Showing posts with label Pantages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pantages. Show all posts

04 August 2018

Motherhood Saves THE WAITRESS at The Pantages!

Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley, Lenne Klingaman. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Waitress the musical has rolled into Los Angeles as part of its first national tour. With music and lyrics by Sarah Bareilles and a book by Jessie Nelson, the show is a very entertaining and fast paced musical comedy that pays tribute to the original motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly. The music by Sarah Bareilles will have you most likely tapping your feet for most of the show and Jessie Nelson's fast-paced Book will have you checking your watch at intermission in amazement at how quickly the time is gone without thinking the story was too quickly moved along for the sake of time.

For those of you that don't know the movie starring Kerri Russell and Nathan Fillion, the story revolves around Jenna, Played here by the incredibly talented Desi Oakley, a pie baker and waitress in an undisclosed Southern State. Jenna is surrounded by two of her best friends at the pie diner she works at whom are played by the equally charming and talented Lenne Klingaman and Charity Angel Dawson. She is also unfortunately in an abusive marriage with Earl, played scarily well by Nick Bailey, and finds himself pregnant with the baby she does not want. That leads her to meeting the new doctor in town, Dr. Pomatter, played by adorable Brian Fenkart who reminded this reviewer of the original Dr. Pomatter played by Nathan Fillion. Against her best instinct, Jenna begins an affair with her doctor while trying to save enough money to enter a pie baking contest and with the winnings leave her husband Earl.
Lenne Klingaman, Jeremy Morse. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Before what appeared like a jam packed audience on opening night at the Pantages in Hollywood California, the actors received countless laughs and heavy applause for nearly every scene and/or song. Surprisingly the strongest and lengthiest applause went to supporting actor Jeremy Morse who plays Dawn's nerdy but winsome suitor, Ogie.

The second strongest applause of the night rightfully so went to leading lady Desi Oakley for her 11 o'clock number "She used to be mine". Personally, my girlfriend's favorite numbers were the relatively lighthearted baking numbers in Act I such as Desi Oakley's "What's inside" and "what baking can do". My favorite number was the redeeming second act "Everything changes" by Desi Oakley once again. Seriously that lady has one incredible Voice that I could listen to all day!

Vocally this was one of the strongest casts I have had the pleasure of hearing in quite some time without a single low note. All three leading ladies were fabulous in their roles and the supporting gentlemen who Played their love interests were entertaining and carried their own musical numbers brilliantly.
Maiesha McQueen, Desi Oakley, Bryan Fenkart. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Because of the questionable adult content that appear to have been amped up since the 2007 movie, I was perplexed as to whether I should be rooting for extra marital affairs on two of the ladies parts and whether this was even a show I should be recommending. For that reason neither of the three romantic interest could be classified as a true hero. Like my friend said, there were no literal villains aside from the abusive husband, who gave one of the most well-rounded performances of the show, but you just can't like a man that carries on an affair while seemingly in a happy marriage with a woman who we see with our own eyes trusts and adores him, at least if you're brought up to believe affairs are a no no.

Desi Oakley and Larry Marshall. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The redeeming heroes of the story have to be supporting actors Larry Marshall as Joe, the proprietor of the pie shop, and the hilarious Meisha McQueen as Nurse Norma. Both Marshall and McQueen give the best eye rolls and meaningful looks when faced with the evidence of Jenna's affair with Dr. Pomatter. Similarly they are given the best lines.
"You probably shouldn't be having no affair... Not to mention the pain you could cause to other people.... Leave your husband fair and square and [after] smudge your lipstick with whomever the h*** you want." - Joe.
SPOILERS: But really it is motherhood that finally gives Jenna the chance to break free from the bad relationships she is in and choices she has made leading up to this. When faced with her pregnancy, Jenna never considers abortion, a decision that earns two thumbs up from this reviewer and makes the character likable for deciding to go through with an unwanted pregnancy despite being in an abusive marriage she's trying to crawl out. However she does not deny her lack of interest in this baby. All that changes when she meets her baby girl, Lulu, who she sings about in the gorgeous "Everything Changes":
You've saved me/ My blurry lines, my messy life/ Coming to focus and in time, maybe I can heal and I can breathe/ Cause I can feel myself believe
Ryan G. Dunkin and the Cast of the National Tour of WAITRESS. Photo by Joan Marcus.
All in all the musical is very faithful to the 2017 movie aside from the unnecessary comedic sexual scenes where characters stimulated sex that made me glad I had not gone to see this show with a guy friend or my father. The music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles are catchy and entertaining. The lyrics for the most part are plot driven. Jessie Nelson's book was faithful to the dialogue from the late Adrienne Shelly's movie and the story plot moved fluently along with clever use of the staging and set design by Scott Pask. The decision to include the minimal band on stage as part of the diner was brilliant and similar to last year's tour of Bright Star at the Ahmanson it was great to see the cast interact with the musicians which helped create an organic environment.

Again a shout out to the brilliantly talented cast that could hardly be any better than any Broadway casting I imagine. And a special shout out to ensemble member Gerianne Perez (understudy for Dawn) whom my eyes kept drifting towards whenever the ensemble was featured.

Now who is this show appropriate for? I would personally recommend leaving the kids at home and any young teenagers who are not ready to deal with the adult content, referring primarily to Jenna's abusive marriage and the two extra marital affairs going on. Also bear in mind the sexual scenes where characters simulate sex. They may not remove their clothes but nothing much is left to the imagination and it's hard to know if the writers are encouraging the audience to support and applaud the choice for sex outside of marriage. There is also adult language with numerous uses of the Lord's name in vain.

In closing, a shot shout out to the producers for the brilliant idea of having pies in a jar for sale in the lobby. The price is high. At $10 dollars you can easily get yourself a slice of pie at Marie Callendars or dessert at Cheesecake Factory and still have change left over. However it makes for a fun souvenir with the glass jar you can keep and a great experience of eating pie while watching the ladies on stage baking away and some of the characters even eating the pies that are apparently provided by Whole Foods. I asked the lady selling pies if these were Sara Lee pie and she said someone else baked them. She would not disclose any more information.
Pies in a Jar sold at the concession stand. Photo by The Joyous Living.
Also beware that apparently they are only allowed to give out one spoon with each jar purchase. So if you plan on sharing like we did, either grab a napkin to wipe off the spoon in case you are a germaphobe or packing your bag a small sample spoon as you would get it at any gelato or ice cream shop. In Los Angeles your choices for pi are Apple crumble and chocolate salted caramel. We tested out the chocolate salted caramel and found to be delicious, creamy, but very rich. So it was a good thing we shared because I don't know if I could finish to myself.
Pies in a Jar sold outside the auditorium doors. Photo by The Joyous Living.

If you're going to buy a pie in a jar, I suggest skipping the bar which is crowded and head straight to the table of pies by the auditorium doors which was much less crowded.

Enjoy the show that celebrates girlfriends and motherhood! And apparently this will be Desi Oakley's last stop on the tour so if you can I would highly recommend getting tickets for the Pantages stop in order to witness her fabulous performance.

Dates: 2 - 26 August 2018
Tickets: $49+
Location: Hollywood Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA
Parking: See Hollywood Pantages' parking suggestions here.
Appropriate Ages: 16+ due to adult languages, sexual situations and thematic content
Accessible Questions: See Hollywood Pantages' accessibility page here.

And if you are looking for a Spotify playlist as you head into LA to see Desi and the cast of Waitress in August, try her "Baker's Dozen" Spotify Playlist here.

PS-I used apples dictation app for my review due to my disability so please accept my apologies for any terrible spelling errors and grammatical errors.

29 July 2018

WAITRESS Arrives in LA on Thursday!

Coming THIS WEEK to Hollywood!

Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by 6-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles ("Brave," "Love Song"), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland). "It's an empowering musical of the highest order!" raves the Chicago Tribune.

Inspired by Adrienne Shelly's beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna (Desi Oakley). A waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town's new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

Dates: 2 - 26 August 2018
Tickets: $49+
Location: Hollywood Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA
Parking: See Hollywood Pantages' parking suggestions here.
Appropriate Ages: 16+ due to adult languages and thematic content
Accessible Questions: See Hollywood Pantages' accessibility page here.

And if you are looking for a Spotify playlist as you head into LA to see Desi and the cast of Waitress in August, try her "Baker's Dozen" Spotify Playlist here.

18 June 2015

Phantom 2.0 Lacks Chemistry

Katie Travis and Chris Mann. Photo by: Matthew Murphy & Alastair Muir
The Phantom of the Opera is back in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre, after the 3rd national tour shuttered here in 2010. This re-imagined tour has the same beloved score, those gorgeous costumes are back (aside from the Red Death mask) and the familiar love triangle. The changes are however dramatic and can be quite jarring for anyone who has seen the original production. New staging by Laurence Connor, new design by Paul Brown and added dialogue are the most disconcerting changes and can even cause confusion for first-time watchers. (Potential spoilers to follow).

04 December 2013

A Magical Date with The Lion King

Disney's The Lion King is back in LA for a limited engagement over the holidays!
Being an ardent Disney fan (and former employee) I just had to see this legendary show one more time (having seen it previously in LA during high school) so I grabbed my dad and caught the Tuesday, December 3rd evening performance at the Pantages Theatre.

Before the 7:30 curtain, I was ravenous and introduced my dad to one of Sunset Blvd.'s best quick service restaurants -- Tender Greens. We arrived at 5:45 and there was hardly a queue. I ordered my usual - butternut soup ($4) and a side of mac 'n cheese ($4). This is the perfect comfort food on a chilly autumn evening before catching a Broadway show at the Pantages Theatre. Dad ordered their chicken hot plate which comes with mashed potatoes and a side salad ($11). 
Butternut Soup © Joy Michelle
Considering the location, the quality of the food (freshly made and prepared to order), the options (you can't find mashed potatoes, for instance, at Panera Bread or Corner Bakery Cafe), the ambiance (very modern and hip), and service (big friendly smiles from helpful employees eager to answer any questions you might have) it is a great deal for a pre-show meal.

Mac 'N Cheese © Joy Michelle
I really think they might have one of the best mac 'n cheese offerings EVER! In my book, they are tied with TASTE's White Truffle Oil and Mushroom Mac 'n Cheese. As my dad said, it is not too cheesy or sweet. And the breadcrumbs on top are a perfect touch! Yum Yum.

So with our bellies full, we walked back up Vine St. to the Pantages and joined a very excited crowd of theatre patrons. For a Tuesday night, the house (on the orchestra floor) was probably 90% full with a mix of young and old. Children, in my opinion, bring a special kind of magic to any Disney show and last night was no exception with the little oohs and awwws.

One fun highlight is that in the main floor lobby (between the two center aisle doors) there is a display of 4 original masks from the Las Vegas production of The Lion King. The masks up close and personal are a-mazing! The detail and the artistry is mind boggling even today, 16 years after the original production made its debut. When you visit the Pantages, this is a definite must see.

Dad and yours truly with the beautiful Julie Taymor masks. © Joy Michelle
At 7:15, with only 15 minutes until curtain, my dad and I made our way to our seats in the orchestra right section on the aisle. Perfect view from our seats of the breathtaking production and the special musicians performing from the wings. You will definitely want to get their early to see the stage up close, check out the musicians' setup, and admire the Pantages' architecture and design.

Dad and yours truly in our seats © Joy Michelle
We were delighted to see the show start on time with an announcement that both Nala and Sarabi would be played by understudies. Unfortunately there were no inserts in the playbills but I am 99% sure that our Nala for the evening was performed by Themebelihle Cele (great accent and adorable interactions with Jelani Remy, as Simba).

And suddenly there was Brown Lindiwe Mkhize (Rafiki) on stage belting out the opening bars of Circle of Life and the magic begins! Actors (who double as stilt walkers, puppeteers, you name it!) start filling the auditorium as the song builds to a crescendo and you find yourself sitting up higher in your seat pinching yourself in wonderment. I had goose bumps! And based on the enthusiastic applause from the audience at every song and scene, the thrill was felt universally by the theatre goers.

No number can compete with Circle of Life but definite highlights were: They Live in You (featuring the show's best vocal performance by L. Steven Taylor), He Lives in You (featuring the strong vocals of Ms. Mkhize), and Endless Night (featuring the talented Jelani Remy).
L. Steven Taylor as Mafusa in The Lion King © Joan Marcus
As a whole, the show was spectacular from start to finish. It is truly an ensemble piece and the cast blended well together to make one magical evening from start to finish. Energy was tops, dancing was flawless, comedy was spot on with every joke earning major chuckles from the audience (including one about today's economy), and those little moments (i.e. Sarabi's mourning of Mufasa) left you choking back tears. The audience was on our feet the moment the final bar of music was played and the standing ovation was well deserved of everyone in the cast and orchestra.

I cannot recommend seeing The Lion King highly enough during its brief stay here in Los Angeles or further on when the show visits your hometown. You will be left with goosebumps, tears of joy and a belief in the magic of theatre and good music. GO, GO, GO!

The 4-1-1:
Location: The Pantages
Dates: Now through January 12th
The one disappointment:
Having been around since 1997, many people know the music and magic of The Lion King whether they've seen the show themselves or heard from friends and relatives. That said, in 2010, 9 minutes of the show was cut including an entire song, The Morning Report, that allowed for character development of Young Simba, Zazu and Mufasa, and a large portion from Scar's second act number, The Madness of King Scar, without which you were left lost and unable to identify with the "madness" per say.  I understand the need to save time but were those the right spots to cut? If it had been my first time to see The Lion King I would have been somewhat confused as to plot and character development. As it was, I felt robbed of key musical moments I loved in the original production.

But I shouldn't get started on my feelings about "cut" numbers. ;) The worst "cut" imaginable has to be Grantaire's Drink with Me from Les Miserables. I still cry hearing the new version. And not for a good reason! :)

03 October 2013

A Girls' Night Out: Dinner & A Show

Tuesday evening, I had the delight and pleasure of going out for a girls' night out with Veronica. To celebrate her birthday (a few days belated), I treated Veronica to dinner at Fabiolus Cucina, an amazing Italian restaurant tucked into Sunset Boulevard with the most charming of outdoor patios.

I had their delicious Gnocchi Radicchio e Salsiccia and Veronica had Penne alla Vodka.

To top off the perfect dinner, we indulged in some birthday Tiramisu' from our delightful waiters.

After such a heavy dinner, a walk up Argyle Avenue was just what we needed. Because we had arrived so early in Hollywood (no traffic, thank the Lord) we could take our time and enjoyed checking out the different stars along Hollywood Boulevard. There is even a Mr. Browning at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue. (Unfortunately no photo.)  The most appropriate star was right in front of the Pantages Hollywood Theatre -- that of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who penned this new production of The Wizard of Oz.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber
View from my new season ticket seats.
Before we ventured into the theatre to our seats, we explored the beautiful staircases and mezzanine level. Such beauty. Such opulence. Such majestic grandeur.

Veronica and I in our seats
Onwards to The Wizard of Oz:
The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland came out in 1939 and has become a classic in most households with the trademark song, Over the Rainbow. I was never a big fan of the film myself but when I heard that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was searching for Dorothy on the BBC's Over the Rainbow in 2010 I was quite curious and watched the show via BBC on-line and YouTube.  Just as religiously I watched the 2012 Canadian version of Over the Rainbow where Danielle Wade was named Canada's Dorothy.

Even more exciting was the news that Jacquelyn Piro Donovan was starring as Miss Gultch/The Wicked Witch of the West.  I had been following Jacqui's career ever since she was on Broadway as Fantine in Les Miserables opposite my friend, Stephanie Waters (Cosette).
Original US Tour Cast. Photo by CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN    
So humming to the tune of "If I Only Had a Brain, Heart, Nerve", Veronica and I eagerly took our seats and awaited the overture.
2010 BBC's Over the Rainbow Finale
We were pleasantly surprised to see that this performance would be ASL-Interpreted. The Pantages Theatre provides one ASL-Interpreted performance per show.  To find out dates for ASL-Interpreted performances, call their box office at 1-800-982-2787. For those who are not dependent on an ASL interpretation, note that the interpreters are stage right and not the least bit distracting.

Based on the 1939 movie, the new stage musical features all the classic songs you've known since childhood including: Over the Rainbow and If I Only Had a Brain.  New songs written by the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice team, fresh costume and hair design, and video production techniques brings the beloved 74 year old movie musical forward with sparkle and panache.

Danielle Wade (Dorothy) was even more impressive then she had been in the 2012 Canadian t.v. series, Over the Rainbow. It seems that she has continued to grow vocally, in her walk, and performance. Her rendition of Over the Rainbow is believable, powerful and vulnerable. And her chemistry with the trio (Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion) was top marks!
Original Canadian Cast. Photo by CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN    
 In particular, the chemistry between Danielle Wade (Dorothy) and Mike Jackson (Tin Man) was sheer perfection!  Little looks they gave each other, the giving of a key Tin Man line from If I Only Had a Heart to Dorothy, and the way Tin Man twirled her towards the end of the show gave cause for many ooos and awws.

Jacquelyn Piro Donovan (The Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Gultch) does an excellent job of pulling away from the stereotypical WWW in the 1939 movie, Margaret Hamilton, and the recent Wicked metamorphosis -- Elphaba.  Her portrayal is campy, smart, modern, determined and perfected by a delightfully wicked cackle.  The new song written by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice perfectly compliments Mrs. Donovan's performance.  

Unfortunately there were quite a bit of technical glitches when it came to microphones and the performers being drowned out by the orchestra.

The one most controversial aspect of this updated production are the video screen projections.  [My first experience with video screen projections was in 2005 at Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White.] The video can be used to great benefit as a background and to create an amazingly visual tornado.  Unfortunately these same technical advantages can be the show's detriment when it is overly used as in Act II.  You be the judge when you go to see the U.S. national tour and let me know your thoughts!

Show Rating:
Acting: A
All cast members, ensemble to headliners, give 110% of themselves in their roles and nobody outshines the rest of the cast. It's a fabulous ensemble show.
Choreography: B+/A-
The show's best choreographed number is "Hail-Hail! The Witch is Dead!" and the Tin Man and Scarecrow both move well.
Costumes: B+
The munchkins' costumes were the one major let down for both Veronica and myself. Not believable.

After the show, Veronica and I headed to the Stage Door and talked with a young girl with her mum and another young woman.  Everyone unanimously commented on the beauty of the show, splendid cast, fantastic costumes and adorable Nigel who played Toto.  All the principals made a point of speaking with everyone at the banister. Veronica and I especially enjoyed conversing with Jamie McKnight (Scarecrow) and Danielle Wade (Dorothy) who made a point of taking time to talk with the little girl and pose for photos - making her night, I have no doubt!
The young girl admiring Nigel ("Toto")
Touring care package for Jacqui.
Yours truly with the beautiful and talented Jacquelyn Piro Donovan

So what are you waiting for? Grab your tickets to see The Wizard of Oz when the tour is in your neck of the woods. You won't regret it. It will make for a great family outing or date night. There are still tickets left during closing weekend here at the the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.

04 June 2013

Theatre Review: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Who's ready for a fun girls' night @ the Pantages?
Before we headed out to Los Angeles,
my girlfriend V and I grabbed salads and soups at Panera Bread.

When we arrived at the Pantages in Hollywood we immediately found ourselves surrounded by drag queens and spotted a red carpet with flash bulbs going off. Curious, we questioned a photographer who said that it was "Drag Queen Night @ Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". Pulling out my camera, I had to get some shots of the amazing costumes and platforms we saw. Gosh, these men could out-walk many girls I know!
Michael Jackson look-a-like
Couture diva! She brought her own hairspray!
Miss Mardi Gras, no?
And now for the show... I went into the show knowing hardly anything but hoping for a fun and carefree girls' night out with my friend V. And boy were we lucky! The music included all-time favorites such as Material Girl, MacArthur Park, and It's Raining Men and could be best described as Mamma Mia on steroids.

The show's costumes and sets were over-the-top hilarious! The number of feathers, fringe, tinsel, platform heels, pink feather boas, disco jumpsuits and Daisy Dukes was endlessMy all-time favorite was the 1st act MacArthur Park. The ensemble were decked out in gigantic cupcake costumes with candles on their heads and umbrellas dripping with streamers. Check out a promo photo below.

(c) Joan Marcus
My main concern had been that the three main characters, two drag queens and one transsexual, would face oppression from religious homophobes.  Thankfully, that was NOT the case and here comes my little cheer of gratitude. The bullies in the musical turned out to be red-necked hicks. The primary bully was in fact an obese, mullet-wearing red-neck woman. (Odd.) 
[On that same note, please be aware that this is not appropriate for children because there are several utterances of the F words and there are two strong homophobic scenes where our two drag queens are attacked by the above mentioned red-necked hicks.]  
So would I recommend seeing this show during the remainder of its LA stop? Yes, 100% yes.
You will laugh, tap your foot non-stop
and be unable to stop clapping out of delight during the entertaining curtain call.
And be forewarned that you'll likely leave humming an 80's favorite.