Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HOLLYWOOD AND BROADWAY …in Hollywood, natch.

In this battle between Hollywood and Broadway – Broadway wins, due to the wonderfully over-the-top performance of Olivia Choate as the famously over-the-top Tallulah Bankhead. Sadly, Kat Brower as Gloria Swanson lacks the style, the look, or the hauteur needed to match her dynamic opponent. Set at New York’s Hotel Astor in 1951, the two divas are forced to share a room as they wait to make their entrances at a local event. The style of this wild comedy is enhanced by Terrence Gene Taylor as a flamboyant bellhop, Danny Menendez as an incompetent butler, and Christina Lemon as an ex-star who never stops grand-standing. This is a show where, for once, the over-acting is delightful!

This world premiere comedy is written and directed by acknowledged ‘Fashion Designer to the Stars’ Octavio Carlin. As the costume designer for this show, he favored Bankhead with a stunning two-tone gown, while dressing poor Swanson in a frumpy red dress and an unattractive shoulder length wig. Since the film ‘Sunset Boulevard’ had just swept the country (and the Oscars) one wishes the show had matched the onscreen Swanson manner and voice we anticipated.

The beautiful scenic design is by Ricardo Mora Hidalgo, with lighting by Steven Pope, and sound by Christopher Moscatiell. The excellent onstage portraits of the two stars were by Hugo Gocha. Producer is the ubiquitous Mike Abramson.

At the Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., through March 22. Ample street parking. For reservations:

Monday, February 23, 2015


Here’s another outstanding production by DOMA of the musical that in 1970 launched the careers of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. Its a modern Passion Play, as told by his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, dramatizing the last days of Jesus Christ. 

For anyone who has not seen the show before, here is a first class presentation. The story is a familiar one with the torturing and crucifixion boldly delineated but, by making parallels to modern day atrocities such as Abu Ghraib, it speaks to our own time as well.
This version has an outstanding cast and multi-talented ensemble: Nate Parker’s Jesus Christ is a modern rock star; Jeremy Saje’s Judas is a burly stevedore; Renee Cohen is a sylphlike Mary Magdalene, and Kelly Brighton is a cunning Pontius Pilate.

Andrew Diego is blood-curdling as Caiaphas; Venny Carranza is funny as a song-and-dance-king Herod; Michelle Holmes doubles as cruel Annas and heartbroken Mary his Mother; Blair Grotbeck is a stoic Peter, and Graham Kurtz is an earnest Simon the Zealot .

Kudos to the ensemble: Alex Allen, Jackee Bianchi, Charlie Bostick, Tym Brown, Sandra Diana Cantu, Kevin Corsini, Kaitlyn Fajilan, Kendra M. Hill, Allison Jakubowski, Wesley Moran, Ashlie Paige, Dekontee Tucrkile, Lauren Tyni and Anthony D. Willis.

Imaginatively staged by director Marco Gomez with dynamic choreography by Angela Todaro and rousing musical direction by Chris Raymond. Lavish costumes by Lauren Oppelt. Produced by Dolf Ramos and Gomez.  
At The MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave, Hollywood. Through March 22. Parking at 5250 Santa Monica Blvd for $6.
Photos by Michael Lamont.

Also reviewed in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

LEAVING HOME …Santa Monica

The conflict between father and son is the main focus of this rather overwrought family drama by Canadian playwright David French. Father flies into rages at the drop of a hat while Mother tries vainly to keep peace. 

It’s the classic tale of a hard working immigrant father trying to dominate his college bound eldest son, with confrontations coming fast and thick. Then, bordering on farce, there were the vulgar neighbors who dropped in. Only the young people managed to bring the play to a recognizable human level.

Under Barbara Tarbuck’s vigorous direction, Chris Mulkey as Dad goes from sentimental to savage in seconds, while Karen Landry as Mom speeds from worried to flirtatious to plaintive. Mary Carrig is an oversexed matron and Chip Bolcik her silent boyfriend with hidden assets. Kayde McMullen as the eldest son displays a dignified maturity, James Lastovic as his younger brother is genuinely sincere, and Sierra Barter is moving as a pregnant girlfriend.

Unfortunately, without a program note informing us where or when to place the action, one assumed this was an Irish couple with American children sometime in the 1960’s. Only later research revealed it was Toronto, Canada and the accents were resettled Newfoundlanders which would explain the source of the fathers anguish.

The realistic family set is by Cliff Wagner, with lighting by Mike Reilly and costumes by Sarah Figoten Wilson.

At Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, through March 14. 
Tickets: 310-397-3244 or online at Ample free parking.

Photos by Ed Krieger.