Tuesday, December 26, 2017

            The Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC), located on the campus of California State University Northridge (CSUN), was completed in 2011, and has brought live entertainment to the San Fernando Valley since it opened.  This year (2017), Younes Nazerian and his wife donated $17 million to the Center to rename it the Younes  and Soraya Center for the Performing Arts Center (The Soraya).
            Since its beginning, the Center has brought top quality performers and entertainment to its stage.  They could not have brought back a more wonderful performer to help celebrate the year-end season than the delightful talented Michael Feinstein who performed in A Michael Feinstein Holiday Celebration. 
            What a joyous celebration it was.  Michael sang many songs from his album, A Michael Feinstein Christmas, but also captivated his audience with many standards accompanied by three outstanding musicians, Sam Kriger (Music Director, and pianist), Albie Berk, (drums), and Kirk Smith (bass).  He also accompanied himself on the piano for some of his numbers. Michael is a perfect entertainer with personality plus.  Whether he is telling a joke, just talking to his audience, singing, or singing while performing at the piano, that personality simply shines through.
            Michael Feinstein was raised in a conservative synagogue in Columbus Ohio, but he is attracted to traditional Christmas songs, which as he says “Many were written by Jewish songwriters,” the “popular” Christmas songs, not about Jesus, but about sleigh bells, a white Christmas, and things like toys and Santa.  As he says, “Everyone sings them.”  As the performance came to an end followed by his encore, it was obvious how very much the audience loved the show.
            The Valley Performing Arts Center (The Soraya) is located at 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge.  The remainder of their 2017-2018 season promises more exciting and superb programs.  Check their schedule out by calling (818) 877-3000, or by going online www.valleyperformingartscenter


Saturday, December 23, 2017

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET by Carol Kaufman Segal      
            In honor of its 70th anniversary and to celebrate the season, the Pasadena Playhouse presented the original 1947 radio play, Miracle on 34th Street.   The “live radio play” was written by Valentine Davies, and directed by Cameron Davies.
            In 1947 the head of 20th Century Fox made the decision to make the film, Miracle on 34th Street in May.  It was written and directed by George Seaton, based on a story by Valentine Davies and was extremely popular, winning several awards.  Seven months later, December 22, 1947, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast this adaptation of the film.  The Pasadena Playhouse production staff says, “Seventy years later, the eyes of our audience get to watch what went into producing the performance live, which its original listeners never got to see.”   

            I have to add how much fun it was to watch this wonderful production at this propitious time of year with a quality cast that seemed to enjoy every minute of putting on this live radio play.  The cast included Peri Gilpin (Doris Walker), Beth Grant (Charlene and Others), Alfred Molina (Kris Kringle), Yvette Cason (Singer and Others), Michael Chieffo (Host and Others), Jeff Gardner (Foley Artist and Others), Ryan Johnson (Piano Player and Others), Larry Poindexter (Fred Gailey), Jim Rash (Mr. Sawyer and Others), and Ceilia Witt (Susan Walker).  They all needed to be mentioned because they all made us feel as if we were really at a radio station watching Miracle on 34th Street being performed over the air by the Lux Radio Theatre.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

ASHES TO ASHES by Carol Kaufman Segal
             Ashes to Ashes is a visiting production at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles.  Written by Debbie Boulton and directed by Katherine James, it is described as a “screwball” comedy.
            Ashes to Ashes revolves around Sarah (Lena Bouton) and Jefferson (Kevin Young) who once had a close relationship.  But due to their very different philosophies, he very conservative and she very liberal, their relationship ended.  Their very close and wealthy friends, Kate and Wilson, both died leaving Sara and Jefferson the heirs to their riches in their rather strange will.  The will provided specific conditions that the two of them would have to abide by in order to receive the money.
            Sarah and Jefferson were required to spend the next 16 days, 21 hours, and 32 minutes together traveling from Ireland, Spain, France, Scotland, Wales, and Venice executing various difficult tasks as they scatter their friends’ ashes in each of these locations.  It was obvious that this maneuver was planned to get the couple back together again.
            As Sara and Jefferson pursued their objectives, I found neither of these two characters particularly likeable nor did I care if they resumed their relationship or not.  The running back and forth all around the stage, supposedly going to each of their destinations and fulfilling their quests, were hectic and uninteresting. 
            The only character that I looked forward to seeing in any of the scenes in this production was Michael Uribes who showed up in every “country” along the way portraying various characters that correspond to the locations. His performances were comical without being slapstick.  This was comic relief for an otherwise insipid play.

            The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  For further information call (310) 564-9410, or go online at www.AshesToAshesThePlay.com                                  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

ANAT COHEN TENTET by Carol Kaufman Segal
            I recently attended a concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center (which by the way is changing its name to Soraya after the Soraya family that contributed 17 million dollars to the theater).  I was not quite certain what kind of concert I was going to see; it was to be Anat Cohn and her Tentet’s West Coast debut and was billed as:
Jazz Sensation Anat Cohen and Her Tentet 
Celebrate the Release of Her Latest Album, 
“Happy Song” at VPAC (The Soraya) 
            Further information piqued my curiosity.  I guess I was expecting an all jazz performance.  As I was a major in music, I love almost any genre, from classical to blues, to jazz, to ballads, you name it.  So this intrigued me, as I discovered it did many patrons.  The theater was very crowded, and I wondered how many people knew what they were going to hear.. 
             With her outstanding performance on the clarinet, Anat Cohen leads her band of fantastic musicians that include James Shipp (vibes/percussion), Rubi Kodheli (cello), Nadie Noordhuis (trumpet/flugelhorn), Nick Finzer (Trombone), Owen Broder (baritone sax/bass clarinet), Victor GonCalves (piano/accordion, Sheryl Bailey (guitar), Tal Mashiach (bass), and Anthony Pinciotti (drums).  Oded Lev-Ari is their Musical Director.
            Anat Cohen was born in Israel and is based in Brooklyn.  She is an exceptionally outstanding clarinetist whose work captures the sound of modern and traditional jazz, swing, lullabies, Brazilian music to African sounds, as well as Israeli Klezmer music. The program featured her along with the band performing a series of styles throughout the evening, while each member is given their own moment to shine.  Their style of music was like none I have ever heard and I was thrilled to have the opportunity of hearing this marvelous ensemble in person,        
            Following the program, I was surprised to hear many people say they were not certain what they were expecting to hear and see, but it was obvious how much they enjoyed Anat Cohen and Her Tentet by their applause that called for an encore and their continued applause when they left the stage for the last time.
            Watch for more exciting entertainment at the Valley Performing Arts Center (Soraya) located at 18111 Nordhoff  St., Northridge (on the campus of California State University Northridge (CSUN). 


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

            What can be more enticing than a mystery that is well written and beautifully presented?   You will find all of that, and much more at Theatre 40’s production of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, written by Katie Forgette, performed by a first class group of actors, and solved by the one and only Sherlock Holmes.       
            England’s famous and beloved actress, Lillie Langtry (Mellissa Collins) is being blackmailed for her past relationship with Edward, Prince of Wales, which could prove fatal to her reputation as well as that of the Prince.  Through her friendship with playwright Oscar Wilde (Scott Facher), she seeks the aid of the inimitable Sherlock Holmes (Martin Thompson).   
            During the scenes that take place, Holmes discovers that the perpetrator of this extortion is Professor Moriarty (Ryan Moriarty) who is one of the most evil persons to walk the streets of London.  It is Holmes’ job, along with his companion, Dr. Watson (John Wallace Combs), to stop Moriarty from his menacing threats which, of course, he manages to do in his inimitable way.
             Theatre 40’s production is wonderful.  The cast is especially outstanding. Martin Thompson’s characterization of Holmes is calm, cool, collected, and oh so suave.  There is some comedy in the character of Oscar Wilde, which Scott Facher keeps down to perfection.  Mellissa Collins is an elegant and charming Lilly Lantry.  Kudos to Ryan Moriarty as Professor Moriarty who, we are told before the play begins, came on board without any rehearsing to take the place of the original actor who, due to an accident, could not continue in the role.  (The namesake was just incidental!)  The following actors, Alison Blanchard, Shawn Savage, and Anibal Silveyra, complete the roster of exceptional performers.  The renowned Jules Aaron directs with panache.
            Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily is produced by David Hunt Stafford.  The beautiful and functional set is by Jeff G. Rack and the beautiful costumes are by Michele Young.              Performances are presented Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through December 17, at Theatre 40, in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills, (on the campus of Beverly Hills High School).  Reservations are available by calling (310) 364-0535, or online at www.theatre40.org.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

CHASING MEM’RIES:  A Different Kind of Musical by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Chasing Mem’ries:  A Different Kind of Musical is making its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse.  Though it features new and original songs by award-winning lyricists, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, it is not a musical, not even a different kind of musical, but a play with music.
            The play, written and directed by Josh Ravetch, focuses on Victoria (Tony and Emmy Award winner Tyne Daly) a woman struggling with her life following the loss of her husband.  We find her in the attic of her home, going through her memoirs, wondering how she will continue on and survive without her husband.  Meanwhile, friends and family have gathered on the lawn of her Connecticut home to honor and memorialize her husband.  But Victoria is unable to join them.
            As Victoria reminisces, she plays some of the music on a record player that sits in a corner of the attic, bringing back memories of the past.  Her son, Mason (Scott Kradolfer), meets her in the attic and tries to convince her to join her friends and family and to try to accept what life has wrought.  Left alone in the attic, again, Victoria imagines a conversation with Franklin (Robert Forster).   
            Unfortunately, the play is overburdened with sentimentality.  Fortunately, Tyne Daly is the gem who gives audiences the moments to enjoy through her talent that she brings to the role of Victoria.  Even though her singing is not what some might expect, it is perfect for the role (and mood) that she is playing.  Though Chasing Mem’ries did not turn out to be what I had hoped for, there were moments in the play that were very emotional, not only for me, but I noticed others in the audience experiencing the same reactions that I had.

            Chasing Mem’ries:  A Different Kind of Musical plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 M, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through December 17, at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte, Ave., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available at the Playhouse Box Office, by phone at (310) 208-5454, or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org.  (Fees may apply)       

             A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, was written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  The musical opened on Broadway May 8, 1962, and closed on August 29, 1964, after 964 performances.  It won a Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Author (of a musical) and was made into a film in 1966.  It is still entertaining and hilarious today, and the production, playing at the Garry Marshall Theatre, proves it.
            We go back many years during the time of the Roman Empire where the slave, Pseudolus (an amazing Paul C. Vogt), owned by Senex (Kevin Symons) and his wife Domina (Candi Milo), longs to be free.  When Pseudolus is left in charge of their son Hero (Michael Thomas Grant), he discovers (“through the grapevine”) that Hero is in love with the beautiful courtesan Philia (Nicole Kaplan), and offers to help him win her hand for his freedom.
            When Pseudolus tries to buy Philia from the owner of the brothel, Marcus Lycus, he is told that she has already been sold to Marcus Gloriosus (Clayton Snyder), and that is when the hilarity and bedlam begins.  Pseudolus will try anything to win the girl for Hero and freedom for himself!
            The opening number, Comedy Tonight, is a precursor to the entire show, because it is a comedy from beginning to end, held up by a splendid cast that also includes Shamicka Benn, Liz Bustle, Ethan Cohn, and E.K. Dagenfield, under the direction of Joseph Leo Bwarie. (Joey McIntyre performs the role of Pseudolus Nov.22 through Dec. 10.)       
            A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum plays Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM and 7:30 PM, through Dec. 31, at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank.  Tickets are available by calling (818) 955-8108, or online at GarryMarshalTheatre.org.



Friday, December 1, 2017

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by Carol Kaufman Segal
            William Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is playing at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood through the holiday season.  The play brings many colorful characters to life, even if in doing so, it can be quite complicated.  It is a romantic fantasy that takes place in a royal court as well as in an enchanted forest.  Let me see if I can explain this so that you can understand the chaos that ensues during this rowdy affair.
            Egeus (Chris Winfield) has arranged for his daughter Hermia (Hartley Powers) to marry Demetrius (Doren Sorrel).  But Hermia refuses because she is in love with Lysander (Mikel Parraga-Wills).  Hermia’s friend Helena (Anna Gion) loves Demetrius, but he wants no part of her.  Theseus (Doug Haverty), the Duke, is to marry Hippolyta, former Queen of the Amazons (Silke Sorenson).
            Egeus shows up at the Duke’s court and, according to an ancient Greek law, states that Hermia must marry Demetrius or face death.  Or - Theseus gives her another alternative; she can spend the rest of her life as a nun.  After hearing these two options, the two lovers run away followed by Demetrius and Helena, and they end up in the enchanted forest.
            The forest is inhabited by fairies that control and manipulate anyone in their woods, including a group of six actors.  The fairy king, Oberon (Marc Singer), and queen, Titania (Suzy London), have a quarrel, which induces Oberon to sprinkle fairy dust every which place he can.  Naturally, the dust is magical, and those who get sprinkled fall asleep.  Upon awakening, they fall in love with the first person they see.  Wouldn’t you know it?  Both Lysander and Demetrius are now in love with Helena and poor Hermia is left out in the cold.
            Well, I think everything is getting too complicated for me to further explain it enough for you to understand just what you can figure out for yourself by seeing this very chaotic, charming, and wonderful production performed by a spectacular cast under the direction of Marc Singer.  They all bring this magical fairy tale to life.
            A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through December 31, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at www.thegrouprep.com, or info@thegrouprep.com, or reservations can be made by calling (818) 763-5990.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

KING CHARLES III by Carol Kaufman Segal     
            King Charles III, playing at the Pasadena Playhouse, is a fictionalized play written by British playwright Mike Bartlett.  Unusual in its text for today’s style, Bartlett used both blank verse and prose, as did Shakespeare in his day, to tell a story about future events in the lives of the British Monarchy.   
            The play opens with pomp and circumstance at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth.  Prince Charles (Jim Abele), who has waited zealously, is now the reigning monarch.  The British Prime Minister (J. Paul Boehmer) brings him a bill that he must sign, as all others before him have done.  Royalty in Britain is strictly ceremonial, having nothing to do with the laws of the country, but nevertheless, Charles is opposed to the bill and refuses to sign it.  His refusal creates a serious predicament in England, since his coronation cannot take place unless he agrees to do so.
            The status of the situation Charles has created, now puts the country in a panic, as well as the entire royal family that includes Camilla (Laura Gardner), William (Adam Haas Hunter), beloved Catherine (Meghan Andrews), or Kate as she is called, and Harry (Dylan Saunders).  However, Harry (Dylan Saunders) has less concern about the family troubles, especially after he meets Jess (Sarah Holllis), a rather salacious art student. 
            William is on his father’s side from the beginning; Harry is completely unconcerned.    But, it is Kate who makes William see it all in a different light.  Without the country accepting Charles as king, what will happen to his descendants?  William is suddenly made aware of his entire family’s situation.  Pomp and circumstances once again prevail in the coronation of a King and Queen of England!  
            Each actor gives an outstanding performance of their character, sometimes a bit difficult to understand however, due to their perfect British accents. Since the play is fictional, we do not really know if this is how each of them would react to their situation, but suffice it to say, it makes for an interesting perspective.  The production, directed by Michael Michetti, is outstanding.  The scenic design by David Meyer is exceptional in its beauty and effectiveness.
            King Charles III plays Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM.  There will be a Tuesdays night performance November 28 at 8 PM.  The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molina Ave., Pasadena.  Tickets are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org, by phone at (626) 356-7529, or in person t the Playhouse Box Office.

Monday, November 20, 2017

THE DEVINE ORDER by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Devine Order is Switzerland’s submission for the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Language Film.  It has already been the recipient of the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festive, and the Audience Award for Best Fiction Award 2017 Traverse Film Festival.     
            The film takes place in 1971 Switzerland, a time where many changes have come about in the world, but not so in Switzerland.  In Switzerland, some laws are still behind the times, including a law that denies women the right to vote.  
            Nora (Marie Leuenberger) lives in a small village with her husband Hans (Maxmilian Simonischek), their two sons, and her cranky father-in-law. Bored with her daily routines, she tells Hans she wants to go back to work.  He is adamant when he tells her he forbids it, and that it is his right to do so under Swiss law.
            Nora has been made aware that this is the year in Switzerland that the government has a ballot measure that just might change that law in the future because, if it passes, it will finally, give women the right to vote.  She has been asked to work for an organization to help get the law passed, because in her village, it appears doomed.  Since she has never been political, she turns down the offer.          
            Suddenly, Nora begins to notice more and more how women have little “say so” in their lives, how deeply they are affected by the laws of the country.  Her frustration over the situation gives her the impetus to join in the movement after all, along with the backup of an elderly friend, Vroni (Sibylle Brunner), who tells her she had tried to fight for women’s right to vote in the  50’s, but finally gave up.  She is, once again, willing to help in this venture along with newcomer Graziella (Marta Zoffoli).  Nora turns out to be the leader of their group and becomes well-known throughout the village.  She is vilified by many, and despite having to suffer from threats and the possibility of losing Hans, she refuses to let down.
            More and more women of the village come to comprehend how their lives are ruled by men and decide to take a stand with Nora and her group.  She eventually convinces them to go on strike and they all leave home, happy in the realization that they were brave enough to stand up to their men.  The outcome of their bravery turns out to be worthwhile for them as well as their country.
            The movie is well-written by Petra Volpe who also did an exemplary job directing a strong cast.  Marie Leuenberger gives an outstanding performance.  The entire production is worthy of recognition. 
            Not rated
            Running time:  93 min.
            In German, English, Italian and Swiss German with English sub-titles

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Skirball Cultural Center presents the annual family favorite
Sunday, December 10, 11:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m.
Inspired by the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, the Skirball’s annual Hanukkah Festival explores the themes of Hanukkah through the traditions of Los Angeles’s rich and diverse Latin American communities. Visitors of all backgrounds are invited to revel in the spirit of the holiday through music, dance, art making, storytelling, and other family-friendly fun.
Groove to musical performances by Latin Jewish bands Klezmer Juice and Pan Felipe, and learn salsa, cumbia, mumbo, hip-hop, and more with dance ensembles Versa-Style and Mambo Inc.
Create art celebrating light and hope with visual artist Sandy Rodriguez, and learn about Mexican chocolate and decorate chocolate gelt with culinary historian Maite Gomez-Rejón.
Also take part in family-friendly tours of PST: LA/LA exhibitions Another Promised Land and Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day; and join Skirball storytellers in ongoing exhibition Visions and Values as they bring the Hanukkah tale to life in English and Spanish. Discover unique holiday gifts at Audrey’s Museum Store, and nosh on classic Hanukkah dishes like latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).
Sunday, December 10, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Art activities and storytelling take place throughout the day. Specific times for performances are as follows:
  • ·  11:00 a.m.: Klezmer Juice
Los Angeles-based band Klezmer Juice kicks off and closes the festival with their blend of Jewishklezmer, soul, and Latin music.

·  12:00 and 2:45 p.m.: Versa-Style

High-energy hip-hop and Afro-Latin dance company Versa-Style leads two workshops for dancers of all levels.
  • ·  1:00 p.m.: Pan Felipe
Los Angeles-based band Pan Felipe performs their unique mix of ska, klezmer, and Latin cumbia. Premier Latin dance company Mambo Inc. teaches visitors how to salsa, cumbia, and mambo.
  • ·  2:00 p.m.: Mambo Inc.
Acclaimed visual artist Sandy Rodriguez leads a workshop inspired by light and hope, in which visitors can create a work of art to take home, as well as contribute to a collaborative Hanukkah menorah installation.

  • ·  3:15 p.m.: Klezmer Juice & Friends
Culinary historian Maite Gomez-Rejón (Art Bites) shares the history of chocolate, from its originsin the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica to its modern forms—including Hanukkah gelt, which visitors can stop by to decorate.

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
$12 General; $9 Seniors and Full-Time Students; $7 Children 2–12; FREE to Skirball Members and
Children under 2

Advance tickets recommended: 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

CAVALIA by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Cavalia is a world-wide entertainment company from Canada that specializes in creating a spectacular show that features horses, acrobats, musicians and stunning settings.  It was created by Normand Latourelle, one of the four co-founders of the Cirque de Soleil.  This thrilling show, entitled Odysseo, is being performed in Camarillo under their big tent, which in itself, is spectacular.  It was designed specifically for the show and is the largest touring tent in the world with 2,290 seats.
            The show features 65 of the most magnificent horses and 50 outstanding performers that include acrobats, aerialists, horsemen and horsewomen, dancers, and musicians  The staging is created by multimedia projections and special effects that is so realistic, it feels as though one is traveling through wondrous deserts, waterfalls, canyons, glaciers, even rain and snow.  Over 300 different costumes add to the magnetism of the performances.
            As appealing as the entire performances are from beginning to end, the big splash finale is an exceptional ending to a beautiful and exciting show.  The address for finding the big tent is   5230 Camino Ruiz, in Camarillo where Odysseo will be performing through January 7, 2018.  Tickets are available at the box office which is open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM., online at www.cavalia.com, or call toll free at (866) 999-8111 for further information. 

 HIGHLY RECCOMMENDED  for all ages           
Stupid Kid  extends at the Road Theatre on Magnolia through December 3, 2017.  See review dated May 2, 2017.

Monday, November 13, 2017

NEW YORK WATER by Carol Kaufman Segal        
            The Pico Playhouse in West Los Angeles is the home to The West Coast Jewish Theatre’s production of a comedy entitled New York Water written by Sam Bobrick, and directed by Howard Teichman (Artistic Director of the theatre).
            The title of the play refers to the quality of the tap water in New York which, sometimes, loses its clarity due to the rusty pipes in its service.  It is about Linda and Albert, two single people in their mid-thirties, who meet through a personal ad in New York City.  While Linda (Bridget Flanery) awaits the arrival of her blind date, Albert (Ross Benjamin), it is obvious that she is a very paranoid and overwrought woman.
            Once Albert arrives, a very funny scene ensues whereby he and Linda learn enough about each other to make the decision that they dislike living in New York, that they will get married and move out of New York to a place that is slower and friendlier.  We are not privy to how or why, but they end up in Davenport, Iowa, to look for a less stressful life.   Hmm, maybe too calm, because after three months, they find Davenport too quiet, not enough decent job opportunities,  eople aren’t quite so friendly, and everything seems to depend on corn!  What can they do to change their boring lifestyle in Iowa?  Why, Los Angeles, of course!  They can find everything there to satisfy their needs make them happy. 
            Act II finds our two wistful characters in Hollywood where Linda, with her brazen characteristics, has suddenly become a changed woman who has risen in the world of celebrities, while Albert has fallen behind due to his insecure personality, working as a gardener for all of those celebrities!  However, Albert is not the one complaining, it is Linda who sees that their life is not working out well.  But where to go to next?!
            Sam Bobrick has written an amusing play with enough comedy to keep you laughing throughout.  Ross Benjaminm is delightful as Albert, the young man with little or no self- esteem.  (Benjamin is a near clone to his father, actor Richard Benjamin.)  Bridget Flanery is very suitable for her role, but unfortunately, she overplays her character and often shrieks her lines, which is very annoying.  All –in-all, New York Water is an interesting and comical look at how relationships change overtime, and who doesn’t need a good comedy these days?

            New York Water plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through December 17, at the Pico Playhouse, located at 10508 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available by calling (323) 821-2449, or online at www.wcjt.tix.com.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION by Carol Kaufman Segal
            George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 – November 2, 1950) was an Irish playwright and critic who influenced Western theater and culture, from the 1880’s and even after his death.  In 1895 he became a theatre critic and began writing his own plays.  He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Major Barbara (1905), Misalliance (1909), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923).  He became a leading dramatist of his generation and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.
             Mrs. Warren’s Profession, one of his earlier plays, written in 1893, is playing at A Noise Within in Pasadena.  I have seen this play before, and I believe that it is still showcased because it has a sense of modernity to it in regards to women and their choices in life.  
            Cambridge-educated Vivie (Erica Soto) thinks of herself as a practical, open-minded, and modern woman.  She has been raised in middle-class comfort by her mother, Mrs.Kitty Warren (Judith Scott), who has been able to provide their comforts as a former prostitute and current madam.  Vivie never had any idea that her mother was running an illegitimate business, and upon the revelation, she is unable to accept the situation, though Kitty tries to explain the reasons for her choice to her daughter.   
            Though there are other characters to add to the storyline, the play centers on the complications that arise between the relationship of the mother and daughter and how it affects their future.  The entire cast of talented actors also includes Peter James Smith (Mr. Praed, Mrs. Warren’s friend), Jeremy Rabb (Sir George Crofts, Mrs. Warren’s business partner), Martin Kildare (Reverend Samuel Gardner, Frank Gardner’s father), and Adam Faison (Frank Gardner, Rev. Gardner’s son and Vivie’s romantic interest), all under the astute direction of Michael Michetti.
            A Noise Within is a Classic Repertory Company that celebrated its 25th Anniversary last season.  They are located at 3353 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.  Mrs. Warren’s Profession plays in repertory (closing Nov. 18) with A Tale of Two Cities (closing Nov. 19), and The Madwoman of  Chaillot (closing Nov.11).  Tickets and further information are available online at www.anoisewithin.org, or by phone by calling (626) 356-3100.


A LOVE AFFAIR by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Santa Monica Playhouse is presenting A Love Affair, written by prolific playwright Jerry Mayer.  Mayer’s career began over 40 years ago when he first began writing jokes, then scripts, and then scripts for popular television shows including All In the Family, M*AS*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Bob Newhart Show.  He also wrote and produced many other shows including six years as writer/Executive Producer of The Facts of Life. 
            After years working on television shows, Jerry discovered his first love, writing plays for the theater and has enjoyed success winning awards for his plays and musicals. He has written nine plays, eight of which had their world premieres at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  Six have had successful runs Off Broadway and five throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.   A Love Affair is the latest in which all of his plays are being presented at the Santa Monica Playhouse during the 2015-2020 Jerry-Mayer-A-Thon.
            A Love Affair, in keeping with Mayer’s trend, is a romantic comedy which, perhaps, takes on events from his own life.  It goes through the years (back and forth) from 1991 to 1953 to 1991 covering the 38-year marriage of Jimmy and Alice.  They are played by four actors, the elder Jimmy by Chris DeCarlo and the younger Jimmy by Jacob Cooper; the elder Alice by Evelyn Rudie, and the younger Alice by Andrea Adnoff.  Rachel Galper plays several characters that show up in their lives during the years.
            From the 1950’s honeymoon through the 38-year marriage, we are privy to what a loving couple face together in life, and still manage to keep their marriage going through thick and thin for 38 years.  It’s the ups-and-downs, successes, disappointments, traumas, children, money, traumas about sex, and whatever life doles out to them, but fortunately, a real love affair wins out in the end. 
            Chris DeCarlo also directed the production and says “Jerry Mayer’s plays are a delight for a director, a cast, and of course an audience.  He writes about issues people can identify with, laugh at, and care about.”  And I have to agree with that statement in the case of each of his plays that I have been privileged to see.  The Santa Monica Playhouse is celebrating its 55th year offering continuous theater and educational services to the community.  Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo are Co-Artistic Directors of the Theatre.
            A Love Affair plays Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:30 PM, through November 17.  The Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica.  Tickets are available by calling (310) 394-9779, ext 1, or reservations can be made online at santamonicaplayhouse.com/a-love-affair.html.    


Monday, October 9, 2017

     I'M NOT FAMOUS starring Barbara Minkus  returns to the Santa Monica Playhouse November 4, 2017, for four weekly performances.  See review dated May 2, 2017.

     The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street. Santa Monica,  Call the Playhouse Box Office at (310) 394-9779 for the complete information regarding the return of this highly recommended performance.
CAGNEY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            When I knew Cagney was scheduled to open at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood featuring the original New York cast, I was looking forward to it with great enthusium.  I am always excited to see a good musical, but this production deserves much more than the word “good,” This musical is superb!  Whether you are old enough to have seen or remember James Cagney makes no difference.  You will enjoy everything about this elegant production.
            Robert Creighton stars as the incomparable Cagney.  He also wrote some of the original songs and lyrics presented in the show, together with Christopher McGovern.  His talents as an actor, singer, and dancer, are first-rate, and who could ask for anything more.  But there is more; the man has the looks, the build, the manner, and similar talents as those of the character he is portraying.  The New York Times wrote “Robert Creighton is born for the role.”
            James Cagney was born July 17, 1899.  He grew up in a tough neighborhood on the Lower East Side of New York.  The family was having a rough time financially, and when Cagney lost his job, his brother Bill (Josh Walden) saw an ad in the newspaper for a dancer and his mother (Danette Holden) convinced him to apply for it.  He was reticent to do so, but finally thought, “What the heck”.
              That was the start of his successful career as a singer, dancer, and actor on stage and screen and, eventually as a star in gangster movies.  It was also where he met his wife Willie (the lovely Ellen Z. Wright). The one thing missing in the story is where Cagney acquired his skills as a dancer, singer and actor.  Was it simply that he was a natural?
            Nevertheless, he did acquire these skills and he signed his first movie contract with Jack Warner (Bruce Sabath).  They clashed off-and-on for years throughout his career which led him to leave Warner several times, each time returning under better circumstances.
            Jeremy Benton also plays Bob Hope and other characters.  All cast members, except for Creighton, perform multiple roles as the story of James Cagney unfolds.  Creighton leads this cast as they tap dance through the wonderful music of George M. Cohan and the original songs by Creighton and McGovern.  Lovers of tap dancing will be overly enthralled, choreography by Joshua Bergasse.  The live music is under the direction of Gerald Sternbach, set design by James Morgan, great costumes by Martha Bromelmeir, all under the direction of Bill Castellino.
            Performances of Cagney will play Tuesdays at 7:30 PM, Wednesdays at 2 PM and 8 PM,   Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM. (with some exceptions) at the ‘’El Portal Theatre’s Debbie Reynolds Mainstage, 5249 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at CagneyThe Musical.com or by phone at (866) 811-4111 (where you can also check out the exception dates).


Saturday, October 7, 2017

          The  Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles is featuring two exhibitions as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time LA/LA project.

Another Promised Land:  Anita Brenner’s Mexico        
          Anita Brenner was born in Mexico to Latvian-Jewish immigrants, but eventually grew up in America as an immigrant, thus often finding herself an outsider.  She was a journalist, an art historian and anthropologist and was important in introducing Mexican art and culture to America. She became a friend to academics and prominent artists in Mexico, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, among others.  

          It was important for Brenner to build a cultural understanding between The United States and Mexico.  This exhibition emphasizes that fact through more than 150 objects that includes artworks by Rivera, Orozco, Kahlo, and Edward Weston.  This exhibition also offers a look into the life of Anita Brenner and the reason for her feelings of being an outsider, whether in Mexico, or in America.  She always loved Mexico and considered it her home.
          This exhibition will remain on view through Feb. 25, 2018, at the Skirball Cultural Center, located at 2701 N. Sepulveda, Los Angeles.  Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 12 noon to 5 PM, Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM, closed Mondays and holidays.  Exhibitions are free on Thursdays.  For further information, call (310) 440-4500, or go online at skirball.org.

Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day:  Murals, Signs, and Mark Making in LA 
          Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day is an exhibition of a special kind of art, art that we see every day as we drive through all areas of Los Angeles.  It consists of murals, signs, street art, advertisements, etc. that you may see one day and the next day they might vanish from view.  Ken Gonzales-Day, a prominent Los Angeles-based photographer, interdisciplinary artist, and 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, spent ten months traveling hundreds of miles around our metropolis taking photographs that reveal the diversity and creativity of our vast city.  
          This is a most unique exhibition, all displayed in one wide open area of the museum with the more than 100 color photographs  hung around all of the walls.  The floor is one huge map of our city, with numbers that correlate to the pictures on the walls to the locations on the map, allowing viewers to truly be immersed in the diversity of this widely-spread city.   Looking at this mixture, one can see the prominence of the Mexican influence in many of the works.
          This exhibition will remain on view through February 25, 2018.
          The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N, Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  For further information, call (310) 440-4500, or go online at www.skirball.org.