Monday, September 29, 2014

First Look: MainStreet Theatre Company's THE THREE LITTLE PIGS


Jessica Kubzansky directs the west coast premiere of The Three Little Pigs, featuring music by George Stiles and book & lyrics by Anthony Drewe. This “very curly musical tail” from the musical team behind Honk! and Mary Poppins is full of witty word play, great music, and a Big 
Bad Wolf. When Mother Pig decides it’s time to send her piglets out to make their own way in the world, Cha (the gym-rat) Siu (the environmentalist) and Bao (the bookworm) think they’re too different to live together. Cha builds his house out of sticks, Siu builds hers out of straw, and Bao builds his out of bricks. When the Big Bad Wolf comes to eat them, they realize that if they work together, they can defeat him! For ages 4 and up.

Michael Covert, Kyla Garcia and Joe Fria

Michael Covert, Tracey A. Leigh, Joe Fria and Kyla Garcia

Kyla Garcia, Joe Fria, Michael Covert, and Michael Manuel

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS
October 4 – 19, 2014
Saturdays at 1:00 pm & 4:00 pm, Sundays at 1:00 pm
(No performance Sunday 10/5) 
Lewis Family Playhouse in the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center
12505 Cultural Center Drive
Tickets: (909) 477-2752 or 
www.lewisfamilyplayhouse.com

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: Vox Lumiere's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is Mind-Blowing Entertainment

James Lynch as The Phantom. Photos by Johanna Siegmann

Most of the time, when you go to the theater you pretty much know what to expect. Though the subject matter and delivery style varies, when you buy a ticket to a play or musical you basically know what kind of show you’re going to see. Well here’s one for those of you who want something that is truly different, incredibly exciting, and definitely the ticket for one of the coolest theatrical events to be found in LA right now. But it’s only happening one weekend a month through the end of the year. Next available dates are October 10 & 11.

To say we were blown away by Vox Lumiere’s Phantom of the Opera would be an understatement. This exhilarating mix of media, written and directed by visionary composer Kevin Saunders Hayes, is a hybrid of elements in which leather and skin and glam rock meets classical opera, steampunk, and a silent film masterpiece. The thrilling result is nothing less than electrifying and one best described as sensory stimulation on steroids. It’s like taking a raging techno-dive down a retro-modern rabbit hole. All you can do is hold on tight and give yourself over to the ride.

For this production, the inspiration is the original 1925 silent horror film The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney. While the film is shown on giant screens that fill the upper portion of the theater, beautiful people in fantastical costumes display a dizzying array of skills on the stage below.

Six singers bring the characters to life, including three crystal clear coloraturas (Julie Brody as Carlotta, Danielle Skalsky as The Grande Dame, and Marisa Johnson as Christine, onstage), a haunting pop vocalist (Victoria Levy as Christine, offstage), a throat-ripping heavy metal rocker (James Lynch as The Phantom), a clown (Chris Marcos as Faust) and a romantic (D. Valentine as Raoul). The ridiculously talented cast also includes seven versatile dancers, who perform the intricate and athletic choreography by Natalie Willes, and a three-piece live band under the stage scaffolding. Added effects include enhanced recorded vocal tracks for the ensemble and additional pre-recorded instruments. All together they add up to a powerful one-of-a-kind musical and visual experience.

The Bal Masque Prince-twisted “Party like its 1899” sequence and the angular moves of a ballerina and her partner’s pas de deux mirroring the Phantom’s chase are only two of the creative ways Willes reinvents the classic story via her movement.

Jason Thompson’s video and projection design produces some stunning effects; one that has virtual rats running around the floor of the torture chamber caverns is particularly striking. William Kirkham’s extraordinary light show is a rapidly changing schematic that nails the futuristic feel of the setting while highlighting the drama in Sharell Martin’s highly theatrical steampunk-meets-Paris-couture costumes and the exaggerated whimsy of Kristy Staky’s hair, wig and makeup design.

Even the lobby experience is unique so go early to get the full effect of the photo ops and other creative touches the producers have put together. The performance takes place at the Los Angeles Theater Center located in a historic bank building downtown that was built in 1916. Look up to see the massive stained glass ceiling above you and make sure you go down to the lower level where you still walk through the underground vault doors to get to the restrooms. If ever there was an appropriate theater for The Phantom, this is it.

The cast of Vox Lumiere - The Phantom of the Opera

D Valentine, Cameron Evans, Jamie Pfaff, Caroline Pampalone,
Chris Marcos, and Sian Dakin


Marisa Johnson as Christine

Dustin Ripken, Cameron Evans, Jamie Pfaff, Caroline Pampalone,
Chris Marcos, Sian Dakina, and Julie Brody


James Lynch as The Phantom

The cast of Vox Lumiere - The Phantom of the Opera

VOX LUMIERE - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Remaining dates: Oct. 10-11, Nov. 21-22, Dec. 12-13, 2014
Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 S Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tickets: (844) VOX-ROCK or www.voxlumiere.com

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: David Burnham and Valerie Perri, Together Again For The First Time

Mark Vogel, Valerie Perri, David Burnham, and Michael Sterling

The Broadway Sophisticate and the Boy with the Million Dollar Smile brought their new cabaret act to Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal on Sunday, September 21st in a fast-paced 90-minute evening of engaging stories, eleven o’clock numbers and pop favorites that went by in the blink of an eye.

Both Valerie Perri and David Burnham debuted professionally in Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals and both recently appeared in Musical Theatre West’s dazzling revival of Sunset Boulevard. Burnham’s big break came when he took over for Donny Osmond in the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and he talked about what that was like singing his first performance with Donny sitting in the front row. Nerve-wracking as it may have been, suffice it to say he got the big “thumbs up,” and after hearing him sing “Any Dream” and “Close Every Door” from Joseph, it isn’t surprising.

Perri has sung the role of Evita over a thousand times, beginning with the national tour under Hal Prince, and demonstrated how powerful the show’s signature songs can be in the right hands. Her mashup of “Buenos Aires” and “Argentina,” with the second verse sung in Spanish, was as moving as if she was singing it for the very first time. That’s the mark of a true professional. 

She also paired the dramatic “With One Look” from Sunset Boulevard with “Memory,” a song she said Andrew Lloyd Webber originally wrote for Sunset Boulevard, not for CATS. (The two musicals were being written at the same time, but CATS was ready first so the song went into it instead.) The thought of Norma Desmond singing “Memory” and those haunting lyrics is enough to give you goose bumps.

Perri also talked about growing up in Pennsylvania near Hershey Park where she had the great fortune to listen to Liza Minnelli headlining a show one day. Perri’s own version of Liza’s classic showstopper “Cabaret” was an early favorite in the program and a perfect example of her ability to belt a high note and hold it until the crowd goes wild. As a girl she was also influenced by a young singer on the Ed Sullivan Show whose expressive way with a song made a big impact on her. That singer was none other than a young Barbra Streisand, and Perri’s “People”/Parade” medley was full of the same kind of deeply felt emotion that made Barbra famous.

The pair followed her Barbra belt medley with the famous duet between Barbra and Judy Garland from a 1963 television episode of The Judy Garland Show. Perri took Barbra’s “Happy Days” melody and Burnham sang Judy’s “Get Happy” in a gorgeous version of the classic duet.

Burnham grew up on a farm in Fontana, singing to the pigs (no kidding) and when he was eight years old he announced to his mother that he was good enough to sing with Natalie Wood and would she write MGM a letter and tell them so. Not missing a beat, she found a paper and pen, wrote the letter, and walked him down to the mailbox…and in that small moment, served as the nurturer of dreams. His beautiful version of "I’ll Be Seeing You” was a heartfelt tribute to her, and you didn’t need to be a parent to see that the entire room was touched.

He also sang a song for his brother who he said isn’t really a musical theatre fan but who did like one show - Les Misérables - which contained his favorite song, Valjean’s very moving “Bring Him Home.” His brother had gotten married and moved to Israel with his wife several years ago, and they were actually coming home very soon, so the song had extra significance for him. Burnham has mastered the fine art of the falsetto and as you hold your breath and wonder if he can sing the floating high notes, you instantly relax when you hear that he can. A Broadway belter who can sing in falsetto as beautifully as he can, and phrase a line with such purity, is a joy.

The duo performed a series of rapid-fire pop songs with musical director Mark Vogel – pianist for the evening and a rock star musical phenom in his own right – also singing. The set included a lovely version of “When I Fall in Love” sung by Vogel and Perri, as well as some rich 3-part harmonies on hits like “River Deep/Mountain High,” “I Feel The Earth Move,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Can’t take My Eyes Off of You,” with Burnham singing lead, coincidentally to John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys and who happened to be in the audience. (Shades of his debut in Joseph with Donny Osmond in the front row)

This appearance will be Perri and Burnham’s last for awhile. Burnham shared that he will soon be opening in a new musical revue in Las Vegas featuring him as lead singer and host, along with 2 female singers, 28 dancers and 35 orchestra members. He gave us a taste of the classic Broadway songs the show will feature, including a medley of “Luck Be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls, “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago and his biggest eleven o’clock number of the night, “What Kind of Fool Am I” from Stop the World I Want to Get Off.

All in all, more than thirty songs made up the program of one of the best cabaret shows I’ve seen in a very long time. From the rousing opening trio, “It’s a Grand Night for Singing  Broadway” (State Fair), to the final encore, “Somewhere” (West Side Story), it was a night to remember.

And if Perri and Burnham get a chance to do a repeat performance on the Strip on his night off? Well, that can only mean - next stop - Vegas, baby!

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Belly Laughs Abound in Actors Co-op’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The company of Actors Co-op's The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Photos by Lindsay Schnebly

Actors Co-op transforms its Crossley Theatre into a boisterous English music hall for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, kicking off its 23rd anniversary season with two and a half hours of broad comedy, big personalities and plenty of belly laughs. Director Stephen Van Dorn takes the Tony Award-winning Rupert Holmes musical, based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel, and stages it in a new configuration for the Crossley, breaking the fourth wall and adding a virtual thrust stage to the theater. It brings the actors into the audience and the audience fully into The Music Hall Royale as his 16-member cast presents The Mystery of Edwin Drood, “A Musicale with Dramatic Interludes” where murder may or may not have happened, not everyone is what they seem, and comedy is always the order of the day.

Since Dickens inconveniently died before he could finish his novel, part of the audience’s job is to vote on its conclusion. Is Drood dead or alive? If he’s dead, who is the murderer...and who is Datchery, the mysterious detective who appears at the top of Act II. And more importantly, who will be chosen to play the lovers in the final scene. As the clues are laid out and the characters introduced, it all comes together like a madcap variety show with singing and dancing (theres a great deal of amusing choreography by Julie Hall), intrigue and adventure, and always great fun throughout.

The cast brings a considerable amount of charm to their performances as the motley crew of actors playing actors playing characters in this lusty musical-within-a-musical. A jaunty affability underscores the proceedings and it’s clear that all involved are having a grand time; none more so than Edwin Drood, played as a pants role by the delightful Catherine Gray.

Craig McEldowney oozes villainy as Drood’s melodramatic, and somewhat comically deranged uncle, John Jasper, and Gina D’Acciaro steals the show as the bawdy Princess Puffer who runs an opium den and spins the perils of her profession into comic gold. Her stand-off with musical director Jake Anthony on piano is priceless and reaffirms that no one messes with the Madame. After seeing her as Puffer, it also makes one hope there’s a Mrs. Lovett lurking in her future, should the Co-op ever add Sweeney Todd to an upcoming season.

Crisp diction, vocal clarity, and the joy of a much larger sounding band than the 5 musicians in the stage left orchestra box are also the result of Anthony’s skill in addressing the difficulties of the complicated score. Peter Allen Vogt doubles as the music hall’s master of ceremonies, narrating, introducing characters, and augmenting the action with his own witty remarks. When he is called upon to step in as Mayor Sapsea for actor who is missing in action he flips into a hilarious character portrait; one that is responsible for a significant number of the belly laughs mentioned earlier.

The Co-op’s designers have also outdone themselves for Drood, with Vicki Conrad providing some ravishing costumes (especially for the ladies and the outrageous Landless brother and sister, Brandon Parrish and Selah Victor), and a set design by Sets To Go’s Mark Henderson and Tim Farmer that is full of surprises. Lighting by Mark Svastics and sound design (yes, the sound effects are a lot of fun) by Warren Davis also work to transform the space and give the theater the feel of a much larger space.

This was my first time seeing a production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood* and I am happy to say I have now been duly “Droodified.” I highly recommend you get droodified too! Best of all, the ending will change nightly depending upon how the audience votes so no one will ever be able to spoil it for you.

*Actors Co-op was graciously able to accommodate a last minute schedule change on my part, so the performance reviewed was its final preview.


Brandon Parrish (Neville Landless), Selah Victor (Helena Landless)
and Catherine Gray (Edwin Drood)


The company performs a number from The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Gina D'Acciaro, Lauren Thompson, Emily Armstrong, Jonathan Sims,
and Michelle Parrish


Peter Allen Vogt (center) and the company of The Mystery of Edwin Drood

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
September 19 - October 26, 2014
Actors Co-op
1760 N. Gower Street
Hollywood, CA 90028
www.ActorsCo-op.org 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Deaf West and Michael Arden Discover a New SPRING AWAKENING

L-R: Ali Stroker, Sandra Mae Frank, Miles Barbee, Austin
McKenzie and Joshua Castille. Photos by Tate Tullier

Director Michael Arden gives the word discovery new meaning in a spectacular production of Steven Sater (book & lyrics) and Duncan Sheik’s (music) Spring Awakening based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 expressionist play. Arden, who has had a long partnership with Deaf West that goes back to Big River, which played in LA and on Broadway, stages the controversial musical in a triangular black box at the Inner City Arts complex in downtown Los Angeles. 

In it, deaf and hearing actors and musicians work together to tell the story of a group of teens whose transition from adolescence to adulthood, and the sexual awakening they go through, is made even more difficult by the very parents and teachers in whose care they are entrusted. Unwilling, or unable, to communicate with the youths, they deny them what they so desperately need – love, answers, protection – and in the end, everyone suffers the consequences. It deals with topics that are as important today, and often as difficult to discuss, as they were in 1891, such as rape, incest, masturbation, teen suicide, and abortion. And with this casting, it also comments on the gap between hearing parents and deaf children, who face yet another level of difficulty in communicating.

Arden’s gift for knowing how to express the emotion in a scene or a song begins with his sensational casting. What is so terrific about these partnerships is how beautifully they come together to create rich characters that literally spring to multi-dimensional life. Wendla, a deaf actor played by Sandra Mae Frank, is partnered with a hearing actor, Katie Boeck, who speaks and sings her songs, and plays acoustic guitar. Daniel N. Durant, another deaf actor, plays Moritz, with Rustin Cole Sailors voicing his role and also playing electric guitar. The partners often interact and consult with each other as scenes unfold and never is there a moment when the speaking actor’s eyes aren’t riveted on his or her deaf counterpart, which makes everything so much more sensual.

Together, Frank’s innocent earnestness, and the sweetness and simplicity of Boeck's singing voice, create a character that is instantly sympathetic. Their pain becomes the audience’s pain and we feel for them from their first hypnotic moments on opposite sides of a bottomless mirror. Likewise does Sailors bring an edgy raw vulnerability to Durant’s Moritz in a pairing that is poignant beyond words. One word – failed – flashes on the walls growing larger and larger until it finally takes over his life. It is a black and white world that surrounds these characters, down to the chalk boxes drawn on the floor which limit their playing area and then are swept away in Act II when all the lines start to blur, and to see it in the design metaphorically expressed is chilling. Arden’s staging of Moritz’s last act is unlike any production of Spring Awakening I’ve ever seen and flips the situation into something beautiful and wholly unexpected, even if you know what turn the story takes.

And it continues all the way down the line. Martha’s song, one of the best of the lot, gave me chills. Kathryn Gallagher’s voice has an underground coffeehouse feel to it, the kind that lets out heartbreak a little at a time, and the connection between her poignant onstage character, Treshelle Edmond, and Gallagher singing from the faraway stairs, was mesmerizing. Daniel David Stewart plays piano and voices the role of Ernst as Joshua Castille brings to life the naïve young man who eventually gives in to Hanschen’s (Joseph Haro) advances. More sublime moments as Arden insinuates a ménage à trois between them. 

In every case, Arden chooses a voice that completes the onstage character in a unique and compelling manner. Then musical director Jared Stein mixes all of the textures together to create a fresh sound that is immensely satisfying. And while each combination is beautiful and unexpected, it is the deaf actors’ performances that are even more breathtaking.

As the actors sign - passionately, lyrically, and completely open to their emotions - it creates a new kind of choreography; one that is so much a physical part of these characters that it is impossible to imagine the production without it. The need to communicate is fierce.

Spencer Liff also blends the ASL into his choreography with incredibly moving results. A song like “Bitch of Living” is always explosive but Liff combines disciplines for an even bigger punch. During Melchior (Austin McKenzie) and Wendla’s first meeting in the meadow, cast members’ bodies intertwine to form the tree behind them, which stands like a massive statue, intoxicating and voyeuristic in its silent presence behind their sweet, simple scene.

This production is full of sensuality, and not only the sexual kind. Undulating shapes move in waves across the wall to the hypnotic melody of “Touch Me;” Hanschen masturbates while female cast members with their arms threaded through his, sign; and a church procession, complete with the heady smell of incense, encircles Melchior and Wendla in their first sexual encounter in the hay loft. It is the contrast that is so thrillingly provocative.  

A critical turning point happens in the first act when Wendla begs Melchior to beat her with a switch because she’s “never felt anything.” It is a moment that breaks something open in both of them, changing them forever. She may never have felt anything before but you’ll feel everything watching this Spring Awakening.

Lauren Patten makes bold choices in a strong characterization of the wayward Ilse, accompanied by a dusky, warm singing voice that, once again, comes as a wonderful surprise, given her willowy frame. Even Natacha Roi and the deaf/hearing partners of Troy Kotsur and Daniel Marmion, who cover all the mothers, fathers, teachers and authority figures, bring a unique contrasting element to the desperate young people around them. Kotsur says more with a single look than most actors do with all of their senses combined.

Which brings me to young leading man, Austin McKenzie - charismatic, innocently handsome, and blessed with a gorgeous voice - mark my words…Melchior is his first professional role and this young man is going to be a star.  He has that intangible quality, that mysterious somthing that the stage light loves (which means the camera will too) and that draws the viewer to him naturally. He has “It” and the fact that he can act and sing beautifully is even better. Like I said, Michael Arden gives discovery a new meaning.

Its pretty obvious that I adored this production, for so many reasons that I hope you will discover for yourself. If you go to the theatre like I do - looking for magic and hoping to moved - I can recommend no better production than Deaf Wests Spring Awakening.

Sandra Mae Frank, Treshelle Edmond, Natacha Roi (seated), Katie Boeck  (on guitar), 
Lauren Patten, Amelia Hensley (obscured), Alexandra Winter, Ali Stroker

L-R: Daniel Marmion, Joshua Castille, Jimmy Bellinger,
Austin McKenzie, Joseph Haro, Daniel Durant

Treshelle Edmond, Lauren Patten and Ali Stroker

Jimmy Bellinger, Joseph Haro, Daniel David Stewart, Daniel Durant
(standing on bed), Joshua Castille, Miles Barbee

Sandra Mae Frank (front), with (L-R) Amelia Hensley,
Joseph Haro, Treshelle Edmond

L-R: Daniel David Stewart, Joseph Haro, Joshua Castille, Miles Barbee,
Sean Grandillo, Austin McKenzie, Jimmy Bellinger

SPRING AWAKENING
September 7 - November 9, 2014
Rosenthal Theater at Inner City Arts
720 Kohler Street in downtown L.A.
(just south of the Arts District)
Reservations: (818) 762-2998 or www.deafwest.org

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Musical News for Saturday, September 13, 2014

MUSICAL NEWS: Richard Israel directs a four-week run of Peter Quilter’s Glorious! at International City Theatre, opening Oct. 10. Born in 1868, Jenkins was a wealthy New York eccentric who indulged her passion for singing by sponsoring her own concerts with money she inherited from her parents - who had forbidden her from performing in public while they were alive. Known as “the first lady of the sliding scale,” Jenkins warbled and screeched her way through every performance, drawing capacity crowds of fans who would roar with laughter at her shrill, off-key singing and outrageous costumes. But this delusional and joyously happy woman paid little attention to her critics, comfortably surrounded by a circle of devoted friends who were almost as eccentric as she was.

Eileen Barnett stars as “the caterwauling countess,” with Matthew Wrather as her longtime accompanist Cosmé McMoon and Leland Crooke as her boyfriend and manager, St. Clair. Janellen Steininger is loyal friend Dorothy, and Carol Abney doubles as the singer’s obstreperous maid, Maria, and as Jenkins’ detractor, Mrs. Verrender-Gedge. Glorious! runs Oct 8 - Nov. 2 (Opening night Oct. 10). International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach, CA 90802. Tickets: 562-436-4610 or www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.


Palos Verdes Performing Arts (formerly known as Norris Center for the Performing Arts) presents The Full Monty, Sept.19 – Oct. 5 at the Norris Theatre on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. With book by Terrance McNally and music by David Yazbek, it follows the story of six unemployed Buffalo steel workers who come up with a bold scheme to get themselves out of debt. Inspired by a male dance revue that is a hit with the local women, the men figure they can cash in big time if they go “the full monty” and strip all the way. The production is directed by James Gruessing with choreography by Paul David Bryant and musical direction by Daniel Thomas

The cast includes Harley Jay, Sheldon Robert Morley, Kevin Patrick Doherty, Jonathan Brett, Bryan Dobson, and Paul David Bryant along with Heidi Godt, Eric Ronquillo, Kevin Paul, Jason Sluyter, Jade Anna Rosenberg, Natalie Haro, Cori Cable Kidder, Rebecca Morris, Bradley Nolan, Sarah Meals and Eloise Coopersmith. The Full Monty contains partial nudity, adult language and situations and is recommended for mature audiences. The Norris Theatre is located at 27570 Norris Center Dr., Rolling Hills Estates 90274. Tickets: (310) 544-0403 or www.palosverdesperformingarts.com.



Third Street Theatre and Oddbird Theatricals present the world premiere, fully-realized production of Bronies: The Musical, with music by Joe Greene, book and lyrics by Heidi Powers and Tom Moore, choreography by John Todd, musical direction by Jennifer Lin and direction by Richard Israel. Bronies tells the story of three outsiders who find purpose, meaning, love – and each other – all thanks to those fantastical cartoon ponies so many may love as the ultimate super-fans! It explores the phenomenon of fandom through the lens of pony fans – including all the passion, the awkwardness, the creativity, and the community it can inspire. The cast includes Joey Acuna, Brielle Batino, Anna Grace Barlow, Mark Gelsomini, Molly Gilman, Joe Greene, Stephanie Hayslip, Taylor Helmboldt, Rachel Hirshee, Hannah James, Josey Montana McCoy, Tom G. McMahon, Blaine Miller, Shelley Regner, Gabby Sanalitro, Richy Storrs and Charlotte Mary Wen. Bronies will run Sept. 25 – Nov. 1 at the Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third Street in West Hollywood.



Boss: The Untold Tony Danza Story extends for four shows at the Theatre Asylum Lab in Hollywood. With new producing partners Monica Martin of Complex Theaters and Matthew Quinn of Combined Artform/Theatre Asylum, the team behind Boss introduces The ExtravaDANZA, a live 80s themed interactive variety show featuring musical acts, stand up, dance, trivia and prizes. The ExtravaDANZA premieres during the September 27th and October 25th performances of Boss at the Theatre Asylum Lab in Hollywood. Written and performed by actors Damien Luvara and Jennifer Monce, and directed by Michelle Thorn, the cast (which also includes Meghan Parks, Christopher Schram, Jordan Rennick, Matt Wool, Hannah Kanengieter, and Gabriel Rissa) explores the nature of the entertainment industry and how far some people will go to achieve success in it. 

“With ExtravaDANZA, we wanted to create something unique, fun and different that surpassed the average theatre experience,” says Luvara. “The ExtravaDANZA is a multi-disciplined exploration of everything 80s that will transport the audience to an entire hit era through one hit TV show.” Theatre Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way in Hollywood, 90038. www.theatreasylum-la.com

Theatre Unleashed is back with a new musical by Justin Moran, POPE! An Epic Musical, which will play The Belfry in North Hollywood Oct. 11-Nov. 17. An idealistic young Pope (also named Pope) is framed for a heinous crime and banished from the Vatican. The people, blinded by the media frenzy, allow a tyrannical archbishop to seize power. As this new Pope tightens his iron fist the people are disheartened and in despair and the world is crying out for a hero. POPE! is an adventure that echoes the timeless mythological hero’s journey; when good and evil engage in an epic power struggle lines must be drawn, sides must be taken, and confrontations must be musical. POPE! runs Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 7 pm. TU also presents original One Acts from the company’s Writer’s Group on Fridays at 8 pm and Saturdays immediately following POPE! www.theatreunleashed.com



FESTIVALS: The  Encuentro  2014 National  Theatre Festival begins in October and will be held at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. Highlights featuring music include Enrique’s Journey (10/17 – 11/7) adapted and directed by Anthony J. Garcia. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning work of Sonia Nazario with music composed and directed by Daniel Valdez. Enrique’s Journey depicts the contemporary odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reunite with his mother in the United States.



Also part of the festival is Dancing in My Cockroach Killers (10/ 31- 11/ 8) written by Magdalena Gómez, directed by Rosalba Rolón with musical director Desmar Guevara. Dancing In My Cockroach Killers is an explosive mix of texts, visuals, and music based on the writings of award-winning poet/playwright Magdalena Gomez. Pregones Theater’s stellar ensemble delivers the full range of Gomez’s rhythmic realism, boundless hope, and laugh out loud humor. Her characters face real life challenges with courage and flair, and are openly inspired by friends, family, and Latino icons as varied as Lolita Lebrón, Joe Cuba, and Iris Chacón.

For a full schedule of all events and more information, go to www.thelatc.org. Most tickets are only $20 when ordered with the promotional code ENC14. To purchase tickets, go the website or  call (866) 811-4111. LATC is located in the heart of the revived downtown historic core at 514 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013.


FILM: We Are Kings, written and directed by Toby Hubner, will play the Arena Cinema Hollywood Sept. 19 – 25.  2014. The 90-minute musical is the story of a down-and-out bluesman I.B. King (played by Sammy Blue, Hottrax recording artist, Atlanta’s Crown Prince of the Blues) trying to save his blues bar and his deathly ill wife Lilly (Rita Graham of the legendary Raelettes). I.B. hits the road for Chicago in his Blues Bucket, a sun-blasted 1973 Winnebago, pursuing a record deal. 

True to the blues, the would-be record deal falls through, he’s got no gigs, he’s penniless and hopeless with Lilly in the hospital dying, and he soon finds himself lying in the middle of a frozen road one night, about to die, when he is visited by life-changing forces. Lilly’s spirit leaves her body and descends upon I.B. to convince him that life is worth living,  then magically guides two young homeless hard-rock musicians, Layla Knuckles (America’s Got Talent winner Bianca Ryan) and Dustin Ladue (Boogie Long, Guitar Center King of the Blues winner) who rescue I.B. and restore him to the Blues Bucket. They also pick up a young runaway, Sam The Rapper (RCA/Sony recording artist Pryce) and together, the foursome will create music history and triumph. Certified by the Dove Foundation for family-appropriate viewing 12 years to adult.

Performances are Sept. 19 - 25, 2014. Fri. at 8:30, Sat. & Sun. at 6:00, Mon. & Tues. at 6:30, Wed. & Thurs. at 8:15 p.m. Red Carpet for Friday world premiere will begin 30 minutes before screening. Tickets: ($12) are available in advance at http://arenascreen.com. Info: (323) 306-0676. Arena Cinema Hollywood, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood, CA 90028. Discounted parking is available with validation at lots adjacent to the venue and across the street.


CONCERTS/CABARET:The Haugh Performing Arts Center in Glendora presents Sandra Bernhard in Sandyland with The Flawless Zircons on Saturday, November 15 at 8:00 pm (Doors open at 7:30pm) at the Haugh Performing Arts Center, 1000 W. Foothill Blvd. in Glendora, CA 91741. Bernhard’s new live show Sandyland, spotlights her own unique, sharp blend of hysterical insight and outspoken views, with rock-n-roll, cabaret, stand-up and a little burlesque. Tickets: (626) 963-9411 or www.haughpac.com.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

BEAUTIFUL - The Carole King Musical Coming to the Pantages September 2015

Jessie Mueller as Carole King and the Original Broadway cast of
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical. Photos by Joan Marcus

Beautiful—The Carole King Musical will make its L.A. Premiere at the Hollywood Pantages as part of the 2015-2016 Season. With a book by Tony and Academy® Award-nominee Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni and choreography by Josh PrinceBeautiful tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. But long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. Yet it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation. For more information, visit www.BeautifulonBroadway.com.



The Shirelles (Ashley Blanchet, Rashidra Scott, Alysha Deslorieux,
and Carly Hughes) 

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Musical News for Thursday, September 4, 2014


MUSICAL NEWS: La Jolla Playhouse has announced the cast for its upcoming U.S. premiere musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, featuring a score by Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, book by Peter Parnell, and direction by Scott Schwartz. Produced in association with Paper Mill Playhouse, by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, The Hunchback of Notre Dame will run Oct. 26 – Dec.7, 2014 in the Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre. Michael Arden will star as Quasimodo, with Patrick Page as Frollo, Ciara Renée as Esmeralda, Andrew Samonsky as Phoebus and Erik Liberman as Clopin. The cast will also include Lucas Coleman, Mary Joe Duggan, Anise Ritchie, Brian Smolin, William Thomas Hodgson, Julian Decker, Ian Patrick Gibb, Beth Kirkpatrick, Samantha Massell, Neal Mayer, Nora Menken, William Michals, Vincent Rodriguez and Richard Ruiz. The acclaimed local choir SACRA/PROFANA will serve as the show’s on-stage chorus. Tickets: (858) 550-1010 or www.LaJollaPlayhouse.org.

Broadway is step closer to LA when Matthew James Thomas, who originated the role of Pippin in the current 2013 Tony Award winning revival, performs the title role during the Hollywood Pantages run of PIPPIN Oct. 21 – Nov. 9, 2014. This all-new production of Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz’s PIPPIN is directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus and features choreography by Tony Award nominee Chet Walker in the style of Bob Fosse and circus creation by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main (also known as 7 Fingers). Tickets for PIPPIN are now on sale at www.HollywoodPantages.com or by calling (800) 982-2787.


Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s exciting production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites comes to Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre in Malibu on Saturday, October 18, at 11:00 am. The one-hour performance is recommended for children ages 3-8 and their families. Three beloved stories are retold on stage through the magic of black light, evocative music, stunning visual effects, and fanciful, innovative puppets. The Very Hungry Caterpillar follows the adventures of a very tiny and very hungry caterpillar as he eats his way through an amazing variety of foods on his path to becoming a beautiful butterfly. In Little Cloud, high up in the sky, a cloud playfully transforms himself into various creatures, including a sheep, and an airplane, a shark and more. In The Mixed-Up Chameleon, a chameleon is bored with his life, sitting about predictably changing color all day. Following an adventurous trip to the zoo, he attempts to emulate the beautiful animals he sees before coming to the conclusion that there is value in his own unique self. Adapted, designed and directed by Jim Morrow, with music by Steven Naylor and narration by Gordon Pinsent. Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Ticket: (310) 506-4522 or http://arts.pepperdine.edu/


The Pepperdine event will also include a free, open to the public Family Art Day from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm before and after the performance, featuring hands-on art projects and Weisman Museum tours. For this Family Art Day, the Center for the Arts is teaming up with The Big Draw LA, during which children and their families will participate in a large collaborative drawing based on Eric Carle's stories and characters. For more information on The Big Draw LA visit http://thebigdrawla.org/.

FESTIVALS: Pasadena Arts Council, in partnership with numerous Pasadena arts and science institutions, will present AxS Festival 2014, a citywide festival Sept. 19 – Oct. 5, 2014 that explores the nexus of artistic and scientific inquiry. Programming will include innovative visual art, theatre, dance, music, photography, history, science, literature, film, and architecture. The theme, Curiosity, was inspired by the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)-built Mars Rover, “Curiosity,” which is currently exploring the Martian surface. The goal for the festival is to create audience experiences that bridge the boundary between art and science. A complete schedule of events (many of which are FREE) is available at axsfestival.org/2014Two of the musical performances featured:

Taking Flight: Music Inspired by Flight, a free choral program performed by the Pasadena Master Chorale, inspired by actual flight and soaring beyond one’s confines featuring Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine by Eric Whitacre and Curiosity composed by Reena Esmail at Altadena Community Church (9/20 at 7:30 pm and 9/21 at 4:00 pm)

An Evening of Pasadena-Inspired Astronomy and Music at Carnegie Observatories is a free talk by Juna Kollmeir and Andrew Benson on curiosity and science in Pasadena and discovery in astronomy held outside on the grass, concluding with a Pasadena Conservatory of Music chamber ensemble performance of Hand in Hand at the Edge of the Sky. The work was commissioned from composer Matthew Brown and inspired by a recent visit to Mt. Wilson. It is composed for a chamber ensemble of 8-10 musicians. The new piece is a vibrant example of the unique artistic and scientific creativity/synergy that is a hallmark of Pasadena. (9/29 at 7:00 pm).

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