Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: THE FULL MONTY - Still Fun After All This Time

The cast of The Full Monty. Photos by Isaac James Creative

The destination for girls’ night out in Southern California this month is definitely Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton. That’s where 3-D Theatricals’ revival of David Yazbek and Terrence McNally’s The Full Monty kicks into high gear for the next two weekends.

The lighthearted musical with a big message about believing in yourself is based on the 1997 British film of the same name, written by Simon Beaufoy and originally set in Sheffield, England. Following its stage premiere at the Old Globe in San Diego, the show opened on Broadway in the fall of 2000 and ran for 2 years and 770 performances, proving that the world was ready for a little fun.

Since then it has made the rounds of a number of local regional theaters. I’ve seen a half a dozen or so productions, from the sassy first national tour at the Ahmanson, to a terrific revival at Musical Theatre West in 2007, to a very touching intimate production in Third Street Theatre’s 99-seat house in Hollywood.

Now 3DT takes its stab at Monty with an upbeat version that many will find entertaining, but be prepared for a wide range of performance styles and varying levels of experience on stage. 

The story follows a group of laid-off down on their luck steel workers in Buffalo, NY who decide to put on a strip show to make some fast cash. Problem is, they aren’t hunks, they can’t dance, and they have no idea what they’re doing. But they need the money and with a driven Jerry Lukowski (Allen Everman) leading them, this unlikely group of ordinary guys learns you can overcome any insecurity if you want the goal bad enough.

David Engel and Janna Cardia

This is the second time I’ve seen Broadway veteran David Engel in the role of Harold (the first was in the Musical Theatre West production mentioned above) and, if anything, he gets better every time he’s on stage. As the reluctant dance instructor and the sole male among them with any dance experience he plays the situational humor with understated elegance and ends up the one to watch every time.

In that same MTW revival, Everman happened to be musical director, a role he fulfills in many productions for theatre companies in the Southland, including 3DT (Corey Hirsch is musical director here). This time around, as Jerry, he is determined and likeable, turning in a solid, if somewhat predictable, performance. Matthew Downs has built-in empathy as the overweight underdog Dave, Jerry’s best friend, and the one we’re not sure is going to get on board the full monty bus. He and Engel have the best duet of the show “You Rule My World,” a poignant yet comic number that reveals each man’s weakness and seals the audience’s investment in their dilemmas.

Yazbek’s score is bright and his lyrics are full of twists. Nowhere is that more apparent than “Big Ass Rock” a song in which Dave and Jerry contemplate methods of suicide for Malcom (Tyler Miclean) following Malcom’s feeble attempt at carbon monoxide poisoning by locking himself in his car.

Rovin Jay and the cast

The wild card in this show is always “Horse” an older black man who surprises everyone during the dance audition. Rovin Jay does the role proud pulling out his mashed potato and funky chicken fancy footwork to the screams of the audience. Candi Milo’s dry wit makes piano player Jeannette a crazy addition to the mix of characters. Representing the tough old broads of vaudeville with her cigarette and piano in tow she shows up and never leaves.

Jeanette Dawson also strikes a nice balance between rough around the edges brashness and genuine caring when it comes to her husband Dave. The rest of the ensemble women are mostly loud obnoxious types.

Jeanette Dawson and Lauren Decierdo

Lighting factors significantly into The Full Monty’s storytelling and is one of the show’s technical highlights. Jean-Yves Tessier points up the dinginess of locations like the strip club men’s room and after-hours rehearsal hall on what feels like a touring set. One particularly persistent center panel of the secenic design never stopped rocking back and forth at the Redondo Beach performance space and ended up being a distraction, as was the muffled sound. These shouldn’t be a problem once the show transfers to Plummer Auditorium this weekend.

The show has plenty of heart to balance its bawdy blue-collar sensibility and leave you feeling good as you exit the theater. On some nights, thats really all you need.
                   
THE FULL MONTY
3-D Theatricals
April 15 – 17: Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in Redondo Beach
April 22 – May 8: Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton
Tickets: www.3dtshows.com

Allen Everman

Candi Milo

Matthew Downs and David Engel

Justin Berti

The finale of The Full Monty

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review: FIGHTING SHADOWS - An L.A. Story of Love and Redemption

Richard Cabral. All photos by Chelsea Sutton

His words. His story. Our city.

We tell a lot of stories in the theatre. Here in Los Angeles, however, we don’t often tell stories that are authentically home-grown. Fighting Shadows is that rare exception, a deeply personal story of a Mexican-American boy who grew up in east L.A., survived abuse, gangs, prison, and drugs, ultimately overcoming every bad card dealt him. It is an important story and an especially meaningful one told with unflinching honesty and hard-won humility.

Written and performed by Richard Cabral as a one man play with music, it was developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference New Works Festival under the auspices of OPC’s artistic director & producer Robert Egan. Egan now directs the play’s world premiere at the Rosenthal Theater at Inner City Arts and shares writing credit with Cabral. Together they have created a mesmerizing 90 minutes of storytelling that unfolds like an extended lyrical poem. Do whatever you can to see it. It’s that powerful.

More than once it reminded me of the kind of epic journey Shakespeare wrote about in his long-form narratives like Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Cabral’s story is based on his own experiences growing up with a father who left when he was 6 and a mother who was ill-equipped to raise a child. A string of abusive boyfriends followed and when it was clear there was no love to be found within his family, he turned to the streets to find the love he desperately craved.

In the gang motto “endure the pain, receive the love” he was reborn and at 13 he stole his first bike and ended up in a correctional facility. Probation followed and more difficulties. At 15 his girlfriend dies in a car crash. His new loves, meth and heroin, take over and revenge becomes his holy crusade. He’s arrested for possession and, while out on probation, shoots another boy for crossing the street, landing him a 35-year-to-life sentence at Ironwood State Prison. Once again he wrestles with the contradictions of life as an inmate and the shadowy demons that refuse to stay quiet.

Eventually he is released and a turning point comes when he meets his young son for the first time. These are gripping sequences delivered with heartbreaking vulnerability. Still, there is more jail time ahead and more stumbles along the way.

His saving grace comes at the age of 25 when he is introduced to Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries whose belief that “nothing stops a bullet like a job” has helped thousands of former gang members transform their lives and break the cycle of violence. With his unconditional love and compassion, Cabral finds his way to redemption one step at a time.

While working as a baker at Homeboy Industries he is discovered by the producers of Southland and in a few short years he begins to thrive as an actor, appearing most notably in the first two seasons of American Crime, where I first saw his work. Perhaps it is the intensity with which he has experienced life that makes his acting so open and vulnerable. Whatever the reason, he has a gift and an uncanny ability to tell the truth moment by moment on stage.

Cabral’s stories explain rather than preach and are crafted using a measured cadence that highlights his own natural rhythms in Fighting Shadows. A live soundtrack by Rocio Libertad Mendoza and Jesus Martinez underscores the beauty in the pain with haunting subtlety. Its effect is intoxicating as you’re drawn deeper and deeper into Cabral’s world.


Scenic designer David Mauer captures the various street exteriors, and home and prison interiors, with three compact sections of chain link fence set against a dynamic mural panel emblazoned with the word “love.” Daniel Ionazzi’s angular lighting effects give depth to the intimate space and open up the breathing room beautifully.

So, should you see this production? If you want to understand the story of a city you must first listen to the stories of its people. If you live in Los Angeles, I don’t think you can possibly miss it. What has come out of Cabral’s gut-wrenching past is a tale full of grit, courage, and inspiration unlike any you’ve ever seen on stage before. It is a true L.A. story and I recommend it unconditionally. I also hope it gets picked up for a longer run so more audiences have the opportunity to see it.

FIGHTING SHADOWS
April 15 – May 8, 2016
The Rosenthal Theatre at Inner City Arts
720 Kohler Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Free, ample street and lot parking
Tickets ($35): Fightingshadows.brownpapertickets.com or
www.fightingshadowstheplay.com

Fighting Shadows is produced by Jami Gertz in association with Homeboy Industries and The Rosenthal Theater at Inner-City Arts. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Homeboy Industries.
Performances are Thursdays & Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 5pm & 8pm & Sundays at 3pm & 6pm.  (There will be no performances Thursday, May 5 & Friday, May 6 at 8pm and Saturday, May 7 at 5pm).  

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Friday, April 8, 2016

MUSICAL NEWS for Friday, April 8, 2016

Celebration Theatre at the Lex presents the west coast premiere of The Boy From Oz, music and lyrics by Peter Allen, book by Martin Sherman, original book by Nick Enright, choreography by Janet Roston, musical direction by Bryan Blaskie, produced by Andrew Carlberg and directed by Celebration Theatre co-artistic director Michael A. Shepperd. Show runs April 22 – June 19 (opening night April 29). Cast includes Andrew Bongiorno as Peter Allen, Jessica Pennington as Liza Minnelli, Bess Motta as Judy Garland, Michayla Brown as Young Peter and Kelly Lester as Marion Woolnough, with: Marcus S. Daniel, Michael Taylor Gray, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Chelsea Martin, Michael Mittman, Nathan Mohebbi and Shanta’ Marie Robinson. www.celebrationtheatre.com

Laguna Playhouse announces its 2016-2017 season which features some great musical productions. Tickets are available HERE The schedule includes:

All Shook Up, The Music of Elvis Presley, book by Joe DiPietro

July 6 – August 7, 2016 (Opening July 10)

Hershey Felder is Tchaikovsky, written by Hershey Felder, directed by Trevor Hay
March 1 – 26, 2017 (Press Opening March 5) 

King of the Road: The Roger Miller Story, a world premiere musical
April 19 – May 14, 2017 (Opening April 22)
book by Cort Casady & Mary Miller, music by Roger Miller, directed by Andrew Barnicle

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, written and performed by James Lecesne
original music by Duncan Sheik, directed by Tony Speciale
May 31 – June 25, 2017 (Opening June 4)

Sleeping Beauty and her Winter Knight by Lythgoe Family Productions
December 7 - 30, 2016 (Opening Dec 9)

Billy & Ray, written by Mike Bencivenga, directed by Michael Matthews
Oct 5 –30, 2016 (Opening Oct 9)

Chapatti, written by written by Christian O’Reilly, directed by David Ellenstein
Jan 11 – Feb 5, 2017 (Opening Jan 15)

The Board of Directors of Cabrillo Music Theatre has announced that the company has received enough donations from the community to continue production of its 2016-2017 season. These contributions will provide Cabrillo with the ability to retool the organization, to engage in a new focus and strategy, and to move into the future in a fiscally responsible way. That means productions of Evita (Oct 14 – 23), Sister Act (April 21 – 30, 2017), and Peter Pan (July 14 – 23, 2017) will go forward in the 1,800-seat Kavli Theatre. This is great news! Tickets: www.cabrillomusictheatre.com

Recorded in Hollywood returns for a commercial run at Kirk Douglas Theatre with Broadway producer Lou Spisto joining Jamelle Dolphin to bring the story of black businessman, music producer and civil rights activist John Dolphin to a larger audience. Jamelle co-wrote the show’s book with Matt Donnelly. The musical features an original score by Andy Cooper as well as covers of some of the songs made famous by Dolphin’s recording artists and those he helped to bring to fame. Denise Dowse returns to direct. www.RecordedInHollywood.com

A Dutches Theater Production presents the world premiere of The Story of Alice, a story that reinvents the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland. Show runs April 21 – May 29 at The Matrix Theatre. Alice finds herself in a mysterious otherworld filled with articulate woodland creatures struggling against a tyrant Queen and self-indulgent Havalots but, in an attempt to save herself, she must first save those she encounters during her wild adventure that is as real as it is confabulation. Directed by Gary Reed, with book and lyrics by Michael Cormier and music by Scott Hiltzik. www.plays411.com/alice

Fiddler on the Roof opens at the Norris Theatre in Palos Verdes on April 22. Produced by Palos Verdes Performing Arts, the show will run through May 8. One of the most beloved stage and film musicals of all time, it is based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem and features music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein. Randy Brenner directs a cast that includes John Massey as Tevye and Barbara Niles as Golde,, with Rachel Hirshee (Tzeitel), Carlin Castellano (Hodel), Kanani Rose (Hodel), Jonathan Brett (Motel), Carol Kline (Yenta), Luke Monday (Perchik), Josh Wise (Fyedka), Martin Feldman (Lazar Wolf), Maggie Randolph (Fruma Sarah),  Greg Nicholas, Ashley Jewel, Alana Besikof, Bielke, Andrew Metzger,  Max Herzfeld, Adam Trent, Ron Rudolph, Mitchell Turner, Tiffany LaBarbera Palmer, Melanie Mockobey, Oliver Almonte, Eric Betts, Jean Sipos and Joan Perkins. Choreography is by Roger Castellano and musical direction by Sean Alexander Bart. www.palosverdesperformingarts.com.

The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake: The Musical extends at the Falcon Theatre through May 1. The new musical features book, music & lyrics by Molly Bell, arrangements and additional music by Dolores Duran-Cefalu, and is directed by Roger Bean. www.falcontheatre.com

Chance Theater announces an encore presentation of Fancy Nancy, The Musical as part of its second Theater for Young Audiences Series. Performances will begin May 6 and continue through May 22 on the Cripe Stage at Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken theater arts Center. www.chancetheater.com

Robert Allan Ackerman's world premiere political thriller with music about the Japanese tainted blood scandal, Blood, extends through April 17 at The Complex in Hollywood. Original music and songs are by “The Virgins” bassist Nick Ackerman and “Jet” drummer/vocalist Chris Cester. www.plays411.com/blood

Linda Kerns joins undergraduate acting students from the UCLA TFT Department of Theater for a production of Carousel, directed by associate professor Jeremy Mann. Kerns, who plays Nettie Fowler in Carousel, has taught private voice and vocal performance classes for the Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program at UCLA TFT since 1999. Musical direction is by adjunct associate professor Dan Belzer and the dance sequences are choreographed by Christine Kellogg.  Performances will take place May 6-7 and May 10-14 at 8 pm. There will also be a 2 p. performance on Saturday, May 14. Tickets: www.tft.ucla.edu/theatertickets.

The California Lutheran University Music and Theatre Arts departments presents The Drowsy Chaperone in the Black Box Theatre on the Thousand Oaks campus April 21 – May 1. The 20-member cast includes junior theater arts majors Leah Dalrymple, Malissa Marlow, Kevin Repich, Chris Reynolds-Baldwin, and Andrew Cervantes. Ken Gardner, chair of Cal Lutheran’s Theatre Arts Department, directs. Music lecturer Heidi Valencia Vas provides musical direction and music professor Dan Geeting conducts the orchestra. Barbara Wegher-Thompson, a senior adjunct faculty member in the Theatre Arts Department, is the choreographer. Tickets: CalLutheran.edu/theatrearts. For more information, call 805-493-3415.

YouTube sensation Miss Coco Peru brings her latest solo show, A Gentle Reminder: Miss Coco Peru’s Guide to a Somewhat Happy Life, to the Renberg Theatre for four nights only - May 13, 14, 20 & 21. In her new show, Coco shares a step-by-step guide that leaves you prepared to enter the world again, ready to create your very own ‘somewhat’ happy life. “Why just a ‘somewhat’ happy life? Well, let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to be happy all the time because ‘happy’ people make such a racket!” Written and Performed by Clinton Leupp and directed by Michael Schiralli. www.lalgbtcenter.org/theatre

The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica present the Box Brothers for two performances only Saturday, April 16 at 11:00am and 1:00pm. Oldest, Middlemost, Youngest, and Simpleton are the Box Brothers, four brothers who live in a box. Together with their best friend Big Drum, they set out on a boisterous musical journey to find happiness – and it’s the family musical party of the year! The Box Brothers use found objects and wooden boxes to turn Japanese percussion, African rhythms, jazz, and funk music into a hand-clapping, toe-tapping comic adventure for all ages. www.thebroadstage.com [Photo by Boy Haze]

glory|struck Productions will present a one-night-only performance of Untitled and Unauthorized: ALMOST FAMOUS in Concert on Sunday, June 12 at the Troubadour. The show pays homage to the Cameron Crowe film and the classic music of the era, featuring a set list of classic rock songs. The theatrical concert experience is inspired by, celebrates, and parodies the story of Stillwater, hard-working band making good, their devoted female fans, and the teenage journalist covering them on their Almost Famous tour from summer ‘73. Casting and ticketing information is TBA. AlmostFamousinConcert

The 32nd Annual S.T.A.G.E Gala celebrates the music of Steven Sondheim in Sondeim No. 5 in two performances on June 18, 2pm and 5pm at The Wallis. Funds raised will benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. Headlining the cast are Susan Anton, Barrett Foa, Loretta Devine, Allison Janney and Andrea Marcovicci, with Cortes Alexander, Alexandra Billings, Mary Jo Catlett, James Clark, Carole Cook, Davis Gaines, Jason Graae, Alvin Ing, Branden James, Jean Louisa Kelly, Vicki Lewis, MaryJo Mundy, Madison Claire Parks, Bruce Vilanch and Lisa Vroman. David Galligan directs and Michael Orland is music director. www.stagela.com

This Mother’s Day, the 18th annual MOMentum Place creates a fantastical world of aerial and circus performers, dancers and musicians in Theatricum Botanicum’s rustic outdoor amphitheater. Bring your mother to honor the MOMentum in her life – always on the go for others. Now, she can sit back, relax and enjoy an uncommon afternoon of performance delights that are kid friendly and full of surprises. Performers include Eros Biox, Georgia Bryant, Kyla Carter, Madeline Lampard, Alison Lockfeld, Eric Newton, Lexi Pearl, Jacqueline Shaw, Dreya Weber. Curated by Lexi Pearl. www.theatricum.com

Award-winning tap dancing sensation Savion Glover and renowned jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette will blur the line between music and dance as they merge their brilliant talents into a surging rhythmic machine at Valley Performing Arts Center, one night only on Thursday May 26.  The performance promises to be a tour-de-force night of percussion and rhythm bursting with the full vibrational power exchanged between these two legends. www.valleyperformingartscenter.org

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Review: Here Come The Desperate Real Housewives of Toluca Lake

L-R: Meredith Patterson, Anita Barone, Jenna Coker-Jones, Cynthia Ferrer,
and Adrienne Visnic. All photos by Sasha  A. Venola

With a title like The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake: The Musical you wouldn’t expect to see high art, but I at least thought this new musical would kill it in the comedy department. Instead, it trades on desperate humor, trite songs, stereotypical characters, and a storyline you’ve seen before. What could have been a smart, cheeky parody of The Real Housewives television franchise instead ends up feeling rather desperate. Even an audience packed with friends and family on opening night grew tired of applauding and a fair number of one-liners made no impact at all.

I knew we were in trouble from the moment the over-amplified canned music began. Not only was it so loud you couldn’t understand the lyrics but it also caused pitch problems, especially in the ladies’ upper registers when it was clear they were pushing to get more volume. It’s an easy fix. Just turn down the cheesy pre-recorded tracks. Please.

The show follows an episodic structure with each location announced by a sign overhead. I counted at least fourteen in the first act alone, most of them written as a one-trick sight gag. The opening introduces the characters and sets up the ground rules. Next is the funeral of their recently deceased head housewife who bequeaths her title to one of the remaining wives (shades of Desperate Housewives). Then comes the Pampered Tush spa scene, the shopping network studio, the golf course clubhouse, a Bollywood pool party, the shoe store…you get the picture. 

The show needs editing but when book, music & lyrics (by Molly Bell) are all written by the same person, it’s almost impossible to view the work objectively enough to make those cuts. That’s why musical theatre is a collaborative art. You need to be able to “kill your babies” (cut the songs, jokes, scenes that don’t work) and move on.

Director Roger Bean goes for exaggeration to the point of caricature in all of the characters. Marc Ginsburg, the lone male actor in the cast, plays everything from an over-the-top smarmy studio announcer to an over-the-top gym instructor to an over-the-top snooty store manager. He does have one genuinely funny sequence late in the show where he plays the husbands of two of the housewives – one gay, one straight – at the same time, alternating from one bedroom to the other.

As for the wives, each one is a stereotypical version of what you’ve seen on television. Adrienne Visnic (Babette) is the sexy one; Meredith Patterson (Joanne) the perfect one; Anita Barone (Lulu) the mysterious one; Cynthia Ferrer (Beezus) the richest and menopausal one; and Jenna Coker-Jones, the religious one. They’re beautiful, bitchy, and back-stabbing throughout. 

While their humor is based on superficiality, there are times the sight gags work. The shock mask treatment at the spa is pretty hilarious and Coker-Jones takes her character so deadly serious that it’s impossible not to laugh at the things she says. But overall the actors are working so hard to make the show funny that they end up looking uncomfortable when it doesn’t work. Nothing is worse than being on stage delivering a line you know is supposed to be funny, taking the beat for the laugh, and…crickets.

L-R: Adrienne Visnic, Anita Barone, Meredith Patterson, Cynthia
Ferrer and Jenna Coker-Jones

Stephen Gifford’s cool, upscale set design with its white lattice panels and button tufted insets stretches expansively across the width of the Falcon Theatre stage. Its clean sophistication makes a perfect contrast to the cattiness of the wives. Jean-Yves Tessier manipulates the lighting to polish and enhance Gifford’s clean lines while defining even the smallest of stage areas used for a scene. Against this uptown vibe, David Kay Mickelsen’s figure-flattering costumes provide bright pops of color to match each housewife’s personality.

On the outside, The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake: The Musical may resemble its television namesake, but like the shallow personalities of its leading ladies, don’t expect much substance on the inside. You won’t find it here.

L-R: Meredith Patterson, Cynthia Ferrer, Anita Barone, Jenna
Coker-Jones, and Adrienne Visnic 


L-R: Adrienne Visnic, Cynthia Ferrer, Marc Ginsburg, Anita
Barone, and Jenna Coker-Jones 

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF TOLUCA LAKE: THE MUSICAL
March 23 - April 24, 2016
Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Tickets: www.falcontheatre.com

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

MUSICAL NEWS for Thursday, March 31, 2016

3-D Theatricals presents David Yazbek and Terrence McNally’s The Full Monty April 15 – 17 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and April 22 – May 8 at Fullerton’s Plummer Auditorium. The production is directed by T.J. Dawson, with choreography by Leslie Stevens; and musical direction by conductor Corey Hirsch. In need of quick cash and low on prospects, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers come up with the outrageous idea of putting on a strip act after seeing the local women’s wild enthusiasm for a company of touring Chippendales dancers. Short on time and with little talent or physical appeal, the gang promises their show will be better because they’ll go “the full monty” and bare it all.

Allen Everman stars as Jerry and Matthew Downs as Dave, along with David Engel (Harold), Rovin Jay (Horse), Tyler Miclean (Malcolm), Nick Waaland (Ethan), Candi Milo (Jeanette), Dante Marenco (Nathan), Jeanette Dawson as (Georgie), Janna Cardia (Vickie), and Lauren Decierdo(Pam). www.3dtshows.com

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts has mounted a terrific revival of Dreamgirls directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom (Broadway: Side Show, Flower Drum Song) and starring Moya Angela as Effie. After completing its initial run at La Mirada, which plays through April 17, it will move to Valley Performing Arts Center for four performances May 6 – 8 and then go on to a 3-week stint in Tokyo, Japan in June. The musical follows the rise of a 1960’s girl-group in Chicago and, while it is not officially based on Diana Ross and The Supremes, it contains numerous similarities to their story. This powerhouse of a musical reveals all the highs, lows, and backstage drama of following a dream and is packed with showstopping numbers. www.lamiradatheatre.com

This weekend, comedy lovers will want to head on over to Three Clubs in Hollywood and catch Madlib, the Musical. For this fun show, the audience chooses which tunes they want to hear and in what order from a menu of famous Broadway and movie songs. Then the cast has 5 minutes to prepare an improvised musical using the selected songs as the score.  It’s free so why not check them out. More info at Facebook.com/madlibmusical.

The world premiere musical RAIN opens this Friday, April 1 at The Old Globe in San Diego. Somerset Maugham’s classic story Rain was adapted as a movie three times, his iconic character Sadie Thompson played successively by Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, and Rita Hayworth. Now a brand-new musical comes to the Globe from Tony Award nominees Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson. The year is 1924, the setting a boarding hotel on the island of Western Samoa, where a missionary, a doctor, and their wives are scandalized by Sadie’s arrival, particularly when they learn what she does for a living. But the missionary has secrets of his own, and when he tries to shut down Sadie’s business and save her soul, more heats up than the South Pacific sun. Artistic director Barry Edelstein makes his musical theatre debut with this gorgeous and powerful new work that reveals the explosive nature of repressed desire.

Cast includes  Eden Espinosa as Sadie Thompson, Marie-France Arcilla (Noi Noi), Elizabeth A. Davis (Anna Davidson), Jeremy Davis (Jo), Betsy Morgan (Louisa MacPhail), Rusty Ross (Kiwi), Mike Sears (Quartermaster, Hopper), Tally Sessions (Alec MacPhail), and Jared Zirilli (Alfred Davidson). www.theoldglobe.org

Rubicon Theatre Company’s Janet and Mark L. Goldenson Broadway Musical Concert Series will present Who Could Ask For Anything More? featuring the music of George and Ira Gershwin, April 2 & 3. Richard Israel directs a cast that includes Lindsey Alley, Matthew Bohrer, Kim Huber, Rebecca Ann Johnson, Damon Kirsche [right], and Mark Edgar Stephens. The cast will sing timeless Gershwin classics such as “It Had to Be You,” “S’Wonderful,” and “Our Love is Here to Stay” Musical direction is by Jake Anthony, Resident Music Director at New Musicals, Inc. Created by Richard Israel, this concert gives audiences the opportunity to experience the sophisticated genius of this dynamic brotherly duo, whose music remains just as popular and relevant today as it was when it was first written. www.rubicontheatre.org

Also at the Rubicon in May, singer/songwriter Noel Paul Stookey (Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary), returns with an intimate evening of story and melody spanning his 50 year career on Sunday, May 15. He will perform Stookey standards such as “The Wedding Song,” “In These Times,” and “Jean Claude,” and previously unreleased solo songs from the Peter, Paul and Mary albums. The program will also feature original folk songs written by Stookey about current issues such as “Familia del Corazon,” which addresses immigration concerns, and “Nukes R Nuts,” which was written in response to a letter from a nuclear age peace foundation in Santa Barbara. Tickets: www.rubicontheatre.org.

Conundrum Theatre Company and Friends of the Rialto present Jerry Herman’s Showtune, Saturday, April 2 at 8pm at the Rialto Theatre in Pasadena. The 90-minute musical revue conceived by Paul Gilger features songs from Mame, Hello Dolly!, La Cage Aux Folles and other great Jerry Herman musicals. It is directed by Bryan Snodgrass, with music direction by Ryan Luévano and choreography by Toni Fuller. General Admission and VIP tickets are available at www.showtune.eventbrite.com. VIP tickets include a pre-show wine tasting from Old Oak Cellars and a backstage tour of the historic Rialto Theatre. For more about Conundrum Theatre Company visit www.conundrumtheatreco.com.

The Pepperdine University Fine Arts Division Theatre Department will present Bertolt Brecht’s groundbreaking musical The Threepenny Opera April 6 – 9 at at the Malibu campus’ Smothers Theatre. The Threepenny Opera tells the story of Macheath, a notorious London gangster, whose marriage to Polly Peachum threatens to undermine London's Union of Beggars, run by Polly's father. Without this trailblazing musical, which produced the hit song “Mack the Knife,” the political musicals of Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, and others might not have been possible. Pepperdine Professor of Theatre Bradley Griffin directs the student cast which includes Sarah Barney, Olive Bieni, Chris Bozzini, Will Craig, Dylan Forehand, Parker Johnson, Tasia Jungbauer, Brittany King, Isabel Klein, Kate Klimist, Caroline Pitts, Michael Mossucco, Jalon Matthews, Audrey McKee, Julian Ortega, Sarah Roach, Brooks Robinson, Kailee Rogers, Mathew San Jose, and Aidan Turner. Arts.pepperdine.edu

Parson’s Nose concludes its16th Season with As You Were: Stories and Songs for GIs in WWII, an original production by Lance Davis, April 16 –May 8 at Lineage Performing Arts Center. The 90-minute show features “American works the critic Alexander Woollcott put into a book for our troops in World War II,” says Davis. “It’s a sampling of great American writing, including stories that are funny, touching, and inspiring. Picture a 20 year old, far from home, sitting in a trench or hospital and being reminded of why he or she was fighting, through the works of Twain, Whitman, and O. Henry.” The cast includes Lance Davis, James Calvert, Marisa Chandler, Jill Rogosheske, Barry Gordon, Paul Perri, and Eric Babb. All performances are Pay What You Will ($5-$25) and reservations may be made online at www.parsonsnose.com. The company will hold a book drive in conjunction with their performances to donate books to men and women currently serving in the U.S. Military.

The world premiere of A Night at the Black Cat Cabaret extends through April 30 at Edgemar Center for the Arts. The show is set in Paris in 1943 where soldiers, smugglers, and society’s elite all try to escape the WWII by dancing and drinking at the Black Cat Cabaret. www.edgemarcenter.org

The world premiere of Los Angeles choreographers Carmela Hermann Dietrich and Ally Voye’s new collaborative work, In Plain Sight is coming to the Bootleg Theater, May 12 – 14. “In Plain Sight is a new deeply personal work that choreographs the details of people’s real lives in poignant and humorous ways,” says co-creator Hermann Dietrich. “The work offers a window into wrestling with humanness, while exposing what is invisible, even when people are in plain sight.” It is a series of serio-comedic choreographic portraits, featuring four people, who each grapple with a compulsive behavior. The show was developed through in-depth videotaped interviews with each performer, with transcripts and videos of these interviews providing the material for the choreography and text. Inplainsightshow.com

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

First Look: Eden Espinosa as Sadie Thompson in RAIN at The Old Globe

The world premiere musical RAIN is now playing at The Old Globe in San Diego through May 1, 2016. Somerset Maugham’s classic story Rain was adapted as a movie three times, his iconic character Sadie Thompson played successively by Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, and Rita Hayworth. Now a brand-new musical comes to the Globe from Tony Award nominees Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson.

Eden Espinosa as Sadie Thompson and Jared Zirilli as Alfred Davidson
All photos by Jim Cox

The year is 1924, the setting a boarding hotel on the island of Western Samoa, where a missionary, a doctor, and their wives are scandalized by Sadie’s arrival, particularly when they learn what she does for a living. But the missionary has secrets of his own, and when he tries to shut down Sadie’s business and save her soul, more heats up than the South Pacific sun. Artistic Director Barry Edelstein makes his musical theatre debut with this gorgeous and powerful new work revealing the explosive nature of repressed desire. Tickets: www.theoldglobe.org

Eden Espinosa (Sadie Thompson-front) with Marie-France Arcilla
(Noi Noi), Elizabeth A. Davis (Anna Davidson) and Jeremy Davis (Jo)

Eden Espinosa

The cast of RAIN

Jeremy Davis (Jo) and Marie-France Arcilla (Noi Noi)

Eden Espinosa (Sadie Thompson) and Tally Sessions (Alec MacPhail)

Eden Espinosa (Sadie Thompson) and Mike Sears (Hopper)

Eden Espinosa and Tally Sessions

Tally Sessions Betsy Morgan as Louisa MacPhail

Marie-France Arcilla

The cast of RAIN

The cast of RAIN

Eden Espinosa

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