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Archive for TheaterMania

JAGGED LITTLE PILL at the Hollywood Pantages

Heidi Blickenstaff, Allison Shepard and Jena VanElslander. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Heidi Blickenstaff, Allison Shepard and Jena VanElslander. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Margaret Gray – Los Angeles Times

As a singer and songwriter, Alanis Morissette has one of the most distinctive voices in rock ’n’ roll. Her raw, quirky, brainy lyrics, idiosyncratic diction and powerfully expressive range mean that nobody in the universe sings quite like her. But if you subscribe to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, there’s another universe somewhere in which everybody — whether teen, adult, male, female or nonbinary — sings just like Alanis Morissette. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

It’s the kind of play that…Florida Republicans would create legislation to ban. Mostly, though, JAGGED LITTLE PILL the musical is a re-imagined, “Mamma Mia-style”, kick-ass, modern teenage anthem as bold as the Alanis Morrissette lyrics it is set to. Read more…

Jonash Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Alanis Morissette has transformed her groundbreaking 1995 album Jagged Little Pill into a musical — one that promotes forgiveness, diversity, and affirmation. But by pounding it over the audience’s head with a loud, convoluted thud, the production at the Pantages is less a transformative experience and more a splitting headache. Read more…

Through October 2

LAVENDER MEN at Skylight Theatre

Pete Ploszek, Alex Esola, and Roger Q. Mason, Photo by Jenny Graham

Pete Ploszek, Alex Esola, and Roger Q. Mason, Photo by Jenny Graham

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Roger Q. Mason burns the history books with Lavender Men, a world premiere fantasia that re-envisions the passions of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The play, produced by Playwrights’ Arena & Skylight Theatre Company at the Skylight, is a revolutionary response to a country focused on keeping its constituents disenfranchised and invisible. As actor and writer, Mason is a force of nature, ready to bring all pillars of repressive society crashing down. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

After years of development at SKYLAB*, readings in Los Angeles and at New York’s Circle in the Square, and a two-year setback by the coronavirus, LAVENDER MEN written by Roger Q. Mason (they/them), directed by Lovell Holder, has finally made its world premiere. As a high bar for gender non-conforming people, it is a shining star of storytelling. As a commentary on the life of an American icon, it is slightly hyperbolic although not entirely unsubstantiated according to whichever modern essays you might be reading about the subject matter. The term “lavender men”, in fact, is not an original concept. Read more...

Now through September 4

MIKE BIRBIGLIA: THE OLD MAN AND THE POOL at The Taper

© 2022 Craig Schwartz Photography

Mike Birbiglia. © 2022 Craig Schwartz Photography

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Mike Birbiglia makes a triumphant return to the stage at the Mark Taper Forum with another intimate discussion in his disarming, everyman fashion. Riffing on family, health, exercise, and grammar, Center Theatre Group’s production of Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool has the audience in stitches, laughing hysterically at the frailty of humanity. Read more…

Peter Debruge

If you’ve ever seen Mike Birbiglia before, whether on stage or screen (or a couple months back, filling in for Jimmy Kimmel), then “The Old Man and the Pool” feels like catching up with an old friend — albeit one with a lot more health problems than you. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Mike Birbiglia is not dead. But you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise while watching his show that’s currently playing at the Taper. Yes, he’s standing in front of you, performing a comedy set, but the way he talks about his health, you might be tempted to think this is a posthumous monologue. Thankfully, though, Mike Birbiglia is alive and well, and here to perform his latest comedy set. Read more…

Now through August 28

KINKY BOOTS at the Hollywood Bowl

Wayne Brady and ensemble. Photo by Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Wayne Brady and ensemble. Photo by Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Last weekend, Wayne Brady sashayed onto the runway at the Hollywood Bowl as the iconic drag queen Lola in the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots. His vibrant performance prevented a miscast Jake Shears from dragging the evening down.

With a score by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the 2013 musical focuses on Charlie (Shears), an English lad wanting to leave his small town and the family business of shoe manufacturing behind. His father’s death and the financial woes of the business, though, force him to return and bail out a company he never cared about — and only because it would devastate the lives of his employees. A chance encounter with a towering drag queen, Lola (Brady), plants an idea that just might save the company: ladies boots made for men who like to dress like women. The closed-minded employees balk at the “humiliating” new product, but Lola’s spirit and integrity affect everyone for the better. Read more…

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HADESTOWN at the Ahmanson Theatre

Photo by T Charles Erickson

Photo by T Charles Erickson

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

There’s a gargantuan myth surrounding the opening of Hadestown at the Ahmanson Theatre. Not the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, which this musical does borrow, but the legend of the juggernaut Broadway production that opened in April 2019. Arriving with 14 Tony nominations and eight awards in tow, the production almost dares the audience to not be absorbed by the fandom and hype. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Even though Hadestown is mostly set in hell, it’s a lively and jazzy version of the fearsome place. Anais Mitchell has created an amazing piece of theatre with her book, music and lyrics and director Rachel Chavkin has put a special spin on the characters and action. It’s like two classic Greek love stories rolled into the biggest, rowdiest New Orleans Mardi Gras party ever. If hell is like this, I want to book my ticket now! The National Tour played the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles recently and will play the Orange County Performing Arts Center soon. Read more…

Now running through May 29

DANCIN’ at the Old Globe in San Diego

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

In 1978, Bob Fosse created an evening spotlighting the artistry of dance called Dancin‘, utilizing songs from the ’70s, previous decades, and classical music. Currently at the Old Globe in San Diego, the revival of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ is having its pre-Broadway run, under the direction of Wayne Cilento, one of the original cast members. Though many Fosse routines have been re-created for this production, the flavor and the meticulousness of his genius is missing. Read more…

Now running through May 29

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF at Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan  -  Artsbeat LA

Bitchiness, thy name is Albee. Has there ever been a play that reveled in so much in mean-spirited badinage as Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Sour wit courses through the blackened veins of this show like acidic blood, or more specifically like the booze the characters actively embalm themselves with.  Read more…

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Edward Albee’s classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? exposes the crud hidden behind the closed doors of American households between Eisenhower’s cheery post-war tranquility and John F. Kennedy’s focus-on-the-future optimism. No couple performs an S&M act, even without whips and chains, as depraved as George and Martha. Reveling in the play’s bitterness and booze, Zachary Quinto and Calista Flockhart make a cruel twosome in this harrowing and darkly hilarious production at the Geffen Playhouse. Read more…

Peter Debruge – Variety

The trick of stage acting comes in playing the same thing every night as if it were happening for the first time, right there in front of the audience’s eyes. But once-controversial American classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” calls for something different. Edward Albee wrote a play in which we get to observe the latest round in a cruel and competitive game of escalating insults between career-stalled history professor George and Martha, the wife who makes vicious sport of her disappointment. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Edward Albee’s Tony Award-winning play about discontent and despair in 1960s academia is brought to blazing, blistering life by director Gordon Greenberg at The Geffen Playhouse, its themes and anxieties as relevant as ever on its 60th anniversary. Read more…

Now running through May 29

TRAYF at Geffen Playhouse

34_ben_hirschhorn-_ilan_eskenazi-_photo_by_jeff_lorch

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Lindsay Joelle’s dramedy Trayf transports audiences to the structured world of the Hasidim, whose strict laws and customs may be outside the understanding of even some Jewish audience members. Director Maggie Burrows, with deft stage direction and sets, visually conveys the danger, heartbreak, and wonderment found in exploring the secular world outside. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

The grass is always greener, they say.

In Trayf, Lindsay Joelle’s tender winning play about friendship, an 18-year-old Hasidic Jew longs to experience something of the outside world, while a non-Jewish acquaintance who works in a mid-Manhattan record store is drawn to a more rigid and circumscribed way of life. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

The Oxford Dictionary defines trayf as “food not satisfying the requirements of Jewish law”. Lindsay Joelle’s play Trayf, currently receiving its West Coast Premiere at The Geffen Playhouse, deals with a lot more than food, but provides plenty of food for thought. Read more…

Now running through April 10

ASSASSINS at East West Players

Photo by Steven Lam

Photo by Steven Lam

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

The East West Players production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s brilliant, jagged pill of a musical Assassins is thought-provoking and harrowing. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

The Stephen Sondheim one-act musical Assassins has gotten mixed reviews and heated pro and con reactions since it debuted in 1990. What else would you expect for a musical about a group of misfits who took their political gripes and desire for attention to the pinnacle of anarchy by choosing to assassinate (or at least attempt to) a president of the United States. Read more…

Now running through March 20

 

POWER OF SAIL at Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan  -  Artsbeat LA

One of the core American principles is the right to free speech. However, this glorious principle runs into trouble when truly evil groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or Nazis wish to spread their poisonous propaganda. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

In a society that celebrates diversity and free speech, how tolerant should open-minded people be when the voice being given a platform is one of hate? Playwright Paul Grellong lays out the arguments on both sides in this somewhat wordy but ultimately trenchant drama featuring Bryan Cranston in a superbly crafted pivotal performance. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – TheaterMania

A timely tragedy plays out in Paul Grellong’s Power of Sail, indicting educators for placing discussion of hate — and the First Amendment — above safety and decency. Though the script loses focus, the cast assembled at the Geffen Playhouse by director Weyni Mengesha, led by Emmy- and- Tony-winner Bryan Cranston, invests in their characters to make a stirring, if chaotic, theatrical experience. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

In Power of Sail, his play currently receiving a stellar production in its West Coast Premiere at the Geffen Theatre in Westwood, playwright Paul Grellong examines the constitutional right to free speech in America, the growing threat of White Supremacy and the masks people wear to cover their true feelings and actions even in the hallowed halls of Academia. Read more…

Now running through March 20

 

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE at the Ahmanson Theatre

 

Photo by Johan Persson

Photo by Johan Persson

Tracey Paleo – Broadway World

It was just what we needed!”

The audience response was joyous. Indeed, that was the very vocal sentiment of so many in the crowd after a triumphant opening night at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown Los Angeles….
Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Of course, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, since its star, Layton Williams, is an unbridled force of nature. Read more…

Now running through February 2o

A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Ahmanson Theatre

Photo by Joan Marcus

Photo by Joan Marcus

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

The holiday season has come to the Ahmanson Theatre, where London’s Old Vic Theatre has installed its annual A Christmas Carol, with Bradley Whitford playing Scrooge.
Read more…

Now running through January 1, 2022