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Archive for Reviews

LIGHTS OUT: NAT “KING” COLE at the Geffen Playhouse

Jeff Lorch

Jeff Lorch

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

Is anything more fascinating than the mind of man?

From the 1930s through the ’60s, entertainer Nat “King” Cole seemed the epitome of gentlemanliness, clad and coiffed to perfection, his quiet croon a soothing voice in turbulent times.

But in “Lights Out: Nat ‘King’ Cole,” a West Coast–premiering play with music, at the Geffen through March 17, playwrights Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor imagine the intense, fractured, bleak, violent, self-abasing thoughts clashing in Cole’s mind moments before the final broadcast of his groundbreaking variety show. Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

YouTube clips from Nat King Cole’s short-lived TV variety show, which premiered in 1956, convey the singer’s legendary charm. Handsome, elegant, impeccably dressed and graceful, Cole looked at ease on camera. More than at ease: happy.
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Now running through March 24

 

 

RAGTIME at the Pasadena Playhouse

Nick Agro

Nick Agro

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Ragtime has got to be up there with Oklahoma! as one of the most undeniably American musicals of all time, and it has finally come home to Southern California. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical made its U.S. premiere at the now-demolished Shubert Theatre in Century City in 1997, before opening on Broadway the following year.
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Ellen Dostal – Broadway World

How do you scale down an epic musical like RAGTIME for a smaller stage and a different time? When it opened at the Shubert Theatre in Century City in 1997, the cast numbered nearly fifty, the same as it would for its Broadway debut later that year. The stage was enormous and the production filled every inch of it.

For the revival at Pasadena Playhouse, director David Lee has a different spin.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

“Make them hear you” is one of the most well-known refrains in Ragtime, and the current production at the Pasadena Playhouse is in fact demanding to be heard—and it is well worth listening to.
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Now running through March 3

ANNA KARENINA at the Actors Co-op

Larry Sandez

Larry Sandez

Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

Artistic ambition should always be encouraged. If artists never attempt greatness, if they never try working on a bigger canvas, we wouldn’t have works like Angels in America or The Iceman Cometh — plays that demonstrate how amazing theatre can be.
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Now running through March 17

WITNESS UGANDA at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Kevin Parry

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

Presumably expelled by his New York City church for being gay, Griffin Matthews gathered his earnings from his then-unfruitful acting career and headed to Uganda for a six-week stay to help build a school.

He changed lives there. The Ugandans he met changed his. And from this real-life journey comes “Witness Uganda: A Documentary Musical,” though more musical than documentary, at the Wallis in Beverly Hills through March 3.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

I was not expecting the new show “Witness Uganda: A Documentary Musical” to win me over.

First, there’s that subtitle — its sheer rhetorical daring evoking all my favorite oxymorons, including “jumbo shrimp,” “new classic” and “unbiased opinion.”
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Ellen Dostal – BroadwayWorld

The need for human connection runs deep in WITNESS UGANDA, a musical by Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould based on Matthews’ real-life experiences in Uganda. At its center is the idea that we are all part of a global family – one world, one heart – connected by an invisible thread that never lets go.  Read more…

Now running through March 3

 

MATTHEW BOURNE’S CINDERELLA at the Ahmanson Theatre

Johan Persson

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

“Admit passersby!” urged Britain’s wartime instructions. In Matthew Bourne’s dance-theater production of “Cinderella,” we find a reminder to open up our hearts and let the sunshine in.

But the story Bourne tells, at the Ahmanson through March 10, is far from the sunny fairytale we might expect. Using Sergei Prokofiev’s brooding, elegantly dissonant, subtly disturbing score, and setting the story in 1940 during the Blitz, Bourne makes his version fully accessible yet requires the audience to put puzzle pieces together.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

There are no carriages turning into pumpkins to be seen in Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, an enchanting, contemporary ballet currently being presented by New Adventures at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Instead, this interpretation of the classic fairy tale takes place over a backdrop of a city in turmoil at the height of World War II, crafting a new story of lovers torn apart until they are reunited, thanks, of course, to a very special shoe. Read more…

Now running through March 10

ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST at the Actors Gang

Ashley Randall

Ashley Randall

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist premiered in Milan on December 5, 1970. Fo wrote this incendiary farce in response to the suspicious death a year earlier of an Italian railway worker in police custody — an anarchist named Pinelli under interrogation for his role in a bombing that he did not commit, nor have anything to do with.
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Now running through March 9

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN at Antaeus Theatre Company

Geoffrey Wade Photography

Geoffrey Wade Photography

Jonas Schwartz – Arts In LA

Playwright Martin McDonagh has mastered the art of slamming razor-sharp dark humor into sentimentality. The humor is always fierce, but he allows the audience to connect with the characters even in his works’ most perverse moments.
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Now running through March 2

SWEENEY TODD at South Coast Repertory

Jordan Kubat/SCR

Jordan Kubat/SCR

Ellen Dostal – Musicals in L.A.

Done right, the first notes of a musical will tell you exactly what kind of world you’re stepping into. When it comes to the masters, Stephen Sondheim does it better than just about anyone.
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Now running through February 16

 

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK at the Dorie Theatre/The Complex

Elvira Barjau

Elvira Barjau

Lovell Estell III — Stage Raw

Some seventy plus years after it was first published, Anne Frank’s heartrending story still tugs irresistibly at the heart. Wendy Kesselman’s adaptation of the original play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett has special significance for our highly contentious political climate.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

For her thirteenth birthday, Anne Frank received a book she had shown her father in a store window in Amsterdam. She immediately began to use it as a diary to record her thoughts. Read more…

Now running through February 24

HELLO, DOLLY! at the Pantages Theatre

Julieta Cervantes

Julieta Cervantes

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Put on your Sunday clothes and get down to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre because there’s a new matchmaker in town, and her antics are bound to warm even the coldest of hearts. The Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival of Hello Dolly! is currently making its Los Angeles debut as part of a national tour, and it has arrived bursting at the seams with style and joy.
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Ellen Dostal – Musicals in LA

In the lexicon of American Musical Theatre, Hello, Dolly! is one of the best star vehicles ever written. And, because of the title role’s iconic nature, almost everyone can name the leading ladies who have played her.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

The national tour of director Jerry Zaks’ exuberantly received revival of “Hello, Dolly!” has finally reached the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. And though it brings us neither Bette Midler, who won a Tony Award for the title role in 2017, nor Bernadette Peters, who replaced Midler on Broadway to equally warm praise, this show cannot be accused of shortchanging us on star power.
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Jonas Schwartz – Arts In LA

Betty Buckley is a Broadway legend. Besides her Tony-winning turn in Cats, she originated Martha Jefferson in 1776, tortured her daughter in the notorious flop Carrie, and replaced Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard.
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Now running through February 17

 

PARADISE at the Odyssey Theatre

Ed Krieger

Ed Krieger

Deborah Klugman – Capital & Main

Paradise, by Laura Maria Censabella, has a lot going for it. Drawn from the playwright’s experience as an artist-in-residence in the New York City school system, it builds around the relationship between Yasmeen (Medalion Rahimi), a 17-year-old Yemeni-American student, and her biology instructor, Dr. Royston (Jeff Marlow), who supports and encourages her new-found passion for learning and experiment.
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Now running through February 17

 

AN INSPECTOR CALLS at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Mark Douet

Mark Douet

Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

When J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls premiered in 1945, its vivid dissection of the British social class system in the guise of an Agatha Christie–style mystery was appreciated as a modern classic. Nonetheless, in the following decades its drawing-room play format fell out of favor amidst a tide of naturalism.
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Dany Margolies – The Daily News

With “An Inspector Calls,” director Stephen Daldry saddles up an old warhorse and turns it into a sleek, muscular triple-crown winner.
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Now running through February 10