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.