Showing posts with label musical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label musical. Show all posts

12 August 2018

Conejo Players: West Side Story IS Breaking Hearts!

Thousand Oaks' local favorite Conejo Players has been wowing audiences weekly since 20 July with their summer production of West Side Story. And if you haven't had a chance to get to Conejo Players to see this production, you'll be wanting to reserve a spot in your calendar for closing weekend (16-19 August)! Considering that this past Sunday's 2pm matinee was sold out you'll want to get a hold of those tickets ASAP.
Company. (c) Conejo Players.
Dale Alpert (Doc) and Cameron Liljekvist (Tony)
As always, Conejo Players pulls some of the best and brightest talent from the Conejo Valley and beyond. Director Devery Holmes (President of the Board of Directors) was so impressed with the talent she saw that the show's leads and several featured roles have been double casted and at Sunday's matinee, Tony and Maria were played by the capable and winsome Cameron Liljekvist and Jennifer Scott. Their charm was in their youthful exuberance experiencing first love. Major props to the couple for bringing passion and charm to "One Hand, One Heart" without making it nauseating. And the pain they both felt during the second act was palpable and gut wrenching. Similarly double casted, Cheyenne Green is feisty and sexy as Anita. Her almost rape scene (not quite as intense as the latest US National Tour) is tragic and heart wrenching as is her fabulous second act duetChino (Joel Tinjaca) was not only the best dressed cast member at the gym dance but happened to exhibit some fabulous acting chops during the second act in his scenes with Scott. Dale Alpert, who was last seen in Camarillo Skyway Playhouse's Little Women: The Musical, does a fabulous job as Doc providing the voice of reason of the show. I certainly was itching to applaud him on a couple occasions. Supporting standout was Allison Martinez (lastly in Camarillo Skyway Playhouse's Little Women: The Musical) as a hilarious and adorable Rosalia/Shark Girl and Michael Kronenberg as Baby John who tugged at the heart strings with his second act comments about the late rumble. The two surprise favorite leads of the day were Jeff Lawless and Tyler Lopez as Riff and Bernardo respectively. 

All in all though the casting was superb and not a weak link amongst them all. I was specifically interested in Holmes' decision to cast many of the Puerto Ricans Color blindly without the usual stereotype looks aside from her leading ladies for both casts and Lopez as Bernardo. Many of the Shark girls I would wager to be Caucasian whereas typically most jet girls are Caucasian and I notice one to be of color. This actually worked out well in connection one with the directors notes saying,
"during these times when street violence and race wars are still very real, West side story reminds us of the importance of embracing our differences; of forgiveness; and of the power of love." 
Lieut. Shrank (Ray Mastrovito), the show's largest and most obvious racist, puts it none of the boys are immune from being picked on for their background because as he points out most of the Jets are immigrants themselves be it from European countries. The line between the current scapegoat and last year's scapegoat is very thin as I believe our director was trying to point out with her casting decisions. Of course this could all just be my reading of the situation but it seemed to work well for the Conejo Players' production of Leonard Bernstein's famed musical.

Strong props go to costume designer Manuel Silva for the choice and decision to use color to differentiate between gangs and races with the exception of Maria. Also, the ballet costumes during act two were gorgeous and perfectly complemented and reflected the tone of the show. Similarly I found that wig designer Leo Zeller did a great job with the ladies' wigs making them appear very realistic and using them to help differentiate between the jet girls and the shark girls. In fact many times I was not even sure which lady was wearing a wig and who was not. And despite the very simple set design by John Eslick I found it came off well made and by not distracting from the story the sets helped move the plot along. And what a delight it was to have a live orchestra, featuring the likes of Margaret Joyce on Reeds, albeit thin and sometimes capable of drowning out the singers so lines were missed.
Ensemble. (C) Conejo Players.
But really Miriam Durrie-Kirsch's choreography (that was so well loved in Panic! Production's She Loves Me), with assistance by her daughter Dani Kirsch, was the star of the show. The program says that the choreography was inspired by the original version of Jérôme Robbins and there is no questioning that in the brilliant prologue and dance at the gym sequences. But after a short while you almost forget that anyone came before this brilliance choreographer because she makes every sequence her own. My favorite has definitely got to be her gorgeous ballet sequence during "Somewhere" that had me all choked up. But choosing a favorite has to be as difficult as the oft-time quoted "I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens" (Ever After). And did I even mention how quickly the time flew with impeccable scene changes and fast moving scenes that never left me craving more nor itching to check my watch.

West Side Story plays through Aug. 19 at the Conejo Players Theatre. Please do yourself the favor of seeing this breath taking, heart wrenching and sensational production. Even if you do not see the three leads I did, you're guaranteed a fabulous time thanks to their strong ensemble and the very talented Dale Alpert, Jeff Lawless, Tyler Lopez and Allison Martinez. This is one of the best community performances I've seen in a long time nearly rivaling five star theatricals recent production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. A++.

Location: 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks.
Parking: Free, spacious well lit parking lot (be sure to arrive early with plenty of time to park on sold out dates)
Tickets: $20 ($18 for students/seniors and military)
Rating (by Conejo Players): PG-13

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.

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.

21 July 2018

Disney's Beauty and the Beast ROARS into Thousand Oaks!

Yvette Lawrence (Director) and Susan Egan (Belle). Photo by Ed Krieger.
Five-Star Theatricals, formerly Cabrillo Music Theatre, is presenting Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for a limited two-week run with 10 performances from July 20 through 29. The show stars Susan Egan, who earned both Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations for best actress as the original Belle in the 1994 Broadway production, and is directed by Yvette Lawrence, who was also in the original Broadway production and played Belle in Los Angeles opposite James Barbour. With music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and Book by Linda Woolverton, the Broadway musical has returned to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza 16 years after the 3rd National Tour's visit in 2002. And as newly titled Artistic Director Patrick Cassidy said on opening night, this is Broadway. And why he said? Because not only the Broadway quality talent from the AEA and those whom might be eligible for their AEA cards but thanks to Dan Redfeld's lush sounding 19 piece live orchestra.
Jason Chacon, Susan Egan. Photo by Ed Krieger.
Leading lady Susan Egan (Belle) is just as enchanting as she must have been in 1994. Her voice as lush and dynamic as was forever captured on the Original Broadway Cast recording. Her acting just as spritely and playful as exhibited at the Tony Awards. The last 24 years have done nothing to dampen the original Belle's allure. For those of you who have seen Egan on Broadway or at the Shubert Theater, you'll be delighted to know that this time around she gets to sing "A Change in Me" (the second act number that was written specifically for Toni Braxton's turn as Belle on Broadway) and it's as if you were listening to Egan's rendition on So Far but with the joy of seeing her live and opposite the delightfully paternal David Gilchrist (Maurice).

Her leading man, Jason Chacon (Beast), has tall shoes to fit but unfortunately never seems to hit the mark. His vocals are top notch when he hits those power notes during everyone's favorite ballad, "If I Can't Love Her". Perhaps part of the problem is visual because he does not appear to be that much taller next to Susan Egan or any of the other cast for that matter. Looking back that was one of the beauties of such performers as James Barbour - the height difference that lent itself to a menacing and fearful "Beast". It made it believable when Belle cowers and jumps in fear at the Beast when they argue in her bedroom at the castle. In this version however it became less of a scary beast but a temperamental beast. Belle was less the cowering girl locked away from her father but a stronger and more independent woman who is ready to fight and stand up for herself. Chacon did seem to come into his own more so during the second act when he had a chance to show his comedic chops opposite Marc Ginsburg (Lumiere) and Gregory North (Cogsworth) as the nervous lovestruck suitor.
Susan Egan, David Gilchrist. Photo by Ed Krieger.
Sadly Susan Egan (Belle) and Jason Chacon (Beast) were never able to create any real chemistry despite both being excellent actors and singers. Their best moments were during "Something's There" when Belle reads to the Beast. Egan did however charm the audience with her heart-tugging daughterly chemistry with community favorite David Gilchrist (Maurice). Lawrence perfectly nailed it when she said,
You'll totally believe the connection between Belle and her father...The connection the two of them have is just beautiful.
Marc Ginsburg, Jason Chacon. Photo by Ed Krieger.
The opening night castle residents all gave great performances and earned some of the most rousing rounds of applause. Marc Ginsburg (Lumiere) previously starred in 5-Star Theatricals' Joseph... as Reuben and Evita as Che where he was noted for being a vocal powerhouse. His turn as Lumiere was spot-on hilarious and his chemistry with Gregory North (Cogsworth) and Devon Davidson (Babette) sparkled as if they had been working together for months and not just weeks. Sarah Marie (Mrs. Potts U/S) is quite sweet and handles the title song well with professionalism. Nandami Sinha's Madame de la Grande Bouche is hilarious and exhibits strong operatic vocals but unfortunately her accent is tough to understand. A nice surprise were the talented Courtni Gidish and Aaron Camitses as Salt and Pepper who were a featured dance duo in "Be Our Guest".
William Carmichael, Adam Hollick, Justin Charles Cowden. Photo by Ed Krieger.
Adam Hollick as Gaston is properly full of bravado aided by Justin Charles Cowden as LeFou in one of the liveliest performances of the evening. Those who remember Hollick from last year's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be impressed by his comedic chops and well chiseled biceps. No, seriously, I heard two older ladies giggling in admiration over those very biceps on the walk to the parking garage. As his sidekick, Cowden is wonderfully buffoonish and handles all his physical comedy well.

And as is the norm with 5-Star Theatricals, the ensemble and kids ensemble were high caliber! Great dancers and singers.

Yvette Lawrence's direction and Cheryl Baxter's choreography deserve their own bow. Not being able to borrow from Robert Roth's original and iconic direction must be very tough but Yvette Lawrence makes the show her own as was best highlighted during "If I Can't Love Her" and Cheryl Baxter does a compelling job with a rousing "Gaston".

And as Patrick Cassidy said in his opening speech, many of the costumes, props and sets came direct from Broadway and tours and they look fabulous. Aside from some uncomfortable looking padding for the Beast, both of the title stars look radiant, especially when Egan gets to dazzle in her yellow ballgowns. The let down for those of us who have seen previous incarnations of Beauty and the Beast was the diminishing scale of what was once a large and lavish scenic design with an impressive castle, including the Beast's library and tower. Lawrence does make the most with what she has been given to work with. And in this reviewer's mind, this production still runs circles around the recent live action film.
Susan Egan, Adam Hollick, Ensemble. Photo by Ed Krieger.
Many might think this piece will only appeal to children. However, this is a musical with a universal appeal.  Beauty and the Beast is for both the young AND the young at heart. As Yvette Lawrence said,
Be prepared to fall in love with Beauty and the Beast all over again.
Note: This production is being dedicated to the memory of Gary Beach, the Original Lumiere, who sadly passed away on 17 July 2018.

Dates: 20 July - 29 July 2018
Tickets: $35-$89 at Ticketmaster or the Box Office
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 here.

20 July 2018

5 Star Theatricals Invites YOU to Be Our Guest!

Community favorite, 5 Star Theatricals (formerly Cabrillo Music Theatre) invites YOU to "Be Our Guest" for what looks like the musical experience of the year starring Susan Egan as Belle, the role she originated on Broadway in 1994.
Yvette Lawrence and Susan Egan. Photo by Ed Krieger.
For more details and ticket information, check out my interview with Yvette Lawrence, the show's director who also happens to have been Susan Egan's replacement as Belle in LA at the Shubert Theater!

Those of you who have accessibility issues, please see my post here.

Until next time!

06 July 2018

Beauty and the Beast: Interview with Yvette Lawrence!

Five-Star Theatricals, formerly Cabrillo Music Theatre, will present Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for a limited two-week run with 10 performances from July 20 through 29. The show stars Susan Egan, who earned both Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations for best actress as the original Belle in the 1994 Broadway production, and is directed by Yvette Lawrence, who was also in the original Broadway production and played Belle in Los Angeles opposite James Barbour. I'm delighted to say that I had the opportunity to chat with Ms. Lawrence on the phone this week to talk about our mutual excitement for the upcoming production. So pull up a cuppa and let's chat...
The Joyous Living: What was your approach to staging Disney’s Beauty and the Beast?
Yvette Lawrence: I wanted to take it back to what Linda Woolverton and Howard Ashman wanted. Rediscovering, reimagine and retelling. Keeping it all based in the message and the strong story telling and focusing on the humanity of what has happened to everyone effected by the spell. Just look how one mistake can effect so many and how transformative is the power of love. 

The Joyous Living: How did your prior experience with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and being Susan Egan's LA replacement as Belle influence your decisions here?
Yvette Lawrence: Obviously we cannot do any of the original blocking and staging. That's not ours to do. An example of changed staging -- The opening is unlike the way it's been done before with the young prince at the door. Our story begins with a party. So that's a big change. It's more like the live action film being introduced to all the main characters in their human form. I wanted everyone to understand that everyone has been effected by this. We have children in our village and in past productions there were no children except for Chip in the castle and we have other children as enchanted objects so he's not the only child so that also makes a difference.

The Joyous Living: The 2017 live action film is probably on the young audiences’ minds when they are buying tickets to see the 5-Star Theatricals production. What would you say to them about expectations?
Yvette Lawrence: They are going to just rediscover the story. Anyone who only knows the movie with Emma Watson will actually get to experience the original Broadway Belle who worked directly with Linda Wolverton (the character's creator). Linda even came in and gave me notes when I was at the Shubert Theatre. Linda's empowerment of the Disney character and female was unique. She didn't want to write a heroine who needed to be saved but wanted to create a Disney heroine who saves the prince.

They'll get a great message and they'll also be super entertained. The choreography, staging, music and costumes! Getting to know these people as people. Even the enchanted objects - the humanity in them is so important for each one. Everyone has a story and in rehearsals we focus on being interconnected and having a story. They'll also not see a typical village of dancers but our village is made up of all shapes and sizes! We actually look like a village.

The Joyous Living: I personally was disappointed with Emma Watson’s yellow gown after Lily James’ opulent blue ballgown and the Broadway and National Tour signature yellow and gold ballgown. I remember going to see the national tour at its stop at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and hearing a little girl, in her Disney dress up gown, gasping and exclaiming to her father in excitement.

Do you have any special memories wearing that iconic gown?
Yvette Lawrence: Both dresses honestly. The blue dress is "oh my gosh! you are Belle." My first performance coming out I remember hearing a child in the audience gasping and saying "Belle!" And with the yellow ballgown you could feel the shift in the audience and feel the awww.  You also have that moment of aww, where you feel so beautiful like a princess. We've been doing Susan's fittings with the yellow ballgown and we will definitely elicit that response again. We'll have the little girls who go awww.

The Joyous Living: How uncomfortable was it to wear and dance around in? I heard stories it would move one way when Susan was trying to go the other way.
Yvette Lawrence [laughing]: Whenever you wear hoop skirts, you have to remember it's going to have a little extra life to it. If you try to do a little too much the gown tends to take over. The gown we have was a little heavy and we had to add a little alterations because Susan is tiny and that dress can become overwhelming

Adam Hollick, Susan Egan and Justin Cowden. Photo: Ed Krieger.
The Joyous Living: Tell me about your amazing cast.
Yvette Lawrence: This cast is just wonderful. Susan and I are always saying how they will not disappoint. People will think they're watching original cast members. They are fantastic. 

Fun fact: Tracy Ray Reynolds [Mrs. Potts] was in our original Shubert Theatre cast and without even knowing it all those years ago she was there absorbing and learning from Beth Fowler [The Original Mrs. Potts].

You'll totally believe the connection between Belle and her father. The first time Susan [Egan] and David Gilchrist [Maurice] sang "No Matter What" we all had tears in our eyes. The connection the two of them have is just beautiful. Tom Bosley [The Original Maurice] was such a patriarch of the show. He was such a papa and David is just the same.

Our Beast, Jason Chacon, is new to us but he IS fantastic. He's going to break your heart and he's also going to scare you.  When Belle leaves it is heartbreaking. We've been starting to work with his tail to work with it to get him used to it. He has an absolutely beautiful voice and a lovely actor.
Yvette Lawrence and Susan Egan. Photo: Ed Krieger.
Susan [Egan] has been wonderful to work with and open to saying it doesn't have to be the way it was before. We can tell it our own way. Susan sounds just like she did 24 years ago! There's a sense of maturity and experience that helps with the story telling. 

I had never really known Susan before. All I did was trail her for a week at the Shubert and she said "good luck". Fun Fact: She moved out of the Shubert with her black lab, Willa, and I moved in with my black lab, Audrey. And now we each have two girls. In fact my two girls are in the cast. One is a Silly Girl and another is a dancer in the show.

The Joyous Living: What has been your biggest directorial challenge thus far?
Yvette Lawrence: Working with a set with unknown variables. You don't always get what you are imaging so you adjust. While it's been challenging it's also really fun and you get to use your brain and redirect.

The Joyous Living: Many would say Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was the first family friendly Broadway musical. What would you say to parents who are debating taking their children to see the show?
Yvette Lawrence: Be prepared to fall in love with Beauty and the Beast all over again.

What a perfect way to wrap our interview. I can NOT wait to see this amazing cast and what magic Yvette Lawrence has whipped up for us with this limited production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. So be prepared to fall in love with the music and characters all over again and get your tickets fast because I can't imagine they will be around for much longer.

The cast of "Beauty and the Beast". Photo by Ed Krieger.
Tickets: $35-$89 at Ticketmaster
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 here.

16 June 2018

Little Women Celebrates Womanhood

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.

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.

14 June 2018

OPENING SOON: Little Women the Musical Comes to Camarillo

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

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.

25 March 2018

Films For Easter: Messiah Rocks!

Happy Palm Sunday! Today's film recommendation is actually a professionally filmed music concert.
Some of you might think that Handel's Messiah was written about the Christmas story but that would only be 1/2 true. In fact a great portion of the oratorio features the Easter story too. Jason Howland and Dani Davis adapted the classic oratorio with a contemporary and understandable libretto and incorporated a rock band.
I understand that this may not be everyone's cup of tea but for those who want to add something different to their music collection may I highly suggest Handel's Messiah Rocks! that can be found on CD, mp3 (& Apple Music streaming) and a special PBS DVD featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra.
Happy Passion Week!