Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

19 August 2018

Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES is Hilarious!

Camarillo Skyway Playhouse's version of Noel Coward's Private Lives is belly-aching delicious. Directed by two of Camarillo Skyway Playhouse's favorites, Mark Heulitt and Dean Johnson, the comedy makes a fabulous use of the space and local talent. The comedy stars CSP favorite, Genevieve Levin (Much Ado About NothingSylvia, Little Women the Musical), as Amanda, the one time married wife of Elyot (Alan Waserman) [who is now honeymooning with Sibyl (Lauren Zika)] and now on her honeymoon with second husband Victor (Bill Sweeney). Rounding out the cast is a hilarious Theresa Secor (Much Ado About Nothing) as French maid Louise who was an audience favorite.

The famous comedy is one of the most sophisticated, entertaining plays ever written. Elyot and Amanda, once married and now honeymooning with new spouses at the same hotel, meet by chance, reignite the old spark and impulsively elope. After days of being reunited, they again find their fiery romance alternating between passions of love and anger. Their aggrieved spouses appear and a roundelay of affiliations ensues as the women first stick together, then apart, and new partnerships are formed.

Ms. Levin whom I found to be a stellar and consummate actor in Little Women the Musical was on fire during the opening night performance. Her feisty and feminist Amanda was quite as I imagine her Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing must have been. And yet at times you saw her layers being peeled back and the hopes and insecurities of a woman in love. And it certainly was a bonus that she has such fabulous and realistic chemistry with her co-star Waserman. In fact their chemistry only grew from the first act on the connecting honeymoon balconies to the third act when they exchanged some of the cutest moments in the background as their soon to be ex spouses (Sweeney and Zika) quarreled and demonstrated a parallel spark and fierce chemistry as the lights went down.

It is with fingers crossed that we'll see more of Levin, Waserman, Sweeney, Zika and Secor at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse. They are all fabulous actors who brought their A-game to the stage. Voices were projected loud and clear with excellent enunciation and they made fabulous use of the stage and space. And the show flew by so fast that members of the audience weren't even positive it was intermission time after Act I.
Genevieve Levin and Alan Waserman. (C) Camarillo Skyway Playhouse.
This wonderfully entertaining production runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm to September 16th. The Camarillo Skyway Playhouse is located at 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010. You can reserve tickets at (805) 388-5716 or at

Location: Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010
ParkingFree well-lit lot next to the theatre
Seating: General admission.
Ages: 13+ for adult content including marital strife/violence and drinking
Accessible: The theatre is entirely accessible with ramps in and out of the parking lot. The front row offers excellent leg room to stretch out if needed.

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.

13 July 2018

Review: Halo Salt Spas

Good afternoon!
What a fun adventure my girlfriend and I went on this afternoon. Have you ever heard of the salt room phenomenon
For more information, visit their website at
Remember the first salt session is FREE for new customers! And I can assure you that no sales pitch was made nor did we feel uncomfortable at any time. In fact Judy at the front desk was more than accommodating and welcoming to any and all questions and conversation.
Accessible Note - there is a flight of stairs leading up and down to the courtyard where Halo Salt Spas is. I did not see an elevator and forgot to ask (Sorry guys!) but I was thankful to say that there is a rail for support and a landing in the middle of the staircase to catch a breath if necessary.

05 July 2018

VLOG: The Weaver's Daughter REVIEW

Sorely late (whoops!) but today I'm delighted to share with y'all Sarah E. Ladd's The Weaver's Daughter, a clean Christian Regency romance set during the Industrial Revolution that would make a great easy summer read for your carry on bag. I usually post my reviews on Amazon and GoodReads but thought I'd use my extra energy today to post on the blog too! Enjoy...
I hope you've enjoyed this review and a big thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction for the chance to review this book as part of their Fiction Guild.

To Buy:
Amazon ($8.99 Kindle; $10.95 Paperback)
Barnes and Nobles ($8.99 Nook; $12.79 Paperback)

03 June 2018

Next to Perfect: A Review of NEXT TO NORMAL

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.

20 March 2018

Films for Easter: Miracle Maker

Hi friends! Another ER trip but thankfully I am home and ready to share a quick post. In readiness for Easter (1 April 2018) I wanted to share a few of my favorite Easter films worth watching these next few weeks:

#2 - Miracle Maker (Amazon Prime/DVD)

If you've followed my blog for a while you've probably heard me rave on and on about Ralph Fiennes and the fabulous Anglo-Russian claymation/animation feature length film, Miracle Maker.

The stop motion artwork is EXCELLENT with great facial features and scenic detail.
The vocal cast starring Ralph Fiennes as Jesus and Rebecca Callard as Jarius' daughter is top notch delivering realistic emotion and passion. For instance, two of my favorite moments in the film are when Jesus sobs over John the Baptist (not a common scene in many Biblical films) and sighs audibly when the Pharisees call him out of the crowd to ask another loaded question. And lets not even mention the time when Satan (in one of the few hand drawn animated cartoons) tempts Jesus to run away from the Garden of Gethsemane -- goosies!!

The scariest scene involves a demonically possessed Mary Magdalene whom Jesus saves. Again, expect goosies!!
This likely is one of the best depictions of Jesus as Son of Man. There's no "preaching" nor "thumping of the Bible" which means this is a fabulous choice to show your friends and family this Easter season. Instead of focusing on one gospel the story weaves stories from all gospels in addition to creating vignettes showing Jesus' humanity such as laughing over lunch with Lazarus and the disciples over simple day to day topics. And how often do you see Jesus in films laughing and smiling? In this gorgeous retelling Jesus is full of mirth and humor and depth. He is the Son of God sent to die for our sins but he is also still 100% man and that comes through in this great feature film.
So please do yourself a favor and watch Miracle Maker this Easter Season. You won't regret it.

DirectorsDerek Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov


17 March 2018

Films for Easter: Lion of Judah

Hi friends! Sorry its been a day and an age since I was last online but things have been a bit hectic and scary lately with a hospital stay last week and other health issues. But in readiness for Easter (1 April 2018) I wanted to share a few of my favorite Easter films worth watching these next few weeks:

#1 - Lion of Judah (Amazon Prime/DVD)
Lion of Judah is a 3D Computer Animated Christian comedy-drama starring Georgina Cordova as the voice of Judah, a young and impressionable lamb, who meets a barn yard of mismatched animals including Sandi PattyAnupam KherMichael Madsenand Ernest Borgnine, who had previously witnessed the humble birth of the Savior in Once Upon A Stable. On a journey to Jerusalem they meet up with a down on his luck and depressed donkey, Scott Eastwood. And together this mismatched group of animals participate in the Passion Week up through Easter morning.

This is an excellent choice for the children in your family and/or Sunday School. Due to the topic, there are a few scary scenes although nothing is actually shown. This is a movie safe to be shown for all ages.

And yes this is also a great film to watch as adults. My friend A and I watched the film a couple times and both of us experienced GOOSIES thanks to the gorgeous scenes between Jesus (Bruce Marchiano) and Scott Eastwood's depressed Jack and later with the jubilant Georgina Cordova's Judah. Goosies, I repeat. The love and compassion we see in the character of Jesus and the hope and transformation we see in the animals is mesmerizing!

Rating: PG for mild thematic elements
Director: Deryck Broom & Roger Hawkins
Written by: Brent Dawes
Running Time: 87 Minutes

Where to Watch:
Amazon Prime Video (free)
Amazon ($9.99) - Combo DVD of Once Upon A Stable and Lion of Judah.

12 January 2018

Motown: A Jukebox Musical with Sass and Rhythm!

Motown, the U.S. non-equity national tour, is currently in town for the weekend (Jan 11-14 2018) bringing musical joy to its Southern California audience with its jam-packed jukebox musical (over 50 hit numbers such as "ABC" and "Stop in the Name of Love").
Unfortunately the opening night (11 Jan) was marred by a fire alarm unexplainably going off just before the grand finale but hopefully all other performances will run smoothly. The joys and pitfalls of live theater. ⌣ But that is not going to ruin my memories of the great night out. Aside from hearing the amazing hit numbers live, the audience on 11 January were treated to fantastic foot work choreographed by Brian Harlan Brooks and many from the 'older' generations were able to laugh and clap aloud to moments that skipped over my 33 year old head (whoops, hehe) such as Rob McCaffrey's top notch Ed Sullivan interpretation that was the cause for many chortles and laughs from the audience. And dare I not mention all the incredible vocalists in the cast with hardly a weak note among them. 
Chase Phillips as Michael Jackson. Photo by Joan Marcus.
If one had to pick out the weakest performance it would also have be one of the audience's favorites -- Chase Phillips (who rotates with Kai Calhoun) playing the roles of Young Berry Gordy/Stevie Wonder/Michael Jackson. His turn as a young Michael Jackson sees him on stage with the other Jackson 5 singing and dancing to memorable numbers such as "ABC". Unfortunately midway through his second number he did get winded and lost some steam but man did the audience love the kid. He is so full of energy and excitement and charisma. How can you not adore him?
Trenyce and Kenneth Mosley. Photo by Michael Pool.
But it is the show's 2 stars who will have you coming back for more and more. Being that this is a jukebox musical, the storyline tends to be limited and weak to make room for the infectious dancing and singing. However leading man Kenneth Mosley who stars as Berry Gordy is able to keep the rhythm flowing and prevents the show from dragging during the mini vignettes highlighting his personal life and highs and lows with Motown Records. He also knows how to tug at the heartstrings with his warming rendition of "To Be Loved" in the First Act.
Trenyce as Diana Ross. Photo by Michael Pool.
Trenyce in American Idol. Photo Credit: American Idol.
And even though the ensemble is filled to the brim with incredible vocalists such as Justin Reynolds (Smokey Robinson) and Matt Manuel (Marvin Gaye) the show ultimately belongs to leading lady and American Idol alumni, Trenyce, as Diana Ross.

Trenyce seamlessly takes Diana Ross from a young high school senior full of sass and spunk to a big time singer dealing with a business-personal relationship with Gordy to an unhappy superstar who sees no future with her lover. [Interestingly the show does not touch on the fact Diana Ross was 2 months pregnant with Gordy's daughter when she married her first husband Silberstein.] And the way she is able to connect with the audience at the top of the Second Act was brilliant. Trenyce is a talent that saw a too brief career on American Idol Season 2 and hopefully will no longer be hidden in the background after she takes the country by storm with her sensational performance as Diana Ross. This is one lady who deserves a big break and could easily carry this role in an equity production.

While the mediocre scenic design by David Korins (high praise to Projection Designer Daniel Brodie for making the most of the space) and minuscule "orchestra" under the baton of Conductor/Keyboard 1 Matthew Croft scream non-equity tour, the sensational casting by Wojcik and Seay Casting and the gorgeous costume design by Emilio Sosa all but makes up for it. And a big thank you to Director Charles Randolph-Wright for his delicate and appropriate approach to the social context surrounding Motown (JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Gaye, etc.) using Kenneth Mosley's calm presence as Gordy as a voice of reason in a time of hostile.

So do yourself a favor... turn off the television, stop reading the depressing news and get a ticket to see the enchanting and thoroughly entertaining Motown the Musical! You'll be clapping along, shaking your head with laughter and humming a tune or two on the way out...

Current Location: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
Prices: $34-89 + fees
Parking: $8 Cash Only
Age Appropriateness: 13+ (adult language)
Accessible: YES! Read my review of the TOCAP's accessibility here.

01 December 2017

Brilliant!: Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Last night the non equity tour of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder opened in Thousand Oaks for a brief weekend stay thanks to Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and Theater League. And what a riot it was! If you recall, I absolutely loved the great equity tour that came through LA last year but wow this show was tremendous too with an A+ cast, all the same terrific sets and costumes and projections and fabulous direction from tour director Peggy Hickey.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder won the 2014 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design. They also won the 2014 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Projection Design (Aaron Rhyne). And after seeing last week's opening night performance I am convinced each of those awards was well deserved.

What makes the tour so incredible has to be the fresh and talented cast led by Blake Price as Monty and James Taylor Odom as the D'ysquith Family. And there was not a weak member of the cast! Ensemble member Kristen Antoinette Kane's turn as Miss Shingle helped introduce the plot to the audience with her A+ comedic timing, hilarious voices and flat out sensational singing sure set the bar high for the rest of the cast and boy did they deliver. Price and Odom were both on point 100% of the time with great chemistry, fabulous comedic timing and sublime solos such as Act II "Sibella". Their leading ladies (Colleen McLaughlin and Erin McIntyre) sang like angels, in particular Ms. McIntyre whom is just now making her U.S. Debut after performing in Europe. I would have paid good money to see Ms. McIntye's Christine Daae. 

The cast truly seemed deserving of the standing ovation they received last night at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza where they are performing through Sunday. I just regret that not all the jokes seemed to be comprehended and appreciated by the audience and yes the crude humor remains and seemed even more awkward the second time. Oh well.

If you are concerned about the quality because of the fact it is a non equity tour, the only weakness I found to be was that there was a very sparse orchestra. But thankfully there were at least some professional musicians unlike that ghastly Ragtime tour that used prerecorded music.

Only 5 more performances in Thousand Oaks before heading to El Paso!
  • Friday, December 1, 2017: 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Decmeber 2, 2017: 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 2, 2017: 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 3, 2017: 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 3, 2017: 7:30 p.m.

Show: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murderj (Non Equity Tour)
Current Location: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
Prices: $34-89 + fees
Parking: $8 Cash Only
Age Appropriateness: 13+, thematic elements and some crude humor
Accessible: YES! Read my review of the TOCAP's accessibility here.

14 November 2017

Cavalia: Feisty and Fabulous (Opening Day Review)

Wow. Again, I say WOW. Cavalia Odysseo was better and grander and more incredible than I could have imagined or hoped for! The show is doing so well that additional performances have been adding meaning that Cavalia will be in Camarillo, California, now through January 7th!! 
For me, one of the best parts of seeing Cavalia Odysseo live was to see the horses in all their glory and beauty demonstrating character, charm, feistiness and watching how much work the trainers are required to keep the show running as smoothly as possible and without any injuries.
The show has three principle troupes who perform -- the horses/equestrians, aerialists and African tumblers/dancers. Each group was thrilling and I was really impressed by how everything came together so smoothly. The horses as I mentioned above and in my previous video are phenomenal!! And the riders -- so gorgeous too. The materials the costume team used to dress them were spot on allowing for great fluidity and grace.
Three performers with Samantha Harris and daughters. (c) Odysseo.
And what a treat to see the talented African acrobats -- you may have seen clips online but this was nothing comparatively to seeing them live. I lost count so many times of how many consecutive tumbles these men took and all while making it look so easy! And the gorgeous aerialists were just that -- gorgeous and beyond breathtaking. Their grace, their poise, their talent... Wow, wow, wow. I have never held my breath so much as during their stunts. 
Three beautiful aerialists with Tiffani Thiessen and daughter. (c) Odysseo.
I really would hate to say too much so your own experience might be spoiled but wow. Just wow. From the feisty and playful horses to the gorgeous riders to the graceful aerialists to the incredible acrobats from Africa the show was a pure hit. And don't forget the live music (in French)!
Accessibility Review:
After my earlier preview, they installed hand rails in the bleachers to help with navigating the stairs but do know that there are HUGE and TALL staircases so if you choose seats further in the back [which wouldn't be such a bad idea because of the great view you get] you will be climbing and descending some tall stairs. 

There is REDUCED MOBILITY SEATING (1-866-999-8111) where my friend L and I sat but do know these seats are scarce and few so call ASAP if you are looking for reduced mobility seating. And may I say how very accommodating and lovely the ushers were!! They took my walker for me at the beginning of the show and brought it right back to me at intermission and after the curtain call. Always with a smile.

Reduced mobility parking is available right next to the White Big Top. When you arrive, go to the parking lot entrance near the Box Office and tell the parking attendants you require reduced mobility parking.

And if you need a restroom, there are a couple handicap accessible restrooms with ramps and large enough for wheelchairs!

So what are you still doing reading my blog??? Go get your tickets!!! These will make a wonderful date night, great holiday gifts and there is even a discount going on right now for Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy!!!! xo

For details check out my preview here. And be warned that popcorn and pretzels go fast! :D

07 November 2017

Cavalia: My Surprise is Here!!

I promised you all a surprise and am beyond jazzed to finally share it with y'all today...
Today invited guests (including YOURS TRULY) were able to go behind the scenes and check out the set and stars of Cavalia: Odysseo in Camarillo, California, ahead of the 11/11/17 opening show.

Check out my YouTube video highlighting the best of today's experience...
Dates: 11 November 2017 - 10 December 2017
Parking: $20 (not including the Opening Performance)
Prices: $29.50 - $234 (special prices for kids and seniors)

Are You Accessible?
To better accommodate your needs, please contact a Cavalia rep for help with your ticket purchase.

Accessible Parking:
Reduced mobility parking is also available on site right next to the White Big Top. When you arrive, go to the parking lot entrance near the Box Office and tell the parking attendants you require reduced mobility parking.

For those longing for the ultimate experience, the V.I.P. Packages might be your best option.
You will receive:
  • VIP Pass.
  • Center-row seats.
  • Full meal buffet dining served before the show.
  • Great selection of various refreshments available at will.
  • Dessert buffet, coffee and tea served during the intermission.
  • Exclusive stable visit after the show.
  • An Odysseo souvenir.
  • Intermission Snacks:
    Hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, pretzels, candies and the like are available, as well as a selection of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
    Full meal buffet dining is included in our Rendez-Vous VIP Packages.

    Advisory for Ladies:
    Cavalia recommends ladies do not wear high heels.

    Show Duration:
    2 hours 30 minutes (including a 20-30 minute intermission)

    5230 Camino Ruiz
    Camarillo, CA 93012

    Directions (heading North):
    Exit Santa Rosa Road
    Turn Right on Santa Rosa Road
    Turn Right on Verdugo Way
    Turn Right on S. Camino Ruiz

    Directions (heading South):
    Exit Santa Rosa Road
    Turn Left on Santa Rosa Road
    Turn Right on Verdugo Way
    Turn Right on S. Camino Ruiz

    See you soon! You're not going to want to miss this!!