Monday, August 12, 2019

BARRY MANILOW at the Hollywood Bowl - Discount Code Now Available!


Hey everyone – I know you love a good discount. Well, right now you can get 30% off tickets to see the artist Rolling Stone calls “The Showman of Our Generation” – BARRY MANILOW! Barry performs at the Hollywood Bowl September 6-7 and you can get 30% off tickets on Sept. 6th using the promo code UNDERTHESTARS (select sections - SEPT 6 only). http://bit.ly/SP_Manilow.

See legendary Grammy®, Emmy®, and Tony® Award winner Barry Manilow in a night of non-stop hits as he and special guest Lorna Luft join the LA Philharmonic at the Bowl. This is one concert you don’t want to miss!

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Celebration Theatre Extends THE PRODUCERS Through August 26th!

Richardson Jones, John Colella and Chris Jewell Valentin.
All photos by Matthew Brian Denman

Celebration’s irreverent summer hit The Producers is now extended through August 26th at the Lex theatre in Hollywood! In 2001, the musical swept the Tony Awards and breaking records winning twelve out of fifteen categories. Celebration’s production is directed by Michael Matthews and features choreography by Janet Roston and musical direction by Anthony Zediker. Get your tickets now at www.celebrationtheatre.com!

Chris Jewell Valentin, Mary Ann Welshans and Richardson Jones

Michael A. Shepperd (center) and the company of The Producers

Chris Jewell Valentin and Richardson Jones

Andrew Diego, Michael J. Marchak, Evan Borboa, Michael A. Shepperd,
Sarah Mullis and Stephen Markarian 

Chris Jewell Valentin and Richardson Jones

Richardson Jones


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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Photo Flash: 5-Star Theatricals' WEST SIDE STORY

Aleks Pevec (center) and the company of West Side Story.
All photos by Ed Krieger

5-Star Theatricals’ gorgeous production of West Side Story runs through August 4th at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. This legendary love story with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim features musical direction by Jeff Rizzo, choreography by Karl Warden and is directed by Larry Raben. For tickets and more information go to www.5startheatricals.com.

Brandon Keith Rogers and Giselle Torres

Jared Cardiel, Giselle Torres, Patrick Ortiz and Lauren Louis

Aleks Pevec (center) and The Jets

Giselle Torres and Lauren Louis

Doug Penikas, Brock Markham, Aleks Pevec and Skip Pipo

Taleen Shrikian, Giselle Torres, Cheyenne Omani and Veronica Gutierrez

The Company of West Side Story

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Photo Flash: THE SPITFIRE GRILL at the Garry Marshall Theatre

The cast of The Spitfire Grill. All photos by Aaron Batzdorff

Don’t miss this heartwarming musical based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff featuring book and music by James Valcq, lyrics and book by Fred Alley, and directed by Dimitri Toscas who says: “I wanted to tell this story in a new way — one that speaks to us today. I wanted to redefine ‘Main Street USA’ as a place where EVERYONE belongs. Even though we all have unique struggles and diverse backgrounds, we can all come together to make something beautiful… to make a new community. This is the impetus for having the actors playing their own instruments. No matter what they were keeping from each other or how they all got along, these characters are forced to come together to make music. Together. I like the idea of that. And I jumped off from there.” Now through August 11th. Tickets: www.garrymarshalltheatre.com 

Erich Schroeder and Rachel Sarah Mount

Ashley Argota and Rachel Sarah Mount

Joey Ruggiero, Erich Schroeder, and Linda Kerns

Erich Schroeder, Rachel Sarah Mount, Linda Kerns, Ashley Argota, and Joey Ruggiero

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Monday, July 8, 2019

NMI 15 Minute Musical Project Presents Eight New Green-Eyed Monsters Musicals


Musical lovers will have the opportunity to see new work in action when New Musicals Inc. debuts eight original short musicals on July 18 and 19. The 15 Minute Musical Project is the culmination of NMI’s writers’ workshop, a program that teaches the essentials of writing for musical theatre and covers everything from bookwriting to lyric construction to musical composition.

The 15-minute musicals will be presented at the Broadwater Second Stage in Hollywood and sell out quickly each year (everyone says that but these really do!) Tickets are $25 and can be purchased HERE. Performances begin at 7:30 pm.

For the final project of the writers’ core curriculum, teams of three writers – a composer, a lyricist, and a bookwriter (in some cases 2 writers) – will write, revise and polish a brand-new musical written for four actors whom they’ve never met before, in only three months.

“It’s like a rite of passage,” says Elise Dewsberry, the Academy’s Artistic Director and producer of the 15 Minute Musicals. “We design the process to imitate a full-length show in a professional theatre: draft, rehearsal, rewrites, rehearsal, opening. It’s really a wonderful experience, but it’s often stressful, just like a million-dollar opening night. Our writers’ names are in the program, and it’s important to them they write the best show they possibly can, in the short amount of time we’ve given them.”

This year’s presentation is entitled: Green-Eyed Monsters: eight new musicals about jealousy, and the writing teams have created wildly different approaches to the theme. Picture a high-wire act featuring feuding siblings, jealous musical divas succumbing to magical trickery, a conniving cat and mouse, and a pair of gardeners raising rival flowers and you get the picture.

The annual NMI event is an inspiring celebration of the musical development process and one no musical theatre geek should miss. You just might hear the next big Broadway sensation here before they hit it big! 

All eight shows are presented each night and include:

The BLUE Program:
Granny Wars with book by Kimberly Barger, and music and lyrics by Katie Brady
Stanford or Bust with book by Michael Harold, and music and lyrics by Jan Wong
Cheese & Crackers with book by Thomas Blakely, music by Duncan Smith, and lyrics by Bill Coe
Highwire with book by Gustav Hoyer, music by Joely Zuker, and lyrics by Elizabeth Coleman

Directed by John Coppola; Music Directed by Jake Anthony; Stage Managed by Jenn Dupre
Starring Melvin Biteng, Tianna Cohen, Marcello Padilla, and Andrea Somera

The RED Program:
The Cure with book and lyrics by B.K. Wells, and music by Xavier Vidal
Greener Gardens with book by Sara Beil, music by Jon Kull, and lyrics by Greg Beattie
I Heart Jeffrey Braddock with book by Marilyn Haese, music by Ron Barnett, and lyrics by Charlotte Bash
The Fifth Element with book and lyrics by Wayne Self, and music by Joelle Ferrando

Directed by Elise Dewsberry; Music Directed by Ron Barnett; Stage Managed by Rachel Shanblatt
Starring Corinne DeVries, Seth David Mitchell, Giane Morris, and Patrick Steward.

NMI 15 Minute Musical Project
Broadwater Second Stage
6320 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tickets, reservations and more info:  NMI.org/nmi-summer-events-2019/

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Photo Flash: RAGTIME at Chance Theater

Photos from Chance Theater's production of the award-winning musical Ragtime: The Musical. Based on the novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, the musical is written by Terrence McNally, and composed by Stephen Flaherty with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and directed by Casey Stangl, with choreography by Kelly Todd and music direction by Robyn Manion. Now through July 28th at the Bette Aitken theater arts Center in Anaheim. Tickets: ChanceTheater.com.


Dony Wright (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.) and Jennifer Talton (Sarah)
All photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

Rebeka Hoblik (Little Girl) and Wyn Moreno (Tateh) 

Christianne Holly Santiago, Yunga Webb, Jake Burnett, Glenn Koppel, Sarah Pierce,
and Rachel Oliveros Catalano 

Jennifer Talton (Sarah) 

Rachel Oliveros Catalano (Mother)

Matt Takahashi (Harry Houdini) and Sarah Pierce (Evelyn Nesbit)

Bryce Hamilton (Emma Goldman) and Joseph Bricker (Younger Brother) 

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Review: Comedy is King in Bronco Billy - The Musical

Eric B. Anthony and Amanda Leigh Jerry. All photos by Ed Krieger

A singing cowboy tries to keep his Wild West show alive despite the cards being stacked against him in Bronco Billy – The Musical, a heartwarming musical comedy loosely based on the 1980 Clint Eastwood film. It’s a boisterous entertainment in the style of the old traveling western shows made popular by early twentieth century showmen like “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Moving from town to town, they appealed to one and all with their daring feats, rambunctious comedy, and good old-fashioned fun. So does this hot property.

The amiable homage is a little bit country and a little bit Broadway baby, with a big dose of disco fever thrown in for good measure. Bookwriter Dennis Hackin, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, has given his characters new back stories augmented for the stage while keeping a few key details in the mix. Billy (Eric B. Anthony) still harbors an important secret from his past but love interest Antoinette’s (Amanda Leigh Jerry) reason for joining Billy’s troupe is reconfigured into a screwball murder plot involving her flamboyant stepmother (Michelle Azar), crooked lawyer (Marc Cardiff), devious husband (Chris M. Kauffmann), and eccentric gun for hire (Pat Towne).

If she can stay alive for thirty days, Antoinette will inherit her deceased father’s (Anthony Marciona) fortune and the candy company that made him rich. But the only way to ensure that happens is for her to stay out of sight. Luckily, Billy and his struggling troupe provide just the cover she needs.

Composers Chip Rosenbloom and John Torres (additional lyrics by Michele Brourman) have created a lively score to go along with Hackin’s retooled story. Arrangements & orchestrations by David O give the production a bigger presence than most new musicals can boast right out of the gate. Vocals are strong and the five piece band led by musical director Anthony Lucca sounds terrific.

Director Hunter Bird uses two contrasting but complementary acting styles: naturalistic, which plays up the goofy charm in his misfit performers, and heightened, which allows his bumbling villains the melodramatic flair they need to make the show sizzle. When the two groups collide it means there’s plenty of comedy to be had, and the ensemble makes good use of every opportunity.

Randy Charleville, Eric B. Anthony, Amanda Leigh Jerry and the cast 

Perhaps the most impressive element of this world premiere however is Janet Roston’s personality-driven choreography. Her skill in choreographing to character is astonishing, and she can do it in any style on any size stage for any level of artist and make them shine. Whether she’s using a simple two-step to build a budding romance or creating a whopper of a production number to highlight every asset – and rodeo trick – the talented cast has in their back pocket, she succeeds in furthering the story through movement. It’s hard to describe but, in essence, it creates a physical arc to the show that transports you to a different place from where you started.

The same goes for the rest of the design elements. It’s delightful to watch John Iacovelli’s traveling tent show transform from a bunch of crates into a mansion, a gas station, a prison, a wagon, or the skyline when combined with David Murakami’s witty projections and Brian Gale’s lighting. The effects in Cricket S. Myers and Daniel S. Tator’s sound design are also stacked with jokes you’ll love in the moment, and Ann Closs Farley’s colorful costumes are as functional as they are fun.

Anthony makes an endearing romantic lead and Jerry an expressive ingénue. Azar’s “kill” song is a hilarious example of how to be over-the-top without becoming a caricature. Cardiff is the dancing clown you never knew you needed but now can’t do without, and Towne’s expert timing turns his joyfully childlike machinations into a subplot that deserves a spin-off of its own.

Pat Towne, Michelle Azar, and Marc Cardiff

Every show needs a utility player like Marciona who can morph from a silent (funny) portrait to a disco (funny) diva to an affected (funny) stage manager and nail every personality change no matter how absurd. Suffice it to say, the cast is having a great time and, because they are, so are we.

Yes, the story is a little thin and the second act could be tightened up in the next edit but, as a first outing, Bronco Billy is a likable new musical that will appeal to buckaroos of all ages. It’s got bells and whistles, romance, danger, and disaster, yet it never loses sight of its humanity, which can be summed up in a line Billy delivers during a touching moment, “Just because a man’s been dealt a bad hand doesn’t mean he should be out of the game.” Good words to remember in these trying times.

BRONCO BILLY - THE MUSICAL
May 10 – June 30, 2019
Skylight Theatre
1816 ½ North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA  90027
Tickets and info: 213) 761-7061 or Skylighttheatre.org

Michelle Azar, Amanda Leigh Jerry, Pat Towne, Chris M. Kauffmann, and Marc Cardiff

Fatima El-Bashir, Randy Charleville, Eric B. Anthony, and Michael Uribes

Eric B. Anthony, Benai Boyd, Amanda Leigh Jerry, Randy Charleville, and Kyle Frattini

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Review: A Shakespeare Classic Gets the Rocker Treatment in the Troubies' JULIUS WEEZER

Andy Robinson (center) and the company. All photos by Ed Krieger

In Julius Weezer, Troubadour Theater Company uses its signature wit to turn a Shakespeare classic into a blissfully-alive rocker version of its ancient self, and the result is divine madness. You don’t need to be a Bard lover to have a great time but, if you are, you’ll be impressed by the level of classical talent on stage and the company’s ability to “speak the speech” while tickling your funny bone.

Their “sublimely ridiculous” brand of theatre succeeds because they understand that to make something funny you first have to know how to play it straight. Then you can twist it, poke it, and stretch it with the kind of modern day humor that keeps audiences primed and ready for more. It’s a hallmark of the Troubie style and one of many reasons their fans are so loyal.

But, back to the play. The story is Julius Caesar (with a couple of scenes pulled from Antony and Cleopatra) and the music is by Weezer, featuring revamped lyrics by Matt Walker, who adapted the Shakespeare and also directs, choreographs (along with Nadine Ellis and Suzanne Jolie Narbonne), and plays Cassius. He’s the glue that holds it all together, and he skillfully orchestrates the onstage machinations with a glint in his eye and a suspiciously cocked eyebrow that lets you know the wheels are always turning.

Matt Merchant and Matt Walker

Latecomers, onstage fumbles, and moments planned or unplanned all provide comedy gold in their own way. Just ask good sport Matt Merchant (Marcus Antonius) the hapless recipient of Walker’s spit spray to the face on several successive lines, presumably accidental the first time and certainly intentional after that, or Mike Sulprizio (Casca) who was planted in a compromising stage pose when the cast broke out of their places to sing “Happy Birthday” to him on opening night. It calls to mind the fun of The Carol Burnett Show in all its glory, and this bunch is on their game from beginning to end.

That means every Troubie – and this show is packed with many longtime players – turns his or her role(s) into something unique. It doesn’t matter if it is three lines and a walk across the stage (case in point, an outstanding Morgan Rusler as the Scottish Soothsayer and a Cinna with a distinctive gait) or a two-hour complex character like Rob Nagle’s excellent Brutus.

L-R: Morgan Rusler, Matt Walker, Rob Nagle, David C. Wright,
Mike Sulprizio and Rick Batalla 

It’s inspiring to watch Nagle move through the serious role while dressed in an above-the-knee tunic and mop top wig, purposely plopped on top of his head like the fifth Beatle, without batting an eye. By the way, all of the conspirators wear the same style of wig but with a slightly different silly variation. In a way, you could say they’re the dagger-fisted precursor to today’s much less dangerous boy band phenomenon. Just add blood…and eyeliner.

The absurd visuals are a show unto themselves so keep an eye out for them. Costume designer Halei Parker has outdone herself with the abundance of jokes built into her looks from Andy Robinson’s costume for Caesar’s death scene set to Weezer’s “Undone – the Sweater Song,” to Joseph Leo Bwarie’s glitter eye shadow and Roman rock star garb as Caesar’s nephew Octavius Caesar, to Rick Batalla’s sheer pink caplet sleeves for Brutus’ effeminate servant Lucius. Batalla always latches onto the more curious aspects of his characters and it helps that he has no shame. Think of him as the Tim Conway of the group. He doesn’t even need to say anything and he’s funny.

Beth Kennedy’s dramatic Calpurnia references both Cher and the Red Woman from Game of Thrones while her wacky version of conspirator Metellus repeatedly insists he has an assassination plan but no one will listen. Victoria Hoffman (Portia) floats innocently in on a voluminous cloud of blue chiffon with a voice as pleasing and clear as a nightingale. She’s a lovely breath of fresh air within the testosterone-laden milieu. Cloie Wyatt Taylor’s Cleopatra is a ballsy vixen, and the payoff for poor forgotten conspirator Trebonius (David C. Wright) is his ability to stay standing on the battlefield. Just count the swords.

Andy Robinson and Beth Kennedy

But the biggest delight is how Caesar (Andy Robinson) is integrated into the scenes. Though he is the title character, he isn’t usually remembered for much more than his death. Not so here. Robinson is a veteran actor who creates a formidable autocrat; smart, embittered, and just as conniving as those who would assassinate him. It is a bold take on the role, both in verbal attack and brash physicality, which gives Julius Weezer a larger than life presence, one that makes sense given the bass-heavy rock ‘n roll power of Weezer’s music.

Songs like “Cold Dark World,” “Where’s My Sex,” “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” and “Brave New World,” were chosen for their ability to help tell the story. It makes the score darker than normal but, in this case, that’s a plus. Underscoring adds pathos to the dialogue where needed.

In the end, the Troubies spin their tale as only they can, with feet planted firmly in the text and eyes on the punchline prize.

JULIUS WEEZER
May 4 – 19, 2019
Troubadour Theater Company at the El Portal Theatre
5269 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601
Tickets: 818-508-4200 or www.elportaltheatre.com 

Rob Nagle, Victoria Hoffman and Rick Batalla

L-R: Matt Merchant, Joseph Leo Bwarie and Cloie Wyatt Taylor

Cloie Wyatt Taylor and Matt Merchant

Rob Nagle and Victoria Hoffman

The company of Julius Weezer

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Review: Two Stars and a Scintillating Score Make This SECRET GARDEN Glow

Evan Gutierrez (Colin) and Dino Nicandros (Archibald)
All photos by Caught in the Moment Photography

When 3-D Theatricals artistic director
T.J. Dawson tells you during the curtain speech to read his program note before The Secret Garden begins, take him at his word. It will go a long way toward helping you understand the feverish dream sequence that lays the foundation for Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman’s dark, but ultimately uplifting, musical based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 classic novel.


At its center is a family cursed with more than its fair share of heartbreak. Young Mary Lennox (Glory Joy Rose) is the only survivor of a cholera epidemic in India that has claimed the lives of her parents and everyone she knows.

Far away in England, her uncle Archibald (Dino Nicandros) still mourns the loss of his wife Lily (Jeanette Dawson) ten years after she died giving birth to their son Colin (Evan Gutierrez) whom Archibald keeps bedridden for fear the child has inherited his own physical deformity.

It is into this dreary household that Mary is sent to live, though not by choice. She arrives a spoiled brat but with the help of kindly spirits, a locked, overgrown garden, and the down-to-earth folk who work for Archibald, blossoms into the caring catalyst who helps heal them all.

Glory Joy Rose and Evan Gutierrez

Simon’s sophisticated score is the star, with its haunting melodies and choral depth, though it is not always handled with finesse by an ensemble that has difficulty with pitch, clarity, and restraint. Sound issues were prevalent on opening night as even the orchestra was out of tune, most noticeably in the exposed sections of the score. Still, nothing could dim the overall effect of this lush gothic musical romance steeped in the ache of loss but rich in lessons of rebirth and the cyclical nature of life.

Also a star is Nicandros, in a deeply moving performance as the grieving widower. Archibald is a man lost and sinking under the weight of his own demons but Nicandros never gives in to the piece’s melodramatic pull. Instead, he is grounded in an honest simplicity that reveals a chameleon-like actor who has matured over the last several years on southern California stages and should be on everyone’s watch list. With a gorgeous voice and impeccable phrasing, he also sounds eerily like Mandy Patinkin, who originated the role, when he sings.

As Mary, Rose bites into the role with gusto. She is an unlikable character for a great deal of the first act but when Rose makes the transition from petulant to precocious we see a girl whose previously undeveloped concern for others blooms like the garden in which she finds a purpose and an actress capable of rounding the turn. Dawson’s tender presence watches over all.

Glory Joy Rose and Evan Gutierrez (center) and the cast

Around them, an ominous production design comes together to create the imposing Misselthwaite Manor and grounds where helpful spirits and restless humans reside (scenic design by Stephen Gifford, lighting by Paul Black, projections by Andrew Nagy). Gifford’s somber portraiture and towering, movable stair units become even more menacing against the midnight blues and obsidian grays of Nagy’s projections and the severity of Black’s lighting. A perpetual air of melancholy exists, even in the background of Mary’s more lighthearted scenes with Martha (Renna Nightingale) and Dickon (Brandon Root) until we reach the touching finale when all wrongs are righted and a family reunited in Giffords sumptuous, but no longer secret, garden.

THE SECRET GARDEN
May 3-19, 2019
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts
12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, CA 90703
Tickets: www.Cerritoscenter.com  or www.3dtheatricals.org

Glory Joy Rose and Jeanette Dawson

Jeanette Dawson and Dino Nicandros

Glory Joy Rose and Brandon Root

The cast of The Secret Garden

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