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Archive for Variety

EMPIRE THE MUSICAL at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

 

empire-musical (2)

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini  -   Variety

The stunningly appointed “Empire The Musical,” world premiering at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (and no relation to the hit Fox series), gains strength from the entire company’s shared desire to erect the unprecedentedly tall Empire State Building, in stubborn defiance of the Great Depression. Alas, authors Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull willfully betray their storytelling judgment and taste…

Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

New evidence suggests it’s easier to build the world’s tallest skyscraper than to create an original American musical. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

The new musical Empire pays homage to the musicals of the ’20s and ’30s. The original score by Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull contains snappy songs and captures the bubbly effervescence of the classic age. Read more…

Melinda Schupmann – Arts In LA

On May 1, 1931, the Empire State Building was completed as the world’s tallest skyscraper, at 102 stories. That it was successfully done during the difficult days of the Depression was a testament to the vision of its creators and, more important, the hardworking builders who erected it. Read more…

 

Now running through February 14

THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the Ahmanson Theatre

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

First of all, this is indeed your father’s The Sound of Music, in its national tour now launching here. The stage version birthed the film, which retained much of the theatrical book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.  Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

It’s a romantic story: A young woman, plucked from her arcane studies, reinvigorates a stagnant community with the power of her song.

I’m referring, of course, to 20-year-old Kerstin Anderson, who plays Maria von Trapp in the revival of “The Sound of Music” beginning a national tour at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – ArtsBeatLA

Heavenly harmonies, a singing nun and a passel of adorable children — family entertainment doesn’t get more wholesome than The Sound of Music, which opened this week at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in Downtown LA. Read more…

Bob Verini  -   Variety

Too bad Pope Francis couldn’t have capped his U.S. visit with the revival of “The Sound of Music” at the Ahmanson Theater. The Holy Father would surely have been impressed…….Read more…

Now running through October 31.

 

BASKERVILLE at the Old Globe, San Diego

Photo by Jim Cox

Photo by Jim Cox

Bob Verini  -   Variety

Playwright Ken Ludwig’s work thrives at regional theaters coast to coast, despite only intermittent New York appearances since 1989’s “Lend Me a Tenor” and his 1992 book for “Crazy For You.” His latest entertaining outing get its West Coast premiere at the Old Globe with a title announced in the program as “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery By Ken Ludwig” — awkward billing that at least leaves no doubt as to who the marquee names are. Read more…

Now running through Sept. 6.

COME FROM AWAY at the La Jolla Playhouse

Photo by Kevin Berne

Photo by Kevin Berne

Bob Verini  -   Variety

Any qualms about the propriety or taste of a “9/11 musical” prove unfounded in the case of “Come From Away,” the superb new show premiering at La Jolla Playhouse. Out of the true story of a small Newfoundland community playing host to 38 commercial aircraft after the World Trade Center attacks, Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein have forged a moving, thoroughly entertaining tribute to international amity and the indomitable human spirit. Read more…

Now running through July 12.

WATERFALL at the Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jim Cox

Photo by Jim Cox

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

Waterfall,” the new cross-cultural, lushly romantic tuner at the Pasadena Playhouse, has admirable ambition, visual splendor and patchy dramaturgy. Working from a Thai source novel, stage veterans Richard Maltby Jr. (words) and David Shire (music) seek to explore cultural identity in personal and political contexts, set against a complex historical backdrop. Read more…

Melinda Schupmann – Arts In LA

It is pre–World War II Siam, and young student Noppon (Bie Sukrit) is fascinated with America and its culture. With the enthusiasm of youth at 22, he extolls its virtues to his friends, who are a bit more skeptical. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

The Broadway-bound musical Waterfall could be the first collaboration on the Great White Way from the composing team of David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr. since Big in 1996. Collaborating with Thai director Tak Viravan and Tony-nominated choreographer and director Dan Knechtges, Maltby and Shire have written a score combining Thai influences and 1930s American jazz. Read more…

Now running through June 28.

 

SWITZERLAND at the Geffen Playhouse

switzerland-laura-linney

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini – Variety

Writers of crime fiction are rarely as brutal or twisted as the characters they create. But meet Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995), by general agreement a foul-mouthed misanthrope who spent decades detailing the psychotic narcissism lurking in humanity’s dark heart. Read more…

Hoyt Hilsman  -  Huffington Post

Crime novelist Patricia Highsmith was renowned for her intense psychological thrillers, particularly her series featuring the murderer Tom Ripley, but she was also known for her reclusive, abrasive and even hateful personality. Read more…

Myron Meisel – Stage Raw

If the unexamined life is not worth living, then for novelist Patricia Highsmith (Laura Linney, making her Los Angeles stage debut), detached dissector of amoral murder, the unimagined death may not be worth dying. This is suggested by Australian Joanna Murray-Smith’s new play Switzerland, an original commission by The Geffen Playhouse presented as a co-premiere with The Sydney Theatre Company. Read more…

Sharon Perlmutter  -  Talkin’ Broadway

There are some plays, like Small Engine Repair, in which the entertainment comes from truly not knowing what’s going to happen. If the plot is spoiled, the journey is much less fun. This causes something of a problem in telling you enough about the play for you to make an informed decision on whether you’ll enjoy it, while not telling you too much. Read more…

Now running through April 19.

LADCC Annual Awards – Monday March 18th – Host and Presenters announced

French Stewart, TV star (“3rd Rock From the Sun”) and local theatre mainstay (“Stoneface”: “Voice Lessons”) will host the 44th Annual Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Awards on Monday, March 18, 2013 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St. Downtown. Tickets for the show and opening reception, which will start at 6:30 pm, can be reserved by e-mailing crixawards2013@gmail.com. All seats are $30.00

Stewart will preside over this year’s theme “Theatre Everywhere,” focusing on the wide geographical range within which LADCC members travel in the course of a year to see and celebrate the best of live performance. Top representatives of local institutions – including Michael Ritchie of CTG; Sheldon Epps of The Pasadena Playhouse; Barbara Beckley of The Colony Theatre; and Zombie Joe of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre – will assist Circle members in presenting awards in 17 competitive categories as well as a host of special award plaques.

Entertainment, too, will come from all over the region. Almost two dozen performers from Orange County will reunite to perform “The Rumble” from the Chance Theatre’s acclaimed and nominated revival of “West Side Story.” The cast of “Justin Love,” the smash musical that originated at Celebration Theatre – winner of this year’s Margaret Harford Award for distinguished achievement – will appear, alongside performers from “The Color Purple” (Cesili Williams); “The New Electric Ballroom” (Tim Cummings); and “Bad Apples” (Kate Morgan Chadwick, accompanied by the show’s composer/lyricists Beth Thornley and Rob Cairns.)

Ryan Johnson, nominated for his score for “Stoneface” which starred Stewart as the legendary Buster Keaton, serves as musical director for the evening, which will be produced by Daily Variety and ArtsinLA.com critic Bob Verini. Production stage manager is Heatherlynn Gonzalez. Award-winning sound designer Cricket S. Myers lends her skills to the event, whose associate producer is Peter Finlayson of Footlights Publishing.

A cash bar with great food and a silent auction (cash and checks only, please) will occupy the 6:30-7:30 hour, until doors open and the annual celebration of great L.A. area theatre begins.

ALL INFORMATION:

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) has announced its nominations and special awards for excellence in Los Angeles and Orange County theatre in 2012.

All tickets have been reduced to $30.00. Tickets can be arranged through crixawards2013@gmail.com, and PayPal will be accepted prior to March 18. Credit cards will be accepted at the door.

Nominees are entitled to a single complimentary ticket. Nominees please click here for important information regarding ticketing etc.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. on March 18 for drinks, music, hors d’oeuvres (no full dinner) and conversation, while at a Silent Auction attendees can bid on theater and film-related items. Only cash or checks will be accepted at the auction, please. The show will commence at 7:30 p.m.

Scheduled host French Stewart is a 25-year mainstay of the Los Angeles theatre scene and a notable star of TV and film. Best known for his six seasons co-starring on NBC’s 3rd Rock From the Sun, he is a member of Sacred Fools and played the title role in that company’s 2012 production of Stoneface, The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton, which has received two LADCC nominations.

In recognition of this year’s theme, “Theatre Everywhere,” representatives of theatre companies based within the geographic beat covered by members of the Circle will join Stewart and Circle members to present awards in 17 competitive categories.

# # # # #

NOMINEES:

The 2012 nominees are…

SPECIAL AWARDS:

Six special awards will be presented under the sponsorship of organizations and individuals to whom the LADCC is most grateful. Honors have been announced for local institutions Celebration Theatre (for sustained excellence); and The Fountain Theatre and Center Theatre Group (for their excellent seasons). The Circle also recognizes prominent individuals: David O; Elina de Santos; Stephen Gifford; as well as Evelina Fernandez for her A Mexican Trilogy, an outstanding L.A. world premiere play.

The 2012 special awards winners are…

ALREADY-VOTED AWARDS:

Three already-voted awards will be presented on awards night.

Plaques will be presented on March 18 to the following recipients:

Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones for Handspring Puppet Theatre, in recognition of the design, fabrication, and direction of the puppets of War Horse at the Ahmanson Theatre

David McCormick and Kelly Todd for their fight direction of West Side Story at the Chance Theatre in Anaheim.

In addition, a special plaque will be awarded to Center Theatre Group for an excellent season.

# # # # #

MEMBERSHIP:

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 2012 membership consisted of:

Pauline Adamek, LA Weekly; ArtsBeatLA.com

F. Kathleen Foley, Los Angeles Times

Shirle Gottlieb, Gazette Newspapers; stagehappenings.com

Hoyt Hilsman, Back Stage, The Huffington Post

Mayank Keshaviah, LA Weekly

Amy Lyons, Back Stage, LA Weekly

Dany Margolies, ArtsinLA.com

Terry Morgan, LAist.com; Daily Variety

Steven Leigh Morris. LA Weekly

David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times, Back Stage

Sharon Perlmutter, TalkinBroadway.com

Melinda Schupmann, Back Stage; ShowMag.com; ArtsinLA.com

Madeleine Shaner, Park La Brea News/Beverly Press; Back Stage

Les Spindle, Frontiers; Theatremania; EDGE LA

Bob Verini, Daily Variety; ArtsinLA.com

Neal Weaver, LA Weekly; Back Stage

 

The LADCC is pleased to welcome FootLights Publishing, Inc. as consultants on this year’s awards events. The mission of FootLights is to illuminate the theatre community, providing greater access to a more diverse public while at the same time offering insight into the production and process of theatre.

The LADCC expresses its gratitude to Los Angeles Theatre Center and Latino Theatre Company for their warm welcome and many courtesies.

 

 

Fraternity, Ebony Repertory Theatre

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

 

Fraternity by Jeff Stetson.

 

Pauline Adamek – LA Weekly

Jeff Stetson’s all-male political drama Fraternity, written 25 years ago, has a prescient power to it. Set in Birmingham, Ala., the storyline presents a prosperous group of black men, members of a private gentleman’s club, and the tragic history that shaped each of their lives. A shocking bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in their hometown resulted in the death of four little black girls, accelerating the civil rights movement. Read more…

 

 

Bob Verini – Variety

The title of Ebony Repertory’s latest offering, Fraternity, doesn’t just refer to the exclusive men’s club at which Birmingham’s fat cats of color wheel and deal while the Reagan boom years wind down. It also conjures up the brotherhood ideal to which those same men once swore allegiance, back when they were desegregating lunch counters and battling for the common good. Jeff Stetson’s sprawling, sometimes awkward, always provocative work tackles the great subject of generational neglect.  Read more…

 

Melinda Schupmann – ArtsInLA.com

Real-life events often beget theatrical productions that bring to light the larger picture surrounding those happenings. In playwright Jeff Stetson’s script, the terrorist bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., Baptist church in which four young girls died figures in a complex story about politics and race.   Read more…

 

 

Krapp’s Last Tape, CTG at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

 

Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett.

 

Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

Samuel Beckett’s melancholy one man, one act play is being performed superbly by John Hurt in his first appearance on a Los Angeles stage, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, in a production imported from the Gate Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. Much like Clint Eastwood waited until he was sufficiently old and grizzled enough to play the aging gunslinger in Unforgiven, Hurt seems to have arrived at the perfect point in his illustrious career to portray the decrepit Krapp. At 72, the Oscar-nominated British actor is actually a fraction older than the character (69). Hurt’s hair is short, spiky and powdered grey, his teeth appear rotten with a front one missing, his face is sagging and lined with the deep creases of a long life and Hurt even limps and leans on a walking stick throughout, at times grunting with the effort; the cane was still in use during opening night’s enthusiastic curtain call.   Read more…

 

 

Bob Verini – Variety

If there’s a bleak truth to be unearthed about the human condition, you can be sure Samuel Beckett peerlessly expressed it. His 1958 tiny masterpiece Krapp’s Last Tape is about the impermanence of memory — about how our recollections desert us just when they’re most needed to soften the blow of reviewing life’s disappointments. The emphasis on humor in Michael Colgan’s visiting Gate Theater Dublin production, executed by the brilliantly talented John Hurt, makes it easier to swallow Beckett’s bitter pill. Read more…

 

November, Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

 

November by David Mamet.

 

Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

David Mamet’s grubby and farcical political play November, now playing at the Mark Taper Forum Downtown, is a riot of foul language and racial epithets, all tumbling from the mouth of the President of the United States, as daffily portrayed by Ed Begley Jr.  Read more…

 

David C. Nichols – Backstage

It’s a week before Election Day, and U.S. President Charles Smith is going down the toilet. The polls have the incumbent dead in the water. The national head of Smith’s own party can’t come up with more than $4,000 for last-minute ad wars. A prominent Native American chief is calling in his tribe’s government-ordained claim on Nantucket. The representative from the National Association of Turkey and Turkey By-Products Manufacturers wants to get a jump on the annual Thanksgiving pardon. Even the constantly telephoning first lady knows they’re bidding the White House adieu. She wants to take their couch, but it was re-upholstered on the taxpayer’s dime, as trusted dog wagger Archer Brown informs his beleaguered boss. Read more…

 

Dany Margolies – ArtsInLA.com

Many of the modern-day U.S. presidents have been great public speakers, most have had their moments of dignity, a few have done great acts to better the nation. But, in every case, haven’t you wondered what each is like in the privacy of the Oval Office? Read more…

 

Bob Verini – Variety

David Mamet’s fleet, foulmouthed November peels back the Oval Office wallpaper to reveal a shlubby, nonentity president (Ed Begley Jr.) who, facing disaster in next week’s reelection bid, will say or do anything for a chance to hang on. At the Mark Taper Forum, helmer Scott Zigler has found the properly cool, uninflected tone for making jokes land. Better still, for all Mamet’s exaggerations, we readily believe — hell, since the Nixon tapes, we actually know — our leaders really do talk and think this way about us. This is satire with a scorpion’s sting. Read more…

 

Hoyt Hilsman – Huffington Post

David Mamet’s political farce November, which ran for six months on Broadway in 2008, gets a crackling revival at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Of course, this is lightweight Mamet, stuffed with one-line throwaways and f-bombs. But, in this election season, with the presidential campaigns spending billions and the attack ads flooding the airwaves, even the most farfetched farce has a remarkable resonance. Read more…

 

 

The Elephant Room, Center Theatre Group

Photo by Scott Suchman / Arena Stage

 

The Elephant Room created by Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle and Steve Cuiffo.

 

Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

A creepy trio of lounge lizard magicians, sporting pedophile moustaches, cheesy outfits, hideous wigs and (in one case) false buck teeth, are the “protagonists” of a spoofy “play” called The Elephant Room, now playing at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. But it’s not really a play at all. Instead it’s an ill-focused, poorly developed and chaotic assemblage of mildly amusing nonsense featuring a handful of extraordinary magic tricks outweighed by far too many gags, pratfalls and lame conjuring stunts that fail to impress. Think Spinal Tap for magicians… Yes, it’s clearly a send-up of the more tacky elements of the world of magic, but when you can actually SEE one of the magicians (Louie Magic) diving in and out of the voluminous pockets and secret compartments of his coat, that is what is known as prestidigitation FAIL.   Read more…

 

Bob Verini - Variety

What hath “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” wrought? The creators of “Elephant Room” may not have been directly inspired by Paul Reubens’ campy childhood takeoff, but the magic show now at the Kirk Douglas is cut from the same lightly smarmy, semi-surrealist, so-clunky-we’re-cool cloth. What Pee-wee pulls off, the Elephants muff: The framework of “Room” is incoherent and distasteful (beneath a wholesome veneer), and the performers spectacularly overestimate their personal appeal.  Read more…

 

 

The Blue Iris, Fountain Theatre

Photo by Ed Krieger.

 

The Blue Iris by Athol Fugard.

 

David C. Nichols - Backstage

In The Blue Iris, prolific South African playwright Athol Fugard treads delicately yet resolutely through the landscape of the heart. In doing so, the venerable 80-year-old dramatist cannot help clutching at ours, as this riveting U.S. premiere demonstrates.  Read more…

 

Sharon Perlmutter - TalkinBroadway.com

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of The Blue Iris, Athol Fugard’s latest play to have its U.S. premiere at the Fountain. It’s a small, intimate piece—much more about people than South Africa. To be sure, the play’s setting, the semi-desert of the Karoo, is the play’s catalyst, if not its actual antagonist. But the play features only South Africa as an inhospitable climate, not South Africa as a sociopolitical entity. It is a household who lives here—or, more accurately, lived here—that is the focus of The Blue Iris.   Read more…

 

Bob Verini - Variety

Athol Fugard’s “The Blue Iris” is deceptively simple: A desert farmhouse, just destroyed by lightning, is picked over for its treasures and memories. But secrets lurk in the ashes, too, and in just over an hour the South African master takes us on a journey of loss with the potential to move anyone who’s ever sifted through his or her life and feared what would be dug up. This little gem gets an exemplary American premiere mounting from helmer Stephen Sachs at Fugard’s self-described artistic home out west, Hollywood’s Fountain.  Read more…

 

Terry Morgan - LAist.com

One mixed blessing about being successful is that people can no longer tell you what to do, and if they try, it’s easy to ignore them. On the one hand, pure artistic freedom is a wonderful thing, but on the other hand, sometimes people need editors and sometimes plays need rewrites. I have no way of knowing what Athol Fugard’s artistic process is these days, but his latest work, The Blue Iris, (currently in its U.S. premiere in a solid production at the Fountain Theatre) is intermittently compelling but ultimately seems undercooked.   Read more…