Meeting The Band’s Visit Cast

After seeing THE BAND’S VISIT opening night performance at The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, I was invited the next day to a meet-and-greet with members of the band and four of the leads in the show: Janet Dacal (Dina), Sasson Gabay ( Colonel Tewfiq), Joe Joseph (Haled) and Coby Getzug ( Papi). As the moderator, Benny Aguayo and the cast enlightened me about the making of the movie, then the musical, and why The Band’s Visit is so important to see right now after what we have experienced the past two years.

Benny Aguayo and some of The Band’s Visit cast

How does your character’s journey amplify the importance of human connection? 

Joe: Let the music take you to an emotional place. Art is essential. It fosters empathy and gives people experiences they many not have in their life. These are people in a small town and that thread connects with people in the audience. These characters deliver something bigger than us and puts the audience in touch with their emotions and soul.

Coby: The theme of connection is a choice to sing a piece where people are hungry to listen. The show drops all language cultural barriers. We have found the audience leans forward to share this experience with us. Traveling with the show, we bring to the audience Arabic music and instruments that some of the audience may have never heard before. It’s a collective experience. For my character Papi he has everything going wrong, because he is not great with girls, yet his new friendship with Haled sparks a chance encounter that changes his life with a beautiful human connection.

Sasson: What I like is to see is the enjoyment of the audience while performing this show. The characters in the play solve their life and salvation through music. Music helps solves Twefiq’s problems, Dina wants to be a dancer and music makes her feel alive again. The creators connect people with Chet Baker, Gershwin and others to grab the audience. The musical is quieter than many, but evenly paced to form that connection.

Janet: It’s a show of serenity, peace and something that humankind needs to see right now while dealing with the isolation of the pandemic. It’s all about human connection. One of the basic themes after the last 18 months is that we all agree that we need each other to survive. Human connection is what we have all been yearning for, just like the character Dina. She has been yearning to feel alive. She comes to life with her shared human experience with Twefiq.

Coby and Joe

What are your thoughts about the magnitude of silence, peace, and tranquility of the show? 

Sasson: It’s a play with music, its a musical, but not a traditional one with a lot of song and dance. This offers a lot of emotion, peace and tranquility, sometimes the magnitude of silence. This production builds and builds slowly with a deep breath. Bit by bit the audience joins the actors on a journey through one night in Israel. You can relate and see yourself in their journey.

Coby: Something really human takes place – to listen to other humans. These characters don’t open and share especially well with strangers, so their silence gives the audience time, and the music you hear and the absence of it at times makes this such a special experience.

Janet: Musical notes are part of the pause in a scene and like in the film, there are long silences to give the audience an idea of the space of what this town is like. At times it makes you sit in your discomfort. The characters communicate in their non-native language. The writers were creative to take it from the film to the stage and keep the silence. 

Joe: There are four languages in the show: English, Hebrew, Arabic and music. Music allows the characters to cut through language. My character Haled is the worst with language, yet he is a carefree guy and his song helps Papi and the girl at the roller rink unite and embrace. Haled uses jazz to connect, calm his friend, and show his love of Chet Baker. When words fail, music works. It’s a force that cuts across all cultures and boundaries.

The musical has no intermission. What’s it like to perform the show in one act? 

Janet: No intermission keeps you and the audience in the show and engaged from the beginning to the end. As an actor, it is wonderful to be done in 90 minutes. Especially with 8 performances a week.

Coby: It takes you a couple minutes for the audience to tune their ear into the music and dialogue of the show. Without an intermission, the audience and we as a cast continues on this story’s journey without any interruptions. 

Sasson: The audience receives a whole experience. Without an intermission, you don’t have to cut the show abruptly. When one visits the restroom, purchases a snack and drink, it takes a few minutes to get back into the show again. It allows the availability of language, of music and love to resonate without getting out of your seat.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Can you talk about the shows depiction of universal languages of music and love as told through the eyes of your character? 

Sasson: The music transforms the delicate film to a delicate musical production. When David Cromer approached me to do the musical, I immediately said yes. This is the first time many audiences have seen Arabic music. The show opens people to these cultures. The audience exposure is rewarding to see each night. I’m proud that this show and the film do that to people.

Janet: What I like is Israelis playing Egyptians and Egyptians playing Israelis. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you are a human being. It was easy as a Cuban descent to play an Israeli woman. We have similar background in a way. My parents had to leave their county and start a new life.

Joe: I first saw the show on Broadway with Tony Shalaoub. The show is about people dealing with a constant fight for survival. It’s a show about unexceptional people living in an unexceptional place. 

Janet and Sasson

Sasson, did you ever imagine while filming the movie well over a decade ago in the desert, that you’d later be performing it on a Broadway stage in America? 

Sasson: The low budget film was made in 21 days in the Southern part of Israel. We were invited to the Cannes Film Festival and applauded for it’s commercial and critical success. This show changed my life and my career. Fans of this gentle film wanted to make it into a Broadway production. It took over 8 years to put this musical onstage with actor Tony Shalhoub as Tewfiq. When he left the show I was asked to play Tewfiq again.

Do any fans of the film approach you and share their thoughts and feeling of the impact the story had on them? 

Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

Do you have any favorite songs, melodies, lyrics, or even moments of silence in David’s score? 

Janet: The role is Dina is a beautiful role for women. David Yazbek wrote the music and lyrics which captures Dina through her songs. Its an expression of who she is through the melodies. They are hauntingly beautiful and it’s a true honor to play this role. I feel so lucky doing this show. She enjoys singing the song ‘Omar Sharif’ in the show. When she recently adopted a male dog, she named it after the song, Omar Sharif.

Coby: ‘Waiting’ is my favorite song. The line “There’s two kinds of waiting, there’s the kind where you’re expecting something new, or even strange, but this kind of waiting, you keep looking off out into the distance, you keep looking off out into the distance, even though you know the view is never going to change, you wait…” Every day has looked the same for these people for so long and then this band of musicians comes into town and for less than 24 hours changes the lives of everyone they meet.

Joe Jospeh as Haled – Photo by Broadway in Hollywood

Joe: The friends thread comes through in the song ‘Haled’s Song About Love.’ The scene of young couples at the roller rink are enhanced with the instrumental nature of love. The instruments the band plays enhances the gentle emotional response. They take you by the hand to enhance the story. Every night we perform is dynamic and rewarding.

How do you feel LA audiences will respond to the musical? Both Janet and Coby are from Los Angeles. 

Coby: I was excited to be back in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The last time I stepped foot in this hotel was during my 10th grade Winter Formal. Bringing back to the language and music, my mother is from Israel and never thought she would see her son speak Hebrew onstage. She invited 40 family and friends to come see the show tonight.

Joe: The show is an analogy of what we do 9 times a week. We connect with the audience in a fundamental way for the need to be together as social animals. It’s a blessing at each performance. Theater is an ecosystem of the economy. Diverse people seeking entertainment go to restaurants near the theatre, park in the lots, stay in nearby hotels, shop in stores. A theatre brings people to a destination spending more money than just a ticket to a show.

Janet: I went to a performing arts middle and high school in Los Angeles with students from all different backgrounds. I was exposed to so many different types of people and cultures. It opened me to different cultures and how we are all human.

Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

When it comes to acceptance of cultural diversity, can you draw from your own experiences and relate them to moments in The Band’s Visit? 

Sasson: There are so many borders and boundaries inhibiting us in life. This show gives us a chance to dare and do it. Dina’s character initiated the Israelis and Egyptians to be together.

Coby: The show exposes the audience to be open to new cultures. It’s a story of resilience and hope. This show opens one to a cultural tapestry of humankind..

The Band’s Visit closes on December 19, 2021. Tickets are available at Broadway in Hollywood

The Band’s Visit is Just What We Need Right Now

At Opening Night of THE BAND”S VISIT inside the Dolby Theatre, theater patrons were giddy with excitement. For some, this was the first time they have stepped into a theater to see a live show in almost two years.

Based on the book by Itamar Moses and low budget Israeli film of the same name by Israeli screenwriter and director Eran Kolirin, the story was developed into a musical by Producer Orin Wolf’s love of the story. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s National Fund for New Musicals it was made years later and opened on Broadway in 2017. Receiving favorably results from audiences and critics, this little show swept the Tony Awards nominations and won 10 awards including Best Musical, as well as Best Director of a Musical, David Cromer, Best Score and the two leading acting awards with Tony Shalhoub as Tewfiq Zakaria, the colonel of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra.

Sasson Gabay and Janet Dacal

Now one of Broadway in Hollywood’s productions, the touring company has actor Sasson Gabay once again performing as the lead character. Sasson is no stranger to this role, as he played Twefiq in the movie and on Broadway after Shalboub left the show.

The show begins with the line “Once not long ago a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important” to introduce Colonel Twefiq and his band of musicians arriving in Israel and excited to perform for a local cultural organization in Petah Tikva. The miscommunication at the bus station between Arabic and Israeli translation, lands the band in a “bleak” “boring” and “beige” desert town. 

Director David Cromer cleverly uses a revolving stage to introduce the townspeople in the “Waiting” scene, where every day is the same. Confused and hungry, the band of musicians in light blue Sargent Pepper style uniforms inquire with Dina (Janet Dacal), a local café owner about something to eat and their whereabouts. Again due to a language barrier, they strike up a conversation in English, as Dina sings along with Itzik (Clay Singer) and Papi (Coby Getzug) “Welcome to Nowhere.” Lighting designer Tyler Micoleau casts a beautiful orange glow across the stage signaling dusk. 

With no buses arriving until the following day, Dina and a few locals exhibit an act of kindness by taking these men in for the night. Soon their lives become intertwined in unexpected ways and this lackluster town soon wakes up and shines, just as Dina and others in town break down their walls and come alive with the presence of these strangers.

The Band – Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

THE BAND”S VISIT reminds me a little of the musical “Come From Away”, it’s a feel good story with music and lyrics by David Yazbek. The lively number “The Beat of Your Heart” has Avrum (David Studwell) singing about how love sparks something upbeat. He sings how “In love and music all is fair” while sharing to Itzik, Simon (James Rana) and Camal (Yoni Avi Battat) how he met his wife. “Love starts when the tune is sweet” is the theme of how music and love are the universal language. These four characters joyfully sing “Summertime” from the musical Porgy and Bess, and the magic of music brings Israeli and Egyptian strangers together on common ground. Later in the show, Simon plays his clarinet to soothe the couple’s crying infant, bringing peace and harmony into the fractured household.

Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

The audience claps multiple times throughout the show, especially after Dina brings out a playful side of the Colonel. Dacal’s melodic voice has the audience lean towards the stage as she sings about her fond memory of watching Egyptian movies with Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif “flying in a Jasmine scented wind” in song “Omar Sherif.” Shai Wetzer is fantastic on the Arabic percussion tapping the “daraba”, which means “to strike” with gusto in Arabic.

Joe Joseph – Photo courtesy of Broadway in Hollywood

For such a dull town, the local roller rink is full of swirling and sparkling colors as Haled (Joe Joseph) sings the jazzy “Haled’s Song About Love” so buttery soft and smooth to inspire awkward Papi (Coby Getzug) to take a step towards love. 

Another favorite scene is when Tewliq and Dina sing “Something Different”. He sings in Arabic, while she freely sings and dances about reviving a spark inside. Lighting director Tyler Micoleau has Dina’s seductive shadow illuminated on a back wall, as she twirls around Tewliq. 

Throughout the play is the mention of Chet Baker and his hit song ‘My Funny Valentine’. Even though Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote this song for the musical “Babes in Arms”, Baker’s signature song is sung in such an exquisite style that it gave me goosebumps. Not only are the characters awakened, the audience is too.

Another beautiful voice is the Telephone Guy (Joshua Grosso) who we only see his profile for most of the show, as he obsessively waits next to a pay phone hoping his loved one will call. When the phone finally rings, he picks it up and sings ”Answer Me” so exquisitely that he steals the scene, even as the ensemble join in. 

The next day when the band gathers at Dina’s cafe to catch their bus, it’s a mirror image of the opening scene. It’s time to say goodbye as they board their bus to “Petah Tikvah”. 

When the stage cuts to black and the actors take their final curtain bow, stay in your seat for an added bonus of music and good cheer.

THE BAND’S VISIT offers laughter, inspires hope, and ultimately brings all of us together for 90 minutes to celebrate friendship and the basic need of human connection.

THE BAND’S VISIT features music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner David Yazbek, and a book by Tony Award-winner Itamar Moses. It is based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin, and is directed by Tony Award-winner David Cromer.

Showtime is at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. The show ends on Dec. 19, 2021.

Tickets start at $30 (subject to change)

Contact: 1-800-982-2787 or BroadwayInHollywood.com.

Dolby Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA

A Christmas Carol runs through January 1, 2022

The excitement was contagious, as the staff of the Center Theatre Group prepared for the reopening of the Ahmanson Theatre for “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”. They dropped off an envelope to every chair in the theatre before the doors opened to theatre patrons. Inside was a white card that read: TOGETHER AGAIN We’ve Missed You! Tonight’s Performance is Dedicated To You: The First To Return.

The pre-show is a lot of fun to watch

The Ahmanson has been dark for 628 days. Think about that length of time for a theatre to be closed. When they planned to reopen, they wanted to do it with a BANG! They wanted a story that would engage the audience and warm their soul. Securing the five-time Tony winning production “A Christmas Carol” with seasoned actor Emmy Award-winner Bradley Whitford as Ebenezer Scrooge, Kate Burton and Alex Newell was the perfect combination to attract theater goers back inside.

Audiences must arrive early to show their vaccination card, identification and receive a purple bracelet to enter into the theatre. A delightful pre-show entertains the audience with members of the ensemble walking out onstage to play music, wave, and throw out small tangerines to those who raise their hand and are ready to catch.

The ensemble has fun throughout the show

Looking up, one notices hundreds of lanterns hanging from the ceiling above the audience. Lighting Designer Hugh Vanstone has designed over 20 Broadway shows and won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design for this show when it was at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City. 

The musical is based on a novella written in 1843 by Charles Dickens and is a clever new interpretation of Dickens’ timeless story. Adapted by Tony Award winner Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and originally directed and conceived by Tony Award winner Matthew Warchus (“Matilda”), Scrooge is visited by four ghosts.

The first ghost is former business partner Jacob Marley (Chris Hoch) who has been “dead as a doornail” for seven years. Weighted down by the chains he forged in life, Hoch wows the audience and Scrooge towards the end of the show with his golden voice.

Bradley Whitford is wonderful as Scrooge

Rob Howell’s creativity and skillful expertise as the Set and Costume Designer for the show also won a Tony Winner. He cleverly has four thin door frames in the center of the set to represent a front door and doors leading into hallways. These pop up and come down flush with the stage floor during certain scenes. Howell dresses Scrooge in an exquisite red jacket to add a pop of color and the ghosts in colorful garments to draw our attention to the dark stage.

This timeless and very timely tale focuses on isolation and redemption. “A Christmas Carol” features sound design by Tony Award winner Simon Baker; The sound effects of doors closing are integral in the show, especially when Scrooge’s assistant Bob Cratchit shuts the door in frustration and resignation.

This ensemble enjoy swinging the bells in their hands to Christmas tunes multiple times in the show. Music, orchestrations, and arrangements are by Tony Award winner Christopher Nightingale; music direction by Remy Kurs; music supervision by Paul Staroba and music coordination by Howard Joines. Some of the most beloved Christmas carols, including “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” are performed.

When Scrooge encounters the three ghosts of Christmas he is forced to visit his past, the present and move into the future. It’s painful for him to watch as each ghost appears during a spectacular whirlwind from Vanstone’s lighting.

Bradley Whitford and Kate Burton

The ghost of Christmas Past is Kate Burton, and she guides Scrooge on a painful journey of his failures and lost opportunities. Burton is the accomplished daughter of theater royalty – Richard Burton and Sybil Christopher.

The ghost of Christmas Present received applause the minute Alex Newell stepped onstage. I didn’t understand why Newell spoke with a Jamaican accent, and at times he yells out his lines so loud that I couldn’t understand the words he was shouting out. I heard guests during intermission commenting on this too. He is bigger than life in energy, which is exciting to watch, but Newell just needs to slow down his delivery and enunciate more clearly.

Alex Newell and Bradley Whitford

While the Christmas Future scene is with Little Fan (Glory Yepassis-Zembrou), Whitford draws the audience in with his dramatic voice, yet Yepassis- Zembrou yells to much during Scrooge’s awakening and needs to soften her voice in these scenes. 

As Scrooge races though the audience to make amends with those he neglected for so many years, one of the most touching scenes is when he raps on Belle’s (Sarah Hunt) door.

Director Thomas Caruso has the ensemble appear in the audience multiple times and the audience roars in laughter during a banter with Scrooge, his nephew Fred (Brandon Gill) and townspeople collecting food to prepare for a fabulous Christmas meal.

Another touching moment is at the end with Tiny Tim (Cade Robertson the night we saw the show). It is one of those “awe” moments that will fill your heart with love and joy.

During the end of the show, the entertaining choreography has the audience ready to stand for an appreciative ovation. In the spirit of giving during the holidays, Whitford shares how the production chose a non-profit organization to support this holiday season. The Ahmanson works with many organizations to make theatre more accessible to Los Angelenos. They selected The South L.A. Cafe Community Foundation to help combat racial, economic, social, food inequity and food insecurity. Guests wanting to help out could donate a few dollars on their way out of the theatre.

After a bonus lively bell ringing performance, the audience walked outside to tables laden with packaged chocolate chip mint cookies and cups filled with piping hot chocolate as a thank you for attending the evening’s performance.

“A Christmas Carol” runs through Jan. 1. Tickets for “A Christmas Carol” are currently on sale for the premiere engagement at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre and start at $40. They are available through CenterTheatreGroup.org, Audience Services at (213) 972-4400 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012). 

“A Christmas Carol” is produced by Tom Smedes, Heather Shields, Nathan Gehan, Jamison Scott, Catherine Schreiber, Peter Stern, Xin Wen, Cornice Productions, Jack Lane, Instone Productions, Nancy Gibbs/Joseph Longthorne, Mark Lonow & JoAnne Astrow, J. Scott & Sylvia G Bechtel, Walport Productions, Alexandra Weinstein & Tobi Pilavin Weinstein, Propaganda Productions/42nd.Club, Beth Lenke/Wolfstone Productions, Tanninger Entertainment, CHK Productions/Louise H. Beard & Seriff Productions, Mark Lippman, Fiona Howe Rudin/Sammy Lopez, David Lambert/Shawn Arani, Brian Mutert & Derek Perrigo/Gary & Reenie Heath and Terry Schnuck/Joel t Newman, with Associate Producer Chase Thomas.

Geffen Stayhouse new Bollywood Kitchen Dinner & Show

Geffen Playhouse has been one of the most successful and innovative theatre companies during the pandemic. When all theaters remain dark, Geffen Playhouse became Geffen Stayhouse, a virtual theater where theatre fans can purchase a ticket and watch a live, interactive performance in the comfort of their home.

The creative team at Geffen Playhouse kicked off 2021 with a whole new type of dinner and a show experience. They are happy to have Sri Rao, author and creator of the upcoming Netflix series The Actress, invite viewers to prepare a homemade Indian meal alongside him virtually.

Ticket holders receive a colorful box delivered before showtime. Inside are two boxes and an envelope with recipes and a shopping list that were staples at Sri’s family’s table. At showtime, while ticket holders prepare delicious dishes in their own kitchen, Sri interweaves the story of his parents immigrating to America. Discover the joy and nourishment that Bollywood musicals brought to his whole family.

BOLLYWOOD BOX INCLUDES:

  • 7 Jars of Specially Curated Indian Spices
  • Bollywood Popcorn Kit
  • Chocolate Chai Affogato Kit
  • Basmati Rice
  • Coconut Powder
  • Recipe Cards

All ingredients in the Bollywood Box are certified Kosher.

The menu includes a Bollywood Popcorn kit, and a House cocktail of Mumbai Mule, and an entree of either Sri’s Signature Chicken Curry or a vegan Chana Masala, accompaniments include Raita / Rice and last a dessert of Chocolate Chai Affogato. The recipes serve four people.

Tickets are offered in different participation levels and prices: Chef’s Table ($175), Bollywood Foodie or Just Here for the Party (starting at $40). Stay around for the Bollywood After-Party, hosted by a well-known South Asian DJ after select performances.

Chef's Table
  • Interactive Zoom ticket for the show
  • Bollywood Box
  • Recipe Cards
  • Autographed Bollywood Kitchen cookbook by Sri Rao
  • Limited-time private Vimeo link after your show to re-watch the performance. Priced at $175.
Bollywood Foodie
  • Streaming-only ticket for the show
  • Bollywood Box
  • Recipe Cards
  • Rpice is $95.

Here For The Party
  • Streaming-only ticket for the show
  • Digital Recipes
  • Ticket is $40.

Hypokrit Theatre Company’s mission is to disrupt the pedagogy of American theater, in order to create a more equitable and relevant theater. Based in New York City, Hypokrit exclusively develops work by artists of color and is led and supported by minority communities, who across ethnicities, genders, and sexualities are united in their commitment to elevate multicultural talent and stories.

Geffen Stayhouse presents THE FUTURE

The team at The Geffen Playhouse refused to remain closed during the pandemic. They were one of the first theatre’s in the United States to creatively offer virtual interactive performances, renaming themselves during the pandemic“Geffen Stayhouse, Theater at Home.” 

Covid-weary theatre fans reverently purchased tickets in record-breaking numbers, selling out shows in minutes. 

Their first show in May 2020, THE PRESENT by card master and performer Helder Guimarães was a huge success. Under the direction of film producer Frank Marshall, who also directed Guimarães’ pre-pandemic show at the Geffen, Invisible Tango, Geffen patrons were familiar with this talented director and performer, so they fervently have been purchasing tickets to the duo’s new World Premiere of THE FUTURE

To me, watching Guimarães is like watching Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as Beth Harmon in miniseries The Queen’s Gambit. He wins every time and always amazes his audience.

THE FUTURE is his newest interactive at-home illusion show, where ticket purchasers receive a package in the mail containing Zoom instructions and items to enhance the theatrical experience. This time a long back cylinder with a sticker stating, “Please Do Not Open Until Performance” lends an air of mystery and intrigue.

Part of the “Stayhouse” fun is checking in at least 15 minutes early with House Managers Amir and Mel. As the 25 audience members appear onscreen, they comment on the attendees who have dogs featured on their frame. Many of us to “ooh and say adorable” lending a community feel. Also while in the waiting area before the show, the screen offered a variety of trivia questions that included “What year was the Geffen Playhouse founded and when was the historic theatre constructed?” Answers appear to check to see if you guessed correctly.

Not to give too much of Guimarães’ THE FUTURE storyline away, but he takes his audience on a personal journey that is different than any of his other shows. He doesn’t stay still on one set, as he shares a tale of when he was 14 year’s old and met a reformed gambling man named “Kevin”. Living in Marseille, this card shark agrees to meet with the impressionable young Helder, and teaches him a few slight of hand secrets. Then we invites him to a real poker game to teach him an important lesson about friendship.

We follow Guimarães from his apartment, to a high-stakes poker salon and a cozy pub in the south of France. Not only is Guimarães one of the best slight of hand magicians, he also is an engaging storyteller. One question he poses to the audience is that, “if your were a cheater in poker, would you be a dealer or player?” 

While exploring the seedy underbelly of the gambling world, participants decide which version of events they prefer to see by voting and the majority vote rules. The intriguing story is as much about the viewer as it is about Guimarães.

He opens the show stating, “A great way to focus on The Present is The Future,” a nice tie-in to both of his shows. Throughout the show he selects one viewer at a time to participate, and then that viewer selects another viewer to help with Guimarães next illusion. 

When we finally were allowed to open our cylinder, we took out items as instructed and followed his directions. After each trick, there was always a chorus of “Wow, how did he do that” by many of the viewers. These items enhance the interactive experience during the 80 minute show. 

Guimarães urges the audience to “appreciate the little things, it’s what separates you from others” and at the end, a blue envelope inside the cylinder ties in the beginning of his story to the ending, leaving everyone touched and applauding.

The Future gives you insight to make a decision for the greater good. Hopefully in 2021 we will all be able to step inside The Geffen Playhouse and other theaters again, until it’s safe, Guimarães gives us hope for THE FUTURE.

WORLD PREMIERE THE FUTURE

Written and Performed by Helder Guimarães

Directed by Frank Marshall

Previews: Friday, December 4 – Thursday, December 10

Opening Night: Friday, December 11

Closing Night: Sunday, March 14, 2021

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

Monday              No performance

Tuesday             8:00 p.m. PT

Wednesday        8:00 p.m. PT

Thursday            8:00 p.m. PT

Friday                 8:00 p.m. PT

Saturday             2:00 and 8:00 p.m. PT

Sunday               1:00 and 7:00 p.m. PT

Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets are currently priced at $95 per household. Available by phone at 310.208.2028 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org. Fees may apply.

The Geffen also has two other live interactive shows running simultaneously: Inside the Box, starring magician/puzzler David Kwong, and Citizen Detective, a virtual murder mystery. Geffen Playhouse’s hit 2018 production Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was filmed for on-demand viewing by On The Stage streaming and is available to watch now. Future shows include Bollywood Kitchen starting on Jan. 15, 2021.

“ELEPHANT ROOM: DUST FROM THE STARS”

Starting on December 16 – 20, CTG Creative Collective members Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle bring “Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars” to Center Theatre Group’s Digital Stage. 

 Photo credit: Maria Baranova-Suzuki.

Directed by Paul Lazar, audiences will follow magicians turned astro-nots Daryl Hannah, Dennis Diamond and Louie Magic as they return in this live, interactive sci-fi sequel to “Elephant Room, ” produced at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2012. 

Hailed by The New York Times’ Elisabeth Vincentelli as “‘Wayne’s World’ crossbred with ‘Spinal Tap’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ simultaneously very funny and unexpectedly touching … the most resourceful, gleefully entertaining new theater piece I have seen during the pandemic.” 

“Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars” was commissioned and produced by Center Theatre Group and was developed with assistance and residencies from St. Ann’s Warehouse with additional support from the Orchard Project and was presented as part of the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

The 7 performances are FREE to Center Theatre Group subscribers and supporters, and $10 for all others. 

The Digital Stage also houses Center Theatre Group’s ever-expanding library of education, community outreach and Art Goes On videos. For more information, visit CenterTheatreGroup.org/DigitalStage.

Visit www.centertheatregroup.org/digitalstage/digital-stage-plus/elephant-room-dust-from-the-stars/ for tickets and more information – these live performances have limited capacity and require reservations.

Citizen Detective at The Geffen Stayhouse

The newest Geffen Stayhouse production, Citizen Detective takes place via the Zoom video conferencing platform. Each performance is limited to a maximum of 24 participants, however the night I attended the interactive performance there were 31 participants logged in. Each ticket holders is a sleuth, trying to solve the unsolved true cold murder case of Hollywood legend, William Desmond Taylor. 

Top Left Corner: Mike Ostroski as Mickie McKittrick in the Geffen Stayhouse production of Citizen Detective. Photo courtesy of Geffen Playhouse. Illustration by Rick Geary.

If you love reading and solving mysteries, this interactive experience might just be your favorite show for 2020.

Written and directed by Chelsea Marcantel, she creates a mix of theater, intrigue and collaborative code-breaking as each participant is accepted into Mickie McKittrick’s (Mike Ostroski) Citizen Detective training session. 

To become a detective in Citizen Detective, you must purchase a ticket and take a personality survey one week before showtime. The Geffen staff gather all this information to determine what suspect you will be given, and who you will be collaborating with in a breakout room session. 

Participants are also emailed instructions to print out a dossier to hold onto and make notes on throughout the show. Then 90 minutes before showtime, detectives receive another email with a password to enter a site and receive information about a specific suspect in this real murder case. A word for the rise, don’t take 3 minutes to gaze over this information before showtime. Study it and make notes on your printed dossier. There is a timeline section, clues section and other suspects area to keep one organized about specific events related to the murder.

Playwright and director Chelsea Marcantel. Photo by Ryan Bourque.

Amicable House Manager Emir Yonzon welcomes and introduces each person, often sharing interesting facts discovered on the person’s survey. Right before the show started, Emir allowed one more participant to appear in a Zoom frame. Wearing bright white headphones, we immediately determine this Gen Y gal is familiar with Emir and McKittrick. She banters on and on during her introduction, saying that she text McKittrick before the show, yet he didn’t respond. Her name on Zoom is Andrea (Paloma Nozicka), and she irritatingly unmutes herself often, interrupting and disrupting McKittrick after he appears onscreen. 

Mike Ostroski as Mickie McKittrick and Paloma Nozicka as Andrea Piedra in the Geffen Stayhouse production of Citizen Detective. Photo courtesy of Geffen Playhouse.

McKittrick explains to be a good detective one must display MMO. When he asks everyone to enter what this abbreviation means, a few eager sleuths write in the chat box – Motive, Means and Opportunity.

Tackling the murder case of William Desmond Taylor, we soon discover the Hollywood actor and director from the silent film era, was found dead in front of his home. During the 1920s, this case became a media circus due to an interesting line up of suspects that included his valet, his cook, a Hollywood starlet, an accountant, a cocaine addicted comedic actress, and a concerned and protective mother. 

Sometimes we all work independently typing answers in the chat box and other times we work together as a group. Those who love playing detective really got into this process, while others who are shy, sat back and watched. 

Breaking into our assigned small group to discuss our suspect was awkward. You have to leave the main screen and join a break out room with complete strangers. There were five people in my group. One Zoom square had a woman celebrating her birthday with four other people in her pod. We all just looked at each other waiting for someone in the group to be the first to discuss what we wrote down on our dossier about our suspect.

After collaborating about why we believed the cook, Edward Sands, could be innocent or guilty, we then had to assign a member from the group to be our leader and speak in front of everyone on Zoom. Since no one volunteered to lead, I rallied the birthday girl from Austin, Texas to be our speaker. She did an excellent job discussing our findings with everyone and received may accolades from McKittrick.

After learning about all of the suspects, Gen Y took over and insulted likable McKittrick about living in the dinosaur age in solving this murder. When he got upset and left Zoom, she took over the show. Listened to her for a few minutes, she is very good at being irritating and I found myself scrolling to see others reactions in the Gallery view. There was a handsome man downing a beer, another man holding and playing with his dog, and a woman running her fingers through her hair who caught my attention. That’s not a good sign, when I’m more fascinated observing people inside their own home, than following the show. 

Just when I pondered how this was going to end, a surprise celebrity enters and grabs my attention, yet within minutes I realized his appearance didn’t make any sense to this story and I left the show feeling it was just meh.

Geffen Playhouse just launched a series of new live, virtual and interactive world premiere productions from its Geffen Stayhouse banner. Besides Citizen Detective, they have addedafollow-up to Helder Guimarães’ (Invisible Tango, Nothing to Hide) The Future, and filmmaker and cookbook author Sri Rao’s (Netflix’s upcoming The Actress) Bollywood Kitchen. Additional Geffen Stayhouse productions are currently in development for 2021.

CITIZEN DETECTIVE

Written and Directed by Chelsea Marcantel

Previews: Tuesday, November 10 – Tuesday, November 17

Opening Night: Wednesday, November 18

Closing Night: Sunday, February 7

PRODUCTION TEAM

Associate Director/Dramaturg Rachel Wiegardt-Egel

Casting Director Phyllis Schuringa, CSA

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

Monday              No performance

Tuesday             8:00 p.m. PT

Wednesday       6:00 p.m. PT

Thursday            8:00 p.m. PT

Friday                 6:00 p.m. PT

Saturday             2:00 and 8:00 p.m. PT

Sunday               1:00 and 7:00 p.m. PT

Running Time: 85 minutes with no intermission

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets are currently priced at $65 per household. Available by phone at 310.208.2028 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org. Fees may apply.

Think “Inside the Box”

When renowned puzzle master, magician, and New York Times crossword constructor David Kwong discovered his show The Enigmatist, was postponed due to the coronavirus last Spring, Kwong and the Geffen Staycation team got creative to keep stay-at-home audiences entertained.

Picking up a Rubik cube, Kwong was inspired to create his new show Inside the Box via Zoom. It’s the perfect stage for games and word play, as Kwong designed a 5 x 5 grid box and filled it with 25 ticket holders. Kwong helps each participant think “inside the box” while solving word play and multi-layered puzzles in a safe environment.

“It’s a weird time right now and many people are trying to find ways to be together during the pandemic,” said Kwong“We all have more in common with puzzle masters in the world, than one would think.”

A few days before the show, I received an email with a link to download and print a packet of instructions and puzzles. On page 3 of the packet was a “pre-show” puzzle that needed to be solved before logging onto Zoom. There were also three pages of alphabetical letters that needed to be cut out for one of Kwong’s “Puzzle Time” moments. I also needed to bring with me at showtime a red item, a pencil or pen, and a game piece to a game board.

Amir the Geffen house manager, welcomed each person as they logged in and made sure they had their show packet ready. He stayed with us throughout the duration of the show to make sure it ran smoothly, to mute and unmute participates during various puzzle challenges. 

While I enjoyed participating in the interactive puzzle-solving games, my husband found the historical part of the show interesting. Our host shared facts and stories about some innovative people who created puzzles, that included the ancient Greeks. “Humans are programmed to make order out of chaos,” said Kwong, “that’s why puzzles are so important right now.”  

We learn about “Puzzle God” Martin Gardner. This recreational mathematician and accomplished magician was an inspiration to David Kwong. During one of the “Puzzle Time” moments, we learn that John Spilsbury, a British cartographer and engraver is credited as the inventor of the jigsaw puzzle in 1766, calling them “dissected maps.” 

Parker Brothers created jigsaw puzzles in America in 1908, and they became hugely popular during the Depression. “Jigsaw puzzles are for amusement, a distraction and solace,” said Kwong. Jigsaw puzzles are a time for family and friends to connect with each other, similar to how the pieces of a jigsaw connect to create a finished picture.

One of the most fascinating stories was about Margaret Ferrar, the founding puzzle editor of The New York Times in the 1940s. Kwong shared how the New York Times said crossword puzzles were sinful and a waste of time in the 1920s and 30s. “They changed their tune during WWII when times were bleak, and people needed a distraction.” Similar times to today with the coronavirus, Farrar’s puzzles inspired people to forget about their troubles.

“This is the Golden Age of puzzles and games. Before the coronavirus, Escape Rooms became the rage, now people are benefiting and stimulating their minds by working on a puzzles,” said Kwong.

For a change of pace, a laugh, and brain tease, be part of Inside The Box. 

The first release of tickets Sold Out, Inside The Box has been extended through January 3, 2021. You can sign up for personal notifications when tickets become available at https://www.geffenplayhouse.org/tickets/inside-the-box-notification/

Written and Performed by David Kwong

Previews: Tuesday, September 29 – Wednesday, October 7

Opening Night: Thursday, October 8

Closing Night: Sunday, November 8

PRODUCTION TEAM CREDITS

Creative Director Brett J. Banakis

Puzzle Consultant Dave Shukan

Video Designer Josh Higgason

Dramaturg Amy Levinson

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

Monday             No performance

Tuesday            6:00 p.m. PT

Wednesday       8:00 p.m. PT

Thursday           6:00 p.m. PT

Friday                8:00 p.m. PT

Saturday  3:00 and 8:00 p.m. PT

Sunday 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. PT

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets are currently priced at $55.00 – $65.00 per household. Available by phone at (310)208-2028 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org.

Virtual Concert to Benefit The Actors Fund

Grab a drink, sit down and enjoy a virtual concert celebrating the music of legendary singer Neil Sedaka streaming on June 20th and 21st at 7pm EDT / 4pm PDT. This special performance will benefit The Actors Fund Covid-19 Relief efforts.

Neil Sedaka will lead off the concert with a special, introductory message from his home, before “Steppin Forward Virtually to Celebrate the Music of the Legendary Neil Sedaka” begins. This special event is presented by Robert R. Blume/Step Forward Entertainment and Pat Labez, in cooperation with both Neil Sedaka Music and The Actors Fund.

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Not only is Sedaka a singer, but a songwriter, composer, pianist and author. His impressive 60-year career ranges from being one of the first teen pop sensations of the 1950s, a tunesmith for himself and other artists in the 1960s, an international superstar in the 1970s, remaining a constant force in writing and performing presently.

The host of the virtual event is Krystin Goodwin, TV/Film actress and Fox reporter covering Entertainment and Trending News on Sirius XM Radio.

An international array of artists performing in the concert include a Lucille Lortel Award winner, a Drama Desk nominee, a Billboard chart album jazz pianist, recording artists, award-winning cabaret artists and Network TV / Film actors. In order of appearance, with the song they will be performing, are Renn Woods (You Mean Everything To Me), Justin Senense (I Go Ape), Paola Morales (The Immigrant), Denise Kara (Calendar Girl), Soara-Joye Ross (The Hungry Years), Xiaoqing (Mao) Zhang (Stupid Cupid), Emma Campbell (My Friend), Nina Martinez (Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen), Kea Chan (Where The Boys Are), Kayla Merrow (The Diary), Mitch Week (Rosemary Blue), Pat Labez (Run Samson Run), Anthony Salvador Lewis (Breaking Up Is Hard To Do), Gloria Papin (Solitaire), Marissa Mulder and Jon Weber (Love Will Keep Us Together).

Music is written by Neil Sedaka with either Howard Greenfield or Phil Cody, and this virtual concert, presented free of charge, and will be streamed on broadwayworld.com.

This musical event will also be available on other platforms including YouTube and Facebook Live. Optional donations can be made to benefit The Actors Fund.

For those who miss the June 20 and June 21 performance, it will be repeated on Thursday, June 25th at 10pm EDT, 7pm PDT.

To watch, plus a virtual program on the performers, visit www.steppinforwardnyc.com. 

 

Digital Lottery opens March 10 for Hamilton at the Pantages Theater

Producer Jeffrey Seller announced a digital lottery for HAMILTON in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre will begin in conjunction with the show’s first performance, Thursday, March 12,

HAMILTON is the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, told through a score of hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway show tunes.. It’s become a revolutionary moment in theatre, having a profound impact on culture, politics, and education.

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Now for a second run at the Pantages Hollywood, a select number of $10 tickets will be sold for every performance. Seat locations vary per performance, with some seats located in the front row. The digital lottery will begin two days prior to each performance.

Heres how to enter:

 1.  Use the official app for HAMILTON, now available for all iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store (HamiltonBroadway.com/app).

2. Visit www.HamiltonMusical.com/Lottery to enter.

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The digital lottery opens at 11 am, on March 10, for tickets to the Thursday, March 12 opening night performance.  Subsequent digital lotteries will begin two days prior to each performance. The lottery will close for entry at 9 am PT the day prior to the performance.

Winner and non-winner will receive notification at approximately 11 am PT the day prior to the performance via email and SMS (if mobile number is provided).

 Only one entry per person. Repeat entries and disposable email addresses will be discarded.

Tickets must be purchased online with a credit card by 4 pm PT the day prior to the performance using the purchase link and code in a customized notification email. Tickets not claimed by 4 pm PT the day prior to the performance are forfeited.

Lottery tickets must be picked up at the will call window beginning 3 hours prior to the performance with a valid photo ID. Lottery tickets are void if resold.

Limit 1 entry per person, per performance. Multiple entries will not be accepted. Patrons must be 18 years or older and have a valid, non-expired photo ID that matches the name used to enter. Tickets are non-transferable. Ticket limits and prices displayed are at the sole discretion of the show and are subject to change without notice.

Lottery prices are not valid on prior purchases. Lottery ticket offer cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions. All sales final – no refunds or exchanges. Lottery may be revoked or modified at any time without notice. No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase will not improve the chances of winning.

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HAMILTON is based on Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography, with book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire,  Hamilton has won Tony®, Grammy®, and Olivier Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an unprecedented special citation from the Kennedy Center Honors.

HAMILTON features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, casting by Telsey + Company, Bethany Knox, CSA, and General Management by Baseline Theatrical. The musical is produced by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman and The Public Theater.

 For information on HAMILTON, visit www.HamiltonOnBroadway.comwww.Facebook.com/HamiltonMusical,www.Instagram.com/HamiltonMusical and www.Twitter.com/HamiltonMusical.

LACC Honors Actor Morgan Freeman

Recently one of the finest American actors, Morgan Freeman stood inside the Cinema Building at Los Angeles Community College (LACC) and smiled. The last time he was on this campus was 60 years ago, and now his alma mater was rededicating a lecture hall to read The Morgan Freeman Theater.

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Walking across campus with Dr. Mary Gallagher, President of Los Angeles City College and Shaena Engle, Public Relations Manager, students stopped and did a double-take as Freeman posed for photos and greeted many along the way.

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Inside the Camino Theater, Engle took Freeman aside to see two decorated bulletin boards honoring this esteem actor. He was touched that someone took the time to cut out each one of the movies that he appeared in during his long and successful acting career. He pointed to “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) and said he liked working with Director Clint Eastwood. The movie won four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Freeman. Pointing to “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) he said he had a great time on this movie with actor Tim Robbins. Then he found “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and said “that was one of my least favorite.”

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Journalist and Board Member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Anke Hofmann, moderated and read questions by students inquiring about Freeman’s days at LACC. They wanted to know how he became an actor, how he handles rejection in the entertainment industry, and what advice can he give to them.

Here’s what he said:

Education: Actors have a lot of reading, maybe not in the beginning, but you will have a lot to read. Looking for a job when he arrived in Hollywood after four years in the Air Force, he was hired at LACC as a transcript clerk. His plan was to make some money and take acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse. While at LACC a co-worker said, “Why would you do that? We have the best theatre program in LA and its free.” So Freeman enrolled Theatre 101, and then Theatre 102, Speech and Diction and French.  He worked in the transcript office 8 hours, ate dinner, and then went to class. He was dedicated to go to school and get what he wanted. One of the most useful classes was a Speech class, where her learned about the development of the voice. “Most people speak in a voice too high, and in the class, we learned how to speak in a lower voice. Most people speak too fast, so we learned how to slow down.” He learned how his develop his commanding voice in a lower octave and enunciate each word.

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Acting Technique: When asked what acting technique he uses, he replied “The Morgan Freeman technique – intuition. It’s what I get when I read a script. Life and the craft became my teachers.”

Persistence: If you want to act, do it! It’s not an easy road at all for anybody, at no time. Getting jobs is like the weather, if you run out of here and get a job and zoom up, you will zoom down. If it takes you a while to get up, it will take you a while to get back down. Don’t give up. If you want to do it, you have to stick to it!

Preparation: Yawn it will relax your vocal cords.

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Work With People You Admire: All three movies he did with Clint Eastwood were extraordinary experiences. Eastwood is an efficient director, “Get it, got it, good.” When Freeman received the extraordinary script “Invictus”, and was asked who he thought should direct the film, Freeman immediately said Clint Eastwood. “It was one of the most fun productions I worked on,” Freeman said.

How he got his start: In the fall of 1960, Freeman sold his car and moved to New York. “Anyone can get a job in New York” and after five months, he moved to San Francisco and took dance classes studying ballet, jazz and tap with a goal to get on Broadway. He hoped he could be the one black person. While a member of the small repertory company, he had a life changing experience when someone told him “You aren’t a dancer, you are an actor.”

In September 1963, he went back to New York and worked on a movie. It was a night shot, and slowly actors were being told they weren’t needed anymore, until Freeman was the last man standing. At that moment, he realized that this is where he belonged.

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Learn to say NO! The moment he knew he didn’t have to work to be an actor was in 1967. He was auditioning for an off Broadway play and they called him back twice to come in and audition again. The third time they called him, he said “No, I’m not coming back” and they hired him. With this role he was able to get an agent and press. Next he got a role in “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway with Pearl Bailey at the St. James Theatre. His advice to success in showbiz is to never do a show for more than 11 months. You need to move on. Even though he was making $92 a week at “Hello, Dolly!”, when he was offered a role in Cabaret for less money, $72 a week, he took it and received even more press. “What’s more important, money or publicity? Publicity!”

Advice to student actors: “Acting is a do or die profession,” said Freeman. Acting was all he wanted, and he didn’t want to have a fall back career. “All of us can make a living in the business, maybe not superstars, but you can work.” In dealing with rejection, he said, “You are going to be rejected, you will reasonably get a percentage of rejections, but you will work. When you have an audition, it’s a shot, and that is a big moment.” Work on making your videos and short stories. The movie industry is dynamic and with so much streaming going on, there is a big thrust of material.

Embarrassing moment: Freeman said the most embarrassing moment in his career was when he made a fool of himself in a production of Othello in Dallas, Texas. Wearing harem pants and a blousy shirt with a head band, someone in the audience thought he looked like Jimi Hendrix and shouted out “Play Purple Haze.”

Directing advice: When asked about his directing debut, he shared what the late Mike Nichols once said, “The Director’s job is finished once the casting is done. The most important job of directing is casting and then getting out of the way.”

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Freeman always has a welcoming home at LACC, and inside the Cinema Building his name on the wall of a lecture hall gives hopes to students who desire to follow his footsteps.

Sting’s “The Last Ship” sails into LA

Sting is quite a storyteller in his new musical “The Last Ship” now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. It took him many years to write the hauntingly memorable songs that he sings with a stellar cast.

His inspiration for this show is a collage of the men and women that he grew up with in the shipbuilding community of Wallsend, north of England. Born in an epic landscape, the symbolism of ships and the thousands of men who worked in his town, shaped him as a man, and the music and lyrics he writes to honor them.

Before the show begins, many members of the cast walk onstage while the house lights are still up, as the audience finds their seats. The cast clap to Celtic style folk music, hug each other, chat, dance and look out into the audience.

When the house lights fade to black, foreman Jackie White (Sting) is front and center as the lights go up. Los Angeles is lucky to have the Grammy Award winning singer perform in this role. When the show was on Broadway and the UK, this role was performed by other actors.

As a narrator describes the community of people working and living near the shipyard, she speaks with a thick regional dialect that some may find difficult to understand.

When the second song sung by the company, “Island of Souls” begins, Sting fans will discover it’s the same award winning song from The Soul Cages album written in the early 90s. Sting’s lyrics are about a ship builder’s son, and a ship that carries a father and son “far away from this town,” foretelling the plot of this story

Two other songs in Act Two are from Sting’s past, including “All This Time” from The Soul Cages album, sung by Ellen Dawson (Sophie Redi) and “When We Danced” from the Field of Gold album.

During the song “Shipyard,” we learn while watching the cast sing and dance to choreography by Lucy Hind, that the men “built battleships and cruisers for Her Majesty the Queen and super tankers for Onassis.” The shipyard is the only life these men and women know.

I read that Sting never wanted to work in his town’s shipyard, because it was a scary, dark and dangerous place, casting shadows while towering near the front of his house. Lighting designer Matt Daw enhances this feeling with projections of clouds and a shipyard in sepia and gray colors on various scrims. My favorite lighting enhancements were sprays of water, so realistic I could imagine feeling the cool droplets, and a lighthouse projected on the back, while other lights bathed the set at each rotation.

Award winning designer 59 Productions set allows the actors to climb up ladders, and move easily about in their costumes by designer Molly Einchicomb. She dresses them in  neutral colored industrial clothing and coveralls.

The story is about friendship, love and perseverance. Gideon Fletcher (Oliver Savile) is a prodigal son who desires to leave home, before he winds up a shipbuilder like his father.  I liked how director Lorne Campbell staged Old Joe Fletcher (Sean Kearns) while singing “Dead Man’s Boots” with his son Gideon. The term “Dead Man’s Boots” means you can’t get a job until someone has died. This notion to work for life at the shipyard is not in young Gideon’s future. He seeks a better life, away from his home and aspires to sail away. Urging his sweetheart Meg Dawson (young Meg – Jade Sophia Vertannes, adult Meg – Frances McNamee) to join him, she isn’t quite ready to leave her family and friends, so Gideon sails away on a ship alone. Savile has a golden voice, and at times sounds like Sting, especially when signing Sting’s song “When We Danced.” Other moving songs Savile sings include “And Yet”, “Dead Man’s Boots” and “What Say You, Meg?” while trying to woo his sweetheart back into his life.

Sting has such a charismatic stage presence, yet so do other performers including Adian Sanderson (Marc Akinfolarin) who prefers intellectual discourse and has a preference for the metaphor. He is well read, reading Odyssey by Homer and has a gift for rhyming and meter. His lines are recited as sonnets, similar to Shakespeare.

Jackie White’s wife Peggy (Jackie Morrison) has a beautiful singing voice, especially while singing “The Last Ship”, “So to Speak” and “Underground River.” Morrison brought tears to my eyes while singing with the other women in the company “Women at the Gate” and “Show Some Respect.”

The town drunk Davey Harrison (Matt Corner) is a happy go lucky guy, never miserable and never blue, yet has a temper about what is right and wrong. He shares how he “was sober once for three hours, and it was the worst day of his life.” Corner is magnificent in this role and brings a lot of energy to the stage. As does Billy Thompson (Joe Caffrey) as the union leader at the shipyard.

While Gideon is gone, the future of the shipyard dims as the Manager (Sean Kearns) and Baroness Tynedale (Annie Grace) hold a special meeting to inform the workers that the boat “Utopia” has no buyers. If the ship is not sold, the ship has no value and will have to be taken down for scrap metal. It will be the last ship built in this yard.

With their futures uncertain, just like the miners and steel workers of this era, tensions flare and the townspeople unite and plan to picket. Foreman Jackie White (Sting) rallies the workers to take over and finish building this one last ship, while he battles damaged lungs from years of exposure in the shipyard.

Gideon returns home after his father’s death, 17 years later, to find a storm brewing at the shipyard, and with the love he left behind.

Hope is on the horizon, and the mountain of steel does sail on the sea to lay to rest a beloved man. At the end of the show, you will sing “The Last Ship” sailing all the way home.

Performances for Sting’s acclaimed musical, “The Last Ship,” runs a limited five-week engagement through February 16, 2020 at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Cast ‘Jackie White’ Sting, ‘Meg’ Frances McNamee, ‘Peggy White’ Jackie Morrison, ‘Gideon Fletcher’ Oliver Savile. The remainder of the entirely British cast includes Marc Akinfolarin, Joe Caffrey, Matt Corner, Susan Fay, Orla Gormley, Annie Grace, Sean Kearns, Oliver Kearney, David Muscat, Tom Parsons, Joseph Peacock, Sophie Reid, Hannah Richardson and Jade Sophia Vertannes.

Music and Lyrics by Sting, New Book and Direction by Lorne Campbell, Original Book by John Logan & Brian Yorkey, Designer 59 Productions, Sound Designer Sebastian Frost, Lighting Designer Matt Daw, Music Supervisor and Orchestrator Rob Mathes, Musical Director Richard John, Movement Director Lucy Hind.

Ticket prices start at $35 at CenterTheatreGroup.org, or call Audience Services at (213) 972-4400 or visit the Center Theatre Group Box Office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012). Members of all creative and labor unions are invited to set sail with Sting in his musical, The Last Ship, at on select Friday performances, January 17, 24, & 31. Center Theatre Group salutes the labor movement and the power of collective action with this exclusive ticket offer. $49 Tickets (Reg. $90-$120) can be reserved in advance, but must be picked up at the Will Call with Union ID. Use promo code UNION to buy tickets now.

For more information on the production and a video sneak peek, visit thelastshipmusical.com

The performance length is approx. 2 hours and 45 minutes, with one intermission.

This review was featured in OnStage Blog.

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