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The LADCC/Wallis Student Reporter Event enjoys a successful third outing

Photo by Kevin Parry for The Wallis.

Photo by Kevin Parry for The Wallis.

This past weekend several critics from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle collaborated the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts for our third joint LADCC/Wallis Student Reporter Event. 

Approximately 12 students, ranging in age between 12-18, came to the Wallis this past weekend to participate in this special event.  Critics Dany Margolies, Katie Buenneke and Jonas Schwartz spent the afternoon with the students, working with them on developing their theater critique techniques.

The event began with a primer on the history of the flop musical Merrily We Roll Along, which is now playing at the Wallis until December 18, 2016.

The dozen students joined the critics for the weekend matinee performance of Merrily at the Wallis. Then everyone returned to the classroom to spent 90 minutes forming a review.

Observed Jonas Schwartz, “As with last time, when we took them to For The Record, the students were very insightful and had a clear understanding of what they saw and how to interpret.”

The critics and students discussed and compiled everyone’s critical input. The students are now tasked with composing and submitting their own critical reviews that will be published on the Wallis website in the coming week.

Everyone was pleased with another successful event.

Wallis ext

The Wallis and Cody Lassen production of

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

Runs through December 18, 2016

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Beverly Hills

More information and tickets can be found here and here.

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
book by George Furth
directed by Michael Arden
starring:
Whitney Bashor, Wayne Brady, Aaron Lazar, Saycon Sengbloh, Amir Talai, Donna Vivino
with Eric B. Anthony, Sandy Bainum, Melody Butiu, Doran Butler, Max Chucker, Sarah Daniels, Kevin Patrick Doherty,
Laura Dickinson, Rachael Ferrera, Jennifer Foster, Travis Leland, Lyle Colby Mackston, Brent Schindele, Maximus Brandon Verso.

 

 

 

25 HIGHLIGHTS OF LA THEATER IN 2014

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.

Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.

I don’t believe in year-end Top 10 lists, especially if the components are listed in order of best to, say, tenth best. Why is it necessary to draw such distinctions between creations with very different goals and styles? Are apples really better than oranges — or is it vice versa?

Read more…

The Year in Los Angeles Theater, 2011 — Bob’s wrap up

Finally I Can Talk About….

by Bob Verini

 

As an LADCC member, I see many more shows during the year than I could possibly review in Variety. In 2011 I caught 120 attractions in the LA area alone, not counting productions in San Diego, San Francisco, NY, Chicago and London. I don’t want any more of 2012 to go by without my giving a shout-out to some of the artists and attractions I wasn’t able to salute in print last year – though happily I was able to give many of them some love during the LADCC awards process.

LA is always chockful of revivals, and not just because of the ephemeral nature of theater that requires revisiting works whether originally well done or not. An adventurous company can take a property you hoped you’d never have to see again, and breathe the kiss of life into it. Who ever thought a director could dust away the familiar moralizing of “The Crucible” and make it sing with dramatic power? Sean Branney and his team at Theatre Banshee did just that. Reprise’s “Cabaret,” for the first time in my memory, demonstrated less than 20/20 hindsight that the Nazis were sure to take power and start massacring its Jews. In other words, Marcia Milgrim Dodge’s take on the piece was immediate and real. I would love to see both productions again.

“Falsettos” was unevenly cast but Richard Israel’s staging and Gregory Nabours’ musical direction were pretty much unimprovable, and a refreshing lack of camp was a highlight of Musical Theater Guild’s “One Touch of Venus” in Glendale. The Blank managed to find the human core beyond the ideology of “The Cradle Will Rock,” though I wish someone would revisit this material and stage it as originally intended, not with the bare-bones-and-piano the circumstances of its premiere required it to fall back on.

And “I Never Sang for My Father” is a play I’ve loved ever since my first encounter with it, the matinee of the day following Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, when everyone held their breath in grief and this work, which is partly about the relationship of the dead to the living, seemed strangely apropos. Under the aegis of the New American Theatre, Anne Gee Byrd, John Sloan, Dee Ann Newkirk and the brilliant Philip Baker Hall made for a seamless family unit as well as theatrical ensemble, and Cameron Watson’s production was one of those about which you just had to shake your head and say, “You shoulda been there.”

One of my favorite imports was a revival, as well. I will travel anywhere and everywhere to see a Martin McDonagh, and “The Cripple of Inishmaan” at the Kirk Douglas is one of the reasons – what a daaarlin’ evening, warm and fuzzy yet scabrously bleak.

Most of the notable new plays I saw I was fortunate to have a chance to write about, but I didn’t get to review “Margo Veil” (Odyssey) or “Loving Repeating” (ICT) and I’m not sure I know what I would’ve known what to say about them had I had the forum. Certainly I remember very little about the story of either, though there are dozens of images that come back as I think about both evenings. Anyway, I admired the work of the helmers, casts and designers no end. When you left “Margo” or “Loving” you knew you’d seen something and were never bored. The same was true of Rogue Machine’s “Blackbird,” with Sam Anderson so terrifying yet so human.

During last year’s Fringe I had to be away on business so I could not partake as liberally as I would’ve liked. But I still haven’t forgotten Damaso Rodriguez’s production of William Nedved’s “Fact & Fiction,” incisively performed by Nedved and Adam Silver (who also impressed in “Nerve” a few months later). Great twists, artfully delivered.

Some productions, which might not have been the finest in every respect, offered fine showcases. Casey Kramer’s randy Ma in “Dolly West’s Kitchen” (Theatre Banshee) took the cliché of the raunchy Irish old lady to a new, sensitive plateau, and I was much impressed with Brett Mack in the exceedingly difficult role of the closeted brother. Kelly Schulmann’s philosophical yet spunky best friend in “What’s Wrong With Angry?” moved me greatly with its freshness and vivacity; I had previously admired her at the Celebration in 2007’s “Beautiful Thing” and I hope I don’t have to go four more years before enjoying her again. John Fleck dazzled me from beginning to end in his encounter with “Mad Women” (Katselas) – bravura solo work, simply wonderful. Reprise’s “Kiss Me, Kate” struck me as about 45 minutes too long, but if Lesli Margherita had been onstage for all of those 45 minutes I don’t think I would’ve minded one bit. What a trouper she is, how skillful at finding new life in lines, business and lyrics that have been around for two generations.

Above all, 2011 stands out for Tom Dugan’s arresting turn (no pun intended) in “Nazi Hunter – Simon Wiesenthal,” which I had no intention of taking in until my colleague Dany Margolies – one of the tougher to please pundits of my acquaintance – let me know in no uncertain terms how special it was. That Sunday afternoon taught me things about a historical figure and event I thought I was already completely familiar with, and touched me in a way I hadn’t thought possible. To this day I get a little chill up the spine when I recall the final heartbreaking gesture as Dugan retired from the stage.

 

Now that’s what Theater, with a capital T, can do at its best.

 

 

 

The Year in Los Angeles Theater, 2011 – Sharon

Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz.

 

Recap by Sharon Perlmutter.

I’m always pleased when I see a show that lives up to its hype.  I’m even more pleased when I see a show that had no hype at all, but just knocks me off my feet.  There were both in 2011.

I came late to Ebony Rep’s production of A Raisin in the Sun.  (Hell, I came to it so late, it was actually 2012, in its transfer at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.)  By the time I got to the show, it had been universally praised, and I wondered if the production could really be that good.  It was.  The cast was a well-oiled machine (which produced performances that were anything but mechanical) and the production reached inside a play that was clearly “of its time” to find a universal story of a man finding his manhood.  The production was timely and touching … and deserved every accolade it received.

And then there was Blackbird.  I had no expectations when I walked in – although Sam Anderson’s award-winning performance in The Bird and Mr. Banks from a couple years ago was still in my head.  Anderson blew me away in Blackbird – and it was a performance I found more amazing because of its contrast with Mr. Banks.  Where it seemed that every tic and quirk of Banks had been so precisely choreographed, Anderson’s characterization of the convicted child molestor in Blackbird was so bare, real, and human, it was downright painful.  I’ve watched this actor for years on television, and had no idea what he was really capable of.  Thank goodness for small plays in tiny theatres.

(In this case, the tiny theatre was Rogue Machine, which also gave us what I thought was one of the best original plays of 2011, Small Engine Repair.  When I’m reviewing a show, I usually try to come up with the first line of my review as I’m walking back to my car after the show.  With this one, I walked out of the theatre with my lawyer-self saying to my critic-self, “Holy crap!  That play just made an act of forcible oral copulation hilarious.  How are you gonna write about that?”)

I cannot, in good conscience, write about 2011 without talking about Theatre Banshee’s production of The Crucible.  In an odd little way (go ahead, ask me), The Crucible will always have a special place in my heart, so it’s one of those plays that I’ll always see.  And what made Banshee’s Crucible stand out among all the productions I’ve seen was Sean Branney’s direction.  I’ve always thought of the play as John Proctor’s play; it’s his story.  But in Banshee’s production, there were perhaps a half dozen characters who could have legitimately argued that The Crucible was really about them.  It became a true ensemble piece, and I was genuinely delighted to have experienced the production.

Oops.  I intended to write two paragraphs; I’ve gone way beyond and have barely scratched the surface of what I loved about Los Angeles theatre in 2011.  So happy that Lisa O’Hare is continuing to grace our musical theatre stages; her Sally Bowles in Cabaret for Reprise! was a work of art.  Pleased by Peace in Our Time at Antaeus.  Completely taken in by House of the Rising Son at EST-LA.  Felt the vibe of Hair at the Pantages.

And a shout-out to those who aimed a bit higher than they grasped (like Adding Machine: A Musical at the Odyssey and Monkey Adored at Rogue Machine), and even the completely misguided who at least gave it a shot (you know who you are).  Honesty may have driven my negative reviews, but you all have my admiration for trying.  If everyone remained in their comfort zones, the theatre would be a very dull place indeed.