Wonderful Town (LA Opera)

374b4640-8a56-4e56-81a9-192f7fc49018 Jeans at the Opera! That’s what I saw Saturday night at a special-engagement semi-staged production of Wonderful Town at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The crowd was much more mixed and relaxed than what you typically see at the Opera – lots of “laymen”, you might say.

I LOVE Leonard Bernstein, and although not as popular as Westside Story and a much lighter piece, it definitely has that nostalgic Broadway feel, with catchy tunes and cheesy lines galore! What a treat it was to see Tony Award-winners Faith Prince and Nikki M. James star as two sisters trying to make it big in the Big Apple. Special shoutout to Roger Bart, a man of many hats (literally), in the role(s) of Narrator, Tour Guide, Speedy Valenti, Chick Clark, etc. Marc Kudisch’s Robert Baker had that dreamy George Clooney feel about him, and both Faith and Nikki were rockstars (although Faith was a bit old for the role, no?).

The special 3-night engagement is over by the time I’m writing this, so I’m not spoiling it for anyone by saying that my favorite parts were the appearance of the cast rising up out of the orchestra pit at the end of the overture, and the surprise dance bits with a troupe of male dancers (and Faith and Nikki too!). Wonderful Town was a real holiday treat!

-Jerusha

Icebergs (The Geffen)

99c5384e-da6a-4369-a07c-b57473d5a341“There’s nothing like live theatre!”
“The show must go on!”

Those cliche theatre sayings that you hear so often, were reality at The Geffen this week, when Thora Birch left the show just days before opening. So at the second preview this week, we were “treated” to a rare performance – that of an on-book actress! Jennifer Mudge, who stepped into the lead role of Abigail the week of opening, carried the script with her as she gave an energetic performance that almost (but not quite) made you believe she had been rehearsing the role for weeks (instead of days).

Casting glitches aside, I really enjoyed Icebergs. Set in present-day Silverlake, Los Angeles, the play is a 90-minute exploration of relationships – between a budding screenwriter (Calder) and his actress wife (Abigail); said screenwriter and his high school friend visiting from the midwest (Reed); and between Abigail and her life-long friend, now neighbor, recently married to another woman (Molly). Local references are abundant, and the piece deals with relevant topics such as raising a family in an uncertain world (hence the title: Icebergs – you know, climate change and all that?).

I’d call this one light and fluffy, with stellar performances by the supporting characters in particular (Calder’s flamboyantly straight and enthusiastic agent (Nicky), and Abigail’s cat-mom, lesbian lawyer friend Molly). The set was beautiful and flawless as always.

-Jerusha

Lend Me A Tenor (La Mirada)

img_6039Trevor was on tour this week, so I took my friend Kamie to see Lend Me A Tenor at La Mirada. We made the trek down on a Thursday night (always an ordeal), but the drive was definitely worth it! Lend Me A Tenor is a hilarious farce set in the 1930’s. A case of mistaken identities always makes for a good time, especially at the beautiful La Mirada Theatre, on an elegant set by Tom Buderwitz. We had great seats center of the orchestra (and it was fun to brag to my friend that that’s our norm), and happened to be sitting next to some old UCLA acquaintances. Tom McCoy’s curtain speech was chuckle-worthy as always, and it was a funny coincidence to be watching a show set in Cleveland a mere day after they lost the World Series. The cast was STELLAR, especially John Shartzer as Max. I also really enjoyed Catherine LeFrere’s performance as the Italian opera singer’s spitfire of a wife. The staging/direction had all the physical comedy that a farce should have, and the piece really clipped along, especially after intermission. No standing ovation on this Thursday night, but I’ve found that those are hard to come by at La Mirada. The bonus was the VERY involved step & repeat, which included a themed backdrop, red carpet, and 3 (count ’em, 3) volunteers helping to dress you in fur wraps, costume pearls, hair pieces, top hats and canes.

Destiny of Desire (SCR)

fullsizerenderBoy was I excited to find out that playwright Karen Zacarías penned our most recent South Coast Rep show, Destiny of Desire! One of my very first “professional” theatre gigs, was Assistant Stage Managing the POP Tour at La Jolla Playhouse – an educational tour that brings a 30-min musical to dozens of schools throughout San Diego County every year. Karen wrote the 2011 edition, Frida Libre!

Destiny of Desire has the same quirky ethnic immersion that I enjoyed while working on Frida Libre. Zacarías tells a “prince and the pauper”-type story in telenovela fashion, which made for a highly entertaining night. Production value was high, as we’ve come to expect from SCR shows. The cast was strong – every character “likeable”, and every actor convincing. I will say that Ella Saldana North, who played the “pauper” sister, overacted…or overprojected? I felt like she yelled all her lines, which got old quickly. My only other complaints are that it was a little long for what it was, and that the space was much too big for the show. While I admired the set design and creative use of curtains and moving set pieces, it felt like the cast was constantly galloping across the stage. I’m sure this piece will get mixed reviews from the very white Orange County audience, but I definitely enjoyed myself!

PS Trevor was excited that the piece was directed by a UCLA professor, José Luis Valenzuela.

PPS I did just binge watch 2 seasons of Jane the Virgin…so maybe I was a little more primed to like the telenovela parody feel.

– Jerusha

Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary Screening

Trevor: This wasn’t live theater. It was one of those live theater broadcasts that they have at the movie theater. I liked the idea of them, but was skeptical. It doesn’t beat a live experience, but it is definitely worth seeing a show that would be very difficult to attend unless one lives in London or NYC and has a lot of money.

Miss Saigon is from the same creative team as Les Mis, and I am not a fan of sing-throughs (let’s get some dialogue please). I wasn’t familiar with the story, but when the screening started I was sucked in. Everyone in the audience was super excited and applauding after numbers. Jerusha was squeezing my leg and squirming with excitement over special guest appearances. I totally fell in love with it and can’t wait to see something else at the movie theater.  Here is a link of shows that are coming to a theater(hopefully) near you!

Jerusha: I first saw Miss Saigon at the Starlight Bowl in San Diego, with my mom and sister. We bawled like babies. Tonight’s screening was magical for me! I’m a sucker for anniversary reunions, so the bonus performances by the original cast members was extra special!

Parade (Panic! Productions)

I caught a performance of Parade on a Sunday afternoon. First of all, I have had some pretty entertaining experiences at Hillcrest matinees…such as elderly folks literally physically fighting over seats. Alas, no such shenanigans occurred this time 😉

I was not familiar with the music of Parade prior to my viewing on Sunday. I can now say, it is NOT one of my favorite JRB shows. It is so depressing! And while I was hopeful that the music would inspire me since they did I have a live band, I was not impressed! It’s hard to tell if it was the piece that I really didn’t like, or the community theatre feel of the performance. Not to knock Panic! Productions! I have seen some great stuff from them! My dear friend Alisa is always one of their shining stars (which is why I go ;)), but I can say without bias that in the past I have enjoyed Panic!’s shows. It was disappointing to me that Parade was the exception.

That being said, the set design was clever, the costumes were beautiful, and I enjoyed the choreography. Looking forward to the next Panic! show!

-Jerusha

ALL THE WAY (SOUTH COAST REP)

On Wednesday, we caught a 7:30pm performance of “All The Way”, by Robert Schenkkan. First of all, we have to stop seeing weeknight performances at South Coast Rep – the traffic on the drive down was horrendous.

Traffic aside, I enjoyed “All The Way”. Set in 1963, the Tony-Award-winning Broadway hit depicts LBJ’s takeover as President after the Kennedy assassination, and his campaign for re-election. Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, the political drama features famous historical leaders and moments. Hugo Armstrong really gives LBJ a beautifully fleshed-out character, and the rest of the ensemble cast is strong as well. I wasn’t a huge fan of the staging, but that could have been because we were in the first row on the side (looking up). One warning though – this play is LONG. 3 hours without the intermission. The curtain was 7:30pm and we weren’t headed home until 11pm – not ideal on a hump-day evening. As always, South Coast Rep delivers with high-caliber production value and casting. It was an enjoyable evening, although not one of my all-time favorites.

– Jerusha

 

 

 

SUMMER ROUND-UP

We’ve been bad recently. No reviews and few photos. It’s like after the Fringe craziness, we couldn’t catch up. So here’s a short round-up, with one-sentence reviews, and a promise to be better!

May 15 – HAIRY APE (ODYSSEY)
Trevor: The direction and staging felt fresh for this O’Neill classic that still shocks today.
Jerusha: I had never read the play and went in blind…a shocking piece, in a good way.

13301313_10100102069340420_2716217497001946496_oMay 25 – LA BOHEME (LA OPERA)
Trevor: A timeless classic that everyone should see at least once.
Jerusha: I loved it! I’m obsessed with Rent so it was so nice to finally see the source material on stage. Beautifully done. Colorful, dramatic, grand, sweet, all the good adjectives!

 

13320525_10100102474219040_3599500413541571886_oMay 27 – NEWSIES (SEGERSTROM)
Jerusha: I went with Jules & Alisa to this one. It was fun to see Newsies again – I saw it last year at the Pantages. The acoustics are WAY better at the Segerstrom, and it was fun to see it on a Friday night with an audience full of kids. Disney magic!

 

13510841_10100109526186840_2457380075784113289_nJune 22 – BEAUTIFUL (PANTAGES)
Again, I went with Jules and Alisa. I’ve been DYING to see this. I grew up on Carole King. The show made me cry, I sang along to the whole thing, and the minute we walked out I was ready to see it again. I’ll try and catch it again at the Segerstrom in the fall!

 

July 8 – BAD JEWS (THEATRE OF NOTE)
Jerusha: We saw this show because two of Trevor’s acting class friends produced/starred in it. I was pleasantly surprised! The show was very well produced for a <50 seater. As I write this review over a month later, I can’t really remember the premise, other than it’s a family drama lol. BUT! The quality stuck – I remember being impressed and entertained.
Trevor: I almost liked the direction better than the Geffen production…

13662228_10100115159956720_4988870327423917899_oJuly 14 – GREY GARDENS (AHMANSON)
Jerusha: What a beautiful show! I went in knowing nothing about the musical. I’ve seen both the documentary and the movie though, and was familiar with the source material. Both Rachel York and Betty Buckley were fantastic. The music was catchy – I spent the next week listening to the OBC recording.

 

July 19 – WESTSIDE STORY (HOLLYWOOD BOWL)
Jerusha: I attended this LA Phil show with Jules and Alisa! Minimal staging, but Jeremy Jordan and Karen Olivo – need I say more? I have always and will always love the music of Westside Story. It was a treat to hear it live (with Gustavo Dudamel at the helm!).

July 24 – I LOVE YOU BECAUSE (AFTER HOURS THEATRE) 
Jerusha: My friends at After Hours Theatre produced, directed, designed, starred in this production of the off-broadway hit. While I’m not a fan of the material – the music motifs are inconsistent and the storyline shallow – I’m looking forward to seeing more work from my talented friends! Trevor opted out of this one.

13882501_10100119403133360_2922559874818153272_nJuly 31 – A CHORUS LINE (HOLLYWOOD BOWL) 
Jerusha: I’m a lucky girl and had a girl date with Jules and Alisa again at the bowl, less than 2 weeks after Westside Story. I LOVE the fully-produced shows at the bowl. It’s such a fun time. We sang along the whole time to this theatre nerd classic!

 
13882551_1799383103628399_302639164076829846_nAugust 11 – WIZARD OF OZ (GLENDALE CENTRE THEATRE) 
Jerusha: I went to this show with my co-worker and her kids. It was so fun to see it with children – seeing the wonder of theatre magic for the first time! Pauli sat on my lap the entire show and she loved it!

 

 

 

HOLLYWOOD FRINGE FESTIVAL

13417007_10100105660468770_5069987974267443206_oJune was a crazy show month for us. Altogether, we saw 28 shows in the month of June! Why? I’ve been the Hollywood Fringe Festival Manager for the Lounge Theatres on Theatre Row for the past 3 years. This year, I booked 33 shows (and over 150 performances) at the Lounge – and we’re just one of dozens of venues. I am also an Encore Awards judge, which means I see shows and help judge which ones will be granted an extension by one of the venues. Hence…lots of show viewing. AND, for the first time, Trevor Fringed with me! Trevor was in a Fringe show this year, called “The Seven Guys You Date Before You Get Married”. Here’s a list of the Fringe shows we saw this year, but no reviews because we have lots of friends and acquaintances on the Fringe circuit :

Vintage Box
All Aboard the Marriage Hearse
Edges
Mmhmm: A Killer One Woman Show
Cold Tangerines
Power! Stokley Carmichael
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Sh!t
Bloody Beautiful
Voices
Adam Bomb(s)
Porn Rock
All the Best Killers are Librarians
Qaddafi’s Cook – Living in Hell, Cooking for the Devil*
Take Another Look
#WhaleFail
Gilda: A Tribute to Beloved Comedienne Gilda Radner*
Aurora & Larry
Fairytales Against Humanity
Please Stand Clear The Doors Are Closing
Feast of Snacks
Strap-On
The Seven Guys You Date Before You Get Married
Seven Decembers
Suckin Injun
Gruesome Playground Injuries

-Jerusha

AMADEUS (SOUTH COAST REP)

dsc00862_rgb_scr-400x400For the first time in #LAThtrCouple’s (short) history, I forgot to take a photo! So here’s one I found online (sad!!!!).

On Wednesday night, T and I took a mini mid-week roadtrip down to South Coast Rep, for one of Amadeus‘s last previews. Faint from hunger (no time to stop for food!), and daunted by the 3-hour run-time, I was almost certain I would want to leave at intermission. I’m happy to report that not only did we not leave, but I was sad when the 3 hours were over – they flew by! 

Amadeus is a fictionalized account of the lives of the composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. With Salieri as our narrator, we move through their lives from his point of view. The most surprising thing is just how funny the play is! I’m unfamiliar with the piece, so I don’t know if this is specific to the SCR production or not, but there were quite a few contemporary twists that made the evening really unique. Mozart and his wife use more contemporary language and portray their characters as quite modern, compared to the rest of the ensemble. Notably, Emperor Joseph II seemed to model his character on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton’s King George (although Trevor tells me it’s actually the other way around – Jonathan Groff mimicking Amadeus’s Emperor). These twists made the play even more enjoyable – especially the rousing rock number to which they come out and take their bows.

My only gripe would be that Salieri’s monologuing got a little bit boring for me. Not his fault of course – Marco Barricelli’s Salieri was perfection, as were Peter Frechette’s Emperor, Asher Grodman’s Mozart, and Liesel Allen Yeager’s Constanze Weber. The costumes and set were fantastic (typical SCR), and it was nice to see that the cast featured a good number of local LA talent.

It’s no secret that I’m a big SCR fan (I think I’ve previously mentioned that if we were to get a subscription to one theatre in “town”, I would choose SCR), so I’m sure it will come as no surprise that when we were leaving the theatre and Trevor asked me what I thought of the show, I responded, “South Coast nails it again!”