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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Friday, October 10, 2014

First Look: Eileen Barnett in International City Theatre's GLORIOUS!

Based on a true story, Glorious! is Peter Quilter’s hilarious, Olivier-nominated comedy that invites us into the world of this New York socialite of great passion, considerable wealth and zero talent who fancied herself an opera diva. Richard Israel directs a four-week run at International City Theatre, opening Octber 10. Tickets: http://ictlongbeach.org/

Eileen Barnett as Florence Foster Jenkins, the worst singer in the world.
Photos by Suzanne Mapes


Leland Crooke and Eileen Barnett

Matthew Wrather and Eileen Barnett

L-R: Leland Crooke, Eileen Barnett, Janellen Steininger, Matthew Wrather

Leland Crooke, Janellen Steininger, and Eileen Barnett

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

MUSICAL NEWS for Thursday, October 9, 2014

So many great musicals coming up so let’s get to it!

OPENING THIS WEEKEND: 3-D Theatricals presents Ragtime Oct. 10 – 26 at the historic Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton (opening this Saturday Oct. 11) and at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in Redondo Beach Nov. 1 - 9. Based on the landmark E. L. Doctorow novel and featuring a Tony Award-winning score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and a book by Terrence McNally, this powerful portrait of turn-of-the-century America intertwines the stories of three diverse families as they confront history’s timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, and hope and despair. Directed by T.J. Dawson, it features musical direction by Julie Lamoureux and choreography by Dana Solimando.


Ragtime stars Rufus Bonds, Jr. as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Craig McEldowney as Father, Tyler MicLean as Younger Brother, Gary Patent as Tateh, Daebreon Poiema as Sarah, and Christanna Rowader as Mother, with Brooke Besikof (Little Girl), Jimmer Bolden (Booker T. Washington), John McCool Bowers (J.P. Morgan), Gary Brintz (Harry Houdini), Doug Carfrae (Grandfather), Jeanette Dawson (Evelyn Nesbit), Jean Kauffman (Emma Goldman), Donovan McFann (Little Boy), William Shaffner (Willie Conklin), Amber J. Snead (Sarah’s friend), Robert Yacko (Henry Ford); and an ensemble  that makes the cast nearly 50 strong. Tickets: www.3dtshows.com.

No witching season is complete without something hilarious from 30 Minute Musicals and this weekend 30MM opens The Craft, directed by Michael Matthews. The show runs Oct 11 - 26 at Hudson Backstage and features teenage witches from a totally different decade, like totally: The 90s! Starring Daisy Egan, JD Barton, Brant Cox, Julianne Dowler, Ashley Joyce, Tania Possick, Tanya Reese, Samantha Scanlan, Sarah Schreiber, Brooke Seguin, Mike Tauzin, and Brittney Wheeler. Tickets are $12 in advance; $15 the day of show and at the door. (10/25 10pm features a special $10 in advance price and Sundays 10/19 and 10/26 include a mystery double feature show.) The Craft is a Secondline Production, written by Brooke Seguin, with music by Brooke Seguin and Brenton Kossak. Tickets: http://30mmcraft.bpt.me/.

Storybook Theatre at Theatre West will open its award-winning retelling of the famous fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood this Saturday, Oct. 11 at 1:00 pm. The musical features book, music & lyrics by Lloyd Schwartz, who also directs, and includes plenty of audience participation and fun for the whole family. The cast stars Lacy Blake, Samuel Erdahl, Caitlin Gallogly, Kathy Garrett, Matthew Hoffman, Barbara Mallory and Charlie Mount. Little Red Riding Hood will run Saturdasy through March 7, 2015 (no performance on Dec. 27) Tickets are $12 for Adults and $10 for Children. Call (818) 761-2203 for reservations or go to www.theatrewest.org. You can also make special arrangements for birthday parties and school field trips by calling (818) 761-2203. There is free parking in a lot across the street from the theater.

MORE OCT/NOV MUSICAL NEWS: Musical Theatre West opens its 2014-2015 season with the west coast premiere of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Big Fish, Oct. 31 - Nov. 16. Larry Carpenter directs, with musical direction by Matt Smedal and choreography by Peggy Hickey. The cast includes Jeff Skowron as Edward Bloom, Andrew Huber, Rebecca Johnson, Jude Mason, Kristina Miller, Timothy Hughes, Gabriel Kalomas, Zachary Ford, Molly Garner, Michelle Loucadoux, Richard Bulda and Jake Saenz, with Caitlyn Calfas, Rachel Davis, Jessica Ernest, Aaron Felske, Marissa Field, Brad Fitzgerald, Anne Hinskton, Morgan McGeehan, Lauren Newman and Michael Starr.


Based on the celebrated novel by Daniel Wallace and the acclaimed Columbia Pictures film directed by Tim Burton, the musical adaptation of Big Fish made a splash on Broadway last year when Susan Stroman teamed with Andrew Lippa (music & lyrics) to develop the new book by screenwriter John August. Now, Musical Theatre West recreates the excitement of the original Broadway show, complete with its big production numbers and big special effects, and original sets and costumes. The story centers on Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman who lives life to its fullest… and then some! Edward’s incredible, larger-than-life stories thrill everyone around him – most of all, his devoted wife Sandra. But their son Will, about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales. Tickets: (562) 856-1999 x 4 or www.musical.org.


Rubicon Theatre in Ventura opens its 17th season with 2 Pianos 4 Hands, written by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. Winner of the coveted Dora Award (the Canadian equivalent of the Tony), 2 Pianos 4 Hands is a musical comedy for anyone who has ever had a dream. Directed by Thomas Frey, this hilariously funny production features two actors, two pianos and multiple characters as fifteen years of piano playing unfolds in all its glory. Stories of crazy instructors, obsessed parents, torturous recitals, and other high points of musical training are accompanied by musical selections ranging from classical to pop to jazz as the actors/pianists portray a dazzling range of characters and display piano wizardry featuring the music of Beethoven, Bach, Elton John, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. 2 Pianos 4 Hands opens Oct. 18 with previews October 15 – 17. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays through Nov. 16. Tickets: (805) 667-2900 or www.rubicontheatre.org.

Rebekah Dunn, Bert Emmett, Don Schlossman, Truett Jean Butler,
Troy Whitaker. Photo credit: Doug Engalla


The Group Rep continues performances of the world premiere musical comedy Dont Hug Me, Were Married, with book & lyrics by Phil Olson, music by Paul Olson, directed by Doug Engalla, choreography by Stan Mazin, and produced by Laura Coker for the Group Rep. Set in a north woods bar in Bunyan Bay, MN, plans are on tap for a double wedding. But before the nuptials transpire there is one small hitch before the hitchings - - they cant find anyone who will pay for the wedding. What else could possibly go wrong? Everything. Rest assured, nothing will go as wedding-planned in Bunyan Bay. Featuring Truett Jean Butler, Kathleen Chen, Rebekah Dunn, Bert Emmett, Doug Haverty, Chris Loprete, Laurie Morgan, Don Schlossman and Troy Whitaker.Through Nov. 15. Performances take place at the Lonny Chapman Theatre 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets: www.thegrouprep.com or (818) 763-5990.

Cabrillo Music Theatre kicks off its 2014-15 season with the regional premiere of Memphis Nov. 14 - 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. Todd Adamson, fresh off the national tour of We Will Rock You, makes his Cabrillo debut as Huey, joined by Lakeisha Renee Houston as Felicia. The cast also features Keith Jefferson as Delray, and Linda Kerns as Gladys. Robert W. Schneider directs, with choreography by Kenna Morris Garcia and musical direction by Cassie Nickols. Darrell Alston, who serves as musical director for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., conducts the Cabrillo Music Theatre Band. Tickets: www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.

Producer Ronnie Marmo and Theatre 68 are proud to present Serial Killer Barbie by Colette Freedman (book & lyrics) and Nickella Moschetti (Music & additional lyrics), opening Nov. 7 at The NoHo Arts Center. Quirky Barbara spends her life desperate to get in with the popular “Debbies.” From first grade through high school, she obsessively attempts to join the coveted social circle of Debbie, Debby and the queen of the WASPY clique, Debbi. After several failed attempts to fit in, she realizes, if you can't join them, kill them. It’s a hilarious and fast moving dark comedy, with original music including songs “21 Ways To Kill A Debbie,” Middle School Sucks” and “Price of Popularity”. Kelley Dorney stars as Barbie, with Alex Homes (Bruce), Katy Jacoby (Debbi), Marti Maley (Debbie), Kacey Coppola (Debby), Cy Creamer (Sebastian), Nicole Fabbri (Beatrice), Jillian Fonacier (Sharon), Christopher Kelly (Quinn), Bradley Estrin (Ronald), Nicole Koval (Veronica), Grace Shoemaker (Parker), and Audrey Bluestone (Parker). Sal Romeo directs and choreography is by Anne Marie Osgood. Tickets: (323) 960-5068 or http://www.theatre68.com.

Pasadena Playhouse will premiere the epic new Broadway musical, Waterfall, beginning May 29, 2015 with an official opening on June 7, 2015. The production will then play Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in Fall 2015, prior to reaching Broadway in 2016. Waterfall marks a groundbreaking collaboration between American and Asian theatrical artists. Based on a contemporary classic Thai novel, Behind the Painting by Sriburapha, it features book and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Richard Maltby Jr. (Ain’t Misbehavin’, Miss Saigon) and music by Oscar-winner and two-time Tony Award nominee, David Shire (Baby, Big, written in collaboration with Richard Maltby, Jr.)  The production will be choreographed by Tony Award-nominee Dan Knechtges (Xanadu) and directed by Broadway and Thai theatrical impresario Tak Viravan. Thai superstar Bie Sukrit Wisetkaew will make his American stage debut in the musical.

Waterfall is set in Bangkok and Tokyo between the turbulent years of 1933 and 1939, as a monarchy falls in Thailand and Japan is on the brink of war. A young Thai student falls in love with the American wife of a Thai diplomat, and the story of their forbidden love parallels history as the new democracy of Siam moves into the vortex of the increasingly anti-American Japan. With a gloriously romantic score, Waterfall is a modern love story of timeless scale. For more information, visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org.

EXTENSIONS: Deaf West’s Spring Awakening gets a much-deserved extension and will now run through Nov. 9. The innovative, immersive production performed simultaneously in spoken English and American Sign Language is playing at Inner City Arts Downtown. Do not miss this production! Tickets: (818) 762-2998 or www.deafwest.org, You can read my review of the show HERE.

Sacred Fools Theatre Company’s The Behavior of Broadus has extended and will now run through Oct. 25. The Behavior of Broadus is the amazing, sort of true musical story of John Broadus Watson – the father of Behaviorism and modern advertising: with singing, dancing and talking lab rats.Tickets: www.sacredfools.org.

Due to popular demand, Wicked has added six additional weeks of performances at the Pantages and will now run through March 15, 2015. Individual tickets for this new block of performances will go on sale to the general public on Sunday, October 26 at 10:00 am. www.HollywoodPantages.com

The Pepperdine University Fine Arts Division presents its Luciana and Daniel Forge Fall Musical, a new production of Into the Woods Nov. 13 - 22 at Smothers Theatre on Pepperdine’s Malibu campus. Dimitri Toscas helms an all-student cast, with Tyler Kimmel serving as musical director. This modern reimagining of the beloved musical by Stephen Sondheim offers a glimpse of what happens after happily ever after. What begins as a clever diversion, a simple fairy tale, ultimately leads down a dark path of self-discovery to a universal message of hope. Tickets, priced at $20 for the public, $10 for Pepperdine students, and $16 for Pepperdine faculty and staff, are available now by calling the Pepperdine Center for the Arts box office at (310) 506-4522. Click Here for tickets for the general public.

The cast of Zombie Prom in rehearsal. Photo credit: Susan Farese.

Canyon Crest Academy Envision Theatre in San Diego will present the girl-loves-ghoul rock and roll Off Broadway musical Zombie Prom Oct. 24 – Nov 1. Directed by Jeannine Marquie with musical direction by Leigh Scarritt and choreography by Max Gidaley, Zombie Prom is set in the atomic 1950s at Enrico Fermi High, where the law is laid down by a zany, tyrannical principal. Pretty senior Toffee has fallen for the class bad boy. Family pressure forces her to end the romance, and he charges off on his motorcycle to the nuclear waste dump, only to return glowing and determined to reclaim Toffee’s heart. Due to adult subject matter, parental guidance is advised. The cast includes Riley Cavanaugh, Cameron Chang, Alyxandra Charfauros, Michelle Cohen, Julian Coker, Alyssa DeVries, Madi Rae DiPietro, Tyler Faison, Emmy Farese, Kion Heidari, Halle Hoffman, Sammy Lurie, Steve Macario, Constantine Mickens, Avery-Claire Nugent, Adam Sussman, Alyson Tharp, and Julia Vandeweil. For more information contact envision.theatre.cca@gmail.com or call (858) 350-0253 x 4075. Click Here for tickets.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: The Power of the Music Lives on in JERSEY BOYS

L-R: Jason Kappus, Nicolas Dromard, Hayden Milanes
and Adam Zelasko. Photos by Joan Marcus

The first time I saw Jersey Boys was in 2007 when the first national tour came to Los Angeles. The jukebox bio-musical chronicling the rise of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had already won four Tony Awards the previous year, including Best Musical, and there would be plenty more awards to come.

Still, my expectations were low. No one was more surprised than I was that the show completely over-delivered in every possible way. I fell in love with its electricity, the stories no one had ever heard before, and more than anything, with those gorgeous songs that take on a larger than life presence when you hear them sung live. It was four guys recreating the sound that made Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Massi pop superstars and it was incredible.

Now the second national tour of Jersey Boys has made its way to the Pantages Theatre and if opening night was any indication, fans still can’t get enough of it. This time my expectations were high, however, and though it didn’t match the thrill I had seeing it the first time, that gorgeous music still casts a spell that is impossible to deny.

Structured in four sections that follow the four seasons – spring, summer, winter and fall – each member of the group takes his turn to tell his version of their story. Through jail time, betrayal, jealousy, monumental debt, and plenty of family problems, the boys saw their share of trouble. But they lived by a code that kept them together for a very long time, until their individual human weaknesses finally split them apart.

The four singers who make up the group do a terrific job of blending their voices in the harmonies The Four Seasons made famous, though Hayden Milanes employs a more nasal quality for Valli’s famous high notes that occasionally overpowers the blend (Granted, it’s grueling for any singer to try and replicate Valli’s singular voice and when Milanes clicks it is lovely).

Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio), and Adam Zelasko (Nick Massi) are the remaining band members and all four believably capture the essence of each unique personality. Dromard is the standout as the hothead of the group in a wild card performance that makes sparks fly on stage. The crisp choreography by Sergio Trujillo is impeccably executed and staging by director Des McAnuff ably managed by the cast. Thomas Fiscella adds gravitas as mobster Gyp DeCarlo.

But let’s face it; this show is all about the music and Jersey Boys contains more than thirty classics written by Bob Gaudio (music) and Bob Crewe (lyrics) woven together by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s engaging book. From the group’s first hit, Sherry, to Frankie Valli’s game-changing Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, it’s one great song after another. Big Girls Dont Cry, Walk Like a Man, Dawn (Go Away), Stay, Rag Doll, Working My Way Back To You, Who Loves You…they’re all here.

The real highlight of opening night, though, was a surprise during the curtain call when the real Frankie Valli took the stage with the cast for a bow. The crowd literally went wild and in that single moment the evening reached the thrilling electricity I felt when I first saw the musical seven years ago. Amazing.

From singing under a street lamp to defining the sound of a generation, four boys from Jersey hitched their wagon to a star and made their dream come true. If youve never heard their story - how they got their name (hint...a neon sign was involved), who really discovered Frankie, the three rules you never break, and what really caused the rift between Tommy and Frankie - nows the time! 

L-R: Adam Zelasko, Hayden Milanes, Jason Kappus and Nicolas Dromard 

Foreground L-R: Marlana Dunn, Rachel Schur and Kaleigh Cronin.
Back: Guitars Tommaso Antico, Wes Hart. Drums: Mark Papazian

L-R: Jason Kappus, Hayden Milanes, Nicolas Dromard, Adam Zelasko 
and the Company of Jersey Boys.


JERSEY BOYS
Sept 30 - Oct 19, 2014

Pantages Theatre
6233 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
www.hollywoodpantages.com


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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's Luminous BRIGHT STAR

Wayne Alan Wilcox and Carmen Cusack. Photos by Joan Marcus.

What I found so utterly engaging about the world premiere of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's new musical Bright Star is its complete unpretentiousness. Certainly its musical style -- American bluegrass with a heaping helping of laid-back mountain charm -- has the kind of lilting homespun ease that feels like you're listening to the neighborhood jug band on mama's back porch, and there's something oddly comforting about that.

The story is original, though inspired by an actual event, and moves back and forth between the end of World War II and 1923. You can google "Iron Mountain Baby" if you want to eliminate the shock you'll inevitably feel as Act I reveals its secrets but I recommend letting the musical's surprises play out naturally to fully appreciate the turns in the narrative. It contains a great deal of the bigness of life - heartache, hope, optimism, despair - yet it never forgets that its true center is the intimacy of the small moments.

It's about coming home and the coincidences that make that journey possible, the unexpected events that heal old wounds, and the inevitable forces that guide us on our way. It's about two people; a young soldier seeking his fortune after the war and a woman whose life didn't turn out the way she planned. When fate brings them together, everything they know to be true will change and old ghosts will finally be put to rest in a way neither of them could ever have predicted.

The cast is magnificent, led by a captivating Carmen Cusack as Alice Murphy, the newspaper editor who catches Billy Cane (extremely likable A. J. Shively), the young soldier who comes to her looking for a job as a writer, in a lie. The Old Globe stage is her playground and she owns it completely with an infinitely rich, full, and layered performance that is the very heart and soul of the piece. Her voice wraps around Martin's melodies in a magical way bringing the flavor of this particular brand of music to life with such joy that if for no other reason than to see her, you must see this musical.

"Go find a heartbreak and write about it," is Alice's advice to Billy about how to find his authentic voice as a writer. Hers concerns her childhood sweetheart, Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Wayne Alan Wilcox), whose father, Mayor Dobbs (Wayne Duvall), had more than a little to say about the validity of their budding romance when they were teens. Duvall's realistic performance drew boos more than once from the audience for his actions in the show and Wilcox's portrayal of the young romantic is an engaging one. Stephen Lee Anderson and Stephen Bogardus take on the father roles, Alice's and Billy's respectively, two salt of the earth men doing the best they can for their children.


And all the while, in and around these characters and their stories is the music; this luscious, emotionally-wrought, foot-stomping, bright, haunting music. Five onstage musicians who glide on a revolving cabin moved by the actors, and four offstage musicians, create a living, breathing character with the score that is as alive as any of the bodies walking across the stage. August Eriksmoen's orchestrations and Rob Berman's musical direction and vocal arrangements will make you fall in love with the sound of the Blue Ridge Mountains captured here with such purity. The songs do land differently on the ear than what you may be used to, and it can take a moment to adjust to the way the stresses of Brickell's lyrics live within the musical phrases, but it is characteristic of the style and its nuances are deeply felt.

Director Walter Bobbie and choreographer Josh Rhodes emphasize those nuances by adding clogging and slapping to the more traditional community-driven dance moves (accompanied by the party music of a spoon player, a mouth harp, and a jug player), and they also use the sound of the movements themselves to intensify the dramatic action. Often it is a visual subtext to a number, like the anger in "Firmer Hand," an accusatory song that labels Alice the black sheep of the family accompanied by stomps and slaps as punctuation to the lyric.

In another more beautiful background staging, couples pair off in a gentle waltz behind Alice and Jimmy Ray when he asks her to marry him. And in yet another completely devastating moment of separation, the lone female fiddle player is isolated from the rest of the orchestra and placed in a chair with her back to the audience while she plays, which pointedly parallels what is happening to Alice.

Simplicity and inventiveness in the lighting, scenic design and costumes create uniquely transparent stage magic. We watch as a smart 1940's business suit transitions within seconds to a young girl's dress like a dance, and the clock turns back twenty years. An optical illusion takes place as the bare brick wall of the theater, transformed by lighting, becomes the mountains of North Carolina as a white cutout drops from above, making you gasp at how easily it achieves its effect. And the fragile sounds of a country evening, almost imperceptible but curiously satisfying, coax you down a backwoods road. These are the kinds of details that create an unforgettable signature.

In 2013 Martin and Brickell collaborated on a CD of 13 songs, "Love Has Come For You" which was the genesis for what would later become this musical. Of the nearly twenty songs in the show, "Sun's Gonna Shine" was the first Martin and Brickell wrote together and one of the only two that would eventually remain in the show. Brickell wrote the lyrics and melodies to Martin's music and before long he began to see characters in their songs and a story that wouldn't stay quiet.

Some streamlining of the supporting characters and their relationships to the main stories is sure to come but what exists now is a jewel of an experience that is unique and quite special. See it now before it goes to Broadway because this one surely has a ticket on an easttbound train in its future.

The cast of Bright Star

Carmen Cusack and (from left) Scott Wakefield and Joe Jung
and the orchestra of Bright Star


Left: Wayne Alan Wilcox and Carmen Cusack. Right: A.J. Shively

L-R: Kate Loprest, Jeff Hiller and Carmen Cusack

Stephen Lee Anderson and Carmen Cusack

Hannah Elless

A.J. Shively and Stephen Bogardus

BRIGHT STAR
Through November 2, 2014
The Old Globe
1363 Old Globe Way,

San Diego, CA 92101
www.theoldglobe.org

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Eight Ways to Get Your Halloween Game On This October


1. Experience Wicked Humor in Trey Parker’s Cannibal! the Musical
Coeurage Theatre Company will celebrate Halloween with the Los Angeles premiere of Cannibal! The Musical beginning Oct. 25 (opening 10/31 at 8:00 pm and midnight).  There will also be a Halloween party between the two opening night performances. Tito Fleetwood Ladd directs the musical which will play through Nov. 22 at the Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Cafe in Silver Lake. From the creators of South Park and The Book of Mormon comes this uncouth, absurd, and wickedly tongue-in-cheek western spoof that tells the tale of a pack of miners on their way to the promised land of Colorado, led by the state’s only convicted cannibal, Alfred Packer. Replete with puppets, blood, song, dance, and Parker’s signature crassness, Cannibal! The Musical is guaranteed to delight and offend. The cast will feature Mike Brady, Ryan Brady, Brian Cannady, Gregory Crafts, Mikey De Lara, Travis Dixon, Josh Hoover, Ashley Kane, Jason Peter Kennedy, Scott Kruse, Peter Larney, Kari Lee, Gregory Nabours, Kurt Quinn, Kalena Ranoa, Christine Sinacore, and Joe Tomasini. www.coeurage.org


2. Get Re-animated when Re-Animator Returns
Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin will reprise their roles as Herbert West and Dr. Carl Hill in Re-Animator the Musical on Oct. 10- Nov. 2 at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. Also returning from the original cast are Cynthia Carle, Brian Gillespie, Marlon Grace, and Liesel Hanson. Joining them will be Darren Ritchie, Jessica Howell, and Ken Hudson Campbell. The musical, directed by Stuart Gordon, is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s film of the same name. Don’t forget to come dressed for the splash zone. www.reanimatorthemusical.com


3. Have a Halloween Hullabaloo
Get ready for a wild night of radioactive rock n’ roll theatre as Ipso Facto Theatricals returns with its one night only Halloween Hullabalo. Travel through time with cyborgs, vampires, mutant spiders and zombie freaks in a land where musical theatre meets rock, where cabaret meets commedia dell’arte. in this theatre/ vaudeville event mashup. You’ll see 13 spooky and terrifying acts: singers, dancers, aerialists, clowns and everything in between. Doors and pre-show entertainment begin at 9:00 pm and the show starts at 10:00 pm. Don’t forget your costume. There’s a $200 CASH prize for the best costume. Halloween dance party to follow spun by DJ Paul V. Halloween Hullabaloo is conceived and directed by Kyle Nudo. $25 gets you into the show and entire night’s frivolity. $20 after 11:00 pm for the dance party and mayhem. All proceeds benefit Ipso Facto Theatricals’ 2015 season and are tax-deductible. www.IpsoFactoTheatricals.com


4. Have Some Musical Fun with Eek! at the Greek
Symphony in the Glen’s family-friendly Halloween extravaganza will take place at the Greek Theater on Oct. 25. The event includes a Trick-or-Treat Village on the Greek Plaza complete with a costume contest for children, fun activities and trick-or-treating. The concert includes “Infernal Dance” from the Firebird by Igor Stravinksy, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens, Funeral March of the Marionette with children conductors, “Gnomes” from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, and the Devil Dance by John Williams. As a special feature, the concert will present a world premiere live performance of the cartoon Skeleton Dance from Disney’s 1929 “Silly Symphonies”. The cartoon will be accompanied by a performance of the original music by Carl Stalling. The program will also feature the return of Maestro Arthur Rubinstein’s eerie musical setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart with special guest narrator, Bruce Boxleitner. www.symphonyintheglen.org

5. Get Crazy at Night of the Living Zoo
For a howling good time this Halloween season, claw your way to the Los Angeles Zoo on Friday, October 24, 7:00 -11:00 pm for Night of the Living Zoo, a “to die for” costume bash open to ages 18 and up. The second annual event transforms Zoo grounds with hair-raising special effects, ghouls, ghosts, fortune tellers, dancing with DJ Johnny Hawkes, music by neo-rockabilly band So-Cal Rocket Dynamics, “terrifying” keeper talks, feedings of “fearsome” animals, and some spooky surprises. Mysterious, macabre delights also include moonlit performances of goose-bump-producing Edgar Allan Poe and Edward Gorey stories by Drama After Dark, known for their sold-out work at past Huntington Library Halloween bashes. Dress for the occasion, with awards given for Scariest, Best Animal and Most Original costumes, including a VIP behind-the-scenes docent tour as the Grand Prize. Ticket prices include all the fun, plus two drinks (beer, wine or soft drinks). There will also be a full bar with mixed cocktails and food for purchase available throughout the evening. Guests are encouraged to arrive early for maximum Zoo animal viewing opportunities but stay late for visits with creepy creatures. www.lazoo.org/nightofthelivingzoo [photo by Dani Ballew Esposito]

6. Take the Family to Theatricum BOO-tanicum
Theatricum Botanicum transforms into the haunted BOO-tanicum for the fourth year in a row on Oct. 31 from 4:00 – 1:00 pm. Wander Theatricum’s wooded grounds in the heart of rustic Topanga Canyon, where you’ll find a haunted house; ghost stories; pumpkin carving; game booths; performances by Creative PlayGround, Melanie Kareem’s troupe of belly dancers and Theatricum’s resident improv comedy group Off the Grid. It’s a night of fright and frivolity. www.theatricum.com/bootanicum.htm

7. Get Interactive with ZJU's Urban Death Tour of Terror
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group celebrates Halloween with its Urban Death Tour of Terror, an all-new fun and frightening, interactive Haunted-Halloween Theatre Attraction that steers theater-goers and thrill-seekers through a deep, dark and terrifying “Urban Death” labyrinth of inexplicable horrors, unfathomable monstrosities, and the disturbed spirits that walk among us. Directed by Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer and appropriate for ages 14 and up. There will be 5 Tour-Performances per evening on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm - 9:15pm - 10:00pm -10:45pm - 11:30pm. Oct. 10 – Nov. 1st at ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are only $12 and are on sale now at ZombieJoes.Tix.com or call (818) 202- 4120 for reservations. www.ZombieJoes.com

8. Laugh it up at Rockwell’s Gonna SCREAM
Rockwell Table and Stage begins its new series, The Unauthorized Musical Parodies, with a spoof of the 1996 cult horror classic, SCREAM starring Sarah Hyland from Modern Family as Sydney Oct. 18 – Nov. 15. This hyperbolic retelling ups the ante from the camp of the original with live on-stage blood, beyond reverent narration, and the infamous killer mask donned by our very own “Screamettes.” Written and directed by television writers, 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

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