An Avenue Q Christmas

Who Killed Santa? (Theatre 68)userpic=chanukah-christmasPuppets have an interesting place in the panoply of potential actors. Some puppets are clearly designed to tell stories to children — sappy fairy tales with morals, clear distinctions between good and evil, and nary a hint of sex. Often, the intent is for the audience to see the puppets as only the puppet; the underlying puppeteer is invisible. The use of the puppets in adult stories was very limited, and limited to the Flahooleys in Flahooley, the puppets of Carnival, and, umm, well that’s about it.

Then came Avenue Q. Avenue Q showed that puppets can be used to tell an adult story. In fact, Avenue Q showed that puppets can be used to tell a story that might not be possible with human actors. Puppets can offend and say things that a human would never get away with. Avenue Q also showed that it doesn’t make a difference if you can see the human puppeteer, as long as said puppeteer dressed in all black. In fact, seeing the puppeteer had some advantages in that the expressive human’s face could augment the much more limited expressiveness of the puppet face. Oh, and ventriloquism? Thrown out the window.  If you can see the puppeteer, you know these are puppets and there is no reason to throw your voice. Just go with the suspension of disbelief.

Who Killed Santa?, which we saw last night at the NoHo Arts Center (FB) in a production from Theatre 68 (FB), is clearly a product of the Avenue Q vein of puppetry. The main cast of puppet characters (see in the postcard to the right) all have human manipulators that are clearly visible (and are, of course, wearing black). Most of the puppets are hand and rod puppets (think most Muppets or Princeton from Ave. Q); Frosty is a hand and glove or “live hand” puppet (think Sweetums from the Muppets or Nicky from Ave. Q).

Who Killed Santa? is also, clearly, a Christmas show. We’re Jewish. So why would we go see a Christmas show, especially as we had already seen one Christmas show this season already? The answer is, like the previous show, that the synopsis was so warped as to draw us in:

In this hilarious and irreverent send-up, Santa is hosting his annual holiday party attended by the usual holiday favorites: Frosty, Tiny Tim, The Little Drummer Boy, and Rudolph, who all have a bone to pick with Santa. After the introduction of the sexy new Little Drummer Girl, tempers flare, and Santa ends up with a candy cane through the heart. No one will confess, no one can leave, and Christmas is in jeopardy. As the tension builds, a couple of incompetent detectives enter the scene, and all the dirty secrets of these iconic holiday characters are revealed. Eventually, with the help of the audience, the murderer is convicted and sentenced.

So let’s put this together: We have puppets. We have a Christmas-themed murder mystery. We have adult themes and songs. We have no religious content. We have parodies of well-known Christmas songs. Wouldn’t that draw you in? This was either going to be great, or it was going to be a train wreck.

Who Killed Santa? (Production Stills)I’m pleased to say that the train stayed on the track. I am sad to say that I couldn’t get fully into the moment and the humor, but that wasn’t the fault of the show but the fault of the light migraine that chose to manifest itself 15 minutes into the show (after staying away for the entire ACSAC conference). But even with the headache, I found the show very cute and enjoyable, with great song parodies, wonderful performances, and some really good humor.

Playwright Neil Haven (FB) has created a Santa who is very different than the current image of the jolly fat man (which, truthfully, sets people up for unrealistic expectations). Haven’s Santa is one that overworks his elf employees, denies them holiday parties, drinks to excess, and who is interested in keeping his, well, North Pole polished, if you get my drift. This creates adult backstories / interstitials for all of the iconic characters portrayed by the puppets: Frosty, who Santa abuses and refuses to consider a part of Christmas, relegating him to the lesser “Winter” holidays, and who has an unspoken past with Santa; Tiny Tim, who is a virgin — a source of great mirth to Santa; Steve, the drummer boy, who has suffered abuse at the hands of Santa; Rudolph, who also has a drinking problem as well as potential relationship issues; and the newest icon: Chastity, the drummer girl, who was added to bring more female balance to the team, and to whom Santa is hoping to have a relationship that is inappropriate for an old man and a girl. Tim is also interested in such a relationship, which pisses off Santa who sees Tim as competition. All of this, you see, can lead one to murder.

That, of course, is eventually what happens. Santa is stabbed with a candy cane, and through various expositional means, all of the backstories come out. Any of the characters had both motive and opportunity. This leaves it to the elves to decide who is the guilty party.

This brings us to the elves, who are played by… the audience and the tech crew. At the beginning of the show, the two costumed elves — the keyboardist and the light/sound guy — inform the audience that they are elves, and are being oppressed by Santa. At various points in the show, they are led in protest songs (found in the program) and get to hold up picket signs (the last page of the program). They are also excluded from Santa’s holiday party where the action on stage is happening. As a result, the actors on stage periodically wipe the windows clear and made comments about the elven audience … and then turn to the elven audience to decide on the killer and to, in Edwin Drood style, determine which of the potential endings for the show will be used.

In terms of the story, I’d characterize it as a bunch of caricatures thrown together to create a story. In this sense, it is no different than other mashups, such as the movie Rise of the Guardians. The caricatures, however, seem intentionally drawn to turn these sweet characters into adults. The portrayal emphasizes their randiness and adult nature, including adult proclivities and weaknesses. I personally found it reasonably funny, although others might find it a tad overdone. I would guess that one’s reaction would depend on how one viewed the characters in the first place. As I have little connection or emotional resonance with the iconic characters, I’m willing to go with the flow.

The music in the story is primarily a collection of parodies of existing Christmas and holiday music. The nature of the parodies ranges from the extremely well done to the extremely raunchy. Here’s an example from a few pages of the script that I found online:

Frosty the Snow Thing
Is like them plastic dolls.
The kids forgot his ding-a-ling
But he does have three big balls.

Here’s another, to the tune of Carol of the Bells:

Santa is dead.
Blood has been shed.
Evil at work.
Someone’s a jerk.

No one can leave
Cannot believe
One of you guys
Wrought his demise

You should have the idea by now. I found the songs to be cute takes on the original. Will you like them? That depends on whether you’re willing to go along with the parody and the notions in play.

Where does this leave us, at least in terms of the story? I think if you are a person who hold Christmas near and dear, one who cannot laugh at iconic Christmas characters or accept their straying off the narrow path of purity, then this is not the musical play for you. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to go along with iconic characters (including Santa) as raunchy versions of themselves, and for there to be sexual dalliances between iconic Christmas characters (including children) and adults — and, in fact, if you can laugh at that notion — then you’ll love this play.

The performances are hard to judge; it is hard to be spectacular when one hand is covered in felt and foam, the other is manipulating a rod, and the audience may be looking at the puppet’s face instead of yours. Still, there were memorable aspects. As Frosty the Snowman, Jonathan Berenson (FB) (the bulk of Frosty), and Peter Osterweil (FB) (Frosty’s right arm) projected an air of affibility.  They brought a good energy to the role, although given the nature of Frosty, I hesitate to say they were hot (but I’m sure they did a great cold reading… I’m here all week folks, try the fish sandwich). Seriously, I liked their interpretation of Frosty — a bit addled, but clearly annoyed by Santa’s treatment of him.

Jotapé Lockwood (FB)’s portrayal of Steve, the Little Drummer Boy, was perhaps the biggest surprise in the cast. He did a great job of creating the image of Steve — the little drummer boy who now played with heavy metal bands. Then he opens his mouth for the parody of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”, and this marvelous operatic voice comes out. I’d love to hear this guy do an opera or a concert — he is that good. Reminded me of Rod Gilfry in the quality of his voice.

Marissa Fennell (FB)’s Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer took the red nose to heart. She vocalized the character as if the red nose was due not only to drinking, but to a very bad head cold. There was this odd nasal quality to the vocal interpretation that I found odd until it was explained to me. As an audience member, I can’t tell if it was her choice or the directors, but I think it was a little strong. Other than that, the character came across fine — a randy drunken buck, potentially interested in other bucks. But as Fats Waller says….

Katie Zeiner‘s Tiny Tim was portrayed with a strong British, if not Cockney, voice and attitude. She conveyed the randiness of Tim appropriately, and limped as she moved the puppet, a nice choice.

Rebecca Rose Phillips (FB) was the newest iconic character, Chastity, the Little Drummer Girl. As Chastity, Phillips brought an interesting sexual energy to the role. Nowhere is this clearer than in her introductory number, a parody of Lady Marmalade,  with a refrain of “Faa-la-la-la Pah-rum pum / Faa-la-la-la-la here / Marshmallow Hot Choc-lat Yum Yum / Norske Goddess Mrs. Claus”

This brings us to the lone actor that portrays all the non-puppet characters: Thomas F. Evans (FB), who is Santa Claus, The Detective, The Tooth Fairy, and Mrs. Claus. Evans’ portrayal of each of these is very different from each other. His Santa Claus is clearly a horny alcoholic letch, although the costuming seemingly interferes with the clearly fake beard (although I understand why they do it). His dectective is suitably bumbling, and I truly do not have strong impressions of his latter two characters (the headache kicked in right around then, and all I can recall is enjoying them, but not the specifics).

The cast was rounded out by Ed Cosico (FB) and Jordan Wall (FB) as the elves.Their main performance role was to stir up the workers (audience) into singing protest songs and to hold protest banners. In their day job, they were the Acocmpanist and the Sound / Light Board operator, respectively.

Who Killed Santa? was directed and produced by Ronnie Marmo (FB), who is also the artistic director of Theatre 68. Marmo recognized this play for what it is: a light fluff of a comedy designed to entertain and then get out of the way. He captured the stereotypes well, if not a bit too much, and cast actors that were able to improves when things went wrong (which often happens in intimate theatre). I did appreciate that he had his actors do the little things, like vocalizing the squeaking you hear when you wipe a misty window dry to look out of it. Marmo was assisted by Heidi Rhodes (FB).

Turning to the production side of things: The set was designed by Danny Cistone (FB), who created a simple Christmasy room that established place and supported the story. What more could you ask for? The puppets were by Libby Letlow (FB), based on the original designs of Dan Katula. Letlow also provided the puppetry coaching. Both were executed well — the actors seems to inhabit and portray the puppet characters handily (see what I did there :-)). The puppets themselves seemed to be well suited for the job, and seemed to characterize their characters appropriately. The lighting by Paul McGee/FB did a suitable job of establishing mood and illuminating the scenes.  Props were by Grace DeWolff, and were cute and effective. The costumes, by MJ Scott/FB, were effective (such as they were). The parenthetical was due to the fact that the only character with a real costume was Santa / The Detective / Tooth Fairy / Mrs. Claus. Those worked, and provided sufficient ability to change. My only complaint was that the Santa beard was just a little too fake. Remaining production credits were: Emily Juliani (FB) – Tech Director / Prop Master; Brian Myers/FB – Music Arrangement; Jotapé Lockwood (FB) – Music Direction; Marissa Fennell (FB) – Publicity Stills (which you can see above); Neil Haven (FB) – Sound Design; Jordan Wall (FB) – Light and Sound Operator; Sandra Kuker PR (FB) – Publicity and Marketing; Sandra McHale – Playbill Design; Amanda Schlicher (FB) – Playbill Design. Who Killed Santa? was originally produced and conceived with puppets in Milwaukee WI by Neil Haven (FB), Bo Johnson (FB), and Dan Katula.

Who Killed Santa? continues at the NoHo Arts Center (FB) until January 2nd, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 7pm, except for Christmas Day. Tickets are available at Plays411. It does not appear to be up on Goldstar; however discount tickets are available on LA Stage Tix, while they last. If you’re looking for an adult-oriented silly fluff of a Christmas play, this one should do nicely.

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

Upcoming Shows: The third weekend of December brings the touring company of “If/Then” at the Pantages (FB). The last weekend of December has “The Bridges of Madison County” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and Nunsense at Crown City Theatre (FB). The new year, 2016, starts with “Louis and Keeley – Live at the Sahara” at The Geffen Playhouse (FB) on January 2nd. This is followed by “Bullets Over Broadway” at the Pantages (FB) on January 9; “Stomp” at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)  on January 24; and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on January 30. There is also a “hold” (i.e., dates blocked, but awaiting ticketing) for for January 16 or January 17 for “That Lovin’ Feelin’” at The Group Rep (FB). There is also the open question of whether there will be Repertory East Playhouse (“the REP”) (FB) 2016 season, and when it will start. This leads to uncertainty about the Group Rep show (I’ll note that if there is no REP season, I’ll likely subscribe at Group Rep — call it the Law of Conservation of REP). There is currently nothing on the schedule for February, except for February 28, when we are seeing The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). March brings “Another Roll of the Dice” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and has two potential dates on hold for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) (pending Hottix). I expect to be filling out February as December goes on.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Music: “The Gift”, from The Fortress of Solitude (2015 Original Cast), performed by Kristen Sieh, and the Fortress Ensemble


Fitting In in High School

Serial Killer Barbie (NoHo Arts/Theatre 68)userpic=yorickA word of advice before I start this writeup: Do not do a Google image search on the phrase “Serial Killer Barbie”. The results are simultaneously hilarious and disturbing, and likely not related to the show in question. Some people out there have sick and twisted, but amusing, minds. But you must admit that the name draws you in.

Ah, right, where was I. High School. High School is popular fodder for musicals: from the intensely popular Grease to the much less popular Carrie, to musicals such as Zanna Don’t and Lysistrata Jones, high school — in fact, school in general — serves as a microcosm of society in general. Capturing this microcosm is the goal of the hilarious new musical, Serial Killer Barbie: The Musical (FB), currently in extension at the NoHo Arts Center (FB), produced by Theatre 68 (FB) and Take a Hike Productions. The teaser description of this musical is as follows: “Quirky Barbara spends her life desperate to get in with the popular “Debbies.” From first grade through high school, she obsessively attempts to join the coveted social circle of Debbie, Debby and the queen of the WASPY clique, Debbi. After several failed attempts to fit in, she realizes, if you can’t join them, kill them.”

I learned about this musical in a mailing from their PR person (or perhaps Bitter Lemons — it’s a bit hazy now). The title drew me in, but when I read the description of the show I was more intrigued. Alas, the craziness that is December did not permit me to schedule it in. So, when it extended I started to explore ways to go (e.g., looking for discount tickets — yes, I could ask their publicist, but I prefer to buy my tickets if I can). Plays411 provided the discount tickets (they just went up on Goldstar), and so the first live theatre of the year became Barbie.

Serial Killer Barbie: The Musical (FB) (SKB) revisits a familiar theme that is common to most people: the quest to fit in and be popular. I noted before this is common in school-based musicals — it resonates in Carrie, it resonates in Zanna, and it even resonates (in the sub-plot) in Grease. It’s also a theme in some of our most popular musicals, including the current resident at the Pantages: Wicked. What will we give up to be popular, and how will that sacrifice affect our life? Usually, because the show is written by theatre geeks who never fit in to begin with (that’s a joke, son), the upshot is that the outcast becomes the hero or heroine, and learns to rejoice in their uniqueness. [I certainly resemble that story; us computer science geeks rarely fit in]

So if this is such a common theme, what makes SKB successful and not derivative. I think the answer is in the clever presentation of the story — credit here goes to the book writer, Collete Freedman (FB). Freedman posits the school experience as an endurance battle, which she portrays as a boxing match. Just like a boxing match has 12 rounds, school has 12 years (well, it could have 15 years if you count pre-school and kindergarten… and boxing used to have 15 rounds). For the outcast, attending school is like Ali’s rope-a-dope — putting yourself in a losing position to become the eventual winner. Freedman makes this analogy literal in the musical: each scene (except for the framing scenes) is construed as a round, and that round roughly corresponds to a grade. Through the 12 rounds (grades) we see our heroine (Barbara Laura) meet and interact with the Debbies during her school years. This is framed with the story of a mom (Barbara) telling the story to her daughter (Parker), and her daughter not believing the story is true. Is it? The question is left open.

The story that is told is a simple one: Barbara Laura Dunbar starts first grade. All the other kids are crying through separation anxiety, but she’s not afraid. She quickly befriends another individualist, Bruce, who has a penchant for adopting the personal of a difference fictional Bruce every year (he starts as Bruce Wayne). They become best friends; they are, however, never popular. Who is? The three Debbies: Debbie (with an “ie”) who wants to be first at everything (and we do mean everything); Debbi (with an “i”), who is always air-quoting things and is a true consumer whore — setting the fashion and consumer trends for everyone else; and the airhead blonde Debby (with a “y”), who is addicted to her cellphone.  Rounding out the class are Sebastian, the jock; Beatrice, the ADD-affected nerd-ish girl; Quinn, the clown; Sharon, the militant foul-mouthed angry child; and Ronald, the Boy Scout.

As the years go by, Barbara keeps trying to fit in with the Debbies and failing. Finally, they need  fourth for their singing group and accept her in … but she never quite fits in. After the lead Debbie takes advantage of Barbara’s frendship with Bruce to trash and embarass Bruce, Barbara has enough and leaves the group, and goes back to being an individualist. She also is desirous of revenge for what they did to her best friend Bruce. Serial Killer Barbie is born, and the Debbies drop one by one. Of course, there’s always the question of whether she did it, or whether the Debbies did it to themselves through their overfocus on themselves. This is the question you are left with as the production ends: Barbie’s daughter doesn’t appear to believe her mom did this, but did she?

I’ve written the above as if this were a play, but this is really a musical. The music was written by Nickella Moschetti (FB), with lyrics written by the book author Collete Freedman (FB) and Moschetti. Each round (scene) includes an appropriate song. The songs themselves are very entertaining — I particularly enjoyed “Consumer Whores”. Other entertaining songs included a well-choreographed number involving popularity and representation of character through the lunch boxes one brings to school (Barbara is the only one with a bag lunch); a hilarious and potentially scary Jesus Christ sexy dance routine; and the dark “21 Ways To Kill A Debbie”. Alas, there is no song list in the program, and although I searched and searched, I could not find one online. Songs mentioned by other reviewers included “Middle School Sucks”,  “I Don’t Want To Be Different”, “What Do I Wear?”, and “Price of Popularity”. But are entertaining songs enough today? If one was to drop the songs out of this show, would the story still flow and hold together? That last question is the difference between a true musical and a play with songs interpolated (and was the genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein). Here the question is harder. A number of the songs, while not integral, do a good job of illustrating the internal character and conflicts of the characters. Others are more disposable. The music has the potential here to elevate the show to something that could work in larger venues, but it needs a little more tweaking to become memorable and integral (and a song list will help).

Before we go into the specific performances, let’s round out the broad artistic aspects: namely, the choreography. Anne-Marie Osgood/FB served as choreography, and she did a great job of designing movement for the limited space in Theatre 2 at NoHo Arts. The movement in the opening number (“What Do I Wear?”) was inspired and fun to watch, and I particularly enjoyed the aforementioned lunch box ballet :-). The dance moves in the Jesus number were also fun.

Let’s turn now to the performances. In the lead position was Kelly Dorney (FB) as Barbie. Dorney was just a hoot to watch: quirky, enthusiastic, ernest, and just having a lot of fun with the role. If you’ve read past writeups, you know that this is something I love to see: actors who just meld with their roles, actors where the love of the character and the characters quirks, flaws, and oddities just oozes from their pores. Now, add to this the fact that Ms. Dorney could really sing, and did a great job with all of her musical numbers, and I was just blown away. This is someone I look forward to seeing again.

Supporting Barbie was her best friend, Bruce. Here’s my second quibble of the night — not with the actor, but with the program. Our program had a slip of paper indicating that our Bruce was the swing, Bradley Estrin (FB), and that playing Bradley’s normal role of Ronald would be Devon Hadsell (FB) as Rhonda. This actually excited us, as we had seen Hadsell in Lysistrata Jones and we were looking forward to her performance. We looked and looked, but couldn’t find her. It was only when writing this review that I realized what happened: the slip was in error. We had the original Bruce, Alex Robert Holmes (FB); Estrin was playing Ronald; and Hadsell wasn’t there that night. Leaving the slip in the program was poor form: it was a disservice to Holmes, it was a disservice to Hadsell, and it was a disservice to Estrin. If you are going to recycle programs, please remember to remove substitution strips.

That quibble aside, Holmes gave a very touching performance and Bruce. His portrayal of the character provided the needed sensitivity to the black comedic nature of the story, and played well with Dorney’s Barbie. He also sang quite well.

The remaining major characters were the Debbies: Katy Jacoby (FB)  as Debbi (with an “i”), Kacey Coppola (FB) as Debby (with a “y”), and Marti Maley (FB)  as Debbie (with an “ie”). All three were great singers, and their performances could best be described as intense. This was best illustrated with the Jesus dance routine, where they were making the concrete floor shake. They made these three come across as women you would not mess with — which is exactly what their characters were supposed to be. Again, these were actresses who were just having fun portraying these characters — they enjoyed playing with the them and letting that side of their personas come out. Great work.

Rounding out the cast were Cy Creamer (FB) as Sebastian, Nicole Fabbri as Beatrice, Jillian Fonacier/FB as Sharon, Christopher Kelly (FB) as Quinn, Bradley Estrin (FB) as Ronald, and Grace Nakane as Parker (Debbie’s 6-year old daughter). Each of these actors did a great job of making their characters their own. Especially notable were Creamer’s interactions as Sebastian with Holmes’ Bruce (in particular, the love sequence), Fabbri’s wonderful awkwardness and how she moved in the background during scenes, Fonacier’s radiated anger as Sharon (apparent from her first appearance on stage when she wrote “I will not use my middle finger to express myself” on the blackboard), and Kelly’s wonderful mime routine as Quinn. Nakane worked well as Parker, handling her adult astute observations with that childish nature of superiority. Some reviewers didn’t like the framing device that her performance provided; I felt it provided some necessary grounding and reality to the story. Lastly, Estrin’s Ronald mostly blended in as that character was wont to do; I can see how a different sensibility for the show would come from Estrin providing a less quirky Bruce and Hadsell’s Rhonda being involved with Sharon. As implied, Estrin served as understudy for Sebastian and as male swing, Devon Hadsell (FB) was the female swing, and Audrey Bluestone was the understudy for Parker.

Music was provided by the composer, Nickella Moschetti (FB), who served as musical director, played keyboards, and as the “Round 4” teacher who wrote the problems on the board. Rounding out the school “band” were Ed Cosico (FB) on guitar and Hilletje Bashew (FB) on violin. The three provided a very good sound; one wonders how this show would sound with a larger orchestration.

Turning to the technical, and the third qubble for the show — with had nothing to do with the artistic and more to do with the facility. For some reason, at our performance, there was no air conditioning, and with the lights, it was hot hot hot. Hopefully, that problem will be fixed soon.

As I said, turning to the technical: the set design by Adam Gascoine (FB) was both simple and perfect. A large number of movable wooden boxes, some lockers, and painted blackboards and schoolroom accessories on the wall established the scene sufficiently, and the few props worked to do the rest. The costumes, by Susi Campos, worked quite well and were revealing and sexy without being too revealing. This was a challenge as the actors come out in underwear and get dressed on stage in the opening number. The costuming demonstrated quite a bit of creativity and character building, and were a significant part of the overall scenic design. Adam Gascoine (FB) did the sound design as well (according to some additional credits I found), and Christina Robinson (FB) and Brad Bentz (FB) did the lighting desgn. Additional credits in the program are Christian Kennedy (Stills Photographer) and Eddie Roderick (Postcard Designer). One additional credit I found while researching this: the design for the poster was crowdsourced through

The production was directed by Ronnie Marmo (FB), who did what a director should do: make the direction appear invisible. Marmo did a great job of getting the actors excited about their roles and embodying their roles, and effectively used the space he had available to tell the story. What more could you want?

Serial Killer Barbie: The Musical (FB) has been extended to run through January 31, 2015. Performances are Friday, and Saturday – 8:00PM and Sunday – 7:00PM. Tickets are $30 and are available through Theatre68 by calling (323) 960-5068. They are also available through, Goldstar (until they sell out), and possibly LA Stage Tix.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Sunday brings the second show of this weekend: “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11. The third weekend of January starts the Rep season with “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat January 17. The fourth weekend of January brings an interesting mashup: Pulp Shakespeare (or Bard Fiction) at Theatre Asylum (FB) — this show is described as  “Ever wonder what Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece PULP FICTION would be like reimagined by the immortal William Shakespeare?”. The last weekend of January concludes with the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom, and I’m potentially looking for another show for Sunday. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. Additionally, there’s a Marcy and Zina concert at Pepperdine on Tuesday, February 3; alas, as it is a weeknight, I may not make it. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.