Monday, December 26, 2016


 For those who remember the 2001 movie, “Amélie” is about a painfully shy young girl alone in Paris, the odd characters she befriends, and her mission to bring joy to others. When she falls for a troubled boy she flees, but when the boy chases her she puts him through a number of tests and, when he persists, Amélie finally must decide whether to open the door to her home, and her heart, to him.

The French film was nominated for 5 Oscars and is listed among all-time favorites by many film critics. I never saw it and, in this otherwise charming stage version, I had difficulty figuring out what was going on, so perhaps one had better see the movie first.

Most of the song lyrics, that clearly are intended to carry the story along, were difficult to comprehend in the huge Ahmanson. In a smaller theatre one might more clearly understand the lyrics, and see the facial expressions, but here much of it was miniaturized into a distant pantomime.

Leading the large and excellent cast are winsome Phillipa Soo as Amélie, dynamic 10 year old Savvy Crawford as Young Amélie, and spirited Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino.
This pre-Broadway run is directed by Pam MacKinnon, with book by Craig Lucas, music by Daniel Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Messé, choreography by Sam Pinkleton, musical direction by Kimberly Grigsby, and orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin.

At the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Avenue, through January 15. Tickets: (213) 972-4400 or

Photos by Joan Marcus.

Friday, December 16, 2016


This delightful play has already been getting rave reviews from all the LA critics and here’s my addition to the accolades. The story is simple, full of witty humor, but moving. A woman in a trailer park has bought a supposedly original Jackson Pollock for $3 in a thrift store. It is certainly good enough to interest a renowned art expert from New York to travel to California to appraise it. 

As should be expected there is a clash between the blunt and saucy ex-bartender and the snobbish and repressed ex-director of the Metropolitan Museum. Who actually knows the truth and, in the end, does it really matter?

Author-director Stephen Sachs probes the hearts of two people passionate about the genuine article – whether in art or humanity. Inhabitants of different worlds, they dodge and parry over far more than a mere painting. With two brilliant actors at full gallop, we witness a magnificent battle of wills as Maude (Jenny O’Hara) fiercely challenges Lionel’s (Nick Ullett) complacent surety that he is the ultimate expert on authenticity.

The fabulous trinket-filled-trailer set is by Jeffrey McLaughlin, with subtle but effective lighting by Bill E. Kickbush, and sound by Peter Bayne. Costumes by Shon LeBlanc, and props by Terri Roberts, cleverly illuminate the class differences. Produced for Fountain Theatre by Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor.

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave, Hollywood, extended through January 30. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or  
Pay-What-You-Can every Monday night!

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Friday, November 25, 2016


William Thomas “Billy" Strayhorn was an American jazz composer, pianist, lyricist and arranger, best known for a nearly three decades collaboration with bandleader Duke Ellington. In this biographical musical, with numerous jazz favorites, book writer Carole Eglash-Kosoff shows us the emotional life of a true American genius. We see how, at the age of 23, he met and impressed Ellington with an impromptu backstage audition and, a few months later, was writing arrangements for Ellington's orchestra.

The author also reveals his long and close relationship with Lena Horne, who always said if he had been heterosexual she would have married him. He lived openly as a gay man, and we experience the toll his work took on the man who was the one great love in his life.

All beautifully realized by a superb cast, led by Frank Lawson as Strayhorn, Boise Holmes as Ellington, Michole Briana White as Lena Horne, and Gilbert Glenn Brown as Aaron Bridgers. Notable in multiple roles are Katherine Washington, Brad C. Light, Michael Covert, Keverlie Herron, Darian Archie, and dance captain Chris Smith.

John Henry Davis’ direction carries us smoothly through the great jazz years, showing how dynamic performances often mask haunted inner lives. Choreographer Cassie Crump and musical director Rahn Coleman almost bring down the house with the musical numbers. 

Six dynamic musicians frame the action: Coleman (keyboard), Quentin Dennard (drums), Michael Saucier (bass), Rickey Woodard (awesome on saxophone), Nolan Shaheed (trumpet) and Stephan Terry (keyboard II).

At the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, through December 18.  Tickets: 323-960-7776 or

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Friday, November 18, 2016


In late 1939, the Nazi German Consul in Los Angeles blackmailed Hollywood studios from making pictures critical of Hitler by threats of banning their films in the German and Austrian markets. In this engrossing new play, he visits United Artists head Mary Pickford to demand they stop filming Charles Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. 

Capturing the style and private personalities of the famous is a challenge and author John Morogiello does it brilliantly.

He truncates a month’s long event down to a gripping and ultimately satisfying 90 minutes, illuminating the ever ongoing right of an artist to speak truth to power.  Chaplin himself goes nose to nose with this fascist bully in scenes that are as delightful as alarming. No need to describe the parallels to our own era, it's all there.

Brian Stanton is a marvel as Chaplin, a mercurial but shrewd delight as he confronts this enemy of freedom and decency; Melanie Chartoff as Mary Pickford, transcends the meek onscreen sweetheart role to show the strength of an astute dynamic woman; Shawn Savage is the epitome of an arrogant Nazi official with a caustic sense of humor, and Laura Lee Walsh is bold and delightful as the fly-on-the-wall secretary who shares her story with us.
Directed with panache by Jules Aaron, aided by Michele Bernath’s rambunctious choreography. The sublime old-Hollywood set by Jeff G. Rack is lit by Ric Zimmerman. Produced for Theatre 40 by David Hunt Stafford.

At the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr. BH, through Dec 18. Tickets: 310-364-0535 or  
Photos by John Morogiello.
Also reviewed in the December issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


We all have our horror stories about celebrating Thanksgiving with our crazy relatives, but this one takes the cake. Ah, the rituals! The table setting, the family-heirloom tablecloth, the browning of the turkey, the perfect gravy, who to invite, and who you hope doesn’t show. 

It’s all there in this amusing play by Kate Benson (winner of an Obie Award) with maniacally precise performances by all the relatives and a sweetly tragic view of the family misfit in action.

There are even two lively sports announcers to keep us posted on the significant goings-on. But, don’t be charmed into nostalgia, because there is method to Benson’s madness. This will be the most memorable Thanksgiving for all concerned, and perhaps even for the audience.

Nicole Gabriella Scipione manages to actually be emotionally moving as the often mocked family fool; Christopher Neiman and Kjai Block are truly funny as the warring announcers; Judith Ann Levitt and John MacKane are the oldsters who, in spite of handicaps, have their say; Sarah Lilly, Tegan Ashton Cohan and Debbie Jaffe are the possessed sister hostesses, while David Bickford and Rebecca Light fill in admirably as numerous other family guests.
Light-hearted direction by Laramie Dennis. The deliberately bleak set is by Morgan Lindsey Price, with lighting by Karyn Lawrence, and costumes by Jenny Foldenauer.

At Theatre Of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, through Dec 10. For tickets: (323) 856-8611 or

Photos by Troy Blendell.