A Delightful Little Bomb

No, they are not talking about the play we saw Friday night, which although delightful, was no bomb. Rather, there was a bomb in the play. No, make that three bombs.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. Last night we saw The Beastly Bombing (A Terrible Tale of Terrorists Tamed by the Tangles of True Love). This is a play about two White Supremacists who plan to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. The only problem is, they’re not the only ones. You see, this is also a play about two Al Quaeda members, who plan to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s also a play about these two ditzy blonds, who like their mushrooms, along with other hallucinogens. When the Supremacists meet the Al Quada members at the bridge, they each toss each other’s bombs in the water. To escape the police when the bombs explode, they need to hide. First, however, they discover they have something in common: they hate the Jews. To hide from the police, they run into a clothing store… owned by a Hassidic Jew… who also hates the (secular) Jews. Then the Supremecists and the Muslims, dressed as Jews, run into the girls, and get arrested for drugs. Then the Brooklyn Bridge is really blown up (by someone else). The President is called in, but his bravado is a bluff, especially when he learns that his two blond daughter have escaped from drug rehab. That’s just the first act. In the second act, you add Jesus appearing to the President in real life in an extremely sexual number; a priest singing about about man-boy love; a President who decides to bomb Chad for blowing up the bridge after picking it out on a spinning globe (because he didn’t want to bomb his friends in the house of Saud); a love story where two of the bombers fall for the girls (and marry them), and two bomber leaders fall for each other (and get married), and … and… well, you’ll just have to see it, but trust that love conquers all. If you want the full synopsis, look here.

Now, I should point out that this wasn’t just a play. Rather, it was an operetta, with a score reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan. Songs in the score included (links are to MP3) samples) “A Delightful Little Bomb“, “We Like Mushrooms“, “Our Ideology“, “Song of the Secular Jew”, “Song of the Sensitive White Supremacist“, “Forgiveness is Nice“, “I Am The Bravest President“, “My Savior Did Appear”, “People Who Love Like Us”, “The Morals of Society“, “House of Saud“, “Drop The Bomb on Chad”, “With Drugs We Did Experiment”, “Back in 1944”, “Drop the Bomb on Japan”, “Zog Has Lost”, There Still is Love“. Here’s an idea of the lyrics (from the House of Saud):

(advisor) But sir, they’ve got no Democracy
(president) What’s so bad about Theocracy?
(advisor) But they observe no human rights.
(president) If I could do that too, I just might.

Sound like any President we know? Do give the samples a listen.

At this point, you’re likely wondering: How could you stomach this show? After all, you’re Jewish, and there are songs where people sing about hating the Jews, and fighting the Zionist Occupational Government. Actually, this show skewers everything and everyone: Supremacists, Arabs, Jews, Catholics, Christians, Christ, idiotic Presidents,… you name it. Most theatres wouldn’t even go near this. This is something that could only be done at the Steve Allen Theatre¤ at the Center for Free Inquiry-West. CFI is an interesting organization: they’re the folks that publish Free Inquiry and focus on critical thinking. The theatre is appropriately named after Steve Allen (one of my favorite actors), who was well known as a free thinker (I suggest you read his book Dumbth). My point is that CFI thinks nothing is sacred: you need to be able to be free to look at everything with a critical eye. This play does that.

Back to the play. The play was produced by the Secret Order of Revolutionary Operetteists, it was written and directed by Julien Nitzberg¤, with music composed by Roger Neill. It was produced by Rorry Daniels and Amit Itelman¤. It was spectacular. I’d recommend you go see it, but it closes next week. It will be back in January, though.

The cast was great (full credits here). The production starred Jacob Sidney* (Patrick), and Aaron Matijasic (Frank) as the Supremacists; Katie Coleman¤ (Elyssa) [subbing for Heather Marie Marsden*¤, who had a hand injury], and Darrin Revitz*¤ (Clarissa) as the President’s daughters; Andrew Abelson¤ (Abdul) and Russell Steinberg* (Khalid) as the Al Quaeda terrorists; and Jesse Merlin¤ [the excellent mistermerlin] (President). Others in the cast, playing multiple roles, were Matt Cornell, Norge Yip, Natalie Salins*, Joel Bennett*, Michael Stuart, Curt Bonnem*, and Kevin Remington. Standouts in the production were mistermerlin, who has a remarkable singing voice and stage presence; Katie Coleman and Darrin Revitz… hell, all the leads were great. There were one or two sound glitches, but otherwise the technical aspects were also well done. The show could use with a slightly larger stage, with stronger sets (the sets were light due to the need to share the space with a different show). The show does have a MySpace page.

Here are some other reviews: Frontiers Magazine, Variety, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times.

As always, the upcoming theatre calendar: Sister Act, The Musical, 11/18 @ 9pm; Dirk, 11/19 @ 2pm; and A Light in the Piazza, 12/3 @ 2pm; Santaland Diaries/Seasons Greetings, 12/23 @ 8pm …plus I’m still working on tickets for 13 (12/30). As for this weekend… come out to Orange Empire Railway Museum and spend A Day Out With Thomas (he’s a really useful engine). My schedule is posted here.

*: Member of Actors Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, SAG, AGMA, or AFTRA.
¤: Myspace Page.


One Singular Sensation

Back in 1975 (when I was 15), I was in the High School program at Wilshire Blvd. Temple. This program was run by Rabbi Larry Goldmark, and consisted of famous Jewish people coming in and speaking to high school students. That day, the speaker was Marvin Hamlisch. Near the end of his talk, I had to leave to catch the bus to the westside. As I got to up leave, he asked me where I was going. I told him I had to catch a bus. He told me to stay, that he didn’t like to lose his audience–he would give me a ride home. True to his word, he did… and on the way, we stopped at the newstand in Westwood to see if any reviews of his new show were in. The show: A Chorus Line. A year or so later, I saw A Chorus Line myself at the Shubert Theatre in Century City.

Why do I mention this? This afternoon we saw A Chorus Line at Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks. The timing was good, as the show is currently on Broadway, and Cabrillo has one of the few licensed productions in California. For those unfamiliar with the story, it grew out of interviews held by Michael Bennett with the theatrical gypsies, members of the chorus. From these hundreds of hours of interviews he conducted the story of an audition, where each gypsy tells their story of why theatre and dance are a part of their life. There are all sorts in this crew: the children from abusive households to whom dance was safety and security; homosexuals; those trying for a comeback; those who can’t sing; those who can’t dance. All of these come together, through their stories, to pay homage to the unseen chorus line. Near the end of the show, one of the dancers, Paul, gets hurt in a tap number. After he’s taken away, the director asks the telling question: What would you do when you can’t dance anymore? What would you do if you couldn’t dance tomorrow? It is at this point that the show hammers the point home: We do what we do (hopefully) out of the love of the doing: “Kiss today goodbye, and point me toward tomorrow. We did what we had to do. Won’t regret, can’t forget, what I did for love.”

A Chorus Line (the “A” is part of a name in order to be first in the alphabetical listings) took Broadway by storm when it came out in 1975. It won nine Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, a New York Drama Critics Award for Best Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It ran, sold-out, for 15 years on Broadway. It was the highlight of Bennett’s careers, and of Marvin Hamlish (the composer) and Ed Kleban (the lyricist). It was also a turning point in the evolution of Broadway. The only “set” consisted of mirrors; the only costumes being workout clothes (except for the last scene). The stage was a single line, and the mirrors. It was one act, no intermission. There were no stars: the focus was the ensemble, the gypsys. There was no formal curtain call; the finale, with everyone in gold lame, was the curtain call. This was drastically different than conventional theatre at the time.

I should note that the original cast album does not capture the show completely: some songs are omitted, the order is different, and some songs are incomplete. The movie is a travesty; don’t bother. The new cast recording restores the order, but still omits the number “And…”.

It is now 30 years later. How did this cast do? Very very well indeed. There were a number of standout performances, in particular, Ayme Olivo as Diana, Kai Chubb as Cassie, and Adrianne Hampton as Val. In general, all of the performances were strong. This is a remarkable statement to make, given that a number of the performers are still in high school. I can’t quite say as much on the technical side. There were a few cases where folks were undermiced, and I think part of the orchestra could have been amplified better as well. Even more problematic was the follow spots, which were often wandering the stage in search of their target. But other than that, it was excellent. I particular enjoyed watching the faces of the line during the performance of Dance: 10; Looks: 3, in particular Connie and Kristine. This is the last weekend of the show.

The cast consisted of: Trai Allgeier (Tricia), Robert Bastron (Bobby); Kai Chubb (Cassie); Haley Clair (Lois); Renee Colvert (Bebe); Brian Conway (Tom); Drew D’Andrea (Greg); Steven Ferezy (Roy); Karlee Ferreira (Vicki); Sarah Girard (Maggie); Daniel Guzman* (Zach); Adrianne Hampton (Val); Robert Holden (Al); Jeff Longenecker (Mark); Robert Marra* (Paul); Lana McKissack (Connie); Ayme Olivo (Diana); Tracy Powell* (Sheila); Matthew Alan Rawles (Don); Travis Robertson* (Richie); Kate Roth (Kristine); Anna Schnaitter (Judy); Kelly Tatro (Larry); Daniel Thomson (Butch); and Geoffrey Voss (Mike). The production was directed and choreographed by Kay Cole, with lighting by Steven Young, sound by Jonathan Burke, wardrobe by Christine Gibson, musical direction by Darryl Archibald.

As always, the upcoming theatre calendar: The Beastly Bombing, Fri, 11/10 @ 8pm; Sister Act, The Musical, 11/18 @ 9pm; Dirk, 11/19 @ 2pm; and A Light in the Piazza, 12/3 @ 2pm …plus I’m still working on tickets for 13 (12/30). Lastly, I should note that the userpic for this review is particularly appropros, as it is from the Pasadena Playhouse production of A Class Act, which was a musical based on the life of Ed Kleban, the lyricist for A Chorus Line.

*: Member of Actors Equity Association.


The Review of Reviews: The Review!

This afternoon, we went to see The Musical of Musicals: The Musical at The Colony Theatre. So, what did I think of the show? Songs, dances, and a story have been triumphantly blended. The Musical of Musicals: The Musical! is a jubilant and enchanting musical. The Eric Rockwell score is one of his best, and that is saying plenty. Joanne Bogard has written a dramatically imaginative libretto and a strong of catchy lyrics; Pamela Hunt has worked small miracles in devising original dances to fit the story and the tunes, as well as directing an excellent company with great taste and craftsmanship.1

This afternoon, we went to see The Musical of Musicals: The Musical at The Colony Theatre. So, what did I think of the show? It was certainly different and arguably terrific. It was not your ordinary little Broadway musical–not by any means. It was The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!, and I thought it was simply great. Unusual, yes. Not only does it have the first heroine to be turned into an object d’art and covered with paper mache, but the show ends with as many odd rhymes as Into the Woods. The Musical of Musicals is indeed different.2

This afternoon, we went to see The Musical of Musicals: The Musical at The Colony Theatre. So, what did I think of the show? The Musical of Musicals is replete with lively song and dance, and exceptionally able cast, and a splendidly splashy production. Even the scenery is entertaining. This star vehicle deserves its star, and vice is very much versa. No one can be surprised to learn that Mary Gordon Murray is an accomplished actress, but not all of us may know that she has an adequate singing voice, can dance trimly, and can combine all these matters into musical performance.3

This afternoon, we went to see The Musical of Musicals: The Musical at The Colony Theatre. So, what did I think of the show? The Musical of Musicals is a stunning, exhilarating theatrical experience, especially if you don’t think about it too much. Its director Pamela Hunt has designed and developed a virtually faultless piece of Broadway fantasy that has shadow exultantly victorious over substance, and form virtually laughing at content. This pop-opera by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart is wonderfully entertaining in everything but the aftertaste of its pretensions.4

This afternoon, we went to see The Musical of Musicals: The Musical at The Colony Theatre. So, what did I think of the show? Bold, cynical, and stylish as can be, The Musical of Musicals is a musical out to kill. And if this show somehow misses the mark, applaud it for its daring and moments of brilliance.5

So, Mrs. Lincoln, what did you really think of the show. As I stated above, this afternoon we went to see The Musical of Musicals: The Musical! at The Colony Theatre in Burbank. MoM is an interesting musical: it is a parody musical somewhat similar to Forbidden Broadway. Its basic plot is a very simple story common to melodrama: Ingenue with the heart of gold is told by the landlord that the rent is due, and she has to find a way to pay it. It then tells this story in five different musical styles:

  1. Corn!, in the style of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
  2. A Little Complex, in the style of Stephen Sondheim.
  3. Dear Abby, in the style of Jerry Herman.
  4. Aspects of Junita, in the style of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
  5. Speakeasy, in the style of Kander and Ebb.

As it does so, it parodies the song styling and lyrics of the indicated authors (throwing in a little bit of Hamlisch/Kleban for the Finale). The parodies all hit the mark, but if one was unfamiliar with the shows and artists targeted, then the jokes would be lost. As I was familiar with almost all the shows parodied (excepting Starlight Express and Sunset Boulevard), I enjoyed it quite a bit. I decided to model the review after the show; the first five paragraphs are adapted from reviews of shows by each composer/lyricist.

The Colony production was excellent. The four member cast consisted of Brent Schindele* as Big Willy (sic)/Billy/William/Villy; Mary Gordon Murray* as Mother Abby/Abby/Auntie Abby/Abigail Von Schtarr/Fraulein Abby; Jeffrey Rockwell* as Jidder/Jitter/Mr. Jitters/Phantom Jitter/Jitter (as well as the principle piano player); and Alli Mauzey* as June/Jeune/Junie Faye/Junita/Juny, and . All of the cast was excellent. I must also note Ms. Mauzey’s bio, which stated, “Alli Mauzey most recently appeared at the Colony in Row D Seat 211 as an audience member, wherein she was praised by her usher as “profoundly polite” and “magically attentive.” She was a delight to watch, says this attentive audience member. To complete the credits, the show boasted music by Eric Rockwell, Lyrics by Joanne Bogart, and Book by Rockwell and Bogart. Scenic design (there wasn’t much) was by James Morgan; Costumes (again, not that much) was by John Carver Sullivan; Lighting by Mary Jo Dondlinger; Sound by Drew Dalzell, Stage Management by Leesa Freed. Musical direction was by Jeffrey Rockwell, and the production was directed and choreographed by Pamela Hunt. It was a recreation of the 2005 West Coast Premiere production at The Laguna Playhouse.

As always, the upcoming theatre calendar: A Chorus Line, Sat 11/4 @ 2pm; The Beastly Bombing, Fri, 11/10 @ 8pm; Sister Act, The Musical, 11/18 @ 9pm; Dirk, 11/19 @ 2pm; and A Light in the Piazza, 12/3 @ 2pm …plus I’m still working on tickets for 13 (12/30).

1 Adapted from the Howard Barnes review of Oklahoma!, March 31, 1943.
2 Adapted from the Clive Barnes review of Sweeney Todd, March 1, 1979.
3 Adapted from the Stanley Kauffmann review of Mame, May 24, 1966.
4 Adapted from the Clive Barnes review of Evita, September 25, 1979.
5 Adapted from the Douglas Watt review of Chicago, June 3, 1975.
*: Member of Actors Equity Association.


Goodie Bag Ideas

[Late Lunch Today….]

As I’ve written about before, my daughter is having a theatre-themed Birthday party: We’re going to see Dirk, a play based off of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on 11/19 (if you’re interesting in joining us, there’s more info in this friends-locked post). We’ve been talking about what sort of goodie bags to give out. Our current thinking is to have a bag with some times from or related to the story (we thought about giving copies of the book, but that would work out to around $80-$90 dollars for the books). So, if you were going to do a Dirk Gently themed goodie bag, what would be in it?


The Next Mel Brooks Musical

Folks may remember the Mel Brooks movie The Producers, which became a musical, and then a movie musical. So what’s next to tread the Broadway stage? The answer: Young Frankenstein!

According to Playbill.Com, casting has been announced for an upcoming workshop of the musical “Young Frankenstein”: Brian D’Arcy James will play the title role of Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder in the movie). Kristin Chenoweth will play Elizabeth, the good doctor’s chilly fiance (Madeline Kahn in the movie). Sutton Foster will play Inga, the role created by Teri Garr. Tarzan star Shuler Hensley will be the Monster. Thoroughly Modern Millie actor Marc Kudisch is the police inspector who suspects Dr. Frankenstein. Cloris Leachman will re-create the role of horse-frightening Frau Blucher. Roger Bart will be the hunchback Igor (pronounced “EYE-gore”). Susan Stroman, who guided Brooks and Meehan’s The Producers to success, will direct.

Meanwhile, on the Monty Python side of things, Playbill.com is also reporting that the next Python musical is “Not the Messiah,” a 50-minute oratorio based on the 1979 film “Life of Brian.” The commissioned work will be a part of 2007’s Luminato, the Toronto Festival of Arts Culture and Creativity, at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on June 1, 2, and 4 (all at 7:30 PM) in 2007. But this one is not Broadway-bound, as Idle noted, “I’m not sure people would allow ‘The Life of Brian’ on stage today. You think people would really have a finale where people are crucified? I’m not sure people are ready for this.” He is working, however, on another Broadway musical, although details have not been disclosed.

Sounds interesting.


Mahvalous Mahvalous, Wunnerful Wunnerful

This afternoon, we went out to the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood to see The Marvelous Wonderettes. Going in, I was a bit out of it, as I had been fighting a bad headache all morning. We had wonderful seats, partially due to our being in shutterbug93‘s group, which was up in the front row.

The Marvelous Wonderettes is initially set in 1958, and bears many similiarites to Forever Plaid. Both musicals tell the stories of harmonizing groups: girl groups in Wonderettes, boy groups in Plaid. Both groups have distinct characters, and do popular songs from the era. Plaid, however, is clear fantasy: it focuses on a group that was permitted to come back after death for one last show. The plot in Wonderettes is much stronger. The show focues on the lives and loves of the Wonderettes: Cindy Lou (Kristen Chandler*), Missy (Kim Huber*), Betty Jean (Julie Dixon Jackson*), and Suzy (Bets Malone*). Act I opens on the Wonderettes as they are the featured entertainment at the 1958 Springfield Prom. You learn about their lives, loves, and distinct personalities during the act. Act II is 10 years later, at the high school reunion. Here you learn how the story turned out, together with the power of friendship. You can get a good idea of the characters in the show by visiting the show’s MySpace account.

What did I think of the show? First, for a show using so much popular music, the plot was extremely well integrated. The actors were excellent, for they became their characters and the personalites. Part of this is because many of the actors originated the roles they were playing. I was particularly enamored with the performances of Kim Huber, Julie Dixon Jackson, and Bets Malone. I should also note that all of the actors are powerhouse singers. It was a very very good show (and had the side effect of making me forget about the headache, always a good thing). I should note that the show has been receiving great reviews.

After the show, we had the opportunity to meet lindasings, as well as all of the actors. This is always nice when it happens.

Production Credits: Roger Bean (Author/Director); David Elzer, Marvelous Dreams LLC, and Peter Schneider (Producers); Janet Miller (Choreographer); Kurt Boetcher (Scenic Design); Brian Baker (Orchestrator); Jeremy Pivnick (Lighting Designer); Sharell Martin (Costume Designer); Cricket S. Myers (Sound Designer); Pat Loeb (Production Stage Manager); Machael Sanfillippo (General Manager); Brian Svoboda (Sound Engineer); and Michael Spellman and Joseph Wisniewski (Production Assistants). I should note that both Mr. Elzer and Mr. Schneider are also involved with the upcoming Sister Act at the Pasadena Playhouse.

As always, the upcoming theatre calendar: The Musical Of Musicals, Sat 10/28 @ 3pm; A Chorus Line, Sat 11/4 @ 2pm; The Beastly Bombing, Fri, 11/10 @ 8pm; Sister Act, The Musical, 11/18 @ 9pm; and Dirk, 11/19 @ 2pm …plus I’m still working on tickets for A Light in the Piazza (11/25, 11/26, 12/2, or 12/3), and 13 (12/30). A busy theatre season coming up. Note: Those of you on my friends list that might be interested in joining us to see Dirk, which is based on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, for information, see this journal entry (which is friends-only).

*: Member of Actors Equity Association


4Q06 Theatre Planning (Update II)

Yet another theatre planning update (and thus a followup to this post). The tickets to The Musical of Musicals have just gone up on Goldstar, and so we now have 3 tickets to the 10/28 matinee show. Hopefully, some friends of ours who live in Burbank will be able to join us; if not, we’ll meet them for dinner afterwards.

The next tickets I’ll be getting will be A Light In The Piazza, for which HotTix go on sale October 10th.

Update 10/10/2006: We’ll be seeing A Light In The Piazza for the Sunday Matinee, 12/3. I have no idea where our seats are: they can no longer tell us that information over the phone.

I’m also tempted to explore tickets I’ve also ordered tickets for The Beastly Bombing, which had an interesting write-up on The Huffington Post as “The Most Offensive & Morally Unredeemable Musical I’ve Ever Heard”. The official subtitle of the play is “A Terrible Tale of Terrorists Tamed by the Tangles of True Love”. It is produced by SORO (The Secret Order of Revolutionary Operettists), and is supposedly a wicked political satire in the tradition of Gilbert & Sullivan. It is at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood, running until November 18th. Perhaps We’ll be going on Friday November 10th, as it looks like NSS&F may be down in Orange County. I’d have to do tickets off-Goldstar, however. [Reading my friends-of-friends list, I discovered that mistermerlin is playing the President; he’s a friend of terpsichoros. shutterbug93: I’ll note that Heather Marie Marsden from It Came From Beyond is in the cast.]


In other entertainment news, the Austin Lounge Lizards have a new CD coming out. It is now available through their store. The song list looks great:

Go Ahead and Die
The Drugs I Need
One True God
Xmas Time for Visa
The Neighbor of the Beast
Wer Ist Da?
     Buenos Dias, Budweiser
Toast the Earth with ExxonMobil
Ain’t Gonna Rain
Banjo Players in Heaven
The Tower
We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before

Yes, I already have a copy on order! I should note that the Lizards are on tour: those on my friends list will find the following of interest:

  • SAN FRANCISCO, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2:25 PM: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
    Festival, Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park. (415) 255-0333

  • AUSTIN, Saturday, October 28: Cactus Cafe, UT Student Union, Austin,
    TX. Two shows, at 7:00 and 9:00 pm. Call 512-475-6515 for
    information, or just show up early.

That information came straight from the Lizard’s email.