Oklahoma is “A-Ok” @ the Ahmanson

“Oklahoma,” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, is the tried and true classic show in the American musical theatre playbook. It’s brilliance is evident, as this production has been done, not only on Broadway, but throughout many a stage worldwide, from major theatres to high school auditoriums. What seems like a story of cowpokes, cowboys, and cowgirls, replete with cowboy boots and ten gallon hats, is morphed into the director’s (Daniel Fish) uber creative reimagining/conception of this musical as a multi racial, multi gender extravaganza. Although far different from the original work, and not “quite your grandmother’s Oklahoma,” the show stays true to form with all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classical musical numbers, including “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” and “I Can’t Say No.” The plot is simple, as Laurey (masterfully portrayed by Sasha Hutchins), juggles two lovers, whilst Ado Annie (the amazing Sis) also has two love interests, who try at every turn to outwit and outsmart each other, which continuously makes the subplots interesting and ever dynamic. The use of smoke, fog, and complete darkness, even while the ensemble is taking and singing onstage is so surreal and ethereal, almost as in a dream state yet in real time. Hard to get the vision out of one’s head , long after show’s end. The big smoke puff is symbolic of the show’s ultimate confusion and unpredictability. This contrast turns a wholesome musical into a Brecht/Ionesco theatre of the absurd, where the main characters transform into “Six Characters in Search of an Author.” Statements and sentiments about the vagaries of life (and death ) is poetically revealed by the talented actor, Christopher Bannow, as Jud Fry, whose unrequited love for Laurey is sure to resonate with many an audience member. All the bad stuff that is seemingly part of life’s darker sides is concentrated in the character of Jud, as he unconditionally loves Laurey, while she toys with the affectations of Curly (Sean Grandillo). The set’s picnic table, bedecked with colorful tassels and bright yellow ears of corn, reminiscent of a country fair, is already present as we enter the theatre, yet rifles loom on the wall, foreshadowing the ominous darkness. The ballet dance sequence which opens act two, is reminiscent of the 1930’s dust bowl, which devastated Okies and nearby states, so beautifully depicted in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” Director Daniel Fish has miraculously transformed this zany, once colorful musical into his own unique interpretation, complete with darkness and light contrasting; special sound effects, smoke, fog, and clouds not withstanding.

http://www.centertheatregroup.org

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Mike Birbiglia Performs Swimmingly in “The Old Man and The Pool”

The first thing we notice when Mike Birbiglia walks onto the sparest of sets, replete with a backdrop of a simulated YMCA swimming pool and a stool, is how extremely relaxed he is onstage. He feels totally at home and at ease with his supportive audience, which profusely claps, even at his mere entrance. They seem to really know this guy and appreciate his unique, unusual sense of humor, which explains how he can carry a 90 minute stand up routine at the Mark Taper Forum. He talks about personal issues, most prominently, his health and aging, which confound and impact many a human being, of all shapes, sizes, and ages. His position is brilliant, for not only realizing the absurdity of these universal situations, but instilling the maybe not so obvious humor entailed. He starts from recollections from his youth, when he would accompany his parents into the gym’s locker room , and he would find himself eye level to a multitude of penises and vaginas. He was truly perplexed when noticing a large , completely naked man stroking his genitals, and his description is revealed to the audience’s raucous and sustained delight. He also mentions his mother’s insistence that he takes swimming lessons, and when graded, amidst his skilled competitors, promptly receives a D minus. Then he proceeds to show his swimming technique, which consists of flailing about, almost drowning, akin to a baby bird first learning to spread wings and fly. He manages to precipitously undertake adulthood, with all its jolts and jabs, trials and tribulations, which he shows us, sometimes by using the set to its fullest potential, sometimes sitting, sometimes lying down, and always the pool at the YMCA at the forefront, where he slips and falls, whilst making Shakespearean asides, which his very enthusiastic, loyal fans sitting beside me, mouthed before he even spoke them. As his show progresses, he portrays an old man, who is beleaguered by the cacophony and madness of the world about him. The picture of a guy, lying down, splayed out with eyes shut, on the cover of the program playbill says it all. Mike Birbiglia is the quintessential stand up comedian, who tries to simply entertain, in his most natural way, revealing that since people don’t learn from their constant mistakes, and change, but rather repeat them, he monopolizes on this concept, and submits to the reality. Mike is an adroit, facile, and intelligent entertainer, who embarks on a journey of a lifetime, at the pool. His show sustains an hour and a half, in which you will be truly charmed.

http://www.centertheatregroup.org

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Dance The Night Away…@ The Prom @CTG Ahmanson

In today’s complex world, adolescents are faced with difficult tasks of discovering their self identity, clarifying their sexual roles, asserting independence, learning to cope with authority and searching for goals that would give their lives meaning. Cyber bullying and small town conservative standards and values only exacerbate teens wishing to ‘come out’ with pride and dignity. Many a theatrical production and TV series has made an effort to deal with such teen pressures; i.e “Heathers,” Dear Evan Hansen,” “Thirteen,” “Mean Girls,” and “Glee” to name a few, but none have tackled the very sensitive issue of a same sex teen couple having full acceptance at a high school prom. Enter the upbeat Tony nominated Broadway musical, “The Prom,” directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, and produced by Bill Damaschke, Dori Berinstein, and Jack Lane Networks Presentations, now in its run at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. In today’s society of so much hate and random senseless violence, Broadway theatregoers worldwide get a chance to see intolerance transformed into understanding…and ultimately into love and compassion. As many concur, “if we do nothing, then they win,” so this profound production sheds light and helps bridge the ideological divide we face today, proving love will forever trump hate and bigotry. With clever, original lyrics and spectacular song and dance numbers, this show brings an incredibly sensitive subject, once taboo, to the stage in full regalia. One stand out number is “Changing Lives,” sung by Dee Dee Allen (Courtney Balan); Barry Glickman (Patrick Wetzel) and ensemble, with lyrics “We’re gonna prove that in this day and age being gay isn’t a crime. This is our moment to change the world. What particularly inspired one of the co-producers, Natasha Davison, was the female driven story, along with elements of social activism; generational shift in awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ; and the ongoing national divide between red (neck) and blue states. Never has a Broadway musical, replete with both drama and levity interspersed, been so impeccably timely and universal. The curtain goes up, and we are introduced to the concept of narcissistic thespians, (funny in its own right!); aging discrimination and most of all intolerance of a teen lesbian, Emma Nolan (Kaden Kearney) just innocently wishing to join her peers at prom. Perhaps, Emma says it best in the beautiful lyrics of “Unruly Heart,” (kudos to lyricist Chad Beguelin), “This heart is the best part of me. So fears, all in the past, fading so fast, I won’t stay hidden anymore. I’m who I am and I think that’s worth fighting for.”

http://www.musiccenter.org

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“The Little Mermaid,” Goes Swimmingly @ the Cupcake

Hayley Wolff, who portrays Ariel in the Hollywood’s Cupcake Theatre’s production of “The Little Mermaid,” is a smooth singer,  teeming with confidence amongst fish most notably , her best buddy, Flounder (Benni Rubi), and trusty advisor, Scuttle (Mads Durbin). Ask any little girl (or boy)  what the most beautiful of creatures there are, and inevitably, the answer will be ‘unicorn’ or ‘mermaid.’  To that end, most audience goers will come to the show, donned in their most sparkly, frilly ‘fairy mermaid’ outfits, ready to interact, sing along, and join in the music and dance extravaganza. The Hollywood Majestic and Cupcake Theatre team up to do a mighty fine blend of the best of Disney’s classic Mermaid musical numbers, with an original twist, including “The World Above,” “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Beyond My Wildest Dreams.”  Of particular note is when the two leads , Ariel (Wolff) and Prince Eric (Brady Fritz) team up for a magical duet of “If Only.” Each member of the ensemble creates a colorful persona of the beloved caricatures, that kids of all ages have come to love and cheer on throughout all their adventures on the stormy seas.  Kudos to Jonathan Blake Fleming, director and choreographer, for creating a show that is filled to the gills with plenty of audience (children) interaction, eliciting giggles, love, laughs, and guffaws by the minute. Those who’ve seen the classic movie, and just generally enjoy lighthearted banter, puns, and wish to also be ‘part of this world,’ will be assured of a rollicking good time.  This show is sure to be a wonderful birthday celebration or reunion for children who can bond through familiar melodies and fan fave showtunes.  The music, dance, and lively lyrics (Howard Ashman & Glenn Slater), along with creative charades make this two hour show a fun, fishy, frenzy full of frolic.  Haley Wolff (Ariel); Benni Ruby (Flounder); Scuttle (Mads Durbin); and Sebastian (Amber Monet), are quite the naturals in bringing out their audience members’ reactions and emotions, especially when it comes to the question of popularity of the characters, and utmost loyalty to the little mermaid herself.  During show’s intermission, I asked one young audience member who her favorite character was, and she quickly responded with “it’s a tie between Ariel, the mermaid who yearns to be human; and Flounder, whose flapping fins and lacey tail mesmerizes young fans. Some reassuring, comforting lyrics from “She’s in Love” go  like this: Ariel and someone swimmin’ in the sea. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Her cheeks could not flush pinker! It’s clear as h2o!  She’s caught – hook, line and sinker! The Little Mermaid is indeed a five star triumph and a modern re-imagining of the original Disney musical. The children in the audience of the matinee I attended were completely mesmerized and ‘mermaid-ized’ from show’s start to finish. They especially liked the humorous Mersisters, singing and dancing with uncanny rhythm.  So put your fins on and swim on over to the Cupcake Theatre for a colorful, standout production. 

Through Sept. 11

http://www.cupcaketheater.com

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“Tell Me More,” in “Grease,” @ The Jaxx

“Grease” was recently performed at a historic theatre in Hollywood, that has undergone several transformations. At one point, it was called the Met; later, Doma; and now, it is donned a new title, Jaxx Theatre, with summer conservatory productions by Jaxx Theatricals. The audience and cast could have been almost interchangeable, as the high energy level of both those seated, and those standing and dancing onstage involved clapping, jumping up and down, and whooping loudly. Grease, (book, music & lyrics by Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey) is a musical tale of the teens at Ryder High, a typical 1950’s high school, reminiscent of the popular screen film, America Graffiti, of the same era. The entire original production was directed and choreographed by Jeremy Lucas, with Lily Daugherty as Associate Choreographer, and the film version, Grease, was directed by the inimitable Randal Kleiser (who happened to be in the audience the evening I attended!). One can’t help but wonder and hark back to this magical film, with images of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, forever larger than life icons. Respectively, Danny (Andrew Palacios) and Sandy (Lily Daugherty) do their predecessors proud, and are standouts all by themselves. The whole remarkable team of stellar youth performed for the final show of the run, with extraordinary talent and ‘hopeless devotion’ to their craft. The T-Birds, (Jayden Maddux as Doody; Henry Neujahr as Roger; Eugene Boyd as Kenickie; and Ansh Narsingh as Sonny,) supported their fearless leader Danny with toe tapping extravaganza and comedic chops as well. Similarly, the Pink Ladies , portrayed by Jo Nunokawa (Jan); Maddie Delbridge (Marty); Madeline Kimmel (Rizzo) & Maya Palacios (Frenchy) perfectly stood by and supported newcomer Sandy, through all her trials and tribulations as the new girl in town. I could see the powerful comradery amongst the ensemble, most especially at show’s end, when they all made their final curtain call, and came out to meet and greet the appreciative audience, with a proliferation of hugs, flowing tears, and lots of love. The plot of ‘Grease’ involves the conflagration between the Pink Ladies and the greaser T Birds, the male and female factions representing stereotypical student life at Rydell High, a microcosm of most high schools of that generation. It revealed multiple characters so many could resonate with, such as bookworm Eugene (Jack Denning); and bubbly cheerleader Patty Simcox (Stephanie Torres). We discover the foibles, sexual gravitas, and general growing pangs and angst of youth at that time. The story mainly revolves around the growing romance between Danny Zuko, the engaging Andrew Palacios, and Sandy , the dynamic Lily Daugherty. Their duets, “Summer Nights,” and “You’re the One That I Want” epitomize this budding romance despite all obstacles. So many iconic songs and lyrics have entered the musical theatre lexicon, thanks to ‘Grease,’ such as, “Greased Lightning;” “Freddy, My Love;” “Hopelessly Devoted To You;” and “Grease is the Word.” A major centerpiece of “Grease” is the explosion of teen hormones, so to do this show effectively, you must have a cast with serious spunk, as this cast certainly does! Some of the most remarkable aspects of this production, as Randal Kleiser concurred with me, was the “choreography and immense talent.” Each and every member of this cast have their chance to shine on stage, each one, a potential rising star. I would say that thirteen year old Stephanie Torres, who plays the interloping Patty Simcox, is a prime example. During a post show conversation, I learned that this is her third production with the company. Such enthusiasm and experience at a young age! The choice of ‘Grease’ by producers Jeremy Lucas; JD Morabito; and Charisma Zenetzis is a bold one, for the movie solidified the careers of so many actors and was an icon in the archives of film history. Sadly, the untimely death of Olivia Newton John, at age 73, has shocked the world, so all the more reason for young people like Jaxx Theatricals to take the rein and ‘ride the horse up into the sunset.’ The conservatory has done these kids well, which is evident in this dazzling production. I have expectations for a bright and dazzling future for each cast member, as they tackled a historical and noteworthy opus that has electrified audiences worldwide, and put on one of the greatest renditions possible. They are planning to take this show on the road, so wherever it goes, be sure to follow up, because it will only get better and better! Also, it must be mentioned that all backstage crew were magnificent, carrying out their jobs with exemplary focus. And the live musical accompaniment was as good as any Broadway pit orchestra!

http://www.jaxxtheatricals.org

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“King Liz” Scores @ The Geffen

The career of a successful sports agent is a dream, yet the path to get there is fraught with stress , drama, and a bit of humor tucked in, as well.  Elizabeth (Liz) Rico, portrayed by Sabrina Sloan, knows this all too well; and her impeccable performance draws the audience into her world, where the tension in the air onstage is palpable.  Her dream is to create a new star, a legend out of Freddie Luna (Evan Morris Reiser), who ironically reminds her all too well of herself, so the two form an innate bond from the start.
Character development, thanks to the stellar direction of director Jesca Prudencio, and writer, Fernanda Coppel, shines through, as each character reaches his/her potential by show’s end. The goal of a making a mark on the sports world, despite the pressures of substance abuse, and lack of complete mental focus, resonates universally in every profession, thus making  a strong impact and is, essentially, the premise of “King Liz.”  The supporting actors, Michele Ortiz, as Gabby Fuentes, and Ray Abruzzo, as Mr. Candy, add the needed levity to such high powered situations. Now in its run at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, just blocks away from UCLA’s renowned Wooden Center, this play will attract both sports fans/enthusiasts, and others alike. The moments that will stay with us, long after show’s end, is the power of friendship, family, home, roots, despite change, power plays, manipulation, and competition, ultimately makes the inner growth of each ensemble member all the more sentimental. The show begins with Gabby hobbling onto the stage, barefoot, clutching her stilettos in her hand, showing her ability to multitask right from the start. Her ultimate goal is to step into the (very big) shoes of her boss, Liz, so she attentively follows her every move, whether she agrees with her tactics or not. Freddie Luna enters the scene, midway through, with large scale dreams and high hopes  of becoming a major superstar, always thinking of his  beloved roots, and mother, whom he wishes to buy a house with his fortune. The strong ties that bind between these characters is indicative of the nature of the industry and will endure all long distances, way beyond the court and basket . Significant throughout the show is how the actors evolve, with definite range of emotion and character development.

States writer Fernanda Coppel, “The play is very personal, but it’s not necessarily autobiographical.  King Liz is very much about one’s journey towards a commercial sense of success.” The phrase “follow your dreams” rings true, as Liz and Freddie  slowly realize and reveal their sense of connection as they bond, both professionally and personally. Each character wishes to get ahead, advance in the world of professional basketball yet maintain friendships without burning bridges, against all odds. Despite personality differences, the show proves that honesty and respect is  always most powerful and motivating.  As so many Americans relate to the power and enjoyment of going to games together, a theatrical production on this subject matter is just the ticket. The rapport and chemistry between all actors is evident. States Coppel: “You can feel when people are on the edge of their seats…theatre is a process of creating a moment in time.”  “King Liz” is a real gift to the Los Angeles theatre- going community, a new, original play, with characters we get to know, as they get to know themselves! Basketball fans of all ages will universally appreciate the heart and soul of this show, and will come to appreciate what world athletes, and their agents  go through on the highest level. ‘Sports is religion,’ to so many, and “King Liz” connects on so many levels.

http://www.geffenplayhouse.org

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“If I Forget,” an unforgettable show @ The Fountain

A play as well performed and profoundly written as Steven Levenson’s classic, “If I Forget,” deserves the highest of accolades. Rarely have I seen a family ‘dramedy’ with characters this sharp or dialogue this funny and serious in one. As a story of humans coming together, with emotions still raw, after losing their mother, and facing the physical and mental decline of the beloved patriarch of the family, Lou, “king” of a property in a gentrifying D.C. neighborhood, this show is a true winner.

  Jason Alexander is the quintessential director to take on a story that centers on a dysfunctional family coming to terms with love, loss, loyalty and deception.  Valerie Perri impeccably plays Holly Fischer, coming to terms with her husband’s (Jerry Weil, as Howard)  internet ‘affair,’ and subsequent loss of the family nest egg, while Samantha Klein portrays the younger sibling, Sharon Fischer, who hopes to inherit the family’s business, now a bodega, with an ulterior motive and invested romantic interest in the current tenant. The show’s standout character is Michael Fischer, performed by Leo Marks, whose controversial book and political views stir up tension amidst his whole family and entire community, forcing the question of ‘if we forget’ our past history and trauma; and opening up the rich dialogue of intrinsic memory; the Holocaust; Israel ; and freedom of speech.  The humor and monologues by each member of the ensemble is stellar.  Jacob Zelonky, as Joey, the tormented son and grandson, excellent as he contemplates onstage the angst of adolescence amidst such a dysfunctional family.  Caribay Franke so poetically and credibly portrays the ephemeral daughter, Abby, trying earnestly to heal her inner child along with gaining the respect and unconditional love from her intolerant father, and understanding from  her family members. Yet, she is so insecure and unsure herself, she can’t help but dance around them all.  Sile Bermingham is superb as the wife/mother, Ellen Manning, determined to keep the peace at all costs, relentlessly pushing her husband’s  buttons.

Matt Gottleib  is the father, (Lou), stricken with dementia and seemingly in the shadow of death, yet defying every moment with his determined will to survive. All actors in this ensemble are so convincing in their roles, and the dialogue contains gems of wisdom and profound relevance to today’s hot topics and heated debates, so much so, that art really does imitate life. The play deals with real life, relevant issues of disease, death, and denial, without dancing around the issues but truly delving within.

Through Sept 10th

Fountain Theatre 

http://www.fountain theatre.com

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Spirits Soar @ Annual Concern Block Party 🎉 2022

With an explosion of bright, festive colors, and food and drinks galore, sure to please every palate, both artistic and taste, the Concern Foundation outdid itself, with its recent annual block party fundraiser for cancer research, “Back on the Block,” at Paramount studios. From fresh farm to gourmet table, with local and organic offerings in abundance, the privileged guests sampled to their hearts’ and tastebuds’ delight from over 60 of LA’s finest restaurants and caterers.  The lamb chop ‘lollipops’ were simply divine (and quite addictive), accompanied by refreshing tomato gazpacho, courtesy of Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill & Jazz). Beyond Meat’s vegan samplers was also a most popular booth, in today’s world of plant based delicacies. It was a very special evening indeed, with weather sublime, and premier wine & beverages, including Halyard Brewing; Tito’s handmade vodka; Tequila Cabal; Nuda; and Humboldt Distillery. These refreshing drinks provided thirst quenching comfort, as well as pizazz and flavor. Some of my personal faves included a perennial hit, especially in summer, barbecue beef sliders and sweet potato fries, courtesy of “Someone’s In the Kitchen,” and sweet goodies, both regular and gluten free, from: Mamala’s Mandel Bread; Bertha Mae’s Brownies; DeLuscious Cookies; and Homemade English Toffee. As one entered the festival, an array of rainbow colors, banners, balloons, and performers on stilts, greeted enthusiastic guests. Of particular note to me, a self described ‘farmer’s daughter,’ was a booth prominent for guests to peruse and savor, “Farm Fresh to You,” which offers home delivery for wholesome meal preparation made easy.  Epicurean delights to please all palates, were there for the taking, from corned beef sandwiches on rye and chopped salads from Factors Famous Deli… to Pink’s classic hotdogs… to…freshly made pizza from Fresh Brothers.  The choices pleased vegans to carnivores alike, all in the name of good summer fun, yet for a most important of causes… to advance cancer research throughout the world focusing on a multitude of cancer research areas.

Guests who sought a reprieve from all the nourishment of food, had a chance to nourish their minds and bodies in a luxurious spa booth, as the Beauty Bus was on board to provide hair styles, tinsel braids and glitter tattoos; along with gift bag prizes of organic beauty cosmetics. To cap off the night, a drink of cappuccino, courtesy of Pasquini Espresso Co. was a true indulgence.

The evening’s guests of honor were humanitarian philanthropists and community leaders Janet Crown and Steve Robinson, with the first ever Larry Powell Spirit of Concern Award. A live auction and silent auction combined raised over two million dollars with that amount still increasing. States Derek Alpert, President of the Concern Foundation, “Starting from a simple idea in the 1970’s and growing into a reality with thousands of moving parts coming together is a truly remarkable experience, one that sets Concern and our signature Block Party apart from most other organizations in this city. The ultimate reward for all of our efforts is, of course, the money raised for cancer research. This year’s Block Party was one of our most successful fundraising events yet.”  

For further information on The Concern Foundation:

http://www.concernfoundation.org

http://www.blockpartyla.org

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A Sad Time in Cherry Hill, Not a Bowl of Cherries, @ the Geffen

“A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill” is yet another gem from the creative forces at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.  Danny Rothman  is the main character (the Rabbi ), a seemingly moral, upright spiritual leader of his community, as well as a beloved husband and father, until the audience learns, quite early in the show, that he is guilty of hiring a  hit man (Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper) to murder his wife. This plot twist is one of the multiple ironies of the show. His wife, played by the fabulous Jill Sobule , is forever expected to be the dutiful servant, even starting her own company, “the Cherry Hill Kosher Cake Company,” providing  her family  their favorite baked goods, like challah and babka, along with bringing in extra financial dough. The suspense thickens, when unbeknownst to the rabbi’s wife, an adulterous rendezvous is taking place between her husband and a local radio dj, (Zehra Fazal). From the brilliant mind of Matt Schatz, and the superb direction of Mike Donahue, comes an onstage true crime reenactment, which simultaneously enthralls, shocks, and saddens the audience throughout.  The story of this real life, complicated tragedy  that occurred in 1994, is almost as amazing as the production itself. Although an east coast story and setting , this scenario can resonate universally in any close knit family or community. Kudos to the ensemble for taking a heavy, downbeat subject matter, and adding some levity to the story by presenting it in musical theatre mode. When Danny Rothman first saunters onto the stage, we see a narcissistic, yet talented man who seems to want control, yet never do we suspect he would hire someone to kill his wife. Mongiardo-Cooper arrives on scene, and through his elaborate ranting and raving and long winded storytelling, he is easily conned  into believing he will be offing a ‘wicked soul’ in their community.  Most impressive and credible are the son and daughter (Jahbril Cook and Rivkah Reyes), respectively, who are moral, ethical young adults, despite their father’s behavior, and emotionally stay true and devoted to their mother beyond her death. Fazal convincingly plays the unknowing mistress, who quickly changes her tune, when learning of the fateful event.  Musical numbers, such as “That’s What He Said,” “She Wanted More,” and “Light A Candle,” bring the story to life, through song, dance, and expressive movement.  When the rabbi states  that divorce is out of the question, the audience sadly discovers the sinister plan up his sleeve, to ‘do away’ with his wife, but things suddenly go awry, when the news journalist discovers the truth.   Scandal, shame, and wicked behavior truly lies beneath an exterior, ‘happy family’ facade.  This mood change is perhaps the most powerful transformation of this dazzling drama, as the rabbi climbs out of his traditional, clergy  shell and shrewdly tells us  that the gig is up, and basically wants out of his marriage in a most non traditional , sinful way. He has an undying crush and commitment to the lady on the radio, recently a widow herself, and will not give her up, against all odds, against all measures of right and wrong.  The show’s ending contains quite the element of surprise. The show’s direction and live musical accompaniment is excellent and the talented cast stellar. The haunting music and lyrics play a most ominous, foreboding role. Set design by Alexander Woodward and Dane Laffrey  is magnificent, as well as costumes by Raquel Barreto; lighting by Josh Epstein ; and choreography by Kathryn Burns. This show is a great example of collaboration at its best.  “A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill”  is a drama that will leave you tantalized, horrified!  Teaching us the value of numbering our days. 


http://www.geffenplayhouse.org

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Somewhere….Jaxx Theatricals Brings A Big, Bold “Westside Story” to Hollywood

In a true show of magic  and musical extravaganza, Jaxx Theatricals yet again presents a dazzling production in its premiere of Westside Story, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  This youth ensemble specialized in exceptional dance and body movement, and each performer graces the stage with style and swagger.  

What better time for the timeless story of Shakespeare’s star crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, now in the form of Tony and Maria amidst Manhattan ‘s gang ridden streets of the Sharks versus the Jets, where family loyalties and bloodlines run deep.  Jayden Maddux seems like he was born to play Tony, and respectively, Brooklyn Morales, as Maria, impeccably belting out classics like “Tonight,” and “Somewhere.”  This song and dance filled show keeps the audience glued to the stage throughout illuminating performances, despite a quite dark, stark melodrama with a tragic ending. This show is a culmination of hard work and dedication by the entire ensemble, under the brilliant direction and production of Jeremy Lucas, JD Morabito, and Charisma Zenetzis, and choreography by Jesus David Torres.  The entire show, through song, dance, costume, and lighting, light up the stage, proving the big voices of these young talents. From the moment Tony and Maria’s eyes meet each other, the audience feels the future tension and palpable suspense fills the air.  Despite their differences, they find that they have much more in common than not. Their goal is to make their families turn into  friends and allies, rather than enemies, proving that love can conquer all. Apropos to rivalry and tension in the world still today, this story is timeless and resonant, truly universal. Love is in the air,  as the younger, more enlightened generations try, to subtly change the tunes and views of their elders, yet to no avail. Anita (Fatima Martinez) is headstrong and loyal to her family ties, and is very credible in trying to sway Maria. A definite showstopper is the iconic musical number “Gee, Officer Krupke,” performed by Action (Stuart Kennedy); Diesel (Addison Chandler); A-rab (Max Sanders); Baby John (Henry Neujahr) and Jets,  will be long remembered and hummed to, long after show’s end. Songs and numbers such as “Something’s Coming,” “America,” and “I Feel Pretty” bring a sense of nostalgia to musical theatre aficionados and newbies alike. The ensemble truly influences the captive audience to take the message of global and familial unity seriously. Through a true sense of collaboration between directors, producer choreographer, cast, and creative team, a strong sense of pride, morale and cooperation ensues in the entire production. A mystical highlight of the show is when the Tony and Maria unite, when Tony had thought Maria was tragically no longer alive, leaving hope in the audience for, despite apparently all odds, the power to use all might and muscle… to unite family… break bread together… with no guns in sight, to lay down all swords and shields, and talk of war no more. Two beautiful , rich  cultures are joined as one , both tangibly through a piece of  art or artifact, but also intangibly through lyrical song and lively dance movements. The end result is a mosaic of multi cultural merging, which exudes love of life, heritage, and history.    

       JaxxTheatricals deserves all kudos and recognition, as evidenced by the stars and starlets who shine on the Hollywood stage, and no doubt are headed to musical theatres on Broadway. West Side Story is a difficult show to “get right,” and Jaxx has beyond surpassed its dreams. 

http://www.jaxxtheatricals.org

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