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Your Musical Theatre Resource for Southern California!

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    Andrea Martin in Pippin. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

    MUSICAL NEWS:Andrea Martin will reprise the role of Berthe for the L.A. premiere of PIPPIN at the Hollywood Pantages Oct. 21 – Nov. 9. With a book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, PIPPIN tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. Previously announced casting for the national tour includes Sasha Allen (NBC’s The Voice) as Leading Player, Kyle Selig (The Book of Mormon on tour) as Pippin, Tony Award winner John Rubinstein (created the role of Pippin in the 1972 original Broadway production) as Charles, Sabrina Harper (Pippin, original Broadway Revival cast) as Fastrada and Kristine Reese (Wicked on tour) as Catherine. The company also includes Skyler Adams, Sascha Bachman, Bradley Benjamin, Callan Bergman, Dmitrious Bistrevsky, Mark Burrell, Mathew deGuzman, Fernando Dudka, Mirela Golinska, Kelsey Jamieson, Preston Jamieson, Lisa Karlin, Alan Kelly, Melodie Lamoreux, Zachary Mackiewicz, Lucas Schultz, Tory Trowbridge, Mackenzie Warren and Borris York. Tickets: www.HollywoodPantages.com

    Actors Co-op opens its 2014-15 season with The Mystery of Edwin Drood, featuring book, music & lyrics by Rupert Holmes, musical direction by Jake Anthony, choreography by Julie Hall, and directed by Stephen Van Dorn, Sept. 17 – Oct. 26. Winner of Five Tony Awards including Best Musical and based on the unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, the raucous world of a Victorian era music hall will come to life in this environmental take of the classic musical play-within-a-play. Follow the journey of a troupe of actors as they sing and dance through the unfinished story of Edwin Drood – allowing the audience, to vote on the ending! The cast will feature Eva Abramian, Emily Armstrong, Greg Baldwin, Conor E.K. Dagenfield, Gina D’Acciaro, Catherine Gray, Tim Hodgins, Craig McEldowney, Lucas Moore, Brandon Parrish, Michelle Parrish, Lauren Thompson, Selah Victor, Peter Allen Vogt and Issac Wade. Actors Co-op Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St. (on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood) in Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 462-8460 or www.ActorsCo-op.org.

    Rubicon’s Musical Theatre Camp and Stinky Feet Theatre Workshop will present the shows they have been working on over the summer. For the Musical Theatre Camp it is the Tony Award-winning musical The Drowsy Chaperone, with music & lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison based on a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Directed by Brian McDonald, with musical direction by Miriam Arichea and choreography by Carolanne Marano, it features over 25 local youth performers in a production well suited for children, adults and families. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission and will be presented Aug. 13 (7 pm), 14 (2 pm & 7 pm), 15 (8 pm), and 16 (2 pm & 8 pm). Kids 12 & under are $15 in advance/ $20 at the door. Adults $20 in advance/$25 at the door. Tickets: (805) 667-2900 or http://rubicontheatre.org.

    Then on August 2nd at 12 pm & 2 pm Rubicon’s Stinky Feet Theatre Workshop presents Journey of the Noble Gnarble. The ocean floor is filled with the rarest of creatures, but none are as rare as gnarbles. Their fins are small, their tails are floppy, and they have never strayed far from their homes...until now. Journey of the Noble Gnarble is a story of a little gnarble with a big dream, who tries to make it past doubting blyfish, sneaky subbalubbles, and hungry plinks on his way to the surface of the sea. Along the way he befriends the glinny glims who teach him the importance of positivity and determination. The show is 35 minutes with no intermission and is perfect for Preschool & Elementary aged children. Tickets are $5. http://rubicontheatre.org  

    FRINGE TOWN HALL:If you attended or were involved in this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, the fringe folks invite you to join them for a Post-Fringe Town Hall public forum and Q&A session on Saturday, August 16 at 2:00 pm at Theatre Asylum (6320 Santa Monica Blvd). There will also be an informal mixer to follow at Three Clubs (1123 N. Vine St.) at 4:00 pm.. 

    AUDITIONS:Performance Riverside will hold auditions for Shrek the MusicalAug. 24 & 25 at the Landis Performing Arts Center in Riverside. The production will be directed by Gary Krinke, with choreography by Jodi Julian. Audition times for both days are as follows:

    3:30 pm Check-in
    4:00 pm Kids Audition
    6:00 pm Equity Auditions
    7:00 pm Open-call (everyone)


    Rehearsals begin Oct. 8 (Mon.-Thurs., plus Sat. & Sun. TBA); show runs Nov. 7-16 at the Landis Performing Arts Center, 4800 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, CA. Equity Members will be hired under the Guest Artist Agreement, Tier II, pending Equity approval; professional pay for non-union; students must enroll in a class. For complete details go to www.performanceriverside.org/shrek-auditions.

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    Will North (Dr. Williams) and Jimmer Bolden (J.B. Murray) Photos by Ed Krieger



    “Spirit tells me lots of things. It likes to talk.” And talk it did to J.B. Murray, a man who believed that the Holy Spirit came to him in a vision and called him into the service of the Lord. At the age of 70 this illiterate Southern farmer began to paint and write non-semantic script (a kind of written language of his own) on every surface he had available to him – scraps of paper, wood paneling, old stove tops – all of them would eventually become covered with the beautiful and peculiar images that filled his head from his visions. He called it “the language of the Holy Spirit, direct from God” and would explain what the writing said by reading it through a glass of water that acted as a kind of transformative pair of glasses.

    What makes his story so unusual is that Murray had never shown an inclination for art in all of his years. He was a deeply religious man but he couldn’t read or write. He lived in rural Georgia in a shack without running water or electricity, and spent his days happy with the simplicity of his life. Then one day a spiritual eagle passed before his eyes while he was watering his potatoes and everything changed.

    There were those who believed in him, like his daughter Sara, and others who called him crazy, like his politically ambitious son Marcus. Regardless, Murray kept on creating always knowing that Spirit would provide what was needed to spread his message to the world. 

    Murray’s story is the subject of the original musical Visionary Man by Mary Padgelekand Tom Coleman, now in its world premiere at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. Like many, I had never heard of J.B. Murray before seeing the musical, but watching his story unfold and seeing how he continues to touch lives with his art, it’s clear that his ability to move people has not diminished, even since his death. “I paint hope,” he says simply when explaining what he does and I found as I left the theater that I too had been gifted a dose of that precious commodity to take with me.

    Still, there are times when the writers don’t seem to trust the power of their story and, as if to compensate, have added scenes or songs that try to make it bigger, which only deviates from, rather than furthers, the action. A song about the church ladies going to the Thanksgiving Day sales had me questioning the point and a Gospel version of “Say Amen” felt like its purpose was only to place a halleluiah number early in the show. But in the moments it relaxes and scenes becomes real, Visionary Man is wonderful.

    That’s due mainly to the performance of Jimmer Bolden as J.B Murray. The real story is on his face, in the honesty of his acting, and in the personal way he expresses a musical phrase. “It’s The Storm Not Me,” which closes Act I is as good as it gets for a musical inspiration and Bolden’s pipes lift it up beautifully.

    Will North also gives a fine performance as Dr. Williams, based on Dr. William Rawlings, the country doctor who befriends Murray by beginning regular visits to the elder man’s home when he stops coming to his office. North’s natural likability and folksy narration enhance the framework of the show by allowing the audience to come to the story rather than the story being forced upon the audience. That’s important because Murray never pushed, and when the musical does, it lessens the impact of its message. He had the power to see a person’s greater self and, even more importantly, he had the ability to get people to see who they really were. That was his mission and thats what makes his story so significant. 

    The supporting cast eagerly brings Murray’s family members and friends to life but they are often only given broad strokes in the writing from which to develop their characters. Jacquelin Schofield is his dutifully loyal daughter Sara and Yorke Fyer his contrary son Samuel who initially has great difficulty believing in his father. Ernest Williams plays the Reverend Crawford with proper evangelical style and Sequoia Houston, Courtney Turner and Stephanie Martin are the three busybody church ladies whose efforts to play it big for audience laughs often push them over the top. Caitlin Gallogly, as art dealer Anne Hanes, is the only actor with a Southern accent and Joshua LeDuc, in stereotypical beret, beard, and striped cape, plays art dealer Paul Nelson. Ali Norths energetic choreography also adds an artsy ‘60s style theatricality to production numbers but the ones that resonate more strongly are those that are organic to the scene.

    Happily, we do get to see the real J.B. Murray and some of his paintings in video projections near the end of the musical. A tribute to his life such as this wouldnt be satisfying without them. Ultimately it is that image of a completely complete man whose passion and belief created an extraordinary body of work that makes the biggest impact. It is a tale worth telling and I know I am better for having heard it.

    L-R: Joshua LeDuc, Jimmer Bolden, Caitlin Gallogly and Will North

    L-R: Yorke Fryer, Jacquelin Schofield and Jimmer Bolden

     

    Jimmer Bolden (center) and the cast of Visionary Man
      
     

    Ernest Williams and Jacquelin Schofield

    L-R: Courtney Turner, Stephanie Martin and Sequoia Houston

    VISIONARY MAN
    July 26 - August 31, 2014
    Spirited Hands Productions at Hudson Mainstage
    6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038
    Tickets: (323) 960-7787 or www.plays411.com/visionary

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    Deaf West Theatre in association with The Forest of Arden, will present an innovative, immersive production of Spring Awakening performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English beginning Sept. 13 at Inner City Arts in downtown L.A. The musical, featuring book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik is based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play of the same name and features an electrifying rock/pop score.

    An extraordinary creative team, including director Michael Arden (Patrick on the FX series Anger Management, Deaf WestBig River on Broadway and Pippin at the Mark Taper Forum), musical director Jared Stein (first National Tour of Spring Awakening as well as Broadway productions of American Idiot and Hair) and choreographer Spencer Liff (Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance,  Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris on Broadway) reinvents the groundbreaking musical about lost innocence and the struggles of youth in true Deaf West style.

    The cast of 25 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing actors and musicians includes Joey Antonio, Miles Barbee, Jimmy Bellinger, Katie Boeck, Joshua Castille, Julian Comeau, Daniel Durant, Treshelle Edmond, Max Fishman, Sandra Mae Frank, Kathryn Gallagher, Gabrielle Garza, Sean Grandillo, Karla Gutierrez, Joseph Haro, Amelia Hensley, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Marmion, Austin McKenzie, Lauren Patten, Natacha Roi, Rustin Cole Sailors, Daniel David Stewart, Ali Stroker and Alexandra Winter.

    “The mix of sign language and choreography performed by this amazing young cast brings the songs to life in a completely new way,” says Arden. “It’s our hope that this reimagining will kindle a new connection between the hearing and deaf communities.”

    Deaf West artistic director David J. Kurs suggests that this production illuminates the divide between deaf children and their hearing parents who do not share their world. “The play is all about the fraught relationship between parent and child, about navigating the world without strong guidance,” he explains. “The inability of the characters in Spring Awakening to connect to and communicate with their parents is similar to the experience of many deaf children.”

    Deaf West Theatre productions are renowned for weaving ASL with spoken English to create a seamless ballet of movement and voice, thereby creating a fully inclusive theatrical experience for deaf, hard of hearing and hearing audiences.

    Spring Awakening runs Sept. 7 - Oct. 19, with opening night set for Sept. 13. Performances take place in the Rosenthal Theater at Inner City Arts, 720 Kohler Street in downtown L.A. (just south of the Arts District). For reservations and information, call (818) 762-2998 or go to www.deafwest.org.

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    L-R: Jeff Scot Carey and Jeffrey Christopher Todd. Photos by Bill Johnson.

    New Musicals Inc., in association with Celebration Theatre, is presenting the world premiere of The Max Factor Factor through August 31 at NoHo Arts Center. Michael Shepperd directs the story of two leading men from rival film studios (Jeff Scot Carey as Lance Grant and Jeffrey Christopher Todd as Hoyt Baxter) who fall in love during the 1930s Golden Age of Hollywood, a time when no one came out of the closet voluntarily. With Cordelia Goodwife (Heather Olt) from the Legion of Rectitude hot on their trail and looking to expose what she knows is a Hollywood scandal, the men must find a way to derail her while keeping their relationship under wraps.

    Written by Adrian Bewley (book), Joe Blodgett (music), and Chana Wise (lyrics), the cast also includes Jessica Howell as Lance’s onscreen leading lady Alice Fern, Jessica Snow Wilson as Hoyt’s onscreen partner Clara Burns, Jordan Kai Burnett as troublemaker Eva Gallagher, with Stefan Rich (Johnny Strong), Kevin Michael Moran (Fred), Kevin McIntyre (Hank), Everjohn Feliciano, Trevor Shor, and Alex Boling. Musical direction is by Bryan Blaskie, choreography by Palmer Davis, costumes by Daniel Mahler, scenic design by Carlo Maghirang, lighting by Matthew Brian Denman, sound by Rebecca Kessin, and props by Michael O'Hara. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA. Tickets: www.nmi.org or (818) 506-8500.

    Jessica Howell, Jeff Scot Carey, Jeffrey Christopher Todd
     and Jessica Snow Wilson

    Jordan Kai Burnett and her boys

    Jeff Scot Carey and Jeffrey Christopher Todd

    L-R: Jessica Howell and Heather Olt

    Heather Olt with Jeff Scot Carey, Stefan Rich, Kevin 
    Michael Moran and Jeffrey Christopher Todd

    Jessica Snow Wilson and Jeffrey Christopher Todd

    Trevor Shor, Alex Boling, Jeff Scot Carey and Everjohn Feliciano


    L-R: Kevin Michael Moran, Jessica Howell, Jeff Scot Carey, Trevor Shor,
    Jeffrey Christopher Todd, Jessica Snow Wilson,
    Everjohn Feliciano, and Kevin McIntyre. 


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    Becoming Yoko
    --by Anzu Lawson

    Little did I know during my first class with the Jocelyn Jones Acting Studio how my life would change. Every new studio member is required to perform what is known as an “Environment exercise*” where the actor creates and lives in a personal space, complete with personal objects, designed to get the actor involved in a true-to-life experience.  

    I chose the act of putting on makeup in front of a mirror. The first thing Jocelyn asked me was, “have you ever thought about playing Yoko Ono?” Ever the stand-up comedian, I quickly joked, “the woman who broke up the Beatles?” A few laughs came from the audience.

    I flashed back to growing up half-Asian/half-white in Cerritos, CA, wanting desperately to be blonde and blue-eyed like all the happy people on TV. There was only one famous Asian woman in that era of pop culture and that was Yoko Ono. My step-dad was a sound engineer for rock bands, and growing up with musicians around all the time, I didn’t exactly understand why but I knew that Yoko wasn’t liked. So that was the beginning of my obsession with Daisy Duke shorts and forgoing identification with my Asian heritage.

    Jocelyn assigned me a “Picture exercise*” in which the actor finds a photograph and then recreates it exactly, from the clothes to the expression to the pose.

    I chose this photo from a John and Yoko coffee table book that my friend Brad Garrett gave me for Christmas one year. I hunted down that Kangol hat for two weeks. I didn’t think I’d ever find that exact hat. I thought, wow, this is a lot of work for an exercise. In retrospect, it was just the beginning!

    A few weeks later, I was back on that stage, in my practiced Yoko pose and half smile while the book was passed around to my fellow students for them to critique. I could see wonderment on their faces from the stage. 

    Jocelyn asked me to say something as Yoko. I hesitated, but then, I spoke the words… and something happened to me. A different energy took over and I began to move differently. Yoko pauses and ponders in her speech, interjecting “Mmm… you know” frequently, so I did that. I had an out-of-body experience; the kind of timeless feeling I had only been able to experience singing, my first true love.

    In my acting career, I embraced my ethnic ambiguity playing Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean roles; even a Latin doctor on Criminal Minds, but I had never attempted anything like this before! I bought every book on Yoko Ono I could and found that she was completely misunderstood. 

    I began to fall in love with this woman who was made a public scapegoat, still hated by many people who hadn’t taken the time to understand her. I loved her brazen and rebellious spirit. I related to feeling like an outsider living in Japan. I knew the trauma of parental-child kidnapping at the hands of a narcissist because I was kidnapped as a child. I was taken by the thoughtfulness of her art installations, impressed with the inner strength it took to be authentic, even if it meant she would not make a single penny as an artist. 

    Initially, I was confused by this, because when the Japanese record company I was signed to at 16 years old told me my songs weren’t melodic enough, I would have to change them so that my family would eat.

    Anzu Lawson as Yoko Ono
    I wondered if this was how John Lennon fell in love with her. Is this what he saw? I felt an incredible urge to tell the story of this woman and the love she shared with John Lennon that inspired him to grow into a peace activist.  

    Maybe I would educate people and maybe the scarlet letter would fall off Yoko’s chest. Maybe I would embrace the closet Asian person hiding inside of me. 

    I started writing a screenplay but hit a wall because I couldn’t capture John’s “voice.” John had this fast, mercurial, dry, candid sense of humor that was uniquely his. I kept asking myself, how am I going to do this? 

    Then a light bulb went off. A musical!

    Although it had been many years, I called up Joerg, my musical cohort, and said “hey…want to write a musical with me?”

    I walked into the studio Joerg was renting and on the wall was a framed original vinyl LP of TWO VIRGINS, with the infamous picture of John and Yoko standing naked together. I took that as a sign. We wrote the first song that day, “I Know War,” in a matter of an hour. We looked at each other after it was done in disbelief. This was bigger than me and I felt divinely guided.

    Over the course of two years, I kept thinking, am I crazy? Why am I spending so much time writing about a woman I never met? What if she hates it? What if all this time is wasted? But every time I wanted to quit, I would get another sign… my iPhone, buried at the bottom of my purse, would randomly start playing a song, and it would be a John Lennon song I don’t remember ever listening to. Little things like that kept me going. 

    I finished the script and I couldn’t get any producer in town to read it or take it seriously. People wanted Beatles music and my project was a story told through original music. I asked the universe for a sign and next thing I knew I was rear-ended on the 134 Freeway and my car was totaled. 

    The Hollywood Fringe Festival deadline was a week away and the car insurance gave me $3,000 more than I expected, so I put that money towards the theater and hired a director, my friend Nell Teare. We cast our John Lennon, scrambled to finish the writing/recording of songs and jumped into rehearsals. I had never done theatre before … especially a musical. I have only seen five musicals in my life.

    It was thrilling, scary and frustrating. I felt I was being tested and expanded on so many levels.


    After only four performances, I had a nomination for Best Female Performance for the Spirit of Fringe in my role as Yoko Ono in Rock and Roll’s Greatest Lovers. People cried and gave us standing ovations, and word traveled so fast we were “standing room only.”

    The best part was when strangers came up to me after the show and said “you changed my mind about Yoko,” or, “I didn’t know that about her,” and especially, “I had no idea.”

    The more people know about the musical the more people believe in its message. I hope one day even Yoko will get to experience what we’ve created. I know she will see the love that went into it. 

    As for my journey, by “Becoming Yoko,” I have come to realizeall I have to give as an artist, my purpose, and most importantly, my responsibility as a proud Asian woman storyteller to give voice to this story.

    *exercises are from Milton Katselas’s book ACTING CLASS-Take A Seat

    Want to be part of the next step in the evolution of Rock and Roll’s Greatest Lovers? Click Herefor more information about the show and check out the video below.


    Pictured right: Anzu Lawson and her niece Kohana Porter recreating
    the iconic photo of Yoko, John and their daughter Kyoko

    BEHIND THE SCENESis a unique behind the scenes look at the creative process of artists in Los Angeles. If you would like to submit a pitch for BEHIND THE SCENES, please contact Ellen Dostal at the email address listed Here or visit the profile section.

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    MUSICAL NEWS: Blending the 1925 silent film with original songs and powerful live performances to create a show-stopping-spectacle, Vox Lumiere–The Phantom of the Opera brings the Lon Chaney classic to three-dimensional, high-decibel life. Singers, dancers and musicians give voice to the silent film projected behind them, playing off each other, the audience and the onscreen story to create a magical exchange. Latin and French for “Voices of Light,” Vox Lumiere is equal parts rock concert, opera, musical theater and multimedia spectacle, all working together to tell a story with projected silent movies. Each evening begins with a red carpet entry for the patrons, photo ops with the cast, refreshments and pre-show entertainment in the lobby. Once inside, patrons experience a live band, surround projection screens, hi-definition sound and a light show. The singers and dancers are lavishly costumed in steampunk-inspired attire.


    Featuring music and lyrics by Kevin Saunders Hayes with vocalists Julie Brody, Marisa Johnson, Victoria Levy, James Lynch, Chris Marcos, Danielle Skalsky, and D. Valentine; Dancers Siân Dakin, Cameron Evans, Carolyn Pampalone, Jamie Pfaff, Dustin Ripkens, and Jason Sensation; and musicians Christopher Allis on drums, Zac Matthews on bass, and Jeff Miley on guitar. Eight performances: Sept. 19-20, Oct. 10-11, Nov. 14-15, Dec. 12-13 will take place at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. Tickets: (844) VOX-ROCK or www.voxlumiere.com.

    Bright Star, a new American musical by Edie Brickell and Steve Martin is set to open in September at The Old Globe. Directed by Walter Bobbie, Bright Star runs Sept. 13 – Nov. 2 with opening night Sunday, Sept. 28 at 7:00 pm. Inspired by their Grammy Award-winning collaboration “Love Has Come For You” the musical tells a beguiling tale that unfolds in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina between 1923 and 1945. Billy Cane, a young soldier just home from World War II, meets Alice Murphy, the brilliant editor of a southern literary journal. Together they discover a powerful secret that alters their lives. The acting company includes Stephen Lee Anderson (Daddy Murphy), Stephen Bogardus (Daddy Cane), Patti Cohenour (Mama Murphy), Carmen Cusack (Alice Murphy), Wayne Duvall (Mayor Josiah Dobbs), Hannah Elless (Margo Crawford), Jeff Hiller (Daryl Ames), Kate Loprest (Lucy Grant), A.J. Shively (Billy Cane), Wayne Alan Wilcox (Jimmy Ray Dobbs), and Libby Winters (Dora Murphy), with ensemble members Allison Briner, Max Chernin, Leah Horowitz, Joe Jung, Ashley Robinson, Sarah Jane Shanks, Scott Wakefield and swings Lulu Lloyd and Greg Roderick. Tickets: (619) 23-GLOBE or www.TheOldGlobe.org.

    Sacred Fools and the Burglars of Hamm will present The Behavior of Broadus, produced in association with Center Theatre Group, Sept. 12 - Oct. 18, with previews Sept. 5-11. Complete with lab rats, romance and music, it is the incredible, sort-of-true story of John Broadus Watson, father of Behaviorism and modern advertising. This world premiere off-kilter musical is Sacred Fools’ second co-production with The Burglars of Hamm, following the hilarious Land of the Tigers. Written by Carolyn Almos, Matt Almos, Jon Beauregard & Albert Dayan, it features original songs by Matt Almos (who also directs), Brendan Milburn and Burglars of Hamm, choreography by Ken Roht, and is produced by JJ Mayes. The cast includes Hugo Armstrong as John Broadus Watson, Erin Holt as Mary Watson, Amir Levi as Little Albert, Cj Merriman as Whitey, Rebecca Metz as Emma Watson, Andrew Joseph Perez as Phil the Rat, Bill Salyers as Jacques Loeb, Tim Sheridan as William McDougall, Devin Sidell as Rosalie Raynor, and Jacob Sidney as Dean Stevens. Tickets: (310) 281-8337 or www.sacredfools.org.

    Laguna Playhouse continues its Rock ‘N Roll Summer by presenting Motorcity Magic– A Musical Journey Through the Motown Years, directed by Michael Yorkell, August 13 – 24. This fast-moving production honors the Motown legends that brought the world to its dancing feet with the music of the Four Tops, Supremes, Temptations, Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Isley Brothers, Mary Wells and many more. The cast will feature Denny Mendes, Donald McCall, Arthur Jefferson, Steven Wood and Evelyn Dillon and a 7 piece back-up band in a dynamic and driving tribute that spans more than a decade of Motown classics. Tickets: (949) 497-ARTS (2787) or www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

    Also at Laguna Playhouse, Gene Kelly: The Legacy, An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly, will be presented for two nights only Monday, Sept. 29 and Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 pm. In this unique, live performance, Patricia Ward Kelly, his wife and biographer, takes audiences behind the scenes with rare and familiar film clips, previously unreleased audio recordings, personal keepsakes, and stories Kelly shared with her over their decade together. She guides us on an unforgettable journey into the life and heart of the man who changed the look and style of dance on film and became one of the world’s most beloved and iconic stars. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

    Oh My Ribs! Entertainment presents Rock Van Winkle Aug. 16 – Oct. 11 in Hollywood (opening night Sept. 20). After a 32-year acid trip, long-lost rock star Bobby Lee Hightower crawls out of a clothes dryer in a bungalow in Laurel Canyon in the Summer of 2001, where he encounters three generations of pop music royalty including a new love, an old love and a rival brother who has become a music industry powerhouse. It’s a clash of the titans when the ideals of the “Love Generation” meet the cynicism of the new millennium in Bill Haller’s new “West Coast” Musical. Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/800939

    Lost in LVOV is officially extending as a recipient of the Encore! Producer’s Award and will run for one special performance on Sunday, August 17 at 6:00 pm. There will also be a pre-show and post-show performed by Jacob & Julia from Paris Chansons, with classic songs sung in Russian and Yiddish. Lost in LVOV is a time capsule of memories, secrets and experiences of the Belman sisters who came to America from the U.S.S.R before and after Perestroika. The solo piece performed by Sandy Shimona explores the anecdotes and remembrances the sisters left behind to wander the streets of Lvov, Ukraine. The 60-minute performance will perform as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, in association with Schkapf – on August 17 at Schkapf, 6567 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038. www.lostinlvov.com

    LOST returns as a musical when Chinless Productions opens We Have To Go back: Lost the Musical, just in time for the 10th anniversary of the original show’s premiere. LOST fans will get a second chance to relive their favorite moments on the island in this parody of TV’s most iconic cult hit. Much like Point Break Live or Fellowship, this show is a hilarious tribute to a pop-culture phenomenon. The show takes six seasons of material, 72 characters, and countless locations, and transforms them into one night of absurd musical comedy. It will also offer five different alternate endings the audience votes on nightly so each night LOST fans will have a new chance to get the ending they always wanted. Blacksparrow Auctions is providing authentic props used on the set of LOST for the show and, in the spirit of giving back, 5% of all box office receipts will go to Cancer Gets Lost, a charity organization founded to support and improve the lives of people living with cancer. We Have To Go Back begins its 5 week run on September 22 at the Lillian Theatre (Elephant Stages). Tickets: www.lostthemusical.com.



    CONCERTS/CABARET: Upstairs at Vitello’s will host An Evening of Classic Broadway on Monday, August 25 at 8:00 pm. Acclaimed musical director Brad Ellis headlines the Fraser Entertainment Group production which will feature Eydie Alyson, Jennifer Foster, Damon Kirsche, Jen Malenke, Todd Sherry, Pat Whiteman, Paul Wong & more. Click Here for tickets and more information.
    Also coming to Upstairs at Vitello’s on August 20 at 8:00 pm, (mostly) musicals: COLOR Scheme, featuring a vibrant evening of songs by writers like Rodgers & Hammerstein, Alan Menken, Michael John LaChiusa, Stephen Schwartz, Jones & Schmidt, Duke Ellington performed by many of your favorite singers along with music director Gregory Nabours. Tickets: $10 at the door or Click Here for advance tickets. 
    Dan Callaway presents Going Home: A Farewell to LA Show at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal on Sunday, Aug. 17 at 7:00 pm. The evening will include songs from the theatre and some of Dan’s favorite singer-songwriters, Broadway to Bluegrass. Featuring Bobby Apperson (music director, piano), Chris Novicki (drums), and Korey Simeone (fiddle, guitar, dobro, mandolin). Tickets: $19 + $10 food/drink minimum. 5:30 dinner seating, 7:00 show, 5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91601. Reservations: (818) 754-8700.

    The4th Annual LA Skins Music Fest takes the stage August 30 at the Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theater. The concert series focuses on contemporary Native American music, featuring R&B, Jazz, Hip Hop and Rock. Preceding the concert is a Youth Talent Showcase that encourages Native American youth to explore music, express themselves artistically and perform in front of an audience. Talent showcase applications available now. Doors open at 5:00 pm. Show starts at 5:30 pm. Email contact@laskinsfest.comfor information. This event is sponsored by KABC, KCET, and the Barcid Foundation and in partnership with Torres Martinez Tribal TANF. No admission Fee. ParkingProvided. www.laskinsfest.com

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    An all-new, reimagined, environmental and completely immersive theater production of the legendary musical CARRIE will begin performances at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts on March 12, 2015, with an official opening night set for March 18, 2015. La Mirada Theatre will be completely transformed into Ewan High School, putting audiences, for the first time ever, at the center of the action in this bold and thrilling twist on the now-classic musical.

    Based on the novel by Stephen King, CARRIE reunites the original creative team and will include a book by Lawrence D. Cohen (screenwriter of the classic film), music by Academy Award winner Michael Gore (Fame, Terms of Endearment), and lyrics by Academy Award winner Dean Pitchford (Fame, Footloose). Brady Schwind directs the production, with choreography by Imara Quinonez.

    “The story of CARRIE has endured in the popular consciousness for decades, but no one has ever experienced it from this point of view,” producers Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman said. “The idea of placing the audience in the center of this world was just too tantalizing to resist. It’s going to be thrilling.”
      
    Taunted by her peers at school and terrorized by her religious zealot mother at home, CARRIE tells the haunting tale of 17-year-old Carrie White. Lonely and tormented, Carrie discovers she has a shocking secret power. But when a prank at her high school prom goes horribly wrong, everyone finds just how powerful a secret can be...

    Individual tickets go on sale on August 15, 2014 at 11:00 am and can be purchased at www.experiencecarrie.com or by calling the box office at (562) 944-9801. CARRIE will run through Sunday, April 5, 2015. 

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    MUSICAL NEWS: The world premiere of PSYCHE: A Modern Rock Opera will play the Greenway Court Theatre Aug. 22 – Sept. 28 (opening night on Aug. 29). Cindy Shapiro has written book, music and lyrics for the original musical which is based on the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros. Musical direction is by Jack Wall, choreography by Janet Roston and PSYCHE will be directed by Michael Matthews. This modern retelling is a stylistic musical hybrid of post-modernism and rock; a theatrical fever dream where the human princess Psyche and the god Eros fall wildly in love, but Aphrodite and Psyche’s evil sisters may have other plans.

    The cast will feature Ashley Ruth Jones as Psyche, Michael Starr as Eros, Laura L. Thomas as Aphrodite along with Benai Boyd, Mathew Domenic D;Amico, Katie Kitani, Philip Dean Lightstone, Cindy Sciacca, Nakia Secrest, Neil Taffe, Derrian Tolden, Grace Yoo and Cynthia Zitter.  The design team includes Stephen Gifford (set design), E.B. Brooks (costume design), Tim Swiss (lighting design), Cricket S. Myers (sound design), and Michael O’Hara (props design).  Aerial director is Whitney Kirk and aerial consulting is by Nathalie Gaulthier. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave. in Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 655.7679 x100 or www.psycherockopera.com.

    AWARDS:Actress Diahann Carroll will receive the 2014 Diversity Award at the 8th Annual Pasadena Playhouse Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Project fundraising event on Sunday, September 21, 2014. The event will coincide with the theatre’s season opener Kiss Me, Kate starring Wayne Brady and Merle Dandridge. Pre-show reception begins at 3:30 pm with the presentation to Diahann Carroll taking place at 4:45 pm on the Mainstage. Curtain is at 5:00 pm. A post show party will immediately follow the performance.

    “I had the true honor (and the great fun) of directing Diahann Carroll here at the Playhouse in our production of BLUE,” said Sheldon Epps. “She has become a good friend and a great supporter of my work here. Diahann has been a great trailblazer and pioneer in our field, opening many doors in the entertainment industry. One could say that the Diversity Project itself is in the grand tradition of her achievements.” For more information about the Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Program, or to become a Patron of the 2014 Diversity Celebration, contact Julia Fitzgibbons by phone at (626) 204-7383 or via email at jfitzgibbons@pasadenaplayhouse.org.


    I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky, a one-night only performance comes to the Ford. An earthquake romance. A genre-defying song play. With a score by leading contemporary composer John Adams and a libretto by the late poet June Jordan, I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky was written as an homage to the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Now, 20 years later, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission presents the Southern California premiere, performed by Long Beach Opera. LBO artistic director Andreas Mitisek conducts a concert staging at the Ford Amphitheatre on Aug. 23 at8 pm as part of the Ford’s Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series.


    The cast will include Cedric Berry as Dewain, a reformed gang leader; Bernard Holcombas David, a Baptist minister; Zeffin Quinn Hollis as Mike, a cop who is also a community activist; Andrew Nguyen as Rick, a Vietnamese-American Legal Aid defense attorney; Lindsay Patterson as Leila, an African-American graduate student working as a family planning counselor in an abortion clinic; Zipporah Peddle as Tiffany, a TV crime-as-news reporter; and Holly Sedillos as Consuela, an undocumented immigrant mother of two from El Salvador. Tickets are $100, $80 and $60 (reserved seating), with a VIP package available for $125 that includes premium seating, a choice of wine or beer, and on-site parking. A $5 discount is available with advance purchase by Aug. 16. For more information and to purchase tickets go to www.FordTheatres.org or call (323) 461-3673 (323 GO 1-FORD).

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    MUSICAL NEWS:  International City Theatre trumpets its 30th Anniversary in 2015 with a season of five plays celebrating famous people, fiery stories and fun adventures. ICT will pay homage to two icons of the American musical, kicking off the season in February with End of the Rainbow, Peter Quilter’s tour de force musical drama about Judy Garland, and finishing the year in October with the Los Angeles premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim, the James Lapine-conceived musical revue that offers an inside glimpse into the artistic process of Broadway’s foremost composer/lyricist.

    The three other plays include the west coast premiere of Abigail/1702 in which Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa picks up the tale of Arthur Miller’s child-villain Abigail Williams ten years after The Crucible; a 30th anniversary production of August Wilson’s modern American classic, Fences; and the Los Angeles premiere of David Ives’ adaptation of Jean-François Regnard‘s 18th century French classic, The Heir Apparent. For more information and to subscribe to the 2014 season, please call (562) 436-4610 or go to www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

    Laverne and Shirley star Cindy Williams will star in Laguna Playhouse’s run of Menopause The Musical®. The cast will also feature Sandra Benton, Beth Buczkowski and Playhouse favorite Marsha Waterbury. Menopause previews on September 17, opens on Thursday, September 18 at 7:00 pm and runs through September 28. Inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, writer Jeanie Linders created the show as a celebration of women who find themselves at any stage of “The Change.” The laughter-filled 90-minute production gets audience members out of their seats and singing along to parodies from classic pop songs of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. www.lagunaplayhouse.com


    Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University, Northridge presents the OBI-Award winning SITI Company’s Café Variations on Tuesday, September 30 at 7:30 pm. SITI was founded in 1992 by Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki to redefine and revitalize contemporary theater in the United States through an emphasis on international cultural exchange and collaboration. SITI combines theater, dance and the music of George and Ira Gershwin in its six-actor version of Café Variations, a theatrical  exploration of life, love and identity in an unabashedly romantic celebration of café culture. Shown in the intimate Plaza del Sol, tickets range from $55 to $65. For tickets and a complete calendar of VPAC events visit www.valleyperformingartscenter.org.



    Cyrano meets The Sopranos in Serrano, the Musical, a new musical based on the French classic Cyrano De Bergerac set in New York’s Little Italy directed by Joel Zwick, featuring book & lyrics by Madeline Sunshine and music by Robert Tepper.Click Here to check out their Indiegogo campaign. For more about the musical visit www.serranothemusical.com.

    Cabaret at The Merc closes its inaugural 2014 Summer Series with a developmental workshop production of The Untitled John Mayer Project directed by J. Scott Lapp with choreography by Steven Cardona. Featuring the music and lyrics of Grammy Award winning songwriter John Mayer, an original book by Jordan Beck, and new arrangements by the show’s musical director Leonard Patton. The cast includes Taran Gray as John, Emily Lopez as Sara, Joshua David Cavanaugh as Chad, Jennifer Sun Bell as Olivia, with Daniel J. Filippi (Patrick), Nick Wuebben (Blake) and Hayley Marian (Chloe). The show will play Friday, Sept. 12 – 15 at The Merc in Temecula, 42051 Main St. Temecula, California 92590. www.CabaretAtTheMerc

    CABARET/CONCERTS:Reaching for the Stars: A Cabrillo Cabaret will take place on Monday, August 25 at 8:00 pm at the Lyric Theatre, 520 N La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. Stars from Cabrillo past and present will join forces for this evening of entertainment to raise funds for the company. Performers include Kelli Provart, Jim J. Bullock, Harley Jay, Shannon Warne, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Zachary Ford, Natalie Storrs and many more. Musical direction is by Cassie Nickols. Tickets are $20 at www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.

    Rockwell Table and Stagehas announced its September line-up. Highlights include:

    Disney Dreams: Broadway Sings Disney (Sept. 4, 11, 18 & 25 at 8:00 pm)
    Broadway performers share the love of Disney through songs and storytelling immediately followed by You Sing Disney – Open Mic at 11:30 pm.

    Broadway Barre (Monday, Sept. 8 at 8:00 pm)
    Hosted by Kate Pazakis with Brian Kennedy at the Piano, this monthly event is where LA’s vibrant musical theater community comes together to enjoy each other’s company as well as perform for each other.

    A Little New Music 6 (Tuesday, Sept 23 at 8:00 pm)
    This fast-paced hour of the newest or unheard musical theatre material is hosted by Jordan Kai Burnett and will showcase songs by award-winning writers Buck & Acquisto, Michael Gordon Shapiro, Drew Fornarola, Adam Gwon, Andrew Gerle, Michael Finke, Rosser & Sohne, Atkins & Segal, Salmond & Aronson, Defoe & Sinutoke, Wilmott & Stevens, Sankoff & Hein, and Daniel Maté. Special appearances by musical comedy duo Schoolcraft & Murray, and back by popular demand, Milburn & Vigoda.

    For reservations and info about Rockwell’s complete schedule of performances go to www.rockwell-la.com.

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    Co-creators Edie Brickell and Steve Martin (seated) and (L-R) choreographer
    Josh Rhodes, director Walter Bobbie, musical supervisor Peter Asher,
    and musical director/vocal arranger Rob Berman. Photos by Jim Cox.

    Carmen Cusack appears as Alice Murphy and A.J.
    Shively as Billy Cane.

    BRIGHT STAR, A New American Musical with music by Edie Brickell and Steve Martin, lyrics by Edie Brickell, and bood by Steve Martin, directed by Walter Bobbie will premiere Sept. 13 – Nov. 2, 2014 at The Old Globe in San Diego. Bright Star features 25 new songs - Americana with a touch of rock - and tells a beguiling tale that unfolds in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina between 1923 and 1945. Billy Cane, a young soldier just home from World War II, meets Alice Murphy, the brilliant editor of a southern literary journal. Together they discover a powerful secret that alters their lives. An entertaining musical of enduring love, family ties, and the light of forgiveness that shines from a bright star. Tickets: www.theoldglobe.org


    Back by “Popular” demand, Wicked will return to its Los Angeles home, the Hollywood Pantages, for a limited engagement this holiday season running December 10, 2014 – February 1, 2015. Individual tickets will go on sale to the general public on Sunday morning, September 7 at 10:00 am online at www.HollywoodPantages.com or by calling 800-982-2787, and at the Hollywood Pantages Box Office. Wicked, directed by two-time Tony® Award winner Joe Mantello and featuring musical staging by Tony® Award winner Wayne Cilento, is the untold story of the witches of Oz. Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. One - born with emerald green skin - is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. Wicked tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.


    DOMA Theatre Company is back with Young Frankenstein, adapted for the stage by the Tony award-winning team of Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan (The Producers) Sept. 26 – Nov. 16 at the MET Theatre in Hollywood. Led by director Marco Gomez and musical director Chris Raymond, Young Frankenstein features all of the favorite scenes from the film – plus show-stopping numbers like “Transylvania Mania,” “Together Again,” “He Vas My Boyfriend” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (music and lyrics by Brooks, choreography by Angela Todero).

    Featuring John David Wallis as Dr. Frankenstein, Scott Seiffert as Igor and Susan Huckle as Inga, with Hector Quintana (the Monster), Toni Smith (Elizabeth), Michelle Holmes (Frau Blucher), Dan Spector (Inspector Hans Kemp), Bobby Reed (The Hermit), Bradley Kuykendall (Dr. Victor Von Frankenstein) and Wesley Moran (Ziggy), with ensemble members Elvira Barjau, Kevin Corsini, Carrie Daniel, Allison Jakubowski, Sandy Mansson, Johnny Ortiz, Bradley Settler and Lauren Tyni. The MET Theatre is located at 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles CA 90029. Tickets: (323) 802-4990 or www.domatheatre.com.

    Kritzerland’s Fourth Anniversary Show: The Songs That Got Away III on September 7 sold out so quickly that they have added a Sunday matinee at 2:00 pm. Doors open at 1:00 pm for brunch/lunch. There is no cover for this show which stars Evan Buckley Harris, Kimberly Hessler, Travis Leland, Bruce Merkle, Hadley Miller, Madison Claire Parks, Jenna Lea Rosen, Sami Staitman, Adrienne Visnic, Robert Yacko, and Special Guests Kerry O’Malley and Bruce Vilanch. Reservation:  (818) 754-8700.

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    This is a day you'll never forget. Take a walking tour of the Downtown Los Angeles Theatre District to see the the original entertainment center of LA. Click on the names of the theatres in blue below the photos for the story of each theatre from the days of Vaudeville. The historical and architectural details are amazing.  www.laconservancy.org

    LA's Historical Broadway Theater District Downtown. 
    All Photos ©Ellen Dostal, Musicals in LA

    Los Angeles TheatreLobby
    The most lavish of Broadway’s great movie palaces, the 1931 
    Los Angeles was designed by legendary theatre architect 
    S. Charles Lee.

    Los Angeles Theatre stage view from the mezzanine

    The Los Angeles Theatre lobby's grand staircase leads 
    to a stunning crystal fountain.

    Los Angeles Theatre marquee, in memory of Robin Williams

    Orpheum Theatre
    The fourth and final home of the famed Orpheum 
    vaudeville circuit in LA opened in 1926

    Palace Theatre
    The Palace is one of the oldest theatres 
    in LA and hosted such stars 

    as Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, Fred Astaire, and a young Rita Hayworth.

    Loews State Theatre
    Done in the Beaux Art style with a brick façade 

    Ceiling inside theState Theatre

    United Artists Theatre
    Built by the founders of United Artists Pictures - Mary Pickford, 
    Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks 
    to show their films.

    Original Pantages Theatre, later renamed 
    theArcade Theatre opened in 1910.
    The opening bill included: 
    Barnold’s Dog and Monkey Actors in “A Hot Time in Dogville” 
    Sophie Tucker, singer and comedienne 
    Maurice Burkhart, character-singing comedian 
    MacLean and Bryant “17-20 on the Black” gambling sketch
    Lelliott Brothers, comedy musical sketch 
    Yalto Duo, novelty whirlwind dancers*

    (*info courtesy of Historic Los Angeles Theatres - Downtown)

    Globe Theatre
    The only legit theatre downtown at the time, it opened in 1913
    for producer Oliver Morosco 

    Roxie Theatre
    The last theatre built on Broadway and the only
    one built in the Art Deco architectural style

    Tower Theatre
    Renaissance Revival style, its interior was modeled after the
    Paris Opera House. It was the first film house in LA to be wired
    for talkies. Al Joson’s The Jazz Singer premiered here.

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    MUSICAL NEWS:Hudson Theatricals presents Suburban Showgirl, an inspirational one-woman tour de force written by and starring Palmer Davis, Sundays at 7:00 pm, Aug 31 – Sept 28. In the show, Davis creates the character Wendy Walker - wife, mother of two, and professional dancer - whose life is not turning out quite the way she had hoped. While working as a magician’s assistant in Las Vegas, a backstage mishap forces Walker to evaluate her life like never before…in the five minutes before curtain! During an emotional journey through her past, Walker relives some of her most pivotal moments… and comes to a decision that will change her life perspective forever. Coping with the unpredictable demands of career and family, Wendy Walker’s journey takes her down a path to self-acceptance, and the strength and courage to…”just be.” Click Herefor tickets or call (323) 960-7784.

    Lost the Musical: We Have To Go Back, written by Steven Christopher Parker& Steven Brandon has announced its cast. The unauthorized parody of LOST will feature Brielle Batino, Ben Burch, Will Choi, Frank Crim, Tyler Courtad, Sarah Jayne Daquioag, Eric Fagundes, Ryan Grassmeyer, Josh Hillinger, Katie Hotchkiss, Randy Wade Kelley, Cat LaCohie, Alex Lewis, Kahlie Metz, Ken Maurice Purnell, Kacey Spivey, Rajan Velu and Bruno Xavier, directed by Steven Brandon, with musical direction by DeReau K. Farrar and choreography by Heather Ashleigh Rivers. Lost the Musical will run Sept. 18 – Oct. 26, with opening night set for Monday, Sept. 22, (the ten-year anniversary of the LOST series premiere) at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way in Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 960-1055 or www.plays411.com/lost.

    Panic! Productions begins its third season with the classic musical fable, The Fantasticks, Sept. 5 - 21, at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. The longest running musical in the history of the American theatre, The Fantasticks features music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones. This newly imagined, intimate production is directed and choreographed by Broadway veteran Joshua Finkel, with vocal direction by Diann Alexander and orchestra direction by Ben Ginsberg. Appearing in The Fantasticks are Katie Hume, Christian Thomas, John Gaston, Paul Panico, Robert Weibezahl, Jim Seerden, Andrew Metzger, and Michelle Miller. The Hillcrest Center for the Arts is located at 403 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. Tickets: (805) 381-1246 or www.hillcrestarts.com.

    NMI presents Frogs in the Living Room, a wild two-person musical about the tempestuous feud between architect Frank Lloyd Wright (Scott Guy) and arts patron Aline Barnsdall (Elise Dewsberry) and the bitter battle for the artistic soul of Hollyhock House on August 26 & 28. Rich patroness Aline Barnsdall dreams of building a spectacular house and theatre complex on top Olive Hill. She thinks with her money and artistic vision, she can control Frank Lloyd Wright to get him to build the house HER way. She’s wrong. The musical is based on the letters of the tempestuous relationship between two of the most powerful figures in the art world in 1919. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA  91601. Tickets: www.nmi.org/summer2014.

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    MUSICAL NEWS: Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons will celebrate its return to Los Angeles and its Hollywood Pantages Premiere with a limited three-week engagement; Sept.30 – Oct. 19 (opening night Sunday, Oct. 5th at 6:30 pm). The cast will be led by Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio), Hayden Milanes (Frankie Valli) and Adam Zelasko (Nick Massi) as The Four Seasons, with Barry Anderson and Thomas Fiscella. The ensemble includes Tommaso Antico, Jaycie Dotin, Marlana Dunn, De’Lon Grant, Wes Hart, Bryan Hindle, Austin Owen, John Rochette, Leslie Rochette, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Kara Tremel, Jonny Wexler and Keith White. Tickets: (800) 982-2787 or www.HollywoodPantages.com. Pictured L-R: Quinn VanAntwerp, Nicolas Dromard, Hayden Milanes and Adam Zelasko. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

    Lewis Family Playhouse presents the west coast premiere of The Three Little Pigs, featuring music by George Stiles, book & lyrics by Anthony Drewe, directed by Jessica Kubzansky Oct. 4 – 19. 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. Play is suitable for ages 4 and up. Lewis Family Playhouse in the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, 12505 Cultural Center Drive, in Rancho Cucamonga 91739. Parking is free. Tickets: (909) 477-2752 or www.lewisfamilyplayhouse.com.

    DANCE: Winding up the Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series and bringing the Ford Theatres 2014 summer season to a close, Ezralow Dance takes the stage at the Ford Amphitheatre on Sept. 13 at 8:00 pm. The commissioned, site-specific world premiere from world-renowned director/choreographer Daniel Ezralow will be accompanied by live music from contemporary classical ensemble wild Up, marking the debut of Ezralow’s new, Los Angeles-based company.

    “I try to break traditions, to look at something we may have all viewed many times before and see it completely differently,” says Ezralow. “With this new company of 9 dancers, I want to build a creative home for the huge amount of repertory I’ve developed around the world. Being an eclectic artist means that I’ve been lucky enough to jump from film to TV to stage, but there’s been no way until now to collect everything into a single body of work.” Tickets: (323) 461-3673 or www.FordTheatres.org. A $5 discount is available with advance purchase by Sept. 6.


    CONCERTS/CABARET: Rockwell Table and Stageannounces the world premiere of ROAR, choreographed by Ambrose Respicio III, musical direction by Brian Kennedy and conceived/directed by VP Boyle. Previews September 5 & 6, show opens Friday, September 12 at 8:00 pm. The cast includes Sebastian La Cause, Matt Magnusson, Briana Cuoco, Nicci Claspell, Emily Morris, Joe Donohoe, Kyra Selman, Bianca Giselle and Lexie Galante. ROAR is an immersive theatrical event with a sexy, edgy and kinetic cast that delivers gut-wrenching vocals from songs by Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, Pink, Shakira, Rihanna, Lorde, Sia, Lady Gaga, Sara Bareilles and many more. Three young women discover what it means to be truly human when they must battle for survival in their messy, private world as it crumbles. Lover. Husband. Partner. Friend. No one is left untouched as they face the strangers they thought they knew. Rockwell Table and Stage is located at 1714 N. Vermont in Los Feliz. Tickets: (323) 669-1550 x 20 or www.rockwell-la.com.

    BOOKS: On September 2nd St Martin’s Press will release Barbara Isenberg’s new book Tradition! The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical. Published in celebration of Fiddler’s 50th anniversary, Tradition! is a book for anyone who loves musical theatre. Barbara Isenberg interviewed the men and women behind the original production, the film and significant revivals - Harold Prince, Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein, Austin Pendleton, Joanna Merlin, Norman Jewison, Topol, Harvey Fierstein and more - to produce what Kirkus Reviews calls ‘a loving tribute to a cultural phenomenon.’ Click Here for more information about the book.

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    Ashley Ruth Jones (Psyche) and Michael Starr (Eros). Photos by Barry Weiss.

    The world premiere of PSYCHE: A Modern Rock Opera is undeniably impressive, especially when you consider the scope of the author’s vision and the level of detail that has gone into its execution. The 2½ hour sung-through opera by composer/lyricist/ bookwriter Cindy Shapiro borrows stylistic elements from French grand opera and contemporary musical theatre, and combines them with a deconstructed rock landscape to tell the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros, and though it may not succeed in accomplishing everything it sets out to do, what it does achieve is an intriguing fusion of sound and picture, the effect of which is much like a master painting brought to life.

    In fact, the way scenic designer Stephen Gifford has transformed the Greenway Court Theatre is one of the production’s most jaw-dropping accomplishments. Gifford’s mythic cloud world of the gods is an elaborate panorama that stretches in all directions, reaching up into the rafters and disappearing through the back wall to create an optical illusion of infinite depth in this airy Greek temple in the sky. Massive marble columns entwined with thick vines and other Greek architectural features are blended with sturdy iron scaffolding adding a subtle Mad Max nod to the design.

    Overlaying Tim Swiss’ lighting gives the structure an earthy timelessness as shadow and light morph to make the three-dimensional painting animate and the characters move like an extension of a work of art. E.B. Brooks’ costumes further develop the ethereal and futuristic textures in the clothing so that when the light catches the movement of the material it adds another layer of sensuality to what the eye experiences. 

    Ashley Ruth Jones and the company of PSYCHE

    Breathtaking pictures emerge as the integration of choreography, movement, dance and staging by director Michael Matthews and choreographer Janet Roston seamlessly pull all the visual elements together: Psyche poised on top of the cliff ready to dive into the unknown; a storm with just enough strobe effect to create drama but not chaos; black aerial silks dropped from above for two men to sky dance in Hades; Psyche and Eros draped atop a revolving static trapeze….over and over Matthews builds the stage pictures to create a thing of beauty. There is no careless movement here.

    Where the production falters is in its underlying structure. The book lacks urgency and focus, packing in so much of the Psyche and Eros myth that it becomes harder, rather than easier, to follow. At the same time, characters sing lyric after lyric that are so obvious, repetitious, and wandering that they begin to feel silly early on… e.g. “I’m amazed. I’m just amazed that I am here to tell this tale. I did not die. I’m still alive. I live.” [repeat twice]. Not only is it redundant but it doesn’t allow the vocal to go anywhere, so the next rock ballad sounds like the rock ballad before it and nothing jumps out as particularly memorable. Even with opera, where the music itself is where much of the emotion lives, the story needs to reach a modern audience that may not be used to the art form.

    One quite beautiful effect in Shapiro’s post-modern score, however, is the distinctive choral sound she and musical director Jack Wall achieve with the ensemble voices. The complex harmonies and shifting tonalities are sung using straight tones that allow the voices to resonate simultaneously creating a haunting sound with overtones that soar effortlessly over the 16-piece orchestra. The best way I can describe it is as if an artist was painting on a canvas but with sound instead of oils. Stunning.

    The vocal ranges for some of the solo voices are more difficult for the singers to master, especially for the women. Often they range from too low to be heard over the orchestra, even when there are two of them singing – to requiring a belt in such a high tessitura that the singer can’t help but sound screechy.

    Ashley Ruth Jones and Michael Starr are believable as the lovers who must transcend convention to reach their happily ever after and Laura L. Thomas, as the goddess Aphrodite, is lovely but has the blackest heart imaginable. Benai Boyd and Cindy Sciacca personify evil and offer a few moments of levity as Psyche’s sisters and Aphrodite’s handmaidens. Each embodies the symbolic quality of his or her role but, with the exception of Jones who makes the journey, and late in the game Starr, most are limited by the writing in what they can do.

    Uncredited ensemble actors shine vocally in various roles, specifically those playing Psyche’s mother, her father, and Zeus, all of whom have gorgeous voices. The quirky actor playing Hermes also adds a welcome comic element.

    In the end, it may not be a perfect new work and it may not be for everyone, but PSYCHE certainly leaves an impression. I suggest you think of it not as a musical theatre piece or as a typical opera but as a living work of art. And that's always open to a personal interpretation.

    Michael Starr and Laura L. Thomas

    Ashley Ruth Jones on chaise with (L-R) Katie Kitani, Benai
    Alicia Boyd, Cindy Sciacca and Michael Starr

    Ashley Ruth Jones and Michael Starr

    PSYCHE: A MODERN ROCK OPERA
    August 22 – September 28, 2014
    Greenway Court Theatre
    544 N. Fairfax Avenue
    Hollywood, CA 
    Tickets: (323) 655.7679 x100 or
    www.psycherockopera.com

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    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 Caterpillarfollows 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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    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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    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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    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 directorJared 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 - October 19, 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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    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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    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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