Wednesday, May 23, 2018

SEX by MAE WEST …in Hollywood (natch)



Just saw this Mae West 1926 comedy and am still laughing at this delightfully outrageous show that captures West’s insolent and sexy oeuvre perfectly. The fact that West was arrested for indecency and spent 10 days cheering up the women prisoners (and probably the guards) while serving her sentence, now boggles the mind. Well, there are always small-minded censors who run aghast at the suggestion that sex might be fun while probably guilty of far nastier sexual adventures of their own. The audacious writing in SEX reminds us of the many brilliant films she later wrote and performed in before the Hays Office closed her down.

 
Director Sirina Irwin is faithful to West’s over-the-top style that makes sex an innocent pastime with harmless vulgarity. The entire cast pull out all the slapstick stops to create a musical comedy that does not date. 

Andrea Hutchinson does her best to capture the sultry dame but West is a hard act to follow. Susan Edwards Martin is dynamite as a horny socialite, Wayne Wilderson delights as a smooth British officer, Ryan Phillips is a rich romantic eager to learn the ropes and Lowam Eyasu brings gravity to the role of a naive prostitute.


Others play numerous parts. Davey Johnson goes hilariously from sleazy pimp to snotty butler while David Errigo does sailors, a maid and also dances to He Would Row Row Row with saucy choreography. Kandace Lindsey is memorable in her dynamic Latin dance number, Perry Brown dominates as a cop and a CEO, and Carla Valentine slips easily from male to female roles with nary a minute to change. The lavish costumes are by Michael Mullen whose fabulous choices I have reviewed often in classy local shows.


A Buzzworks Theater Company production at The Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Hwd. For tickets: Hudson Box Office or https://dime.io/events/buzzworks-sex





Monday, April 30, 2018

LOVE NEVER DIES, etc.


NOT BORN YESTERDAY, May 2018


Dear Reader:
Seems everyone goes to the movies, or sit home and watch TV, but for some reason live theater is not on their agenda. As a British-born theater professional, what I learned from seeing great stars onstage, there’s a bond between actor and audience that can only be experienced that one time, since every performance and every audience is different. Film and TV freeze this intimate relationship into a mechanical experience. So, here are some live shows I recommend that may just be in your neighborhood.

LOVE NEVER DIES (Hollywood)
Andrew Lloyd Webber has done it again. It’s ten years later, The Phantom still loves Christine, has written a new song and, if he can persuade her to sing it, she’s his forever. Complications are her husband and a darling son, but the song is proof that love never really dies. The music is grand, as are the singers, and even with no chandelier the sets and costumes amaze. This sequel to ‘Phantom of the Opera’ should enthrall fans of that beautifully melodramatic show. At the Pantages. 866-755-2929.

THE IMMIGRANT  (Sierra Madre)
In Texas, in 1909, an immigrant Jewish fruit peddler is befriended by an older Christian couple. It’s the true story of how a Jewish refugee from Russia made a life in America. Written by Mark Harelik and directed by Simon Levy. Because the challenges facing immigrants today are no less urgent than they were 109 years ago, there are post-show discussions with panelists on immigration issues. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Free parking behind Playhouse. Reservations: 626-355-4318 or www.sierramadreplayhouse.org

DAMAGED FURNITURE (Sherman Oaks)
This delightful comedy, written with tongue-in-cheek by Howard Skora, is about an LA actor  forced to go back to Brooklyn and work in his family business. He is soon confounded by his dysfunctional family and, when he discovers how the furniture got damaged, he also realizes what lead him to become an actor in the first place. Directed by Jim Fall. Runs Saturday Evenings (only) at 8:00 pm. At Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. 
Tickets: damagedfurniture.brownpapertickets.com

SEX (in Hollywood, natch)
On Broadway in 1926, Mae West was writer, director, producer and star in this raunchy comedy. The show was a hit but West was arrested for obscenity and served eight days in jail. The plot: Margy, a successful sex worker in Montreal, accused of a crime she did not commit, heads for New York acquiring lovers along the way. Between the police, criminals, hypocritical high-society types, and two men who love her, Margy has her calendar full! Directed by Sirena Irwin. Produced by Buzzworks. At Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Tickets: Hudson Box Office or https://dime.io/events/buzzworks-sex
 
CARDBOARD PIANO (Long Beach)
A wedding ceremony in Uganda between an American missionary and a local teenage girl is disrupted by violence when a child soldier, fleeing the atrocities of war, stumbles into their church. South Korean playwright Hansol Jung’s haunting drama confronts the religious and cultural roots of intolerance, as well as the human capacity for hatred, forgiveness and love. International City Theatre, 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach. Tickets: 562-436-4610 or InternationalCityTheatre.org. Recommended for mature audiences, ages 16 and up.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

NOT BORN YESTERDAY – April 2018


DEAR READER:
There is so much great live theater in Southern California, and my lifelong passion has always been to see it all and share my enthusiasm with you. Back when I was the Broadway critic for the Hollywood Reporter, my New York apartment was about a five-minute walk from every Broadway theatre. I saw and reviewed everything. Now that I live in Los Angeles, the distances to exciting theater are often daunting, so most of my reviews have been for shows within a comfortable drive from home.
Yet NOT BORN YESTERDAY covers a far vaster canvas. Often I learn of a fabulous show opening in Long Beach, or La Mirada, or Santa Ana, that I am unable to cover. So, as live theater is the passion I want to share with you, from now on I will tell you of my choices and recommendations. Hopefully, after experiencing one of these shows, you will share with me your personal opinion.

 
UNEMPLOYED ELEPHANTS (Burbank)
Actors Brea Bee and Marshall McCabe, play two strangers on the run from loneliness who happen to meet in an airport lounge in Burma. Their search for a missing monk might be their last chance to find true love - if they can seize it! Inspired by a trip she took to the Far East in 2015, author Wendy Graf wrote this romantic comedy, noting, “The trip highlighted and encapsulated for me our modern sense of feeling adrift, seeking something without knowing quite what.” Directed by Maria Gobetti. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W Victory Blvd, Burbank. Tickets: 818- 841-5422 or www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org
ENGAGING SHAW (Beverly Hills)
This romantic comedy is based on heiress Charlotte Payne-Townshend’s pursuit of the famous playwright, critic, socialist and egotist, George Bernard Shaw. He claimed marriage was "an abomination and a nightmare" but in John Morogiello’s witty play, through spirited debate, heated emotion and the occasional flinty spark of desire, she prevails. As directed by Melanie MacQueen, it’s thought-provoking fun. Theatre 40, 241 S Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. 310-364-0535 or www.theatre40.org.
THE MADRES  (Los Feliz)
In this drama by Stephanie Alison Walker, three generations of women face state terrorism in Buenos Aires. Based on the women in Argentina who, in 1977, defied the government’s efforts to terrorize its people into silence and submission. People were disappearing off the streets but no one dared talk about it, and the mother’s quest to find the bodies of their missing children gave birth to a whole movement. The Madres de La Plaza de Mayo de Los Desaparecidos, inspired generations of artists and activists to resist and persist. Skylight Theatre, 1816 N Vermont, Los Feliz. 213-761-7061 or SkylightTix.com
PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT  (Hollywood)
This hilarious yet touching musical is based on the 1994 hit film about two drag performers and a transgender woman driving across the Australian outback in an old bus and performing cabaret. Their musical road trip includes dance numbers It’s Raining Men and I Will Survive. The film’s positive portrayals helped introduce LGBTQ themes to a mainstream audience. Book is by film’s author/director Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Directed by Jessica Hanna. Celebration Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave, Hollywood. 323- 957-1884 or www.celebrationtheatre.com

Friday, March 2, 2018

THE ALAMO (Santa Monica)




 

In an Italian-American section of Brooklyn sits a rundown local bar called The Alamo. The place is fighting to keeps its doors open and welcomes the arrival of young artists wanting to adopt the bar as an entertainment hangout. 

However, the aging customers, eight working-class neighbors, don’t want to surrender their bar, much less their neighborhood, to these neo-carpetbaggers. 

These are vivid characters who carry scars of the past - from Vietnam to 9/11 - and they are ready to fight for their place in the world.

Says director Kent Thompson, “I love this play, because Ian McRae writes with such passion, compassion, and humor, about a forgotten group of people - blue collar Americans!” 

At Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA through March 31. Tickets: 310-397-3244 or www.ruskingrouptheatre.com. Free parking.
Photos by Ed Krieger

Also in my column in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

ANTONY & CLEOPATRA: THE MUSICAL (North Hollywood)



Shakespeare’s tragedy has it all: romance, passion, sex, heartbreak, the fascination of royalty, war, politics, the epic sweep of history and one of history’s most celebrated love stories... of Roman Mark Antony, and Cleopatra Queen of Egypt. 




Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton in the film "Cleopatra"


In case you missed the famous film, but remember one of Hollywood's most celebrated love stories, here’s a chance to enjoy the original stage version live. 
In one of her signature moves, director Gloria Gifford retains Shakespeare’s text while expanding the proceedings with a modern song score and a dazzling 35-member cast.



Executive produced by Gifford and produced by Jade Warner, Lauren Plaxco and Chad Doreck for Jamaica Moon Productions and The GGC Players. At Gray Studios, 5250 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood, through March. Tickets: 310-366-5505 or www.tix.com.

Also in my column in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.