Wednesday, December 19, 2018


LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
 You may have seen the film, Love, Actually, written and produced by Richard Curtis for Universal Pictures that opened in theatres Nov. 3, 2003.  The movie is a romantic comedy that takes place in London during the Christmas season, and that has made it a staple to be shown somewhere every Christmas since. 
            
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills is featuring the world premiere of Love Actually Live in a most unusual production in collaboration with For the Record and by special arrangement with Universal Theatrical Group..  It is superbly adapted and directed by Anderson Davis
          
The scenic design by Mathew Steinbrenner is most unusual with multiple screens high up on the stage that show the scenes from the movie followed by live actors and singers who perform matching characters in the scenes.  Very unique and clever, to say the least, and so well done by the entire cast of nineteen, all who are superb singers and actors.  An outstanding 15-piece orchestra, conducted by Jesse Vargas, adds to the success of this outstanding musical.
           
Although I am not an aficionado of the film, Love Actually, this production is a dazzling musical extravaganza that gives it so much oomph.  I loved every minute of it.       
            
Performances are scheduled Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 PM., Saturdays at 2 PM and 7:30 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, final showing Monday, Dec 31 at 8 PM at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available at the onsite theatre box office, online at TheWallis.org or by phone at (310) 746-4000.
           




HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Friday, December 14, 2018


SOUTH PACIFIC by Carol Kaufman Segal
            




Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s well-known Broadway play and award-winning South Pacific was based on James Michener’s prize–winning book Tales of the South Pacific.  It opened on Broadway April 7, 1949, and closed January 16, 1954 after 1925 performances.   In 1958 it was made into an award-winning film starring Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor.  The Rubicon Theatre in Ventura is concluding their 20th anniversary season with a spectacular production of this marvelous musical playing through Dec. 23.
            South Pacific features glorious ballads by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein as well as comic and upbeat songs accompanied by a two-piano adaptation.  Brent Crayon is the Musical Director and First Keyboard Player and Lee Martino is the Choreographer.  It also features a cast of 28 very talented performers, all under the direction of Katharine Farmer.
            South Pacific takes place on an island in the South Pacific during World War II where two unlikely couples find love but are torn apart by differences that are difficult to overcome. Nellie Forbush (Madison Claire Parks) is an American Nurse from a small town, stationed on the island.  She meets and falls in love with a French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (Benjamin Jay Davis).        
            Lt. Joseph Cable (Alex Nee), also stationed on the island with an army battalion, falls in love with Liat (Jamie Yun), a beautiful shy native girl, after meeting her through the efforts of her very assertive mother, Bloody Mary (Jodi Kimura).
            Nellie discovers that Emile had been married to a native woman (deceased) and is the father of two adorable children, a boy and a girl (Ian Nunney and Isabella De Los Santos).  But Nellie is unable to accept the biracial children and breaks her engagement to Emile while Joe can’t imagine bringing home an island native, though he admits he loves Liat.
            The play follows the two love stories while cast members perform the roles of the nurses and members of the army who are all based on the island, much done through Roger’s and Hammerstein’s apropos songs and dancing by all. I never could have imagined how the small stage of the Rubicon theatre could feature a show with such a large cast but they do a miraculous job with the entire production and with such quality performers. The two leads, Ben Davis and Madison Claire, have wonderful voices and do justice to every song they sing.    
            South Pacific  plays Wednesdays at 2 PM and 7 PM, Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, through Dec. 23, at the Rubicon Theatre, 1006  E. Main St., Ventura, CA.  For tickets call (805) 667-2900, or go online at www.rubicontheatre.org.  To enjoy “some enchanted evening”, you won’t want to miss it!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Thursday, December 13, 2018





IT’S A WONERFUL LIFE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            It’s A Wonderful Life is a radio drama that wad presented at Theatre West in Los Angeles, adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast, script by Jo Swerling.  For some of us, it was nostalgic, to say the least, and hopefully a lot of fun for all.
            The theater was set up as a radio station preparing to go on the air to present a well-known film, It’s A Wonderful Life (the 1946 movie starred Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed).  Standing by were the actors waiting for their que to begin.
            George Bailey (Tatum Shank) grew up in small-town Bedford Falls.  He had high dreams of leaving to go to college and to see the world.  But when his father dies unexpectantly, he ends up taking over his father’s Building and Loan Company for the sake of his family and to keep wealthy Mr. Potter (Don Moore) from taking over the building in order to get rid of his competition.  George marries the prettiest girl in town, Mary Hatch (Loida Navis) and they now have a family. 
            On Christmas Eve George’s Uncle Billy (James J. Cox) loses $8,000 of the business’s money while on his way to the bank to deposit it.  Unfortunately, it is Mr. Potter who finds it, but never reveals that fact.  George realizes what a terrible predicament he will be in when the loss is discovered missing by the bank examiner.  The business will collapse, he will be sent to jail, and Potter will be able to take over Bedford Falls.  He thinks of his family, his wife and children, and surmises that he will be better off dead. 
            While George is considering his demise, an angel named Clarence (Sara Shearer) is called from heaven to help save him from committing suicide.  He shows George what life would have been like for others had he never existed.  The town of Bedford Falls comes to his rescue and all’s well that ends well for all (except Mr. Potter). 
            It was a lot of fun watching this performance as a radio show, what with mikes, sound effects, advertisements, and lights for applause.  All of the performers added so much life to their characters with their expressions and some movements.  The rest of the cast, who brought the population of Bedford Falls to life, included Jill Jones, Bonnie Kalisher, Maria Kress, Bill Schres, Phillip Sokoloff, and Tammy Taylor.  This radio show was written, adapted, and directed by Matt Johnson. 
            Theatre West is the oldest operating theater company in Los Angeles having been established in 1962.  They are located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd., West Los Angeles.  To check out their schedule for ongoing and future performances, go online at theatrewest.org, or call (323) 851-7977.


Thursday, December 6, 2018


 FINKS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            McCarthyism was a sorry time in American History that occurred in the 1950’s when hundreds of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers.  They were called before panels who subjected them to aggressive investigations, many of them were from the entertainment industry. 
            When members of the film industry were called upon and questioned, they were asked to name names.  Some chose to cooperate with the committee, some felt forced to do so, and gave names of friends, colleagues, and cohorts. Those who did were considered “finks” while there were members who refused to answer any of the questions by the committee, even though they knew they would suffer the consequences.  Unfortunately, during this time in our history, those who refused to cooperate were “blacklisted” and lost their careers.  Many suffered ill health, and some did not live to see their situations exonerated.      
            The play Finks¸ written by Joe Gifford and directed by Michael Pressman is about some who “fink” and more importantly, some don’t. (Both Gifford’s and Pressman’s parents were blacklisted.)   Mickey (Dobbs (French Stewart) is an up-and-coming comedian.  He meets Natalie Meltzer (Vanessa Claire Stewart), an actress who belongs to an actors’ political organization. Though Mickey has never been involved or interested in politics, he is interested in Natalie and is coerced into joining her at the meetings.
            Eventually Mickey and Natalie marry and have a baby.  Mickey’s career is going along extremely well and he is finally about to be offered his own television show.  At the same time, their cohorts are being called up before the House Un-American Committee.  They discuss their concerns, knowing if or when they are called, and if they refuse to co-operate with the interrogations, their livelihoods will undoubtedly suffer.  Eventually the summons arrives and each are left to make a decision.
            Serious, yes, but there is much more to Finks due to a well-written script and actors who add so much more to the play.  As a working comedian, French Stewart can be funny, and he and his real-life wife, Vanessa, work so beautifully together.  Both are extremely fine actors as are the rest of the entire cast.  They are Stephen Tyler Howe, Richard Levinson, Matt Gottlieb, Bruce Nozick, Daniel Dorr, Thomas Fiscella, and Adam Lebowitz-Lockard, some who perform multiple characters. 
            Finks is a production of the Rogue Machine Theatre playing Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM, and Sundays at 7 PM, through December 30, at the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue, Venice.  For further information call (855) 585-5185, or go online at roguemachinetheatre.com.
            
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Monday, December 3, 2018






REMEMBERING BOYLE HEIGHTS by Stan Mazin, Guest Reviewer

“Remembering Boyle Heights” is a World Premiere, Created and Devised by Josefina Lopez, Corky Dominguez & The Remembering Boyle Heights Ensemble.  It was Directed by Corky Dominguez, with an ensemble consisting of Michael Berckart, Joe Luis Cedilla, Jose Alejandro HernandezJr., Yvette Karla Herrara, Angel Michel Juarez, Megumi Kabe, Marcel Libera, Jackie Marriott, Roberta H. Martinez, Allyson Taylor, and last but not least Raymond Watanga.  Each and every member of this ensemble gets a chance to shine playing varied different characters in this 90 minute without intermission event.  I call it an event as it is more so than a standard play. The evening begins in the lobby with Angel Juarez singing and dancing, quite sensually I must add, followed by Yvette Karla Herrera doing a monologue about what it was like to have to live in this area when they began raising the rents upon the people in Boyle Heights when it began changing, followed by Joe Luis Cedillo’s monologue about the Mariachi’s of Boyle Heights.  Then the audience enters the theatre where a ‘town hall meeting’ is already in progress, by the ensemble all of whom are wearing masks to show the commonality of the problems they are all complaining about.  Quite an interesting beginning to any show.  As the evening progresses, each of the players get opportunities to shine.  Whenever someone speaks of a happening, the action is enhanced from time to time by the use of a live camera that shows the speakers as their image is projected over three areas of the walls of the stage on what seems to be old photos of the old Boyle Heights. Another enhancement is the use of the ensemble’s freezes… or frescos, during which everyone remains completely still.  I defy you to find a moving or shaking character during these times.  All the information inspired by the memories, stories  and experiences are no doubt true facts about the developing changes that occurred to the community from the late 1800;s to just after WWII in the 40’s.  Although at times the information seems slightly overwhelming, the play progresses at a rapid pace never letting down or getting boring for a second.  Kudos to all concerned with this huge endeavor.  As for the production team, the Producer is the Co-writer Josefina Lopez, the Executive Producer is Emmanuel Deleage, Set Designer is Cesar Retana-Holguin, Light Designer is Kevin Eduardo Vasquez, Projection Designer is Masha Tatarintsev, Costume Designer is Abel Alvarado, while the Sound Designer and Production Stage Manager is Xavi Casanova, Technical Director is Vincent A. Sanchez, Stage Manager is Georgina Rios Escobar, Assistant to the Director is Andrew Ortega,  with Wardrobe Assistant, Ashley Montoya and Production Consultant, Shmuel Gonzales.  Public Relations is by Steve Moyer, Photographer for production stills is Ed Krieger,  with Casting Director Edward Padilla and Graphics Designer, Soap Studio Inc.  I was educated in learning that the history of Boyle Heights included other ethnic groups besides the expected Latino community, such as the Jewish people, the Filipinos, and Afro Americans for example.  And some of the universal problems that the community has had to deal with are still prevalent today.
 
The show plays at Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 East 1st Street in Boyle Heights through December 16th.  For Reservations for this ‘recommended for all audiences’ show, call Theatre Box Office at 323-263-7684, E-mail tickets@casa0101.org, or buy online at www.casa0101.org.  The show runs 90 minutes with no intermission.  And while there please don’t miss the Boyle Heights Museum, Royal’s ‘A Multi-Racial Catalyst for Democracy’, running through February 24th.


My Date With Death by Stan Mazin, Guest Reviewer

"My Date With Death” with book, music, and lyrics by Daniel Sugimoto stars Daniel Sugimoto and Samantha M. Lawrence.  This well intentioned play deals with thoughts of suicide and it’s causes, as well as the reasoning behind preventing such an awful deed.  Daniel Sugimoto, playing Link, is the one who has been drinking so much that the non responsiveness of his friends causes him to feel rejected, alone, and feeling there is no way out under the state of his mental circumstances.  While in his inebriated state, he carries with him an ability to be quite charmingly creative and free in his movements, particularly while singing some of his interestingly written songs.  Samantha M. Lawrence while playing the Grim Reaper seems a little difficult to understand, perhaps due to the layout of the Church turned theatre space, yet once she sheds her cloak and sickle and becomes Diallo, for some reason I understood every word she said.  And without giving too much of this 90 minute no intermission musical piece away, their relationship evolves and the two of them have some interested and intriguing moments.  The use of video on the huge screen behind the set was quite well handled.  The Director and Costume design is by Julia Lisa, and she did keep the movement going, never allowing it to be stagnant or boring.  I felt the Lighting Design by Zachary Thomas-Dunlop was proper for the space given.  I don’t think more could have been done to enhance the ‘spirit’ of the play.  Even the lighting changes during some of the ballad-like songs were appreciated.  This musical is produced by The Zoo Theatre Company, and was performed at The Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica from Nov. 10th through December 2nd.  The Press Representative is Steve Moyer.

Reviewed by Stan Mazin, 11/24/18



Wednesday, November 21, 2018


A CAROL CHRISTMAS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            It’s that wonderful time of the year when many theaters are offering Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  You may feel that you have seen it often enough over the years.  Therefore, I highly recommend that you see a brand new version of the Dickens’ classic playing at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood. 
             This new musical production entitled A Carol Christmas is set in America today.  It was written by Doug Haverty, with wonderful music and lyrics by Bruce Kimmel, orchestration and musical direction by Richard Allen, and choreography by Kay Cole, all under the direction of Bruce Kimmel.  It is a top-notch, first class musical production with a superb cast of actors, singers and dancers that is making its debut in the Los Angeles area.
            And speaking of the cast, this big list of talented members includes Monica Allan, Ben Anderson, Emily Barnett, Ryan J. Duncan, Kevin Hoffman, Peyton Kirkner, Lola Paja, Lloyd Pedersen, Catarina Pereira, Hartley Powers, Savannah Schoenecker, John Schroeder, Debi Tinsley, Harley Walker, and Janet Wood.  A special group of marvelous young carolers include Celine June Bautista, Ella Birdwell, Andre Grigorian, Chihoro Kato, and Momoka Kato.           
            You won’t find Scrooge, because in this play, it is Carol (Hartley Powers), the host of a home-shopping show on TV.  Her job is very demanding.  She and her large staff spend many hours working towards the success of her show, and since she doesn’t care about Christmas she expects her entire staff to work with her throughout the holidays.  Her former partner, Joelle (Janet Wood) who recently passed away, left Carol with an unexpected DVD telling her what Christmas Eve will be like for her.
            We won’t see any ghosts, but Carol is visited by a rather wacky therapist Odette, Christmas Past (Debi Tinsley), Karina, a Russian herbalist, Christmas Present (Janet Wood ), and Mabel, a weird Tarot card reader, Christmas Future (Debi Tinsley again).  Tinsley and Wood are both delightful and very funny in their roles.  Trina (surrogate for Tiny Tim), whose malady is a weak heart, is played with sensitivity by young Peyton Kirkner.
            Everyone in the cast is outstanding, the music and lyrics are sensational and the book is clever and well-written.  The set design (Tesshi Nakagawa), costume design (Morgan Gannes), sound design (Austin Quan) all go together to make this a wonderful theater experience.
            A Carol Christmas is playing Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood, through December 30.  There will be no performance Friday, November 23.  There will be an added performance Saturday, November 24, at 2 PM.  For tickets, call (818) 760-1240, or go online at www.thegrouprep.com.  




HIGHLY RECOMMENDED