Sunday, October 26, 2014

Interview: Versatility is Jeff Skowron's Middle Name

Jeff Skowron is a chameleon. The versatile actor has appeared on Southern California stages playing everything from Thénardier in Les Misérables at La Mirada Theatre to Leo Bloom in The Producers at 3-D Theatricals -- roles for which he is currently nominated for an Ovation Award -- to The Baker in Into the Woods. He previously won the Ovation Award for his moving performance of Leo Frank in 3DT’s award-winning revival of Parade, and that’s in addition to his work on Broadway and in television & film. Next he steps into the traveling salesman shoes of Edward Bloom for the west coast premiere of Big Fish at Musical Theatre West. It’s a role that continues to show his range in a production that will enchant audiences beginning October 31st.

Jeff, I've seen you do a wide variety of roles in the past couple of years and you make them all look easy. Do you consider yourself a versatile actor?

Thank you, yes. I’m not such a specific type which is really good.

The first time I saw you on stage was at The Old Globe in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You were quirkier than any Grinch I’d seen before, and you’re still my favorite Grinch today.

Thanks, I did it originally in New York on Broadway. I understudied the Grinch so that’s the only reference point I had and then, when they asked me if I’d be interested in doing it at the Globe, they said they wanted me to reinvent it. I had free reign to do whatever I wanted with it. That’s really rare when it’s a show that has been running that long on Broadway, or even at the Globe, because it’s such a tradition there. Usually in those instances they don’t want you to change what’s already been set but they gave me full permission to do that, which was fun. I guess I made him slimier and kind of brattier.

Well he certainly was a brat. It showed that you have an ability to be fearless.

Totally. I like that word.

Your characters always have a unique spin. A lot of that comes from training but I also think its either in you or it isn’t. Did you study acting?

I went to Penn State for acting and I also started working professionally in theatre when I was thirteen so I learned a lot through practical experience. The older I get the more confidence it gives me to be fearless, and the positive reinforcement I’ve been getting lately helps too. When I was younger I needed a lot of permission to do things but I got a lot of good reinforcement along the way from directors and actors I admired. Because my ideas weren’t shot down all the time it gave me more confidence to be that way. 

Who were your role models early on?

I’m from a semi-rural area in Pennsylvania and, growing up, I worked at a place called the Mountain Playhouse. I was the kid they’d hire for a lot of different things each summer and all the other actors were from New York. They were the people I looked up to. It was great getting to meet them and work with them. There were certain actors I really admired and those were the ones I watched a lot. And I also had some really good acting teachers at Penn State. I was an undergrad when Ty Burrell and Keegan-Michael Key were grads. We had the same acting professors. One professor in particular changed the way I thought about acting in profound ways.

What brought you to LA?

It was writing, which I never thought I’d be doing. I was living in New York and my writing partner, Matt Yeager, and I wrote a web series called “Greg and Donnie.” We submitted a 9-minute pilot to the New York TV Festival in 2010 and IFC saw it and bought it and gave us a development deal. That’s what brought me to LA and started the ball rolling. It got me new representation and it opened a lot of doors for me.

Also, I had never been to Southern California before and when I was doing The Grinch in San Diego I loved it. San Diego is my favorite city. It gave me a taste of what it would be like living in Southern California and made it easier for me to move…because it was a little scary to move away from New York after being there for so long. 

Is the idea to stay out here and continue to do theatre and also do television and film as well?

Yes, Matt and I are developing two other shows that we hope to sell. It’s been great being on stage out here too because I had all of these new opportunities in television and film but I missed doing theatre. I did a lot of it in New York and when I moved to LA my friends there told me I couldn’t do theatre in LA, there’s no theatre in LA. But they were wrong. I saw that TJ Dawson and 3-D Theatricals were doing Parade. Beth Malone is a friend of mine and she had just worked there in 9 to 5 so I asked her if she would mind giving my picture and resume to them and they ended up casting me. It was such a successful show and I got an Ovation Award for it. It was pretty crazy. It introduced me to a lot of theatre people here and, honestly, I’ve done some of my proudest theatre in LA. It keeps me satisfied while I’m writing and it’s allowed me to keep growing as an actor.

Do you prefer doing comedy or drama?

I like both. I love writing comedy but honestly I think I like doing dramatic roles more. With comedy you do depend upon being able to ride the wave of what the audience gives back to you and if the audience is tired or if, for whatever reason, they aren’t very responsive, that does affect what you do. Their laughs are part of your own rhythm and when that’s not there, or if there aren’t many people in the house, it’s almost like they’re not holding up their end of the relationship. It makes it harder to do whereas with drama you don’t have to depend on all that interaction. They react as they will but with drama it’s more contained in the world onstage.

How do you work on making something funny?

I visualize how it will be executed. When Matt and I are writing, we decide what the episode or pilot will be about and then we outline it. He and I are from the same home town in Pennsylvania and we have the same sense of humor so that makes it easier too. He lives in New York and I’m in LA now so we write over skype or Google hangouts. We bounce ideas around and figure out what would make us laugh. A lot of our comedy comes from the specific dialogue and the details.

Do you consider yourself primarily an actor or a writer or both?

Now I consider myself both but my writing is all so recent that I still consider myself an actor first. I feel like I know much more about acting and the business of acting. Writing is so new to me but people seem to be interested in what we write.

Let’s talk about Big Fish. How did that role come about for you?

Musical Theatre West does their Broadway in the Park fundraiser benefit every summer and this year they asked if I was interested in singing some songs from Big Fish or South Pacific, which I did up at Sacramento Music Circus this summer. They were arranging the program and I ended up singing with Rebecca Johnson who is playing Sandra in Big Fish.

Did you know the show before that? 

I had a lot of friends in Big Fish in New York and I knew the movie but I didn’t know the stage version at all. I knew MTW was doing it but it wasn’t really on my radar until I sang with Rebecca. That got me legitimately interested in it. I usually pursue material that I know and that I like, and once I sang those songs I realized I was really interested in reading for it. That’s when I expressed my interest in coming in and reading for the director. 

Does it follow the film or is it entirely different in the stage version?

It does follow the film pretty closely. John August, who wrote the screenplay, also wrote the book for the musical. One change is that Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney played the younger and older versions of Edward Bloom but in the musical it’s just one actor. I play Edward at all the ages.

What intrigues you about the character?

I think he is somebody who at the core feels not important enough, not big enough, not legendary enough, while also blurring the lines of reality and fantasy in creating stories, myths and fantasies about himself that he truly believes.  Plus he has a son who sees through it all and calls him out on it. There’s a little bit of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in him.  It’s not easy to verbalize what I understand about this character so I’ll stop there.

What kind of prep work do you do ahead of time?

I go through the script and figure out what I’m doing, the large arc and the through-line. Usually I have a notebook with the script so I can write down things the character says and does, as well as things other characters say about my character. You get all these clues as to who the person is. It’s almost like a math equation to me. I get the same the sort of satisfaction dissecting a character that I used to get doing math in high school. It’s really fun for me to go through and pick it all apart. Then, once I figure that all out, memorizing it is easy because it all makes sense to me.

How are rehearsals going?

I love that I get to work opposite Rebecca Johnson.  She is a beautiful, poised, brilliant actress with a gorgeous voice. I wouldnt want to be playing this role opposite anyone but her.

Do you already know what you’ll be doing after Big Fish?

I do! I’m going back to the Baker. Amanda Dehnert is a director I’ve wanted to work with for years but it never worked out before. She’s bringing her production of Into the Woods from Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills this December. Their Baker wasn’t available and she asked me. She didn’t even know I just played the role. I’m psyched because I know the music, which was the hardest I’d ever had to learn.

What else is on your short list of roles you’d like to do?

Some of the roles I’d really love to do aren’t musical, like Biff in Death of a Salesman, Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Mozart in Amadeus, one of the sons in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Those are the kind of characters that interest me right now.


You can see Jeff as Edward Bloom in Big Fish at Musical Theatre West, Oct. 31 - Nov. 16, 2014. Performances take place at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 East Atherton Street in Long Beach. For tickets call (562) 856-1999 x 4 or visit www.musical.org.

Photo credits from top:
Skowron as the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Old Globe. Craig Schwartz
Skowron as Leo Frank with Caitlin Humphreys in Parade, 3-D Theatricals: Isaac James Creative
Skowron as Leo Bloom with Hilary Michael Thompson and Jay Brian Winnick, The Producers, 3-D Theatricals: Isaac James Creative
Skowron as 
Thénardier with James Barbour in Les Misérables, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts: Jason Niedle
Skowron as the Baker with Viva Carr in Into the Woods, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts: Isaac James Creative

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Friday, October 24, 2014

MUSICAL NEWS for Friday, October 24, 2014

The Eclectic Company Theatre presents the Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd Nov. 1 – 23. The show is directed by Bonnie Hellman and choreographed by Kay Cole (who was a member of the original cast), with musical director Emily Cohn, presented by Children’s Theatre Group of Southern California and produced by Sherry Lynn and Robert Briscoe Evans. This is a departure for CTGSC since adults will play nearly all of the major roles. Also, this will not be a junior version; it will be the complete musical, as originally performed on Broadway in 1965. Several of the show’s songs have become enduring standards: “Who Can I Turn To?,” “On a Wonderful Day Like Today,” “The Joker.” Considering that the show will frequently have young people in the audience, the fate of one of the secondary characters in the first act will be handled delicately and racial politics introduced in the second act will be handled with a light touch, but never dismissively.

The cast includes Sean Smith (Sir), Alec Medlock (Cocky), Liam Daniels, Caitlin Gallogly, Marc Antonio Pritchett, Phil Biedron, Lola Michelle Brown, Tess Colley, Alexa Druyanoff, Langdon Janos, Vera Wheatley and Jenna Zuckerman. The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. (between Chandler and Magnolia), Valley Village, CA 91607. Tickets: (818) 508-3003 or www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org

Parson’s Nose Theater continues their 2014-15 Season with their first full production, The Pied Piper of Hamlin (A Musical), an original piece from artistic director, Lance Davis, based on an Eastern European Folk Tale. The Pied Piper is a 13th Century legend with many possible sources. In Davis’s version it’s about a town that refuses to change its priorities, and pays the price. The Pied Piper plays Nov. 1 – 23. Running time is approximately 90 minutes plus intermission and it is appropriate for ages 12+. Parson’s Nose Theater performs at Lineage Performing Arts Center, 89 South Fair Oaks, Pasadena, CA 91105. Performances are “Pay What You Will” ($20 Suggested). Reservations may be made online at www.parsonsnose.com or by calling 626-403-7667. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Pockets, created and performed by Darien Martus, will play the Hudson Mainstage Theatre Nov. 2 – Dec. 7 at 7:00 pm. The show is a one man, one piano musical of songs that reach into our pockets: what we carry in them, what we have with us all day, what’s important to us and maybe something of who we are, Hudson Mainstage Theatre 6539 Santa Monica Blvd Hollywood, CA 90038. Tickets: (323) 960-7712 or www.plays411.com/pockets.

The Festival of New American Musicals presents Musi-Cal on Monday, Nov. 3rd at 8:00 pm at Rockwell Table & Stage hosted by Jonah Platt [pictured]. LA musical theater lovers will get their first look & listen to four new musical works in progress. The evening is one of a series of five upcoming Musi-Cal events being produced at Rockwell by The Festival of New American Musicals that showcases local songwriters and their newest works.

This performance will include: Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda with songs from Ernest Shackelton Loves Me, a New York-bound musical fresh from its critically acclaimed premiere at Seattle Rep and co-written with Tony winner Joe DiPietro; Rona Siddiqui and Liz Suggs with songs from One Good Day, which will receive a reading in NYC in November and was recently awarded ASCAP’s Mary Rodgers & Lorenz Hart Award; Ryann Ferguson and Steven Jamail with songs from Nicholas and Alexandra, which will open in Denver, Spring 2015; and Gregory Nabours with songs from Masque of the Red Death (co-written with Wendi Pini). A past Ovation award winner; in November, an evening of his work will be performed and broadcasted live from the Kennedy Center. Click Here for tickets. www.lafestival.org

Festival Co-Executive Producer, Bob Klein, will be honored as one of Encore.org’s 2014 Purpose Prize Fellows on Oct. 28 in Tempe, AZ. The award recognizes the achievements of 38 social innovators over 60 years of age who are dedicated to finding solutions to challenging social problems. “At the age of 78 I began a new career in musical theater after more than half a century of running my own business in communications and entertainment marketing here in Southern California,” says Klein. “Besides presenting over 130 musicals and events in over 80 venues stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego, we are concentrating currently on our educational mission. While young people who want to express themselves on stage on song and dance have tremendous opportunities, those who may want to compose music, write lyrics or book have very few places to go. Next year we expect to begin the process of introducing ‘show writing’ into high school, college and university curricula in Southern California.” Way to go, Bob!

Dancing in My Cockroach Killers, a play with music, is an explosive mix of text, visuals, and music based on the writings of award-winning poet & playwright Magdalena Gómez that will be part of the Encuentro 2014 Festival Oct. 31- Nov. 8. Based on selected works by Gómez, it is adapted for the stage and directed by Rosalba Rolón, presented by Pregones Theater and Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. The cast includes Sol Crespo, Shadia Fairuz, Jesús Martinez, Omar Pérez, Elise Santora and Rocky Vega, and musicians Desmar Guevara, Nicky Laboy and Bryan Vargas. Musical direction is by Desmar Guevara and choreography by Antonio Vargas. It will be performed in English with some Spanish phrases accompanied by English supertitles. Los Angeles Theatre Center, in the 499-seat Theatre 1, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. Click Here for tickets or call (866) 811-4111.

TPC Play, LLC will present The Penis Chronicles, a world premiere play with music, written by Tom Yewell and music composed by Greg O’Connor, directed by Randal Kleiser (The Blue Lagoon, Grease). The show runs Nov. 6 – Dec 14 (opening on Saturday, Nov. 8) at the Coast Playhouse. The show is a revealing perspective on the male psyche exploring the complex masculine experience. Eight distinctively different New York men of various ages and backgrounds deliver monologues and share their insights, challenges and uncertainties with regard to their masculinity and sexuality, uncovering the emotional barriers that every man confronts on his journey. The cast will feature Trevor Scott Campbell, Kelly Franett, Kyle Eastman, Ozzie Rodriguez, Jade Willis and Ali Zahiri. Design team includes Cricket S. Myers (sound design) and Austin Burkett (lighting design). 8325 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 960-7787 or www.plays411.com/penischronicles.

EXTENDED: Re-Animator the Musical has been extended through Nov. 23 (www.trepanyhouse.org for tickets) and has also announced that it will play Las Vegas Jan. 6 - 18, 2015 at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, 361 Symphony Park Ave., Las Vegas NV 89106. Tues.- Fri. at 8:00, Sat. and Sun. at 2:30 and 8:00. Click Here for tickets.

CONCERTS/CABARET: A one-night-only concert reunion of the revival cast of bare: A Rock Musical, comes to Rockwell: Table & Stage on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 8:00 pm. Returning cast members include Payson Lewis, Jonah Platt, Lindsay Pearce, Katie Stevens, Shelley Regner, John Griffin, Kelsey Hainlen, Casey Hayden, Christopher Higgins, Reesa Ishiyama, Alissa-Nicole Koblentz, Harrison Meloeny, Katherine Washington, and Stephanie Andersen. This reunion concert of the Damon Intrabartolo-Jon Hartmere pop opera is produced for glory|struck Productions by Topher Rhys and Jamie Lee Barnard, with musical direction by Elmo Zapp and associate music production by Alex Seller. Click Here for tickets. For more information: www.facebook.com/barelosangeles

Vox Femina will present Music: A Mirror of Our Humanity on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 8:00 pm at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, 540 S. Commonwealth Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90020. This concert is not only a reflection of the struggles we face in the world, it is also a realization of the beauty and strength we find as we strive to create a better world. A new commission by David O. will be featured on the program, sponsored by Vox alumna Donna Burroughs. Throughout the concert, Kaleeka Bond from Ryman Arts will be creating an original visual art piece, inspired by the voices of Vox and the messages of our music making. Tickets: http://voxfemina.org/music-a-mirror-of-our-humanity/

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: PIPPIN - Better Than You Can Even Imagine!

Borris York, Sasha Allen and Mathew deGuzman as The Manson Trio
Photos by Terry Shapiro except where noted.


Opening night of PIPPIN at the Pantages was a smashing success, full of incredibly fresh and hilarious performances, fabulous Fosse choreography, magical effects, and some pretty amazing circus acrobatics by Les 7 doigts de la main! Andrea Martin stopped the show and received a standing ovation following her big feature, “No Time At All” and John Rubinstein is hands down the kookiest Charlemagne youve ever seen (with half his marbles left, I think). Believe me, you want to see this show so get your tickets now. 

This dazzling production by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson won five Tony Awards when it first opened on Broadway in 1972 and another four in 2013 for its spectacular revival directed by Diane Paulus. It deserves every one of them. The great news for LA is what you’ll see at the Pantages is the best possible touring company you could ever hope for full of professional union actors (yes, folks, it makes a difference) and bona-fide circus performers whose artistry is nothing short of breathtaking.

Much of Bob Fosse’s original choreography is incorporated into the production, updated by choreographer Chet Walker to highlight the physical perfection of his dancers. The numbers are full of Fosse’s signature jazz hands and pelvic isolations, sensually executed with singular precision. The Manson Trio is gender-reversed with two men backing up Sasha Allen’s terrifically dark and slithery Leading Player (originally played by Ben Vereen) but stays true to the original’s mechanical moves, with its underlying subtext about the seduction of war and the kind of power a man like Charles Manson has over his followers. The cast doesnt throw body parts in their updated version of Glory, they throw whole bodies, and the liquid lyricism of With You stealthily turns into a ratcheted up sex ballet with women in cages and a twist on the Pippin pump in which the young idealist is lasciviously thrown around the stage.

Sasha Allen and the cast of PIPPIN

The addition of the circus performers tumbling, balancing, flying, and manipulating their bodies creates a whirlwind around Pippin (Matthew James Thomas) that intentionally distracts him from the cost of the world’s enticements. Pippin’s search for meaning is the journey we all go through and the episodic nature of each lesson comes packaged in a big, bright, colorful box of illusion meant to steer him toward a finale designed by the Leading Player, until Pippin exercises his own free will to make a different choice.

Andrea Martin won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother who isn’t nearly ready to be put out to pasture, and you’ll quickly see why. It’s a star turn that steals the show and she is unforgettable as the granny with more than a few surprises up her sleeve.

In fact, it is the reveals in this production that are so stunning. Scenes explode into life in a flash, swirling with color, and changing so quickly that the pacing becomes as unexpected as the bold new elements that have been added to modernize the look and feel of the show. Those elements are the work of Scott Pask (scenic design), Kenneth Posner (lighting design), Dominique Lemieux (costume design), Gypsy Snider (circus creations), Paul Kieve (illusions), Ryan Cantwell (music director) and Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm (sound design). Each one enhances the images, sounds, and moments of the story to ensure that the touring production is a magical experience of monumental proportion. If you have ever wanted to run away to the circus, your childhood dreams will be resurrected before your eyes.

Thomas also recreates his Broadway performance as Pippin for the LA leg of the tour. The handsome youth is loaded with innocent sex appeal – just ask the twenty or so swooning schoolgirls that sat near me during the performance – and he also has a natural comic ability to play an emotion to the limit until you’re laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of his tantrums and frustration with the world. Kristine Reese is Catherine, your average ordinary kind of woman (with a pretty extraordinary voice) who is supposed to show Pippin how mundane the world is but instead causes him to change the way he sees it altogether. Her adorable son Theo (Lucas Schultz at this performance) has a lot to do with his turning point as well.

Sabrina Harper as Fastrada in Spread a Little Sunshine

Pippin’s stepmother Fastrada is a vibrant Sabrina Harper who can best be described as sex on a stick (and I mean that in the most positive way possible). Callan Bergmann’s Lewis is a comically self-absorbed meathead and the featured Players of the ensemble are some of the most talented and hardest working artists to be seen on a Pantages stage ever. The rolla bolla man, the chickens, the pigs, the aerial artists, the acrobat who jumps through hoops, and a Leading Player who can sing while twirling a hula hoop around her waist...you aint seen nothing yet.

And yet, within this highly theatrical parable, there are some deadly serious moments that make PIPPIN more than just an entertaining bauble. Theres a message here, however comically punctuated, to remind you that there is darkness below the surface of what is visible at first glance. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. 


Matthew James Thomas. Photo by Joan Marcus

John Rubinstein as Charlemagne and Sabrina Harper as Fastrada

Andrea Martin as Berthe. Photo by Joan Marcus

Sasha Allen as Leading Player

Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of PIPPIN

Sasha Allen and the Cast of PIPPIN
PIPPIN
October 21 - November 9, 2014
Pantages Theatre
6233 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
www.hollywoodpantages.com

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MUSICAL NEWS for Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Falcon Theatre presents Troubadour Theater Company’s The Snow QUEEN, directed by Matt Walker, previewing Dec 3 – 11 and opening on Friday, Dec. 12 at 8:00 pm. The Troubies say We Will Rock You with our musical reimagining of this classic fable with the music of the mercurial British rock band. So grab your Somebody To Love and feel the holiday fun of being Under Pressure with the masters of mayhem. Performances take place at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank, CA 91505. Tickets (on sale Nov. 12) will be available by calling (818) 955-8101 or online at www.FalconTheatre.com.

The Pasadena Playhouse has announced the cast for this year’s Panto at the Playhouse Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight. Disney recording artist Olivia Holt will star as Aurora, Lucy Lawless as Carabosse, David Engel as Nanny Tickle, Tamyra Gray as The Good Fairy and returning from last year’s Panto production of Aladdin and His Winter Wish, Ben Giroux as Silly Billy. Sleeping Beauty opens Dec. 10 and plays through Jan. 4, 2015. Also returning for the production are director Bonnie Lythgoe, choreographer Spencer Liff, and musical director Michael Orland. The book is by Kris Lythgoe, scenic and costume design by Lythgoe Family Productions, and the LFP producers include Kris Lythgoe, Bonnie Lythgoe, Becky Lythgoe and Jason Haigh Ellery. Tickets and information: (626) 356-7529 or www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org

The Old Globe has completed casting for its 17th annual production of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas which will run Nov. 15 – Dec. 27 with opening night set for Nov. 20. Burke Moses makes his Old Globe debut as The Grinch with Taylor Coleman and Gabriella Dimmick alternating in the role of Cindy-Lou and Steve Gunderson returning as Old Max. The cast also includes Robert J. Townsend (Papa Who), Bets Malone (Mama Who), Geno Carr (Grandpa Who), Nancy Snow Carr (Grandma Who), Katelyn Katz and Alexis Rae Tenney (Annie Who), Brooke Henderson and Mikaela Celeste Villalpando (Betty-Lou Who), Noah Baird and Elliot Weaver (Boo Who), and Jordi Bertran and Imahni King-Murillo (Danny Who) and a full ensemble. The Grinch is directed by James Vásquez and features book and lyrics by Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin. Tickets: (619) 23-GLOBE or www.TheOldGlobe.org.

MORE MUSICAL NEWS: Chromolume Theatre has announced the cast of Putting It Together, directed and choreographed by Cate Caplin, with musical direction by Richard Berent, opening Nov. 14, at the Attic Theatre. Kurt Hansen, Kristin Towers-Rowles, Chris Kerrigan, Rachel Hirshee, Mike Irizarry, David Callander, Kayre Morrison, Michael DElia, Jillian Easton, Jake Novak, Teresa Tracy will star in the musical revue which showcases the Tony Award-winning songs of Stephen Sondheim. Click Here for tickets.

Kentwood Players presents Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods Nov. 14 – Dec. 20 at the Westchester Playhouse. The production is directed by Shawn K. Summerer with musical direction by Catherine Rahm and stars Matthew Artson, Heather Barnett, Samantha Barrios, Jenna Bergman, Elizabeth Bouton, Erika Brauer, Patricia Butler, Amy Coles, Terry Delegeane, Harold Dershimer, Brad Halvorsen, Brandie June, Carly Linehan, Ben Lupejkis, Roy Okida, Kim Peterson, Catherine Rahm, Alicia Reynolds and Jon Sparks. The show is appropriate for all ages. Tickets: (310) 645-5156 or www.kentwoodplayers.org.

New musical fans can see a 30-minute preview of the new musical Cowboy Girl, written and directed by Kyle Jackson and Joanna Bateman this Saturday, October 25. Set in 1967, Cowboy Girl tells the story of a guy and a gal heading West with guitars on their backs and dreams in their hearts. Jackson and Bateman star as the young couple. Bateman is a member of The Illyrian Players and Jackson co-composed and performed with Edan Freiberger the music for Drunk Tank: The Musical in the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Jackson earned a history degree in 2012 from UCLA, where he also studied playwriting. The preview is part of An Evening of American Theatre and will be presented along with Tennessee Williams’ one-act play Green Eyes starring Arianna Lyons and Austin Thompson. The event will take place at a private residence, 13826 Haynes Street, Van Nuys, CA from 5:00 – 9:00 pm. For more information contact (513) 535-4517 or JoannaRoseBateman@gmail.com.

EXTENSIONS: DOMA Theatre Company has extended Young Frankenstein at the MET Theatre through Nov. 30. Tickets: (323) 802-9181 or www.domatheatre.com.

Scary Musical The Musical, by Richard Hochberg and Michael Paternostro, has extended its run through Nov. 23 at the NoHo Arts Center. Tickets: www.nohoace.com.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: MISCAST, A Marvelous Evening of Great Vocals and Kooky Comedy


The mark of a good cabaret song is its ability to hook you with its story and a good cabaret singer always knows how to work that song and draw the audience in. MISCAST: Right Singer, Wrong Song, produced by Mandy Kaplan, is a series of hour-long cabaret shows full of standard music theatre songs that tell new stories with their unique spins on the traditional, allowing the audience to appreciate them in a whole different light. Performances feature a rotating cast and take place every couple of months at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal with Kaplan acting as host.

For the latest MISCAST on Monday, October 20, it was a night of high comedy and plenty of laughs as ten singers performed a variety of songs they wouldn’t normally get to sing. Few among this bunch would ever be cast in The Book of Mormon so their spunky version of “Hello” from the show was a fun and fitting opening. From there the set list moved to a series of solos, duets and trios that highlighted each singer’s individual sense of humor.

Alex Mohajer introduced what he said would be something light to start the evening off, but it turned out to be anything but as he morphed into Barbra Streisand singing her eleven o’clock number from the movie Yentl, “Piece of Sky.” Becoming increasingly more manic and touched with Streisand’s signature affectations, he nailed the comedy and also the extremely long high note at the end with all the drama only a true diva can provide.

Justin Michael Wilcox and Kaplan offered a great spin on Kristin Chenoweth’s famous “Taylor the Latte Boy” with two versions, each from a different point of view. Wilcox sang it Kristin style the first time, as the girl secretly in love with the boy who makes her lattes, and then Kaplan did it again, this time as the coffee boy singing about the crazy girl who comes in and stalks him. Rewriting some of the lyrics to play up the gender switch, Kaplan referred to Wilcox as “Kristin, the sucker chick” and created a character that was completely believable within this scenario. Another plus for this section of the show was getting to hear Wilcox’s exceptional tenor voice, one of the loveliest of the night.

Thomas Threats said that while he’d never been French or a prostitute, it wasn’t going to stop him from singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables. Planned interruptions by crying, adoring fans, including one calling in via cell phone, spoofed some other well-known singers who have taken on the role previously. Likewise, Tom Metz III will never be a 13-year old redhead with curly hair but he put his own comic twist on “Tomorrow” from Annie, which quickly turned threatening, as he gave advice to Wilcox, who was pining over his “boyfriend” from Starbucks who had mysteriously transferred to another location (referencing his earlier Taylor the Latte Boy sequence).

“Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat, originally sung by a woman who is half black and half white was sung by Ewan Chung, an Asian man who insisted that torch songs weren’t only for the ladies. Chung and Kaplan also switched genders and ethnicities for “Sarah Brown Eyes” from Ragtime, which was originally sung by Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Chung and Kaplan’s version featured strong vocals and an amusing dance break full of choreography through the ages that was all kinds of silly fun.

Ladies choice found two singers dialing it back to the ‘60s with Mary Jo Mundy turning into the sadistic Orin Scrivello from Little Shop of Horrors for “The Dentist” and Stephanie Anderson (with back-up girls Kaplan and Rosoff) channeling her inner teenager for “I Can Hear the Bells” from Hairspray, while Wendy Rosoff took on Sondheim, singing all three vocal parts in his tricky trio “Getting Married” from Company. The rapid-fire patter in this particular song can make a singer crazy and Rosoff made it look easy. From the back of the room I could understand every word and that is quite an accomplishment.

But the MVP award for this round of MISCAST goes to JP Karliak for his 5-minute tour-de-force performance of the entire score of Evita in which he brought to life one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most passionate divas -- white gloves, death scene, iconic poses and all. I’ve never seen him perform before so I don’t know if he regularly encapsulates musicals in this manner but there’s an entire floorshow in there just waiting to bust out and I hope he puts it together because he was hilarious!

Kaplan makes a charming host for the fast-paced, comedy-rich evening and musical director Kathryn Lounsberry brings out the best in all of the singers with her great arrangements. Final answer: MISCAST is for you if you like it fast, funny, and full of surprises. Next show is January 25, 2015 so mark your calendar now.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Photo Flash: Epic RAGTIME at 3-D Theatricals

Here’s a first look at 3-D Theatricals lavish production of Ragtime playing through October 26 at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton and at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in Redondo Beach November 1 - 9. Based on the landmark E. L. Doctorow novel, it features a Tony Award-winning score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and a book by Terrence McNally, and is a powerful portrait of turn-of-the-century America. Tickets available now at www.3dtshows.com

Gary Patent (Tateh), Brooke Besikof (Little Girl) and the cast of Ragtime.
Photos by Isaac James Creative


Rufus Bonds, Jr. (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.) and Daebreon Poiema (Sarah)

Gary Patent, Broke Besikof and the cast of Ragtime.

The cast of Ragtime

Gary Patent and Christanna Rowader (Mother)

Gary Patent and Brooke Besikof

Jeanette Dawson (Evelyn Nesbit) and the cast of Ragtime

Craig McEldowny and Rufus Bonds, Jr.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Concert/Cabaret Update or Where To See Your Favorite Artists in LA

10/18 INARA GEORGE presents A Concert Tribute to William Shakespeare, 6:00 pm at Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon. The acclaimed singer/songwriter, a homegrown Topangan, shares the stage with an exciting musical lineup of guest artists. In honor of Theatricum’s ongoing celebration of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, original musical compositions inspired by his sonnets will be performed. Tickets: $35.00. (310) 455-3723 www.theatricum.com

10/18 and 10/19 LACO and CELLIST STEPHEN ISSERLIS. Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra showcases the virtuosic skills of Steven Isserlis, “one of the world’s leading cellists” (The Guardian), performing Haydn’s radiant Cello Concerto No. 2 under the baton of sought-after Scottish conductor Douglas Boyd, making his LACO debut, on Saturday, Oct. 18, 8:00 pm, at Glendale’s Alex Theatre, and Sunday, Oct. 19, 7:00 pm, at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Boyd also conducts Mozart’s stately “Haffner” Serenade and opens the program with At First Light by George Benjamin, considered among Britain’s greatest living composers. Tickets: (213) 622-7001or www.laco.org. Tickets begin at $26.

10/18 – 11/15 SCREAM! is the first musical event of ROCKWELL Table and Stage’s “The Unauthorized Musical Parodies” Series. This spoof of the 1996 cult horror classic stars Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland. Written and directed by Michael Gans & Richard Register and featuring musical direction by Brian P. Kennedy, the cast will include many other L.A. favorites such as Missi Pyle, Christine Lakin, Nicole Parker and Jonah Platt. www.rockwell-la.com

10/10 KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD Benefit: 5:00 – 9:00 pm at the Road Theatre on Magnolia hosted by Ed Asner, Ed Begley Jr., Gale Harold, and Doris Roberts, with performances by Stephen Tobolowsky, Albie Selznick, Dari Mackenzie, and the cast of Melissa Arctic. The silent auction will feature celebrity auctioneer, Robert Ray Shafer. Come enjoy gourmet food by Chef Tiffany Kim, cocktails, live jazz music and more. Tickets are $125 and are tax-deductible at (866) 506-1248 or www.roadtheatre.org.

10/20 MISCAST featuring Mandy Kaplan, Stephanie Andersen, Tom W. Metz III, JP Karliak, Wendy Rosoff, Alex Mohajer, MaryJo Mundy, Thomas Threats, Justin Michael Wilcox, Ewan Chung, and Kathryn Lounsbery performers songs from The Book of Mormon, Annie, Hairspray and more. $20 Cash only. Show at 8:30pm - Dinner and Drinks at 7pm (No minimum). Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal in North Hollywood. Reservations must be made in advance by calling (818) 754-8700. Proceeds will go to Project Angel Food.

10/26 TODD ELLISON: Broadway’s Greatest Hits 3:00 pm at Valley Performing Arts Center. Broadways celebrated music director Todd Ellison presents an evening of spectacular and unique songs from the Great White Way. Guest artists include Kate Shindle, Jose Llana, Mike McGowan, and a four-piece band. Tickets: $35 to $65. (818) 677-3000 or www.valleyperformingartscenter.org.

10/26 WINDSBACHER. Los Angeles Children’s Chorus presents the Southern California debut of the acclaimed German Boys and Mens Choir Windsbacher Knabenchor in a free concert, along with LACC’s Concert Choir and Young Men’s Ensemble at 7:00 pm at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Windsbacher’s appearance is part of 13-Day U.S. tour commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s Reunification. Free concert (suggested donation $10). www.lachildrenschorus.org

Oct 23-27 CABARET IS ALIVE AND WELL and Living in Los Angeles: Fraser Entertainment Group presents a 4-show, 4-night,4-venue celebration of Los Angeles Cabaret, conceived by David Galligan. All proceeds will benefit The Actors Fund. Performances include:

10/24 COME TO THE CABARET, a stunning musical evening featuring Obba Babatundé, George Ball, Michele Brourman, Loretta Devine, Davis Gaines, Julie Garnyé, Damon Kirsche, Amanda McBroom, Sharon McNight, Lisa Passero, Valerie Perri & Christina Saffran, hosted by Sally Struthers at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood at 8:30 pm. Doors open at 7.  Musical Director, Tom Griep with Nate Light on Bass and Denise Fraser on Drums. Click Here for tickets to the shows below.

10/25 A CABARET CELEBRATION, an extraordinary night of song at Tom Rolla’s Gardenia in West Hollywood at 9:00 pm starring Mary Jo Catlett, Carole Cook, Nancy Dussault, Ilene Graff & Ben Lanzarone, Jane A. Johnston, Sally Kellerman, Karen Morrow, Lisa Passero & Joanne Worley with musical director & host Brad Ellis. Doors open for dinner at 7:00. (currently sold out)

10/26 PERFECT HERMANY, the songs of Jerry Herman starring Jason Graae at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz at 7:00 pm with musical director John Boswell. Doors open at 5:30.

10/27 CLASSIC BROADWAY SINGS SCHWARTZ, a valentine to composer Stephen Schwartz starring Louise Marie Cornillez, Barbara Deutsch, Tal Fox, Dianne Fraser, Julie Garnyé, Juliana Hansen, Dennis Kyle, Kelly Lester, James C. Mulligan & Joanne O’Brien, hosted by Carolyn Hennesy. Doors open at 7:00 pm. Musical director Mitch Kaplan with Nate Light on Bass and Denise Fraser on Drums.

10/30 LADY RIZO in Concert at The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, 8:00 pm. The comedienne and chanteuse revives the genre by creating vintage arrangements and theatrical explorations of pop songs from every decade. www.ladyrizo.com

11/2 THE SONGS OF JERRY HERMAN. 7:00 pm Kritzerland presents David Engel, Chelsea Emma Franko Damon Kirsche, Valerie Perri, Sami Staitman, and Shannon Warne with special guest Karen Morrow and music director Tom Griep. Doors open at 5:30. Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal. Reservations: 818 754-8700.

11/7 & 11/8 THENADIERS INN A Les Misérables Cabaret. This cabaret is re-telling of the miserable tale put on by Master Thenardier himself. Submerge yourself in the dancing, drinks, and girls of the Inn, while singing along with the classic characters and songs, in this 360 degree immersive theatrical cabaret. No admittance under 21; this show features adult content. Doors open at 7:00 pm for cocktails and live music. Come dressed in your finest French Revolutionary fashion, and your first drink is on us. Tickets: www.cacstudios.com/lesmis

11/9 JANET KLEIN AND HER PARLOR BOYS in the “Cabaret Lounge” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts at 7:30 pm. Come hear Klein and her band members perform obscure, naughty and lovely tunes from the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s…spirited and inspired renditions of Tin Pan Alley, early hot jazz, vaudeville & Yiddish novelty tunes, ragtime and other rare and rustic gems. Ticket: $15 - $45. www.lamiradatheatre.com

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