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Bright Star! .... One of the Best Musicals EVER!

24 October 2017

Wow. I am still in awe of the amazing production of Bright Star, the 2014 musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, that has opened in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre this past weekend.
Carmen Cusack in Bright Star. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
This was unfortunately a short lived musical on Broadway despite winning the 2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical and Best Score and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music. However perhaps it is a show that will be best appreciated on the road where audiences are not having to necessarily choose between it and big flashy blockbuster shows such as Hamilton and Wicked

Yes, the show only has a 10 member bluegrass band, boasts no extravagant dance numbers and revolves around the "cliche" transforming power of love and redemption. But those three things are actually some of the best elements of the production.
The Band. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
The band is housed in set designer's Eugene Lee's brilliant see-through wooden cabin on wheels that also serves as one of the most prominent set pieces. They bring great energy and fill the theatre with their beautiful bluegrass music that had the opening night audience tapping their toes endlessly and at some times you could see a great majority of the audience clapping along. The infectious music by Steve Martin I have no doubt was worthy of his two awards in 2016.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.
There are two large dance numbers choreographed by Josh Rhodes that are equal parts entertaining and equal parts memorable. But I would suggest that it is actually the smaller ensemble pieces that serve to provide the most beautiful and breathtaking moments while providing great fluidity to the musical. And what a gorgeous troupe of dancers!

Allison Briner-Dardenne, Carmen Cusack and Stephen Lee Anderson. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Some reviewers might suggest that this is a musical too wrapped up in cliches and predictable conclusions. Yes, to some degree I would agree that Martin's book is riddled with triteness and that the majority of Brickell's lyrics would leave you singing along days later. I argue however that the show's power and beauty comes from leading lady Carmen Cusack's versatile performance as Alice and the show's refreshing homage to classical Broadway where morals were either black and white. 

Some might suggest the Act One finale is melodramatic and over the top. In shock for the entire intermission, I wondered about it myself and without giving anything away I would argue that it is likely meant to be shocking and thought provoking. Maybe we like to limit our views on evil to extreme terrorists but each of us commit evil in our lives on a different scale and Steve Martin's book is not afraid of getting dirty bringing up atrocities we commit and the effect that those actions have on our lives. The most gorgeous moment of the musical is one you would probably not see coming. Again without going into too much detail I am referring to the Act Two scene between father (Stephen Lee Anderson) and daughter (Carmen Cusack) when even though Daddy Murphy is unable to forgive himself for his past actions Alice is able to quietly reach out and offer her own forgiveness. Pow!

A.J. Shively, Kaitlyn Davidson and Jeff Blumenkrantz. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
So... If you are a fan of bluegrass music, love Steve Martin's effortless humor, and want a musical with both heart and conscience then you need to get your tickets fast to see the U.S. Tour of Bright Star!! And please do yourself a favor and do NOT read show spoilers nor listen to the spoiler riddled soundtrack until after you've had a chance to experience the show yourself first.

Dates: Today through 11/19/17
ACCESS Performance: 18 November 2017 at 2pm
Tickets: $30 – $130 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)
LocationThe Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012

Accessibility FYI:

**At the Ahmanson, all levels offer wheelchair accessible seating (call the Disability Line to buy tickets). There are accessible restrooms at all levels. 
** Handicapped Parking is available for patrons displaying a handicapped placard at both The Music Center Garage AND valet parking. The charge at both locations is $9.

**To arrange wheelchair accessible seating and/or mobility services from The Music Center garage to the Ahmanson Theatre call the Disability Line at 213-972-0777
**Ushers will stow your walkers away during the performance and bring them out to you during intermission and after the show.

Bright Star Opens at the Ahmanson on Friday!

18 October 2017

Tony Nominee CARMEN CUSACK, probably best known to U.S. audiences as Elphaba in Wicked (U.S. Tour/Chicago), is set to reprise her role as Alice Murphy in Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (and later the San Francisco Curran Theatre) that opens this Friday, 20 October 2017!

With music and book by Grammy and Emmy winner Steve Martin and music and lyrics by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Edie Brickell, direction by Tony winner Walter Bobbie and choreography by Josh Rhodes, Bright Star won the 2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical and Best Score and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music. It also received five 2016 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, Best Lead Actress in a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 
Carmen Cusack. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote:
[Carmen Cusack's] singing, trimmed with a slight twang, is impeccable both in the bloom in her voice and the emotion she invests in the lyrics.
The Onstage Band: George Guthrie, Wayne Fugate, Martha McDonnell, Skip Ward, Anthony De Angelis and Eric Davis. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Elysa Gardner of U.S.A. Today praised Steve Martin's book:
Martin, a master ironist, captures some of that old-school spirit with a book that's as forthright as it is smart, funny and charming.
Jeff Blumenkrantz, A.J. Shively and Kaitlyn Davidson with the Cast. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Alexis Soloski of The Guardian (U.K.) wrote:
Josh Rhodes’ choreography, which has a nice narrative bent, is spirited and graceful. 

Dates: Today through 11/19/17 (Opening Night: 20 October 2017)
ACCESS Performance: 18 November 2017 at 2pm
Tickets: $30 – $130 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)
Location: The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012

Accessibility FYI:
**At the Ahmanson, all levels offer wheelchair accessible seating (call the Disability Line to buy tickets). There are accessible restrooms at all levels. 
** Handicapped Parking is available for patrons displaying a handicapped placard at both The Music Center Garage AND valet parking. The charge at both locations is $9. 
**To arrange wheelchair accessible seating and/or mobility services from The Music Center garage to the Ahmanson Theatre call the Disability Line at 213-972-0777.

See you opening night!! xo

Go Go Jo! A 5-Star Theatricals Review.

14 October 2017

Adam Hollick and Ensemble. (c) 5-Star Theatricals.
Adam Hollick's Joseph has descended into Thousand Oaks with some of the most heavenly voices this side of the Mississippi, including his own rich baritone and that angelic soprano Laura Dickinson as Narrator for a brief two weekend performance at the T.O. Civic Arts Plaza.

As always, 5-Star Theatricals (formerly Cabrillo Music Theatre) attracts the cream of the crop to their roster and rounds out their cast with very talented regional performers of whom many end up landing national stardom such as former shout-outs Adam Lambert and Stephanie J. Block.

With hip-hop Dave Scott choreographing this autumn production the audience was sure to be expecting some groundbreaking creativity and a higher level of dance talent from the ensemble. Both were true. Not messing with the show's already unique and groundbreaking musicality (switching from country to Afro-Carribean, etc.) Scott was able to incorporate hip-hop into many of the brothers' scenes and of course the crowd favorite Mega-Mix finale when the ensemble looked as if dancing on steroids -- so much energy! so many great moves!

Patrick Cassidy as the Pharaoh was one of the biggest delights on opening night having the audience in stitches and sometimes clapping along due to his fabulous Second act cameo as an Elvis impersonating Pharaoh complete with blue kneepads, blue Dock Martins, a black wig, great comedic timing, and his famous mesmerizing voice. I especially loved the little moments where he was both demonstrating how to be cool to Joseph and also competing with the Joseph for the ladies' attention which might remind people of when he was himself Joseph in the late US national tour.
Patrick Cassidy and Ensemble. (c) 5-Star Theatricals.
As previously mentioned, Adam Hollick was a gorgeous surprise as Joseph. A former Azusa Pacific University graduate, Adam has a gorgeous and sometimes even operatic baritone Voice that makes his rendition of "Close Every Door" one of the best that I have personally ever heard or seen. As I have said before 5-Star Theatricals is known for helping to launch their stars' careers nationwide and I have no doubt that Hollick is going to be going places far and wide.

My only complaint with this production that has continued to be a bone of contention as I write, or rather dictate, this review has got to be the costume and directional choices made for Laura Dickinson's Narrator. As you can see in the first photograph, Dickinson is dressed in a light blue gown that strongly resembles the blue fairy from Pinocchio legend. Because of the directional choices made, perhaps to accommodate Dickinson who is better known as a vocal contractor and voice actor (?), she seemed to be but a distant onlooker to the production. Mind you, one distant onlooker with a tremendous voice.

She hardly had any interactions with either Hollick or Cassidy unlike other Narrators who have had a jovial chemistry with their own Pharaoh and Joseph (sometimes providing Joseph with a friend throughout the show) but always interacting with at least the children's chorus. Another weird thing about the direction of Dickinson was that on several occasions my girlfriend and I noticed it was as if she was magically pulling on invisible strings to manipulate the actors into jumping into song (such as just prior to "Benjamin Calypso"). But that amazing and scrumptious voice thankfully makes up for a lot of those nitpicks. What a voice!
With only 8 performances left, I strongly encourage you to escape from the ugly world we find ourselves living in and find some solace and comfort in 5-Star Theatricals happy and energetic production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! The singing from the smallest child to the leading trio is very special and the dancing and catchy Andrew Lloyd Webber beats have you wanting to clap along. And thankfully this is a production that the entire family can enjoy. Thank you, 5-Star Theatricals!

Tickets: $35-$83
Location: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks, Thousand OaksCA 91362
Parking: $8 (cash only)
Appropriate Ages: All ages! All children must have a ticket.
Accessible Questions: See my previous post below.

T.O. Civic Arts: What About My Darn Walker?

13 October 2017

So folks... Who's excited for tonight's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat put on by the very talented and newly re-named 5 Star Theatricals in Thousand Oaks?

For those of you who have limited mobility such as myself you might be wondering... so how does the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza handle walkers, wheelchairs, etc.? Easy Peasy.

I just got off the telephone with a gentleman at the box office (805-449-2787) who could not be nicer. He said that:
- the ushers will escort you to your seats
- take your walker/wheelchair/conveyance to the rear of the auditorium during the show
- bring you your walker/wheelchair/etc. during intermission and at the end of the production

How easy is that?? So if that is a nagging worry for you, cross it off your list and instead go buy yourself a ticket or two to see the limited production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Patrick Cassidy as Pharaoh and featuring choreography by Dave Scott.

see you there! x

Update: I was recently at a production where the fire alarm was set off and everyone had to leave the auditorium in a hurry. No elevators were working in either the theater or the parking garage and it left me thinking -- what happens to those of us who are stuck upstairs or have parked in the upper levels of the garage? Thankfully I was with someone who could navigate the stairs and bring the car to me but it left me wondering... hmm..

Coming Soon... Broadway Magic in Thousand Oaks!

02 October 2017

Hi guys. I hope you're all doing well. I'm super excited to be announcing that 5Star Theatricals' production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is coming to Thousand Oaks next weekend!

For those of you that don't know about the show is a musical by by the legendary Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice telling the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, as told in the book of Genesis. It has been made worldwide famous by performances by Donny Osmond and Jason Donovan in addition to Patrick Cassidy in the 2005 US national tour. And what a perfect segway to my TOP FOUR reasons you need to see this production ----

#1 - Patrick Cassidy as the Pharaoh
As I mentioned earlier Patrick Cassidy had previously performed as Joseph in 2005. For those of you that don't know, he is one of the talented Cassidy brothers, son of the late Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones. Need I say more? It has not been revealed yet whether Patrick Cassidy will be singing "King of my Heart", a number written for the 2007 London revival.
Patrick Cassidy does know how to sell a song, and blows the dust off the rafters singing “Close Every Door to Me.” 
– by Dominic P. Papatola – Sept 14, 2005
St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota
#2 - Dave Scott as Choreographer
Dave Scott is perhaps best known to the general public as one of hip-hop's best choreographers on the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance. He is sure to bring a refreshing new take on favorite numbers such as "Go, Go, Go Joseph" and "Benjamin Calypso".

Please do yourself a favor and check out the below video clip of Courtney and Joshua performing a hip hop routine on So You Think You Can Dance by Dave Scott...

#3 - Marissa Margolis is in the Kid's Chorus
For those that have been following my blog for a while (thank you!) You have probably heard me gosh at one point or another about the lovely and extremely talented Marissa Margolis. I truly believe that this young lady is going to be going places so one day you might be able to show off your program of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and say that you saw her when she was wowing folks in the Kid's Ensemble.

#4 - 5-Star Theatricals (formerly Cabrillo Music Theatre) is known for delivering star quality productions to the Ventura County
I hope no one is confused by the change of name because this is still the same great board of directors and team of creative artists who have brought you such gorgeous productions as Sister Act and Mary Poppins. Without having seen any rehearsals or heard any sound clips I am 100% confident this will be in another smashing hit!

So grab your tickets at Either the box office, Ticketmaster or GoldStar (where you can find discounted tickets)! There are only 9 shows so hurry and don't miss out! You won't regret it!

See you at opening night!

Tickets: $35-$83
Location: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks, Thousand OaksCA 91362
Parking: $8 (cash only)
Appropriate Ages: All ages! (There will likely be one suggestive dance scene between Potipher's Wife and Joseph)

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