Sunday, January 17, 2010

Golden Gays Return

(left to right clockwise: David Romano as Sophia, John Downey III as Blanche, Robert Glenn Decker as Rose, seated: writer John Patrick Trapper and John W. McClaughlin as Dorothy)
Revamped acclaimed show plays this time @ the META Theatre on Melrose January 22 - 31 only and tickets are selling like hotcakes. Golden Gays then tours to Palm Springs and on to Florida in February. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

January 3, 2010-WINNER of LA's Next Great Stage Star!!!!

Janet Krupin is LA's Next Great Stage Star 2010. The top five finalists include (left to right): Raquel Sandler (4th place), Taylor Tracey (3rd place), winner Janet Krupin, Derek Klena (tied for 4th place) and Domonique Paton (2nd place).
It was a very exciting Finale for LA's Next Great Stage Star 2010 competition on Sunday, January 3 at Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's.

18 participants, competing 6 weeks since November 22, performed round one for the 10 judges present. Highlights included: Derek Klena, "Movin' Too Fast", Elizabeth O'Malley, "I'm Not Afraid of Anything", Nicole Ligerman with an off-the-wall "Screw Loose" from Cry Baby, Matthew Claiborne with a lovely "Music of the Night" from Phantom, Janet Krupin, with a soaring "Out of the Blue" from Lippa's The Wild Party, Aletta Mannix, "Maybe I Like It This Way", Raquel Sandler repeting her outstanding interpretation of "I Won't Mind" from The Other Franklin, Domonique Paton, with a heartfelt "Home" from The Wiz, Taylor Tracey, with another heart-tugging number "It Hurts To be Strong" from the Broadway musical Carrie, Luke Yellin "Epiphany" from Altar Boyz, Bobby Bennett rendering a vocally strong "Being Alive" from Company and Kristen Heitman with a great "Alto's Lament".

Some tough decision making! The audience voted and 13 participants were eliminated. The top five finalists announced were: Derek Klena, Taylor Tracey, Raquel Sandler, Domonique Paton, and Janet Krupin. After a brief interlude, the five finalists performed a second round. The five performances were all astounding! Klena with "Farewell to the Hills of Home" from Parade, Paton with her wonderful "Disneyland" from Smile, Tracey "I'm Not Alone" also from Carrie, Sandler, succeeding big time 360 degrees away from the serious "I Won't Mind" with the perky, sexy, funny "Taylor the Latte Boy" and Janet Krupin, a tour-de-force with "How Lucky Can You Get" from Funny Lady.

Another interlude with audience voting... and... Janet Krupin was named winner of LA's Next Great Stage Star 2010, with Klena and Sandler sharing fourth place, Tracey in third and Paton in second. You had to be there, but Krupin's reaction was priceless. She uttered onstage "I have to call my mom!" Pulling out her cell phone, she called her mom in Oregon and when she told her "Mom, I won!", the response came back "Oh my God... I'll call you back!" Funny, funny... what priority hold fame and glory in our ultra-fast technological world! As I said before, you had to be there to hear it firsthand.

Intermission entertainment during the two voting sessions was incredible. Musical director James Lent, virtuoso pianist, saluted guest celebrity judge Bill Hutton with an instrumental medley from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Hutton originated the title role on Broadway and was Tony nominated for it) and to honor second guest celebrity judge Alexis Gershwin, Lent played a wonderful "Rhapsody in Blue" (Gershwin, being the niece of the composers George and Ira Gershwin). Janene Lovullo, making a stunning return to the musical stage with this performance after a self-imposed 10 year absence to bring up her children, essayed a beautiful "Golden Rainbow" and next a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley culminating with "I Have Dreamed", accompanied on the piano by its arranger Christopher Marlowe. Also, Paul Stroili performed an hysterical 10-minute standup in which he roasted Michael Sterling, as "he with the cashmere vocal chords", calling him the "white... no, olive-skinned James Earl Jones". Funny stuff!

This was a long but exhilarating and very entertaining afternoon. We can look forward to all five finalists when they each headline Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's sometime between now and late May. All five also get top auditions with local casting directors and musical theaters such as Cabrillo Music Theatre and Musical Theatre West. Krupin, as the winner, gets all of the above and $1000 cash.

I eagerly await La's Next Great Stage Star 2011!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 book review - Stephanie Hutchinson

Brentwood award-winning playwright/music composer/lyricist Stephanie Hutchinson has two of her short plays More Precious than Diamonds and Super 8 versus Bacara Resort and Spa published in a new anthology entitled The Best 10-Minute Plays for 2 or More Actors (2009) edited by Lawrence Harbison and with publishers SK, A Smith and Kraus Book. Hutchinson has a very keen eye for diverse characterizations and with it an infectious sense of humor. Julie in Diamonds and Lulabelle in Super 8 are as different as day and night, but they both want love and know how to get what they want. The comedy is real, down-to-earth humor, emanating from the people themselves - totally believable, not superficial. They are both a fun read.
When I was first introduced to Miss Hutchinson, she had turned her More Precious than Diamonds into a musical, composing her own music and lyrics. It was performed in a festival of mini-musicals last June, 2009 at the Secret Rose Theatre in NoHo. The following is my review of the play, first printed here in June, 2009:
Winner of the annual Mini Musical Fest @ The Secret Rose Theatre in my book is More Precious Than Diamonds by Stephanie Hutchinson. The play revolves around Julie (Fay Gauthier) and friend Michelle (Deborah Png) , window shopping a diamond ring in a Tiffany's store. Julie has always wanted a ring and is fed up with waiting for the right man to come along & buy one for her. Stewart, the salesman (Marco Antonio Aguilar), who assists Julie, not only shows her an $84, 900 ring, but ends up giving her much, much more. The mini play, with book, music and lyrics by Stephanie Hutchinson, is a sweet, fresh take on love at first sight. Jonathan Levit ably directs the mini play with Steve Walby also in the ensemble as a tough store security guard. The plot is simple and clear, the songs fresh and pretty, and the actors do a truly first-rate job in acting and singing their roles.
To purchase the book, autographed by Stephanie Hutchinson, of 10-Minute Plays:
Please send a check for $31.65 (including tax, shipping/handling) to:
Stephanie Hutchinson
P.O. Box 492464
Los Angeles, CA 90049
CDs (plus synopsis) of MORE PRECIOUS THAN DIAMONDS, the Musical are also available for $8.50 (to the same address).

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 CD review - Franny McCartney - As Is

Performing as a Harlette with Bette Midler in Divine Madness (above), Franny McCartney learned a lot about singing in the background, but now it's her turn, as she just released her very own CD As Is (below). (Linda Hart and Paulette McWilliams are the other two Harlettes above from left.)

If you like a smooth singer, one to listen to when you cuddle up with that extra special person by the fireside, then there is no one better than Franny McCartney. Her low-key, velvety tones can be both serious or playful as she runs the gamut of emotions from A-Z in her new jazz/pop/blues CD entitled As Is.

What a variety of songs! There's a sensually passionate "Besame Mucho", a very sultry & evocative "Something Cool", and then lighter, more tongue-in-cheek humor in "White Girls Get the Blues Too" and the toe-tapping, upbeat "Grass Is Always Greener". Accompanying and sometimes singing with McCartney is Howlett "Smitty" Smith, who can bring out the magic in just about any blues song. Also on tap are my personal favorites "Put a Little Love In Your Heart" and the always make me feel good "It's a Good Day". Then, there's plenty of seasonal lunacy with "Strawberry Spring", "Wintertime", "For One Whole Spring" or "Midnight Sun".

This is an album that will brighten any mood, that will definitely raise your spirits...and one that you will want to play over and over again. Whenever you need that lift, McCartney has the gift! As Is keeps giving pleasure.

Goldie Productions

Visit Franny McCartney @

Sunday, December 27, 2009

review - House of Besarab

House of Besarab
conceived and written by Terance Duddy & Theodore Ott
produced and directed by Terance Duddy
The Hollywood American Legion Theater
through January 17, 2010 (possibly beyond) (Since I am reviewing this production late in the run and because of its extension into 2010, it will be in consideration for my year-end list of Bests for 2010.)
Not since the ultra successful Tamara, which played the American Legion for a record 11 years (Duddy was one of its producers), has an environmental play been so well received. Certainly the House of Besarab is an exciting concept: to visit Dracula's castle in Transylvania, to move around from room to room, peeking in on what's going on, whilst the atmosphere of the dark, musty place plays enticingly upon one's senses. In the Great Hall, where much of the exposition takes place, it was so cold the night I was there. "How perfect!" I thought. Would I expect to be warm in the home of the undead? Every creak, every rustling of fire or paper affected my eyes and ears, as I attempted to listen to the characters and get caught up in the satanic plot.
The ensemble, headed by Michael Hegedus as Dracula, is superb. Hegedus is attractive, suave, charming and seductive all in one breath. Chase McKenna as Mina is simply divine. Under the spell of Count Dracula, her Mina is the ultimate victim, thoroughly intense in her trance-like state, emotionally evocative and lovely to behold. Dane Bowman makes a dutiful Jonathan Harker and is especially effective in his fight scene with Slava, a newly trained servant of Dracula. Travis Michael Holder uses chilling restraint in his portrayal of Dr. Van Helsing. It is easy to go over the top with this role, as Van Helsing is Dracula's foremost enemy, but Holder maintains a perfect balance of strength and fright. Equally convincing is Terra Shelman as Dr. Seward, who has more reaction than dialogue, and as a focused reactor, she is right on target. Sara Spink and Megan Harwick are the vixens of the castle - Dracula's human mistresses - Riva and Cruza respectively. Playtoys for Dracula, these creatures play quite heavily into the Count's demonic plan for the future. Two understudies performed on the night I attended: Adam T. Rosencrance as Slava (normally played by Jason Parsons) and Terance M. Duddy as Renfield (usually played by David Himes). Because of following certain characters - which is expected of the audience, I missed Slava's first scene, so can only comment on his skill in the duel, but Duddy as Renfield, for me, lacked a certain psychotic craze which I prefer to see in Renfield. Duddy played him more of a scared, impish knave.
As to the overall script, it's engaging, but could use more fleshing out. Rather than be told that I could not follow Renfield, as he only serves the master, I think it might be fun to catch him in his quarters...say, eating insects or in some perplexed state of bewilderment over his misplaced loyalty. As we are restricted to the foyer, the guest bedroom and the Great Hall - all on one floor - it might be more intriguing to move, for example. to the grand entryway as Van Helsing and Seward make their first entrance and then follow them to the bedroom, if we choose. Give the audience more options! As is, the assistant stage manager Austin Grehan was more than accomodating in leading us to and from the different locales. It would take a few more warm bodies to assist in moving audience around to various other places on different levels - and that's quite a lot to expect of an Equity waiver play.
Another constructive criticism I heard from some audience patrons was that it might help to include more exposition in every scene about what happened previously - elsewhere, so the audience does not have to guess about elements of the plot they were not physically privy to. In Act II, I missed Riva's miracle in the foyer, but heard little about it from the characters after they entered the Great Hall for the finale. And, of course, there's always the part about the amusing, campy side of Dracula, which seems to be lacking in this version.
Overall, a wonderfully exciting piece of theatre, beautifully acted and executed. Praise also to David Gibson for his low key music and sound design, to Sara Spink for affecting period costume design and to Miliza Milo who as the Gypsy Woman cautions us to accept rosary beads to save our souls, as we enter the stark and startlingly awesome House of Besarab.
4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

LA's Next Great Stage STAR!

Sterling's Upstairs at Vitello's is presenting its annual LA's Next Great Stage STAR! What a terrific event! Not unlike TV's American Idol, talented artists compete before judges and a live audience. At Sterling's they go head to head for 6 Sundays: the first was November 29 with the finale to take place on January 3, 2010 at 12pm. At that time 13/18 contestants will be eliminated and the 5 remaining contestants will go on to compete once more. From these 5 the winner will be announced. The winner will receive $1000 in cash as well as a paid headlining engagement at Sterling's, and a variety of auditions for local musical theatres such as the outstanding Musical Theatre West and Cabrillo Music Theatre. The 4 runners up will also get headlining engagements at Sterling's and various private auditions as well.
One feature that makes the competitive show pleasurable is producer Michael Sterling himself presenting each of the contestants onstage. He is such a charming gentleman! Four judges (there are 12 in total) voice their comments after each performance, giving the contestants fine constructive criticisms. Judges on Sunday, December 20 were: Rey O'Day, producing artistic director of Performance Riverside, Steven Dry, West Coast Senior Theatre Agent at Schiowitz Connor Ankrum Wolf, Daniel Solis, Disney casting director and Eric Stevens, owner of Rainbow High Entertainment Talent Agency. They were all encouraging, but I particularly liked O'Day, as she critiqued every aspect of appearance including choice of clothes and jewelry, attitude and posture, as well as vocal ability.
Of the 18 contestants who performed, several blew me away with their talent, raw guts and nerve. My favorites were: the so well-acted "I Won't Mind" from Raquel Sandler, the very smooth Barry Manilow-sounding Bobby Bennett singing "Somewhere Down the Road", Janet Krupin with a stunning rendition of "If I Loved You" (photo top left), Matthew Claiborne with a dynamic "This Is the Moment", Luke Yellin utilizing great body language in Jason Robert Brown's "Shiksa Godess", Sam Ayoub opening big with "Giants in the Sky", Domonique Paton pouring every ounce of herself into a splendiferous "Disneyland", Nicole Ligerman with "I Have Everything I Want" and Taylor Tracey with an affecting "Get Out and Stay Out" from 9 to 5: The Musical.
Producers Michael Sterling and Tony Monsour may be exceedingly proud of the event which has been SRO for all 6 weeks. Vitello's serves a delicious luncheon and there is continuous beverage service throughout the 3 hour contest. The winner will be announced January 3, 2010 - I can't wait! - but, win or lose, all of these immensely talented ladies and gentlemen are truly winning performers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jay Johnson The Winner

Grigware Says: BEST SOLO SHOW 2009. See list below!!