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Your Musical Theatre Resource for Southern California!

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    The legendary Harmony Boys return to LA for a one-night-only holiday concert at Woodshed Studios on Dec 18. Travel back to 1962 and join the boys as they present their annual yuletide fundraising concert to benefit their charity “Force Feed the World” (in which they shove food and their personal cultural and religious beliefs down the throats of the less fortunate during the holiday season). It's a singing, dancing, musical sketch comedy extravaganza brimming with heartfelt but provocative satire, at once evoking nostalgia for our nation’s past while dissecting its many shortcomings. The evening will also feature a Christmas Carol sing-a-long, a visit from Santa, plus a prize raffle and other surprises. Doors open at 6:30pm and the show begins at 8:00.
    www.harmonyboys2016


    Chromolume Theatre opens its 2017 season at the Attic with Tim Acito’s Zanna, Don’t!directed by Lauren J. Peters with choreography by Michael Marchak. Set in the Midwest, it is the story of a parallel universe where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is taboo. The show takes place at heterophobic Heartsville High where‘Magical Matchmaker’ Zanna brings together happy couples until the football team’s star quarterback and the captain of the Girls’ Intramural Mechanical Bull-Riding Team begin to discover their feelings for each other. Cast includes Michael Angel, Jason Bornstein, Jillian Easton, Lilly Elliot, Everjohn Feliciano, Michael Noah Levine, Vanessa Magula, Hayley Marshall, Ken Maurice Purcell, Mike Rose, and Jacob Zelonky. Jan 13 – Feb 5. www.crtheatre.com


    Motown the Musical returns to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre for a limited two-week run Jan 31 - Feb 12. With a book by Motown Founder Berry Gordy and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, it is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more. The show was recently nominated for eleven 2016 NAACP Theatre Awards, garnering four of the top awards at the 26th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards ceremony in November. www.HollywoodPantages.com

    Catch Matthew Morrison and his band on Saturday, Jan 14 (7:30pm) for an evening of standards and favorites at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Morrison made his Broadway debut in Footloose but his big break came when he was cast as heartthrob Link Larkin, originating the role in the hit Hairspray. He was later nominated for a Tony Award for his role in The Light in the Piazza. Morrison also starred as Mr. Schuester in the popular Fox musical comedy series Glee. www.thebroadstage.com

    Future Sex, Inc.(a new version of the earlier production Siamese Sex Show) will open in 2017 at The Lounge Theatre. The show blends Lady Gaga-esque popstar theatricality with Blade Runner’s dark comic vision to create a naughty pop musical that takes place in the dystopian future. The mysterious conglomerate Monocorp fabricates an epidemic condemning intimacy to profit from its “safe” new pseudo-sex product called the Love Light. At an underground “intimacy” speakeasy, four fallen popstars gather in collusion to plan their revenge against Monocorp’s devious CEO. The musical includes rap lyrics from hip-hop legend Kool Keith, Mistah Fab, and J Diggs and humorously explores the importance of connecting, and potential loss of, intimacy in an increasingly technological world. Jan. 27-Feb. 19. www.plays411.com/future

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    L-R: Katie Kitani, Katie DeShan, Rick Batalla, Joseph Leo Bwarie,
    Niles Rivers, and Cloie Wyatt Taylor. Photo by Sasha A. Venola

    Savvy theatre companies know the secret to success is simple: find your niche, do it better than anyone else, keep growing, and give the people what they want. Do those four things and you’ll be among the handful of companies who never want for an audience. Do it good-naturedly, with a healthy dose of humor, and you’ll work your way into the hearts of that audience so deeply they will claim you as their very own and follow you wherever you go.

    The Troubadour Theater Company is such a company. Their home base is the Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake where the late Garry Marshall– family man, beloved mentor, and cherished friend – always encouraged them to “give it a shot” and try new things. With his passing this year, the Troubies’ latest original work Little Drummer Bowie carries with it a touch of the bittersweet. 

    Their champion is no longer sitting in his usual corner seat grinning as the jokes fly fast and furiously from the stage. I can only imagine how much they miss him, though I’m sure he is still watching, albeit from a much loftier vantage point, and smiling, nonetheless. For the record… we, in the audience, miss him as well.


    Perhaps it is fitting then that Little Drummer Bowie, a Christmas story about the search for love and the importance of family is their musical of choice for 2016, a year in which we also lost pop icon and glam rocker, David Bowie, another family man admired for his innovative work.

    Katie Kitani, Rick Batalla, Lisa Valenzuela, Joseph Leo Bwarie, Niles 
    Rivers, Katie DeShan, and Cloie Wyatt Taylor. Photo by Sasha A. Venola

    Bowie’s music lends itself beautifully to the Troubies’ unique brand of theatre, which takes a well-known classic story (in this case, the 1968 stop motion animated special The Little Drummer Boy) and the songs of a famous musician (like David Bowie) and morphs them into a wonderfully warped original tale. Troubie trademarks include a circus-style sensibility, shtick-loving comedy, song parodies, dance sequences, a house band to rival anything you’ll hear on late night television, and a troupe of actors who throw themselves into the fun house, full-bore, every time. Audiences can’t get enough of it.

    For Little Drummer Bowie, A Musical Parody of Biblical Proportions, Bowie’s alter-ego Ziggy Stardust is dropped into a Troubie-fied version of The Little Drummer Boy as its title character. Ziggy (Joseph Leo Bwarie) is adept at playing the drum but doesn’t play well with others, choosing instead to eschew the company of people and spend his time with animal pals Babaa (Katie Kitani) and Samson (Cloie Wyatt Taylor).

    But this is Jerusalem before the birth of Christ (don’t worry, that’ll take place before the final curtain) and Ziggy has no way to pay his tax so he agrees to join Ben Haramed (Riccardo Berdini) and sidekick Ali’s (Beth Kennedy) traveling show to earn money. What he doesn’t bargain for is how the rush of fame will change him.

    L-R: Rod Webb, Rick Batalla, Beth Kennedy, Eric Heinly, Niles Rivers,
    and Dana Decker. Photo by Sasha A. Venola

    Chance meetings with Mary (Lisa Valenzuela) and Joseph (Rick Batalla) of Nazareth; three famous Kings following a star – Don (Niles Rivers), Larry (Batalla) and Billie Jean (Kennedy) – and a trio of wandering shepherds – Rivers, Batalla and Katie DeShan (as spicy Little Bowie Peep) give Ziggy pause to question the meaning of life while simultaneously ensuring the audience a grand good time.

    Even though the show is a complete ensemble piece, each member of the troupe has a specific function within it. Little Drummer Bowie makes great use of its longtime members’ strengths, like Valenzuela’s vocal chops (girl can belt!) and Batalla’s improv skills. She turns “Fame” into one hot number (with Berdini) and he will chew on a comedy bit until he gets his groan from the audience no matter how long it takes. Running gags are his specialty and this time around it’s 20 hilarious years in the evolution of the mobile phone. Watch out if you’re sitting in the front row, or anywhere he can see you. You’re fair game.

    The detail with which Kennedy creates characters is so remarkably impressive and genuinely wacky that I’d put her skills up against Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett any day. During Ziggy’s emotional ballad “Life on Mars?” she’s over in the corner doing a dance of the veils that finds her writhing on the floor and twirling tassels at hyper speed. She also has a way of pinning the laughs mid-air for those brief serious moments that call for dramatic sincerity. That’s when you see how deep the well really is.

    Joseph Leo Bwarie and Beth Kennedy. Photo by Sherry Greczmiel

    Bwarie brings considerable star quality to the production. The Broadway ringer and studio musician holds the record for the most performances as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys (over 2000) and his association with Garry Marshall goes back over ten years to the world premiere of Marshall’s musical Happy Days in which he originated the role of Chachi. Incidentally, that’s the gig that got him Jersey Boys when Carole King heard him sing.

    Here he pays homage to David Bowie with moody magnificence, channeling the many levels and idiosyncrasies of the icon with stunning facility. And that voice. From where I was sitting I could see quite a few audience members, both male and female, caught up in the Bwarie-Bowie swoon worthy charm. It’s hard to pick a favorite from the half dozen or so songs he sings but that intro to “Space Oddity” (better known as “Ground Control to ‘Captain’ Tom”) is up there at the top of my list.

    The show is co-directed by Bwari and artistic director Matt Walker who, for the first time, isn’t on stage with the rest of his trusty comrades. He’s missed – not because they can’t do without him – but because Walker’s unique style and ringmaster sparkle have always been the driving force behind all of the zaniness. We do get to hear him as The Voice From Above and you’ll still recognize his hand at work throughout the show. Batalla and Kennedy shoulder the heavy lifting in his absence and they do it admirably. Newcomers rise to the occasion, particularly Wyatt Taylor as a dancing donkey with attitude. Choreography by Jordana Toback is crisp and well-executed.

    Longtime Troubie musical director Eric Heinly’s arrangements of Bowie’s hits are full of bright textures and rich sound. “Starman,” “Changes,” “Under Pressure,” “Oh! You Pretty Things” and the aforementioned “Space Oddity,” “Fame,” and “Life on Mars?” will remind you how prolific Bowie was and this set list is Heinly’s forte. There isn’t a weak musical moment anywhere.

    L-R: Katie Kitani, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Katie DeShan, Rick Batalla, Riccardo 
    Berdini, Beth Kennedy, Niles Rivers,and Lisa Valenzuela. Photo by Sasha A. Venola 

    Neither is there a lack of color. Sharon McGunigle’s costumes are an ingenious blend of fantasy, desert garb, and candy-colored ‘70s and ‘80s nightclub gear. Scenic designer Christopher Scott Murillo places three interlocking pedestals center stage in front of the band to capitalize on the rock concert aspects of the show and a Wailing Wall behind them that creates a polished diorama-like setting under the glow of JM Montecalvo’s lighting. Its the kind of design that would travel nicely should they ever want to take this Christmas confection on the road.

    David Bowie once said, “I don’t know where Im going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” The same can be said of every Troubie show I’ve ever seen. You never know what they’ll say or do next but this bunch of inspired clowns has mastered the fine art of making theatre fun, and that’s what people really want at this time of year. Little Drummer Bowie is the roller coaster ride you need to get you through the mayhem and madness of the holidays. For sheer entertainment value, you can’t beat it. Best bauble of the season, bar none!

    L-R: Rick Batalla, Katie DeShan, and Niles Rivers. Photo by Sasha A. Venola

    Riccardo Berdini. Photo by Sherry Greczmiel

    Joseph Leo Bwarie. Photo by Sherry Greczmiel

    LITTLE DRUMMER BOWIE
    November 30, 2016 - January 15, 2017
    The Troubies at the Falcon Theatre
    4252 Riverside Drive
    Burbank, CA  91505
    Tickets: (818) 955-8101 or www.FalconTheatre.com

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    Jose Llana as the King of Siam. Photo by Matthew Murphy

    Jose Llana made his Broadway debut as Lun Tha in the 1996 revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I. Nearly twenty years later he would succeed Ken Watanabe in the role of the King of Siam in another remount. Now, with the arrival of Lincoln Center’s luscious national tour of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, LA audiences have the opportunity to see him return to the role at the Hollywood Pantages through January 21st.

    It is one that is so closely identified with Yul Brynner who originated it, and won two Tonys and an Academy Award for his performance, that one might question whether another actor could do it justice. Llana’s portrayal erases any misgivings. Though some of his expressions are more modern than you might expect to find in a mid-nineteenth century king, he takes control of the stage with sweeping efficiency and still softens to reveal the circumspect human being behind the formidable public persona. Strong and unyielding in one moment, unexpectedly charming and funny the next, he is the rock upon which this breathtaking musical stands.

    Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna

    Chipping away at that rock, and the outdated beliefs that characterize his reign, is a feisty schoolteacher, Anna Leonowens, played by Laura Michelle Kelly. Kelly is luminous as the widow who brings her young son to Siam in order to make a living after her husband’s death. With a silky voice and endlessly elegant demeanor she elevates this already visually stunning production to “something wonderful.”

    They are a match made in musical theatre heaven, these adversaries who initially interact like oil and water. But as understanding grows, they form an unlikely bond that bridges their differences and breeds respect and even affection. This bridging of worlds, and the awkward fits and starts that go with it, is masterfully crafted by director Bartlett Sher.

    From the pomp and circumstance of the “March of the Siamese Children” to the politically charged ballet “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” to the glorious moment when the King takes Anna in his arms in “Shall We Dance,” Sher casts a spell that will leave audiences breathless with anticipation. Though vast in scope, the production still feels intimate, and that is no puzzlement. Christopher Gattelli’s re-creation of Jerome Robbins’ original choreography is sensational. Plus, Kelly and Llana have undeniable chemistry making this undoubtedly one of the best productions of The King and I you’re likely to see.

    Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly

    The score is sublime, replete with Rodger’s signature soaring melodies and Hammerstein’s unaffected, insightful lyrics. Wistful ballads like “Hello Young Lovers” and “I Have Dreamed” and more lighthearted tunes like “Getting to Know You” and “I Whistle a Happy Tune” eventually lead to the show’s incredible pièce de résistance, “Shall We Dance.” In that singular moment, when the King takes Anna by the waist, the musical’s epic climax of dramatic tension and unbridled joy is fully realized. It is a perfect synergy of sound, movement, and emotion.

    As Lady Thiang, Joan Almedilla’s heartfelt version of “Something Wonderful” is truly wonderful. In it, we come to understand her fierce devotion to the King and why she watches over him like a hawk. Soprano Manna Nichols is lovely as the rebellious Burmese slave girl, Tuptim and has beautiful color in her mid-register, though she tends to swallow her high notes.

    The one musical characteristic I found distracting in the show was the amount of back phrasing and altered note values in the women’s solos. It doesn’t happen on every song but it was obvious enough that I wondered if it was a stylistic choice by the musical director to adjust pick-ups, break up phrases mid-thought to breathe, and not sing the music as written, or if the singers were having difficulty keeping up with the orchestra because they couldn’t hear. There were times they were just enough behind the beat that it was impossible not to notice. Regardless, the music is as beautiful as ever and will more than satisfy lovers of classic musical theatre.

    Michael Yeargan employs a streamlined approach to his set design using a single striking focal point in each scene rather than filling the stage with excessive detail. A gorgeous Thai silk curtain billows across the stage to cover scene changes burnished by Donald Holder’s exquisite lighting while a massive golden Buddha looks down over the palace. In the garden, hundreds of hanging rope vines fill the overhead space like velvet drops and, in the harbor, a massive ship emerges from the fog to bring Anna and her son to this mysterious new land.

    Each effect is rich and powerfully emotional, including the infinite expanse of the empty ballroom in which Anna and the King share their first dance. Catherine Zuber takes an endless array of rich textiles and turns them into some of the most beautiful costumes imaginable. Altogether, it is a work of art.

    Laura Michelle Kelly, Baylen Thomas and Graham Montgomery  

    Rodgers and Hammerstein made major contributions to the evolution of musical theatre and The King and I is one of their finest achievements. They told stories that brought social and cultural issues to the forefront on stage and pioneered a Golden Age of musicals that gave us such other groundbreaking shows as Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and Carousel.
     Most importantly, they taught us about ourselves.

    The King and I remains an irresistible jewel in the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog. Its themes are as timely as ever and Sher’s production beautifully embraces the heart of the piece. You wont be disappointed.  

    Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana

    Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao

    Michiko Takemasa as Little Eva

    The cast of The King and I

    Laura Michelle Kelly and the Royal Children

    The ensemble of The King and I

    THE KING AND I
    December 13, 2016 – January 21, 2017

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

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    HAPPYHOLIDAYS from Musicals in LA!

    Thank you for an amazing year of Musical Theatre.

    May 2017 bring you peace, love, and plenty of new musical adventures.

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    International City Theatre in Long Beach starts the year off with Forever Plaid, directed and choreographed by Scott Dreier and Kurtis Simmons, at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. It’s the ‘50s all over again when four young singers killed in a car crash on the way to their first big gig miraculously return to earth 60 years later for a doo-wop do-over. Full of wholesome comedy, fun choreography, and a hit parade of favorites like “Rags to Riches,” “Shangri La,” “Chain Gang,” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” this is a show to warm your heart and make you smile. (Feb 17 – March 5) InternationalCityTheatre.org

    Nick DeGruccio will direct Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts & McCoy Rigby Entertainment. The show stars Devin Archer and Natalie Storrs, with musical direction by Brent Crayon. The Last Five Years is a beautifully intimate, vivid picture of the five-year relationship between a young, ambitious author and a struggling actress told in reverse chronological order: we see her experiences from the painful ending of the relationship, while we see his from the passionate beginning. The endearingly funny, poignant, and insightfully honest two-person musical has enraptured audiences around the world with its spellbinding, emotional score. (Jan 20 – Feb 12) LaMiradaTheatre.com

    Palos Verdes Performing Arts has announced the cast of its upcoming production of Dan Goggin’s Nunsense playing at the Norris Theatre. Nunsense follows the crazy antics of five spirited nuns from the Little Sisters of Hoboken Convent. When their cook accidentally serves some tainted soup, poisoning 52 of the sisters, the five surviving nuns band together and put on a show to raise money to cover the burial costs. The cast includes Dawn Stahlak as the jovial Reverend Mother; Jennifer Leigh Warren as the Mistress of Novices, Sister Mary Hubert; Noelle Marion as wannabe ballerina, Sister Mary Leo; Rebecca Lumiansi as the streetwise Sister Robert Anne; and Silvie Zamora as the charmingly wacky Sister Mary Amnesia, the nun who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. The show is directed by Ken Parks with music direction by Jake Anthony and choreography by KC Gussler, and accompanied by a live orchestra. (January 20 – 29) PalosVerdesPerformingArts.com

    Chance Theater will present the west coast premiere of Drew Fornarola and Marshall Pailet’s new video game musical Claudio Quest beginning Jan 27. Pailet also directs, choreography is by Maxx Reed, and musical direction is by Ryan O’Connell. The new musical comedy is the story of a very super hero, his less super little brother, and one butt-kicking princess, as the three embark on a mission to overcome killer eggplants, a love-starved platypus, and their own 8-bit existential crisis. Sounds fun, yes? (Jan 27 – Feb 26) ChanceTheater.com

    If you can’t make it down to Chance for Claudio Quest you can also get a sneak preview of the show at (mostly)musicals’ songsforahappynewYEAR on Monday, January 16 at the E Spot Lounge. Joining musical director Gregory Nabours will be Amanda Kruger, Caitlin Gallogly, Emily Clark, Eric B. Anthony, Jason Peter Kennedy, Jeff Scot Carey, Justin Michael Wilcox, Kelley Dorney, Kristina Miller, Matt Valle, Tiana Okoy, and Selda Sahin in an evening of happy songs to start the new year right. mostlymusicalsla.com

    Theatre Artists Unite, Artists Rise Up Los Angeles presents a special one-night-only benefit on Jan 31, E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One, a collection of short plays and scenes, music, dance, spoken word, art installations and multi-media presentations in reaction to the 2016 presidential election. The benefit is part of the National Month of Outrage which first began in New York City when Jonathan Alexandratos put together a group of artists called Theatre Artists Unite. Artists and producers across the country followed his lead by setting up protests for their own stages. Here in LA, Artists Rise Up Los Angeles is the brainchild of director and executive producer Sue Hamilton, (in collaboration with Artists Rise Up New York and its leader, Jessica Litwak). It is made up of diverse members of the creative community, representing actors, directors, writers, filmmakers, singers and dancers, spoken word artists, photographers and others, all of whom have come together to Rise Up.

    Among those performing at the LA event are Robert Yacko and Heidi Godt who will sing Jason Robert Brown’s original post-election composition, “Hope,” and Hamilton Broadway cast member & choreographer Karla Garcia, and fellow cast member David Guzman recreating the Best Presentation-winning number, “America,” from this year’s Gypsy of the Year competition. A post-performance lobby reception will also include a live art installation, photography exhibits, food, and drinks. Tickets are $35 and proceeds will be split between the following organizations: American Civil Liberties Union, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Natural Resources Defense Council. ArtistsRiseUpLA.com

    MainStreet Theatre Company in Rancho Cucamonga begins 2017 with The Secret Garden, based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, directed by Jessica Kubzansky. The timeless story is the perfect antidote to a dreary January and has been a staple of children’s literature for over 100 years. When cantankerous and orphaned Mary Lennox is taken away from her home in India to live with her reclusive uncle in the Yorkshire Moors, she discovers a garden that changes her life, with the help of a robin (played by a puppet in the production) and new friends. Recommended for Ages 7 and up. (Jan 28 – Feb 12) LewisFamilyPlayhouse.com

    Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group will present End Up Here, three late-afternoon performances of music and prose by Christopher Reiner directed by Zombie Joe this month. Reiner has composed music and songs for 23 ZJU productions in Los Angeles, off-Broadway, and Cape Town, including Urban Death, Alice, Tell-Tale Heart, and Nightmare’s Trio. He is author of three books of poetry and prose, most recently, I Want Nothing But You In The World. (Jan 8, 15 & 22 at 4pm) ZombieJoes.com/


    The Broad Stage kicks off its theatre season with the delightful musical comedy 13 Things About Ed Carpolotti by Barry Kleinbort, based on the play by Jeffrey Hatcher. Virginia Carpolotti (Penny Fuller) is a devoted widow with loving memories of her recently-deceased husband. Though her love endures, her confidence in him flounders as one shady character after another comes calling for the debt that Ed put in her name, and things really heat up when a mysterious $1 million ransom note appears. (Jan 11 – 29 *Contains adult language) TheBroadStage.com

    Also on The Broad’s Broadway series, Matthew Morrison brings a dazzling mix of show tunes and jazz to the main stage on Jan 14, and the iconic Chita Rivera recreates signature moments from her illustrious career in Chita: A Legendary Celebration on Feb 10.



    In San Diego, new musical The Geeze & Me at Tenth Avenue Arts Center explores the wild ride of life’s later years in a funny, irreverent, and poignant look at surviving aging. The show features book by Hedges Capers and Nancy Capers and an eclectic blend of songs ranging from pop to blues to corner street doo-wop by Hedges Capers. The story follows a troupe of eccentric players who team up to wrangle aspects of aging from an expert. It’s a little like Hair, after it’s gone (March 31 - April 29) TheGeezeAndMe.com

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    The Company of RENT. All photos by Carol Rosegg, 2016

    The 20th Anniversary Tour of RENT will play the Hollywood Pantages Theatre January 25-29. Evan Ensign restages Michael Greif’s original direction of Jonathan Larsen’s rock musical which is a re-imagining of Puccini's La Bohème. It follows a year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out and offers an inspiring message of joy and hope. A day-of-show lottery will be held before each performance of the non-union production for a limited number of $25 orchestra seats. Click Here for more information.

    L-R: Danny Harris Kornfeld, Christian Thompson and Kaleb Wells 

    David Merino

    L- R: Jasmine Easler and Katie LaMark 

    Skyler Volpe

    Skyler Volpe and Kaleb Wells

    L-R: Danny Harris Kornfeld and Kaleb Wells 

    The company of RENT

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    Photo courtesy CMArtists
    Not since 1950 have audiences in L.A. been able to see a live professional performance of Kurt Weill’s musical masterpiece Lost in the Stars. That changes this month when the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, led by Music Director Jeffrey Kahane, presents a brand new production in partnership with CAP UCLA. Set during the era of South African apartheid, the devastating tale of a black minister whose son accidentally kills a white neighbor’s son explores racial inequalities and the courage it takes to forgive when faced with an impossible moral dilemma.

    The riveting story, with book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, is based on Alan Paton’s powerful novel Cry, the Beloved Country. It was Weill’s final work for the stage debuting on Broadway in October of 1949 where it ran for 281 performances. After it closed, a limited 14-week national tour of the U.S. launched from San Francisco with Los Angeles as its second stop.

    Here in L.A., it played the 2600-seat Philharmonic Auditorium downtown (which has since been demolished) located at 427 W. 5th St. and Olive Street, just north of Pershing Square, before moving on to eight other venues around the country. The national tour was eventually cancelled because African-American cast members were not allowed to stay in the same hotels as whites. (Kim H. Kowalke, kwf.org)

    Jeffrey Kahane and Anne Bogart in rehearsal

    On January 28 & 29, musical theatre lovers in L.A. will finally have the opportunity to see Lost in the Stars, directed by SITI Company Artistic Director, Anne Bogart, and conducted by Jeffrey Kahane. The performances are the highlight of Kahane’s Lift Every Voice series which is a three-week schedule of concerts and events inspired by Kurt Weill,Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Joachim Prinz exploring “themes of tolerance, compassion, cooperation, creativity and the power of music to encourage understanding and promote peace.” It is also an important part of Kahane’s final season with LACO as he completes his 20-year tenure with the organization.

    “I believe that an orchestra should be an instrument of community,” says Kahane, “both a musical instrument that represents a community and a tool for building, enriching, and inspiring that community. I wanted very much, as part of my legacy to this orchestra – to which I have devoted more than half of my professional life – and to the city in which I grew up, to give LACO the opportunity to embody that idea in a way that I hope might inspire other orchestras to do the same.”

    The musical was an important artistic achievement by Weill and Anderson, both of whom had been looking to write about the racial challenges in our own country for some time. And, while progress has been made in the years since, the social injustices they sought to expose then still take place today. It is one of the reasons Kahane wanted to program it on his last season with LACO.

    L-R: Stephen Duff Webber as Arthur and Justin Hopkins as Kamalo

    Lost in the Stars is a piece that speaks very directly to some of the most pressing issues we face today, not just in the United States but around the world. And, it is a simple but powerfully moving story of tragedy and redemption, and the overcoming of prejudice through the shared experience of loss.”

    It is also a work he admits is personally significant to him, and that’s saying a lot for an artist whose entire life has been spent laying bare the emotional soul of music.

    “I love the music passionately and find much of it profoundly moving. It also has great personal resonance to me because Weill’s experience as a German-Jewish refugee from the Nazi regime very much mirrors that of my own mother. Both of them became proud American citizens, learned to speak perfect American English, and no longer identified themselves in any way as Germans, but they most certainly did identify with their Jewish heritage. More importantly they both had great concern for the plight of their fellow African-American citizens (as did Rabbi Prinz, who is also celebrated during this festival), and didn’t just talk about it – they acted on those concerns.”

    For this presentation he is collaborating with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company, singers Lauren Michelle, Issachah Savage, and Justin Hopkins, the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, and others. Although the orchestra and cast will have a limited amount of time to rehearse together, Kahane’s own work on a piece begins far in advance of a scheduled performance.

    “It is a long, gradual process of exploring the work and thinking about it for many, many months,” he says. “Sometimes the vision of the piece one starts out with changes over time, but usually there is a kernel of an idea about how I want the piece to sound that remains at the core of the process, and then it’s all about finding ways of bringing that idea to life. Anne and I have had many hours of conversation over the last year about our visions of the piece, and it was very thrilling to me to discover from the time of our first conversation how much our visions coincided.”

    Jeffrey Kahane and Anne Bogart in rehearsal with the cast of Lost in the Stars

    The remaining artists then join Kahane and Bogart for a three week rehearsal period which he says includes “many hours a day, six days a week. It’s a lot of time compared to what an orchestra usually has to prepare a symphonic program, but not a lot of time for a theatrical production.”

    Weill’s score is a rich amalgam of styles that blends a Broadway sensibility and the kind of soaring melodies found in opera with those of gospel, jazz, and blues. Kahane says navigating the various forms isn’t difficult because Weill’s own voice always shines through each number in the show.

    “He has very clever ways of tying the music together with certain motives that recur over and over, sometimes subtly transformed so that the listener isn’t necessarily aware of the fact that the same material is being used in radically different musical or dramatic contexts.”

    Still, if he had to choose a favorite from among the songs it would be the title song, “Lost in the Stars.”

    “For me, it is one of the greatest, most beautiful, and most moving songs in the whole history of American musical theatre. I also especially love the climactic chorus, ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ (which of course is the title of Alan Paton’s novel on which the show is based), whose words are eerily prophetic of the American experience at this moment in history, and take on a heart-breaking urgency.”

    LOST IN THE STARS
    Saturday, January 28, 2017 (8pm)
    Sunday, January 29, 2017 (7pm)
    Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra 
    Royce Hall - UCLA
    340 Royce Drive
    Los Angeles, CA 90095
    Tickets: cap.ucla.edu or 310-825-2101 (Monday-Friday 10am - 4pm)
    Box office at Royce Hall opens one hour prior to the event start time.

    LACO’s Lift Every Voice series:
    Jan 14 (7pm) - ICYOLA Annual Free Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Concert
    Jan 15 (3pm) - Salastina Chamber Music Concert
    Jan 19 (8pm) - Forging “the knife” – Kurt Weill Before Broadway
    Jan 20 (10am) - Terezin – Refuge in Music Film Screening & Discussion
    Jan 21 (8PM) & Jan 22 (7pm) - Storm Large sings 7 Deadly Sins
    January 22 (3pm) - Artists in Exile
    For a complete listing of events and details, go to www.laco.org.
    Photo credit: Lost in the Stars rehearsal photos by Reed Hutchinson


    L-R: Zuri Adele as Grace and Justin Hopkins as Kamalo

    L-R: Justin Hopkins as Kamalo and Larry Powell as John

    Issachah Savage as Leader and Erinn Horton as Nita

    Larry Powell as John with the male chorus

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    Photo by Joe Reiner
    Composer Christopher Reiner serves up a sixty-minute set of original songs and prose selections at ZJU Theatre Group that demonstrates the unique range of programming found at Zombie Joe’s North Hollywood establishment. The company’s niche is live horror and they have gained tremendous popularity with productions like their Urban Death series and other renegade theatre pieces that deliver a purposely disquieting “underground” take on the world. But ZJU also produces a wide variety of other theatrical offerings including Shakespeare, musicals, and even family theatre under its Limecat banner.

    Reiner has written music for nearly two dozen Zombie Joe productions so he is well-acquainted with the ZJU aesthetic. This particular performance is a departure from the darkness. The two exceptions are the overture (played by a hooded wraithlike figure in candlelight) and one instrumental soundscape in the show. These two passages capture that intergalactic, otherworldly feel you might expect to find in this theatre space. For the rest of End Up Here, the atmosphere is a cross between a coffeehouse salon and an after-hours lounge, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3AM, the bewitching hour to reflect on past lesson and loves.

    In this setting, Reiner’s unassuming persona and lack of self-indulgence allows the audience to connect with his witty pop songs in a much more personal way than if they were being presented by singers and actors layering on their own interpretations. It is one of the benefits of hearing a songwriter perform his own work and it plays beautifully here.

    In the short space of an hour he transitions through sixteen musical and two literary compositions that made me smile, wonder, nod, and sigh in recognition. It is true what they say, the more specific a story the more universal its appeal.

    Reiner’s songs are uncomplicated but potent. Each slice of life tale contributes to the overall emotional journey of the show. He and director Zombie Joe balance humor with introspection, always taking care to let the material speak for itself. Nothing is heavy-handed. The experience ends up being a perfectly delightful diversion for a Sunday afternoon.

    END UP HERE
    January 8 - 22, 2017
    ZJU Theatre Group
    4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601
    Tickets ($15) Call 818-202-4120 or ZombieJoes.Tix.com
    More Info: ZombieJoes.com

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    L-R: Valeria Maldonado, Rosa Navarrete, Sebastian Gonzalez and
    Daniel Martinez. All photos by Luis Gaudi

    Love transcends the limitations of language in Casa 0101’s charming production of Disney’s Aladdin Dual Language Edition/Edición De Lenguaje Dual,and that uplifting message is a takeaway that never loses its luster. The simple story of Aladdin (Daniel Martinez) and his magic lamp overcoming the villainous Jafar (Omar Mata), with the help of a jovial genie (Lewis Powell III) and his loyal pet monkey (Sebastian Gonzalez), has become a family favorite, thanks to the popularity of Disney’s 1992 animated film.

    This version pairs Alan Menken’s classic songs with a newly-adapted book by Jim Luigs and José Cruz González to create a fresh spin on the story that is tailor-made for Los Angeles. Casa 0101’s staging is bright and full of life, with energetic production numbers and creative undisguised stage magic. There is pageantry, romance, and plenty of humor packed into the 85-minute show which is performed by a cast of twenty each night (the four leading characters are double-cast). And, as the title suggests, there is a twist.

    The people of Agrabah are under a spell. Those in the palace can only speak Spanish while those in the streets can only speak English. So when Princess Jazmin (Valeria Maldonado) runs away and meets Aladdin in the market place they are only able to understand each other with the help of their translators (who happen to be their pets). For the sake of the audience, a trio of Royal Translators (Diana Castrillon, Blanca Espinoza, and Shanara Sanders) also provide narration with other characters adding further explanation. The result is a story that is easy to follow regardless of whether you speak both, or only one, of the languages.

    Valeria Maldonado (Jazmin) and Daniel Martinez (Aladdin)

    That’s an important distinction for those who have championed the show, which is being presented by Casa 0101 Theater and THR Productions, along with the office of Councilmember Gilbert A. Cedillo. This is a true community effort meant to increase opportunities for underserved members of the surrounding area and to provide a tangible method of expression for those who wish to pursue a career in the arts.

    To see them in action was inspiring on many levels, not the least of which was watching how they inspired potential donors after the show to pledge funds to help others attend who might otherwise not be able to see the show on their own. Other theaters may do this but I haven’t seen it done in quite this way before.

    Following the performance, producers came out and made a quick pitch for why their work was so important. Using a dry erase board to record the pledges, they then asked if anyone in the audience was willing to commit to different sponsorship levels. Within the span of five minutes, they received over $4500. Now that’s impressive.

    But what I found even more encouraging was that they didn’t just ask for money, they made the case for why it was so important. They succeeded in getting people invested in their vision by showing why their work is relevant and good for the community. And the community responded.

    The joy of theatre, and the whole new world it can open up, is on full display in Casa 0101’s Aladdin. Seeing it made me happy, and that’s what I call a job well done.

    *        *        *        *        *        *        *

    Aladdin Dual Language Edition/Edición De Lenguaje Dual is directed by Rigo Tejeda and produced by Abel Alvarado, Felipe Agredano, Emmanuel Deleage, Edward Padilla, Rigo Tejeda & Conrad Terrazas, with musical direction by Caroline Benzon and choreography by Tania Possick. Book is by Jim Luigs and José Cruz González, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, lyric translation by Walterio Pezqueira. The music is adapted, arranged and orchestrated by Bryan Louiselle.

    Lewis Powell III as the Genie

    Jason David (Iago) and Omar Mata (Jafar)

    Shanara Sanders, Blanca Espinoza and Diana Castrilllon with cast of Aladdin

    Henry Madrid (Sultan) and Valeria Maldonado (Jazmin)

    The Ensemble of Disney's Aladdin - Dual Language Edition

    ALADDIN
    January 13 - February 19, 2017
    Casa 0101 Theater
    2102 E. First Street (at St. Louis Street)
    Boyle Heights, CA 90033
    www.casa0101.org

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    Natalie Storrs and Devin Archer. All photos by Michael Lamont

    Jason Robert Brown’s
    The Last Five Yearsis the kind of musical you often find produced in small theaters and black boxes. Written for a cast of two, it can be done very simply without much in the way of a set or props making it a popular choice for those with a limited budget or other technical constraints.

    The story follows a relationship from beginning to end in a series of alternating solo scenes – two different perspectives with two opposing timelines. Through Jamie’s (Devin Archer) eyes, we see it grow from first blush to bitter separation while through Cathy’s (Natalie Storrs) we watch it play out in reverse, from breakup to beginning. Only at a single point in the middle do their stories converge and we see them happy together before they move on again in the direction of their own narrative. As you’d expect, it is an emotional roller coaster no matter which way you look at it.

    McCoy Rigby Entertainment and La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts have reimagined this gem of a musical in a wonderfully creative way and the result is truly something special. If you are one of the few who has not seen the show before, or if you’ve only seen it produced on a small scale, this is memorable work you don’t want to miss.

    They have a much larger stage and a greater set of resources at their disposal so the bar is already set higher. But it isn’t about just making things bigger. It’s about choosing wisely and making sure those choices in design and direction come together seamlessly so as not to interfere with the heartbreak at the center of the piece.

    What this revival of The Last Five Years does, so beautifully, is breathe. That contrast between ease and Jamie’s mounting suffocation and Cathy’s frustration, delivers an even more powerful emotional journey than usual.


    Director Nick DeGruccio and his technical trifecta – Stephen Gifford (scenic design), Steven Young (lighting), and Keith Skretch (video) – surround Jamie and Cathy with the story of their life in a way that never overpowers them but still gives the audience a window into their world on a grand scale. Well-chosen, often simple, visual concepts, like a larger-than-life photo panel display that changes throughout the show and a gorgeous backdrop of Central Park behind the couple in a moving rowboat, deepen the show’s impact without adding clutter. Stars become miniature comets streaking across a celestial canvas and rose petals fall like rain before morphing into fireworks in a shared climactic moment. Their joy and heartache becomes even more fragile with so much “air” around them, and DeGruccio weaves it all together elegantly.


    His staging reveals as much about their relationship as what Brown has written. One of the most ironic moments is the transition from Cathy’s audition to a public reading of Jamie’s book. It happens without a word but the subtext behind the purposeful upstaging is clear. DeGruccio also positions the non-active character on stage in separate parallel scenes which makes the handoff from one to the other seem effortless.

    From a musical standpoint, Brown’s score is a tremendous showcase for the two actors, who must have great emotional range, a penchant for comedy, and voices that can do justice to his soaring melodies. Luckily both Storrs and Archer fit the bill. She has the tougher road as Cathy because of the way the show is constructed but Storrs is lovably awkward and self-deprecating within her neediness.

    The story is based on Brown’s own breakup from his first wife so it is natural that her character is seen in a less sympathetic light, especially at first. Archer has the audience on his side from the beginning for who can resist seeing a person over the moon and falling in love. He is charming and charismatic, with a natural gift for comedy. He is also vocally compelling and prone to making delightfully unexpected choices.

    Brown’s arrangements capture the poignancy of relationship discord, and the longing that results from it, in the luscious sound of the strings. Musical director Brent Crayon brings an instinctual level of awareness to the material and, quite literally, makes it sing. Few in L.A. can play the piano with the kind of finesse that he can and I’ve not heard this JRB score interpreted better ever. Whether the song is delicate or propulsive, comical or tortured, he manages to bring together the musicians and singers to create an unforgettable musical experience. Translation: you’ll be wrecked emotionally by the time the curtain falls.

    La Mirada Theatre’s revival of The Last Five Years is a breathtaking production that balances subtlety with sweeping passion. Its arrow aims right for the heart and lands with eloquent precision over and over again. Bring tissues.

    THE LAST 5 YEARS
    January 20 – February 12, 2017
    La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
    14900 La Mirada Blvd.
    La Mirada, CA 90638
    www.lamiradatheatre.com




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    Lost in the Stars. All photos by Reed Hutchinson

    The January 28 & 29th performances of Lost in the Stars, presented by Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (and CAP UCLA) as the culmination of LACO’s Lift Every Voice series, will go down as one of the memorable highlights of my theatregoing in LA. Even now, a week later, the powerful images stir emotions and serve as a reminder of the sensitivity of the artists’ work, their incredible musicianship, and their ability to communicate the message of Kurt Weill’s deeply moving piece with passion and sincerity. www.laco.org

    Justin Hopkins (Stephen Kumalo) and Lauren Michelle (Irina)

    Issachah Savage (Leader) with the Chorus

    Justin Hophins (Stephen Kumalo) and Zuri Adele (Grace Kumalo)

    The Chorus of Lost in the Stars

    L-R: Joel Baptiste Muepo (Alex), Zuri Adele (Mrs. Mkize) and Justin
    Hopkins (Stephen Kumalo)

    L-R: Will Bond (James Jarvis), Stephen Duff Webber (Arthur Jarvis)
    and Jonah Verdon

    Joel Baptiste Muepo (Alex) and Justin Hopkins (Stephen Kumalo) 

    The choruses of Lost in the Stars

    L-R: Angelo Johnson (Johannes/chorister), Melanie Collins
    (Linda) and Daniel J. Ozan (chorister)

    LACO Music Director Jeffrey Kahane conducting the Los Angeles
    Chamber Orchestra during rehearsal

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    Heads up singers - want to win tickets to see Fun Home at the Ahmanson? Center Theatre Group is holding a cool choir competition in conjunction with the upcoming national tour of Fun Home, which begins performances at the Ahmanson Theatre on February 21st!


    All you need to do is record a video of your group singing Fun Home’s signature song, “Ring of Keys” for a chance to win tickets for your whole group to see the show. To make it even easier, they have provided sheet music for a 4-part a cappella vocal arrangement that you may use, or you can come up with your own. It's totally up to you how creative you'd like to be. (Download sheet music HERE)


    Here are all details:


    WHO: All individual and non-professional choirs (clubs, high schools, colleges)


    HOW: Videos must be submitted as YouTube links to RingofKeys@CTGLA.org

    Video length should be at least two mins, but no more than five mins. Introduction of your group should be no more than one minute. All videos will be posted on Center Theatre Group’s YouTube Channel beginning Monday, February 27 and ending Friday, March 3. The video that receives the most likes will be the contest winner. The winner will be contacted by March 8.

    WHEN:

    • Friday, February 24: Final submission date; all videos uploaded to YouTube
    • Monday, February 27: YouTube judging begins
    • Friday, March 1: YouTube judging ends
    • Wednesday, March 8: Winner(s) notified; Winner will be announced on social media and via a press release
    • Wednesday, March 15: Winner attends performance with post-performance company meet and greet
    CONTEST RULES
    • All submissions must be received online.
    • Videos must be submitted as YouTube links to RingofKeys@CTGLA.org
    • Submission date is February 24.
    • Winners will receive tickets the Wednesday, March 15.
    • If they are individuals, they will receive a pair of tickets
    •  If they are group, they will receive one ticket per participant. Number of group tickets cannot exceed 50 tickets.
    • All videos submitted will become property of Center Theatre Group.
    For a little additional inspiration, here is the cast's performance of “Ring of Keys” from the 2015 Tony Awards and below it, a video by Top Shelf Vocal. Good luck everyone! For more information about the Sing Out “Ring of Keys” Contest, please visit
    CenterTheatreGroup.org/SingOutRingofKeys



    The cast of the National Tour of Fun Home

    Photo credit: Joan Marcus

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    Jessica Spalis and Peanut the Elephant. All photos by Mark Turner

    If Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had run away from home and found this traveling circus instead of Professor Marvel and his crystal ball, she might never have gotten swept up in a twister and landed in Munchkinland. Instead, she might have become part of a new family, the kind that traveled the dust bowl in the early part of the twentieth century and instilled a sense of wonder in every child who was lucky enough to hear that the circus was coming to town.

    Such is the world of Circus 1903 - The Golden Age of Circus now raising its tent nightly at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. It only plays through February 19th and that isn't nearly long enough for this exquisitely crafted show from the producers of The Illusionists (Simon Painter, Tim Lawson, and MagicSpace Entertainment). Mesmerizing music, costumes that evoke the authenticity of the period, lighting and sets that transport you out of the daily grind into the fantastical...I would see every performance that plays in LA and still not have gotten enough of it.

    The allure of the impossible and the graceful artistry of performers who have spent a lifetime developing their skills come together in a whimsically nostalgic presentation. The international cast includes some of the finest artists you'll ever see within their individual disciplines. From the teeterboard expertise of The Flying Fins, to the foot juggling act of the sexy Rossi Brothers, to the exciting showmanship of The Great Gaston - who juggles clubs faster than you can believe possible - it's a show you'll never forget.

    The Flying Fins - Artur Ivankovich, Petter Vatermark, and AJ Saltalamacchia.

    One of the unique characteristics that sets it apart from other circus entertainments is that the character each performer plays is so human it is hard not to fall in love with them. Florian Blummel, the German Cycling Cyclone, circles the stage in an amazing display of "bicycle ballet" with a twinkle in his eye and a look on his face of complete joy. Duo Flash (Yevgeniy Dashkivskyy and Yefrem Bitkine from the Ukraine) combines intricately choreographed acrobatic skills and a lilting sense of humor while making what they do look so easy. They're like your funny, friendly next door neighbors who just bounced by for a visit.

    Overhead you'll find beauty in the air with Lucky Moon, Elena Gatilova's aerial ballet on a suspended hoop. The luminous artist offers an emotional performance so affecting it will bring tears to your eyes, or at least make you believe in romance again. Les Incredibles, the husband and wife duo of Anny Laplante and Andrei Kalesnikau perform a passionate and dangerous aerial act that relies on strength, trust, and absolute precision, while The Lopez Family on the highwire defies the laws of gravity without even using a safety net. Rola bola man, Mikhail Sozonov takes balance to new heights in another dizzying demonstration twenty years in the making. The control these performers have over their bodies is remarkable.

    The aerial beauty of Elena Gatilova as Lucky Moon

    The star of the side show is contortionist Senayet Asefa Amare, known as The Elastic Dislocationist, who can literally break her body in half and have the two sections move independently of each other. I've never seen anything like it and found it to be an unexpectedly beautiful and liquid performance that moves like a dance.

    A number of wonderful surprises are built into the show that also reinvent typical circus conventions in an entirely new, highly-imaginative way. The puppeteers who created the National Theatre's production of War Horse have brought to life a massive mother and baby elephant who steal the show with their charms. Their eyes are so expressive and they move with such elegant ease that you'd almost think they were real.

    A full-stage transformation from prologue to big top by the end of Act I, which includes the raising of the tent and revelation of the big top performers, is absolutely breathtaking and an incredible way to propel the audience into intermission. This circus has magic in its bones and good old family fun at its heart.

    Overseeing it all is Willy Whipsnade (David Williamson), the charismatic and likable Ringmaster who resembles Sam Elliott and has the actor's same ability to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. He communicates volumes with only a raise of the eyebrow or a sideways smirk. The children he invites onstage into his act have no idea that they are about to provide some of the funniest moments in the show but, just when you think it's all about the comedy, Williamson turns it right around and delivers an arrow to the heart. This back and forth exchange between humor and pathos runs throughout the show giving it depth and richness that makes the whole experience something very special.

    Gorgeous in every detail, Circus 1903 overdelivers on the promise of a grand time for the whole family. Believe me, you want to see this show!


    CIRCUS 1903: The Golden Age of Circus
    February 14 – 19, 2017
    Hollywood Pantages
    6233 Hollywood Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90028
    www.hollywoodpantages.com 

    Francois Borie - The Great Gaston

    Mikhail Sozonov - The Sensational Sozonov

    Queenie the Elephant

    Las Lopez (Johan and Jonatan Lopez and Maria Jose Pontigo) on the highwire

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    Jones Talmadge (Satan), Anne-Marie Talmadge (Michael), Alex Garland (Beelzebub), Kendall Johnson (Raphael), Elisa Rosin (Gabriel), Moses Norton (Belial),  and Janine Montag (Moloch).
    All photos by Anthony Roldan

    The purpose of all theatre - regardless of its individual form, style, or manner of presentation - is communication. It must be able to reach an audience before it can even begin to challenge them, or change them, or even simply make them feel something. If it does not, it will have failed in its all-important task, for without that two-way bond, the artists on stage end up performing in a vacuum and the audience quickly loses interest.

    There’s not a chance in hell that an audience member could fail to be engaged in Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble’s latest new work, Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny. The company has found a tantalizing niche with its athletically rich dance, movement & sensory exploration of stories that literally leap off the stage into the stratosphere. This latest production pushes that unique concept to new heights as it invokes the mighty forces of good and evil in a struggle of epic proportions.

    The piece runs 65 minutes in length and is adapted and handsomely directed by NMA’s co-artistic director & longtime company member Jones (Welsh) Talmadge. It is performed without dialogue, but combines dance, movement, music, aerial acrobatics, and interactive video projections, to create a theatrical world that never stops moving. The visual design by J-Walt Adamczyk (who also plays Father God) is dazzling, with psychedelic images that morph and mature like a living breathing character, all generated by cast members on stage.

    Based on John Miltons classic poetic narrative about Satan’s banishment from Heaven, and his subsequent role in Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, it is a visceral interpretation of the story that has, at its heart, a modernistic point of view. As gender roles today come sharply under scrutiny, this version of the story honors Milton’s underlying themes but does so by making fresh decisions in the way it carries out its story.

    Leslie Charles Roy Jr. (Adam) and Alina Bolshakova (Eve)

    For example, here it is Adam (
    Leslie Charles Roy Jr.) who is tempted by Satan and eats of the forbidden fruit, then convinces Eve (Alina Bolshakova) to do the same. This simple reversal is a bold choice and one that encapsulates Paradise Lost’s message by disrupting what is expected in order to break open the possibilities of what lies beyond.


    Another way the production disrupts the predictable is by inserting a fantasy sequence ripped from the era of Leave it to Beaver, but with a twist. A stereotypical 1950’s husband and wife are having dinner in their happy sitcom kitchen but the scene turns sinister when daddy doesn’t like his meal and his terrified spouse ends up the victim of domestic abuse. That the characters are played by fallen angels Sin (Laura Covelli) and Death (James Bane) makes it even more macabre, as does their behavior’s resulting effect on Adam and Eve.

    The cast is a ridiculously talented group of artists who make the rigorous physical aspects of the play appear effortless. Whether engaged in forceful battle scenes or moments of abject peace and beauty, each one burrows into the story from his or her point of view and contributes to an emotional journey that elicits great rewards.

    None are more seductively wrought than Satan himself, powerfully played by Talmadge in a striking performance precariously balanced on the edge. If you watch the effect he has on every other character on stage, you’ll come away with an even deeper understanding of how connected we all really are. You’ll also see how nothing is as black and white as it seems. He may be a brute but there is beauty in his torturous descent into hell, which is choreographed as a muscular display of aerial gymnastics with the artist suspended from chains while a cataclysmic panorama erupts behind him. It is both ugly and devastatingly gorgeous at the same time.

    The original score by Bernie Sirelson, Alysia Michelle James and Elisa Rosin is a blend of techno pop, rock, and electronic music that ranges from the majestic to the subtle, with a few angelic vocals thrown in for good measure.

    Sound, lighting, and costume design (created by Niki Amato, John E.D. Bass, and Ashphord Jacoway, respectively) further enhance the multi-dimensional quality of the play as all the separate elements coalesce into a single pulsing heartbeat.

    With Paradise Lost, Not Man Apart continues its evolution as a company while passionately exploring the connections between humanity and art, actor and audience, individual and the world. Making theatre relevant with such sophistication is a special kind of brilliance. More, please.

    PARADISE LOST: RECLAIMING DESTINY
    March 10 - April 2, 2017
    Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble
    Greenway Court Theatre
    544 N. Fairfax Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    www.notmanapart.com

    Alex Garland (Beelzebub), Moses Norton (Belial), Kendall Johnson (Raphael),
    Joseph Baca (Abdiel), and Elisa Rosin (Gabriel)

    J-Walt Adamczyk (Father God), Zach Davidson (Son of God), and
    Marguerite French (Mother God)

    Elisa Rosin (Gabriel), Anne-Marie Talmadge (Michael), Alex Garland (Beelzebub),
    Kendall Johnson (Raphael), Moses Norton (Belial), Janine Montag (Moloch),
     Jones Talmadge (Satan), and Joseph Baca (Abdiel)

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    The Farquhars. All photos by Erik Kabik

    It used to be true that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But not anymore. For the next five weeks, LA audiences will get a taste of Sin City right here in our own backyard, thanks to Spiegelworld’s in-your-face adults-only production, Absinthe L.A.

    The raunchy spin on an intimate Cirque-style burlesque (if such a show were bent, twisted, served up in the back room of a 1920’s speakeasy, and run through a smoky 3am wringer) has played to sellout crowds on the grounds outside Caesars Palace for nearly six years and shows no sign of slowing down. It is the most talked about entertainment on the strip and the perfect destination if you want to get a full-on Vegas experience.

    Last night’s opening downtown at L.A. Live proved that local audiences are just as crazy about it as those lost in the casino haze of the desert. It’s a show that asks viewers to let loose and indulge in the delights of the flesh. (You can look but can’t touch) Sexy, raw, and loaded with nearly a dozen acts whose jaw-dropping talents will blow you away, it’s one of those unforgettable theatrical events you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

    The evening is orchestrated by The Gazillionaire, a master of ceremonies and lounge lizard whose style of comedy purposely hits below the belt. Expect politically incorrect jokes that are so wrong they’re hilarious. He makes no apologies for his X-rated material so if you're easily offended or uncomfortable with sexual humor, better have those drinks before the show. You’re going to need them. If he can see you in the audience, you’re fair game, so choose your seat location wisely when you purchase your tickets.

    Seating is in-the-round. A small nine-foot in diameter stage at the center is where all of the circus acts take place, with an additional satellite staging area for the Gazillionaire that sits up at the far end. The extraordinary skill level of the artists and their unique combination of talents is astonishing. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also beautiful, cut to perfection, and choreographed for maximum emotional impact. A veritable smorgasbord of sensual delights, there is something for everyone.

    The Twizzlers

    When I saw the show in Vegas last spring, it was the roller skating brother & sister duo of Billy and Emily England, known as The Twizzlers, who were the highlight of the show.  Their act is a dangerous and thrilling spectacle set to Hozier’s Take Me To Church and I’m happy to report they’ve brought it to LA for this engagement. It’s the kind of performance where a fraction of an inch means the difference between walking away or being driven away in an ambulance, and definitely one of Absinthe’s wow moments.

    The Flying Farquhars' gorgeous aerial pas de deux feels like Romeo and Juliet in flight while The Lost Boys from Eastern Europe perform feats of Herculean strength you can’t believe are humanly possible. Max Matterhorn’s slow motion pole balancing is achingly beautiful and those with a secret penchant for bondage will find an act just for their viewing pleasure.

    The men of Los Dos Tacos perform a breathtaking horizontal bar routine that looks like they are about to be propelled into the audience. Bodies fly, hands twist, and they’ve got you on the edge of your seat. Add more beauty in the air, the Girl in the Bubble, a trio of acrobats known as the Silicone Valley Girls, a stripper who can shake a set of pasties with the power of double torpedoes, aerial school girls, an hysterical comedy acro act, a sexy singer, and a chair stacking opening that reaches the top of the Spiegeltent, and all creative bases are covered. (Acts subject to change)

    Absinthe L.A. is a show with an attitude. Full of Vegas vulgarity and genuine artistry, it is the must-see event of the spring!

    ABSINTHE L.A.
    March 22 - April 23, 2017
    Spiegelworld Tent at L.A. LIVE’s Event Deck
    1005 Chick Hearn Ct., Los Angeles CA 90015
    Tickets start at $49
    www.absinthela.com

    The Gazillionaire

    The Lost Boys

    The Silicone Valley Girls

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    L-R: Producers Peter Welkin, Amy Francis Schott, Luke Klipp, Corey Lynn Howe,
    Christopher Maikish, and Kila Packett

    It takes a village to create a new musical. And it takes a village like A Little New Music to give musical theatre writers a place to showcase new material while their Broadway-hopeful shows are in development. It’s an important part of the process, getting your songs in front of an audience. For the last four years, A Little New Music has presented quarterly concerts that offer the best new songs musical theatre has to offer and audiences can’t get enough of it. Neither can those behind the scenes.

    The producers of the series readily admit they love what they do and each one brings his or her own unique perspective to the process of “putting on a show.” Meet Peter Welkin, Christopher Maikish, Luke Klipp, Amy Francis Schott, and Kila Packett from A Little New Music. In this interview, they discuss their roles as producers and what musical theatre means to them. I hope you enjoy this window into their world.

    Peter Welkin (Executive Producer) A relationship evolves
    For many years I thought that the only way to be part of musical theater was to work really hard learning to sing, act and dance and then jump at any chance to take the first paid gig that came along. That taught me a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a performer but I was always chasing the tail of the business, trying to fit into the mold of the established musicals and the previously-defined characters that were required. 

    When I got involved with the Academy for New Musical Theater, I had a revelation – a nearly spiritual one. I realized that there was a whole new world of possibilities when it came to being in on the ground floor of developing new musical theatre works. I wanted to be part of the bleeding edge of this new musical theatre world, and ever since then, I’ve been involved in innumerable shows, readings, presentations, and more recently, concert productions, showcasing exciting new musical theatre material. 

    Early on, an ALNM concert attendee remarked that she “loved what we were doing and that she was so excited to feel like she was getting a sneak-peek at the future of Broadway.” Something fresh, something new, something exciting, that’s what keeps me motivated to do to this. Answering this need for our audience makes them more like an insider, and puts them closer to the cutting edge of the musical theatre art. I love to be able to say, “Oh yeah, Come From Away is on Broadway now, but we presented a song from that show almost two years ago, before most people had ever even heard of it.” That’s super exciting to me!

    Holding the vision
    Luckily, I’m not the only person who needs to maintain the vision for what we do. Our team is composed of people with really different backgrounds who are all dedicated to volunteering their time to bring our shows to fruition. We often rotate the producing roles when we build a show to avoid burnout. As an entirely volunteer group, each of us makes the choice to spend our free time working on this. That means we’re each dealing with our various jobs, relationships and family obligations, which can easily distract us. It’s not always easy to keep everyone moving in the same direction. But, knowing that we have a team of people who care deeply about the quality, freshness, and excitement factor in the new material makes my job that much easier. 

    There’s nothing like the feeling of sitting in that audience, and hearing and seeing how these new songs connect with people. That’s what makes it all worthwhile, knowing that we consciously created something an audience has never seen before, and given them a glimpse into a world of musical theater possibilities they didn’t know existed. Which reminds me of a famous Sondheim lyric…

    “White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.” – Sunday in the Park with George

    L-R: Mitch Glaser, Kila Packett, Peter Welkin, Amy Francis Schott, Luke Klipp, and 
    Christopher Maikish in an ALNM producers meeting


    Christopher Maikish (Founding Producer/Artistic Producer) Collaboration is key
    Because our production structure encourages rotation of roles for each concert, I think it breeds empathy amongst the team and also allows us an opportunity to engage intellectually with varying parts of “putting on the show.” Most of us have volunteered more than 500 hours each since 2012, encompassing 14 LA concerts, a special San Francisco engagement at Feinstein’s, and two years of presenting the “ALNM Outstanding Songwriting Award” at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

    The hats I’ve worn in my own professional life have been as performer, graphic designer, marketing manager, hospitality, and museum administration. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this project would end up being a great unifier of those experiences. And the time I’ve spent collaborating with writers, performers, and producers has given me the confidence to lead, and to lead with purpose.

    Shaping the show
    In the early days, we discussed having themed concepts for each show, but we decided that the idea of the “NEW” was more than enough. We really just want to share the songs we are most excited about. What generates that excitement? It might be a world premiere, an underserved storyline, a sophisticated melody, an unexpectedly clever lyric, an amazing new writer LA needs to meet, a show with momentum, the opportunity to break from tired casting tropes, a damn-funny song, or simply an unforgettable moment.

    Programming always feels a little bit like winemaking – you’re never fully in control of what the audience will experience, but you’re after the right balance of ingredients. We lean towards keeping the night upbeat, crisp, and fun. We program an eclectic blend of musical styles and we do seek a few name performers per concert. The hard fact is that it helps create momentum for filling the room, but we love local, new talent. We look for a balance in representation for both writers and performers regarding gender, race, age, life experience, etc. Logistics don’t always let us achieve that perfectly, but these are transparent and active conversations.

    A commitment to diversity
    That ethos has been front and center for me since the beginning. A Little New Music is in pursuit of a future artistic world and I believe diverse representation starts with the decision makers. Female, Trans, and POC writer friends – know that we want to hear from you. If our evening of songs is serving a singular idea, for me it’s this: You are not alone and you are welcome here. All of you. Let’s celebrate.

    At a time when society is receding into the numbing safety of technology, bringing the LA theater community into the same room to reflect on human life, to find an entertaining escape, or to make new connections feels more important than ever. I know performers who have found agents and lucrative projects from singing at our concerts. I know people who literally met and fell in love. And I know emerging writers now within earshot of producers we’ve had in our rooms. It’s intensely satisfying to have helped facilitate that.

    Christopher Maikish and Luke Klipp
    Luke Klipp (Founding Producer) Musical theatre meets life
    Chris Maikish and I originally conceived ALNM as a commercially-accessible artistic presentation and as a way to further connect LA’s burgeoning musical theatre community, but there’s been a growing sense in the last few months that this community offers even more than that. Musical theatre is one thread of a much larger artistic tapestry that gives people comfort, joy, hope, and conviction in difficult times.

    For me personally, performance and politics have generally been separate, and the challenge in straddling two very different worlds has made committing wholly to either of them virtually impossible. What I hope people are starting to recognize within the current political climate is that there is more to life than its mere existence, and that we also need to consider what makes life worthwhile.

    Musical theatre – and the arts more generally – are an invaluable element to that idea of what makes life worth living. Every single show that we have done has had moments that brought me to tears, moments that made me laugh out loud, and moments that caused me to think about my life and my role in the world. Every single show.

    Amy Francis Schott (Managing Producer) Getting it done
    For this particular show, I’m the utility player. Whatever needs to be done, I’ll do it. I’m a longtime stage manager so it’s natural for me to take on that role with ALNM. My other role, and the one I love the most, is writer outreach. Writers are the rockstars of my world: what they do, creating words and music which come together into more than the sum of their parts. That is the coolest thing I can imagine.

    Music, music, music
    We get a lot of song submissions – over 80 this last round – and there are songs we carry over because we love them and want to present them but, for whatever reason, they don’t fit into the current show we’re doing. Sometimes it’s because we can’t find the right casting or because another song we’ve chosen has too much similar DNA. We’ve held songs over 3 or 4 times, sometimes even a year, until it finds a place in the right show.

    A story behind every song
    Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne are NYC writers and we’ve featured them a number of times in our concerts. When their show The Boy Who Danced on Air had its world premiere at Diversionary Theatre in San Diego last year, we were able to get the two leads to come up to LA the week after it closed to sing a duet from the show. Now the musical is about to make its Off-Broadway premiere at Abingdon Theatre Company in May. 

    A few years ago I met the writers of Come From Away at NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre), Irene Sankoff and David Hein. We ended up having lunch together and we became Facebook friends. The next year, Come From Away was featured at NAMT. It was one of the most extraordinary musicals I’d ever seen and everyone was talking about it. Through that connection, we were able to present “Me and the Sky” from the show in our September 2014 concert. Since then, I’ve had the joy of seeing it brought fully to life at La Jolla Playhouse in 2016 and now the world can see it on Broadway!

    We’ve programmed songs by established writers like Kate Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk (their new show The Mad Ones is about to go up Off-Broadway) and also up-and-comers like Michael R. Jackson. The first time we featured Kerrigan and Lowdermilk was an unusual situation. They have a friend who is an opera singer, Zach Altman, and I had seen him sing this amazing song “One Last Prayer” from their musical Republic, based on Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Parts 1 & 2 and set in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. It was stunning. Turns out, Zach was going to be in LA and we were able to make arrangements for him to come and perform with us. 

    The first time I heard Michael’s music was in a late night concert after NYMF (New York Musical Festival). He wrote a song called “Miss Lucy” that I fell in love with and I asked him about it after the show. Cut to later when he submitted “Bathtub At The Beverly Hills Hotel” for ALNM and we found the amazing Jasmin Richardson (who’s on tour with The Bodyguard right now) to perform it. The song is sung from Whitney Houston’s point of view in her final moments. Jasmin gave an incredible performance and it ended up becoming one of the high points of the series.


    Kila Packett (Marketing Producer): Every village needs its people
    There are a lot of ways we bring the people to our village. Our website, designing posters, emails, press releases, videos showcasing our writers and performers, social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; college outreach, musical theatre clubs, and word of mouth; returning patrons, and of course name talent!  

    For example, on social media, I want our followers to join us in the day-to-day journey of how we piece a concert together. Similar to how celebrities post stories on their Facebook Live and Instagram, I like to be transparent with our audience by giving them a real behind-the-scenes view of our process.

    We have followers from all around the country who seek out musicals and, if we can make our routine a little more personal, it gives them a sense of being part of our community – a vibrant and constantly growing family of artists and art lovers. We are always trying new approaches for our promotional videos, and because music is such a great part of what we do, we want to challenge the listener to hear us in exciting new ways.

    Cant help falling in love
    I grew up loving musicals from watching movies and TV specials, records, and cassette tapes. I remember seeing Annie in the movie theater, The Mikado on PBS, my aunt played Guinevere in a production of Camelot, and my mother owned the recording of Funny Girl but I never saw a Broadway musical live until later in life. I know there are people just like me who want to hear the newest material so it makes promoting our work that much easier. There is a huge audience out there and social media not only brings our work to the masses, it helps us find new talent. That’s what I love about being at the forefront of cutting edge musical theatre. I get to be an ambassador for lovers of this art form and help bring people together. It doesn’t get better than that.  

    *      *      *     *      *

    A Little New Music’s producing team also includes Corey Lynn Howe, Mitch Glaser, Katherine Washington, Katie Porter, Chelsea Rae Bernier, Eran Scoggins, Michelle Lane, and musical director Gregory Nabours. Their next concert is April 24th at Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Doors open at 7pm for the 8:30 pm curtain. For tickets and more information, call (323) 466-2210 or visit www.alittlenewmusic.org.


    Since 2013, A Little New Music has featured over 170 songs by writers such as Sankoff & Hein, Pasek & Paul, Miller & Tysen, Ryan Scott Oliver, Carmel Dean, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, Milburn & Vigoda, Adam Gwon, Joe Iconis, Drew Fornarola, Zoe Sarnak, Erik Przytulski, Michael Finke, Rollins & Levine, and Gregory Nabours. More than 200 performers have appeared in ALNM concerts including Daisy Eagan, Jeff Marx, John Tartaglia, Shoshana Bean, Barrett Foa, Nicole Parker, Krysta Rodriguez, and Michael A. Shepperd.


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    Kenji Williams. Bella Gaia

    For years we’ve been taught how important it is to take care of the planet. In rural areas, that was especially true because farming the land and managing the earth’s resources meant there was food to eat and water to drink. Those whose parents lived through the Great Depression were schooled in the art of stretching a dollar, recycling and repurposing everyday items, and making do with what you had. You built community and cared about what happened to those around you because you understood that everyone needs help at one point or another.

    But little by little, in the hundred years since, we’ve become a much more self-centered throwaway society. Advances in technology and industry have increased our creature comforts but they have also isolated us and built a different kind of dependence, one focused not on community but on the machinery and virtual world of the future. In some ways, we’ve lost sight of our own humanity.

    Bella Gaia – A Poetic Vision of Earth From Space is a multi-dimensional musical and visual concert experience created by Kenji Williams that emotionally reconnects us – to each other and to our planet – by offering an extraordinary view of earth as one people, one world. The opening scenes take us through the chemical composition of the planets in our solar system and are a reminder that Earth is the only one that has an atmosphere able to sustain human life. Every other planet is uninhabitable.


    Most of us will never circle the globe in a space capsule but in Bella Gaia we get to see the next best thing: images of earth from outer space by astronauts who made the journey. We also get to hear their incredible thoughts about what those experiences taught them. They talk about oceans that touch countries separated by borders that don’t exist when you see them from space, and how fragile the thin line of earth’s atmosphere appears from this God-like vantage point.

    One astronaut aboard the International Space Station shared that on the first day of his round-the-globe adventure, they all focused on their own countries. After two or three days, on their own continent. By the fifth day, their perspective had shifted and they only saw one planet. That’s the “overview effect” – a psychological change in awareness that happens to astronauts when they experience what earth looks like suspended in space for the first time.


    The footage in Bella Gaia is breathtaking and when you add the musicians – Williams on violin, Yumi Kurosawa on Japanese 20-string Koto, and vocalist Kristin Hoffmann, the resulting artistry takes on the allure of the mystical.

    Exotic dancers join the group for several mesmerizing sequences with imagery from Egypt and India, the fiery sun, and the infinite cosmos. The negative effect of climate change on the Ganges River, without which the people of India could not survive, becomes a sobering reality as the message that the Ganges could run dry in our lifetime scrolls across a photograph of parched earth.

    Kaeshi. Photo by Chris Cunningham

    Beauty, and the global influences that threaten it, are interwoven throughout the piece. Cherry blossoms in Japan, Tokyo’s city lights, and the happy faces of children playing in water plumes from neighborhood fire hydrants contrast with visuals of oil consumption, population growth, and the effects of deforestation.

    Nothing is heavy-handed but the message is clear. What affects one affects all. Perhaps the most unforgettable example shown was of a dust storm in the Sahara desert, photographed swirling in the air in Russia, that finally settled to the ground in the Philippines.

    Bella Gaia = mind blown, in a glorious collision of science and art. It is an explosion of color, sound, and light that will restore your faith in the almighty and remind you that the beauty of our planet is enough to take your breath away. Deeply meaningful. Meditatively heartfelt. It was a perfect way to celebrate Earth Day at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium before the weekend. The next time it comes to Southern California, it goes on your calendar.

    For more about the performance, visit bellagaia.com.

    Yumi Kurosawa. Photo by Dale Landon






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    Davis Gaines returns to a role that won him an Ovation Award this June, Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, this time at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. Glenn Casale directs, musical direction is by Jeff Rizzo and choreography is by Patti Colombo. Joining Gaines in the cast are Nikki Crawford as Aldonza and Roland Rusinek as Sancho, Rich Hebert (Padre), Michaelia Leigh (Antonia), Jenny McGlinchey (Housekeeper), Jeff Skowron (The Barber), Shannon Stoeke (Dr. Carrasco/Duke), Joseph Abrego, Greg Butler, Joe Komara, Kailyn Leilani, Rachel McLaughlan, Eric Stretch, Michael Stumpfig, Michael Thomas-Visgar, John B. Williford, and Jenna Wright. The chivalrous knight Don Quixote rides again in an unpredictable adventure that takes him into battles with an imaginary foe and into romance with the beautiful Dulcinea. June 2 – 25. www.lamiradatheatre.com

    [Update as of 5/1/17 Cabaret has been postponed to Summer 2018]Up next for Celebration Theatre is Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret, directed by Michael Matthews, with choreography by the ever-creative Janet Roston and musical direction by Anthony Zediker. Alex Nee stars as the Emcee and Talisa Friedman as Sally Bowles, with Christopher Maikish (Cliff), John Colella (Ernst), Matthew Henerson (Herr Schultz), June Carryl (Fraulein Schneider), Katherine Tokarz (Fraulein Kost), Nathan Mohebbi (Bobby), Tyler Matthew Burk (Victor), Katheryne Penny (Texas), Janelle Toyami Dote (Rosie) and Alli Miller (Helga). Welcome to the Kit Kat Klub, the seediest, sexiest nightclub in Berlin where life isn’t just beautiful, it’s downright dangerous. May 26 – July 2. www.celebrationtheatre.com

    Robot Teammate is releasing an original cast recording of their award-winning musical Thug Tunnel available digitally on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. They’ll be celebrating with an album release party on Saturday, May 20th so mark your calendars. The book, music & lyrics music were conceived through improvisations and refined during writing sessions with the Robot Teammate ensemble, led by director Molly Dworsky. It’s a show I called “exceptionally appealing” and “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” when I reviewed it last summer.

    Featured on the cast album are Chris Bramante, Miles Crosman, Molly Dworsky, Nikki Muller, Dave Reynolds, Ingrid Gillming, Adrian Prohaska, Amanda Rae Troisi, Fayna Sanchez, and The Mother Thugger’s Band. The album will be available for purchase on Robot Teammate’s website and all major digital platforms. Visit www.robotteammate.com for more info.

    Michael Leoni’s Elevator has extended its run at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood through the end of June. The show is a comedic and emotional ride exploring what happens when seven strangers get stuck in an elevator. In close quarters, it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out. New to the cast are Zack Carter, Vivi Thai, David Schocke, and Amil Johnson who will be rotating roles with original cast members Devon Werkheiser, William Stanford Davis, Deborah Vancelette, David Abed, Karsen Rigby, Erica Katzin, and Kristina St. Peter. Now through June 25. www.elevatortheplay.com

    The Broad Stage opens its 2017-18 season with Born for This featuring original music by GRAMMY® Award-winning artist BeBe Winans and book by Winans and Charles Randolph-Wright, who also directs the new musical. Born for This is the story of Detroit teenagers BeBe and CeCe Winans’ experience joining Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise The Lord Network in Pineville, North Carolina. Jim and Tammy become an unlikely surrogate family as the two teenagers turn into the hottest stars in televangical America before crossing over to mainstream fame.

    Starring as BeBe and CeCe are their nephew and niece Juan and Deborah Joy Winans. The cast also includes Chaz Pofahl as Jim Bakker and Kirsten Wyatt as Tammy Faye Bakker, Kiandra Richardson (Whitney Houston), and Nita Whitaker (Mom Winans), Milton Craig Nealy (Pop Winans), Dyllon Burnside (Michael Winans/ Howard), Desmond Sean Ellington (Carvin Winans/Alvin), Brad Raymond (Ronald Winans) and Michael Stiggers (Marvin Winans). July 11 – August 6. www.thebroadstage.com

    We The People: A Musical Revolution is the latest new work from Daniel Sugimoto and the Zoo Theatre Company. The show follows a melting pot of young American struggling to make sense of the ever-changing socio-political climate by tackling current issues such as immigration legislation, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and racial division in the United States. Sugimoto’s score is a blend of rock, pop opera, hip-hop, and classical musical theatre that all works together to create a revolutionary thought provoking piece. June 2 – 18 at Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica. www.TheZooTheatreCo.com

    Chance Theater presents an encore presentation of Fancy Nancy, The Musical as part of its TYA series. Written by Susan DiLallo (book & lyrics) and Danny Abosch (music), directed by Angeline Mirenda, and based on original staging by Kelly Todd. The show follows Fancy Nancy and her friends Bree, Rhonda, Wanda, and Lionel as they prepare to perform in their very first show, Deep Sea Dances. Nancy is positive (that’s fancy for “100 percent sure”), that she and Bree will be picked to be mermaids. When another girl wins the coveted role, Nancy is stuck playing a dreary, dull tree. What’s a girl to do? May 5 – 28. www.chancetheater.com

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    Ebony Repertory Theatre will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Broadway musical Five Guys Named Moe with a new production at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center May 18 – June 11. The exuberant, international hit by Clarke Peters pays tribute to the music of rhythm and blues pioneer Louis Jordan and will be directed and choreographed by Keith Young with musical direction by the original Broadway production’s musical director Abdul Hamid Royal. It is the story of the heroic Nomax who is down on his luck. His girlfriend Lorraine has left him, he’s been drinking, and he’s listening to the radio at 4:45 am. Emerging from his radio, the Moes – No Moe, Little Moe, Four Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, and Big Moe – encourage Nomax through song and stories to turn his life around and tell Lorraine that he loves her. Starring Obba Babatundé, Eric B. Anthony, Trevon Davis, Rogelio Douglas, Jr., Jacques C. Smith, and Octavius Womack. www.ebonyrep.org

    Actors Co-ops 25th Silver Anniversary season closes with Lucky Stiff, the killer musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Stephen Van Dorn directs the show which is now in previews and opens May 12. Choreography is by Julie Hall and musical direction by Taylor Stephenson. This hilarious musical murder mystery farce mixes diamonds, mistaken identities and a body in a wheelchair (and puppies!) in an all singing, all dancing, killer musical comedy. Starring Claire Adams, David Atkinson, Gina D’Acciaro, Brian Habicht, Alastair James Murden, Brandon Parrish, Rory Patterson, Selah Victor, José Villarreal and Vito Viscuso. www.ActorsCo-op.org

    Jaime Camil, of CW’s Jane the Virgin, will star in the Hollywood Bowl’s summer musical Mamma Mia! in the role of Sam Carmichael. The show will be directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and conducted by David Holcenberg. Complete casting TBA. Performances at the Bowl are July 28, 29 & July 30. Single tickets are on sale now. www.hollywoodbowl.com
    After Hours Theatre Company presents Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Dogfight at the Hudson Theatre beginning June 2. Musical direction is by Elmo Zapp, choreography by Jennifer Oundjian and co-direction by Oundjian and Jennifer Strattan. In 1963, on the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for one final boys’ night of partying and debauchery. But, when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress whom he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of love and compassion. Starring Payson Lewis, Nicci Claspell, Trent Mills, Spencer Strong Smith, Emily Morris, Peter Allen Vogt, Stephanie Anderson, Austin Powell, Aliya Stuart, Nevada Brandt, Harrison Meloeny, Everjohn Feliciano, Emily Barnett, Erik Hall, and Jilli Marine. www.plays411.com/dogfight

    The musical comedy improv group Robot Teammate premieres its original musical space race comedy Turbulence! at Sacred Fools Theater beginning June 10. It’s the year 4242 and the Intergalympics competition between humans on Earth and Mars is at a fever pitch. An epic race around the sun concludes the events, but the untimely demise of Earth’s designated competitors means the haphazard crew of the S.S. Albacore and their android assistant Mambo 4 must go to bat. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Starring Kat Primeau, Miles Crosman, Molly Dworsky, Dave Reynolds and Chris Bramante. Miles Crosman is head writer. The show is directed by Molly Dworsky and Sam Johnides is musical director. Family-friendly (ages 10+). June 10 – 22. Tickets: http://hff17.com/4557

    Musical Theatre Guild has announced its upcoming 2017 – 2018 season consisting of rarely seen musicals based on popular films. They are: Sugar (Sept 24, 2017), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Nov 12, 2017), High Society (Feb 25, 2018) and Honeymoon in Vegas (May 6, 2018). All performances will take place at the Alex Theatre in Glendale at 7pm. Season tickets go on sale in late June and single tickets in July. www.musicaltheatreguild.com

    Fraser Entertainment Group presents A Classic Broadway Mother’s Day featuring a cast of mom singers and their offspring on Sunday, May 14. Doors open at 4:30 for the 6pm songfest at Rockwell Table and Stage. Hosted by Jason Graae and special guest music director Todd Schroeder and starring Tami Tappan Damiano & Dante Damiano, Chelsea Field, Chelsy Gray & Owen Bakula, Dianne Fraser & Hayley Silver, Kelly Lester & Julia Lester, and Nita Whitaker & Skye LaFontaine. Click Here for tickets.

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    Wayne Moore’s Freeway Dreams, a musical comedy about commuters stuck in freeway traffic whose dreams emerge as they daydream opens May 19. Originally staged as a cabaret show which ran for five months at the Gardenia, the show has been expanded into a full musical production directed by Jim Blanchette. Moore says, “The show is about people stuck on the freeway, and the fantasies they have in their lives. Actually, they’re stuck so long they end up in each other’s fantasies, so there’s lots of funny stuff.” Starring Aubrie Alexander, Stephanie Andersen, Jonathan Brett, Ashley Douglas, Darren Mangler and Leslie Rubino. May 19 – June 11, Write Act Rep at the Brickhouse Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove Street in Hollywood. Click Here for tickets.

    Can you hear it? That’s London Calling, a gritty new musical inspired by the music of the influential British punk rock band The Clash, with book by Peggy Lewis. This is the 40th anniversary of The Clash’s first album and the show centers around a youth spent playing in bands, living in squats, and pursuing dreams in Holland and Canada. The lyrics of the songs propel the 90-minute story forward – story of aspirations, disappointment, and redemption. June 4 – 25 at the Hudson Theatre. http://hff17.com/4293 or www.london-calling.com.

    In Trump in Spaceby Gillian Bellinger and Landon Kirksey, Star Trek meets Avenue Q meets Battlestar Galactica meets Trump, in a campy political musical comedy in space. It’s a battle between good vs bad, ideals vs opportunism, Trump vs Trump set 400 years in the future. The sci-fi absurdist comedy imagines a humanity divided among starships seeking a new home with the left leaning Starship California leading the rebellion against the still-in-power Trump regime led by Captain Natasha Trump and the mysterious Executive. Starring Gillian Bellinger, Rachel Boller, Kevin Richards, Landon Kirksey, Muriel Montgomery, Scott Palmason, Nikki Bittogrino, Don Schlossman, Carrie Long and Jim Shipley. Directed by Matt Zettell, with music by Sam Johnides and Tony Gonzalez. June 3 – 24 at The Actor’s Company. http://hff17.com/4674

    The world premiere of The Brick – A One Man Musical written and composed by Bill Berry takes its inspiration from neuroscientist David Eagleman’s theory of three deaths (the first: when the body ceases to function; the second: when the body is put in its grave; the third: that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time). Comedy songwriter Bill Berry goes mano a mano with the spirit of his deceased mother, offering her the choice to live on, or die her third and final death in this intriguing work directed by Kelly De Sarla. June 10 - 22 at Asylum @ Studio C in Hollywood. http://hff17.com/4418

    The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center continues performances of John August’s poignant musical Big Fish through May 21. The show centers on charismatic Edward Bloom, whose impossible stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son, Will. As Edward’s final chapter approaches, Will embarks on his own journey to find out who his father really is, revealing the man behind the myth, the truth from the tall tales. Starring Will Shupeas Edward Bloom along with Andrew Allen, Natasha Bloom, Marcello Silva, Kevin Ellis, Conchita Belisle Newman, Jen Ridgway, Christopher Spangler, Philip McBride, Jared Price, Savannah Leigh, Bryce Brady, Tori Cusack, Ashley Maimes, Ralph Santos, Claudia Stone-Sheppard, and Megan Tisler directed by Fred Helsel. www.simi-arts.org

    Narsociety – The Social Media Shaming Musical by Chris Valenti and John T. Mickevich about our narcissism and addiction to the Internet will play the Hudson Theatre beginning June 2. The full length two act musical features 19 new songs that explore elements of the Internet experience: procrastination, dating apps, cat-fishing, incessant selfies, cat videos, fears of improbable disasters, response-time insecurity, the thrill of trending, and more. Starring Bonnie Kolber, Sarah Spiegel, C. Brian Smith, William Gabriel Grier, Larisa Peters, Chris Valenti, Christine Anatone, Vincent Soto, Alyssa B. Jackson, Tom Schneiders, Nadia Marina, Morgan Ann Smith, Edward Alvarado, and Reed Buck. Directed by Chris Valenti with choreography by Michelle Loucadoux. June 2 – 11 at the Hudson Backstage Theater. hff17.com/4312 or plays411.com/Narsociety

    They Played Productions debuts its first live project; a serious adult musical about werewolves that explores obsession, our need for choices, and the rage within in Nothing Bad: A Werewolf Rock Musical. Written and directed by Erik Blair, with music by Daniel Sugimoto, the show is the story of Perfection, CA where everything is perfect. But when good girl Lilly White realizes she wants something more than everything, the rebel motorcycle gang looks like a great solution. The only problem is they’re werewolves. Once bitten, she’ll learn about Perfection’s dark underbelly as she turns into The Beast. Sugimoto’s music switches from the innocence of the1950s to a pounding ‘80s style rock with the transformation. June 2 – 24 at Studio/Stage. Use discount code “HOWL” for $10 tix for the June 2nd performance. http://hff17.com/4168

    (mostly)musicals returns to the E Spot Lounge on May 22 with (mostly)musicals In Dreams a show that will “make your dreams come true.” Gregory Nabours heads up the dream team cast which includes Sharon McNight, Michelle Ortiz, Alli Miller, Ashley Jones, Christine Tucker, Christopher Maikish, Cooper Howell, Domonique Paton, David LaMarr, Espiridion Magana, Kelley Dorney, Matt Magnusson, and Matt Valle. Emily Clark hosts the open mic after party. www.mostlymusicalsLA.com

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