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Your Musical Theatre Resource for Southern California!

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    Jared Reed as The Toxic Avenger. All photos by Rich Clark

    A blind baby doll librarian, a nerd-turned-toxic-super hero, and a maniacal mayor clash in this campy musical by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan. Add two crazy utility players and its a recipe for non-stop laughs. For most theatregoers in LA this will be the first opportunity they’ve had to see the off-Broadway hit (based on Lloyd Kaufman’s 1984 cult film) and it is hilarious. Nothing serious here. It’s all big comedy and big fun by an irresistible cast of five that really delivers the goods. Director/choreographer Janet Miller wins with this silly 2-hour rock musical where everything is a send-up and nothing is safe from a joke, not even New Jersey (especially New Jersey). Corey Hirsch’s live 5-piece onstage band is a bonus. Starring Kim Dalton, Danny Fetter, Shirley Anne Hattan, Jared Reed, and Wesley Tunison. Through June 26. Tickets: http://hff16.org/3539


    Jared Reed and Kim Dalton (Sarah)

    L-R: Weslety Tunison, Shirley Anne Hatton and Danny Fetter

    Jared Reed and Kim Dalton

    L-R: Jared Reed, Danny Fetter and Wesley Tunison

    Jared Reed and Kim Dalton

    Shirley Anne Hatton

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    L-R: Jahmaul Bakare, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Lamont Dozier, Jr., Anne Yatco,
    Nadia Ahern, and Zachary Ford

    Bumpersticker: The Musical conquers the Hollywood Fringe Festival with its terrific triple threat combination making it great for people who don’t like musicals and even better for those who do. It’s the right show in the right venue with the right cast, and a rousing good time from beginning to end.

    The band, the vocals, and the blend all sound great (yes, it is loud so be prepared) under the musical direction of David O. He’s one of best of the best when it comes to local musical directors – in all musical styles – and this show is no exception.

    The venue is Asylum at The Dragonfly, a nightclub where the music rocks, the bar stays open during the show, and the atmosphere is decidedly dark and fringy. It’s perfect for Gary Stockdale and Spencer Green’s homage to the aphorisms that define our lives, all printed on little sticky pieces of paper and proudly plastered on the cars we drive.

    The lyric to the opening number says it all. “People know what you are by what you stick on your car,” and in the next 90 minutes you’ll meet 8 outstanding singer/actors playing a wide range of drivers (and a few assorted passengers) who come from all walks of life. Somewhere in there, you’re bound to see yourself.

    Catchphrases like “My Other Car is a Porsche” and “My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student” set up comic riffs on the insecurities and hopes of adults and parents everywhere. “I ♥ ____” sung by huggy bear Lamont Dozier, Jr. is a satisfying ode to the things we love but with a humorous twist. He’s got the market cornered on that smooth Motown sound and between this number and his R&B charmer “Lose Weight Now, Ask Me How” you’re gonna fall for that voice.

    If by some reason you don’t, well you’d be crazy, but Jennifer Leigh Warren is coming up next with a big old dose of Gospel glory to the slogan “Honk if you Love Jesus.” There’s nothing like hearing her bring down the house, with a dashboard Jesus on the screen and a chorus of voices backing her up, revival style.

    Zachary Ford

    Zachary Ford plays all the radio DJs who interact with the drivers and connects the various scenes with an almost schizophrenic intensity while stepping in and out of the action.

    Trucker Bill’s (Eliot Hochberg) slogan “Gas, Grass or Ass, Nobody Rides for Free” turns into a challenge à la Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” when he picks up a pretty young thing (Lauren Rubin) who may seem shy at first but can bite off an armadillo’s ear, conquer quantum physics, and still look like the Mudflap Girl by the time the song’s done.
    The cast of Bumpersticker: The Musical

    The show also pokes fun at current issues like immigration in a reggae version of “America is Full, Go Home” featuring Jahmaul Bakare, and freedom of speech, a hot button right now given the political landscape, in “America, Love it or Leave it.” “Free Speech is great unless someone’s feelings get hurt,” says Ford as patriotism and rebellion clash heads. The song eventually turns into a steamy dance duet with Ford and Lady Liberty (Lauren Rubin) in the vein of “Steam Heat.” It’s a great blend of jazzy 1950’s musical theatre and BDSM, thanks to director/choreographer Michele Spears. Spears is one of the founding members of the LA-based improv company Impro Theatre, and she stages the show with a delicious blend of smarts and sass.

    In “Well Behaved Women Don’t Make History,” girl power and the ‘80s pop sound of Pat Benatar and Blondie’s Debbie Harry give a crazed assistant (Anne Yatco) the confidence to take control of her situation with some help from a friend (Nadia Ahern).

    Eliot Hochberg
    There are also very touching sequences featuring the Rainbow Equal Sign highlighting the strides we’ve made in the fight for gay marriage, a former serviceman beautifully singing about not taking his guns away, and a hat tip to the symbols that define us in “Coexist.” Musical theatre fans, listen for the nod to Godspell here and the dissonant chord on “what could go wrong” which is just one example of how well the music & lyrics work together to make the writers’ point.

    Each of these little story songs is a complete look at a life or a belief and together they become a microcosm of the planet. All facets of the human condition are represented in Bumpersticker’s message. You’re in for some laughs, great singing, crazy characters, touching moments and a final reminder that will leave you encouraged about your fellow travelers.

    Without a doubt, if you want to know what makes a person tick, just look at their bumper sticker.


    BUMPERSTICKER THE MUSICAL
    Through June 23, 2016
    Asylum @ The Dragonfly (Main Stage)
    6510 Santa Monica Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90038
    Tickets: $15 at http://hff16.org/3687

    The cast of Bumpersticker: The Musical

    Zachary Ford and Lauren Rubin

    Jahmaul Bakare, Eliot Hochberg, Anne Yatco, Nadia Ahern
     and Jennifer Leigh Warren
    Lauren Rubin and the cast of Bumpersticker: The Musical

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    A Feast of Snacks
    consists of four short musical comedies written by Michael Gordon Shapiro packaged into a complete one hour presentation. The unrelated stories run the gamut from sweet and endearing to wacky and weird with heavy emphasis on tickling your funny bone. The best of the bunch musically is HMS Headwind, a twist on one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular comic operas, HMS Pinafore, a swashbuckling tale of adventure and lady pirates.


    Overall, performances are broad and loud, sometimes hilariously so, but for the random actor who over-reaches for the comedy or forces the vocals. Director Julia Plostnieks hits all the right notes with her staging and Lindsay Braverman’s choreography is full of spunk. Theatre Unleashed brings a high fun factor to the silliness making it a great addition to the Fringe. Through June 25 at the Lounge Theatre. http://hff16.org/3796

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    There isn’t a woman alive who can’t relate to Brenda Varda’s one woman musical, Nine Dresses: Sex, Death, Fashion, which takes on the subject of fashion in a very personal and humorous way. The title refers to the nine dresses every woman has in her closet. You know, the ones with the tags still on them. The ones that make us feel better simply by purchasing them, regardless of whether we have ever worn them or not. Each one has a personality and Varda lets us in on the back story of some of her favorite unworn garments in this intimate session of girl talk. 

    Joined by Nick Morabito on upright bass, Varda sings and also plays piano. She’s got Marilyn Monroe’s blend of sexy sweetness and awkward innocence, as well as Kate Bush’s striking vocal style (think “Hammer Horror”) The combination of the two is unpredictable enough that you’re never quite sure what she’ll do next. Plus, she is a warm and likable storyteller whose easy rapport with the audience makes you feel like youve known her for years.

    The show could use some polishing but anyone who can spend half her time on stage in her underwear and still keep talking gets my vote for bravery. Funny and sweet, touching and endearingly honest, it’s the kind of show that’s about much more than just changing clothes. But for that, you’ll need to see it for yourself. Through June 25 at Sacred Fools Black Box. www.hff16.org/3820



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    The cast of Thug Tunnel. Photo by Matt Kamimura

    Thug Tunnel’s improv roots serve it exceedingly well. Comedians – especially those skilled in improvisation – approach comedy and comic timing differently than other actors do. Here the technique results not only in a show that is smart but exceptionally appealing as well. It’s a great example of what wild imagination, a commitment to getting a little down and dirty, and reveling in the joy of the art itself, can do. If you want to understand the kind of funny becoming more and more in demand today or to attract a younger audience, this show is a great example of what works.

    Produced by the musical improv group Robot Teammate & The Accidental Party, the production grew out of an improvised sketch they performed at iO West. An audience member called out the title and these comedy thugs took the idea and ran with it. Cut to three years later and it has now been turned it into a clever one-hour scripted musical with genuinely unexpected lyrics (Molly Dworsky) and a score (Sam Johnides, with additional composition by Branson NeJame) that may seem simple but is deceptively complex.

    Photo by Chris Sousa
    The story follows a set of unfortunate characters trapped underground for more than twenty years and an enterprising young woman (Kat Primeau as Petunia) who wants to return to the earth’s surface, aided by her bestie (Chris Bramante) [pictured right]. Standing in the way are a one-handed villain (Dave Reynolds) and a coloratura queen (Nikki Muller) who rule the tunnels with an iron fist, a girl who glows mysteriously from within (Molly Dworsky), and a blind seer (Miles Crosman) who may or may not be a friend.

    Directors Dworsky and Reynolds set the tone in the very first comic ensemble number and then follow through over and over again. Primeau’s choreography is feisty and executed ferociously by the company who are, in total, a pretty irresistible bunch.

    The whole show is a little absurd and kind of wrong but so completely hilarious that you’ll be hooked from the get-go. Its rough edges actually benefit the production and there is a certain guerrilla intensity to it all that I loved. An extension is most certainly in the works and, if that happens, book it immediately.

    One other note: this show does something else I haven’t seen before at the Fringe that other companies may want to consider in the future. Fans love stuff and fans love to buy stuff. Thug Tunnel is capitalizing on its popularity by selling swag before the show at very reasonable prices. Signed posters, stickers, patches, and T-shirt sales are a smart move to add a few dollars to the bottom line. http://hff16.org/3671

    Center L-R: Chris Bramante, Kat Primeau and Dave Reynolds with the cast
    Photo by Matt Kamimura

    L-R: Kat Primeau, Chris Bramante, Miles Crosman and Molly Dworsky
    Photo by Matt Kamimura

    Dave Reynolds and Nikki Muller. Photo by Matt Kamimura

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    Original sci-fi musical comedy The Cure to Mortality has one more performance left on the Hollywood Fringe Festival schedule. You can catch the show June 25th at 7:30 pm at Asylum @ McCadden Theatre. The futuristic musical farce explores what happens to society when science takes the possibility of eternal life seriously. It marks the playwriting debut for Katy Erin, who stars in the show along with Sandra Diana Cantu, Mary Ann Pianka, Brookelyn Rose, and Molly Gilman (who also directs). Music is by Katy Erin and Christoffer Schunk. Tickets: http://hff16.org/3522.



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    Nathan Ondracek and Max Lichtig. All photos by Matt Kamimura

    This is a show that hasn’t yet decided what it wants to be. While it’s clear the company has put a great deal of effort into it and presents a polished, well-rehearsed production featuring strong vocals, some of the actors are playing it as a spoof and others are playing it straight. 

    According to the program notes, it is meant to be noir and the most interesting and successful scenes are those that honor director Julia Lisa’s vision. Max Lichtig (Carter) and Nathan Ondracek (Roger) nail the tone, as does Emily Decker (Zelda) as the sultry leading lady but most of the others are selling their performances and songs big and bouncy with a very contemporary delivery.

    It isn’t completely their fault. Writer/composer Dan Sugi has given them conflicting styles of music and ultimately the two don’t work – at least not as currently written.

    A sexy muted trumpet (Matt Von Roderick) underscores dialogue scenes and is used as change music which places the show beautifully in the jazzy noir period. Indeed, it is one of best features of the piece.

    Jarring, however, is the number of times that flow is interrupted to jump into an artificially bright musical theatre song that immediately takes you out of the noir world and drops you in a generic alley somewhere way off Broadway. Many of the songs have prosody issues (which may be why the actors are forgetting their lyrics) and there are several that, while a fun solo feature for the actor, contribute nothing to the story and should be cut. The running time of the show is two hours but this should really be a one-act musical without an intermission since there isnt a major plot twist at the act break as it stands now.

    Still, there is enough at the core of the show to continue its development. I’d love to see this musical live up to its potential. Before it can do that though, it needs an outside objective eye. More info: http://hff16.org/3595.

    Max Lichtig and Lauren Byrd

    Martin Feldman, and Emily Decker

    Lauren Byrd and Nathan Ondracek

    Max Lichtig and Emily Decker

    Nick Rubando and Max Lichtig

    Lauren Byrd and Martin Feldman

    Arielle Fodor, Nick Rubando, Adam Lau, Emily Decker
    and Samantha Bussard

    Nathan Ondracek

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    Megan McGinnis as Marianne Dashwood and Peter Saide as Willoughby.
    All photos by Liz Lauren, courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater

    Tony Award nominee Paul Gordon(Emma, Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs) and director Barbara Gaines have refashioned Jane Austen’s timeless classic Sense and Sensibility into a gorgeous, thrillingly romantic musical which will make its west coast premiere at The Old Globe in San Diego beginning July 6. Gaines is artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the company that commissioned the production, where it had its world premiere in April 2015. It was developed in with CST creative producer, Rick Boynton.

    Megan McGinnis (whom you’ll remember from Daddy Long Legs) stars as Marianne Dashwood and Sharon Rietkerk as Elinor Dashwood in Austen’s story of two sisters who lose their fortune, their home, and all their prospects following their father’s untimely death. But fortunes can turn again, and these plucky heroines will face their situation with courage and resolve in this new musical featuring another ravishing score by Paul Gordon.

    Among others, the cast will also star Emily Berman as Lucy Steele, Sean Allan Krill as Colonel Brandon, Colin Morgan as Mr. Harris, Brian Ray Norris as Lord Middleton, Peter Saide as Mr. Willoughby, David Schlumpf as John Dashwood, Paula Scrofano as Mrs. Jennings, Elizabeth Telford as Miss Grey, Jill Van Velzer as Fanny Dashwood, and Wayne Alan Wilcox as Edward Ferrars. Show runs July 6 – Aug 14 (opening night 7/14). Tickets are available by calling (619) 234-5623 or online at www.TheOldGlobe.org.

    Megan McGinnis and Sharon Rietkerk as Marianne and Elinor Dashwood

    Sean Allan Krill as Colonel Brandon

    Megan McGinnis

    Wayne Wilcox as Edward Ferrars and Sharon
    Rietkerk as Elinor Dashwood 

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    Valerie Perri stars as Dolly Levi in 3-D Theatricals’ revival of Hello Dolly! which plays July 15 - 31 at Fullerton’s historic Plummer Auditorium. Following its performances in Fullerton, the production will open at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center for a second run on Aug 5. Ken Sawyer directs and choreography is by Leslie Stevens. Musical director is Diane King Vann.

    Based on Thornton Wilder’s  play The Matchmaker, Hello Dolly! features music and lyrics by Jerry Herman (Mame, La Cage aux Folles) and a book by Michael Stewart (Bye Bye Birdie, 42nd Street). It ran for nearly 3,000 performances on Broadway, won 10 Tony Awards in 1964 including Best Musical, and the 1969 film version was nominated for 7 Academy Awards. Joining Perri is Robert Yacko as Horace Vandergelder, Gary Patent as Cornelius Hackl, Afton Quast as Irene Molloy, Grace Yoo as Minnie Fay, and Chris Villain as Barnaby Tucker, and a cast of more than twenty. For tickets, visit www.3dt.org.

    Photo by Ed Krieger

    Casting has also been announced for the all-new production of Recorded in Hollywood opening at the Kirk Douglas Theatre July 16. A rare blend of R&B, rock and relevance, Recorded in Hollywood is the story of trailblazing Los Angeles entrepreneur and civil rights activist John Dolphin, who made his mark on the national music scene long before Motown existed. Written by Matt Donnelly and Jamelle Dolphin, the production features an ensemble of 21 performers, a six-piece live band, 15 original songs by Andy Cooper, and eight covers of songs launched in the legendary Dolphin’s of Hollywood record store on Central Avenue in South L.A.

    Cast members returning include Stu James reprising his role as John Dolphin; Eric B. Anthony as Percy Ivy; Jenna Gillepsie, who will portray Ruth Dolphin; and ensemble members Franklin Grace, Matthew Lewis Sims, Jr., Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield and Katherine Washington. New to this production are Wilkie Ferguson III in the role of Jesse Belvin; Thomas Hobson as Sam Cooke; Matt Magnusson as legendary DJ Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg; and Frank Lawson as Los Angeles Sentinel founding publisher Leon Washington, along with ensemble members Ashley Lynette Brown, Caitlin Gallogly, Gabi Hankins, Dylan Hoffinger, Alfred Jackson, Bren Thor Johnson, Ryan Murray, Joël René, Tyler Ruebensaal and Emily Zetterberg. www.RecordedInHollywood.com

    Photo by Eighty Eight Entertainment

    The Pasadena Playhouse presents Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, the musical story of an immigrant boy who gave the country its voice, July 21 - August 7 (opening night 7/22). The director is Trevor Hay, who collaborated with performer/creator Hershey Felder, on An American Story, Abe Lincoln’s Piano, Hershey Felder as Franz Liszt and The Pianist of Willesden Lane. The new play with music features lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and book by Hershey Felder and includes some of the composer’s most popular and enduring songs from “God Bless America” and “Always” to “White Christmas” and beyond, Hershey’s masterful creation of character and musical performance is an unforgettable journey. As Jerome Kern famously said, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music.” www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

    Congrats to Celebration Theater on their extension of The Boy from Oz which will continue performances through July 31st at the Lex Theatre. Directed by Michael A. Shepperd with choreography by Janet Roston, this show is sensational. You can read my review Here and get your tickets at www.celebrationtheatre.com.

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    Abby Mueller in Beautiful. All photos by Joan Marcus

    It was a Tony Award-winning vehicle for Jessie Mueller who played Carole King on Broadway and now you’ll see her older sister, Abby, in the title role in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical during its three and a half week national tour stop at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. “She’s the kind of woman you know you’d be friends with if you met her,” I said to my guest as we exited the theater after the performance. And in that moment, I realized I wasn’t sure if I meant Mueller or King. The sentiment pretty much applies to both.

    Baby boomers who grew up alongside King, and those who hear the ache of their own lives in the songs she wrote, can’t afford to miss this production which is satisfying on so many levels. As a soundtrack to a generation that saw women come into their own, it is endlessly inspiring, and for the many women who took comfort in her songs, it is an emotionally fulfilling experience. 

    The music reflects both the joy and pain of King and her husband/lyricist Gerry Goffin’s (Liam Tobin) relationship, from awkward high school meeting and the beginning of their songwriting partnership through marriage, infidelity, divorce, and her eventual coming out as one of the top female solo artists of her time. It is genuinely full of heart and grounded in a reality that resonates with anyone who has felt the sting of love gone wrong.

    Abby Mueller and Liam Tobin

    King never meant to be a singer. Songwriting was always her aspiration and she was content collaborating with her husband and writing hits for groups like The Drifters and The Shirelles. But as she says in the opening scene during her 1971 concert at Carnegie Hall, life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan. And happily for us, that means a rich body of work whose impact continues to resonate today.

    Douglas McGrath’s book illuminates the back story to songs like the couple’s breakout hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Locomotion,” eventually made famous by their real-life babysitter Little Eva, “Up on the Roof” describing the one place Gerry could find relief from his difficulties growing up, and “One Fine Day,” which captures the bittersweet poignancy of their crumbling marriage.

    From Brooklyn to the big city to the suburbs to L.A., the story unfolds with a graceful authority that highlights not only King’s vulnerability but her inner fortitude as well. Mueller channels the essence of her muse, both vocally and in her acting, with self-deprecating charm. She’s just so honest and likeable. 

    Even Tobin (who sings beautifully) is irresistible and that’s no mean feat when one is playing the philandering husband. They have great chemistry and at any given moment you can see both the surface and the depth of their feelings.

    The musical also chronicles the work of fellow songwriters Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig) who were King and Goffin’s close friends and occupied an adjoining studio at Don Kirshner’s (Curt Bouril) 1650 Broadway offices. They bloomed a little later as a duo but when they did they produced such hits as “On Broadway,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “We’ve Gotta Get Out of this Place.” Mann’s hypochondria and Weil’s witty comebacks add a great deal of humor to the story and Gulsvig and Fankhouser excel at providing comic relief.

    L-R: Dashaun Young, Paris Nix, Josh A. Dawson and Noah J. Ricketts

    Of course, that also comes from the care with which director Marc Bruni has crafted the musical and choreographer Josh Prince has staged the movement. Scenes move seamlessly from one to the next on Derek McLane’s stylish set which is more detailed than you’d normally see for a touring production. The design incorporates the geometric textures of the seventies and its gold and earth-toned color palette with the contrasting “on stage” world of bubble gum colored performances by the performers in bright pinks, blue and purples. Several delightful costume transitions add a bit of surprise and a gentle Vermont snowfall brings a smile. Bruni balances it all and never loses sight of the tenderness within the story.

    L-R: Curt Bouril, Liam Tobin, Abby Mueller, Ben Fankhauser,
    Becky Gulsvig and the Company

    “When I hear a good song, I feel like someone understands me,” says a young Carole to explain why she wanted to become a songwriter. Listening to her music again and hearing her story in Beautiful, you’ll walk away feeling the same way about her. It’s no wonder she made the earth move with her music.

    Eventually you’ll be able to see a film adaptation of the musical, which is in development by Tom Hanks’ production company and Sony Pictures, but it will be several years until it is completed. For now, do yourself a favor and see this heartwarming slice of pop culture heaven live at the Hollywood Pantages. It only runs through July 17. 

    Abby Mueller (right) w/ Britney Coleman, Sarah Bockel and Ashley Blanchet

    L-R: Abby Mueller, Becky Gulsvig, Ben Fankhauser and Liam Tobin

    Abby Mueller as Carole King

    BEAUTIFUL - The Carole King Musical
    June 22 – July 17, 2016
    Hollywood Pantages
    6233 Hollywood Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90028
    Tickets: www.hollywoodpantages.com 
    Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes (including intermission)

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    Chance Theater’s production of A Chorus Line runs through July 31 on the Cripe Stage @ Bette Aitken theater arts Center. It is directed by Chance’s artistic director Oanh Nguyen, choreographed by Hazel Clarke, and features music direction by Ryan O’Connell. Tickets are available at www.chancetheater.org. All photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio.


    Kristen Daniels, John Wells III, Tina Nguyen, Ben Heustess, Tatiana Alvarez,
    Camryn Zelinger, Ben Heustess, Ashley Arlene Nelson and Dannielle Green

    Tina Nguyen, Robbie Lundegard and Tatiana Alvarez

    Joseph Ott, Emily Abeles, Christopher Mosley, Victoria Rafael and Brandon Carter

    Brandon Carter, Victoria Rafael, Xavier Castaneda, and Angeline Mirenda

    Emily Abeles, Victora Rafael, Brandon Carter, Xavier Castaneda and Angeline Mirenda

    Ben Green and Tatiana Alvarez

    Ben Heustess, Camryn Zelinger, Ashley Arlene Nelson and Dannielle Green

    Emily Abeles, Victoria Rafael, Brandon Carter and Xavier Castaneda

    Tatiana Alvarez, Camryn Zelinger, Ben Heustess, and Ashley Arlene Nelson

    Victoria Rafael, Dannielle Green, Robbie Lundegard, Calvin Brady, Xavier Castaneda,
    Tina Nguyen, Tatiana Alvarez, John Wells III, Christopher Mosley and Emily Abeles

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    AVATAR, TORUK - The First Flight, the new Cirque du Soleil touring production inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar is coming to Southern California for a few short days in November. Written and directed by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, it will play the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, November 2-6, and at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, November 11-13.

    The show transports the audience to the world of Pandora in a visually stunning storytelling odyssey. Through a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and “makes the bond” between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination.

    This live immersive experience is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic coexistence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things. Narrated by a Na’vi Storyteller and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film Avatar, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

    All photos by Errisson Lawrence ©2015 Cirque du Soleil. Costume credit: Kym Barrett

    When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omaticaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.

    The creative team includes 13 creators under the artistic guidance of Guy Laliberté (Guide) and Jean-François Bouchard (Creative Guide) for Cirque du Soleil, and James Cameron, Jon Landau, Kathy Franklin and Richie Baneham for Lightstorm Entertainment: Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, Show writers & Directors/ Multimedia Directors; Neilson Vignola, Director of Creation; Carl Fillion, Set and Props Designer; Kym Barrett, Costume and Makeup Designer; Tuan Le and Tan Loc; Choreographers; Bob & Bill, Composers and Musical Directors; Jacques Boucher, Sound Designer; Alain Lortie, Lighting Designer; Patrick Martel, Puppet Designer; Germain Guillemot, Acrobatic Performance Designer; Pierre Masse, Rigging and Acrobatic Equipment Designer.

    Avatar, Toruk – The First Flight is part of a global tour which started in November 2015. The show in Ontario is presented by Visa Signature® and the show in Los Angeles is presented by Visa Signature® in association with Korean Air SKYPASS Visa®.

    For tickets and more information go to www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk.









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    Direct from Broadway, Roundabout Theatre Company’s national tour of Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret will play the Hollywood Pantages Theatre July 19 – August 7. Directed by Sam Mendes and co-directed & choreographed by Rob Marshall, the show takes you to the decadent Kit Kat Klub where the Emcee, Sally Bowles and a raucous ensemble tantalize the crowd nightly. But as life in pre-WWII Germany grows more and more uncertain, the question remains as to whether or not the allure of Berlin nightlife will be enough to get them through their dangerous times. Tickets: www.hollywoodpantages.com

    Andrea Goss as Sally Bowles and the cast of Cabaret

    Andrea Goss and Girls

    Randy Harrison as The Emcee

    Randy Harrison and cast

    Andrea Goss and the girls

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    Garry Marshall, film and television writer, director, and actor, has passed away at the age of 81, at 5:00pm on Tuesday July 19 from complications of pneumonia following a stroke at a hospital in Burbank, California.

    Mr. Marshall created the hit sitcoms Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy, as well as directing 18 films, including Beaches, Overboard, The Princess Diaries, Mother’s Day, and Pretty Woman, for which Mr. Marshall was the revising for a Broadway-bound musical.

    He was born in The Bronx, New York, and was a proud graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School and Northwestern University. Marshall is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, nurse Barbara Sue Marshall, two sisters, Ronny Hallin and Penny Marshall, three children, Lori, a writer, Kathleen, a theatre producer, and Scott, a film and TV director, as well as six grandchildren, and his live theatre, the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California.

    Funeral services will be private. A memorial is being planned for his birthday on November 13. The family requests no flowers. Donations in the name of Garry Marshall can be made to The Saban Community Clinic, formerly known as the Los Angeles Free Clinic, The Intensive Care Unit at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, and Northwestern University Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.

    He loved telling stories, making people laugh, and playing softball, winning numerous championships. Even at age 81, he had a record this year of 6 - 1 pitching for his team.

    Dim the lights for a wonderful, kind, charming man of Hollywood. We will all miss seeing you at the theater.

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    L-R: Megan McGinnis (Marianne Dashwood) and Sharon Rietkerk (Elinor Dashwood)
    Photo by Liz Lauren, courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

    This past week I saw two different musicals that have taken their inspiration from classic Jane Austen novels and, while completely different in size and scale, both have considerable merits. The first is in San Diego where Paul Gordon’s to-die-for new musical Sense and Sensibility is gracing the stage at The Old Globe.

    Produced in association with Chicago Shakespeare Theater and directed by Barbara Gaines, it is a gold mine for lovers of Austen’s epic romances, and this gorgeously appointed production soars.

    With only a few bold strokes, scenic designer Kevin Depinet captures the sweeping elegance of Austen’s late 18th century England before the performance even begins. The effect of his choices, such as a swirling floor-to-ceiling flourish and oversized gilt-framed portraits that dramatically fly in and out, create movement and a seamless integration with the storytelling that somehow feels just right.

    Add Susan E. Mickey’s absolutely ravishing costumes and a rich lighting design by Donald Holder and this three dimensional cutout world literally springs to life out of the darkness.

    The adaptation centers all of its attention on the two elder Dashwood sisters and their tenuous situation following the death of their father. Elinor (Sharon Rietkerk) is the sensible one, somewhat reserved and always responsible, while the younger Marianne (Megan McGinnis) is of a more passionate and willful nature. By story’s end, each will need to expand her view of the world to include a bit of the other’s outlook on life in order to find love. But no matter their trials, this is Austen so we know where we’re headed. It’s the getting there that makes the story so much fun.

    Gordon’s gift for bringing characters to life is evident in the way he has written the sisters. Their relationship is honest and believable, their loyalty to each other sincere. Rietkerk and McGinnis also sing beautifully and when their voices come together in duets like “Lavender Drops” and “Somewhere in Silence,” we hear some of Gordon’s most satisfying harmonies.

    Sean Allan Krill. Photo by Liz Lauren

    The men are equally as distinct, from the dashing but ultimately fickle Willoughby (Peter Saide), to the easily flustered Edward Ferrars (Wayne Alan Wilcox) to the somewhat stiff Colonel Brandon (Sean Allan Krill, whose comic ability is on full display in “Wrong Side of Five and Thirty.”) He is irresistible.

    Without a doubt, this lovely Austen musical will easily win over even the least hopeless romantic in the audience with its heavenly music, gorgeous voices, quirky comedy, and a story that will make you tear up more than once. A road trip south for this Austen musical is just the flight of fancy you need. Through August 14, 2016. www.theoldglobe.org

    Closer to home, the scrappy young After Hours Theatre Company is mounting a contemporary twist on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Hollywood. It’s titled I Love You Because and features book & lyrics by Ryan Cunningham and music by Joshua Salzman.

    In this version the writers have done a gender switch with Elizabeth Bennet becoming Austin Bennett and Mr. Darcy now Marcy Darcy. Their approach is a modern one with the story set in New York City, present day, as it takes on the judgements and complications of the dating world.

    Austin MacPhee and Aly French. Photo by Bryan Carpender

    It isn’t nearly as sophisticated as Gordon’s Sense and Sensibility and its more loosely-adapted book does feel a bit dated (the musical was first presented at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival in 2005). What makes it work in this instance is director Rebecca Kenigsberg’s likable cast and some luscious arrangements of Larry Hochman’s original orchestrations by musical director Elmo Zapp.

    Instead of two sisters we have two best friends, Marcy (Aly French), a no-nonsense photographer, and Diana (Shelley Regner), an actuary, who lives her life by the numbers. Marcy has recently broken up with her douchebag boyfriend and is heartbroken while Diana is simply looking to find someone to have a little fun with.

    The pair reminded me of a young Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, so engaging is their friendship, and French bears a striking resemblance to Poehler. Along comes socially awkward Austin (Austin MacPhee), also recently uncoupled, and his malapropism-prone brother Jeff (Nick Bredonsky). From the moment they meet, it’s ‘let the dating games begin.’

    A bright, optimistic opening number sets the tone of the piece. Elmo Zapp takes the score and re-orchestrates it, adding strings to amp up the emotional impact, eliminating reeds where they sound hollow, and expanding the textures to create a deeper richness all the way around. Marcy’s Act I finale “Just Not Now” (with Zapp on electric cello) and Austin’s eleven o’clock number “Goodbye” are particularly well-suited to his style. His treatment of the quartet “But I Do,” which is all about disappointment, is haunting in its lack of resolution. 

    Scenes alternate between New York apartments and the bar/coffee shop where the couples gather. Act I is somewhat repetitious but when the characters begin to drop their guard in Act II it starts to pick up speed. Two additional utility actors cover all the different baristas, bartenders, and other generic characters but they are an unnecessary distraction. Most of their time is spent watching the main couples and in this intimate space it only serves to pull focus and distract from the story.

    Still, there is something charming about the production that makes it appealing on a number of levels. This fresh, young theatre company is on the right track by choosing a musical that will easily appeal to its peers. It’s a lighthearted look at love and romance, and that’s something we can all relate to. Through August 7, 2016. Ticket Link

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    Derek DelGaudio. All photos by Jeff Lorch Photography

    “willing suspension of disbelief” --the willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. 

    In 1817, “poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ and suggested that if a writer could infuse a ‘human interest and a semblance of truth’ into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.” [Wikipedia]

    It’s a concept I couldn’t help thinking about while watching Derek DelGaudio’s world premiere of In & Of Itself at Geffen Playhouse last week. The show lives somewhere in that make-believe realm between magic and theatre where what you see isn’t real but presents itself to be so, and it is up to you to determine what your experience will be. I found it to be as thought-provoking as any piece of theatre I’ve ever seen and as revelatory in its awe-inspiring moments as any magic act I’ve ever witnessed.

    It is an experience that will change you, or at the very least, change how you see yourself in relationship to the world. And isn’t that why we go to the theatre? In & Of Itself is a rare entertainment where magic and theatre have evolved into a new form of art.

    DelGaudio created the show and it is directed by Frank Oz, the much-loved puppeteer who brought to life many iconic characters for The Muppets and Sesame Street, as well as Jedi Master Yoda for the Star Wars series of films. Perhaps it isn’t so surprising then that the very humanity found in In & Of Itself should be one of its most memorable characteristics. Windows in a wall or windows into the soul...they aren’t all that different when you stop and think about it.

    The production has been extended five times but is now in its final weeks and will close August 28. This kind of performance doesn’t come around very often. Don’t miss out.

    As a character, DelGaudio is a bit of an enigma. He is quiet and even somewhat unassuming, with the studied composure of a man who knows the value of underplaying a moment. He moves slowly, carefully, and he intentionally lets his words linger in the air, which only serves to heighten their effect on the listener. Where most magic acts are showy and built to impress with applause-inducing flash and splash,” he instead takes the contrary route, an alchemical inward journey both heady and hypnotic that, for my money, leaves a deeper impression.

    Even now, several days after seeing it, I continue to reflect on the show’s philosophical forks in the road: the weight of our secrets, who I think I am, and how I choose to see what I see…because, he reminds us, it is always a choice. 

    This point of view, like everything in DelGaudio’s show, is unexpected. The illusions woven into his theatrical narrative flow seamlessly – almost matter-of factly – out of his storytelling. I’m loathe to say much about the actual content because the very fact that you don’t know what you’re in for throws you ever so slightly off balance. Relaxing into that place of not knowing can be difficult in our fast-paced, results-driven world but it carries a great payoff in this instance.

    What I will say is that the Geffen’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater has been completely reconfigured to create an intimate and antiquated cigar box setting worthy of the wholly original experience. I guarantee you’ve not heard these stories before nor seen them integrated with such poetic grace.

    Adding to the show’s ethereal nature is a mesmerizing sound design composed by Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh and an illusory, almost spectral, lighting design by Adam Blumenthal. More than the sum of its parts, each decision enhances the overall effect and delivers on the show’s promise. And for a production whose very title is an idiom with no meaning, that is rather astonishing.

    L-R: Producer Glenn Kaino, Derek DelGaudio, and Frank Oz



    IN & OF ITSELF

    Through August 28, 2016
    Geffen Playhouse
    10886 Le Conte Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90024
    www.geffenplayhouse.com

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    The B Productions’ modern twist on Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s Little Shop of Horrors plays one more weekend at the NoHo Arts Center. Directed by Brianna McDonnell, with musical direction by Lindsay Aldana and choreography by Logan Allison& Sam Mejia, the musical is now set in the not-so-distant past, before technology was readily at our fingertips. Here, Seymour and the residents of Skid Row face a threat far greater than human existence and plant-based, recycled, technology is the way of the future…Or is it? Through August 7. Tickets and more information: www.thebproductions.com.



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    Pasadena Playhouse has announced the cast for its upcoming production of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’s The Fantasticks, directed by Seema Sueko. Show runs Sept 6 – Oct 2, with opening night on Sept 11. Starring as El Gallo is Philip Anthony-Rodriguez, with Conor Guzmán and Ashley Park as young lovers Matt and Luisa, Regi Davis and Gedde Watanabe as their fathers Bellomy and Hucklebee, Alyse Rockett as The Mute, Amir Talai as Mortimer, and Hal Linden as Henry. Musical direction is by David O and choreography is by Kitty McNamee. Perhaps most exciting is that Sueko has a new vision for the show, one she has worked with lyricist & bookwriter Tom Jones to create. Their discussions even prompted Jones to rewrite several sections of the musical some sixty years later.

    Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse says, “Seema and her creative team have brought together a wonderfully diverse, talented, charming, and persuasive cast for our production of this much loved musical. I have no doubt that the entire company will bring both freshness and immediacy to this great classic that will have audiences not just rediscovering the show, but in fact seeing it as if for the first time. I very much look forward to their contributions to this true gem of a musical.” www.pasadenaplayhouse.org


    Triage Productions and Standing Room Only Productions are getting ready to open Next To Normal at Pico Playhouse this weekend. The production will feature a live five-piece band conducted by music director Taylor Stephenson and stars Isa Briones (Natalie), Michelle Lane (Diana), Harrison Meloeny (Gabe), Randal Miles (Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine), Blaine Miller (Henry), and Nick Sarando (Dan) directed by Thomas James O’Leary. Next to Normal runs Aug 18 – Sept 25 (opening night Friday, August 19 at 8pm). There will be a Q&A Talk-back after the Sunday matinees on 8/21, 9/4 & 9/18. Ticket Link

    La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment begin their 2016-2017 season with the LA Premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Glenn Casale directs, musical direction is by Dennis Castellano, and choreography is by Dana Solimando. Show runs Sept 16 – Oct 9 (opening night Saturday, Sept 17). Bookwriter Peter Parnell has adapted the story from the Victor Hugo novel and I love the gorgeous score by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. For the first time, Quasimodo -- who is deaf in the original novel -- will be played by a deaf actor, John McGinty. Joining him are Dino Nicandros as the singing voice of Quasimodo, Cassie Simone as Esmeralda, Mark Jacoby as Frollo, Keith A. Bearden as Clopin, Eric Kunze as Phoebus, and an ensemble of fourteen. With Stephen Gifford designing the set and Jared Sayeg providing the lighting, this is sure to be a winner. www.lamiradatheatre.com

    Teen musical Generation Me (music by Will Finan, lyrics by Julie Soto) was an unexpected hit when it played the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2014 and a production I’ll never forget. Now it’s back, with a new cast and updated material, opening at the Hudson Theater Sept 16. The show follows 15-year-old Milo Reynolds who had it all: a seat at the popular table, the perfect girlfriend, the “coolest” parents, and friends who worshiped him. But when Milo kills himself on Monday morning, his friends and family are left questioning everything they thought they knew about him. Told in flashbacks that reveal Milo’s story like a mystery, Generation Me identifies a generation more privileged, self-interested, oblivious, and lonelier than ever. Recommended for ages 13 and older. Please note there is no late seating for this production. Sept 16 – Oct 9. Ticket Link

    And in Ventura, Rubicon Theatre celebrates folk-rock trailblazers Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro in Back to the Garden, part of its Janet and Mark L. Goldenson Broadway Musical Concert Series. Headlining the show areMelissa Hammans, Shaleah Adkisson, Maddy Wyatt, and Sue Terwilligeron guitar, directed byAmy Joneswith musical direction by Debra Barsha. The ladies have played to sold-out theatres across the country and will appear at the Rubicon for 3 performances on Saturday, August 20 (2pm & 8pm) and Sunday, August 21 (2 pm). Tickets are $69.50 for the general public, with a $5 discount using Code REP. (805) 667-2900, orwww.rubicontheatre.org.

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    NEW SEASONS

    Valley Performing Arts Center launches its 2016-2017 season with a one night only performance of Jerry Herman’s Dear World starring Tyne Daly as Countess Aurelia, Friday, Sept 30 at 8pm. This concert version of the show was created specifically for VPAC by veteran producer Suzi Dietz and will be directed by Emmy Award winner David Lee. Darryl Archibald will make his VPAC debut as musical director. Daly leads a cast of 13 performers, accompanied by a live 25-piece orchestra and a student chorus. The Broadway Series at Valley Performing Arts Center continues with Kelli O’Hara in concert, October 14, West Side Story, March 10 – 12, 2017 and Man of La Mancha May 5 – 7, 2017. www.valleyperformingartscenter.org

    Latino Theatre Company celebrates its 30th anniversary by presenting Evelina Fernández’s award-winning trilogy, Faith, Hope and Charity, in its entirety as one unforgettable tour de force - A Mexican Trilogy: An American Tale. You can choose to experience the epic adventure over the course of two evenings or as one all-day immersive experience (box dinners available for purchase). Directed by Latino Theater Company’s artistic director José Luis Valenzuela, it features musical direction by Rosino Serrano and choreography by Urbanie Lucero. A Mexican Trilogy runs Sept 8 – Oct 9 (opening night 9/15).


    A Mexican Triilogy: Faith. Photo by Pablo Santiago

    The story follows the Morales family through decades of the Mexican-American experience, from a remote mining town in Arizona during World War II, to the Phoenix family home during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and, finally to Los Angeles following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005. Compelling, funny, with songs and a splash of magical realism, it touches on aspects of tradition, religion, labor issues, war and the clash between immigrants and their first and second generation American offspring. In just five hours, the twelve-actor ensemble portrays members of the Morales family over the course of 90 years and four generations. As the years fly by, we recognize the music of each era in classic songs ranging from the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller, to the Isley Brothers and Elvis, to Jimi Hendrix, all sung live. Cast stars Lucy Rodriguez, Olivia Cristina Delgado, Esperanza America, Ella Saldaña North, Sal Lopez, Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez, Julio Macias, Sam Golzari, Evelina Fernández, Robert Beltran, Xavi Moreno, and Geoffrey Rivas. For a complete schedule of dates and times visit www.thelatc.org.

    Panic! Productions kicks off its 2016-2017 season with Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown’s Parade, Sept 9 – 24 at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. David Daniels directs, with music direction by Ben Ginsberg, vocal direction by Marilyn Anderson, and choreography by Brance Souza. Broadway veteran Joshua Finkel stars as Leo Frank, with Dana Shaw playing his wife, Lucille. The musical dramatizes the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory owner accused of murdering a young girl in Atlanta, Georgia in 1913. It was sensationalized by the media and aroused anti-Semitic tensions in Atlanta and beyond. www.hillcrestarts.com

    NEW WORKS
    Overtone Industries, known for its development of contemporary music theatre and experimental opera, presents the next phase of its epic new multidisciplinary production, Iceland, in concert form, at the Ford Theatres’ newly renovated amphitheatre on Friday, October 7, 8:30pm. The new work is written and composed by O-Lan Jones, in collaboration with acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Emmett Tinley. It is a modern love story, set in a mythical and timeless world, where ancient creatures challenge the hero and heroine on an archetypal journey. The work begins in an Icelandic airport before journeying off the map of the known world, into the realm of “The Hiddenfolk” and the vast mythic inner landscapes of Iceland.

    Cesili Williams and the Hiddenfolk. Photo by Martha Benedict

    I saw the first half hour of the piece during REDCAT’s New Works Festival in 2014 and was quite taken with it. I’m excited to see this next phase of its development. This performance at The Ford will be the first time it will be heard with full orchestration and complete score. The performance is directed and choreographed by Ken Roht, with musical direction byDavid O. Cast includes Emmett Tinley as Mundi and Cesili Williams as Vala, with Patty Cornell, Matthew McCray, MJ Silva, and Silvie Zamora. www.fordtheatres.org

    The Old Globe’s 2016–2017 Season begins with October Sky, a tale of boys, rockets, and big dreams inspired by the beloved 1999 Universal Pictures film and Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr. Book is by Drama Desk nominee Brian Hill(The Story of My Life) and Aaron Thielen(Hero) and music is by Michael Mahler (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). It is directed by Rachel Rockwell and produced in association with Universal Stage Productions. Kyle Selig stars as Homer Hickam, Ron Bohmer as John Hickam, and Kerry O’Malley as Elsie Hickam. Cast also includes Rebecca Bellingham, Joel Blum, Will Branner, James Royce Edwards, Steve Gouveia, Kevyn Morrow, Austyn Myers, Destan Owens, Liam Quealy, Patrick Rooney, Connor Russell, Lance Arthur Smith, Betsy Stewart, Nick Sullivan, and more. Show runs Sept 10 - Oct 23.  www.TheOldGlobe.org

    El Molino Viejo celebrates its 200th year with a new adaptation of Zane Grey’s western romance The Light of Western Stars. The two hour world premiere play with music is adapted by Bob Colleary and directed by Billy Gill, produced by Allison Darby Gorjian and Betsy Roth, and developed and presented by Little Candle Productions. Can East Coast socialite Madeline Hammond tame the last corners of the Wild West when she follows in the footsteps of her runaway brother? Set in 1912 Arizona, see what happens when an independent, high-society woman and one of America’s last cowboys tussle. Performances are August 19, 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm at El Molino Viejo, 1120 Old Mill Road in San Marino. www.littlecandleproductions.com

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    MUSICAL CELEBRATION

    Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will host a free two-day celebration for the community on Sept 10 (2pm – 10 pm) and 11 (10am – 2pm) featuring performances by many of the artists who will be appearing in their 2016-17 season. WelcomeFest highlights will include Matthew Bourne, Michael Arden’s Pop-Up Sondheim, Deaf West Theatre, Films of Harold Lloyd, For The Record: Scorsese, Impro Theatre’s Twilight Zone Unscripted: Abridged, the Colburn School, Invertigo Dance Theatre and many more. Everything is free and it’s a great way to experience a taste of The Wallis’ wide variety of arts offerings. Discounted parking is available both days. For a complete schedule of performances and interactive activities, visit www.TheWallis.org/WelcomeFest.

    MUSICAL NEWS
    International City Theatre has announced its upcoming 2017 season, which begins with Forever Plaid, Feb 15 – March 5 (opening night 2/16). Always an audience favorite, it is the story of four young singers killed in a car crash on the way to their first-ever big concert who miraculously return to earth to fulfill their dream and perform the show after all, sixty years later. Written by Stuart Ross and featuring musical arrangements by James Raitt, Forever Plaid was first produced in 1990, yet remains one of the most popular and successful off-Broadway musicals in history. For a complete look at ICT’s 2017 season, visit www.internationalcitytheatre.org.

    Menopause The Musical® returns to the Laguna Playhouse for a two-week run, August 31 – Sept 11. Inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, the show was created as a celebration of women who find themselves at any stage of “The Change.” The fun, 90-minute production is designed to get audience members out of their seats and singing along to parodies from classic pop songs of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Set in a department store, four women meet by chance while shopping for a black lace bra at a lingerie sale. After noticing unmistakable similarities among one another, they end up commiserating about their woeful hot flashes, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain and much more. Produced by GFour Productions, it is hilarious from beginning to end. www.lagunaplayhouse.com

    The Barn Stage Company and Temecula Presents will stage Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus’ Chess in Concert at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater, Sept 1 – 4. The show will be accompanied by the 25-piece Temecula Valley Symphony Orchestra and is directed by J. Scott Lapp, with musical direction by John Mario Di Costanzo and choreography by April Henry. Cast includes Michael McCorry Rose as Anatoly Sergievsky, Louis Pardo as Freddy Trumper, Rena Strober as Florence Vassy, Elizabeth Brackenbury (Svetlana Sergievsky), Daniel Guzman (Alexander Molokov), Allen Everman (Walter de Courcey), Bryan Barbarin (The Arbiter), Jerry Alexander III, Ethan Park, Kelsie Piini, Ariana Ramirez, Amanda Restivo, Shealyn Sailors, Edred Utomi and Tanner Vidos. www.TheBarnStageCompany.com

    COLLEGE THEATRE
    The CSULB University Players will present Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s Stop the World I Want to Get Off as part of their 2016-2017 season. Show runs Oct 7 – 16 in the Studio Theatre and is directed by Joanne Gordon. The quirky, British musical is a tale of rags to riches that will take the audience on a journey of one man’s search for hope during his rise to fame. Cast includes Christian Sullivan as Littlechap and Alexandra Billings (ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, Amazon’s Transparent) in multiple roles as the many women in Littlechap’s life, with Maddie Larson, Asialani Holman, Kaleigh Clark, Bonnie Dolan, Asialani Holman, Likun Jing, Lara Lafferty, Maddie Larson, Tamanii Meeks, and Carolina Xique. Ticket Link

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