Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE is the Summer Party You Don't Want to Miss

Obba Babatundé (front) with Octavius Womack, Rogelio Douglas, Jr.,
Eric B. Anthony, Jacques C. Smith and Trevon Davis. All photos by Craig Schwartz

When I moved back to Los Angeles in the mid-’90s, I was fortunate enough to work for a small company led by a president who was loved by everyone who knew him. A true gentleman, Gordon had been in the radio business a long time and was just entering his seventies. He always had a twinkle in his eye, time to listen, and a ready quip to lighten the mood. One of his favorite responses when asked if anyone was in his office was, “Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.” It always made me laugh.

I asked him about the phrase one day. All he did was smile and say, “Louis Jordan.” That was my introduction to the man known as the King of the Jukebox.

When it came to music, Louis Jordan knew how to make it swing. He was one of the most influential African American musicians of the late thirties and forties, and he had a knack for creating songs that were so infectious you just had to get up and dance. A pioneer in the rhythm and blues genre and forerunner of early rock and roll, he was also one of the first black artists to cross over on the pop charts, and everyone from Chuck Berry to Ray Charles has acknowledged his impact on their music.

Jordan recorded “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens” in 1946 and it became an instant hit, spending seventeen weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B chart and reaching number six on the pop chart. It’s been covered by James Brown, B.B. King and Patti LuPone, and it is also featured in a musical revue by Clark Peters built to showcase Jordan’s remarkable collection of songs. That revue - Five Guys Named Moe - is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its successful Broadway run in an out-and-out stellar revival at Ebony Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles.

The show is directed and choreographed with stylish precision by Keith Young, a former principal dancer with Twyla Tharp’s company in New York. His impressive resume is packed full of film, television and theatre credits including three prior productions at Ebony Rep. This time around his work is streamlined and character-driven, with generous doses of humor thrown in to amplify the fun. He saves the big glitz for Act II’s Five Moes floor show and a whopper of a reveal, but, back to the beginning.

L-R: Trevon Davis, Rogelio Douglas Jr., Eric B. Anthony,
Octavius Womack, and Jacques C. Smith

It starts with Obba Babatundé (as Nomax) stumbling home in the wee small hours of the morning after another late night bender, singing the blues to the plaintive sound of a muted trumpet. His girlfriend of sixteen years has finally left him and he’s in serious need of some solid relationship advice. Like many a lonely soul before him, Nomax turns on the radio for a little comfort and company.

That’s when he’s musically whopped up side the head by the five Moes of the title who materialize, as if by magic. Big Moe (Octavius Womack), Little Moe (Trevon Davis), Eat Moe (Eric B. Anthony), Four-Eyed Moe (Rogelio Douglas, Jr.), and No Moe (Jacques C. Smith) are determined to help him cast off his lush life and get his girl back, whether he likes it or not. It’s a set-up that paves the way for two hours of tell-it-like-it-is fun where the music is the main attraction and you can’t wait to see what tactic they’ll try next.

As a group, the Moes offer up a tasty blend of vocal harmonies that often blooms out of a verse when you least expect it. As soloists, they exude personality and charm by the bucketfuls, whether it is Womack raising the roof on Jordan’s jump blues crowd pleaser “Caldonia” or Davis getting crazy on “Saturday Night Fish Fry” considered by many to be the first true rock and roll song, or Anthony’s sultry version of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” which is enough to break your heart.

Smith’s “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That” would be considered politically incorrect by today’s standards but it is of the era and he sings it with such zeal that you can’t help but laugh. As for the aforementioned novelty song “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens,” it is a Douglas, Jr. comedy highlight you’ll not soon forget. He plays both ends of the emotional spectrum with ease showing off a gorgeous voice at its finest in the bluesy ballad “Azure Te.”

The longing in the song is multiplied times ten with the addition of scenic designer Edward E. Haynes Jr’s subtle Paris imagery on an upstage scrim, an effect he uses several times throughout the show to create atmosphere while adding an ethereal quality to the action.

They’re backed by one of the best 6-piece jazz ensembles you’ll hear anywhere, led by original Broadway Five Guys musical director Abdul Hamid Royal, an incredible musical force. By the way, don’t even think about getting up and leaving during the curtain call. Stay for the band’s entire last number after the cast has exited and you’ll see the definition of pure joy as they take over the stage and bring it all home.

Obba Babatundé

So how does an everyman character named Nomax not get lost in a show like this? The key is casting a consummate leading man who can anchor the production and make it look effortless while tapping into a bottomless well. In this case, the soul of the blues and the heart of Five Guys Named Moe belongs to Obba Babatundé. Every note he sings, every ghost of a thought you see flicker across his face is infused with the deep sentiment only time and life can give to an actor. He is a master at his craft and his performance is utterly enthralling.

Nomax may defend his actions and appear cavalier at times but all the justification in the world can’t keep him from his poignant realization in “Is You Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” As Babatundé walks off stage into the dark, he takes a piece of our heart (and understanding) with him.

Summer musicals all strive to get your attention at this time of the year but this bright jukebox musical is the one party you don’t want to miss. For my money, it’s Five Guys Named Moe for the win every single time.

FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE
May 18 - June 11, 2017
Ebony Repertory Theatre
Nate Holden Performing Arts Center
4718 West Washington Blvd
Tickets: www.ebonyrep.org

L-R: Jacques C. Smith, Trevon Davis, Rogelio Douglas, Jr., Eric B. Anthony,
Obba Babatundé, and Octavius Womack

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

MUSICAL NEWS for Thursday, May 18, 2017

3-D Theatricals presents a re-imagined production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma June 16 - 25 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and June 30 - July 9 at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. The 53-member cast stars Julia Aks as Laurey and Zachary Ford as Curly, with Tracy Rowe Mutz (Aunt Eller), Rufus Bonds, Jr (Jud Fry), Kelley Dorney (Ado Annie), Tom Berklund (Will Parker), Drew Boudreau (Ali Hakim), Cloie Wyatt Taylor (Gertie), and E.E. Bell (Andrew Carnes). The production is directed by T.J. Dawson with musical direction by Julie Lamoureux and choreography by Leslie Stevens. www.3dtheatricals.org

Ben Vereen, Juan Pablo Espinosa, Mary Birdsong, Stacey Oristano, and Anthony Federov join the Concert For America: Stand Up, Sing Out! on May 24. Previously announced performers include Chita Rivera, Cheyenne Jackson, Rachel Bloom, Wayne Brady, Helen Reddy, Megan Hilty, Wilson Cruz, Barrett Foa, and Marissa Jaret Winokur. The Concert for America series is created and hosted by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley. May 24 has also been designated Concert For America Day in Los Angeles by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Proceeds will benefit five organizations working to protect human rights: Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center, The Sierra Club Foundation, NAACP, and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 7pm at UCLA’s Royce Hall. www.ConcertsforAmerica.com

Rubicon Theatre Company continues its popular Broadway Concert Series with Nancy Dussault in My Life…Upon the Wicked Stage on May 20. Dussault combines extraordinary musicality and her trademark wit for a new spin on songs by Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne, Burton Lane, Stephen Sondheim and other treasured favorites by preeminent composers of the stage and screen. Songs include “Getting Married Today,” “Look to the Rainbow,” and her iconic “Make Someone Happy.” She is joined by musical director Christopher Marlowe and director Valentine Mayer. Three performances only May 20 at 2pm & 8pm and May 21 at 2pm. www.rubicontheatre.org

Mesopotamian Opera Company presents the world premiere of The Spell of Tradition, two Noh Play/Operas on the life and afterlife of Benjamin Franklin beginning June 1st at the Highland Park Ebell Club. In Part One, Tuesday, set in 1936, a soprano and orchestral conductor from the Metropolitan Opera en route to a concert date in Philadelphia survive a train derailment in Trenton, New Jersey that kills other members of their company. Aided by a shaman of the Lenape tribe (the original Native Americans of New Jersey and Philadelphia), the ghost of Benjamin Franklin is conjured to aid them as they strive to make their Philadelphia curtain on time.

In Part Two, The Salem Quilt begins in 1723, when Benjamin Franklin, a runaway apprentice, seeks food, rest and refuge from Mrs. Clapp, an innkeeper. She lets him sleep under a quilt with supernatural properties and it reveals to him a glorious future. Mrs. Clapp is conflicted: Shall she keep Franklin in her bed, or allow him to go off and pursue his magnificent destiny? Written, composed, choreographed and directed by Peter Wing Healey and performed in English. Running time is two hours ten minutes plus intermission. There is free parking in a lot across the street. June 1 – 3. Mesopotamianopera.org

Songwriter Richard Levinson’s entry into this year’s Fringe Festival is a set of twelve songs he’s written over many years spent in drinking establishments that he says are “roughly thrown together like a bunch of dive bar regulars should be into one 50 minute binge.” The song cycle is called 12 Bars and will run for three performances June 3, 9 & 21 at Sacred Fools Theater. Richard’s got a wry sense of humor so the evening is sure to appeal to a Fringe crowd. http://hff17.com/4680

After sold-out shows at Second City Hollywood and an encore performance at iO West, Divorce: The Hip-Hop Musical returns to conquer the Fringe. Exploring the stress, mess, and duress of divorce, the show promises a tale of destruction, seduction, and general dysfunction. It’s the nuclear option for the nuclear family featuring12 original songs, written and directed by Conor Hanney. Starring John Ryan Benavides, Stanson Chung, Ike Flitcraft, Kelsey Goeres, Conor Hanney, Kevin Hanney, Jr., Schuyler Jeffres, Brendan McCay, Brianna McClellan, Callie Ott, Dane Troy, Rama Vallury, Rob Zaleski, with with beatboxing accompaniment by Shaun Fisher. 6/1 - 21 at Sacred Fools Theatre Second Stage. Recommended for ages 13 & up due to Adult themes. http://hff17.com/4274

Hennessey Productions and Laurie Grant present an interactive musical comedy, Kookie Clubhouse Kingdom: The Gift at the Asylum this June. When a magical GIFT arrives at the Kookie Clubhouse Kingdom, all of its residents become very excited, a little confused, slightly irritated, and even a little scared. The uplifting music brings a powerful message about seeing and embracing the gifts all around us. Starring Abbe Rowlins, Anthony Beechler, Brian Smith, Daniel Garza, Ekaterina Pagiva, James Calixte, Jeremiah Caleb, Jim Todd, Johnny Avila, Karlie Blair, Mike Hennessey, Sheena Metal, Stephanie Rose, Tracy Martin, and Victoria Smith. The show will be live streamed on select dates to benefit various children’s charities around the globe. June 3 – 25 at Asylum @ Studio C. http://hff17.com/4745

Springloaded, written and performed by Margot Rose, is a musical meditation on disappeared years, discarded dreams, and delinquent DNA playing at the Hudson Theatre beginning June 4. In this solo show, a woman finds herself untethered and unhappy within the fast passing years. Out of good ideas, she turns to face her younger selves, expecting to restore her lost faith by revisiting simpler, happier times from her past. Directed by Terrie Silverman with musical direction by Alicia Morgan. June 4 – 22 at the Hudson Guild Theatre. http://hff17.com/4355

Pat Whiteman and Harriet Schock will bring their cabaret show to the Espot Lounge at Vitello’s on June 29 at 8pm. Harriet is a Grammy-nominated songwriter for “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” which was recorded by Helen Reddy and has written songs for artists like Johnny Mathis, Roberta Flack, and the Partridge Family. Special guest is Gary Lynn Floyd and the show is backed by an 8-piece band featuring Harriet on piano. www.espotlounge.com

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: LUCKY STIFF, a To-Die-For Madcap Musical Comedy

L-R: Brandon Parrish, David Atkinson, Gina D’Acciaro, Vito Viscuso, Jose Villarreal,
Selah Victor, and Alastair James Murden. All photos by Michael Lamont

Before Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty teamed up for iconic works like Ragtime, Once on this Island, and their current Broadway hit Anastasia, they wrote a crazy little musical called Lucky Stiff. It was their first collaboration and, though it never made it to Broadway, it won the pair a Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theatre and launched a 30-year partnership that has helped shape the genre ever since.

It may not have been their biggest success but it was quirky and fresh, and had a unique kind of boisterous charm that audiences loved. The musical is based on Michael Butterworth’s novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo about a nervous young shoe salesman named Harry Witherspoon (Brandon Parrish) who has never done anything exciting in his life. He’s unlucky in love and tormented by neighborhood dogs. Harry can’t seem to catch a break.

But when a rich uncle he’s never met dies and leaves him six million dollars, it appears Harry’s luck is about to change. The catch: he must take his dead uncle – now embalmed and sitting in a wheelchair – to Monte Carlo for one last adventure. Should he choose not to take him, or not to observe the detailed instructions his uncle has dictated for the trip, the money will instead go to The Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Horrors.

L-R: Claire Adams, Alastair James Murden, Brandon Parrish and Vito Viscuso

So Harry quits his job and sets out on a vacation that takes one unexpected turn after another until the show’s hilarious conclusion. You picture going on a swanky vacation to Monte Carlo with a corpse in tow that you have to pass off as alive. And if that’s not enough, it’s the eighties. Things are going to get big, including Harry’s troubles.

Other than a couple of student productions, the show has rarely been produced in Los Angeles but you can see it now through June 18th at Actors Co-op in Hollywood – and you should. Director Stephen Van Dorn turns this lively song and dance musical into the perfect pick-me-up after a long and exhausting week. It’s full of laughs, intrigue, and mischief, plus a colorful cast of goofy characters who nimbly move in and out of the story. Light and frothy as champagne-spiked cotton candy, you can’t beat it for a good time.

Lucky Stiff isn’t an easy musical to stage. It requires multiple changes of location, often within the lyric of a song or single scene, so creative use of space is a must. Van Dorn smartly plays into the silliness of the plot and solves the dilemma of world travel on a small stage by thinking like a kid. Underwater adventures accompanied by cast members blowing soap bubbles, and a trombone that stands in as the voice of a wife at the other end of a dramatic phone call, are two of many delightful touches that add an element of surprise to the show. Lex Gernon’s breezy set design is a versatile backdrop.

It’s also the kind of musical a cast of character actors can dig into and shine, especially as capable a group as this one. Many of them play multiple roles – dogs, gangsters, assorted international travelers, oddball hotel staff, old biddies, even Hare Krishnas – and with each switch they get funnier and funnier. Gina D’Acciaro’s nosy landlady is only outdone by her bulldog, which is only outdone by her shaky Miss Thorsby, which is only outdone by her drunk maid. Girl can belt too. If she ever announces a one woman show, it’ll be the hottest ticket in town.

It’s easy to root for Brandon Parrish who plays Harry, the underdog-turned-accidental-leading man. He blossoms from frustrated loser into a charming romantic as the story unfolds and Parrish navigates the character’s journey swimmingly. His “I Want” Song – “Mr. Witherspoon’s Friday Night” is quirky and fun, and like many of Ahrens & Flaherty’s songs, full of unusual syncopations and changing time signatures that add an appropriately off-kilter color to the show.

Brandon Parrish and Claire Adams

The other half of the developing romance is Annabel Glick (Claire Adams). All work and no play, it is her home for dogs that will benefit from Harry’s inheritance if he can’t fulfill the requirements of his uncle’s will so she follows him everywhere hoping to catch him making a mistake. The winsome Adams gets the best love song of the show, “Times Like These,” underplayed to perfection and a definite highlight.

On the flip side, Rory Patterson has found her role of a lifetime in Rita LaPorta, the gun-toting girlfriend of the deceased who wants Harry’s fortune for herself. The trap is to play her big and loud, but Patterson makes sure this Jersey girl is also likably insecure. She sidesteps what could be a caricature and instead creates a sympathetic and unusually funny broad. Devil’s in the details and this cast is full of surprises.

Musical director Taylor Stephenson does an excellent job of punctuating the musical irregularities in the score and you can understand every word that is sung. Julie Hall’s choreography fits the caper nicely and includes an absurd tango, an opening production number with the cast literally dancing over the dead man’s body, and plenty of movement-driven bits integrated into both the dialogue and the songs.

A long chase scene slows down the second act after intermission but the pace eventually recovers when the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. In the end, its a no-brainer. Everyone gets what they deserve in this to-die-for madcap musical comedy. Go for the laughs. Stay for the fun.

Clockwise: Rory Patterson, Jose Villarreal, Alastair James Murden, Brandon Parrish
(center), David Atkinson, Brian Habicht, and Selah Victor

Rory Patterson and Brian Habicht

Alastair James Murden

Brian Habicht, Gina D’Acciaro, Rory Patterson, Alastair James Murden, Brandon Parrish,
David Atkinson, Claire Adams, Jose Villarreal, and Selah Victor

L-R: Gina D’Acciaro, Selah Victor, Brandon Parrish, Alastair James Murden, and Jose Villarreal

LUCKY STIFF
May 10 – June 18, 2017
Actors Co-op
1760 N. Gower Street
Hollywood, CA 90028
www.actorsco-op.org

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Friday, May 12, 2017

MUSICAL NEWS for Friday, May 12, 2017

Laguna Playhouse is closing its season with The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, written and performed by James Lecesne, with music by Duncan Sheik and directed by Tony Speciale. When a 14-year-old boy goes missing in a small New Jersey town his disappearance is illuminated by memories of his brilliant spirit. This one-man show, written and staring Academy-award winner James Lecesne, tells the story of a young boy who had touched the hearts of his community during his short but richly colorful life. Teens and adults alike will be inspired by this uplifting story about humanity and the dignity of life. June 7 – 25. Due to the extreme generosity of Suzanne and James Mellor and The Mellor Fund, theatergoers 21 and under will be admitted for free. ID is required. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

The legendary Harmony Boys return to Hollywood bringing Christmas 1962 with them for four performance of  A Harmony Boys Christmas. It’s Christmas Eve and renowned singing sensations are presenting their annual yuletide fundraising concert to benefit their charity “Force Feed the World” (in which they shove food and their personal cultural and religious beliefs down the throats of the less fortunate during the holiday season). It’s a singing, dancing, musical comedy extravaganza brimming with heartfelt but provocative satire. Starring Michael Hoy, Aaron Matijasic, Gabriel Oliva, and Al Rahn. Written and directed by Aaron Matijasic with choreography by Jen Oundjian and musical direction by Ben Stanton. June 8 – 24 at Sacred Fools Theater. http://hff17.com/4661

Bucket List Theatre presents the world premiere of Missmatch, a multimedia musical parody based on actual events. Follow AC as she navigates her way through the world of online dating, unleashing hilariously disastrous results. Written & directed by Amanda Conlon. June 1 - 18 at Let Live Theatre at the Actors Company. http://hff17.com/4339

Theatre Unleashed presents a new production of its popular superhero satire musical The Spidey Project by Justin Moran featuring new scenes, character and songs. Nerdy social outcast Peter Parker takes on an alter ego as he attempts to defeat a dastardly collection of terrifying villains and perhaps his biggest nemesis of all…himself in this tongue-in-cheek comedy. The show was a hit in 2012 [read about it here] With heroes more in demand than ever, it’s a good time to see Spidey back in the next iteration of Moran’s musical. June 3 – 24 at Studio/Stage. Tickets for the June 3 performance are only 55 cents. http://hff17.com/4398

Chris Isaacson Presents has announced that legendary Tony Award-winning Broadway star Donna McKechnie will bring her show Same Place, Another Time to Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood on Sunday, May 28 at 7:30pm and Martinis Above Fourth in San Diego on Thursday, June 1 at 8pm. Special guests in Los Angeles will include Greg Safel, making his LA cabaret debut in celebration of his new CD Visible, and local favorite Jeffrey Scott Parsons. www.chrisisaacsonpresents.com

Panic! Productions closes its season with a fresh take on the crowd-pleasing musical Little Shop of Horrors. The Alan Menken-Harold Ashman musical is directed by J. Bailey Burcham, with choreography by Tyler Matthew Burk, and musical direction by Josh Bednarsky. June 2 through 18 at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. panicproductions.org

Linden Waddell returns to the theatre after a 20-year hiatus in Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Sherman. Sherman became an instant celebrity when his first three Warner Bros. comedy albums shot to #1 in the early ‘60s. He won a Grammy Award for his internationally-known hit about a child’s letter home describing a miserable camp experience in “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.” Waddell’s one-woman cabaret revue highlights Sherman’s humorous song parodies and is directed and choreographed by Janet Miller, with live accompaniment by musical director Marjorie Poe. The 55-minute concert presents some of his best-known works and lesser-known material. June 4 – 24 at Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre. http://hff17.com/4580

Jeremy Ebenstein takes audiences through his humorous, inspiring, yet often heartbreaking story of living with Asperger’s Syndrome in Pain In My Asperger’s. The 80-minute one-man show includes eight original songs and compositions as Ebenstein chronicles his journey from childhood to adulthood addressing issues like childhood bullying, hopeful romance, overcoming depression, and striving for acceptance. It’s a story of hope and love, not only for those suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome, but for all who have ever hoped and dreamed about making something of themselves. Written and developed by Jack Fry who serves as producer and creative consultant. June 3 – 25 at the Lounge Theater. http://hff17.com/4650

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MUSICAL NEWS for Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wayne Moore’s Freeway Dreams, a musical comedy about commuters stuck in freeway traffic whose dreams emerge as they daydream opens May 19. Originally staged as a cabaret show which ran for five months at the Gardenia, the show has been expanded into a full musical production directed by Jim Blanchette. Moore says, “The show is about people stuck on the freeway, and the fantasies they have in their lives. Actually, they’re stuck so long they end up in each other’s fantasies, so there’s lots of funny stuff.” Starring Aubrie Alexander, Stephanie Andersen, Jonathan Brett, Ashley Douglas, Darren Mangler and Leslie Rubino. May 19 – June 11, Write Act Rep at the Brickhouse Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove Street in Hollywood. Click Here for tickets.

Can you hear it? That’s London Calling, a gritty new musical inspired by the music of the influential British punk rock band The Clash, with book by Peggy Lewis. This is the 40th anniversary of The Clash’s first album and the show centers around a youth spent playing in bands, living in squats, and pursuing dreams in Holland and Canada. The lyrics of the songs propel the 90-minute story forward – story of aspirations, disappointment, and redemption. June 4 – 25 at the Hudson Theatre. http://hff17.com/4293 or www.london-calling.com.

In Trump in Space by Gillian Bellinger and Landon Kirksey, Star Trek meets Avenue Q meets Battlestar Galactica meets Trump, in a campy political musical comedy in space. It’s a battle between good vs bad, ideals vs opportunism, Trump vs Trump set 400 years in the future. The sci-fi absurdist comedy imagines a humanity divided among starships seeking a new home with the left leaning Starship California leading the rebellion against the still-in-power Trump regime led by Captain Natasha Trump and the mysterious Executive. Starring Gillian Bellinger, Rachel Boller, Kevin Richards, Landon Kirksey, Muriel Montgomery, Scott Palmason, Nikki Bittogrino, Don Schlossman, Carrie Long and Jim Shipley. Directed by Matt Zettell, with music by Sam Johnides and Tony Gonzalez. June 3 – 24 at The Actor’s Company. http://hff17.com/4674

The world premiere of The Brick – A One Man Musical written and composed by Bill Berry takes its inspiration from neuroscientist David Eagleman’s theory of three deaths (the first: when the body ceases to function; the second: when the body is put in its grave; the third: that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time). Comedy songwriter Bill Berry goes mano a mano with the spirit of his deceased mother, offering her the choice to live on, or die her third and final death in this intriguing work directed by Kelly De Sarla. June 10 - 22 at Asylum @ Studio C in Hollywood. http://hff17.com/4418

The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center continues performances of John August’s poignant musical Big Fish through May 21. The show centers on charismatic Edward Bloom, whose impossible stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son, Will. As Edward’s final chapter approaches, Will embarks on his own journey to find out who his father really is, revealing the man behind the myth, the truth from the tall tales. Starring Will Shupe as Edward Bloom along with Andrew Allen, Natasha Bloom, Marcello Silva, Kevin Ellis, Conchita Belisle Newman, Jen Ridgway, Christopher Spangler, Philip McBride, Jared Price, Savannah Leigh, Bryce Brady, Tori Cusack, Ashley Maimes, Ralph Santos, Claudia Stone-Sheppard, and Megan Tisler directed by Fred Helsel. www.simi-arts.org

Narsociety – The Social Media Shaming Musical by Chris Valenti and John T. Mickevich about our narcissism and addiction to the Internet will play the Hudson Theatre beginning June 2. The full length two act musical features 19 new songs that explore elements of the Internet experience: procrastination, dating apps, cat-fishing, incessant selfies, cat videos, fears of improbable disasters, response-time insecurity, the thrill of trending, and more. Starring Bonnie Kolber, Sarah Spiegel, C. Brian Smith, William Gabriel Grier, Larisa Peters, Chris Valenti, Christine Anatone, Vincent Soto, Alyssa B. Jackson, Tom Schneiders, Nadia Marina, Morgan Ann Smith, Edward Alvarado, and Reed Buck. Directed by Chris Valenti with choreography by Michelle Loucadoux. June 2 – 11 at the Hudson Backstage Theater. hff17.com/4312 or plays411.com/Narsociety

They Played Productions debuts its first live project; a serious adult musical about werewolves that explores obsession, our need for choices, and the rage within in Nothing Bad: A Werewolf Rock Musical. Written and directed by Erik Blair, with music by Daniel Sugimoto, the show is the story of Perfection, CA where everything is perfect. But when good girl Lilly White realizes she wants something more than everything, the rebel motorcycle gang looks like a great solution. The only problem is they’re werewolves. Once bitten, she’ll learn about Perfection’s dark underbelly as she turns into The Beast. Sugimoto’s music switches from the innocence of the1950s to a pounding ‘80s style rock with the transformation. June 2 – 24 at Studio/Stage. Use discount code “HOWL” for $10 tix for the June 2nd performance. http://hff17.com/4168

(mostly)musicals returns to the E Spot Lounge on May 22 with (mostly)musicals In Dreams a show that will “make your dreams come true.” Gregory Nabours heads up the dream team cast which includes Sharon McNight, Michelle Ortiz, Alli Miller, Ashley Jones, Christine Tucker, Christopher Maikish, Cooper Howell, Domonique Paton, David LaMarr, Espiridion Magana, Kelley Dorney, Matt Magnusson, and Matt Valle. Emily Clark hosts the open mic after party. www.mostlymusicalsLA.com

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

MUSICAL NEWS for Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ebony Repertory Theatre will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Broadway musical Five Guys Named Moe with a new production at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center May 18 – June 11. The exuberant, international hit by Clarke Peters pays tribute to the music of rhythm and blues pioneer Louis Jordan and will be directed and choreographed by Keith Young with musical direction by the original Broadway production’s musical director Abdul Hamid Royal. It is the story of the heroic Nomax who is down on his luck. His girlfriend Lorraine has left him, he’s been drinking, and he’s listening to the radio at 4:45 am. Emerging from his radio, the Moes – No Moe, Little Moe, Four Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, and Big Moe – encourage Nomax through song and stories to turn his life around and tell Lorraine that he loves her. Starring Obba Babatundé, Eric B. Anthony, Trevon Davis, Rogelio Douglas, Jr., Jacques C. Smith, and Octavius Womack. www.ebonyrep.org

Actors Co-ops 25th Silver Anniversary season closes with Lucky Stiff, the killer musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Stephen Van Dorn directs the show which is now in previews and opens May 12. Choreography is by Julie Hall and musical direction by Taylor Stephenson. This hilarious musical murder mystery farce mixes diamonds, mistaken identities and a body in a wheelchair (and puppies!) in an all singing, all dancing, killer musical comedy. Starring Claire Adams, David Atkinson, Gina D’Acciaro, Brian Habicht, Alastair James Murden, Brandon Parrish, Rory Patterson, Selah Victor, José Villarreal and Vito Viscuso. www.ActorsCo-op.org

Jaime Camil, of CW’s Jane the Virgin, will star in the Hollywood Bowl’s summer musical Mamma Mia! in the role of Sam Carmichael. The show will be directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and conducted by David Holcenberg. Complete casting TBA. Performances at the Bowl are July 28, 29 & July 30. Single tickets are on sale now. www.hollywoodbowl.com
After Hours Theatre Company presents Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Dogfight at the Hudson Theatre beginning June 2. Musical direction is by Elmo Zapp, choreography by Jennifer Oundjian and co-direction by Oundjian and Jennifer Strattan. In 1963, on the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for one final boys’ night of partying and debauchery. But, when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress whom he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of love and compassion. Starring Payson Lewis, Nicci Claspell, Trent Mills, Spencer Strong Smith, Emily Morris, Peter Allen Vogt, Stephanie Anderson, Austin Powell, Aliya Stuart, Nevada Brandt, Harrison Meloeny, Everjohn Feliciano, Emily Barnett, Erik Hall, and Jilli Marine. www.plays411.com/dogfight

The musical comedy improv group Robot Teammate premieres its original musical space race comedy Turbulence! at Sacred Fools Theater beginning June 10. It’s the year 4242 and the Intergalympics competition between humans on Earth and Mars is at a fever pitch. An epic race around the sun concludes the events, but the untimely demise of Earth’s designated competitors means the haphazard crew of the S.S. Albacore and their android assistant Mambo 4 must go to bat. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Starring Kat Primeau, Miles Crosman, Molly Dworsky, Dave Reynolds and Chris Bramante. Miles Crosman is head writer. The show is directed by Molly Dworsky and Sam Johnides is musical director. Family-friendly (ages 10+). June 10 – 22. Tickets: http://hff17.com/4557

Musical Theatre Guild has announced its upcoming 2017 – 2018 season consisting of rarely seen musicals based on popular films. They are: Sugar (Sept 24, 2017), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Nov 12, 2017), High Society (Feb 25, 2018) and Honeymoon in Vegas (May 6, 2018). All performances will take place at the Alex Theatre in Glendale at 7pm. Season tickets go on sale in late June and single tickets in July. www.musicaltheatreguild.com

Fraser Entertainment Group presents A Classic Broadway Mother’s Day featuring a cast of mom singers and their offspring on Sunday, May 14. Doors open at 4:30 for the 6pm songfest at Rockwell Table and Stage. Hosted by Jason Graae and special guest music director Todd Schroeder and starring Tami Tappan Damiano & Dante Damiano, Chelsea Field, Chelsy Gray & Owen Bakula, Dianne Fraser & Hayley Silver, Kelly Lester & Julia Lester, and Nita Whitaker & Skye LaFontaine. Click Here for tickets.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MUSICAL NEWS for Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Davis Gaines returns to a role that won him an Ovation Award this June, Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, this time at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. Glenn Casale directs, musical direction is by Jeff Rizzo and choreography is by Patti Colombo. Joining Gaines in the cast are Nikki Crawford as Aldonza and Roland Rusinek as Sancho, Rich Hebert (Padre), Michaelia Leigh (Antonia), Jenny McGlinchey (Housekeeper), Jeff Skowron (The Barber), Shannon Stoeke (Dr. Carrasco/Duke), Joseph Abrego, Greg Butler, Joe Komara, Kailyn Leilani, Rachel McLaughlan, Eric Stretch, Michael Stumpfig, Michael Thomas-Visgar, John B. Williford, and Jenna Wright. The chivalrous knight Don Quixote rides again in an unpredictable adventure that takes him into battles with an imaginary foe and into romance with the beautiful Dulcinea. June 2 – 25. www.lamiradatheatre.com

[Update as of 5/1/17 Cabaret has been postponed to Summer 2018] Up next for Celebration Theatre is Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret, directed by Michael Matthews, with choreography by the ever-creative Janet Roston and musical direction by Anthony Zediker. Alex Nee stars as the Emcee and Talisa Friedman as Sally Bowles, with Christopher Maikish (Cliff), John Colella (Ernst), Matthew Henerson (Herr Schultz), June Carryl (Fraulein Schneider), Katherine Tokarz (Fraulein Kost), Nathan Mohebbi (Bobby), Tyler Matthew Burk (Victor), Katheryne Penny (Texas), Janelle Toyami Dote (Rosie) and Alli Miller (Helga). Welcome to the Kit Kat Klub, the seediest, sexiest nightclub in Berlin where life isn’t just beautiful, it’s downright dangerous. May 26 – July 2. www.celebrationtheatre.com

Robot Teammate is releasing an original cast recording of their award-winning musical Thug Tunnel available digitally on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. They’ll be celebrating with an album release party on Saturday, May 20th so mark your calendars. The book, music & lyrics music were conceived through improvisations and refined during writing sessions with the Robot Teammate ensemble, led by director Molly Dworsky. It’s a show I called “exceptionally appealing” and “a great example of what wild imagination, a commitment to getting a little down and dirty, and reveling in the joy of the art itself, can do” when I reviewed it last summer.

Featured on the cast album are Chris Bramante, Miles Crosman, Molly Dworsky, Nikki Muller, Dave Reynolds, Ingrid Gillming, Adrian Prohaska, Amanda Rae Troisi, Fayna Sanchez, and The Mother Thugger’s Band. The album will be available for purchase on Robot Teammate’s website and all major digital platforms. Visit www.robotteammate.com for more info.

Michael Leoni’s Elevator has extended its run at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood through the end of June. The show is a comedic and emotional ride exploring what happens when seven strangers get stuck in an elevator. In close quarters, it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out. New to the cast are Zack Carter, Vivi Thai, David Schocke, and Amil Johnson who will be rotating roles with original cast members Devon Werkheiser, William Stanford Davis, Deborah Vancelette, David Abed, Karsen Rigby, Erica Katzin, and Kristina St. Peter. Now through June 25. www.elevatortheplay.com

The Broad Stage opens its 2017-18 season with Born for This featuring original music by GRAMMY® Award-winning artist BeBe Winans and book by Winans and Charles Randolph-Wright, who also directs the new musical. Born for This is the story of Detroit teenagers BeBe and CeCe Winans’ experience joining Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise The Lord Network in Pineville, North Carolina. Jim and Tammy become an unlikely surrogate family as the two teenagers turn into the hottest stars in televangical America before crossing over to mainstream fame.

Starring as BeBe and CeCe are their nephew and niece Juan and Deborah Joy Winans. The cast also includes Chaz Pofahl as Jim Bakker and Kirsten Wyatt as Tammy Faye Bakker, Kiandra Richardson (Whitney Houston), and Nita Whitaker (Mom Winans), Milton Craig Nealy (Pop Winans), Dyllon Burnside (Michael Winans/ Howard), Desmond Sean Ellington (Carvin Winans/Alvin), Brad Raymond (Ronald Winans) and Michael Stiggers (Marvin Winans). July 11 – August 6. www.thebroadstage.com

We The People: A Musical Revolution is the latest new work from Daniel Sugimoto and the Zoo Theatre Company. The show follows a melting pot of young American struggling to make sense of the ever-changing socio-political climate by tackling current issues such as immigration legislation, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and racial division in the United States. Sugimoto’s score is a blend of rock, pop opera, hip-hop, and classical musical theatre that all works together to create a revolutionary thought provoking piece. June 2 – 18 at Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica. www.TheZooTheatreCo.com

Chance Theater presents an encore presentation of Fancy Nancy, The Musical as part of its TYA series. Written by Susan DiLallo (book & lyrics) and Danny Abosch (music), directed by Angeline Mirenda, and based on original staging by Kelly Todd. The show follows Fancy Nancy and her friends Bree, Rhonda, Wanda, and Lionel as they prepare to perform in their very first show, Deep Sea Dances. Nancy is positive (that’s fancy for “100 percent sure”), that she and Bree will be picked to be mermaids. When another girl wins the coveted role, Nancy is stuck playing a dreary, dull tree. What’s a girl to do? May 5 – 28. www.chancetheater.com

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