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Archive for On Stage and Screen

THE COLOR PURPLE at the Pantages Theatre

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

How is it possible that a musical based on a book written nearly 40 years ago feels more timely than ever today? The tour of the Tony-winning Broadway revival of The Color Purplejust opened at the Pantages Theatre, and its messages of female empowerment in the face of rape, sexual assault, and domestic abuse resonate so strongly with the Time’s Up movement that its presence in Hollywood feels prescient. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

The Color Purple began as a Pulitzer Prize winning 1983 novel by Alice Walker. The 1985 Steven Spielberg film adaptation received critical and audience acclaim although this viewer found it overly saccharine (too much patty-cake in the cornfields, too many shots of shadows on the walls). Read more…

Ellen Dostal – Broadway World

That joyful noise you hear coming from the Hollywood Pantages Theatre this month is the thrilling sound of female empowerment, and it is reverberating like thunder from the heavens in the dynamically robust national tour of THE COLOR PURPLE. Read more…

Now running through June 17

 

SOFT POWER at the Ahmanson Theatre

Craig Schwartz Photography

Craig Schwartz Photography

Ellen Dostal – Musicals in L.A.

Playwright David Henry Hwang and composer Jeanine Tesori are pushing buttons and challenging conventions with their new work, Soft Power, now in its world premiere at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

American musical theatre and politics would seem to make strange bedfellows. However, since Of Thee I Sing won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1932. there have been many other successful and not-so-successful musicals mingling politics with song and dance.
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Erin Conley – On Stage and Screen

Soft Power, currently in its world premiere at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre, is billed as “a play with a musical.” This is a unique description fitting for a unique show, both in structure and in content. With play and lyrics by David Henry Hwang and music and additional lyrics by Jeanine Tesori, Soft Power taps into timely political subject matter—some may say too timely—and adds a refreshing twist, creating a show with a perspective rarely seen.
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Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

What was the last musical to feature Hillary Clinton twerking at a McDonald’s or White House cabinet members bloodthirstily carrying tommy guns? Soft Power, the new political-satire musical by two Tony winners, composer Jeanine Tesori and writer David Henry Hwang, ambushes the 2016 US election through the eyes of a foreigner.
Read more…

Frances Baum Nicholson – The Daily Breeze

There is a moment in “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at the Ahmanson, when the disquiet hits you. The show has a lovely time acknowledging musical theater tropes, discussing the power of the musical to slowly convince people of an idea (this is what “soft power” is — gradual bending of minds), and expressing the outrage and increasing xenophobia which accompanied the 2016 election. Read more…

Now running through June 10

 

AN UNDIVIDED HEART at Atwater Village Theater

Darrett Sanders

Darrett Sanders

Deborah Klugman – Capital & Main

Directed by Chris Fields, Yusuf Toropov’s An Undivided Heart, co-produced by the Echo Theater Company and the Circle X Theatre Co., is an aspiring work that aims to be deep but doesn’t get there.

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Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

Any play that starts with a kid standing next to a burning typewriter holding a knife in one hand and a dead cat in the other is off to a good start in the “well, I haven’t seen that before” department. Unfortunately, such unusual visual tableaux aren’t really representative of the bulk of Yusuf Toropov’s An Undivided Heart, a Circle X Theatre Co. and Echo Theater Company co-production.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Someone stands in front of you with a cat in one hand and a knife in the other, threatening to kill it. What do you say to save the cat? In An Undivided Heart, a co-production of Echo Theater Company and Circle X Theatre Company that opened this past weekend at the Atwater Village Theatre, this is but one puzzle its complicated characters must attempt to solve.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

After all these centuries as a literate species, and with only seven basic plots in circulation (according to the late critic Arthur Quiller-Couch), human beings have developed a sense of where stories are likely to go — expectations that prompt us to complain when we can see an ending coming (“predictable”) and when we can’t (“what?”).
Read more…

Now running through April 22

 

IRONBOUND at the Geffen Playhouse

Christ Whitaker

Chris Whitaker

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

At what point in life must you be willing to sacrifice happiness for survival? Ironbound, a play by Martyna Majok currently in its west coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, tells the story of Darja (Marin Ireland), a Polish immigrant struggling to build a life for herself in New Jersey.
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Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

In my experience, when a production is of mixed or bad quality, the acting is rarely to blame. Occasionally an ill-judged performance will mar a fine piece of writing, but it is much more common to watch a talented ensemble struggle with an undercooked play. So it is with Martyna Majok’s Ironbound….
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Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

We should empathize with Darja. She’s an immigrant struggling to wrap her mouth around English, both its syntax and pronunciation. She works two jobs, when they’re available. She constantly worries about her son, who needs a stay in rehab that she can’t afford, even if she could find him these days. Indeed, she can’t find any good man who will stay around and treasure her.
Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Capital & Main

In American theater, as in life, not all voices receive equal airtime — one reason why Martyna Majok’s pitch-black dramedy about a Polish-born factory worker-slash-cleaning lady is so poignant and arresting.
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Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Darja, the lonely, unfulfilled antihero of Ironbound, at the Geffen Playhouse, grants actor Marin Ireland a showcase for her vast talents. In lesser hands, Darja, a woman who seems to live only to survive, is a character that could turn off audiences, but Ireland finds Darja’s unsinkable core and hooks us along with it.
Read more…

Now running through March 4

THE HOTHOUSE at Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center

Geoffrey Wade Photography

Geoffrey Wade Photography

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

It’s Christmas Day at a psychiatric hospital, and its director is having a stressful morning. Patient 6457 has unexpectedly died and patient 6459 has given birth, and neither event looks very good for the institution. As the day progresses, things only get more and more out of control as it becomes increasingly apparent that the staff is perhaps more volatile and dangerous than the patients. Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

Often when an artist dusts off a work that he or she put aside a long time ago and presents it to the public, one can see why it was shelved in the first place. But sometimes you can’t. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Harold Pinter wrote The Hothouse in 1958 but put it away until 1980 when he dusted it off and it was given its first production. The essences of the later and greater Pinter plays are here, they just are not as sharply refined.
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Now running through March 11

 

THE CHOSEN at the Fountain Theatre

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Reuven and Danny spend their childhoods living five blocks apart, but only meet for the first time as teenagers when a contentious baseball game ends with one of them in the hospital. This sets the scene for The Chosen, adapted for the stage by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok based on Potok’s 1967 novel of the same name.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen was a best seller when it came out in 1967, and it remains a staple of middle school reading lists to this day. It’s the story of two Jewish boys living in Brooklyn in the 1940s: Reuven, raised by his gentle widowed dad as an observant orthodox Jew, and Daniel, whose exacting father is a Hassidic rabbi who shuns all things secular and plans for his son to follow in his footsteps.
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Now running through March 25

ALADDIN at the Pantages Theatre

Photo by Deen Van Meer

Photo by Deen Van Meer

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

There is an inescapable nostalgia factor attached to Disney Theatrical Productions, and it was on full display at the Pantages in Los Angeles last night as the national tour of Aladdin opened to a very receptive crowd.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

After the success of their animated musicals The Little Mermaid and Beauty and The Beast, with award winning scores by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Disney released the Arabian Nights tale of Aladdin in 1992.
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Jonas Schwartz -  Arts In LA

The stage production of Disney’s Aladdin, now playing at the Pantages, is charismatic family programming that highlights the 1992 film’s score by Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and the late Howard Ashman, with additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin.
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Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

If a glittery, sumptuous spectacle is enough to satisfy you, you’ll probably enjoy this touring company production of Disney’s Aladdin, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, at the Pantages Theatre through March 31. If, however, you’re one of those picky theatergoers who craves substance with your spectacle, you’ll probably be disappointed.
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Ellen Dostal – Musicals in L.A.

As Disney stage musicals go, the North American tour of Aladdin that just opened at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre is the big, splashy colorful delight kids and musical theatre lovers want to see.
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Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Disney, that behemoth that only grows larger as each day passes, earned itself some goodwill in the theatrical landscape with its last outing, Peter and the Starcatcher — a charming, innovative take on the Peter Pan legend. Disney’s latest stage offering, Aladdin, has some charm and innovation, but feels as bland and shiny as the cast’s mile-wide smiles.
Read more…

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

Had there been one more wish left in Genie’s lamp, some of us in the opening-night audience of Disney’s “Aladdin” at the Pantages might have wished that all the lead performances had been as brilliant as the show’s technical elements are.
Read more…

Now running through March 31

SOMETHING ROTTEN at the Ahmanson Theatre

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Just in time for the holidays, the rambunctious, crowd-pleasing national tour of Something Rotten! has opened at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre. This original musical, which ran for nearly two years on Broadway and was nominated for 9 Tony Awards, is a rare show that is equally enjoyable for theatre aficionados and more casual patrons alike.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

There is nothing rotten to be found in Something Rotten!, a joyously over-the-top musical at the Ahmanson Theatre that spoofs and celebrates anything and everything about musical theatre. How can you not love a musical that celebrates The Black Death in song?
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Paul Birchall  – Stage Raw

I’m of two minds about this upbeat musical (the bus and truck production of the 2014 Broadway hit) which is about theater during Shakespeare’s time. Credited to Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, it’s cheerful, peppy, energetic, and at times quite cute.
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Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

Something Rotten! is a ditzy satire that takes a wry poke at wannabe-ism and artistic celebrity; while it may not be the deepest or drollest of musicals, the choreography is great, the lyrics are clever, and the comic performances  are entertainingly on the mark.
Read more…

Now running through December 31

LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES at Antaeus Theatre Company

(Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography)

(Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography)

Jenny Lower – Stage Raw

Antaeus announced Christopher Hampton’s 1987 adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses as the debut of its current season all the way back in June. The director’s note in the program discusses how this pre-revolutionary tale of French aristocratic depravity speaks to our era of the one percent.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a story that would be best served with popcorn and red wine. Written by Christopher Hampton and based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s 1782 novel of the same name, Liaisons opened at the Antaeus Theatre Company in Los Angeles this weekend in a sexy, provocative production that explores the despicable behavior of what we would now refer to as “the one percent” in a modern, stylized fashion.
Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

Are Americans today better off than the aristocrats of pre-revolutionary France? Spandex has simplified couture, wigs no longer require powder and, thanks to social media and smartphones, epistolary romances can be conducted in real time.
Read more…

Now running through December 10 

WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN at Boston Court Performing Arts Center

2017_With_Love_0021

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Some people go through life with their heart on their sleeve, while others are much more guarded, desperate to protect their hearts from being broken. In With Love and a Major Organ, a whimsical, poignant play by Julia Lederer currently in its west coast premiere at Boston Court Performing Arts Center, this concept is taken a step further. Read more…

Paul Birchall – Stage and Cinema

Midway through playwright Julia Lederer’s feather-light, yet rather droning romantic comedy, a character literally reaches into her own chest and pulls out her heart, which thumps and pumps and leaks blood into the padded envelope she shoves it into. The lovesick woman then leaves it in a New York City subway station for the man she hopes to catch. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

In playwright Julia Lederer’s With Love and A Major Organ, a West Coast premiere directed by Jessica Kubzansky at Boston Court, a warm spontaneous woman falls ardently in love with a stranger she meets on the subway.  The main idea — a quest for love requited —may be as old as the hills, but Lederer’s wit and poetical language, along with Kubzansky’s directorial finesse and state-of the-art staging, makes for a beguiling evening of theater. Read more…

Frances Baum Nicholson –The Stage Struck Review

Recently, as part of an assignment at a nearby public high school, students experimented at a local mall to see what people their age would do if a stranger (also their age) came up to try to engage them in conversation. Over and over, the subjects of their experiment would look down at their phones – use their electronic social network to avoid talking to a real person. Interestingly, that was the expected result, according to the teens.
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Now running through November 5

A TALE OF TWO CITIES at A Noise Within

Craig Schwartz

Craig Schwartz

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens has been a staple of western literature since its publication in 1859, and has been adapted many times over—as movies, television mini-series, radio shows, a short-lived Broadway musical, and plays.
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Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

A solid cast enlivens Charles Dickens’s epic A Tale of Two Cities at A Noise Within, which is tautly directed by Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, who drive home comparisons between the bedlam in 18th-century Europe and the current political climate.

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Now running through November 19

NOCTURNE at VS. Theatre

(Photo by Kate Danson Photography)

(Photo by Kate Danson Photography)

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

“Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.” This shocking line opens Nocturne by Adam Rapp, an acclaimed play that first debuted in New York in 2001.

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Now running through August 13