Monday, December 21, 2015


 In case you missed the novel and the wildly successful film, this is a love story about an Italian war bride stifling in Iowa and a lonely traveling photographer who find each other in a four day passionate affair. 

In this musical version, book writer Marsha Norman manages to bring an honest human dimension to this inherently sentimental tale. By making her husband and children major characters, and by bringing in townspeople who understand the need for something to brighten our lives, the tuneful saga is fully fleshed out.

The national tour cast is headed by Elizabeth Stanley as Francesca and Andrew Samonsky as Robert. Both are powerful singers although, with her operatic range, it was sometimes difficult to understand the lyrics while with Samonsky’s beautiful voice words were crystal clear. 

The added dimension of Francesca’s family is fully delineated by Cullen R. Titmas as her kind down-to-earth husband, Caitlin Houlahan as her ingenuous daughter, and Dave Thomas Brown her headstrong son. 

Katie Klaus as Robert’s ex-wife gives insight into his character through a lovely solo ballad, and Mary Callanan and David Hess are amusing as Francesca's nosy but friendly neighbors.

Bartlett Sher’s original Broadway direction is recreated admirably by Tyne Rafaeli, and Michael Yeargan’s original set design is adapted wonderfully by Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams.

At the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Downtown Los Angeles. For tickets: (213) 972-4400 or the CTG Box Office or
Through January 17.  Photos by Matthew Murphy.

Also reviewed in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

THAT LOVIN’ FEELIN’ …North Hollywood

 What a marvelous show! If anyone recalls the magical sounds of the Righteous Brothers get yourself over to James A. Zimmerman’s new musical and see them again. It’s a memory play as told by one of them (Paul Cady) after the duo have ended their run. 

You are catapulted back in time as the two young men playing Bill Medley (Morgan Lauff) and Bobby Hatfield (Brenden MacDonald) are amazing. Their voices, their looks, their eager manner, are reminders of the days when singers grew to greatness through their own talent and enthusiasm.

Their #1 hit songs: “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” and “You’re my Soul and My Inspiration” will ring in your ears. Then when Bobby, demanding the right to be more than back-up to deep-voiced Bill, takes the stage and sings “Unchained Melody” and “Ebb Tide” I guarantee chills will run down your spine. What voices, what style, what talent! If you ever fell in love to the rhythm & blues don’t miss this.  Remember the two guys with “blue-eyed soul” and smile.

Kudos to director Jules Aaron and his fine ensemble: Patrick Burke, Sarah Karpeles, Brooke Van Grinsven, J. Christopher Sloan, Timm Damiano, Nicole Renee Chapman, Amanda Dawn Harrison and bass-player Robert Axelrod. Brilliant musical direction by Paul Cady with advisory from bandleader Richard Levinson (boy did they get that sound!); joyous choreography by Michele Bernath, with dazzling costumes by Angela M. Eads.
Produced by Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900, Burbank Blvd, NOHO, through February 7. Tickets: (818) 763-5990 or Free street parking.

Photos by Doug Engalla.

Also reviewed in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


John Patrick Shanley’s romantic play is set in contemporary Ireland, after a funeral, where two old people talk of death with placid assurance their time is coming, and so what. Meanwhile their offspring, who fought as children, are now locked into an emotional stand-off. 

Anthony and Rosemary appear to be in love, yet are ferociously tongue-tied by their Irish culture’s demand for dispassion. Set on Irish farmlands, it’s a heart warming and almost tender love story in the Chekhovian vein. Although we are used to seeing plays about the bashful youth of Ireland, somehow, in 2013, these young lovers seem like throwbacks to a time long before TV and the Internet robbed us of our naïveté. Which perhaps is a good thing.

Under Randall Arney’s smooth direction, the fine actors create an enchanting mood. Dan Donohue is wonderful as a nervous lad with his head in the clouds while digging miserably in the turf, while Jessica Collins is every inch the familiar spunky Irish lass of legend. Jarlath Conroy is a gruff sentimentalist trying to hang on to his fast disappearing manliness, and Robin Pearson Rose is a dry-eyed widow ready to submit to all of life’s travails.

Impressive set and atmosphere (with lots of rain!) created by Anthony T. Fanning, with the aid of lighting by Daniel Ionazzi and sound by Jonathan Burke. Costume Design by David Kay Mickelsen.

In the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, LA, through December 20. Tickets: 310.208.5454 or

Photos by Michael Lamont.

Monday, November 16, 2015

FRONT DOOR OPEN …in Hollywood

What happens to a family where the mother, a timid yet intelligent woman, lives in terror of ever leaving the safety of their home? In Tom Baum’s revelatory play the subject is agoraphobia and how a family, hoping to calm the fears of the matriarch, create terrors of their own through lies and equivocation. 

She lives with her ear cocked at all times for the sounds of invasion, while the domineering father thinks he’s being caring by helping her hide from life. 

When their only child returns home with her teenage daughter, family secrets start to be exposed. While the daughter, whose marriage and career have fallen apart, reaches for meditative help in this maelstrom of emotion, it is through the blunt words of a candid teenager that real life intrudes into this self-induced prison.
The superb cast are led by Joanna Miles, faultless as a woman trapped into society’s role of female helplessness and dependence. David Selby, is magnificent as the father, a raging bull with the heart of a child; Anna Nicholas is excellent as the impatient but responsible daughter, and Lizzy Rich is charming as a cheeky yet tender teen who has secrets of her own.

Sensitively directed by Asaad Kelada, with set and lighting by Tom Meleck, sound by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski and costumes by Betty Pecha Madden. Produced by Laura Hill.

At Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N Fairfax, Hollywood, through Dec. 13. Tickets: 323-673-0544 or Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the December issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Friday, November 13, 2015


Everybody loves a magic show and the illusions that actor and super magician Albie Selznick demonstrates certainly amaze and delight. There is the levitating pretty lady, the live doves that appear and disappear, the swallowed razor blades, the Houdini escape trick, and card tricks to baffle us all. 

Also, Selznick has added the story of his childhood and explains how, after losing his father mysteriously at an early age, he started on a lifelong search, through illusion, for an invisible man. It’s a poignant story and, while it humanizes his dedication to magic, it sometimes puts a pall on the otherwise mischievous goings on.

There is one audience participation segment that seemed suspiciously contrived when a large white ball morphed into an all-knowing Oracle and interacted with a member of the audience. At this performance, the gal in the hot seat seemed to be a plant and the segment lacked the very magic it proposed to reveal. However, if you bring some young people maybe you, or one of them, will be selected to meet the Oracle and that episode will prove to be smoke and mirrors indeed.

Lively assistance is given by Joey Dworsky, Laurie Huff, Kyle Bryan Hall, Michael Heiman and Alix Koromazy. 

Directed by David Schweizer and produced by Michelle Grant.

At the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. through Dec. 20. Tickets: 310-477-2055 x2 or

Magic Monday! During the run of Smoke & Mirrors there will be a weekly cabaret show Monday evenings with a lineup of magicians every week. Info at: 310-450-2849 or check out
Photos by Lisa Bevis

Also reviewed in the December issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Monday, November 9, 2015


From over 100 submissions, GLO chose these five excellent plays, all written and directed by local theater women. Not to play favorites, here they are in the order performed.

THE PLAN by Katherine James. Two young gals, former best friends, face up to their reason for their split when each of them gave up their shared dream to pacify family demands. Zoë Lillian and Kyra Morling. Directed by Branda Lock.

ALL ABOUT HAROLD by Diane Grant. Three women share happy memories of the romantic peripatetic Harold who managed to be their dream-man before slipping away to other shores. Amy Stoch, Varda Appleton and hilarious Michelle Simek. Directed by Laura Steinroeder.

FIDDLIN’ ON THE MOUNTAINTOP by Robin Byrd. A poignant solo performance of a young country girl who, all alone, faces the loss of her beloved parent and survives through a love of music. Bravura performance by Shanel N. Moore. Directed by Julianne Homokay.

VITAL RECORDS by Alex Dilks Pandola. It’s a Kafkaesque comedy of trying to get service at some Legal Records Bureau where the attendants weirdly resemble each other while their attitudes are all to familiarly officious. Kate Torri with Gayla Johnson who is sublime in three gleeful roles. Directed by Miranda Stewart.

GENTLEMEN’S PACT by Karen Howes. How does a husband react when a family friend shows up wanting to marry his wife? In this comedy he gives it serious thought, until the wife shows up and gives her heated opinion. Eric Toms, Joni Allen and masterful Daniel Riordan. Directed by Michelle Joyner.

At Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd. S.M., through Nov 15. Tickets at:
Photos by Alex Dilks Pandola.