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Archive for Pasadena Playhouse

The ‘R’ in SCR. A WW2 ‘Much Ado’. ‘Sunday’ starts Sondheim fest. The ‘Maggie’ musical.

Photo by Jenny Graham/SCR

Photo by Jenny Graham/SCR

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Plus Geffen’s ‘Breath,’ Kristina Wong, and more.

A flood of openings gushed through Greater LA theaters in February — although two of the new productions were delayed by an outbreak of COVID.

During the first weekend of the month, South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa planned to activate the “repertory” in its name for the first time in the company’s 59-year history — with two different plays sharing the same stage and many of the same actors in alternating performances. “The Little Foxes” and “Appropriate” were waiting in the wings, united not only by a stage and actors and narrative similarities but also by a composite title — “Voices of America.”

Unfortunately, COVID barged in, canceling the entire opening weekend of both plays. Read more…


Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

As part of its “Sondheim Celebration” this year, the Pasadena Playhouse has a new production of Sunday, but although it is professionally done and largely enjoyable, a couple of issues in direction and performance keep this show from being everything it could be…

Alabado is terrific as Dot, an appealing combination of petulance and passion, and charming as the contented Marie. She sets the standard for singing high with the titular first number, and impresses throughout, especially in her duet with Phillips, “We Do Not Belong Together.” Phillips, unfortunately, while a good vocalist, seems mainly to be trying to copy Mandy Patinkin’s original performance in the role, and as a result doesn’t bring as much to the character as he might. Standouts in the great ensemble include Emily Tyra as Yvonne, the artist’s wife secretly jealous of Dot, and Liz Larsen as the Old Lady, whose tart delivery of her peevish character’s lines are delightful. Read more…

Peter Debruge – Variety

In the first act, Sondheim and Lapine’s musical focuses on the young painter, whose name they’ve anglicized to “George” (which rather unfortunately sounds like a goose honking, especially when repeated at the end of every line: “I know you’re near, George / I caught your eyes, George / I want your ear, George / I’ve a surprise, George”). Seurat died at age 31, never having sold a painting, and the show does several interesting things with a life that went largely unrecorded. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Although the musical aspects of the production are top notch, there are problems with the staging by Lapine. The show basically still just feels like an upscale concert version of the musical. Ken Billington’s lighting design paints wonderful colors and Clint Ramos’s costumes are appropriate. The main problem is Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design. There is not much to it—mostly a scrim that acts as a screen for Tal Yarden’s projections. The orchestra is on stage and probably takes up at least half of the playing space. Boritt’s platform has a few steps up from stage level and it is disconcerting to watch people who are supposed to be in “a small suburban park on an island in the river” keep stepping up and down to enter or exit. The platform can barely hold the entire company and so it just looks overcrowded at times, especially for the Act One finale. Without a hint of scenery, instead of a breath-taking realization of the painting coming together, we just get a crowd of people on a platform. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

I had never seen this Sondheim classic before, but I’m glad I got to see it now. Some Sondheim shows are, I think, like Brussels sprouts; you might not like or appreciate them when you’re younger, and they have to be impeccably prepared to be palatable when you’re older. I don’t know that I’ll ever love this show, but I think this production, which I liked plenty, is as close as I’ll get (I’m more of a Company and Merrily We Roll Along gal). Read more…

Pig power plays at ‘Animal Farm.’ ‘Everybody’ is talkin’. Alanis and Hammerstein, but no Natives.

Geoff Elliott, top, with L-R Stanley Andrew Jackson III, Rafael Goldstein, Trisha Miller. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Geoff Elliott, top, with L-R Stanley Andrew Jackson III, Rafael Goldstein, and Trisha Miller. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

‘Animal Farm’. ‘Sanctuary City’. ‘Everybody.’ ‘Oedipus.’ ‘Jagged Little Pill.’ ‘Oklahoma!’

How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the ‘Farm’, after they’ve seen…Pasadena?

Yes, I’m paraphrasing the lyrics of an ancient pop song to make the point that Pasadena and nearby neighborhoods constitute the hottest cluster of locally-produced theater right now.

The creatures who liberate themselves from servitude in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” at east Pasadena’s A Noise Within, as well as the human audiences there, might also want to check out “Sanctuary City” at Pasadena Playhouse and “Everybody” at Antaeus in nearby Glendale. Read more…

Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Announces 2020-2021 Award Recipients

LADCC LogoThe Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle is proud to announce the award recipients for 2020 and 2021. Poor Clare (The Echo Theater Company) and The Father (Pasadena Playhouse) received the prestigious Production award, with additional honorees named in 18 other categories.

In total, 13 different productions were honored, celebrating a wide range of Los Angeles theater. Pasadena Playhouse’s The Father received the most awards for a single production and the most awards overall, with nine.

This year, out of an abundance of caution, the LADCC will once again forgo its annual event ceremony and will instead send the plaques to the honorees. Congratulations to all of the award recipients!

The complete list of award recipients for 2020 and 2021 is as follows:


  • Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

McCulloh Award for Revival

  • My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre

Lead Performance

  • Jordan Hull, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Alfred Molina, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Featured Performance

  • Sue Cremin, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse
  • Ann Noble, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Michael Sturgis, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company

Ensemble Performance

  • Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Solo Performance

  • Jim Ortlieb, Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, VS. Theatre Company & Circle X Theatre Co.


  • Chiara Atik, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Florian Zeller (translation by Christopher Hampton), The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Writing Adaptation

  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon, The Fountain Theatre

Musical Score

  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • David Yazbek, The Band’s Visit, Dolby Theatre

Music Direction

  • John Bell, My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre
  • Andre Cerullo, Hamilton, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Adrian Ries, The Band’s Visit, Dolby Theatre
  • Ryan Whyman, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company


  • Jess Coffman, Suzanne Jolie, L.T. Martinez, Matt Walker, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company
  • Christopher Gatelli, My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre


  • Alana Dietze, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Jessica Kubzansky, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Set Design

  • David Meyer, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse
  • Frederica Nascimento, An Octoroon, The Fountain Theatre

Lighting Design

  • Elizabeth Harper, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse
  • Natasha Katz, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Azra King-Abadi, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company

Costume Design

  • Christopher Oram, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Halei Parker, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company
  • Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre

Sound Design

  • John Zalewski, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse


  • Kaitlyn Pietras, Jason H. Thompson, Revenge Song, Geffen Playhouse
  • Finn Ross, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Streaming Design

  • Corwin Evans, Bree Pavey, UnRavelled, Global Brain Health Institute, based at the University of California, San Francisco; and Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland
  • Andrew Schmedake, The Ballad of Emmett Till, The Fountain Theatre


  • Lily Bartenstein, Prop Design, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company
  • Jeremy Chernick, Visual Effects, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Joe Seely, Puppet Design, The ODDyssey, Troubadour Theater Company

Every effort has been made to ascertain proper credits for our award recipients. We regret any errors or omissions. Any that come to our attention will be corrected on our LADCC website and (when applicable) on a recipient’s award plaque.

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle was founded in 1969. It is dedicated to excellence in theatrical criticism, and to the encouragement and improvement of theatre in Greater Los Angeles.

The 2020-2021 membership consisted of:
Lara J. Altunian, Stage Raw, L.A. Dance Chronicle
Katie Buenneke, Stage Raw, Theater Digest
Erin Conley, On Stage & Screen
Peter DeBruge, Variety
Ellen Dostal, BroadwayWorld, Musicals in LA
Lovell Estell III, Stage Raw,
Margaret Gray, Los Angeles Times
Hoyt Hilsman, Cultural Daily, Pasadena Now, Riot Material
Harker Jones, BroadwayWorld,
Deborah Klugman, Stage Raw, Capital and Main, Gia On The Move
Dany Margolies,, Southern California News Group
Dana Martin, Stage Raw
Myron Meisel, Stage Raw
Terry Morgan,, Stage Raw
Steven Leigh Morris, Stage Raw
Melinda Schupmann,,
Jonas Schwartz-Owen,, BroadwayWorld,
Don Shirley, Angeles Stage
Rob Stevens,

When memories meet the present moment

Valerie Perri, Leo Marks, Samantha Klein. Photo by Jenny Graham

Valerie Perri, Leo Marks, Samantha Klein. Photo by Jenny Graham

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Don’t forget ‘If I Forget’ at the Fountain. Plus ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ ‘A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill,’ ‘King Liz,’ ‘Trouble the Water,’ ‘Freestyle Love Supreme,’ ‘Cookin’ with Gas’

The present moment is the essence of live performance. Everyone in the audience — or on the stage, for that matter — experiences an event that will never again be exactly replicated. More than filmed or “live” electronically recorded productions, live theater happens right now.

Of course improv-based stage productions, such as the current “Freestyle Love Supreme” at Pasadena Playhouse or the Groundlings’ “Cookin’ With Gas”, emphasize this quality. They rely on suggestions from the spectators, so the actual words and topics can change dramatically at each new performance (more about them later).

On the other hand, many scripted plays grapple so much with memories of the past that they sometimes ignore the relevance of the past to the present moment. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the memories don’t feel musty. Read more…

How did Angeles Stage mark its first birthday? Via UNCLE VANYA, DRIVE MY CAR

The cast of Uncle Vanya. Photo by Jeff Lorch

The cast of Uncle Vanya. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Plus a merry but muddled ‘Windsor’ at the Theatricum, ‘King James’ and two new musicals on opposite poles of the gender discussion.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Angeles Stage first appeared a year ago, as masked audiences were beginning to return to LA stages in person, after more than a year of mostly virtual-only activity. I urged “LA theater,” which meant audiences as well as creators, to “rise and shine.” A lot of productions arose within greater LA during the past year.

Pasadena Playhouse’s “Uncle Vanya” shines more brightly than any other currently-running production I’ve seen…If you don’t know Anton Chekhov’s “Vanya,” or the acclaimed Japanese film “Drive My Car” that was deeply inspired by “Vanya,” now is a great opportunity to combine them into a powerful one-two exploration of the all-too-human emotions that adults frequently face, at least during the last couple of centuries. Read more…

UNCLE VANYA at Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Technology zooms forward, but human nature remains stubbornly persistent. Thus a play such as Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which premiered in 1899, can still speak to us today, can still cause us to laugh or cry at its characters’ folly or heartbreak. The new production of Vanya at the Pasadena Playhouse, featuring a powerhouse lead performance from Hugo Armstrong, is a clear and entertaining demonstration that humanity is the same regardless of the century it’s in. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

Hugo Armstrong Transforms Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Having been largely weaned on the plays of Anton Chekhov, and his turn of the 20th century mingling of regret and humor while something, always something, is ending (Chekhov wrote as the Russian Revolution was brewing), I admit to a trepidation in seeing productions of plays by the Russian literary giant, because they so rarely rise to their complex occasion. They’re usually suffocated by affectation of some kind – such as an obsequious devotion to kitchen sink realism, and samovars and wicker furniture, or, in American or British hands, an effort to invent what it means to be Russian in 1899; that rarely turns out well. Read more…

Now through June 26

HEAD OVER HEELS at the Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Head Over Heels, a jukebox musical featuring the songs of the Go-Go’s, is imaginative, but chaotic; energetic, but deflatingly lacking in comedy.
Read more…

Now running through December 12

STILL at Pasadena Playhouse

Jeff Lorch

Jeff Lorch

Margaret Gray – LA Times

The historic Pasadena Playhouse is empty. No ticket holders gossiping and rubbing elbows in the Spanish Revival-style courtyard. No line at the bar.
Read more…


THE FATHER at the Pasadena Playhouse

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Perspective is crucial to the understanding of both life and theater, and in the Pasadena Playhouse production of The Father, which opened this week, an intentionally disorienting point-of-view offers a dramatic and moving look at late-stage dementia. Written by Florian Zeller, the play premiered in 2014 and many consider it one of the most acclaimed of the recently concluded decade.
Read more…

Dana Martin– Stage Raw

Getting old is painfully difficult. Pasadena Playhouse’s newest production, The Father, is a fascinating yet frustratingly unclear story that examines a rapidly shifting dynamic between parent and child as the line between reality and delusion becomes increasingly blurred.
Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

As life expectancy continues to grow, so does the concern for the wellbeing of our aging population. It’s a subject that hits close to home for everyone—whether it is providing care for a parent or thinking about our own future as we reach retirement age and beyond.
Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Talkin’ Broadway

The specter of dementia touches us all, whether within our immediate family or not. It’s a particularly awful condition in which someone you once knew well might not even recognize you anymore or be able to do things they previously were expert at.
Read more…

Now running through March 1


THE GREAT LEAP at the Pasadena Playhouse

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Sometimes the most compelling drama in sports does not happen on the court or field, but behind the scenes. In The Great Leap, a play by Lauren Yee that opened in its Los Angeles premiere this weekend at the Pasadena Playhouse, in association with the East West Players, basketball serves as an entry point into an ambitious story about familial, cultural, and political conflict.
Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

You may not know — I didn’t — that basketball is huge in China. Missionaries introduced the sport there in 1895, soon after it was invented, and when the Communists came into power in 1949, it was one of the few Western cultural contributions they didn’t criminalize. Apparently Chairman Mao was a fan.

Lauren Yee’s stunning play “The Great Leap,” now at the Pasadena Playhouse in a gorgeous co-production with East West Players….
Read more…

Now running through December 1

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at the Pasadena Playhouse

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham

Jonas Schwartz – Theatermania

Pasadena Playhouse has produced a reimagined Little Shop of Horrors, the hit musical about a man-eating plant and the schlub who feeds him human flesh. Alan Menken’s memorable music and Howard Ashman’s lyrics, with their loving detail for puns and storytelling, still makes this musical special. This revival, however, may leave audiences hungering for more than it can offer.
Read more…

Now running through October 20