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Little Women Celebrates Womanhood

16 June 2018


LITTLE WOMEN, THE MUSICAL with book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, is based on the beloved 1869 classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. Thankfully many of the women likely to be in the audience will have read the classic novel and/or seen one of the beloved movies beforehand. This will come in handy as Knee's condensed book plays more like a series of vignettes and highlights in the March family. Keeping with the theme of vignettes, Set Designer Dean Johnson uses a minimalist staging plan with the March family attic as the primary backdrop and a handful of household furniture you'd expect to find in an attic that the cast interchanges as needed to create the illusion of other scenes such as the March living room and an ante-room at the Moffatt Ball.
The cast of Little Women. Photo by Pamela Newman Photography.
Savannah Ludwig & Ezra Eells. Photo by Pamela Newman Photography.
Due to the lack of time and material for the actors to thoroughly develop their characters, director Janelle Phaneuf needs to draw upon her actors' talents and inspire the audience's passion and interest. Leading lady Savannah Ludwig, a recent graduate of AMDA, tries to carry the show on her petite shoulders but fumbles (mainly due to the material) to make Jo sympathetic. Yet when she belts out her eleven o'clock numbers her astonishing voice is reminiscent of Sutton Foster and earned high applause from the opening night audience. Marmee (Aileen-Marie Scott) equally finds a sympathetic audience with her rousing Days of Plenty. Eldest daughter Meg (Genevieve Levin) is a consummate actor as was evident on opening night when she had troubles with both her wig and skirt on two separate occasions but did such a good job of righting the situation that my girlfriend never noticed. Her romance with Andrew Nunez (John Brooke) is an easy audience favorite and believable as they make the most of Allan Knee's book and here is where Phaneuf really excels in her directional choices. 

With both John Brooke (Nunez) and Professor Bhaer (Ezra Eells), Phaneuf capitalizes on the witty script and makes the most of those little moments to demonstrate how both men fall in love with their leading ladies and bring out a passion and set their souls on fire. Both duets, More Than I Am and Small Umbrella in the Rain, were audience favorites. Younger sisters Allison Martinez (the gorgeous Amy) and Hannah Marks (the faithful Beth) probably best demonstrate the most growth as characters. Martinez goes from the 'pouty' childlike Amy to a young woman on the cusp of marriage who has learned the importance of sisterhood and family. Marks gets the best known duet from the show, Some Things Are Meant to Be, and does a great job of conveying Beth's inner strength and her earlier interactions with a once gruffy Mr. Laurence (Dale Alpert) are adorable. Alpert's Mr. Laurence and Cindy McKay's Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk are both strong supporting actors and show off their comedic chops in their albeit to short scenes. Unfortunately young Jonathan Markham (Laurie Laurence) seemed to be losing his voice on opening night but his acting did not suffer with an especially poignant moment after his failed proposal to Jo in the first act.

Hannah Marks and Dale Alpert. Photo by Pamela Newman Photography.
With memorable numbers and a strong cast, this is a great family show to see this summer in Camarillo. Director Janelle Phaneuf says "this show is dedicated to the women who have ever felt merely decorative. The women who were conditioned to believe they weren't smart enough, strong enough, or capable enough to pursue that which set your soul on fire." So if you are looking to support local theatre and enjoy a great two and a half hours this might just be the right choice for you.
Unfortunately... I feel the show played itself too safe. On a positive note, Costume Designer Laura Comstock demonstrated the March sisters' poverty with ill-fitting costumes and torn hems and chose great costumes for the play within a play. However, it seemed the costumes choice for the rest of the cast were equally but unnecessarily ill-fitting and an adjusted hem or two would have made a big difference. Dale Alpert and Cindy McKay portray two of the wealthiest characters and yet Alpert looked as if he was wearing pants belonging to a man a foot taller and McKay's skirts were too short. Also, it looked as though McKay was wearing a modern peasant skirt you'd find for sale at Target during her turn as boarding house owner Mrs. Kirk. I'm not sure if there were any dressers on site but on opening night there seemed to be several problems with skirt buttons coming undone (!) and wigs (Autumn Ericson) appeared to need a thorough brushing and styling.

The strongest letdown had to be the directional choices during the show's most beloved number Some Things Are Meant to Be. In other productions the kite flying is extremely symbolic of the loss Jo experiences. Unfortunately in this production it became a source of distraction and pulled away from the emotional impact you'd expect. I wish they'd just left the kite on the floor and ignored it versus what they did do.

PERFORMANCE DATES
June 15 - July 15
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 2 PM

TICKET PRICES (Open Seating)
Adults: $20
Students, Seniors, and Military: $15
Children: $10
Group Rates Available.

Please contact the Box Office at 805-388-5716 for more information or to reserve tickets. Tickets can also be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets.

Location: Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010
ParkingFree well-lit lot next to the theatre
Seating: General admission. Because of the acoustics I recommend sitting in the front half of the auditorium.
Accessible: The theatre is entirely accessible with ramps in and out of the parking lot.

OPENING SOON: Little Women the Musical Comes to Camarillo

14 June 2018


Tomorrow, Jason Howland's 2005 Little Women Broadway musical comes to Camarillo for a month long stay at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse. Probably best known as the vehicle for Sutton Foster's 2nd leading role on Broadway, the musical is filled with memorable and whimsical numbers by Jason Howland, who also wrote the book for Handel's Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise and was a musical director and supervisor for Les Miserables, Scarlet Pimpernel and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  
The Cast. Little Women the Musical. Photo by: Pamela Newman.
Starring local favorites Aileen-Marie Scott (9 to 5 The Musical, Next to Normal), Ezra Eells (Fiddler on the Roof, Singing in the Rain), Jonathan Markham (Candide, Little Shop of Horrors) and Allison Martinez (Disney's Camp Rock, Shrek the Musical), Dale Alpert (The Fantasticks), the musical opens on Friday, 15 June 2018 afterwhich guests will be invited to join the cast and crew for a special opening night reception immediately following the show.


Directed by Janelle Phaneuf

Produced by Laura Comstock & Jolyn Johnson



Music Direction by Erin Fagundes
Choreography by Amie Woolweber

PERFORMANCE DATES
June 15 - July 15
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 2 PM

TICKET PRICES (Open Seating)
Adults: $20
Students, Seniors, and Military: $15
Children: $10
Group Rates Available.
Please contact the Box Office at 805-388-5716 for more information or to reserve tickets. Tickets can also be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets.

Jo and Professor Bhaer. Little Women the Musical. Photo by: Pamela Newman.
If you are a fan of the classic story of sisterhood, love and family, and are looking for a charming date night with your girlfriends, sisters and beaus, this might be a fabulous choice this summer. I look forward to sharing soon my review. Until then, I leave you a musical teaser in the form of a unique solo version of Some Things Are Meant to Be performed by Broadway original cast member Megan McGinnis (Beth).

Location: Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010
Parking: Free well-lit lot next to the theatre
Seating: General admission. Because of the acoustics I recommend sitting in the front half of the auditorium.

Next to Perfect: A Review of NEXT TO NORMAL

03 June 2018

Tom Kitt (Music) and Brian Yorkey (Book & Lyrics) created a mesmerizing and next to perfect contemporary rock musical that debuted off-Broadway in 2008 and went on to earn a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for being "a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals."

The musical will constantly tug at your heart strings and make you rethink your thoughts about family dynamics, marriage, griefdrug abusemodern psychiatry, suburban life, the pressure of perfection, and mental illness. Yes, all that plus more in 2 1/2 hours that fly by so fast you'll be double checking your watch or smartphone at the end of each act.

Without giving away any spoilers, high praise for Corey Lynn Howe's sympathetic and yet honest direction. Howe takes advantage of the intimacy of Hillcrest Art's black box theatre to draw the audience into the Goodman family's dysfunction and heartache. No longer is the audience sitting back as indifferent spectators but rather we feel like invited guests at the infamous dinner scene sitting within spitting distance from the main players. Her unflinching direction allows the audience to feel "with [the Goodmans] everything all at once." Thankfully Shara Abvabi's lighting design is similarly subtle in comparison to the original Broadway/National Tour design by Kevin Adams and compliments Howe's intimate direction. Katie Sikkema (Costumer) scored high points with the shoe choices. Yes, shoes! Natalie and her boyfriend Henry have complimentary shoes as do Dan and Gabe hinting at their connections even at times before the audience is made aware.
Michelle Lane as Diana.
The six person cast led by Michelle Lane (who was recently in Pico Playhouse's 2016 production) is extremely strong vocally and benefit from Howe's unflinching direction that emphasizes the parallels/connections between characters and their underlining insecurities that come to the surface. In this intimate production it is not all about Diana but actually an ensemble piece where everyone from Henry to Dan to Diana shines equally. As Howe says in her directors' note this is about family. Family is "next to normal" and yet this cast is next to perfection! 
 Daniel Bellusci , Julia Lester, Renee Cohen, Landen Starkman, Brent Ramirez, and Michelle Lane (Photo by Paul Cranmer)
I don't know quite what to make of Renee Cohen's solid performance as Drs. Madden and Fine. What precisely does she bring to the role that a man wouldn't? Hmm... Daniel Bellusi, whose adorable Hey will likely bring a smile to your face every time, will have many teenagers and young adults hoping they too will find a Henry. Julia Lester, playing against type, does a fabulous job of conveying all the turmoil Natalie is going through and could easily be the cause of a moist eye or two in the audience with her 2nd act duet "Hey #3/Perfect for You (Reprise)". Landen Starkman's "I'm Alive" is entertaining and his duet "I Dreamed a Dance" will have fans of Elisabeth the German musical comparing him to Tod (Death). I have always believed that Dan is one of the most romantic male leads and Brent Ramirez' unwavering performance as "the man [who] still remembers his vow" is raw and powerful. And when he finally must face the ghost of the past -- eh gads! Tissues, please? And what for Michelle Lane's powerful performance as central character Diana? Lane's Diana is raw, energetic, focused and all together riveting.
Julia Lester, Daniel Bellusci (photo by Paul Cranmer)
So what are you waiting for? If you have yet to see Next to Normal in person, this is your perfect opportunity! Playing for three weekends through the 17th of June, Panic! Productions' Next to Normal is all things spectacular and feeling. Unfortunately the strong language (countless F words and several uses of the Lord's name in vain) and subject matter makes this a questionable choice for a family day out but teens and adults will doubtlessly find the show riveting from start to finish. And huge props to Jan Roper and the minimal band (off stage) for pumping live music into the theatre.

Dates: 2 - 17 June 2018
Cost: $22-40 (VIP tickets allow for early entry, a meet and greet with cast after the show, priority center seating, and a swag bag of goodies)
Location: Hillcrest Arts, 403 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Parking: Free
Accessible: Elevator access available from the parking lot to the main auditorium floor. Wheelchair seating available in the first row of seating.

Interface Family Services, sponsor of Next to Normal, wants everyone to know that if you are in need you can call 2-1-1 and speak to someone 24/7.

Bonjour Summer Fun

30 May 2018

Hello Summer... Well, almost 😉.
Now that Memorial Day is over it's time to look forward to the upcoming summer festivals and activities in the Ventura County and there are a lot of exciting ones coming up!

June

2 - Next to Normal (through 6/17)
2pm & 8pm Performances
@ Hillcrest Arts Center, Thousand Oaks
Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, this Tony nominated musical is presented at the intimate Hillcrest Arts Center in Thousand Oaks.
$22-40 (VIP Experience Available)

10 - Ventura Harbor Pirates Day Festival

11am - 4pm
@ Ventura Harbor Village, Ventura (off Spinmaker Road)
Come dressed as a pirate or mermaid. There will be a Thieves Marketplace, family activities, entertainment, and photo opportunities.
FREE

15 - Little Women (until 7/15)
@ Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, Camarillo
The Broadway musical based on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
$20 General Admission ($15 military/students, $10 children)

16 - CAP Presents... A Family Movie Night (MOANA)

7:30pm
@ Dos Vientos Community Park, Newbury Park
Features... Polynesian Dancers, Music and Food Trucks BEFORE the film
FREE

16 - "Wanted" Tribute to "Bon Jovi"
7pm (Food available starting at 6pm)
@ Berniece Bennett Park, Westlake Village
Food available for purchase from "Middle Feat Food Truck," " Farm and Flame", and "Jersey Dogs."
FREE

17 - Fathers on Broadway

3-5pm
@ Hillcrest Center for the Arts, Thousand Oaks
Ventura County Gilbert & Sullivan Repertoire Company will present a concert with a song selection geared towards fathers from Broadway and Disney.
$20 (805-381-1246)

22 - CAP Presents... An Evening at the Stagecoach Museum
7pm
@ Stagecoach Museum Lawn
Features... A refreshing blend of rock, folk, country and bluegrass featuring John Zipperer & The Current Band and Honeysuckle Possums.
FREE

22, 23 & 24 - Ventura County Greek Festival (805-389-8182)
@ Freedom Park, Camarillo Airport, Camarillo
Live Greek music, folk dancing, food, games, and rides.
FREE with $5 raffle ticket purchase (Children 12 and under FREE)

28 - Wine & Dine at the Ranch!
5 - 9pm
@ Camarillo Ranch, Camarillo
Delicious food truck vendors, live music, cash bar & more!
FREE

29 - CAP Presents... An Evening of Jazz Standards (Ilya Serov)
7pm
@ North Ranch Neighborhood Park, Thousand Oaks
FREE

29 - Disney Music Under the Stars with 5-Star Theatricals
7pm (Food available starting at 6pm)
@ Westlake Village Civic Center, Westlake Village
Food to purchase from "The Grilled Cheese Truck", Apollo's Expresso and Shave Ice.
FREE

July


3 - 3rd of July Fire Works Extravaganza
3:45pm
@ Arroyo Vista Park, Moorpark
Food booths, games, attractions, and live music (5pm - The Molly Ringwald Project; 7:30pm - Raymond Michael Elvis Tribute)
$5 per person (4 and under are free)

4 - Stagecoach Inn Museum... Ice Cream Social
1-4pm
@ The Stagecoach Inn, Newbury Park
Tours, music, singalong, and ice cream social (while supplies last).
FREE

4 - 4th of July at the Channel Islands Harbor
11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
@ Marine Emporium Landing, Channel Islands Harbor
Activities include a crafters' market, inflatable kids zone, and food booths.
6pm - Electric Boat Parade
9pm - Fireworks Display
FREE

4 - 4th of July Patriotic Parade and Pancake Breakfast
8am - Pancake breakfast
9:30am - Patriotic Parade, The community is invited to participate with decorated bikes, strollers, wagons and pets on leash. [After the parade, there will be activities, crafts, music, popsicles, water and patriotic performers.]
@ North Ranch Lakeview Canyon Properties (Parade ends at Berniece Bennett Park)

7 - Masters of the Past (60s-80s rock & roll)
4-6pm
@ Peninsula Park, Oxnard (Channel Island Harbor)
FREE

14 - "The Long Run" Tribute to "The Eagles"

7pm 
@ Berniece Bennett Park, Westlake Village
Food available for purchase from "Hang 10 Tacos", "Baby's Badass Burgers Food Truck", and "Farm and Flame Food Truck."
FREE

20 - Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival... Othello (until 8/5)

6:45pm Pre-Show entertainment
8pm Main Production
@ Cal Lutheran University, Kingsmen Park, Thousand Oaks
$15-25 General Admission (Under 18 FREE); Lawn boxes: $90-100


20 - Victorian Social Dance
7:10pm
@ Simi Valley Senior Center
Beginner friendly Victorian dancing for teens and adults.

$5 at the door (805-584-4456)

20 (through 7/29) - Disney's Beauty and the Beast

@ Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
5-Star Theatricals is putting Broadway's original Belle Susan Egan back in the enchanted yellow ballgown for a magical limited production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
$35-89, Group Sales available.

28 - A Night at the Copacabana, a Tribute to Barry Manilow

7pm
@ Constitution Park, Camarillo
FREE

August


5 - Fantastic Diamond, a Tribute to Neil Diamond

6pm
@ Chumash Park, Agoura Hills
FREE

10 - The Rat Pack

7pm (Food available starting at 6pm)
@ Westlake Village Civic Center, Westlake Village
A tribute to The Rat Pack starring Vaughn Suponatime, Alfredo Miller and Russ Loniello.
Food to purchase from "Middle Feast Food Truck", Apollo's Expresso and Shave Ice.
FREE

25 - "Abba Fab" Tribute to "Abba" Concert

7pm (Food available starting at 6pm)
@ Berniece Bennett Park, Westlake Village
Food available for purchase from "Epic Tacos Food Truck," "Grilled Cheese Truck," and "Middle Feast Food Truck."
FREE
 

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