Wednesday, January 31, 2018

THE LAST WIFE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Katherine Parr married Henry VIII July 12, 1543, the last of his six wives.  Canadian playwright Kate Hennig, who wrote The Last Wife about Katherine, chose to place the action in modern times since Katherine was more in line with women of today who seek equality for their gender.
            Katherine (magnificently characterized by Olivia Saccomanno) has had an ongoing love affair with a soldier, (Edward Seymour (Caleb Slavens).  When Henry (David Hunt Stafford) asks her to marry him, she is reluctant to accept his proposal.  He certainly would not be considered an ideal husband, particularly being aware of her relationship with Edward.  But on second consideration she changes her mind in the hopes that she might have an influence on more independence for women,.
             At first their marriage is tense, but Katherine uses her intelligence and womanly wiles and turns out to be the only woman who seems able to find Henry’s soft spot.  Becoming stepmother to his surviving children from his previous marriages, she oversees the education of Mary (Nathalie Rudolph), Bess (Lily Daugherty), and Edward (Andrew Grigorian).
            While Edward is the heir apparent to the throne upon the death of Henry VIII, through Katherine’s actions and perseverance, Mary and Bess fall in the line of succession, which in turn, makes them women of royalty.  When Henry leaves to go to war, he makes Katherine England’s Queen Regent.  This is Katherine’s accomplishment for the women of her country.
            Long-time Artistic Director of the MET Theatre, L. Flint Esquerra, directs an outstanding cast in this production.  David Hunt Stafford fulfills his role as Henry VIII convincingly while also continuing in his role as Artistic/Managing Director of Theatre 40 and Producer of the play. Resident Set Designer, Jeff G. Rack, once again, creates a perfect set for this production.  
            The Last Wife plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through February 15, in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.  Reservations are available by phone, or online at                  

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

PIRATES OF PENZANCE  by Carol Kaufman Segal
            I was rather in shock when I walked into the Pasadena Playhouse to see Pirates of Penzance. Only half of the seats were in view, the orchestra seats covered by an enormous deck and enclosed, making a huge playing area.  I was sent down the aisle and let in by someone who said “Welcome to chaos.”  And so it was.  I had no idea what was happening as I was escorted to my seat while other people were all over the place throwing beach balls and other paraphernalia, in a playful setting that even included swimming pools, whooping it up with music, laughter, and a whole lot of noise.  This was prior to the actual opening of the scene of Pirates of Penzance presented by the Hypocrites, adapted and directed by Sean Graney, co-adapted by Kevin O’Donnell, with music direction by Andra Velis Simon.
            I must admit I had no idea that this is what I came to see, a farce of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera.  It was like an 80 minute beach party with a one minute intermission!  There were actors roaming everywhere with ukuleles, banjos, an accordion, and other miscellaneous instruments (even a musical saw), as well as a tiki bar (of which I never had the opportunity of sampling). 
            Though the performers present a satire on the plot of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera I was never able to follow it throughout the production.  However, in this instant, I presume it made no difference.  It is all in jest, and it is all in fun.  The entire cast is truly blessed with musical, vocal, and comic talent.  They include Mario Alvazian, Eddie Curillo, Matt Kahler, Amanda Martinez, Dana Omar, Tina Munoz-Pandya, Dogt Pawlik, Shawn Pfautsch, Leslie Ann Sheppard and Lauren Vogel.
            Pirates of Penzance plays Tuesdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through February 25, at the historical Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Ave., Pasadena.  Tickets are available online at, by phone at (626) 356-7529, or in person at the Pasadena Playhouse Box Office

Monday, January 29, 2018

THE CHOSEN by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Chosen is a play based on Chaim Potok’s best-selling 1967 novel that was adapted for the stage in 1999 by playwright Aaron Posner and the author..  This award-winning play, with updated revisions by Posner, is being presented at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles under the direction of Simon Levy.

            The play (and the book) is a heartwarming story of two conflicting young Jewish boys, who live just five blocks from each other in Brooklyn but seemingly have little in common.  Danny (Dor Gvirtsman) is the son of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Rabbi whereas Reuven grew up in a more traditional Orthodox family.  The two of them come to blows during a baseball game between their rival yeshivas but, unexpectedly, form a bonding friendship.  
            Reuven’s relationship with his father is, likewise, different from Danny’s relationship with his father, though both parents have the same goals for their sons as they guide them towards maturity.  Reb Saunders (Alan Blumenfeld), Danny’s father, is somber in his connection with his son, never holding conversations with him unless it is to discuss or study religious topics.  This is very difficult for Danny to understand, but he loves and respects his father nevertheless. On the other hand, Reuven’s father, David Malter (Jonathan Akin), a liberal minded professor, enjoys a close relationship and open discussions with his son.
            When Danny and Reuven attend college, each of them discovers ideas and interests outside of their worlds through one another.  And though Reuven’s father has always had hopes of his son becoming a professor, he eventually takes pride in Reuven’s new outlook and his desire to lead a spiritual life.  Though Rabbi Saunders has always been stringent in his expectations of Daniel and where life would take him, he acquiesces with apologies to him to seek his own desires outside of his religious life.
            This story, told through the eyes of Reuven, makes the point of the importance of allowing people to understand one another, friends with different backgrounds, fathers and sons.  The powerful cast brings each of these characters to life with their remarkable performances.    
            The Chosen plays Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, and Mondays at 8 PM. through March 25.  (Monday nights are Pay what you want)  The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available by calling (323) 663-1525, or online at            

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Guest Reviewer, Stan Mazin

The Broadway Musical, with Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, with Book by Linda Woolverton is a huge undertaking for any little theatre, and the Casa 0101 Theater has not only undertaken it, but has a huge hit on it’s hands.  I must say I believe this is the best show I have seen at this theatre and was so thrilled to be a part of the audience.  Directed professionally by Rigo Tejeda, with Musical Direction by Caroline Benzon, great Choreography by Lia Metz, with wonderful Costume Design by Abel Alvarado, as well as Set Design by Marco De Leon, with Lighting by Sohail e. Najifi, and Projections by Sheiva Khalily, the show flew by for me.  And the first act never felt like almost an hour and a half.  There were sound problems as some of the large cast couldn’t be miked and there seemed to be a sort of echo which I suppose I got used to within a few numbers.  

Now let me tell you about the cast.  I’m in love with Andrea Somera as Belle.  Not only has she a gorgeous voice, but her acting is breathtaking... every minute involved in her part.  Watch this girl who must be headed for Broadway.  Another outstanding performance is that of Gaston, played tongue in huge cheek by Andreas Pantazis... used every card in the deck, again beautifully... every bit as equal in character to the original Broadway actor.  His sidekick Maxwell Peters took more falls than Niagara, and did it so wonderfully.  Of all the ‘household accessories’ I must give special credit to Jeremy Saje as Cogsworth with his impeccable timing, Caleb Green as the illuminating Lumiere (although I didn’t understand some of his dialogue at times), Allison Flanagan as Madame de la Grande Bouche (some set of pipes in that chest of drawers, and I mean that sincerely because of her talent), Rosa Navarrete as Babette (nothing dusty about her), Noah Dobson as a delightful Chip, and high praise to Jacquelin Schofield for her interpretation of Mrs. Potts (and an absolutely perfect rendition of Beauty and the Beast).  Maurice was very well played by Luis Marquez even though he was playing well beyond his age.  And where would we be in this show without the Beast... the prince was efficiently played by Jesse Maldonado, while the Beast was played by Omar Mata with such emotion and depth.  All of these people could not have made this show complete without the support of the ensemble, and they did such a magnificent job.  And  what a brilliant idea to have Michael Gallardo join in with Heather Forte and Andrea Ramirez as the Silly Girls.  Yes, I was delightfully surprised that I enjoyed this show so much.

The show runs through January 21st and plays Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 4pm.  With easy street parking, reservations can be made by calling Casa 101’s Box Office at 323 263-7684, emailing, or online at

PR is by Steve Moyer.

Stan Mazin (8pm, December 30th performance)

This production has been extended through January 28.