Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: Spindle City, a Disappointing Tale of a Fascinating Legend

Emily Bridges and Rowan Treadway. All photos by Rick Rose.

Did she or didn’t she? To this day, no one knows for sure. In 1893, Lizzie Borden was tried for the murders of her father and stepmother in one of the most famous unsolved cases in history. When Andrew Borden and his second wife Abby were found savagely bludgeoned to death inside the family home nearly a year earlier, Lizzie was the prime suspect. She was acquitted after a two week trial but inconsistencies in her story led many to doubt her innocence. Still, no other suspect was ever accused.

In the years since, the public’s fascination with the case has only grown, spawning a profusion of books, movies, and songs, the most famous of which is the children’s nursery rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, And gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one.” It is a haunting refrain especially when set to music.

Katrina Wood is the latest writer to explore the Fall River, Massachusetts tragedy in her new musical Spindle City, a fictional account of what might have caused Lizzie to commit the murders. Here Lizzie (Emily Bridges) is portrayed as a schoolteacher whose mission is to protect her poor students from being taken away to work in the mills.

L-R: Bianca Vanderhorst, Sarah Hoback, Kristin Towers-Rowles and Emily Bridges

She has a sleazy uncle (Rick Simone), determined to marry her for the Borden fortune and a male friend (Rowan Treadway) who is secretly in love with her. When her timid sister (Sarah Hoback) introduces her to Nance O’Neil (Kristin Towers-Rowles) a New York actress, there is an immediate attraction. A relationship develops but eventually ends in disappointment. We are to believe that all of this contributes to an eventual breakdown resulting in the bloody deaths of her overbearing father (Chas Mitchell) and antagonistic stepmother (Jazmine Ramay).

But where history makes it unclear whether she did the deeds or not, this story directed by Trace Oakley, has already decided that Lizzie is mentally unbalanced, justified in her actions, and guilty. Whether by design or direction, it is a misfire to rob the audience of the mystery. Doing so undermines the fundamental allure of the story, especially since Wood has not settled on a consistent storytelling approach.

Initially it appears that the show is going to be a tongue-in-cheek parody musical as downtrodden millworkers burst into bright bouncy Broadway choreography. While the contrast elicits many laughs, the show does not follow through on this set-up and instead alternates between doom-and-gloom drama and campy Victorian melodrama accompanied by a confusing array of musical numbers that never come together to create a cohesive whole.

The score is a mish-mash of styles that includes everything from a country square dance, parlor songs, and vaudeville to ‘70s disco, an orchestral piece, and what sounds like 1980’s Andrew Lloyd Webber, complete with his signature synthesizers (which makes one wonder how long this musical has been in development). The pre-recorded instrumental tracks (arrangements by Art Wood and Ken Rarick) also contain passages of strange underscoring that have no connection to the dialogue. Add it all together and musically it simply doesn’t make sense.

L-R: Chas Mitchell, Sarah Hoback, Bianca Vanderhorst, Jazmine Ramay
 and Rick Simone

Neither does Averi Yoreks choreography, which has little to do with the story and in some cases interferes with what is happening among the principle characters. During the mill fire, the ensemble forms a stylized bucket brigade, then stops and exits, only to return hesitantly in the background of the scene several minutes later and continue. The transition is so out of place that it felt as if someone had made the wrong entrance and the cast was going back to do it all over again.

Likewise, a story song sung by Ramay is choreographed as a tango but has nothing to do with the dialogue in the scene, regardless of the fact that it is well-executed by the actress. And though she sheds no clothes, Towers-Rowles’ stage number, with mirror in hand, looks and sounds like a disingenuous stripper’s lounge act. As director, Oakley bears the responsibility of pulling the show’s disparate pieces together but the decisions he makes are downright puzzling as he reduces the characters to unfortunate stereotypes.

Kristin Towers-Rowles

Skylar Johnson’s lighting adds an appropriately eerie tone to the production and Aaron Glazer’s creepy set design has a number of unexplained oddities that set up the story quite nicely. It’s unfortunate that some of those touches, such as a staircase going nowhere with what, at first glance, looks like a finger sitting on an upper step, aren’t at all integrated into the story. Still, Id like to see the story that goes with his intriguing set design and its offbeat color palette, period details, and miniature city skyline. Now that would be a mystery worth solving.

As it is, Spindle City needs more work before it can live up to the fascinating tale of the real Lizzie Borden. In the meantime, there is always the next TV movie or film reinvention to look forward to.

James J. Cox, Paul Wong and Emily Bridges

SPINDLE CITY: The Lizzie Borden Musical
October 13 – November 5, 2016
Secret Rose Theatre
11246 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Tickets: (323) 960-7780 or 
Regular show times: Fri. at 8pm, Sat. at 3pm and 8pm, Sun. at 3pm. Special Halloween show on Monday, Oct. 31 at 8pm (period costumes encouraged- Fake Axes for sale in the foyer.)
More info:

For more Musicals in LA news:
Become a Fan on Facebook
Follow Musicals in LA on Twitter
Click Here to return to home page
Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
2:12 PM
| CLICK HERE to comment 0

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: SKULLDUGGERY: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, a Rowdy Good Time

John Bobek and David Haverty. All photos by Jessica Sherman Photography

I love a good prequel, especially when a contemporary playwright decides to take on the back story of a hallowed play by the likes of William Shakespeare. I mean, come on. Daring to tread on that playing field takes some guts because you know before you begin that audiences are going to have high expectations of your work. They also know where you need to end your story in order for Shakespeare’s to begin so getting there must be highly inventive and worthy of its foregone conclusion.

LA-based playwright Michael Shaw Fisher proves he’s up to the task in his latest new work Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, a rowdy and irreverent precursor to Shakespeare’s revenge play, Hamlet. The musical comedy is a smart contrast in tone that opens up a clever pathway for foreshadowing later events and introducing the quirks of Shakespeare’s dramatic characters, like Ophelia’s (Alyssa Rupert) madness and Polonius’ (Curt Bonnem) convoluted conversation. It also allows for a slew of new characters to emerge that are completely unpredictable. You never know what this bunch of crackpots will do next.

John Bobek and Brendan Hunt (center) with the cast

Instead of simply the skull of a jester we meet in passing in Hamlet (“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio”) Yorick (scene-stealing Brendan Hunt) is a real person – a falling-down drunkard with more than his fair share of secrets. Hunt doesn’t even have to try to be funny. All he has to do is try to stand up and it becomes a study in how to create an unforgettable character. When his arm gets stuck in a set piece or he slips while walking across the stage, it’s a lesson in improv you can’t pass up.

Hamlet Sr. (David Haverty), appearing in Hamlet as a ghost only, is still alive, and three boisterous roustabouts (Jeff Sumner, Matt Valle and Cj Merriman) who will take up new careers as gravediggers before Skullduggery is over will reveal all the mysteries heretofore unsolved.

When this show works it works really well and a lot of that is due to the understanding they (and Hunt) have of how to bring the material to life. In truth, it’s the fusion of their acting chops and director Scott Leggett’s terrific ability to wring the funny out of Fisher’s writing that makes Skullduggery so much fun.

L-R: Jeff Sumner, Matt Valle and Cj Merriman

Each of the three has a distinct personality and role in their lively trio. They sing, they dance, they move like wraiths cloaked in black à la Martha Graham and, whenever they appear, they buoy up the merriment. Leggett’s adept staging and Natasha Norman’s cheeky choreography are a delicious combination that this show wears well.

Skullduggery takes place thirty years before Hamlet begins when brothers Claudius (John Bobek) and Hamlet are young men. Claudius and Gertrude (Leigh Wulff) have fallen in love but when Hamlet goes off to war with their father and dear old dad is killed on the battlefield, Hamlet returns and marries her while Claudius is away at school. Seven years later, Claudius comes home to Elsinore and learns the bitter truth. Yorick’s uncanny ability to predict the future eventually convinces Claudius to join him in his drunken revolution to overthrow the now King Hamlet and take back what he lost.

Where Hamlet follows the perspective of King Hamlet’s son, Skullduggery is really Claudius’ story of what led up to the murder. Bobek (as Claudius) is a likable leading man with a strong singing voice whose journey begins hesitantly, and is at times quite comical, with his hypoglycemic fainting spells a regular occurrence. As he gains confidence, his earnest demeanor propels him forward until he takes bold action to achieve his desired end. Haverty goes from battle-ready to war-weary and his few moments of vulnerability add depth to a very traditional character.

As their object of affection, Wulff looks the part of a regal queen but is acting as though she is in an entirely different play. A scene can be serious in a musical comedy but it still needs to have an intensity behind it that is consistent with the style of the play. And, whether or not an actor is miked (they are not here), it is critical that the audience hears their dialogue. In this case, we can’t hear her and the acting is so internal that it comes across as flat. Rebecca Larsen (Berta) does the same thing in her scenes although her wisecracks do land when we can hear them. Both have a bigger problem swallowing their vocals during their songs which gives them an uncomfortably thin, reedy sound, neck veins straining to reach the notes.

Rebecca Larsen and Leigh Wulff

It’s too bad because Fisher’s score is an appealing combination of musical styles that includes everything from electro-funk, Lennon-esque tunes, and Sondheim-inspired verses to Renaissance folk, drinking songs, and sea shanties. I even heard something resembling The Pink Panther hidden in the mix. When it goes all out rock, it’s even better.

Musical director Michael Teoli uses instruments you don’t often hear together in a musical to create some cool sound paintings and eerie effects in his arrangements for the show. He features marimba, mandolin, and guitar, and even tuba on “Twenty-Three” at the top of Act II to recap the story and move the audience forward twenty-three years. Vocal harmonies, especially the intentionally dissonant phrases, are deceptively simple and add subtle texture. It’s an artful working of the score that creates a musical world just slightly off enough to catch your ear because it isn’t at all traditional.

Lyrically there are nods to popular Shakespeare phrases and a good bit of punning if you listen closely. You’d have to see the show a second time to catch all the Shakespeare in-jokes Fisher has included so keep your ear tuned.

Sacred Fools’ new Hollywood venue is a step up from their previous location for this kind of musical adventure and the creative team has done some impressive work here. DeAnne Millais’ polished scenic design features open wooden panels, a curved staircase, and some highly effective scene painting (by Joyce Hutter) to bring the Elizabethan era’s stone and bone to life. A cabinet of skulls does double duty stage left while a fabric panel hanging stage right makes tapestry changes via Ben Rock’s rich video projections to further enhance locations. Gorgeous costumes by Linda Muggeridge look expensive under Andrew Schmedake’s saturated lighting design.

Making Shakespeare a good time isn’t always easy but Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet accomplishes that goal and delivers an exhilarating crowd-pleaser. The laughs are infectious, the fun factor high. Maybe every Shakespearean tragedy should come with a comedy prequel.

SKULLDUGGERY: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet
September 30 – November 5, 2016
Sacred Fools Theater Company
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038

The cast of Skullduggery

John Bobek and Leigh Wulff

Pat Towne

John Bobek and David Haverty

For more Musicals in LA news:
Become a Fan on Facebook
Follow Musicals in LA on Twitter
Click Here to return to home page


Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
1:37 PM
| CLICK HERE to comment 0

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Review: For The Record: Scorsese - American Crime Requiem

All I can say is get ready to be blown away. This theatricalized cinematic hybrid entertainment-on-steroids comes at you with all the force of a loaded gun, if the stage was the barrel, the singers were the bullets, and the Scorsese signature plot twists were the triggers. It’s one showstopping sequence after another woven together with a modern sensibility that hits right on trend.

The cast of For The Record. All photos by Kevin Parry

Your first holy-shit moment happens the moment you walk into the theater and see how Matt Steinbrenner and Kyle Courter have transformed the Wallis stage into a 4-level Vegas-style nightclub. A large round leather booth and table form the centerpiece of the main playing area with additional club seating for audience members flanking the 2 middle sections. Curved staircases on each side of the stage connect the tiers and create a sweeping visual that makes the club look like it is a hundred feet tall. They are also integrated beautifully, and with quite a measure of stylish surprise, into Dan Efros and Michael Berger’s lighting design.

I can imagine how detailed the light plot for this show must be to achieve so many wow moments in this Vegas showroom. It’s a given that Efros and Berger would excel at creating the excitement of a rock concert but what is even more fascinating is the way they use light to give the illusion of depth and warmth. The show looks luxe but it just as easily trades its burnished glow for the stark grit of a crime drama whenever it needs to.

Then For The Record: Scorsese’s creators (executive producer Shane Scheel, director Anderson Davis, and music supervisor/arranger Jesse Vargas) drop in an outrageously talented 7-piece band lead by Vargas and a ferocious cast that can quite literally blow the roof off with their powerhouse vocals. It’s a recipe for success right out of the box.

Zak Resnick and Jason Paige

Like previous For The Record performances, the 2-act show focuses on the films of an iconic director such as Baz Luhrmann, Quentin Tarantino, or John Hughes and weaves together scenes from across their body of work into one story. This one nails Scorsese’s brilliance and also recognizes the way he used music to underscore his characters’ personalities and their pivotal scenes. The stage production brings together some of his most memorable creations like Sam Rothstein (John Lloyd Young) and Ginger (Carmen Cusack) from Casino, Karen (Pia Toscano) and Henry Hill (Zak Resnick) from Goodfellas, Iris (Lindsey Gort) and Travis Bickle (James Byous) from Taxi Driver, Jordan Belfort (Justin Mortelliti) from The Wolf of Wall Street, and Jason Paige who plays Frank, a composite of Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas, Nicky Santoro from Casino and Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello from The Departed.

Rather than mimicking the original film characters, however, the actors use them as a point of departure, although Paige eerily channels his characters’ humor and brutality with chilling exactitude. The choice allows for adjustments to be made to fit the current cast. For example, Byous’s Travis seems younger and more innocent that De Niro’s but when he makes the change to haunted vigilante in his unforgettable revenge scene, it is no less believable.

Lindsey Gort with Erik Carlton on guitar

As Iris, Gort takes Jodie Foster’s little girl prostitute and turns up the volume to create a sexier, more worldly, but equally as damaged young woman. She’s got that slit your wrists kind of voice that hits you in stomach when she sings. It’s full of pain, and tears, and dirty martinis. She’s a little bit baby doll and a little bit Janis Joplin rolled into one. Her bluesy version of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” with guitarist Erik Carlton backing her up is one of the most vulnerable scenes in the show.

Paige turns John Lennon’s “Well, Well, Well” into a grinding showstopper. There’s a whole world in that song and he wrings every ounce of desperation and defiance out of it. Cusack takes her long last walk of drunken, drugged-out shame to Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and creates an indelible image stumbling through her final crazed moments. Equal parts torch singer and tortured country star, she also brings down the house with her version of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” and a reprise of “I’m Sorry” sung earlier by Toscano, one of the best female vocalists  to come out of American Idol.

Toscano’s voice is a perfect match for the ‘50s and ‘60s songs that represent the challenges of many of the wives in Scorsese’s films and her lush vocals resonate with emotion. She and Resnick also recreate the unique comedy in Karen and Henry Hill’s over-the-top marriage, which director Davis positions at just the right moments to break up the show’s more violent scenes. The production is well-calibrated and as an audience member you never feel overwhelmed.

L-R: Zak Resnick and Justin Mortelliti

Mortelliti and Resnick’s party boy pace is fast and funny. Their hilarious Lemmon Quaalude scene mops up the stage and “My Way” is reinvented with a driving rock beat. Young functions as the anchor point for the ensemble. He takes his trademark Jersey Boys cool and adds intensity to standards like “Stardust” and “The ‘In’ Crowd.” Choreographers RJ Durell and Nick Florez stage a tango for Young and Cusack over the exchange of a twenty dollar bill (or a hundred, who knows?) that is slyly effective. You can see their savvy touches all over the production which add a level of showmanship to the performances that deepen their impact.

As a kind of everyman observer who pops up throughout the performance to comment or accompany the onstage action, B. Slade (Stacks) is the silver bullet that subtly connects the audience with the actors. By the time the show gets to his “House of the Rising Sun” epilogue, we’re primed for the incredible rage, halleluiah fever, angelic push, and righteous indignation he wrings out of the demanding finale. It’s the type of mega-spectacular number that is the only fitting way to end this kind of a major undertaking.

B. Slade

For The Record has come a long way since its humble beginning six years ago in a small cabaret space in Los Feliz. Since then the company has expanded and brought shows to New York City, Las Vegas, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and soon to television in partnership with Dick Clark Productions. They have taken the theatre cabaret act to a whole new level, reinventing it, and positioning that new form in such a way that it will undoubtedly grow audiences across generations. That’s an exciting prospect for the future of the art form itself.

In addition to the actual performance, the Wallis has extended the Scorsese feel of the evening by adding a number of pre and post attractions for theatregoers. Come early for pasta from the Prince of Venice Food Truck and themed-cocktails at The Bar at The Wallis. Entertainers will roam the courtyard and films like Fellini’s and Rossellini’s Paisan will screen outdoors. You can also stay after the performance for a post-show hangout at The Bar and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights enjoy music by For The Record artists and other performers.

John Lloyd Young

Carmen Cusack

James Byous

Pia Toscano

Dionne Gipson and Justin Mortelliti

Carmen Cusack and John Lloyd Young

FOR THE RECORD: SCORSESE – American Crime Requiem
September 21 – October 16, 2016
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Tickets: ($25 - $129) 310-746-4000 or

For more Musicals in LA news:

Become a Fan on Facebook
Follow Musicals in LA on Twitter
Click Here to return to home page


Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
11:25 AM
| CLICK HERE to comment 0

Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, It Vas a Fun Night, Ya

L-R: Tracy Lore, Chris Kauffmann, Larry Raben, and Anne Montavon.
Photos by Ed Krieger

When October hits and Halloween horror movies begin to flood late night TV, you can always count on at least one station somewhere to air Mel Brooks’ 1974 classic comedy
Young Frankenstein. But, this year, the situation is a little different. With the recent passing of Gene Wilder, who stars in the title role and also co-wrote the film with Brooks, Young Frankenstein has been making many more appearances than usual in tribute to Wilder’s uncommon genius. As a writer and actor, the film was some of his finest work and will continue to make audiences laugh for years to come.

Young Frankenstein is a brilliant spoof of the Universal Pictures 1930’s black and white horror movies Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s gothic novel. In 2007, Mel Brooks, assisted by co-bookwriter Thomas Meehan, adapted the film as a stage musical which instantly became a hit with audiences. It isn’t surprising. The material is a natural fit for the stage with its spooky locale, dramatic storyline, and crazy characters and it has remained a crowd-pleaser ever since.

In a stroke of incredibly (and sadly) fortuitous timing, Palos Verdes Performing Arts had the show scheduled on its 2016 season. You can see their lively and entertaining production directed by James W. Gruessing, Jr. right now at the Norris Center and you should. It’s a wonderfully Wild(er) good time and a terrific way to begin the haunting season.

Anne Montavan, Chris Kauffmann and Larry Raben

All of the best jokes and bits are intact, from the “Roll in the Hay” wagon ride, which becomes a standout number for winsome Anne Montavon (Inga) singing and yodeling with innocent exuberance, to the classic revolving bookcase scene “put…the candle…down” for straight man Larry Raben (Dr. Frankenstein), to Tracy Lore’s (Frau Blucher) deliriously funny “He Vas My Boyfriend” reveal. Her performance of the outrageous comedy song is equal parts maudlin melodrama and throaty German Kit Kat Club chanteuse. It’s hard to say who corners the market on laughs more.

Raben bears an uncanny resemblance to Wilder, sounds like him when he speaks, and has impeccable timing in the deadpan humor department. The Monster (Pablo Rossil) he creates is a 7-foot tall endearing creature with sad eyes and a penchant for even sadder violin music. Their fancy footwork in the musical’s big splashy “Puttin’ on the Ritz” production number is delightful. Choreographer Daniel Smith builds dance numbers like “Ritz,”  “Welcome to Transylvania” and a spectacular “Join the Family Business” with distinctive moves from the original production but incorporates his own flair for comedy (watch for his twist on traditional Russian dance moves).

Vocally, the production also sounds great. Musical direction is by Sean Alexander Bart who leads a live 13-piece orchestra that creates a vividly dynamic presence in the auditorium (there’s not a bad seat anywhere). Voices are strong, diction is crisp, and featured soloists among the ensemble have plenty of moments to shine.

Greg Nicholas and Pablo Rossil

Gene Hackman nearly stole the film in his 5-minute role as a blind hermit the Monster visits when he escapes Frankenstein’s castle and Greg Nicholas makes the most of the scene and his hilarious want song “Please Send Me Someone.” He also doubles as the kooky Inspector Kemp who has given an arm and a leg in the pursuit of justice.

Lindsey Alley rolls out a big brassy belt voice as Elizabeth, Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancé and Chris Kauffmann takes on the role of Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant, but it’s almost impossible not to compare them to Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman who created the roles. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Alley is quite a bit more abrasive and unlikable as the self-obsessed actress, although her staging is comical, but Kauffmann’s take on Igor falls flat. The role begs for the kind of oddball unpredictable behavior, posturing, and brilliance Feldman used in creating the character but unfortunately he’s just a bloke with an accent and funny makeup here. It’s a missed opportunity.

A dozen or so painted backdrops simulate the interior and exterior of Frankenstein’s mountaintop castle, an ocean liner, underground laboratory, Transylvania Town Hall, town square, and even a giant moon in the sky. Lighting designer Jean Yves-Tessier creates an impressive light show, particularly for the monster reanimation and brain transference scenes that employ some additional electrical magic and Brian Hseih’s accompanying sound effects add to the surprise.

You vant some fun at a big silly musical Halloween treat? You vant Young Frankenstein at the Norris. Ya.

September 23 – October 9, 2016
Palos Verdes Performing Arts 
The Norris Theatre
27570 Norris Center Drive (formerly Crossfield Drive)
Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274

Pablo Rossil and Larry Raben

Tracy Lore and candlestick

Larry Raben and brain

Lindsey Alley and Pablo Rossil

Anne Montavan and Larry Raben

For more Musicals in LA news:
Become a Fan on Facebook
Follow Musicals in LA on Twitter
Click Here to return to home page


Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
6:50 PM
| CLICK HERE to comment 0

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: A MEXICAN TRILOGY: An American Story: A Legacy of Letting Go

Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez, Ella Saldaña North, Esperanza America,
Julio Macias and Olivia Cristina Delgado. Photos by Grettel Cortes Photography

The essence of Latino Theatre Company’s monumental production of A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story is beautifully captured in the simple photograph above. In this starry night scene, a family poised on the edge of major change looks to the infinite sky with hope. Quietly, in these few moments of silence, we as audience members know exactly how they feel. For what parent has not dreamed of providing a better life for his or her children and what child has not longed for a future where dreams come true?

These ideas are built into the very foundation of Evelina Fernández’s 3-part Mexican-American legacy piece spanning almost a hundred years in a family’s evolution. They are part of what makes the story universally appealing and eloquently representative of the struggles of a growing portion of our population, especially here in California.

The plays were not initially conceived as a trilogy nor were they written chronologically but, little by little, each has found its place in this rich extended narrative. They have all been produced individually in the last few years but are now presented in their entirety for the first time, divided into two separate productions that can be seen alone or consecutively on the same night with a dinner break in between. I chose to see them both on one day and it was the best six hours of my week, being immersed in a world that is familiar but whose details are completely unexpected.

Evelina Fernández and Olivia Cristina Delgado

It is, above all, a family story framed in an instantly recognizable historical context. Part I’s Faith begins in 1915 as young Esperanza and Silvestri leave a Mexico devastated by revolution for what they believe will be a brighter future in Arizona, and continues through the 1940’s war years. Part II, Hope, picks up during JFK’s presidential reign and the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early ‘60s, and Part III, Charity, skips forward to 2005 Los Angeles, after the invasion of Iraq.

Against this indelible backdrop, the Morales family experiences birth, death, love, and loss, as each generation’s distinct characteristics give way to the next.

There is a fluidity to director Jose Luis Valenzuela’s approach to the story that is almost poetic in the way it fuses its keen visual and storytelling elements. Memory creates powerful images and Valenzuela honors that union with reverence and healthy doses of humor enhanced as much by what we see and hear as what we don’t.

Sam Golzari, Esperanza America, Olivia Cristina Delgado, Ella Saldaña North,
Julio Macias, Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez

A by-product of creating art with a core acting ensemble that has grown together over the course of many years, like this one, is that communication becomes almost intuitive. You can feel it in the audience when you’re watching them. They also bring to the plays their own personal history which enriches the work even further. Lucy Rodriguez, Sal Lopez, Geoffrey Rivas, and playwright Evelina Fernández are an incredible study in truth. That they and their fellow actors (equally as skilled) breathe life into these characters so effortlessly is not at all surprising. It makes the view from our vantage point remarkably humbling and inspiring.

The traditional underpinnings of Part I’s Faith anchor the story culturally before skipping ahead to the idealistic Forties when brave young men went off to war and left many a sweetheart to navigate motherhood alone. Scenes taut with tension coexist alongside those full of situational humor and snappy dialogue that everyone who has siblings will instantly recognize. Hope swells with the optimism of the early Sixties and here the playwright has great fun with a series of fantasy sequences that provide a lively comic diversion. The sobering reality of Charity comes full circle as it connects back to the beginning by acknowledging its roots and providing an avenue to forgiveness.

Geoffrey Rivas, Olivia Cristina Delgado, Ella Saldaña North and Esperanza America 

Each era brings with it a soundtrack that further accentuates the passage of time. Olivia Cristina Delgado, Ella Saldaña North, and Esperanza America’s 3-part harmonies are particularly satisfying on a dozen or more standards like the Andrews Sisters’ “I Want to be Loved” the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts” and with the additional of their brothers, a dreamy version of “Mr. Sandman” that rivals the original by The Chordettes. America’s lush solos reveal a singular ability to interpret a lyric and a voice that could melt an iceberg. Rosino Serrano’s musical direction – and what I assume are his arrangements – are perfection.

The design is equally as polished. Francois-Pierre Couture’s two-level cutaway scenic design morphs seamlessly from period to period, first incorporating the grainy textures and sepia-toned hues of the more traditional early years and later introducing the bright pinks, blues and sunny yellows so evocative of the budding television era. Thoughtful touches of whimsy in Carlos Browns costumes and Yee Eun Nam’s detailed projections combined with Couture’s set and Pablo Santiago’s lustrous lighting design create both intimacy and a sense of the all-encompassing mystery of life as pivotal moments play out with panoramic appeal.

Lucy Rodriguez and Robert Beltran

Sal Lopez, Sam Golzari, Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez, and Julio Macias

Julio Macias, Ella Saldaña North, Olivia Cristina Delgado, Xavi Moreno,
and Esperanza America

Lucy Rodriguez and Evelina Fernández

Olivia Cristina Delgado, Esperanza America, Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez and Julio Macias 

A MEXICAN TRILOGY: An American Story
September 8 – October 9, 2016
The Latino Theatre Company @
Los Angeles Theatre Center
Tom Bradley Theater
514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles CA 90013

For more Musicals in LA news:

Become a Fan on Facebook
Follow Musicals in LA on Twitter
Click Here to return to home page

Labels: ,

Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
7:10 PM
| CLICK HERE to comment 0