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Your Musical Theatre Resource for Southern California!

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    Betsy Wolfe and Matt Bittner

    MUSICAL NEWS: La Jolla Playhouse announces the cast for Up Here, a new musical comedy featuring book, music & lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Up Here is directed by Tony Award nominee Alex Timbers and will run July 28 – Sept. 6. When introverted, 30-something computer repairman Dan finds a potential spark with outgoing t-shirt designer Lindsay, his attempts at a relationship are thwarted by the Technicolor world in his head. This world-premiere musical goes where no musical has gone before, bringing to life the circus of judgmental, neurotic, ever-changing characters that rule an ordinary man’s mind. The cast is led by Broadway’s Betsy Wolfe and newcomer Matt Bittner, along with Broadway alums Andrew Call, Giovanni Cozic, Jeff Hiller, Gizel Jimenez, Zonya Love, Sarah Meahl, Eric Petersen, Devin Ratray, Devere Rogers, Charles South and Nick Verina. The ensemble features Kikau Alvaro, Hanz Enyeart, Jacob Haren, April Jo Henry, Tamara Rodriguez and Graham Stevens, N’Jameh Camara, Zakiyah Markland and Lorena Martinez. Tickets are currently available by subscription. Single tickets go on sale June 27. www.LaJollaPlayhouse.org 

    Hershey Felder

    Laguna Playhouse has announced a special return engagement of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, written and performed by Hershey Felder and directed by Trevor Hay. “After the overwhelming response to his initial run, we are delighted to bring Hershey Felder back on our stage as Irving Berlin as part of the wide array of programming we're doing this year,” comments executive director Karen Wood. Called “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived” by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin is known for innumerable American classics such as “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” “Anything You Can Do,” and “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.” Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin will play June 22 – 30 at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

    Thor Steingraber. Photo courtesy of VPAC

    Valley Performing Arts Center has announced Executive Director Thor Steingraber’s 2015-2016 Inaugural Season and it’s packed with classical and popular music, dance, theater, family, and international events only seen at VPAC. Best of all, the season includes VPAC’s first Broadway musical –Dreamgirls– a McCoy Rigby Entertainment and La Mirada Theatre Production (May 6 – 8, 2016), and two women of Broadway in concert: Megan Hilty in Concert on Sept. 24, and Lea Salonga on April 1, 2016. Other highlights include two concerts by John Pizzarelli celebrating the Frank Sinatra centennial: Dear Mr. Sinatra: A Swinging Centennial with Monica Mancini and Cheyenne Jackson on Dec. 12 and Radio Deluxe: Sinatra and Billie Holiday on April 9, Peter Nero’s brand new Gershwin in Hollywood, and an L.A. Theatre Works evening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula adapted by Charles Morey Oct. 28. For a complete season schedule, visit valleyperformingartscenter.org.

    FRINGE SPOTLIGHT: POP! The Musical will play the fringe for three performances only beginning June 19. The world premiere musical is written and produced by Geoffrey Rose and Sam Rose (Roze Broze), directed by Barry Pearl, and choreographed by James Tabeek, whose Broadway credits include Mary Poppins, Beauty & The Beast, Wicked and Taboo. Like Grease, POP! is a comedic period piece that celebrates an extraordinary decade in the history of pop music. POP! tells the story of two struggling musicians who, through a twist of fate, suddenly have a chance of getting a song to Madonna at the height of her fame. Brimming with nostalgia and packed with original 80s style pop music, the score, book and lyrics are a love letter to one of music’s most remarkable decades. Starring Joshua M. Bott, Jenna Coker-Jones, Ben D. Goldberg, Douglas Ladnier, Matt Steele, Haviland Stillwell, and Laura L. Thomas. June 19 – 21 at The Hudson Backstage Theatre. Tickets: $22 at hff15.org/2177.

    CABARET/CONCERT: The Colony Theatre presents Henry Prego Sings Frank Sinatra as part of the Colony’s 2015 Cabaret Series on June 21 at 7pm. Celebrate Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday with the international star of Las Vegas’ “The Rat Back is Back” as he performs the songs of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Frank Sinatra Tribute Singer Henry Prego has become one of the most prominent, in-demand vocalists of today, establishing his place among the finest interpreters of standards and traditional pop music in the nation. His show Henry Prego Sings Frank Sinatra creates a perfect blend of the classics introducing a new generation to this timeless music, while appealing to long-time listeners. www.colonytheatre.org

    Fraser Entertainment presents An Evening of Classic Broadway starring Eydie Alyson, Bill A. Jones, Ashley Fox Linton, MaryJo Mundy, Kevin Odekirk, Patricia Whiteman and Ali Stroker, with host and musical director Brad Ellis, June 16. Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Feliz. http://rockwell-la.com/

    Celebrate the 4th of July with an Old-Fashioned Barn Dance and Barbeque at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Saturday, July 4 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Activities include live music, a barn dance with renowned multi-instrumentalist and traditional dance caller Evo Bluestein (1pm and 3pm.), children’s games, a pie-eating contest, watermelon seed-spitting contest, cake walk, horseshoes, relay races, dunk bucket and more. Barbeque and fixin’s, beer and wine available for purchase. 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga CA 90290. www.theatricum.com

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    MUSICAL NEWS: Garry Marshall has announced the Falcon Theatre’s 2015-2016 season, which includes 3 musicals this year. The season begins with Impro Theatre’s Sondheim UnScripted (Aug. 19 – Sept. 27), directed by Dan O’Connor and Michelle Spears. The completely improvised musical in the style of Stephen Sondheim starts with audience suggestions as the cast and musicians create a wholly original, thrilling musical based on Sondheim’s intricate rhymes, soaring counter melodies and complex themes.

    Troubadour Theater Company returns to The Falcon for the holidays reviving a fan-favorite, the parody of holiday classic, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Motown (Dec . 2 – Jan 17), directed by Matt Walker. Telling the tale of Kris Kringle’s (aka Santa Claus) origin, the Troubies take the jolly old man himself and send him to the land of Smokey Miracles and Supreme Temptations.

    The Falcon will close its season with The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake: The Musical (March 23 – April 24), book, music & lyrics by Molly Bell, directed by Roger Bean. In this story, you’ll get to meet the wives, Joanne, Babette, Penny, Lulu, and Beezus: The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake. Scandalous surprises and bitter betrayals mix with a healthy dose of Pinot Grigio and pharmaceuticals to create this hilarious romp inspired by America’s not-so-secret guilty pleasure. The Falcon’s season will also include two plays, Scott and Hem (Oct. 14 – Nov. 15), by Mark St. Germain, directed by Dimitri Toscas, and The Complete History of America (abridged) (Feb. 3 – March 6), by Adam Long Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor. falcontheatre.com

    Actors Co-op has announced its 2015-16 season, which will begin with Stephen Schwartz & Joseph Stein’s The Baker’s Wife, directed by Richard Israel, Sept. 18 – Oct. 25, 2015. From the creator of Wicked and Pippin comes the delicious musical about a French baker who stops making his mouth-watering bread when his young wife leaves him. Faced with the loss of the best food they have ever eaten, the town of misfits unites to rekindle the couple’s love. The season will also include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, Tennessee Williams masterpiece Summer and Smoke, and Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. www.ActorsCo-op.org

    The world premiere of Adam & Eve and Steve: The Musical by Chandler Warren will run July 9 – August 30 (Opening night 7/10) at NoHo Arts Center’s Stage 2. The 80-minute musical farce is based on the Biblical Adam and Eve story, with the addition of Steve thanks to the Devil’s interference. As the three of them get tangled, they all try to figure out the many definitions that love has to offer. Music is by Wayne Moore and Ronnie Marmo directs. www.plays411.com/adam

    La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts presents Disney’sChoo-Choo Soul With Genevieve! Performances are Sunday, June 28 at 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm. Disney’s Choo-Choo Soul With Genevieve! won the Parent’s Choice Award in 2007 for Children’s television and has performed across the country. Choo-Choo Soul is an upbeat, exciting way for kids to learn while having fun, while parents enjoy the current, soulful stylings of the accompanying music. Train conductor Genevieve Goings drives her animated train through fantastical lands while singing contemporary, kid-friendly hip-hop songs about ABCs, 123s and being polite. The diverse and hip duo of Genevieve and DC, the beatboxing, break-dancing engineer, teach children through music in this special live version of the favorite television show. www.lamiradatheatre.com

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    Katie Travis as Christine and and Chris Mann as the Phantom.
    All photos by Matthew Murphy

    Spectacle wins out in Cameron Mackintosh’s latest tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Less reinvented than it is repackaged, the crowning glory of this production is its lavish costumes and sets (by Paul Brown and Maria Björnson respectively), and the lush sounds of its 17-member orchestra (under the direction of Richard Carsey). No matter what else you may think, David Cullen and Lloyd Webber’s soaring orchestrations never fail to send chills down the spine. The power of that gorgeous music is undeniable and, as such, provides a full and rich musical experience, even if it is impossible not to hear the voices of Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman who will “always be there, singing songs in my head.” That’s the challenge for anyone who remembers their original work.

    This new Phantom (Chris Mann) is a reality show find from The Voice so he may succeed for anyone who followed his career on the show, but you won’t find the charisma and utter pathos that Crawford brought to the role. There are moments he comes close, as when he offers Christine (Katie Travis) his ring, but he still needs time to grow into the role.

    As for Travis, she does well with the vocally challenging part, and her diction is admirable given the high tessitura, but her consonants too often interrupt the sheer beauty of the vocal lines, causing them to lose some of their intoxicating impact.

    The classic story of the deformed “opera ghost” who lives beneath the Paris Opera House hasn’t changed in the 29 years since Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe adapted Gaston Leroux’s novel “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra” for the stage. The elusive Phantom still secretly nurtures a young singer from the chorus whom he intends to make a star, until her childhood sweetheart returns and becomes a rival for her love. Disasters occur when the Phantom’s demands are disregarded by the opera house’s new ownership, resulting in chaos and tragedy. It’s exactly the kind of stuff grand opera is made for and that this musical alternately sends up and takes quite seriously.

    When humor is allowed to lift the drama, the production sparkles, thanks in part to the charms of Jacquelynne Fontaine as the spoiled prima donna, Carlotta. Anne Kanengeiser is formidable as ballet mistress Madame Giry.

    Jacquelynne Fontaine as Carlotta

    Anne Kanengeiser

    The Corps de Ballet in Hannibal

    Two distinct color schemes emerge in the design. For scenes that are filled with theatricality and life, it is as if you are flipping through a series of Toulouse-Lautrec picture postcards with a Degas or a Caillebotte thrown in for good measure. These are wrought in vintage golds and warm umber with brilliant dashes of red and green.

    In contrast, those that reveal the Phantom’s world are rendered in deep blues and blacks. The updates include a new revolving set piece with precarious steps that appear and disappear as the actors descend into the murky caverns below the opera house. Anyone who knows that other wildly popular Cameron Mackintosh behemoth, Les Misérables, knows how much he loves a good turntable. Here it is an impressive bit of stage magic that works beautifully.

    Chris Mann and Katie Travis

    Chris Mann

    There are other familiar and striking images: the Phantom’s gondola still floats through a sea of fog, pillars of fire shoot up from the footlights, and a newly redesigned chandelier is ever-present.

    Yes, the score still thrills, even after all these years, and the production will surely please the majority of viewers, especially those seeing it for the first time. Phantom enjoys a longer run at the Pantages Theatre, where it will play through August 2nd.

    THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
    June 17 - August 2, 2015
    Hollywood Pantages Theatre
    6233 hollywood Blvd,
    Los Angeles, CA 90028
    Tickets: www.hollywoodpantages.com or 800-982-2787

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    MUSICAL NEWS: 3D Theatricals will present the first, major, fully-produced Southern California regional premiere of the Tony nominated Tarzan® The Stage Musical based on the Disney Film at both Fullerton’s historic Plummer Auditorium July 11 – 26 and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center August 1 – 9, 2015. Broadway’s Rufus Bonds, Jr. will direct, with T.J. Dawson as assistant director. Musical director/conductor is Nick Petrillo. Choreography is by Linda Love Simmons. Aerial choregraphy is by Paul Rubin. Cast includes Devin Archer as Tarzan, with Katie DeShan as Jane Porter, Daebreon Poiema as Kala, Lawrence Cummings as Terk, Mark Cedric Smith as Kerchak, Joey D’Auria as Professor Porter, Brian Abraham as Clayton, and Jude Mason as Young Tarzan. The ensemble includes Danielle Barron, Jeremy Barron, Jillian Dey, Jude Dawson, Kingson Higgins, Mallory Barron, Arlondriah Lenyéa, Chelle Denton, Christiana Powell, Jeanette Dawson, Jenna Wright, Kim Taylor, Natalie Iscovich, Rachel Farr, Taj Johnson, and Tiffany Reid, Brandon Burks, Bren Thor Johnson,  Brian Whitehill, Dominique Alan Petit Frere, Du’ron Fisher, Evan Strand, Frankie Silver, Gary Brints,  Justin Matthew Segura, and Remmie Bourgeois. www.3dtshows.com

    The Hollywood Pantages has added eight shows as options to its 2015-2016 season. This new lineup of shows includes the return of Six Hollywood Pantages favorites: Beauty and the Beast (Nov. 13-22), Riverdance– The 20th Anniversary World Tour (Dec. 1-6), Mamma Mia! (Jan. 26-31), Once (March 15-20), Rain – A Tribute to the Beatles (April 5-10), and last season’s smash hit, Kinky Boots (April13-24). Current season ticket holders have first priority to purchase tickets at www.HollywoodPantages.com/SeasonPackages or by calling 866-755-BWAY (2929).

    Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts has announced dates and subscription tickets for its 2015-2016 Season Artistic Advisor master classes and events. These include Suzanne Farrell, former Principal Dancer in George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet and founder of Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center (Jan. 24, 2016); Judith Jamison, dancer, choreographer and Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (April 5, 2016); Patti LuPone, Grammy, Olivier and Tony Award-winning actor and singer (March 31, 2016); Arturo Sandoval, Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter, pianist, composer and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Oct. 27, 2015); and Denzel Washington, Academy, Golden Globe and Tony Award-winning actor (Sept.17, 2015). Four of the advisors will also give Master Classes that are open to the public including Patti LuPone on March 31, 2016. LuPone will also perform her Far Away Places concert April 1-2, 2016. www.thewallis.org

    Laguna Playhouse presents Footloose, directed & choreographed by Paula Hammons Sloan July 8 - August 9. The cast will feature Logan Farine as Ren and Lily Davis as Ariel, along with Ricky Pope, Jill Slyter, Carol Robinson, Hannah M. James, Charlene Jean, Melissa Mangold, Ashley Nicole Martin, Joseph Abrego, Derek Leo Miller, MaryAnn DiPietro, Michael Stancliffe, Todd Tucker, Christopher Hansell, Bryce Colby Vaewsorn, J’royce Walton, Mike Brennan and Siena Yusi. Footloose is based on the stage adaption by Dean Pitchford & Walter Bobbie. Musical direction is by Jeff Biering. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

    Subscribe to Actors Co-op and get two Co-op Too! productions for free: Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd (June 25 – 28, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2:30pm), and An Evening with C.S. Lewis (July 10 – 19, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm and Saturdays, Sundays at 2:30pm). www.ActorsCo-op.org

    Sierra Madre Playhouse presents Always…Patsy Kline July 31 – Sept. 12, directed by Robert Marra, with musical direction by Sean Paxton. The show is based on a real incident that occurred in 1961. Super-fan Louise Seger (Nikki D’Amico) befriends Patsy Cline (Cori Cable Kidder) before a concert in Houston. After the show, Louise takes her home, cooks her breakfast and appears with her on a local radio broadcast. The two maintain a correspondence, writing each other letters until Cline’s untimely death in a Tennessee plane crash in 1963. The star closed each of her letters to Seger, “Always…Patsy Cline.” www.sierramadreplayhouse.org

    Like Star Trek? Battlestar Galactica? My Fair Lady? Then Space: The Musical Frontier is for you. It’s set on a spaceship, but instead of amazing special effects, it’s got show stopping musical numbers and lots of shiny duct tape. Join the crew of the U.N.E.S.S. Entrepreneur as they sing their way into their enemies’ hearts-- and yours. Space, written by Katie Smith and Jessica Spaw with music by Zach Reino, debuts June 30 at 8:30 pm on the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Sunset Stage. Tickets available for $5 at the UCB Sunset website or at the door. Starring Zach Reino, Richie Root, Alexa Green, Andrew Delman, Jessica Spaw, and Katie Smith. Additional performances set for 7/27 @ 10:30pm and 8/17 @ 10:30pm. https://sunset.ucbtheatre.com/

    Performances of Enceladus Theatre Company’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will continue through July 3. The musical is being presented at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts in the Studio Theatre at Whittier College, 6760 Painter Avenue, Whittier, CA 90608. Producing Artistic Director Gil Gonzalez directs a cast that includes Charlotte Bailey, Molly Cunningham, Max Gallo, Stella Gordon, Christian Mohn, Ruben Sanchez, Courtney Smith, Jonathan Tupanjanin, and Andrew Zubiate. www.shannoncenter.org 

    New Musicals Inc. will present its annual 15-Minute Musicals June 29, 30 & July 1 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre. They are the culmination of NMI’s Academy for New Musical Theatre writers’ workshop and a decades-long tradition. This year’s theme is “Forks in the Road” with each musical about a life-changing moment. The creative team of director Scott Guy, music director Ron Barnett, stage manager Rita Cannon, and actors Conchita Belisle-Newman, David Crane, Shannon Martinous, and Louis Silvers will present End of the Line (book by Howard Ho, music by Kristen Rea, and lyrics by Chris Edgar), Can I Help You Out? (book by Weston Scott, music by Laura Wardrip, and lyrics by David Rackoff), and Fork You! (book by Lucy Wang, music by Molly Siskin, and lyrics by Shawn Ryan). The creative team of director John Coppola, music director Ross Kalling, stage manager Angel Hernandez, and actors Melvin Biteng, J. Bailey Burcham, Elise Dewsberry, and Emma Sperka will present Queen Hamembshaput Says What? (book by Danielle Roderick, music by Sahara S. Spain, and lyrics by Mitch Glaser), Margot’s Blessing (book and lyrics by Lori Ada Jaroslow, and music by Morgan Hollingsworth), Have A Nice Trip (book by Dan Margules, music by Raphael Nemes, and lyrics by Marissa Kochanski), and Half Off (book by Rich Cook, music and lyrics by Jeff King). www.nmi.org

    The Fountain Theatre presents a world premiere theatrical event: Citizen: An American Lyric as Claudia Rankine’s acclaimed book of poetry about race in America is brought to the stage by playwright Stephen Sachs and director Shirley Jo Finney. A meditation on race fusing poetry, prose, movement, music and the video image, this provocative new stage adaptation about everyday acts of racism in America features a six-member ensemble including Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick and Lisa Pescia. August 1 – Sept. 14. www.FountainTheatre.com. Pictured: Steven Sachs, Claudia Rankine, and Shirley Jo Finney, courtesy of the Fountain Theatre.

    MAGIC: For one night only, The Colony Theatre Company will travel back in time to the days of vaudeville and kick off its first ever magic series on Sunday, June 28 at 7pm with an eclectic evening of conjuring. Five, award-winning magicians will gather to performVaudevillusion, a new creation that fuses the mysteries of magic and live theatre. This special engagement features acts seen on America’s Got Talent, Wizard Wars, Fake Off, and at The World Famous Magic Castle. Tickets: 818-558-7000 or www.colonytheatre.org. For more information go to www.Vaudevillusion.com.

    EXTENDED: DOMA Theatre Company’s production of Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical adds five Thursday night performances beginning July 2, and extends one week through August 2. Performances take place at the MET Theatre The MET Theatre. For tickets, call 323-802-9181 or go to www.domatheatre.com.


    DANCE:DancerPalooza, the “Coachella” for the dance world, will bring together the industry’s top professional choreographers, master teachers, professional dancers, dance students of all ages and dance fans under one roof for an exclusive week-long event July 21 – 26 at the Long Beach Convention Center. DancerPalooza features a wide variety of opportunities for everyone interested in dance -- from professionals to the general public – including the three-day Beat Street, (offered Friday July 24 through Sunday July 26) a dance expo hall that features special performances, Crash Courses (workshops throughout the day), and nightly ticketed performances in the intimate 825-seat Center Theater with some of the hottest names and ensembles in dance today including the works of Kenny Wormald & Misha Gabriel, Talia Favia, Andrew Winghart, Mike Minery & Anthony Morigerato, WilldaBeast, Dana Foglia, and Lauren Adams & Jason Parsons, and the return of Shaping Sound to the stage after its second national tour – a chance for the public to see the work of choreographers and dancers that all of the industry is talking about. www.dancerpalooza.com 

    Photo by Jamie Pham
    FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT:Family Jam at the L.A. Zoo, featuring family entertainment for all ages, is set for Saturday, July 11, 2015, 6 pm, with live music, karaoke, crafts, games, popular food trucks, up-close encounters with some of the Zoo’s smaller residents, keeper talks, a rare opportunity for after-hours viewing of popular animal exhibits and more. Headlining the entertainment is The BeatBuds duo, who enrich young audiences with an array of original children’s songs that get the whole family singing, dancing, and laughing together. Also on hand is Close Encounters, a live karaoke band, plus a Paint Party providing the opportunity for children to commemorate their Family Jam experience, a Crafts Zone and animal cut outs for "”wild” selfies and family photos. Rounding out the evening is an animal search and a Play Zone (7-9pm), both offering small prizes. Food trucks in attendance are CPK, Ragin Cajun, Dogtown Dogs, Patty Wagon Burgers, My Tornado Potato, Greenz on Wheelz, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Vchos, Rice Balls of Fire, Hang 10 Tacos, Kona Truck and Paradise Cookies and Ice Cream. www.lazoo.org/familyjam

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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: Impro Theatre returns to the Falcon Theatre for their third year, kicking-off the 2015-2016 Subscription Season with Sondheim UnScripted, co-directed by Dan O’Connor and Michele Spears, August 19 – Sept. 27 (opening night 8/28). The show is a completely improvised musical in the style of one of Broadway’s most acclaimed artists, Stephen Sondheim. The cast and musicians work together as an ensemble to improvise songs with the intricate rhymes, soaring counter melodies, and complex themes that are all hallmarks of Sondheim’s work, creating a wholly original, thrilling musical with every performance. Pictured  from left:  Lisa Fredrickson, Brian Michael Jones, Kelly Holden-Bashar. www.FalconTheatre.com

    The Colony Theatre is thrilled to presents the California Premiere of The Fabulous Lipitones by John Markus and Mark St. Germain, July 22 – August 23 (opening night 7/25). The show is directed by John Markus, with musical direction by Sam Kriger and choreography by Murphy Cross. A barbershop quartet that has sung together for nearly thirty years suddenly loses their lead singer when he drops dead at a regional competition, belting out a heart-stopping high B-flat in front of the judges. But he holds his note until the end of the song, and the quartet wins! Now, the three surviving members must put an end to their bickering and find a replacement in time for the Nationals. During a phone call, they hear a beautiful lead voice who could be their salvation – but when he shows up, he’s a young Indian Sikh wearing a turban. And the quartet’s bass singer is Archie Bunker. It’s a wonderful comedy with music about the journey all four have to take to find their voice together. Starring Steve Gunderson, Asante Gunewardena, Dennis Holland, John Racca, www.colonytheatre.org

    The Pasadena Playhouse has announced casting for the return engagement of A Night With Janis Joplin July 21 – August 16. Conceived, written and directed by Randy Johnson, with choreography by Patricia Wilcox and musical direction by Tyler Evans, the show will star Mary Bridget Davies, following her Tony Award® nominated Broadway run. Pasadena native Kacee Clanton, also from the Broadway production, will alternate the role of Janis Joplin with Davies. The cast also includes Sharon Catherine Brown, Yvette Cason, Sylvia MacCalla, and Jenelle Lynn Randall. Pictured: Mary Bridget Davies in A Night with Janis Joplin. Photo by Joan Marcus. www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

    EXTENSIONS: Murder for Two extends through August 2 at the Geffen Playhouse. Everyone is a suspect in this hilarious musical murder mystery with a twist: one actor investigates the crime (Brett Ryback), the other plays all of the suspects(Jeff Blumenkrantz) and they both play the piano! Featuring book and music by Joe Kinosian, book and lyrics by Kellen Blair and direction by Scott Schwartz. Kinosian will play the suspects July 10 – 23. www.geffenplayhouse.com

    FRINGE EXTENSIONS: The Encore! Producers’ Awards has announced extensions for a number of Hollywood Fringe Festival productions, including Assistants which is extending its run for four additional performances July 9 – 12 at the Actors Company Let Live Theater. Written by Bryan Blaskie and Manny Hagopian, and directed by C. Ryanne Domingues, Assistants follows a group of hopeful assistants and explores the superiority complex of Hollywood and the glamorous lifestyle that seems to elevate its participants above “ordinary” people. www.theencoreawards.com/projects/2191

    Merely Players by James Penca and Alex Syiek will play an encore performance on July 12 at the Lounge Theatre as part of the ENCORE! Producers’ Award. The show, a meta-exploration of the theatre scene, watches as a struggling (and mostly terrible) theatre troupe attempts to put on a musical that maybe really should never have been written in the first place. http://hff15.org/2167

    For a complete list of ENCORE! Producers’ Award winners and Fringe extensions, go to www.theencoreawards.com.

    CABARET/CONCERTS:Paul Wong will present a solo musical show, Simply Singing Sondheim...almost as a benefit for New Musicals Inc’s 4 x 10 Ensemble on July 25 at 8pm. Starring Paul Wong, directed by Joshua Finkel, with musical direction by Jake Anthony. Autobiographical stories as told through the prism of the works of Stephen Sondheim will be featured. Click Here for tickets ($10). 


    (mostly)musicals returns with an eclectic assortment of songs by Cole Porter, Jason Robert Brown, Marvin Gaye, George & Ira Gershwin, Adele, Irving Berlin, Christine Lavin, Duke Ellington, and others performed by a unique array of singers. Performers include Sharon McNight, Elijah Rock, Mary Jo Mundy, and Kimberly Ann Steele, Joshua Finkel, Cassandra Nuss, Alli Miller, Derrian Tolden, Rachel Tyler, Ryan Dietz, Amanda Kruger, David Meinke, Kalen Edean, and Jillian Easton. Plus, a special guest from Recorded in Hollywood. Music direction is by Gregory Nabours. Stay for the open mic afterparty hosted by Mark Jacobson. www.mostlymusicalsLA.com

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    Katie DeShan and Devon Archer. All photos by Isaac James Creative

    Tarzan the Musical is the latest winner in a string of ambitious musicals by the Dawson producing team at 3-D Theatricals (Gretchen, Daniel, Jeannette and T.J.). Perhaps it isn’t surprising that a family run company would know the kind of heart it takes to bring to life a Disney adventure musical about the power of family and finding one’s place in the world. In any case, Tarzan is one big show that succeeds beautifully under their care.

    Adapted from Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs and originally produced on Broadway by Disney Theatrical Productions, 3DT has made a number of smart decisions that make their version of the show much more vivid and engaging than the Broadway production I saw in New York. Yes, I’m actually one of the few people who really did see the show on Broadway. It ran there a little over a year but never came close to the success of other Disney properties like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. There were definite reasons for that.

    Songs by 80’s pop star Phil Collins, who wrote the music & lyrics, were pretty but largely unmemorable with the exception of Merle Dandridge’s gorgeous version of “You’ll Be in My Heart,” and David Henry Hwang’s book didn’t give the actors much depth with which to create their characters.

    Oddly enough, in the excellent hands of director Rufus Bonds, Jr. and his 3DT cast, the characters take on a richness that make Tarzan completely satisfying, both artistically and emotionally. It’s a credit to what the company does and reason enough why I recommend you make the drive to see this production. There won’t be another Tarzan in Southern California like it again.

    Daebreon Poiema and Devon Archer 

    Casting is superb. Daebreon Poiema’s luscious singing voice and nuanced portrayal of mama ape Kala gets the audience’s full and complete empathy as protectress of her adopted son Tarzan (Devon Archer). Archer takes a character that could easily end up as a series of tricks and stereotypes and turns him into an endearing, funny, sweet, and ultimately smart young man whose instincts prove to be rock solid throughout. When he meets Jane, Katie DeShan (darling as the spunky, naïve, and hilariously clumsy professor’s daughter with a predilection for bugs), their natural chemistry opens the door to romance for two people, neither of whom possesses much in the way of social graces when it comes to the opposite sex. The fact that their meet cute takes place while she’s being swallowed by a man eating plant only makes it better. 

    Lawrence Cummings (Terk) has mastered the art of comic relief and provides it whether he’s clowning around or joyously scatting his way through a song. Casting a handsome, charismatic actor like Marc Cedrik Smith rather than a more typical character man like Shuler Hensley, who originated the role of ape leader Kerchak, somehow makes him more vulnerable. The contrast between that vulnerability and his intimidating stage presence and voice makes us care about him, even if we don’t like what he does to Tarzan. And as Professor Porter, Joey D’Auria offers common sense wisdom with a twinkle in his eye and a father’s love in his heart.
    Devon Archer as Tarzan and the cast of Tarzan the Musical

    Stephen Gifford’s whimsical three dimensional storybook set design is a marvel of design solutions and his ability to provide ways for a cast to interact with his set to enrich their characters is delightful. What this designer can do with wood and paint will astound you and how lighting designer Jean-Yves Tessier lights the pieces and creates the rest of the jungle world will make you smile at the enchanting result. Wait until you see the reveal of his moonlight on the water. It’s a breathtaking moment.

    Another large part of the magic comes from Paul Rubin’s flying sequences and aerial choreography. The opening storm at sea and shipwreck is staged like the original and is as stunning here as it was on Broadway. Indeed, if it had continued to deliver on that magic throughout the show it might have fared better. 

    Here, with Rubin’s creativity, you get gorillas endlessly catapulting through the air, aerial fight scenes, and a beautiful butterfly and insect ballet floating overhead. Combined with the ingenuity of Linda Love Simmons’ on-the-ground ape choreography, it is a wholly integrated world of wonder.

    Much like the forever bond between parent and child, 3-D Theatricals’ Tarzan the Musical further stakes its claim as a Southern California’s destination for Broadway – and in this case, better than Broadway – entertainment. It gets the green light from me.


    Marc Cedric Smith as Kerchak

    The cast of Tarzan the Musical

    Devon Archer and Dominique Alan Petit Frere

    Katie DeShan (center) and the cast of Tarzan the Musical

    Brian Abraham, Joey D'Auria and Katie DeShan

    TARZAN THE MUSICAL
    3-D Theatricals
    July 11 – 26, 2015: Plummer Auditorium
    August 1 - 9, 2015: Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center

    Tickets: www.3dtshows.com

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    Chance Theater presents the Tony Award-winning musical about love, big hair, and pursuing your dreams no matter what obstacles life gives you… Hairspray! Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman, directed by Kari Hayter, choreographed by Kelly Todd & Christopher M. Albrecht, and music direction by Robyn Manion. Hairspray will run through August 9 on the main stage at Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken theater arts Center. You can’t stop the beat! Tickets: www.chancetheater.com 

    Joe Tish and Taylor Hartsfield.
    All photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

    John Wells and Taylor Hartsfield

    Monika Pena, Ellie Wyman, Jordan Goodsell, Haylee
    Cotta and Joseph Ott

    Sarah Pierce and Karen Webster

    Joey Busch and Cody Bianchi

    Sarah Pierce and Xavier J. Watson

    LaJoi Whitten

    Ellie Wyman and Camryn Zelinger

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    Final casting for the Hollywood Bowl’s upcoming production of Monty Python’s Spamalot - to run July 31, Aug. 1 & 2 - has been announced. Kevin Chamberlin (Sir Bedevere), Tom Deckman (Not Dead Fred), and Rick Holmes (Sir Lancelot) will join previously announced Merle Dandridge as The Lady of the Lake, Warwick Davis as Patsy, Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Sir Robin, Eric Idle as the Historian, Craig Robinson as King Arthur and Christian Slater as Sir Galahad. BT McNicholl will direct. Spamalot will be conducted by Todd Ellison and have choreography adapted and re-staged by Scott Taylor and Billy Sprague Jr., from the original by Casey Nicholaw. www.hollywoodbowl.com

    Two-time Grammy Award winner and Songwriter of the Year Paul Overstreet has chosen the Ruskin Group Theatre in Los Angeles to launch his new musical Sneaky Ole Time, opening on  August 1st. Overstreet has charted 16 singles on Billboard, including two #1 hits. Tanya Tucker, Kenny Chesney, Alison Krauss, The Judds, and Randy Travis have all covered Overstreet’s songs. Day drinking strangers in a Tennessee honky-tonk discover that they have a lot more in common than they ever could have imagined in this cosmic and comic exploration of love and/or marriage. The show is built around twenty-two of Overstreet’s greatest songs, including Forever and Ever, Amen, and When You Say Nothing at All. Book is by Steve Mazur. Tickets: www.ruskingrouptheatre.com or (310) 397-3244. There is free parking at the theater. Pictured: Amy Motta, Ken Korpia, Nina Brissey, and Nicole Olney.

    The Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles, known as Grand Arts High School, has produced an original music video – Dream It! Do It!– directed and choreographed by Emmy, Golden Globe, NAACP Image, Drama Desk, Astaire and Olivier Award winner Debbie Allen. Dream It! Do It! had its world premiere on July 15, 2015 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The event featured remarks from arts education leaders, including Mark Slavkin, Director of Arts Education at The Wallis. Artistic Director Kim Bruno, former Principal of the famous Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (the renowned “Fame” School) in New York City, conceived the project as a way to celebrate the lives of young artists pursuing their dreams. Bruno says,“Dream it! Do it! inspires us to work together to ensure the arts thrive for future generations. It was exciting to collaborate with Ms. Allen on this project, which gave our students a way to share with the world the joy we create every day at Grand Arts High School.”


    The video was filmed on location at the school’s state-of-art $232 million campus and stars students from the Los Angeles school system. Debbie Allen enlisted the help of some of the top professionals in the film and television industry, including cinematographer Oliver Bokelberg, currently Director of Photography of ABC’s Scandal. Dream It! Do It! is written by Norm (Thump) Nixon with musical direction by Grammy Nominated composer Stormy Sacks; vocal arrangements by Angel Hart, vocal coach to music celebrities including Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

    Stages Musical Theatre Festivalreturns to Los Angeles in August. This prestigious festival, now in its 18th year, features concert readings of new musicals presented in two venues over two weekends: August 21-23 at New Musicals Inc., 5628 Vineland in North Hollywood and August 28-30 at 3D Theatricals, 1255 N. Knollwood Circle in Anaheim, CA 92801. The shows featured this year include Invisible by David Hollingsworth and David Orris; Off the Wall by Danny Abosch and Sarah Rebell; Anarchist Girl by J. Linn Allen and Cris Wo; Bagels! by Chana Wise and Carl Johnson; Darby O’Gill and the Leprechaun Queen, by Scott Guy and Ron Barnett; and an electric evening of selections from musical theatre writers under the age of 26, the final presentation of the 2015 New Voices Project. Featured will be the work of the New Voices Project winners: Jacob Combs & Madeline Myers, Bill Nelson and Joseph Trefler, and Michael Finke. Tickets are free, but a donation of $10 or more guarantees reserved seating. Tickets and info: www.nmi.org.

    Laguna Playhouse will present the west coast premiere of I’m Still Getting My Act Together, music by Nancy Ford, lyrics by Gretchen Cryer and performed and directed by Gretchen Cryer opening Saturday, October 10. The production will run through Sunday, November 1st and is based on Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford’s 1978 groundbreaking Off-Broadway musical. Act One, the original musical, introduces Heather, a 39 year-old divorced song-writer attempting a comeback by ditching the romantic songs of her past for a more personal collection. Act Two visits Heather and her band 30 years later. Ms. Cryer will be reprising the role of Heather in Act Two for this west coast premiere production. Tickets: www.lagunaplayhouse.com or (949) 497-ARTS (2787).

    La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts presents Troubador Theater Company’s The Funky Punks, a high energy, interactive, circus arts, clown extravaganza, for two performances only Sunday, August 9 at 1pm and 3:30pm. The Funky Punks is part of La Mirada Theatre’s Programs for Young Audiences Series. Tickets: Children $10 – Adults $15. (562) 944-9801 or www.lamiradatheatre.com.

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    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 Music Theatre’s production runs through Sunday, July 26 in the 1,800-seat Kavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, located at 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd in Thousand Oaks. There will be a signed performance for the deaf and hard-of-hearing on Friday, July 24th, at 8:00 pm. Tickets: www.cabrillomusictheatre.com

    Callandra Olivia as Laurey and Dan Callaway as Curly.
    Photos by Ed Krieger

    Josh Switzer as Will Parker and the cast of Oklahoma!

    Josh Switzer (Will Parker) and dancers

    Callandra Olivia (Laurey), Dynell Leigh (Aunt Eller), Melanie Mockobey
    (Ado Annie), and Damon Kirsche (Ali Hakim)


    Tim Campbell, Dan Callaway and the ensemble

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    Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin and the company of
    A Night with Janis Joplin. Photo by Joan Marcus

    Baby boomers don’t normally show their approval at the theater by leaping to their feet and giving standing ovations during a performance… unless they happen to be seeing A Night with Janis Joplin at Pasadena Playhouse. The power of remembrance combined with the powerhouse performances of Mary Bridget Davies (as Janis Joplin) and her crew – four dynamic supporting female vocalists and an eight piece kickass rock band – prove that the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll can still conjure up a revolution in the hearts of her fans and get them on their feet in spite of themselves.   

    A hard-rocking Janis Joplin packed everything she had into 27 short years of making music before drugs and hard living claimed her life. “None of us are who we started out to be,” says Davies as the iconic artist at the top of the show, but as music drove Joplin forward through the deeply felt anguish of the blues, she reached a point where she acknowledged that whatever came next, she’d had her say.

    The original version of the musical played the Playhouse in 2013 under another title, before the show was reworked and went to Broadway. I didn’t see that incarnation of the show but I’m told, in addition to featuring the music, it also showed more of the downside of Joplin’s life, including her addiction to drugs and alcohol. That doesn’t appear in this musical tribute. Instead, writer & director Randy Johnson’s current production winds its way through Joplin’s catalogue of music amid stories of the women who influenced her. And while I noticed that part of the story was missing, I didn’t miss it. It was enough for me to celebrate her music and hear her talk about her blues muses.

    Each of them is played by one of the four supporting singers: Jenelle Lynn Randall as a feisty Etta James; Sylvia MacCalla as Odetta, and the incomparable Bessie Smith; Yvette Cason as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone; and Sharon Catherine Brown as that incredible nameless Blues Singer who paved the way for them all. They capture the essence of each musical icon and turn in some wonderful performances. Brown’s Blues Singer wrenches the blues up from her guts, giving an unforgettable vocal performance that just about steals the whole show.

    L-R: Yvette Cason, Jenelle Lynn Randall, Sylvia MacCalla and
    Sharon Catherine Brown. Photo by Earl Gibson III. 

    Davies relates the stories intimately and honestly, often following up a song by one of her role models with her own Joplinized version. These are golden moments, the kind that give you shivers to see how she translates the emotion into her adaptation of the song. “Bessie Smith showed me the air and taught me how to fill it,” she says with deep respect in her voice. Her mother, a lover of music theatre, taught her to understand the blues. Of Nina Simone, “She put everything into the song she was feeling at the time.” And of the blues in general, “Blues are so subtle. You can milk it with two notes.” 

    Act I is Joplin on the rise from Port Arthur, Texas, to hooking up with Big Brother and the Holding Company to singing with Aretha. The tone turns a bit darker in Act II but Davies’ energy keeps barreling on through to the feverish high point of “Ball and Chain” which elicited crazy screams and a standing ovation from the crowd. Rightfully so. No wonder she received a Tony nomination on Broadway. Davies is a singular artist with an uncanny ability to channel Janis Joplin’s unique sound. As a musical experience, the show exceeded all my expectations. Go. It’s a helluva night!


    A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN
    Extended through August 23, 2015

    Pasadena Playhouse
    39 South El Molino Avenue
    Pasadena CA 91101
    Tickets:www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org
    Mary Bridget Davies performs the role of Janis Joplin Tuesday - Friday evenings at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm
    Kacee Clanton performs the role of Janis Joplin on Saturdays at 4:00 pm and Sunday Evenings at 7:00 pm

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    Anthony Crivello and Vanessa Claire Stewart in Louis & Keely.
    Photo by Charles Osgood Photography

    MUSICAL NEWS:Louis & Keely ‘Live’ at the Sahara returns to the Geffen Playhouse Dec 30 – Jan 17 (opening 1/6). Written by Vanessa Claire Stewart, Taylor Hackford and Jake Broder and directed by Taylor Hackford, it stars Anthony Crivello (Tony Award Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Vanessa Claire Stewart who originally created the role of Keely Smith. This is part of a new national tour, based on the recent hit Chicago production featuring Crivello and Stewart. It originated here in LA. It was terrific the first time around – don’t miss it this time! Louis Prima and Keely Smith shared a larger-than-life marriage and a groundbreaking Las Vegas act featuring unforgettable songs like “That Ol’ Black Magic,” “Pennies from Heaven,” and “Embraceable You.” Tickets: (310) 208-5454 or www.geffenplayhouse.com.

    The Laguna Playhouse will present a special engagement of The Official Blues Brothers Revue with Wayne Catania as Jake and Kieron Lafferty as Elwood, August 13 – 30. The live concert show combines the comedy and hits from the original movie and pays homage to Chicago’s rich history of blues, gospel and soul music. Hear all The Blues Brothers classics as Jake, Elwood and the band hit the right balance of humor, music and mayhem. Backed by a powerhouse band, they’ll give you a show to remember including their biggest hits “Soul Man,” “Rubber Biscuit” and many more. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

    Sierra Madre Playhouse announces its 2015-2016 season of shows to include Ted Swindley’s Always…Patsy Cline directed by Robert Marra (July 31- Sept 12, 2015; Ira Levin’s Deathtrap (Oct 2- Nov 8, 2015); A Christmas Memory by Duane Poole, Larry Grossman & Carol Hall directed by Alison Eliel Kalmus (Nov 27- Dec 27, 2015); Jerry Sterner’s Other People’s Money (Jan 8- Feb 13, 2016): John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (March 11- April 16, 2016); and Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (May 16- June 18, 2016). For tickets and more information about the season go to www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

    EXTENSIONS: The return engagement of Pasadena Playhouse’s A Night with Janis Joplin starring Mary Bridget Davies is once again exceeding all expectations and has extended through August 23. Tickets are available at www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

    Alien vs. Musical, the runaway Hollywood Fringe hit, is being extended by Combined Artform’s Matthew Quinn at Theatre Asylum for a 6 week run, starting Friday August 7 at 8pm. Tickets for the 60-minute show by Erik Przytulski and Steve Troop are available at http://hff15.org/2202.

    DOMA Theatre Company remounts its smash hit production of American Idiot, Oct 2 – 18 at the Met Theatre. Directed by Marco Gomez, it features the music of Green Day, including “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “21 Guns,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Holiday” and the blockbuster title track, “American Idiot.” Tickets: (323) 802-9181 or www.domatheatre.com.

    Chance Theater’s production of Hairspray has added four performances and will now run through August 16. http://chancetheater.com/

    Sandra Mae Frank and Austin McKenzie in Spring Awakening.
    Photo by Kevin Parry

    And perhaps the most exciting extension of them all, congratulations to Deaf West Theatre and their production of Spring Awakening which played The Wallis earlier this year and originated at Inner City Arts last fall. They’re going to Broadway! Performances begin at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on September 8 and the show will run for 18 weeks, through Saturday, January 9. It will be performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English by a cast of 27. Spring Awakening (book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik), is directed by Michael Arden and choreographed by Spencer Liff. The show is produced By Ken Davenport, Cody Lassen, Hunter Arnold And Deaf West Theatre (Artistic Director David J. Kurs). Tickets are available by calling (877) 250-2929 or at www.ticketmaster.com.

    FUNDRAISERS: On the heels of last year’s highly successful event, Cabrillo Music Theatre will host its 2nd Annual, 24-hour Dance Marathon. This exciting community fundraising event unites marathon contestants of all ages and abilities, your favorite Cabrillo Characters, and local businesses for 24 hours of dance, Zumba, Stretch, music, food, prizes and special guests. There will even be special theme hours with the casts of Bye Bye Birdie, Oklahoma, Mary Poppins, Company, and the Young Artists’ Ensemble production of Legally Blonde. The marathon will take place from August 7th to August 8th, at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts, 403 W. Hillcrest, Thousand Oaks, 91360. All proceeds go to Cabrillo Music Theatre’s outreach programs. Click Here to participate, make a donation, or for more information.

    The Chance Theater will recreate a Film Noir evening, complete with 1950’s style fun, live music, and entertainment by Chance artists on August 29. Casino games, a silent auction, 3-course themed dinner with cocktails, and a murder mystery to solve are among the killer events. All proceeds will support the Chance Theatre. Click Here for tickets and more info.

    CONCERT/CABARET:Chris Isaacson Presents has announced that Australian folk/pop star Shelley Segal will make her Los Angeles debut on Sunday, August 9 at The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. Tickets for her one-night-only appearance are $15 and are available at www.hotelcafe.com. The Hotel Cafe is located at 1623½ Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.

    An Evening of Classic Broadway will host its next cabaret night on Monday, August 10 at Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Feliz. Joining Brad Ellis and Dianne Fraser are Jahmaul Bakare, Nicci Claspell, Elizabeth Hayden, Damon Kirsche, Barbara Minkus, Kevin Odekirk and Valerie Perri. Doors open at 6:30 for the 8pm show. http://rockwell-la.com/

    Noted actor, composer and musician John Slade brings his traveling “Chautauqua-tent spirit revival in story and song” Walt Whitman Sings to Shakespeare Orange County’s outdoor cabaret stage. Settle in for an evening of Walt Whitman’s great poetry set to music among the trees. Recommended for music and poetry lovers of all ages. August 23 & 30 at 7pm. The 80-minutes performance runs without intermission. Tickets: (714) 636-3729.

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    Stina Ahlberg Sammanfläta (Intertwined).
    All photos by 
    Rafael Hernandez/Calarts

    REDCAT debuted an eclectic program of new works this week during its 12th Annual New Original Works Festival– two dance/movement-based pieces and a third that fused theatre and live music to create an absurdist performance art piece based on early twentieth century Surrealism.

    Swedish choreographer Stina Ahlberg’s solo dance piece, Sammanfläta (which translates as intertwine) opened the evening. The short 15-minute hypnotic enterprise pairs wind-like sounds with a cappella voices in choral layers to create a haunting work with an otherworldly feel. Ahlberg’s earthy physicality conjures images of a broken bird and the collapsing and unfolding of the spirit as she creeps and crouches and writhes with tactile sensuality.

    Mint Park and Hee-Eun Jeong's BIT

    In BIT, the interplay between light pools and shadows, synthesized sound, and stylized movement creates a piece that moves propulsively through several stages of storytelling. At times Mint Park and Hee-Eun Jeong’s new work achieves a sharp but beautifully lyrical quality that feels like one is watching a film scene unfold live. I found the opening featuring a solo male dancer (Jung-Woon Jung) spinning and expressively moving with a martial artist’s precision inside that shifting light to be very exciting and a powerful expression of the potential of the piece. Three additional female dancers and abstract modernistic projections expand its multi-layered progression.

    Off-putting was the “strobe light” effect consisting of hand-held lights manipulated by the dancers. Too often they were flashed directly into the audiences eyes rather than used to create effects that would have made a greater impact on the visual interpretation of the work.

    Robert Cucuzza's Circle Jerk

    Following intermission, Robert Cucuzza ventures into the potent world of André Breton and The Surrealists in his theatrical staging of Circle Jerk. The basis of the play is a series of provocative discussions on the topic of sex and sexual perversity led by Breton over a 4-year period beginning in 1928. All of its text comes directly from transcripts of the sessions and no question is off limits.

    One of the most intriguing aspects of Circle Jerk is the contrast between its direct and intentionally absurdist humor and the sheer beauty of the subtle jazz trio that accompanies it. (The outstanding original score is by Juli Crockett and Michael Feldman, with Crockett on cello and vocals, Feldman on piano, and Danny Graziani on violin). Fragments of lyric – “she’s just a girl” and “melody haunts my reverie” float in the background while an eye-opening question and answer session delivers the harsh truths about men and women’s roles from the male perspective.

    The piece wanders at the midpoint when the interactive group discussion becomes more philosophical and focused on only one individual before snapping back to life when the characters begin a direct address to members of the audience. That discussion probes more taboo questions of erotica in regards to children, animals, and monogamy.


    Together the three new works provide a stimulating representation of the kind of adventurous work REDCAT is known for. The final performance for Program 2 is tonight.

    REDCAT NOW FESTIVAL
    Program 1:  July 30 - August 1, 2015
    Bloom - Nguyễn Nguyên and Maria Gillespie
    In|Expiration - Sheetal Gandhi, Ulka Mohanty & Mark Gutierrez 
    Crying - Zac Pennington, Jherek Bischoff and Steven Reker

    Program 2: August 6-8, 2015
    Sammanfläta (Intertwined) - Stina Ahlberg 
    BIT - Mint Park and Hee-Eun Jeong
    Circle Jerk - Robert Cucuzza

    Program 3:  August 13-15, 2015
    Stellar Tears - Cassandra 
    Touch of the Other - Takao Kawaguchi, Jonathan Hall & Deanna Erdmann
    Trophy - Kevin Williamson

    REDCAT is located at 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 in the heart of downtown Los Angeles on the northeast corner of the intersection of W. 2nd and Hope Streets. Housed in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, REDCAT has a separate entrance at the corner of West 2nd and Hope Streets. Tickets and information: (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org. Performances begin at 8:30 pm.

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    Geffen Playhouse opens its 20th anniversary season with the west coast premiere of These Paper Bullets!A Modish Ripoff of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Sept. 8 – Oct. 18. Written by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Emmy Award nominated writer Rolin Jones with songs by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and staged by Jackson Gay, the show was commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre where it premiered in 2014. Meet the Quartos. Ben, Claude, Balth, and Pedro. Their fans worship them. Scotland Yard fears them. And their former drummer will stop at nothing to destroy them. Can these fab four from Liverpool find true love in London and cut an album in seven nights? The cast features James Barry (Pedro), Kate Blumberg (Paulina, Frida), Damon Daunno (Claude), Chris Geary as Anton, Mr. Crumpet, Queen & Others), Brad Heberlee (Mr. Urges), Justin Kirk (Ben), Tony Manna (Mr. Cake), Rod McLachlan (Boris), Kiera Naughton (Ulcie), Adam O’Byrne (Don Best), Lucas Papaelias (Balth), Nicole Parker (Beatrice), Greg Stuhr (Mr. Berry), Ariana Venturi (Higgy), Nick Ullett as (Leo). www.geffenplayhouse.com

    TROIKA Entertainment LLC and the Nederlander Organization have announced casting for the new tour of ANNIE playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre Oct. 13 – Nov. 1. Original Broadway lyricist and director Martin Charnin returns for the 19th time to direct this brand new production which also features book by Thomas Meehan and music by Charles Strouse. Choreographer Liza Gennaro will incorporate selections from her father Peter Gennaro’s 1977 Tony Award®-winning choreography. The 25-member company stars newcomer Issie Swickle as Annie and Gilgamesh Taggett as Oliver Warbucks. The cast also includes Lynn Andrews (Miss Hannigan), Ashley Edler (Grace), Garrett Deagon (Rooster), Lucy Werner (Lily) and Jeffrey B. Duncan (FDR). Sunny, a 5-year-old rescue terrier mix, stars as Sandy. The Orphans will be played by Angelina Carballo, LillyBea Ireland, Molly Rose Meredith, Emily Moreland, Lilly Mae Stewart and Isabel Wallach. Tickets: (800) 982-2787 or www.HollywoodPantages.com.

    Broadway’s Alison Luff and Constantine Maroulis will lead the cast of Breaking Through, a world premiere musical, with book by Kirsten Guenther, and music & lyrics by Cliff Downs and Katie Kahanovitz, at the Pasadena Playhouse Oct. 27 – Nov. 22 (opening night 11/1). The production is choreographed by Tyce Diorio and directed by Sheldon Epps. 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. www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

    International City Theatre has announced its 2016 season beginning with Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire’s musical revue, Closer Than Ever Feb. 10 – March 6, 2016 (opening night 2/12). Filled with hilarious and poignant songs about dating, parenting, aging and dreams both fulfilled and unrequited, Closer Than Ever is like a musical “how-to” manual for life. With each song a self-contained story inspired by real-life experiences, its message to value the little things in life remains timeless. Also part of the season: Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods, Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sasha and Masha and Spike, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, and Donald Margulies’ Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself). www.internationalcitytheatre.org

    Red Blanket Productions presents Sondheim’s Assassins at The Pico Playhouse August 21 – Sept. 27. The show is directed by Dan Fishbach, with choreography by Lili Fuller, and features a live orchestral quartet conducted by music director Anthony Lucca. Disturbing, alarming, and eerily funny, Assassins is perhaps one of the most controversial musicals ever written. Sondheim leads audiences on a tuneful review of Presidential assassins and would-be killers from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley. The cast includes Claire Adams, Jeff Alan-Lee, Sean Benedict, Janna Cardia, Cole Cuomo, Dominic De Armey, David Gallic, Adam Hunter Howard, Jason Peter Kennedy, Zachary Lutsky, Sandy Mansson, Nick Tubbs, Bryan Vickery, Selah Victor, Travis Rhett Wilson, and Paul Wong. The Pico Playhouse, 10508 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90064. www.assassinsmusicalLA.com

    Celebration Theatre has announced its 2015-2016, under the artistic direction of Michael Matthews & Michael A. Shepperd. This is the Celebration’s 34th season and the first in its new home at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave. in Los Angeles. Included on the schedule is the L.A. intimate theatre premiere of The Boy From Oz directed by Michael A. Shepperd, which begins previews April 22, 2016. Australian entertainer Peter Allen becomes a star, marries and divorces Liza Minnelli, comes out of the closet, and ultimately succumbs to AIDS in this biographical jukebox musical featuring Allen’s songs. The season also includes a new sketch show, Kim Jon Funner directed by Todd Milliner, Bootycandy by Robert O’Hara, and Dream Boy by Eric Rosen. www.celebrationtheatre.com

    Megan Hilty will take the stage at Valley Performing Arts Center for a concert on Thursday, Sept.24 at 8:00 pm. The vivacious star of Wicked at the Pantages Theatre, New York Encores’ Gentleman Prefer Blondes and 9 to 5: The Musical at the Ahmanson and on Broadway, as well as the NBC hit television series Smash will present an unforgettable evening of Broadway standards, Hollywood favorites, and songs from her album, It Happens all the Time. Valley Performing Arts Center is located on the campus of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), 18111 Nordhoff Street Northridge, 91330-8448, at the corner of Nordhoff and Lindley. Tickets: (818) 677-3000 or ValleyPerformingArtsCenter.org.

    Heart and Flame Productions has announced that the world premiere pop/rock musical We Are the Tigers will play the Hudson Backstage Oct. 2 – Nov. 8 The musical features book, music & lyrics by Rebekah M. Allen, musical direction by Patrick Sulken, choreography by Jacob Brent and is directed by Michael Bello. A new school year means a new beginning for the Tigers, the worst-ranked high school cheerleading team in the state. But when an innocent team-building sleepover becomes a mysterious murder scene, the Tigers will need more than just team spirit to survive the night – and each other. www.plays411.com/tigers

    The world premiere of Welcome to My World starring Sami Staitman, the first ever one-girl musical written for and about a fourteen-year-old, will take place at the Grove Theatre in Burbank, Sept. 10 – 27. The Disney Channel’s Corey Fogelmanis (Farkel on Girl Meets World) will be on hand opening weekend for a private Meet & Greet with fans who have donated to the production. With book, music and lyrics by Grammy nominated Bruce Kimmel, Welcome to My World takes you into the world of a bright, funny, irreverent and iconoclastic young girl named Molly, who has her own very unique way of looking at life. The 85-minute show also features musical direction by Alby Potts. Tickets: (323) 960-7787 or www.plays411.com/world.

    Panic! Productions begins its 2015-2016 season with the classic musical, She Loves Me, Sept. 11 -27, at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. A beloved favorite of many musical theatre aficionados, She Loves Me features a book by Joe Masteroff, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. This newly staged, intimate production is directed and choreographed by Miriam Durrie-Kirsch, with musical direction by Diann Alexander and starring Brandon Hynum, Becca Peyton, Tiffany Asta, John Wallis, Paul Panico, Robert Weibezahl, Frankie Rodriguez, Alex Gonzales, Larry Craig, Alisa De Los Santos, Annie Sherman, Matt Markham, and Noah Terry. www.hillcrestarts.com

    In celebration of the in-home Diamond Edition release of Aladdin, Hollywood’s legendary El Capitan Theatre is thrilled to present a limited run of the magical Disney classic Sept. 17- Oct. 7. Before the movie, El Capitan guests will be greeted by Genie, live on stage. The El Capitan will also host a special opening-night screening on Saturday, September 17 at 7:00 pm. www.elcapitantickets.com

    Also this month at the El Capitan, a special engagement of Disney’s Frozen Sing-along version Aug. 20 – Sept. 16. Each screening will be accompanied by Elsa, live on stage, snow inside the theatre, and after the movie, Olaf live on stage and a screening of Disney’s Frozen Fever which will be featured in an extraordinary new in-home collection of award-winning and beloved shorts by Walt Disney Animation Studios. www.elcapitantickets.com

    (mostly)musicals returns to the E Spot Lounge on August 24 with its latest cabaret show, Lucky Numbers featuring performances by Rachel Tyler, Eric B. Anthony, Patricia Whiteman, Sandra Benton, Sherry Mandujano, Neil Taffe, Alli Miller, Emerson Boatwright, Amanda Kruger, David Crane, Jason Peter Kennedy, Christina Morrell, and music direction by Gregory Nabours. Doors open at 6:30pm for dinner and drinks. www.mostlymusicalsla.com

    Stupid Songs will present a one-night-only cabaret show called Stupid Gold on Tuesday, August 18 at Rockwell Table & Stage featuring the company’s stupidest hits, plus some brand new songs. http://rockwell-la.com/

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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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    Ask any musical theatre aficionado who the greatest living musical theatre composer of our time is and many will answer without hesitation, Stephen Sondheim. The complexity of his music and depth of emotion in his lyrics force an actor to dig radically deeper into a character’s psyche to find the meat of what’s inside. The Witch in Into the Woods has reasons for her actions far beyond revenge and Bobby from Company is much more than a man unable to commit to a relationship. Sondheim exposes human nature in all its glory and weakness. Nothing is accidental and when the connection of words and music to character is complete, we witness the resulting effortlessness with wonder.

    Two productions currently playing in Los Angeles offer a look at Sondheim’s work, each from a different perspective. The first, Sondheim UnScripted by Impro Theatre at The Falcon, takes his most well-known stylistic elements and uses them to create an original, fully-improvised musical at each performance. Improv is a difficult enough undertaking in its most basic form but doing it in the style of a master like Sondheim, including making up songs on the spot that sound like Sondheim wrote them, is best reserved for only the most skillful of participants. Impro Theatre’s impressive cast makes short work of the task rendering a delightful two-act musical full of Sondheim-isms in under two hours.

    Using the suggestions of a family heirloom and a sequence of four notes volunteered by the audience, eight actors, a pianist, and a lighting improviser weave a Sondheim-esque tale of love, loss, and lessons learned reminiscent of the sights and sounds of Into the Woods, Company, Sweeney Todd, Side By Side By Sondheim, and more.

    It’s all here: the challenging vocal lines, romantic swells, dissonant harmonies, and overlapping counterpoint accompanying a journey that teaches its characters about the world. Funny, heartwarming, and full of surprises, it’s all-Sondheim, all the time, and only you get to see it this time before it’s gone forever.

    As with The Troubies, Falcon Theatre’s normal summer resident laugh company, a great deal of the fun is in the moments that go awry – Lisa Fredrickson trying to sit up on a ledge and not quite getting there but not pretending it didn’t happen, Kelly Holden Bashar responding with a line of dialogue full of accidental sexual innuendo and then watching her realize it after the audience gets it first, and those meta moments when the lyrics turn in on themselves to capture not only what is happening in the story but the plight of the actors as well. 

    These crafty adventurers will chew on an idea as long as they can to see where it goes, and while not every thread leads to the promised land, the skill of this merry band is never in question.


    The work is a completely collaborative effort so it’s hard to single out any one individual however, at this performance, showstopping turns by Michele Spears in a song and dance sequence turned production number and Cory Rouse’s lighthearted rapid patter songs went above and beyond in the category of “thinking on one’s feet.” Brian Michael Jones and Brian Lohman also created a completely unexpected and wholly satisfying story arc for their buddy characters that could never have been planned. Hilarious and intellectual…we never saw it coming. Come to think of it, they probably didnt either.

    But the star player in the company this time around is musical director Peter Smith on piano. His background in jazz is a definite asset in crafting this kind of improvised madness. It requires a unique ability to be both ahead of the actors and present to their immediate musical needs to continually propel the action forward. Smith does all that and more.

    Over at the 99-seat Pico Playhouse, Red Blanket Productions is mounting a revival of Sondheim’s darkly comic musical Assassins, a thought-provoking examination of historical figures whose only claim to fame was killing, or attempting to kill, a U.S. President. First produced off-Broadway in 1990, the show experienced a number of complications before its circuitous path finally led to Broadway in 2004, where it won five Tony Awards.


    For that production the roles of the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald were played by the same actor for the first time – Neil Patrick Harris – a choice that added a decidedly unsettling quality to the production. After bonding with a wholesome fresh-faced narrator for three quarters of the show, the audience suddenly watches him morph into the killer who takes down President John F. Kennedy in the eleventh hour. The decision to combine the roles was so powerful that, though not required, it is often duplicated in productions, even today.

    That isn’t the case with Dan Fishbachs remount at Pico Playhouse. Sean Benedict plays the tormented Oswald and Nick Tubbs, the enthusiastically happy Balladeer. Goaded by John Wilkes Booth (Travis Rhett Wilson) and the rest of the assassins, Oswald’s bullet finds its target and the world changes forever. The production’s final tableau always hits an audience in the gut regardless of how successful the scenes leading up to it have been.

    For the show to work, a director needs to achieve a balance between the presentational aspects of the writing (which is responsible for much of the show’s comedy) and the intricately nuanced inner life of the characters. Each one honestly believes the words he or she says and that truth must come through, especially if their performances are pushed to the broad end of the spectrum. Broad can be funny but it must be truthful first, otherwise the actors end up acting twice as hard to make sure their bit is funny. When that happens their words ring a notch emptier and the audience doesn’t feel the punch of how pathetically horrifying their actions really are. Or, they become a one-note character – angry, sloppy, or crazy are the three  choices that seem to be most popular.

    More effective are characters like Adam Hunter Howard’s Leon Czolgosz and Selah Victor’s Emma Goldman who operate from an inescapable awareness of their world and their place in it. Howards bottle speech is chilling and the tender exchange between the two at their chance meeting resonates deeply. Claire Adams plays Squeaky Fromme and while she is one of the characters called on for broader comedy, it works because she is grounded to begin with.

    Normally staged in a carnival-like setting, Alex Kolmanovsky’s captivating design jettisons the dark affair to a kind of surreal purgatory. Here the killers are found out of time in a midway where presidents faces pop up as targets in a shooting range and ensemble members peer through what looks like the torn pages of a book from beyond the walls. Effective too is Will Adashek’s use of light and shadow to create a 3-D texture to the visuals. 

    Taken at face value, the production is an eerie adventure into a surreal musical world and will certainly leave you humming Sondheim’s lively ditties on your way out to the car. But for those looking for more, a deeper dive is needed.

    Sondheim UnScripted photos by Jill Mamey: Brian Lohmann and Daniel Blinkoff 
    Kari Coleman, Daniel Blinkoff, Jen Reiter, Brian Lohmann, Kelly Holden Bashar, and Cory Rouse
    Assassins photos by Will Adashek: The cast of Assassins
    Travis Rhett Wilson and Adam Hunter Howard

     
    SONDHEIM UNSCRIPTED

    August 19 - September 27, 2015
    Falcon Theatre
    4252 Riverside Drive
    Burbank, CA 91505
    Tickets: www.falcontheatre.com


    ASSASSINS

    August 21 - September 27, 2015
    Pico Playhouse

    10508 West Pico Blvd.
    Los Angeles 90064.
    Tickets: www.assassinsmusicalLA.com

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    Carrie the Musical returns to Los Angeles at the historic Los Angeles Theatre, the first theatrical musical at that venue ever, Oct 1 - Nov 22 (opening night 10/8). Directed by Brady Schwind and choreographed by Lee Martino, it features book by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Michael Gore, and lyrics by Dean Pitchford. This production is based on the acclaimed run this past spring at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, with most of the original La Mirada cast: Carly Bracco, Adante Carter, Misty Cotton, Valerie Rose Curiel, Bryan Dobson, Kevin Patrick Doherty, Rachel Farr, Jennifer Foster, Jon Robert Hall, Jonah Ho’okano, Ian Littleworth, Emily Lopez, Lyle Colby Mackston, Garrett Marshall, Chris Meissner, Tiana Okoye, Jane Papageorge, Kayla Parker, Jenelle Lynn Randall, Amy Segal, Michael Starr, Kimberly Ann Steele, and Victoria Strong. The one-of-a-kind production puts the audience in the high school gymnasium where blood drops, Jesus flies, people levitate and moving bleachers pull the audience deeper into the heart of the story. www.ExperienceCarrie.com

    Original Broadway cast members LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, and James Snyder will join Tony Award-Winner Idina Menzel in the Hollywood Pantages engagement of If/Then this fall in LA – one of seven select cities on the National Tour. The foursome will also reprise their critically-acclaimed performances in Costa Mesa, San Diego, San Francisco, Tempe, Seattle, and Denver. seven select cities. www.hollywoodpantages.com

    Actors Co-op opens its 2015-2016 season with The Baker’s Wife directed by Richard Israel. The Stephen Schwartz musical about a French baker who stops making his mouth-watering bread when his young wife leaves him runs Sept 16 – Oct 25 (opening night 9/18). Faced with the loss of the best food they have ever eaten, the town of misfits unites to rekindle the couple’s love. Israel directs a cast that includes Greg Baldwin, Kelly Brighton, Tracey Bunka, Greyson Chadwick, Chelle Denton, Brian Dyer, Nick Echols, Larray Grimes, Rachel Hirshee, Tim Hodgin, Natalie Hope Macmillan, Christopher Maikish, Jeffrey Markle, Brandon Parrish, Michael Riney, Lindsey Schuberth, Treva Tegtmeier, Stephen Van Dorn and Michael Worden. Musical direction is by Jake Anthony and choreography by Julie Hall. www.ActorsCo-op.org

    Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group presents the world premiere of Ramon Sanchez’s musical vampire love story Red Moon, opening Friday, Sept 4. Denise Devin directs and Zombie Joe produces this passionate love story of Anthony and Roxanna whose bond of eternal love is challenged by their adventurous lust for human flesh and Roxanna’s drive for redemption. ZJU has a long history of supporting original work, from inside the group as well as outside the company, and Red Moon is the next project to receive the ZJU treatment. Show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 pm through Sept 26. For Reservations call (818) 202-4120. ZombieJoes.com

    Cabrillo Music Theatre kicks off its 2015-2016 season with Damn Yankees, winner of 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical. With a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, and music & lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, this ever-popular baseball musical will have fans on the edge of their seats. Show runs Oct 16 – 25 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Aging, die-hard Washington Senators baseball fan Joe Boyd fan will do anything for the Senators to beat the New York “damn” Yankees and win the pennant. When he accepts a deal on the Senators’ behalf in exchange for his soul, he is turned into Joe Hardy, the greatest baseball player ever, and leads the woeful Senators into a wild and woolly pennant chase. The all-star lineup includes Renée Marino (Lola), John Sloman (Applegate), Sarah Tattersall (Meg Boyd), and Travis Leland (Joe Hardy) directed by Kirsten Chandler with choreography by John Todd and musical direction by Cassie Nickols. www.cabrillomusictheatre.com

    The Old Globe will open its 2015-2016 Season with In Your Arms, a world premiere dance-theatre musical featuring direction and choreography by Christopher Gattelli and original music by Stephen Flaherty. Co-conceived by Gattelli and Jennifer Manocherian, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, In Your Arms features 10 dance vignettes written by an incredible and diverse lineup of theatre powerhouses, including Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Carrie Fisher, David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph,Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, and Alfred Uhry. The production will run Sept 16 – Oct 25 (opening night 9/24). Each vignette takes place in a different place and time, and the dances range from duets to large ensemble numbers in every style imaginable, from classical ballet to swing, tap to tango, rock ’n’ roll to Charleston, modern to jazz. www.TheOldGlobe.org

    Donna/Madonna, the critically acclaimed, award-winning solo show written and performed by JP Karliak, and directed by Tiger Reel and Matthew Craig, returns to the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood for a special engagement Sept 10 – 13. In this 70-minute autobiographical one-act, writer/performer JP Karliak wants desperately to be the perfect son for his adopted mother, a doting Catholic housewife from Scranton, PA. But realizing he will never be the ideal local boy, he seeks answers from a very different source: his fashion-writing, married-to-a-British-pop-star birth mother. Donna/Madonna is a tale of motherly love and finding acceptance told through stories, songs, and characters like Darth Vader, Carol Channing, and JP’s unforgettable mothers. www.plays411.com/donnaor www.donnamadonnashow.com

    Laguna Playhouse announces the complete cast for the west coast premiere of I’m Still Getting My Act Together and taking it on the road. Joining the previously announced Gretchen Cryer, who also wrote book & lyrics and directs the show, are Rex Smith, Omar D. Brancato, Daniel Filippi, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Jesse Johnson, Erika Schindele, Jennifer Leigh Warren, and Matthew Wrather. Show runs October 10 – Nov 1. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

    The Pasadena Playhouse will honor two artists at this year’s Diversity Project fundraising benefit. Legendary director, choreographer and producer Kenny Ortega will be recognized as the 2015 Diversity Award Artistic Honoree, and Abel Ramirez, founder of Pasadena’s El Portal Restaurant and business and cultural leader of the Pasadena community, will be recognized as the Community Honoree. The 9th Annual Pasadena Playhouse’s Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Project fundraising benefit takes place Sept 13, in honor of the opening of Josefina López’s Real Women Have Curves. www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org

    San Diego Musical Theatre welcomes a new executive director. Colleen Kollar Smith, a native San Diegan, has made a career on and off San Diego stages with such organizations as Lamb’s Players Theatre, CYT San Diego, and most recently New Village Arts. SDMT’s upcoming season schedule includes two musicals to be performed at the historic Spreckels Theatre: La Cage Aux Folles (Sept 25 – Oct 11) starring David Engel, Robert J. Townsend, and James Vasquez, and White Christmas (Nov 27-Dec 6) directed by Todd Nielsen. www.sdmt.org

    EXTENSIONS:Citizen: An American Lyric extends at Fountain Theatre through Oct 11. www.FountainTheatre.com

    Always…Patsy Cline extends at Sierra Madre Playhouse through Sept 27. www.sierramadreplayhouse.org

    FILM: In celebration of the in-home Diamond Edition release of Aladdin, the El Capitan Theatre will present a limited run of the Disney classic Sept 17- Oct 7. Before the movie, guests will be greeted by Genie, live on stage. Daily showtimes are 10am, 1pm, 4pm & 7pm. On select dates, guests may enjoy breakfast, meet Genie and receive a commemorative photo before seeing the 10am movie. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Tickets are on sale now atwww.elcapitantickets.comor at the theatre. Showtimes subject to change.

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    La Mirada Theatre opens its 2015-16 season with the Southern California premiere of First Date, Sept 18 – Oct 11. Music & lyrics are by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, and book is by Austin Winsberg. The show is directed by Nick DeGruccio, with musical direction by Brent Crayon and choreography by Lee Martino. When blind date newbie Aaron (Marc Ginsburg) is set up with serial-dater Casey (Erica Lustig), a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a hilarious high-stakes dinner. As the date unfolds in real time, the couple quickly finds they are not alone in this unpredictable evening. In a delightful and unexpected twist, Casey and Aaron's inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents who sing and dance the pair through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines. The cast also includes Stacey Oristano, Kelley Dorney, Justin Michael Wilcox, Leigh Wakeford and Scott Dreier. www.lamiradatheatre.com

    Greenway Arts Alliance presents an out-of-the-ordinary theatrical experience, a humorous and lyrical tapestry of words, music, movement and quantum physics. Dan Berkowitz directs the world premiere of Breathing Room by playwright & composer Mary Lou Newmark, opening October 3 at the Greenway Court Theatre. Music, theater and science converge in Newmark’s newest performance piece. A science teacher with a mysterious past (Charles Reese) and a visual artist overwhelmed by life (Eileen T’Kaye) explore our modern culture of “technological vertigo” in a series of playful and intriguing scenes infused with music – played live at every performance by Newmark on her trademark neon-green electric violin. Show runs Oct 3 – 25 at Greenway Court Theatre. www.greenwaycourttheatre.org

    Peter Uribe returns to Shakespeare Orange County to direct Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, Sept 12 – 26, at the Garden Grove Festival Amphitheater. Having just reached his 21st birthday, Frederic has fulfilled his “contractual” obligations to the pirate band with which he has been working. He quickly finds his true love in Mabel, the Major General’s daughter. No sooner are they swooning than the pirates reel him back on a technicality. The romantic comic opera full of wonderful wordplay and soaring music will be performed by Louis B. Jack, Alex Bodrero, Max Black, Nikolai Fernandez, Phil Nieto, Jenaha McLearn, Janelle Kester, Rebecca Frechette, Cynthia Aldrich, and Krystin Bergamasco, Andrew Aguilar, Hayden Allcorn, Emma Becerra, Alfonso Echararria, Jackye Flores, Michael Drace Fountain, Deva Marie Gregory, Amethyst Hethcoat, Emily Hoffman, Zach Kanner, Jacob Lansberg, Jessica Odishoo, James Quesada, Kenzie Spooner, and Nicholas Thurkettle. www.shakespeareoc.org

    MainStreet Theatre Company celebrates the opening of its 10th season with the California premiere of Elephant & Piggie’s “We are in a Play!” directed and choreographed by Art Manke, with musical direction by the show’s composer, Deborah Wicks-La Puma. The production will play eight school performances from October 5 – 9, and open to the public on Saturday, October 10, continuing through October 25.


    The musical, adapted from Mo Willem’s popular book series, celebrates the friendship of a melancholy elephant and an optimistic pink pig, and gives kids of all ages simple but valuable life lessons – helped along by terrific music and some contagiously silly audience participation. The cast of LA-based Equity actors includes Jeffrey Landman as Elephant Gerald, Sydney Blair as Piggie, and Ivory Doublette, Heather Ensley and Jane Noseworthy as a trio of back-up singing squirrels called The Squirrelles. www.lewisfamilyplayhouse.com

    The Group Rep presents the west coast premiere of That Lovin' Feelin’ a musical biography about the Righteous Bros. by James Zimmerman, directed by Jules Aaron, produced by Larry Eisenberg and Doug Haverty for The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, Dec 11, 2015 – January 24, 2016. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm with talk-back dates TBA. www.thegrouprep.com

    Back by popular demand, Spring Awakening returns for two weeks, Sept 17 – 27, to Temecula’s The Barn Stage Company, Cabaret at The Merc. The show runs Thurs-Sun at The Truax Building in Old Town Temecula. Directed by J. Scott Lapp, with associate direction and choreography by Evan D’Angeles and musical direction by Mike Kestler, the cast includes Nick Eiter, Emily Chelsea, Austyn Myers, Lindsay Joan, Kaylee Bryant, Jonathan Sangster, Zack Zumbek, Nicholas Alexander, Alexandra Slade, Rebecca B. Thomas, Zackary Scot Wolfe, Joseph Arreola, and Katharine Larsen. TheBarnStageCompany.com

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    Nicole Parkerstars opposite Justin Kirk in the west coast premiere of These Paper Bullets! A Modish Ripoff of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothingat Geffen Playhouse this month. Written by Rolin Jones (Weeds, Friday Night Lights, Boardwalk Empire) with songs by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and directed by Jackson Gay, the show opened to great reviews at Yale Repertory Theatre where it premiered in 2014. Now the Geffen begins its 20th anniversary season with what promises to be a British invasion on stage not seen since the Beatles.

    Still high on the adrenaline of a full day of rehearsal, an energetic Parker spoke to me about her experience working on the new production. I think you’ll see why the former star of Wicked and MADtv landed the role. This is one all-around great gal.

    Nicole, what has it been like working on a brand new show like this one?

    What’s great about working on something new is, while the creative team has done a version of the show before, they’ve made sure we know, as the new actors to the piece, that we can make it our own. That’s something you never get when you’re plugging into a show that already exists where you really need to hit the marks and you can give it your own flair but it needs to be what it is. This show isn’t set. Even from a comedic standpoint, I won’t even know whether some things I’m doing work until we get in front of an audience and they tell me.

    Both you and your leading man, Justin Kirk, are new, right?

    Correct, which is kind of cool because then we as a couple can find a whole new rhythm. The entire team is so supportive and really just happy to have another opportunity to work on the show and make it better. So many times you don’t get to do that. When you do, it’s all about really defining the story and making sure that it gets told even clearer.

    What are your overall impressions of the piece?

    It’s not a musical proper.  What I mean is it’s really a new, unique hybrid show. Even though the songs Billie Joe has written are stand-alone Beatles-esque songs, they drive the show and fit what’s going on in the plot. In that sense, where a musical will forward plot or character with a song, or even heighten an emotion, it is similar. But it’s only done in a very realistic way with the band – in this case they’re called The Quartos – singing their songs. 

    That is something I haven’t seen before where, in a proper musical, someone is just going to sing out to the audience and share with us their deep wants and desires or fears. It’s all sitting within this very neat thematic idea of The Quartos existing as a very popular Beatles-like band but the band is comprised of the Benedick and the Claudio so they’re going through things even as their characters are having to perform and sing these songs.

    What effect does the time period have on the play?

    I love that it’s set in the ‘60s because I think that was the beginning of the movement when women really started standing out, especially in London, with Mary Quant fashioning the mini skirt and really pushing the envelope with the look. It sets up the Beatrice/Benedick story perfectly. In this case Benedick is a John Lennon/Paul McCartney type and Beatrice is a fashion icon and a successful woman in her own right. They both are very strong individuals who don’t need a mate. But then obviously they ‘doth protest too much’ and we know that they are meant to be together. I think that only supports what we love about Much Ado, which is that great sparring between Beatrice and Benedick.

    Is it written in verse?

    Yes…kind of. That’s what I mean about it being unique. I don’t think I’ve seen a show like this before that folds in the original text with updated verse. Shakespeare fans will recognize some of their favorite lines and it’s brilliant the way that Rolin wrote it. In some instances it just seamlessly goes from one into the other, and then it can also be used comedically to have Shakespeare’s verse all of a sudden updated as modern dialogue that might even comment on what the actual text was saying. It makes it really fun to do. I feel like it’s one of the coolest shows I’ve ever been in. Even listening to the read-through the first time and having the four guys sitting there singing was cool. They’re all proper musicians. That’s exciting to me as an audience member. 

    Is the show for musical theatre people or Shakespeare lovers or both?

    I think there’s something for everyone in it. Even if you’re not familiar with Shakespeare’s language, you’ve got this text that’s integrated with modern language. Of course, if you’re a lover of the classics there’s something in there for you as well. I’m not sure that there’s a dull moment in it. There’s so much going on and there’s so much to look at and listen to. Every single actor is such a brilliant comedian and physical performer. It’s one of those shows where you think, wow, I wish I could sit and watch the show…oh wait, I’m in it.

    How did the role come to you?

    It’s always that story of being a random thing that drops out of the sky. It really was the middle of summer and I had heard about this show and had that passing thought, ‘oh, that sounds so cool, it would be awesome to do it…not gonna happen.’ You know, that positive attitude we sometimes have as actors. Then the audition came up and I got to read the script. It was really up my alley and seemed like something that I could maybe be the right fit for. But just like anything, you show up to audition and see every other gal who is so great and you think, oh that’s right. I’m not the only person who wants to do this for a living. There were so many amazing women at the auditions that I’m a geeky fan of, or just good friends with. Any one of them would have been amazing. I feel very fortunate that, for whatever reason, they thought I would be the right fit. 

    So it wasn’t a situation where you knew someone or had an inside track?

    Oh no, it was definitely a serious audition process. In fact, I don’t think people realize that, even for an actor that you might think has had great success and would never have to audition for anything – I’d say there are about 7-10 people who never have to audition for anything and the rest of us, we’re all auditioning – you’ve still got to go out there and get it.

    Even after you’ve done Elphaba on Broadway you’re still auditioning?

    Even after you have done Elphaba on Broadway. You just see all the other Elphabas at all the other auditions. Here we are. All the Elphabas auditioning for the next Elphaba-like part! 

    That would make a hilarious premise for a show.

    Oh wow, it would be loud, that’s for sure. 

    What did you learn from playing Elphaba?

    I don’t even know where to begin. You should ask my husband what he learned. There should be a support group for the partners of every person who’s played Elphaba because it’s its own trials. I say the number one thing I come away with is that it’s one of those jobs where you realize you can be pushed so much farther than you think you can. It’s not that I’ll never be challenged again. I find things in this show challenging that I’m still trying to figure out. But in terms of when this show gets tricky or it’s a long day, I think back and it’s so not as hard as some of the days I had learning Elphaba. And because of that, I know that I can do this.
    That’s a great way to look at it. 

    It’s very empowering in terms of realizing what you’re made of. It really asks everything of you and if you can learn how to conquer it – and no one ever really feels like they’ve conquered it – what I mean is, if you can even just get through a week of shows, that’s an accomplishment. I don’t know any girl who’s ever walked away from Wicked saying, ‘nailed it, perfect, every time, wouldn’t change a thing.’ That’s too big of a beast.

    It was also a great lesson in what you think you can do versus what you really can do. It made me a much more fearless performer, and a stronger one. I know if I can handle that I can handle this. 

    Do you mean vocally?

    Vocally, yes, but also mentally and physically. Those times when you wake up for the Saturday matinee and you think, yeah, I don’t really see how this is going to work. And then you’re sitting in the chair at the end of two shows and you say, well, I did it. Just the fact that you can get through it is an accomplishment. I mean, we’re all human, we get tired, and we think maybe I have to give up or maybe I can’t go on. When you’re in that kind of situation where so many people are depending on you, it’s interesting what you can dig up.

    What a great lesson. Anything else?

    I also learned if you treat your body a certain way it will reward you. I didn’t speak on Mondays. I was on full 24 hour vocal rest. Obligatory joke – my husband says that was his favorite day (she laughs). Im kidding. He’s very, very supportive but we have a good laugh about what it was like when I was Elphaba and just how much he helped me. 

    I also learned a bunch of tricks about how to take care of myself and at the same time, how to perform when you’re not 100%. You learn how to do it even when you’re not having a perfect vocal night, which honestly is what I think half of theatre is, especially with an 8 show a week schedule. Your body is not going to comply, nor is your personal life going to comply, with some things like that 8 times a week. But you learn how to manage it and that’s an incredible lesson. 

    You also worked on MADtv. What did you learn from that process?

    That’s where I learned about not apologizing for your opinions. At the same time, especially as a woman, it was about bringing solutions. You could have a different opinion about what should be in a scene or in a line of dialogue, but you learned to be not just a problem finder but also a problem solver. You have to be bold and literally give yourself the power of thinking that your opinion counts just as much as anyone else’s, and then you also have to bring three options or three alternate solutions. You’re constantly trying to better the product, which is what I really love about writers. I love that until the last minute, even when we’re taping in front of a live audience, the producers or the other writers are still coming up changing lines. I mean, in some ways it’s crazy making, but I love the spirit of that. It’s constant ongoing process.

    I also learned to not be so sensitive, to not be so attached to ideas, especially from working with Marty Short. A joke gets 3 choice chances and if it doesn’t work it’s out. Or if someone in the writers’ room has a better option or someone wants to pitch you a joke and it’s great, I love the spirit of, yes, take it. All that matters is what works best. It’s sort of the improv idea of ‘yes, and’ which is just continue to move forward and take ideas, say yes to them, and implement them.

    That sounds like something you can use in any situation, and especially on stage.

    It definitely helped me as an actress as well because you have to let go of your ego. If you don’t you’ll be crying every night. It can be very hard when you’re working on a new show – say it’s a musical – your song might get cut, your scene might get cut, your character might get cut down. You have to always remember that it’s all about what tells the story best. As solid an ego as you have to have in the business, it’s interesting you have to put it aside for the good of the whole. It teaches you to be flexible and to think on your feet. And it sharpens your brain.

    One of your other talents is doing impressions, both singing and speaking. What goes into that process?

    Whether it’s speaking or singing, it starts with the shape of the actual mechanism. So, if I’m looking for Ellen DeGeneres, for example, I’m looking at the shape her mouth makes when she talks because some people will hold their jaw forward, their jaw back, they’ll be lisping slightly, they’ll be barely opening their mouth, they’ll be using their teeth too much. Then that becomes the character. When I’m searching for a character who’s not a well-known celebrity I find that maybe this person has Ellen-like qualities or I feel like this person’s voice wants to live in the place that Ellen’s voice does. It’s about characteristics. There are also times I’ve based a character on a person in my life. Certain family members have made it into many sketches. I just don’t think they know it. But they’re there. 

    Who are you using for Bea?

    That’s an interesting question. I remember when Meryl Streep was doing interviews for The Devil Wears Prada and she said she noticed that men in power don’t raise their voices, ever. They never have the need to. So she decided her character in The Devil Wears Prada was really never going to raise her voice at all. And it gave her so much power. I just loved that. I had the same thought when I was watching Mary Quant. She was the Anna Wintour of the day – that fashion-forward, super-hip icon – and she’s very soft-spoken. I loved how laid back she was.

    Bea is supposed to be iconic so how do you be someone who stands out? I think it’s very specific things. She’s a smoker and it’s the ‘60s so I decided I would start from a very low place, a very floaty place. She’s also a trendsetter and even within the way she talks she can set a trend. She’s definitely not high up in energy in terms of where I normally am in a musical. In musical theatre we’re always in the mask, we’re always up here [she demonstrates the sound and laughs (think Seth Rudetsky doing the great divas)]. I’ve done that a lot so I really thought about how I wanted her to be someone totally different. Plus, I have an accent on top of that.

    It sounds like a lot of fun.

    It is a lot of fun. We’re wearing vintage dresses and, as a gal, even that is fun. It’s play time.

    Why do you think theatre matters?

    Theatre matters because it’s one of the few things that, even in this crazy day and age, can’t be replaced. It’s important to have a cultural shared moment with the community. It reminds us of the real stuff we’re all made of and if you’re telling a good story and people care about what’s happening on stage then that’s where real magic happens. It’s its own wonderful ephemeral art and it exists only for that one night and it will never happen again…unless it is recorded and played on YouTube 60,000 times… I may or may not be talking about Wicked… but in general, theatre is designed for just that one exact moment and then it will never happen again. 

    The title comes from a line in Much Ado About Nothing. Does it have any special significance for you personally in the show?

    From my perspective, ‘these paper bullets of the brain’ is all about the words that Beatrice and Benedick use to throw at each other, these barbs and insults and jokes we come up with. I like that because they are such intellectuals. They constantly use their brains and by the end of the play their hearts outsmart all those little paper bullets and overcome the obstacles. By that time, they have no words and so they end up together. It’s one of Shakespeare’s greatest examples of that fun back and forth banter between characters. That’s what Beatrice and Benedick are famous for.

    We were talking about it today in rehearsal, it’s such a miracle that it actually works out for any two people to find love. We get to see in this show how many different ways you can screw that up and still have it work out. The story has a very lovely real life element to it about what a miracle it is that this thing called love actually works out sometimes. We celebrate that in the end.

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    These Paper Bullets is currently in previews at Geffen Playhouse and will officially open September 16, 2015. For tickets and more information, go to www.geffenplayhouse.com

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    International City Theatre closes its 30th anniversary season with an intimate portrait of musical icon Stephen Sondheim in his own words and music. DJ Gray directs and stages the Los Angeles premiere of James Lapine’s Sondheim on Sondheim which runs Oct 14 – Nov 8 (opening night 10/16). Originally conceived as a tribute for Sondheim’s 80th birthday party, Sondheim on Sondheim is a love letter from Lapine to his friend and frequent collaborator. Exclusive video footage, in which Sondheim offers an inside look at his personal life and artistic process, is combined with sparkling new arrangements of over two dozen Sondheim tunes. Cast includes Stephanie Fredricks, Barbara Carlton Heart, Shaina Knox, Kevin McMahon, Jake Novak and Josh Wise with musical direction by Gerald Sternbach.

    “The show lets us in on Stephen’s creative process,” says Gray, who assisted Lapine on the Broadway production. “In addition to the well-known songs, there are some that are more obscure, and some that ended up being cut all together from his musicals. It’s fascinating to hear Stephen speak frankly about why those didn’t work. He’s candid, funny and charming. It’s a unique window into how he works and what shaped him as an artist.” Tickets: 562-436-4610 or www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

    3-D Theatricals will mount a revival of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s delightfully macabre The Addams Family (music & lyrics by Andrew Lippa) starring Bronson Pinchot and Rachel York as Gomez and Morticia Addams. 3DT will offer the musical in two locations: Oct 10 – 25 at Fullerton’s Plummer Theatre, followed by a second run Oct 31 – Nov 8 at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. The creative team includes director T.J. Dawson, assistant directors Jeanette Dawson and Ryan Ruge, choreographer Dana Solimando, and musical director/conductor Corey Hirsch. In addition to Pinchot and York, the cast will include Anthony Gruppuso (Uncle Fester), Micaela Martinez (Wednesday), Candi Milo (Grandma), Dante Marenco (Pugsley), Dustin Ceithamer (Lurch), Robert Yacko (Mal Beineke), Tracy Rowe Mutz (Alice Beineke) and Dino Nicandros (Lucas Beineke), Christine Tucker, Jean Schroeder, Kellianne Safarik, Kirklyn Robinson, Leslie Miller, Leslie Stevens, Natalie Iscovich, Dylan Pass, Gary Brintz, Harrison Meloeny, Jordan Goodsell, Nick Gardner, Nick Morganella, and Ryan Chlanda. Tickets are available for both locations at www.3dtshows.com.

    Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group Proudly presents the premiere of actress-singer-songwriter-engineer Terra Pasternak’s explosive one-woman production traversing her kaleidoscopic journey through megalomania, narcissism, growing pains, desperate measures and bipolar tendencies. Terra is a Warm Gun stars Terra Pasternak and is directed by Zombie Joe. There are two more performances on Sept 19 & 26 at 11pm. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets: $15. Call 818-202-4120 or go toZombieJoes.Tix.com.

    The Jumex Foundation of Contemporary Art in association with Bootleg Theater present DED! an original multimedia play inspired by the Mexican tradition of Día De Los Muertos/Day of The Dead, Oct 1 – 25 (opening night 10/3) at the Matrix Theatre. This unique theatrical experience combines performing arts disciplines such as mime, clowning, live orchestral music, stunts, puppetry and video art. The show is created and co-directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and Cristina Bercovitz, who will perform alongside Elizabeth Rian and a 5-piece orchestra led by composer John W. Snyder. Choreography is by Jillian Meyers and Teresa Toogie Barcelo. Design team includes John Iacovelli (scenic designer), Jared A. Sayeg (lighting designer), Jonathan Snipes (sound designer), Hana Kim (video designer), Maggie Morgan (costume designer). The Matrix is located at 7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046. www.dayoftheDed.com

    Heart and Flame Productions has announced the cast of Rebekah M. Allen’s world premiere pop/rock musical We Are the Tigers which plays the Hudson Backstage Oct. 2 – Nov 8 (opening night 10/10). The show will star Callandra Olivia, Cailan Rose, Rachel King, Gabi Hankins, Jade Johnson, Talisa Friedman, Cait Fairbanks, Charlotte Mary Wen, Katie DeShan, Patrick Reilly, Adam Cropper and Ari Afsar. Musical direction by Patrick Sulken, choreography by Jacob Brent and the show is directed by Michael Bello. A new school year means a new beginning for the Tigers, the worst-ranked high school cheerleading team in the state. But when an innocent team-building sleepover becomes a mysterious murder scene, the Tigers will need more than just team spirit to survive the night – and each other. www.plays411.com/tigers

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