Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Reviewed in NOT BORN YESTERDAY, July issue.


If you were ever a Beatles fan you must not miss this glorious tribute to their most enigmatic member. If you did not know them, here’s a worthy introduction by musician and actor, Tim Piper. He channels John Lennon, another of the heroes who stood up for love and brotherhood in the 1960’s and were shot down.  The show intertwines Lennon’s songs (many with Paul McCartney) with the stories behind them to create a unique and electrifying multimedia concert experience.

It’s about Lennon’s life and how the losses of his life shaped him and inspired his songs. About the unbelievable success and how he ran with it – devoured it – loved it – then hated it. Here is a glimpse into the heart of a man who had a gift that he lost, then found again, moments before the end. 

In my favorite segment he comes into the audience, guitar in hand and draws us in to sing with him. No backup – just a man we know so well, sharing, chatting, teasing us face to face. And we almost believe!

 Sensitively written by Piper and Steve Altman, who directs with respect and honesty; and powerfully backed by rock band Working Class Hero - musical director Greg Piper on bass; Don Butler on guitar, Morley Bartnoff on keyboards and Don Poncher on drums. Sound by Casey Piper and lighting and Paul Gentry are dynamite.

“Just Imagine” is at the historic Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, through August 25. For tickets: (323) 960-4442 or

IONESCOPADE... West Los Angeles

Reviewed in NOT BORN YESTERDAY, July issue 

This is a zany musical Vaudeville Show, hilariously teetering on the edge of madness, based on the works of “Theatre of the Absurd” playwright Eugène Ionesco. While creating this work in the 1970’s, composer/lyricist Mildred Kayden, now 90, was Ionesco’s guest in his Paris apartment. They remained friends until his death in 1994 and, as Kayden tells us, he lived in Nazi-occupied Paris during WW II and believed that “we need to look at life and find the humor in it, or we can’t take it.”  Only laughter could help to survive oppression.

Outstanding in multiple roles are Alan Abelew as Gallic Writer/Magician; Tom Lowe as robust Searcher for The Leader; Andrew Ableson as Balladeer and Killer, Joey D’Auria as Chef and Politician, and Jennifer Malenke provocatively singing “Fire.” Memorable support from Kelly Lester and Cristina Gerla, who constantly change from mad to sad before our eyes.

A lot was funny but much was dark in this cockeyed way of seeing life. My favorite sketches were “The Peace Conference” - nobody listens while everyone speaks; “The Leader” where people chase after a phantom Hero, and “Bobby Watson and Family” a ditzy Music Hall sketch that happily makes no sense at all. 

Kayden’s musical numbers are haunting and beautiful. Quick-witted direction and choreography by Bill Castellino and musical direction by Gerald Sternbach. Produced by Ron Sossi from original concept by Robert Allan Ackerman. 

At the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, through August 11. Tickets: (310) 477-2055 or

Photos by Enci Box.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Guest Reviewer, Mr. William Shakespeare!

Note from Morna: 
I loved the show and thought the performers and director did a marvelous job making light of what too often is fed to us as a tonic not a joy. However, I've been hearing from people that as Will wrote such a caustic review it must be a bad show. So, sadly, with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, I am cancelling his review from this blog. However, if you want to read it go to my personal blog: and enjoy! 
The Murder of Julius Caesar!

The actors seen here, Lucas Kwan Peterson, Eric Bloom and Mike Niedzwicki, are a total delight and the director, Sarah Gurfield, keeps the action moving along deliriously.

Produced By Bart Petty for Santa Monica Repertory Theater, At The Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, through June 30.
Tickets: (213) 268-1454 or

Monday, June 10, 2013


A group of actors are attempting to dramatize the first genocide of the 20th century, where German troops systematically wiped out the agricultural Herero people and took possession of their land. As the performers, three black, three white, gather to give their presentation, we see them struggling, stumbling, arguing. I’m black – I’m white – only I know the truth. A young black woman sees her grandmother’s face in a photo of a Herero woman. There are sad letters home from a lonely soldier, relentless killer of a despised people. An actor says, “I can’t do this. It isn’t me. I’m not capable of committing an atrocity.” But the revelation is when they each discover the potential for brutality they contain. 

            Author Jackie Sibblies Drury says, “I was inspired by my own inability to write something meaningful about the Herero Genocide, so I tried to write a play where the characters fail to do the same thing.” She has succeeded admirably and, with this cast, the improvisational style is so believable one wonders how firmly the staging is set. 

Plaudits to the energetic and believable cast: Julanne Chidi Hill (dynamite), Phil LaMarr (brilliant), John Sloan (moving); Joe Holt (splendid), Daniel Bess (impressive) and Rebecca Mozo (charming).

Under Jillian Armenante dynamic direction, the ensemble of actors playing actors playing diverse roles creates a totally believable scenario with an emotional punch not soon forgotten. 

The set by John Iacovelli and costumes by Michele Dunn are appropriately modern/shabby, but the lighting by Michael Gend and sound by John Zalewski contribute immeasurably to the mood and enhance the serious undercurrents of the play.

Produced by Joseph Stern at The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, through August 11. For reservations call 323-852-1445 or go to

Saturday, June 8, 2013

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS… at the Ahmanson Theatre

“The Scottsboro Boys” had its world premiere at the Vineyard Theatre in New York in February 2010 then moved to Broadway in October where it received 12 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. The moving score is by John Kander (composer) and Fred Ebb (lyricist), both known for “Cabaret” and the NYC anthem “New York, New York.” Sadly, Ebb died in 2004 and never got to see this magnificent show, their last collaboration.

Told as a Minstrel Show, with black actors playing white sheriffs, judges, etc. and two young black men audaciously playing the white girls, it’s funny as well as poignant. This is not only a dynamic musical, it’s also an important history lesson told with imagination and daring.   

We have heard about the nine young black men in Alabama in 1931, sent to prison when two transient white girls said they raped them, and how they were railroaded by Southern bigotry, and the terrible injustice done to them. Now we know even more because, in this brilliant show, each of them stands out as a separate individual. To tell this story in a musical took courage, and to tell it as a mock Minstrel Show is probably the only way we could look on and not weep.

Dominating the cast is Joshua Henry as a man whose dignity sentences him to the harshest treatment. The only white is Hal Linden, looking like the KFC Colonel and spouting homilies about justice under the shadow of the electric chair.

Effective in multiple roles, and hilarious in many, are Trent Armand Kendall and JC Montgomery (see above). Plaudits to Gilbert L. Bailey II and Christian Dante White as boys and girls, and to Justin Prescott, Clinton Roane and Deandre Sevon as bewildered teens. Cedric Sanders, David Bazemore and Christopher James Culberson are all noteworthy, as is C. Kelly Wright as a mystery woman whose identity is a final revelation.

Susan Stroman reprises her original direction and choreography with dazzlingly imaginative flair. Book writer David Thompson tells the story in a light-hearted manner that makes the terrible tale even more tragic. Clever set design by Beowulf Boritt, costumes by Toni-Leslie James, lighting by Ken Billington and sound by Jon Weston illuminate the decades spent in fear and hope.

At the Ahmanson Theatre,
Los Angeles Music Center,
135 N Grand Ave,
through June 30.  
Tickets at the CTG box office or
or call (213) 972-4400.

Monday, June 3, 2013

SEXY WIDOWS… Los Angeles

This is an inspirational show with a life lesson for adults of a certain age, or stage in their lives, created by Sonny Fox and June August, two women who met in grief therapy and helped each other through the emotional whirlpool of dealing with the loss of a spouse. They saw that widowhood is a looming specter for many and decided to share their personal stories to show that loss doesn’t have to mean the end of your life. And they decided to write it as a musical revue!

In the show, two women and two men are faced with a flood of emotions as they ask: How do we cope with regrets?  How do we go on alone?  Will we ever smile or laugh again? Is there love after loss? All questions asked, or answered, in songs: Where Did the Time Go? There Was a Time! Are You Ready? The Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Blues! and the advice, Keep on Goin’.  

Derrel Maury is charming as the Voice inside their heads; Kit Smythe is moving as once-dependent wife Della; Robert Towers is touching as the vulnerable Charley; Karen Culliver is impressive as the courageous Brenda; Hank Adams is totally right as the former ladies man John; Bobbi Stamm is delightful as any number of women friends, and Larry Lederman persuades as a therapist, a ghost and assorted other men.

Meaningful book, music and lyrics are by August, with additional lyrics based on poems by Fox. The title is not meant to be misleading because, as the authors explain, sexy means "vibrant and alive." Director and choreographer Cate Caplin’s simple staging allows emotional truth to come through. Fine musical direction by Sean Paxton (piano); with assistance from Kevin Tiernan (guitar) and Tripp Beam (drums). 

A Two Widows Production at The 24th Street Theatre, 1117 W 24th St, Los Angeles, through June 9. Reservations: (818) 203-1984 or For information: