Frenchie Davis (Geffen Playhouse)

Frenchie - CopyAn Evening with Frenchie Davis was a lovely event that had the Geffen audience standing on its feet.

Frenchie is an accomplished singer and performer and showed everyone what it is to “Frenchify” a song. She took multiple upbeat songs and transformed them into to sultry R&B experiences like “Trap Queen” from Fetty Wop or “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga.

Only two things could have made this night more entertaining. 1. If Ms. Davis sang some more Broadway tunes or show-stoppers like “I Am Telling You” from Dreamgirls. 2. If she threw in one or two upbeat songs to mix things up.

They say a great actor can make reading the phone book interesting; well Frenchie can sing about anything and make it brilliant. To illustrate, she sang the “ABC’s” in a delightful and entertaining way that I didn’t know was possible.

Keep your eyes and ears out for Frenchie Davis. She is a shining star that is impossible to miss.

– Trevor

 

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2016 Roundup

Below I’ve compiled a list of every play, concert, live event we saw this year. Because it was a record year for entertainment (for us), and I’d rather remember 2016 for that than, well…anything else (election *cough* the demise of the USA *cough*).

This year we saw 34 stage productions together: 
Spelling Bee (YAE Forever)
1984 (Broad Stage)
An Act of God (Ahmanson)
Empire (La Mirada)
Barcelona (The Geffen)
Magic Flute (LA Opera)
Madame Butterfly (LA Opera)
Tick Tick Boom (After Hours Theatre)
Stage Kiss (Geffen)
Office Hour (SCR)
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Ahmanson)
Amadeus (SCR)
Hairy Ape (Odyssey)
La Boheme (LA Opera)
Fringe: Voices, Adam Bomb(s), Porn Rock, All the Best Killers are Librarians
Gruesome Playground Injuries (Hudson)
Bad Jews (Theatre of Note)
Grey Gardens (Ahmanson)
All The Way (SCR)
Barbecue (Geffen)
District Merchants (SCR)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Mark Taper)
A View from the Bridge (Ahmanson)
Macbeth (LA Opera)
Destiny of Desire (SCR)
Icebergs (Geffen)
Akhnaten (LA Opera)
Wonderful Town (LA Opera)
Beauty Queen of Leenane (Mark Taper)
Amelie (Ahmanson)
Home Alone (Rockwell)

Trevor saw a few shows on his own or with friends:
Disgraced (Mark Taper)
Little Mermaid (La Mirada)

I saw a few shows on my own or with friends:
Newsies (Segerstrom)
Figaro (Panic Productions)
Parade (Panic Productions)
Beautiful (Pantages)
A Chorus Line (Hollywood Bowl)
Westside Story (Hollywood Bowl)
Wizard of Oz (GTC)
Lend Me A Tenor (La Mirada)
Mutthouse the Musical staged reading (NoHo Arts Center)
I Love You Because (After Hours Theatre)
Funny Girl (Conundrum Theatre Company)
A co-worker’s daughter’s variety show
Fringe: 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, 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, Seven Decembers, Suckin Injun
The Seven Guys You Date Before You Get Married (twice)
MI Comedy Theatre Lip Sync Battle
MI Teen Slasher Flick
No Limits Comedy Hour
Not to mention the countless MI and Max improv shows I attended

We also attended:
2 food festivals (LA Weekly’s Tacolandia and 626 Night Market)
2 Dodgers Games
1 Padres Game
1 Kings game (our first hockey game!)
1 Tony-viewing party
Grease live viewing party
Hairspray live viewing party
Hamilton documentary viewing party
1 Nerdology game show
Jeff Goldblum’s jazz show at the Rockwell (twice)
Leon Bridges concert
Max Amory concert
Steve Martin & Martin Short in concert
A pole dancing competition
Rhapsody en Dance concert
2 escape rooms
2 county fairs (LA & SD)
Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary special screening
Jazz shows: Baked Potato, Blue Whale, Lighthouse Cafe

Bye 2016! We won’t miss ya but thanks for the fun!

 

 

Home Alone (Rockwell Table & Stage)

Home Alone - CopyThe Rockwell is always a good time. Well, it is if you happen to score a seat in the overly crowded space that isn’t blocked by a column or the back of someone’s head, and you manage to dupe your server into not enforcing the 2 item minimum.

BUT, I do always enjoy watching my friend and ex-roommate Zach Zagoria KILL IT onstage. Zach has starred in a few Rockwell/UMPO shows, but in this one especially he gets to show off his guns 😉 He earned his keep, dashing around the stage and portraying multiple supporting characters.

Any lovers of the original movies will enjoy the not-so-hidden homages to those classic 90’s staples. I always appreciate the 90’s/early 2000’s soundtracks that are often the basis for UMPO’s shows, and I particularly liked that Kevin was played by an actress.

– Jerusha

Amelie (Ahmanson)

Amelie - CopyAmelie is going to Broadway, but if I was in New York I would probably skip it. I might be biased though because I am such a fan of the movie. The movie is French, and I feel like one of the main characters is France, with its beautiful scenery and unique individuals. The musical does not feel French at all. No one speaks with an accent and the show feels like it could be taking place anywhere.  The score in the movie is so iconic and you only hear bits of it in the musical. In fact, the music in the show sounded all the same to me except for one or two numbers – which is not a good sign for a new musical. Phillipa Soo is a Broadway star in the making, but even she could not save this production. I suggest seeing the movie instead. You will not regret it.

-Trevor

Beauty Queen of Leenane (Mark Taper)

Martin McDonagh’s Beauty Queen of Leenane is another hit for the Taper. McDonagh is such a master at dark comedy and it is played to perfection in the Druid’s production. Broad comedy is on display with Aaron Monaghan’s antsy brother and subtle comedy with Marie Mullen, Marty Rea and Aisling O’Sullivan’s nuanced line deliveries and guttural noises. Another quality of McDonagh’s work that is sometimes overlooked is his knack for dripping horror and suspense into his pieces. You know you’re seeing a great show when the audience gasps multiple times.

I thought the play was executed brilliantly minus one part where a certain character didn’t scream after getting tortured, but other than that – go see this tortured relationship between a mother and daughter. It will make you feel much better about your relationship with your parents, to say the least.

-Trevor

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

Akhnaten (LA Opera)

Akhnaten by Philip Glass might be my favorite opera I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe I just wrote that for a show I didn’t even want to see! After hearing multiple rave reviews from friends and strangers (I talk to A LOT of people) I decided to get us tickets and was happy all the positive reviews were correct. The score by Philip Glass is hypnotic and immediately pulls you back in time. The staging by Phelim McDermott was slow and deliberate which helped one focus on all the little details sprinkled throughout the show. The performances were bold and provocative with Anthony Roth Costanzo full on naked for the first 5-10 minutes of the show. The best part though was the juggling. To see the precision and perfection of the jugglers was just icing on the cake. They juggled things that I didn’t even know was possible and made it look so effortless. My favorite scene was when Akhnaten was singing under the giant moon with fog surrounding him and jugglers were throwing giant balloons in the air. It was phenomenal and something that I know I’ll be talking about for years to come.

-Trevor

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