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.

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. 

 

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.

Cirque du Soleil VOLTA “WOW’S” LA

Attending the Opening Night of the energetic Cirque du Soleil VOLTA, I noticed the traditional blue and yellow striped tent was replaced with a zebra stripe looking white and black tent.

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Guests of all ages received a bright red foam nose, and those 21+ a wrist band to sip flutes of bubbly Nicholas Feuillatte Champagne from France. Nicholas Feuillatte is a Premiere Partner for Cirque du Soleil.

There are multiple photo opportunities outside this one-of-a-kind Big Top show. Celebrities Frankie J. Grande from Rock of Ages Hollywood and Miles Brown from Black-ish walked the red carpet in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium.

The first act as The Wow Game Show contestant is The Otako Double Dutchers. There are 10 performers in white and in gold costumes perform awe-inspiring moves using two long jump ropes. They nimbly jump and move swiftly as colored laser beams add excitement to their act. Mr. Wow and the audience offer a thumbs up.

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Upstairs on the second level is a young boy rockin’ the electric guitar adding to the high energy show.  The next contestant is China Song, performing a string and spool act. The act has the audience clapping with Mr. Wow giving China Song a thumbs up.

From Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nildo spins inside a life size hoop. The choreography is mind boggling, and everyone gives this performer a thumbs up.

Lastly, a Los Angeles native named WAZ, self conscious about the blue feathers on his head, he enters the show in search of fame and acceptance. While thinking that the accolades he receives during his acrobatics and dance moves will bring him love and acceptance from others, he discovers fame is not the answer to happiness.

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WAZ is now the main character throughout the show. We watch how he reflects on the memories of his childhood and reconnects with his true self that makes him unique.

First nine performers dressed in grey costumes hold lit cell phones and crowd around WAZ. They are glued to their technology and are out of sync with their true selves, just like he is in the beginning.

ELA, a beautiful Freespirit on roller-skates, tries to befriend WAZ and the “Grey’s” rousing them out of their doldrums.

As this story continues to unfold, we watch different acts that include a performer who hangs, spins and soars while holding a red lamp shade hanging down from the ceiling.

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One of my favorite acts involved trampolines. A small apartment style set is pushed out to the center with trampolines below. Ten performers hang out of the windows and then jump. They soar up to the rooftop and dive back down. The set rotates so the audience can see both sides. Audience members roar with adoration as the performers do handstands and then dive down and rise up.

An extraordinary female performer (photo above) dances with ease and soars as a cable is attached to her hair lifting her off the stage floor. It looks so painful, yet the crowd went into a frenzy of  applause.

Other female aerialists soar as four Aztec-dressed bare-chested male warriors fly through the air on hanging rings.

The audience holds its breath at times when two performers soar, climb and unite on a long ladder.

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Cirque du Soleil fans clapped throughout the charismatic tumblers act as personable young men dove through hexagon shaped hoops. The adulation they received reminded me of the fans of the mega-popular boy band BTS.

Towards the end, the “Greys” discover freedom and become The Freespirits in a visually striking act. The BMX cycle acrobatic performers soar with choreographed spins and turns that had the audience on the edge of their seats.

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Driven by a stirring melodic score with a full band and two singers, the female singer in a flapper style string dress, also plays a violin that mesmerizes the audience with her melodic sounds.

VOLTA is one of Cirque du Soleil’s finest. The performers infectious adventure and spirit fuels inspiration for WAZ to transform and become his true self. By fulfilling one’s true potential, and recognizing one’s own power, he is liberated and free from doubt.

Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday they are also offering a 4:30 performance and on Sunday the performances are at 1:30 and 5 p.m. Friday at Tickets start at $42. Click on VOLTA to see availability.

VIP Tickets are available and include the best seats, complimentary parking, small bites and drinks before the show and sweet treats during intermission, VIP Suite, restrooms and special gift.

Cirque du Soleil VOLTA is located at 1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

This review was featured in OnStage Blog.

“WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME”

While attending the opening night of “What The Constitution Means To Me” now at the Mark Taper Forum, writer Heidi Schreck encourages the audience to ponder about the importance and how dated the U.S. Constitution is today.

Direct from Broadway, Director Oliver Butler has actress Maria Dizzia open the 100 minute show as an adult Schreck, and a fifteen-year-old Schreck participating in an American Legion debate competition. She asks the audience to become the same group of white male American Legion members who watched and judged her debates when she was a teen. 

We learn that Schreck was a pretty good debater, earning enough prize money to pay for her entire state college tuition. A few years ago, Schreck was thinking about the value and inadequacy of our Constitution, especially after our current administration gained power. She believes it’s time to re-evaluate the documents that she was zealous about as a teenager. 

Transforming into a teen, Dizzia describes how Schreck had a “buzz cut like Annie Lennox” the 1980s lead singer and songwriter for the band Eurythmics. She talks about her fascination with witches and actor Patrick Swayze.

Actor Mike Iveson appears in the audience as an American Legion proctor.  He walks onto the diorama style stage to begin the debate. Scenic designer Rachel Hauck enhances the room with four rows of framed photos of Legion Hall members.

The play focuses on questions asked by Iveson about Amendment 9 and Amendment 14 of the Constitution. The one thing I felt is sometimes it was hard to follow Dizzia transitioning from Schreck’s teenage and adult self. When she reveals intimate details about the sexual and physical abuse suffered by four generations of women in her life, she shares how these experiences relate to these amendments in the Constitution. We learn how it shaped and destroyed each of these women. 

The show details how the Constitution was written to protect rich white males, and how women’s rights, immigrants and citizenship rights are teetering today. This personal spin to each Amendment may make some in the audience uncomfortable, as she focuses on sexual assault, domestic abuse, and how immigration is dealt with under our current administration. Taped recordings of Justices Anthony Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasis the points made in this play.

Later in the play, Iveson comes out of character and shares with the audience about his own sexuality and how the Constitution doesn’t always protect him, even though he is a white male.

About 75 minutes into the play Dizzia engages in a debate about why we should modify the Constitution with a precocious 15 year old debater Rosdely Ciprian who believes we should leave it alone. Theatre ushers pass out little blue booklets by the ACLU on the Constitution of the United Stares of America. As the audience listens to these two women debate, they hear their opinions and decide who they believe should win. One audience member is chosen to read her final verdict aloud for all to hear. 

Nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and a finalist spot for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this show will appeal to history buffs, liberals and feminists, but might make some in the audience uncomfortable as the playwright tackles abortion, equal citizen protection and immigration.

The play runs from Jan. 12 through Feb. 23, 2020.

The cast includes Maria Dizzia, Mike Iveson, Rosdely Ciprian and Jocelyn Shek on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, and during Sunday matinee shows. Gabriel Marin and Jessica Savage are understudies. Director by Oliver Butler, the creative team includes scenic design by Rachel Hauck, costume design by Michael Krass, lighting design by Jen Schriever, and sound design by Sinan Refik Zafar. The production stage manager is Nicole Olson and the casting director is Taylor Williams.

Tickets start at $79 and are available at https://www.centertheatregroup.org/ or at the box office  or by phone (213)628-2772 starting at 10 a.m. weekdays, non on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday. A limited number of $15 student rush tickets are available for every performance. Tickets may be reserved beginning at 10 a.m,, the day prior, while supplies last, and must be picked up at the Box Office with valid student ID. 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Rockin’ Fun ROCK OF AGES in Hollywood

In 2005 Matthew Weaver created the multi-genre entertaining musical Rock of Ages. It debuted as a new kind of musical in Los Angeles at the King King club on Hollywood Blvd. With its success, it was made into a motion picture, and also opened on Broadway. After performing over 2,350 shows, Rock of Ages earned 5 Tony nominations, and branched out to 20 productions worldwide. It appeals to all ages who appreciate classic rock. This show spotlights 30 hit songs from the 80s.

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Dave Gibbs, who played in the original Los Angeles and Broadway productions of Rock of Ages, is the music supervisor for the Rock of Ages Hollywood, now at The Bourbon Room. Music Director/ Keyboard Jonathan Quesenberry sits above drummer Kevin Kapler, setting the pace of this immersive show.

During previews, I walked up to the dark entrance of the Bourbon Room, and mentioned Rock of Ages to the doorman. As he opened the door, he placed a paper bracelet on my wrist and granted me access to proceed up the stairs. A rocker with an electric guitar greeted me while strumming as part of the pre-show upstairs on the lounge.

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The bar offers a rock themed drink menu with names that include, ‘Pour Some Bourbon On Me”, “Oh Sherry”, and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Snacks and bites include corn hush puppies, chicken tenders and a juicy Bourbon burger. A new food menu will be offered soon.

Rock n’ roll posters and photos hang on the walls in a lively atmosphere. After ordering a rockin’ Motorin cocktail, I was escorted to my seat inside the specially built theater. There are tables for 2 to 4 people that are pushed together for parties of 8 or more.

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There are multiple performance stages named after venues on Sunset Blvd. At the center of the show is The Bourbon Room. There is also the iconic ROXY sign in red neon lights, Chateau Marmont, The Whiskey, and Girls, Girls Girls! On the back wall are multiple MTV-style screens displaying popular music videos by Van Halen and other rock bands.

Director Kristin Hanggi earned a Best Direction Tony nominee for Rock of Ages in 2009. She has a stellar Rock of Ages cast in Hollywood who gyrate all over the room, while singing rockin’ songs from Styx, Asia, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.

This is the type of show where audience members dress in 80s’ rock n’ roll attire to be part of the immersive experience. On the tables there are lighters with LED lights to flick on during favorite songs. Be prepared to have cast members dance and sing right next to you, they might even sit in your lap.

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The night I saw the show, actress Callandra Olivia who plays “Sherrie” took the night off, so swing actress Marisa Matthews stepped in. She was fabulous as a sweet blonde dreamer hoping to make it big in Hollywood. She shined singing “More Than Words” by rock band Extreme, and also when she sang with Ian Ward playing “Drew,” an aspiring rock star. Ward has a golden voice and rocks the house at the end signing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ and “Oh Sherrie” by Journey.

Other stand out performances were Frankie Grande as “Franz Klineman,” son of the villain real estate developer ‘Hertz Klineman” played by Pat Towne. Klineman wants to tear down The Bourbon Room and redevelop Sunset Blvd., from Doheny to La Cienega. Soon the cast sing a rockin’ version of “We Built This City On Rock  n’ Roll” by Starship that caused the lighters to be held up high flickering.

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Photo courtesy of Rock of Ages

Grande’s fan club was sitting at the front tables cheering him on throughout the night. Not only did he star as this character Franz on Broadway, he is a well know reality TV personality and social media mogul. As a stand-out finalist on the hit CBS series, “Big Brother 16,” he was also a judge on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” and houseguest on “Celebrity Big Brother” in the U.K. Grande shines on the stage and is one of the most lovable characters, especially during his scene with Berkeley environmentalist Stephanie Renee Wall as “Regina” singing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar.

The audience swooned over actor Sean Lessard’s physique, as lead singer “Stacee Jaxx.” Full of himself, he is ready to leave his hit band Arsenal and go solo. His arrogance is hysterically funny. When he sings “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi, he has every audience members full attention.

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Photo courtesy of Rock of Ages

Other electrifying numbers include when the entire cast sing Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” and “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake. As the cast disperse into the audience, lighters are held up flickering again.

Nick Cordero as The Bourbon Room owner “Dennis” and Matt Wolpe as Dennis’ loyal sound set up man “Lonny” are a hysterical comic duo from the beginning of the show to the end. Their scene “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” by REO Speedwagon had the audience laughing out loud.

Regina Levert as “Mother” at the Venus Club invites Sherrie to work as one of her dancers. Lavert has a sensational voice singing “Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash and “Anyway You Want It” by Journey with Matthews. “Mother’s” dancers put on quite a sexy show for the audience.

At Rock of Ages you will sing aloud with the people you arrived with and in harmony with those sitting around you. Everyone has a rockin good time!

Director: Kristin Hanggi. Cast: Tony Award Nominee Nick Cordero  as “Dennis,” Rock of Ages alum: Regina LeVert  as “Justice Charlier,” Frankie Grande as “Franz Klineman”, Sean Lessard as “Stacee Jaxx,” Tiffany Mallari, Chuck Saculla,  Marisa Matthews,  Callandra Olivia  as “Sherrie,” Stefan Raulston, Justin Ray as “Joey Primo,” Pat Towne as “Hertz Klineman,” Zoe Unkovich, Stephanie  Renee   Wall  as   “Regina,” Ian Ward  as “Drew,”  Matt Wolpe  as “Lonny,” and  Neka Zang  as “Constance.”

Musicians: Music Director/ Keyboard Jonathan Quesenberry, Greg Coates at Bass, Kevin Kapler at Drums, Seating in the venue is based upon the ticket price tier. All seats are table seating. Go to http://rockofageshollywood.com for tickets,

The show is about 2 hours and 10 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission. Rock of Ages Hollywood can be seen every day except Monday & Tuesday when the theater is dark (and available for private event rentals, btw). Performances are Wednesday thru Saturday at 8pm, 2pm matinee on Saturdays and Sunday evening at 7pm. Note that kids under 12 may be too young for the content.

The Bourbon Room is located at  6356 Hollywood Blvd, 2nd floor. Tickets: https://www.rockofageshollywood.com.

THIS REVIEW WAS FEATURED on ONSTAGE BLOG on January 16, 2020.

American Ballet Theatre’s Annual Holiday Gala

One of the most spectacular annual events every December is the ABT Gala held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills. Attendees enjoy a one-night-only intimate dance program by many of the world-renowned artists of American Ballet Theatre, including Principal Dancers Isabella Boylston, Misty Copeland, Christine Shevchenko, Cory Stearns, Devon Teuscher and 17 other dancers performing in 8 dance scenes in full costume.

Principal Dancer James Whiteside was the eloquent Master of Ceremonies for the evening event. Not only is Whiteside an American ballet dancer, he is also a choreographer, model, and recording artist.

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James Whiteside photo by Jill Weinlein

The ABT Company is one of the world’s most celebrated dancers, performing for more than 400,000 audiences in New York City, across the United States and around the world.  On April 27, 2006, by an act of Congress, American Ballet Theatre was named America’s National Ballet Company.

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Nigel Lythgoe and Lesley Ann Warren – Photo by Jill Weinlein 

Before invited guests enjoyed an elegant three course dinner with wine pairing, many stepped out on the red carpet. Former dancer and choreographer Nigel Lythgoe posed with actress Lesley Ann Warren. Lythgoe achieved success as a television and film director. He produces American Idol and created, produces and judges on So You Think You Can Dance. Warren began her career as a ballet dancer, before becoming an Academy Award nominee for her role in Victor/Victoria, and earning multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and awards.

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Dancer Kym Johnson Herjavec – Photo Jill Weinlein

Kym Johnson Herjavec from Dancing With The Stars also walked the carpet. Kym is a professional ballroom dancer, first in Australia before moving to the U.S. She achieved success as a dancer for 17 Seasons on DWTS. Her star partners included first place wins with singer Donny Osmond, and NFL two-time Super Bowl Champion Hines Ward. Her other partners included Mr. T, Mark Cuban and Jerry Springer.

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ABT Executive and Artistic Directors Kara Medoff Burnett and Kevin McKenzie were joined with James Whiteside and ABT Board Chairman Andrew F. Barth (Avery). Photo by Jill Weinlein

Actors John Grady and Carly Hughes were invited guests to the ABT Gala. Grady starred off Broadway in Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell and as a member of Blue Man Group and the movie I Am Legend. Hughes is a Broadway dancer and singer, plus star of ABC’s American Housewife.

 The 2019 Holiday Gala program was a sensational montage from classic and new to world ballets. Included were excerpts from the holiday classic The Nutcracker, created by celebrated choreographer and ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky.

A Holiday Season favorite, the critically acclaimed production of The Nutcracker continues to be performed nightly through Dec. 22 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. This beloved classic brings a cast of more than 100 performers to the stage and features dazzling sets and costumes by Tony Award winner Richard Hudson, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. For more information, visit https://www.scfta.org/events/2019/the-nutcracker.

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Isabella Boylston – Photo by Vince Bucci Photography

Guests also received a sneak preview from Ratmansky’s new, original full-length ballet, Of Love and Rage. In 2020, this exciting new show will have its World Premiere in Southern California at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa on March 5 through March 8, 2020.

Gala guests Proceeds from the Holiday Gala support American Ballet Theatre and its educational programs.

Theatre Review: A Kid Like Jake

Parenting is not easy for Alex (Sarah Utterback) and Greg (Tim Peper) with their precocious son Jake in the West Coast Premiere “A Kid Like Jake” by Daniel Pearle and presented by IAMA Theatre Company. Marriage isn’t a piece of cake either, as we see in this explosive drama about a couple whose son prefers to dress up as Cinderella, instead of playing with trucks or G.I. Joe figures.

Taking my seat in the intimate Carrie Hamilton Theatre, above the Pasadena Playhouse, the play opens with a stressed out Alex trying to find the right words for an essay she has to include in a private primary school application. It has to be perfect so her Jake can get into one of the prestigious private Kindergartens in New York City. 

Seeking Jake’s preschool director Judy’s (award winning Sharon Lawrence) advice, she alerts the couple to a side of Jake that is becoming more transparent. He has a deep fondness to dress up as a princess, and not a prince. 

Lawrence stands out in this four performer show. Her professional Broadway credits include Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof, and Cabaret, as well as Emmy winning television roles and Drama Critic recognition. When she reveals to Alex and Greg that their son is comfortable with gender expansive play, her subtle facial expressions and movements throughout this and other scenes are riveting to watch.

The more stressed Jake’s parents are about getting Jake into an expensive school that they can’t afford, the more frustrated everyone including Jake gets. Even at this young age he can feel the tension and grows frustrated and perplexed. Not only are his peers teasing him, but his parents are questioning what is allowed inside the home and what needs to be hidden outside.

Alex and Tim have different parenting styles, which puts tension on the whole situation causing a crack in their marriage that may or may not ever be repaired.

Set designer DeAnne Millais’ set is a typical family living room of a four year old child. Brightly colored cards hang on a wall unit listing the months of the year. Shelves are filled with books, toys and bins to store art supplies. There is a comfortable couch with a “Woody” doll from Toy Story near a coffee table. 

In the corner is a desk and chairs to represent Judy’s office at the preschool. Millais is clever in making good use of the set, transforming it into a doctor office, restaurant and the office of a director of a preschool with the help of of lighting designer Ginevra Lombardo.

As Judy convinces Alex that primary private schools want diversity and to capitalize on Jake’s special qualities, she says “They want kids and parents that stand out.” Since Jake prefers girl’s dress up and girls toys, Judy believes gender expansive expression should be highlighted in the private school applications. “Schools don’t just look at the kid, they look at the whole family.”

The likable nurse played by Olivia Liang is a newcomer compared to the other actors, having recently graduated from college.

This whole process stresses Alex so much. Everyone can see the tension on her face, which causes her health to decline. Director Jennifer Chambers has the cast stay in character as the characters remove props onstage while staying in character showing concernment, frustration and hopefulness throughout the play.

Another spectacular performance is by Tim Peper, a likable father and husband who blows a fuse and explodes from the stress of uncertainty about his future towards the end of the play. Peper shows his acting skills with raw courage as he roars like a lion at Alex. His intensity pierced my core, as this terrified and frustrated man pleads with his wife to get her wits about her. It’s a heartbreaking scene to watch causing both actors to tear up.

Some of my favorite lines include Judy telling Alex “We don’t always have to have answers, we just have to keep listening,” What this play highlights is how when kids grow, their personality changes. This process can be very hard on parents and the family unit.

This 90 minute show has no intermission in the intimate Carrie Hamilton Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse.

A Kid Like Jake

Performances now through November 3

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

Sundays at 7 p.m.

Carrie Hamilton Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse

39 S. El Molina Ave.

Pasadena, CA. 91101

Tickets: General Admission $35

Call (323)380-8843

Review: “Miss Saigon” – National Tour (Los Angeles)

Covering the red carpet on the Opening Night of Miss Saigon at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, I was starstruck to see British actor Greg Ellis walk down the carpet. He performed in the original Miss Saigon when it premiered in the West End at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1989. The show was such a success, that it stayed in London for 10 years. It also opened on Broadway in 1991 with over 4,000 performances. During this time there was a lot of controversy as the show’s creators exposed the ugliness, deception, misplaced patriotism, as well as the idealism and courage of the Vietnamese during and after the Vietnam War.

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Actor Greg Ellis

The creation of Miss Saigon started as composer Claude-Michel Schönberg noticed a photo of young Vietnamese girl at the airport facing her mother. She was being sent to the United States to live a better life with her American G.I. birth father. The photo touched him about the obligation and responsibility Americans have to the Vietnamese. They became refugees willing do anything to reach America for a better life.

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Together with Alain Boublil, and lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr., they created a show reminiscent in emotional energy, forbidden love, death and rock opera sounds of “Les Misérables,” that these creators opened earlier in 1985.

Cameron Mackintosh’s Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon” opened on Thursday, July 19 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. This version is especially poignant as Americans daily read and watch the political refugee crisis, as desperate people flee violence in Central America and other countries under our current administration.

There are 28 songs led by Will Curry taking us on the journey of sweet and innocent Kim (performed by Emily Bautista who also played the role on Broadway), whose family was “blasted away” during the Vietnam war and is now a teenage orphan being lured into the Dreamland brothel.

Terrified Kim has electrifying chemistry with American G.I. Chris (Anthony Festa). He wins her heart, yet later breaks it in two. Emily Bauista gives the audience a gut-wrenching performance belting out her golden voice to the rafters of the theatre, especially during one of the most famous songs “I’d Give My Life for You.” Many of her songs are sung with her young American-Vietnamese son Tam, (Adalynn Ng) clutched in her arms.

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Another star of this production is “The Engineer” a sleazy hustler and owner of “Dreamland” (Red Concepción also played this role on the UK Tour). He reminds me of “The Master of The House” in Les Misérables, as he has the audience on the edge of their seats applauding all the way through the curtain call, especially in the number “The American Dream” offering a Cabaret style performance.

Mick Potters spectacular sets change throughout the show, opening with a multi-level Dreamland brothel in Saigon in April 1975. This “recreation area” for American marines has the entire cast onstage bumping and grinding while “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” are displayed in the opening song “The Heat is One.”

Costume designer Andreane Neofitou must have had a great time finding scantily clad pieces for the girls, and the purple pants for “The Engineer.”

When the set changes to the crowded Ho Chi Minh City in 1978, we watch the love affair of Kim and Chris making plans to start a new life in America. A little of the Vietnamese tradition shines through with shoes removed before entering an indoor room, incense burning, and preparations for marriage. Kim longs for a place where she doesn’t have to dance, and Chris is her knight to take her away. Clever lines in the show are “A guy like him (Chris) is a king, they all want him to pull a string.”

A love triangle evolves as Kim’s cousin Thuy (handsome Jinwoo Jung) enters the scene. We learn Kim’s parents betrothed them at a young age. He currently is an officer in the Communist Vietnamese government and Kim must do the unthinkable to try to achieve her dream.

Another highlight in this show is “The Morning of the Dragon” number as five people manipulate a long red dragon blowing steam from its nostrils, while choreographer Geoffrey Garratt has masked Uncle Sam dancers spinning ribbons and flipping onstage.

After intermission the set changes to the “Bui Doi” Foundation in Atlanta deciding what to do with all of the American-Vietnamese refugee children. G.I. John (strong performance by J. Daughtry) starts a video to show the delegation (and audience) about the American-Vietnamese children in orphanages and detention centers, “Conceived in hell, they are the living reminder of what we failed to do.” These children have a “secret they can’t hide, it’s printed on their face.” They are living in “a camp for children whose crime was being born – we owe them fathers….they are all our children too.”

Kim’s flash back (Fall of Saigon 1975) is another dramatic scene at the American Embassy, as we watch Chris frantically search for Kim standing behind a tall chain link fence with razor wire. She is among the desperate people begging to leave on the last helicopter to America, before the city fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops. Chris and other Americans board a life-size helicopter as it comes down onto a rooftop. Lighting designer Bruno Poet enhances this scene to appear as if the helicopter takes off and flies over the audiences heads. The faces of desperate Vietnamese losing hope of escaping, will stay in my soul for quite some time.

The last scene is the seedy streets of Bangkok, Thailand in 1978, where Vietnamese refugees are treated as “rats in the streets.” This tragic ending leaves everyone in the audience in tears.

Other cast members include Christine Bunuan, Devin Archer, Alexander Aguilar, Eric Badiqué, Brandon Block, Eymard Cabling, Joven Calloway, Rae Leigh Case, Kai An Chee, Julie Eicher, Matthew Dailey, Tyler Dunn, Noah Gouldsmith, Haven Je, Adam Kaokept, David Kaverman, McKinley Knuckle, Madoka Koguchi, Nancy Lam, Brian Shimasaki Liebson, Garrick Macatangay, Jonelle Margallo, Fin Moulding, Kevin Murakami, Adalynn Ng, Jackie Nguyen, Matthew Overberg, Emilio Ramos, Adam Roberts, Michael Russell, Julius Sermonia, Emily Stillings, Tiffany Toh, Nicholas Walters, and Anna-Lee Wright. The role of Tam is played by Tyler Dunn, Haven Je, Fin Moulding and Adalynn Ng.

There were approximately 800,000 people that left Vietnam starting in 1975, many of the refugees failed to survive the passage, facing danger from pirates, over-crowded boats, and storms. Survivors first settled in Southeast Asian countries – Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Some stayed, while others waited patiently to live their dream in America.

The performance schedule for Miss Saigon is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm.

 Miss Saigon is recommended for ages 12 and up. Children under 5 will not be admitted to the theatre, because the show contains some sexual scenes and language which may not be suitable for younger audience members. This production includes gun shots and pyrotechnics.

Individual tickets for Miss Saigon start at $49. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Hollywood Pantages Theatre – 6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Phone (323)468-1770. Website – https://www.hollywoodpantages.com.

Theatre Review: “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Ahmanson Theatre

What I enjoyed about “The Play That Goes Wrong” by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company is that it’s a play within a play. We are sitting in the audience watching “The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society” perform their newest murder mystery “The Murder at Haversham Manor.”

As my daughter and I took our seats, a distinguished man approached my daughter asking her if she has seen a dog. Soon we learn that this is Director Chris Bean, who  also plays Inspector Carter (Evan Alexander Smith) in “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” For about 15 minutes before the house lights dim and the show begins, three different cast members saunter around aisles looking for Winston, the missing dog. The hilarious stage manager of the Society show, Annie Twilloil (Angela Grovey) approached a nearby theater goer named Josh and asked if he owned a dog. When he relied “Yes,” Annie offers to pay for an Uber if he goes home to get his dog. It’s a hilarious interaction.

More pre-show fun includes beefy Drama Society lighting and sound operator Trevor Watson (Brandon J. Ellis) making last minute adjustments onstage. We watch as he adjusts s door that has a mind of its own and refuses to stay closed. Trevor also nails a floor board, while Annie attempts to repair a broken mantlepiece with duct tape. Unable to fix it alone, Annie goes into the audience and selects a person to come onstage to help her with the repairs.

Trevor takes his seat in one of the second level theatre box seats to receive his cues to open the show. His area is decked out with stuffed animals, food and beverages. We can all see how he is glued to his cell phone screen, instead of what is about to take place onstage, alerting us that this show may not run smoothly.

The original Broadway direction by Mark Bell and Tour Direction by Matt DiCarlo have the actors unable to open the door to enter onstage, so they have to slide past a black out curtain to make their entrance to learn about the murder of Charles Haversham (Jonathan Harris). He is an actor who refuses to stay dead throughout this scene. Disasters befall the cast, props are misplaced, coat hooks break, there are multiple sound effect errors, lines forgotten, cues missed, and a lot of ad-libbing. It’s very silly at times, yet fun to watch.

Some of my favorite moments include the character Thomas Colleymoore (Peyton Crim) projecting eloquently with his most grand theatrical voice. Another scene stealer is the butler Perkins (Scott Cote) mispronouncing words and feeling foolish when his fellow actors correct him.IMG_0015

Society actor Max who plays Cecil Haversham (Ned Noyes) adores applause from the audience, inspiring his physical movement to become even more exaggerated. The same is true for actress Florence Colleymore’s (Jamie Ann Romero), “over acting” until she is knocked unconscious when a door slams into her face. Stage manager Annie (Angela Grovey) is dragged onstage to replace the only female character in the show. She soon discovers acting is more fun than working backstage, and her inner diva shines.

After the show’s intermission, when Florence recovers and takes back her role, Annie dramatically tries to upstage her.

When Inspector Carter (Evan Alexander Smith) recites a line about a ledger hidden under a pillow, only to discover the prop is not in its place, he repeats the line multiple times until someone from the audience shouts “it’s under the sofa.” Carter breaks “the fourth wall” and yells at the audience to stop laughing. “You wouldn’t laugh if you were in New York…. what a terrible audience,” which causes us all to laugh even more.

The actors seem to have so much fun while being carried in and out of windows, hiding in a grandfather clock, and sword fighting with broken blades. A phone call scene puts the actors “in a terrible position” as they spread out along the wall to keep props from falling off the walls and onto the floor.

Liquor bottles are accidentally emptied and replaced with flammable and corrosive liquid that the actors must drink, a fire ignites forcing Trevor to enter with a fire extinguisher, spraying and flustering the actors who must continue on with the scene.

After intermission the Society President and Director announces “I’m so happy to see so many of you have returned.” Butler Perkins continues to mispronounce words, and Max who plays Cecil now becomes the Gardner of Haversham Manor. He holds a dog leash with an invisible Winston pulling, barking and jumping.

The audience is on the edge of their seats when the Gardner runs into a support beam holding up the second floor library and office, while Inspector Carter (Evan Alexander Smith) and Thomas Colleymoore (Peyton Crim) are holding on for dear life as scenic designer Nigel Hook’s set starts collapsing, and this hilarious duo do everything possible to prevent falling off the set and onto the actors below.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” will have you laughing from the moment you take your seat all the way through the curtain call.

Opening night is Wednesday, July 10 at 8 p.m. The play continues through August 11, 2019 at the Ahmanson Theatre with performance days and times: Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

No performance on Mondays.

Run Time is 2 hours, 5 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Ticket Prices: $30 – $135 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)

Tickets are available online at http://www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

Call Center Theatre Group Audience Services at (213)972-4400 or go in person to The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012.

This review is featured OnStage Blog.

Renée Taylor’s MY LIFE ON A DIET 

Last night I laughed throughout the autobiographical comedy by Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning writer and actress Renée Taylor. Written by Taylor and her late husband Joseph Bologna, this one-woman show MY LIFE ON A DIET was originally directed by Bologna, and made its New York premiere in 2018. With such critical acclaim, Taylor’s show was extended to run Off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clements and now has embarked on a national tour. In November of last year, the show won the annual United Solo Special Award for their significant contributions to solo theater during the year. 

Currently in the intimate Lovelace Studio Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center, the set by Harry Feiner is decorated with muted animal skin rugs, a large projection screen, a fancy desk and chair where Ms. Taylor sits at during most of the show.

She comes out dressed in an elegant rose gold sequin outfit from her neck down to her tennis shoes by costumer Pol’ Atteu. It’s almost as if the audience is sitting in her home  theatre while watching a slide show. With each story she shares, a still projection or video clip gives us a peek into the life of a Hollywood star.

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Now in her 80s, this adorable curly haired blonde reflects on how she was groomed by her wanna-be movie star mother to be the next Betty Hutton. Her momma encouraged her to lose weight starting at the age of 11. “My mother was concerned I was built like a sugar cube,” said Taylor, so she believed that if she ate like a star, she might look and live like one. 

Throughout the 90 minute show we learn Taylor loves food, and she also loves the sound of applause, which began after appearing in her first school play. She dishes out juicy anecdotes about how she and her mother got an autograph from Hollywood legends, such as Joan Crawford. A photo of Crawford appears on the large screen, as does one of her classmate Marilyn Monroe. Both Taylor and Monroe learned Method Acting with the legendary Lee Strasberg. Taylor was a student for 8 years, until she owed Strasberg so much money in tuition, that she had to get a job as a working actress.

She and Barbra Streisand shared stockings while working at the same nightclub together. She had an ongoing gig on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr and the Perry Como show. While on the show, she met Jerry Lewis and was cast in her first Hollywood movie “Errand Boy.”

We learn that she dated Lenny Bruce before he overdosed on heroin, and reunited with her friend Marilyn Monroe two months before she was found dead.

The show is entertaining and poignant, especially as it ends with stories about her late partner for 53 years Joe Bologna. They met and married in six months. Together they loved working together, appearing in a slew of successful shows including “Lovers and Other Strangers” and “Made for Each Other.”

This comedy legend shares her high and lows while losing and gaining weight. At the end, when she was cast in “The Nanny,” Taylor’s comic timing as the fun, food loving mother Sylvia Fine earned audience approval. The success made her realize that the ability to make people laugh is better than being super skinny. The ability to write down her story and share it with an audience is a dream come true for this beautiful actress.

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Presents the Los Angeles Premiere of RENÉE TAYLOR’S MY LIFE ON A DIET

Limited Engagement – 12 Performances Only

Friday, April 5 to Sunday, April 14, 2019, at the

Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts

9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.

Ticket price $65

TheWallis.org/Diet

(310)746-4000.

 

 

 

 

Spoken Word & Music (M)IYAMOTO is BLACK Enough

For only two nights at the the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, the National Sawdust Projects dynamic musical social commentary (M)IYAMOTO IS BLACK ENOUGH performs at the Lovelace Studio Theater.

The show opens with a lively beating of the drums by Sean Dixon to set the tempo. Soon two more musicians – Andy Akiho on steel drum and xylophone, and Jeffrey Zeigler picks up his bow and electric cello to enhance the tone and rhythm, before poet and spoken-word artist Roger Bonair-Agard steps onstage.

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Speaking clearly while enunciating each word in rap and bebop delivery, Trinidadian-Brooklynite Bonair-Agard challenges his audience to think about regentrification, social justice, and the struggles of being a young black man and father growing up in Brooklyn.

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His poetry includes lines “thunder of pigeon wings” and “what hasn’t met you, hasn’t past you.” He calls his show “Vocal Jazz Punk Music,” and “Being black means building a vocabulary out of survival.”

IMG_1257Sean Dixon is sensational on the drums. He performs a solo piece that has the audience appreciatively applauding.

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Cellist Jeffrey Zeigler is mesmerizing to watch as he creates unique and exceptional sounds from his bright red instrument.

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Equally as fun to watch and listen to is the energetic composer and steel drum performer Andy Akiho. I’ve never heard steel drums played like this in such an entertaining manner.

Sound designer Garth MacAleavey adds to this brazen, dynamic and creative three-piece symphony, intensifying what this “fire in his belly” poet has to say.

The show ends at Wallis Annenberg on March 15, 2019. Their next show will be at the National Sawdust on March 31, 2019. National Sawdust is at 80 N. 6th St. Brooklyn, New York 11249.

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National Sawdust Projects produces, cultivates and tours new interdisciplinary music projects that reflect the world we live in today, as well as the world we imagine, and wish to cultivate for the future. (M)IYAMOTO IS BLACK ENOUGH will leave you thinking about the world and music in a new way.

Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90210 310.746.4000.