Sunday, June 16, 2019


NINE WINNING ONE-ACTS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            This is the third year The Group Rep is presenting its Nine Winning One Acts, a play festival at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  This year the short plays were selected from over 250 entries from around the world and are presented together with one intermission.
            Act One:   Whose Plot Is This? by Pamela Weiler Grayson, directed by Linda Alznauer.  A man and his four wives meet in the cemetery after each has died.  A comedy, to be sure!  Clifford’s by Lawson Caldwell, directed by Cheryl Crosland, a father and his daughter are talking about her upcoming wedding when they meet a 63-year old neighbor who is also getting married but is met with intolerance.   A Misinterpretation of Events by Margie Semilof, directed by Bruce Nehlsen.  Phil has turned the family factory over to his daughter Laurie who, afterwards, has to fire him for harassing female staff.  The Librariest by Dan O’Day, directed by Jack Csenger.  A young couple discovers answers they weren’t expecting find at the library.  Blue Bench by Aleks Merilo, directed by Helen O’Brien.  A young boy sneaks into the tent of a traveling circus to spy on the “faceless man” and learns a lesson about family.
            Act Two:  Art Attack by Cary Pepper directed by Victor D’wayne Little.  Diane and Brendan visit the opening of an art exhibit.  They see the art differently and argue over it until it affects their relationship.  What is art to some is not always seen the same by others.  Infesting the Mob by Joe Starzyk, directed by Kathleen Delaney.  Two mobsters are relaxing and enjoying their espressos when an unexpected sinister stranger appears.  Are they in jeopardy?  The Unforgivable Sin of Forgiveness by Rich Orloff, directed by Stan Mazin.  When a wife admits to her husband that she has been having an affair, she somehow turns the tables on him and she becomes the one who was wronged!  Destiny & Damage, by Chris Shaw Swanson, directed by Barbara Brownell.  When Gina attempts to end her life, she is interrupted by an unusual stranger.  Does he have the power to change her plan?
            These short plays all have an anchor; they touch on today’s society.  They are presented twice a week with actors from the company sharing the roles at various showings.  The performers include Nick Asaro, Bix Barnaba, Michele Bernath, Barbara Brownell, Cynthia Bryant, Fox Carney, Stephanie Colet, Cheryl Crosland, Bert Emmett, Kait Haire, Doug Haverty, Mishia Marie-Johnson, Saana Laigren, John Ledley, Victor D’wayne Little, Stan Mazin, Lisa McGee Mann, Joseph Marcello, Helen O’Brien, Beccy Quinn, Michael Robb, Judy Rosenfeld, Adam Smith, Aidan Smith, Sal Valletta, Sascha Vanderslik, David Vu, and Wyatt Wheeler. 
            Putting on this production is a huge task and this company deserves a great deal of credit for a splendid job.   The creative and production team includes Kenny Harder (technical director), Steve Shaw (sound design), Doug Haverty (graphic design), Doug Engalia (photography /videography), Jody Bardin (stage manager), and Linda Alznauer (assistant stage manager).
            Nine Winning One-Acts is performed Saturdays at 4 PM and Sundays at 7 PM, through July 14.  Performances are presented Upstairs at the Group Rep, located on the second floor of the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood (not handicapped accessible).  Tickets are available on line at www.thegrouprep.com, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.                  



Monday, June 10, 2019


THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Carol Kaufman Segal
             
The Phantom of the Opera is a musical that first opened in London in 1986.  It opened on Broadway in 1988 winning the 1988 Olivier Award, the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical, and Michael Crawford, as the Phantom, won the Olivier Award and the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.  The book was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart, with additional lyrics by Stilgoe. 
           
In association with the Really Useful Group, Cameron MacKintosh Presents the New Production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera at The Hollywood Pantages Theatre.  Though The Phantom has appeared in Los Angeles more times than I can recall (I have seen it at least four times), it still draws sell-out audiences who never tire of seeing it and those who have never had the opportunity of seeing it before.
           
The play first opens in 1911 at an auction of old props from the Paris Opera House, pieces with connections to, in past years, the Phantom of the Opera, as he was known then. This is followed by Act I which goes back in time to 1881, at the Paris Opera House where  Carlotta (Eva Ravares) is rehearsing for the Opera Company’s new managers, Monsieur Firman (David Benoit) and Monsieur Andre (Rob Lindley) when a huge piece of equipment falls  from above, nearly hitting her.  Some members whisper fearfully, “It’s the Phantom of the Opera”!
          
  Because she has lived for several years through past frightening incidents, Carlotta walks away from her role and is replaced by Christine Daae (Eva Tavares), a chorus girl who is recommended to the new owners by Madame Giry (Susan Moniz), the Opera ballet mistress.  Though they are leery about an unknown taking on the role that night, they have no choice unless they cancel a completely sold-out evening. When they audition Christine, she surprises them with her talent and relieves them of all their concern.  From then on, the rest of the story revolves around the Phantom (Derrick Davis) who, already obsessed with his music, becomes more so with the lovely Christine.
            
The entire production is extremely well cast with lovely voices by all. Something about this production gave it a different look to me than any other production I had seen, and particularly the interesting use of areas where we would find the Phantom or how to get to his hideaway.  Perhaps it was the more colorful costumes.  Whatever, it was, I still thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Set design by Paul Brown, costume design by Maria Bjornson, choreogrpahy by Scott Ambler, and directed by Laurence Connor all add up to a very pleasing show that, obviously, was enjoyed by the full opening night audience.        
           
Phantom of the Opera continues Tuesday, June 11 and Wednesday, June 12 at 8 PM, Thursday, June 13 at 2 PM and 8 PM, Friday, June 14 at 8 PM, Saturday, June 15 at 2 PM and 8 PM, Sunday, June 16 at 1 PM and 6:30 PM.  After that date, it will play Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 1 PM and 6:30 PM through July 7, at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles.  However, on its final day, Sunday, July 7, it will only play at 1 PM.  Tickets are available by phone at (800) 982-2782, or online at www.hollywoodpantages.com, or at the Theatre Box Office.

     RECOMMENDED




HERSHEY FELDER: A PARIS LOVE STORY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
Hershey Felder is a dynamo.  He excels in many fields.  He is a pianist, composer, playwright, actor, and director.  And for his latest performance at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, he even did the stage design.  
           
In his prior storytelling of great composers, he has written and performed as the following, George Gershwin (George Gershwin Alone), Fryderyk Chopin (Monsieur Chopin), Ludwig von Beethoven and Gerhard von Beuning (Beethoven), Leonard Bernstein (Maestro Bernstein), Franz Liszt (Musik), Irving Berlin (Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin), Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Our Great Tchaikovsky), and the great American, Abraham Lincoln (An American Story). 
            
Hershey Felder:  A Paris Love Story is about Claude Debussy, a French composer born in 1862, known for his impressionist music, and most well-known composition,  Clare de Lune.  Felder begins on stage as himself to tell the audience what prompted him to recreate Debussy on the stage.  At the age of six, Debussy had mastered Clare de Lune (a protégé to be sure) and was his mother’s favorite.  During the time of her illness, it gave her comfort before she passed away.  Felder then transforms himself into Claude Debussy with a swift use of a wig, mustache and beard.
           
In relaying the life of Claude Debussy, Felder, as is his norm, intersperses his story with his outstanding piano performances of the beautiful music by the composer.   He brings the man to life as he walks through the streets of Paris.  And though Debussy married twice, he was a womanizer and his many liaisons had a profound effect on his music.  Though he began playing the piano as a young boy, he was not one to spend his time cultivating his piano prowess and ended up being famous as one of the most prominent composers of his era, and had an influence on future composers. 
            
Hershey Felder:  A Paris Love Story is directed by Trevor Hay, book and scenic design by Hershey Felder, costume design by Stacy Nezda, and lighting and projection design by Christopher Ash.  Performances are Thursday, June 13, and Friday June 14, 7:30 PM, Saturday, June 15, 2 PM and 7:30 PM, and Sunday, June 16, 2 PM at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available at TheWallis.org/Debussy, by calling (310) 746-4000,or online at TheWallis.org/Debussy.
           



RECOMMENDED


Thursday, June 6, 2019

BROADWAY REVIEWS by Stan Mazin, Guest Reviewer

BURN THIS
 
This reproduced Lanford Wilson (a Pulitzer Prize winner) play stars Adam Driver and Keri Russell with great support with actors David Furr, Brandon Uranowitz, Rebecca Brooksher, Jonathan Crimean, and Jeremy Webb.  Adeptly directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch) the play deals with 2 people who are strangely brought together by the mysterious death of a friend.  Sparks fly when the two stars are together and allow their raw emotions to lead them sexually in a direction neither thought possible.  The cast is wonderful and Driver and Russell are electric, particularly Adam Driver in a role far from ordinary.  The set design by Derek McLane is simple yet practical in it’s simplicity, which gave the actors space to create characters the audience can easily observe and judge.  Costume design by Clint Ramos seems ‘untheatrically’  realistic, while the lighting by Natasha Katz is appropriately ‘real’.  Burn This can be enjoyed at the Hudson Theatre.

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WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME

What a surprise this play was for me.  I’m not usually too excited about what seems like government type plays, since I;m not too excited about our government these days… but the way Heidi Schreck designed her play, I was not only educated, but enthralled.  She created a vehicle for herself that allows her to play the many ages of her life with humor, humanity, and humility.  Having been a debator in her school years, she carries that theme throughout her play.  Onstage with her in the performance I saw were Mike Iverson, playing an American Legionnaire moderator  as well as himself, and Rosdely Ciprian, a young 14 year old debator.  Oliver Butler directed this piece giving Ms. Schreck her own space to seem she is improvising for the audience, although we know it must be scripted.  The designer Rachel Hauck has built a set that looks like an older American Legion hall where such debates have taken place in Scheck’s past.  The play is interspersed with moments of her own experiences, some funny, some sad, all personal, but all very relatable to her audience.  I thoroughly enjoyed this journey into a document I knew very little of.  It plays a limited run at the Helen Hays Theatre, and is expected to come to Los Angeles in the future.  Don’t miss it!

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PRETTY WOMAN, THE MUSICAL

With book by Garry Marshall & J..F. Lawton, and music & Lyrics by Bryan Adams & Jim Vallance, Pretty Woman enters the Broadway space as a clean somewhat humorous show with very good looking yet simple sets by David Rockwell, and lovely costumes by Gregg Barnes.  Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, I somehow expected a little more, knowing how talented Mr. Mitchell is.  The show rolls along smoothly with Samantha Barks (Eponine in Universal’s Les Miz) and Andy Karl (Groundhog Day and Rocky, both on Broadway) leading a talented group of actors including Eric Anderson, Jason Danieley, and Kingsley Leggs, plus all the ensemble who handled their various roles well.  Although I was was not exactly knocked out by the show, it did come through as a very good musical adaptation of the film.  I believe my sensed were slightly numbed by seeing a matinee I enjoyed more than this evening’s entertainment.  We should never do this but we do it all the time… comparing one show to another, even though every show is a different type of fruit or vegetable and shouldn’t really be set up for comparison.  The songs were pleasant enough but I was never blown away.  The audience I must say truly enjoyed the show.

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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, IN YIDDISH

What a wonderful treat to be able to see this particular show in a language that so suits it.  No, I do not speak Yiddish but the translation is shown on each side of the stage in English.  Directed by Broadway’s Joel Grey, this show soars in every way.  Originally written by Joseph Stein, with music by Jerry Bock, and Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, the show is so familiar to Broadway audiences, that it is difficult for anyone to find fault with a show that has such heart, humor, and pathos.  I applaud the producers for finally putting this show on.  It is directed beautifully, sung exquisitely, and acted brilliantly.  At the performance I saw, the role of Tevye was performed by Bruce Sabath, and the role of Lyser-Volf was performed by Adam B. Shapiro, both listed as inserts in the program, but each doing the role so well you would think they had been doing them all along.  Golde was played by Jennifer Babiak, and Yente played by Jackie Hoffman, but each and every person in the cast is as brilliant as the next.   Choreography is by Jerome Robbins, obviously reconstructed from the original by Stas Kmiec.  The stage is bare with only a curtain upstage and all the props handled by the actors.  Overall nothing less than a brilliant show performed brilliantly by everyone involved.  It is difficult to believe that the original show almost closed out of town on it’s pre Broadway tour.

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THE CHER SHOW

This musical biography of Cher’s life has a Book by Rick Elice, Choreography by Christopher Gattelli and Direction by Jason Moore.  The Music Supervision, Orchestrations & Arrangements are by Daryl Waters.  Entertaining as it is, and what show featuring the character of Cher wouldn’t be, I found myself slightly confused, as to why they needed three Chers, instead of one… especially when all three were onstage together and had dialogue with each other.  As talented as the three are… listed in the program as Babe, Micaela Diamond… Lady, Teal Wicks… and Star, Stephanie J. Block, it is only Ms. Block who captures the true essence of ‘the star’, in voice, movement, and song. I was amazed that she sounded so much like Cher in her speaking voice as well, the only one to me who sounded like her.  The production numbers were fun but the only other true star of the show was of course Bob Mackie for his costumes, who truly made Cher who she has become.  Sonny however was beautifully played by Jarrod Spector, although we all remember Sonny as having very dark hair, and this Sonny has almost a sandy colored hue.  His communication with Stephanie Block was absolutely beautiful.  Everyone in the show did admirable work.  The Set Design is by Christine Jones & Bree J. Kanakis, with Lighting by Kevin Adams, and Sound Design by Nevin Sternberg.  Video and Projection Design is by Darrel Maloney with Hair & Wigs by Charles G. LaPointe.  Cher fans will not be disappointed.

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MEAN GIRLS

This show had opened while I was in NYC last year, but I didn’t get an opportunity to see it then.  I was so looking forward to it because I am a big fan of Tina Fey who is credited with the Book.  The Music is by Jeff Richmond with the Lyrics by Nell Benjamin.  All are special to make this show a great fun evening in theatre.  But it truly is Grey Henson who plays Damian Hubbard who steals every scene he is in.  Watch Grey in the future because he can act, sing, and dance beautifully… a true triple threat!  The females were also good but never a threat to Grey when it comes to ‘taking the stage’.  They are Barrett Wilbert Weed as Janis Sarkisian, Erika Henningsen as Cady Heron, and a slew of quite talented ensemble members who played various roles.  Overall a very funny evening directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw at a quick pace that never stops.  As good and entertaining as this show is, I must say after seeing another show Casey helmed that I enjoyed slightly more than even this one was the following…

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THE PROM

This is another show that opened this year that was also beautifully directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholas, showing his astute talent for humor and quick pacing in a hilarious send-up of actors’ egos.  Written with the best humor on Broadway (in my opinion) by Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin, with Music by Martin Sklar and Lyrics by Chad Beguelin, this show is truly one of the funniest I’ve seen on Broadway in years, if not in my lifetime.  The songs are pleasant enough but the words are quick and kurt and hilarious.  The talented cast is lead by Brooks Ashmanskas as Barry Glickman, Beth Leavel as Dee Dee Allen, and Christopher Sieber as Trent Oliver, with great support from Caitlin Kinnunen, Isabelle McCalla, Michael Potts, Angie Schworer, Courtenay Collins, and Josh Lamon.  This show was truly one of the high lights from this years Broadway offerings.

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TOOTSIE

How can one create a Broadway show (and a musical at that) from a big hit movie?  Perhaps ‘one’ cannot, but the creative team like the one who created this “Tootsie” accomplished this feat brilliantly.  The clever Music & Lyrics are by David Yazbek, with a very funny Book by Robert Horn, very nice Choreography by Denis Jones, and finally quick-paced Direction is by Scott Ellis.  This brilliant cast is lead by Santina Fontana who plays Michael Dorsey/ Dorothy Michaels with what seems like more costume changes than Mame, supported by Lilly Cooper as Julie Nichols, and Sarah Stiles as Sandy Lester, with special mention to Andy Grotelueschen as Jeff Slater, Michael Dorsey’s roommate.  But everyone in “Tootsie” is so perfectly cast in a show that never stops to breathe, with terrific songs and great direction by Mr. Ellis.  Special attention must be given to Costume Designer William Ivey Long for his speedy changes having Michael change into Dorothy and back again.  If comparisons are made with the film, they are quickly dissolved by the presence of the songs and the performances of the great cast.  Overall a very exceptionally great ’traditional’ Broadway musical!

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BEETLEJUICE

What a delight!!!  I admit I have never seen the movie, so my apprehension to seeing and enjoying this musical was in my mind, in doubt.  As quickly as this show began, my apprehension disappeared.  I was taken in immediately and this is a show that held my attention until the very end.  The Music & Lyrics are by Eddie Perfect, with Book by Scott Brown & Anthony King.  The great Set Design is by David Korins, with Costume Design by William Ivey Long (“Tootsie”), and Magic and Illusion Design by Michael Weber.  The most talented cast is lead by Alex Brightman who plays Beetlejuice, with an energy that defies normalcy, with Sophia Anne Caruso with the proper ‘un-energetic’ and laid back performance perfect for her role as Lydia.  With great support by Kerry Butler as Barbara, Rob McClure as Adam, Adam Dannheisser as Charles, Leslie Kritzer as Delia, and a slew of others, this show is a true surprise.  The appropriate Choreography is credited to Connor Gallagher, with tight Direction by Alex Timbers.  I suspect this show will be around for a very long time, as it so deserves to be.

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KING KONG

Surprise of all surprises, I loved this musical!  I must say that of the films of this genre, I prefer “Mighty Joe Young” to “King Kong”, but the visuals of this adaptation are absolutely brilliant.  The Scenic & Projection Design is by Peter England… magnificent!!!  The Creature Design is by Sonny Tilders and is so lifelike, executed by about 10 puppeteers.  The Costume Design is by Roger Kirk with Lighting by Peter Mumford and Sound Design by Peter Hylenski (the sound is absolutely fantastic with the marriage of the physical movements of Kong).  And the change that occurs when the stage becomes the ship, along with the visual, you really feel the movement of the ship traveling forward into the video.  And even though the actors take second place to the huge Kong ‘character’, they are still wonderful… Christiani Pitts as Ann Darrow, Eric William Morris as Carl Denham, and Erik Lochtefeld as Lumpy.  The voice of Kong is credited to Jon Hoche… and very scary at that.  The Book is credited to Jack Thorne, while the Score is Composed and Produced by Marius de Vies with Songs by Eddie Perfect.  Even though some of my NYC friends laugh at my enthusiasm for this show, I found it overall an exciting, brilliant, and thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre. 
           



Sunday, June 2, 2019


AVENUE Q by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
 Avenue Q is a musical that won the Tony award in 2004 for Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book.  Not a wonder, because it is a most unusual musical comedy featuring puppets and human actors.  The people responsible for those Tony Awards are Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (music and lyrics), and Jeff Witty (book).  An amazing production of this unusual and outstanding show is presented by the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.
            
The story is about coming of age and learning what growing up entails.  Recent college graduate, Princeton (Joey Flint) arrives in New York and with little money, ends up in an unkempt apartment all the way out on Avenue Q (great set design by Chris Winfield).  However, he is not alone on Avenue Q.  He meets other young men and women in the same predicament, coming into adulthood and looking towards their future.
           
Seeing the show for the first time, you may not be aware that most of the characters are performed with puppets.  On Avenue Q, we find Rod (also played by Joey Flint), Kate Monster/ Lucy the Slut (Hartley Powers), Mrs. Thistletwat/Girl Bear (Harley Walker), Nicky/Trekkie Monster/Boy Bear (Troy Whitaker), all performed flawlessly with puppets.  Other people living on Avenue Q (but not performed with puppets) are Brian (Ashkhan Aref), Gary Coleman (Courtney Bruce), and Kristina Reyes (Christmas Eve).
           
All of these characters are in for a lesson about growing up, taking responsibility and making it in the world.  It all comes about through humor and noteworthy lyrics.  The cast brings it all to life under the astute direction by Patrick Burke.  The musical direction is by Paul Cady, orchestration and arrangements by Stephen Oremus, choreography by Michele Bernath, and the fantastic puppets were created by Director Patrick Burke, inspired by designs of Rick Lyon.
            
Don’t miss this exceptional production of a very extraordinary and popular show, now playing at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through July7.  Talk backs after June 9 and June 23 matinees.  Tickets are available online at www.thegrouprep.com, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.      
            
You might think, because Avenue Q is performed with puppets, that it would be suitable for children.  However, Jeff Witty has written it with adults only in mind.
           

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED  

Friday, May 31, 2019


BE A GOOD LITTLE WIDOW by Carol Kaufman Segal
            



The Odyssey Theatre is home to a visiting production written by Bekah Brunstetter entitled Be A Good Little Widow.  The play takes place in 2007 in Hartford, Connecticut, in the home of newlyweds, Melody (Adrienne Visnic) and Craig (Sterling Knight).   
           
It is very clear that newlyweds, Melody and Craig, are deeply in love and happy in their marriage and new home.  Melody has had to move far away from her family, while due to Craig’s job, they live close to his mother, Hope (Sandy Bainum).  Hope is a widow, and she and her son have a close relationship.  Sadly, she doesn’t appear to be happy with the woman he chose to marry.
            
Craig leaves on a business trip, and as fate would have it, the plane he is on crashes and no one survives the accident.  Melody is left a young widow who has excessive difficulty coping with her situation.  With her parents living far away, and her poor relationship with Craig’s mother, she finds some solace in Craig’s business friend Brad (Khylin Rhambo) until he proves to want to be more than just a friend.
           
As Melody grieves and sees Craig in her imagination, Hope spends time with her to help her grieve and survive as a widow.  The animosity between mother and widow slowly fades away.  Perhaps Hope was not as callous as she had appeared. 
            
Be A Good Little Widow is a play filled with emotion, and the entire cast deserves acclaim for their outstanding portrayals.  The play is excellently directed by Brandon Baer, scenic design by Pete Hickok.  Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through June 9, at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles. Tickets are available online at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/1010034, or by calling (310) 477-2055, ext.2.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


 MAMMA MIA! by Carol Kaufman Segal
           


East West Players is featuring Mama Mia! at the David Henry Hwang Theatre.  The musical features an array of Abba hits (music and lyrics by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, and the book by Catherine Johnson). A fabulous cast, under the auspicious direction of Snehal Desai, performs a spectacular rendition of this charming play.
            
20-year old Sophia Sheridan (Grace Yoo) and her mother Donna (Joan Almedilla) reside in a rural resort hotel, the Villa Donna, on a peaceful Greek Island, owned and run by Donna.  There will be many guests arriving at the hotel soon for the coming marriage of Sophia to her fiancé, Sky (Max Torrez).  Sophia longs to have her father walk her down the aisle, but her mother never told her who that person is.  Having found her mother’s diary, and secretly reading it to try to find the answer, she learns of three different men who were involved with her mother at about the same time.   Anyone of them could be her father.  Therefore, unbeknownst to Donna, she invites all three of them to the wedding.  
            
When Sam Carmichael (Alan Ariano), Harry Bright (Danny Bernardo), and Bill Austin (Michael Palma) show up at the hotel, Donna is beside herself, not knowing what she will do with these men suddenly appearing from her past.  She seeks help from her best friends, former singing partners, Rosie Mulligan (Elvira Barjau) and Tanya Chesham-Leigh (Anthea Neri).  Sophie too, is in a quandary, not knowing how to figure out which of the three men is her father    and seeks the help of her two bridesmaids, Ali (Nicole Santiago) and Lisa (Jules Aurora). 
           
If all of this isn’t enough to create havoc, Sam, Harry, and Bill, never having known one another, each comes to the conclusion that he was invited to the wedding because he is the father of the bride-to-be.  Problems? You bet!  Sky is upset enough to want to call off the wedding!  But all must end well in this charming musical with its wonderful music and a superb cast of singers, dancers, and actors.  They also include Al Rafael (Pepper), Kevin Trinio Perdido, (Eddie) and Ala Tiatia (Father Alexandrios).  And it wouldn’t be the same without the Ensemble that includes Edelyn Okano, Dekontee Tucrkile, Steven Agdeppa,  and Andrew Ge.
            
The live band, conducted by Marc Macalintal, (keyboard), includes Vince Reyes (guitars), Chris Spilsbury (guitars), Khris Kempis (bass guitar), and Craig Bunch (percussion).  The excellent choreography is by Preston Mui.
           
Mama Mia! plays Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, at the David Henry Hwang Theatre, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, through June 9.  Tickets are available online at wwweastwestplayers.org, or by phone at (213) 625-7000.
           
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED                    

Saturday, May 25, 2019


A BAD YEAR FOR TOMATOES by Carol Kaufman Segal
            A Bad Year for Tomatoes, written by John Patrick, is playing at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills.  His first few plays did not fair too well on Broadway, but his stage adaptation of Vern J. Sneider’s novel in 1953, The Teahouse of the August Moon, earned him both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony award for Drama. 
            Myra Marlow (Diana Angelina) is a well-known television star who has become stressed out over the demands of her career.  All she wants is some peace and quiet where she can relax while she writes her autobiography.  She finds just the spot in a small farmhouse in Beaver Haven, Vermont, where she can even plant tomatoes in her spare time.  She arrives at the home accompanied by her long time friend and agent, Tom Lamont (David Datz) who tries to talk her out of this phase and to return with him to her job and to marry him.  No such luck there!
            The moment Tom leaves and she starts to feel the comfort of being alone, (using her real name, Myrtle Durtle), she is interrupted by Amanda Conlon (Cora Gump) and Reba Harper (Ann Ryerson), the Beaver Haven Welcoming Committee.  Actually, they turn out to be the town’s nosey neighbors!  As soon as they leave, the town’s handyman, Piney (Jeffrey Winner) shows up at her door dragging his axe and offering her his services.  Following this interruption, last, but not least, Willa Mae Wilcox (Leda Siskind) makes her appearance at her door, and Myra realizes she is going to have to find a way to keep the meddlers from intruding on her privacy.
            Myra makes up a tale of having a dangerous and unhinged sister who she has to keep locked up in an upstairs bedroom, hoping to scare off her constant intruders.  And while this falsehood works somewhat for awhile, lying usually finds its way to more dire circumstances, and Myra finds herself in a whole lot of trouble with the town’s sheriff (William Joseph Hill).  Fortunately, Tom Lamont arrives just in time to save Myra and to convince her of her next step.
            Though John Patrick wrote a large number of plays, his real success came from writing scripts for radio and for the screen. This comedy, written in 1974, is about characters who are too much over the top in outrageous silliness, perhaps some of which might have been played down somewhat.  The play is directed by Larry Eisenberg, Co-Artistic Director of the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, and an established actor in his own right.  Set design by Jeff G. Rack is outstanding as always.
            A Bad Year for Tomatoes plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through June 16, at Theatre 40, in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr. Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available online at wwwtheatre40.org, or by phone at (310) 364-0535.
           

Thursday, May 23, 2019


LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
A new production of the Tony award-winning Broadway play, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & GrillI is playing at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank.   Lady Day is the nickname that was given to American jazz singer, Billy Holliday (1915-1959).
           
Billy Holliday began singing in nightclubs in Harlem and was discovered by producer John Hammond.  She became a successful jazz recording artist in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  By the late 1940’s she had become an alcoholic and user of drugs.  And though she was still successful as a concert performer in the 1950’s (she performed at Carnegie Hall in sold out concerts), her drug and alcohol abuse led to her downfall.
           
This play takes place in 1959 in a sordid bar in Philadelphia where Billy Holliday (Deidrie Henry) is performing one of her latest shows about four months prior to her death.  Her backup artists include Jimmy Powers (Abdul Hamid Royal at the piano) and James Leary (bass player).  It is obvious there is a problem with Billy before her performance begins.  Fortunately, Jimmy helps to soften the situation as best he can throughout her show.  She begins her performance with a song, but as she continues, she intersperses her singing with bits of her life, stopping sometimes for a smoke or a drink.  Meanwhile the audience becomes privy to what occurred throughout her life that pushed Billy Holliday towards her brink of disaster, not the least of which was her color.
           
Deidrie Henry is magnificent as Billie Holliday in every way.  Her voice is absolutely beautiful, (I have never been a fan of Holliday’s voice per se.) and her performance is very realistic.  Royal and Leary are an outstanding combo and the three musicians light up the show.
           

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill was written by Lanie Robertson and directed by Gregg T. Daniel.  It is playing Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through June 9, at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 West Riverside Dr., Burbank.  For tickets visit www.garrymarshalltheatre.org, or call (818) 955-8101.

Saturday, May 18, 2019





JULIUS WEEZER by Carol Kaufman Segal
            It is difficult to believe that the Troubadour Theater Company recently opened a production at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood marking their silver anniversary – (believe it or not) 25 years of bringing uproarious musical comedy to fervent Troubie audiences.
            This time they have hit upon Shakespeare with their latest world premiere of, Julius Weever a take-off of you know who!  This latest musical parody is directed and adapted by the company’s Artistic Director Matt Walker, who also plays the role of Cassius.  Joining him in this hysterical romp is Rick Batalla (Decius, Lucius), Joseph Leo Bwarie (Octavius Caesar), Victoria Hoffman (Portia), Beth Kennedy (Metellus, Calpurnia), Matt Mecrhant (Marcus Antonius), Bob Nage Brutu)Suzanne Jolie Narbonne (Servant to Cleopatra/Cup Bearer), Andy Robinson (Julius Caesar), Morgan Rusler (Cinna, Cinna Te Poet, Soothsayer), Mike Sulprizio (Casca), Cloie Wyatt Taylor (Cleopatra), and David C. Wright (Trebonius/Servant to Caesar).
            If you took the time to read all of these characters, you might ask, “What in heaven’s name is Cleopatra doing in this take-off?”  Well, that’s the Troubies for you.  Don’t ask me.  Just enjoy this crazy romp through 90 minutes of fun and laughter with music, singing, comedy, and even part circus.  Oh, I almost forgot, you’ll be rockin’ to some of that music as well.   A five-piece band includes Ryan Whyman (keyboard), Derick Finely (drums), Mikala Schmitz (cello), Mike Abraham (guitar), and Blake Etrada (bass). 
            Julius Weever runs Friday, May 10, 8 PM, Friday May 17, 8 PM, Saturday, May 18, 4 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday, May 19, 4 PM, at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd.  Tickets are available online at www.elportaltheatre.com, or by calling the box office at (818) 508-4200 or (866) 811-4111. 







ABOUT THE TROUBDOUR THEATER COMPANY
“Troubadour Theater Company is a free-wheeling, no holds barred, Commedia Del-Arte flavored, slapstick driven Los Angeles based ensemble of actors, musicians, and comedians that has been performing for audiences throughout Southern California and beyond since 1995.  Their fast-paced, laugh-filled, loose adaptations (some of the lines are still there) of classic plays, literature and film, as well as their original productions and hilarious sketch material, make this company a unique and exciting experience for theater-goers of any age.  For more information on the Troubies, visit www.troubie,com or Instagram @thetroubies and Facebook at www.facebook,com/troubadoourtheatrecompany. ”