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Your Musical Theatre Resource for Southern California!

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    James Lynch as The Phantom. Photos by Johanna Siegmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The cast of Vox Lumiere - The Phantom of the Opera

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


    Marisa Johnson as Christine

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


    James Lynch as The Phantom

    The cast of Vox Lumiere - The Phantom of the Opera

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

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

    Michael Covert, Kyla Garcia and Joe Fria

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

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

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

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    Josey Montana McCoy and Stephanie Hayslip

    Bronies! The Musical made a big splash at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. The preview production won multiple awards including Best Musical, the Thirty9One Golden Elephant for best director/producers, and a Producers’ Encore Award. More importantly, it won the hearts of everyone who saw it.

    I wasn’t able to catch it at the Fringe but I did see it over the weekend in its latest incarnation at Third Street Theatre in West Hollywood and I can see why it resonated with so many people. It’s fun, it’s uplifting, and its optimism will put a smile on your face whether you like it or not. Full of silliness of the sincerest kind, it’s a sweet show that simply makes you happy.

    Bronies are adult (mostly male) fans of the 1980s “My Little Pony”  franchise of toys and animated entertainment. Originally created for young girls, it fostered another cult following in the bronies who adopted its themes of empowerment, appreciation for one’s talents, and unconditional love. It addresses real world challenges like bullying and self-doubt while the ponies help replace tender insecurities with confidence and appreciation for the things we love that make us who we are.


    The show is presented in one act, approximately an hour and twenty minutes long, and follows three boys who are each struggling to find his way. Tyler (emphatically intense Richy Storrs), is persecuted by the school’s jocks at every turn, including Austin (handsome leading man Taylor Helmboldt), who has yet to learn how to speak up for what’s right. Jacob (the incredibly versatile Josey Montana McCoy) is stuck working at the school as a janitor under the thumb of his misguided father (Tom G. McMahan), who doesn’t realize he’s crushing the life out his son’s dreams.

    As each boy stumbles upon the ponies and adopts one as his personal muse, their journey to friendship begins, and with the help of the others, they’ll learn to stand up for themselves as they never have before.

    The cast is a young, talented up-and-coming group of energetic actors who happily look the age of the characters they play. The strangely compelling ponies: Pink Pony (Shelley Regner), White Pony (Stephanie Hayslip), Blue Pony (Brielle Batino) and Yellow Pony (Charlotte Mary Wen) are a glamourous sequined fortress against the pessimism of the world who shadow their humans like nurturing angels. Plus, this Dreamgirls/Weather Girls quartet sounds like they’re going to bust into a chorus of “It’s Raining Men” any minute...and I almost wish they would. They sing beautifully and bring the lovely harmonies of Joe Greene’s score to life with panache. Musical director Jennifer Linn has done great work not only with their sound, but the sound of the entire cast. Their choral anthem that ends the show is a highlight.

    The adorable puppets manipulated by the Ponies are created by Russ Walko, and yes, they even do some delightful puppet pony choreography by John Todd. Richard Israel directs this world premiere, which features book & lyrics by Heidi Powers and Tom Moore, in addition to Greene's music. Israel goes beneath the obvious fun to reach for layers that make the musical more than just a piece of fluff. There’s heart and depth and a real investment in communicating the story without diminishing it.

    In addition to the students, Powers & Moore’s book is populated with sweet, eccentric characters - like DJ Keith (Mark Gelsomini), Tyler’s mom (hilarious Gabby Sanalitro) and Hank (played by Greene) who also support the growth of their friends and family members in quirky ways. Get out of Mrs. Mason’s way when she finds out her son has been bullied! This is a woman you definitely want on your side...or she’ll chew you up and spit you out in little tiny pieces.

    Joel Daavid’s set design is a multipurpose combination of revolving platforms and walls that capture the look of a brightly colored television show. Israel stages the moving in and out of pieces perfectly in tightly choreographed scene changes that look like a dance. It’s all in the details and he accounts for every single one.

    Violence and aggression have no place in the world of optimism and with Bronies! the writers have offered an alternative point of view that sparkles like a rainbow beacon in the distance to guide and teach while entertaining in song and dance. Sounds like a musical theatre world to me.

    Anna Grace Barlow and Taylor Helmboldt

    Brielle Batino, Stephanie Hayslip, Shelley Regner and Charlotte Mary Wen

    Richy Storrs (center) and the cast of Bronies! The Musical

    Josey Montana McCoy and Joe Greene

    The cast of Bronies! The Musical

    BRONIES! THE MUSICAL
    September 25 – November 1, 2014
    Third Street Theatre
    8115 W. Third Street
    Los Angeles, CA 90048
    www.broniesthemusical.com

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    Bringing Kiss Me, Kate to Life
    --by Jeffrey Polk

    In the Beginning
    My involvement with Kiss Me, Kate began in early May and a conversation I had with Sheldon Epps, Pasadena Playhouse’s Artistic Director. Sheldon talked to me about creating an all-African American cast for Kiss Me, Kate and he also asked me to stage some of the musical numbers. I quickly realized that this project involved more than just staging songs. This is a very unique musical that incorporates a variety of different dance styles. And it’s choreographing an American classic, a Cole Porter American classic. 

    Sheldon started talking about some of the productions in that era of Negro theaters that had performed around the world. There was Voodoo Macbeth, created by the playwright and director Orson Welles. It was the most popular theater performance of the Negro Theatre Project’s New York unit and was performed at Lafayette Theater in Harlem, New York, in 1936. The original Macbeth took place in Scotland, but Welles set his version in the Caribbean. There was also a swing version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta The Mikado which became Hot Mikado featuring Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.


    During his research, Sheldon also found a musical version of the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream called Swingin’ The Dream, starring Louis Armstrong supported by Benny Goodman’s band that featured a beautiful up-and-coming movie star by the name of Dorothy Dandridge in the chorus.


    So in some ways we are not doing anything that’s new with our production; we’re just adding to the rich history of African American theater that already exists. Sheldon also added creator and musician, Rahn Coleman, to the team. Rahn has been musical director for many great shows including Purlie and Ain’t Misbehavin’ and he has worked with some of the vocal greats like Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin.

    Creating a Company,orHow to Cast a Classic
    As Sheldon and I started building the show, we discussed different ways we could make it our own. We talked about the two thugs and the General being white: Brad Blaisdell (Thug 1), David Kirk Grant(Thug 2), and Pat Towne (The General). It made sense to cast it that way.

    Wayne Brady and Merle Dandridge

    Sheldon already had a beautiful leading lady in mind to play Lilli/Kate -Merle Dandridge. Merle has worked in theatre, television, and film, and the voice that comes out of her is pure heaven. Wayne Brady, (Fred/ Petruchio) got wind of our African American Kiss Me, Kate and was also very interested in the project. As luck would have it, it fit into his very busy schedule with “Let’s Make A Deal” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” among so many other gigs. I’ve known Wayne for years, and I cannot think of a better person to be around, or anyone more professional to work with. He’s a great father and an angel of a man so to have him be part of this project was like being in Heaven. 

    The rest of the company members also needed to be stellar performers. We knew it was going to be a small cast, so we had to make sure everybody was more than a triple threat. (And they had to also be wonderful people!) As we were casting, I was looking for actors who would make a good theatre company, not necessarily just be great for a part. They needed a cornucopia of individuality, strength, greatness, pride, and flexibility. And it didn’t hurt if they looked good also!



    Iasked one of my best friends to recommend someone to help me out through this project. Kye Brackett, choreographer extraordinaire, has worked with many professional people, in addition to serving as Barry Manilow’s choreographer. He had the time off to join me and I was in Heaven. He’s one of my oldest and dearest friends.

    Another Op’nin’
    Sheldon and I then started talking about the opening, the top of show. The first song in Kiss Me, Kate is “Another Op’nin’, Another Show.” The words in that song mean a lot to everyone who’s ever been a part of the theatre.

    “The overture is about to start, you cross your fingers and hold your heart, the curtain’s up and away we go, another opening of another show!” To the average person working in theatre that’s almost like a prayer, or even a spiritual awakening - knowing that we’re getting ready to do a show again; not knowing where our next show will be; will this one close or stay open? We don’t know what’s next but what we do have is the now.


    So we designed our opening to be more of a spiritual awakening for all of us in the theatre and then staged it to fit the troupe of Negro players led by Hattie, the dresser (Jenelle Randall). We took the liberty of starting it off with a little jazz, and then moved into the classic opening, on to a gospel awakening, and back to the original opening.

    On with the Show
    Next we had to figure out how to open the second act and make it our own. “Too Darn Hot” is the number that begins Act II and it really has nothing to do with moving the story along, but it’s a great song nonetheless. It takes place during intermission of the play within the play. Sheldon wanted a little drumbeat break in the number, and we both somehow wanted to capture the feel of that backstage experience. 

    I was trying to figure out the best way to do that without being campy or crazy and I decided to use Africa as my inspiration. I had pretty much sketched it all out in my head and was ready to present it during the first rehearsal. Then I realized that Rogelio Douglas, Jr., who was playing Paul, was an excellent tap dancer. Since it’s his song, I knew I needed to merge the two. In continuing the backstage antics, the dressers find that it’s hot and start it off - kind of tap meets Africa meets tap meets musical theater. I also wanted to respect it. The song says it’s too hot to do anything with anybody right now, so I staged it accordingly.

    Rogelio Douglas, Jr. and Jenelle Lynn Randall

    Playing to their Strengths
    We incorporated each individual company member’s strengths into the different songs. In “For Thine That Special Face,” we added a tableau dance behind Wayne Brady as he is singing. Sheldon adjusted scenes so they made sense because we didn’t have a big ensemble and
 I had to think outside the box with staging. Some numbers became shorter, like “Tom, Dick or Harry” withJoanna A. Jones (Lois), Terrance Spencer(Bill/ Lucentio), Eric B. Anthony (Gremio), and Jay Donnell (Hortensio). I added more athleticism in the number to show what all of them can do. Anything is possible and everything you need to create something special is within the song.

    Our dancers are incredibly talented. We have a beautiful six-foot tall woman by the name of Shamicka Benn-Moser. We have some very skilled ballet dancers (Theresa Murray and Armando Yearwood Jr.) and excellent actor/dancers (Kimberly Moore, Saudia Rashedand Carlton Wilborn). We literally built the show from the ground up with these people and it has it all. There’s a parade, grape stomping, barrel rolling, and everything else that can possibly fill the stage. 

    Design Inspiration and the End Result
    Sheldon talked about Archibald John Motley, Jr. an African American artist, whose style of painting fits into the 1930’s and 40s motif, and how that would inform the visual design. John Iacovelli, the scenic designer, had an excellent idea about how to make the set work and he gave us a mini version to let us know what we had to play with. And using the back wall of the stage as part of the set for the opening is stunning.


    Our costume designer, David K. Mickelsen, picked up some wonderful pieces from a Shakespeare company in Utah, along with an authentic 40s look for the opening and everyone looks gorgeous.

    I couldn’t be prouder of this production of Kiss Me, Kate. Just seeing the way it has come together, and knowing that it’s Sheldon’s passion piece, makes it a spectacular, heartwarming experience for me. It has been one inspirational moment after another.


    I do recommend that people who have never seen the show, or are just interested in seeing a great, classic, golden age musical, come out and experience it. There really is something for everyone!


    Wayne Brady

    KISS ME, KATE
    Through October 12, 2014
    Pasadena Playhouse
    39 South El Molino Avenue
    Pasadena, CA 91101
    Tickets: 626-356-7529 or
    www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

    8. Laugh it up at Rockwell’s Gonna SCREAM
    Rockwell Table and Stage begins its new series, The Unauthorized Musical Parodies, with a spoof of the 1996 cult horror classic, SCREAM starring Sarah Hyland from Modern Family as Sydney Oct. 18 – Nov. 15. This hyperbolic retelling ups the ante from the camp of the original with live on-stage blood, beyond reverent narration, and the infamous killer mask donned by our very own “Screamettes.” Written and directed by television writers, Michael Gans & Richard Register and featuring musical direction by Brian P. Kennedy, the cast will include many other  L.A. favorites such as Missi Pyle, Christine Lakin, Nicole Parker and Jonah Platt. www.rockwell-la.com

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    The cast of Bright Star

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


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

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

    Stephen Lee Anderson and Carmen Cusack

    Hannah Elless

    A.J. Shively and Stephen Bogardus

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

    San Diego, CA 92101
    www.theoldglobe.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    JERSEY BOYS
    Sept 30 - Oct 19, 2014

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

    Cabrillo Music Theatre kicks off its 2014-15 season with the regional premiere of Memphis Nov. 14 - 23. From the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis is the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that bursts off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs, and a thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love setting its story of tolerance and the pursuit of happiness to a classic rock beat. Todd Adamson, fresh off the national tour of We Will Rock You, makes his Cabrillo debut as Huey, joined by Lakeisha Renee Houston as Felicia. The cast also features Keith Jefferson as Delray, and Linda Kerns as Gladys. Robert W. Schneider directs, with choreography by Kenna Morris Garcia and musical direction by Cassie Nickols. Darrell Alston, who serves as musical director for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., conducts the Cabrillo Music Theatre Band. Tickets: www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Leland Crooke and Eileen Barnett

    Matthew Wrather and Eileen Barnett

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

    Leland Crooke, Janellen Steininger, and Eileen Barnett

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    10/18 INARA GEORGE presents A Concert Tribute to William Shakespeare, 6:00 pm at Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon. The acclaimed singer/songwriter, a homegrown Topangan, shares the stage with an exciting musical lineup of guest artists. In honor of Theatricum’s ongoing celebration of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, original musical compositions inspired by his sonnets will be performed. Tickets: $35.00. (310) 455-3723 www.theatricum.com

    10/18 and 10/19 LACO and CELLIST STEPHEN ISSERLIS. Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra showcases the virtuosic skills of Steven Isserlis, “one of the world’s leading cellists” (The Guardian), performing Haydn’s radiant Cello Concerto No. 2 under the baton of sought-after Scottish conductor Douglas Boyd, making his LACO debut, on Saturday, Oct. 18, 8:00 pm, at Glendale’s Alex Theatre, and Sunday, Oct. 19, 7:00 pm, at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Boyd also conducts Mozart’s stately “Haffner” Serenade and opens the program with At First Light by George Benjamin, considered among Britain’s greatest living composers. Tickets: (213) 622-7001or www.laco.org. Tickets begin at $26.

    10/18 – 11/15 SCREAM!is the first musical event of ROCKWELL Table and Stage’s “The Unauthorized Musical Parodies” Series. This spoof of the 1996 cult horror classic stars Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland. Written and directed by Michael Gans & Richard Register and featuring musical direction by Brian P. Kennedy, the cast will include many other L.A. favorites such as Missi Pyle, Christine Lakin, Nicole Parker and Jonah Platt. www.rockwell-la.com

    10/10 KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD Benefit: 5:00 – 9:00 pm at the Road Theatre on Magnolia hosted by Ed Asner, Ed Begley Jr., Gale Harold, and Doris Roberts, with performances by Stephen Tobolowsky, Albie Selznick, Dari Mackenzie, and the cast of Melissa Arctic. The silent auction will feature celebrity auctioneer, Robert Ray Shafer. Come enjoy gourmet food by Chef Tiffany Kim, cocktails, live jazz music and more. Tickets are $125 and are tax-deductible at (866) 506-1248 or www.roadtheatre.org.

    10/20MISCAST featuring Mandy Kaplan, Stephanie Andersen, Tom W. Metz III, JP Karliak, Wendy Rosoff, Alex Mohajer, MaryJo Mundy, Thomas Threats, Justin Michael Wilcox, Ewan Chung, and Kathryn Lounsbery performers songs from The Book of Mormon, Annie, Hairspray and more. $20 Cash only. Show at 8:30pm - Dinner and Drinks at 7pm (No minimum). Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal in North Hollywood. Reservations must be made in advance by calling (818) 754-8700. Proceeds will go to Project Angel Food.

    10/26 TODD ELLISON:Broadway’s Greatest Hits3:00 pm at Valley Performing Arts Center. Broadways celebrated music director Todd Ellison presents an evening of spectacular and unique songs from the Great White Way. Guest artists include Kate Shindle, Jose Llana, Mike McGowan, and a four-piece band. Tickets: $35 to $65. (818) 677-3000 or www.valleyperformingartscenter.org.

    10/26 WINDSBACHER. Los Angeles Children’s Chorus presents the Southern California debut of the acclaimed German Boys and Mens Choir Windsbacher Knabenchor in a free concert, along with LACC’s Concert Choir and Young Men’s Ensemble at 7:00 pm at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Windsbacher’s appearance is part of 13-Day U.S. tour commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s Reunification. Free concert (suggested donation $10). www.lachildrenschorus.org

    Oct 23-27 CABARET IS ALIVE AND WELL and Living in Los Angeles: Fraser Entertainment Group presents a 4-show, 4-night,4-venue celebration of Los Angeles Cabaret, conceived by David Galligan. All proceeds will benefit The Actors Fund. Performances include:

    10/24 COME TO THE CABARET, a stunning musical evening featuring Obba Babatundé, George Ball, Michele Brourman, Loretta Devine, Davis Gaines, Julie Garnyé, Damon Kirsche, Amanda McBroom, Sharon McNight, Lisa Passero, Valerie Perri & Christina Saffran, hosted by Sally Struthers at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood at 8:30 pm. Doors open at 7.  Musical Director, Tom Griep with Nate Light on Bass and Denise Fraser on Drums. Click Here for tickets to the shows below.

    10/25A CABARET CELEBRATION, an extraordinary night of song at Tom Rolla’s Gardenia in West Hollywood at 9:00 pm starring Mary Jo Catlett, Carole Cook, Nancy Dussault, Ilene Graff & Ben Lanzarone, Jane A. Johnston, Sally Kellerman, Karen Morrow, Lisa Passero & Joanne Worley with musical director & host Brad Ellis. Doors open for dinner at 7:00. (currently sold out)

    10/26 PERFECT HERMANY, the songs of Jerry Herman starring Jason Graae at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz at 7:00 pm with musical director John Boswell. Doors open at 5:30.

    10/27 CLASSIC BROADWAY SINGS SCHWARTZ, a valentine to composer Stephen Schwartz starring Louise Marie Cornillez, Barbara Deutsch, Tal Fox, Dianne Fraser, Julie Garnyé, Juliana Hansen, Dennis Kyle, Kelly Lester, James C. Mulligan & Joanne O’Brien, hosted by Carolyn Hennesy. Doors open at 7:00 pm. Musical director Mitch Kaplan with Nate Light on Bass and Denise Fraser on Drums.

    10/30 LADY RIZOin Concert at The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, 8:00 pm. The comedienne and chanteuse revives the genre by creating vintage arrangements and theatrical explorations of pop songs from every decade. www.ladyrizo.com

    11/2 THE SONGS OF JERRY HERMAN. 7:00 pm Kritzerland presents David Engel, Chelsea Emma Franko Damon Kirsche, Valerie Perri, Sami Staitman, and Shannon Warne with special guest Karen Morrow and music director Tom Griep. Doors open at 5:30. Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal. Reservations: 818 754-8700.

    11/7 & 11/8 THENADIERS INNA Les Misérables Cabaret. This cabaret is re-telling of the miserable tale put on by Master Thenardier himself. Submerge yourself in the dancing, drinks, and girls of the Inn, while singing along with the classic characters and songs, in this 360 degree immersive theatrical cabaret. No admittance under 21; this show features adult content. Doors open at 7:00 pm for cocktails and live music. Come dressed in your finest French Revolutionary fashion, and your first drink is on us. Tickets: www.cacstudios.com/lesmis

    11/9JANET KLEIN AND HER PARLOR BOYS in the “Cabaret Lounge” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts at 7:30 pm. Come hear Klein and her band members perform obscure, naughty and lovely tunes from the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s…spirited and inspired renditions of Tin Pan Alley, early hot jazz, vaudeville & Yiddish novelty tunes, ragtime and other rare and rustic gems. Ticket: $15 - $45.www.lamiradatheatre.com

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    Here’s a first look at 3-D Theatricals lavish production of Ragtime playing through October 26 at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton and at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in Redondo Beach November 1 - 9. Based on the landmark E. L. Doctorow novel, it features a Tony Award-winning score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and a book by Terrence McNally, and is a powerful portrait of turn-of-the-century America. Tickets available now at www.3dtshows.com


    Gary Patent (Tateh), Brooke Besikof (Little Girl) and the cast of Ragtime.
    Photos by Isaac James Creative


    Rufus Bonds, Jr. (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.) and Daebreon Poiema (Sarah)

    Gary Patent, Broke Besikof and the cast of Ragtime.

    The cast of Ragtime

    Gary Patent and Christanna Rowader (Mother)

    Gary Patent and Brooke Besikof

    Jeanette Dawson (Evelyn Nesbit) and the cast of Ragtime

    Craig McEldowny and Rufus Bonds, Jr.

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    The mark of a good cabaret song is its ability to hook you with its story and a good cabaret singer always knows how to work that song and draw the audience in. MISCAST: Right Singer, Wrong Song, produced by Mandy Kaplan, is a series of hour-long cabaret shows full of standard music theatre songs that tell new stories with their unique spins on the traditional, allowing the audience to appreciate them in a whole different light. Performances feature a rotating cast and take place every couple of months at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal with Kaplan acting as host.

    For the latest MISCAST on Monday, October 20, it was a night of high comedy and plenty of laughs as ten singers performed a variety of songs they wouldn’t normally get to sing. Few among this bunch would ever be cast in The Book of Mormon so their spunky version of “Hello” from the show was a fun and fitting opening. From there the set list moved to a series of solos, duets and trios that highlighted each singer’s individual sense of humor.

    Alex Mohajer introduced what he said would be something light to start the evening off, but it turned out to be anything but as he morphed into Barbra Streisand singing her eleven o’clock number from the movie Yentl, “Piece of Sky.” Becoming increasingly more manic and touched with Streisand’s signature affectations, he nailed the comedy and also the extremely long high note at the end with all the drama only a true diva can provide.

    Justin Michael Wilcox and Kaplan offered a great spin on Kristin Chenoweth’s famous “Taylor the Latte Boy” with two versions, each from a different point of view. Wilcox sang it Kristin style the first time, as the girl secretly in love with the boy who makes her lattes, and then Kaplan did it again, this time as the coffee boy singing about the crazy girl who comes in and stalks him. Rewriting some of the lyrics to play up the gender switch, Kaplan referred to Wilcox as “Kristin, the sucker chick” and created a character that was completely believable within this scenario. Another plus for this section of the show was getting to hear Wilcox’s exceptional tenor voice, one of the loveliest of the night.

    Thomas Threats said that while he’d never been French or a prostitute, it wasn’t going to stop him from singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables. Planned interruptions by crying, adoring fans, including one calling in via cell phone, spoofed some other well-known singers who have taken on the role previously. Likewise, Tom Metz III will never be a 13-year old redhead with curly hair but he put his own comic twist on “Tomorrow” from Annie, which quickly turned threatening, as he gave advice to Wilcox, who was pining over his “boyfriend” from Starbucks who had mysteriously transferred to another location (referencing his earlier Taylor the Latte Boy sequence).

    “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat, originally sung by a woman who is half black and half white was sung by Ewan Chung, an Asian man who insisted that torch songs weren’t only for the ladies. Chung and Kaplan also switched genders and ethnicities for “Sarah Brown Eyes” from Ragtime, which was originally sung by Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Chung and Kaplan’s version featured strong vocals and an amusing dance break full of choreography through the ages that was all kinds of silly fun.

    Ladies choice found two singers dialing it back to the ‘60s with Mary Jo Mundy turning into the sadistic Orin Scrivello from Little Shop of Horrors for “The Dentist” and Stephanie Anderson (with back-up girls Kaplan and Rosoff) channeling her inner teenager for “I Can Hear the Bells” from Hairspray, while Wendy Rosoff took on Sondheim, singing all three vocal parts in his tricky trio “Getting Married” from Company. The rapid-fire patter in this particular song can make a singer crazy and Rosoff made it look easy. From the back of the room I could understand every word and that is quite an accomplishment.

    But the MVP award for this round of MISCAST goes to JP Karliak for his 5-minute tour-de-force performance of the entire score of Evita in which he brought to life one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most passionate divas -- white gloves, death scene, iconic poses and all. I’ve never seen him perform before so I don’t know if he regularly encapsulates musicals in this manner but there’s an entire floorshow in there just waiting to bust out and I hope he puts it together because he was hilarious!

    Kaplan makes a charming host for the fast-paced, comedy-rich evening and musical director Kathryn Lounsberry brings out the best in all of the singers with her great arrangements. Final answer: MISCAST is for you if you like it fast, funny, and full of surprises. Next show is January 25, 2015 so mark your calendar now.


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    FOR THE HOLIDAYS:Falcon Theatre presents Troubadour Theater Company’s The Snow QUEEN, directed by Matt Walker, previewing Dec 3 – 11 and opening on Friday, Dec. 12 at 8:00 pm. The Troubies say We Will Rock You with our musical reimagining of this classic fable with the music of the mercurial British rock band. So grab your Somebody To Love and feel the holiday fun of being Under Pressure with the masters of mayhem. Performances take place at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank, CA 91505. Tickets (on sale Nov. 12) will be available by calling (818) 955-8101 or online at www.FalconTheatre.com.

    The Pasadena Playhouse has announced the cast for this year’s Panto at the Playhouse Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight. Disney recording artist Olivia Holt will star as Aurora, Lucy Lawless as Carabosse, David Engel as Nanny Tickle, Tamyra Gray as The Good Fairy and returning from last year’s Panto production of Aladdin and His Winter Wish, Ben Giroux as Silly Billy. Sleeping Beauty opens Dec. 10 and plays through Jan. 4, 2015. Also returning for the production are director Bonnie Lythgoe, choreographer Spencer Liff, and musical director Michael Orland. The book is by Kris Lythgoe, scenic and costume design by Lythgoe Family Productions, and the LFP producers include Kris Lythgoe, Bonnie Lythgoe, Becky Lythgoe and Jason Haigh Ellery. Tickets and information: (626) 356-7529 or www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org

    The Old Globe has completed casting for its 17th annual production ofDr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmaswhich will run Nov. 15 – Dec. 27 with opening night set for Nov. 20. Burke Moses makes his Old Globe debut as The Grinch with Taylor Coleman and Gabriella Dimmick alternating in the role of Cindy-Lou and Steve Gunderson returning as Old Max. The cast also includes Robert J. Townsend (Papa Who), Bets Malone (Mama Who), Geno Carr (Grandpa Who), Nancy Snow Carr (Grandma Who), Katelyn Katz and Alexis Rae Tenney (Annie Who), Brooke Henderson and Mikaela Celeste Villalpando (Betty-Lou Who), Noah Baird and Elliot Weaver (Boo Who), and Jordi Bertran and Imahni King-Murillo (Danny Who) and a full ensemble. The Grinch is directed by James Vásquez and features book and lyrics by Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin. Tickets: (619) 23-GLOBE or www.TheOldGlobe.org.

    MORE MUSICAL NEWS:Chromolume Theatre has announced the cast of Putting It Together, directed and choreographed by Cate Caplin, with musical direction by Richard Berent, opening Nov. 14, at the Attic Theatre. Kurt Hansen, Kristin Towers-Rowles, Chris Kerrigan, Rachel Hirshee, Mike Irizarry, David Callander, Kayre Morrison, Michael DElia, Jillian Easton, Jake Novak, Teresa Tracy will star in the musical revue which showcases the Tony Award-winning songs of Stephen Sondheim. Click Here for tickets.

    Kentwood Players presents Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods Nov. 14 – Dec. 20 at the Westchester Playhouse. The production is directed by Shawn K. Summerer with musical direction by Catherine Rahm and stars Matthew Artson, Heather Barnett, Samantha Barrios, Jenna Bergman, Elizabeth Bouton, Erika Brauer, Patricia Butler, Amy Coles, Terry Delegeane, Harold Dershimer, Brad Halvorsen, Brandie June, Carly Linehan, Ben Lupejkis, Roy Okida, Kim Peterson, Catherine Rahm, Alicia Reynolds and Jon Sparks. The show is appropriate for all ages. Tickets: (310) 645-5156 or www.kentwoodplayers.org.

    New musical fans can see a 30-minute preview of the new musicalCowboy Girl, written and directed by Kyle Jackson and Joanna Bateman this Saturday, October 25. Set in 1967, Cowboy Girl tells the story of a guy and a gal heading West with guitars on their backs and dreams in their hearts. Jackson and Bateman star as the young couple. Bateman is a member of The Illyrian Players and Jackson co-composed and performed with Edan Freiberger the music for Drunk Tank: The Musical in the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Jackson earned a history degree in 2012 from UCLA, where he also studied playwriting. The preview is part of An Evening of American Theatre and will be presented along with Tennessee Williams’ one-act play Green Eyes starring Arianna Lyons and Austin Thompson. The event will take place at a private residence, 13826 Haynes Street, Van Nuys, CA from 5:00 – 9:00 pm. For more information contact (513) 535-4517 or JoannaRoseBateman@gmail.com.

    EXTENSIONS: DOMA Theatre Company has extendedYoung Frankenstein at the MET Theatre through Nov. 30. Tickets: (323) 802-9181 or www.domatheatre.com.

    Scary Musical The Musical, by Richard Hochberg and Michael Paternostro, has extended its run through Nov. 23 at the NoHo Arts Center. Tickets: www.nohoace.com.

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    Borris York, Sasha Allen and Mathew deGuzman as The Manson Trio
    Photos by Terry Shapiro except where noted.


    Opening night of PIPPIN at the Pantages was a smashing success, full of incredibly fresh and hilarious performances, fabulous Fosse choreography, magical effects, and some pretty amazing circus acrobatics by Les 7 doigts de la main! Andrea Martin stopped the show and received a standing ovation following her big feature, “No Time At All” and John Rubinstein is hands down the kookiest Charlemagne youve ever seen (with half his marbles left, I think). Believe me, you want to see this show so get your tickets now. 

    This dazzling production by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson won five Tony Awards when it first opened on Broadway in 1972 and another four in 2013 for its spectacular revival directed by Diane Paulus. It deserves every one of them. The great news for LA is what you’ll see at the Pantages is the best possible touring company you could ever hope for full of professional union actors (yes, folks, it makes a difference) and bona-fide circus performers whose artistry is nothing short of breathtaking.

    Much of Bob Fosse’s original choreography is incorporated into the production, updated by choreographer Chet Walker to highlight the physical perfection of his dancers. The numbers are full of Fosse’s signature jazz hands and pelvic isolations, sensually executed with singular precision. The Manson Trio is gender-reversed with two men backing up Sasha Allen’s terrifically dark and slithery Leading Player (originally played by Ben Vereen) but stays true to the original’s mechanical moves, with its underlying subtext about the seduction of war and the kind of power a man like Charles Manson has over his followers. The cast doesnt throw body parts in their updated version of Glory, they throw whole bodies, and the liquid lyricism of With You stealthily turns into a ratcheted up sex ballet with women in cages and a twist on the Pippin pump in which the young idealist is lasciviously thrown around the stage.

    Sasha Allen and the cast of PIPPIN

    The addition of the circus performers tumbling, balancing, flying, and manipulating their bodies creates a whirlwind around Pippin (Matthew James Thomas) that intentionally distracts him from the cost of the world’s enticements. Pippin’s search for meaning is the journey we all go through and the episodic nature of each lesson comes packaged in a big, bright, colorful box of illusion meant to steer him toward a finale designed by the Leading Player, until Pippin exercises his own free will to make a different choice.

    Andrea Martin won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother who isn’t nearly ready to be put out to pasture, and you’ll quickly see why. It’s a star turn that steals the show and she is unforgettable as the granny with more than a few surprises up her sleeve.

    In fact, it is the reveals in this production that are so stunning. Scenes explode into life in a flash, swirling with color, and changing so quickly that the pacing becomes as unexpected as the bold new elements that have been added to modernize the look and feel of the show. Those elements are the work of Scott Pask (scenic design), Kenneth Posner (lighting design), Dominique Lemieux (costume design), Gypsy Snider (circus creations), Paul Kieve (illusions), Ryan Cantwell (music director) and Jonathan Deans& Garth Helm (sound design). Each one enhances the images, sounds, and moments of the story to ensure that the touring production is a magical experience of monumental proportion. If you have ever wanted to run away to the circus, your childhood dreams will be resurrected before your eyes.

    Thomas also recreates his Broadway performance as Pippin for the LA leg of the tour. The handsome youth is loaded with innocent sex appeal – just ask the twenty or so swooning schoolgirls that sat near me during the performance – and he also has a natural comic ability to play an emotion to the limit until you’re laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of his tantrums and frustration with the world. Kristine Reese is Catherine, your average ordinary kind of woman (with a pretty extraordinary voice) who is supposed to show Pippin how mundane the world is but instead causes him to change the way he sees it altogether. Her adorable son Theo (Lucas Schultz at this performance) has a lot to do with his turning point as well.

    Sabrina Harper as Fastrada in Spread a Little Sunshine

    Pippin’s stepmother Fastrada is a vibrant Sabrina Harper who can best be described as sex on a stick (and I mean that in the most positive way possible). Callan Bergmann’s Lewis is a comically self-absorbed meathead and the featured Players of the ensemble are some of the most talented and hardest working artists to be seen on a Pantages stage ever. The rolla bolla man, the chickens, the pigs, the aerial artists, the acrobat who jumps through hoops, and a Leading Player who can sing while twirling a hula hoop around her waist...you aint seen nothing yet.

    And yet, within this highly theatrical parable, there are some deadly serious moments that make PIPPIN more than just an entertaining bauble. Theres a message here, however comically punctuated, to remind you that there is darkness below the surface of what is visible at first glance. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. 


    Matthew James Thomas. Photo by Joan Marcus

    John Rubinstein as Charlemagne and Sabrina Harper as Fastrada

    Andrea Martin as Berthe. Photo by Joan Marcus

    Sasha Allen as Leading Player

    Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of PIPPIN

    Sasha Allen and the Cast of PIPPIN
    PIPPIN
    October 21 - November 9, 2014
    Pantages Theatre
    6233 Hollywood Boulevard
    Los Angeles, CA 90028
    www.hollywoodpantages.com

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    The Eclectic Company Theatre presents the Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd Nov. 1 – 23. The show is directed by Bonnie Hellman and choreographed by Kay Cole (who was a member of the original cast), with musical director Emily Cohn, presented by Children’s Theatre Group of Southern California and produced by Sherry Lynn and Robert Briscoe Evans. This is a departure for CTGSC since adults will play nearly all of the major roles. Also, this will not be a junior version; it will be the complete musical, as originally performed on Broadway in 1965. Several of the show’s songs have become enduring standards: “Who Can I Turn To?,” “On a Wonderful Day Like Today,” “The Joker.” Considering that the show will frequently have young people in the audience, the fate of one of the secondary characters in the first act will be handled delicately and racial politics introduced in the second act will be handled with a light touch, but never dismissively.

    The cast includes Sean Smith (Sir), Alec Medlock (Cocky), Liam Daniels, Caitlin Gallogly, Marc Antonio Pritchett, Phil Biedron, Lola Michelle Brown, Tess Colley, Alexa Druyanoff, Langdon Janos, Vera Wheatley and Jenna Zuckerman. The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. (between Chandler and Magnolia), Valley Village, CA 91607. Tickets: (818) 508-3003 or www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org

    Parson’s Nose Theater continues their 2014-15 Season with their first full production, The Pied Piper of Hamlin (A Musical), an original piece from artistic director, Lance Davis, based on an Eastern European Folk Tale. The Pied Piper is a 13th Century legend with many possible sources. In Davis’s version it’s about a town that refuses to change its priorities, and pays the price. The Pied Piper plays Nov. 1 – 23. Running time is approximately 90 minutes plus intermission and it is appropriate for ages 12+. Parson’s Nose Theater performs at Lineage Performing Arts Center, 89 South Fair Oaks, Pasadena, CA 91105. Performances are “Pay What You Will” ($20 Suggested). Reservations may be made online at www.parsonsnose.com or by calling 626-403-7667. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

    Pockets, created and performed by Darien Martus, will play the Hudson Mainstage Theatre Nov. 2 – Dec. 7 at 7:00 pm. The show is a one man, one piano musical of songs that reach into our pockets: what we carry in them, what we have with us all day, what’s important to us and maybe something of who we are, Hudson Mainstage Theatre 6539 Santa Monica Blvd Hollywood, CA 90038. Tickets: (323) 960-7712 or www.plays411.com/pockets.

    The Festival of New American Musicals presents Musi-Cal on Monday, Nov. 3rd at 8:00 pm at Rockwell Table & Stage hosted by Jonah Platt [pictured]. LA musical theater lovers will get their first look & listen to four new musical works in progress. The evening is one of a series of five upcoming Musi-Cal events being produced at Rockwell by The Festival of New American Musicals that showcases local songwriters and their newest works.

    This performance will include: Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda with songs from Ernest Shackelton Loves Me, a New York-bound musical fresh from its critically acclaimed premiere at Seattle Rep and co-written with Tony winner Joe DiPietro; Rona Siddiqui and Liz Suggs with songs from One Good Day, which will receive a reading in NYC in November and was recently awarded ASCAP’s Mary Rodgers & Lorenz Hart Award; Ryann Ferguson and Steven Jamail with songs from Nicholas and Alexandra, which will open in Denver, Spring 2015; and Gregory Nabours with songs from Masque of the Red Death (co-written with Wendi Pini). A past Ovation award winner; in November, an evening of his work will be performed and broadcasted live from the Kennedy Center. Click Here for tickets. www.lafestival.org

    Festival Co-Executive Producer, Bob Klein, will be honored as one of Encore.org’s 2014 Purpose Prize Fellows on Oct. 28 in Tempe, AZ. The award recognizes the achievements of 38 social innovators over 60 years of age who are dedicated to finding solutions to challenging social problems. “At the age of 78 I began a new career in musical theater after more than half a century of running my own business in communications and entertainment marketing here in Southern California,” says Klein. “Besides presenting over 130 musicals and events in over 80 venues stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego, we are concentrating currently on our educational mission. While young people who want to express themselves on stage on song and dance have tremendous opportunities, those who may want to compose music, write lyrics or book have very few places to go. Next year we expect to begin the process of introducing ‘show writing’ into high school, college and university curricula in Southern California.” Way to go, Bob!

    Dancing in My Cockroach Killers, a play with music, is an explosive mix of text, visuals, and music based on the writings of award-winning poet & playwright Magdalena Gómez that will be part of the Encuentro 2014 Festival Oct. 31- Nov. 8. Based on selected works by Gómez, it is adapted for the stage and directed by Rosalba Rolón, presented by Pregones Theater and Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. The cast includes Sol Crespo, Shadia Fairuz, Jesús Martinez, Omar Pérez, Elise Santora and Rocky Vega, and musicians Desmar Guevara, Nicky Laboy and Bryan Vargas. Musical direction is by Desmar Guevara and choreography by Antonio Vargas. It will be performed in English with some Spanish phrases accompanied by English supertitles. Los Angeles Theatre Center, in the 499-seat Theatre 1, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. Click Herefor tickets or call (866) 811-4111.

    TPC Play, LLC will present The Penis Chronicles, a world premiere play with music, written by Tom Yewell and music composed by Greg O’Connor, directed by Randal Kleiser (The Blue Lagoon, Grease). The show runs Nov. 6 – Dec 14 (opening on Saturday, Nov. 8) at the Coast Playhouse. The show is a revealing perspective on the male psyche exploring the complex masculine experience. Eight distinctively different New York men of various ages and backgrounds deliver monologues and share their insights, challenges and uncertainties with regard to their masculinity and sexuality, uncovering the emotional barriers that every man confronts on his journey. The cast will feature Trevor Scott Campbell, Kelly Franett, Kyle Eastman, Ozzie Rodriguez, Jade Willis and Ali Zahiri. Design team includes Cricket S. Myers (sound design) and Austin Burkett (lighting design). 8325 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 960-7787 or www.plays411.com/penischronicles.

    EXTENDED:Re-Animator the Musical has been extended through Nov. 23 (www.trepanyhouse.org for tickets) and has also announced that it will play Las Vegas Jan. 6 - 18, 2015 at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, 361 Symphony Park Ave., Las Vegas NV 89106. Tues.- Fri. at 8:00, Sat. and Sun. at 2:30 and 8:00. Click Here for tickets.

    CONCERTS/CABARET:A one-night-only concert reunion of the revival cast of bare: A Rock Musical, comes to Rockwell: Table & Stage on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 8:00 pm. Returning cast members include Payson Lewis, Jonah Platt, Lindsay Pearce, Katie Stevens, Shelley Regner, John Griffin, Kelsey Hainlen, Casey Hayden, Christopher Higgins, Reesa Ishiyama, Alissa-Nicole Koblentz, Harrison Meloeny, Katherine Washington, and Stephanie Andersen. This reunion concert of the Damon Intrabartolo-Jon Hartmere pop opera is produced for glory|struck Productions by Topher Rhys and Jamie Lee Barnard, with musical direction by Elmo Zapp and associate music production by Alex Seller. Click Herefor tickets. For more information: www.facebook.com/barelosangeles

    Vox Femina will present Music: A Mirror of Our Humanity on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 8:00 pm at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, 540 S. Commonwealth Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90020. This concert is not only a reflection of the struggles we face in the world, it is also a realization of the beauty and strength we find as we strive to create a better world. A new commission by David O. will be featured on the program, sponsored by Vox alumna Donna Burroughs. Throughout the concert, Kaleeka Bond from Ryman Arts will be creating an original visual art piece, inspired by the voices of Vox and the messages of our music making. Tickets: http://voxfemina.org/music-a-mirror-of-our-humanity/

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    Jeff Skowron is a chameleon. The versatile actor has appeared on Southern California stages playing everything from Thénardier in Les Misérables at La Mirada Theatre to Leo Bloom in The Producers at 3-D Theatricals -- roles for which he is currently nominated for an Ovation Award -- to The Baker in Into the Woods. He previously won the Ovation Award for his moving performance of Leo Frank in 3DT’s award-winning revival of Parade, and that’s in addition to his work on Broadway and in television & film. Next he steps into the traveling salesman shoes of Edward Bloom for the west coast premiere of Big Fish at Musical Theatre West. It’s a role that continues to show his range in a production that will enchant audiences beginning October 31st.

    Jeff, I've seen you do a wide variety of roles in the past couple of years and you make them all look easy. Do you consider yourself a versatile actor?

    Thank you, yes. I’m not such a specific type which is really good.

    The first time I saw you on stage was at The Old Globe in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You were quirkier than any Grinch I’d seen before, and you’re still my favorite Grinch today.

    Thanks, I did it originally in New York on Broadway. I understudied the Grinch so that’s the only reference point I had and then, when they asked me if I’d be interested in doing it at the Globe, they said they wanted me to reinvent it. I had free reign to do whatever I wanted with it. That’s really rare when it’s a show that has been running that long on Broadway, or even at the Globe, because it’s such a tradition there. Usually in those instances they don’t want you to change what’s already been set but they gave me full permission to do that, which was fun. I guess I made him slimier and kind of brattier.

    Well he certainly was a brat. It showed that you have an ability to be fearless.

    Totally. I like that word.

    Your characters always have a unique spin. A lot of that comes from training but I also think its either in you or it isn’t. Did you study acting?

    I went to Penn State for acting and I also started working professionally in theatre when I was thirteen so I learned a lot through practical experience. The older I get the more confidence it gives me to be fearless, and the positive reinforcement I’ve been getting lately helps too. When I was younger I needed a lot of permission to do things but I got a lot of good reinforcement along the way from directors and actors I admired. Because my ideas weren’t shot down all the time it gave me more confidence to be that way. 

    Who were your role models early on?

    I’m from a semi-rural area in Pennsylvania and, growing up, I worked at a place called the Mountain Playhouse. I was the kid they’d hire for a lot of different things each summer and all the other actors were from New York. They were the people I looked up to. It was great getting to meet them and work with them. There were certain actors I really admired and those were the ones I watched a lot. And I also had some really good acting teachers at Penn State. I was an undergrad when Ty Burrell and Keegan-Michael Key were grads. We had the same acting professors. One professor in particular changed the way I thought about acting in profound ways.

    What brought you to LA?

    It was writing, which I never thought I’d be doing. I was living in New York and my writing partner, Matt Yeager, and I wrote a web series called “Greg and Donnie.” We submitted a 9-minute pilot to the New York TV Festival in 2010 and IFC saw it and bought it and gave us a development deal. That’s what brought me to LA and started the ball rolling. It got me new representation and it opened a lot of doors for me.

    Also, I had never been to Southern California before and when I was doing The Grinch in San Diego I loved it. San Diego is my favorite city. It gave me a taste of what it would be like living in Southern California and made it easier for me to move…because it was a little scary to move away from New York after being there for so long. 

    Is the idea to stay out here and continue to do theatre and also do television and film as well?

    Yes, Matt and I are developing two other shows that we hope to sell. It’s been great being on stage out here too because I had all of these new opportunities in television and film but I missed doing theatre. I did a lot of it in New York and when I moved to LA my friends there told me I couldn’t do theatre in LA, there’s no theatre in LA. But they were wrong. I saw that TJ Dawson and 3-D Theatricals were doing Parade. Beth Malone is a friend of mine and she had just worked there in 9 to 5 so I asked her if she would mind giving my picture and resume to them and they ended up casting me. It was such a successful show and I got an Ovation Award for it. It was pretty crazy. It introduced me to a lot of theatre people here and, honestly, I’ve done some of my proudest theatre in LA. It keeps me satisfied while I’m writing and it’s allowed me to keep growing as an actor.

    Do you prefer doing comedy or drama?

    I like both. I love writing comedy but honestly I think I like doing dramatic roles more. With comedy you do depend upon being able to ride the wave of what the audience gives back to you and if the audience is tired or if, for whatever reason, they aren’t very responsive, that does affect what you do. Their laughs are part of your own rhythm and when that’s not there, or if there aren’t many people in the house, it’s almost like they’re not holding up their end of the relationship. It makes it harder to do whereas with drama you don’t have to depend on all that interaction. They react as they will but with drama it’s more contained in the world onstage.

    How do you work on making something funny?

    I visualize how it will be executed. When Matt and I are writing, we decide what the episode or pilot will be about and then we outline it. He and I are from the same home town in Pennsylvania and we have the same sense of humor so that makes it easier too. He lives in New York and I’m in LA now so we write over skype or Google hangouts. We bounce ideas around and figure out what would make us laugh. A lot of our comedy comes from the specific dialogue and the details.

    Do you consider yourself primarily an actor or a writer or both?

    Now I consider myself both but my writing is all so recent that I still consider myself an actor first. I feel like I know much more about acting and the business of acting. Writing is so new to me but people seem to be interested in what we write.

    Let’s talk about Big Fish. How did that role come about for you?

    Musical Theatre West does their Broadway in the Park fundraiser benefit every summer and this year they asked if I was interested in singing some songs from Big Fish or South Pacific, which I did up at Sacramento Music Circus this summer. They were arranging the program and I ended up singing with Rebecca Johnson who is playing Sandra in Big Fish.

    Did you know the show before that? 

    I had a lot of friends in Big Fish in New York and I knew the movie but I didn’t know the stage version at all. I knew MTW was doing it but it wasn’t really on my radar until I sang with Rebecca. That got me legitimately interested in it. I usually pursue material that I know and that I like, and once I sang those songs I realized I was really interested in reading for it. That’s when I expressed my interest in coming in and reading for the director. 

    Does it follow the film or is it entirely different in the stage version?

    It does follow the film pretty closely. John August, who wrote the screenplay, also wrote the book for the musical. One change is that Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney played the younger and older versions of Edward Bloom but in the musical it’s just one actor. I play Edward at all the ages.

    What intrigues you about the character?

    I think he is somebody who at the core feels not important enough, not big enough, not legendary enough, while also blurring the lines of reality and fantasy in creating stories, myths and fantasies about himself that he truly believes.  Plus he has a son who sees through it all and calls him out on it. There’s a little bit of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in him.  It’s not easy to verbalize what I understand about this character so I’ll stop there.

    What kind of prep work do you do ahead of time?

    I go through the script and figure out what I’m doing, the large arc and the through-line. Usually I have a notebook with the script so I can write down things the character says and does, as well as things other characters say about my character. You get all these clues as to who the person is. It’s almost like a math equation to me. I get the same the sort of satisfaction dissecting a character that I used to get doing math in high school. It’s really fun for me to go through and pick it all apart. Then, once I figure that all out, memorizing it is easy because it all makes sense to me.

    How are rehearsals going?

    I love that I get to work opposite Rebecca Johnson.  She is a beautiful, poised, brilliant actress with a gorgeous voice. I wouldnt want to be playing this role opposite anyone but her.

    Do you already know what you’ll be doing after Big Fish?

    I do! I’m going back to the Baker. Amanda Dehnert is a director I’ve wanted to work with for years but it never worked out before. She’s bringing her production of Into the Woods from Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills this December. Their Baker wasn’t available and she asked me. She didn’t even know I just played the role. I’m psyched because I know the music, which was the hardest I’d ever had to learn.

    What else is on your short list of roles you’d like to do?

    Some of the roles I’d really love to do aren’t musical, like Biff in Death of a Salesman, Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Mozart in Amadeus, one of the sons in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Those are the kind of characters that interest me right now.


    You can see Jeff as Edward Bloom in Big Fish at Musical Theatre West, Oct. 31 - Nov. 16, 2014. Performances take place at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 East Atherton Street in Long Beach. For tickets call (562) 856-1999 x 4 or visit www.musical.org.

    Photo credits from top:
    Skowron as the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Old Globe. Craig Schwartz
    Skowron as Leo Frank with Caitlin Humphreys in Parade, 3-D Theatricals: Isaac James Creative
    Skowron as Leo Bloom with Hilary Michael Thompson and Jay Brian Winnick, The Producers, 3-D Theatricals: Isaac James Creative
    Skowron as 
    Thénardier with James Barbour in Les Misérables, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts: Jason Niedle
    Skowron as the Baker with Viva Carr in Into the Woods, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts: Isaac James Creative

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    In 2012 Theatre Unleashed produced a clever little parody musical by Justin Moran called The Spidey Project that spoofed a big problematic Broadway extravaganza no one could stop talking about (Spider-Man, Turn off the Dark). It also took some very funny shots at the comic book superhero genre as a whole. Expectations were low and the show ended up being loads of fun. Score one for the good guys.

    Now T.U. has mounted Moran’s latest new work, Pope! An Epic Musical, by tapping a similar well. Both deal in superhero trade but this time around the story isn’t based on a pre-existing character everyone knows and loves. Instead, this good guy is an obscure young Catholic Pope (Jase Lindgren) who leads his people with sermons inspired by everyday objects like New England clam chowder and blueberry muffins.

    It’s a set-up that could easily skewer a topic like religion with great results but the two main attributes of this new musical – exuberance and good intentions – aren’t enough. The biggest problem is that it’s hard to root for a hero who turns into a sniveling whiner at the first sign of trouble…especially after he’s been sweetly espousing his faith as the answer to everyone around him since he was thirteen. When it comes time for him to put his faith in God, he slinks away to Africa licking his wounds and wallowing in drink and despair. All it took was an evil Archbishop (Shawn Cahill) to publicly discredit him with a trumped-up sex scandal. (Now that’s a pope who would never make it in this day and age.)

    Lindren is sincere, in a Ben Stiller kind of way, but the writer gives his superficial character such a weak journey that by the time he has the chance to rise to the occasion, there is little to care about. A mild-mannered leader who has never struggled a day in his life and gives up so easily doesnt feel worthy of our sympathy.

    Still, even with the thin plot and gimmicky jokes, the work of the director and actors can sometimes overcome weak material if they are on their game. In this case, Gregory Crafts and his cast favor big performances that aren’t always based in truth so the humor has nothing in which to ground itself. Robot altar boys from outer space and a surprise tap break that came out of left field featuring R. Benito Cardenas were jokes that landed but, for the most part, the ensemble is out-of-step and over-the-top. The result is a production that feels like it’s trying too hard.

    The score is made up of mostly upbeat pop songs (music & musical direction by Christopher Pappas, lyrics by Moran) whose humor is undermined at times by the volume of the keyboard accompaniment. I also question the choice of making the pre-show and intermission music so somber. The Gregorian chants are enough to lull you to sleep, casting a pall over the theater before the show even begins and killing any momentum gained in Act I when the show breaks for intermission.

    If exuberance and good intentions were enough, Pope! might come closer to the epic experience predicted in its title. As it is, for this audience member, this one just didn’t fly.




    POPE! AN EPIC MUSICAL
    Through November 17, 2014
    The Belfry Stage Upstairs at the Crown
    11031 Camarillo St.
    North Hollywood, CA 91602
    Tickets: $15, (818) 849-4039 or
    www.theatreunleashed.com

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    L-R: Scott Kruse, Peter Larney, Kurt Quinn, Joshua Hoover, and
    Travis Dixon. Photo credit: Nardeep Khurmi.

    Long before Trey Parker and Matt Stone became famous and transformed the world of entertainment with South Park and The Book of Mormon, they were merely two unknown college students with big dreams. They shared the same wickedly subversive sense of humor and always wrote what they thought was funny, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. If it made them laugh, that was all they needed. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I think you’d agree that sticking to that formula has turned out pretty well for them.

    While they were at the University of Colorado, they produced a film, CANNIBAL! The Musical, for a class project based on the true story of Alfred Packer, a man accused of cannibalism in 1872. Politically incorrect and ready to offend as often as humanly possible with its bloody effects and lowbrow humor, it was a perfect way for the duo to begin developing their brand. Although most of the participants failed the class, (according to Gregory Nabours, who recounted some trivia on opening night), you can definitely see the beginnings of what’s to come later in their careers.

    By the way, if you’re interested in watching the film, it’s available on Netflix so those of you who are gluttons for punishment (pardon the pun)…have at it. The film was later turned into a stage musical that has since gained quite a cult following and that’s the version that Coeurage Theatre Company is currently mounting at the Lyric-Hyperion Theatre.

    Packer was a prospector who led a party of miners from Utah east to Colorado in search of gold after their original guide died from being struck by lightning. As the charred remains are dragged across the stage in all their graphic glory, you get an idea of exactly how this show is going to go down. Limbs will be severed, bodies will be eaten (quite literally in front of your eyes), and raunchy jokes will take over the next ninety or so minutes of your life. I mean, come on, there’s even a “butt mountain” painted on the backdrop that scrolls melodrama-style behind the actors. If that doesn’t show you what you’re in for, well don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    It isn’t a great musical by any stretch of the imagination and depending upon how the material is treated it could turn out to be a real stinker of a show. What Coeurage Theatre does with it, however, is make a series of well-thought-out decisions that turn this silly, oddball musical into a first rate groaner intent on delivering up some terrific laughs.

    That includes a director (Tito Fleetwood Ladd, with an assist from Julianne Donelle) who understands the style and stages the show with creativity and a whole lot of balls, a cast that is willing to play the absurd comedy straight, well-executed choreography that parodies everything from the dream ballet in Oklahoma to the street moves of West Side Story (by Carly Wielstein), and a musical director (Gregory Nabours) who elevates Parker’s songs with his fun, flashy arrangements.

    The casting is spot-on and contains a couple of ringers, including Peter Larney as the deep-voiced Mormon leader, Bell, and Travis Dixon as Swan, whose Pepsodent smile, painted-on jeans, and ambiguous sexual orientation provide more than a fair share of laughs. All of the characters are eccentric with quirky traits that make each one memorable in his or her own way. 

    Kurt Quinn gives Packer an innocence that makes you uncertain whose version of the story is really accurate. Miller (Jason Peter Kennedy) is the intense skeptic whose butchering skills come in handy in the dead of winter. Joshua Hoover (Humphrey) is always worried about his next meal, and Scott Kruse (Noon) has only one topic on his mind at all times…sex, or his balls, or masturbating, or sex. In addition to musical direction, Nabours also flexes his actor muscles by doubling as Mills, the sleazy town sheriff and crazy prosecutor who has his sights set on Polly (Ashley Kane), the sweet, ingénue reporter who harbors a secret ability to play the clarinet.

    A twist in the casting has long, leggy Kalena Ranoa playing Liane, Packer’s one true love (his horse). She wears a puppet on one hand and never speaks, but lends a dancer’s poise to the production that balances the male roughness around her. Joe Tomasini (Frenchy), Ryan Brady (Nutter), and Mike Brady (Loutzenheizer) play three bizarre French trappers whose funniest moments include a Matthew Bourne Swan Lake takeoff. Costume designer Kara McLeodassists with that spoof as does Wielstein with her dance moves.

    Much of the show is about solving problems: How do you design body parts you can eat? (talk to props designer Ryan Lewis); What kind of clothing will bring the old West to life but allow for jokes about boy bands, the Japanese, and Colorado Indians? (let McLeod take over); How do you stage men on horseback for a lengthy journey in a small space? (have Wielstein incorporate a hilarious Irish jig as a high-stepping repeater every time the music returns); and so on. Coeurage Theatre Company tackles each task with gleeful irreverence and an excellent eye to detail.

    The cheeky result is a surprisingly satisfying comedy about people eating dead people and singing & dancing while they do it. Just the thing youd expect for a musical by Trey Parker.  If youve got a sense of humor and dont mind a little gore, youre gonna love it.

    L-R: Jason Peter Kennedy, Scott Kruse, Peter Larney, Kurt Quinn,
    Travis Dixon, and Joshua Hoover

    Ashley Kane and Gregory Nabours

    L-R: Scott Kruse, Peter Larney, Kurt Quinn, Travis Dixon,
    and Joshua Hoover


    L-R: Jessica Hopper, Kurt Quinn, Peter Larney, Kalena Ranoa,
    and Jennifer Zahlit


    L-R: Christine Sinacore, Jennifer Zahlit, Kurt Quinn,
    Ashley Kane, and Jessica Hopper


    Peter Larney and Mikey De Lara

    L-R: Jane Lui, Jason Peter Kennedy, Peter Larney,
    Travis Dixon, and Kari Lee

    CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL
    Oct. 25 – Nov 22, 2014
    Coeurage Theatre Company 
    Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Cafe
    2106 Hyperion Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90027
    Tickets: www.coeurage.org


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    MUSICAL NEWS: Sixth Avenue’s Town Hall Back Room Reading Series continues with Joss Whedon’s Once More, With Feeling: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Musical, directed by Tony Soto with musical direction by Dan Wessels. The musical episode will be read one night only, Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 8:00 at Akbar in Silver Lake. Along with a live rock band, the cast will feature Nicci Claspell (pictured) as Buffy along with Tom DeTrinis, Jay Donnell, Geoffrey Going, Ashley Joyce, Natalie Lander, James Lynch, Kimberly Moore, Reagan Osborne, and Cailan Rose. In Once More, With Feeling, the classic episode from season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a mysterious force compels the Sunnydale residents to burst into musical numbers revealing their innermost secrets and desires. Akbar is located at 4356 W. Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles. Admission is free, but reservations are suggested at www.6avenue.org.

    California Lutheran University will present a free musical theater production of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World in the Samuelson Chapel on the Thousand Oaks campus at Nov. 18 and 19 at 7:00 pm. The highly theatrical song cycle transports the audience from the deck of a Spanish sailing ship in 1492 to a basketball court in urban America to a ledge featuring an array of fascinating characters 57 stories above Fifth Avenue. It explores the universality of life in transition, including the choices people make and the challenges they face. Heidi Valencia Vas, an adjunct music faculty member, is directing the production. The forum is located south of Olsen Road between Campus Drive and Mountclef Blvd. For more information, call (805) 493-3415.

    HOLIDAY NEWS: Garrett Clayton (Disney’s Teen Beach Movie) will star as  Sleeping Beauty’s Prince of Alhambra in this year’s Panto at the Playhouse Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight at Pasadena Playhouse beginning Dec. 10. The cast also features previously announced Olivia Holt as Aurora, Lucy Lawless as Carabosse, David Engel as Nanny Tickle, Tamyra Gray as The Good Fairy and returning from last year’s production of Aladdin and His Winter Wish, Ben Giroux as Silly Billy. Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight runs through January 4, 2015. www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

    The 83rd Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade has announced the line-up of artists for this year’s musical performances. Featured artists this year will include Grand Marshal Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Estelle, Guy Sebastian, HEART (pictured), R5, Richie Sambora with Australian guitarist Orianthi, Rita Wilson, and Taylor Dayne. The parade will be hosted by popular TV personalities Dean Cain, Laura McKenzie, Erik Estrada, and Montel Williams. A true Hollywood tradition for over 80 years, the parade attracts over 1 million in attendance each year with larger than life inflatable character balloons and celebrity filled cars making the much heralded trek down the over 3-mile parade route. The two-hour special will be broadcast on Dec. 10th at 4:00 pm on the Hallmark Channel with an additional run on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on Dec. 19 at 5:00 pm. For more information, visit http://thehollywoodchristmasparade.org/.

    The 55th Annual FREE L.A. County Holiday Celebration will take place on Dec. 24 from 3:00 – 6 pm. Doors open at 2:30 (The line forms much earlier) and will feature performing artists from across Los Angeles County. Some of the groups featured include Buyepongo, The Company Men (pictured), Daniel Ho & Halau Keali’i o Nalani, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Greater Los Angeles Cathedral Choir, Greater Los Angeles Cathedral Choir, JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble, Los Angeles Ballet, Los Angeles Children’s Orchestra, Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jóse Hernàndez, Mountainside Master Chorale, Palmdale High School Choral Union, Salvation Army Tabernacle Children’s Chorus, Southern California Brass Consortium and more.

    Entertainment on The Music Center plaza begins at noon and patrons may come and go throughout the three hour performance. A live broadcast of the show airs from 3:00 – 6:00 pm on PBS SoCaL. The show will also stream live at www.pbssocal.org and will be repeated from 9:00 pm and again on Dece. 25 at noon. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012. For more info, call (213) 972-3099 or go to www.HolidayCelebration.org.

    City Ballet of Los Angeles presents The Nutcracker Swings, a jazzy twist on the holiday favorite set in 1942 Los Angeles during WWII Dec. 19 & 20, The Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The Nutcracker Swings is CBLA’s tribute to the classic tale of the Nutcracker. Set in 1942 during WWII in Hancock Park and the iconic Cocoanut Grove nightclub, the audience will be swept away to another world while dancers swing to the sounds of Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington. In this version of the classic family ballet, Maria, the heroine falls for the leading man, Jim, a WWII hero who gives Maria the Nutcracker doll which kicks off a whirlwind journey of Christmas Wonder. The Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 743 South Lucerne Blvd., Los Angeles 90005. Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/908770.

    CABARET: Rockwell Table and Stage has announced a new monthly collaborative series with Sirius XM Radio as they will be presenting “Sirius XM: The Stage Door Supper Club Radio Hour: Live From the Rockwell! Up next in the series is Magic To Do! An Evening of Music and Prestidigitationon Thursday, Nov. 13 at 8:00 pm. Join Sirius XM host Benjamin Schrader and performers including Carly Jibson, Jared Gertner, Eric Petersen, and Jill Marie Burke as they perform songs celebrating the art of prestidigitation with live stage magic from magicians from the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. Tickets are $15- $25 Rockwell Table and Stage is located at 1714 N. Vermont Blvd. in Los Feliz. For reservations, call (323) 669-1550 x  20 or visit www.rockwell-la.com.

    OPERA: Pasadena Opera, a new company in Pasadena, will offer a free, 30-minute lunchtime concert in Pasadena on Wednesday, Dec. 3 from 12:10 – 12:40 pm as part of its Music at Noon series at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Come meet Pasadena Opera’s wonderful guest artists and hear some great music. Pasadena Presbyterian Church is located at 585 E. Colorado Blvd and is a terrific place to hear a concert (the acoustics are terrific!). For more information about Pasadena Opera, visit http://pasadenaopera.org/.

    Pasadena Opera is also currently casting for its first production, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, based on the novella of the same name by Voltaire. Performances are scheduled on January 9 & 10, 2015, at A Noise Within in Pasadena. Founded by Pasadena local Dana Sadava, a former engineer and a working conductor, and Indre Viskontas, a neuroscientist and working soprano, the initiative is based on a shared vision of creating high-quality productions that capitalize on the unique character of Pasadena, and melding cutting-edge science and technology with a traditional art form. For more information, visit http://pasadenaopera.org/.

    Long Beach Opera presents Thérèse Raquin Saturday Jan. 24, 2015 at 8:00 pm and Sunday Feb. 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm at the Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th Street, San Pedro. Love surrenders to lust in this scandalous tale of primal appetites, embraced by a lavish, sensual score by Tobias Picker and libretto by Gene Scheer, based on the novel by Émile Zola that mirrors the lovers’ turbulent affair. Thérèse, bound by an unhappy marriage, falls deeply in love with an old friend, but romance turns to madness when they commit a crime that will haunt them forever. Join Long Beach Opera for a deadly ménage a trois in what Opera Now calls “a meaningful opera infused with moments of searing reflection and luxurious sensuality.” Click Here for more information or call (562) 432-5934.

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    Rebecca Johnson (Sandra Bloom) and Jeff Skowron (Edward Bloom)
    Photos by Caught in the Moment Photography

    This is less a review and more a series of thoughts about the new musical Big Fish currently playing at Musical Theatre West through November 16. As with all of Musical Theatre West’s productions, there is much to love in it. It is beautifully done, staged with an eye to keeping the humanness of the story intact, and performed by an extremely talented cast that knows how to deliver the goods. This is the west coast regional premiere of the show that ran for only three months on Broadway and if you are a fan of musicals, you would do well to see it.

    It is a relationship story – between father and son, husband and wife, man and the world, and it is a story about stories – the kind we tell ourselves to get through the day; the kind we wish were true that envision a world full of magic; and the kind that appeal to that which is universal in us all. Stories are how we share our love and express our hopes and dreams. They have been part of the way humans communicate for as long as man has existed. Big Fish tells its story with its big heart wide open and invites you to do the same, for when you do, oh the riches that will be yours.



    It isn’t a musical that is easy to categorize. There is humor, but it isn’t an in-your-face comedy that comes with an overstuffed bag of tricks, and it isn’t the kind of drama that drags you through the pits of despair. The story is a simple one, about a father misunderstood by his son. Told with utter sincerity, it shows how roles reverse as time marches on and how one son is called to reexamine his long held beliefs at a critical turning point in his father’s life. Ultimately, it’s about how there will always be a little of our parents in us no matter how we try to argue that fact away. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    Jeff Skowron takes on the role of Edward Bloom, adding another thoughtful portrayl to his expanding repertoire of complex characters. In this one he expresses a depth few actors are able to reach over a lifetime, let alone in the journey of two and a half hours. See it for his performance and the relationships he creates with Rebecca Johnson, who plays his wife, and Andrew Huber& Jude Mason who play his son, Will, at two different ages. His everyman persona is a natural fit for this ordinary character with an extraordinary ability to see the world differently. Vocally, he has never sounded better. Johnson too exhibits a maturity in her performance and a richness in her singing that is a beautiful addition to the show. Together they make this likable husband and wife come alive. In this family, Edward is the idealist and Will is the realist, which leaves Sandra to hold the space between like a beacon, always ready to light their way home.

    If you are a lover of music and don’t know the score to Big Fish, as I didn’t, then this will be one of the biggest surprises of the show. Andrew Lippa(The Wild Party, The Addams Family, A Little Princess, I Am Harvey Milk) is one of the most underrated musical theatre composers of our generation. His melodies are gorgeous and his lyrics reveal so much about a character that all you have to do is pay attention and they will show you everything you need to know. 

    Big Fish’s score is full of songs that capture the essence of the characters, like “Be The Hero,” the song Edward sings to show his son that life can be so much more. Not only is it catchy enough that you’ll be singing it as you leave the theater but it gives the audience a window into Edward’s soul and his optimistic can-do attitude early on. “Fight the Dragons” is his creative explanation of why he spends so much time away and “Time Stops” captures the moment when he and Sandra first saw each other. If you’ve ever been in love at first sight, this one will remind you of that moment all over again. The way Lippa incorporates lines from William Wordsworth’s poem Daffodils into his song “Daffodils” is an incredibly personal touch for a character like Edward who wants to get the words right, and later, when Sandra sings “I Don’t Need a Roof” love comes home and the circle is complete for these two who have spent a lifetime together.

    The show has many poignant moments but there is levity too. Characters come and go through Edward’s life like a storybook on parade: the mermaid (Marisa Field), the witch (Molly Garner), the giant (Timothy Hughes), the ringmaster (Gabriel Kalomas)… each one comes bearing a gift. Sometimes it’s humor. Sometimes it’s magic. Always it is more than you expect.

    One interesting note about the production design; I found that while the costumes and lighting were bright, colorful and full of vitality, there is a spaciousness to the scenic design that is somewhat abstract in nature. Rather than show every detail of a location like you’d see in a photograph, it leaves the audience to fill in the blanks with their imagination. The abstract rendering may not quite fulfill the demands of attention spans that want everything bigger and louder and easier to grab at a glance but I found that it allowed me to breathe with the story in a way that might not have been possible otherwise.

    So did I enjoy this musical? Absolutely…but I’m sentimental to the core, so a relationship story about love, life, and family will get me every time. Plus I grew up hearing my dad tell tall tales of his own so there is much about Big Fish that resonates with me before the story even begins. And thats the beauty of it. This one got me hook, line and sinker.

    The cast of Musical Theatre West's Big Fish

    Jeff Skowron and Jude Mason as Young Will

    The Cast of Big Fish

    Jeff Skowron and Timothy Hughes as Karl, the Giant

    Jeff Skowron and Jude Mason

    Jeff Skowron and Molly Garner as the Witch

    Andrew Huber as Will Bloom

    Gabriel Kalomas as Amos and Timothy Hughes
    BIG FISH
    Book by John August
    Musical and lyrics by Andrew Lippa
    Based on a novel by Daniel Wallace and the Columbia Motion Picture written by John August
    Original Direction and Choreography by Susan Stroman
    Directed by Larry Carpenter
    Musical Direction by Matthew Smedal

    October 31 – November 16, 2014
    Musical Theatre West
    Carpenter Performing Arts Center
    6200 E. Atherton Street
    Long Beach, CA 
    Tickets: (562) 856-1999 x 4 or 
    www.musical.org

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