Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy Holidays from MUSICALS in LA

MUSICALS IN LA will be on Holiday Hiatus through December 4th.
Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

THIS WEEKEND: Musical Theatre West’s Reiner Staged Reading Series will offer a special one-night only performance of Steel Pier, Sunday, Nov. 23, 7:00 pm, at the University Theatre at California State University, Long Beach (off 7th Street between East and West Campus Drive, Parking Lot 7). An original musical written by Kander and Ebb from an original book by David Thompson, Steel Pier opened on Broadway in 1997 and went on to receive 11 Tony nominations and an additional nine Drama Desk Award nominations. It takes place in the honky-tonk world of marathon dancing in Atlantic City in 1933 as an eclectic collection of depression-era souls compete for fame and prizes on the Steel Pier.

The reading is directed and choreographed by Daniel A. Smith, with musical direction by Bill Brown and is produced by Michael Betts and David Lamoureux. The cast includes Leslie Stevens (Rita Racine), Jeff Edgerton (Bill Kelly), Gabriel Kalomas (Mick Hamilton), Tracy Lore (Shelby Stevens), Jeffrey Landman, Madison Claire Parks, Jeffery Christopher Todd, Marc Montminy, Jennifer Strattan, Allison Sheppard, Peter Becket Kuhl, Kirklyn Robinson, Sarah Meals, Caitlyn Calfas, Zack Crocker, Mike Starr, Bren Thor Johnson, Marisa Field, Katy Tabb, Rachel Davis, Hannah Simmons, and Richard Bulda.For tickets or more information, call (562) 856-1999 x 4 or visit www.musical.org.

Serial Killers returns to Sacred Fools on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 8:00 pm. Five Plays Enter...Three Plays Leave in this episodic night of theatre which includes Chick Tract – The Musical, Episode 7 curated by Vanessa Stewart; directed by Paul Plunkett; music & lyrics by Richard Levinson. “Chick Tracts” is an actual thing that exists. They are comic books that are passed out by Christian Evangelicals in order to teach about the wages of sin. This episode, “You Can Go to Hell” features Vanessa Stewart, Dana DeRuyck, Heather Schmidt, Erika Rose, Lauren Van Kurin, Erin Matthews, Esteban Cruz, Adriana Roze, Rebecca Larsen, Marz Richards, Julia Griswold, Perry Daniel, Cynthia Beckert, and French Stewart. Also on the schedule are The Unlucky Stiff (episode 1) by Bill Robens; Crimes By Women (episode 1) written & directed by Erik Engman; The Boring Astronaut (episode 2) written & directed by French Stewart; and Love, Money, Sex, Prom (episode 2) by Jackson Truax with Dana DeRuyck. Reservations: (310) 281-8337.

HOLIDAY SHOWS: Charles Dicken’s classic novel A Christmas Carol is celebrating its 170th Year Anniversary, and will be presented in a fully staged production by Broadway Theatricals at Fremont Centre Theatre Dec. 4 - 21. The classic story, set in a poor section of London, England, during the Industrial Revolution (1800s), tells of Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy miser who is given a second chance at becoming a loving, generous person. Original music beautifully accompanies this uplifting retelling, which truly captures the true spirit and magic of the holiday season. Fremont Centre Theatre 1000 Fremont Ave, South Pasadena CA 91030. Tickets: (323) 960-7612 or www.plays411.com/christmascarol.

A Los Angeles holiday tradition La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin, presented by GOYA Foods, will make its 11th annual appearance at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 4 & 5, at 7:30 pm. This is LA’s largest theatrical holiday production and stars renowned opera singer Suzanna Guzman as the Virgin on December 4, and Esperanza America in the role on Dec. 5. Sal Lopez plays Juan Diego. There is a cast of over 100 actors, singers and dancers that also includes children and seniors from the community including Cástulo Guerra, Lucy Rodriguez, Geoffrey Rivas, Olivia Delgado, Gabriel Gonzalez, Martin Gallardo and Pepe Serna.

For over a decade, the Latino Theater Company has annually presented this holiday gift to the City of Los Angeles, in association with the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This dazzling spectacle was adapted for the stage by founding company member and resident playwright Evelina Fernandez from the mid-16th Century text The Nican Mopohua. The production is directed by Latino Theater Company’s artistic director Jose Luis Valenzuela. Original music is composed and performed by Alfredo Lopez Mondragon, with original indigenous music composed and performed by Martin Espino. General admission is FREE to the public (all are welcome to attend) and reserved seating is available for $35. Tickets are available online at www.thelatc.org or by calling (866) 811-4111. The performances will take place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Goodwill donations are encouraged. The show is presented in Spanish with English supertitles.

HOLIDAY CONCERTS: Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Rejoice: A Cappella Christmas will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium on Sunday, Dec. 14, 7:00 pm, at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Written for and premiered by the Chorale in December 1994, it has since become one of the most frequently performed choral works in modern history. This is the third of four holiday programs presented by the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall in December. The choir’s other seasonal offerings include the 34th Annual Messiah Sing-Along, Dec. 7, 7:00 pm; Festival of Carols, Dec. 13, 2:00 pm; and two concert performances of Handel’s Messiah, Dec. 17, 7:30 pm, and Dec. 21, 7 pm. Tickets: (213) 972-7282 www.lamc.org. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue at First Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photo credit: David Johnston

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Review: La Jolla Playhouse's The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Michael Arden as Quasimodo

No matter what anyone says, you’d be a fool if you believed that the La Jolla Playhouse production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame wasn’t headed for Broadway. Produced by special arrangement with Disney Theatricals in association with Paper Mill Playhouse, with a powerhouse creative team that includes Alan Menken (music), Stephen Schwartz (lyrics), Peter Parnell (book) and Scott Schwartz (director); an incredibly talented cast of veteran Broadway actors; and a spectacular production design that transports the audience to 15th century Paris in all its massive glory, the deck is heavily weighted in its favor.

The lush music will give you chills (literally) with the sheer volume and resonance of its voices; a credit to the San Diego choral ensemble, Sacra/Profana who becomes part of the very walls of this Notre Dame. Their gorgeous waves of sound in “The Bells of Notre Dame” beckon you into the story and continue to lead you through to the tragic end. The power they add to the experience is thrilling.

Without a doubt, expectations are high for this latest marriage of modern day Disney storytelling and medieval Gothic Romance. Elements of both Victor Hugo’s epic novel and Disney’s animated film of The Hunchback of Notre Dame are part of this story that has found new life as a stage musical. But while the animated version played to the kiddies, this production is wrought from the passions of its four leading characters and those are not always G-rated.

Ciara Renée as Esmeralda (center) and the cast of
The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Photos by Kevin Berne

Archdeacon Frollo (Patrick Page) hides his lascivious desire for the gypsy Esmeralda (Ciara Renée) behind the pious robes of the church espousing sacred principles while pursuing her at every turn. The deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo (Michael Arden) loves her from afar for the kindness she has shown him in an otherwise cruel world, and Captain Phoebus (Andrew Samonsky) is ready to give up his gallivanting ways to save Esmeraldas life, even if the cost is his own. The villain, the innocent, the beauty, and the hero; in less studied hands these characters could easily remain two-dimensional like their cartoon counterparts but, in this rendering, a level of human frailty shows through that makes them much more complex.

Patrick Page as Frollo

Page’s commanding voice and towering presence are tailor-made for Frollo’s singular brand of oppression yet he also gives us a man torn by love of family, duty to the church, and the shame of his own lustful appetite. Renée is gloriously fiery as the object of everyone’s attention. She sings like an angel and dances with Romany brilliance but this Disney heroine remains an outcast in a world that will never give her a chance to rise above her station. 

Arden’s arresting physical transformation into the hunchback Quasimodo is done in full view of the audience. The exposed moment is surprisingly emotional and his heartbreaking performance is richly nuanced to create both monster and man in one. Vocally, the role is a demanding one and Arden turns the soaring melodies into heartfelt longings that stir the soul. It is a performance of a lifetime.

Alexander Dodge’s recreation of Notre Dame’s lofty bell tower dominates the stage while Howell Binkley’s lighting design spills moonlight and shadows to dramatically enhance the storytelling. Dodge uses whimsical accents for his scenic design that can be moved on and off easily to represent the city below. Where Quasimodo’s world is all shadows and secrets, the Festival of Fools in the streets of Paris, and the Court of Miracles, are full of color and life.

There is a great deal about this Hunchback that feels right and audiences are responding by filling the house to capacity night after night. I like the darker tone of the story and the way the production design favors that vision. Still, I got the sense that not everything has landed in the right place yet. Exposition is delivered as third-person narration that shortcuts the back story and helps explain the major shifts in location but I grew tired of it after a while. I wanted to see the story rather than hear about it. And though the score is gorgeous, its movie musical songs sometimes feel out of character against the more dramatic sound of the choral passages. Maybe that contrast is meant to highlight the chasm between classes but there were times that its distinctive Disney sound still pulled me out of the action.

But no matter, this Hunchback is quite wonderful and will surely resonate with those in search of a moving story. Go, if you can still get tickets, especially if you love beautiful music and passionate performances.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
Oct. 26 - Dec. 14, 2014
La Jolla Playhouse

Located on the UCSD Campus via the Revelle Entrance
2910 La Jolla Village Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037
Tickets: (858) 550-1010 or
www.lajollaplayhouse.org

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Old Globe Tree Lighting Kicks off The Grinch's Holiday Season

Nicole La Fond and her twin sister Natalie help The Grinch
(Burke Moses) light the tree. Photos by Bob Ross.

The ninth annual Old Globe Christmas Tree Lighting kicked off the holiday season in conjunction with San Diegos favorite holiday musical, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  Designed by Grinch scenic designer John Lee Beatty, the unique tree will be located in the center of the Globe Plaza for the run of the show. This free, fun family event featured a special live performance by members of The Grinch cast and a delightful holiday snowfall on the Globe's Copley Plaza.  

Five-year-old Nicole La Fond was the winner of the “Santa for a Day” contest, and she and her twin sister, Natalie, helped The Grinch light the tree in front of thousands. She was drawn as the winner after creating a drawing expressing what the holidays mean to her. She and her family received a VIP Family Four-Pack to attend the 4:30 p.m. performance of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and, directly after the show, took part in the Tree Lighting.





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Monday, November 17, 2014

HOLIDAY MUSICAL NEWS for Monday, November 17, 2014

HOLIDAY SHOWS: Ring in the Holiday Season with the new musical Striking 12 by Brendan Milburn, Rachel Sheinkin and Valerie Vigoda at Laguna Playhouse. Directed by Janet Roston, this holiday musical twist on a wonderful Hans Christian Andersen classic combines pop-rock, musical comedy and an old-fashioned uplift with a 21st century sensibility for a modern-day New Year’s Eve twist that is suitable for audiences of all ages. The cast includes Brent Schindele, Marisa Duchowny, Matt Wolpe and Amberly Rosen. Performances are Dec 3 – 28, with opening night set for Saturday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 pm. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach. Tickets: (949) 497-ARTS (2787) or www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

Tis the season to get your fever on at Theatre Banshee Nov. 28 -Dec. 20 when they open their Holiday Fever Christmas Variety Show. This 10th Anniversary seasonal holiday favorite draws its inspiration from “The Carol Burnett Show” and “Donny and Marie,” with a generous helping of sequin-fueled “Solid Gold” thrown in to account for its outrageous spirit and never-ending stream of dazzling wigs. The 90-minute show has all that you would expect from the genre: singing, dancing, sketches, variety acts... What sets it apart is an intangible comedic sensibility that infuses every number with a touch of irony and irreverence. It’s not your Norman Rockwell version of the season, but it’s a whole lot more fun. Directed and choreographed by Dagney Kerr. Theatre Banshee, 3435 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505. Tickets: www.holidayfeverlive.com.

A Little House Christmas, a play with songs, opens Nov. 28 and will run through Dec. 23 at Sierra Madre Playhouse. Adapted for the stage by James DeVita, the show is based on the Little House on the Prairie series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Sierra Madre Playhouse presentation of A Little House Christmas is directed by Emily Chase and will star Jolie Adamson, Pamela Daly, Jeff Doba, Jim Harnagel, Eric Charles Jorgensen, Fletcher Kamal, Valerie Rose Lohman, Andrew Stock, Hannah Victoria Stock and Amy Tolsky. UCLA musicologist Lyndsey Strand-Polyak is the production’s consultant on music of the ear, which will include vibrant fiddle and guitar playing as well as lively dance. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024. Ample free parking behind theatre. Tickets: (626) 355-4318 or www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group proudly presents their all-new fun and wildly turbo-charged version of the famous Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol celebrating holiday spirit and redemption. The show stars Sebastian Muñoz as Scrooge, and ZJU’s fabulous Steam Punk Chorus. Directed by Denise Devin and produced by Zombie Joe. For Ages 12 & up. Saturdays at 8:30 pm and Sundays at 7:00 pm Nov. 29 – Dec. 28. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Tickets: $15. Reserve by calling (818) 202 – 4120 or go to www.ZombieJoes.Tix.com. For more information visit www.ZombieJoes.com.

San Diego Musical Theatre announces the final production of their 2014 season, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Dec. 11 - 21 at the North Park Theatre. Based on the beloved, timeless film, this heartwarming musical adaption features seventeen Irving Berlin songs, played by a live 22 piece orchestra. Todd Nielsen directs a cast that stars Todd Dubail (Bob Wallace), Allison Spratt Pearce (Betty Haynes), Jeffrey Scott Parsons, (Phil Davis), and Tro Shaw (Judy Haynes), with Joy Allen, Jeni Baker, Amy Beth Batchelor, Philip Cobb, William Cobb, Crystal Davidson, Janie D’Avignon, Karla Franko, John Gamboa, Max Gidaley, Siri Hafso, Danny Hansen, Kyle Hawk, April Henry, Ed Hollingsworth, Allison Knight, Andrew Koslow, Danielle Levas, Paul Morgavo, Joy Newbegin, Jeremy Shull, Claire Scheper, Doug Schmitt, Debra Wanger and John Westcott. Choreography is by Lisa Hopkins and Don LeMaster is musical director. Tickets: (858) 560-5740 or www.sdmt.org.

At the Grove Theatre in Upland, get ready for The Snow Queen - A Frosty, Fractured Fable (A British-style Holiday Panto), written By Dale Sandlin with music & lyrics by Steve Apostolina, Nov. 28 & 29 at 7:29 pm and Nov. 30 at 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Snow Queen is a musical excursion of the Snow Queen who meets the Widow Twanky, played by Christofer Sands. The battle begins when Twanky’s son is taken to fix a magic mirror for the evil Queen. This interactive Christmas Show is sure to please both parents and kids, from “boos” and snowballs to the fun lyrics and live music. The Grove Theatre is located at 276 E. Ninth Street, Upland, CA 91786. Tickets: (909) 920-4343 or www.grovetheatre.com.


TELEVISION: Want to star in a music video alongside the cast of NBC’s Peter Pan Live!, singer/songwriter Alex G., and other surprise guests? Dance your heart out to a brand new rendition of the Peter Pan classic, “I Won’t Grow Up” created by DJ Tay James. Watch Alex G.’s message to fans about the opportunity above and submit your video at www.peterpanmashup.com. Submission ends on November 18, 2014 at 11:59 pm PST. Remember to tune in to the live broadcast of Peter Pan Live! on Thursday, December 4 at 8/7c.

HOLIDAY CABARET/CONCERTS: (mostly) Musicals presents (mostly) HOLIDAY!, an evening of surprisingly seasonal songs, Monday, Dec. 8. The show features (mostly) contemporary holiday songs from established writers including Jason Robert Brown, Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens, and Jerry Herman; as well as up and coming writers like LA’s own Joe Greene & Heidi Powers, Bryan Blaskie, and Gregory Nabours, and NYC writers Rachel Peters, Joel Waggoner and Dan Marshall, and more performed by Julie Tolivar, Walter Winston O’Neil, Shelley Regner, Michael A. Shepperd, Amanda Kruger, Derrian Tolden, David Crane, Molly Gilman and more, with music direction by Gregory Nabours. Plus, hear the west coast premiere of Sam Carner and Derek Gregor’s mini musical Flash-Priest directed by NMI’s Scott Guy. Then stick around for our open mic after party hosted by Nathan Ondracek with Gregory Nabours on piano. www.facebook.com/mostlymusicals

Kritzerland at Sterling’s Upstairs at The Federal presents Happy Holidays! The Annual Kritzerland Holiday Show, Sunday, Dec. 7 at 7:00 pm. Performers include Paige Befeler, Roger Befeler, Brennley Brown, Kim Huber, Madison Claire Parks, Sami Staitman, and Robert Yacko with special guest Jason Graae and music director James Lent. Reservations: 818 754-8700. Doors open at 5:30pm. Show starts at 7:00 pm. Sterling’s at The Federal, 5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601.

Fraser Entertainment presents A Classic Broadway Holiday Dec. 29 with Brad Ellis returning as musical director and host. Upstairs at Vitello’s, 4349 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604. Click Here for reservations (encouraged).

The Los Angeles Master Chorale adds a generous dash of yuletide cheer with a matinee performance of its popular Festival of Carols, on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2:00 pm at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The concert features new arrangements of cherished Christmas carols sung to savory perfection by 100 members of the Chorale under artistic director Grant Gershon’s baton. Pianist Lisa Edwards and organist John West, who performs on Disney Hall’s iconic pipe organ, add delightful sonic flourish to the concert.  The program also features the live performance premiere of Eric Whitacre’s Glow, part of the Grammy Award-winning composer’s innovative “Virtual Choir” series, a global phenomenon in which singers from around the world record themselves singing one of his choral works and upload their videos online, which are synchronized and combined into a single performance. Tickets: (213) 972-7282, or www.lamc.org.

Los Angeles Children’s Chorus presents its popular annual Winter Concert celebrating American song on Dec. 7 (7:30 pm) & 14 (7:00 pm) at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. The program features works by a number of eminent American composers, including Let every breath, a round in the shape note tradition by William Billings, considered the country’s first choral composer; Aaron Copland’s popular Ching-a-ring Chaw; A Christmas Carol by Charles Ives, one of the nation’s first composers to gain international acclaim; and Knee Play 5 from legendary minimalist composer Philip Glass’s groundbreaking 1967 opera “Einstein on the Beach,” universally hailed as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century. LACC also spotlights works by several Los Angeles-based composers, Nick Strimple’s A Christmas Lullaby, Wayne Bisbee’s A Cuckoo Flew Out of the Wood, David Montoya’s I Heard a Bird Sing, and L’Dor vador by former cantor Meir Finkelstein, among them. Tickets: (626) 793-4231 or visit www.lachildrenschorus.org. Pasadena Presbyterian Church is located at 585 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101.

BOOKS: Mitchell Maxwell’s novel Little Did I Know is available for purchase. Told with wit, compassion, and the kind of insider’s access to the theater that only an insider like Maxwell can provide, the novel is about coming of age in the spotlight and embracing one’s entire future in a single season. This is the story of an unforgettable summer set in Plymouth, MA in the late seventies, about a young man with an outsized dream – to refurbish a dilapidated but historic theater and produce a season's worth of vibrant musicals. A recent college graduate, he fills his cast and crew with people he has come to love and trust in his university life, and with others whose talents and personalities prove undeniable. Yet, while the productions drive his ambitions, a local woman drives his passions, and their romance is fateful, star-crossed, and ultimately more than either of them expected. Maxwell is a 35-year veteran of the entertainment industry. He has produced seven Broadway shows, more than thirty off-Broadway and regional productions, four national tours, three West End productions and six major motion pictures. He has directed in New York, London, and regionally. Click Here for more information.

David Lewis’s new Hollywood memoir Hopelessly Hollywood, My Dreamland Diary, from Small Town Extra to Musical Theatre King For a Day is due out in December. On dozens of small stages in the shadows of Tinseltown, where eager young actors fresh off the bus may share the spotlights with forgotten idols and new stars rising, author-playwright David Lewis evokes an amusing memoir of his years in that dream-drenched world, set in the 1980s. He follows a friend and collaborator to Los Angeles, convinced they are the next Rodgers and Hammerstein, but the City of Angels soon sends them on separate paths, one down an ultimately tragic road. It’s the story of the town’s seductive spell over Lewis -- from Bette Davis making a movie in his home town, to the night in Hollywood when he learned that his musical about the Ringling brothers was Broadway bound. That’s what he was told. That’s what he read. And you can read all about it in this factually fascinating tale. From Big Dipper Press.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

First Look: MEMPHIS at Cabrillo Music Theatre

Cabrillo Music Theatre kicks off its 2014-15 season with Memphis, opening tonight and running through November 23. From the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis is the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that bursts off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs, and a thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love setting its story of tolerance and the pursuit of happiness to a classic rock beat. Robert W. Schneider directs. Get your tickets now! For more information go to www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.

Click Here for discounted tickets.


Lakeisha Renee Houston, Todd Abramson and the ensemble of Memphis.
Photos by Ed Krieger


The Beale Street Ensemble

Todd Abramson (top) and the Beale Street Ensemble

Lakeisha Renee Houston and Todd Abramson

Lakeisha Renee Houston and Todd Abramson

Keith Jefferson, Lakeisha Renee Houston, and the Beale Street Ensemble

Todd Abramson and Linda Kerns

Lakeisha Renee Houston and Ensemble

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First Look: Chromolume Theatre's PUTTING IT TOGETHER

Chromolume Theatre Company opens its latest production, Putting It Together, a musical revue showcasing the award-winning songs of Stephen Sondheim. The show takes place at a Hollywood movie premiere party in the home of the producer/director and his trophy wife leading lady. A composer and his date, a wanna-be starlet, along with an up-and-coming screenwriter, spend the evening reflecting on the illusions and desires of relationships intertwined amidst life “in the biz” in Hollywood. Nov. 14 - Dec. 21. Tickets: (323) 205-1617 or www.crtheatre.com.

L-R: Kurt Andrew Hansen, Kristin Towers-Rowles, Mike Irizarry,
Rachel Hirshee, and Chris Kerrigan.

Kristin Towers-Rowles and Rachel Hirshee

Kurt Andrew Hansen, Rachel Hirshee and Chris Kerrigan

Kristin Towers-Rowles and Kurt Andrew Hansen

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First Look: Kentwood Players' INTO THE WOODS

Kentwood Players presents Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods Nov. 14 – Dec. 20 at the Westchester Playhouse. Tickets: (310) 645-5156 or www.kentwoodplayers.orgDuring the run, the company will hold its second annual Kentwood Kares Coat Drive, collecting new and gently used coats, jackets and sweaters to be donated to the Union Rescue Mission located in downtown Los Angele. The mission provides emergency and long term services to men, women and children trying to escape living on Skid Row. Founded in 1891, the Union Rescue Mission is the oldest mission of its kind in the City of the Angels.

L-R: Heather Barnett (Cinderella), Jon Sparks (Cinderella's Prince),
Amy Coles (The Baker's Wife) and Terry Delegeane (The Baker).
Photos by Gypsy Foster

Alicia Reynolds (Rapunzel) and Elizabeth Bouton
(The Witch)

Heather Barnett

Heather Barnett and Jon Sparks

Carly Linehan (Little Red Ridinghood) and
Terry Deleageane (The Wolf)

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: CTGSC's The Roar of the Greaspaint - The Smell of the Crowd

L-R: Alec Medlock and Sean Smith. Photos by Sherry Linn

Typically, Children’s Theatre Group of Southern California produces shows that feature its young company members who range in age from 8 to 18. Participants in CTGSC’s long-established and well-respected educational program learn the craft of theatre and then put their skills to use by auditioning for mainstage musicals like Godspell, Jr. and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I had the pleasure of seeing both of those shows previously and they were charming, upbeat, and engaging productions; the kind that put a smile on your face and make you glad you made the effort to go to the theater.  

This time around they tackle something with a little more bite and a lot more social awareness – Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd. It’s the second of the duo’s three major collaboration, sandwiched between Stop the World I Want To Get Off and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and the one least familiar. It isn’t often produced, which makes it an interesting choice for a company like this.

Adult actors take on the leading roles but the chorus of Urchins (Lola Michelle Brown, Tess Cooley, Alexa Druyanoff, Langdon Janos, Vera Wheatley) and The Kid (Liam Daniels), are played by the youths. These street kids act as a singing and dancing Greek chorus, always watching the main action and jumping into play when a song calls them forth. They are considerably younger than the original teens who played the roles on Broadway, which gives the piece an interesting twist. Their hopeful smiles and bright-eyed optimism underscore the disparity between the haves and have nots in a way I found extremely intriguing. Kay Cole, who co-directs (with Bonnie Hellman) and does the delightful musical staging, was one of the original Urchins on Broadway. Cole and Hellman handle the story’s unpleasantries with finesse.

[L-R] Front: Lola Michele Brown and Vera Wheatley. Rear: Tess Cooley, 
Liam Daniels, Alec Medlock, Alexa Druyanoff, and Langdon James

Roar of the Greasepaint is an allegorical tale in which two British blokes, Cocky (Alec Medlock) and Sir (Sean Smith), are stuck on an eternal merry-go-round, playing the game of life – literally. Sir always wins and Cocky always loses. That’s because in this game Sir calls all the shots, making the rules and changing them whenever he pleases. His art of manipulation is so well conceived that poor Cocky doesn’t even realize Sir never actually plays the game himself. All he does is set up the rules so that Cocky can never win a round, and thus, can never gain control of the game.

Medlock and Smith are a well matched pair of cultural emblems. Medlock embodies the optimism of the lower class with all its good humor and innocence while Smith’s haughtiness reflects the character of an entitled upper class. Bricusse & Newley’s score favors the common man with their best and most recognizable songs going to Cocky. Medlock’s joy is infectious on the uplifting “A Wonderful Day Like Today,” and there is a genuine camaraderie between him and the urchins, whose cherubic, soot-stained faces beam as they sing and dance alongside him. He is strongest in these upbeat moments, a song and dance man with a Vaudevillian flair for comedy and a self-deprecating charm.

Two other songs will be particularly recognizable: the emotional “Who Can I Turn To?” which has been sung by everyone from Tony Bennett to Sammy Davis, Jr., and one of my favorites, “Feelin’ Good,” recorded by both Nina Simone and Michael Bublé.

Medlock handles the songs nicely, though he has more control over his mid-range than high notes. The sing-song pattern of Smith’s speaking voice becomes appropriately irritating adding a pomposity to Sir that makes it even easier to sympathize with the likable Medlock. Each time he plays the game, it is with a different motivation. First it’s for food, then a job, love, and finally, once he sees an outside player win at the game, to get revenge on Sir.

The dream girl Cocky fancies is Caitlin Gallogly, a waif who ends up being another of Sir’s pawns used to control Cocky. Gallogly keeps it simple, making her brief appearance in the show a moving addition to Cocky’s plight. Her singing is a sheer delight, and the delicacy of her soprano lines float hypnotically over the audience creating a beautiful effect. Scenes with two additional characters who arrive in the second act, The Stranger (Marc Antonio Pritchett) and The Bully (Phil Biedron) become turning points for Cocky as the game starts to spin out of control.

It’s been said that it isnt important whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. In The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd it isn’t about how you play the game because winning is everything. It’s meant to get a rise out of you, and sadly, this story written nearly fifty years ago, is as relevant today as ever. Individuals, corporations, and even countries still overstep their bounds every day, and the truth is, doing the right thing is more of a struggle than ever.

CTGSC steps up its game with this latest production. It offers its young actors and its audience an opportunity for growth by stimulating the kind of critical thinking that only a socially-conscious work of art can. I found myself smiling at their cheerful confidence with the material, inspired by the company’s pluck, and impressed with their desire to stretch beyond what they have tackled previously. This is a successful expression of CTGSC’s bigger commitment and an enjoyable experience from beginning to end.

Alec Medlock and Caitlin Gallogly

L-R: Sean Smith, Marc Antonio Pritchett, and Alec Medlock 

THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT, THE SMELL OF THE CROWD

November 1 - 23, 2014
Children
s Theatre Goup of Southern California at
The Eclectic Company Theatre
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
Valley Village, CA 91607
Tickets: $15
(818) 508-3003 or
www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

MUSICAL NEWS for Sunday, November 8, 2014

MUSICAL NEWS: Chance Theater presents the Bock & Harnick musical She Loves Me directed by Sarah Figoten Wilson Nov. 28 – Dec. 28, with opening night set for Dec. 5. The production will star Chance Theater founding artist Erika C. Miller, as well as Stanton Kane Morales, Camryn Zelinger, Corky Loupe, William Gorin, Beach Vickers, Daniel Jared Hersh, Tina Nguyen, Elizabeth Adabale, Eric T. Anderson, Erica Shaeffer, Katelyn Spurgin, Matt Takahashi, Shafik Wahhab and resident artist Laura M. Hathaway. Musical direction is by Taylor Stephenson and choreography by Christopher M. Albrecht. Set against the sumptuous background of a 1930’s Hungarian parfumerie, this tale of unknowing lovers boasts a rich, sprightly score and 10 Tony Awards. This romantic comedy is also the musical adaptation of the play that inspired such popular films as The Shop Around The Corner and You’ve Got Mail. Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken theater arts Center, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA 92807. Tickets: (714) 777-3033 or visit www.ChanceTheater.com.

Wallis Center for the Performing Arts brings Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s critically acclaimed production of Into the Woods to LA December 2 – 21, (gala opening Wed., Dec. 3). Into the Woods, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, is directed by Amanda Dehnert who also serves as the production’s musical director. Into the Woods is a modern twist on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales in which beloved storybook characters take on startling complexity as they discover wishes come with a price. The cast features Jeff Skowron (Baker), Rachael Warren ( Baker’s Wif), Miriam A. Laube as the Witch), Miles Fletcher (Jack), Robin Goodrin Nordli (Jack’s Mother), Jeremy Peter Johnson (Cinderella’s Prince/Voice of the Wolf), Howie Seago (the Wolf), Kjerstine Rose Anderson (Little Red Riding Hood), Jennie Greenberry (Cinderella), Robert Vincent Frank (Cinderella’s Father), Catherine E. Coulson (Cinderella’s Stepmother/Milky White), Royer Bockus (Rapunzel), John Tufts (Rapunzel’s Prince), Mauro Hantman (the Steward), Katie Bradley (Florina/Sleeping Beauty) and Christiana Clark (Lucinda/Snow White). Tickets: 310-746-4000 or www.thewallis.org.

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts kicks off its 2014-15 Programs for Young Audiences series with Boxtales Theatre Company’s The Odyssey: Heroic Tales From Greek Mythology. This 60-minute exciting, story-filled adventure is recommended for audiences ages 4 and up. Two shows only - Sunday, Dec.7th at 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm. Storyteller Michael Katz, actor Jeff Mills and musician Michael Andrews combine their diverse talents to create a professional, high energy, highly interactive theatrical experience for young audiences. The Odyssey features virtuosic storytelling, circus arts, enchanting masks, and exhilarating live music in an exciting theatrical telling of the classic tale. Greek hero Odysseus tells of his ten-year journey home from the Trojan War and his encounters with Poseidon, Athena, Zeus, the Cyclops, the Sirens and many others in this classic and fun show. Tickets: $10 - $15 online at www.LaMiradaTheatre.com or call (562) 944-9801.

La Jolla Playhouse has announced five shows for its 2015-16 season, including the world-premiere musical Come from Away, featuring book, music & lyrics by Canadian husband-and-wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, directed by Christopher Ashley; the world premiere of Indecent, co-created by director Rebecca Taichman and Paula Vogel, co-produced with Yale Repertory Theatre; and Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin, by Michael Benjamin Washington, directed by Phylicia Rashad, which had its first workshop during the Playhouse’s 2014 DNA New Work Series.

The Playhouse also announces the centerpiece of its 2015 Without Walls (WoW) Festival: Healing Wars, conceived, directed and choreographed by internationally-renowned choreographer Liz Lerman. The show’s run will culminate at the 2015 WoW Festival taking place Oct. 9 – 11. Also part of the season is the previously-announced world-premiere musical Up Here, featuring book, music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, directed by Alex Timbers. Tickets are available by subscription at (858) 550-1010 or online at www.lajollaplayhouse.org.

Raditatical:A Journey in Rhythm, an original live stage spectacular filled with music, laughter, dance and raw energy opens in Hollywood at The Montalbán Theatre on December 12 for six performances only. Appropriate for all ages, this unique hybrid performance sensation explores the human potential and finds the music within all of us. It is the story of one man’s journey across the country, learning about musical expression and realizing possibilities beyond his wildest dreams. Audiences become a part of the quest, discovering their own rhythm in heartbeats, breath, movements of their hands and feet - how it’s all connected to the pulse of life. Heading the cast is Bronkar Lee directed by Ameenah Kaplan and choreographed by Simon Chalban with a six-member ensemble who beatbox, juggle, tap dance, and play on all sorts of percussion instruments. The cast also features Aaron Williams, Melinda Sullivan, Paul Newman, Scotty Lund, and Andrew Pulkrabek. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (323) 461-6999 or go to www.themontalban.com or www.raditatical.com. Photo by Star Foreman.

HOLIDAY: Belting out the Hallelujah Chorus has become an exhilarating and joyous holiday tradition, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s (LAMC) famed Messiah Sing-Along, conducted by artistic director Grant Gershon, continues to reign supreme as the ultimate must-do for sing-along fans on Sunday, Dec. 7th, 7:00 pm, at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Sopranos, altos, tenors and basses of all abilities – even those with no singing experience – are welcome to the Chorale’s 34th Annual Sing-Along, in which the 2,100-member audience becomes the choir. The performance features a professional orchestra and quartet of professional soloists from the Chorale, including Holly Sedillos, soprano; Janelle DeStefano, mezzo soprano; Ben Cortez, tenor; and David Castillo, baritone. Messiah scores are available for $10 at the door. Tickets: (213) 972-7282 or www.lamc.org.

Inland Pacific Ballet and artistic director Victoria Koenig present The Nutcracker at several Southern California locations, Nov. 29 – Dec. 27. Danced to Tchaikovsky’s stirring and celebrated score, the critically acclaimed Inland Pacific Ballet’s 20th annual production of The Nutcracker has become a treasured holiday tradition for thousands of families with dazzling sets, beautiful costumes, and more than 80 dancers on stage. The annual holiday favorite tells the story of a young girl named Clara who receives a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve, and sets out on a wondrous journey to the Land of the Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. For more information: www.IPBallet.org or (909) 482-1590. Photo by E.Y. Yanagi.
Performance dates and locations include:
Nov 29-30: Arcadia Performing Arts Center, Nov 29-30
Dec 6-7: Lewis Family Playhouse, Rancho Cucamonga
Dec 13-21: Bridges Auditorium, Claremont
Dec 27: Fox Performing Arts Center, Riverside

CABARET: Monday, Nov. 10 at 8:00 pm - Simply Scott Alan, An intimate concert with composer Scott Alan and today’s brightest stars. Alan returns to Rockwell: Table & Stage in an evening of songs featured from his five successful albums including Dreaming Wide Awake, Keys, What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up, LIVE and Anything Worth Holding on To as well as songs from his musicals, Home & ifi. Tickets: (323) 669-1550 x 20 or www.rockwell-la.com.

Monday, Nov. 17 at 8:00 pm – Bret Shuford: Charming, A Tale of an American Prince
Why should the Princesses get all the glory? In Charming, Bret Shuford tells the tale of one Prince’s trek from the faraway Kingdom of Texas to a castle in The East Village. Shuford’s quest is highlighted by the music of Sondheim, Lutvak, Prince and more, with a little Disney magic thrown in for good measure. Friendship bracelets, giants and maybe even a furry woodland creature help guide this Prince along the way. Musical Direction is by Tracy Stark, Direction by Lennie Watts. Tickets: (323) 669-1550 x 20 or www.rockwell-la.com.

Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 8:00pm – The Hollywood Jane Revue: We’re Just Drawn to That, A Burlesque Tribute to Animation. The show brings your favorite animated characters to life on the stage to tantalize and tease you. From Frozen to Venture Bros., From Archer, to Scooby Doo, we’re covering the world of animation with our discarded clothing. Burlesque by Blanche Bourgeois, Georgia O’Queef, Captain Androgyny, Brandy Snifter, Tiffy Twister, Lana Entendre, Gwen Ruby, Robin Switch, Veronica Voss, Amber Dextrous, and Captain Jack Heartless. Magic by: Scott Marshall. Hosted by Charles Eights. Tickets: (323) 669-1550 x 20 or www.rockwell-la.com.

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