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Archive for LA Observed

ALL THE STREET’S A STAGE AND SACK LUNCH ‘FELLOWSHIP’ by Don Shirley

Photo by Brian Biery

Photo by Brian Biery

Don Shirley – LA Observed

January 21 was a great day for immersive theater in Los Angeles. I’m referring to one event you probably know about, the Women’s March. But I’m also writing about “fellowship” – which you probably don’t know about. The former attracted the masses; the latter has a maximum capacity of 42 for any single performance.

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‘MERRILY’ IS A MASTERPIECE, MELTED ‘ICEBERGS’ by Don Shirley

Photo: Kevin Parry for The Wallis

Photo: Kevin Parry for The Wallis  

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Two major productions in LA right now more or less begin with scenes set in LA – which is so unusual on our larger stages that I’m happy to salute any effort to examine our own community, no matter how tentative.

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HOT TOWN, SUMMER IN THE THEATER

Photo by Miriam Geer

Photo by Miriam Geer

Don Shirley – LA Observed

The end of summer approaches. Have you seen any alfresco theater this year?

Fortunately, the 299-seat Theatricum Botanicum keeps its expansive stage busy from the first week of June through the first weekend of October, in Topanga Canyon. That’s twice as long as the Old Globe’s outdoor season in San Diego.     Read more…

 

OVATIONS AND UPWARD MOBILITY FOR LA THEATER – DON SHIRLEY, LA OBSERVED

2015 LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards Ceremony

Don Shirley – LA Observed

LA theater has been embroiled in behind-the-scenes controversy for the past year. Many actors angrily challenged their own union over its decision to end the 99-Seat Theater Plan, which allows Equity members to work for only token fees in small LA theaters, at much less than the minimum wage. Read more…

LURING MILLENIALS TO ‘CARRIE AND ‘VIETGONE’ by Don Shirley, LA Observed

Photo by Jason Niedle

Photo by Jason Niedle

Don Shirley – LA Observed

How to attract young-adult audiences to LA’s professional theaters? Plenty of pondering about this subject occurs at theater conferences and in theater journals. I won’t address the logistics of marketing to millennials here. But I’m welcoming two new productions that seemingly target them yet also offer lively experiences to those of us who are definitely not active members of that demographic group.   Read more…

Photo  by Jason Niedle

Photo by Jason Niedle

THE ‘FENCES’ THAT LED TO “RIOT/REBELLION” IN WATTS

riot-rebellion-1

 

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Watts Village Theater Company is observing the 50th anniversary of its community’s most famous historical moment with “Riot/Rebellion,” an ensemble-driven documentary-style production.em>Read more…

Outside in Topanga and Griffith Park, inside in ‘Luka’s Room’

Mockingbird-theatricum

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Alfresco theater is one of the best features of an LA summer, yet the big LA media usually ignore it. Charles McNulty, the LA Times theater critic for nearly a decade, wrote an essay last week about ensemble acting in three of LA’s tiny indoor stages, but he has never written a word (according to a search of the LA Times database) about the ensemble acting or anything else at the two companies – Theatricum Botanicum and Independent Shakespeare — that consistently produce on Actors’ Equity contracts in LA’s considerably larger outdoor venues, for much larger audiences. em>Read more…

DISCONNECTION at the Beverly Hills Playhouse

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Neal Weaver  – Stage Raw

The church referred to by playwright Allen Barton in his play is never identified, but the details of his story evoke the horror stories told by disillusioned former Scientologists: accounts of demands for total conformity, hefty financial contributions, total commitment, and a willingness to declare all-out war on any member who wants to leave the fold. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

Allen Barton’s absorbing new drama, Disconnection, spun from his experiences with Scientology, looks at the fallout from a regime change at a self-improvement church, when that church, under a new administration, devolves into an abusive cult. Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Observed

I saw one locally-oriented production over the last week that’s much more clearly focused than “Chavez Ravine” or “California Tempest” — even though its title is “Disconnection.” Allen Barton’s script is focused on Scientology, although it doesn’t mention the word. In fact, Scientology is the show’s indirect target.

 

Now running through March 1.

 

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?

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FLOYD COLLINS at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

Photo by Michael Lamont

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini -   Arts in LA

One of the most ambitious art musicals of recent years, Floyd Collins by Adam Guettel (music and lyrics) and Tina Landau (book and additional lyrics) is receiving an outstanding mounting from helmer Richard Israel and the management of the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. The producers, who regularly bring you the likes of Peter Pan and Cats, have blocked off their huge auditorium to place Rich Rose’s multilevel black-box set onto a three-quarter thrust with intimate seating.  Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

I had never seen anything quite like it, and it grew on me slowly. But I can’t stop thinking about, and humming snippets from, La Mirada Theatre’s revival of “Floyd Collins,” the odd, haunting musical about the Kentucky cave explorer who got himself trapped underground in 1925. Read more.

Sharon Perlmutter  -  Talkin’ Broadway

Floyd Collins is not an easy show to direct. The show’s protagonist spends the majority of the play trapped underground in a cave and Adam Guettel’s score—which is discordant at times—can be a difficult sell. The last time I saw a production of the show in Los Angeles, I came out humming the direction of Richard Israel, who approached the task with skill, creativity and confidence, putting together a surprisingly effective production of the musical in a small space.  Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Observed

One of the best midsize venues for professional theater in LA County has a somewhat unusual location – its 199 seats are on located on the stage of La Mirada Theatre,
adjacent to the actors.

Normally, La Mirada tries to fill its proscenium-style theater’s 1,251 seats in the conventional way — with the audience facing the stage — but to get to the current “Floyd Collins,” the audience bypasses the regular auditorium. The ushers direct the spectators to chairs placed temporarily on the stage itself — in a raked, three-sided thrust around the action.

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Now running through April 13.

 

HARMONY at the Ahmanson Theatre

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Les Spindle –  Edge on the Net

Beloved pop songwriter-singer Barry Manilow (“Copacabana,” “Mandy”) and his longtime collaborator, lyricist-librettist Barry Sussman, are fulfilling a longtime dream with “Harmony,” their seriocomic musical. The show was introduced in an appealing production in 1997 at La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California. This project had always aimed for Broadway, though additional work on the piece was clearly called for in that initial rendition. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

In the new musical with music by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, Jews and gentiles find Harmony together, celebrating their differences in a fascistic world that stomps on individuality. The play may still need a little fine-tuning, but as a whole, Harmony is an enriching experience with several memorable numbers. Many flaws can be overlooked due to this production’s excellent cast and insightful staging by Tony Speciale. Read more…

Neal Weaver  – Stage Raw

This potent new musical, with music by Barry Manilow and book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman, focuses on a fascinating, little-known footnote to history. It tells the largely factual tale of the Comedian Harmonists, the six-man singing group who were the first boy-band to become, in the 1930s, an international success. (Composer Manilow calls them the Beatles of their day.)  Read more..

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Center Theatre Group has been obsessed with young guys’ bands in recent years. Just since 2013 began, CTG offered the forgettable new musicals “Backbeat” (about the early Beatles) and “The Black Suits” (about a Long Island garage band.) The 2011-12 season at CTG’s Ahmanson Theatre included post-Broadway runs of the dramatically threadbare “American Idiot” (with a Green Day score) and “Fela!” (about the Afro-pop star.) Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

 A long-gestating dream project by composer Barry Manilow and his collaborating wordsmith Bruce Sussman (Copacabana: The Musical, the neglected Disney animated feature Oliver and Company), Harmony is an ambitious musical doggedly committed to mimicking its betters: near beer Sondheim, watered down Kander & Ebb, tempered Rodgers & Hammerstein. Read more…

Now running through April 13.

MY NAME IS ASHER LEV at the Fountain Theatre

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Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Chaim Potok’s 1972 bestseller My Name is Asher Lev has been deftly adapted by Aaron Posner and receives a peerless realization by a splendid cast. Posner reduces the novel to its essential conflicts, yet rather than diluting the impact he effectively intensifies the immediacy of the emotional payoffs. Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Observed

…….at the Fountain Theatre in east Hollywood, “My Name Is Asher Lev” explores another form of Jewish liberation — only here the escape isn’t from slave masters but from the family-enforced strictures of a Chasidic brand of orthodox Judaism itself. Read more…

Neal Weaver  – ArtsInLA

The novel My Name Is Asher Lev, by the late Chaim Potok, is a bildungsroman about the youth and coming of age of a young artist, whose vocation as a painter puts him at odds with his religious faith, his family, and his community. The novel offers an interior drama, as well as an expansive view covering a period of 20 years with a multitude of characters. Read more…

Now running through April 13.