Saturday, May 30, 2009

review - The Little Foxes

Julia Duffy (bottom) as Aunt Birdie and Kelly McGillis (top) as Regina Giddens

The Little Foxes
by Lillian Hellman
directed by Damaso Rodriguez
Pasadena Playhouse
through June 28

"The rich do not need to be subtle" claims Ben Hubbard (Steve Vinovich) in Lillian Hellman's magnificently written The Little Foxes now receiving a stunning production on the Pasadena Playhouse mainstage. Handsomely mounted by Damaso Rodriguez and boasting a terribly sturdy ensemble, Hellman's classic play about greed proves timeless and universal.

The Hubbards know how to get and use money to their advantage, and most times quite ruthlessly. "It's every man's duty to think of himself." This is a corporate-minded family long before the word corporate came into fashion. Of course at the core is a strong-willed woman, Regina Hubbard Giddens (Kelly McGillis) , the sister whose loveless marriage to invalid Horace Giddens (Geoff Pierson) would have ended years earlier had it not been for daughter Alexandra (Rachel Sondag) and Horace's additional wealth. Regina, like her brothers Ben and Oscar (Marc Singer, particularly outstanding), always wants more of the pie.

McGillis' take on Regina, however, is uniquely different from past interpretations. She does not, as in the film, pull a star-driven melodramatic turn like Bette Davis, bent on hellfire and destruction, but makes the woman more three-dimensional. When Horace crawls up the stairs to get his pills, McGillis turns face forward almost in tears and holds on to the sofa for support, as if there is a part of Regina that is not quite sure she wants to let Horace die, or just a fragment that is asking God's forgiveness for her bold action. A welcome change in perspective from most Reginas I have seen. Yes, the woman wants to control, but, as in all humans, there exists some vulnerability, and McGillis allows us to witness that side of her. Brava!

Julia Duffy as Aunt Birdie is a marvel. Birdie's complete insecurity and unhappiness are on display as soon as Duffy hits the stage and begins speaking. Her second act drunken speech is heartbreaking, but never overdone. Singer, Vinovich and Pierson are all strong. Shawn Lee as Leo is just right in his nerdiness bordering on stupidity; Sondag is supportive as daughter Xan and stands tall in her final faceoff with Regina. Yvette Cason (Addie) and Cleavant Derricks ( Cal) are both sweet, funny and touching as the devoted servants, and Tom Schmid makes outsider William Marshall a true gentleman.

Gary Wissman's elegant & open scenic design, Dan Jenkin's slightly dreamlike lighting and Mary Vogt's costuming, although period: 1900, all help to give the play its timelessness and universality. No star turns in this production; it is strictly an ensemble effort and a cohesive and valiant one at that, thanks to the actors and Rodriguez' steady focus on Hellman's intent.

5 out of 5 stars

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dishing the upcoming Tonys with Diva D

What! No Hugh Jackman as host!!!! I've seen Neil Patrick Harris host the LA Ovations. He's fine, Hugh Jackman????????
Anyway, dolls, rumor has it that Jane Fonda was splendid in her return to Broadway and that Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations was a spellbinding play. Even though it was originally done at La Jolla sans Fonda, I hope she brings it to LA in the near future. I've always admired her; she's one gutsy actress!!! And what is this I hear about Susan Sarandon letting down in Exit the King!? This lady is so great on film, but many friends say she just didn't cut it opposite Geoffrey Rush and played it all on one note. Susan, for shame, you're old enough and experienced enough to know better! So, folks, in case you're wondering, that undoubtedly explains why she didn't get a Tony nod!
FYI, Yazmina Reza's God of Carnage is predicted to win Best Play. That Marcia Gay Harden's sassy and hard to beat!!!!
I understand West Side Story is the hottest ticket in town! Do you believe Arthur Laurents is still directing in his 90s? He did Gypsy last year with Patti Lupone and now WSS. God bless him! And thank you, Stephen Sondheim, for allowing some of the songs to be sung bilingually in both English and Spanish!!!
Billy Elliott is predicted to win Best Musical and Best Score for Elton John, despite the fact that everyone has been complaining about how unsingable the songs are. Dolly Parton's tunes for 9 to 5 are terrific and the show was great in September at the Ahmanson, but it didn't get nominated Best Musical on Broadway. Pity!! I understand they have made many cuts from the version we saw here. And what about the performances of Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty being ignored by Tony voters? These two ladies have musical numbers in the show that knock your socks off! But Tony voters want more meaty roles, not music - thus, Allison Janney, who in my book was good, but no Lily Tomlin!!! Ah, Broadway! You poopoo LA Theatre! Too bad, because we've produced some masterpieces here and, as the late great Uta Hagen often said, "Great theatre is not necessarily in New York. It is anywhere you find it!" And that gal knew what she was talking about!!!
Stay cool and watch the Tonys on Sunday June 7!
your dauntless diva d
Be sure to read a 2002 interview with this year's recipient of the Tony for Lifetime Achievement - composer extraordinaire Jerry Herman @ Grigware Interviews!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

review - a world premiere musical

l to r (clockwise): Zane Gerson, Jessica Gisin, Michael J. Willett, Stephanie Burkett Gerson.

The Green Room
the world premiere musical

music by Chuck Pelletier; book & lyrics by C. Stephen Foster & Rod Damer
directed by Stephanie A. Coltrin
Hermosa Beach Playhouse
through May 31

a special event of the 2009 Festival of New American Musicals

The Green Room boasts a uniquely appealing musical score by Chuck Pelletier and a fast-paced, optimistic story about collegiate youth. In the worst of times, what could be more inspirational? Young people who want to devote themselves fully to the arts, sticking it out together.

This Green Room cast is just terrific. It's an example of ensemble playing at its best where everyone comes up a star. Zane Gerson (John), Stephanie Burkett Gerson (Anna), Michael J. Willett (Cliff) and Jessica Gisin (Divonne) move, move, move to Stepahine A. Coltrin's consistently upbeat direction. Problems of dating, sex and marriage are explored as well as the urgency of career choices. Do you stick to an unpredictable show business career - what you love the most, or give in to the money and security of an everyday job that is dismal and boring? I am always in favor of the risk takers in life!!

The Act I finale needs a more dramatic finish. Now, there is an abrupt blackout following the music. John's decision to leave is a gigantic one - it would divide the group forever. Maybe just a few lines after the song "In the End" would intensify that moment. "You can't do this to us!" "John, think more about what you're doing!" or the like lends more urgency. Increased drama would also add greater contrast to the finale of Act II with its proper sense of quiet resolution.

Apart from this, there are very few flaws, as the show entertainingly plays out to a happy conclusion. Any teenage angst and insecurity apparent during freshman year of college have changed to a more mature stance by graduation, as the friends calmly and purposefully are "Waiting in the Wings".

"It's All About Me", "Destination Stage Left" "I Wanna Go To Extreme" and "Nothing Can Stop My Boys" are just 4 of the tuneful songs that will stay with you for many years to come. From what other new contemporary musical are you likely to even remember one tune? To some, the unity of the friends may seem unrealistic. But, this is a musical adventure, where we must be allowed to dream. To my mind, it's divonnely refreshing!!

Great stuff!
5 out of 5 stars

to purchase the CD, go to www.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

CABARET review - Theresa Anne Swain

The annual contest LA's Next Great Stage Star winner for 2009 was Theresa Anne Swain, who made her cabaret debut Saturday, May 16 at Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's. Titling her show Confessions of a Stalk -a-holic, Miss Swain portrayed a character named Elizabeth, who set about to deliciously describe her 30-year problem with men. Initial attraction, the relentless pursuit, the thrill of the attainment and then the unrelenting depression that accompanied the disintegration of each and every relationship. Elizabeth is phrenetic, somewhat overbearing and resolute to the max, which provides Swain with some great moments of comedy. We've all had a friend of this sort who overdoes it, but is so sincere that we cannot help but love her. Her guaranteed off-center attitude makes us laugh, so we delight in her zaniness. Swain's Elizabeth allows her to showcase herself as a young character actress, just right for the nosy next-door neighbor in a TV sitcom or the jilted other woman in a musical comedy for the stage such as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.
She utilized her enormous singing talent to great advantage in selecting songs that ideally fit the ups and downs of her story. Beginning with the pursuit of her man was the ever popular "I Will Follow Him". Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" followed, telling of the initial thrill of a new relationship. Jason Robert Brown's wonderfully poignant "Still Hurting" told of the breakup; Zina Goldrich's very humorous "The Last Song" showed her unwillingness to let go, and Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond's hilarious "Oh Henry Bar" depicted depression/the intake of chocolate after the relationship dissolved. Stephen Sondheim's "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" was used succinctly to answer "What does it take to get a man to call back?" There was also a beautiful duet with real-life boyfriend Blake Pullen who portrayed Elizabeth's latest conquest Albert in "You Are My Home" by Frank Wildhorn and Nan Knighton. "Stalker" an original tune by Scott Burkell and Paul Loesel ended the set and brought it full circle as Elizabeth concluded her on-target observations on the unpredictability of love.
It will perhaps take time for Theresa Anne Swain to present herself as is, without hiding behind a character. Yet, something tells me that she and Elizabeth are very much alike. They both have an infectious sense of humor and know how to use it wisely.
Swain is off to Tokyo Disneyland in a few months to star in The Diamond Horseshoe Revue to fulfill a Disney contract that is part of her contest win. In the meantime, the sky's the limit for this gifted actress/comedienne/singer, who is most assuredly on a winning streak!

review - The Columbine Project

Justin Mortelliti (Dylan) and Artie Ahr (Eric), Columbine killers

The Columbine Project
written & directed by Paul Storiale
Avery Schreiber Theatre, NoHo
in extension through May 30

The shock of 1999-senseless murders of students and teachers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado - has been ingeniously recreated for the stage by Paul Storiale. Taking a tour of the school campus and doing several interviews shortly after 1999 and indulging himself in every book written about the incidents, Storiale has managed to create a script that vividly presents events leading up to April 20, 1999 , the day itself ,and its aftermath in the years following until 2002. He makes us feel the reactions of the students involved, the unexplained cruelty of the two student murderers who ruthlessly planned it out for a year, and the sorrow of their parents and those of students killed and injured.
All of this is directed with dynamic skill by Storiale whose enlightening and pulsating play and terrific acting from the entire ensemble put The Columbine Project at the top of your must-see list.
Standouts in the cast are Justin Mortelliti and Artie Ahr as the two killers - spoiled brats bent on hate and fame - Kelli Joan Bennett, superb in 2 roles as Eric's overwrought mother and a terrified teacher, Rya Meyers as the sweet and sincere religious fanatic Rachel Scott, Bradley Michael as gay and unhappy Chris, Bree Pavey as the dedicated Producer, Marguerite Wiseman as Isaiah's sad mother...the list goes on.
Everyone is riveting.
I would have ended the first act sooner (leaving the mother's monologue to open the second act) and, if filmed ( the script lends itself so well to a movie ) I would end the entire piece after the killers' videotaping scene. As is, the finale , with everyone on stage, is a gripping one, eloquently moving and includes a haunting rendition of "Over the Rainbow" sung in the background with guitar accompaniment.
The killers' scenes are graphic and unapologetic. But even for the faint of heart or those opposed to violence, the entire play will grab hold of you and not let go, even after you have left the theatre. This is what good theatre is all about. Its powerful message echoes an awareness that this type of incident could happen anywhere at anytime and to anyone.
5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

review - Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing
conceived & written by Eleanor Bergstein
directed by James Powell
Pantages Theatre
through June 28
"(I've Had) The Time of My Life". Maybe Baby has, but as for me? Please, let's not go that far!
This show, almost an exact replica of the 1987 film of the same name, is very entertaining for two reasons: the incredible set and effects and the performance of Amanda Leigh Cobb as Baby.
Cobb will steal your heart away. She is forthright, steady and makes Baby's maturity, both in dance and girlhood, quite an unforgettable experience. Josef Brown as Johnny Castle has a great body and dances superbly, but needs to work on speaking English without an accent. At times it was difficult for me to understand what he was saying. Kudos as well to Katlyn Carlson as sister Lisa whose Hula audition number is a scene grabber. John Bolger does fine work with Baby's father, and it was great to see Kaitlin Hopkins as the mother, although her talent is wasted here. Gorgeous Britta Lazenga does good honest work with the role of Penny. The entire ensemble does some dynamite footwork, thanks as well to choreographer Kate Champion.
It is Stephen Brimson Lewis' set design that takes center stage - and those glorious special effects that made me almost believe that Johnny and Baby were dancing in the the fields...
This is an audience pleaser from start to finish. Even though the action slows down to a crawl in Act II, and the show seems far too long, fans of Dirty Dancing will revel in it and scream for more!
4 out of 5 stars

Cabaret review - Dean Butler @ Sterling's

Dean Butler is perhaps best known to audiences as Almanzo Wilder, husband of Melissa Gilbert's Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. He also has a legion of fans from his TV days as 'Moondoggie' in The New Gidget. Few may realize that before TV Butler had an extensive musical theatre career playing Tony in West Side Story and Rapunzel's Prince in Sondheim's Into the Woods, among many others. Saturday, May 9 marked his cabaret debut at Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's. It was a wonderfully warm evening of comedy and song.
Butler is as homespun as apple pie and a delightfully genuine storyteller. Titling the show "It's All About Me", he proceeded to talk about where his career started. Doing musicals in high school gives an actor the chance to do roles he would be cast in. This led to his interp of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof , singing "If I Were a Rich Man". If he sounded as good then as he did Saturday, he would have nailed the role; it was that good! Next came some funny audition stories, like when he went up for a Don Bellasario TV show about a helicopter, and said upon entering, "How many shows do you think you can come up with involving a helicopter?"
Bellasario's response: "Many! Thanks for coming in!" Butler's delivery was deliciously amusing and he had the audience in stitches. Other memorable highlights included: Kermut the Frog singing "Rainbow Connection", a very dramatic and sinister "Pretty Women" from Sweeney Todd, a stunning rendition of "The Gambler", which he had performed at the Grand Ole Opry, and a funny impression of William Shatner's attempt at singing "Fly Me to the Moon". A real surprise was the appearance of Caryn Richman, Butler's Gidget, who joined him on stage for a duet of "Summer Nights" from Grease, a show she had toured in for many years. There was also a fine West Side Story medley of Tony's songs and a very sweet rendition of "Have I Told You Lately" sung to his wife, followed by a dance with her in the audience.
Dean Butler is one very humorous man and a terrific singer. His cabaret debut was a joyous night to remember. He is the kind of night club performer I like to see again & again!
PS It was an added treat to meet Katharine "Scottie" MacGregor in the audience who played the very irascible, but funny Mrs. Oleson in Little House! What a grande person!

review - BIG The Musical

Big The Musical
book by John Weidman
music by David Shire; lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.
West Coast Ensemble
@ El Centro Theatre, Hollywood
directed by Richard Israel
through June 28
1988's film Big was a real charmer with miles of heart. The 1996 Broadway musical Big based on the movie has some great tunes but did not really work on a big stage, so was understandably less successful. Now in a more intimate space, at the El Centro to be precise, presented by West Coast Ensemble, Big The Musical has found its niche. It's a real winner.
Skillfully guided by director Richard Israel with snappy choreography from Christine Lakin, Big has a magnetic cast. The kids in particular are immensely talented and work so very well together. LJ Benet as Young Josh Baskin is a real find, a natural. Sterling Beaumon makes Billy Kopecki a sincere pal. Will Collyer as Older Josh has boyish goodlooks and is especially effective in his moments of awkwardness with Susan Lawrence, played divinely by Darrin Revitz. This lady is a wonderfully intelligent and expressive actress. Also terrific are Larry Lederman as 'go with the flow' boss MacMillan, Lisa Picotte as Josh's loving mother and the entire ensemble with extra special standouts, Johanna Kent and John Wesley Stewart.
Flaws in the show? They have little to do with WCE's production values. They're gaps in the book that occur mainly from the initial transitioning of the show from screen to stage. For example, Josh is given little opportunity to express anxiety over adjusting to New York. And the ending of the story is too calculated and abrupt. No mother, no emotional goodbyes to Susan...well a small one, but not as heartwrenching as in the movie. A lot of the film's heart is missing, but then again, certain musical numbers created for the show are unforgettably original, such as the first act dance finale "Crossing the Line", Josh's first experience with sensual love as Young Josh watches/sings from the sidelines "I Want to Know" - precious and charming - and "The Real Thing", a highly stylized 'meet Susan's friends' scenario that is devilishly funny, one of the show's best. Another equally touching scene is the 'bedroom' sleepover with "Stars", a truly engaging and intimate song. So, it's easy to downplay the flaws when the goods presented bring enjoyment.
And this production, unlike many, is entertaining for the entire family. Israel and Lakin are admirable, especially in getting the kids to blend so well, and in making the small space totally believable in its multitude of indoor and outdoor scenarios - big and small.
Big The Musical is one BIG treat!
5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beloved Betty Garrett's 90th Birthday Bash on May 31

Bottom photo: Christopher Kane
Actress/singer/dancer extraordinaire Betty Garrett turns 90 this month and there will be a very special celebration at Music Box @ Fonda on Sunday May 31 to benefit Theatre West, so mark your calendars!
The Music Box @ Fonda is located at 6126 Hollywood Blvd. The gala evening commences at 5pm with a light supper of hors d' oeuvres and a hosted bar, followed by a silent auction and at 6pm Betty Garrett's 90th Birthday Bash Show, directed by David Galligan & featuring the lady herself and performers: Carole Cook, David Engel, Gogi Grant, Katy Melody, Andrew Parks (Miss Garrett's son), Garrett Parks (another son), Madison Claire Parks, Ann Peterson, The Phantom's Leading Ladies and other surprises. A champagne dessert reception follows the show. Tickets are $250.00 per guest to benefit Theatre West.
RSVP by May 18 to:
(fax) 323-851-5286
For more info, call:

review - The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks
book & lyrics by Tom Jones
music by Harvey Schmidt

Reprise Theatre Company
directed by Jason Alexander
through May 17
It's been many years since I first saw The Fantasticks. I have fond memories of Barbra Streisand's 60s' recordings of "Much More" and "I Can See It". This is a love poem to and about life and living, warts and all. When done most simply, allowing characters' images and experiences and the lovely score by Jones & Schmidt to carry it, it will fulfill its mission and thensome. Fortunately, director Jason Alexander has kept the simplicity and cast 6 superb players to tell the story. Reprise's finale for the 2008-2009 season The Fantasticks is a pearl - no, a diamond! The Fantasticks may be classified a musical odyssey, sparking a journey laden with imagination, kind of like in Pippin, but less complex and more universal.

When I was a child I dreamed like Matt and Luisa of a beautiful life full of fantasy and indulgences. I quickly learned, though, via my strict parents and a not always easy Catholic upbringing, that life is NOT a bowl of cherries, as the song claims. You have to set your goals early, charter your course, and hopefully keep on it as steadily as possible. It's no picnic; the obstacles to success are many and difficult to surmount. Alas, what a delight at this stage of my existence to watch The Fantasticks and sum up the true meaning of life. We are forever trying to put up walls and then tear them down, but as El Gallo advises at the end of the play "Leave the wall!" What is remembered about one's life should include the good, the bad and the ugly sides. It's all of living that makes the difference.

Eric McCormack, now middle-aged, is a very good choice for the Narrator and El Gallo. He's charismatic, sturdy, responsible, and intelligent enough with just the right amount of humor, to make this wise gentleman his own. He is also a fine singer. Harry Groener as Luisa's father and Eileen T'Kaye as Matt's mother (originally his father, played by a male actor) look and sound like confused middle-class parents and play off each other superbly, with both dramatic and comedic panache. And talk about comedy, Barry Dennen as the Old Actor and Hap Lawrence as his sidekick make a dandy pair of misfits. Kimberly Mikesell is a very nimble and able Mute. Alison Woods as Luisa and Lucas Grabeel as Matt bring such freshness to their roles that the stage is alive with innocence, verve and a sense of magical adventure from start to finish.

This is a lovely show for all ages. "Try To Remember" another with the same wisdom and vivacious spirit.

5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stan Mazin reports on BROADWAY 2009

New York after Easter... a great season for Broadway...

Being Audrey (book by James Hindman, Music & Lyrics by Ellen Weiss)- I caught the last performance because Brian Sutherland, a friend, was in it. It was interesting and well directed (Jack Cummings III).

Mary Stuart by Peter Oswald (a new version)- a fantastic show starring Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter, fabulous acting, direction, and staging... absolutely one of the best things on Bway.

West Side Story- did not work for me for several reasons... mainly that Arthur Laurents wanted it to be 'realistic'. Consequently, at the end of the show, instead of having Tony carried off, followed b y a couple of Puerto Ricans and Jets (showing that what had happened has effected 'some' of the people, Maria throws herself on Tony's body, and ... curtain... if you want more comments, contact me.)

Next To Normal- who would have thought that a musical about a bi-polar woman could be so good... again, great acting (Alice Ripley), singing, direction, even though the music is not memorable... a great show.

The Marvelous Wonderettes- I missed it here... delightful fun and wonderful staging by my friend Janet Miller.

Exit The King- a typical Ionesco farce, wonderfully acted by a great cast led by Geoffrey Rush, even though some choices by Susan Sarandon may not have been on target... but I am prejudiced in her favor as I am a big fan.

Ruined- a great play albeit a specialized subject (Congo) and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Billy Elliot- how wonderful to have a sensational Broadway musical, that is so well done, that the play is more important than the music (not really memorable tunes) for a change.

33 Variations- Jane Fonda leads a fantastic cast in this multi era-ed play about a terminal woman who goes to Vienna in search of Beethoven's involvement in the creation of these 33 variations of music... by Anton Shindler. One of my favorites this season... which was difficult as almost everything was terrific.

Finally, The Broadway Cares Easter Bonnet Competition- always a fun show, and this year a suprise visit by Liza Minelli... but my favorite piece was the presentation by the cast of 33 Variations (who incidentally won for the best bonnet), in which Jane Fonda was a great sport in poking fun of herself within the sketch.

Broadway thrives, so this is a great time to go and support theatre...
Stan Mazin

2009 Tony Award Nominations

Monday, May 4, 2009

Craig Wright's The Unseen - Press Release

Go to:
Grigware Interviews above right, click, and...voila!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

review - Forbidden Broadway

Photo credit: Alysa Brennan
top to bottom, clockwise: Susanne Blakeslee as Carol Channing, David Engel as Harvey Fierstein,
Larry Raben & Whitney Allen from The Lion King spoof.

Forbidden Broadway
created and writen by Gerard Alessandrini
Musical Theatre West @ Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Long Beach
directed and staged by William Selby
musical director: Michael Paternostro
through May 17
Parody must have bite to grab hold of an audience. Well, Forbidden Broadway has the incisors of a shark and the claws of a lion, and theatre folk just clammer to have their gods and divas dished and even devoured. The musical scenes are irreverently funny with a comic disclaimer at the beginning, but, hell, if the celebs can't take it, they don't belong in SHOW BIZ! Let's credit Gerard Alessandrini whose genius in writing scathing new lyrics to already well-known Broadway tunes has become legendary. And...Musical Theatre West's current production - the first volume, for them - is devilish, scrumptious and a helluva good show.
David Engel, Larry Raben, Susanne Blakeslee and Whitney Allen essay about 50 different characters in the 90 minute performance, changing wigs and costumes in a flash...flawlessly. Blakeslee, one of the original stars of Forbidden Broadway, is an astounding performer. She can sing like Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Brightman, Julie Andrews and at times can even sound like ...Susanne Blakeslee...What an amazing talent! You'll leave the theatre singing her praises. Engel and Raben are forever charming and delightful. Talk about versatility! Raben's finest moments come in this show as Mandy Patinkin, as Daniel Radcliffe doing the nude scene in Equus and as Stephen Sondheim. Engel's triumphs include Cervantes in Man of La Mancha, the Phantom and Harvey Fierstein in drag from Hairspray, among many others. The fourth member of the troupe Whitney Allen does splendid work with Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters. Michael Paternostro is a whiz at the piano.
The whole evening is top-notch and of Broadway calibre. A great treat, especially for theatre-lovers, and another feather in the cap of Musical Theatre West.
5 out of 5 stars

afterparty for Forbidden Broadway

Afterparty in Long Beach:
Versatile star Susanne Blakeslee of Forbidden Broadway @ Musical Theatre West and I share memories of our favorite yogurt spot: Studio City Yogurt.

Friday, May 1, 2009

review - Jesus Christ Superstar @ CLOSBC

Jesus Christ Superstar
music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics by Tim Rice

directed by Stephanie A. Coltrin
Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities @ Redondo
through May 10

Back in the early 70s I was enthralled by the majestic overture of JC Superstar and by the gripping power of the lyrics. This is operetta at its best, where the entire story must come to fruition through the singing. When done well, these Bibilical characters come off the pages as real human beings with raw emotions; because of this musical endeavor, we more clearly understand the motivations of Christ, the adoration of his disciples and Mary Magdalene, the bewilderment of Pontius Pilate and Herod and so on. So much so, that as a Catechism teacher, I played the Webber/Rice score for my classes to stimulate their critical thinking. Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson and Yvonne Elliman provided sterling vocal interpretations that made the whole process so richly rewarding. But, religious or not, audiences across the board are deeply moved by the elegant score, and the current fine production at CLOSBC has a terrific cast that can all really sing.
This ensemble, under the even hand of Stephanie A. Coltrin, is wondrous. Eric Kunze has such gentility as Jesus. He brings sweetness, warmth and a genuine sense of human frustration to the divine leader. Josh Tower as Judas and Kevin Bailey as Pilate are both incredibly strong. Bailey's vocal and dramatic unraveling in Act II is amazing. Karole Foreman gives Mary M richness of spirit and sings so beautifully. Jody Ashworth uses is deep bass tones to perfection as Caiaphas, and Harrison White in black leather is a gaudy scene stealer as Herod. Kudos as well to Ron Kellum, Jason Webb, Robert Sean Thompson, Dave Barrus et al.
Christopher Beyries' set design of an open stage with steel staircases and walkways, Christa Armendariz' costumes with an eclectic assortment of 70s, Renaissance and leather bondage designs, and Darrell J. Clark's vibrant lighting contribute greatly to the
storytelling and leave the time span open to interpretation.
Although there is no new spin here on Webber's first masterpiece, this Jesus Christ Superstar is vocally uplifting and pleasant to watch: it is well worth the visit to Redondo Beach.
4 out of 5 stars