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Your Musical Theatre Resource for Southern California!

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    How One Midwestern Girl Followed Her Dream Out West
    --by Tanna Frederick

    Heartland USA
    I grew up in Mason City, Iowa, or, as the rest of the city knows it, River City with, “A capital T that rhymes with P that stands for Pool.” Oh, yeah. We had one of THE BEST MUSIC programs in the nation, let alone the state. We sang at Carnegie Hall, for example, my sophomore year. None of us had been to New York, and we were selected for our excellence under the guidance of award-winning choir director, Joel Everist. We competed all over, winning event after event. And boy, we were expected to represent. We were serious, we were competitive, and we were expected to work with each other. “An invisible thread connected us,” Mr. Everist used to say. “Work like adults; work like professionals.”

    When I was in Girl Scouts in the fifth grade, growing up in this beautiful, progressive, serious artistic hub (that was a great big city for Iowa – population 35,000) in the middle of green oceans of cornfields, we did what people did as entertainment for our field trip. We went to see the musical Oliver.

    I had heard about this children’s theater from my classmates; the ones who could afford to be in it. They were obsessed with it. Gary Ewing was the teacher, the master, the MAN. Five shows a year, classes every Saturday, auditions. They were always eagerly waiting to hear what the next season’s line up would be. The classes were a mix of 4th graders to seniors in high school, all in the same class; all treated the same, worked the same, and rehearsed the same amount of hours with the same intensity, the same expectations; all required to paint the scenery, scrims, run light boards, and sound cues.

    When we auditioned, it was a brutal process. Imagine a 9-year old, sitting with 8-18 year olds in the audience and watching them compete with utter focus, trying to act cool as a cucumber while reading cold and brilliantly (the older ones had it down WAY better than the young’uns), while by process of elimination those that didn’t fit were asked to leave.  

    I learned to cry young. I learned to take a complete day and cry at 9. I learned to realize ‘no’ was a positive answer. That ‘no’ meant working harder, learning more, taking the smaller part and making the performance big and bold, even if your heart was breaking on stage through two months of rehearsals and performances. I learned ‘no’ was the best answer I could be given at nine years old because I went through my crying and disappointment days early, took them for what they were worth, felt the hurt deep down to my belly and all the way out to my fingers. I learned what rejection was and I learned I could handle it because right around the corner was a lead role that would knock my socks off and outshine any hurt and pain I had endured.

    I was just a kid but I knew I had a knack for acting. As I sat there with my girl scout troop, not enough seats for an overflowing house, I knew my best friend was playing Oliver Twist, at nine, and I couldn’t really conceptualize, now having been moved to the hard-on-the-tush aisle steps because of the sold-out house, what it would be like seeing him on stage. Already a young prodigy in his own right, he was winning dance competitions at the Iowa State Fair. That may sound like small potatoes but put any professional in one of our state fairs and we’ll give them a serious run for their money. Remember there are three films titled State Fair which were all based on the Iowa State Fair, a mighty important event. Tait Moline, talented beyond belief, my hero, my best friend, by then we had watched all the Broadway plays we could on Iowa Public Television, and worshipped Bernadette Peters.

    When the house lights went down and the stage lights came up, everything around me stopped. I remember every single second, detail, note, and position of that musical. I remember the adults’ faces, the kids’ hutzpah, the box steps, the smell of the lights burning dust and gel, the happiness and sadness of every character’s face, the tears, the smiles, and the suspension of disbelief. The commitment from the characters to play, to pretend, to pain, to joy. I must have been eight at the time, taking hardcore (for a first grader) classical piano lessons that my parents had scraped together for and I was thrown ahead into a timeless floating ether of ecstasy.

    It was a rivalry of power and life and I wanted it. I wanted it forever.  

    I joined The First Act (now Stebens Childrens’ Theatre) the next year. It changed my life.  It WAS my life. It IS my life. It taught me to follow my dreams and that dreams can turn into a reality through hard work, dedication, sweat, breakthroughs, teamwork, and tears.

    Way Out West
    I moved to Los Angeles in 1999 after graduating from Iowa University with a continued dream of living on the stage and in film. My trials and tribulations were very similar to most actors in LA. I was a waitress when I wasn’t on the stage or auditioning. During rehearsal, a fellow actor told me that the famous director, Henry Jaglom, would sometimes cast fans of his work. With that knowledge and zero fear of “no” I wrote him a letter of praise for his film Déjà Vu.

    My letter prompted a meeting and, pleasantly, a budding friendship. Henry had given me his play, A Safe Place to work on in my acting class but I thought I would do him one better and find a theater to produce it. Finally, that “no” was a “yes.” I got to get up on stage and transform the room. It was so exciting to feel the heat of the lights. It continued to fuel my desire for a life in show business.

    After that, I continued to collaborate with Henry and I’m currently playing Katia Wampuskic in his play, Train to Zakopane, one of my most challenging roles to date. She is an anti-Semitic nurse who falls in love with a Jewish man. Every night I have to channel hatred from a place that isn’t present in my own life. It is a true story about Henry’s father, by far one of his most personal pieces yet.

    Prior to performing Train to Zakopane, I got to perform Amiri Baraka’s The Dutchman directed by Levy Lee. It was a theatre marathon; an emotional ride that could and maybe will never be matched in my performing career.

    Before each new project, I take a moment to remember the Girl Scout sitting in the aisle of the children’s theater watching my future peers perform. I remember the magic that comes with transforming the mood of an audience, the magic of baring your heart on stage. It is a rush that cannot be matched with anything else in the world.

    When I lose myself, I think of Oliver Twist...what I knew then and what I know now: that I love what I do, that I want to keep learning, that I never turned back, never gave myself a safety net, and never will. Times are hard, times will be hard, the sweat doesn’t stop, the hard work doesn’t stop, but I learned how to cry at nine and get on with it.

    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

    Train to Zakopane: A True Story of Love and Hate has been extended and is currently playing at Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405 through June 28, 2015. For tickets go to www.edgemarcenter.org.

    Photo credit: Leslie Bohm


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    3D Theatricals beckons all patrons of the arts to buckle up and hold on for a rip-roaring journey back into time by way of Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s Side Show based on the true story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Chronicling their rise from freak circus attractions to famous vaudeville entertainers during the Great Depression, this refreshingly unsentimental journey dares you to bear witness to the Hilton sisters’ heartwarming search for love and normality amidst the spectacle of fame and scrutiny of the spotlight. The production will play exclusively at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, April 25 – May 10. 3DT’s Executive producer and artistic director T.J. Dawson will direct the production. Ryan Ruge has been set as assistant director. Allen Everman is musical director and conductor. Choreography is by Leslie Stevens

    Jeanette Dawson (as Violet Hilton) and Afton Quast (as Daisy Hilton) lead a 27 member cast including Matthew Ballestero (Bearded Lady), Kathleen Borrelli (Harem Girl), Gary Brintz (Buddy Foster), Dustin Ceithamer (Geek), Adam Dingeman (Strong Man), Jay Donnell (Jake), Chelsea Emma Franko (U/S Violet and Daisy Hilton) Gregg Hammer (Terry Connor), April Jo Henry (Harem Girl), Jonah Ho’okano (Fakir), Nathan Holland (The Boss), Chris Holly (Sheik/Dance Captain), Natalie Iscovich (Harem Girl), Bren Thor Johnson (Roustabout), Emily King Brown (Tatooed Human Pin Cushion), Tracy Lore (1/2 Man-1/2 Woman,) Tracy Rowe Mutz (6TH Exhibit), Dino Nicandros (Reptile Man), Brandon Pohl (Roustabout), Robert Ramirez (Three-legged Man), Christanna Rowader (Fortune Teller), Justin Matthew Segura (Roustabout) and Deonne Sones (Dolly). Tickets: www.3dtshows.com.


    You’re invited to see a developmental workshop production of The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, April 9 – 26 at New Musical Inc (Academy for New Musical Theatre. High School baseball phenom Jack Cusack’s world is turned upside down when a biographical play he wrote is discovered, revealing his sexual orientation. Guided by the spirit of Anthony Comstock, the notorious turn-of-nineteenth-century rightwing social reformer, forces of evil conspire against Jack resulting in social ostracism, bullying, and a final outcome far more sinister. The musical was inspired by recent events in high schools across the country and is written by Joel Bailey (book), Jake Anthony (music) and Patricia Zehentmayr (lyrics). Performances are free and you can make reservations at http://nmi.org/tickets/. NMI, 5628 Vineland Ave (just north of Burbank Blvd), North Hollywood, CA 91601.


    Free tickets, anyone? Hop aboard the Comp Train, Goldstar’s popular two-day promotion that features complimentary tickets to tons of fun events throughout the country. For just 48 hours, Goldstar will be offering literally thousands of free tickets to live theater, concerts, dance, comedy and more. And since all you pay is a tiny service fee (the amount varies depending on the event, but it’s usually just a couple bucks), the Comp Train’s a great way to discover new events in your area and treat your plus one, your family or even just yourself to something totally great -- and totally unexpected. Click Here to find your comp tickets.

    Hal Willner presents A Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” with Music, Words and Funny People at the Ace Hotel Tuesday, April 7. Featuring performances and appearances by Nick Cave, Chris Parnell, Eric Mingus, Terry Adams, The Americans, Sam Amidon, Devendra Banhart, Kevin Drew, Will Forte, Petra Haden, Macy Gray, Andy Kim, Courtney Love, Mocean Worker, John Mulaney, Ken Nordine, Beth Orton, Van Dyke Parks, Amy Poehler, Tim Robbins, the Section Quartet, Lori Singer, Chloe Webb, Steve Weisberg, Lucinda Williams and special guests, directed by Matt Piedmont. All proceeds benefit the David Lynch Foundation to bring Transcendental Meditation to at-risk populations suffering with PTSD. 7:30pm at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, 929 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015. (Plus, this historic United Artists Theatre built by the founders of United Artists Pictures - Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks to show their films is just plain cool. If you haven’t been inside you should put it on your list). Click here for tickets. 

    Of Note Productions presents a Master Class with Broadway and TV star Rogelio Douglas, Jr.(In the Heights, The Little Mermaid, Orange Is the New Black, Whiplash) on May 23 from 10:00 – 2:00 pm. The class is open to all students ages 13 and up and will take place at the Thousand Oaks Library in Thousand Oaks. There are two ticket options available. You may enter a lottery to work on your song or monologue with Mr. Douglas ($40.00), or simply observe ($20.00). Both ticket options include lunch with Mr. Douglas from 12:00 -1:00 pm. For tickets and more information, visit www.ofnoteproductions.com.

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    MUSICAL NEWS: Pasadena Playhouse has announced its 2015-2016 season, which includes the world premiere of the new musical Breaking Through (Oct 27 – Nov 22, 2015) with book by Kirsten Guenther and music & lyrics by Cliff Downs and Katie Kahanovitz; and the return of Panto at The Playhouse with Lythgoe Family Productions’ Peter Pan and Tinkerbell A Pirate Christmas (Dec 9, 2015 – Jan 3, 2016). Breaking Through is told through the eyes of a young, talented singer/songwriter, as she tries to navigate the treacherous shark-filled waters of the music business. She embarks on a compelling journey to find her way back to her authentic self and in the process rediscovers the music that truly makes her alive. For a complete list of shows on The Playhouse’s upcoming season, go to www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

    Palos Verdes Performing Arts presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary Tony-winning musical, Cats, April 24 - May 11 at the Norris Theatre (27570 Norris Center Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula). Based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry, Cats tell the story of the annual gathering of Jellicle cats where one special cat will be selected to be reborn into a new life. The 23-member cast includes Gina D’Acciaro (Grizabella), Jake DuPree (Mr. Mistoffelees), Robert Hoyt (Deuteronomy), Bill Ledesma (Munkustrap) and Joel Abelson (Rum Tum Tugger), with Jason Hammond, Jon Wailin, Rachel Davis, Amber Sky Skipps, Melissa Glasgow, Kirklyn Robinson, Steven Rada, Alison Boresi, Bailey Sonner, Gabriel Navarro, Juliana Sanez, Kimberly Sklow, Andrew Soto, Eric Taylor, Erin Umpehnour, Brandon Halvorsen, Arielle Meads, and  Paige Sealey. Tickets: (310) 544-0403 or www.PalosVerdesPerformingArts.com.

    The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center has announced its 2015-2016 season featuring leading productions and artists from around the globe and free concerts and performances in neighborhoods across Los Angeles. Now in its 8th season, the season includes the return of the wildly popular musical theatre group Isango Ensemble who will transform Bizet’s Carmen into a supernatural story of township lovers with an African-inspired theatrical extravaganza of music, dance, performance, and song; recital performances by opera virtuosos Angela Gheorghiu and Piotr Beczała; the launch of a three-year Beethoven concert cycle by Calder Quartet; and expanded offerings in classical music, and National Geographic Live; and pop-up artists that will be streamed live through social media so audience members near and far can be part of the experience.

    Family programming will include Carnegie Hall’s Musical Explorers, an interactive program that celebrates the music of Los Angeles and the diversity of cultures that exist right in our own backyard; The Box Brothers from Netherlands-based ensemble Percossa in which four brothers who live in a box set out on a boisterous musical journey to find happiness using found objects to turn Japanese percussion, African rhythms, jazz, and funk music into a hand-clapping, toe-tapping comic adventure; and Carnival of the Animals, a whimsical tale of creatures that tumble, fly, leap, and spin their way through the animal kingdom. This production is an acrobatic wonder of bodies, light, and sound by Australia’s award-winning Circa. For a complete schedule of upcoming season events go to www.thebroadstage.com.

    Plus, don’t miss Broadway @ The Broad on Sunday, June 14, 2015 with Two time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster and XM Radio’s Seth Rudetsky. Two shows: 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm. These two irrepressible friends will shoot the breeze, dish the dirt, and raise the roof with performances of a host of classic and contemporary Broadway songs. It’s Broadway the Broad way. Tickets: www.thebroadstage.com.

    Fraser Entertainment Group’s An Evening of Classic Broadway returns to Rockwell Table & Stage on Wednesday, April 22. Celebrate Earth Day with songs from classic musicals performed by a cast of singers from Broadway, television and film. Rockwell Table & Stage is located at 1714 N. Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles 90027. Doors open at 6:30 pm; show begins at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $10, $15 or $20 plus a 2-item food minimum. Valet and street parking available. Click Here for tickets.

    DANCE: Valley Performing Arts Center at California State University, Northridge, presents the Martha Graham Dance Company in its only Los Angeles appearance in the 2014-15 season on Saturday, April 18 at 8:00 pm. The program includes a rare staging of Appalachian Spring (considered Graham’s great enduring masterwork) set to Aaron Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning score. The program also features Lamentation Variations, newly choreographed by three celebrated dance makers: Sonya Tayeh, Kyle Abraham and Larry Keigwin. The works by Tayeh and Abraham are west coast premiers following their debut at the Joyce Theater in New York. Tayeh is best known to television audiences for her choreography for So You Think You Can Dance. VPAC is also offering additional related events including educational programs and a photography exhibit in the VPAC Gallery, featuring iconic imagery of the Martha Graham Dance Company taken by photographer Barbara Morgan. Click Here for tickets.

    OPEN HOUSE: Save the date for Greenway Arts Alliance’s Open House Sunday, May 3 from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. Featuring live music on two stages, free outdoor Shakespeare-inspired performances by students enrolled in Greenway’s Institute for the Arts, and more. For more information visit www.greenwayartsalliance.org.

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    MUSICALS: glory|struck productions has announced casting forAmerican Idiot, to be staged in a yet-to-be-disclosed warehouse venue in the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. This electrifying stage adaptation of the punk album featuresJames Byousas Johnny, Lindsay Pearceas Whatsername,Briana Cuoco, Payson Lewis,Jonah Platt, Caitlin Ary, Alec Cyganowski, Bianca Gisselle,Matt Magnusson, Abraham Lim, Michelle Raitzin, Shelley Regner,Jordan Booker, Barrett Crake, Casey Hayden,Reesa Marie, Jenna Townsend, andZach Zagoria. American Idiot is directed by Topher Rhys andJen Oundjian, with musical direction byElmo Zapp. Performances begin May 15. Tickets go on sale April 28, with pre-sale beginning April 14 for those supporting the Kickstarter campaign. The cast will also present a special night of music celebrating the production at The Viper Room April 18 at 10:30 pm (8852 West Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood 90069). Tickets are available athttp://viperroom.com.

    The Group Rep presents the world premiere musical Love Again by Doug Haverty (book & lyrics) and Adryan Russ (music & lyric) directed by Kay Cole May 15 – June 28. The show consists of three engaging musical playlets, each with its own storyline, about making difficult choices in love with a brand new pop/Broadway score. Cast includes Michele Bernath, Paul Cady, Kathleen Chen, Amy Gillette, Renee Gorsey, Lloyd Pedersen, Lauren Peterson, Andrew Curtis Stark, Debi Tinsley, Elijah Tomlinson, and Janet Wood. You can also join the company for Talk-back Sundays after the show May 24th and June 7. Tickets: www.thegrouprep.com or (818) 763-5990.

    Laguna Playhouse presents the Orange County premiere of Murder for Two by Joe Kinosian (book & music) and Kellen Blair (book & lyrics), choreography by Wendy Seyb, musical direction by David Caldwell and direction by Scott Schwartz. Show runs April 22 - May 17 (opening night 4/25) at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach. Everyone is a suspect in Murder for Two, a hilarious musical murder mystery with a twist: one actor investigates the crime (Ian Lowe), the other plays all of the suspects (Kyle Branzel as Marcus) and they both play the piano! A zany blend of classic musical comedy and madcap mystery, this 90-minute whodunit is a highly theatrical duet loaded with killer laughs. Tickets: www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

    The Old Globe in San Diego announces the cast for Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, its upcoming co-production with Hartford Stage. This spectacular revival will be choreographed by Peggy Hickey and directed by Hartford Stage Artistic Director and former Old Globe Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak. Broadway stars Mike McGowan (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) and Anastasia Barzee(Urinetown) star as Fred/Petruchio and Lilli/Kate. The cast also includes Tyler Hanes (Bill/Lucentio), Megan Sikora (Lois/Bianca), Brendan Averett (Second Man), Joel Blum (First Man), Giovanni Bonaventura (Hortensio), Robert Hannon Davis (Ralph), Charity Angel Dawson (Hattie), James T. Lane (Paul), Barrett Martin (Gremio), Wayne W. Pretlow (Pops/Priest), Michael Starr (Phillip), Jeff Steitzer (Harry Trevor/Baptista Minola), Johnny Stellard (Nathaniel), and Nick Wyman (General Harrison Howell). Dancers include Robin Masella, Shina Ann Morris, and Jane Papageorge. Tickets: www.theoldglobe.org.


    EXTENSION: Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group’s Bedlam Explosivo XXO Variety Hour has been extended and will continue performances Fridays at 11:00 pm through May 8. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets: $15 (818) 202-4120 or ZombieJoes.Tix.com.

    BENEFIT: The Ojai Playwrights Conference will honor Gordon Davidson and Judy Ovitz during its benefit gala Town & Country on Saturday, May 2, 3:00 pm. Festivities begin with Show-Stoppers, a 90-minute cabaret of musical numbers and dramatic scenes performed by Broadway and Los Angeles stars and OPC playwrights. The show, created and directed by OPC Artistic Director/Producer Robert Egan with Emmy award-winning composer and music director Lance Horne, will feature performances Davis Gaines,Dale Kristien, Anthony Fedorov, Jennifer Paz, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Steven Weber, Julie Garnyé, Billy Valentine, Luis Alfaro, Jon Robin Baitz, Charlayne Woodard and Noah Wyle. Tickets: www.ojaiplays.org.

    CABARET: Chris Isaacson Presents announces three performances of Erich Bergen--Live! Thursday, May 21 and Friday, May 22 (8:30 pm) at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, and Monday, May 18 at Martinis Above Fourth in San Diego. Bergen is best known for his performance as Bob Gaudio in the Clint Eastwood film of Jersey Boys (a role he played on stage for over three years) and his co-starring role on the CBS drama Madam Secretary. Musical director is Michael Orland (American Idol). Tickets: www.TicketWeb.com or (866) 468-3399.

    DANCE/VARIETY: This Mother’s Day, the 17th annual Momentum Place, curated by Lexi Pearl, creates a fantastical world of aerial and circus performers, dancers and musicians in Theatricum Botanicum’s outdoor amphitheater. Bring your mother to honor the MOMentum in her life - always on the go for others. Now, she can sit back, relax and enjoy an uncommon afternoon of performance delights that are kid friendly and full of surprises. For an extra treat, enjoy a scrumptious brunch in Theatricum’s rustic gardens before the performance. May 10. Brunch: Noon - 1:30 pm, Performance: 2:00 pm. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga CA 90290. Tickets: (310) 455-2322 or www.theatricum.com.

    DANCE: First Run Features is pleased to announce that on May 11 and 12, the new dance documentary, Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter, will be presented as part of Laemmle Theater’s Culture Vulture Series. The series features the best films from the world of ballet, opera, stage, and fine art. Screening s are Mondays at 7:30 pm at all Laemmle locations in Los Angeles, with a repeat of the program Tuesdays at 1:00 pm. Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter tells the inspiring and largely unknown story of Martha Hill, a visionary whose life was defined by her love for dance, and who successfully fought against great odds to establish modern dance as a legitimate art form in America. The 80-minute film is directed by Greg Vander Veer who conducts lively interviews with Hill’s friends and intimates such as Robert Battle (Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), Charles Reinhart (former Director of American Dance Festival), premiere ballerina Heather Watts, Ohad Naharin (Batsheva Dance Company), dance critic Deborah Jowitt and acclaimed choreographers Paul Taylor and Martha Clarke. For more information visit www.Laemmle.com.

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    In this world premiere musical from La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and McCoy Rigby Entertainment, the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy comes to life when Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra revisit “First Impressions,” an earlier version of the beloved novel. Featuring music, lyrics and book by Lindsay Warren Baker & Amanda Jacobs, based on the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, with music direction by Timothy Splain, choreography by Jeffry Denman, and directed by Igor Goldin. April 17 – May 10, 2015. Tickets: www.lamiradatheatre.com

    Bets Malone as Jane Austen with the company of Pride and Prejudice A Musical.
    All Photos by Michael Lamont

    Brandon Andrus, Jamison Lingle, Eddie Egan and Samantha Eggers
    with the company of Pride and Prejudice A Musical

    Brandon Andrus and Patricia Noonan

    L-R: Brandon Andrus, Matthew Kacergis, Patricia Noonan and Bets Malone

    [Seated] Kimberly Hessler and Gregory North with Samantha Eggers,
    Patricia Noonan and Arielle Fishman


    L-R: Jill Van Velzer, Bets Malone, Patricia Noonan and Samantha Eggers

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    LOS ANGELES NEWS:The Pasadena Playhouse has announced that Broadway stars Emily Padgett, Thom Sesma, J. Elaine Marcos, and Thai superstar Bie Sukrit will lead the cast of the world premiere musical Waterfall. The epic new Broadway-bound love story begins previews May 29, with the official press opening on June 7, at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. The production will then play Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre October 1-25, 2015.

    Waterfall is based on a contemporary classic Thai novel, Behind the Painting by Sriburapha, and features book & lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and music by David Shire. It 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. Tak Viravan, directs the production, which is choreographed by Dan Knechtges. The cast also includes Celia Mei Rubin, Colin Miyamoto, Darryl Semira, Eymard Cabling, Jordan De Leon, Kay Trinidad, Kenway Kua, Kimberly Immanuel, Koh Mochizuki, Leon Le, Lisa Helmi Johanson, Marcus Choi, Minami Yusui, Riza Takahashig, Rona Figueroa, and Steven Eng. Tickets: www.pasadenaplayhouse.org


    Motown The Musical, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, will play the Hollywood Pantages April 28 - June 7. The musical is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more. The cast will star Julius Thomas III and Allison Semmes as Berry Gordy and Diana Ross, with Nicholas Christopher (Smokey Robinson), Jarran Muse (Marvin Gaye), Leon Outlaw, Jr., Reed L. Shannon, Erick Buckley, Patrice Covington, Jamarice Daughtry, Tamar Davis, Lynorris Evans, Melanie Evans, Devon Goffman, Jennie Harney, Rod Harrelson, Robert Hartwell, Dana Marie Ingraham, Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr., Trisha Jeffrey, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Jarvis B. Manning, Jr., Krisha Marcano, Moeisha McGill, Marq Moss, Rashad Naylor, Chadaè Nichol, Ramone Owens, Nicholas Ryan, Jamison Scott, Joey Stone, Doug Storm, Martina Sykes and Galen J. Williams. Tickets: www.HollywoodPantages.com or (800) 982-2787.


    Robot Teammate and the Accidental Party has extended its performance residencies at Golden Road Brewing in Glendale and iO West in Hollywood. The comedy troupe will perform their signature musical form, featuring completely improvised music, lyrics, multi-act story structure, and choreography, based entirely on audience suggestions, during hour-long, monthly shows at each venue. RT+AP has been creating once-in-a-lifetime musical comedy experiences since 2012, earning the world record for longest cage match in improv history for their 86 week run at iO West in Hollywood. The cast includes a diverse group of performers from comedy institutions such as UCB, iO West, Nerdist, Comedy Sportz and The Second City. Performance dates: April 28 and May 26 at Chloe’s at Golden Road Brewing, 5410 W. San Fernando Rd, LA, CA 90039. Doors at 8:00 pm, show at 8:30, free admission. Also May 15 at iO West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., LA, CA 90028. Show at 8:00 pm, tickets are $10. www.robotteammate.com


    Arcadia Performing Arts Foundation presents Heather Henson’s Sing-A-Long with The Muppet Movie on Saturday, May 16 at 2:00 pm. Join the fun as the IBEX Puppetry Sing-A-Long crew, including Heather Henson, brings elements of the film to life for the audience via puppetry, kiting, and shadow acting. Children and adults alike are urged to yell out famous lines, blow bubbles, dance in the aisles, and of course, sing along with the movie to forge new or renew connections to films from another generation. Tickets ($15): www.Arcadiapaf.org. Admission is free with the purchase of a Goodie Bag (Goodie Bag is required for entry). The theatre is located at 188 Campus Drive at North Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia CA 91007. For more information please call (626) 821-1781.

    IN SAN DIEGO: La Jolla Playhouse announces the cast for its world premiere musical Come from Away, featuring book, music and lyrics by the Canadian husband-and-wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein (My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding), directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley. A co-production with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Come from Away will run May 29 – July 5. The original, rock-infused musical is based on the true story of when the isolated town of Gander, Newfoundland played host to the world. What started as an average day in a small town turned in to an international sleep-over when 38 planes, carrying thousands of people from across the globe, were diverted to Gander on September 11, 2001. The cast features Jenn Colella (Beverly), Chad Kimball (Colin 1), Joel Hatch (Claude), Rodney Hicks (Bob), Caesar Samayoa (Colin 2), Q Smith (Lana) and Sharon Wheatley (Diane), plus Canadian actors Petrina Bromley (Bonnie), Lee MacDougall (Nick) and Astrid Van Wieren (Beulah) as well as San Diego favorites Geno Carr (Oz), and Allison Spratt Pearce (Janice). Tickets: (858) 550-1010 or www.LaJollaPlayhouse.org.

    The Old Globe has announced its 2015-2016 Season, which will feature three exciting musicals beginning with the previously announced September 16 world premiere of In Your Arm. The exuberant dance-theatre musical features 10 of America’s best theatrical storytellers who will join director-choreographer Christopher Gattelli (pictured left) and composer Stephen Flaherty to create a ravishing evening that glides, leaps, and twirls through the giddy extremes of romantic love.

    On March 26, 2015, Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein makes his musical directing debut with Rain, a sumptuous world premiere musical by Michael John LaChiusa (The Wild Party, Giant) and Sybille Pearson(Giant). Based on a short story by Somerset Maugham, Rain follows a group of American travelers thrown together in a boarding house on a tropical South Pacific island. The sudden arrival of another guest, the mysterious and provocative Sadie Thompson, turns their lives upside down in ways they could never have foreseen.

    And returning for its 18th holiday season beginning Nov. 7, is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! As in years past, The Grinch will be performed on Saturday, December 12 for children on the autism spectrum and their families, as well as other families with special needs that may appreciate the welcoming and supportive environment this performance provides. For a complete schedule of all the productions on The Globe’s season, including Shakespeare plays and more, go to www.theoldglobe.org.

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    MUSICAL NEWS: After a sold-out initial run in Thousand Oaks, Panic! Productions is bringing its hit production of the musical 13 to the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood for two performances, May 8 and 9. The high-energy show, with a cast of 19 teens, features music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown, and book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn. 13 is directed by Barry Pearl, with choreography by Keenon Hooks and musical direction by Diann Alexander. The cast includes Sam Herbert, Carly Shukiar, Samuel Thacker, Antonia Vivino, Delaney Joy, Elaine Panico, Gabriel Nunag, Mackinnley Balleweg, Mateo Gonzales, Liam Krainman. Mason Purece, Madeline Gambon, Batya Conn, Zoë Reed, Tate Downing, Ally Kaplan, Jade McGlynn, Allison Martinez, and Joey Maya. Tickets: (818) 508-4200 or www.elportaltheatre.com.

    Pazos Media is launching its first edition of AvLA // Avant-Los Angeles at Club Monte Cristo in Koreatown on April 22 at 7:30 pm. The event is a fusion of Visual Art, Theatre, Jazz Music, Avant-Garde Music, and Electronic Music. Interdisciplinary theatre collective Source Material will present a preview of their second original piece “I Should Have a Party For All The Thoughts I Didn’t Say,” that magically blends live music with dance and performance. Visual artists Londubh Studio and Kaliisa Conlon will showcase an original and immersive sculpture designed exclusively for the occasion. Jazz musician and composer Daniel Rosenboom will perform the first single of his new album “Astral Transference & Seven Dreams.” Avant-garde singer and composer Dorian Wood is back from his successful European tour and will perform some of his biggest hits accompanied by a guitarist and an accordion. Keenhouse, an electronic musician, will be performing songs off his new album “A Future Past,” a production that blends electronic sounds with classical instruments. Club Monte Cristo, Koreatown: 659 S Westmoreland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005. More information: goo.gl/1fkHd1.


    CABARET: On Monday May 11, Valerie Swift Bird returns in Sister Moon, directed by Pat Whiteman, at The E Spot Lounge located inside Vitello’s, 4349 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604. Valerie will perform with her musical director Rich Eames and the Rich Eames Trio. Doors open at 7:00 pm for dinner. Box Office Hours are Mon - Sat 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Click Here for tickets or call (818) 769-0905.


    Join Ophelia’s Jump Productions and director Beatrice Casagran for Espíritu Gitano on May 9 and celebrate Mother’s Day with a Flamenco Experience. The show will feature performances by some of LA’s top Flamenco artists, musicians, singers and selections of the translated works of Federico Garcia Lorca. This one night only event is a perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day Eve with performances by Marcela Aguayo, Rosalina Castillo, Santiago Diego Martin Prechtel, Katherine Giaquinto, and Vernon Snyder. Tickets: $35 includes tapas selection, and a glass of sangria or non-alcoholic beverage. Additional wine will be available for purchase through donation. 8:00 pm at the Women’s Club of Claremont, 343 W. 12th Street, Claremont (off Indian Hill). Tickets: (909) 624-1464 www.opheliasjump.org.


    WEB SERIES: After almost two years, connie & jimmy is back! Inspired by the 1953 film I Love Melvin, this episode will keep you “A-boodle-oo beep beep baum baum baum”-ing for hours. In episode 4, our charismatic duo has returned home from a frustrating dinner party. What’s on the menu must also match what’s in the heart. Our conscientious couple can’t help but shake it off in this delightful twist on “Where Did You Learn To Dance?” originally performed by Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. For more about the series, visit www.connieandjimmy.com.

    MUSIC/DANCE: REDCAT presents The Murder Ballad (1938) by Los Angeles Theater Collective Poor Dog Group, April 23 – 26. With a volatile mix of desire, jealousy and emancipatory yearning, Poor Dog Group’s movement-based work, first staged at REDCAT’s New Original Works Festival, gives forceful physical life to Jelly Roll Morton's legendary 1938 recording. Originally performed in the brothels of New Orleans’ steamy Storyville district, Jelly Roll Morton’s song revels in the nastiness of its heroine’s voice, embodied here by Jessica Emmanuel, whose feral physical energy lays claim to the violent impulses of a woman betrayed. Directed by Jesse Bonnell, it delves into the myth of female madness and racialized representations of sexuality. Click Here for more information or call (213) 237-2800. 


    Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre (formerly known as Media City Ballet Company) and Natasha Middleton, Artistic Director and Choreographer, will kick off its 14th Anniversary Season at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood with a program of classical and contemporary dance, A Collection of Works. There will be two performances: Saturday, April 25 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, April 26 at 3:00 pm. Alexander Fost, a season eight finalist from So You Think You Can Dance, will make a special appearance in the show. The program will feature Chopin Pieces set to the music of Frédéric Chopin’s romantic Nocturnes, intense Etudes and his melodic Fantasie-Impromtu; the world premiere of A Beginning. A Detour. An Open Ending., a modern contemporary piece about a man fighting for his identity choreographed by Clayton Velasquez set to the music of Imogen Heap; Searching, a new Adagio contemporary ballet duet set to the music of Kevin Keller; Black Coffee in which four dancers hash out their blues set to the music of k.d. lang; and Fire and Drums, a dance of speed, strength and passion set to Native American Drumming. Tickets: (818) 508-4200 or online at www.pacificballetdancetheatre.comor www.elportaltheatre.com. [Pictured: Irina Gharibyn and Grigori Arakelyan. Photo credit: B. Deck]

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    “A musical photo album that rewards the audience with one incredibly happy night at the theater.”

    Jake Broder as Ira Gershwin. Photos by Michael Lamont

    Two famous brothers. One historic collaboration. Gershwin. Theirs was a name that would forever represent the early twentieth century music of the Jazz Age by capturing the heart and soul of the American people. Music drove George, the charismatic life-of-the-party musician who created sophisticated compositions like An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, while Ira, the older and quieter of the two, was happier in the company of words. Together they created a prolific body of work that includes some of the most beloved standards today like “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and “Love is Here to Stay.”

    Ira is the focus of Joseph Vass’ musical play, Words By Ira Gershwin, now receiving a delicious staging at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. For a theatre geek like me who loves a good lyric more than I can express, this production is heavenly. It is a musical photo album that rewards the audience with one terrifically happy night at the theater.

    Jake Broder takes on the role of the famous lyricist and narrates the evening. With humility and a sweet old-world charm, he shares the stories behind many of the songs he wrote with his brother, as well as others he collaborated with after George’s untimely death. I love behind-the-scenes stories and couldn’t get enough of it. It isn’t easy to carry an evening like this and Broder is that one-in-a-million character actor who makes it look easy.

    Jake Broder, Elijah Rock and Angela Teek

    To go along with the engaging narrative, Elijah Rock and Angela Teek emerge from the wings to provide the vocal counterpoint to the show. They’re accompanied by one of the best jazz combos you’ll hear on a stage anywhere in LA, consisting of musical director Kevin Toney at the piano, Terry Wollman on electric and acoustic guitar, John B. Williams on bass, and Greg Webster on drums.


    For a little over two hours they showcase Ira’s unparalleled ability to write lyrics in the contemporary American language of the day. His up-tempo jazz standards, comedy songs, and rich ballads reveal an unparalleled range of emotion. No one could express the sentiment of unrequited love in a torch song like Ira. One of his finest, “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born, closes Act I of the show, and there are moments when Teek sounds exactly like Judy Garland, an unexpected surprise in an already gloriously-voiced performance. Rock also moves easily between styles, particularly turning his arias from Porgy and Bess into passionate showstoppers that make this musical evening ring with elegant sophistication.

    Elijah Rock, Jake Broder and Angela Teek

    I once heard Artistic Director
    Barbara Beckley discuss what she looks for in a play or musical for the Colony. “Tell me a story; make me care,” is what she said. Words By Ira Gershwin fulfills those prerequisites beautifully. For the music, for the stories, and most importantly, for the words, this is one musical event that you don
    t want to miss.

    Elijah Rock and Jake Broder

    WORDS BY IRA GERSHWIN

    April 15 - May 17, 2015
    Colony Theatre

    555 North Third Street (at Cypress)
    Burbank, CA 91502
    Tickets: (818) 558-7000 x 15 or www.ColonyTheatre.org.

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    The cast of Side Show. All photos by Isaac James Creative

    We live in a city that offers many different entertainment options for those in search of culture. Theatre productions, music concerts, art installations, dance performances, heritage festivals, book clubs, and discussions on cultural topics of all kinds can be found every day of the week. And a lot of consideration goes into the decision to spend money on one: does it interest me; can I afford it; is it close to home; do I have to pay for parking; and most importantly, will I be glad I went?

    Here’s one for those of you who want a surefire win in the cultural category: 3-D Theatricals’ Side Show, which plays through May 10, 2015 at Plummer Auditorium. I don’t care if you typically only see classic musicals, or if contemporary offbeat musical theatre is your preference, you should see this one.

    Why? It’s important. In this day and age when people are challenged every day to prove they’re worthy of love, equality, acceptance, and plain old human kindness, this musical holds the mirror up and asks each member of the audience to look at his or her own reflection. “Come look at the freaks,” says the opening number. But, who are the freaks? Them or us? Compassion has become a rare commodity in a world where anyone can say anything without taking responsibility for their words. This musical will make you ashamed of your bad behavior. It should. It will help you remember to be a better person.

    Side Show is the story of the Hilton sisters, conjoined twins who were sold by their mother and paraded out for profit from a very early age. The musical follows their story from their days in the Side Show Odditorium through Vaudeville and on to Hollywood. Daisy wanted fame. Violet wanted stability. Both of them simply wanted to be loved. They did achieve notoriety, but true love was much more difficult to come by. In the end, they had each other, but little else.

    Afton Quast, Jeannette Dawson, and Jay Donnell

    The musical had two short runs on Broadway (the original in 1997 and a revised version in 2014) but never reached the success it should have had. In 3-D Theatrical’s revival, directorTJ Dawsonproves once again that his company has a riveting ability to dig into dramatic material and tell a story that will move you in spite of yourself. It is beautifully polished and poignantly nuanced. They do drama exceedingly well.

    I know that’s the case because at intermission I overheard the couple sitting next to me discussing the show and how it wasn’t what they expected. He wasn’t crazy about a musical that dealt with freaks and she just plain wasn’t sure she liked it. Still, they decided to stay for the second act and see what happened. I didn’t engage them in conversation but was curious what they would say at the end of the show.

    I didn’t have to wait long for the answer. As soon as the final notes were sung and the curtain call began, this older couple was on their feet, with smiles on their faces. Clearly moved, clearly engaged, Side Show and 3DT had won them over. Why go to the theatre? That’s why.

    The cast of Side Show

    This is Broadway west coast style, mounted with passionate attention to detail and executed with as much expertise as any production you’ll find in New York. The character work is mesmerizing, from the heartbreaking duo of Afton Quast (Daisy) and Jeannette Dawson (Violet) who lead the cast, to Nathan Holland (The Boss) who will make you recoil at his abusive treatment of the girls, to Jay Donnell (Jake) whose jazzy Act I showstopper “The Devil You Know” finally gives audiences a chance to see what this fierce actor is capable of. (Would someone please cast him as Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime already...we need to hear him sing that score). By the way, it’s a little uncanny how much Holland resembles that other 1970’s ringmaster, Chuck Barris, of The Gong Show fame.

    Potential love interests Gregg Hammer, as cool businessman Terry Connor, and Gary Brintz as song and dance man Buddy Foster, the hoofer who helps the girls transition to Vaudeville, also offer resonant performances that don’t settle for surface treatment.

    Jay Donnell as Jake

    Nathan Holland and the cast of Side Show

    Gregg Hammer, Afton Quast, Jeannette Dawson, and Gary Brintz

    It is also emotionally-charged visually and presents early twentieth century forms of entertainment in keen fashion. Stephen Gifford’s set design and Jean-Yves Tessier’s lighting create the seedy throwaway feel of the dust bowl traveling amusements contrasting them with the cheeky glamour of Vaudeville and “Overnight Sensation” fame, The Follies (Bird Cage style), and early motion pictures (with some terrific Egyptian choreography by Leslie Stevens). Kate Bergh provides a staggering array of costumes that run the gamut from careworn to glamorous to outright fantastical, and the accompanying wigs and makeup effects by Cliff & Kat Senior and Denice Paxton, respectively, saturate the world with even more authenticity.

    Henry Krieger (music) and Bill Russell’s (book & lyrics) unique musical is a big top winner in 3-D Theatricals’ hands. Worth the drive, worth the money, and boasting free parking to boot, Side Show will exceed your expectations and deliver a more meaningful night at the theatre than you even thought possible. It deserves every rave it gets.  








    Click Here for more gorgeous photos from the show.

    SIDE SHOW
    April 25 - May 10, 2015
    Plummer Auditorium
    201 E Chapman Avenue
    Fullerton, CA 92832
    Tickets: www.3dtshows.com

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    Allison Semmes as Diana Ross, Julius Thomas III as Berry Gordy.
    MOTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour (C) Joan Marcus, 2015

    Turning a profit in the theatre business is challenging at best but it isn’t surprising that Motown the Musical easily recouped its initial investment during its run on Broadway, or its outlay for the First National Tour, now playing at the Hollywood Pantages. The popularity of the Motown sound is undeniable. Even if you wanted to, it’s impossible to keep from being carried away by the irresistible groove of the music. And why would you even want to try?

    This is Berry Gordy’s story, the visionary who would introduce the world to the music of Motor City by starting his own record label with the modest profits from his early songwriting career and an $800 loan from his family. It even features a book written by Gordy but while it links the songs with a through line that explains how he got from point A to point B, the story treatment stays light. Video footage touches on the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and Kennedy and King assassinations but, for the most part, the entertainment avoids controversy and instead highlights the legendary music.

    Of course, that’s the big reason to see this musical, which features more than 40 hits from the Motown catalog. Baby boomers will be in seventh heaven listening to the songs of their youth by artists like The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five, and Diana Ross and the Supremes. Everything from Michael Jackson and his brothers singing “ABC” to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ smooth “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” is here. Pick your favorite and it’s a good bet you’ll find it in the show beautifully sung by a dynamite cast of performers who stay true to the original musical styles. No American Idol influence here; just a soulful connection to the music, sensational voices, and some pretty terrific choreography. Like I said, heaven!

    Much of the story concerns Gordy’s (Julius Thomas III) relationship with Diana Ross (Allison Semmes) and his determination to make her a star. Thomas and Semmes have a sweet chemistry that we see grow from their initial meeting (when she and her Supremes first started pestering him while they were still in high school) to their crossover into love, marriage, fame, and divorce. He is passionate and likable; she captures the mannerisms and vocal inflections of the diva beautifully. Plus, her recreation of “Reach Out and Touch” succeeded in connecting with the audience until everyone was holding hands -- arms raised -- and swaying back and forth singing along with her. From where I was sitting, it was something to see.

    There are terrific performances by Jess Nager as Gordy’s best friend Smokey Robinson, Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye, and an impressive newcomer, Leon Outlaw, Jr., one of three boys alternating in the role of young Michael Jackson. Reliving the Jackson 5’s performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, with psychedelic op art designs pulsating around them on movable panels, made my night. Color floods the stage and it’s 1969 all over again. Muse gives weight to the production with beautiful versions of “Mercy, Mercy, Me” and “What’s Going On,” as Gaye turns his attention to more socially conscious music that remains especially resonant today.

    The joyful expression of singers loving the music they sing and expressing that love wholeheartedly - whether the song is upbeat, reflective, or painfully poetic -- is what this musical is all about.

    The 15-piece orchestra is spectacular under the baton of music director Darryl Archibald (familiar to Los Angeles audiences for his many local musical productions). Plus, the sound balance between the orchestra and the singers is perfect (I’m not kidding) proving that the right technician on the sound board can make or break a show. In this case, it worked like a dream.

    Berry Gordy built a legacy of love with Motown Records and Motown the Musical puts the power of the music front and center in a vibrant, energetic tribute that is sure to continue enchanting audiences for years to come. Ultimately the show communicates his desire to make music for all people. Like he says, “It’s What’s in the Grooves That Counts.”

    All photos below: MoTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour (C) Joan Marcus, 2014


    Reed L Shannon as Michael Jackson (center) with the Jackson 5

    Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye and Cast

    Krisha Marcano (Florence Ballard), Allison Semmes (Diana Ross)
    and Trisha Jeffrey (Mary Wilson)


    The Temptations

    Patrice Covington as Martha Reeves (center) & Cast

    MOTOWN THE MUSICAL
    April 28 - June 7, 2015
    Pantages Theatre

    6233 Hollywood Blvd.
    Hollywood, CA  90028
    Tickets: www.HollywoodPantages.com

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    Stu James and Ensemble. All photos by Ed Krieger.

    Recorded in Hollywoodthe world premiere musical that tells the fascinating true story of black businessman and music producer John Dolphin -- a little-known slice of L.A. history -- is getting great reviews and has extended through May 31 at the Lillian Theatre in Hollywood. It features a book by Matt Donnelly and Jamelle Dolphin, music & lyrics by Andy Cooper, musical direction and arrangements by Stephan Terry, and choreography by Cassie Crump. Denise Dowse directs a cast that includes Eric B. Anthony, Brooke Brewer, John Devereaux, Richie Ferris, Jenna Gillespie, Franklin Grace, Nic Hodges, Stu James, Jade Johnson, Philip Dean Lightstone, Godfrey Moye, Jake Novak, Nic Olsen, Rahsaan Patterson, James Simenc, Matthew Sims, Jr., Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield, and Katherine Washington. Tickets: (323) 960-4443 or www.RecordedInHollywood.com

    Jenna Gillespie, Matthew Sims, Jr., Brooke Brewer, and ensemble 

    Jenna Gillespie, Godfrey Moye, Shah’Leah Nikole Stubblefield,
    and Eric B. Anthony 

    Brooke Brewer, Katherine Washington, Shah’Leah Nikole Stubblefield,
    Jenna Gillespie, and Jade Johnson 

    The Cast of Recorded in Hollywood

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    MUSICAL NEWS: The remount of Deaf West Theatre’s innovative production ofSpring Awakening is set to open at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on May 21 and will continue through May 28. The sold-out engagement originally played L.A.’s Rosenthal Theatre in the Fall of 2014. [read my review here] It is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English by a cast of 27. The cast features performers signing ASL and speaking roles including Joey Antonio, Hillary Baack, Miles Barbee, Sean Barna, Katie Boeck, Joshua Castille, Julian Comeau, Daniel N. Durant, Treshelle Edmond, Sandra Mae Frank, Kathryn Gallagher, Gabrielle Garza, Sean Grandillo, Karla Gutierrez, Amelia Hensley, Lauren M. Luiz, Daniel Marmion, Austin McKenzie, Andy Mientus, Krysta Rodriguez, Howie Seago, Daniel David Stewart, Ali Stroker, Alexandra Winter and Alex Wyse. I highly recommend you don’t miss this show!www.thewallis.org

    La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment presentMary Poppins May 29 – June 21. The show features original music & lyrics By Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, book by Julian Fellowes, new songs and additional music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and musical direction byDennis Castellano. Original choreography created by Dan Mojica will be re-created by Dana Solimando and Kim Arnett and the production is directed by Glenn Casale. The cast includes Brandi Burkhardt as Mary Poppins and Leigh Brian Wakeford as Bert, with Martin Kildare (Mr. Banks), Shannon Warne (Mrs. Banks), Time Winters (Admiral Boom/Bank Chairman), Mary Gutzi (Miss Andrews/Mrs. Smythe/Queen Victoria), and Helen Geller (The Bird Woman) along with Nick Adorno, Kim Arnett, Kat Borrelli, Brandon Burks, Kevin Patrick Doherty, Michael Dotson, Jake DuPree, Rachel Pfeifer Green, Devon Hadsell, Natalie McDonald, Dino Nicandros, Joël René, Brian Steven Shaw, Noa Soloria, Momoko Sugai, Christine Tucker, Logan J. Watts and John B. Williford. www.lamiradatheatre.com

    Tony Award-winner and Broadway superstarIdina Menzel(Wicked, Rent, Frozen, Glee) will launch the National Tour of If/Then, reprising her critically-acclaimed, Tony-nominated performance in seven select cities, including the Hollywood Pantages, Dec. 8 – Jan. 3). The original Broadway musical reunites composer Tom Kitt, book writer/lyricist Brian Yorkey, and director Michael Greif, the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical, Next to Normal. The show follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, a city planner who moves back to New York to restart her life in this city of infinite possibilities. When her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, Elizabeth’s life splits into two parallel paths. If/Then follows both stories simultaneously as this modern woman faces the intersection of choice and chance.www.hollywoodpantages.com

    Ebony Repertory Theatre will presentThe Gospel at Colonus starring Tony Award-winner Roger Robinson(Joe Turner’s Come and Gone) as Oedpius, June 18 – July 19 (press opening June 20) at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Conceived and adapted by Lee Breuer, with music by Bob Telson, it takes place during a Pentecostal church service set against the tragic Greek story of Oedipus, in which the exiled king seeks a place where he may be properly buried. The production, directed by Andi Chapman, will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Los Angeles premiere. http://ebonyrep.org/

    Fancy Nancy, the musical opens at Chance Theater on May 29, running through June 7. Based on the book Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor, it features book & lyrics by Susan DiLallo, music & lyrics by Danny Abosch, and is directed by Kelly Todd. Fancy Nancy and her friends Bree, Rhonda, Wanda, and Lionel are going to be performing in their very first show, Deep Sea Dances. Nancy is positive - that’s fancy for 100 percent sure - that she and Bree will be picked to be mermaids. When another girl wins the coveted role of the mermaid, Nancy is stuck playing a dreary, dull tree. Can Nancy bring fancy flair to her role, even though it isn’t the one she wanted? The 50-minute show stars Jillian Batt, Felicia Fairly, Erika C. Miller, Megan Walker, Shaina Knox, Wesley Barnes. www.chancetheater.com

    EXTENSIONS: The Los Angeles premiere of Words By Ira Gershwin, a musical play by Joseph Vass, directed by David Ellenstein, has been extended through Sunday, May 24 at the Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third Street in Burbank. www.colonytheatre.org

    A Noise Within has also extended The Threepenny Opera through Sunday, May 24. There will also be a Pay What You Can performances of the show on Friday May 22 at 8pm. Pay What You Can tickets go on sale at the box office window the day of the performance, starting at 2pm, and are sold on a cash-only basis based on availability; limit of two tickets per person. For regular tickets, call 626-356-3100, or go to www.ANoiseWithin.org.

    SEASON ANNOUNCEMENTS:2015 – 2016 Laguna Playhouse

    July 8 - August 9, 2015 (Press Opening July 11)
    Footloose, by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, music by Tom Snow, lyrics By Dean Pitchford, additional Music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar. Kenny Loggins & Jim Steinman

    Oct. 7 – Nov. 11, 2015 (Press Opening October 10)
    Artistic Director’s Choice

    Jan. 6 –31, 2016 (Press Opening January 9)
    Act 3 starring Rita Rudner, written by David Ambrose and Claudia Nellens. directed by Martin Bergmann

    Feb. 24 – March 27, 2016 (Press Opening Feb. 27 
    Louis & Keely ‘Live’ at the Sahara, directed by Taylor Hackford, written by Vanessa Stewart, Taylor Hackford & Jake Broder, starring Tony Award-Winner Anthony Crivello and Vanessa Stewart.

    April 27 – May 22, 2016 (Press Opening March 8)
    Sex and Education written by Lissa Levin, directed by Andrew Barnicle

    June 1 - 26, 2016 (Press Opening June 4)
    Buyer & Cellar written by Jonathan Tolins, directed by Larry Raben

    Optional productions: August 12 – 30, 2015
    The Official Blues Brothers Revue presented by Dan Aykroyd, Judy Belushi and musical director Paul Shaffer

    Dec. 2 – 27, 2015
    A Snow White Christmas from Lythgoe Family Productions

    And more. For a complete schedule go to www.lagunaplayhouse.com

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    2015 – 2016 La Mirada Theatrewww.lamiradatheatre.com

    Sept. 18 – Oct. 11, 2015 (Press Opening Sept. 19)
    First Date by Austin Winsberg, Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, directed by Nick DeGruccio, with choreography by Lee Martino.

    Oct. 23 – Nov. 15, 2015 (Press Opening Oct. 24)
    Rent, book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, directed by Brian Kite, with choreography by Dana Solimando.

    Jan. 22 – Feb. 14, 2016 (Press Opening Jan. 23)
    Empire The Musical, book, music & lyrics by Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull, directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Pre-Broadway engagement.

    March 25 – April 17, 2016 (Press Opening March 26)
    Dreamgirls, book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, music by Henry Krieger, directed and choreographed by Bobby Longbottom

    June 3 – 26, 2016 (Press Opening June 4)
    The Little Mermaid, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, book by Doug Wright, directed by Glenn Casale, with choreography by John McGinnis.

    April 29 – May 15, 2016
    American Idiot, music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, directed by Brian Kite, with choreography by Dana Solimando.

    May 21, 2016, 2pm and 8pm
    Leann Rimes in concert

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    2015 – 2016 Lewis Family Playhousehttp://lewisfamilyplayhouse.com/

    Oct. 10 – 25, 2015
    Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play, based on the Elephant & Piggie Books by Mo Willems, script & lyrics by Mo Willems, music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, directed by Art Manke with musical direction by Deborah Wicks La Puma.

    Jan. 30 – Feb. 14, 2016   
    Fairytales, Unscripted, completely improvised plays in the style of Classic Fairy Tales by the amazing artists of Impro Theatre, directed by Dan O’Conner and Jo McGinley.

    April 23 – May 8, 2016
    Mirette, based on the Caldecott winning book by Emily Arnold McCully, book by Elizabeth Diggs, music by Harvey Schmidt, and lyrics by Tom Jones

    PODCAST: Clifford Bell recently sat down with special guest Kate Pazakis during his show Cabarabia. Hear them talk about upcoming events happening at Rockwell Table & Stage: Romeo & Juliet: Love is a Battlefield and Cruel Intentions: The Unauthorized Parody Musical, and more. Click Here to listen to the show. For more about the shows at Rockwell, go to http://rockwell-la.inticketing.com/.

    DANCE: Highways Performance Space presents GUSH, five new contemporary dance works by independent choreographers Jennifer Kayle and Charlotte Adams May 29 - 30. Kayle probes the realm of mortal passion, and the new era of human impact on the earth. Adams uncovers the body’s anatomy and its undoing, and the ludicrous toiling for success. The five works will immerse viewers in the distinctly visceral performance of eleven dancers and two musicians which include original music by composer Jason Palamara, and original video by Alex Bush and Tori Lawrence. The two-hour event starts at 8:30 pm at Highways Performance Space, 18th Street Arts Center, 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404. www.highwaysperformance.org.

    MULTI-MEDIA: REDCAT presents the world premiere of The Institute of Memory (TIMe) a multimedia performance by director and media artist Lars Jan and his company Early Morning Opera May 28 – 31. Produced by the CalArts Center for New Performance, TIMe is a multi-dimensional performance about how the future of remembering is changing right now. TIMe features two performers (Ryan Masson and Annie Saunders), advanced projected imagery, original musical compositions by world-renowned vocalist and composer Mariana Sadowska, a minimalist LED-lined set structure, and a collage of found and original text tracing the evolution of national and personal remembering and privacy through the story of director Lars Jan’s father. Jan’s father, known in later life as Henryk S. Ryniewicz, was a Polish resistance fighter in WWII, a McCarthy-era anti-communist speaker, a Cold War intelligence operative, and privacy-obsessed misanthrope. He is on record in various historical archives, including with the ‘Institute of National Memory’ in Warsaw, the archives of Harvard University, and the National Archives of both the US and the UK. Click Here for tickets and more information.

    CABARET/CONCERTS:Party Worth Crashing, featuring the music of songwriting duo Kerrigan-Lowdermilk will be presented one night only, May 17, at 8pm, at the Attic Theatre. Cast includes Michael Barnum, Lauren Byrd, Jessica Louise Garcia, Nasi Nassiri, Nicholas Pilapil, and Alexander Pimentel, with musical direction by Gabby Maldonado. Tickets are $20 and available onlineHere or at the door. Following the performance, there will be an intimate acoustic concert called The After Party featuring original music by the cast. Tickets for The After Party are an additional $5.

    The next evening of MISCAST: Right Singer Wrong Song will take place on Sunday, March 17. featuring a cast of 11 singers performing inappropriate songs from Sweet Charity, Sound of Music, Grease and more. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Proceeds benefit Project Angel Food. Click Here for tickets.


    Valley Performing Arts Center is pleased to announce its final event of the 2014/15 season will be a FREE concert with the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West Concert Band with a special guest performance by Hailey Reinhart on May 14 at 7:30pm. Tickets can be obtained at the box office or by calling (818) 677-3000.

    The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) presents LACO @ The Movies Celebrates Walt Disney Animation Studios, an extraordinary evening of musical world premieres and eye-popping animation spanning more than 80 years with orchestral scores performed live by Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, led by six-time Emmy® Award-winning composer Mark Watters. The event takes place on Saturday, June 13 at 7 pm at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA.


    The magical event, for adults and children six and older, includes re-premieres of newly restored versions of two long lost 1920’s-era “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” shorts, Poor Papa (1927) and Africa Before Dark (1928), shown for first time in more than 50 years along with world premieres of music by Watters for both films, neither of which previously had musical scores. Also featured is a screening of a newly restored print of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia (1940) including the world premiere of a compelling new adaptation of the score by Watters.

    Other highlights include: the 2014 Academy® Award-nominated Get A Horse! (2013), a contemporary homage to early Mickey Mouse cartoons, shown with live music for the first time ever; the 80th anniversary of theSilly Symphony”short Music Land (1935) highlighted by the first live musical performance to the film in its 80-year history featuring the brilliant and virtuosic score that pits the Land of Symphony against the Isle of Jazz for a unique Disney “take” on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; the iconic Plane Crazy (1929), the first Mickey Mouse cartoon created by Walt Disney and inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s first solo-flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927; the 80th anniversary of The Band Concert (1935), the first color Mickey Mouse cartoon to use the Technicolor process; and the delightful “Have a Laugh” versions of Lonesome Ghosts (1937), in which Mickey, Donald and Goofy run a ghost exterminating agency, and Mickey’s Trailer (1938), a “road picture” with Mickey, Donald and Goofy involving a car separated from its trailer traveling down a mountain incline. www.laco.org[Pictured: Mickey Mouse in The Band Concert (1935) Photo courtesy of ©Disney Enterprises]

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    The 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival opens next month and tickets are available now for all productions. This year’s Fringe will run June 11 – 28, and feature over 1300 performances at more than 55 venues. From the opening night party at Fringe Central (Fringe Cabaret Stage) 6510 Santa Monica Blvd to the Fringe Award Ceremony and Closing Night Party on June 28, get ready for anything. Here’s a look at some of the musical productions on this year’s schedule. For information about all of the shows available, go to www.hollywoodfringe.org.

    MARRY ME A LITTLE:Good People Theater Company makes its third appearance at the Hollywood Fringe Festival with Marry Me a Little, a two-hander music revue featuring Stephen Sondheim trunk songs from some of his greatest musicals including Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, Company, Forum and A Little Night Music. Craig Lucas and Norman Rene thread the Sondheim songs through a story about two singles (Jessie Withers and David Laffey) passing a Saturday night musing about love, never knowing they live just one floor apart. Producer/Director Janet Miller says the show is “about loving Stephen Sondheim.” She adds, “it is a true Fringe show due to a One Act structure (about 70 minutes), and for patrons who know their Sondheim it’s an ‘oh, I love that song. And that song. And that song’ kind of show. Plus, for Fringers who know Sondheim mainly from his mega hits - like Sweeney Todd - it’s a fantastic chance to hear his lesser known, but no less brilliant, rep.” Featuring musical direction by Corey Hirsch. (June 4 – 28, 2015) www.hff15.org/2234

    THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO: THE MUSICAL:Matt Dahan (music) and Kelly D’Angelo’s (book & lyrics) world premiere musical is based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas and is the story of Edmond Dantès and his dark transformation into the antihero known as the Count of Monte Cristo. A tale of love, loss, and extreme agony coupled by an undeniable thirst for retribution, this musical expands on the many motifs raised in the novel while offering a fresh perspective on the nearly thousand-paged piece of literature. The cast will star David Meinke as The Count of Monte Cristo, with Laurine Price (Mercedes), David Zach (Danglars), Anthony Gruppuso (Villefort), Parnell Marcano (Caderousse), Bryan Vickery (Albert), Mary Nepi (Valentine), Henry Kaiser (Abbe Faria), Teresa Tracy (Heloise), Anderson Piller (Edward), Stephen Novick (Andrea Cavalcanti/Young Dantes), Jillian Easton (Lucille Debray), Todd Andrew Ball (Noirtier/Morrel), TR Krupa (Franz D’Epinay), Richelle Meiss (Luiga/Young Mercedes), and Amanda Walter (The Dancer). (June 5 – 27, 2015) http://hff15.org/2075

    STANDUPERA: This multi-media multi-genre, one woman show is written by, and stars, Erin Carere, directed by Nell Teare. The world premiere incorporates stand-up, story, cabaret, and opera, and is Rated R for Swearing, Sex, and Opera. Carere says, “I am a singer. And when people ask, ‘What kind of music do you sing?’ my answer causes a lot of confusion. This is because, in reality, I am a classical-pop-crossover-Broadway-jazz-singer-songwriter. Sometimes I try to explain it like, I’m like if Andrea Bocelli and Bette Midler had a baby who hung out with Leonard Cohen. That’s what I do. Sort of.” Standupera is the story of a woman who sings, who makes mistakes, and lets you laugh at them… er… with her…and, yes, it’s a comedy. (June 5 – 27, 2015) http://hff15.org/2212

    MY SISTER:My Sister features identical twin sisters, Emily and Elizabeth Hinkler, in a play with music written for them by Janet Schlapkohl, who worked with the Hinklers while at the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Set in 1934 Berlin, it is the endearing story of identical twin sisters Magda, a cabaret performer, and Matilde, her writer, who lives with cerebral palsy. While Magda performs at the cabaret, Matilde is homebound, experiencing the thrilling cabaret only through her mind’s eye. The play speaks to contemporary issues of human rights, disability awareness, and freedom of expression, and incorporates music, song, dance, and cabaret. (June 4 – 27, 2015) http://hff15.org/2195

    THE HALFWITS’ LAST HURRAH: Four Clowns returns to the Fringe with an original piece penned by company clowns Jamie Franta and Don Colliver. The play features a fame-hungry showman and his mischievous troupe of halfwits as they struggle to keep their variety show from derailing when they are faced with a vindictive ghost from the past. Part Vaudeville tribute, part show biz farce, the audience will enjoy an evening of comedy, music, and mayhem. The cast of twelve includes five new company members who will be enjoying their first adventure with the clowns and stars Tyler Bremer, Jennifer Carroll, Charlotte Chanler, Don Colliver, Julia Davis, Jamie Franta, Elizabeth Godley, Dave Honigman, Benji Kaufman, Jolene Kim, Jamarr Love, and Helene Udy. David Anis will direct and Jeremy Aluma will lead the company as executive producer. Aluma is excited to bring this new team together, saying, “For the past three seasons I have been pushing for a huge cast show, just like this one; The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah implements two of our company members’ greatest strengths, our ability to create fine-tuned self-contained bits, and our pursuit to have a theatrical play that is funny, stunning, and moving. Our company finally has the staff, membership and artistry to make this happen.” (June 4 – June 26, 2015) http://hff15.org/2166

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    MUSICAL NEWS: Kelrik Productions presents Violet, directed by Joshua Finkel, May 15 – 31 at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. Starring Kristin Towers Rowles as Violet, Jahmaul Abiodun Bakare as Flick, Michael Spaziani as Monty, and Jaidyn Young as Young Vi, along with Jason Chacon, Richard Lewis Warren, Gail Matthius, Erika Bowman, Benai Alicia Boyd, Jeremy Saje, and Justin Anthony Long. The creative team also includes Joe Lawrence(musical director), Samantha Marie (choreographer, Kathleen Yost Forster(costume & lighting designer), Erik Austin(set designer). On a cross-country bus trip in search of a minister to heal her scarred face, one woman discovers the true meaning of beauty, courage and love. Due to the show’s adult subject matter, audience members under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Tickets:https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/943912

    The Pasadena Playhouse announces the return engagement of A Night With Janis Joplin starring Mary Bridget Davies, July 21 – August 16, following her Tony Award® nominated Broadway run. Like a comet that burns far too brightly to last, Janis Joplin exploded onto the music scene in 1967 and, almost overnight, became the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The unmistakable voice filled with raw emotion and tinged with Southern Comfort made her a must-see headliner from Monterey to Woodstock. A Night With Janis Joplin is a musical journey celebrating Janis and her biggest musical influences – trailblazers like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith, who inspired one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s greatest legends. Written and directed by Randy Johnson, the show is produced by Michael Cohl, Todd Gershwin and Daniel Chilewich, in association with The Estate of Janis Joplin and Jeffrey Jampol for JAM, Inc. Tickets are now on sale at www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

    DOMA Theatre Companywill rock the MET Theatre when they open Green Day’s American Idioton June 5. Director Marco Gomez, musical director Chris Raymond and choreographer Angela Todaro bring this story of three lifelong friends who are forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia in the smash Broadway hit. Tony Award-nominated for best musical and a Grammy Award winner for best musical show album, American Idiot features the music of Green Day with lyrics by lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong and a book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer. The 25-member ensemble stars Jess Ford stars as Johnny, with Chris Kerrigan(Tunny), Wesley Moran (Will), Andrew Diego(St. Jimmy), Jackee Bianchi (Heather), Renee Cohen(Whatsername), Cassandra Nuss(Extraordinary Girl), Alex Allen, Sandra Diana Cantu, Tony Cellucci, Kevin Corsini, EverJohn Feliciano, Blair Grotbeck, Lillian Mansala, Angeline Mirenda, Johnny Ortiz, Nohely Quiroz, Michael Restaino, Brittany Rodin, Dekontee Tucrkile, Lauren Tyni, Ty West and Anthony D. Willis. www.domatheatre.com

    CASTING CALL: The Confidential Musical Theatre Projectis coming to L.A. Billed as a one-night performance of a musical that the audience doesn’t know the identity of until the show starts, the unusual performance  also includes cast members who rehearse on their own and meet the rest of the cast right before going on stage. The concept of this show began in Toronto and has been very successful in both Toronto and Vancouver. Casting is done by submissions only - there are no auditions. Actors who would like to submit may do so at http://ow.ly/LO9XR.

    BOOKS:Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Lifeby William V. Madison(University Press of Mississippi) was released on May 1, 2015. This is the first biography of the great comedic actress best known for her Oscar-nominated roles in Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles. She was one of the most popular comedians of her time—and one of the least understood. The book draws on new interviews with family, friends, and colleagues like Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Gene Wilder, Harold Prince, and Eileen Brennan, as well as archival press and private writings. It examines Kahn’s film career and focuses on her Oscar-nominated triumphs with Mel Brooks and Peter Bogdanovich, including her first audition for Blazing Saddles, which almost ended before it began. There are also new revelations about her disastrous run in On the Twentieth Century on Broadway that culminated in her firing by the legendary Hal Prince shortly after it opened. www.upress.state.ms.us/books/1746

    Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & David & Sue & Me... by legendary agent to the stars, Stevie Phillips, is set for release in June. No star burned more ferociously than Judy Garland. And nobody witnessed Garland’s fierce talent at closer range than Stevie Phillips. Philips worked for Freddie Fields and David Begelman at MCA under the glare of legendary über-agent Lew Wasserman. When MCA blew apart, Fields and Begelman created Creative Management Associates, and Stevie went along. Fields convinced Garland to come on board, and Stevie became, as she puts it, “Garland’s shadow,” putting out fires-figurative and literal-in order to get her to the next concert in the next down-and-out town. Philips paints a portrait of Garland at the bitter end and although it was at times a nightmare, Philips says, “She became my teacher,” showing her “how to” and “how not to” live. Stevie also represented Liza Minnelli, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, George Roy Hill, Bob Fosse, Cat Stevens, and David Bowie. She produced both films and Broadway shows and counted her colleague, the legendary agent Sue Mengers, among her closest confidantes. Now Phillips reveals all in this tough-talking memoir. http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250065773

    FILM: Mark your calendars for Saturday, June 27 for a Gene Autry double feature at theAutry National Center from noon – 2:30 pm. Oh, Susanna! (1936) and Rootin’ Tootin’ Rhythm(1937) both have plots that deal with mistaken identity and that’s the theme of this fun afternoon. In Oh, Susanna! an escaped convict knocks out radio star Gene Autry and swaps clothes with him, making the authorities believe that Gene is the criminal. Then in Rootin Tootin Rhythm, Gene and his pal Frog Millhouse are after cattle rustlers and become mixed up in a comedy of errors when they don the clothes of two dead outlaws, only to learn that the outlaws are really dead sheriffs, dressed in outlaws’ clothes. Admission is included with Museum Admission and is free for Autry Members. Click Here for more information.

    Cinespia’s outdoor movie series will presentThe Wizard of Oz(1939, 102 minutes) on Saturday, June 20 at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Starring the effervescent Judy Garland in her greatest role, this is a night of classic Hollywood movie musical magic under the stars. You can also join Cinespia for a rare screening of the original 1940s masterpiece,Fantasia, followed by a screening of its millennial cousin, Fantasia 2000, on June 7 at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The event is a benefit for the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and includes a private cocktail party in the decadently decorated lobby and forecourt where so many stars have left their handprints. With a Disney themed Cinespia Photobooth, DJs spinning before the screening and full bars with valid ID. This double feature is open to all ages. For tickets and a complete schedule of events, go to http://cinespia.org/.


    WEB SERIES: Season one of webTV show Ruby and Martin, featuring Taylor Coffmanand Clayton Farris, is now available online. In this offbeat comedy, Ruby, a rolling stone, and Martin, a buttoned up TV writer, awkwardly navigate the trials and tribulations of love. Influenced by a co-dependent twin-brother and an under-sexed overprotective best friend, Ruby and Martin try to make a connection…and end up falling in love, awkwardly. It isn’t a musical per se but it made me laugh and I think you’ll enjoy it. Episodes are available Here.

    CABARET/CONCERTS:Rubicon Theatre’s Broadway Musical Concert Series continues with three concerts celebrating the genius of two of the most prolific and most important writing teams in musical theatre history in a show entitled Rodgers & Hart & Hammerstein. Directed byLarry Raben, the concert features Joan Almedilla, Teri Bibb, Susanne Blakeslee, David Engel, Jason Graae, and Andrew Samonsky. Musical direction is by Steven Freeman. Performances will take place May 16 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm and Sunday, May 17 at 2:00 pm and will feature some of the greatest songs produced by these extraordinary collaborators, including “Where or When,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “My Romance,” “Ten Cents a Dance,” “I Have Dreamed,” “My Funny Valentine,” “So Long, Farewell,” “If I Loved You” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.” www.rubicontheatre.org

    A Little New Musicreturns to Rockwell: Table & Stage in Los Feliz June 3 at 8pm. Daisy Eaganand Jordan Kai Burnettco-host and Bryan Blaskie returns as musical director. The evening will showcase songs by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid, Sam Carner and Derek Gregor, Bill Nelson and Will Aronson, Brian Woodbury, and more top writers to be announced, with performances by Sharon McKnight, Ryan O’Connor, Kelley Dorney, Amanda Kruger, Matthew Sims, and Kate Ponzio. Tickets: www.rockwell-la.com. www.alittlenewmusic.org

    Angel City Chorale, led by Artistic Director Sue Fink, will present EPIC: Blockbuster Music from Video Games & Film, on Saturday, June 6, and Sunday, June 7, 2015. ACC’s 150+ member choir and its instrumental ensemble will perform a diverse selection of music from the exciting worlds of video games and film in the choir’s eclectic blend of styles, including classical, pop, world, folk, jazz, gospel, and R&B. The concerts will also feature a 26-piece live ensemble performing with the choir. Performances are family-friendly and will take place at the historic Wilshire United Methodist Church, 4350 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010. The evening includes a 15-minute intermission and the audience will also be invited to join the performers for a reception with light refreshments after each performance. For tickets and a look at the program, visit www.angelcitychorale.org

    Arcadia Performing Arts Foundation has announced thatBrian Hyland will be joining Dick Fox’s Doo Wop Extravaganza on Sunday, June 6 at 7pm. Hyland is known for a slew of iconic hit songs including “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and “Sealed With a Kiss” and replaces the previously announced David Sommerville, who is unable to appear, due to a scheduling conflict. Dick Fox’s Doo Wop Extravaganza is a celebration of Doo-wop, the iconic sound that caused a sensation in the 1950s and early 1960s. www.Arcadiapaf.org

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    Renee Gorsey, Amy Gillette, Paul Cady, Lloyd Pedersen, and
    Janet Wood. Photos by Doug Engalls

    Three short musicals about the complications of love make up the world premiere of
    Love Again playing at The Group Rep in North Hollywood. Though light on substance – each piece is only 30 minutes in length – this one-act musical still takes the audience on a pleasant journey through three scenarios where love may or may not conquer all.

    In the first, In a Different Light, kismet brings two college sweethearts together after twenty years while traveling in Paris with their spouses. He’s (Paul Cady) there on business with his wife (Amy Gillette) and boss (Renee Gorsey); she’s (Janet Wood) vacationing with her husband (Lloyd Pedersen) on their second honeymoon. Neither has forgotten the other and as they reconnect over drinks, with all their assorted baggage in tow, they must decide whether to act on their feelings.

    In the second, Two Lives, a car accident leaves longtime pals Loretta (Debi Tinsley) and Fanny (Michele Bernath) in the hospital on life support while family members place their lives on hold to be with them. Though brain dead, in fantasy sequences we’re privy to their very active – and often humorous – inner life as Fanny attempts to play matchmaker for her son (Andrew Curtis Stark) and the nurse who cares for her (Kathleen Chen), and Loretta comes to terms with whether her husband (Lloyd Pedersen) will take her off the machines before she’s ready.

    The third, Forget-Me-Not, concerns a financially-strapped couple (Cady and Wood) who considers moving his parents (Bernath and Pedersen) – both of whom suffer from memory loss – into their son’s (Elijah Tomlinson) room without reminding them they’re divorced.

    Lloyd Pedersen, Andrew Curtis Stark, and Elijah Thomlinson

    Collectively, bookwriter Doug Haverty’s stories have the feel of an early 1970’s or ‘80’s sitcom like The Love Boat and Love American Style. But while the setups are fun, there is little time to develop the conflicts so the pieces end up feeling predictable and somewhat thin, especially with their intentionally unresolved endings. It’s definitely light romantic comedy, heavy on the light.

    Composer Adryan Russ has a way with a sentimental ballad and her music never fails to pull on the heart strings. Rich choral harmonies show off the cast en masse. Amy Gillette and Kathleen Chen soar in the category of ‘leading ladies with lovely soprano voices’ and baritone Paul Cady is grounded as the ‘earnest leading man.’ Also moving is the male trio of Pedersen, Stark, and Tomlinson, who sing of the war days in one of the few serious moments in the show. Musical director Richard Berent’s instrumental arrangements are crisp and easily heard but I wondered if the actors were having trouble with the tracks as several individuals had difficulty staying in time and in tune during their solos. Director Kay Cole’s serviceable staging keeps the overall movement of the show fluid, adding some light dance staging to enhance character personalities.

    Distracting, however, was the teal, pink, and purple set design in which everything – walls, floors, tables, benches, chairs – was painted to resemble an impressionistic painting. Others may find the effect unobtrusive. For me, it was overwhelming.

    The cast of Love Again

    LOVE AGAIN
    May 15 - June 28, 2015
    The Group Rep
    10900 Burbank Blvd.
    North Hollywood, CA 91601
    Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm
    Talk-back Sundays after the show May 24 and June 7
    Tickets: (818) 763-5990 or www.thegrouprep.com

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    MUSICAL NEWS: Get a sneak peek at new musicals in development at New Musicals Inc. on June 4. The concert presentation of got musicals will include material from the winners of the 2015 New Voices Project: Jacob Combs& Madeline Myers, Bill Nelson& Joseph Trefler, and Michael Finke (all under the age of 26) as well as projects in development for ASCAP/Dreamworks, McCoy Rigby Entertainment, and the 2014 Search for New Musicals. You’ll also get to see previews of shows coming to the Stages Musical Theatre Festival in August and highlights from NMI’s latest crop of Core writers. 7:30pm at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. Tickets: http://nmi.org/.

    Mike McGowan and Anastasia Barzee.
    Photo by T Charles Erickson

    The cast has been announced for The Old Globe and Hartford Stage’s co-production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate. This spectacular revival will be choreographed by Peggy Hickey and directed by Darko Tresnjak, who won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which made its world premiere at The Old Globe and Hartford Stage in 2013. Kiss Me, Kate will run July 1 - August 2, with opening night on Thursday, July 9 at 8:00 pm. Broadway stars Mike McGowan (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) and Anastasia Barzee(Urinetown) will play former lovers and reluctant co-stars Fred/Petruchio and Lilli/Kate. The cast also features Brendan Averett (Second Man), Joel Blum (First Man), Giovanni Bonaventura (Hortensio), Robert Hannon Davis (Ralph), Charity Angel Dawson (Hattie), Tyler Hanes (Bill/Lucentio), James T. Lane (Paul), Barrett Martin (Gremio), Wayne W. Pretlow (Pops/Priest), Megan Sikora (Lois/Bianca), Michael Starr (Phillip), Jeff Steitzer (Harry Trevor/Baptista Minola), Johnny Stellard (Nathaniel), and Nick Wyman (General Harrison Howell). Dancers include Robin Masella, Shina Ann Morris, Jane Papageorge. Cast subject to change. www.theoldglobe.org

    The Grove Theatre in Upland announces its production of Cinderella which will run June 12 - 28. This modern take on the classic show features romantically-challenged Prince Freddy, who just received his Doctor of Philosophy. Having just returned to his home kingdom, he is being pressured by his all-business father, King Frederick, to quickly choose a bride at the upcoming royal ball. Domineering Brunhilda and greedy daughters, Clarissa and Priscilla, are excited to go to the ball but smart and modern stepdaughter Cinderella would rather stay home and read with her animal friends Aristotle the Crow, Plato the Toad, and Socrates the Spider. Magical Gwendolyn the Well-Wisher appears and urges Cinderella to go to the ball. Stubborn Cinderella finally agrees to go... provided she doesnt have to wear any stupid glass slippers. At the ball, Cinderella and Prince Freddy dance and fall in love, but the ball erupts into chaos at midnight. Every girl loses a glass slipper; except Cinderella, who loses her red sneaker. Come see the show and find out how it ends. www.grovetheatre.com

    CONCERTS/CABARET: The Festival of New American Musicals presents its next Musi-Cal on June 8, where you can meet SoCal songwriters and hear songs from their new musicals. Hosted by Jonah Platt, the show will feature new material by Erik Przytulski & Steve Troop, Richard Berent & Rob Meurer, Gary Stockdale& Spencer Green, Brett Ryback, David Cornue& Sam Holtzapple. “Musi-Cal is part of the Festival’s ongoing priority to create community among Southern California’s composers, lyricists and book writers,” said co-executive producer of the Festival Linda Shusett. “These Musi-Cal evenings offer an opportunity for the writers to get to know one another and for the audience to get a first peak at new musical works in progress.” Tickets: http://rockwell-la.com/.

    Kritzerland presents the Songs of Leonard Bernstein and Elmer Bernstein Monday, June 8 at 8:00 pm starring Kimberly Hessler, Travis Leland, Sami Staitman, Tory Stolper, Robert Yacko, and special guest, Kerry O’Malley. Music director is Alby Potts. Click Here for reservations or call (800) 838-3006 x 1.


    DANCE/FILM: Villainess Productions’ The Girl in the Green Dress has its world premiere on May 30th at 7:15 pm at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood. A surreal drama set in the conservative world of America’s 1950’s housewives, it explores themes of modern feminism and sexual liberation. Contemporary dance is intertwined with narrative, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy in the vein of The Stepford Wives and Mullholland Drive. Check out their trailer above and then go enjoy it at the Dances With Films Festival. Click Here for tickets. 

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    Matt Magnusson (Will), Casey Hayden, Jordan Booker, James Byous (Johnny)
     and Payson Lewis (Tunny). All photos by Ian Momii

    A sexy cast of beautiful misfits inhabits Green Day’s punk rock opera American Idiot in a ferocious glory|struck production that opened last weekend at The Vortex. Directors Topher Rhys and Jen Oundjian (who also adds some powerful choreography) take full advantage of the artsy concert venue and go for a panoramic experience, moving the action offstage whenever possible. The concept enhances the surround sound feel of the show while emphasizing the isolation of its characters as they search for meaning in a sea of excess. By chopping up the visual space to include playing areas all around the warehouse, it accentuates their disconnectedness. Plus, there is a certain kind of bond an audience feels with an actor when he is dripping with sweat and singing his guts out only inches away.

    It’s up to you how close you want that connection to be. When you choose your seat you’ll also choose your experience. Sitting in the center, or up close to the stage, brings you right into the action where it is easy to get caught up in the full-throttle energy the cast expends nonstop throughout the show, but it means you'll need to do some adjusting to see what happens in other areas of the warehouse.

    Further back, or in the side sections, you’ll benefit from being able to see the whole picture with greater ease but you may lose some of the immediacy of being close to the performers. Either way, it will be an experience you wont likely forget. Theatre isn’t often done in a warehouse setting like this and the grunge factor works exceptionally well to frame the show.

    American Idiot is based on Green Day’s concept album of the same name with music by the band, book by Billie Joe Armstrong & Michael Mayer, and lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, so the experience is meant to come with a fair amount of grittiness. It’s a story of lost souls - a trio of friends who attempt to escape their suburban dead end lives only to find a different world than they expected.

    Songs explode with a fury as the singers pour all their angst and frustration into Green Day’s trenchant odes to the unrest of a generation disillusioned by a post 9/11 world. The cast is provocative as all get-out which creates a passionate exchange between the music and the audience. Music director Elmo Zapp (who also plays bass & cello for the show) and his band (Ben Stanton/key board & accordion, Alex Seller/lead guitar, Max Wagner/ guitar, and Austin Farmer/drums), create a hard-driving intensity that pushes this tug of war between rage and love to the brink.

    J
    Lindsay Pearce
    ohnny (charismatic
    James Byous) and his pal Tunny (Jonah Platt) head off to the city where the former meets a head on collision at the intersection of drugs and a girl (Lindsay Pearce as Whatsername), and the latter is seduced by the media to join the military with severe consequences. Will (Matt Magnusson) never actually gets out of burbs because of the girlfriend he’s gotten pregnant (Briana Cuoco) and instead ends up a beer-drinking pot-smoking slacker. Each captures the heart of his character with a passion. Byous becomes almost demonic in his delirium while Platt rips into some spectacular high notes, and Magnusson’s do-right intentions slowly turn to futility.


    In this guys’ journey, the women are relegated to mostly secondary status, but by the time a rejected Pearce (in her best role to date) and her girls bring the girl power in “Letterbomb,” the audience is more than ready to ride the emotional wave with them. Caitlin Ary’s sultry turn as drug dealer, St. Jimmy, (originally written for a man) adds an extra level of sexual tension and Cuoco’s hard rockin’ wail is a vocal standout.

    As vivid as the production is, there are times when the staging doesn’t always make the important plot points clear. If you’ve seen a production before you’ll be able to follow the mashup of stories as they intersect without a problem but novices would benefit from the staging more clearly directing the audience’s attention. And I did miss the intoxicating flying sequence between a post-war bed-ridden Tunny and the exotic Extraordinary girl (Bianca Gisselle) of his dreams.

    Regardless, this is stunning musical accomplishment that is as bold as it is affecting and deserves to be seen. 


    Caitlyn Ary and James Byous

    Matt Magnusson and Zach Zagoria

    The cast of American Idiot

    The cast of American Idiot

    Lindsay Pearce (center) and the girls

    The cast of American Idiot

    AMERICAN IDIOT
    May 15 – June 7, 2015 
    glory|struck productions @ The Vortex
    2341 E Olympic Blvd 
    Los Angeles, CA  90021
    Click Here for Tickets or call (323) 960-4429 

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  • 05/25/15--16:53: Fringe Spotlight Part II
  • ASSISTANTS THE MUSICAL: Hollywood gets the Broadway treatment in the world premiere of Assistants The Musical, written by Bryan Blaskie and Manny Hagopian. “This is a close and personal show for me,” says Blaskie, who is returning to the Fringe after last year’s sold-out run of Victorian Courting & Zombies. “When I came to Los Angeles to start my career in entertainment, I had no idea what kind of world I was getting into or what kinds of characters I would meet along the way.” Hagopians show Tonya Harding: the Musical ran for five months at Upright Citizens Brigade, where it just underwent an expansion for a re-mounting this summer. “I come from comedy first. I love making people laugh. And I love a good tune!” Assistants is a love letter to Hollywood; to both those in and out of the limelight. It is a play about the definition of success, finding your footing in a world of endless competition, the process of “making it,” and heartfelt dreams. Today, social media and online press are more important than ever, and these characters struggle to find a sense of self amidst the late night mixers and constant “selfies.” C. Ryanne Domingues directs a cast that includes Ali Axelrad, Christopher Renfro, Abigail Eiland, and Daniel Amerman. June 6 – 28, 2015 at The Actors Company (Let Live Theater). http://hff15.org/2191

    FUGITIVE SONGS: 2cents Theatre presents the west coast premiere of Fugitive Songs, music by Chris Miller& lyrics by Nathan Tysen (Upcoming Broadway production of Tuck Everlasting, The Burnt Part Boys), musical direction by Joshua Kranz and directed by Kristen Boulé. This innovative half-musical/half-hootenanny finds hope and beauty in what is past and what lies ahead. Blending traditional folk music with contemporary pop and gospel, Fugitive Songs offers a new sound for a restless America as it follows six troubled wanderers through their unique journeys across America. Matt is in and out of trouble, and finally seeking help. But a broken past keeps driving him deeper… Barrett, unable to handle a choice she’s made, runs away, into the mountains. Gavin runs, leaving a lifetime of struggle. But the further he gets from where he’s running from, the more his path points towards home. Joshua drowns his sorrows as he longs to escape his disillusioned life in NYC, and to Shine. Alysha spends her life ignoring home, until home is turned upside down. Karen can no longer be who she’s told… it’s time for daddy’s little girl to get a little lost, so she can be found. The cast includes Tiffany Asta, Dedrick Bonner, Katy Harvey, Jessica J’aime, Michael Levine, and Juan Lozano and features a live 5-piece acoustic band and a totally immersive experience. June 5 – 28, 2015 at Three Clubs. Tickets: $18.00 atwww.hff15.org/2436.

    SHAKESPEARE’S LAST NIGHT OUT (OR “WHAT? YOU, WILL??”): Legend has it that Shakespeare died after a night of drinking. This is that night. Orgasmico Theatre Company follows up its previous Fringe successes, Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment and Doomsday Cabaret, with a one-man tavern musical in which the Bard of Avon (played by Michael Shaw Fisher) sings in defense of his authorship. On the eve of his death, an ailing Shakespeare is out drinking when he has a prophetic vision that his authorship will be contested in the future. Thus, he sets out to stake his claim once and for all. Raise your cups with Will as he takes his last audience through the tale of his life with a series of tavern songs, ranging from bawdy to heartbreaking. Backed by his Muses (Alistair Cooper on guitar and Allison Sulock on dulcimer, recorder, ukulele, and percussion), Will recreates the unknown events and eccentric characters that shaped his life and inspired his work. Featuring book, music, and lyrics by Michael Shaw Fisher and direction by Jeff Sumner. June 7 – 27, 2015 at Three Clubs. Tickets: $12 at http://hff15.org/2339 or call (415) 994-4760.

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    MUSICAL NEWS: Original New York cast members, Jeff Blumenkrantzand Brett Rybackstar in the Geffen Playhouse engagement of the Off-Broadway hit Murder for Two May 26 through July 5, 2015 in the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater. Everyone is a suspect in this hilarious musical murder mystery with a twist: one actor investigates the crime, the other plays all of the suspects and they both play the piano! A zany blend of classic musical comedy and madcap mystery, this 90-minute whodunit is a highly theatrical duet loaded with killer laughs. Featuring book and music by Joe Kinosian, book and lyrics by Kellen Blair and direction byScott Schwartz. www.geffenplayhouse.com

    Cabrillo Music Theatre presents Oklahoma! July 17 – 26 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Once upon a time, musical theatre was a sometimes-random collection of songs, dances, and comedy bits. Then, along came Oklahoma! the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. By pushing boundaries and creating new theatrical devices, Oklahoma! reinvented the musical theatre genre. Cabrillo’s artistic director Lewis Wilkenfelddirects, joined by choreographer John Charron and musical director Brian Kennedy who conducts the Cabrillo Music Theatre Orchestra. The cast is led by Dan Callaway as Curly, and newcomer Callandra Olivia as Laurey, with Damon Kirsche (Ali Hakim), Dynell Leigh (Aunt Eller), David Gilchrist (Andrew Carnes), Ronald Rezac (Cord Elam), Richard Storrs (Ike Skidmore), Melanie Mockobey (Ado Annie, Cameron Herbst (Will Parker), Claire Adams (Gertie Cummings) and more. www.cabrillomusictheatre.com

    Recorded in Hollywood, the fascinating true story of black businessman, record label owner and music producer John Dolphin, who opened his Dolphin’s of Hollywood record shop in South Los Angeles a decade before Motown, moves to the Hudson Theatre for six additional weeks beginning June 19. Dolphin’s of Hollywood became the most famous record store in the country – perhaps the world – with legendary DJs like Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg, Hunter Hancock and Charles Trammel spinning records all night from the front window. Based on the book “Recorded In Hollywood: The John Dolphin Story,” this new musical features a live on-stage band and an ensemble cast of 18 performing 16 original songs plus covers of hit songs launched by Dolphin in his store, including Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” and “Wheel Of Fortune” by The Hollywood Flames. www.RecordedInHollywood.com

    FRINGE SPOTLIGHT: If you HATE musical theatre, if you LOVE musical theatre, this is the show for you. Stupid Songs is a night of brand new funny songs and parodies that will make you forget we’re all going to die. For a bit. Most of the performers met while training at The Groundlings Comedy Theatre & School, and will be performing original material, plus a few gems from up-and-coming composers. The band members also play regularly for Lost Moon Radio and Thirty Minute Musicals. The Stupid Cast will feature Yael Berkovich, Tad Coughenour, Brant Cox, Sara Cravens, Jason Currie, Carla Delaney, Laura Hughes, Aaron Matijasic, Misty Monroe Clark, Gabriel Oliva, Marissa Shields, Keri Safran, Selyna Warren, Sarah Wolter, and Alex Back, directed by Keri Safran. (Cast subject to change on any given night. Depends on their horoscopes) Stupid Band: Dan Wessels (music director), Eric Kalver (drums), Brenton Kossak (bass). June 8 – 26, 2015 at The Lounge Theatre. Running Time is 70 minutes. Tickets: $12 at http://hff15.org/2145

    La La La Strada, Proboscis Theater Company’s second ground-breaking production, is a carnival-esque diversion starring six actors, a musician and a puppet that explores the making of Federico Fellini’s 1953 masterpiece La Strada, a beautiful and heartbreaking film about a brutish circus strong man and his naive assistant Gelsomina. The character of Fellini will be portrayed by a Bunraku style puppet. We see him first walking the tight rope, beguiling the audience with fantastical stories about his life, his art and the golden age of modernist Italian cinema. He extolls the virtues of being an auteur and takes for granted the privileges of his own genius. He boasts about reducing his actors to mere puppets and how they love him for it. But while he attempts to direct his actors they begin to challenge him. Especially Giulietta, his wife. They question his artistic process and admonish him for abandoning his principles. They call him a misogynist, an opportunist and he is forced to defend his obsessions and his right to project his own dreams on the big screen, to objectify and sexualize his female actors, to exalt the grotesque and estrange the normal. As Fellini’s crisis comes to a climax, the audience must face their own prejudices about art, beauty and personal expression. http://hff15.org/2281

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    Sandra Mae Frank as Wendla and Austin McKenzie.as Melchior
    Photos by Kevin Parry

    The original mounting of Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening at Inner City Arts last fall was, hands down, my favorite production of 2014. When it was announced that it would transfer to The Wallis this spring, I was thrilled that its life would continue – both for the cast and creatives who had worked so diligently on it, and also for the many more people who would now have an opportunity to witness their amazing work. 

    Happily, after seeing it opening night, I can say that this is one musical theatre reinvention that makes the leap with all its grace and beauty intact. Most of the actors are part of the original company, with the addition of Broadway’sKrysta Rodriguez and Andy Mientus stepping in for Lauren Patten (now covering roles in Fun Home on Broadway) and Joseph Haro (currently shooting a film). Both have played their roles before; Rodriguez as the standby for Ilse on Broadway and Mientus as Hanschen on the First National Tour. Each brings new depth to an already devastating story in a production that breaks open the heart in more places than you can count.


    It is adapted for The Wallis’ larger stage by designers who have held to the integrity of the vision while enlarging the scale to reach to the balcony and beyond. There are some surprises in Dane Laffrey’s scenic design that are an absolute delight and Ben Stanton’s lighting shadows and splinters as the characters’ lives slowly unravel, enhanced by Lucy Mackinnon’s vivid projections that intensify the action.

    So much of what I felt the first time around continues to be true now so I have reprinted my original review below. If it is possible, I am more in love with this company than ever. Delicate, poetic, and brutally honest in delivering its message, this is one for the books. Go. Get your tickets and just go.

    Daniel N. Durant (Moritz) and Krysta Rodriguez (Ilse)

    SPRING AWAKENING
    May 21 – June 7, 2015
    Deaf West Theatre at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts 
    9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 
    Tickets: $19 - $99
    (310) 746-4000 or www.thewallis.org
    Special seating is available for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

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

    September 15, 2014
    Director Michael Ardengives the word discovery new meaning in a spectacular production of Steven Sater (book & lyrics) and Duncan Sheik’s (music) Spring Awakeningbased on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 expressionist play. Arden, who has had a long partnership with Deaf West that goes back to Big River, which played in LA and on Broadway, stages the controversial musical in a triangular black box at the Inner City Arts complex in downtown Los Angeles. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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