Thursday, January 29, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Thursday, January 29, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS: Pasadena Playhouse presents A Conversation with Patricia Morison, a 100th Birthday Celebration, on Sunday, March 15, 2015. This special event, honoring Broadway legend Patricia Morison (the original star of Kiss Me, Kate) four days before her 100th birthday, takes place from 1:00 to 3:00 pm on The Playhouse’s Engemann Family Courtyard. Ms. Morison will be joined by director/producer John Bowab for a unique conversation about her distinguished career in theatre and film, and her experiences working on Broadway with such luminaries as Cole Porter, Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes. Guests will also have the opportunity to ask Ms. Morison questions. Following the conversation, Ms. Morison will perform two musical numbers, accompanied by Tom Griep. The event will conclude with a special meet-and-greet with Ms. Morison. Tickets are $100 in honor of Ms. Morison’s 100th Birthday. (626) 737-2852 or Each ticket purchased will support theatrical artistry at The Pasadena Playhouse. Photo credit: Lana Huckabee.

The National Touring Company of Wicked will host The Wicked Rocky Horror Show, a staged concert performance of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, at The Fonda Theatre on Monday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 pm. Net proceeds will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Tickets will go on sale to the public on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 10am PST. Call (888) 929-7849 or visit

The Colony Theatre has announced its 2015-2016 season which will include five productions; two especially for musical lovers and a world premiere one-woman show starring Patty Duke as Mary Todd Lincoln. Here’s a complete look at the productions:

July 25 – August 23, 2015
THE FABULOUS LIPITONES (west coast premiere)
By John Markus and Mark St. Germain - Directed by John Markus
A barbershop quartet who’s been belting out close harmonies for twenty years suddenly loses its lead singer, who dropped dead at the Regionals on a heart-stopping high C.  The three surviving members must cease their bickering and race to find a replacement in time for the Nationals. They hear a tenor with a gorgeous voice, but when he shows up he’s a dark-skinned Indian immigrant in a turban. And one of the quartet is Archie Bunker. It’s a wonderful comedy about the difficult journey they take to find their voice together.

September 19 – October 18, 2015
MARY LINCOLN (world premiere)
Written by John Philip Dayton
Starring Patty Duke - Directed by Cameron Watson
Toward the end of her life, Mary Todd Lincoln shares her stories and memories with (unseen) reporters in an evening that is funny, heartbreaking, captivating, and sets the record straight about who this fascinating woman really was. 

November 7 – December 13, 2015
HUMBLE BOY (California premiere)
Written by Charlotte Jones - Directed by David Rose
Felix Humble is a brilliant but bumbling astro-physicist whose mission in life is to unlock the secrets of the universe, but cannot stumble across a garden hose without using it to illustrate the finer points of string theory before twisting it into a noose. He returns home to his bee keeping father’s funeral, only to discover his difficult and domineering mother in the arms of another man. As he struggles to unlock the secrets of the human heart, what emerges is a touching, funny, and entertaining family portrait.

THE BEST OF ENEMIES (west coast premiere)
Written by Mark St. Germain - Directed by David Rose
Meet Ann, an African-American civil rights activist, and C.P., the Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan. They are forced by the federal government to work together to achieve integration in their small North Carolina town fifteen years after Brown v. Board of Education. Clearly, they will never be friends, but over the course of the play they discover all the things they have in common, and ultimately forge an alliance based on respect and trust. Impossible to believe – except it’s a true story, based on the book of the same name by Osha Gray Davidson. 

April 16 – May 15, 2016
ANOTHER ROLL OF THE DICE (world premiere)
Book by Mark Saltzman  - Based on Stories by Damon Runyon
Lyrics by Frank Loesser - Music by Frank Loesser and others
Directed by Michael Matthews
Few writers made the streets of New York sing like Damon Runyon. His beat was
Broadway, the Great White Way – a dazzling and decadent mile of bright lights and nightlife. As a reporter in the Thirties, he moved among bootleggers, gamblers, hustlers, actors, showgirls, and gangsters. In this new musical Damon Runyon’s mugs and dames, scams and swindles, are once again matched with songs by the great Frank Loesser, the original Guys and Dolls composer.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS: Good People Theater Company has announced its latest production: Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire’s charming, sly musical revue about the broken hearts, secret trysts, and saying no (and yes, and maybe) that bring old lovers, new romantics and good friends Closer Than Ever. Produced in partnership with Hollywood Piano and running Feb. 21 - March 15, it is the story of grown-ups (four singers, pianist and bass player) trying to Figure It Out.

Producer/Director Janet Miller says that this production of Closer Than Ever is ideally timed as a prelude to the May opening of Maltby and Shire’s newest musical, Waterfall, which gears up for Broadway by having out-of-town try-out runs first at Pasadena Playhouse and then in Seattle. “Closer Than Ever isn’t done very often here in LA, so this is a special chance for musical theater fans to remind themselves of Maltby and Shire’s classic before Waterfall debuts this Spring. What’s special in our production is the chance to see some great performers in a very intimate setting--in what is probably one of the nicest rooms with the finest grand piano in the 99-seat theater scene. Our audience has a chance to really cozy up to Maltby and Shire’s material: a funny, poignant and slightly risqué portrait of how complicated things get as we all start to grow up.” The cast will include musical director Corey Hirsch (Guy at the Piano), Elizabeth Brackenbury (Elizabeth), Jessie Withers (Jessie), and Jordan Lamoureux (Guy Playing Bass).

As a part of their commitment to “good people doing good work,” the Company has also announced a special “Charity of Choice” performance of Closer Than Ever on Saturday, March 14 at 3:00 pm. 100% of the ticket proceeds from this performance will be donated to Los Angeles Habilitation House. Hollywood Piano is located at 323 North Front Street, Burbank, CA, 91502. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $12.50 for students and seniors. Tickets and more information:

Christopher Gattellil
The Old Globe has announced that it will open its 2015-2016 Season with In Your Arms, a world premiere dance-theatre musical featuring direction and choreography by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, Godspell) and original music by Tony Award winner Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once on This Island). Co-conceived by Gattelli and Jennifer Manocherian, In Your Arms features 10 dance vignettes written by an incredible and diverse lineup of theatre powerhouses, including Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Carrie Fisher, David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, and Alfred Uhry. In Your Arms will run Sept. 8 – Oct. 25, 2015 (opening night 9/24). Tickets will become available by subscription only this spring, with single tickets available to the general public later in the year.

Stephen Flaherty
In Your Arms is a sweeping and romantic evening of theatre created by an unprecedented constellation of America’s preeminent writers for the stage. Ten dance vignettes tell wordless stories of love, yearning, and romance, and constitute a magical evening of movement and music performed by a cast of 20 talented dancers. Each vignette takes place in a different place and time, and the 10 dances range from duets to large ensemble numbers. Thrilling styles of dance from classical ballet to swing, tap to tango, rock ’n’ roll to Charleston, modern to jazz are celebrated with verve and nuance. The emotional canvas of the stories is vast: some are funny, some are sad, and some are enchanting, but all delve deep into that most essential of human emotions: love.

“In Your Arms is one of the most romantic shows I’ve ever come across, and I am happy and proud to bring it to San Diego audiences,” said artistic director Barry Edelstein. “Its creators are a staggeringly brilliant group of top-rank theatrical talent, and the Globe is honored to host them. Stephen Flaherty’s lush and beguiling music comes together with wildly imaginative scenarios by an unprecedented gathering of significant writers to express the many moods and varieties of love. And wizardly director-choreographer Christopher Gattelli weaves this diverse material together with a special magic: the potent and exuberant language of dance. I’m thrilled to open our new season with such a fresh, original, and moving show.”

The cast and full creative team for the world premiere at The Old Globe will be announced at a later date.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cabrillo Music Theatre announces its 2015-16 season, “A Season for All Seasons” which will include three shows in the larger Kavli Theatre Damn Yankees (Oct 16 - 25, 2015), Children of Eden (April 8 - 17, 2016), and The Little Mermaid (July 15 -24, 2016) and one in the more intimate Scherr Forum, the perfectly-named A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Jan 29 - Feb 14, 2016). Priority Order Subscriptions for new subscribers are being taken now by calling (805) 497-8613 X6, or by writing to Beginning April 7, new subscriptions will be sold through the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Box Office, or by calling Subscriber Services at (805) 449.2775.

In honor of Black History Month, All the Way West Productions presents A Woman Called Truth, a celebration of the life of Sojourner Truth, Jan. 24 – March 1 at the Complex Ruby Theater in Hollywood. “The Spirit calls me, and I must go,” said Sojourner Truth as she took leave of her family and set out to speak on behalf of women and advocated for abolishing slavery and promoted civil rights. Incorporating spirituals, slave songs and hymns, the play features three women and three men as well as a chorus for a cast of nine. Written with minimalist staging, the focus is on the words and lyricism of the time, with considerable attention to Sojourner Truth’s own words by the playwright who approximated much of the title character’s dialogue from published works and biographies by Olive Gilbert, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Francis Gage. It is directed by D’Shaun A. Booker. Tickets: (310) 604-8158 or go to

Brad Ellis joins producer Dianne Fraser and Fraser Entertainment Group as musical director for An Evening of Classic Broadway at Rockwell Table & Stage, on Monday, March 16. Tickets:

Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Jane Monheit brings her popular show Hello Bluebird: Celebrating the Music of Judy Garland to Valley Performing Arts Center on Feb. 21 at 8:00 pm. In her performance Monheit pays tribute to the legendary Judy Garland with a classic repertoire of the Hollywood icon’s most celebrated ballads and closing with Garland’s signature song “Over The Rainbow/Hello Bluebird.” Accompanying her is Michael Kanan on piano, Neal Miner on bass and Monheit’s husband Rick Montalbano on drums. Click Here for tickets $45 - $80.

Rogelio Douglas, Jr. joins Mandy Gonzalez in her solo concert debut Love, All Ways at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood on Jan. 27 & 28. The concert will feature a special appearance by some of the Santa Clarita Valley’s top high school singers. Doors open at 7pm for cocktail and dinner service (single entrée or drink minimums apply). Admission is $25, with VIP seating ($40) available. Tickets: (866) 468-3399 or

The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center presents Eli Lieb in Concert, a special one-night-only benefit event at the center’s Renberg Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 8:00 pm. The show will be a rare “unplugged appearance” featuring just Lieb and his acoustic guitar. Tickets: $25 (323) 860-7300 or VIP tickets are available for $100 and include priority reserved seating and a post-performance reception with the artist. The Renberg Theatre is located at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place (one block east of Highland, just north of Santa Monica Boulevard), in Hollywood. Free onsite parking is available.

Run Rabbit Run Media and VFRPR have announced that indie film Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine will open on Feb. 13 for a one week run at the Laemmle Noho 7, 5240 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood ( On October 7, 1998, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die because he was gay. Years later, Michele Josue, a close friend of Matts, revisits the shocking case with never-before-seen photos, rare video footage, as Matt’s all-too-brief life is remembered through the vivid testimonies of those whose lives he touched, from the friends and family who knew him best to the bartender who saw him on the night of the attack.

Kritzerland presents All The Things You Are – The Songs of Jerome Kern on Mon. Feb. 2 at 8:00 pm at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal. The show stars Kimberly Hessler, Jean Louisa Kelly, Damon Kirsche, Madison Claire Parks and Jeffrey Christopher Todd, and special guest Andrea Marcovicci (with Shelly Markham). Musical direction is by John Boswell. Reservations: (818) 754-8700.

Frank Gehry and the world premiere of Frank’s House by Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s composer-in-residence Andrew Norman will be spotlighted at LACO’s Westside Connections concert on Thursday, Feb. 5. Gehry is joined by LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, The Juilliard School’s Ara Guzelimian, LACO music director Jeffrey Kahane and LACO concertmaster Margaret Batjer for an unprecedented evening exploring compelling connections between music and architecture. 7:30 pm at the Moss Theater in Santa Monica. Tickets: (213) 622-7001 x 1 or

The Grove Theatre in Upland will host Elvis -The Main Event – “Lets Get Ready to Rumble” - a two day contest event on Feb. 13-14. Ten Tribute Artists will take the stage in an effort to become the one and only “Southern California Greatest Elvis.” Artists on the bill include Brad Carrow, Ceaser Garcia, Rayan Collingwood, Seve Botello, Gary Anderson, Raul Conde, John Fisher, Steve Murphy, Brad Carrow, Todd Torres, and Fernie Ramirez. All performers will be backed by the Award winning TCB Flash Band, one of California’s top Tribute Bands. Tickets: (909) 920-4343 or

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Monday, January 26, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Monday January 26, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS: Heres whats happening around town! 

The Pantages Theatre has announced that its 2015-2016 Season will include the Los Angles premieres of four direct from Broadway hits. They are: If/Then, an original musical written by the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning creators of Next to Normal; Bullets Over Broadway, featuring a book by Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath based on the 1994 film of the same name. The Illusionists - Witness the Impossible™, the world’s best-selling touring magic show; and  Beautiful - The Carole King Musical. The season will also include returning favorites Annie, Dirty Dancing, the classic dance-heavy musical with lots of heart, 42nd Street, and Cabaret. Season Tickets go on sale to the general public on Feb. 23 at 10:00 am at or by phone at 866-755-BWAY (2929).

Producer Jason Goldberg has announced the world premiere of new musical Karma, The Awakening will play the El Portal Theatre Feb. 5 – March 1. Book and lyrics are by Billie E. Hazelbaker, Bryan N. Barnes, and Jeffrey Rollins, and music is by Ronn Price, Dan Green, and Barnes. A generation ago the ‘Dawning of the Age of Aquarius’ proclaimed a season of “harmony and understanding, sympathy, and trust abounding.” We are now living in that age and Karma, The Awakening revives the dormant energy of that season. The cast includes Roslyn Cohn, Adam Fox, Katelyn Gault, Alena Henke, Aidan Johnson, Stephen Juhl, Jackson Kendall, Peter McGlynn, Braddon Mendelson, Bob Moran, Madison Smith, Beth Ann Sweezer, and Jenny Torgerson directed by Jason Goldberg, with musical direction by Jerry Danielsen and choreography by Lennon HobsonThe historic El Portal Theatre is located at 5269, Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, 91601.Tickets: $30 general admission, $25 ticket for students with valid ID. (818) 508-4200 or  

The critically acclaimed Off-Broadway musical Inside Out will celebrate its 20-year anniversary at the Grove Theatre Center in Burbank, Feb. 12 – March 22 (opening night Feb. 14). Bruce Kimmel will direct the musical written by Doug Haverty (book & lyrics) and Adryan Russ (lyrics & music). A women’s therapy group, headed by group leader, Grace (Cynthia Ferrer), is transformed forever when former singing star Dena (Leslie Stevens) joins the group and winds up being a catalyst for change in the lives of Sage (Adrienne Visnic), a flower child; Liz (Sandy Bainum), a powerful businesswoman who has problems balancing work and home; Chlo (Stephanie Fredricks), a gay bank employee and single mom; and Molly (Dana Mellor), a mother of two young children who is dealing with weight and work issues. A portion of proceeds from the production will go to the 1983-founded Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation; an “army of women” dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer and how to stop it before it starts. Tickets: (323) 960-1055 or

Storybook Theatre presents Cinderella, a version of the classic tale specifically created to appeal to young children and the whole family. Complete with a loopy Fairy Godmother and puppets as the stepsisters, kids get the chance to dance with the Prince, try on the glass slipper, and join in the fun. Book &lyrics are by Lloyd J. Schwartz and music is by Michael Paul. The show runs Saturdays at 1:00 pm from March 28 – July 11 at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles, CA 90068. There is free parking across the street. Tickets: $12 for adults $12, $10 for children. (818) 761-2203 or

Montreal’s renowned circus troupe Circus Les 7 Doigts de la Main springs into action on Feb. 19 at 7:30 pm at Valley Performing Arts Center with Séquence 8, an explosive acrobatic dance and theater piece with high-volume electro music that contemplates the role of the “other” and how we define ourselves through and against it. Les 7 doigts de la main translates literally as “the 7 fingers of the hand”. It is a twist on a French idiom (“the five fingers of the hand”) used to describe distinct parts united tightly, moving in coordination towards one common goal. Founded in Montreal in 2002, by seven veterans of Cirque de Soleil, the 7 Fingers initial goal was to bring circus to a human scale. They began as artists on stage, creating collectively, and soon branched out, expanding their creative talents as directors, choreographers, writers and coaches, passing on their collaborative and unique 7 Fingers process to a new generation of circus artists. Set not in a specific time or place but rather on a vertical canvas of sorts, in this acrobatic dance and theatre piece we find emotions so heightened they spring into action, and relationships that transform and evolve until they create actual velocity. Click Here for tickets, which range from $35 - $65.

Award-winning puppet theatre company Marionetas de la Esquina brings their unique and modern adaptation Sleeping Beauty Dreams to Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University on Saturday, March 7 at 11:00 am. There will be a free, open to the public Family Art Day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm before and after the performance featuring hands-on art projects and Weisman Museum tours. In this contemporary take on the classic fairytale, the princess is depicted as an overprotected daughter looking for a way to break free of her castle walls in order to search for true love -- and her true self. Written by award-winning playwright Amaranta Leyva, this co-commission of the Kennedy Center uses Marionetas de la Esquina’s humorous storytelling and whimsical puppetry to awaken this sleeping princess as never before, in a modern interpretation for today’s young audiences. The performance will take place in the Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Tickets: (310) 506-4522 or $10 for youth 17 and under; $12-$15 for adults; $10 for Pepperdine students. For more information about the troupe visit

And for a bit of fun on a Monday, here’s SLICE the Musical, a sweet 4-minute  movie musical about a girl who falls helplessly in love with her pizza delivery guy. Enjoy!

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: The Ladies Rule in Cabrillo Music Theatre's COMPANY

Alxander Jon and the company of Company

A noticeably long, drawn-out silence opens Cabrillo Music Theatre’s production of Company as 35-year old Robert (Alxander Jon) comes home to his empty New York bachelor pad. It is the final moment of solitude before the coordinated cacophony of voices begins in Nick DeGruccio’s sleekly directed revival of Stephen Sondheim (music & lyrics) and George Furth’s (book) 1970 classic. Loaded with unspoken thoughts and full of anticipation, the silence acts like a laser to focus the audience’s attention making it a dynamic way to open the show.

In a nutshell, Company is a series of unrelated scenes and songs about marriage that express the good and the bad of relationships written in a variety of musical styles that complement their disparate ideas. The glue that connects them is Robert but scenes still jump around in no particular order. Sondheim himself has said that the musical isn’t linear but that the entire three hours takes place in a flash in Robert’s mind, much like a momentary reflection on the question of remaining single.

There is irony in the very bones of the piece with few characters saying out loud what they really mean. Dysfunction is a common theme in all of the relationships. Sarah (Elissa Wagner) and Harry’s (Michael Andrew Baker) constant bickering dissolves into a hilariously uncomfortable game of one-upmanship that covers their not-so-secret coping mechanisms (he drinks, she eats). But when Robert asks Harry later if hes happy being married he says youre always sorry, always grateful. It’s a poignant moment that demonstrates our need for love and connection, no matter how difficult it might be to make a relationship work.

Susan (Elizabeth Eden) and Peter (James Padilla), the perfect couple, tell Robert that although they are continuing to live together, they’ve recently gotten divorced and couldn’t be happier...together. Amy (Shelley Regner) and Paul (Nick Tubbs), on the other hand, are about to be married, if she can get past a seriously funny case of cold feet. A disillusioned Joanne (Tracy Lore) throws sarcastic barbs at her husband, Larry (Paul Babb), who still says he’ll never leave her, and a straight-laced Jenny (Heather Dudenbostel) pretends to like smoking pot just to please her husband David (Kevin F. Story).

Shelly Regner and Alxander Jon

Although Robert is the central character in Company, Cabrillo’s production belongs to the ladies. Regner makes “Getting Married Today” a bona fide showstopper as the crazy, hyperventilating bride who spits out more words than you can believe possible. Sondheim’s lyrics are masterpieces of internal dialogue, each one more distinctive and revealing than the next. Lore bites into Elaine Stritch’s signature song “Ladies Who Lunch” with unbridled ferocity and Chelsea Emma Franko makes “Another Hundred People” the showpiece you hope it will be. Franko, Jane Papageorge (April) and Aly French (Kathy) are also featured in the girlfriend trio “You Could Drive A Person Crazy,” a great little comedy song and dance number about the song and dance that Robert is giving them as he avoids commitment. They have a terrific blend and choreographer Cate Caplin adds some smooth dance moves to go with it.

Much of Caplin’s choreography highlights the subtext of DeGruccio’s staging by creating a pack vs. lone wolf series of visuals. The ensemble sings, dances, and moves toward Robert as he holds fast to his side of the line. The Act II opening song “Side By Side” builds until it becomes an exciting full-on circus production number that swells to a thrilling climax.

Jon has a lovely voice but not enough presence to match the energy of the women around him. Consequently, his songs become stand and sing moments that don’t really connect with the audience nor do they have the impact they should. Musical director Cassie Nickols’ orchestra, placed upstage center but in view just beyond the set, does a beautiful job with Sondheim’s complicated and quirky score.

DeGruccio stages the musical on a stunning multi-level skeletal set design by Tom Buderwitz. Its steel gray walkways, platforms, and staircases form the framework of Robert’s Manhattan apartment building and suggest the rest of the indoor and outdoor locations with only a change of minimalist furniture: a shag rug and bean bag chairs for a living room, a bench for Central Park, a cocktail table for an uptown happy hour. Above are a series of modernist cutouts that represent an abstract New York skyline. Jean-Yves Tessier’s lighting defines the changing space and captures the light of specific times of day quite beautifully. More than anything, though, it is Thomas Marquez’s costumes and Cassie Russek’s hair & makeup that give Company its mod throwback feel.

Company is being presented in the Scherr Forum, the smaller of the two theaters at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and it’s a good fit for the intimate production. Music lovers, and especially lovers of Sondheims exquisitely detailed songs, will find a myriad of emotions hidden in the spaces between the words. Heres to the ladies whose company makes this theatrical birthday party a musical feast.

Jane Papageorge and Alxander Jon

Alxander Jon and Tracy Lore

Chelsea Emma Franko and Alxander Jon

Michael Andrew Baker, Alxander Jon, and Elissa Wagner

Alxander Jon and Aly French

Kevin F. Story, Heather Dudenbostel, and Alxander Jon

Alxander Jon and the company of Company

January 23 - February 8, 2015
Cabrillo Music Theatre
Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
Scherr Forum Theatre
2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks
Tickets: (800) 745-3000 

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Little Italy Comes to Life in SERRANO THE MUSICAL

Chad Doreck, Suzanne Petrela, and Tim Martin Gleason

Holy moly that’s a lotta dick jokes in one show. The comedy is crass, sexist, and just about everyone gets dealt a stereotypical blow in one way or another in Serrano the Musical. That’s not to say it isn’t funny; it is, but lowbrow humor runs rampant in this world premiere musical so if that’s your kind of thing, you’re gonna love it. Suffice it to say I’m probably not the prime demographic.

The story is a twist on Cyrano de Bergerac, set in Little Italy, and follows the machinations of two mob families led by Don Reyo (Peter Van Norden) and Don Malafonte (Matthew Henerson). Rostand’s eloquent Cyrano, complete with his unmistakably prominent nose, becomes Serrano the gangster (Tim Martin Gleason), right hand thug to Don Reyo, and secretly in love with Rosanna (Suzanne Petrela), daughter of the judge who could put Don Reyo away for good. To prevent that from happening, Don Reyo enlists Serrano to help his idiot nephew Vinnie (Chad Doreck) deflower her, thus compromising the girl and providing a way for the judge to be blackmailed. So Serrano finds himself between a rock and a hard place. In order to keep his job, and his life, he must turn Vinnie into a smooth-talking Romeo to seduce the one girl he longs to have for himself.

The creative team comes from the world of television and film with Serrano being their first theatre production. I found it interesting that the book & lyrics were written by a woman, Madeline Sunshine (Webster, The People Next Door, and The Julie Andrews Show) because the musical’s overall voice and style of humor is so distinctly masculine. She packs an awful lot into the book (show runs close to three hours with an excellent cast of 12 playing 28 different characters) but it can be confusing at times when the story digresses.

Music is by Robert Tepper, who has written songs for such singers as Pat Benatar and Paul Anka, as well as films like Rocky IV and Say Anything. Stylistically there is one of everything: a ‘50s “Greased Lightning” number, a ‘60s pop number, a lounge act number, a ‘70s Carole Bayer Sager number, a ‘70s disco number, a big Broadway belt number (one of the best), a  Les Miz number, a Tango number, and a couple of arias and drag numbers…you get the picture. Musical director Jeff Rizzo elicits a bright and ballsy sound from the ensemble in the various musical styles.

Luckily the cast is game and director Joel Zwick is a master at setting up a joke and delivering the punchline. Its a technique he certainly perfected from directing over 600 episodes of television and successful films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Fat Albert but I much preferred the laughs that came from the situational comedy and character idiosyncrasies rather than the endless stream of cheesy joke after joke after joke.

Chad Doreck and Tim Martin Gleason

Gleason’s Serrano has a tough exterior but he is utterly charming and wonderfully sympathetic when you least expect it. Some of his finest moments happen with Doreck who lights up the stage as the uneducated Vinnie, a young man with more depth than anyone gives him credit for except Serrano. Petrela is suitably sweet as the virginal Rosanna and Chad Borden’s drag queen numbers are pure over-the-top fun.

Peggy Hickey, who most recently choreographed A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, pulls out all the stops with her delicious choreography which often steals the show. Ensemble members have multiple opportunities to strut their stuff. Three hoods and a nun (James Tabeek, Tom G. McMahon, Craig McEldowny, and Valerie Perri) are a welcome running gag throughout. Tabeek and McEldowney also shine in one-off scenes, the former in a nightclub dance feature with Kristina Miller and the latter as Serrano’s aging father... although it’s pretty far-fetched for Serrano to have to check with his operatically-gifted dad for permission to have plastic surgery.

Stephen Gifford’s festival-attired stage is authentically Little Italy, from its kitschy backdrop of red, white, and green streamers to its checkered tablecloths and neon-inspired signs, giving lighting designer Leigh Allen plenty of room to apply color in bold strokes. Byron Batista is especially creative with Serrano’s “Nose” design which I’m sure presented unique challenges for Gleason as a singer. It isn’t easy to design a prosthetic that won’t restrict the singer’s breathing or get in the way of the tone and Gleason was clear and in control at all times. Michael Mullen adds a number of visual surprises to his costumes that also rake in the laughs.

Peter Van Norden and Tim Martin Gleason

(Back Row) Craig McEldowney, Valerie Perri, Chad Borden and Barry Pearl;
(At Table) Chad Doreck, Suzanne Petrela and Tim Martin Gleason

Suzanne Petrela and Tim Martin Gleason

Tim Martin Gleason, Suzanne Petrela, and Chad Doreck

The Company of Serrano the Musical

January 8 - March 29, 2015
The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood.
Performances are Thurs, Fri and Sat at 8:00 pm; Sun at 3:00 pm.
Tickets: (323) 960-7774 or

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Interview: Dana Solimondo on Chairs, Ballet Girls, and BILLY ELLIOT

Recently, choreographer Dana Solimando took on the monumental task of choreographing Billy Elliot The Musical for La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. The production opened to sold out crowds over the weekend and will run through February 8th. Here Dana talks about making the steps her own and how you’ve got to be flexible in the theatre because you never know what’s going to happen. Enjoy this behind the scenes look at bringing Billy Elliot to life.

Dana, congratulations on your terrific opening of Billy Elliot last weekend! Is it true that you rechoreographed almost the entire show?

Yes it’s true. I’m a huge fan of Peter Darling’s work (which made it kind of scary to tackle), but I knew there were other ways to tell this incredible story. The trick was how to do it without straying too far from what the writers had envisioned.

One major decision was to not use the chairs, as that was very obviously a concept that was Peter’s and not needed to tell the story. However, a few days into rehearsal we hit a little bump in the road. Our Billy was a bit overwhelmed by the idea of trying new concepts in such a short period of time so I was asked to try and leave as much of his solo work as is (per the original). Also, there are a lot of times the word “chair” would pop up in the script and lyrics to insinuate it was time for “barre work” etc., so all of that had to be taken into consideration.

Long story short, I was still able to incorporate new ideas but some of the concepts needed to remain, like the through-line for Billy. I had to find a way to allow him to still use the chair for a ballet barre but continue on the path I had already started with the rest of the show. It all worked out beautifully in the end, but it was definitely a challenge.

I can imagine how challenging it must have been for your Billy who came from the touring production and already had that choreography in his body.

Yes, it was a huge challenge! I’m sure you heard the story; we had two Billys for this production. The first Billy, Noah Parets, broke his arm during the designer run-through. The second Billy, Mitchell Tobin, learned the show in four days before a paid audience. Both were tremendously gifted and up for the challenge of learning new choreography! Once we came to a place where the boys knew we could keep some of the original material and that we wouldn’t mess with their chair through-line (both boys tell me this is essential in showing their character’s evolution) we were able to start giving them new choreography without them feeling overwhelmed.

From that point on, they were more relaxed knowing they had that security. As hard as that was for me, I knew it was the right thing for the boys and at the end of the day that is what is most important. Both boys are incredibly smart, gifted and professional and it started to become a fun challenge for them. 

Can you give us an example of a number you had fun making completely your own? 

“Expressing Yourself” was fun because there were so many avenues you can go with it. I decided I wanted to go into Michael’s imagination and make the dance number something that could be his fantasy. We ended up doing a whole Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Hollywood/Follies musical type montage. Michael winds up being the star of the number with a rhinestone dress and backup dancers, and Billy eventually becomes his Fred Astaire. It was a lot of fun to stage and has been getting a great response.

Jake Kitchen and Mitchell Tobin in "Expressing Yourself"

Do you work differently with a cast when your dancers are children?

Yes and no. I worked differently with the children in this show in that I had to be more patient and put my teacher cap on but I still approached the material from a place of storytelling rather than just dance steps. All of the ballet girls had homework assignments on character development. They were very dedicated and passionate. It was rewarding to see them grow every day and to see how honestly they approached their character work. We had a great time!

There are a lot of moving parts in this show. How do you use your choreography to help serve the director’s vision when youre only one member of the creative team?

I think it is important for the creative team to think in terms of the show as a whole rather than thinking only about your individual department. I was hired to choreograph Ragtime this past year and really had to not only think in terms of what I needed for the dance segments, but what was best for the overall show. That can be challenging sometimes, but when you work with a director and creative team you trust will approach it in the same way, it’s more rewarding in the end.

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Having seen the show I can also say that Billy Elliot is also incredibly satisfying for the audience as well. You can see Danas choreography and the companys outstanding work through February 8, 2015 at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd, La Mirada, CA 90638. For tickets, call (562) 944-9801, (714) 994-6310 or visit

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Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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