5 Years The Charm…in “The Last Five Years” @ Actor’s Company

After Hours Theatre Company presents Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years, now playing at the Other Space at the Actor’s Company. It is a production like no other, providing the audience with an immersive multi sensory experience pre-show (curated cocktails in the mix); and 360 sound throughout the performance. Romantic scents of rose, hibiscus and lavender infuse the audience’s spirits and mood as we experience the magnificent vocal talents of Janel Parrish and Scott Porter. In song and lyrical whimsy, the two phenomenal singer/actors deliver a poetic paeon to the love story/relationship of Cathy and Jamie.  Each musical number is an intimate story in and of itself. “Shiksa Goddess” reveals a glimmer of Jamie’s (Scott Porter) ideal yet unattainable mate; while “A Summer in Ohio” is an expression of Cathy’s fears of a ‘no thrills, no frills’ hum drum love life. These two soul mates make some intimate connections in some pieces, while seem like two ships passing through the night in others. Career and curveballs get in the way of a long lasting bond. The movement, lighting, and costumes enhance the overall show. The opening song, “Still Hurting,” sets the tone, as Janel Parrish (Cathy) soulfully laments on what could have been. Its basically a message about painful choices, and the road less taken, as it were, to the promise of life long love. Jamie and Cathy provide further hopes of connection and romance in “A Miracle Would Happen/When you Come Home to Me.”

Each memorable musical vignette is an entire story on its own; and with each facial expression and natural chemistry, the actors instantly reveal their persona and we truly feel their angst.

“The Last Five Years” is the ultimate musical theatre extravaganza about the ultimate fantasy of finding the perfect mate  of one’s dreams in each evocative number. Another beautiful touch is how Cathy and Jamie sing out their story backwards and forwards, rather than chronologically, bringing fantasies into juxtaposition with real life romance.

This musical production is at one a powerful serenade of life and love’s precarious challenges and new beginnings, performed by a cohesive duo. The After Hours Theatre Company is a great example of small musical theatre offerings here in our city of angels.

Through July 14

Thursdays, Fridays,Saturdays 8pm; Sundays 7 pm

916 N Formosa

http://www.afterhoursl5y.eventbrite.com

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‘Rock n Roll’ Back the Years in“Rewind- A New 80’s Musical”

It’s ‘Heaven Can Wait’ meets ‘American Idol’ in “Rewind- A New 80’s Musical,” where a talent manager Nigel (Nelson Haynes) gets a second chance to undo his selfish deeds of the past and Gina (Gi-Gi) (Suzanne Slade) gets a second lease on life, love, and career as a pop singer. It’s a do-over/ rewind cleverly filled with flashbacks and current day alternating what was and what could be. Such a premise is the new, original, fresh one & a half hour pop opera musical, written and produced by Geoffrey Rose and Sam Rose, and now showing at the Actor’s Studio at the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Fest. Each member of the ensemble (Slade; Haynes; David Sasik; Megan Beard; Chris Kerrigan; Natalie Miller; and Thomas Adoue Polk) adds his/her own twist (literally) and personal style to each song and dance number, exquisitely choreographed and directed by Nancy Dobbs Owen. One particular standout song was the finale, all about living the fantasy. The audience will cheer on as each character evolves, develops and realizes one’s full potential both personally and professionally, each one hoping for a happy ‘take 2.’

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org

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It Takes One To Tango

“Invisible Tango,” now showing at the Geffen, is created and performed by the amazing Helder Guimaraes, and directed by Frank Marshall. Guimaraes is a magician with sleight of hand and ‘tricks up his sleeves’ that surpass the finest at the Magic Castle. He is a Portuguese born performer, storyteller, magician and creator of theatrical and immersive magic experiences. He has appeared at Kennedy Center, and off Broadway. I happened to see him at the Geffen last weekend, and like each and every audience member, was on the edge of my seat in disbelief and awe of the card tricks, mind reads and puzzles he solved effortlessly.

He is at once both good and extremely entertaining, with most of his acts unique and full of mystique, like things you’ve never seen or imagined before. He is like the Cirque de Soleil of Magic. He seems to make playing cards appear out of nowhere and end up in a glass jar. He also plays a perfect poker and bridge game, beating the odds of Vegas’ dealers! He can easily go on America’s Got Talent and win! He is also a superb quick change artist with a variety of stories, situations and tricks, with audience interaction galore. It is perhaps his standout charm, humor and dialect that wins over the audience members as he converses and invites them on stage with them. At show’s end, a mysterious enigma is solved leaving the audience in bated breath, wanting even more.

http://www.geffenplayhouse.org

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JWT: My 2nd Home for Outstanding Theatre

So many adages come to mind when thinking of home: ‘you can’t go home again,’ ‘be it ever so humble, there’s no place like it,’ ‘home is where the heart is,’ ‘home sweet home.’ At the end of the day, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ Next@ The Braid & Jewish Women’s Theatre presents a unique and thought provoking look at the power of home in a compilation of personal, compelling stories in “The Way Home.” Co-directed by Aysha Wax and Julie Lanctot, and produced by Andrew Fromer, each story shares a AE58744A-CBEE-4420-A660-37A107FA3880concept of home and family that is brought to life onstage, each instance resonating with audience members on a range of situations. In “Heavier Than Expected,” written by Jennifer Liff, who was present at the performance I attended, she stated “home means family and the actress Jasmine Curry honored my sacred story.” The piece deals with the very sensitive matter of Liff’s mother dying at home, but not before one final kiss goodbye, with a clear beautiful message of love. On Jennifer’s writing, actress Jasmine Curry stated, “it’s impossible to look at those words on the page and not be affected by them.” Aneesha Madhok is quite a triple threat, multi talented as a writer, actress, and dancer. Her story, “Fusion,” in which she portrays herself, and creates her own style and “beautiful blend” of both Indian and Persian cultures. Her culminating dance combines a fusion of both traditions with some standout Bollywood moves! She is mesmerizing and ‘at home,’ as she expresses her self identity through movement, a universal language. Sionne Elise beautifully portrayed Marissa Tiamfook Gee, in “Making a Home,” where she rented the upper duplex of an elderly lonely woman, and the two soon became kindred spirits. Marissa shared with the audience, post-show, “I cry every time I think about Ala. Although Ala, a Holocaust survivor, was quite private, this story is an important one to tell, and helped her grand niece with her healing and grief.” In “Cyclone,” written by Nina Raynor, and performed by Aneesha Madhok and Sam Mandel, the music and lyrics of “Golden Slumber” (Paul McCartney); and “Homeward Bound,” (Simon and Garfunkel) is played as the story of an Iranian family leaves Tehran for Coney Island, to establish a new beginning, a new name, a new home.
True to each and every JWT production, “The Way Home” involved an amazing process of pairing each writer’s personal journey with the most fitting of actors. In turn, each actor respects the writer’s work and authentically sticks to every word they write, conveying their stories with the uncanny ability to access different emotions, and “own the experience.”

Through June 18th
bit.ly/wayhometix
(310)315-1400
http://www.jewishwomenstheatre.org

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Hershey Felder’s Debut of Debussy @ The Wallis

The fabulously talented Hershey Felder returns to the stage at the Wallis Annenberg in A Paris Love Story: featuring the music of Claude Debussy. Felder has performed his musical impressionist (sui generis) genre of one man shows many times (over 5,000!), breaking many records and establishing a faithful following the world over. There is a distinct reason this brilliant artist has chosen icons such as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Gershwin, and now Debussy, as his own life, much like theirs, was tough and tragic. As he relays in this show, Felder lost his mother at the tender age of 38, and this trauma has affected him ever since. Claude Debussy’s daughter died at age 14, right after his death in 1918. Felder continues to tell of Debussy’s serious womanizing and that he always seemed to live in poverty, but in complete contrast, his rich music tells a different story. He lived and flourished in Paris and loved everything about this dazzling city of lights. The wonderful set at the Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theatre is composed of one of the many fabled bridges that cross the Seine, which is intersected by a grand piano right at the spot where Claude spent many an hour gazing at the moonlight and the Arch de Triumphe, Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysee, and the panoply of people that inhabited these environs. This set, lighting and sound design (Hershey Felder, Christopher Ash; Erik Carstensen) is truly artful, reminding me of the elaborate Pageant of the Masters in Laguna. Felder paints a picture of Debussy as a terrible person within, yet his humanity shines through as an artist, like a “hurricane in the desert.” His inspiration was nature and the calming way it made him feel. He invested this feeling into iconic compositions like Clair de Lune, La Mer, and Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune. Felder plays each piece with such intensity and passion that the audience is compelled to applaud throughout, revealing their true benevolence and admiration, with an obvious standing ovation at show’s end. The traditional q&a following the show was also astonishing and edifying. Felder extolled the virtues of director Trevor Hay, who has worked with the maestro many times before. He also thanked consulting producer Joel Zwick, who has an extensive, impressive body of work as well. This show is typical of the caliber of productions at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The use of video on a back screen brilliantly accompanies the enthralling and rapturous music, making this production a must see. This show is for aficionado and novice alike, far and wide, anyone who truly appreciates fine art, music, and the work of one of the most distinguished composers of all time.

Through June 16
Weekdays 7:30pm; Saturdays 2 and 7:30 pm; Sundays 2 and 7 pm
Wallis Annenberg 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
http://www.thewallis.org/Debussy
(310) 746-4000

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No Looking Back… in “Moving On,” EST/LA’s one act plays @ Atwater Village Theatre

‘Movin’ On,’ ‘Let it Go,’ ‘Life Goes On,’ many a song and poem has been written on said topic. Now a series of innovative, poignant one act plays are presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST/LA) at the Atwater Village Theatre. Each one takes the sensitive theme of love and loss and ‘this too shall pass,’ with dialogue so resonant and relevant to today’s audience, bringing tears of both joy and sorrow. Each of these five winning one acts tell of the lives of disparate, disaffiliated individuals, yearning for connection and a path back.
Act 1: “Rock Logic,” written by Sophia Lewis and directed by Katie Lindsay is a female driven narrative of a young woman Sammy (Kait Schuster) in grief over losing her mother. Taylor (Saliha Muttalib) is the loyal friend, trying to help this damsel in distress and navigate her through her mourning. It very succinctly delves into Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of mourning, with acceptance being the ultimate goal.
Act 2: Smiling Cat Candy Heart, written by Jennie Webb and directed by June Carryl, tells of passive/aggressive custody battles and visitations between a separated couple; and the unexpected twists and turns that befall them. It is impeccably performed by Juliette Allison Bailey; Julianna Riley (daughter); Christopher Wood (father); and Lauren Campedelli; Desiree Mee Jung (mother). Set at the usual drop off/pick up, a fast ‘Movin’ On,’ ‘Let it Go,’ ‘Life Goes On,’ many a song and poem has been written on said topic. Now a series of innovative, poignant one act plays are presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST/LA) at the Atwater Village Theatre. Each one takes the sensitive theme of love and loss and ‘this too shall pass,’ with dialogue so resonant and relevant to today’s audience, bringing tears of both joy and sorrow. Each of these five winning one acts tell of the lives of disparate, disaffiliated individuals, yearning for connection and a path back.
Act 1: “Rock Logic,” written by Sophia Lewis and directed by Katie Lindsay is a female driven narrative of a young woman Sammy (Kait Schuster) in grief over losing her mother. Taylor (Saliha Muttalib) is the loyal friend, trying to help this damsel in distress and navigate her through her mourning. It very succinctly delves into Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of mourning, with acceptance being the ultimate goal.
Act 2: Smiling Cat Candy Heart, written by Jennie Webb and directed by June Carryl, tells of passive/aggressive custody battles and visitations between a separated couple; and the unexpected twists and turns that befall them. It is impeccably performed by Juliette Allison Bailey; Julianna Riley (daughter); Christopher Wood (father); and Lauren Campedelli; Desiree Mee Jung (mother). Set at the usual drop off/pick up, a fast food restaurant, each actor uses a full gamete of emotions as the daughter, so linked up with the internet, is only able to communicate using emojis. She’s truly caught in a tug of war, feeling like the rope itself.
Act 3: The Cold Place, written by Ashley Rose Wellman and directed by Christopher James Raymond, is yet another case of two lonely hearts Robin and Daniel (Lizzie Peet; Brenda Varda and Wes McGee) seeking companionship with a secret rendezvous that turns out to have an ironic surprise a la O’Henry. Hoping to discover each other as a soulmate in a more intimate way, life literally happens as they’re making other plans.
Act 4: In Possible Deranged Lunatic, written by Christine Hamilton-Schmidt and directed by William Charlton, life seems to imitate art, as Jeanette (Sarah Brooke) and Olivia (Poonam Basu) are listening to a startling true crime podcast. Quite foreboding to the next scene, enters Peter (Michael James Bell), a stranger at the door, further terrifying the two women.
Act 5: Signing Off, written by Ken Levine and directed by Tony Pasqualini, tells of a middle aged late night talk show host, Teddy Holt (Nick Ullett; Michael C. Mahon), coerced into retirement, before he had hoped to, meeting his young replacement, Josh Barnes (Clayton Ferris). A telling commentary on today’s world of ageism in show biz.

Each of these acts so vividly portray heartbreak; transitions; and life itself, not always turning out the way one expects. Each vignette reveals the ‘who, what, when, why, and how’ of shock, memory, loss and love, yet with a glimmer of hope for future encounters.

Through May 26th
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue

http://www.estlosangeles.org

food restaurant, each actor uses a full gamete of emotions as the daughter, so linked up with the internet, is only able to communicate using emojis. She’s truly caught in a tug of war, feeling like the rope itself.
Act 3: The Cold Place, written by Ashley Rose Wellman and directed by Christopher James Raymond, is yet another case of two lonely hearts Robin and Daniel (Lizzie Peet; Brenda Varda and Wes McGee) seeking companionship with a secret rendezvous that turns out to have an ironic surprise a la O’Henry. Hoping to discover each other as a soulmate in a more intimate way, life literally happens as they’re making other plans.
Act 4: In Possible Deranged Lunatic, written by Christine Hamilton-Schmidt and directed by William Charlton, life seems to imitate art, as Jeanette (Sarah Brooke) and Olivia (Poonam Basu) are listening to a startling true crime podcast. Quite foreboding to the next scene, enters Peter (Michael James Bell), a stranger at the door, further terrifying the two women.
Act 5: Signing Off, written by Ken Levine and directed by Tony Pasqualini, tells of a middle aged late night talk show host, Teddy Holt (Nick Ullett; Michael C. Mahon), coerced into retirement, before he had hoped to, meeting his young replacement, Josh Barnes (Clayton Ferris). A telling commentary on today’s world of ageism in show biz.

Each of these acts so vividly portray heartbreak; transitions; and life itself, not always turning out the way one expects. Each vignette reveals the ‘who, what, when, why, and how’ of shock, memory, loss and love, yet with a glimmer of hope for future encounters.

Through May 26th
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue

http://www.estlosangeles.org

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Fairy Godparents to the Rescue…in “The Prom”

In today’s complex world, adolescents are faced with difficult tasks of discovering their self identity, clarifying their sexual roles, assenting 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 couples having full acceptance at a high school prom. Enter this year’s Tony nominated Broadway musical, “The Prom,” directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, and produced by Bill Damaschke, Dori Berinstein, and Jack Lane. 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 a gospel like “Love Thy Neighbor” with lyrics “Raise your voices; drop the hate.” What particularly inspired co-producers Abigail Rose Solomon and Jennifer Kranz of Rosalind Productions Inc, 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 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 (Caitlin Kinnunen) just innocently wishing to join her peers at prom. Perhaps, Emma says it best in the beautiful lyrics of “Unruly Heart,” (kudos to 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.theprommusical.com

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