Thursday, January 14, 2016

MUSICAL NEWS for Thursday, January 14, 2016

Check out all the latest Musical News in Southern California and get ready to see some great shows!

Marcia Milgrom Dodge will direct and choreograph Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull’s Empire the Musical in its pre-Broadway engagement at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. Previews begin Jan 22 and the show will run through Valentine’s Day. Empire is an original musical about those who bravely embodied the American spirit during the dark days of the Great Depression by building what was then the tallest structure in the world, the Empire State Building. It is a celebration of the American spirit with big dance numbers, pop-driven melodies, and captivating spectacle that puts a contemporary spin on the classic musicals of the ‘40s and ‘50s. The cast includes Michael Baxter, Chassey Bennett, Tommy Bracco, Ricky Bulda, Juan Caballer, Caitlyn Calfas, Kevin Earley, Fatima El-Bashir, Tory Freeth, Stephanie Gibson, Joe Hart, Charlotte Maltby, Tony Sheldon, Michael McCormick, Katharine McDonough, Gabriel Navarro, Rachel Osting, Caleb Shaw, Cooper Stanton, Michael Starr, Christine Tucker, Rodrigo Varandas, Josh Walden and Justin Michael Wilcox.

Ryan Scott Oliver’s song cycle 35MM: A Musical Exhibition will get a 4-week run at the Dorie Theatre at The Complex beginning Feb 25. The show is based on photographs by Matthew Murphy with music & lyrics by Oliver and is a collection of ‘snapshot stories’ woven together with each of the original songs performed in combination with immersive projections of the photography that inspired it. Produced by The Unknown Artists, its cast includes Jeff Scot Carey, Cody Clark, Emily Clark, Vincent Perez, Dana Shaw, and Katherine Washington.

An expanded version of the Hollywood Fringe hit My Sister will play the Odyssey Theatre beginning January 16. Ron Sossi and Paul David Story co-direct identical twins Elizabeth Hinkler and Emily Hinkler in Janet Schlapkohl’s poignant tale of two sisters in pre-war Germany. “Elizabeth and Emily are talented, charming and extremely charismatic,” says Sossi who was so taken at the Fringe that he wanted to mount a full production. “This new version features additional cabaret sequences, songs and humor, and delves more deeply into the characters.” Original music is by Christopher Gene Okiishi, with lyrics by Janet Schlapkohl. Incidental music is by Barbara Rottman, who accompanies live during performances, and choreography is by Maureen Robinson.

International City Theatre opens its 2016 season with a recently updated version of Maltby & Shire’s Closer Than Ever directed by Todd Nielsen opening Feb 12 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. The musical “how-to” manual for life features two dozen wise and witty “songs of experience” with charming melodies and smartly crafted lyrics. “This is such a personal and human piece,” says Nielsen. “It’s all about who we are – where we’ve come from, what we’re going through and what’s still to come. Doors, opportunities and ‘what ifs.’ Hopes, regrets, musings… I’ve always wanted to direct it, and am thrilled to be doing it at ICT.” Musical direction is by Gerald Sternbach and the cast includes Kevin Bailey, Valerie Perri, Adam von Almen and Katheryne Penny.

Direct from a critically acclaimed off-Broadway run, HAM: A Musical Memoir will make its west coast debut at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre with previews beginning January 21. Based on Sam Harris’s book HAM: Slices of a Life and starring original Star Search winner Harris, it takes the audience from a conflicted childhood in Bible-Belt Oklahoma to the dizzying roller coaster ride of a life in show business to the fulfillment of the impossible dream of fatherhood, culminating in the lessons of a life well lived. Well . . . lived. Directed by Tony Award-winner Billy Porter and featuring musical direction by Todd Schroeder.

Previews begin Feb 5 for Chance Theater’s production of Dogfight directed by Matthew McCray, featuring music & lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (Smash, A Christmas Story) and book by Peter Duchan. “It’s the beautiful story of a Vietnam vet returning home to San Francisco where on the eve of his departure he met a woman that he never stopped thinking about,” says McCray, who makes his Chance debut with this production. “But it’s really about the way a person can change and the impact of a single individual on another individual if you’re willing to be open to that person. These characters are young people really doing the best that they can and learning who they are as people.” Dogfight stars Andrew Puente, Ashley Arlene Nelson, Jonathan Rosario, James McHale, Kim Dalton and more, with choreography by Angeline Mirenda and musical direction by Bill Strongin. Use code “DINER” for $15 off general admission tickets for performances before Feb 22 (limited availability). 

Musical Theatre West has announced its cast of West Side Story playing Feb 12 – 28 at the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts. The show stars Ashley Marie as Maria, Michael Spaziani as Tony, Lauren Boyd as Anita and Cooper Howell as Bernardo, and is directed by Joe Langworth. Musical direction is by David Lamoureux and choreography by Hector Guerrero. Opening weekend is already sold out however an additional performance has been added at 7pm on Feb 28.

3-D Theatricals presents Beauty and the Beast at Fullerton’s historic Plummer Auditorium (Feb 5 – 21) and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center (Feb 26 – 28). Afton Quast will star as Belle with Alexander Mendoza as the Beast and Cameron Bond as Gaston, plus Norman Large (Maurice), Tracy Lore (Mrs. Potts), Joey D’Auria (Cogsworth), Dennis Kyle (Lumiere), Melina Kalomas (Babette), Bree Murphy (Madame de la Grande Bouche), and a company of 21. T.J. Dawson directs, choreography is by Billy Sprague, Jr. and musical director/conductor is Julie Lamoureaux.

Up in Thousand Oaks, Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum makes its Civic Arts Plaza debut January 29 in a Cabrillo Music Theatre production starring Nick Santa Maria as Pseudolus. The slapstick musical comedy with a zany script by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove is directed by Lewis Wilkenfeld and will also star David Ruprecht as Senex, Larry Raben as Hysterium, and Matt Merchant as Miles Gloriosus. Choreography is by John Charron and musical director by Lloyd Cooper.

Pillars of New York is a new musical opening Jan 23 at Write Act Rep that follows the story of four couples and the struggles they have surrounding the events of 9-11. Written by Michael Antin, directed by Jim Blanchette, and featuring musical direction and arrangements by Rob Bowers, the cast of ten includes Eloise Coopersmith, Michael Cortez, Molly Gilman, Julian Goza, Bobby McGlynn, Wayne Moore, Elizabeth Sekora, Suzan Solomon, Marza Warsinske, and Gary Mortimer. Tickets and Info

ZJU’s annual 50 Hour Drive-By Theatre Festival is back for the 15th year Jan 23, 24 & 25 at 8:30 pm. The festival will present four all-new mini-plays written, directed and performed in a speedy 2 days with a live musical score by Kevin Van Cott. Writers: Steven W. Alloway, Vanessa Cate, Colin Mitchell, and John Semper, Jr. – Directors: Amir Khalighi, Roger K. Weiss, Angela Weitzman, and Jana Wimer – Actors: Charlotte Bjornbak, Jason Britt, Jahel Corbán Caldera, Nicole A. Craig, Matthan Harris, Ian Heath, Magnus MacDomhnaill, Gerald McGrory, Sebastian Muñoz, Daniel Palma, Jonica Patella, Danielle Reverman, John Santo, Elif Savas, and Rachel Scorpio. For reservations call 818-202-4120 or go to

Next up at the Echo Theater Company is the world premiere of Sheila Callaghan’s newest play – a funny, sexy and unconventional romance with music. Jennifer Chambers directs Kate Morgan Chadwick, TW Leshner and Johnathan McClain in BED, opening Feb 6 at Atwater Village Theatre. Witty, raw, racy, spanning 10 years in less than 90 minutes and featuring original songs by Sophocles Papavasilopoulos and Maxwell Gualtieri, BED explores issues of love, abandonment and betrayal. According to Callaghan, this “little bomb of a relationship play” is her most personal work to date.

Theatre of NOTE’s 21st Annual Hollywood Performance Marathon will take place Saturday, January 16 beginning at 3pm and continuing until dawn, at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. The marathon celebrates the company’s twenty-first year with over 50 performers who will donate their time and talent. This highly anticipated local tradition is an all-day-all-night extravaganza of eclectic performances including comedy, pancake juggling, poetry, puppets, performance art, dance, music, monologues and more. Performances by Kirsten Vangsness, Paul Dooley, Bill Brochtrup, John Fleck, Two Headed Dog will be part of the schedule.

Doc and Stumpy present Banned In Burbank: Uncle Eddy’s Big Time Burlesque, an adult show with exotic dancers, musical acts and baggy pants comic routines Jan 29 & 30 at the Mayflower Club located at 11110 Victory Blvd. (near Vineland) in North Hollywood. Doors open at 7:30. Tickets and Info

The new musical comedy Freaky Friday, book by Bridget Carpenter (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood), music and lyrics by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (If/Then, Next to Normal), based on the novel Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers and the Walt Disney motion pictures, has been added to La Jolla Playhouse’s 2016-17 season. It will be directed by artistic director Christopher Ashley and will run January/February 2017.

And finally, San Diego Musical Theatre announces its cast of Ragtime which will star Jay Donnell as Coalhouse, Nicole Pryor as Sarah, Carolyn Agan as Mother, Cris O’Bryon as Father, and Louis Pardo as Tateh. It will be directed and choreographed by Paul David Bryant and feature musical direction by Don Le Master. This version of the Flaherty and Ahrens musical will be worth a road trip.

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