and sounded great.

Finally, turning to production and creative side. I’ve already talked about the scenic and projection design of scenic designer Alexander Dodge and Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne, and how it was both creative, and may prove to be a hindrance when this gets to the regional and local production level. Peter Hylenski (FB)’s sound design was reasonably clear for the Pantages, although some words in the songs were lost in the cavernous space. Donald Holder‘s lighting design established mood and such well, but at times was in competition with the projections. Linda Cho‘s costume design, Charles G. LaPointe‘s Wig/Hair Designs, and Joe Dulude II‘s makeup designs combined to make the actors into the characters they needed to be. Other production credits: Telsey + Company (FB) Casting; Richard A. Leigh (FBProduction Stage Manager; Rachel E. Winfield (FB) Stage Manager; Ellen Goldberg (FB) Asst Stage Manager; Denny Daniello Company Manager; Aurora Productions Production Management; RCI Theatricals General Manager; Bond Theatrical Group Tour Marketing and Publicity Direction; The Booking Group Tour Booking Agency; and Dmitry Bogachev Commissioned By. That last credit is perhaps the most interesting: Bogachev is CEO of the theatre company “Moscow Broadway LLC”, founder of the Russian division of the international live entertainment company Stage Entertainment, member of The Broadway League, initiator of the Broadway business model in Russian theatre. Could Anastasia be big in the post-Bolshevik Russian market?

Anastasia: The New Broadway Musical continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) through October 27.  Tickets are available through the Pantages website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar and TodayTix. The musical is entertaining, although with the young touring cast a few performances can be a bit stronger. Overall the show was entertaining, although not that intellectually deep or historically accurate. Don’t think about it too much, and you’ll be OK.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. In my real life, I’m a cybersecurity subject matter expert — an engineer. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. But as I just noted, I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

The third weekend of October brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The first weekend (before ACSAC) may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for mid-January for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date. January will also bring Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB). I’m already booking well into 2020.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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🎭 But Is It a Dog? | “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville” @ Canyon Theatre Guild

Baskerville (Canyon Theatre Guild)Last weekend was a weekend of murder mysteries and humor, cross-dressing and loads and loads of characters, played by very few people. Saturday brought The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-Op in Hollywood. Sunday saw us up in Santa Clarita for Ken Ludwig‘s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at Canyon Theatre Guild (FB), which was being directed by the former proprietor of the former REP East Playhouse down the street (now “The Main“), O Michael Owston (FB). The former (Vep) had two actors playing about 10 difference characters; the latter (Baskerville) has five actors playing about 40 different characters. The former was at a professional membership theatre company (which primarily means they can use union actors); the latter is at a community theatre. Both were mysteries whose goal was humor, not fright. Both dealt with hell hounds and mysteries on the moor. Most importantly, both were well executed and fun to watch.

Ken Ludwig‘s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes‘ The Hound of the Baskervilles. Ludwig retains most of the story (read the synopsis from Wikipedia here), only changing Sir Henry to a transplant from Texas. As executed, two of the actors take the lead roles of Holmes and Watson; the remaining three actors take all the other thousand or so roles.

Initially, when the play started, I had concerns that the same “woke” issues that bothered me about Irma Vep would appear: namely, stereotypes and cross-dressing. The cross-dressing is a bit problematical and played for laughs; luckily, it only occurs one one of the early scenes and isn’t constant through the show (and is forgotten quickly). Similarly, the stereotype problem only applies to one character (the Sicilian) who only makes a brief appearance. All of the other characters portrayed to not raise any “woke” hackles.

O had to be a bit creative in staging this production, as the space is shared with a concurrently running production of Peter and the Starcatcher … meaning a shared set. This means that the set is a series of platforms, and the primary scene establishing devices are chairs and props that can be brought on, as opposed to more detailed set pieces to establish the context of Baker Street vs the Baskerville Manor on the Moor, or other specific locations. O takes advantage of this to play up the humor, especially in the early points of the play when the initial exposition is being established.

In the lead positions are Jeremiah Luther True (FBSherlock Holmes and Matthew Thomas Stallings (FBDr. Watson. True, even though his character is in the title, has the smaller role — and as is Holmes’ nature, the stiffer role. He captures Holmes well, but there have been so many Holmes portrayals over the years, it is hard to assess what “well” is given the tropes in our mind. But he comes across as suitably Holmesish. In contrast, Stallings is very strong as Watson. Stallings gets to carry the primary narrative of the story; he’s the one who does most of the interactions with the other characters and the one who does most of the leg work and investigations. He does this very well, and handles the straight-man aspects of it strongly.

The portion of the cast that really shines are the remaining three actors: Eduardo Arteaga (FBActor 1; Kirsten Rast (FBActress 1; and Tanner Burghardt (FBActor 2. Although I was joking earlier about thousands of roles, these three take on around 40 different roles. I was unsure about Arteaga at the start, as he was cross-dressing with a beard. But he was strong as Sir Henry and Inspector Lestrad, and worked quite well with Stallings’ Watson. Even stronger were Rast and Burghardt. They got the bulk of the numerous different roles, and were extremely strong and funny. Rast was wonderful in all her roles, especially as Beryl and one of the irregulars. Burghardt got to the loads of different characterizations; his best were Mortimer and Stapleton, but all were fun to watch (especially as he dealt with beards that didn’t want to cooperate). Looking back at the show a few days later, I remain impressed by the work of Rast and Burghardt.

Turning to the production and creative side: Set Design, Construction, and Dressing was by the director, O Michael Owston (FB),  which isnt’ a surprise given his current artistic endeavor. As I indicated, the primary set was a series of platforms that had to be adaptable to both Baskerville and Peter and the Starcatchers. Augmenting this was dressing that established the sense of place: chairs, tables, and such. Additional properties were by Laurie Morgan (FB). The primary sense of place and characters came from the costumes of Eduardo Arteaga (FB), which did a great job of establishing the individuality of each character, especially when combined with the unique performance characteristics that O brought out of the actors.  Long-time REP regular Steven “Nanook” Burkholder (FB) provided appropriate sound effects; my only quibble is that the mood-establishing music might be turned down a tad as it overpowered the actors at times. Mackenzie Bradford (FB)’s lighting design did a good job of augmenting mood and establishing time. Rounding out the production and support credits: Musetta Caing Hart (FBAssistant Director; Nicholas Woodworth (FB) Stage Manager; Musetta Caing Hart (FB) Program Editor; Timothy Hart (FBAsst Program Editor; Barbara Yeager (FB) House Manager; TimBen Boydston (🗳FB, FB) Executive Artistic Director.

Note that CTG labels their seats different than most theatres: Numbers represent the row, and letters represent the seat (and O and Q appear to be omitted). Thus, our seats were R2 and S2. This seemed to be an endless source of confusion for, shall we say, the “typical” Sunday afternoon matinee audience.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery continues at Canyon Theatre Guild (FB) in Newhall (Santa Clarita) through November 3. It’s a funny show with strong performances, at a well-established community theatre. Tickets are available through the CTG Online Box Office; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. In my real life, I’m a cybersecurity subject matter expert — an engineer. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. But as I just noted, I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend of October brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The first weekend (before ACSAC) may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for mid-January for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date. January will also bring Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and Cirque Éloize at  the Soraya/VPAC (FB). I’m already booking well into 2020.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

 

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🎭 Crying Wolf | “The Mystery of Irma Vep” @ Actors Co-Op

The Mystery of Irma Vep (Actors Co-Op)Invariably, whenever we do multiple shows on a weekend, they theme together in some way. Sometimes the connection is subtle. Sometimes, it is as obvious as fog on a moor. In this case, the weekend’s theme is clear: it is a weekend for fast-paced comedic murder mysteries. Last night, it was Charles Ludlam‘s The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful at  Actors Co-op (FB); this afternoon it is Ken Ludwig‘s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Although I didn’t know this at the time we booked the shows (we booked them because, for one, we’re subscribers; for the other, a friend is directing), both involve a small number of actors playing a large number of characters, both are farces, and both take place out in the moors of Scotland.

In the case of Irma Vep, we have two actors (of the same sex) playing 3-4 characters each. That the actors be of the same sex is apparently stated in the show contract. In 1991, it was the most produced play in the United States. It is claimed to be terrifying, shocking, and hilarious; but, alas, I’m not the type that gets terrified or laughs out loud that easily. There were others in the audience reacting that way, so I’ll take their word for it.

Here’s the synopsis of the show as described by Wikipedia:

Mandacrest Estate is the home of Lord Edgar, an Egyptologist, and Lady Enid. Lady Enid is Lord Edgar’s second wife, though he has yet to recover entirely from the passing of his first wife, Irma Vep. The house staff, a maid named Jane Twisden and a swineherd named Nicodemus Underwood, have their own opinions of Lady Enid.

Enid is attacked by a vampire, and Edgar seeks answers in an Egyptian tomb, briefly resurrecting the mummy of an Egyptian princess. Returning home with the sarcophagus, Edgar prepares to hunt down the werewolf he blames for the death of his son and first wife. Meanwhile, Enid discovers Irma locked away, supposedly to coax out the location of precious jewels from her. Wresting the keys to Irma’s cell from Jane, Enid frees Irma only to discover the prisoner is, in fact, Jane herself, actually a vampire, and the killer of Irma as well as her and Edgar’s son. Nicodemus, now a werewolf, kills Jane, only to be shot dead by Edgar.

In the end, Enid prevents Edgar from writing about his experiences in Egypt, revealing she was the princess herself, the whole thing an elaborate sham by her father to discredit Edgar. The two reconcile.

The Mystery of Irma Vep (Actors Co-Op) - Photo StripLooking at the show with a normal playgoer’s hat on: It is pretty funny (as I said: it’s hard to make me laugh out loud, but the show achieved it a few times). The show skewers many of the murder mystery conventions (both stage, screen, and poetic), is an avenue for some very funny performances. It plays well with the tropes, even going into the melodramatic where that was appropriate. There are a few double-entendres that the astute will catch, and it even gets self-referential. I particularly enjoyed the playing with Edgar Allen Poe near the end. As such, it was quite enjoyable.

But with my “woke” hat on, it bothered me a little — at least enough to get me thinking. In this era of Ru-Paul’s Drag Race, should we be finding men dressing up as women as a source of humor? This bothered me until my wife asked the question: How much of the humor of this show derived from the cross-dressing aspect? A few self-referential jokes, perhaps. That then segued my thinking into the question: How would this show be differently perceived if, instead of two men playing all the roles, we had two women cross-dressing as men at points? I think some of the humor might be toned down a notch, or it might even come across differently. It would certainly be interesting to see (especially alternating with the male cast version).

Another “woke” aspect that bothered me was the traditional portrayal of Egyptian relic hunters, which in many ways was straight out of the Indiana Jones caricature. While I understand why that was done in the context of the play, and how it fits with the period-view in the story, it made me wonder why we still need to depend on such tropes in plays produced today.

Being “woke” is such a pain sometimes. Just look at my reaction to Miss Saigon for another example. But if I react to this, others will. The best answer is to provide some context in the program from a dramaturg: why were these tropes chosen, and why are they integral to the play and the story. This is an increasing concern: look at how the Asian tropes have impinged on the recent musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, and even then those tropes were significantly changed from the movie portrayal.

But back in 1984 when this was first produced, we didn’t think of such things. And, as I noted in the start, with my 1984-glasses on this is a funny play, with strong performances, great comic timing, and an excellent skewering of a genre that oft times deserves it.

Under the direction of Carla Cackowski (FB), the pace remains crisp and the comic performances strong. She has worked with her acting team to bring the most out of the performances, and to emphasize the playfulness of the characters when appropriate, and the seriousness when appropriate.

We meet John Allee (FB)’s character Jane Twisden, the housekeeper first. Allee primarily alternates between Jane and Lord Edgar, and captures the different characterizations of both well. We even get to hear Allee singing at one point.

Playing off Allee is Isaac Wade (⭐FB, FB), who in many ways get to be more of the comic foil as Nicodemus, Lady Enid, Alcazar, and Pev Amri. He gets the more humorous cross-dressing aspects, and in general is the absurdist against the more straight-faced characters of Allee. He does a great job with this. He also has points where he gets to be multiple characters on-stage at the same time.
[†: whose personal website, alas, prompts you to upgrade to the latest version of Flash, even if you already have it. Flash websites are so 2000s, and with my cybersecurity SME hat on, I urge him to move away from using Flash]

Uncredited as performers, but on-stage occasionally and credited in the curtain call, are the two assistant stage managers, Mia Cotton (FB) and Ember Evertt (FB). On-stage, they appear in various masks to appear to be the other characters. Off-stage, they get the additional hard task of helping with all the quick costume changes.

Turning to the production side: The scenic design of Jessa Orr and Greg McGoon (⭐FB, FB) ‘s set design works extremely well. The primary design was an old Scottish manor, with some very realistic set painting, and a portrait on the wall that did things I didn’t think it could do. This was transformed effectively in the second act into an effective Egyptian tomb through some simple devices. Overall, it worked very well. It was supported by the effective sound effects of David B. Marling (FB), which were well timed, appropriate, and significantly helped to establish the mood and tone. Also establishing tone and time was Martha Carter (FB)’s lighting design. Supporting this all (and shown in the photo-strip to the right) were Vicki Conrad (FB)’s effective quick-change costumes, and her hair and makeup designs. Lori Berg (FB)’s properties completed the picture; particularly effective was the wolf-design. Other production credits: Jack Wallace Dialect Coach; Eric M. White (FBStage Manager; Mia Cotton (FB) and Ember Evertt (FBAssistant Stage Managers; Nora Feldman Publicist;  Selah Victor (FB) Production Manager; Carly Lopez (FBProducer.

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through November 10, 2019. Tickets are available through the Actors Co-Op website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. Overall, it is a funny show, well executed with great performances. In the genre of farces where minimal characters play a maximal number of characters, it works quite well but also raises some interesting questions.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. In my real life, I’m a cybersecurity subject matter expert — an engineer. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. But as I just noted, I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

Sunday afternoon brings Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. The first weekend (before ACSAC) may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB).  I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for January 4 for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date. I’m already booking well into 2020.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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🎭 Speechless | “Blue Man Group” @ Hollywood Pantages

Blue Man Group (Pantages)Last night, we the Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We last saw the Blue Man Group in 2014 at the Monte Carlo is Las Vegas, before the Monte Carlo became Park MGM, and before BMG was purchased by Cirque Du Soleil.

I’m not sure either change was for the better, but we’ll talk about the Monte Carlo later 🙂

In general, the Blue Man Group was, well, the Blue Man Group. Strange. Silly. Wordless. Playful and curious. Childlike and childish. There were sequences that were great (such as the paint marshmallows). Audience participation was fun. But there was something off. The energy and madness was toned down a notch. It wasn’t the craziness I remembered from Vegas.

I can’t quite pinpoint the problem. Was it the significantly larger house? Was it a seeming over reliance on technology, including a massive technological set? Was it the safety for the audience a tour provides? I’m not sure. I just know the show didn’t “wow” me as it did the first time I saw them on stage.

I do not mean to imply they were bad. I thoroughly enjoyed the show. But Blue Man Group brings a certain imprimatur, a certain cachet, a certain expectation. They didn’t quite live up to that expectation; they hit the 85-90% mark.

The cast consisted of Blue Man, Blue Man, and Blue Man, with a Blue Man in reserve. They were played by Meridian, Mike Brown, Steven Wendt, and Adam Zuick. Pick any three of four, because we have no idea who was whom. The show was written by Jonathan Knight, Michael Dahlen, and the Blue Man Group.

They are supported on stage by musicians Corky Gainsford (FB) Drums, Robert Gomez Resident Music Director, Band Captain; and Jerry Kops Musician/Strings, playing music composed by Andrew Schneider and Jeff Turlik.

Turning to the production and creatives: Jason Ardizzone-West Set Designer; Jen Schriever Lighting Designer; Emilio Sosa Costume Designer; Patricia Murphy Blue Man Character Costumes; Crest Factor Sound Design; Lucy Mackinnon Video Designer; Bill Swartz SFX Designer; Johnathan Knight Creative Director; Richard Herrick Production Stage Manager; Byron Estep Music Director; Stacy Myers Company Manager; Anna K. Rains Production Stage Manager; Zachary Feivou Head Carpenter; Gentry & Associates General Management; Bond Theatrical Group Tour booking, Marketing, and Publicity Direction; and Networks Presentations Production Management. The production was directed by Jenny Koons. The original creators of Blue Man Group were Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink.

The Blue Man Group Speechless Tour continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) through October 6. Tickets are available through the Pantages web page, as well as numerous other places.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

Saturday night brings Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting really busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  The third weekend is open, but may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB). November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for January 4 for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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🎭 Humbug, I Say | “Barnum” @ MTG

Barnum (MTG)MTG UserpicThere’s one major problem with seeing shows on Sunday evening: When to do the writeup? That’s made even worse when you are trying to walk 10K steps a day, have a full-time job, have evening meetings, and it is the first week of the new television season. Please accept that as my excuse for why this writeup of the musical Barnum, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Michael Stewart, and book by Mark Bramble, is so late. We saw the show last Sunday night (its only performance); and I haven’t had time to write it up until now.

Barnum is the show that really introduced me to Cy Coleman’s music. When I got the cast album, I also picked up an album of the Cy Coleman trio doing songs from that show, and almost wore it out. I first saw the show in January 1982 at the Pantages Theatre with most of the original cast: Jim Dale, Glenn Close, Catherine Gaines, Ray Roderic, Terri White, Terrence V. Mann, and others. In the recent past, I saw the show back in 2006 at the NoHo Arts Center with James Mellon and Janet Fontaine.

This time, I was seeing Barnum as the first show of our subscription to Musical Theatre Guild (FB), a local company that specializes in doing staged readings of rarely done “gems”. The Ahmanson Theatre (FB) season was a bust in terms of musicals we wanted, and MTG had moved to Sunday night and was doing three shows we hadn’t seen: The Goodbye Girl, It Shoulda Been Youand Kismet — so we subscribed and Barnum was part of the deal. “Staged reading” means you get the entire libretto and book. However, there are no formal sets; the actors (by AEA rules) have their scripts in hand, there is truly limited rehearsal (25 hours); and any ensemble is minimal. It is a great way to “see” a show and imagine what it could be, but not have the expense of a full production. However, as there is only one performance, there are likely to be all sorts of technical problems and rough edges.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it tells the story of P.T. Barnum, from his first “humbug” with Joyce Heth (after he met his wife Charity Barnum) until the creation of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. It has a very Dixie-land score, and features rope tricks, juggling, tightrope walking, marching bands, the world’s smallest man, the world’s oldest woman, the world’s biggest elephant, magic tricks, and more… in this case, with a cast of 9.

So I’ve seen Barnum in the big, and I’ve seen Barnum in the small. How did this production do? The answer is: reasonably well. Overall, the performances were good, and the character performers were extremely creative in presenting Big Top acts on a teeny-tiny budget. Some of the voices were remarkable. The show, however, was marred by sound problems (especially on some of my favorite songs), some of the actors lost their places in the scripts, and the lead just couldn’t keep up with some of the strong patter songs (and I believe dropped some lyrics, and perhaps even cut an entire reprise of the verse).

Credit goes to the director, Alan Bailey (FB), and the choreographer, Cheryl Baxter (FB), for the creative way they brought the show to life with their limited budget and limited rehearsal time. Some of the creative decisions such as how they did the tightrope, the acrobats, the execution of the Tom Thumb and Jumbo sequences, and the implementation of the circus acts were great. Given the limited rehearsal, the movement was in general quite good and conveyed a sense of what the show could be with more time and rehearsal. The incorporation during one sequence of a sign indicating the AEA required them to hold scripts at all times was a hoot.

In the lead position was Kirby Ward (FB) as PT Barnum. Ward had a good voice, and captured the character and the playfulness of Barnum well. Where he had problems was keeping up with the script: there were one or two places where he seemingly lost his place. A greater problem for me was that, in the “Museum Song” (a song I have memorized), he seemed to misplace a line, and skip the fastest reprise. He had some similar problems in “Join the Circus”, IIRC. I understand the limited rehearsal time and being “on book”, but …

Working with him as Charity Barnum was Tracy Lore, who we’ve seen in numerous productions at Cabrillo/5-Star and appears to be an MTG regular. Lore’s Charity had a lovely voice, and she did a great job of bringing the character to life and playing off of Ward’s Barnum. A flawless performance.

As we move to the remainder of the cast (who all handled multiple roles), there are a few I would like to particularly highlight. Regina LeVert (⭐FB, FB) Joyce Heth / Blues Singer / Ensemble had a remarkable voice and gave a great performance, but was hindered by a malfunctioning microphone that hurt her powerful vocals. What made matters worse is that they didn’t fix the problem after the first failure, but let it fail again in her second song in the second act. The stage manager had the presence to hand her a mic near the end of her first song; they could have done that at the first hint of trouble in the second. Another strong singer was Kelley Dorney (FBJenny Lind / Ensemble. For Lind, Dorney has to capture an operatic soprano voice, and she just nailed it with both beauty and grace. The third performance I would like to highlight is Matthew Patrick Davis (FBChester Lyman / Tom Thumb / Wilton / Ensemble.  Davis brought a strong voice to his performance in “Bigger Isn’t Better”, but more importantly brought loads of humor to Tom Thumb, as the tallest ensemble member recruited to play the world’s smallest man. He made it work, and then he reappeared at the end on stilts! Rounding out the ensemble were: Jasmine Ejan (⭐FB, FB) Mrs Stratton / Ensemble; Glenn Shiroma (FB) Ringmaster / James Bailey / Ensemble; Matt Braver (FB) Amos Scudder / Goldschmidt / Morrissey / Ensemble; and Jeffrey Scott Parsons (FB) Sherwood Stratton / Concertmaster / Templeton / Ensemble.

Also “performing” on stage were two ASL Interpreters from Pierce College, Angelina Giudice (FB) and Heaven Ringle (FB). I cannot attest to the quality of their signing, or whether they were able to keep up with the show and the songs, but they were fun to watch and had their own interplay during the show.

Lastly, augmenting the performers during the Act II opening number “Come Follow the Band” was the Verdugo Hills High School Marching Band. They were a hit with the audience; they only way the reaction could have been better had been if they marched down the aisles.

Speaking of music: the on-stage band was under the musical direction of Jan Roper (FB), who was also tickling the ivories (and not the ivories of Jumbo). Rounding out the on-stage musicians were Chris Tedesco (FB) Trumpet; Dave Ryan Trombone; John Yoakum (FBWoodwinds; Steve Wilkinson Bass; and Alan Peck Drums / Percussion.  I did appreciate the red noses at the start.

Finally, turning to the production and creative side. There were no credits for scenic design, although there was a production coordinator (Barbara Carlton Heart), video technical assistance (Ernest McDaniel), and a video board operator (Megan Salisbury). There were no credits for sound or lighting, even though they really needed a sound person on site, given the mic problems. They did, however, have costumes by Jeffrey Schoenberg / AJS Costumes, which served to define the characters and provide a limited sense of who and when.  Rounding out the production team was Leesa Freed Production Stage Manager / Production Manager, Stacey Cortez Asst Stage Manager; and Debra Miller Asst Stage Manager.

Musical Theatre Guild (FB) productions are one performance only. Their next performance is The Goodbye Girl on November 10, 2019.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

Saturday night brings Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting really busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  The third weekend is open, but may bring an outing of our new live theatre group at our synagogue to Eight Nights at the Anteaus Theatre Company (FB). November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays. I do have a hold for December 17 for Elf at Canyon Theatre Guild. I also have a hold for January 4 for What The Constitution Means To Me at the Mark Taper Forum, but I’m waiting for the presale to start to confirm that date.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

 

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💃 Cryptography and Apples | “Invertigo Dance Theatre” @ The Broad Stage

Invertigo Dance Theatre (Broad Stage)Our summer performance hiatus is over. As a side effect of Fringe burnout and the surfeit of performances that come out in July, we tend to have a lighter attendance schedule at the end of August and in early September. But that hiatus is over, and it is weekly live performance from now until December, when the conference creates another hiatus. First up: Alan Turing.

Back in early August, I received an email from The Broad Stage (FB) about an upcoming production that caught my eye. It talked about a performance that “invites us into the life of mathematical genius Alan Turing as cast into the mythologized ideas of his favorite film, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Now I’ve been doing computer science since the mid 1970s, and computer security since the mid 1980s, so any story about Turing intrigued me. I went to the Broad web page for the event, and read the following:

Invertigo Dance Theatre (FB)’s Formulae & Fairy Tales places the worlds of mathematics, artificial intelligence and cryptography into a vivid, twisted fairy-tale palette. The multi-dimensional story casts the life of Alan Turing, mathematical genius and World War II codebreaker, into the Technicolor and mythologized ideas of his favorite film, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Step into a world of lush dance, dynamic theatre, math, sex, fairy tales, humor and death.

Now, I’m not much of a dance person, other than in the context of a musical. I didn’t quite understand the Martha Graham company when I saw it, and I never saw what others saw in Matthew Bourne’s work. But this sounded fascinating. One does not often see pioneers of computer science on the stage, nor does one often see cryptography on stage. Computer Security, in general, gets little attention from live theatre artists. And so, with curiosity peaking, I went out to Goldstar and grabbed some tickets.

Now that I’ve seen the performance, I’m still working on processing it. Much of this is a vocabulary problem. Theatre, in many ways, is easy. We have words, we have stories. We have performance that is either realistic or mock-realism. We can typically relate what we see on the stage to what we know in real life, and can thus assess it.

Dance is much more abstract, especially in a piece where you don’t know the story ahead of time. This piece had some explanatory text, but the story was mostly told in dance and movement. The dance world has its own conventions, and if you are not fluent in them (which I am not), both understanding and describing them are difficult.

That said, the dance here was beautiful. There were feelings that were raised; feelings and images. There was the sense of cogs in a wheel; cogs in a machine; cogs in a rotor. That’s appropriate, given the nature of the Enigma. There were elements of the Snow White story, and there were clearly mathematical elements. There were notions of relationships, both conventional and non-conventional. All of these were from the movement, aided at times from the projections.

There was clearly metaphor: in particular, in the sequence using the Turing quote about how “one day ladies will take their computers for walks in the park and tell each other, ‘My little computer said such a funny thing this morning”, all the computers that were taking to the park were … apples. Could this a reference to Apples and the iPhone?

The dance also involved spoken elements, sometimes cryptic, relating the story of Turing. A repeated motif was the invocation of the Turing Test, which had slightly different construction each time it was invoked — and none of the times fit precisely what Computer Scientists understand as a Turning test (interacting with an unknown entity you cannot see, and through questions along, you make the determination of human or not).

Overall, the production was beautiful to watch. I can’t say it was what I expected, but I’m not sure what I was expecting.

Performers: Cody Brunelle-Potter (FB), Hyosun Choi (FB), Jessica Dunn (FB), Spencer Jensen (FB), Corina Kinnear (💃FB), Dominique McDougal (💃FB, FB), and Luke Dakota Zender (FB). The performances were very strong; I was particularly taken with the dance of Brunelle-Potter and Choi.

Choreography by: Laura Karlin (FB), Cody Brunelle-Potter (FB), Hyosun Choi (FB), William Clayton (FB), Jessica Dunn (FB), Adrian Hoffman (FB), Isaac Huerta, Spencer Jensen (FB), Corina Kinnear (💃FB), Dominique McDougal (💃FB, FB), Shane Raiford, and Luke Dakota Zender (FB).

Original music composed by: Toby Karlin (FB), Julia Kent,  and Eric Mason (FB). Additional music by Afriara Quartet (FB), A Winged Victory for the Sullen, and Nebulo (FB). Text was primarily written by Laura Karlin (FB), with other text by Janna Levin and Alan Turing.

Created and directed by Laura Karlin (FB).

Production credits: R. S. Buck (FBProduction Stage Manager, Lighting Design, Technical Direction; Celestial Zenith (FBStage Manager; Rosalida Medina (FBCostume Design; NightLight Labs Scenic and video design; Veronica Mullins (FBSound Engineer; Mallory Fabian (FBRehearsal Director. Laura Karlin (FB) is the artistic director of Invertigo Dance Theatre (FB); David Mack (FBExecutive Director.

We caught the last performance of Intvertigo at the Broad, although I have heard rumors that this production may be touring.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

Next weekend brings Barnum at Musical Theatre Guild (FB), and the the last weekend of September brings Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting really busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), followed by In Trousers at the Lounge Theatre from Knot Free Productions. October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  The third weekend is open, but I’m looking at a number of shows. November concludes with Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks

December is relatively open right now, given that we lose two weekends to ACSAC, and the small theatres are often darker around the holidays.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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🎭 Shakespeare, Slightly Swapped | “As You Like It” @ OSF

As You Like It (Oregon Shakespeare Festival)As I mentioned in my last post, we have an adage: hobbies don’t stop just because you’re on vacation. That means, when we go on vacation, that we’re stopping at local yarn and quilting stores, we driving the highways and byways looking for interesting history, and of course, we’re seeing local theatre whenever we can. I also mentioned that we were recently in Klamath Falls, and decided to meander down the road (Oregon 66, to be precise) to Ashland Oregon to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB). We made a day of it, seeing two shows.  For our second show, we picked — what else — a Shakespeare play: As You Like It. This is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, meaning that everyone gets married by the end of the show.

Here’s the traditional summary of the play, from the Folger Library:

In As You Like It, witty words and romance play out against the disputes of divided pairs of brothers. Orlando’s older brother, Oliver, treats him badly and refuses him his small inheritance from their father’s estate; Oliver schemes instead to have Orlando die in a wrestling match. Meanwhile, Duke Frederick has forced his older brother, Duke Senior, into exile in the Forest of Arden.

Duke Senior’s daughter, Rosalind, and Duke Frederick’s daughter, Celia, meet the victorious Orlando at the wrestling match; Orlando and Rosalind fall in love. Banished by her uncle, Rosalind assumes a male identity and leaves with Celia and their fool, Touchstone. Orlando flees Oliver’s murderous plots.

In the Forest of Arden, Rosalind, in her male disguise, forms a teasing friendship with Orlando. Oliver, searching for Orlando, reforms after Orlando saves his life. Rosalind reveals her identity,  triggering several weddings, including her own with Orlando and Celia’s with Oliver. Duke Frederick restores the dukedom to Duke Senior, who leaves the forest with his followers.

But Shakespeare, being in the public domain, invites invention. Director Rosa Joshi (FB) accepted the invitation. In this case, it is a bit of gender-bending. The banished Duke Senior becomes a women. Duke Senior’s attendents — all dressed as women, although some were cast with men. Surprisingly, this change really doesn’t change much: the play works, although there some additional notions that come from a company of women, led by a woman, in the forest. Challenging the patriarchy much? Was this why she was banished?

Modulo that change, Joshi brought a very light touch to the production. This is a good thing. Shakespeare can sometimes be heavy and hard to understand. In this production, the actors were light and playful; joyous and fun. Rosalind and Celia are giggly and excited, and Orlando, Touchstone, and even Oliver are just fun to watch. There’s music and there’s lightness, and you really fall in love with these characters.

In the lead positions were Jessica Ko (FB) Rosalind/Ganymede, daughter of the banished Duke Senior; and Kate Hurster Celia, daughter of Duke Frederick. Ko was spectacular as Rosalind — playful and giddy and serious and devious and just a joy to watch. Hurster matched her measure for measure, but a bit more on the girlish side. They really made the show.

We meet their eventual male counterparts, Román Zaragoza (⭐FB, FB) Orlando de Boys, younger son of Sir Rowland de Boys and Shaun Taylor-Corbett (FB) Oliver de Boys, oldest son of  SIr Rowland de Boys, early on, when they are arguing about inheritances, and Orlando is planning to wrestle the champion. Zaragoza presents an engaging personality, both when interacting with Rosalind, interacting with the wrestler, and even when he is interacting with Adam (Tyrone Wilson (⭐FB)), the attendant in the de Boys’ household.

Next we turn to the forest of Arden, to where Rosalind, Celia, and Orlando flees. It is ruled by the banished Duke Senior, played by Rachel Crowl (FB). Here we get our first gender bend: Duke Senior is transformed from male to female (although, during the show, I was a bit confused by the actor, but then later found the explanation). It works, and changes the crew in the forest from a patriarchy to a matriarchy. We’ll get to the crew in a minute.

Some other significant characters/performers are Rex Young (FBTouchstone, a fool; Will Wilhelm (FBAubrey, a country person (also Le Beau, lord attending Duke Frederick; follower of Duke Senior); MacGregor Arney Silvius, a shepherd (also Court Lord, follower of Duke Senior); Lilia Houshmand Phoebe, a shepherdess (also Court Lady, follower of Duke Senior); and Erica Sullivan (FBJaques, a noble-woman attending on Duke Senior (also Court Lady). The first two and the second two create couples that eventually get married. Young’s Touchstone and WIlhelm’s Aubrey form one of the gender bending couples; Young is particular fun as the fool. The second couple — Arney and Houshmand — form a pair of shepherds that don’t like each other: Houshmand’s Phoebe loves Rosalind as Ganymede, and dislikes Arney’s Silvius, who is in lust with her. But this is Shakespeare, so it eventually works out, and they have a great performance. Lastly Sullivan’s Jaques gets to play a melancholy fool, who provides some wonderful commentary.

Rounding out the cast are: Kevin Kenerly Duke Frederick; Hannah Fawcett (FBLady to Rosalind; James Ryen (⭐FBCharles, a wrestler to Duke Frederick (also Sir Oliver Martext, a country priest; follower of Duke Senior); Michele Mais (FBAmiens, a noblewoman attending Duke Senior; Sheila Tousey (⭐FBCorin, a shepherd (also Court Lady); Grant Luecke (FBWilliam, a country fellow (also Court Lord, Wrestling Attendant to Charles, follower of Duke Senior). Notable in this group was Mais, who had a lovely singing voice.

There were a large number of understudies whom I’m not listing.

Note that OSF does something I haven’t seen before: Actors are listed in the program with their pronouns.

Turning to the production and creative side: Sara Ryung Clement‘s scenic design was simple (and I was amazed how the same space had Mother Road just a few hours prior — it was totally transformed). A metal superstructure, banners, symbolic trees, and such. It worked for the story. It was supported by the lighting design of Christina Watanabe and the sound design of Pornchanok (Nok) Kanchanabanca (FB), which served to establish place and mood well. Christine Tschirgi‘s costumes worked well and were vaguely of some unidentifiable era. Other production credits: Palmer Hefferan (FB) Composer; Alice Gosti Associate Director of Movement; Alan Armstrong and Amrita Ramanan (FBProduction Dramaturgs; Rebecca Clark Carey Voice and Text Director; U. Jonathan Toppo Fight Director; Jeremy Eisen Production Stage Manager; and D. Christian Bolender and Emily Robinson Assistant Stage Managers.

As You Like It continues at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB) through October 26. Tickets are available through the OSF website.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

The first week of September is open. Live performance starts up the 2nd week, with the Invertigo Dance Company at the Broad Stage (FB). The show supposedly “places the worlds of mathematics, artificial intelligence and cryptography into a vivid, twisted fairy-tale palette.” Fascinating. The third weekend brings Barnum at Musical Theatre Guild (FB), and the fourth weekend brings Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and a hold for Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musicalat the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  November concludes with a hold for Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand OaksSomewhere in there we’ll also be fitting in Nottingham Festival and Thumbleweed Festival, if they are happening this year. Yes, there are a lot of open dates in there, but I expect that they will fill in as time goes on.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

 

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🎭 On The Road Again | “Mother Road” @ OSF

Mother Road (Oregon Shakespeare Festival)We have an adage: hobbies don’t stop just because you’re on vacation. That means, when we go on vacation, that we’re stopping at local yarn and quilting stores, we driving the highways and byways looking for interesting history, and of course, we’re seeing local theatre whenever we can.

Recently, we were on vacation in Klamath Falls. The local live theatre had little of interest while we were in town, and so we decided to meander down the road (Oregon 66, to be precise) to Ashland Oregon to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB). We made a day of it, seeing two shows. The first was one that appealed to both the roadgeek and historian in me: the world premiere of Mother Road by Octavio Solis (FB).

Mother Road is, in many ways, a homage to John Steinbeck‘s The Grapes of Wrath. For those unfamiliar with the Steinbeck, the Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joad family, forced to leave their family farm in Oklahoma due to the one-two punch of the depression and the dust bowl, and make the trek along US 66 (and US 566) to California, and eventually the central valley of California. Along the way they face hardship, family members die, and we see them for the proud and hardworking, but poor and downtrodden family they are.

Mother Road picks up the story in current times. William Joad, uncle of the original Tom Joad, is dying. He stayed in Oklahoma during the dust bowl, and wants to pass his family farm that he pieced together from sharecropped land to another family member. He has his lawyer, Roger, search, and they find the only remaining living Joad: Martin Jodes, grandson of Tom Joad of the novel. After Tom killed a man and ran away to hide, he went to Mexico. He raised a family, and there was one son: Martin. Martin has since followed the crops to Mexico, and he meets William in Weedpatch, a community near Bakersfield where the Joads onced lived. William tells him the story, and the two start a trek back to Sallisaw OK and the farm. Along the way, we learn the back story of both characters. We meet and pick up some people important in Martin’s life: Mo, a “cuz” whom Martin wants for a foreman, James, a preacher buddy of Martin’s, and Amelia, Martin’s ex. We also run into people who had interactions with the original Joads, including a waitress descended from the Wilson family. Along the way, we also see the parallels between the treatment of the dust bowl refugees (Oakies) and the Mexican farmworkers; we see how the Joad family has always fought against injustice and to do what is right.

Going into the show, I only had a passing familiarity with the original novel. I knew the basic outlines of the story of the Joads, but not the particulars. In preparing this writeup, I had a chance to review the summaries of the novel, and I can see even more how Solis mined the original story for incidents and connections. The two are tightly connected, almost in the same way as Wicked  and The Wizard of Oz, building upon an existing story to make points about contemporary society.

The story makes very strong points about how segments of our society view Hispanics, and how so little has changed since the great dust bowl migration. It shows the power of family, and by the end, shows that the important family is the family that you make through your travels through life.

The manner of storytelling was interesting. It wasn’t quite linear. There were times where there was a chorus commenting on the situation. There were also numerous moments of flashback, providing backstory for the characters. The story moved forward across the road, in fits and spurts like an old car, with the backtracks and sidetrips that make the journey worthwhile.

Under the direction of Bill Rauch, the story grabs you attention and keeps it throughout. The time just passes, and the characters seem like realistic people, not caricatures. I particularly enjoyed the creative choice around the portrayal of Casear, the truck used by Martin and William as they travel back to Oklahoma.

In the lead positions were Mark Murphey (FB) as William Joad, and Tony Sancho (FB) as Martin Jodes. Murphey does a great job with Joad, moving the character from a unlikable hardass to someone whom you see as a real person who had a hard life, shaped by the trials of life. He captured the depth and depths of the character well, The same is true with Sancho’s Jodes: moving from an angry young man beat down by life to a fully rounded person, whom you see is very much like the original Tom Joad of the novel.

In what I would portray as supporting positions were Amy Lizardo (FBMo; Jeffrey King Roger, William’s Father, State Trooper, Ranch Hand; and Caro Zeller (FBAmelia, Chorus Leader.  As Mo, Lizardo provides some great comic relief, especially as we learn the depths of her character. King is most notable as Roger, the attorney who helps William find Martin, and later shows himself as a form of son to William. His final scenes with Martin were particularly touching. Lastly, Zeller is notable as Amelia, Martin’s ex. Her exuberance and joyfulness as a marked contrast to some of the hardship captured by the other characters.

Notable tertiary performances included Catherine Castellanos (FBIvy, William’s Mother, Police Officer; and Cedric Lamar (FBCook, James. Castellanos was most notable as Ivy, the waitress descended from the family the Joads befriended on their trek west to California. Her portrayal of a proud woman who made the best of her circumstances was great. Lamar was notable for two things: first, his wonderful singing voice, and second, his portrayal of James, the spiritual friend of Martin who helps turn his life around.

Rounding out the cast were Armando Durán Abelardo, Ranch Hand; and Fidel Gomez Abelardo’s Father, Curtis.

There were a load of understudies, none of whom we saw.

Turning to the production and creative side: The scenic design by Christopher Acebo (⭐FB) was simple: a billboard on the back for projections, some simple establishing props such as counters, seats, beds, and of course the car. They worked well to establish location and support the action without being extremely realistic. More interesting was the fact that unlike most scenic designs, they were removable — in other words, when we went into to see As You Like It a few hours later, the entire scenic design was removed. Carolyn Mazuca‘s costume design and Cherelle D. Guyton‘s wig design was appropriate for the characters, and with the actors portraying multiple characters, captured each individual character well. Pablo Santiago‘s lighting design served well to establish time and mood; and Kaitlyn Pietras‘s projection design was the main factor in establishing the specific places along the road. Sound designer and composer Paul James Prendergast‘s effects and music also supported the establishment of mood and place. Routing out the creative credits: Ty Defoe Movement Director; Tiffany Ana López Production Dramaturg; Micha Espinosa Voice and Text Director; Kareem Fahmy Phil Killian Directing FellowU. Jonathan Toppo Fight Director; Cedric Lamar (FB) Dance Captain; Karl Alphonso Production Stage Manager; and Ray Gonzalez Production Assistant.

Mother Road continues at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival through October 26, 2019. Tickets are available through the OSF website.

I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.

🎭

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

Upcoming Shows:

There is one more writeup pending from OSF: As You Like It .

Early September is also mostly open. Then things heat up, with the third weekend bringing Barnum at Musical Theatre Guild (FB), and the fourth weekend bringing Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and a hold for Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musicalat the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  November concludes with a hold for Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand OaksSomewhere in there we’ll also be fitting in Nottingham Festival and Thumbleweed Festival, if they are happening this year. Yes, there are a lot of open dates in there, but I expect that they will fill in as time goes on.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

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