Monday, October 5, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Monday, October 5, 2015

Tickets go on sale November 11 for the Troubies’ holiday show, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Motown, coming to the Falcon Theatre. Show runs Dec 2 – Jan 17 with opening night on Friday, Dec 11. The fan-favorite is directed by Matt Walker and is the story of Kris Kringle’s (aka Santa Claus) origin as The Troubies take the jolly old man himself and send him to the land of Smokey Miracles and Supreme Temptations. The Falcon Theatre will host Talkbacks with members of Troubadour Theater Company after the show on Jan 6, 7, 13 & 14.

Lythgoe Family Productions is expanding their family-friendly pantos this holiday season with two productions playing concurrently in Southern California - A Snow White Christmas, directed by Chris Baldock, Dec 2-27 at Laguna Playhouse, and Peter Pan and Tinker Bell – A Pirates Christmas, directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, Dec 9-Jan 3 at Pasadena Playhouse. American Idol’s Michael Orland will serve as musical director and Spencer Liff of So You Think You Can Dance and the current Broadway revival of Spring Awakening will choreograph both productions. Auditions for children to play the dwarves in A Snow White Christmas will be held at Westfield Main Place shopping Mall in Santa Ana on Sunday, Oct 4. For more info go to Tickets:

World premiere musical Breaking Through begins previews Oct 27 at Pasadena Playhouse. Directed by Sheldon Epps and choreographed by Tyce Diorio, it stars Alison Luff, Constantine Maroulis, and Kacee Clanton. The cast will also include Robert W. Arbogast, David Atkinson, Will Collyer, Teya Patt, Katherine Tokarz, and Nita Whitaker, Fatima El-Bashir, Jessica Jaunich, Reed Kelly, Christopher Marcos, Dominic Pierson, Andrew Pirozzi, Terrance Spencer, Laura L. Thomas and Samantha Zack. Breaking Through features book by Kirsten Guenther, and music & lyrics by Cliff Downs and Katie Kahanovitz. Show runs Oct 27 – Nov 1 (opening night 11/1).

Performances of Afros & Ass Whoopins continue Friday nights through Dec 18 at Second City in Hollywood. The original musical comedy is the story of a son who is at odds with his father’s old-world views. Timely as ever, tickets are available for all performances now at or call (323) 464-8542.
There’s still time to catch California Repertory Company’s premiere of S/He & Me: A Theatrical Cabaret, written by Alexandra Billings, and conceived and directed by Joanne Gordon. The show explores the evolving relationship between Alexandra Billings and Scott – the boy she once was. Performances run through October 11. S/He & Me: A Theatrical Cabaret is a non-linear story of love and reconciliation blending spoken word and Broadway musical numbers that celebrates the journey of transgender actress Alexandra Billings as she examines her relationships with her parents, her wife Chrisanne, and herself.

A Feast of Snacks makes its west coast premiere as part of the Theatre Unleashed Late Night Series, Oct 23 – Nov 21. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm from at The Belfry in NoHo. The show is an anthology of four bite-sized comedic musicals, of  different styles that create an hour-long show. 

In The Alleged Adventures of Blenderman, an ambitious young psychiatrist tries to convince a hospital review board that his patient is fit for release. His work is complicated by his patient's insistence that hes a superhero named Blenderman who fights to save the world from poor nutritional habits. In The Charmed Life (Co-written with Mark Harvey Levine), Margie has experienced unnaturally good luck her entire life. One afternoon she discovers the source of her good luck: a secret admirer, who for years has been covertly making her life better. In Climb the Smallest Mountain, miniature golf legend Darius “Duke” McGovern seems poised to win his seventh world championship until a competitor finds a loophole in the rules that allows him to disrupt Duke’s game. In HMS Headwind, the merry crewmembers of an 18th century British frigate have one problem: their failure to capture a single enemy vessel.

Theatre West’s Storybook Theatre presents The Emperor’s New Clothes, an audience participation musical for children and their families, Oct 10 – Feb 27, 2016 at Theatre West. Featuring book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz and David Wechter, and music by Phil Orem, the show is directed by David P. Johnson and stars Julie McKay, Ashley Kane, Lukas Bailey, Matthew Hoffman, Kathy Garrick and James Patrick Cronin.
The Wallis will celebrate the holidays with a series of cabaret performances. Schedule includes:
Amanda McBroom: Let’s Fall in Love (Dec 9)
Christine Andreas: Love is Good (Dec 10)
Alice Ripley: All Sondheim (Dec 11) 
Freda Payne: A Tribute to the Ladies of the Great American Jazz Songbook (Dec 12) 
Melissa Manchester: Joy (Dec 16) 
Ute Lemper: Last Tango in Berlin (Dec 17)
Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra: Holidays. No Ice (Dec 19)
Christine Ebersole: Big Noice From Winnetka (Jan 25-28) 
Tickets are available at

Kristin Towers-Rowles will present A Lovely Lineage in the El Portal Theatre’s Monroe Forum one-night-only on Sunday, Oct 18. The show is directed by Cate Caplin with musical direction by Katie Clark. A Lovely Lineage captures the singer’s historic Broadway and Hollywood lineage, beginning with her grandmother, the legendary Kathryn Grayson, who appeared in beloved movie musicals of the 1950s like Kiss Me, Kate and Show Boat. Opera and musical theatre singer Jahmal Bakare joins Kristin as well.

LA-based singing group The Filharmonic will perform at Valley Performing Arts Center Nov 21. Featured in NBC’s The Sing-Off and Universal Pictures hit movie, Pitch Perfect 2, the group consists of VJ Rosales, Joe Caigoy, Trace Gaynor, Barry Fortgang, vocal bass Jules Cruz, and beat boxer Niko Del Rey who blend an urban hip hop sound with 90’s nostalgia.

From the creator of the award-winning musical spoof Not Les Mis comes Not Phantom, The Musical, an interactive musical specifically created for the legendary Cicada Restaurant. With an original script and music by David Ruben & Nicholas Rubando, directed by David Ruben, you can be sure is not Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of The Opera. Instead, the show incorporates parody lyrics and in-your-face comedy. Even the audience gets to play along. Opening Oct 28.

Step into The Experiment, A Rockin’ Frank + Wighead Insane Cabaret now through Oct 31 at Creating Arts Studio in Santa Monica. Here Dr. Bradley and Nurse Janice welcome you into their private asylum that turns into a sexy, eerie 360 degree immersive parody cabaret. Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Man Covets Bird and Delivers Magic at 24th Street Theatre

Andrew Huber and Leeav Sofer. Photos by Cooper Bates

You can tell when a theatre company cares about its audience, especially when that audience is largely made up of young people. It doesn’t talk down to them and it doesn’t assume they will only understand the obvious. Instead, its directors take the time to seek out work that is worthy of engagement, provokes thought, and gives more to the world than it takes. It serves both the child and the child in the adult. And that’s what 24th Street Theatre has done with Man Covets Bird, the follow-up to their wildly successful award-winning production of Walking the Tightrope. 

Common denominators are evident: gentleness, simplicity, a creative spark that delights at every turn, and breathtaking moments both beautiful and poignant. I adored this production as much for its physical elements – story, music, movement, characters – as I did for the many thoughts about life that resonate within its lines: that growing up means change, love comes in all forms, risk can win you great joy, and life in the end is what you make of it. This is a wonderful, beautiful accomplishment by director Debbie Devine and company. 

Written by leading children’s playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, Devine has taken the one-man play with music and staged it for two men (Andrew Huber as Man and Leeav Sofer as Bird) incorporating an original score by Sofer using his clarinet as the voice of the bird. That decision alone adds a profound sensitivity to the piece. 

Huber retains a lovable sense of innocence on his adventure from boy to man to seeker of truth in a world that unfolds like an undiscovered country. Animated projections spring to life on the walls of the theater, subtly and delightfully adding dimension to the simple playing area. With Sofer taking on double duty as both composer and actor, there is always a sense of the space being filled with possibility, even in the deliberate silences. The two actors connect intimately and deeply, and because of their open-hearted commitment, we go along with them not quite knowing what to expect but realizing that by the end of the 75-minute journey we will have been part of something extraordinary.

Share this production with those you love. It is a wonderful gift for the soul. 

Directed by Debbie Devine
Starring Andrew Huber and Leeav Sofer
Music Direction and Original Music by Leeav Sofer
Video Design:  Matthew G. Hill
Lighting Design:  Dan Weingarten
Sound Design:  Cricket Myers
Costume Design: Michael Mullen

September 19 - November 22, 2015
24th Street Theatre
1117 W 24th St
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Tickets: (213) 745-6516 or
Secure parking is available for $5 in the lot on the southwest corner of 24th and Hoover
Man Covets Bird is best enjoyed by adults and kids 7 and up.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review: Actors Co-op's The Baker's Wife

The company of The Baker's Wife. Photos by Lindsay Schnebly

Yes, it’s true. “Too much truth can be hard to digest.” By the time those words are spoken in the second act of The Baker’s Wife it’s been made painfully clear that everyone in this provincial French village needs a healthy dose of reality.

It’s 1935 and the only baker in town has died. What a tragedy for these unfortunate townspeople who have been forced to exist without the comfort of their croissants and baguettes for weeks. When we meet them at the top of the show, they are squabbling incessantly over the stupidest things. In fact, two of them don’t even know why they fight, but their fathers and grandfathers did before them so they’ve continued the feud like lemmings. (Sounds like a lot of the world, right?)

You’d think that when a new baker arrives in town they would all stop arguing and be happy to have their bread at last but even when they get what they want, they still don’t stop bickering. The moral of the story will come late in the day. Until then, get ready for a hefty dose of chauvinism among men who treat their wives like dirt and women who pretend it doesn’t matter. It’s a town that makes a poor case for marriage, but then again, if any of them actually responded to each other with honesty and respect there would be no need to tell this fable so on we go.

When the new baker (Greg Baldwin) arrives with his pretty young wife (Chelle Denton) we see that even they have adopted a false reality to keep up appearances. We learn a little about them but not enough to really become invested in their situation. A handsome young man (Nick Echols) will convince her to run away with him but even that is a false reality she will come to regret. 

The musical is based on Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono’s French film La Femme de Boulanger, adapted by Joseph Stein (book) and Stephen Schwartz (music & lyrics), here directed by Richard Israel, an expert in staging intimate musicals with precision and charm. He does that again with this production but because the tale is a basic one stretched out over more stage time than it really needs to tell the story, the success of the show rests with the actors’ ability to offer emotional depth that isn’t written on the page. Among this set of players that ability is inconsistent, and since more time is spent on the townspeoples irritating behavior rather than the plight of its leading players, it becomes tiresome. Still, the show does spring to life in some of its more celebratory slice of life moments where the cast comes together as one.
Schwartz’s score is a true delight with musical director Jake Anthony at the helm. He leads a 5-member band consisting of piano, accordion, flute & recorder, bass, and percussion (including a washboard and spoons). The choral sound he achieves with the ensemble is heavenly and rest assured the show’s most well-known song “Meadowlark” is ably sung by Denton. Music theatre fans who have never seen the show -- and that is almost everyone since the show is not often revived -- will love hearing the score sung live (the best way to experience any musical score).

Julie Hall’s spirited choreography incorporates traditional production number dance staging into songs like “Bread” that happily adds a measure of unexpected humor. Rich Roses picturesque set and Wendell C. Carmichaels Tuscany-inspired costume designs lend a vintage peasant charm to the visuals.

What I have always enjoyed about Actors Co-op is that they choose musicals that require them to take a risk. Theyre often musicals you don’t see everyday – musicals with a message populated by colorful characters – musicals that make you think. Like previous productions 110 in the Shade, The World Goes Round, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and The Spitfire GrillThe Baker’s Wife fits that mission to a T.

Chelle Denton (Genevieve) and Greg Baldwin (Aimable, the Baker)

Rachel Hirshee, Lindsey Schuberth, Greyson Chadwick & Christopher Maikish

Chelle Denton (Genevieve) and Nick Echols (Dominique)

Greyson Chadwick, Lindsey Schuberth, Rachel Hirshee and Greg Baldwin

Sept 16 – Oct 25, 2015
Actors Co-op
1760 N. Gower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90028
--on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood

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Monday, September 14, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Monday, September 14, 2015

International City Theatre closes its 30th anniversary season with an intimate portrait of musical icon Stephen Sondheim in his own words and music. DJ Gray directs and stages the Los Angeles premiere of James Lapine’s Sondheim on Sondheim which runs Oct 14 – Nov 8 (opening night 10/16). Originally conceived as a tribute for Sondheim’s 80th birthday party, Sondheim on Sondheim is a love letter from Lapine to his friend and frequent collaborator. Exclusive video footage, in which Sondheim offers an inside look at his personal life and artistic process, is combined with sparkling new arrangements of over two dozen Sondheim tunes. Cast includes Stephanie Fredricks, Barbara Carlton Heart, Shaina Knox, Kevin McMahon, Jake Novak and Josh Wise with musical direction by Gerald Sternbach.

“The show lets us in on Stephen’s creative process,” says Gray, who assisted Lapine on the Broadway production. “In addition to the well-known songs, there are some that are more obscure, and some that ended up being cut all together from his musicals. It’s fascinating to hear Stephen speak frankly about why those didn’t work. He’s candid, funny and charming. It’s a unique window into how he works and what shaped him as an artist.” Tickets: 562-436-4610 or

3-D Theatricals will mount a revival of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s delightfully macabre The Addams Family (music & lyrics by Andrew Lippa) starring Bronson Pinchot and Rachel York as Gomez and Morticia Addams. 3DT will offer the musical in two locations: Oct 10 – 25 at Fullerton’s Plummer Theatre, followed by a second run Oct 31 – Nov 8 at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. The creative team includes director T.J. Dawson, assistant directors Jeanette Dawson and Ryan Ruge, choreographer Dana Solimando, and musical director/conductor Corey Hirsch. In addition to Pinchot and York, the cast will include Anthony Gruppuso (Uncle Fester), Micaela Martinez (Wednesday), Candi Milo (Grandma), Dante Marenco (Pugsley), Dustin Ceithamer (Lurch), Robert Yacko (Mal Beineke), Tracy Rowe Mutz (Alice Beineke) and Dino Nicandros (Lucas Beineke), Christine Tucker, Jean Schroeder, Kellianne Safarik, Kirklyn Robinson, Leslie Miller, Leslie Stevens, Natalie Iscovich, Dylan Pass, Gary Brintz, Harrison Meloeny, Jordan Goodsell, Nick Gardner, Nick Morganella, and Ryan Chlanda. Tickets are available for both locations at

Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group Proudly presents the premiere of actress-singer-songwriter-engineer Terra Pasternak’s explosive one-woman production traversing her kaleidoscopic journey through megalomania, narcissism, growing pains, desperate measures and bipolar tendencies. Terra is a Warm Gun stars Terra Pasternak and is directed by Zombie Joe. There are two more performances on Sept 19 & 26 at 11pm. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets: $15. Call 818-202-4120 or go to

The Jumex Foundation of Contemporary Art in association with Bootleg Theater present DED! an original multimedia play inspired by the Mexican tradition of Día De Los Muertos/Day of The Dead, Oct 1 – 25 (opening night 10/3) at the Matrix Theatre. This unique theatrical experience combines performing arts disciplines such as mime, clowning, live orchestral music, stunts, puppetry and video art. The show is created and co-directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and Cristina Bercovitz, who will perform alongside Elizabeth Rian and a 5-piece orchestra led by composer John W. Snyder. Choreography is by Jillian Meyers and Teresa Toogie Barcelo. Design team includes John Iacovelli (scenic designer), Jared A. Sayeg (lighting designer), Jonathan Snipes (sound designer), Hana Kim (video designer), Maggie Morgan (costume designer). The Matrix is located at 7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046.

Heart and Flame Productions has announced the cast of Rebekah M. Allen’s world premiere pop/rock musical We Are the Tigers which plays the Hudson Backstage Oct. 2 – Nov 8 (opening night 10/10). The show will star Callandra Olivia, Cailan Rose, Rachel King, Gabi Hankins, Jade Johnson, Talisa Friedman, Cait Fairbanks, Charlotte Mary Wen, Katie DeShan, Patrick Reilly, Adam Cropper and Ari Afsar. Musical direction by Patrick Sulken, choreography by Jacob Brent and the show is directed by Michael Bello. A new school year means a new beginning for the Tigers, the worst-ranked high school cheerleading team in the state. But when an innocent team-building sleepover becomes a mysterious murder scene, the Tigers will need more than just team spirit to survive the night – and each other.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

From Green to Groovy - Nicole Parker Gets a '60s Makeover for THESE PAPER BULLETS

Nicole Parker stars opposite Justin Kirk in the west coast premiere of These Paper Bullets! A Modish Ripoff of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at Geffen Playhouse this month. Written by Rolin Jones (Weeds, Friday Night Lights, Boardwalk Empire) with songs by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and directed by Jackson Gay, the show opened to great reviews at Yale Repertory Theatre where it premiered in 2014. Now the Geffen begins its 20th anniversary season with what promises to be a British invasion on stage not seen since the Beatles.

Still high on the adrenaline of a full day of rehearsal, an energetic Parker spoke to me about her experience working on the new production. I think you’ll see why the former star of Wicked and MADtv landed the role. This is one all-around great gal.

Nicole, what has it been like working on a brand new show like this one?

What’s great about working on something new is, while the creative team has done a version of the show before, they’ve made sure we know, as the new actors to the piece, that we can make it our own. That’s something you never get when you’re plugging into a show that already exists where you really need to hit the marks and you can give it your own flair but it needs to be what it is. This show isn’t set. Even from a comedic standpoint, I won’t even know whether some things I’m doing work until we get in front of an audience and they tell me.

Both you and your leading man, Justin Kirk, are new, right?

Nicole Parker and Justin Kirk
Correct, which is kind of cool because then we as a couple can find a whole new rhythm. The entire team is so supportive and really just happy to have another opportunity to work on the show and make it better. So many times you don’t get to do that. When you do, it’s all about really defining the story and making sure that it gets told even clearer.

What are your overall impressions of the piece?
It’s not a musical proper.  What I mean is it’s really a new, unique hybrid show. Even though the songs Billie Joe has written are stand-alone Beatles-esque songs, they drive the show and fit what’s going on in the plot. In that sense, where a musical will forward plot or character with a song, or even heighten an emotion, it is similar. But it’s only done in a very realistic way with the band – in this case they’re called The Quartos – singing their songs. 

That is something I haven’t seen before where, in a proper musical, someone is just going to sing out to the audience and share with us their deep wants and desires or fears. It’s all sitting within this very neat thematic idea of The Quartos existing as a very popular Beatles-like band but the band is comprised of the Benedick and the Claudio so they’re going through things even as their characters are having to perform and sing these songs.

What effect does the time period have on the play?

I love that it’s set in the ‘60s because I think that was the beginning of the movement when women really started standing out, especially in London, with Mary Quant fashioning the mini skirt and really pushing the envelope with the look. It sets up the Beatrice/Benedick story perfectly. In this case Benedick is a John Lennon/Paul McCartney type and Beatrice is a fashion icon and a successful woman in her own right. They both are very strong individuals who don’t need a mate. But then obviously they ‘doth protest too much’ and we know that they are meant to be together. I think that only supports what we love about Much Ado, which is that great sparring between Beatrice and Benedick.

Is it written in verse?

Yes…kind of. That’s what I mean about it being unique. I don’t think I’ve seen a show like this before that folds in the original text with updated verse. Shakespeare fans will recognize some of their favorite lines and it’s brilliant the way that Rolin wrote it. In some instances it just seamlessly goes from one into the other, and then it can also be used comedically to have Shakespeare’s verse all of a sudden updated as modern dialogue that might even comment on what the actual text was saying. It makes it really fun to do. I feel like it’s one of the coolest shows I’ve ever been in. Even listening to the read-through the first time and having the four guys sitting there singing was cool. They’re all proper musicians. That’s exciting to me as an audience member. 

Is the show for musical theatre people or Shakespeare lovers or both?

I think there’s something for everyone in it. Even if you’re not familiar with Shakespeare’s language, you’ve got this text that’s integrated with modern language. Of course, if you’re a lover of the classics there’s something in there for you as well. I’m not sure that there’s a dull moment in it. There’s so much going on and there’s so much to look at and listen to. Every single actor is such a brilliant comedian and physical performer. It’s one of those shows where you think, wow, I wish I could sit and watch the show…oh wait, I’m in it.

How did the role come to you?

It’s always that story of being a random thing that drops out of the sky. It really was the middle of summer and I had heard about this show and had that passing thought, ‘oh, that sounds so cool, it would be awesome to do it…not gonna happen.’ You know, that positive attitude we sometimes have as actors. Then the audition came up and I got to read the script. It was really up my alley and seemed like something that I could maybe be the right fit for. But just like anything, you show up to audition and see every other gal who is so great and you think, oh that’s right. I’m not the only person who wants to do this for a living. There were so many amazing women at the auditions that I’m a geeky fan of, or just good friends with. Any one of them would have been amazing. I feel very fortunate that, for whatever reason, they thought I would be the right fit. 

So it wasn’t a situation where you knew someone or had an inside track?

Oh no, it was definitely a serious audition process. In fact, I don’t think people realize that, even for an actor that you might think has had great success and would never have to audition for anything – I’d say there are about 7-10 people who never have to audition for anything and the rest of us, we’re all auditioning – you’ve still got to go out there and get it.

Even after you’ve done Elphaba on Broadway you’re still auditioning?

Even after you have done Elphaba on Broadway. You just see all the other Elphabas at all the other auditions. Here we are. All the Elphabas auditioning for the next Elphaba-like part! 

That would make a hilarious premise for a show.

Oh wow, it would be loud, that’s for sure. 

What did you learn from playing Elphaba?

I don’t even know where to begin. You should ask my husband what he learned. There should be a support group for the partners of every person who’s played Elphaba because it’s its own trials. I say the number one thing I come away with is that it’s one of those jobs where you realize you can be pushed so much farther than you think you can. It’s not that I’ll never be challenged again. I find things in this show challenging that I’m still trying to figure out. But in terms of when this show gets tricky or it’s a long day, I think back and it’s so not as hard as some of the days I had learning Elphaba. And because of that, I know that I can do this.
That’s a great way to look at it. 

It’s very empowering in terms of realizing what you’re made of. It really asks everything of you and if you can learn how to conquer it – and no one ever really feels like they’ve conquered it – what I mean is, if you can even just get through a week of shows, that’s an accomplishment. I don’t know any girl who’s ever walked away from Wicked saying, ‘nailed it, perfect, every time, wouldn’t change a thing.’ That’s too big of a beast.

It was also a great lesson in what you think you can do versus what you really can do. It made me a much more fearless performer, and a stronger one. I know if I can handle that I can handle this. 

Do you mean vocally?

Vocally, yes, but also mentally and physically. Those times when you wake up for the Saturday matinee and you think, yeah, I don’t really see how this is going to work. And then you’re sitting in the chair at the end of two shows and you say, well, I did it. Just the fact that you can get through it is an accomplishment. I mean, we’re all human, we get tired, and we think maybe I have to give up or maybe I can’t go on. When you’re in that kind of situation where so many people are depending on you, it’s interesting what you can dig up.

What a great lesson. Anything else?

I also learned if you treat your body a certain way it will reward you. I didn’t speak on Mondays. I was on full 24 hour vocal rest. Obligatory joke – my husband says that was his favorite day (she laughs). Im kidding. He’s very, very supportive but we have a good laugh about what it was like when I was Elphaba and just how much he helped me. 

I also learned a bunch of tricks about how to take care of myself and at the same time, how to perform when you’re not 100%. You learn how to do it even when you’re not having a perfect vocal night, which honestly is what I think half of theatre is, especially with an 8 show a week schedule. Your body is not going to comply, nor is your personal life going to comply, with some things like that 8 times a week. But you learn how to manage it and that’s an incredible lesson. 

You also worked on MADtv. What did you learn from that process?

That’s where I learned about not apologizing for your opinions. At the same time, especially as a woman, it was about bringing solutions. You could have a different opinion about what should be in a scene or in a line of dialogue, but you learned to be not just a problem finder but also a problem solver. You have to be bold and literally give yourself the power of thinking that your opinion counts just as much as anyone else’s, and then you also have to bring three options or three alternate solutions. You’re constantly trying to better the product, which is what I really love about writers. I love that until the last minute, even when we’re taping in front of a live audience, the producers or the other writers are still coming up changing lines. I mean, in some ways it’s crazy making, but I love the spirit of that. It’s constant ongoing process.

I also learned to not be so sensitive, to not be so attached to ideas, especially from working with Marty Short. A joke gets 3 choice chances and if it doesn’t work it’s out. Or if someone in the writers’ room has a better option or someone wants to pitch you a joke and it’s great, I love the spirit of, yes, take it. All that matters is what works best. It’s sort of the improv idea of ‘yes, and’ which is just continue to move forward and take ideas, say yes to them, and implement them.

That sounds like something you can use in any situation, and especially on stage.

It definitely helped me as an actress as well because you have to let go of your ego. If you don’t you’ll be crying every night. It can be very hard when you’re working on a new show – say it’s a musical – your song might get cut, your scene might get cut, your character might get cut down. You have to always remember that it’s all about what tells the story best. As solid an ego as you have to have in the business, it’s interesting you have to put it aside for the good of the whole. It teaches you to be flexible and to think on your feet. And it sharpens your brain.

One of your other talents is doing impressions, both singing and speaking. What goes into that process?

Whether it’s speaking or singing, it starts with the shape of the actual mechanism. So, if I’m looking for Ellen DeGeneres, for example, I’m looking at the shape her mouth makes when she talks because some people will hold their jaw forward, their jaw back, they’ll be lisping slightly, they’ll be barely opening their mouth, they’ll be using their teeth too much. Then that becomes the character. When I’m searching for a character who’s not a well-known celebrity I find that maybe this person has Ellen-like qualities or I feel like this person’s voice wants to live in the place that Ellen’s voice does. It’s about characteristics. There are also times I’ve based a character on a person in my life. Certain family members have made it into many sketches. I just don’t think they know it. But they’re there. 

Who are you using for Bea?

That’s an interesting question. I remember when Meryl Streep was doing interviews for The Devil Wears Prada and she said she noticed that men in power don’t raise their voices, ever. They never have the need to. So she decided her character in The Devil Wears Prada was really never going to raise her voice at all. And it gave her so much power. I just loved that. I had the same thought when I was watching Mary Quant. She was the Anna Wintour of the day – that fashion-forward, super-hip icon – and she’s very soft-spoken. I loved how laid back she was.

Bea is supposed to be iconic so how do you be someone who stands out? I think it’s very specific things. She’s a smoker and it’s the ‘60s so I decided I would start from a very low place, a very floaty place. She’s also a trendsetter and even within the way she talks she can set a trend. She’s definitely not high up in energy in terms of where I normally am in a musical. In musical theatre we’re always in the mask, we’re always up here [she demonstrates the sound and laughs (think Seth Rudetsky doing the great divas)]. I’ve done that a lot so I really thought about how I wanted her to be someone totally different. Plus, I have an accent on top of that.

It sounds like a lot of fun.

It is a lot of fun. We’re wearing vintage dresses and, as a gal, even that is fun. It’s play time.

Why do you think theatre matters?

Theatre matters because it’s one of the few things that, even in this crazy day and age, can’t be replaced. It’s important to have a cultural shared moment with the community. It reminds us of the real stuff we’re all made of and if you’re telling a good story and people care about what’s happening on stage then that’s where real magic happens. It’s its own wonderful ephemeral art and it exists only for that one night and it will never happen again…unless it is recorded and played on YouTube 60,000 times… I may or may not be talking about Wicked… but in general, theatre is designed for just that one exact moment and then it will never happen again. 

The title comes from a line in Much Ado About Nothing. Does it have any special significance for you personally in the show?

From my perspective, ‘these paper bullets of the brain’ is all about the words that Beatrice and Benedick use to throw at each other, these barbs and insults and jokes we come up with. I like that because they are such intellectuals. They constantly use their brains and by the end of the play their hearts outsmart all those little paper bullets and overcome the obstacles. By that time, they have no words and so they end up together. It’s one of Shakespeare’s greatest examples of that fun back and forth banter between characters. That’s what Beatrice and Benedick are famous for.

We were talking about it today in rehearsal, it’s such a miracle that it actually works out for any two people to find love. We get to see in this show how many different ways you can screw that up and still have it work out. The story has a very lovely real life element to it about what a miracle it is that this thing called love actually works out sometimes. We celebrate that in the end.

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These Paper Bullets is currently in previews at Geffen Playhouse and will officially open September 16, 2015. For tickets and more information, go to

Photos of These Paper Bullets! by Michael Lamont.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Monday, September 7, 2015

La Mirada Theatre opens its 2015-16 season with the Southern California premiere of First Date, Sept 18 – Oct 11. Music & lyrics are by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, and book is by Austin Winsberg. The show is directed by Nick DeGruccio, with musical direction by Brent Crayon and choreography by Lee Martino. When blind date newbie Aaron (Marc Ginsburg) is set up with serial-dater Casey (Erica Lustig), a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a hilarious high-stakes dinner. As the date unfolds in real time, the couple quickly finds they are not alone in this unpredictable evening. In a delightful and unexpected twist, Casey and Aaron's inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents who sing and dance the pair through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines. The cast also includes Stacey Oristano, Kelley Dorney, Justin Michael Wilcox, Leigh Wakeford and Scott Dreier.

Greenway Arts Alliance presents an out-of-the-ordinary theatrical experience, a humorous and lyrical tapestry of words, music, movement and quantum physics. Dan Berkowitz directs the world premiere of Breathing Room by playwright & composer Mary Lou Newmark, opening October 3 at the Greenway Court Theatre. Music, theater and science converge in Newmark’s newest performance piece. A science teacher with a mysterious past (Charles Reese) and a visual artist overwhelmed by life (Eileen T’Kaye) explore our modern culture of “technological vertigo” in a series of playful and intriguing scenes infused with music – played live at every performance by Newmark on her trademark neon-green electric violin. Show runs Oct 3 – 25 at Greenway Court Theatre.

Peter Uribe returns to Shakespeare Orange County to direct Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, Sept 12 – 26, at the Garden Grove Festival Amphitheater. Having just reached his 21st birthday, Frederic has fulfilled his “contractual” obligations to the pirate band with which he has been working. He quickly finds his true love in Mabel, the Major General’s daughter. No sooner are they swooning than the pirates reel him back on a technicality. The romantic comic opera full of wonderful wordplay and soaring music will be performed by Louis B. Jack, Alex Bodrero, Max Black, Nikolai Fernandez, Phil Nieto, Jenaha McLearn, Janelle Kester, Rebecca Frechette, Cynthia Aldrich, and Krystin Bergamasco, Andrew Aguilar, Hayden Allcorn, Emma Becerra, Alfonso Echararria, Jackye Flores, Michael Drace Fountain, Deva Marie Gregory, Amethyst Hethcoat, Emily Hoffman, Zach Kanner, Jacob Lansberg, Jessica Odishoo, James Quesada, Kenzie Spooner, and Nicholas Thurkettle.

MainStreet Theatre Company celebrates the opening of its 10th season with the California premiere of Elephant & Piggie’s “We are in a Play!” directed and choreographed by Art Manke, with musical direction by the show’s composer, Deborah Wicks-La Puma. The production will play eight school performances from October 5 – 9, and open to the public on Saturday, October 10, continuing through October 25.

The musical, adapted from Mo Willem’s popular book series, celebrates the friendship of a melancholy elephant and an optimistic pink pig, and gives kids of all ages simple but valuable life lessons – helped along by terrific music and some contagiously silly audience participation. The cast of LA-based Equity actors includes Jeffrey Landman as Elephant Gerald, Sydney Blair as Piggie, and Ivory Doublette, Heather Ensley and Jane Noseworthy as a trio of back-up singing squirrels called The Squirrelles.

The Group Rep presents the west coast premiere of That Lovin' Feelin’ a musical biography about the Righteous Bros. by James Zimmerman, directed by Jules Aaron, produced by Larry Eisenberg and Doug Haverty for The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, Dec 11, 2015 – January 24, 2016. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm with talk-back dates TBA.

Back by popular demand, Spring Awakening returns for two weeks, Sept 17 – 27, to Temecula’s The Barn Stage Company, Cabaret at The Merc. The show runs Thurs-Sun at The Truax Building in Old Town Temecula. Directed by J. Scott Lapp, with associate direction and choreography by Evan D’Angeles and musical direction by Mike Kestler, the cast includes Nick Eiter, Emily Chelsea, Austyn Myers, Lindsay Joan, Kaylee Bryant, Jonathan Sangster, Zack Zumbek, Nicholas Alexander, Alexandra Slade, Rebecca B. Thomas, Zackary Scot Wolfe, Joseph Arreola, and Katharine Larsen.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

MUSICAL NEWS for Monday August 31, 2015

Carrie the Musical returns to Los Angeles at the historic Los Angeles Theatre, the first theatrical musical at that venue ever, Oct 1 - Nov 22 (opening night 10/8). Directed by Brady Schwind and choreographed by Lee Martino, it features book by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Michael Gore, and lyrics by Dean Pitchford. This production is based on the acclaimed run this past spring at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, with most of the original La Mirada cast: Carly Bracco, Adante Carter, Misty Cotton, Valerie Rose Curiel, Bryan Dobson, Kevin Patrick Doherty, Rachel Farr, Jennifer Foster, Jon Robert Hall, Jonah Ho’okano, Ian Littleworth, Emily Lopez, Lyle Colby Mackston, Garrett Marshall, Chris Meissner, Tiana Okoye, Jane Papageorge, Kayla Parker, Jenelle Lynn Randall, Amy Segal, Michael Starr, Kimberly Ann Steele, and Victoria Strong. The one-of-a-kind production puts the audience in the high school gymnasium where blood drops, Jesus flies, people levitate and moving bleachers pull the audience deeper into the heart of the story.

Original Broadway cast members LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, and James Snyder will join Tony Award-Winner Idina Menzel in the Hollywood Pantages engagement of If/Then this fall in LA – one of seven select cities on the National Tour. The foursome will also reprise their critically-acclaimed performances in Costa Mesa, San Diego, San Francisco, Tempe, Seattle, and Denver. seven select cities.

Actors Co-op opens its 2015-2016 season with The Baker’s Wife directed by Richard Israel. The Stephen Schwartz musical about a French baker who stops making his mouth-watering bread when his young wife leaves him runs Sept 16 – Oct 25 (opening night 9/18). Faced with the loss of the best food they have ever eaten, the town of misfits unites to rekindle the couple’s love. Israel directs a cast that includes Greg Baldwin, Kelly Brighton, Tracey Bunka, Greyson Chadwick, Chelle Denton, Brian Dyer, Nick Echols, Larray Grimes, Rachel Hirshee, Tim Hodgin, Natalie Hope Macmillan, Christopher Maikish, Jeffrey Markle, Brandon Parrish, Michael Riney, Lindsey Schuberth, Treva Tegtmeier, Stephen Van Dorn and Michael Worden. Musical direction is by Jake Anthony and choreography by Julie Hall.

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group presents the world premiere of Ramon Sanchez’s musical vampire love story Red Moon, opening Friday, Sept 4. Denise Devin directs and Zombie Joe produces this passionate love story of Anthony and Roxanna whose bond of eternal love is challenged by their adventurous lust for human flesh and Roxanna’s drive for redemption. ZJU has a long history of supporting original work, from inside the group as well as outside the company, and Red Moon is the next project to receive the ZJU treatment. Show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 pm through Sept 26. For Reservations call (818) 202-4120.

Cabrillo Music Theatre kicks off its 2015-2016 season with Damn Yankees, winner of 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical. With a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, and music & lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, this ever-popular baseball musical will have fans on the edge of their seats. Show runs Oct 16 – 25 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Aging, die-hard Washington Senators baseball fan Joe Boyd fan will do anything for the Senators to beat the New York “damn” Yankees and win the pennant. When he accepts a deal on the Senators’ behalf in exchange for his soul, he is turned into Joe Hardy, the greatest baseball player ever, and leads the woeful Senators into a wild and woolly pennant chase. The all-star lineup includes Renée Marino (Lola), John Sloman (Applegate), Sarah Tattersall (Meg Boyd), and Travis Leland (Joe Hardy) directed by Kirsten Chandler with choreography by John Todd and musical direction by Cassie Nickols.

The Old Globe will open its 2015-2016 Season with In Your Arms, a world premiere dance-theatre musical featuring direction and choreography by Christopher Gattelli and original music by Stephen Flaherty. Co-conceived by Gattelli and Jennifer Manocherian, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, 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. The production will run Sept 16 – Oct 25 (opening night 9/24). Each vignette takes place in a different place and time, and the dances range from duets to large ensemble numbers in every style imaginable, from classical ballet to swing, tap to tango, rock ’n’ roll to Charleston, modern to jazz.

Donna/Madonna, the critically acclaimed, award-winning solo show written and performed by JP Karliak, and directed by Tiger Reel and Matthew Craig, returns to the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood for a special engagement Sept 10 – 13. In this 70-minute autobiographical one-act, writer/performer JP Karliak wants desperately to be the perfect son for his adopted mother, a doting Catholic housewife from Scranton, PA. But realizing he will never be the ideal local boy, he seeks answers from a very different source: his fashion-writing, married-to-a-British-pop-star birth mother. Donna/Madonna is a tale of motherly love and finding acceptance told through stories, songs, and characters like Darth Vader, Carol Channing, and JP’s unforgettable mothers. or

Laguna Playhouse announces the complete cast for the west coast premiere of I’m Still Getting My Act Together and taking it on the road. Joining the previously announced Gretchen Cryer, who also wrote book & lyrics and directs the show, are Rex Smith, Omar D. Brancato, Daniel Filippi, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Jesse Johnson, Erika Schindele, Jennifer Leigh Warren, and Matthew Wrather. Show runs October 10 – Nov 1.

The Pasadena Playhouse will honor two artists at this year’s Diversity Project fundraising benefit. Legendary director, choreographer and producer Kenny Ortega will be recognized as the 2015 Diversity Award Artistic Honoree, and Abel Ramirez, founder of Pasadena’s El Portal Restaurant and business and cultural leader of the Pasadena community, will be recognized as the Community Honoree. The 9th Annual Pasadena Playhouse’s Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Project fundraising benefit takes place Sept 13, in honor of the opening of Josefina López’s Real Women Have Curves.

San Diego Musical Theatre welcomes a new executive director. Colleen Kollar Smith, a native San Diegan, has made a career on and off San Diego stages with such organizations as Lamb’s Players Theatre, CYT San Diego, and most recently New Village Arts. SDMT’s upcoming season schedule includes two musicals to be performed at the historic Spreckels Theatre: La Cage Aux Folles (Sept 25 – Oct 11) starring David Engel, Robert J. Townsend, and James Vasquez, and White Christmas (Nov 27-Dec 6) directed by Todd Nielsen.

EXTENSIONS: Citizen: An American Lyric extends at Fountain Theatre through Oct 11.

Always…Patsy Cline extends at Sierra Madre Playhouse through Sept 27.

FILM: In celebration of the in-home Diamond Edition release of Aladdin, the El Capitan Theatre will present a limited run of the Disney classic Sept 17- Oct 7. Before the movie, guests will be greeted by Genie, live on stage. Daily showtimes are 10am, 1pm, 4pm & 7pm. On select dates, guests may enjoy breakfast, meet Genie and receive a commemorative photo before seeing the 10am movie. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Tickets are on sale now at or at the theatre. Showtimes subject to change.

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