Thursday, February 28, 2019

LIGHTS OUT:  NAT KING COLE by Carol Kaufman Segal

            Lights Out:  Nat King Cole, written by Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor, is based on the evening of the final Nat King Cole television show in 1957.  He had been the first African American to host his own television program.  But though he always appeared calm, gracious and smooth, his inner manner den
ied his true feelings.  With his beautiful voice accompanied by his piano and an orchestra, he was the epitome of charm and talent that belied what was in his heart and soul.           

            The show only lasted one year, and as Nat King Cole (Dule Hill) waits in his dressing room for the start of his final variety show, he is upset and angry when the make-up lady appears at the room to cover his face with white powder.  When he refuses, he is told by his producer (Bryson Dobson), it is for the best so that he comes across more acceptable to his audiences.  Ever since he had been performing his show, he had to endure offensive situations of one kind or another in respect to his color.  By now, he has had enough, 

            Throughout the performance, as the show is presented, he is whispered off-stage to by the producer to keep from getting too close to his female guests on the show, and other obstreperous instructions, that by the time of the finale, he is so strung out that he ends with a wild tap dancing battle with guest star, Sammy Davis Jr. (Daniel J. Watts). 

            Due to the fact that the play jumps into different times and situations, it is often difficult to follow and to make sense of it.  There are moments when Cole thinks about past shows, and former guests show up on the stage in the form of Betty Hutton, Peggy Lee, and others (Ruby Lewis), and Eartha Kitt and others (Gisela Adisa).  Their performances are wonderfully realistic,  Adisa is a perfect Eartha Kitt.   Dule Hill as Nat King Cole and Daniel J. Watts as Sammy Davis, Jr. are stupendous.  All voices are superb.   The problem I find with the production is that the play lacks form and can be confusing at times.           

            Other members of the cast include Zonya Love (Cole’s mother Perlina and others), Connor Amacio Matthews (Billy Preston and others), Mary-Pat Green (Candy and others), and Brandon Ruiter (Stage Manager and others).

            Lights Out:  Nat King Cole plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through March 24, at the Geffen Playhouse located at 10866 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are available by calling (310) 208-5454, on line at, or at the theatre box office.                        

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star are two one-act plays written by James McLure and directed by Barbara Brownell  The two plays  have a commonality which is a good reason for them being presented together.  They both take place in a small town in Texas and the characters in each play are related in one way or another.  Though each play is a comedy, they focus on the lives and problems of those involved.
            Laundry and Bourbon takes place at the home of Elizabeth (Savannah Schoenecker) where we find her, seemingly, in a worried stage, unable to keep her mind on getting her laundry done, when her friend Hattie (Kristin Towers-Rowles) drops by to gossip.  As they hark back to their more youthful days before their marriages, they begin to imbibe when Amy Lee (Sarah Zuk) arrives, only to gloat over her less fortunate friends.  Before long, their conversations become so fueled, they end up in a brawl, leaving Elizabeth and Hattie alone to complete the laundry job.
            Lone Star focuses on Ray (R.J. DeBard), Elizabeth’s husband, a Vietnam Veteran who is showing some signs of being unsettled.  (Now we are aware of what put Elizabeth in a worried state.)  Ray and his frivolous brother Roy (Christopher Showerman) are hanging around at the local bar where, as they become more intoxicated, they begin to reminisce about their lives and their loves.  Fired up from too much drinking, Ray has a row with his adversary, Cletus (Todd Andrew Ball).  After Cletus leaves, Roy, in his inebriated state, makes a startling confession to Ray.
            Though I have tried to describe the reasoning for these plays, the overly raucous comedy in each of them, took away any of the enjoyment for me.  Unfortunately, I could not appreciate the hard work of the talented performers.  Chris Winfield’s fine set worked for both plays with a bit of adjustment.   
            Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through March 3, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  For information and/or tickets, call (818) 763-5990, or go online at

Sunday, February 17, 2019

RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Ragtime: The Musical is written by Terrence McNally, based on the historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, and playing at the Pasadena Playhouse.  Though the novel is historical, the play mixes the history with fiction in a captivating production with outstanding music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and a superb talented cast.
            The play focuses on the lives of three groups of people who represent different aspects of people in America in the early 20th century.  Though they have no knowledge of one another, or reason to have, this will change as their lives interweave in a story of life, love, tragedy, and the society of its time,
            Those involved include a well-to-do white family, Mother (Shannon Warne), Father (Zachary Ford), their Little Boy (Luke Barbato Smith), Mother’s Little Brother (Dylan Saunders) and Grandfather (Gregory North), who live a comfortable life in New Rochelle. There is a Jewish immigrant, Tateh (Marc Ginsburg), who has brought his Little Girl (Laura Nermirosky) to America seeking a better life.  And then there is Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Clifton Duncan) an African American piano player, who finds himself alone since his girlfriend Sarah (Bryce Charles) left him as a consequence of his infidelity.
            These are all citizens seeking a normal life, while having to deal with the impediments of the world around them.  In their time, the people and the country dealt with social problems such as women’s rights, racial discrimination, and immigration.  With them, the play features some of the historical figures that advanced America’s future  including Harry Houdini (Benjamin Schrader), J.P. Morgan (Tom B. McMahon), Henry Ford (Ryan Dietz), Emma Goldman (Valerie Perri), and Evelyn Nesbit (Katherine McDonough).
            After seeing the problems that touch each of these people throughout the play, we realize how relevant this lustrous musical is today.  And we have to wonder – how much advancement have we really attained in the 21st century?
            The production features a cast of 21, some performing multiple roles, a 16-piece orchestra under the direction of Darryl Archibald, choreography by Mark Exposito, beautiful costumes by Kate Bergh, and a wonderful scenic design by Tom Buderwitz, all under the astute direction of David Lee. 
            You won’t want to miss Ragtime: The Musical playing Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 So. El Molino Ave., Pasadenathrough March 9.  Tickets are available at the Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, online at or by phone at 626-7529.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED                    

Friday, February 15, 2019

THE MOUNTAINTOP by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Mountaintop is a tour de force written by Katori Hall and playing at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank.  Directed by Gregg T. Daniel, it features two outstanding actors, Gilbert Glenn Brown and Carolyn Ratteray.  The play takes place on the night of April 3, 1968, following one of Martin Luther King’s most famous and stirring speeches known as I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.  Could he have foretold what the next day would bring?
            It is a stormy night with lightning and thunder accompanying the rain when Dr. King arrives in room 306 at the Loarraine Motel following the speech that he made in Memphis, Tennessee.   He appears uneasy, wanting coffee, which he orders from room service, and cigarettes, for which he has sent a friend out to bring back to him. 
            Dr. King’s coffee is brought to him by Camae, a charming hotel maid who, at first, is spellbound by being in the company of such an icon.  But as their conversation reverts from mundane subjects to love, civil rights, and King’s hopes and fears for the future, (all the while sharing cigarettes provided by Camae since Dr King’s friend never shows up with his). He is shown to be a man like any normal man with insecurities, fears, and tribulations.
            Finally, Camae reveals her real reason for being the person sent to Dr King’s room that night which precedes the history made on April 4, 1968.  The Mountaintop is a powerful play and is captivating throughout.  Gilbert Glenn Brown and Carolyn Ratteray give exceptionally strong performances         
            The Mountaintop is playing Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through March 10, as well as February 23, at 2 PM and 8 PM, at the Garry Marshall Theatre, located at 4252 West Riverside Drive, Burbank.  Tickets are available online at, or call (818) 955-8101.  


Monday, February 11, 2019

WHOOPSIE DOOPSIE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Whoopsie Doopsie is a play written and directed by Art Shulman playing at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  The play is based on a novel written by Shulman and described by him as ”a wacky, quirky, fast-paced play with eight actors, six of whom play multiple roles, with the set basically consisting only of a number of cubes and a few screens.”
            I suppose that is the best description of it and I could do no better than to add to what amounts to the plot of the play.  It centers on Billy Harrington (Robert Michael Grant), popular, good-looking high school student and son of Professor Gordon Harrington (Brad Kahn, also various male roles) and Molly Harrington (Beccy Quinn and various female roles).  The Professor is a philanderer and his wife is a wacky mom.  So, no surprise when Billy’s life is turned upside down when he gets startling news from girlfriend Joannie (Lavanya Aggarwal) that they have a problem – Joannie is pregnant.
            The entire off-beat play centers on “what should they do?” while Billy’s Dad is having an affair with Joannie’s Mom (Jane Bonham and various female roles) and, who knows, maybe Billy’s Mom is having an affair with Joannie’s Dad (Jody Bardin and various male roles).  It all adds up to just a lot of helter skelter on stage, (or what the playwright calls Whoopsie Doopsie) throughout the play before Billy and Joannie make their life decision.
            Other cast members include Robert Duquaine and Shalonda Shaw-Reese, along with the afore-mentioned cast members, who deserve credit for their performances.
            Whoopsie Doopsie  plays Saturdays at 2 PM, and Sundays at
 7 PM, through March 3, Upstairs at the Group Rep of the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood.  Tickets are available at, or by calling (818) 763-5990.

          Comedian and actress Julia Sweeney, undoubtedly, is most recognized and remembered from her years (1990-1995) on Saturday Night Live where she created the genderless character Pat.  I was first cognizant of her prior to those years when she was a member of the wonderful improvisational company in Los Angeles, The Groundlings.
          If you have missed Julia Sweeney in the entertainment world, it is because she has been living in the Chicago area for the last ten years with her husband and daughter as a housewife.   Now that her daughter is in college, she has returned to Los Angeles to resume her career as a writer and performer. It is a joy having her back as an Older and Wider entertainer in her newest monologue playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
          As she stands alone with a microphone on a bare stage, her audience becomes her confidants as she exudes her charm by telling her stories of the past ten years with humor and honesty.  She admits that she is a staunch atheist, her adopted daughter is Chinese, and her husband is Jewish, all of these characterizations revealed with humor.  She has no qualms about letting us know her political views when she has a change of heart about her daughter’s boyfriend after discovering that he is a Trump supporter!  Throughout the entire monologue, Julia Sweeney is witty, charming, affable, and down-to-earth.
Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider is playing in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 1886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles.  Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM,, Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through February 17.  Tickets are available by going online at, by calling (310) 208-5454, or at the theater box office.


Aleichem Sholom will return to The Santa Monica Playhouse for the following three weekends in March due to audience requests:  March 9 to March 24, Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:30 PM.  For further information, see review dated October 1, 2018.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

LAST CALL,  playing at the Atwater Village Theatre, has been extended through March 4.  See review dated January 31, 2019

Monday, February 4, 2019

HELLO DOLLY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The national tour of Hello Dolly arrived at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre following its run at the Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa and has been playing to a full house ever since.  There is good reason for the success of this national tour, and the answer is Betty Buckley who stars as Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widow matchmaker who decides she is working for herself this time!
            Dolly has her eyes set on Horace Vandergelder, (Lewis J. Stadlen a wealthy merchant in Yonkers, who hired her to look for a wife.  Horace is a cantankerous miser who has never shown an interest in Dolly, but she has determined that she is the perfect match for him.  Therefore, she sets up a plan in order to hoodwink him into proposing.
            The plot (book by Michael Stewart) moves along with the antics of Horaces’s two rather senseless employees, Conrelius Hackl  (Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby Tucker (Jess LeProtter), who Dolly has her hand in matching with Minnie Fay (Krtisten Hahn) and Irene Malloy (Analisa Leaming).  The action takes place (as do all musicals) interspersed with the memorable music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and outstanding dance numbers (choreographed by Warren Carlyle) performed by superb dancers.   The entire production is elegant with its beautiful scenic and luscious costumes designed by Santo Loquasto, but the most captivating aspect of this musical is its star, Betty Buckley.
            Betty Buckley’s career has included theater, film, television, and concert venues around the world.  She has received a number of accolades for her work including a 1983 Tony Award for Best Actress in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats, nominated for Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical for Triumph of Love, nominated for an Olivia Award for her role as Norma Dresden in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Sunset Boulevard in London, to name a few.  Of her 18 recorded solo albums, two were nominated for Grammy Awards and she was nominated twice for two Emmy Awards.   Her list of work is mind boggling.  You can be sure she is a winner in Hello Dolly when Horace finally realizes that Dolly is his match (and by her superb performance).
            Hello Dolly plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 1 PM, and 6:30 PM, through February 17, at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available by calling (800) 982-2787, online at,, or at the Pantages Box Office.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

AN INSPECTOR CALLS by Carol Kaufman Segal

            I recently saw two episodes from The Twilight Zone at Theatre 40 (see review of Rod Serling’s Stories From The Zone, dated January 28, 2019).  J.B. Priestley’s classic play, An Inspector Calls has been described by The Washington Post asan episode of The Twilight Zone wrapped in an Agatha Christie mystery”.  Stephen Daltry directs the National Theatre of Great Britain’s production playing at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
            Yes, one might see that connection.  However, this production, which runs for one hour and forty-five minutes without an intermission, is much more complex.  It begins with three children pulling on the curtain until it opens revealing an unusual set designed by Ian MacNeil.  A Victorian mansion, raised above the ground is seen amidst a heavy fog and rain.  The mansion is home to the very wealthy Birling Family.  As the children are playing, an elderly woman (DianaPayne-Myers) offers food to them.  Meanwhile, the Birlings are enjoying a feast as they celebrate the engagement of their daughter Sheila (Lianne Harvey) to Gerald Croft (Jeff Hammer).
            The good woman, who offered the children food, happened to be the Birling’s housekeeper Edna.  You will see her throughout the play doing her job fastidiously without ever speaking or being acknowledged in any way. She welcomes a gentleman who arrives at the mansion and announces himself as Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan) who is investigating a suicide and wishes to interrogate each of the people attending the engagement party.  Those include Sheila and Gerald as well as Sybil (Christine Kavanaugh) and Arthur Birling (Andrew Macklin), Sheila’s parents, and Eric Birling (Hamish Riddle), her brother.
            When questioned by the Inspector, all of them admit to having had a personal interaction with the same woman.  Each admits that they treated her with little regard, as a person beneath their social level.  Perhaps any one of them could have been the reason for her committing suicide.  After ending his inquisition, the Inspector departs, leaving them all with guilty consciences – but only for the moment.  Suddenly they question who really sent the Inspector to their home, and upon second thought, they return to the mansion as though none of it ever happened.  Did it?  You decide.  There is a message in Priestley’s play, that is, to show the way the wealthy treat those less fortunate than they, without compassion or a conscience.
             An Inspector Calls is playing Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 7:30 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through Feb. 10th, at the Bram Goldsmith Theater in the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available online at, or by calling (310) 746-4000.